Friday, December 23, 2011

Follow up

11:00 pm

Apparently last night my cold combined with Nyquil cause me to snore.  The Man Who Lives in My House was making a great show of going to bed early, as I had deprived him (probably deliberately)  of his beauty rest the night before.

Me:  I'm just going to read for a long time and then I'm going to fall asleep and snore a lot.
The Man Who Lives In My House (mumbling, eyes closed):   I hope not.
Me:  There's a blanket in the closet.  Wrap up in that if you need to go sleep on the couch.
TMWLIMH (appearing half asleep):  Thanks, but if you snore, i'll just use it to smother you.
Me:   Ha! That proves it!  That was totally blogable and you're not even awake.  You don't live to make me laugh.  There's no effort.
TMWLIMH:  Yeah, it just happens, like a fart.

Monday, December 19, 2011

colds make me incompetant

My kids played legos and ate all the cookies today while I wallowed in my snotly unwellness.  My sinuses hurt, ok?  and I can only breathe stertorously through my mouth.  I am pathetic.  My neck hurts.  Perhaps I have meningitis.  Or TB. The inner edge of my right nostril is chapped and scabby.  I look as bad as I feel.  So I could only be grateful that the little darlings were not fighting.  A few cookies seemed like a small price to pay for peace.

The Man Who Lives In My House is most vexed to find that there are no cookies.

something to counter balance all the f-ing cookies.

Persimmon Salad

Ingredients:
2 persimmons
one small can of mandarin oranges
fennel bulb
shallot
toasted walnuts
pomegranate seeds
baby salad greens

Dressing:
juice of one lemon
minced garlic clove
pinch dry mustard
2 T of the juice from the mandarins
olive oil
salt

The only tricky part of this salad has to do with the persimmons. I'm told that when they're perfectly ripe, you can just eat persimmons out of hand.  However I've only ever had them from grocery stores.  They're one of those fragile fruits like figs-- they get picked while hard, so they're either unripe, or mushy and bruised most times at the market.  Eaten untreated, they have a delicious taste, followed by a horrible dry-mouth tannin effect.  To eliminate this problem, you just slice them thinly and simmer them for five minutes or so in the juice from the mandarin oranges.  This will eliminate the weird dry-mouth feel and bring out the sweetness.  When they're perfect, it's like a peach and a pumpkin had a very tasty baby.

Once you've dealt with the persimmons, slice the fennel and shallot very thinly and toss everything together with the dressing.  We had it with salmon and cous cous.  The salad stole the show.

(I should credit Marche restaurant in Eugene for the salad.  I don't know if this is an exact copy, but I had something very similar there and approximated it as closely as I could.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dedicated to The Hooligans' Father.

I'm reading Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin, by Calvin Trillin.  I just started it.  Calvin Trillin is my new journalist/author crush.  He's a little old for me, but that's ok!  I like old guys.  Note to The Man Who Lives In My House:  You might want to start aging.  Like the rest of us.  You're going to feel very left out if you don't.

Back to the book:  the dedication is to his late wife, Alice.  Of whom Trillin says "...appears as a character in many of these pieces.  Before her death, in 2001, even the pieces that didn't mention her were written in the hopes of makeing her giggle."

Which made me feel a little weepy, and got me wondering:  The Man Who Lives In My House cracks me up quite frequently.  Does he do it on purpose?  Is this what he lives for?  I would like to think so. Or is he just funny by accident?

I asked him as soon as he got home.

"Hell, I don't know," he answered. " I'm just hoping to get blogged."

Ha!  He did it again.
Naturally amusing? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I'm the Crazy Aunt! With a nephew to Match!

My sister Abigail (the artist!  Check her out! http://www.abigailmarble.com/)    Sent me this text of a recent conversation between her and my 3 year old nephew.  He spent a long weekend with us recently.  It is possible that the Hooligans have influenced him just a smidgen....


Mama: “Senor Cupcake, if you are eating, please stay at the table.”
Cupcake wafts about, clenching a drippy pear in fist.
Mama: “Please don’t walk around with that sticky pear. Sit at the table.”
Cupcake giggles maniacally, continues to waft.
Mama: “Last warning! I am going to count to 3, and if you can’t bring it to the table I will have to take it away.”
Cupcake furrows his brow, bolts for a far corner and snarls, “That would not be awesome.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Industrious Sloth Mother

So last weekend, while one of us watched TV (not me), the other one put up all the Christmas lights:  both the tasteful white ones and the lurid colored ones that one of us (not me) prefers.  For all that I have a reputation for being the cranky and difficult one in our relationship, I seem to be something a pleaser.  No wonder I don't feel one bit guilty about asking him to make me a latte every morning.


Saturday afternoon several things happened:  some neighbors came and took our piano (No one practiced.  Ever.  I am a failure as a Tiger Mother, ok?  I am the opposite of a Tiger Mother.  I am a Sloth mother.  And I wanted to rearrange my living room, which necessitated getting rid of the dusty piano.) 

We made some cocoa to bring to the Christmas Tree farm, where we spent a couple of hours finding the perfect, albeit 30% too large, tree.  The larger Hooligan also seems to have found some poison oak.  Hopefully the itching will not distract him during his math test tomorrow.  After that, The Man Who Lives In My House made chocolate fondue, which we brought to a fondue dinner party.  I don't know what I was doing, probably re-arranging furniture.


Sunday morning we had to get up early for the Larger Hooligan's soccer game.  Apparently it was epic (that means good).  The smaller Hooligan and I stayed home and made christmas ornaments out of buttons and wire.  Then our friend Keri and her daughters came over and we walked through the alleys gathering green stuff to make wreaths.  We spread all these boughs and branches all over my dining room and went to town with clippers and wire.

Keri kept wanting me to show her exactly what to do, as if there were a correct way.  Ha ha, that is funny.  After a while she found her groove.  Check out her wreath:


Meanwhile the children were becoming hungry and pesky.  The Man Who Lives in My House And Makes Me A Latte Every Morning saved our sorry sloth mother asses and took them to the bagel shop for a sandwich.  He brought us sandwiches, too.  And made us a press pot of coffee.

 He really is nice. And our house is full of festivus-ness.



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Less than ideal.

If you don't like your husband, I have a suggestion:  get him a TV.  We have just completed a remodel of our tiny one-car garage.  It used to be a dark junk repository.  It is now a small, bright TV/guest room.  We have not had a television for years, depending, instead, on our computer moniter and netflix for perfectly adequate access to media.

Now we have a TV.  It is hugantic.  The Man Who Lives In My House (I think he still lives here, anyway) disappears for hours at a time, particularly on weekend afternoons.  I believe he is watching football.

It should be noted that I had NO IDEA that he had any interest in football in the first year(s) that I knew him.  During our very newly married era I would notice the old hand-me-down black and white television would be turned on to football when I passed through the living room.  I would snap it off (It had a dial! And knobs! Remember those?) and go about my business.  Later I would notice it was on again.

"Why do you keep turning on the football? "  I asked him.
"Well it's the Broncos." he aswered, as if this meant something.

I feel to this day that I was tricked, slightly.  I was unaware that I'd married a sports fan.  This would not necessarily have been a deal breaker, but it still rubs my fur the wrong way.  Football.  I'll watch if my kid is playing, but that's it.  I've gone to superbowl parties, but I only stay long enough to eat a bunch of wings.  Then I pretend I have a headache and leave.

If you happen to have a husband who needs banishing, a bigger TV might be a great solution!  Unfortunately, I am fond of mine.  I find I miss him.  I don't expect him to help me hang up the Christmas lights.  I know he thinks they are silly.  I do hope he doesn't have the volume up so high that he can't hear my screams if I slip and fall off the roof.  I guess he feels fairly confident of my safety, as it is flat.  Still!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Target Audience

To my thrifting partner in crime/nemesis:

Hope you're having a great trip.  You'll be interested to know there is a new thrift store on River Road.  It's a big one!  I plan on checking it out/scooping up all the good stuff tomorrow.  See you in a week.

