writeonthebay

Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

sticking to it

In In Other Words, On My Mind on February 24, 2011 at 8:58 am

My 8yo, Madeleine, is wicked smart. And just in case her smarts are not enough to guarantee her spot in the geek squad down the road, Richard likes to sit down with her after dinner and talk about algebra and infinity and such. So when she came home today with a “Continental Math League” paper on which she had answered only one out of six problems correctly, then immediately ripped said paper from my hands and tried to crumple it up, little red flags went up.

I chatted with her a bit, and figured from the little she was telling me that this was a timed competitive enrichment activity that she’d been a little nervous about because, you know, “I’m bad at math.”

Slap to the forehead.

I heard myself telling her “Don’t be afraid of doing something just because it’s hard, sweetie.”

There’s one of those lessons I need to learn too. See, I am taking a good hard look at this here bloggity blog and trying to figure out how to make it work for me.

And besides all the questions of how to get a Facebook “Like” button on the page, or how to find advertisers, or what exactly do I care enough to write about for 3 or 4 times a week for an indefinite period of time, there’s the ever-haunting doubts. What if nobody reads it? What if everyone hates it? What if I look like a foolish sham of a writer? There’s a growing list of things to do or learn about blogging, and I’m wondering if this will turn into one of my unfinished projects.

For now I’m sticking to my list, one item at a time (or maybe 4 or 5, for the ADDer in me). Right now I’m trying to figure out a new name, because Write On the Bay just isn’t quite right. And choosing a name means defining what it is I really want to blog about.

I think I have a pretty good idea, but I’m wondering what you, my treasured readers, what do you think? What speaks to you here? Where do you think my voice is clearest and most compelling? Do you think it’s all a pile of rubbish?

Let me know. Maybe I’ll even come up with a prize (think baked goods — I am known to have Obsessive Compulsive Baking Disorder) for a randomly selected commenter. That’s something bloggers do, isn’t it? Comments must be entered by midnight on Thursday, February 24. A winner will be selected by a cute child of mine from a hat and announced on Friday, February 25.

guerrilla baking (or, why you shouldn’t be afraid of yeast breads)

In In My Kitchen, In Other Words, On My Mind on February 21, 2011 at 8:28 am

I used to be afraid of yeast breads until my homesickness for New Orleans drove me to baking my own King Cake, a sweet bread traditionally served in the Mardi Gras season. I offer this “recipe” to anyone worried about screwing up a recipe requiring yeast. As you’ll see conditions in my kitchen are less than ideal, and we usually do just fine. Real recipe to come later this week.

Mardi Gras King Cake

Clear out space around the stand mixer, ignoring the tower of dirty dishes just beyond sight.

Search for recipe in recipe binder, don’t find it. Pull it out of the pile of recipes waiting to be put back in their proper place.

Yell at the 8yo that she will do nothing fun today until her room is clean.

Ask the 5yo to play with the 11mo in the living room so he is no longer pulling pots and pans out of the cabinet beneath you.

Fearful moment #1: think that you only have one envelope of yeast found with the spices. Feel better when you find three more packets of yeast with — surprise! — the baking supplies.

Mix yeast and sugar with warm water in a small bowl, set on stovetop next to leftover pancakes and bacon grease from breakfast.

In bowl of stand mixer, combine cups flour, (Crap! you only have 2 cups of AP flour. Scrounge 2 more cups of cake flour. Pray you won’t need the fifth cup of flour since all that’s left is whole wheat.) sugar, salt, nutmeg (use a nice heaping teaspoon since it’s old and probably not all that flavorful anymore), lemon rind.

Fearful moment #2: is all the butter in the freezer? Phew. No. Cut up 1 stick of butter into milk and nuke them together. Re-read handwritten note to not forget milk and butter in the microwave like you did the last two times you made this.

Fearful moment #3: There are NO EGGS in the house. No getting around this. Wish you had taken a shower, throw on the jeans you wore last night (bra optional), and run out the door, yelling to your hubby that you have to go to the grocery store before the yeast mixture blows up all over the kitchen.

Drive to the store, listening to local radio station story about how sailboats need to protect themselves from lightening strikes. Start thinking about getting the big kids into swimming lessons before the summer starts. Nearly pass the grocery store because you’ve forgotten what you’re doing. Wonder if you have adult ADD.

Pick up eggs and AP flour, head home.

Wash hands thoroughly, separate eggs with hands, resolve to do something with the growing collection of egg whites in the freezer. Add warm milk, butter, and egg yolks to dry ingredients, start mixing. Second guess starting out with the dough hook instead of the flat mixing paddle. Switch out the dough hook for the paddle. Realize 20 seconds later that the dough hook would have been fine. Mix until well blended,  knead with dough hook, adding last cup of flour until dough is no longer sticky.

Kiss hubby and the big kids as they head out for church. Put the baby down for a nap.

Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top.

Catch up on Facebook. Start a blog entry. Shower. Get dressed, hoping the baby might fall asleep again. Get him a bottle when he doesn’t. Kiss family members returning from church.

