Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christmas Letter, 2010

Esteemed Friends, Relations, Etc.

Once again the time has come for the annual faux-modesty fest, I mean snark fest, I mean holiday letter.   Have you written yours?  Well get on it.  I’m waiting!  I confess at the time of this writing I am perhaps just a touch hung over.  Whether this bodes well remains to be seen. 

It has been a year full of good stuff, which makes for letters that sound like bragging.  Sorry.  To make this more palatable, I will try to couch it in the most deprecating terms.

Here’s an example:  We are slumlords now.  The rental house next door came up for sale.  We bought it.  If we had known what a jerk the seller was before making an offer, we would have let someone else give him money.  Oh well.  Our first tenants moved in.  6 weeks later they told us they had great news:  they’d gotten a puppy! .  The kind that digs up the shrubs and shreds the carpet!  Oh, and they didn’t believe in cleaning up the poop!  Then they broke up.  Perhaps they disagreed over whose responsibility it was to deal with the puppy.  Fortunately the girl’s dad paid the full rent for the rest of their lease.  Thank you, Dad.  A few weeks after she moved out, she called to see if I was going to refund her deposit. Funnily enough, I was on the other line with the carpet guy.  Hmmm.  No. 

The new tenants are Chinese undergraduates.  Despite having very limited English, they like to give bartering their best shot.  There were some issues in the beginning because they wanted to negotiate the rent price down, and get me to be their chauffeur.  We had to hire a translator to convince them that 1) the rent is not negotiable and 2) I only chauffeur my children.  With that established, things seem to be fine.  They are very quiet.  We keep thinking maybe they’ve hightailed it back to Shanghai.  Hopefully the party we threw last night did not bother them. 

More good stuff:  those children, what are their names again?  Oh yes, the Larger Hooligan (10) and Smaller Hooligan (7).  This year they are mostly on the nice list, and make up for their transgressions by being willing to eat ANYTHING, as long as there is a lot of it.  We took a big crazy awesome trip to Italy and France last summer.  There were many highlights.  My favorite was the food in general, and watching the Hooligans fight over the last snail in particular.  I gained seven pounds.  What they say about your metabolism slowing down after 40?  It seems to be true.  

On the subject of sibling fighting, I am not bragging when I say that mostly, they don’t.  However, I have noticed that my sons get along best when they are in cahoots.  Examples: Climbing out the Larger Hooligan’s window to launch paper airplanes off the roof ("They go really far!"); Leaning the extension ladder up the doug fir so they can start climbing @ fifteen feet.  I discovered them @ 40 feet ("It's fun up here!").  They have taken the axiom:  “It is better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission and be denied,” to heart.  THIS IS WHY I HAVE GREY HAIR!!! As I type this I am noticing it’s  very quiet upstairs.  I am afraid to look.

Eugene’s public school district is facing a 20-30 million dollar budget shortfall—I’m not sure this is something to brag about, but hey!  That’s a LOT--Like 15-25% of the District’s operating budget!  Wowza!  I’ve been keeping busy going to meetings, writing letters, talking to lobbyists, and agitating for a city income tax--oh, sorry, revenue enhancement.  I’m not supposed to say tax.  People don’t like it.  I’m learning a lot, which is ironic since Eugene kids’ education looks to be severely curtailed. 

The Birthday Fairy brought The Man Who Lives In My House a mountain bike.  This brings his bike collection up to 4.5.  The .5 is the front half of the tandem.  Now he can grind up mountains and come hurtling down over cliffs and logs and streams, getting covered with mud, whipped in the face by twigs, and maybe breaking a collarbone or worse in the process.  Doesn’t that sound fun?  He thinks I would like it, but my mind is just not that open.  

I do like hanging out on the back of the tandem while The Man Who Lives In My House bikes us along the river.  Apparently I am not a good stoker.  What can I say?  Nobody’s perfect.  Maybe if I pedaled harder, I would burn off some of that gelato I’m still hauling around.  It’s doing wonders for The Man.   He has grown a beard and garners comments from his co-workers such as: “Raw steel and sex appeal!”  Theoretically he’s not shaving until the Ducks go to nationals, but with that kind of feedback, I think he’ll end up looking like ZZ Top. 

Speaking of macho stuff, how about those Ducks?  Kidding!  The only good thing about football is the game broadcast over the PA is preferable to The Little Drummer Boy.  I realize that  (locally)I am in the minority in this opinion and I don’t care.  The Man Who Lives In My House is making his peace with the realization that I will never bike with him across the country or watch football, and I am accepting that he will never enjoy thrift stores or Miss Marple mysteries on public television.

Around this time last year, I was polishing up the annual letter and enjoying myself immensely.  I decided once a year was not enough.  I have a blog now!  I have fans!  Never mind that they are mostly relatives!  If you read it, you know that several of the preceding paragraphs are regurgitated from recent posts.  I have to cite my sources, even when they’re me.  The Man says that my snark muscle has grown thanks to regular workouts.  I’m interpreting that as a compliment.  I’m hoping to host a Christmas-Letter-Off on line.  Please submit your most extreme examples to  All names will be changed to preserve privacy.

Snarkiness aside, every morning when we read the headlines we are reminded of our good fortune in our families, our friends and our lives.  We feel lucky to know and love so many people who are working to make the world a better place.  Our thanks and best wishes go out to all of you.

The Hooligans' Family

A poem, for Festivus

All the new toys
Make horrible noise.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Hooligan Rescues Dessert

When I cook, I like to listen to This American Life, check my facebook, maybe talk on the phone, more or less all at once.  This can lead to problems.

Like today, when I grabbed a little brown bottle.  I uncapped it, intending to pour a slug of vanilla into the melted chocolate.  Fortunately, a Hooligan happened by.  The Hooligans like to sniff the vanilla.  "AARGh," howled the Hooligan, "That is NOT vanilla!  What are you making?"