--Kate

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Good Vibes

My friend stopped by for coffee.  I can't say any thing else about our interaction because I promised to preserve her anonymity.

"Thank you!"  She said as she left.  "Give me a hug!  What if my plane crashes?  Here's what you must do:  Get into my house before my Mother In Law does and remove all my vibrators!  I love you!  See you in a week!"

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Artistic Expression

By the Smaller Hooligan

I would just like to inhabit his brain for one day.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mother was irked.

I left my elder son a note this morning:

Dear Larger Hooligan,

It appears that two nights ago, when you were looking for your soccer shorts, you pulled every other article of clothing from your cabinet and left it on the floor.  I cleaned it up this morning.  I found some of your money scattered on the floor, too. I am keeping it.


Love, Mom


Now I feel better.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Putting Away the Groceries.

The Man Who Lives In My House:  Am I supposed to refrigerate the Nutella?
Smaller Hooligan.  No, It's supposed to be stored in my stomach.

Funnier than I am. A lot.

This writer Alice?  At a blog called Finslippy?  She often makes me snort my coffee out my nose, or my wine, depending on the time of day.  Go to this link if you want to snort.  And I now want to make a similar list for my parents, but all of you readers should know that when/if I do, I am copycatting.  Because it's very important to cite your sources, even if you haven't plagiarizes anything yet!  And I wont, I'm just ssaying I'm inspired, ok?  So go to this link, followers and lurkers! All 60+ of you.

http://www.finslippy.com/blog?currentPage=2

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Overheard

I'm just going to put it out there that I am a MAJOR eavesdropper.  I have been known to rudely shush my dinner companions as I strain to catch the conversation that is happening at the next table.  Today I heard the ultimate, though, and I wasn't even trying.  I was digging for my keys when a tattoo'd and shaggy man walked, by, talking loudly into his cell phone, "Don't try to put that one on me."  He went on, "What I know is that you gave my baby away and never even told me."  With that he rounded the corner and left me wondering.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Excorism/Excercise

I don't know what excorism has to do with this post except that it is close to Halloween.  I went to this insane excercise class this morning.  Perhaps the instructor is the Devil in disguise as a very fit, cheerful  man.  I used to go quite regularly.  It's a half hour intensive thing involving mostly squats and sprints and pushups in rapid succession.  There are signs on the wall that say things like "It's supposed to hurt."  and "If it feels good, you're not doing it right."  Sounds diabolical to me.  I hadn't been for about five months.

My legs kept buckling as I was walking back to the car, afterwards.  The Man Who Live In My House texted me:  Wat U doin?
Me:  went to excercise class, cant walk, not sure I can drive
MWLIMH:  should I call you a cab?
Me:  i would prefer a litter with four strong young men  shirtless

I did make it home but laundry is out of the question as I can walk up stairs, but not down.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pie is important

I like pie anytime, but particularly in the fall.  I have a new innovation for classic apple that I am sharing today:

One  recipe classic pie crust as follows (Joy of Cooking, my mother's 1961 edition) :

2 C flour
1 C cold butter, grated into the flour
3-5 T water, added  one T at a time, mixed a lot between additions.  Stop adding when you can press dough into a ball and it doesn't fall apart.

Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour on rolling surface,  roll dough to thickness of cardboard.  Fold in half, fold in quarters, unfold over pie pan.  Patch if necessary.  No big deal.  Repeat for top crust after you've made the filling:

Filling!

Slice 6-7 tart apples sliced and chopped into chunks or small bits-- if you like your pie mushy, chop finer, if you like it chunky, keep them big.  You'll figure it out.

Toss  apples with 1/2 cup brown sugar and...
2 T flour
1T powdered ginger*
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t ground clove
zest of one orange*

Put coated slices into bottom crust, sprinkle a tablespoon or two of orange juice over, and top with second crust.

Cook at 425 for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350, cook for 35 or 40 more minutes.  If your kids say the ginger is too spicy, top with vanilla ice cream and they will probably stop complaining.   Grown ups will love this.  All the spices can be varied according to taste, of course.

*This is the new innovation:  I stole the ginger/orange idea from my friend Sam, who makes better pie than I do.  I am getting over this, as I used to believe I was the queen of pie.  Sam uses ginger and orange in her strawberry rhubarb, so I assumed that she put it in all her pies, but when she tried mine she kindly acted all impressed.  I just applied her method to apple.  She deserves credit.  Thank you Sam.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I know I should be nicer to my mother.

I have mentioned before that my mother is frugal, only I probably didn't mince words.  I probably called her cheap, which was not very nice.  It is so much fun to make fun of my mother.  I feel terrible about it, but sometimes she brings it on herself.  Even my sister, Abbey, can't resist.  Last Monday night Mom was telling us about the bathroom she's had remodelled to make it accessible for my dad when he comes home from the skilled nursing facility:

My mother:  Well I sprung for a heated towel warmer, but I didn't do the heated floor tiles in the new bathroom.  Too expensive.
Abbey:  I wonder if a heated towel warmer would solve my moldy-smelling towel problem?  My towels smell moldy after two days because our bathroom is so small.
My mother:  Well I just buy really thin, cheap towels, and then they dry quickly.  People think they need those big fluffy towels, but the cheap kind is better.
Me:  Mom, that is so you.  Cheap towels, like the kind in Motel 6!  Everybody loves those!
Abbey: (quzzically):  Do you like ice milk, Mom?
Me (doubled over and snorting):  She likes powdered milk!
My father (chuckling in his wheelchair):  Stop making fun of your mother.
My mother (mildly huffy):  Well I do like thin towels better.
Me (pointing my iphone at her):  Mom, You're getting blogged.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Time out

My dad is unwell.  He's been in the hospital for two weeks, now he's in a rehab place....he's improving, but slowly.  I can't blog right now.  I'll be back, but I don't know when.

I think this is from about five years ago....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mouseball

video


A long time ago, when this child was about 2, one of our friends observed, "He's really weird!"  This is still true,  I think.  I believe he made this little clip about a year and a half ago, when we had just gotten a new mouse.  You can hear me nagging the larger hooligan in the background.  I had never seen this video until two days ago, when the kids were going through old photobooth bits and sent it to my email.
If I put it on you tube, do you think it might go viral?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Multi-Sensory

Me to Hooligans:  "We're having a family portrait done late this afternoon.  I am going to pick out what you guys are going to wear and you will need to shower."

Larger Hooligan:  no comment, just major eye roll, noisily slurped the remainder of his milkshake, then helped himself to mine.

Smaller Hooligan (horrified/outraged, and by the way, extremely grubby after two soccer games and a milkshake):  "A SHOWER?  WHY?  Is it A SCRATCH and SNIFF picture or something?"

The Larger Hooligan and I cracked up, like snorting milkshake out our noses and crying cracked up.  The Smaller Hooligan smirked ever so slightly and resisted the urge to laugh.

Is this what it is like to be Jon Stewart's mother?  It is awesome.  We are lucky women.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Subconscious concerns about the future


The Man Who Lives In My House had a dream in which the smaller hooligan was a newborn  and he was a baby gorilla instead of a human.
So cute!  I sort of want one!

"He was furry and everything!"  said the Man, handing me a cup of coffee, "And we really liked him.  We named him and we were carrying him around, but I was already worried about what he would be like as a teenager."

I guess this is not too wierd, given that the Larger Hooligan has just entered middle school.  We are wrestling with mighty piles of spanish and pre-algebra homework.  He is noticing that he is learning stuff that I do not know.  This is going straight to his (big) head, let me tell you.

Also Football practice--don't ask.  I hate football.  But the larger Hooligan is, well, large.  And very strong, but not super fast.  Soccer was not his metier.  He got called for fouls frequently because if he even bumped into someone a little bit, they appeared  to have been bulldozed.  He felt really bad about this--it is never fun to have to curb your enthusiasm.

