To Adrienne

Sorry I haven’t been posting lately. I feel I have nothing to write about worth reading. But since you admitted to reading all my posts, even the incredibly lousy ones, I promised I’d write one for you even if I didn’t have anything to say.

It was great seeing you at the party this week. Whenever I come in, I always think I’ll have time to see everyone, and then leave with a giant list of people I didn’t connect with. Having most of my girlies in the same spot made it so enjoyable. I don’t come as often as I would like, but I think that’s because it’s always a little hard for me to see everyone filling in the spaces where we used to be. New baseball teams have formed, new talent show skits conceived, new parties planned. Of course you guys moved on without us, even I am not so self absorbed to think that you wouldn’t. But hearing stories about things I could never be a part of, well… it gives a bittersweet edge to being in OP.

Not that I am unhappy where we are now. I really do love the house. I really do love our neighbors. The kids are doing way better than I dared to imagine. And we have met good people, some that are even starting to be friends. But they are still fragile, superficial friendships. It is all still far too possible that I will say the wrong thing (which I feel I do with alarming frequency) and “poof”, our shot here will be blown. But when I see you, I say something curt and sarcastic and you call me a bitch and everything is just like before I left.

The day or two after I get back are the hardest. Most days I don’t notice that I don’t go out for lunch with the girls, or I don’t have a Tuesday night basketball date, or I don’t have anyone to meet me for spinning class. But after I get back, well, its easy to feel a little lonely. So I want you to know that I miss you and the rest of my OP family like crazy. Even if maybe I don’t let you know it as much as I should.

Now, this is the part where I usually roll my eyes, deem it too depressing and whiney, delete the whole damn thing and move on. But since I am writing to just you, I’ll go ahead and post it. See you soon.

 

Period Kind of Person

I was at a funeral today, which I won’t talk much about because it is still too hard to think about.

The person we lost was a person with great personal faith. At the mass, the Priest said something that really stuck with me (I am paraphrasing):

“People without faith believe that the sentence of their lives end with a period. People of faith believe it ends with a comma.”

Times like this I wish I was more of a comma kind of person.

 

Dumpling Madness

Let’s see, my pant legs and my kitchen floor are covered in corn starch…which can only mean one thing: making dumplings.

Every now and then the DH makes enough of a stink to guilt me into making gyoza. I love eating the amazing little pockets of joy, I just don’t really enjoy making them. That involves dealing with more raw pork than I usually like to be around, and hand stuffing and sealing a zillion little skins. Its a nightmare. There is no way to do it without destroying the entire kitchen, not that I’ve found anyway. But it is usually all worth it when you get to sit down with a plate of gyoza and a dish of dipping sauce and go to town.

Tonight, I had some extra Daikon (fancy Japanese radish) so I found a recipe and tried to make these:

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If you have never had these, you need to find somewhere to get some right now. They are turnip cakes, and the DH and I had the pleasure of eating the best of their kind at the best dim sum restaurant in the world: Fook Lam Moon in Hong Kong. We would round up our friends most weekends for at least one dim sum brunch. And these were one of the main attractions for me. If left to my own devices, I might just eat my weight in them. So, I found this recipe that sounded about right and dove in.

Problem 1: I didn’t have the enough turnip. I had some of one, and this recipe called for 6 pounds of the stuff. Scaling down is always a little more tricky than scaling up.

Problem 2: No dried shrimp and no will to go find any. There is no way the local grocer is going to have them around here, so I just added some extra salt.

Problem 3: No rice flour. I tried to use all purpose and some potato starch, but I think this problem was completely insurmountable.

I say that because while my large turnip cake loaf looked right, it was really more like a loaf pan full of meaty turnip soup. Not good at all. The texture wouldn’t have been a problem if the flavor was right. I was resigned to eat it with a spoon if it tasted anything like I remembered. But alas, it was wrong on every level.

I often get a hankering for something hard to find. It is how I managed to make Hainan Chicken rice, Shrimp Etouffee, Corn Dogs, and Singapore Chili Crab. Apparently, however, the turnip cake is beyond my abilities. Yeah, right, like I’m  not going to try again. I just need to find a Chinese grocery…

Gentlemen…!

Despite how I refer to the Terrors here on the Blahg, in real life, when I need to summon them I yell:

“Gentlemen…!”

