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Chicken and parsnips and college

College sounds like a terrible addition to a chicken and parsnips dish. It would make it taste funny! But I am a poor planner and so I am jamming two wholly unrelated things together, plus I am giving you a recipe I sort of Frankenstein-ed together just because I liked it. Hey, you get what you pay for, here.

First, college: It’s that magical time of year when everyone with a high school senior is freaking out about college applications, so I wrote about it for Alpha Mom. You should probably go read it if college applications are in your kid’s future, because if I learned anything while asking around, it was that College Insanity has this pernicious habit of making itself look totally reasonable to its victims. To wit: Some people told me with COMPLETELY STRAIGHT FACES that their kid applied to 20+ schools. TWENTY. OR MORE. They didn’t think that was weird at all. That’s because crazy doesn’t know it’s crazy, but don’t worry, because I’m only too happy to point out how utterly bonkers that is.

Second, I made a super yummy dinner last night and it made me happy, though I discovered on Facebook that apparently parsnips are quite polarizing. People seem to either love them or hate them. Me, I love them. Otto, too. Chickadee had an alternate meal because we were eating animals, and then Monkey was very suspicious and told me the parsnips “taste like nothing” so I told him to shut up and eat his nothing. (I kid. I didn’t tell him to shut up.) If you’d like the recipe and a lot of parenthetical commentary, read on. (more…)

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Life is like a sticky banana

Bananas are a very tricky thing ’round here. They have to be ripe—but not TOO RIPE—and they cannot have any signs of bruising (because that’s not a thing that ever happens to bananas… oh, wait…) because that is Completely Unacceptable. This is where people who are new here assume that I have toddlers because HAHA no one over the age of 4 would be this picky about fruit, right? Yeah. No. (For the record, it is really only one child who is super-picky about the state of bananas, but then the OTHER child insists things like, “I don’t like watermelon” and WHO DOESN’T LIKE WATERMELON, THAT’S CRAZY so let’s call it a draw when assessing Which Teen Is More Insane When It Comes To Fruit, I guess.)

I don’t pack bananas in lunches all that often, on account of the whole It Must Be Banana Perfection thing, but every now and then the planets align and a perfect banana emerges. I will lovingly scoop it up, adorn it with a quick note a la The Bloggess (I did it once and then there was complaining if it didn’t happen every time), and place it INSIDE a large plastic container also housing a sandwich, so that the aforementioned pristine banana-ness may be maintained despite whatever trials and travails a lunch bag might encounter throughout the morning. Both children are aware that this constitutes an implicit Banana Contract wherein YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE BLESSED BANANA AND NOW YOU WILL EAT IT.

You can skip eating the crackers. You can leave the juice pouch. Heck, don’t even finish your sandwich. I don’t care! But eat the damn banana. Because perfection is fleeting. (more…)

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Love in a time of stuff

I often refer to our housekeeping style as “tidy with hidden pockets of disaster.” We spend most of our family time in the kitchen and family room; those rooms are clean and orderly, for the most part. My office desk tends to suffer from pile-itis, but I’m working on that. I exhort the children to keep their spaces free of clutter, or at least not covered in dirty laundry, which in teenage parlance is the same thing. But I must confess that somewhere along the way, part of how we kept the main areas of the house looking reasonable was to dump anything “to be dealt with later” into our master bedroom, because really, who goes in there except us, anyway?

My last big bedroom clean-out was probably 5+ years ago, and the clutter crept back in, and about a week ago, Otto asked if maybe over the weekend we could work on digging out our room a little…? You could tell he was hesitant with the request, and “we” meant “mostly me,” as most of the junk was on my side, and was a combination of stuff belonging to me and the kids. Otto asks for very little, and I love him, and he was right, it was out of control, so I spent most of Saturday sorting, pitching, and rediscovering that, huh, our bedroom is pretty big. I felt super accomplished about it, too.

Of course, part of the motivation to get rid of stuff may have been that I am also in the process of accumulating more stuff. Shhhhh, don’t tell. Also, if you think I’m crazy, that’s okay, but over at Alpha Mom, I’m revealing how retail therapy is about more than shopping right now. I hope it works.

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Not sick, and slightly useful

I spent last week in a grudging state of malingering. Malingerment? Whatever. I was not SICK sick, you understand. I was not so ill that I could take to my bed without guilt, but I had a cold (THANKS, KIDS!) and just didn’t feel 100%. I got up in the morning and packed lunches and did the other morning routine things, then tried to work for a while and often ended up taking a nap at some point and trying to work some more and then making dinner. And I felt really stupid about it all, because: not sick. Not really. Just a little puny, that’s all.