Various dads have been taking me aside for years:  "Kate, He really should play football."
"Bleah!"   I would reply, sticking my fingers in my ears, "No! Stop recruiting my son!"

Anyway, I caved.  There are pros and cons.  On the pro side, The larger Hooligan is feeling the glow of success.  He is encouraged to go full boar (bore?) and not hold back.  You do not have to tell him twice.  Also there are no weekend games--four nights a week of practices/games, but weekends are free!  And all the games are local.  In soccer as they get more advanced, the games and tournaments happen all over the state.  What you spend on gas, food and hotel rooms is unbelievable, not to mention that your weekends are not longer your own.

The cons are, well, it is football.  I don't understand the rules.  I fret about injury, although our pediatrician friend (whose son also plays) assures us that the injury rate is about the same as soccer, at this level.  It is incredibly tedious.  Many of my fellow parents appear to be living vicariously through their sons' success/failure, which can be hard to witness.

I am just showing up as expected, helping with the carpooling, providing snacks and keeping him hydrated.  Besides this I am very uninvolved.  As long as no one gets hurt I do not care if they win or lose, I do not care if he plays or is on the bench.  This is surprisingly freeing!  I guess it falls into the pro category, now that I think about it.

So our young silverback has a venue in which to roar and beat his chest.  If this means he will act reasonably civilized at home I will not complain.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mine are getting too big to cuddle.

Here I am with my perfectly delightful nephew.  He is nearly perfect: by this I mean that he laughs at all my jokes and will do absolutely anything I require of him for the price of one m & m, which he calls "om-n-oms."


Plus I can still throw this guy up in the air.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years ago

I had just gone back to work, teaching special ed half time at a public school in one of Baltimore's worst neighborhoods--which is saying something.  The school hadn't quite figured out what to do with me yet--funding for a half time special ed teacher had come through at the last minute.  I didn't have a classroom or a schedule. When I went to work on Sept. 11, I was asked to cover for another teacher while he checked out a strange news item on the computer--apparently, some pilot had flown a plane into the World Trade Center in New York.  How bizarre was that?

Shortly after the first morning bell, the principal came to the classroom door and beckoned me over, "I need to talk to you for a minute, Ms. McCarthy."

"Oh dear," I thought, "I hope there's not something wrong with my paperwork and licensure, I hope they're not going to try to make me work full time."

Her voice was very low, so it wouldn't carry, "They've flown planes into the world trade center," she said, "And they're bombing the Pentagon."

All the background noise faded away while I stared at her.  Who were "They?"  The Pentagon is less than forty five minutes' drive from Baltimore.  There were a lot of rumors and exaggerations that day, such as "they're bombing." Behind me, kids were throwing pencils and writing curse words on the chalkboard.  "I think..... I think I'd better go get my son."

"Yes," she said.  "Go as soon as Gerald gets back.  Check the radio in the morning, I don't know whether school will be open."

A few minutes later I was in my car.  The local public radio station was broadcasting which freeways were closed for security reasons.  I was pretty sure I could get home by a back route, and barring that, I figured I would walk--I was only about four miles from our home and the sitter's house.  I regretted my shoe choice--red sandals with a thick wedge heel.  They were frivolous shoes I had bought to celebrate my new job--it could have been worse, but they were not exactly designed for a hike.  As it happened, I was able to drive the whole way.

I stayed with the sitter for a little while, listening to the radio.  The toddlers in her care were strangely subdued, crawling through a pile of cushions and playing peacefully with blocks.  No one cried or bit, or maybe we just didn't notice.

I took my little hooligan home, changed shoes and strapped him into his stroller.  I did not want to spend the day alone with the news.  We walked along the silent streets to a friend's house.  The neighborhood was as quiet as six a.m. on a Sunday morning.  The babies played and napped while we sat numbly on the couch, looking at the screen with the sound off.

For the Feeble: La-Z-Girl Recliner on Wheels

We rode our bikes to the Japanese pub for a hip, cheap grown up date.  The hooligans were invited, but preferred to stay home and eat mac and cheese.  

Usually we ride the tandem on bike dates, but our regular bikes were already out and it was so hot--getting the tandem down from it's ceiling rack was too much effort.  As we cruised up to the bike path the conversation went as follows:

Me (on my wicked-witch-of-the-west-style up-right posture granny bike):  "This is hard, usually I just chill on the back of the tandem and you do all the work."

The Man Who Live In My house:  "I knew it!  HA"

Me:  "Well my butt hurts from going for a ride with Heidi and Katie on Friday.  My bike seat is just not comfortable."

TMWLIMH:  "I'll see if I can order you an even BIGGER seat." (note: My bike seat is huge.)

Me:  "Maybe I need a recumbent bike."

TMWLIMH:  "What you need is a bike where you can lie down.  I guess that would be a gurney."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Culprit Has Been Known to Bark and Drool.

Monday afternoon we got home from an epic camping-backpacking-road trip.  We spent the remainder of the day unpacking the car and washing/putting away the vast quantities of gear in the garage.

The Man Who Lives In My House thoughtfully got a pound of frozen hamburger out to thaw....but then we looked at the garden and saw the bushels of tomatoes and basil that had gone crazy while we were away (It finally got hot!) and decided to make a huge caprese salad instead.

I thought I put the hamburger in the fridge, but last night I could not locate it.  Not in the fridge, not in the freezer....not in the garage or the car....it would reveal it's location by smell, by now...and nothing smells except:
He looks guilty, doesn't he?

Otto has been emitting noxious fumes intermitantly for the last 12 hours.  Keri stopped in to shop my closet (she likes my clothes :)) and have coffee this morning.  Suddenly the air was so foul we had to step outside.  

So I think I know what happened to the hamburger.

I've asked this before, and the question remains:  Why DO I like dogs?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Becky-Home Ec-ky

I grew more beets than the Smaller Hooligan and I could eat up--The Man Who Lives In My House will eat beets, but he does not really appreciate them, ditto the Larger Hooligan.  I decided to pickle the surplus.  They may or may not taste good, but they look fabulous.  I used the "Quick Garlic Dills"  recipe from Small Batch Preserving.  I won't lay out the details here as I might forget something and give you botulism.  Canning should come straight from an expert source, which I am not.
  
My sister (aka The Smart One) and I were chatting on the phone as I was bottling these up and she said, "You're making pickled beets?  From beets you grew yourself?  Organically?  If you blog this you'll be one of those revolting domestic goddess bloggers that we all love to hate."  She may have a point.  My apologies.  

The Smart One and The Loud One.

 
Guess who's who?  We look more alike these days.  Although my dimple is looking more and more like a giant wrinkle and Abigail's maintains it's cuteness.  We had just been teasing our mom because she often listens to me, even though she knows perfectly well that Abbey will have thought things through and her conclusions are generally correct.  Mine are spoken authoritatively but are sometimes based on nothing.

Abbey once said (at my birthday dinner--nice), "Kate's talking out of her ass, AS USUAL."  I opened my mouth to object, but (for once) closed it.  What could I say?  It was true.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

O Dark Thirty

I woke up sometime in the middle of the night, stumbled into the bathroom to get a drink, noticed my hair in the mirror:






It was so good that I lay back down very carefully, so that it would continue to be huge and insane in the morning.   I was giggling evilly as I fell back asleep.  The larger hooligan came downstairs as I was getting my first cup of coffee:

"Whoa, mom, have you seen your hair?  Maybe you should brush it."

This from a child who must be bribed to bathe.   There is hope for the future.  Plus I will threaten to leave it like this and walk him into the tennis center if he does not clean up his room before camp.  Ha.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Interpret this

I had a dream:  I was climbing into a red convertible with Alisa:
My sweet friend, shown here 10 years ago with a much smaller larger hooligan.  Weren't they so cute?  She looks exactly the same today.  (So does he, because he just buzzed off all his hair--Lice outbreak in his class.  He decided better safe than sorry, much to my relief.  So far no vermin on our persons. )


She was wearing a mustard colored hat with flowers--the kind that looks like a vintage bathing cap.  We were going to Hawaii--perhaps it was a flying car?  Anyway, The Man Who Lives In My House had packed my bag.  It was strangely heavy.  When I looked inside, I realized this was because it contained a bikini and a pair of red ski boots.  This struck us as hilarious--we laughed and laughed as we tossed the boots out the car window.