Start on filling. Crap. No cream cheese. No vanilla extract. Seriously? Send hubby out for second grocery run of the day.

Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a cylinder, about 30 inches long.

Mix brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ground allspice, salt, maple syrup, and softened cream cheese. Spread filling over middle of dough. Fold edges toward the middle. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Throw lunch together, sit down with the family. Don’t eat too much, because, there is, after all, king cake to eat later.

Bake cake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool.

Combine confectioner sugar and the lemon juice. Invite very sweet children over. Drizzle glaze over cake. Let kids decorate cake with colored sugar sprinkles.

Cut cake. Enjoy. Listen to hubby say it’s the best king cake you’ve ever made.

Smile.

a week

In Family, On My Mind on February 11, 2011 at 10:27 am

It’s been a week. A week of children waking me up in the middle of the night, a week of cutting back calorie-consumption to the point that I’ve got a crazed look in my eye I’m so hungry, a week of frustration over conflicting social schedules, a week of uninspired cooking, a week of getting my butt kicked at the gym, a week of swallowing my pride as I am THE LAST runner in my “boot camp” group, a week of getting to Michael’s for their custom-framing sale only to discover I brought the wrong poster.

But it’s also been a week of fun planning: for Jean-Paul’s first birthday, for summer beach vacation, for vegetable gardens, for crazy muddy obstacle course races, for Valentine’s dinner and crafts with the kids, for camping trips.

Maybe it was that hint of spring in the air when the mercury teased its way upward, and the snow was melting, and the wind was roaring like a March lion. Maybe it’s just a mixed bag like any other week.

one more

In Family, On My Mind on January 31, 2011 at 8:49 am

Sleep has not been the greatest lately in these here parts. We’ve got a 5yo who’s afraid to sleep by himself since the 8yo terrorized him with tales of a drain-dwelling, child-eating troll who comes into houses at night, and a 10mo who has hit the developmental stage where he bawls and screams when he notices his mommy is not in his crib.

I stumble bleary-eyed through the days.

It is also nearly impossible to keep a clean and tidy house, with the toddler-in-an-infant’s body dead set on emptying an sort of container — toy box, the bench with our shoes, the kitchen cabinets, the laundry basket. Toys and shoes and pots and pans and socks and underwear are strewn about like so much flotsam and jetsam.

I may lose my mind.

Many of our friends have two kids and want no more, and thought we were completely insane to put ourselves through the nursing-diapering-baby-proofing wringer again. There are days when I long for the flexibility I had with two kids who were pretty self-sufficient. And eventually we will have the expense of an entire decade with at least one child in college.

But.

I am utterly in love with this bouncing (literally, bouncing for the pure joy of it) baby boy who prefers the contents of the dishwasher to his own toys. I may not be able to flit about on my own schedule, but I get to blow raspberries on the world’s cutest belly, and watch the gleeful face as he watches his own hand waving “hi”. I get to snuggle him and kiss him when he falls down and goes boom. I get to watch him laugh hysterically as his brother tickles him.

Just one more.

So worth it.

sprouts reprise

In Family, Food, In My Kitchen, On My Mind on January 26, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Leftover sprouts in a pan with a slice of bacon from breakfast, a bit of dijon mustard (thanks Steph!), and a splash of half-n-half. Even better that there was roast pork loin and curried butternut squash and lentils to go with. Yum.

As a side note, Jean-Paul (now 10 months) still eats everything, including kale at lunch today and Brussels sprouts at dinner. Wonder how long that will last.

And for another sprout shot:

a brownie rant

In Family, Food, friends, In My Kitchen, On My Mind on January 11, 2011 at 9:01 pm

As I sit in my living room, exhausted from dealing with boatloads of children after a 12:40pm early dismissal in anticipation of snow that is just now beginning to fall at 8:30pm, I have a burning question.

Who the hell are these people who wait for a pan of brownies to be completely cool before slicing into them so they can get nice tidy lines?

I mean really. They are brownies, people.

B-R-O-W-N-I-E-S.

They’re the kind of dessert that some people (not me, of course, never me) might put cannabinoid substances into. They’re not meant to be fussy. They are meant to be eaten straight out of the pan when they are just cool enough so you don’t scorch the roof of your mouth. They do not need a plate. They do not even need a napkin. Sleek straight lines? Save ’em for foo foo French pastries.

You know, you people with your straight edge brownies, whoever you are, I’m just not so sure I trust you. Are you just uptight, or are trying to hide something?

You’re probably skinny too.

Which means I really don’t trust you.

I’ll take my chocolatey gooey goodness with messy crumbly edges. You straight edge people, you just move along. Nothing to see here but a nearly empty pan of brownies.

 

reading for the season

In On My Mind on December 19, 2010 at 9:02 pm

We took out the Christmas decorations last weekend, bought the tree from our local fire house, trimmed it, and sorted through too many stockings and non-functioning strings of lights. Underneath the red and green tea towels was a stack of storybooks.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions as a child was reading Christmas stories with my mom, and it’s been nice to steal some quiet moments with Madeleine and Dax. We’ve read It’s Christmas, David, Moostletoe, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cajun Night Before Christmas, and my favorite, Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree.