It was fish sauce.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mamie's Holiday Mantra

My Mother (the Virgo) had Christmas down to a science.  Here's her system, to which I adhere rigorously:

For each deserving Child:

--something to read (she's a sucker for good illustrations)
--something to wear (this has little resonance with The Hooligans, so I usually just replenish their socks and underwear, or knit them an itchy sweater that they refuse to wear*)
--something to play with (sometimes I expand this to include a gross motor item (Skateboard) and a fine motor (lego thingy))
--a stocking full of random things like slinkies, marbles, , mittens, packages of colored pencils, and candy

When my sister and I were in our teens, the "something to wear" became the big deal.  The "something to read" included books like the illustrated greek myth anthology that I wrapped up for the Larger Hooligan last year.  Anyway, it helps me not get overwhelmed.  I do recommend NOT having a baby 2 days before Christmas, or 2 weeks after, as this only adds to the chaos and excess.  It is SERIOUSLY FESTIVE around here. When the Smaller Hooligan's birthday is over (Jan. 9th) I feel like I need a vacation.   I bet that's how accountants feel on April 16th.  Except instead of getting paid, I've spent all my money.  So I just enjoy the relative tranquillity at home.

*a note to Mamie:  They like YOUR sweaters.  So do I :).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Festive Snacks

If you are having a party and want to serve something nibbly and elegant that requires very little effort, I recommend this:

One or two heads Endive, leaves separated.
1/2 lb. chicken salad from the deli

Place a spoonful or so of chicken salad on the thicker white end of the endive leaves, arrange on a tray.
People will think you are very talented  if you hide the deli container.

Friday, December 17, 2010

a small poem, by the Small Hooligan

It's weird:
Word means word
And it's a word.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I had a fairly productive morning, involving cleaning, mostly,  and clean sheets.  I feel like I accomplished something if I get around to changing the sheets.  My mother does it every Monday, but then, she is a Virgo.

The Dog got randomly freaky, and decided he had to be right next to me.  I find clinginess to be irritating in all life forms.  He was trying to tell me something but I failed to read his signals.  Hobo going though our recycling?  Raccoon in the Vicinity?  Please wash my dog bed cover, while you're at it?  Who knows.  I did not kick him, but I did accidentally step on his paw, at which point he gave up and sulked under the table.

After making copies of the Christmas letter (to be posted here on Dec. 24th) at Kinkos, I swung by school to pick up the Hooligans.  The larger one needed to be dropped off at a friend's.  The smaller one had a vision that involved going home with his friend Lucas, which was logistically difficult.  I explained that playing with Lucas could happen soon, but not immediately.  He became enraged.

Annoyed, I could understand, I mean, I don't like to delay my gratification, either, but this was ridiculous.  I got tired of being berated.  I pulled over and spoke to him firmly, something to the effect of:  "If I hear one more negative word out of you, you will not get to play with anybody.  You will have to stay by yourself in your room.  Is that clear?"

He became quiet, but the atmosphere was charged with his indignation.  As we rounded the corner, I heard a tiny voice "My mom tortures me."

I covered up my laugh with a fake cough.  Torture my ass.  At least I didn't stomp on his paw.  When we got home, I forced him to eat, in case low blood sugar was the issue.  I made him unload the dishwasher, as penance.  Then we walked over to Lucas' together.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Obtuse Husband? Or Shrill Fishwife? You decide.

The Man Who Lives In My House has acquired a mountain bike.  He is very excited about this.  I was completely neutral on the subject until today (Sunday) when it was (miraculously) not raining.  It seemed like an auspicious moment for some raking, maybe a trip to the dog park, and taking turns shuttling the Hooligans to various birthday parties, playdates, and an indoor soccer game.  We went to a terrific party* last night--one would think our fun needs had been met for one weekend--but then......the phone rang around 10 a.m.  It was fellow mountain biking enthusiast Mark, hoping The Man could go for a ride.  Could he?  Sure he could.

Which I assumed would be fine, because he'd be home in plenty of time to take the larger Hooligan to his 2:30 playdate, while I took the smaller one to soccer?

2:30?  They were aghast.  A combined twelve and a half feet of man were looking at me like I was the world's biggest party pooper/battle ax/ball and chain/old lady.   No way could they make it home by 2:30.

It's 10:30.  2:30 is four hours away.  Where are you going?  California?

It turns out that you can't get a "decent ride" any closer than 45 minutes away.  And a ride could take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours, depending on speed, flat tires, washed out bridges, cougar attacks, etc.

I coped.  It was actually an easy and enjoyable day.  No one fought or even made an excessive mess.  Friends came and went, parties and playdates were attended.  We skipped the soccer game.  Nonetheless it was not what I envisioned.  I did not have an adult to banter with!  I look forward to this all week!

You will not be surprised to learn that I failed to meet the Man Who Lives House at the door with an icy cold drink when he rolled in around 4:30.  I was surly, actually.  I did make a very good dinner (beet, chevre and wilted spinach salad with orange vinaigrette, italian sausage, fresh bread and molasses cookies).  It could have been worse--I could have made roast chicken (see past post "Who Hates Roast Chicken?).  If I were really mad I'd have made Tuna Casserole.  Ha.

He had a spectacular fall right on his face, first thing.  This is Karma.  He is perhaps very slightly chagrined.  He keeps making little references to how he's going to be really sore, and should take more ibuprofen.  My lack of sympathy baffles him.  After 15 and a half years, you'd think he'd have noticed:  I'm not that nice.

