Friday, November 30, 2012

Why Nothing Gets Done, Phase II

I blame my knitting group.  Yes, I'm in a knitting group.  Don't hate.  And yes, if you're keeping count, that's gardening, canning, AND knitting.  I'm officially an 85-year-old survivalist.  Here's why.  Anyhoo, one of my knitting friends showed me a quick reference in this amazing, crazy, wonderful blog called Attic 24.  It's written by my new very best friend in the whole wide world, Lucy.  She's the cheeriest, English-est, grooviest gal ever.  So, what started out as a quick look at a stitch reference turned in to my latest obsession.

And when I say obsession, I'm not kidding you.  I spent almost every free moment for a week and a half reading every blog post she's ever written (and she's been online for four and a half years).  If she posted a picture of her teacup, I drank tea.  If she shopped for yarn, I went online.  If she went outside to tend her flowers, I looked outside to see if anything was dead and moved on to the next page.

It was a freaky kind of spell she had me under.  She does so much more than drink tea and shop for yarn.  She makes the most wonderful crochet creations.  I just want to go live in her slightly chaotic life for a while.  We won't mention that she's a lot messier than I am, and sometimes I want to go live with her just so I can help her out.  I mean, I cleaned out the junk drawer this week as a reward for paying bills.  Regardless, I. Could. Not. Stop. Reading.  Her joy in a rainy day, her desire to spend the maximum time possible in pajamas, and her ability to say fuck it to the mess on the dining room table (my words, not hers) are all something to which I aspire.

And yet.  As much time as I spent staring at the screen, wanting to know more about her, to BE her, I thought, why don't I just crochet something?  So, I did.  I used her general pattern for granny squares. They were some of the very first things I ever learned how to do with a needle (or hook), but I wasn't sure I still remembered how to crochet, much less execute a granny (diction saves lives).  Recently, I've been pretty much exclusively a knitter, but it was amazing how quickly it came back.  If I really think about it, crochet was my first craft love.

Mostly I loved crochet because I so loved my great aunts, Grace and Lucy.  They were responsible for me and my brother after my grandmother dumped us on them after my mom dumped us on her.  Anyway, they were both retired and both loved kids.  So, with them, we hung.  And it was fabulous - unlimited cake access, unlimited TV access, unlimited whatever we wanted.  In my mind, both of them have gray-blue hair and smell like Coppertone.  They have plastic flowers on their flip-flops, and they share a bed with their 85-year-old mother at the beach motel on Dog Island.  They were pretty close to what a perfect family looked like, as far as I knew.  I loved them.  A lot.

Lucy always, always had some form of crochet with her.  Usually something very large and blanket-y.  She taught me early how to crochet and how to make a granny square.  I still have the orange, sunflower, and avocado afghan she made my mom when I was born (yup, it was the late '60s) and I still have the peach, blue and cream afghan she made for me when I went away to college.  It's on my bed right now.

 22 squares - 11/11/12
Enter Lucy (and how weird is it that my new inspiration has the same name?) and her happy, joyful, blankety-ness.  I gathered up some old bits and bobs of leftover cotton yarns from various knitting projects, and I made a square.  And then I made a few more.  Suddenly, it seemed like I was onto something.  I was LOVING it.  I ate in my room, so I could crochet.  I left out my contacts so I could see to crochet.  I bought 1.75 reading glasses so I could crochet with my contacts on.   And funny thing, that crochet made me feel as jolly and nutty as Lucy sounds in her blog. So I kept at it.

At some point, I realized that the few bits of leftover yarn just wasn't going to cut it.  I bought more.  And then I bought some more.  If you've been playing along, you will also know that I am on a strict budget.  This current project is taxing my resolve.  But the payoff is so worth it.

84 squares - 11/29/12
I only have to make 300 more!!

Gotta go.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving, by the numbers

We had a total of 21 people at our house for Thanksgiving this year.  Here's a look, by the numbers.

Houseguests: 4
Bottles of wine brought by houseguests: 6 (they will be invited back)
Hours spent in pajamas with houseguests: lots
Miles run in the neighborhood turkey trot: 3.1
Age of youngest runner: 10
Number of tables needed to seat everyone:  3 (one inside, two out)
Afternoon temperature: 76
Different types of cheese on cheese platter: 15
Different types of potato dishes: 3
Number of rolls: 60
Number of salads: 1
Pounds of turkey: 26
Pies: 5
Dishwasher loads for prep, dinner, and dessert: 12
Score of the game: TCU 20 - Texas 13 (ugh)
Days to recover: 7

Monday, November 19, 2012

Little Glimpses

It's possible that the slightly manic phases that I have in which I actually do what I'm supposed to do, including shower, dress, check the mail, fertilize the garden, bake, knit, write, etc., are not a sign of impending mental illness, but are the self-actualization of what I thought this stay-at-home business would really be like.

Is that even possible?

I struggled and struggled, trying to find balance and peace.  And couldn't, so therefore, I immediately deemed myself a failure.  But lo, after 14 months, a glimmer of light.  Balance is for sissies.  The only times I've felt really committed and kick-ass at this thing is when I've run myself ragged either in the house or the yard or the world beyond.  I KNOW - sounds crazy, right?  But there's something so seductive about crossing something off the to-do list.  And even more seductive is crossing off more things.

What that should tell you is that moms who work full time AND do this shit are superhuman.  And by that I mean super from the Latin meaning over and above.  How did I ever do it?  How?  The answer is, I didn't.  I was exhausted.  And all my plants were dead.  And we ate at Sonic four days a week.  But it was the best I could do.

I'm still doing the best I can.  And I still miss teaching -- a lot.  And I'm still exhausted.  I'm just kicking ass in a different kind classroom.

And I'm good with that.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Austerity, Day 6

We went to the Longhorns game today, for which I was WOEFULLY UNDERPREPARED.  No, not for the football, for the food.  I hadn't eaten anything except for a cup of yogurt and a cup of coffee.  Now, if you're keeping track, that means that both my calorie and my caffeine levels were low.  Dangerously low.

So, I fixed it with a soft pretzel.  And a 44 ounce Diet Coke.  And we're not going to address the nachos either.  Or the pizza for the sleepover.  Let's just pretend this never happened.  It's a fucking miracle I haven't had anything to drink yet.

There's still time.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Austerity Days 3 and 4

I am really awesome at this austerity thing.  Except for the gluten part.  So, I've been obsessively reading these English and Australian blogs about crochet and gardens and other really delightful things.  And one of the most wonderful things about those folks is that fact that they really do drink tea.  All the time.  And they always have a little snack for tea.  Every afternoon!  So, since I'm reading about it, it only makes sense that I should partake as my new bloggy friends are partaking.  