You let me know what that was all about.  I woke up very amused.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Compounding Doom

The smaller hooligan dislikes elevators.  He takes the stairs whenever possible.  There was no stair option last Thursday on the second grade class field trip to the sea lion caves.

Ugh.  The caves are a roadside attraction on the 101.  You go into a gift hut at the top of a cliff, pay way too much for a ticket, and ride a crowded elevator down down down to a dark sea cavern.  You can look over the railing and see the enormous California Sea Lions quite close up, lounging on the rocks with the waves crashing through the sea entrance.  Very dramatic.  It's hard to appreciate, though, because before you see them, you smell them.  The damp cave air is redolent of fishy sea lion poo.

I don't like elevators much, myself, or caves, or bad smells.  But when the smaller hooligan decided to bite the bullet and go down, I went with him.  Otherwise I would have convinced myself that there would be an earthquake and or a tsunami while he was down there and I could not live wit the guilt if I survived and he didn't.  So we did it.  We have made a pact never to do it again.

Aside from the caves, the beach trip was glorious.  Breezy and sunny.  We went to a lighthouse to watch shore birds, and to the Newport Aquarium, and played on the beach.

Friday, though, both boys had to get vaccine boosters.  The smaller hooligan hates shots almost as much as elevators.  He was very vocal about this.  "A shot is worse than an elevator,"  he said. "Because it actually hurts.  And an elevator does not hurt, I just think that they will break and I will be stuck.  But you know what the worst thing would be?  Getting a shot ON an elevator."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Food Chain

The upsides of backyard chickens are multiple:  really fresh eggs, cute clucking and squawking background noises, vast quantities of free and effective fertilizer. Which, with lots of ventilation and fairly regular rake-outs, do not smell in any major way....

However they do attract, how shall I say this?  vermin.  Mice and rats, to be specific.  If it were limited to mice I could handle it.  Mice have a certain charm.  I don't want them in my cupboards, but a few mices scampering around in the shrubbery brings Beatrix Potter books to mind.

Rats on the other hand, are just nasty.  We had enormous rats in our alley in Baltimore.  When it snowed their tracks crossed out back yard--we were the rat superhighway, which was preferable to being a rat rest stop.  One time I was weeding in our tiny postage stamp garden, and a rat scuttled (rats do not scamper) across my bare foot.  My scream was such that The Man Who Lives In My House thought I was being assaulted.  I maintain that I was.

So, we have rats...who cannot get into the chicken run, as it is encased in rat-proof metal mesh.  They have to settle for the compost bin.  I guess I could stop composting, but the dirt is so good for the garden.  Plus it's handy--it saves me trips to the True Value at least once a week.  Of course I end up going there for lightbulbs or something anyway.  Come to think of it, I went yesterday and bought four rat traps.

It is possible that I won't need the traps, though.  Here is why:

You are looking at an Owl Pellet.  All the undigestible bits (fur, bones, nasty yellow teeth) that the Owl upchucks after devouring a rat. The Z-shaped thing is a femur/shin/foot segment.  They are all over the walkway beneath the big Douglas Fir.

Having a resident Owl is so cool, it is almost worth having resident vermin.

My new band:  Resident Vermin.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Still not funny

My amusing commentary switch is still off, but I'm cooking like a maniac in the meantime.  I hope it comes back soon--I'm finding myself boring.  Still, at least we're well fed.  Fat and boring.  Oh dear.

 Company dinner from last weekend:  STEAK AND CAKE (Why not stake and ceak?  English is so random.)

To start, my friend Keri called to say we should have dinner this weekend, at my house, kids included.  They would bring something, only they had soccer/horse shows/etc all day, so nothing complicated, EVEN THOUGH her husband is justifiably renowned as an incredible cook.

Well we had a comparatively simple weekend of just soccer and a little canvassing to pass the local school tax, so I said yes, absolutely you must come.  I will cook something.  All I ask is that you make a fuss over my garden, which is kicking ASS right now.  Ask Ruby what I should make for dessert (Ruby is 5).  Ruby's reply was unequivocal:  Chocolate Cake.

Huh,  I was thinking strawberry rhubarb pie, but ok, Chocolate cake.   I told Keri to just bring lots of red wine, for the steak.  We would have Steak and Cake--isn't there a chain of restaruants in the South called Steak-n-cake?

The menu was as follows:

Olives, Cheese, crackers and white wine. ( Ruby kept biting the crackers, trying to make her tooth come loose.  It remains stubbornly embedded.) Steak, rubbed with garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, salt and pepper, grilled medium rare-rare.  French bread,  and shaved asparagus salad.   Triple chocolate cake.

Besides the cake, the salad was the best part:  Here's what you do:

Use a vegetable peeler to shave large asparagus spears into a bowl.  You may have to julienne the last bit with a sharp knife.  There is probably a gadget to do this more easily, but I don't have it.  As long as you're not in a hurry, it's easy enough with a peeler.

Make a vinaigrette:  3 cloves mashed or minced garlic, salt, pepper,  juice of two lemons and the zest of one lemon, 1/4th teaspoon mustard and olive oil.

Toss the shredded asparagus in the vinaigrette and let it marinate for an hour or two before you serve it.

Finish with curls of hard salty cheese--manchego, parm, whatever.   And a few leaves of baby arugula--which I have growing in abundance in my garden.  I could eat this 3x/day.  It's my new favorite food group.

As to the cake:  It's the Triple chocolate cake from Sky High--my new favorite sweets cookbook.  I got rid of the incredibly huge and annoying Cake Bible by the excessively exacting Rose Levy Birenbaum, because I like Sky High (by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne) so much better.   My father-in-law Mike gave it to me.   It is so good I am not going to give you the recipe.  You should go buy the book because those authors deserve their royalty checks.  I also bought really good cake pans, which make a huge difference in the layers rising evenly and popping out easily.

I have a very early memory of my mother cussing up a storm as the cake layers broke and crumbled.  We always had to fill the holes with lots of extra frosting.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why not?



Have some hooligans?  You will never be bored.  Sleep deprived, maybe, but never bored.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gardening and cooking do not mix.

I was weeding busily when the fire alarm went off.

Oops.  I forgot I was also cooking.

Perhaps I should just take spring and summer off from cooking.  The people who live in my house will have to fend for themselves.

Pictures of the magic that is my garden coming soon.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Delicious Nostalgia

Ok, recipes are complicated.  They are fraught with memory and associations.  When I was really small--3 or so--I remember being taken to have dinner with my dad on summer evenings.  He was working at the Shriners Children's Hospital across town.  I guess he had to stay overnight for those shifts.

There was a skeleton in a closet that we would visit, "Hello Mr. Bones!" I remember that I was already bathed and wearing my nightie, which seemed very elegant.  Going out at night was a rarity.  My mom would pack a picnic  dinner.  We would eat on the grounds--lots of rolling lawns and big rhododendrons.  And this huge old white hospital building as a backdrop.

I remember spinning because my nightgown twirled in a very satisfactory way.  Boys miss out on this stuff, poor things.  Anyway, the rhodys in my garden are blooming, so I was inspired to replicate the picnic dinner tonight:

BACON EGG AND TOMATO PIE

But wait:  there's more discourse before I can disclose the formula.  No one else I knew my entire childhood ate this.  I thought our family was just weird to have this peculiar favorite until I was in England for a term during college:  It turns out that my Crazy New Zealander Nana was the source for this very typical British dish.  She is also the reason we don't bother whipping up the cream, we just pour it on whatever sweet thing is around.  MMMMMM.  One of my roommates in England would nip down to the corner shop and buy a  "Mr Kipling's Fudge Cake"  in a box--equivalent to little Debbies--she'd drown it in cream and eat it up.  Yum Yum.