*Where I met Holly, who reads this blog!  I was uncharacteristically tongue tied.  What is there to say?  she's read it already. Thanks for reading, and so nice to meet you, Holly!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sage words from Nana

Nana, the sherry drinker (scroll back to mid-October), is a snappy dresser.  My father refers to her as "Lady Got-rocks."  She likes some bling, mixed with an artsy sweater, blouse, wool slacks and wild socks.  Her shoe assortment is vast, despite having been forced to give up heels some years back.  She strives to look hip, but also appropriate.  She loathes frumpiness.  Despite this, she rejects many trends as being too young.  She shakes her head and says, "I'd be mutton dressed as lamb in that."

I bring this up because the Larger Hooligan came shambling downstairs this morning, fully dressed in dark skinny jeans.  We noticed they fit him oddly.  "What's wrong with your jeans?" I asked,  "Do you need a belt?"

"They fit weird,"  he said. "Did you get me new ones?"  Upon closer inspection, we realized that he was wearing my jeans.  He went upstairs and changed.

I have been wearing jeans that are confused with those worn by pre-teen boys.  I just turned 42.  I fear that I am committing a grave fashion error, according to Nana, anyway:  Mutton Dressed as Lamb.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Oracle of DOOM

The Smaller Hooligan likes to go straight to the worst case scenario. I call him Baby Doomsayer.* No sunny side of the street for that guy.  It is dark and stormy, with a 101% chance of a tornado and a hurricane, followed by an earthquake and an outbreak of cholera.  Obviously I should turn off NPR.

Anyway, he is coming down with a cold, which means his asthma gets aggravated.  Usually we start treating him and it's well controlled, no big deal.  But this time despite starting the inhaled steroids and the oral steroids, it was just not going away.  As a result, at 8:15 last night, I was bundling him into his boots to run him over to the urgent care clinic for a round of the nebulizer treatment.

He was not happy about this.  "What are they going to do to me?" he hollered.   "Are they going to give me a shot?  They are going to give me a shot.  I will die from the shot because of the PAIN!"

"No shot," we said, "NO SHOT!  Not even a little one.  They are just going to give you some breathing medicine that you breath for a longer time than your inhaler.  It will work better and you will stop wheezing and coughing."

"They will make me breath acid and I will DIE."

We tried hard not to laugh.  The oral steroids seem to make him more wiggidy-wack than usual.  It makes for dialog that is riddled with non-sequiteurs.

12 hours later he devoured two waffles and an egg. (The prednisone makes him hungry.)  His friend stopped by to walk to school and he grabbed his backpack and rushed out the door, hatless and coatless.  He seems to have forgotten that he is sick and we are all conspiring against him.

*The predilection for doomsaying comes directly from the father and grandfather of this child.  For once it is not my fault.  The asthma comes from me.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Three of us were lounging in bed Sunday morning.  Larger Hooligan was reading science fiction.  The Man Who Lives in My House was checking the weather on his iphone.  I was pretending to still be asleep. Getting up to make coffee or fetch the paper seemed awfully ambitious.
"Come snuggle,"  I suggested to the smaller Hooligan.  "It's cozy in here."
"I have to get to work."   He answered crossly,  "I am building a city."

I must show that child how to make a cappuccino.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fashion Rut

Every five or six years my old clogs develop a crack in the wood sole, or all the leather rips off the nails along one side, or some such unfixable disaster.  I go to Clogs-n-More in Portland, try on everything they've got in size 39, and bring home pretty much the same thing I had before: black, natural wood base, sometimes with perforations or a closed back, this time with a bowling-shoe-esque lace up feature.  Don't they look great when they're new?  I will try to remember to change into my boots before going into the chicken coop. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Who hates Roast Chicken?

 The Man Who Lives In My House, that's who.  He has the same reaction to chicken that I have to apple juice and graham crackers--it's the result of overexposure in our early years.  Still, Roast Chicken!  That's like hating cheerios or toothpaste!  How does one get by?  I have to resort to stealth and subterfuge*  when I want to make chicken. We actually just don't have it.  We have "midget turkey" or "giant cornish game hen".  Here for your reading/cooking pleasure is my recipe for "midget turkey":

Peel 3 or four onions and slice thickly.  Place all over the bottom of a roasting pan.  These create a raised base for your midget turkey, so that it doesn't wallow in the fat.  Clever.  Place Midget Turkey on onions, surround with little red potatoes.  Stuff several sprigs of rosemary in the nooks and crannies of the Midget Turkey.  Pour a glass of sherry in there--don't drink it all!  Now lay 3-six strips of bacon over the top.  Roast @ 350 for about and hour and fifteen minutes.   This works well with any poultry, as you can imagine.

The phrase "stealth and subterfuge" is lifted from one of Daniel and Jill Pinkwater's genius Larry The Polar Bear Books.  If you haven't read a Larry book you're in for a treat.  They're in the children's picture book section at your library. 

Friday, November 19, 2010


A garden gnome appeared. He was dying to get his tiny hands on the power tools.  Rakes are so dark ages.  Later, I found him (still wearing the hat) leaping off the garbage cans.  He had attached the leaf blower to his back with bungee cords.  He was hoping it would function as a jet pack.  Sorry there's no footage.  It's hard to film when you're laughing so hard you have to sit down.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


This snippet of repartee is virtually live:

The Man Who Lives In My House to the Smaller Hooligan:  "I don't understand you because I don't speak whine."

Smaller Hooligan:  "Yeah, but you drink it."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cliche'd responses that I find helpful

When my children are whiny:  "Cry me a River."
When my children are complaining: "It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick."
When my children want something frivolous:  "You'll get nothing and like it."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Metaphorically delicious.

The Man Who lives in my house-swirling something in a wine glass:  "Mmmm, taste this."
Me, sipping:  "Wow.  That's good.  I can taste really good shoes."
The Man Who Lives In My House:  "Ha Ha Ha, that's funny because it is Italian."