So, yesterday and today, I had a blueberry muffin (whole grain and homemade, but a muffin nonetheless).  And it was awesome.  

So there.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Austerity, Day 2

Today, I thought I was going to die.

When I woke up, I thought the headache was just one of those stiff neck headaches I get when I do shoulders at the gym.

And then I thought it was just sinus.

And then I thought I might have a brain tumor.

And then I wanted to throw up.

And then I saw stars.

And then I had to lie down.

And then I couldn't even make dinner.

And then I realized I hadn't had any caffeine since 7:30 am.

And then I drank a cup of black tea and took an Excedrin for migraine.

And then I watched the election returns.

And then I watched Mitt Romney's speech.

And then I watched Barack Obama's speech.

And then I watched all the talky people talk about Mitt Romney's speech.

And then I watched all the talky people talk about Barack Obama's speech.

I don't think I slept, but my head didn't hurt anymore.

Afternoon tea has a purpose.

Lesson learned.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Austerity, Day 1

I had a wonderful weekend.  G and I took a little girls' trip down to Houston.  S was booked all weekend with band trips, and T was still working on our new, architecturally-rendered (if by architecturally rendered you mean using the free Google app to design and measure and then pretty much making it up from there) shed, so I thought I'd go see my mom, who I haven't seen since June (!), and dad.

Any trip to see my parents necessarily involves the ingestion of a fair amount of alcohol.  Usually because we're enjoying each other's company.  Occasionally because we're driving each other crazy.  Regardless, my people come from a long line of people who enjoy a glass of the grape. Or the barley.  Or potato.  Or juniper.  Or whatever, really.  And we're really good at it.  Because we practice.

Anyway, I had an absolutely super time with my folks, saw some great, old friends from high school.  And ate.  Ate at all my favorite Houston places that I don't ever get to go to anymore. Ate road food on the way home. And I ate all the things I never let myself eat anymore, project-wise and health-wise. And that's when the party was over.  Because, today . . .

I. Feel. Like. Shit.

I can't do it.  I can't eat like that for three whole days, and I certainly can't drink like that.  So, since we've already delved into fiscal austerity, I've decided to take the plunge into nutritional austerity.  It's like my very own episode of Hoarders or Intervention.  Except I'm not saving others.  I'm saving myself.  Well, that, and I have no tattoos and all my teeth, but otherwise, just like that.  No alcohol.  No carbonation.  No nighttime gluten.  Seven days.

Pray for me.

Friday, November 2, 2012

In the Hood

I was at the corner convenience store yesterday, getting my daily Diet Coke.  In front of me at the register was a man buying not one but TWO forty-ounce Fosters Lagers and a large bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

As I went out to the car, I noticed that he was wearing a t-shirt that said "Innovative Business Solutions."  Indeed.

You can't make that shit up.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Apple. Tree. Haiku.

This was my mom's response to my Halloween Haiku:

As for Halloween
I didn't like it either
Too many children

I am not making this up.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Haiku

Halloween is too
loud and crowded and sticky
despite the candy

Never liked it much
even as a kid, and a
chubby one at that

I know I should put
on a show for my kids' sake
but I don't, I won't

Because I hate it
Maybe, probably 'cause I
couldn't get a date.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Snapshot

So, I'm giving the vegetables about five more minutes to roast.  The kids are at the kitchen table with their homework.  I'm at the stove with my wine.  All is as it should be.

S:  Mom, want to hear a chemistry joke?
Me:  Sure.
S: I would tell you a good chemistry joke, but all the good ones are gone.

Wait for it.  Argon?

And she gets offended when we tease her about band.


Monday, October 29, 2012

I Am A Bad-ass

Ghastly IPhone lighting, but still.
Impressive, right?
So, early last week, I made a cake.  From scratch.  As in flour, butter, eggs, the whole shebang.  And it was awesome.  Cream cheese buttercream.  Lemon curd filling (more on that later).  Almonds on the side to cover up the really hideous frosting job. And it was awesome.  Not everyone liked the cream cheese frosting.  Not everyone liked the lemon curd.  Not everyone had a leftover piece at lunch and at dinner for three days.  What?

And then later last week, T and I finally made the leap into the cash-only-everything-accounted-for-beans-and-rice-hard-core-like-when-we-lived-in-an-Airstream-trailer-because-we-had-no-money budget process that we like to call getting ready to pay for college.  And let me tell you that every $18 purchase you ever made because it was only $18 makes you feel really, really stupid.  It is amazing how much money I was spending on absolutely nothing.  They were nothings that I thought I really wanted/needed, but they were nothings nonetheless.  So, in less than a week, I have become an obsessive, miserly shrew. "No, you can't have new Vans, we don't get clothing money until November 9." "Okay, I've bought five bags of candy for Halloween, but we're only opening them one at a time.  I need the $7.50 if we can return the ones we don't use."  I'm not wearing this at all well.  Financial discipline is not my color.

But the short of this long story is that the budget COMBINED with this project is turning me into some kind of Depression era loony, as if the massive amount of canned goods in my pantry weren't enough evidence.  The cake recipe called for 5 eggs -- one whole and four whites.  Now, I buy the organic eggs from chickens with beaks and access to sunshine.  It's important to me, not as much to others.  I don't judge.  I merely point this out because those eggs are almost $5 a dozen, which translates to roughly 41 cents per egg.  Which means that for the four eggs that I'm only using the whites for is a waste of 82 cents, if you assume that the white is half the egg.  And 82 cents is almost a refill of a Diet Coke at the Sac-N-Pac.  I just couldn't let that kind of waste happen.  It is also possible that I desperately need a job.

So, unlike Washington, I took steps to achieve full utilization.  I made lemon curd.  And no ordinary lemon curd, either.  I made Martha Stewart's lemon curd.  Now, this link isn't the exact recipe in the original bible that is the 1995 Martha Stewart Cookbook (don't hate), but it's close.  And if I were better at math, I could actually verify that it's the same recipe increased by a third.  Potato, potato-ah.  It was good.  Dangerously good.  Heart-attack good.

And this isn't even why I am a bad-ass.  Can you believe it?  All of above was performed in the line of duty as part of my job as amazing, freaky, wheat bread and granola, no-baggies, composting mom.  It doesn't even count.

I am a bad-ass because I discovered today that if you stir one little teaspoon of lemon curd into your low fat Greek yogurt, which you don't even like but are required to eat because you get no dairy and therefore no calcium and because you need the protein, it transforms said yogurt into a culinary masterpiece of untold delight.  And I have convinced myself that such a little tiny bit of cholesterol-laden, sweetened fat droplets is totally okay.