I’ve had a few people comment, mostly family, who thought that was really sweet. Of course, my tone often means the opposite, but I say it anyway.

My goal has always been to raise gentlemen, so I thought it couldn’t hurt making them assume they already were gentlemen, so they damn well better act like them.

As all of you with kids know, they save their worst behavior for us. That makes it hard to gauge how they are doing in the manners department.

When our lovely bus driver came up to me the other day I was worried for a moment. We’re they screaming obscenities? Which one was the problem?

She told me a story about the Rookie, who is often accused of hitting his oldest brother on the bus. But this story was about his behavior with his seat mate.

Apparently, he sits with a kindergardener most days. The bus driver explained that every day, when the little heathens start to stampede off the bus, the Rookie steps out into the aisle. He stops the heaving throng and makes sure his friend gets into the aisle and off the bus without getting trampled. The bus driver assures me that in all her years she’s never seen a kid that young display such manners on the bus.

Fist pump

Yes!!

My Two Cents

My friend brought an amazing blog about motherhood to my attention: A Letter to My Pregnant, Child-Less Self. I was laughing so hard, I almost peed myself (due to my compromised pelvic floor).

Since I know someone about to enter the motherhood club for the first time, I thought I would add a few thoughts of my own.

1. You are fucked. No decision you make will ever be right again. It doesn’t matter how trivial you think the decision is, someone else will think you should be turned into DFS for it. Don’t have that glass of wine, runny cheese or sushi at dinner, because you could do serious damage to your abdominal hitch hiker. Women in Japan and France have those every pregnant day – you are over-reacting. Drug free labor? You are a masochist. Epidural? You are doping up your precious baby. If you breast feed people at the restaurant will complain about your lack of modesty. If you bottle feed, passers by will make snarky comments about how selfish you are. Haven’t you given them solids yet?/ ITS TOO SOON TO BE GIVING THEM SOLIDS! In the end you have to just remember that the only person the kids will blame for being messed up when they’re older is you, not the woman at Target who swore you can not under any circumstances give them a hot bath. Make your decisions and stick with them.

2. Be ready to get wet. If there is one thing babies are its viscous. Fluids ooze out of every available orifice with alarming frequency and speed. The little buggers can poop out their body weight, sending it up their back out their collar and down through their leg holes. Baby wipes will be the most important thing in your world. I still have them in the house, and the Rookie is eight. They poop out, spit up, vomit, urp, pee and drool, sometimes all at once. No amount of modern chemistry can make something to contain it all. Don’t buy any white clothes and stock up on burp cloths. Don’t get the cute skinny embroidered ones either. Invest in the largest, most absorbent ones you can find. I think they should make ponchos out of the stuff, but nobody asks me.

3. Don’t bother sleeping now. It’s not like chocolate, you can’t hoard it and save it for later. The only thing sleeping as much as you can now will accomplish is make you miss it more when its gone. What might be useful is practicing getting no sleep. Try to go forty eight hours with three hours of horizontal sleep, three separate 20 minute naps in a seated position, and one snooze while standing at the sink. Practice makes perfect, right?

4. Get the DH involved. He won’t do it like you do. He won’t put the diapers on right. Why would anyone hold a bottle like that? Those are not the pants that go with that onsie. Why is the baby in the Bjorn backwards? Of course your spouse (and I’m picking husband because of personal experience) won’t be nearly as devoted a parent as you are, in your mind at least. Its easy to believe your own press on this one, and Lord knows all new moms could fill up tomes with complaints about their partner in conception. Yes, it is often easier and faster to do it yourself, but make Daddy at least give precious a bath once and a while. Sure, the water will be too hot, he’ll use too much soap, and you’ll just have to bathe the little ooze machine again as soon as Daddy isn’t looking. Even though he is doing it wrong, let him do it. Everyone involved will (someday) be glad you did.

5. Listen to everyone’s advice. Ignore most of it. Learn to smile and nod and never try to defend what horrible mistake you are making (no stocking cap? In JULY?!). They never have to know you are ignoring them. But do listen. Every now and then a kernel of something worth knowing will pop out of the least likely person. One of my best mommy tricks came from – no, don’t say it – my Mother in Law.

No one does this perfectly, we all just do the best we can. Relax, keep your hands and feet inside, but do enjoy the ride.

Big Day

I’m supposed to do this once a week, so even though I really don’t have much to talk about, I’ll give it a go.