OK  here it is:

One recipe pie crust:  Don't freak.  It's easy.  In England, they call this "Short Crust":
Grate 1 C cold butter into 2 cups flour,  every 1/4  c or so of the butter, pause in your grating and mix it around.  there, now you have the butter and the flour, that took about 3 minutes.

Bring the bowl to the sink.     Spray a teeny bit--just a dash!-- of cold water over the butter and flour and mix thoroughly with your hands.  add a little more water.  Mix.  repeat until it makes a ball when you squeeze it.  They dryer your dough, the better the texture will be when it's cooked.  The more frequently you make pie crust, the better you'll be at judging when it's just right, so get started!  This will take another 5 minutes.

Put a ball made of half the dough on the  (Clean) counter.  Using your hands, mash a dough ball until it's a flat circle.  Roll with a rolling pin or a wine bottle if you don't have a rolling pin.  Turn the dough frequently to keep it from sticking and to coax it into a round-ish shape.add more flour to the surface if it's sticking.  When it's about the thickness of cardboard, fold it in half, then in fourths, and unfold over a pie pan.  Repeat to make the top crust.   You could skip the top crust, but the crust is the best part.

You can use this crust recipe for any pie.  It's from my mother's 1961 edition of the Joy of Cooking.  Except the grating part.  Somebody, my friend Jeanine's 90s era boyfriend?-- gave me that tip--it really speeds it up.  I never use anything else.  I make really good pie, although now I am intimidated becasuse my friend Sam makes this strawberry rhubarb pie that 3 people shelled out $50 for at our auction.  Is my pie THAT good?  Maybe.


Filling:

break 8 eggs very gently into the bottom crust.  Try not to let the yolks break.  Sprnkle with 6 crumbled strips of crispy bacon.  Layer thin slices of white cheddar cheese, and two thinly sliced tomatoes.  If you join Rhe Man Who Lives In My House in insisting on green vegetables (oh please), you can add chopped spinach and parsley.

Place the top crust over, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden.  This pie looks beautiful when you slice it and you can see the  yolks, whites, red tomotoes, etc.  it's good warm, but even better at room temperature.  In short, perfect picnic food.   Since it's one of my dad's favorites, it's likely that my mom is making it, too, as he is having surgery at the end of this week.  Send him good thoughts!  And enjoy!

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's not dessert, but it will have to do.

This is really good granola.  It's very easy, as long as you don't let it burn--that's my issue, though.  You are probably more competent and less distractible than I.

Mix:
4-6 C rolled oats
1-2 C sliced almonds
1/2-1 C:  raw sunflower seeds, other nuts, pumpkin seeds and/or unsweetened grated coconut (not shredded, unless you like coconut in your teeth.  I do not.
1/2-1 C brown sugar, and/or honey, maple syrup, other sweet stuff, your choice
pinch of salt
cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, as you wish
1/2 c oil, I use coconut oil or canola.  Coconut is better.
1C Orange Juice!!!! this is important!
AND the zest of one orange.  Also important.

I mix this all up in a big bowl, spread it out on 2 cookie sheets, and roast it @ 350 for several 10 minute intervals.  I stir it around every time I check it.  I have to just sit down on the floor and read the paper while it cooks, or I burn it,  It goes from perfect-crunchy-chewy-caramelized to burned black in about one second, so you have to watch it like a hawk.

Dump the hot granola back in the bowl and stir in the dried fruit of your choice (I like currents.)

This is hella good, especially with greek yogurt--preferably full fat--and sliced fruit.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Nosh-ish

We had fish tacos for dinner--Cinco de Mayo and all.  The Man Who Lives In My House concocted a pitcher of sangria, as well.  We really should have had people over.  Just as well we didn't, though, because there was nothing for dessert.

Not even some stale jelly beans left over from easter.  Not even a calcified marshmallow peep.  I am jonesing, but not enough to go to the store.

I will have to look at shoes on zappos to distract myself.  

I guess I'm on a shoe shopping* diet.

*Please note, this is not shoe buying.  Just shopping......

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Some Dogs have it really good.  Like Truffle, for example.  He likes to snuggle in the duvet in the morning.  Then he has some eggs scrambled with salmon and rye toast. One of his butlers takes him for a walk.  He feels really sorry for his friend Otto, who just gets kibble, and has to make do with a dog bed.  The poor thing is not even allowed to lounge on the couch.  He should file a complaint. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Elegant

That crazy Texas Rob turned 40. They celebrated with a Dukes of Hazard themed crawfish boil. 90pounds of crawfish is a lot--every last one was devoured. I was not going to be seen in any Daisy Duke short shorts. That is just not dignified. So I wore this:


Boy I have big teeth. I am not afraid to look ridiculous. It is unclear whether or not this is a good thing.

I found all our costumes at various thrift stores. Since the party, I have co-opted The Man Who Lives In My House's overalls. They are the ultimate in "I give up" wear. Better even than sweats. Yesterday, I wore them all day in the garden. They are the best! You don't have to suck in your stomach and your butt crack will not be exposed, no matter what.

We were invited to a dinner party and I took them off with great regret. If they had not been covered with mud, I would probably have worn them. This could be a very slippery slope.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I have never seen the Gorilla, but I know he is here.

The Gorilla who lives in my house is evidenced only by the banana peels he leaves behind...on the couch cushions....halfway up the staircase...under the bed. The one I just threw away was draped across my computer keyboard. The Gorilla failed to notice the garbage can placed conveniently beneath my desk. He had more important things on his mind, probably. Like world peace, or watching Weird Al videos on You Tube. Gorillas love Weird Al. If I ever catch that gorilla I am going to send him back to the zoo.

Friday, April 29, 2011

If you were wondering how the auction went.....

FREAKING AWESOME!!!

$23,000.

That's a record.

Here's how we did it:

Kid carnival night was a separate event, about a month before the auction. That brought in $2500+. I'm including it in the total, because we used to combine the two events.

The "suggested donation" for wine or beer was $4. We went through one keg of beer (donated), and 3.5 cases of wine (donated). The jar had $2000 by the end of the night.

We raffled off an ipad. The mac store sold it to us at cost. 3 families put up the money to pay for it. The raffle brought in around $3000.

We sold tickets to the event, $10 each. Teachers were on the "guest list" and did not have to pay. Tickets brought in around $1600.

The auctioned items brought in close to $14,000. We had one table of "big ticket" items ($150 and up). There were over 200 donations. Several classrooms put together elaborate themed baskets (garden, arts and crafts, lego). Some folks paid slightly over retail value, while others got a bargain--i.e. $1000 voucher for orthodontic work for $500. I think that's important because it motivates more people to come to the auction--not just the ones with disposable income.

We had a wine table--this is all the rage! You ask anyone you know who likes wine if they might have a few bottles to donate from their "stash." Bottles should range from pretty darn good ($15) to "Wow!" ($100+). You only need a couple of really over the top bottles to make it exciting. Bag the bottles in plain brown bags and set them out on a table. Customers pay $20, grab a bag, unwrap, and.....ta-da. They got something, maybe something really really good. A friend of mine who's family recently went to one income loved this--she got a great bottle of wine, she could afford it, and she didn't have to compete to get it. We had 72 bottles, which means $1440 dollars. Easy money!

We had to pay for soda, pizza, veggie trays, fruit trays, and cookies. Cost was less than $1000. I did not subtract this in the total because I am still reveling in the triumphantness.

I wore a ridiculous silver cocktail dress from the early 60's, in case you're wondering. Not because it was officially formal or even dressy, but just because I likes me a party dress.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Attentive, not so much

The Larger Hooligan had an indoor soccer game.  It was a bloodbath, our blood, per usual.  He takes these defeats with great good cheer, even exuberance.

"Well, they made 8 goals, but I stopped about 8 goals
(He is playing keeper, lately. "Not goalie, keeper.  Goalies are hockey, mom, duh.")  
And we actually scored 2 goals!  Awesome!"  