If I'm wrong, I don't want to be right.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I am not someone who always recognizes happy when she sees it.  As a Type A perfectionist, there's always something that could have been better or faster or more efficient.  But today, right now, I feel happy.  My husband is kind and funny.  My kids are well-adjusted and successful.  And not here.  Even better.  But I'll be so, so happy to hear about the tennis tournament when they get back.

Today was one of those days when I got a lot done.  Nothing major, just the 35 little piddly things that have been hovering over my to-do list for ages.  Things like putting recipes torn from newspaper and already-covered-in-soy-sauce-and-what-looks-like-bread-dough into binders, finishing up some leftover laundry, dishes done, homemade bread made, east side flower bed tilled, weeded, and mulched.  I feel great.  It may look on the outside like a manic-depressive on a tear, but I know you're not a licensed psychologist.

And it's early fall in Texas.  There's nothing else like it anywhere.  One beer, seven neighbors.  As I walked back home for dinner, I realized how blessed my life is. I'm just going to sit back and enjoy it.

Happy Fall!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Why Nothing Gets Done

So, I went out to get my mail one day last week.  Now, I can say in all honesty that I am not very good at picking up the mail.  In fact, I usually stink at it.  As in, I don't pick it up.  The reason for that is there are two things that come in the mail:  trouble and junk.  The former I have enough of in the person of caterpillars, weeds, hard water residue, and muscle stiffness.  The latter makes me fearful for the future of the planet and therefore, crazy.

BUT.  I have been trying to be better about the mail.  Because T. has enough to do without sorting out the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.  So, I went and got the mail every day last week.  And last Tuesday, this was what I got.  This is ONE DAY'S mail.

The stack on the left:  junk mail.  The stack in the middle:  the worst kind of junk mail, the ones with the plastic envelopes that don't recycle. The stack on the right:  mail, as in one magazine, one bill, one coupon, and one check.  Four items out of what had to be 25 were actual, real mail.  When I think of the time I spend going through it all, I feel sick.  When I think of the trees, I feel murderous.

So, this week, I am taking a stand.  You should to.  Here's a great website to get you (me) started.

Declutter this.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reality Check

G has been hit with the reality that is junior year.  She was really freaked out over the summer about the  number of AP and preAP classes (5).  She was really freaked out about AP Spanish IV because she's "luckily" scored the two easiest Spanish teachers for Spanish II and III, which is great when you're in it.  It's not so great when you hit Spanish IV with the rest of the kids who are actually ready for Spanish IV.  Surprisingly, though, this year has been pretty easy for her.  She's had homework, sure.  Some late-ish nights.  But all-in-all, she's had time to watch a little TV, hang with friends, compulsively clean her room.  All the usual things.

You know how life doesn't always space things out for you?  T had the worst June I've ever seen when he had two several hundred-page documents due for work.  Any week that grades were due were inevitably paired with multiple roadblocks, development days, and computer snafus.  It just happens.  And you have to take those weeks as they come, do your best, and move on.

This year, I've been very intentional about how I parent my older child.  I am trying very hard to pull back and let her make her own decisions.  For those of you who know me, you can stop laughing now.  I really am succeeding fairly well with this.  Because I have to.  Because in two years, she'll be gone.  She'll be at a wonderful school, having wonderful experiences, but she'll still be gone.  So she's got to learn to self-direct, self-manage, and self-soothe.  And she's done quite well with that so far.  She has really supportive teachers, and the things that she really feared have not come to pass.

Until now.   And her luck ran out in Spanish IV.  They had a quiz this week.  She stayed up until 12:30 studying for the quiz.  She made a 0.  As in ZERO.  Nada.  Nadie.  Zilch.  I don't even know how to process that.  She said that most of the non-native speakers made 0s, 5s, and 15s.  The native speakers made 25s.  Putting aside the argument that if scores are that low, it might be a teacher issue rather than a student issue, but still.  It's demoralizing.  And scary.  And I hurt for her.  And no matter how much I tell her that I know that she is working hard, she frets.  It makes the next assignment that much more important.  And it's due tomorrow.  And that doesn't include the pre-Cal test.  Or the AP History test.  Both of which are also tomorrow.

And as much as I want to run in and call the teacher and schedule the tutoring for her, that's not what will help her in the long run.  She will get there.  She will be okay.  She will leave me to make her own way in the world.  And sometimes it will be hard.  Failure and struggle are often much more educational than success.  And that's a lesson that I have no control over.

But it still sucks.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dear Ina,

Okay.  I'm back.  And I'm sorry.  It seems like having no actual job would make it easier to sit your ass down and write, but apparently  I'm wrong. I've made a shitload of notes.  I've started some stories, but other things got in the way.  I'll start filling in the gaps as I can, but tonight, it's time for a love letter to Ina.  Because, let's face it, only Ina can bring you back from the depths of writer's block (or laziness.  Whatever. You say potato).

Dear Ina, 

I love you.  There, I said it.  You probably already knew that since I cook from your books and link to your recipes way more than anyone else.  But I love you more than that.  I love that all your recipes come out looking just like they do in the book.  I love it that you DEMAND that people enjoy themselves while cooking, that you insist that I buy some parts of my dinner party and focus on some really good food.  I love that you've been married to your high school sweetheart for 44 years.  

And mostly, I love it that you're a little chubby.  I love it a lot.  Because no one that likes food and wine as much as we do (see how I called us "we"?) is going to look like Giada.  All due respect to her, but sister ain't really eating all that pasta, if you know what I mean.  I love it that you're real, and that you make fun of yourself.  And I really, really, really love your Basil Chicken Hash, which BOTH of my children ate the shit out of tonight.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Myth Busters

Okay.  So, I cheated.  I bought unsanctioned food from a restaurant yesterday.  My head hangs in shame.  Here is my story.

Hi.  My name is Mama O.  
Hi, Mama O.

I'm a roll-a-holic.
It's okay.

No, it's really not.  You see, I used to work right across the street from this magical place called Golden Chick.  And Golden Chick was the place where you went when your students were mean to you.  Or when you had a bad day.  Or when you had a good day.  Or when it was Fuzzy Friday.  Or really, any day.  
What did they have there?