(The Wine in question was a 2004 Ronco Malo Barbera.  And I meant the part about tasting of shoes in the nicest possible way.  Lovely new, unworn shoes, hand made by a cobbler in Rome. Nice.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Too pretty to eat:

 I planted this persimmon tree  3 years ago.  This year it has 3 fruits.  I'm going to give it a nice helping of compost mixed with chicken shit in hopes that it will become even more productive.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bellowing Rhinoceri Overhead

I fear I will be trampled. They've been at it since 6:45 a.m.  Curse Daylight Savings.  Fall back indeed.  I think it is happy bellowing, at least.  I believe I will retreat to the basement.  That's what I would do if it were a tornado or a bomb.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Multi Tasking: A Cautionary Tale

If you happen get a notion to make a complicated dessert--one involving batches of shortbread, caramel, and melted chocolate, it is imprudent to simultaneously saute garlic and onions on the other burner.

When you chop the onions, you see, you might accidentally drop them into the bubbling hot sugar syrup.

Bacon infused caramel...maybe.  Onion?  no.

We're having shortbread drizzled with chocolate for dessert.  Forget the caramel.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mother of Intergalactic Freaks

Costumes were easy this year:   Intergalactic Freaks.  Gas Mask, jeans, sweatshirt, water gun spray painted silver.  At the last minute, The Smaller Hooligan added a cowboy hat, making him an Intergalactic Freak with a Space Cowboy twist.

 I let them buy the gas masks last spring--we were sucked into a huge army-navy surplus store in the Belltown area of Seattle.  They really really wanted to buy grenades, or bowie knives, or ak-47s, so the masks were a pacifist victory, of sorts.  They used their own money ($16).  And I said they would have to use them for Halloween.

Hooligan Halloween costumes always revolve around the weapon.  They are such deprived children--I generally do not let them have toy guns.  I even object to water blasters and nerf guns--Bad Grandma goes behind my back so they get them anyway, curse her.  Halloween is an opportunity to get me to buy them a warlike toy.  They have been skeleton pirates with swords, cowboys with six shooters, knights with swords and shields,  robots with blasters...... you get the idea.

When the Larger Hooligan was in first grade, he was really into penguins, so they told me they wanted to penguins. Cute!  I ran with that!  I found big black hooded sweatshirts at the thrift store, added white felt for the stomach and underside of the wings, googly eyes, yellow beaks--adorable.  Right before the holiday they said they'd changed their minds, they must be ninjas.  With Numchucks.  NOOOOOO!  I totally bribed them to go with the penguin plan by buying them orange plastic pistols.

Penguins with guns.  Whatever.  I guess if I had a girl I'd be sick of fairy costumes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


The Larger Hooligan is a Candy Spendthrift.  He brings his Halloween candy bag with him everywhere and proffers it right and left.  This seems sweet and open-handed, but he has a secret agenda: the person who accepts his generosity is unlikely to say, "Now you've had enough, buster!"  He helps himself to a piece, too, in solidarity, you understand.  Every time I see him, he looks like a squirrel, his cheek bulging with a jawbreaker.  When he sees me he offers his bucket with a muffled, "Take a piece, Mom!"  Works like a charm.

My other child is a Candy Accountant.  He sorted his haul by type.  Then he counted up the total.  Then he broke open the packages of gummies and jellybeans and got an even more exact total (363 pieces).  He ate one carmel, crossed out 363, and wrote 362.  Then he looked at me balefully. "I'm going to count it every day," he announced.  And marched upstairs to hide the bag under his pillow.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dinner for the Beleagured

     By the beleaguered I do not mean me:  I am referring to the teachers at the Hooligans' school. (Look for a post in the next few days re: their beleagured-ness.  In short, budget cuts, possible lay offs, and general economic fall-out appears to be about to land directly on their heads.  Why doesn't shit happen to people who actually deserve it?  This is not right.)
     Today is a conference day, which means that the Hooligans are riding out their post Halloween sugar rushes with various compadres while their teachers strike the balance between diplomacy and the naked truth with parent after parent.  ("He's so creative and independent." might really mean "He never follows directions.") A call went out for volunteers to bring dinner for the teachers at school (Conferences go to about 8:00 p.m.).  Well I was going to cook anyway, so why not:  Here's what I'm making:

Tuscan Lemon Chicken
feeds 12

12 chicken thighs, bone in,
4 onions
6 cloves garlic minced
6 lemons, zested and juiced (about 1/2 C juice)
1.5 cups green olives,pitted--I like the castelvetrano kind that is meaty and not too salty
2 T capers
6 carrots, chopped
2 sprigs thyme
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock
lots of pepper
parsley for garnish

     I really hate canned stock, but I go through it as fast as I can make it.  When I make stuff like this I buy a package of chicken wings and throw them in a pot with all the vegetable peels, carrot tops, etc. and boil it up--semi-instant stock.  I add the  squeezed lemon rinds and olive pits and boil it for an hour or so.  If I want it to be fancy, I brown the chicken thighs while the stock is boiling.  If it's just for us I skip that step.
      Throw the chicken thighs (browned or not), onions, garlic, lemon juice and zest, carrots, thyme, capers, pepper, wine and olives into the crock pot--or a big dutch oven over low heat.  Pour the stock over, let it simmer for a couple of hours and garnish with parsley. When I use canned stock (I prefer the low-sodium kind)  I add extra lemon juice and garlic to liven it up.  Serve with crusty bread and some sort of green vegetable or salad.

     Given the season, dessert will be whatever Halloween Candy the Hooligans are willing to fork over. I'm guessing I'll get a Twizzler or a dum-dum if I'm lucky.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kitchen Mania

I'm on sort of a cooking frenzy lately.  I guess I'm trying to fatten us up for winter. (No problem!  Bring it on!)  Notable recipes include: Lentils with sausages, Pork Ragu, Salted Caramel Almond Macaroons, and  Smoky Tomato Soup.  I'll start with the Lentil thing.