[Aside: Now that I am officially Working Less my inherent tendency towards crippling guilt has kicked into overdrive. Not bringing in the big bucks? WE’LL HAVE LOVINGLY PREPARED HOMEMADE MEALS AND CLEAN BATHROOMS! Because if I’m not singlehandedly taking care of the mortgage, by God, there WILL be from-scratch focaccia with dinner! So what if I have to wash my hands twelve times while I’m making it because of all the nose-blowing and whatnot? I WILL COOK FOR YOU AND YOU WILL APPRECIATE IT. Also I appear to have made myself entirely too useful at the high school; I blinked and found myself holding no fewer than three positions requiring actual thought and action. I’m dumb.]

It was sort of a long week, is my point. Life didn’t stop and I wasn’t sick enough to opt out, so I just dragged along until I started feeling better on Friday. This meant, of course, that I tried to Do All The Things over the weekend and now today I’m tired and cranky. This whole being an adult thing seems overrated. (more…)

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Christmas in July?

Every Christmas, Otto makes his family’s traditional Christmas cake, which is actually a recipe that yields TWO bundt cakes. If we have company or are up north visiting, both cakes are consumed. If we’re down here with just us four, one cake gets eaten and the other one gets wrapped and put into the freezer in the garage.

I liked the Christmas cake well enough when I was still eating wheat, but I did not… how shall we say… hold it in the same reverent esteem as Otto and his siblings do. And this is sacrilege, you understand, not to feel a deep devotion to the sacred Christmas cake. (It’s hard to explain to someone how nostalgia might augment a taste in a way that cannot be recreated for those who lack similar experience.) No matter—Monkey was only too willing to jump on the Christmas Cake Is the BEST! EVER! bandwagon with Otto, plus Chickadee isn’t exactly going to turn down an offer of cake, especially for breakfast.

This is all preface to saying that last week, I went to get something out of the garage freezer, and I saw the second Christmas cake in there, and decided it was time for second Christmas. I pulled the cake and set it on the kitchen counter.

“Is that… CHRISTMAS CAKE??” asked Monkey, licking his lips.

“Yep,” I said. “Merry Christmas!” My family proceeded to eat cake every morning until it was gone, and I felt like a hero without expending any effort, so I’m calling it a win all around. Plus I was patting myself on the back about how great it is to have that extra freezer. (more…)

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Vegas, baby

So. Kira and I went to Vegas and took the town by storm!

Hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaa. Not really. But we had a good time.

It started like this: Every summer for the past 10 (!!) years or so, Kira and I have conspired to see one another. As ours is one of those “fake Internet friendships” where we simply met online while both of us were freshly divorced and newly wrecked, we’re not REAL friends, of course, but somehow at that first meeting long ago it turned out that neither of us was a pedophile living in a basement, and our friendship turned into a real boy, Geppetto (a real girl?), and we have been soulmates ever since. This is slightly inconvenient for our husbands, but not, because as wonderful as both of our husbands are (and believe you me, each was assessed in full by the non-marrying friend for worthiness prior to the actual gettin’ hitched part), neither of them wants to hear the sheer volume of words that pour from our mouths when we are in one another’s company.

We’ve somehow managed to visit once a year for a decade, even during the leanest years. Because it’s important. I will forever owe a debt of gratitude to Joshilyn for hosting us for that first girls’ weekend in 2005, during a time when I was depressed and directionless and had forgotten that sometimes girlfriends make it all better. Also, that was my first visit to Georgia, and at the time I had NO IDEA I’d be moving here not too long after. After that first time, we took turns visiting each other’s houses, but—I don’t know if you know this—we have rather a lot of children between us, and so there were always many small people in our faces during each visit. This isn’t AWFUL, you understand, but we felt like after a decade, we deserved a trip just for us. So earlier this year we pulled out a map and said, Hey, what’s between us? Maybe we can meet in the middle…? And so we planned to fly to… Texas. (more…)

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Floors, fluffy-buddies, and filth

Hey, remember when I painted my office? Like, a million years ago? And I was all excited about it but then we decided to order new flooring and we’ve been living life with my entire professional life (contents of my office; whatever) strewn all over the dining room and kitchen? The new floor is going in RIGHT NOW as I type. Finally.

Of course, I’m leaving town tomorrow. So, uh, either I’ll reassemble my office tonight before I go or my family can enjoy having my desk in the middle of the kitchen for a few more days. No biggie, right? Right.