I’m positively giddy…Playoff football and the Golden Globes tonight. The Pats game is all but won by now, and I’ll watch the Globes later. It’s nights like tonight that the extra charge for the DVR is worth every penny. I don’t have to sit through any speeches or inane interviews. Look at the dress, judge the dress, move on. Hopefully this year there will be some spectacular fashion fails. Of course, if I were there, I would certainly fall into that category, so I feel its okay for me to be judgmental.

I took my extra energy and finally took down the Christmas tree (can you hear the DH exclaiming “about time!” from there?), and get all but one of the decorations down in the basement.

I also did something wildly out of character: I made bread. Once upon a time I used to make bagel for my friends and I when we lived in Hong Kong and bagels were hard to come by. But I am not a bread maker. I am an enthusiastic bread eater, but have never had the patience to make it myself. Well, for reasons beyond me, we have a butt load of bread flour. I can’t imagine what we bought it for, but I can guarantee you that it probably wasn’t for making bread. Anyway, I’m tired of it taking up space in my cabinet, so I pulled out the KitchenAid mixer and went to work.

Another reason I gave this a go was that there is this nifty setting on my oven: “Bread Proof”. Instead of having to wait a couple of hours for the bread to rise, this setting is supposed to cut that time to 20 minutes or so. And damn if it didn’t work. Two lovely round loves of country white bread with minimal effort. Not too shabby.

I also did something wildly in character and burnt the crap out of one of the good pans. Luckily it was a stainless pan, so a good deglazing got me off the hook. I hate it when I do that. I’m not the most focused chef, so I do that more than I would like to admit.

Well, the Terrors are all getting along, listening to the stereo too loud and playing Yatzee. I should go prepare for the end of the world. At least now I know how to make bread.

Greenish Acres

Well, I’ve blown the whole “blogging every week” thing in spectacular fashion.

Its hard to write when there is so much left undone around the house. Normally I can look past a pile of laundry and find the time to jot down a few ideas. But the deep down structural stuff that needs to get done here is overwhelming. I actually dusted the walls today. Yes, the interior walls of the house. After all the dry wall work in the bonus room the whole house was coated in a fine layer of dust. That included the walls.

Another chore accomplished today was heeling in the fruit trees the DH got for me this Christmas. They are bare root trees, which means that you don’t have to plant them right now, just keep the roots from drying out. This also means that we must remember to dig them up and plant them right when Spring hits. Otherwise they will be too close to each other and our garage. Of course, the way this winter is going, they might start budding next week.

The way I rattled off “heeling in”, you might be thinking that I am some kind of gardening expert. Don’t be fooled: I didn’t know what it was until bare root trees showed up on my doorstep in December. My first thought was “what kind of Mickey Mouse nursery sends trees in DECEMBER?” But before I fired off an angry email, I looked on line and found that this was not so uncommon, and I should just calm down and get them in the ground.

This, of course, means that I am now consumed with thoughts of the garden we are hoping to have next year. Since there is nothing but sand until you reach the Earth’s core on our lot, we will probably start with a lot of raised beds and veggies in containers. Everyone has an opinion on what we should grow. O man is a big fan of cucumbers and the idea of growing our own sunflower seeds. The Rookie is obsessed with growing carrots. J doesn’t seem to care, as long as he gets to help build the chicken coop with the DH.

Yes, I said chickens. Much to the dismay of our neighbors across the street, we are planning on raising egg layers next year. We’ve done a little research (mypetchicken.com is a great resource), and think that we can pull it off. Of course, if it doesn’t turn out the way we hope, there is always the DH’s grilled chicken recipe…