Golden Chick had yummy, fried tenders.  They had creamy, peppered white gravy.  And they had yeast rolls.  Yeast rolls that were better than any white-flour carb you ever put in your mouth.  And they were brushed in butter.  No, not butter, but some kind of even better fake oil/butter hybrid that got all over your fingers and never went away no matter how often you washed your hands.  They were like crack.  I would stop by on the way home from work and get a large diet coke and two rolls.  Sad.  Sad.  Sad.  All I can say is that on the eighth day, God created Golden Chick. And it was good.
So, what happened?

I wish I could say that I just gave it up because it was not good for me.  But I didn't.  First, I quit working across the street.  This was sad, but I still had friends there, so I would drop by for a tender snack from time to time (2 tenders, sub the fries for an extra roll, and a large diet coke).  Then, they switched to Pepsi.  This was the first sign of Satan in the garden.  
So, you stopped going?

I did.  Our family was on the project.  I wasn't working.  There was just no reason to go.
Then, why are you here?

This afternoon, I was so tired.  I've started running again, and I go at 5:15 in the morning, which makes you tired.  And when I'm really tired, I want yeast rolls.  No, I didn't actually run today, but who's counting?  I was headed to the girls' tennis meet in Wimberley, a town nearby, the turnoff for which is dangerously close to Golden Chick.  I tried to resist, but I needed a notebook.
They have notebooks at Golden Chick?

No, they have notebooks at the Dollar General, which shares a parking lot with Golden Chick.  So, you see, it wasn't my fault.
It wasn't your fault that you drove through the parking lot to Golden Chick, ordered a roll and a large iced tea, paid for the roll, what?  Two rolls?  Took them from the cashier and pulled out of the parking lot with your yeasty, greasy booty?

Huh, when you say it that way, it sounds much worse.  But here's the good news.  They weren't very good.  Yes, they were still hot and really greasy, but somehow they didn't live up to the memory of them.  I had built them up so high because they really did make me feel better when things were tough (emotional eating could take up three more years of therapy, but I'll leave that for another time). This time, they tasted fake and overly salty.  Could the quality have dipped?  Sure.  Could I have attributed powers to those rolls that they didn't actually have?  Maybe.  But I realized that maybe this project is slowly retraining my tastebuds not to need fast food.  And maybe it's okay for a yeast roll not to have to be my savior anymore.
So, did you eat them all anyway?

Fuck off.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Starting Over

Right before I left in July, I pulled almost everything out of the garden.  Everything.  It was horrifying.  Some of the tomato plants had new fruit budding.  It was awful.  I had worked so hard for that garden, and it physically hurt to pull everything out (that might also be because there are steel edges to the fencing I used for my tomato cages and I cut myself about 235 times).  I left one bed for the housesitter to manage, but she wasn't all that interested in the jalapeños, so when I got back, I had a bumper crop.  Which I canned.  Which is all I did all of June, too.

After I pulled everything out, I tilled up the beds, pulled off the square-foot grid strings and covered everything in a blanket of hay and hoped for the best.  It felt really good in cathartic, sweaty kind of way, but it was really sad, too.  As my brother-in-law reminds me, Stephen King says this about writing:  You have to "kill your darlings." In writing and in gardening, I guess.

So, this week, I started over.  It seems almost unimaginable that everything I did last spring now has to be repeated for fall.  I drove to the Natural Gardener in the 105 degree heat and bagged my own compost.  Needless to say, there was no Tomato Larry that day - it was EMPTY in the bag-your-own-lot.  Because I am insane.

I pulled off all the hay, tilled in all the new compost and started some beans and tomatoes.  Which is exactly where I was at the end of March last year.  And I'm okay with that.  Like laundry and dishes and most other things in life, there's always something more to be done.  My challenge is to do it with a lighter heart.  And without cussing.  Still working on that one.

I had to hit the ground running this week to get the fall garden in, but I was ready.  Tomatoes and beans went in this week.  And this time, I actually did some planning for successive crops like onions, garlic, leeks, cauliflower and broccoli.  So, I know where I'm going as it begins to get cooler.

And where I'm going right now is bush beans and tomatoes.  I'm feeling pretty good about that.

Keep it green, y'all!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fly! Be Free!

We are very proud to say that she passed her driver's test on the first go round, which is more than she can say for her mother (did you know that you don't have to pass parallel parking anymore?).  She has picked me up a diet Coke and bought gas.  She has a key chain that is bigger than my whole head.  And most importantly, she has already erased every bad moment of her childhood by taking her sister to a sleepover and the dog to the vet.

I know there are moms out there who fret every time their teenager is on the road alone in the car.  Who worry every time they leave the house.  Who faithfully track their child on GPS.  I'm not one of those.

Can I get a hallelujah?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

That's Right, You're Not From Texas

I love Lyle Lovett.  He says all the kinds of things that I'm thinking in my head but don't want to say out loud.  Back when G did not believe that night was for sleeping, we'd twirl and twirl to "One-Eyed Fiona."  Now, that's a song you want to expose your baby to early.  And often.

Anyway, one of Lyle's best songs is called "That's Right You're Not From Texas" a line which concludes with "but Texas wants you anyway."  Good stuff.  And I feel the same way. I am proud to be from Texas.  I'm a native Texan, born and raised, and it's one of the things that makes me feel like I'm special.  More special than people from other states.  Sorry.  Okay, not really.

My Kentucky friends think it's hilarious that there's a Texas Pledge of Allegiance.  And one of the funniest people in the world could absolutely not fathom that there is an entire year of Texas history in 7th grade (he didn't know about 4th grade then).  He said that Michigan history consisted of six short weeks somewhere in the middle of everything else.

And while it may seem a little outsized to most folks, it feels just right to us.

Until July, when the only place I want to be is in Colorado.  Where it's 56 degrees.  And raining.

What what?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Some Catching Up

So, it wasn't so nutty that I just sat around in my pajamas for an entire month and actively chose not to blog.  It actually felt like the opposite of lazy.  It felt like mass chaos all the time.  Well, except for the weeks that the French Open was on.  And the weeks that Wimbledon was on.  Okay, so basically for the 12 days between the tournaments, it was busy.  It seems only right that I catch you up on a few things.

1.  The Garden - I am actually pretty pleased with how things turned out.  And given my overwhelming need to control everything and everyone, I have been able to look at this first summer season as a great experiment.  Had some failures:  got tomato herpes, got round, orange cucumbers (?!), got squash borers, and had some deer damage.

We also had some great successes:  had bees, had some squash before the borers hit, had green beans, had LOTS of tomatoes, as in way more than I can eat (as in I become the tomato Unabomber, wearing dingy clothes and dropping off unwanted baggies full of the things), had LOTS of tomatillos (we're swimming in salsa), and finally, just before everything got pulled for high summer, had pickling cucumbers, and had a fair pepper yield.  And above all, I learned a lot of lessons.