This is from Saveur Magazine a year or two ago.  Whatever issue that was featured some obscure corner of France where they have really good regional specialities.  Are there any corners of France that do not feature really good regional specialties?  I did see a KFC at the Clingancourt Metro Station on my way to the flea market.  I guess that answers my question.  Avoid that corner next time you're in Paris and you're home free:  all good food, all the time.

Back to the Lentil thing:  if you have kids who don't eat mixed up soupy things, you can still pull this off, just give them bread and maybe some of the sausage.  If you are a vegetarian it would probably be pretty good without the bacon and sausage, but I would add some smoked paprika to get that smokey flavor.  Here is how it goes:

4 slices smoked bacon
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
4 sprigs thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
12 oz. green Puy lentils, 
   rinsed and drained
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly 
   ground black pepper, to taste
8 fresh pork sausages, such as 
   sweet Italian sausages
1 cup white wine
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Fry up the bacon and set it aside. Hide it from your kids or they will eat it.  I have to hide it from myself, too. Or I just cook extra.  I told you, I'm preparing to hibernate.  Add the butter, onions, carrot, and celery, cook until softened. Add the vinegar,wine, green lentils, parsley, thyme and bay.  Simmer the lentils until they're soft.  This can vary from 30 minutes to an hour.  It seems to depend on the lentils.  You may need to add water.  Just don't let the lentils burn--that's a horrible mess and smells awful.  Take it from one who knows. The specific little green lentils are particularly good, they sort of pop in your mouth into mealy savoriness when you bite into them, but I have used other kinds (red, black, regular brown-ish) and they're perfectly fine.  Anyway, you can brown the sausages separately and then add them whole to simmer until it's all done, or you could just chuck them in and not worry about the browning.  You could probably do the whole thing (except for frying the bacon) in a crock pot, actually.  Add the mustard, salt and pepper to taste near the end.  The mustard is key.  That's what cuts the rich/savory/salty stew features.  Without the mustard, it's nothing.  I crumble up the bacon and stir it in just before serving, so it still has some crunch. 

Serve this with green salad with a zippy lemony garlicky dressing and a red wine, or a white like a gevurtztraminer--something with some backbone.  If I were so organized that I planned and made dessert, I'd have lemon sorbet and gingerbread But I never do that and we usually just scrounge for chocolate chips that I have hidden in the freezer. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

She Knows Me So Well

Last night I was hustling over to parent council meeting at our school.  I was late, and dreading what I was going to hear about budget cuts and layoffs.  I called my mother to vent:

Me:  It's so demoralizing.  We just want our kids to have a good education and their teachers to be treated fairly.  I can't stand it.  I wrote a letter to the editor, which made me feel better.

Bad Grandma:  What did you say?

Me:  Well, nothing too dramatic.  I had The Man Who Lives In My House vet it before I sent it off.

Bad Grandma:  That's good, because you probably shot your mouth off.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Perilous Gardner

Gardening is often mistaken as a peaceful hobby suited for little old ladies.  This is wrong!  Gardening is fraught with peril.  It involves the forces of goodness against the forces of darkness.  Plus you might get a blister.  I was ripping out some evil, pernicious english ivy when an evil, pernicious yellow jacket stung my left forearm.

I was forced to retreat.  I ran into the kitchen, flinging away my shears and my gloves and my jacket, and shrieking because I was sure that little eff-er and maybe a zillion of it's friends were flying up my sleeve.  Fortunately I got away.  Barely.

Now my arm hurts and itches.  And it looks grotesquely distorted and red.  It's hot to the touch.  Wah.  So I'm showing everybody.  A lot.  Especially The Man Who Lives In My House.  I just showed him again, because I thought he'd want to see how it's progressing--which it's not, as a matter of fact.  It still itches and hurts.  Thanks for your concern.

 His suggestion, "Maybe you should take your arm on tour.  Oh wait, you already are."

What?  You want to see pictures?  Oh well, if you insist.
Extreme close up.  See how red and puffy it is?
This is my tragic and pitiful look.   I think it's working. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010


My association with Sherry (the drink) is positive.  My first year teaching was the first time I ever experienced the feeling of "I need a drink!" at the end of the day.  Fortunately my parents' house was on my way home, and Nana was visiting for the month of September.  Nana is very civilized:  she has a beer with her lunch every day at eleven, and a glass of sherry before dinner.
What's in that cup, Nana?  Just coffee, today dear. 

I would roll in around sherry time and she would pour.  Lately, I've been watching Miss Marple while I cook.  She reminds me of Nana: a cute little old lady with an edge.  (Generally people don't die every time Nana enters the picture, which is a relief.) From time to time, Miss Marple pours a medicinal glass of sherry for a friend who's had a shock.  I like to join them, it's thematic.

The other night our friends Andy and Lauren came over to help us eat apple pie.  We had some wine, but it didn't seem quite right, so I broke out the sherry.  There was a collective "Eeeeugh!" noise from everyone but Andy.  "I drank a lot of sherry when we went to Spain," he told us.  "I'll try it.  In Spain, sherry is macho.  It's a bullfighter's drink.  Earnest Hemingway liked it."  I poured him a little glass.  He made a face,"Out of context, I've got to say, it's fairly nasty."  No problem, I finished his.

Last night we were out to dinner with friends and the subject of favorite drinks came up. Scotch?  Gin?  Tequila? Beer? What's your poison?  The Man Who Lives In My House outed me re: my preference for sherry.  "Oh God," said my friend, (whom I won't identify out of respect for her privacy).  "Here's my association with Sherry:  I got my first period, so I went to find my mom to discuss--well, just because it seemed like she should know.  And I said I was going to go lie down, and could she please NOT tell dad.  Next thing I know, my mom is coming into my room an dumping piles of tampax, pads, you name it in my drawer and RIGHT behind her is my dad, bearing a bottle of sherry and some glasses, because he thinks we should TOAST the occasion.  No thank you. No sherry."

