Thursday, December 24, 2009


I had big dreams for Christmas Eve diner. I blame my Grandma. Every year we'd all gather at her house in northern Wisconsin and sit down to a feast of Belgian waffles stacked two feet high, breakfast sausages sticky with maple syrup, 3 different kinds of syrup and toppings for the waffles, cookie plates mounded over with almond bark and peanut butter blossoms, cider so hot that if you tried it first you wouldn't be able to taste any of that other stuff. It was always a glorious revelry of food.
Tonight I attempted to recreate that feeling while putting my own twist on things. We didn't have any company so that was a big minus right there. With just the 4 of us it's just diner like we do every other night of the year. Then, I tried to get fancy.
I don't have a waffle iron. My kitchen isn't that big and I've never felt the need to drop $50 on a good one. That would buy a lot of yarn and frankly, I'd rather have the yarn. So, since waffles are out and I did pancakes last year, I decided this would be the year of Eggs Benedict.
Not only would I poach eggs ( a tickelish task by itself), I would simultaneously make hollendaise sauce. I also added to the menu Pig Candy(a highly unhealthy but totally awesome form of bacon coated in brown sugar and spices then baked until crispy), roasted potatoes with herbs, fruit salad (just to pretend to be a little balanced) and for an appetizer, crostini with soppreseta salami and provolone cheese.
I started prepping at 3:30 and things were moving along ok, I figured I'd have everything ready for 5 or 5:30 when we usually eat. I have the provolone and salami dressed, the crostini toasted and ready to go, the fruit salad made, the pig candy working and the potatoes ready to go into the oven by about 4:15 when my husband decides to take the Pudding to walmart with him for a little last minute shopping. I tell him that I'm hoping to have all this ready by 5:30 or so and he heads out the door.
While he's gone I finish the pig candy, put the potatoes in the oven but I don't start the eggs Benedict yet because none of it takes very long and all of it is supposed to be served as soon as it's finished.
5:30 Comes and goes and still no Dilbert is there. I call him and he says he's going to pick up cat food at the PetCo (the only place that carries our spoiled cat's special food). I figure that can't take too long so I assume he'll be there by 6ish and start heating up Canadian Bacon and boiling some water to poach a practice egg in. I also start studying my hollendaise sauce recipe. It says to put three egg yokes and a little bit of lemon juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Done. Then it says add 8 oz of melted butter that is still hot slowly while the blender is running. The Tyke is scared of the blender and so is insisting on observing all of this from my hip which makes adding things while the blender is running a bit tickelish so this is I think where I made my fatal flaw. I dumped 8oz of hot butter straight in there, let the blender fly and hoped for the best. The recipe then says to add two teaspoons of hot water to help thicken the sauce. This seems counter-intuitive but I figure the hot water will cook the egg yokes slightly and thus thicken things so I add away. It doesn't seem to be thickening as the recipe says it should.
While the blender is whirring away, I take the crostini and the potatoes out of the oven. It is now after 6 and still no Dilbert or Pudding. I put a table cloth on the table, the nice glasses, the angle candle holder. It's about then that I notice that the pig candy looks a little under done. It's supposed to be crisp, not so chewy. Hmmm...
The crostini are cooling on the counter, the potatoes on the the table, the Tyke still won't let me put him down because the blender is still going, trying to emulsify this crazy sauce. I poach the eggs and warm up the Canadian bacon, I toast the English muffins, still the sauce doesn't thicken. I add more hot water as the recipe suggests, teaspoon by teaspoon, still nothing. In fact it seems to be getting less thick all the time.
Dilbert finally gets home about 6:30. The potatoes are cold and slightly underdone, the Pig candy is mushy, the crostini are hard as a rock because they sat out too long and the sauce still won't thicken. I finally start playing mad scientist in the kitchen in a deluded attempt to save this sauce that has taken so much of my life already. I put it in a skillet on low heat. I don't know what I was hoping to accomplish by this but adding flour didn't help. I ended up making something that closely resembled a brick red roux that is used to make jambalaya but it didn't taste as good.
Dilbert lit the candle in the candle holder, poured me some sparkling cider and I burst into tears. I didn't really but I sortof wanted to. I'm not prone to bursting into tears but this situation felt appropriate. Three hours of cooking and the only thing that really worked was the fruit salad I'd made in about 10 minutes at 3:30. Tomorrow is Christmas morning and I am sincerely hoping that sleep improves my mood. Bah, Humbug!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Every weekend my husband stays in his pajamas until I make him get dressed or we're going to head out to do something. I find this strange. Not that I'm adverse to lounge wear in any way. Some days my clothing more closely resembles pajamas than I usually care to admit but I always get dressed.
Today I decided to try it his way. It's the Tuesday before Christmas, all my shopping is done, the snow is too deep for the kids to go out and play in it and I have enough food in the house that I don't need to go to the market. In short, I can play hermit for the day, not get dressed and see what it's like.
I have to say I'm enjoying it. Two pregnancies and a chronic hatred of working out have ensured that anything without generous helpings of elastic never quite fits right so the stretchy pants are a real treat. I haven't had to hitch them up once today, this is kindof exciting.
I was on the phone with a friend who just had her third child a month ago. I told her that I wasn't leaving the house today because I was still in my jammies. She cheered for me. I'm not sure weather the lack of sleep is starting to get to her or if she's just a really big fan of lounge wear and hopes that it will soon take over the fashion world but she said, "I fully support your decision to wear your jammies all day." Perhaps she's just wishing that the little mommy voice in the back of her head that drives her to endlessly cook, clean and attempt to look pretty would be quiet for a little while so she could wear her jammies all day too. That little voice has been hog tied in the back of my brain since college so I guess a jammy day isn't such a stretch for me.
It's Christmas week everyone. Tomorrow is the day before Christmas eve. Here is my challenge to you. Get up early tomorrow, go to the grocery store and stock your house to the gills so that you won't have to leave it for anything necessary for at least a week. Then come home, put on your jammies, hog tie that annoying little voice in your head and sit down with a good book or your knitting and let the kids destroy your living room. Better yet, send them out with your spouse so that you can lounge around in your jammies and not have to make anyone lunch. Mommies of the world, break free from the tyranny of actual clothes, give yourself a lazy day and refuse to feel guilty about it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