I like to pick up new books every year. Any one have suggestions for the collection?

time for adventure

In In My Kitchen, In Other Words, On My Mind on December 8, 2010 at 9:32 am

I am so over New Year’s resolutions. They are so 20th century. But I have been compiling a list of adventures to have in 2011, or whenever. Here’s the first batch, along with some background.

ski down a mountain

attend a film screening

It’s been about fourteen years since I’ve been skiing. And in a few weeks, my little family will head out to Park City to visit the fabulous Heather and Chris. Serious skiing there, people. Like, my heart is skipping a beat just looking at pics Heather is sending us from the trails. AND. We’ll be there during the Sundance Film Festival. How cool is that? I’m such a voyeur, I can’t wait to walk down the snowy street with the Hollywood types, and take in a flick or two while I’m at it.

visit a dairy farm

build something

go to a Tractor Supply Store

shoot a shotgun

I admit to falling under the influence of good friends. And two of my bestest buds, Jen and Christian, have got me loving their new home in Pennsyltuckey — er — York County, PA. I could easily do all of the above in a weekend trip to visit these doers on their 11 acres. The building I’ll probably do at home. Maybe a bat box. Maybe a desk. We’ll see. Either way I’ll probably bug Christian for advice.

ride my bike

And speaking of influential friends, Christy was crazy enough to say “yes” when I asked her in 2008 if she wanted to train for a triathlon with me. I borrowed a road bike at the time, and my own hybrid has sat neglected for I don’t even know how long. It’s high time I tune it up and roam the hood with the kids, or chase after Christy on her road bike.

visit the Smithsonian

It’s right there!

shop at a tienda

I want to improve my game in the Mexican cuisine category. And sometimes it’s fun to just explore a store I don’t usually visit, pick up some mystery vegetable, bring it home and try to turn it into something worth eating.

write a friend a letter

I write a mean letter. Well, nice letters, really. And who doesn’t like to receive a real, honest-to-goodness handwritten letter?

make beignets

make king cake

Because they are yummy. Because I know what it means to miss New Orleans. Because I can.

read poetry

write poetry

Where oh where has my literary mojo gone?

practice yoga on the beach

I don’t know about all you other baby mamas out there, but I have a hard time with self-care when I’m tending a new baby. But he’s not so new anymore, and I could use a little more downward dog in my life. Pair it with staring out at the water, and that spells serenity for me.

spend the day doing nothing

Too many days of my life are overscheduled. A whole lot of nothing will have to fill my calendar sometimes.

angry

In On My Mind on December 6, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I am really not looking forward to tomorrow. Scratch that. I am, officially, dreading tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will attend a memorial service for a 20-year-old — Alyssa Salazar. She and her boyfriend, Evan Kullberg, were killed on December 3, trapped in a fire. So so sad. So horrific.

When I moved past disbelief that the vivacious girl who babysat my children and couldn’t wait to become a school teacher was gone, I was mostly sick. As in, I really just wanted to throw up.

I cannot imagine the pain and despair her parents are going through. I’ve been thinking how angry they must be. Then it occurred to me today that while her family may indeed be angry, I am angry.

I want to blame someone for a woodstove flue pipe overheating. I want to blame someone for constructing an apartment building without a window for her to jump from. I want to blame someone for the lack of functioning smoke alarms. I want to blame someone for emergency responders not getting her out of the building in time. I want to blame someone for a 20-year-old young woman and a 23-year-old young man being snuffed out. I want to blame someone for Alyssa dying on her birthday.

All that potential gone. All that hope and excitement about the future left in the ashes.

There was a vigil at Frostburg State University yesterday. The headline of a story covering the service said the university community was focusing on the future after the tragedy. I suppose that’s nice for them.

I’m sure I’ll do plenty of crying tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll think of my dad’s funeral.

But my husband and I get to go home and hug all of our children. And that’s not going to happen for the Salazars and the Kullbergs. And for that, I am still angry.

days with…

In In Other Words, On My Mind on November 30, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Recently, a friend sent me a link to the amazing Days With My Father, a blog-cum-book documenting photojournalist Phillip Toledano’s time spent with his father in the last three years of life. It is at once sad, funny, poignant, and visually stunning.

Toledano’s father treasured the visits with his son and daughter-in-law, just as my dad relished the time he spent with all the friends and family members who visited him in his last days. It was such a pure enjoyment, like he knew that nothing else really mattered.

Toledano writes of his deceased mother consistently pointing out his faults, and how he now realizes  she was mostly right. It’s funny how infuriated we can all get with loved ones, how they can tell us all these things we don’t want to hear about ourselves. And sometimes they just plain make us crazy.

My friend was concerned that the site might upset me. I cried, of course, because that’s what I do. But I was glad he sent it. It was a timely message for me, so close to the holiday season and the accompanying mega-size doses of family time. Reading through the site reminded me that I need to treasure the time I have with loved ones, focus less on what might bother me about them, and more on who they really are and how much they mean to me.