Well, more for me and Nana, I guess.  I like a nice amontillado, with some blue cheese and pears.

In which I divulge that I digress, and we diverge.

One of us (not me) was making pancakes.  And fretting because there might not be enough butter.  The other one was making a grocery list.
Me:  After we go to the grocery store, it would be fun to re-arrange some furniture!
The Man Who Lives In My House:  That sentence doesn't work for me.

Monday, October 11, 2010


A good rummage sale, walking distance from my house, on a fall morning is pretty much my favorite form of thrift.  The Man Who Lives In My House took the Larger Hooligan to his soccer game, leaving me with the Smaller Hooligan, coffee, and craigslist. Smaller Hooligan was initially reluctant to leave his mound of legos.   I had to lure him with the possibility of donuts.  The local Episcopalians came through with donuts and treasure.  I love these people.  Here's what I found:

A digger truck ($1) for Senor Cupcake (My Nephew), who was coming to visit later that day)
A fleet of little cars (4/$1), also for Senor Cupcake.

A greenish pottery bowl ((50 cents), made by one of the church ladies.

And the Find that made the Smaller Hooligan glad he'd agreed to come:  Vintage old school legos, complete in their original box.  I have a feeling I could re-coup my $5 and then some if I sold these on E-Bay, but that's not how I roll.  Maybe someday, but for now, when I see something re-sale-able, I generally leave it for the e-bay sellers.  I only buy stuff we will actually use.  


Friday, October 8, 2010

Cool moms

Most moms are cooler.  This was abundantly clear in the last 24 hours.  I took the boys to visit some friends who've moved away. It was awesome.  Their new house is vast.  A mid century rambling rancher with a daylight basement on a big hillside lot:  holes to dig, rocks to climb, ice cream bars in the freezer, big views of mountains and sky.  Plus they have reptiles--a snake and a turtle.  AND a baby tarantula.   My sons kept acting uncharacteristically affectionate, coming up and slinging an arm around my neck--then laughing their heads off when I screamed upon seeing the snake peeking out of a sleeve.  I am deeply grateful that neither had much interest in the tarantula.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chicken coconut soup

The stock:

Boil a chicken in enough water (about 6 cups) to completely cover it for 40 minutes.  Remove chicken.  Cool.  Pick the meat off the carcass and place in the fridge.  Return bones and skin to the pot.  Add a chopped onion, six cloves of garlic, a thumb sized hunk of ginger, zest of one lime, two or three chopped lemon grass stalks, one or two chili peppers,  stems of one bunch of cilantro, stems of one bunch of basil, a stick of cinnamon, one anise star.  Simmer for at least two hours.  Cool.  If you have time to refrigerate, you can skim off the fat more easily. Strain out all that stuff and discard.  Taste.  Add lime juice, soy sauce, and fish sauce to taste.  For me, it's juice of 3 limes, 1/4 cup soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons fish sauce. Plus a pinch of sugar and a teaspoon of sambal alek- -that really hot chili garlic sauce.  Just keep adding and tasting until you like it.    Now you can add your soup ingredients to this base, or you can dump in a can of coconut milk and then add the ingredients.  When I add coconut milk I increase the chilis and skip the sugar, as the sweet creaminess allows for more spice and eliminates the need for sugar.

The stock will freeze or keep in the fridge for a few days,  When you're in the mood for soup, add any of the following:

Basil leaves
chopped chicken (cooked)
pork (cooked)
green onions
chopped tomatoes
bean sprouts

Serve very hot, with rice and extra sambal alek, lime wedges,  and soy sauce for your guests to add.  It's fun to make a vat of the soup stock and prep the additions, and then let everyone put the things they like in their bowls and pour the hot stock over.

I like to have this with rose, and maybe some mango sorbet for dessert.  If you can talk your guests into bringing over pot stickers or salad rolls, it's even better.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oversharing/jonesing for pity

Everyone I've made eye contact with today knows that I took an exercise class yesterday and now I'm so sore I can hardly move. Also everyone who's connected with me via Facebook and now everyone who reads my blog: I want you all to know!  I exercised!  Even though there were signs on the wall that said "It's OK to suffer!"  and "You're not gonna die!"  Despite these warnings, I ran around and around and did many deep knee bends and horrible push ups.  I sweated.  I never do that unless there is mulch to be spread or a hole to be dug.  

Tonight I whined and was pathetic and The Man Who Lives In My House was compelled to point out that I was complaining a lot.  "I'm going to send you to that class next,"  I told him, "And then we'll see if you don't do some complaining. "

"I'm sure I will complain," he replied.  "But no one in the world can complain as much as you."

He may have a point.  And just to underscore his point, I'll add that I'm avoiding going to bed because I'm dreading how difficult it will be to stand up in the morning.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Some of us need incentives.

Mom, when is it eating time?  Because I am hungry.

Well,  I really need a little helper, because I am emptying this dishwasher, then re-loading it with this sink full of dirty dishes, and there are books and toys and art supplies all over the counter and the table.  Also, could you please put away the laundry that I always fold and leave on the staircase for you to put in your dresser?  It seems to have spread itself all over the floor.  Oh, and take out this compost and this recycling.  Has anyone fed the dog?  Or the fish?

Never mind, I'm not that hungry.

Friday, September 24, 2010

lingua wacka

The Smaller Hooligan is inventing a new language.  I am eavesdropping while he was explaining the lexicon to his friend Wingnut:
"I am inventing a language.It's all that stuff we like to say only I am making the noises mean something, like gooshen hoggen is  hello, tee goo is thank you, bang choff  is blast off....."