But the best part has nothing to do with gardening.  The best part is that S, my little one, who is not always the first one to volunteer for hot, sweaty work or really any work at all, has become my right-hand farmer.  She's got a great eye for which tomatillos were ready to pick and was always willing to help or harvest or water.  Her enthusiasm and joy got me through on those days when it was just too hot, or too much trouble, or just too much period.   It's been a real gift to get to spend that kind of time with her, the kind of time that will hopefully lead to her having her own garden some day. Or at least will keep me from locking her up in her room for rolling her eyes.  Or arguing with everything I say.  Or not emptying the dishwasher after I ask.  Five times.  But I digress.

2. The Pantry - Looking back over the last month, my fallow period, in the words of a dear writer friend, I do realize that I might have been really busy doing exactly what I set out to do with this project.  With the time required by the garden, and the time required to put up food whose origins I can trace to my back door, maybe I wasn't so much not writing, but brainstorming!  Yeah, that's what we'll call it.

Anyway, it seems like at least twice a week, I would have so much produce that I had to can before it went bad.  Now, I love canning, especially when it comes with a group of friends and some cold beer, but I'll tell you, I wasn't necessarily prepared for twice a week.  Those folks who had to can to make it through the winter were not fucking around.  With all my own produce and some plums that a friend brought and a couple of pounds of organic strawberries on sale, I've put up gallons of tomatillo salsa, quarts of tomato salsa, sweet-hots (cucumber and jalapeño pickles that are the best things in the world.  On goat cheese.  All I'm saying.), pickle relish, jalapeño jelly, plum jam, strawberry jam.  It's fucking 10 o'clock at night, and I'm leaving for vacation tomorrow morning.  And I'm still canning.

3.  The Project - Well, I'm proud to say that we haven't fallen all the way off the wagon.  We are still not eating out when we are in town although I have gotten caught a once or twice six hours out from our last meal.  It's been an interesting dilemma:  do I literally starve my kids to make a point?  Isn't that just as bad as feeding your kids fast food?  I'm not sure what the answer is, but we haven't ever cheated with a full meal.  We did, however, one day a couple of weeks ago, have to buy a snack at a convenience store.  Not sure where, but it did amount to some food that hadn't come into our possession in an approved way.  I think it was some nuts and some peanut butter crackers.  Admittedly, those are both items that would have been in our house or even our car had I gotten my shit together.  But I didn't.

4.  The Miracle - It's been a tough summer for G.  A super-hard worker and awesome kid, she struggled with math in middle school, which put her behind a little for high school.  And because she has mean parents, she is taking Algebra II this summer.  Yep.  That's right.  Summer school.  And not just summer school.  Summer school in the subject that you hate the most.  Not only that, but she missed camp and an opportunity to go see her friend play softball in Colorado, where we spend most of July.  Things are sucking for her right now.

That said, she's been a real trooper.  She hasn't complained much and has even formed a pretty good relationship with her teacher, which will be helpful next year.  During all this, she turned 16.  Which meant that she had earned a dinner out.  At a restaurant.  Of her choosing.  But, as awful and miserable as most of her summer has been, the kid chose to eat at home.  Can you believe?  Now what she chose to eat were some insanely expensive steaks, but they were worth every penny, and we had a wonderful time.

So, this crazy experiment that has made her so miserable, this attempt to recalibrate and reset our eating priorities may, just possibly, have caused the teeniest, tiniest shift in her eating choices.  And in the rest of ours as well.  I'm almost afraid to say it out loud.

This just might work.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


So, uh, yeah. 

It never ceases to amaze me that Oprah Winfrey can read my mind.  I don’t consider myself an Oprah devotee by any means, but this is only because I am a snob and don’t want to admit it.  The book section of her magazine is the best there is, and her respect for writers and writing really touches me.  This month’s “make yourself a better person because you are a good person on the inside even if all you want to do is lie on the couch and watch tennis” article is about being a “real” writer, which appears to have no definition other than regularity and a passion for the craft.

Not too long ago, I had both.  I was loving being a part of this blog and felt absolutely nothing other than joy at having a little piece of me to add to the collective ether.  I am proud of the project that we are doing (more on that later).  I am proud of the accomplishments we have had in removing ourselves however slightly from the commercial food chain (more on that later).  I am proud of the women that my children are becoming even though I want to strangle them much of the time (more on that later).

And then all of a sudden, it was gone.  All I did for the entire month of May was bitch about how much I wanted summer to come, and how busy we were, and how tired we all were, and if summer would just come, it would all be fine.


At first, I only missed a week of blogging.  We were out of town for our official start-of-summer trip to the beach, G started summer school, and all of the tomatoes started turning red.  No big deal, just a bad week.  Week two began with daily drives into Austin, which if I had to do every week, I wouldn’t.  Sarah was a team leader for Vacation Bible School a/k/a Boot Camp for Jesus, and between the drive and the garden, and T’s overwhelming work schedule, it was chaos, so I didn’t blog.  It happens.  No big deal.

And then, I don’t know what happened.  The two long weeks that I had neglected this place became shameful.  I hadn’t written, and therefore, I didn’t want to write.  I was embarrassed.  I was the worst blogger, the worst writer, the worst person in the world.  Crazy, probably, but there it is.   So, I did the only logical thing.  I skipped writing for two more weeks.  Because ignoring it always makes the problem go away. 


There it is.  I could choose to beat the shit out of myself for something that was totally within my control or not.   

I chose not.  So, here I am, for what it's worth.  The kids and I will work on patching together the QC, and I'll get back to work.  

All will be well, and all will be well.  (Julian of Norwich) (I think).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Life Changing Chicken Taco Meat

There's so little new under the sun.  So few things that can break through the ennui of the summer day.  Blah-diddy-blah.  But in a passing conversation with DD, I was given the gift of life.  Sort of like Jonas in The Giver meets Jesus meets Rachael Ray.

Here it is:

Chicken Taco Meat

Whole bunch of chicken, fresh, frozen, doesn't matter.  Seriously, this would work with anything from a pound to four pounds (which is what I did)
1/2 to 1 cup salsa (depending on amount of chicken), homemade, Pace, whatever kind, doesn't matter
2 t. chili mix, taco seasoning, spice blend, doesn't matter
2 t. salt - this does matter

Dump it all the crock pot on low all day or on high after noon.  Cooking times will vary depending on how much chicken and if it started out frozen.  I did a mix of breasts and thighs.  Shred with a fork.  Heat some tortillas.  Figure out whatcha got in the fridge.  Done.  Check, please.