He tells me this because he knows that I was probably chatting with the other parents and was not necessarily paying close attention to the game.

I am a failure as a helicopter parent.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

La Nouveau Régime: daily posting or else.

Be aware, though, everything counts. like very short commentary posts, maybe with a picture. or maybe not. or recipes. like this:

Digression: I made pizza a couple of weeks ago when we had friends over for dinner. Unfortunately I got distracted chatting and it burned to a crisp. Good thing we were also making grilled lamb. Good thing everybody liked lamb. When I make lamb for guests I usually makes something else as well because some people really can't stand it. mmmmmm. Lamb. When the Larger Hooligan was little he had a baby lambie stuffed toy. We named it Tasty.

Anyway, the tragedy of the burned pizza was on my mind, so last night I tried again:

Nouveau pizza which does not hardly resemble traditional pizza:

One recipe pizza dough*, with fresh rosemary blended in. roll out as thin as possible.

Carmelize one thin sliced onion. I like to cook it for about an hour.

3 or four minced garlic cloves in 3 T olive oil

1/2 C chopped kalamata olives

8 or 10 chopped dried mission figs (the black kind)

about 4 inched of a goat cheese log

parmesan grated over everything.

I smeared the olive oil/garlic over the dough, added the caramelized onions, olives, figs, crumbled the goat cheese over that, and topped with parm. This is so good it's freaky.

*confession: I bought the dough already made in the deli section of the grocery. I had a late start: too late to make dough. Plus I'm lazy. Or busy, depending on how I spin it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Hooligans' Band:

Is called "The Wreakers of Havoc."  Isn't that good?  I'm guessing it's all drums and bass, maybe some go go girls,  and harmonica.  That's it.

Food for Spring

I had an amazing plate of lasagna the other day.  I brought some of our fresh eggs to my friend who lost her son this winter.  That was February, and people are still bringing them beautiful meals every night.  We looked through the  heaps of cards and letters together.  We sat on his bed.  We cried a lot, it felt really good.

Then we ate this beautiful lasagna with bechamel sauce.  It was delicious.  Everyone had two helpings.  I left feeling sort of wrung out in a good way:  very satiated and grateful.  What amazing people, to still be so gracious. And what a town, to still be so caring.

I was still thinking about lasagna the next day at the grocery store.  I wanted more.  But I also wanted asparagus, and I had some mozzarella and prosciutto in my fridge that needed using up.  Here's what I came up with:

Spring vegetable lasagna:

Fresh pasta sheets
2 lumps fresh mozzarella
parmesan
asparagus
fennel bulb
3 leeks
parsley
small zucchini
6 slices prosciutto

I sliced the vegetables thinly and sauteed them briefly in a little olive oil and some minced garlic.  After they were partially cooked I set up the first layer of lasagna as follows:  oil the lasagna pan, line with layer of fresh pasta, add about a half inch thick layer of vegetables, top with strips of prosciutto, slices of fresh mozzarella and a dusting of parmesan.  Then I make the sauce, pour some over, and repeat until I run out of ingredients.

For the sauce:  I  use the juices from sauteing the veggies as a base to make the bechamel.  I probably don't make bechamel correctly, as my concept of it is a creamy/salty/garlicky white sauce with the interesting twist of a a little nutmeg at the end.  Vaguely french,  not healthy, although you could use skim milk, olive oil, and stock instead of cream, butter and vermouth.

 Here's how I do it:

Add half a stick of butter to the pan,  as it melts, shake about 3 T of flour through a sieve and mix it smoothly into the melted butter.  Add a cup of milk or cream, thin to the desired consistency with stock, white wine, sherry, or dry vermouth  (vermouth is best).  Taste, add salt and a pinch or two of grated nutmeg. Keep the heat very low and stir pretty steadily or it will get too thick and lumpy.

Drizzle sauce over each layer of lasagna, top with more parm, and bake at 350 for about 30 or forty minutes until everything is bubbly.  serve with salad and a dry citrusy white wine, or maybe a very dry rose.

This one's easy to modify:  skip the prosciutto for the vegetarians, try with saffron and shrimp for variety...it would be good with a light chicken sausage....the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Absent without leave, but with good cause.

Today, Text, from The Man Who lives in My House:  "Want to meet me for lunch somewhere?"
Me:  "I would avoid being around me at all costs, if I were you."

A little later, my cell rings, it's my mother.  I know she'll call again if I don't pick up, so I answer: "Hi mom, is it an emergency?"
My mother, "Well no, I just called to chat."
Me: "Mom, it is going to have to wait until Saturday.  But call or text if it's an emergency."
My mom is laughing as I click off.

Why would I turn down a lunch date with a cute guy?  Why wouldn't I enjoy a chat with my mother? Am I crazy?  No.  I am in charge.  In charge of the school auction, in a year where we are facing a budget shortfall so severe that we may lose one of our 11 classroom teachers.  Normally we raise money to keep Reading support, P.E., Music, technology upgrades, library upgrades--"frills"  like that.  Now our funding is so short that we may lose a classroom teacher, in addition to the "frills".  So this auction gig.  No pressure.  

I am homesick for blogging, and normalcy.  Right now I live in auction land.  It is extremely fun, but very time consuming.  I have been an auction wingman for several years now, but the parent who has run the show decided it was time to step down.  I'm not sure whether I stepped up, or whether it was just kind of a default thing, but the power went straight to my head.  I am El Jefe.

So I sort of changed it up--instead of a kid inclusive family event, I got the local public golf course to let us use their clubhouse (for free), and the local brewery to donate a keg, and a local vineyard gave us ten cases of wine--which are currently stacked all around my living room.

This could be a great idea, because who doesn't like a party?  And we will raise extra $ selling beer and wine.  Actually we cannot legally sell the beer and wine, but we can accept donations.  There will be an enormous pickle jar with a big sign that says "DONATIONS."  I think people will get it.

It also could be a total flop.  People could be having so much fun socializing that they forget to bid.  That happened a few years ago, when the school-located auction fell on a gorgeous spring evening.  The kids all ran out on the playground, and the adults were having so much fun chatting and keeping an eye on our kids...we kind of forgot to bid as much as usual.

Still, I am El Jefe.  And I like parties.  I like going to them, and I like throwing them.  If it's a flop, I will do penance by helping with the Jogathon next month.  (We are having a school budget crisis, can you tell?  Lots of fundraisers.  Lots of pressure.  That's a whole 'nother post.)

There will be pizza and music. I think every babysitter in neighborhood has been booked, but just in case, we have childcare available at the school.  I have not even started to go on and on about the donations, but I'll say that an army of minions is running around doing my bidding. I call them the hunter-gatherers. We have bikes and beach weekends and museum memberships and gift cards coming out of our ears, organized by me (not my forte!  Painful!) and also stacked (in orderly piles) around my living room.  The minions all have done this for years.  They remind me about what I should be doing.  If we make some money, they get the credit.

This blog gets credit, too, because I've basically used my blog energy to send out updates to all the hunter-gatherers a couple of times every week since the beginning of February.  I tell them what is done and what's still needed.  I try to make it funny and I hope I don't sound like I'm complaining--I truly am having a ball.  It's a great excuse not to exercise.  Either somebody volunteers to do it or they tell me how to do it, and I add it to my list.

I have had to repress the urge to procrastinate:  I have never been so tempted to paint my bathroom!  Hopefully I can tap in to that urge when this is over  (tomorrow!).

Anyway, I must return to my auctionizing, auctioneering?  Auctionagonizing.....I'll be back next week.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Our Beast's Inner Beast

Otto, the dog-who-lives-mostly-under-our-table, is a pure bred Golden Malador (Lab, Golden, Malamute).  He is marvelous with children--except for his tail.  A quote from the Smaller Hooligan, aged two: "Otto, don't wag my face!"