Normally I would’ve been terribly impatient about it all, but because life is never dull around here, I’ve been quite busy… cleaning up poop and worrying that Duncan is dying. (Does this seem like a recurring theme? Because wasn’t he just sick a few weeks ago??) Over the last week Duncan was once again kind of lethargic and off and he stopped jumping up on the furniture to be with us and then he started having accidents in the house… and of course it was a holiday weekend so the vet was closed. He didn’t really scare me until the night (on the weekend! of course!) when he refused to get up to come to bed, even, but slept in the crate in the family room all night because he didn’t want to move. I’m not going to lie; I went to bed that night wondering if he was a lot sicker than we thought and maybe the next day would bring a terrible discovery… but… he slept all night and was happy to see us in the morning. After a few bad days he rallied and now he seems to be fine. Stinker. (more…)

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Lessons learned (veggie/college edition)

We returned from our whirlwind campus touring trip with the realization that yes, Virginia, this college thing is truly right around the corner and Big Decisions need to be made. That is both exciting and unnerving. And every time I try to remind myself that everything will work out just fine, I remember that once we get Chickadee through this process I have to start it all over again with Monkey, like, immediately.

Needless to say, we came home and I said “Oh, we don’t have any food!” and went to the store and promptly purchased All The Ice Cream. I think that’s reasonable, under the circumstances.

Also while we were gone, it rained a ton (on the heels of it having been approximately a billion degrees), so my garden is… experiencing growing pains. Specifically, all of my beautiful nearly-ripe tomatoes proceeded to split and in many cases, fall right off the vine. Still, I’m not complaining. Even ugly tomatoes can be turned into delicious tomato sauce.

gardenhaul-063015

This morning’s haul. Those are three types of tomatoes plus Japanese eggplant (and yes, I’m happy to see you, har har).

There was the matter of discovering HALF a tomato dangling from a vine, one day, and that was bizarre (my beds are in a fenced area), but then later that night we let Licorice out and she came back smelling VERY TOMATO-Y and the other half had vanished and, well, SOMEONE is now answering to “rotten tomato-faced thief.”

So clearly I’m no help on the gardening front, but if you’re curious about my take on questions to ask while touring colleges, I’ve got you covered over at Alpha Mom.

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Hole in the bucket (once more with feeling)

Have I mentioned that I am slightly… er… underemployed at the moment? And how that’s just fine, because I haven’t had a slow period in over a decade, and it’s summer, and we are doing Fun Things and years and years of being completely mentally ill about money mean that I can slack for a little while and we won’t be in financial dire straits or anything? And it’s all good, no problems, what a lovely and much needed break, we just have to be a little more careful and it’s no problem?

Well. I have all this TIME on my hands, now. Time I don’t normally have. Wouldn’t a lull in work be the PERFECT time to paint my office finally? Plus Monkey was going to be away for a while and then Otto went off on a trip and it was just me and Chickadee and, yes, sure, Orange Is The New Black wasn’t going to watch itself, but we finished it in two days (it was the weekend! GIRLS’ WEEKEND with bonding and lesbian prisoners, DUH) and then the following Monday I picked up my special-order, made-from-unicorn-horn-and-fairy-dust paint, and it was time to get down to business. Surely this would be NOTHING like previous DIY projects of snowballing magnitude, right? Right!

Allow me to tell you in words how the pre-painting prep went: I discovered that I have a lot of crap in my office. A LOT OF CRAP. I had a weird giant shelf on the wall that ultimately had to be unbolted and then chiseled off, and I have a giant desk and a filing cabinet and endless bookshelves and a coat rack and and and AND. We emptied most of the office into the dining room, and moved the remaining few big things (desk, futon couch) into the center of the room. It was… not fun, but we got it done. Next up was spackling and sanding. Then I started taping trim while Chickadee removed outlet plates, and that’s when I realized two very important things. (more…)

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Making our own food and entertainment

Here in Georgia it was rainy, rainy, rainy for a while and now the temperature is hovering around 100 all this week. In other words: My garden is going bananas and it’s HOOOOOOOOOT (um, very hot, not hoot) out and I’m getting a little loopy.

Yesterday I went out first thing in the morning to water, and discovered that as soon as the soil was soft, several of my tomato plants wanted to fall over. (They have cages! and stakes! and twine! and yes, I spend more time/energy on those damn tomatoes than my children, but the tomatoes never tell me I’m ruining their lives.) There’s really nothing like wrestling plants into submission at 6:30 in the morning when it’s already 80 degrees and 5 billion percent humidity out, lemme tell you. While I was doing that, I discovered that one of my basil plants was about ready to take over Atlanta, so I cut it down and made a delicious pesto that afternoon.

Of course, while I was prepping the basil, we discovered several stowaways. Ants and weird beetles get smushed, sorry. But it turned out that we had two baby praying mantises (discovered at different times) and those required careful study and filming and transportation back out to nature. Maybe this is only funny to us (we have watched it at least a dozen times and it’s only getting funnier), but first I “ruined” Chickadee’s film, then the mantis did. Bear in mind that this fella is about half an inch long. Enjoy!

Baby Praying Mantis! from woulda on Vimeo.

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