I made quite a bit of extra and got what I think is two more meals worth for the whole family.  DD says the leftovers are great for stuffing enchiladas (can you hear the angel choir?)

Now, DD is a gal who has it all going on, and I mean has her shit together, but this elevates her to serious rock star status.

I bow down.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sins Revisited

My kid is learning to drive.  Now, I don't look like I could possibly have a child getting ready to be a licensed driver, what with my perfectly unblemished skin and girlish figure, but I do.  And it's been much easier than I thought it would be.

For me, I mean.  There is nothing better than letting your kid drive you around.  I can text with impunity, eat my breakfast on the way to school, read the newspaper, and (you people who have younger kids might want to sit down for this) drink beer when I'm at friend's house.  Or my mother-in-law's house.  Or really anywhere I damn well please because I HAVE A DESIGNATED DRIVER.  I keep hearing these parents whine and lament about being sad about having a driver, fearful that they'll be in an accident, bereft at the thought of their babies growing up.

Fuck that.  Here are the keys.  Be careful.  Your car payment is to take your sister anywhere she wants to go.  Your insurance is taking the dogs to the vet.  Your gas money is running any paltry errand I can think of.  Godspeed.  Fly, be free.

I'm not sure that it's been quite as easy for her.  You see, I tend to be just a teeny bit controlling.  I'm sure you can't tell.  And I tend to handle that by yelling "STOP!STOP!STOP!" over and over whether it's an emergency or not.  I'm trying really hard not to, but,  I'm not going to lie, I'm struggling.  And some of my passenger-seat psycho behavior I don't even know I'm doing.  For example, when she first started driving, she claimed that I do a hissing inhale every time she takes a curve too fast (or maybe not even too fast, maybe any curve, who's to say?).  Now, most of the time, I'm not even aware that I'm making this sound.  And up until about three weeks ago, I would have denied that I was doing it.

Until. . . .

Until three weeks ago, when my mom came to town.  Now, I'm 44 years old.  I got a hardship license at 15 and have been driving a car since I was 13.  I haven't had a wreck since I was in my mid-20's and in that one I was a passenger.  I haven't had a ticket since my mid-30's.  I don't reverse well.  I am an excellent parallel parker.  I think speed limits are more guidelines than hard and fast rules, and my neighbor just told me last night that he "knows who stops at the neighborhood four-way stop and who doesn't."  But all in all, I'm a pretty safe driver.

So, my mom and S and I were in the car, headed to pick up G from school.  On our route was a 90-degree left curve in a 50 mph zone.  I took that curve at a relatively judicious 35-40 mph and smoothly entered the curve, accelerating at the apex of the curve, just like my daddy taught me.  And at the moment I was executing this epic driving maneuver, my mom grabbed the "oh shit" handle and made this hissing inhale noise.

Busted.  And the worst part was that G wasn't even in the car at the time, so I could show her that it wasn't my fault.

I can't help it.  It's genetic.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mother May I

It really is one of life's great ironies that Mother's Day falls squarely in the middle of May.   When no mother ON EARTH has time to take a day off to do anything.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I like cards and presents just as much as the next girl, but seriously, any other month would be better.   The week before Christmas would be better.  We hear all the time about how busy the holidays are, how stressful, etc.  That's for everyone involved in the retail business.  Everyone involved in the parent business knows that May is the busiest, most stressful time of the year.

Every special occasion, dance, concert, band clinic, band tryout, tennis clinic, tennis lesson, and any extracurricular activity you can think of falls in May.  Because God forbid we spread it out.  No, no.  We've got to get our testing in.  I feel like we haven't been home in months.  And I'm tired.  So tired.  And doesn't it always just seem like there's one more little hiccup to make May busier?  The in-laws drop in (for a three day stay), a friend has knee surgery (and I love to cook), the college-aged son is back in town (with all of the weird negotiation over limits that that entails), or a beloved mother's home must be sold (in another town).  Each of these are things we each take on with joy and dignity and grace, but isn't it odd how these additional blessings/burdens always seem to come in May? Maybe it's God's way of making summer that much more of a relief.

And this is where it really gets weird.  I was a teacher for so long that I learned to look only toward summer for my freedom and release.  If I can just make it to Spring Break. . .if I can just make it to TAKS. . . if I can just make it to Memorial Day. . . only three days left!!!!  Only now, with a full year of home-working under my belt, it suddenly seems weird that my days are going to get fuller.  As in, there will be more people in them.  And more things to do.  I haven't decided whether that's a good thing or not.

But I'll tell you what is a good thing.  Vegetables.  And canning.  Today's harvest includes:  8 tomatillos, a dozen assorted peppers, and the year's first cucumbers.  Three of them turned out great.  Two of them look like alien heads.  Perhaps for them, relish.  Off to can.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Why I Cook, Part Un

My Mom

My mom is awesome.  I'm saying that because she is awesome, and also because she is reading this. She loves my blog.  She checks every day to see if I've posted anything.  I told her that there was a way to have it email her when I posted something new.  But she said that would ruin it.  She likes checking because of the possibility that something might be there.  Or at least that's what she said.  I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that she doesn't know what I'm talking about.

All of this makes me feel really good because my mom is really, really smart.  She is gentle and kind, a good listener, and a great audience.  She reads all the time, has lots of degrees, and has a very low tolerance for bad writing.  So, for her to say she loves my blog means a lot.  She is also my mom.  And moms have to be supportive of their children.  And sometimes they have to not tell them that their shirt makes them look like a hobo.  Wait.

Anyway, the fact that my mom may or may not like my blog about food and gardening and housekeeping is, to be honest, a little, teeny bit surprising.  I've had many people in my life say, "You love to cook so much, your mom must have been a great cook." "Did you learn to cook from your mom?" "You must have eaten really well as a child."

Well, here it is, in a nutshell.  I wish I could claim first dibs on this story, but my brother can claim that prize.  And no, he doesn't read my blog.  But he loves me anyway.

The Coffee Cake

It was 1993.  It was the first Thanksgiving that I had ever spent away from home.  T and I were a couple of months away from getting married, and we went up to Dallas to be with his family.  I should never have gone.  Not because I didn't enjoy myself, but because I missed the most legendary and epic story of our family.  Well, except for the one where my dad ran over me in a motorboat.  He doesn't really like me to tell that one.

Anyway, my brother, J, has always gotten to have a Sara Lee Butter Streusel Coffee Cake on holidays. I liked the pecan one because it has frosting, but my parents don't love me as much as they love him, so most of the time, they "forgot" to get the pecan one, and J. always, always got to have his Butter Streusel.