There was a great deal more, but this is the essence.  Basically, imagine swedish aliens and you get an idea of the sound.  I wonder if there will be complicated verb tenses and gender allocations for all the nouns--probably not.  Girls probably won't exist on their planet.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Friction keeps us alive, or at least entertained.

I was perusing the blogosphere recently, and some nice blogger was rhapsodizing about how she and her spouse liked to do all the same things.  Huh.  How very sweet.  Excuse my while I go throw up a little bit in my mouth.  The thought made me twitchy and claustrophobic.  I am just not that nice.

The Man Who Lives In My House and I like some of the same things.  We like to eat and cook and hike and travel.  We like to throw the occasional party.  We can work in the garden simultaneously for hours.  But even in the earliest days of our relationship, I used to dispatch my friend Jeanine (Thank you, Jeanine!) to go with him to see action/special effects movies in my stead.  And I try to avoid taking him to Merchant/Ivory Costume dramas unless I feel he needs to be punished.

The Miss Marple topic I addressed in my last post inspired me to make this list:

Things we will do for fun some other time, like when he is dead:
Go rummage around at Goodwill, just to see if we find anything cool.
Watch Miss Marple.
Buy season tickets for the Opera.
Shop for shoes we don't really need.
Watch 'what not to wear' and 'oprah'.

Things we will do for fun some other time, like when I am dead:
Bicycle across the country.
Buy season tickets for a sports team.
Watch The Lord of the Rings Movies one after another, again.
Have a book club devoted to science fiction.
Watch 'band of brothers.'

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Difference of Opinion re: TV

The Man Who Live in My House:  What are we watching?
Kate:  Miss Marple!
The Man:  No F'ing Way.
Kate:  But I like Miss Marple.  Come on!  Humor me.
The Man:  Why don't you watch that some other time.  Like when I am dead.

Vets need money, too.

I think the Prodigal Tortoise's goal in running away may have been to go someplace quiet to die in a dignified manner.  Since her return she has not been herself.  The Man Who Lives In My House cares deeply for all beings' well being.  This is a wonderful characteristic, within REASON!! He has been looking at her anxiously, and muttering.  "I think she has an infection," he informed me several days ago.  "Or maybe a tumor.  See that?  it's inflamed.  And those are maggots."

'That' was the part of the body that on a human would be a trapezius.  It looked gross:  red and slimy where it should have been grayish and scaly.  I can't even talk about the maggots.  You would hurl.  No wonder she wanted to just go bury herself under the woodpile.  I would, too.

"You'll have to take her to the vet."  The vet?  I called our vet.  They only treat mammals.  I ended up driving the turtle across town and writing a check for $58 dollars.  That's the new patient exam fee.  Treatment will be additional.

Since I know you'll be unable to sleep for wondering, I will keep you apprised of her prognosis.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

grammatical zeitgeist

From Facebook:  The Smaller Hooligan's Godmother posted:


Okay all you people who think you're so smart for knowing your vs. you're and their vs. they're: Click "Like" if you know what an appositive is and when it requires a comma.

Saturday at 1:06pm ·  · 

    • S Wow. The silence is deafening!
      Saturday at 8:41pm · 

    • The Man Who Lives In My House:   Google, the world's largest search engine, is an excellent site in which to find answers to esoterica.

      Sunday at 12:16pm ·  · 

    • The Godmother:   Correct comma usage is not esoterica! But Google is an excellent grammar resource. You don't even need to know terms like "appositive." If only people would do a search for "commas around names" or "that vs. which" whenever they were...
      Sunday at 3:02pm · 

    • ______________________________________
After reading this, punctuation was on my mind, so I wrote the Godmother this email:
Subject: Punctuation consultation

My brainy and creative amiga, whom I am appositively honored to count among my friends,

I am very fond  (one might say over-fond) of parenthesis. When a parenthetical aside is used in the middle of a sentence, but is complete (sentence-wise), does one employ a period within the parenthetical parameters? Or should it be left as a fragment?  I find this particularly troubling when I parenthetize at the end of the sentence (as I did in the final paragraph of my last post).  (and right here!) Should there have been a period just now, at the end of that last one?  and then another after the final curve-thingy?
ps I may have to blog some of this, but I will get your approval before anything hits the infernal net.
She wrote back right away.  She is prompt, or perhaps I should say punctual (English Major joke).

Just today I was writing a sentence like you describe. I left the parenthetical remark unpunctuated, although it was technically a complete sentence and occurred in the middle of another sentence. Punctuation is just annoying in the middle of a sentence (even when the parenthetical is a complete sentence), and annoyance should be avoided at all costs. The only exception I can think of would be if the parenthetical was a question (And who doesn't love questions?) because they require the question mark to indicate tone. Then I'd capitalize it and include a question mark.

When it's at the end of a sentence, it's much easier to deal with. You can simply punctuate the parenthetical like a complete sentence, like this:

I find this particularly troubling when I parenthetize at the end of the sentence. (I did this in the final paragraph of my last post, quite frankly.)

Of course the actual parenthetical you used:

(as I did in the final paragraph of my last post)
is not in fact a complete sentence and therefore would not require punctuation.

I hope this makes sense! Rules of punctation vary from style guide to style guide (AP Style is often different from Chicago Manual of Style) and are, frankly, a matter of taste. I go for maximum clarity whenever discrepancies arise.