So much more than decorative

I've been watching too much Hulu lately. I admit this freely because my couch-potato hours are productive. I knit Christmas presents for those near and dear to me while I watch hulu and while my fingers are flying through my wool, my mind is free to ponder the things advertisers are attempting to tell me. Most of the time I find ads insulting to the intelligence but the latest Dove ad has me fearful of raising a daughter to be anything but a vapid talking head.
Dove's new ad features a little girl being bombarded with other advertising images and words. Hot, beautiful, sexy, these are things the little girl is being told she aught to be and she feels she is not up to their standard. Then we see this little girl taking some class about self esteem sponsored by Dove and then we see her say into a microphone in front of many people, "I promise to think of myself as a beautiful person."
While most people would not object to a cute little girl thinking of herself as beautiful, I do. While she was taking classes to learn how to think of herself as beautiful, what other enriching activity was she missing out on? She could have been finally cracking long division or figuring out how to do a layup or a pirouette or just spending time with her family. Instead she is told at these classes that she doesn't need to look like those people in the magazines, she's beautiful just the way she is.
And she is beautiful. But why is that so important? What is with our cultures obsession with beauty and why does everyone have to feel beautiful in order to be considered mentally healthy? If you don't think you're beautiful then you must be depressed or and the very least have low self esteem. What if you're not beautiful and you don't think you are? What if you know that you're not beautiful and accept that but know that you have value anyway?
That's the real thing we're missing here. Wouldn't it be better to teach that little girl that she has value that has nothing to do with her outward appearance? Beautiful or not, she is human and she is valuable. Einstein was no Adonis, Susan B. Anthony wasn't exactly fetching and my 8th grade English teacher bordered on homely but all of them made great contributions to the world that had nothing to do with their beauty or lack there of.
There is a great scene in "Little Women" by Lousia May Alcott that describes this beautifully. The oldest sister has been permitted to go to a party and there conducts herself rather disgracefully. She allows herself to be dressed and pressed and powdered and primped to a ridiculous degree and to the point where she compromises her own modesty. She comes clean to her mother who tells her that having fun at a party is all very well and good but that she wants her girls to know that they are far more than decorative.
Louisa May Alcott phrases it much more poetically than that but I can't find the book just now so go look it up if you like.
If my daughter knows that she is beautiful, that's fine, but I want her to regard that beauty simply as window dressing for what is underneath. Her beauty is decoration and I want her and know her to be so much more than decorative.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Crazy freakin people