Anyway, J and my parents had to muddle through Thanksgiving without me.  I can't even remember what their Thanksgiving plans were, but J. was going to have his Butter Streusel coffee cake regardless.  So, he turned on the oven to preheat it for the coffee cake.  And probably, knowing him, went back to bed.  Afterwhile (yes, that's a word), a discernible smoky smell began to emanate from the kitchen.  J. went to investigate and found, wait for it, the remains of the Sara Lee Butter Streusel Coffee Cake from the previous Christmas.

My parents hadn't turned on the oven in 11 months.

Right Now

Right now, my mom is giggling and wiping tears from her eyes AND protesting that she fed us really well.  And she did.  She fed us whole grains and lean meats.  We sat at the table most nights and talked.  Like a real family.  We had the dearest housekeeper, Walter Lee, who would cook meals to be reheated.  And my mom had a few special dishes up her sleeves.  How you choose to interpret special is up to you, but for her, they were a sacrifice that she was willing to make for her family.

She tried.  She really did.  But my mom doesn't like cooking and never liked cooking, and that's okay.  Just because you give birth to someone doesn't change what you're good at.  What my mom is good at is back-scratching, laughing, reading, smiling, listening, comforting, singing, praying, drinking coffee and reading the paper, doing dishes, keeping her grandchildren, traveling, spa-ing, and loving.

Those are mighty fine qualities.

I love you, Mom!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

100 Days

When my kids were little, there was always the 100-days celebration at school.  It signified to the kids that their year was 4/7ths over (?), gave them an opportunity to visually conceptualize a number, and gave every parent a FUCKING HEART ATTACK when she failed to read the Friday folder and realized that the 100-day celebration was the next day and the only thing she had 100 of was tampons.  Or wine bottles.  Or whatever.  Thus necessitating either a trip to the Sac-n-Pac to spend $300 on bags of m&ms or to the HEB at the single most crowded time ever.

But today is a 100-day of a different nature.  We have official reached 100 days on the project!  Woo Hoo!  Yay, us!  Meh.  It's funny that just as I sat down to update the QC and the Daily Dish, I thought to myself, if there was ever a day to just order pizza, this is it.

But so far, we have done what we set out to do.  We have eaten out only for special occasions, out of town trips, and reunions with out of town guests.  I have taken exactly three lunches for business (two real estate and one teaching).  So, in short, we're eating like most of the world eats everyday, only without fear of loss, famine, or violence.  Lifestyle change doesn't come easy.  But it comes.

Only 230 or so to go.  I can't bring myself to look up the actual number.  The kids might find out.  It's way better not to know.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, y'all!

Monday, April 30, 2012


G this morning had a total meltdown when she asked when the project was over.  For whatever reason (a/k/a I didn't tell them because it would cause unnecessary pain), she wasn't aware that the project is intended to be 11 months long.  She asked how long we've been on it.  I said 95 days.  She said it seems like much longer, and I told her that it just seems like it (a/k/a I wasn't going to count the 3 month trial we did last fall).  But then T reminded her that we had done the trial last fall (thanks) to which I replied, "we sure did the trial last fall and then for the next 40 days, we ate out about 30 times."  And I'm not exaggerating.  Clearly, we didn't stay on the project long enough to change our bad habits.  Hence, the almost-a-year without unnecessary restaurant eating.

And hence the meltdown.  G said that she thinks about restaurant food all time, and she gets jealous of all her friends who get to eat fast food all the time.  I am so very proud of myself that I chose not to point out that that wasn't really something to be jealous about and that it's a pretty first-world problem to have.  Golf clap.  I am an excellent mother and not just because I chose not to pick an even bigger fight.  And then I said that in two months, when she can drive, she can go buy an over-priced, unhealthy meal everyday if she wanted to.  In a loud, judge-y, shrew-like voice, dripping with irony and filled with disappointment at her failing me.  In short, exactly what works with almost-16-year-olds.  Um, you can cancel that Best Mom Ever plaque.

Once she had left for school, T and I discussed the meltdown, and he, very astutely, said that it's about control.  And isn't it always?  Being about the most controlling person IN THE WORLD, I should have seen that coming.  And yes, this project is about controlling what we eat and how much we spend.  And yes, as the only cook in the family, I am pretty much the Idi Amin of our kitchen (although I do take requests).  But it's still control that I have and she doesn't.  Lifestyle change clearly doesn't come easy.  In fact, it sucks.

So then, I began to ask myself, am I really doing the right thing by legislating everything they are eating for an entire year?  Or am I creating food issues that didn't exist before?  As a kid with weight issues who grew up into an adult with weight issues, it's hard to find the line between educating your kids about diet and exercise and just pissing them off, pushing them to eat just to get back at you.  And I still don't know where that line is.   

But I do know this.  When I picked G up from school today, I offered to take her to the new (okay, now, not so new) Schlotzsky's that all the kids were talking about and making her jealous.  And I was seriously okay for her to go, even if it meant having to own up to it here.  I almost wanted her to say yes because I wondered if the sandwich in her head really would match the reality.  But she turned me down.  She said she really didn't want it now.  She just wants to be off the project.  She wants to be able to have fast food once in a while.  But she also said that we aren't very good at once in a while.  So, she thinks she can wait.  She's very focused on our beach trip.  Only 30 more days.  And I may let her choose where we go for Mother's Day.

I love that kid.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Okay, So This Looks Really Bad

So, yesterday, on my pilgrimage of awesomeness during which I shopped at Boggy Creek, helped a friend pack up her house for a move, got a mammogram-O and bone density scan, made quiche, cleaned dishes, watered plants, took kids to tutoring, did errands, and came home, this was on my dashboard:

Yep.  That's right.  On my list were underwear, flea treatments, coffee, toilet paper, and probiotics.  So, all day, while traipsing about central Austin like a total badass, I had a post-it stuck on my dash in full view of the groovy, but fashionable populace which made it look like I had a raging case of diarrhea necessitating new undergarments and probably brought on by too much coffee.  Oh, and fleas.

I'm not even going to tell you about the underwear.  It wasn't for me.  Really.  I swear.

So much for feeling like a badass.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I'm Getting There. Locally.

All the way home from my errands and Costco, all I could think about was Mighty Fine Burgers.  There is a specific taste and smell to the entire place, just the right size burger, no cheese required, crispy crinkle fries, salt and pepper on the tables.  Now, even the quickest glance at the QC will tell you that we have hamburgers quite often here at Casa O - they're easy, they're quick, they're tasty.  And with the lean beef or ground sirloin, not all that bad for you.  But they never quite measure up to Mighty Fine. So, what is the magic to eating out?