Parenthetically yours,

(The Godmother)

This is a woman who knows about style, literary and otherwise. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Band names

I'm in a lot of imaginary bands.  Usually I sing.  And I look cool.  I have an active fantasy life.  I never drum.  I can't imagine a sense of rhythm, no matter how hard I try.  Plus the drummer is way in the back. No one can see how cool she looks.  My bands have awesome names. Some examples:

Prodigal Tortoise--Acoustic Folk
Seven League Boots:  Indie Alt Folk Girl Band with feminist punk twist.
Yolanda Avocadeaux: Latin/Creole/Salsa/Lounge.
and my latest:
Bluebird Baboon:  Kid music that adults can stand, like Dan Zanes, who has the best hair in the world.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vocabulary, applied randomly.

The smaller hooligan's assessment of the first day:

"It was great.  We didn't do any work.  I have two teachers who are awesome. but I forget their names, and I made a new friend.  But he hasn't fully evolved into being totally my friend yet, because I just met him."

If you knew the smaller Hooligan's two or three closest friends, you would know that his definition of "evolved" is unconventional.  A major qualification to be part of his posse:  you must be able to touch your nose with your tongue.  It's even better if you can pick your nose with your tongue.  That puts you in line to be supreme leader.  I will leave you with this image:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Prodigal Tortoise

This would be a good name for a band.  A nice man found our missing turtle in the alley behind our back yard.  I wish I had made video of the smaller hooligan joyfully cavorting when he heard the good news.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What if

head were eyeball?
The Smaller Hooligan wants to know.

As one of the Godmothers observed years ago, "He's really weird!"

Monday, August 30, 2010

I guess they don't think of me as a girl...

The Hooligans met a nice girl somewhere in between them in age at a park.  In no time, she had them roped together with her jump rope.  She held the ends and trained them:  "Faster, right, left! Stop! Bark! Jump!".  They were very obedient.  Actually, they were falling all over themselves to outperform one-another in their efforts to be subservient.

Later, I overheard the following conversation:
Smaller Hooligan (crossly), "Girls are so weird!  They always want to tell you what to do!"
Larger Hooligan (earnestly), "Well you just do what they want!  Then they like you."

I wish, just once, they would be slavish for me (and the week before Christmas does not count.).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

rund oft

Every morning this week, I drop the hooligans off at camp--I've finally wised up.  The last week of summer is when summer gets too long.  I've outsourced it this year.

Each day I come home, and  there is the dog, sitting on the front steps, grinning.  He bounds over, absurdly pleased with himself.  He is all tail, wagging from one end to the other.

How is he getting out?  All the doors are closed, all the gates are closed.  I think he's leaping out the dining room window.  Or he's magic.  (I had a magical labrador, years ago.  She could levitate to the top of the  fridge and devour a whole cheese cake in the time it took to take a shower. Why do I like dogs?) I'm sure he left a horrible steaming pile in one of my neighbor's yards--my apologies.  We will add "close all downstairs windows" to our morning checklist, right after "make your bed" and before "brush your teeth".

Meanwhile, out on the back of the three box turtles has gone AWOL.  This is bad, as they are very quiet, well camouflaged and disinclined to draw attention to themselves. They're the opposite of the Hooligans.  Finding her will be a matter of luck. (We know it's a her because there is one boy and two girls--it's kind of turtle porn scene sometimes. Very educational....)

 Once last summer, the dog was actually useful, when he located a lost turtle. Turtles climb better and move faster than you would think.  Also, would you expect a turtle to even have the urge to explore?  They seem like sedentary creatures.  We keep them well supplied with snails and slugs aka:  crunchy wiggles. Today I will be improving the top of the turtle pen.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Not dull, just dirty

When we were little, my clever sister inferred that dull was short for adult.  It made sense.  The grown ups would sit around the table FOREVER, just talking and talking, and drinking nasty things like wine and coffee.  Sometimes they would laugh very loudly at things that made no sense whatsoever.

Friday night we got to go out to dinner in Portland with friends.  We left our assorted offspring with a babysitter and a movie.  Our friends took us to a relatively new place in Portland, the Irving Street Kitchen--it was excellent. And we talked and talked and laughed uproariously and drank wine and espresso.  A snippet of the conversation went as follows:

Adult #1 "You can get anything on Amazon."
Adult #2 "Yes!  Our espresso machine died of over-use--I just ordered a new one on Amazon!"
Adult #3 "I ordered my new vibrator." (Did the last one die of over use?)
Adult #4  "I just got one of those hand pump espresso makers--it's sort of a cross between the two."

Ho ho ho.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Science experiment, and a recipe

My chickens used to have their outdoor run in what had been a raised garden bed.
Then it rained even more than usual all spring, and the roof of the chicken house collapsed.  I had just given away my old chickens, so there were no fatalities.
I hired a very competent guy to re-build the coop for me, and while we were at it, we made it more efficient, space-wise.

There is room for a hooligan in the coop now.  This could come in handy.

So I was able to re-claim my garden bed for some tomatoes.  We all know chicken shit is good fertilizer, but seriously!  It is amazing!  Here are the tomatoes in the regular bed:

Here are the chicken-shit tomatoes:

I think I need more chickens.

We ate caprese salads almost every day while we were traveling.  Fortunately, they are well within my capabilities to replicate, and it's easy to grow all the produce.  I need a buffalo, for the mozzarella.  Since I am also fond of melon with proscuitto, perhaps we should get a pig, too.  I wonder what the city codes are....

Sliced tomatoes
Sliced up fresh mozzarella
basil leaves
Arugula (optional)

Pesto dressing:
minced basil(6 sprigs)
minced parsly (2 sprigs)
minced mint (1 sprig)
one or two garlic cloves-minced
juice of one lemon
1/3 C olive oil (better is better)

You can leave out the pesto part and just do a lemon garlic olive oil thing if the basil leaves in the salad are enough for you, or you can buy a tub of pesto and thin it with a little lemon juice if you are short on time.  I could live on this.  I like to expand it with sliced grilled eggplant or sausages and grilled french bread.  I think we'll have it tonight.