Tonight was a rough night. By night I mean evening to those without children. By 5:30 my kids are usually fed and starting the long slow process towards bed at about 7:30. As I type this it is 6:50 and Dilbert is upstairs negotiating the Tyke into bed. A process that is not going well from the sound of things.
The children were unusally crazy tonight and Dilbert and I had inordinately short patience. I sat the kids down to a small snack at 4:30. This keeps them occupied while I tried to cook diner. While the onions were softening and the chicken was browning the Pudding began doing her drunken party girl impression. I repeatedly told her to calm down and not act so crazy but it didn't sink in until one of her wildly flailing arms connected with a glass sending it to shatter on our stone tile floor (I hate that tile for many reasons, this is one more reason). Now there's glass on the floor, milk on the floor, glass in the cat's bowl, milk in the cat's bowl, and my chicken is finished browning and beginning to burn slightly but I don't have the next thing ready to go in the pot because I'm on my hands and knees cleaning up the spilled milk and glass shards and trying to convince the Pudding to stay in her chair so we don't have to fish pieces of glass out of her foot. It was about then that I bellowed for Dilbert to come and assist me.
My dear sweet Dilbert is a very helpful man but is sometimes just a touch clumsy. He finished wiping up the milk on the floor then started bringing the cats dishes over to the sink to be washed out. The cats water dish looks a little like an office water cooler, a big jug inverted over the bowl. When that is dropped from the height of 4 feet, it creates quite a splash and a much larger mess than the small glass of milk does. Also, a mop, when repeatedly run into a full bag of garbage that is waiting for "someone" to take it out, will tend to break said bag of garbage, causing a bit more mess than was originally there.
At that point, Dilbert cleaned up what he could then took the kids to the other room so that I could return my kitchen to sanity. Once everything was mopped up and back in order we all felt a bit better. The Pudding asked me if I still liked her. That was a bit tough to here because you always think that your kids can see how much you love them. I told her that I always loved her and that her doing a silly thing didn't change that. I tried explaining it to her like this.

me: Sometimes mommy makes mistakes or does something wrong and you still love her, right?
Pudding: (silence)

So, I finally have the soup simmering, the kitchen is back in order and I head to the living room to let the floor dry out. The Tyke is playing with our home phone and the Pudding won't leave him alone. She kept trying to sneak it away even though I was right there to make sure he didn't call China. Dilbert kept warning her not to try it and she kept doing it. This should have warned us that diner was going to be interesting at best.
We get to the table and at first everything is fine. The tyke is playing with his rice and chicken. The Pudding is saying she doesn't like it but there's nothing unusual about that. Everything is normal, right? NO! The Pudding begins throwing a fit about not wanting to eat. This get's the Tyke upset and starts crying too. Chocolate milk is given as a reward for a bite of chicken and calm is returned briefly. Then the Pudding starts telling Mommy how it isn't which is not a thing we allow in our house. That went something like this.

Me: Pudding, eat your rice, it's very good for you.
Pudding: (Screaming) NO IT ISN'T, DON'T SAY THAT TO ME!

The Chocolate milk was taken away at that point.
Twenty minutes later she was in jammies, read too, sung too, hugs given, kisses received, good nights said and covers tucked in. The Tyke took a few more minutes but they are both now sleeping and I hope, for their sake and mine that they don't wake up until morning because I think I'm going to need that long to recover and be a good mommy again.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

To my brother, who now reads this blog

Yes, that's right, this one is for you.
My brother whom I'm going to call G.I. Joe (Maybe just Joe, it's faster to type) for our purposes here, is a complicated individual.
I always find it difficult to explain him to people who don't already know him. He's a very smart guy who usually didn't do very well in school. He's a studious guy who couldn't ever get his homework done but spent hours reading the Illiad just for fun. He's a funny guy but you might not want to meet him in a dark alley. He's both a Doberman and a kitten, but you never really know which one you're going to get.
He's returning soon from his third tour in Iraq. I am so proud of him for his service and I'm so glad that thus far he has come through unscathed. I'm also glad that the army has been a place for him to find success. He's always been a tough person to peg. He doesn't fit in the usual boxes that we assign people. When he was little, they put him in special ed but he was smarter than everyone else there. They put him in the regular class and he couldn't keep up. I'm glad he's found a place that fits him.
The last time we saw each other, I was pregnant with the Tyke and the Pudding was just barely two. We were at my mom's house and Joe took the pudding out in this little inflatable boat on the pond. I was so worried because she was so little. She sat there by his feet (his feet came up to her shoulders) and just looked around at the water and at Joe. He was so gentle with her. I couldn't hear every word but I could hear his tone. It sounded like he was very patiently and quietly pointing things out for her to look at and telling her about them. She still remembers that boat ride a year and a half later.
I remember other things about Joe that aren't so nice. I know he has a mean streak that is pretty easy to find. I know he can be violent and erratic and childish which makes his gentleness all the more amazing.
When Joe, the Bear (our youngest brother, he knows how he got that name) and I were all little kids, we had a rough ride. We saw our parents marriage fall apart, felt the violence and anger that came from that. We lost a brother, the Bear's twin, at only 4 months old. We did the divorced kid shuffle and learned to live as brother and sister with people who were not our brother or sisters and were asked to call someone mom who was not mom. We did all these things together and only we know how we got through them and lived to tell the tale, or not.
That is the great thing about having siblings, the thing that an only child has a hard time understanding. We have someone who went through the same hardships, the same ups and downs, the same weirdness from parents. While we may not have experienced it all the same, but we know on a biological level that we are the same. We are different branches of the same tree. Whether at Mom's house or Dad's house, we had each other as a constant. We know why we became the people we are.
Anyway, this is for my brother Joe. From one branch of the tree to the other, I'm glad you're who you are.