He is an excellent burglar alarm--when someone comes to the door he sounds like Cerberus, the three headed hound of hell.   No one with bad intentions would think it was worth the effort. We had to set up a mail box outside because he would bite the mail as it came through the slot. He kept wrecking the netflix DVDs.

Best of all, he knows his place: he lurks very quietly under the table.  He is  NOT next to it, begging.  My first dog (a black lab from the pound) was just dreadful in the manners department which was entirely my fault.  She was my pre-baby dog.  I fed her from my spoon--alternately with feeding myself.  She liked ice cream and meatballs.  I used to buy her 99 cent Whoppers at the Burger King drive through.  The Man Who Lives In My House claims to have seen me give her a whole slice of pizza.  This may have been an accident.  She leaned against people suggestively at mealtimes.  She would slink up behind unwary children at the park and removed peanut butter sandwiches very delicately from their chubby little hands.

My in-laws found her horrifying.  I'm sure they took my dog-ownership philosophy as a very bad portent for my future child raising.  This would not have been unreasonable.  I can only hope that they are pleasantly surprised with how the Hooligans are turning out--they do like to eat, but they don't beg.  I believe I'm generally regarded by the local youth as a fairly strict mother, possibly even mean.  I try to make up for it with good snacks.

Anyway, back to Otto.  After Tilly--my sweet spoiled lab (Did I mention I let her sleep in my bed?  And she had her own chair?  I was reprehensible.  I make no excuses.) I took a four year break from having a dog.  I was in dog rehab.  It was peaceful, clean, and cheap.

But something was missing. A good dog improves  your quality of life, even as they bark at passersby when you're trying to nap, drop hair  and dirt and occasionally barf all over the place, and need to have their teeth cleaned ($400!).   One day I was perusing the "free" column in the classifieds, as is my habit, and there it was:  "lab, golden, malamute mix, 10 months old, needs more time with a family than I can provide.  Housetrained.  Free to good home."

I thought, "I like all three of those breeds. And it's not a puppy!"  (This was one of my major criteria: after potty training the hooligans, I have sworn never to deal with teaching anyone where to urinate and defecate again).  So I called, loaded up the Hooligans (then 2 &5) and off we went to meet Otto.

Who bounded out of the house, right up to the Smaller Hooligan and....slammed on the brakes.  I could tell that he wanted to jump on him and lick him, but he knew that would be a mistake.  "We need him," I told the lady.   "Look at those eyebrows.  He is perfect."




I love this dog.  I can't think about how old he is--which he isn't, very--because then I have to face the thought that someday he will be an old dog.  He will not outlive me.  It makes me sad in advance, which is silly.

But this is not really what I want to talk about.  I digress.  The point, today, and I do have one, is Otto and the chickens:  when we first got the chickens Otto was excited to the point of losing his tiny mind.  He sat next to their run, alert to the last millimeter of tail, eyebrows raised, nostrils flared, salivating ever so slightly.  He would creep closer and closer to the fence, moving so stealthily that the chickens (whose minds are even tinier)  would forget his existence and let down their guard, coming clucking and scratching towards him and he would....pounce!  Fruitlessly, because the chickens were on the other side of the fence.  But they would shriek and leap into the air and tear down to the other end of the run, which must have been satisfying:  he would chase them from his side, settle down and start over again. All day long, if we let him.

However, we wanted eggs, and stressed out chickens do not lay eggs, so we dragged Otto inside.  He parked himself at our bedroom window, where he could see the run.  He kept vigil, taking occasional breaks to come pant at me excitedly, "Hey, did you know?  There are CHICKENS out there! Chickens!"  Then he'd go back to keeping watch.  We called it the chicken channel.

Eventually I had to seek advice.  Someone told me to spray him with bitter apple whenever he got near the chickens.  This stuff is some horribly nasty smelling/tasting concoction that does not sting or hurt dogs, they just hate it.  I only had to use it twice.  After that I would just shake the bottle in his direction and he'd back off.  Nowadays we can let the chickens out and he follows them around at a safe distance. (Eating their poop.  Dogs are disgusting.  Their appeal is a mystery.)  The chickens have forgotten that Otto is a threat... until today.

Today the Larger Hooligan and his friend wanted to let the chickens out.  They like to chase them around and catch them and set them up on tree branches.  The chickens perch awkwardly, clucking, and then they flap down and rejoin the flock.  This is entertaining.  It is also fun to play chicken ball--akin to dwarf tossing, but less offensive.   Really it seems like the Hooligans are a much greater threat than the dog but then.....

One of the Buff Orphingtons--the yellow chickens I call the blondies (they are especially dim, as per blond stereotype), walked right under Otto.  It was just irresistable.  What did we want from him, anyway?  He is descended from wolves.  And she's a nice plump chicken  literally strolling under his chin.  I looked out the window and saw that he had her pinned.

I threw open the back door and yelled, "Try to rescue the chicken!"  to the Hooligan and his friend while I found my boots.  By the time I got there, the boys were cradling the chicken, who was playing dead (I had no idea that chickens were smart enough to do this, or maybe this chicken is a diva.)

I dragged Otto inside.  He was totally riled up--completely full of himself.  He had fulfilled his genetic destiny!  He had either retrieved--or maybe eviscerated--a chicken!  Surely I would reward him!

After locking him in I grabbed a towel and a box and went back out.  I was afraid I was going to have to put the chicken out of her misery.  The boys were cradling her and her head was lolling.  She was clucking weakly.  We set her in a little nest of towels.  After a few minutes, she stood up, puffed out all her feathers, and stalked off to join the flock.

The boys looked at each other.  "I guess she's ok."  "Yeah, let's go play computer games."

A safe choice.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Food, because I'm trying to break out of a food rut.

I haven't been feeling inventive with food lately.  It seems like I go to the grocery store every other day.  Much as I love my grocery ladies (Kay!  Rachel!  Jeannie! Joann!  You make my routine enjoyable!) and the wine guy (Louis! Yay Louis!)  and the coffee kids (The usual?  Yes please. 12 oz coffee.  Black), AND the cheese goddess (so many samples!), I get sick of buying food.

So to mix things up, and because it's next to Value Village (Half off Presidents' Day Sale, you think I'd miss that?), I stopped in at Benedetti's Butcher Shop.  I like those old school places with the big chopping blocks and shiny knives.  There is a particular smell of very fresh clean meat that's at once appealing and slightly repugnant.  Benedetti's also makes cheese steak sandwiches, if you happen to be hungry.

Works for me.   Anyway, there were chicken breasts stuffed with asparagus in the case.  And I happened to remember that there was a bunch of asparagus withering away in my fridge.  Also a rind of parmesan cheese and some proscuitto.  HA!  All I had to do was buy some chicken breasts and I could make dinner without another trip to the grocery store.

So here's how it came together:

Partially cut through a chicken breast to make space for stuffing.
Fill with: thin slices of parmesan
               6 asparagus tips
               proscuitto
               a little minced garlic
               lemon zest
               black pepper

I used cooking twine and tied each one up like a mini roast.  Then I browned them in a little butter and garlic, poured some liquid (white wine, lemon juice, cream (no idea why we have cream) and a little mustard into the pan, put the lid on, and simmered for about 35 minutes.

I made rice, but it was too much white.  Next time I'll make baby red potatoes.  I'll also go for more mustard (I only used about a teaspoon) and possibly some tarragon or saffron as well.  I steamed the rest of the asparagus to the top of the chicken for the last 7 or 8 minutes.  You could substitute milk for the cream, or stock.  If you don't eat chicken, this would be delicious with fish, but I'm not sure what would be sturdy enough to stuff--maybe halibut?  Somebody try it and get back to me.

It was sort of fancy, but maybe I just think that because asparagus was a delicacy reserved for company when I was growing up.  I loathed it.  I don't know when I figured out it's delicious.  The hooligans like it, but you know they're weird that way.  The Larger One called it twigs (More twigs!  More!) when he was little.   He probably was enjoying dinosaur (brontosaurus, since it involved vegetables) ideation.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Snark Junior: That's my boy.