Christmas Time Shorts

Throw it...
  • Sorry, no Christmas Countdown this year. I’m sure you’re all heartbroken.
  • Finished the first draft of the Christmas letter. I ran it past the DH and got a solid “meh”. He thinks it is not up to my usual standard..said I sounded tired. Well, I am tired, dammit. But now I’m all in my head so I have to start over.
  • Squeeze the people you love a little tighter tonight. Got bad news and it always makes me worry I’m taking my time with the people I love for granted. No one ever said “I wish I hadn’t told my kids I love them so often”.
  • The DH had a taste for Indian food tonight, which meant either a 35 mile drive to Grand Rapids, or me making it. We are trying our hands at Tikka Masala. You probably won’t hear about it unless its a complete train wreck. I need to get my Indian cooking up to speed because the boys down the street have a honest to goodness wood fire pizza oven that they said they wanted to try and make naan in. Gotta have something to eat it with…right? (Just finished it…my second “meh” today. It was good, just not really Tikka Masala.)
  • I ruined Christmas. Don’t ask me how because I’ve only had the courage to tell three people, so great is my shame.
  • My neighbor hosted a Christmas dinner and since I was feeling festive I dressed up, curled my hair ( gasp! ) wore make up and generally tried to not look like I was taking the kids to the bus stop. My neighbor actually did a double take. I can’t decide if normally looking like hell makes it more impressive when you put some effort into it, or if I should think about upping my all-around game.

Of Burnt Gravy and Fake Trees

It feels like I was just sitting around, minding my own business, when…WHAMO!…the Holidays were upon me.

Okay, I wasn’t just sitting around. I was hauling ass on the bonus room. I painted the bottom six inches of the walls so we could get in the trim so they could instal the carpet so we could have guests for Thanksgiving. Having so much to do construction-wise took a lot of the pressure off the menu planning. Oh, wait, there was no menu planning. I made what we always make because I had neither the time, nor the will, to make anything tricky this year.

I did the usual: turkey slathered in salt pork, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yadda yadda yadda. I made an eye-watering amount of stuffing using Jeannine’s recipe. She was a friend of ours in Hong Kong, the only person I knew at the time who cooked, and I have made it just like she did ever since. Most of our personal Thanksgiving traditions came from our time in Hong Kong. We would have HUGE dinners with all our friends. The biggest involved roasting the second turkey in our neighbor’s oven. Looking back at how tiny our kitchens were, I can’t believe we pulled those off, but they were some of the best Thanksgivings ever.

Mabel, paternal grandmother extraordinaire, made some two-turkey extravaganzas as well. I would have never thought to try two turkeys if Grandma hadn’t done it with regularity. Hey, it was a big family.

One traditional component of the meal was missing this year: the gravy. I had enough drippings to bathe in this year, and in a moment of complete stupidity, burnt the gravy. Now, you might think that it isn’t possible to actually burn gravy. You would be wrong. I had added the flour to begin the thickening process and burnt the crap out of it. Millions of little charred floaty bits made it not only unfit for consumption, but ungodly smelly. And, much to the chagrin of my Boy Scout DH, I was not prepared with canned gravy in case the unthinkable happened. It was a dark, sad day. My brother in law tried to make it all better by proclaiming the turkey was so juicy we didn’t need gravy, but I knew he was full of shit. Yes, the turkey was divine. But gravy is not loved for moistening the turkey (though that doesn’t hurt). It is loved because it is the sauce of the Gods, and if there was a way to have it at every meal most of us would have it at every meal. We, however, would not be having any on the one day it was practically illegal not to have it because I was a stupid head. I will have to live with that bad decision forever: I’m sure the DH will never let me forget.

You don’t even have time to take in the enormity of burning the gravy before you are in the  season of the Fat Man. Time to break out the Christmas decorations.

Last year we had a real tree for the first time since the Terrors were born. It was a disaster. The first night it fell over because the Terrors only decorate a clump on the front of the tree. We lost some ornaments, though luckily none we cared about. In light of that experience, the DH was a little, okay a lot, concerned about our spankin’ new wood floors. So even though we live in the land of the Christmas tree farm, we are now the not-so-proud owners of a petroleum-based tree.

I know, I know, it is a sin against the Christmas gods. But what can I say…if the DH ain’t happy no one is. It wasn’t worth the fight. Rest easy though, Christmas got her revenge. The only “tree” left at the store was not pre lit and we had to put every individual branch on the dag pole. Nightmare.

It’s up, though I haven’t fluffed it yet. Not only did it not come with lights, but I don’t have any to put on it. The DH doesn’t understand how we could have three tubs full of lights and still not have enough for the tree, but there are lots of things the DH doesn’t understand about me and Christmas.

Of course the Rookie is DYING to put the ornaments on (translation: he wants to put up two ornaments and then complain that putting up the ornaments is boring). But he can’t do that until I get the lights on, so I will have no choice but to go back out into the retail hell that is Christmas shopping season and hope that all the lights haven’t sold out.

‘Tis the season…