The following is the beginning of Chapter 2 of The Larger Hooligan's Autobiography.  I did no editing, suggesting commentary, nothing.  I was not home when he wrote it.  He clearly enjoyed his afternoon of being a latchkey child.  Now he is at soccer practice in the icy pouring rain.


Chapter 2
My Family

My family consists of 3 people not including me. The first is my Dad biker doctor kid raiser whatever.  The next is my Mom chef knitter prison warden okay so that might be a little harsh lets say rule enforcer.  Last is my brother weirdo, boy who names his chickens odd things such as Where Is My Burrito and Taco-My-Oco I don’t know.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentines Phooey

All the design blogs I like to peruse are annoying me this week with their Valentines blather.  Adorable craft projects!  Sweet gift suggestions!

Excuse me while I go throw up a little bit in my mouth.

 THIS IS A HALLMARK HOLIDAY!  ROOTLESS!  INVENTED BY CAPITALISTS!

It is possible that i'm just sour because I've had a number of dreadful valentines experiences.  The one that took the proverbial cake was during college.  The very tall and cute, but flakey and annoying boy I had been trying to break up with decided to show up with a giant stuffed teddy bear.

I was, like, you really have no idea who you're with, do you?

I wasn't a stuffed animal person even as a child.  It did make it easier to go through with the break up.

A fun Valentine's Day also occurred during college. At the time I was (blessedly) single.  I spent the evening in the basement party room with the brothers and sisters of zeta-something or other, playing spin the bottle.  Awesome.  I had to kiss a short blond guy.

I do like to make stuff, so I usually buy a bunch of stickers and break out the glitter.  The Hooligans dislike the store cards because they say actual sweet things.  What if a girl were to take it seriously?  The very thought freaks them out.  So we make our own.  They are highly decorated (there is nothing a hooligan likes more than going to town with the glitter), but with very basic messages--telegram-like:
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY, SO & SO. (Note: no exclamation point--that would denote                    enthusiasm.) FROM HOOLIGAN

The Man Who Lives In My House looks at me fretfully in the week or so before Valentine's Day.  "Do I need to get you something?"  he asks.

I have to tell you, that is IT, for me.  This is ROMANCE!  Because if I said,  "Yes,  I must have a diamond tennis bracelet right away, "  I believe he would march out and get one.  (note: I have never tested this theory.)

Which makes it completely true when I say, "No, I don't want anything.  In fact, I'll be really irritated if you get suckered into the advertising bullshit.  Let's just eat the kids' chocolate after they go to bed." Which is what we do.

This picture was not taken on Valentines' Day.  On Valentines, we wear sweatpants. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Friends of friends of friends

Our friends lost their son in a tragic accident last weekend.  The mom was one of the first people I met when we moved here.  Her boys are 3 years apart--like mine, but ten years further along.  She has been a sounding board for me on everything to do with living with and raising sons.  Her experiences have given me so many valuable insights.

We are all the things you would expect:  shocked, sad, heartsick.  We have spoken to our friend on the phone and brought fresh squeezed orange juice to the house--right now they are mobbed with extended family, neighbors, friends.  Their front porch looks like a shrine.  Someone has placed little pots of miniature daffodils along their walkway.  The family is being taken care of--insofar as that is possible--which of course it's not. Not really.

Meanwhile, other friends of ours have called us:  How is the boy's family doing?  How are we doing? They don't know the family personally, but they know we do.  They express their sympathy.  They have fed us dinner and held our hands.  Distracted our kids so we can sit together and talk.

I imagine this is happening all over our little town--the very closest friends and family are with the bereaved.  The next circle out is bringing flowers and food, writing notes.  Beyond that, friends are taking extra care of one another, hugging their kids more, walking them all the way to school  instead of just to the corner.  We are so lucky to be here, to be together.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Texting: toddler ennui, cookies, fleas

My sister to me:  I just asked Senor Cupcake to stop moaning and he said, "No, I still need to moan right    now."

My reply: Why is my nephew moaning?  Or does he just want to be featured on Auntie's blog?  Consider it done.  Give that child a cookie.  Chop chop!

My sister: Unspecified dissatisfaction.
                 No Cookies!

Me:  You are the meanest mom in the whole world!  I've been usurped!  I'm going to tell the Hooligans!

My sister:  You told me to start early.

Me:  Yes, with chores and vegetables, I never said no cookies.  I am pro-cookie.

My sister:  Your nephew says "OOOOHHHHH."Very dramatic.  And he gets plenty of cookies.  Ever since xmas it's all dessert, all the time.

Me:  Oh thank god.  I was tired of getting in trouble for sneaking him cookies.  I just made cookies this     afternoon.  Tell him Auntie Cake says MMMMMMMM.

My sister:  What kind?

Me:  Chocolate chip with ground almonds and coconut and currents and walnuts.  They are almost healthy.

My sister: YYHTTTYPUPUPUFTFXUG

Me:  That's what I think.

My sister:  That's what Senor Cupcake thinks of healthy cookies.

Me:  These are good!  They have sugar and everything!  I am at the vet right now, because I love to give the vet all of our money.  Tell Senor Cupcake to become a vet:  It's perfect because it will satisfy any rebellious urges he may have as the product of a pet free home, plus he will be terribly rich.*

My sister:  Nice.  He can provide us with companion animals for our old age.

Me:  I am already old.  The hooligans are my companion animals.  I can't really picture you guys with a poodle.

My sister:  What about a nice mid-sized mutt?  Aren't we cute?


*I don't really think vets are terribly rich, it just seems that way to me when I have to keep bringing my high maintenance mutt, turtles, etc. in to see ours.  She has skills that are invaluable!  She deals with stool samples.  I am so glad I can outsource that!  It is worth every penny.  She is going to save me money by removing Otto's nasty skin tags when she puts him under to clean his nasty teeth.  Why do I love dogs?  It is a sickness, clearly.

My sister had just sent me this picture when our vet came back into the exam room with the verdict:  Otto's blood work is good; he can handle anesthesia; he does not have heartworm; the reason he is scratching and chewing on himself all the time is not yeast or fungus or doggie psoriasis or anything so exotic.  He has fleas.

Fleas!  That is so retro.  Nobody has fleas anymore. We all dose up our mammalian pets with that magical Frontline tincture and the fleas go away. Except they don't--they evolve.  Now we will give Otto a new kind of tincture, which will eliminate the Fleas for a few more generations.  All in all, an educational and amusing afternoon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fair warning.

Me to smaller hooligan:  "Please go change into clean pants and a shirt with a collar.  We are going to a nice dinner at Mamie's.  You need to look nice."
Smaller Hooligan (wearing filthy sweats and a tshirt that I know he slept in): "These clothes are FINE."
Me:  "They are grubby.  I put the party clothes on your bed.  Mamie's friends will be at her house and it is respectful to your hostess to look nice when you go to a party.  It is not a choice.  Go change now or we will leave you at home by yourself (empty threat)."
Smaller Hooligan, stomps up the stairs, turns and scowls, "Mom, I am going to show you my MIDDLE FINGER."

Snort.

He did change.  And he did not actually show me his middle finger.  That boy is all talk.  Did he win, because he made me laugh? Or did I win because I got him to tidy up?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another one, who would prefer not to ride the bus.

We are trying out a new piano teacher/lesson venue.  On the way home I mentioned that we could take the bus in the future, and wouldn't that be fun?

"NO WAY!!" exclaimed the smaller hooligan, "Because EVERY time I ride a bus, a guy with rotten eggs in his beard sits next to me and it smells horrible."

Now that he mentions it, it's true.  Maybe we could wear face masks, or wait until the weather is warmer and the windows can be open.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A non sequetorial question, posed by the Small Hooligan:

Mom, would you rather get taken away and eaten by an alien, or would you rather eat a snail?

Since I get violently sick when I eat shellfish, and I don't think being devoured by alien life forms is an immediate threat, I chose the former.  Plus I doubt I could fight off an alien who was determined to devour me anyway.