I don't know the answer to that question, but it pervades.  G was telling me last week that she dreams about eating out in class.  When I asked her what restaurant she dreams about, she said, "all of them.  I think about it all the time.  Texican, Dan's, Maudies, Taco Cabana.  I spend whole classes thinking about it."  Now, she's the one that wasn't going to be in love with the idea of the project from the get-go, but I have to say that even I can kind of get what she's saying.

Because fast food/restaurant food is absolutely pervasive.  On my circle trip of errands while the kids are in tutoring, I pass the following:

Taco Bell
Mama Fu's Chinese
Mighty Fine Burgers
River City Coffee and Bakery
Zen Japanese
Longhorn Steakhouse
BJ's Brewhouse
Doc's Backyard
Which Wich (I think)
Dickey's BBQ
Serrano's Mexican
Potbelly Sandwiches
Mandola's Italian kitchen
Taco Cabana
Wings To Go
Chuy's Mexican
Firehouse Subs
Kerbey Lane
P Terry's
And that's just the ones I can think of right now.

All of these are located on the maybe two mile loop.   And they were mostly all busy, or at least occupied to some degree.  This business makes money, and a lot of it.  It also, to be fair, employs a lot of people.   Here's the reality, according to the restaurant industry themselves:


  • Sales: $632 billion
  • Locations: 970,000
  • Employees: 12.9 million — one of the largest private-sector employers
  • Restaurant-industry share of the food dollar: 48%


  • $1.7 billion: Restaurant-industry sales on a typical day in 2012.
  • 1.4 million: Number of positions the restaurant industry will add in the next decade.
  • Restaurant-industry job growth has outpaced the national economy in 12 consecutive years, from 2000 through 2011.
  • 93%: Percentage of eating-and-drinking place businesses that have fewer than 50 employees.
  • 7 out of 10 eating-and-drinking place establishments are single-unit operations.
  • 66% of adults say their favorite restaurant foods provide flavor and taste sensations which cannot easily be duplicated in their home kitchen.
  • One-half of all adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point in their lives, and one-third got their first job experience in a restaurant.
  • 80% of restaurant owners said their first job in the restaurant industry as an entry-level position.
  • $2,505: Average household expenditure on food away from home in 2010.
  • 38%: Percent of adults who said they would be likely to utilize a smartphone app if it was offered by a quickservice restaurant.
Get more details in our 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast.
Source: (highlighting is mine)

All that food, with all that salt, all those calories, all those preservatives, or not, as far as you know.  I'm not sure if it's a plus or a drawback that you don't know what's going into your food when you eat out.  And maybe people don't care.   If that many people think they can't replicate the taste at home, maybe that's a tradeoff that they're willing to make.  And how can you not think about outside food when you're bombarded with it all the time?

And I'll be honest, I almost packed it in today.  Not for any real reason other than I really, really wanted an over salted, over greasy, over large meal.  But I didn't do it.  Mostly because today was LOCAL DAY!  Well, that, and I'd already made dinner.

Okay, there's no such thing as local day.  I made that up.  But I'd be lying if I said that I didn't kick some locavore ass today.  I started the day with R. at the market day at Boggy Creek Farm where there was chard!  And eggs!  And spring onions!  And little, bitty, baby squashes!   There's only one thing you can do with that:  Quiche!  Squash and onions!

Other than the whole wheat pie crusts from Central Market and the low sodium bacon and parmesan from the Costco, everything in our dinner tonight was local.  The eggs were from JFTB's sister's chicken, the leeks from the farm box and the chard from Boggy Creek.  Our veg was tiny baby zucchini and yellow squash and spring onions sauteed in olive oil.  We did have some multigrain toast from the La Brea bakery, but that's usually a breakfast item, so I'm letting it ride.

T. was home, and we actually sat around the table, all four of us, and ate our local meal at our local home.  And it was wonderful.  But does that mean I'm not going to miss the Mighty Fine?

No, it does not.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Second Harvest: Salsa

I'm beginning to cheer up!  Pulled three of these babies off my pepper plants (the only things that aren't turning yellow in my nitrogen-imbalanced nightmare).  Three peppers aren't enough to can, but they are enough for SALSA!

So, bad light + Iphone + bad perspective =
blurry 4-foot-tall jalapeno.  It was about 4 inches in real life.

Immediately, I had to text SS to get her unreal weekly salsa recipe, which I LOVE.

Her version:
2-3 cans stewed tomatoes, one salt-free (I didn't have stewed)
2-6 fresh jalapenos (I only had 3)
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

Blend and cook for 10 minutes.

As usual, I didn't have half of the necessary ingredients, so my version looked like this:

My version:
3 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 onion, quartered (stewed tomatoes already have onion in them)
3 fresh jalapenos
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/4 c/ apple cider vinegar
1 t. salt (my people like a saltier rather than a sweeter salsa, so I added the salt)

I dumped everything in a non-reactive pot and cooked for 45 minutes on medium heat until really soft.  A/K/A I put it on the stove and went outside to do something, started moving dirt, forgot all about the salsa, and came running in to find it almost bubbling over.  Turned out OK.  I think it allowed the more liquid-y diced tomatoes to reduce down.  Blended everything with a stick blender.  Then had to leave, so pot sat to come to room temp for a couple of hours.  It thickened up a little and is now completely perfect.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gown Day

My best friend L., or more accurately, her dear mama, Miss Judy, is the inventor of what we call here Chez O "gown day."  Okay, some people might call it "playing hooky" or "faking sick" or "unexcused absence," but those people suck.  Grades must be kept up and you can't miss a test, but seriously, school is a 175 day slog and we're on about day 140-something.

As a teacher, trust me, I know the value of each instructional day.  I know how important it is for kids to be at school.  And I know the rules.  I also know that the kid that you most want to be absent every day has had perfect attendance since preschool.  But that's another post.   The system doesn't reward the kids who don't get sick.  They used to give you a bicycle for having perfect attendance.  Not anymore.  Sometimes, they called your name out at an assembly.  Big deal.  Sometimes what you really want, what you really need, is just a day off.

So, each semester, as long as no one's missed a day for other reasons (besides school team sports, which can't be helped), you get a gown day.

The rules for gown day are as follows:
1.  You must remain in your pajamas all day if possible, although dressing to go to the movies (a/k/a homeschool popular culture) or go shopping (a/k/a homeschool economics) or get a pedicure (a/k/a homeschool chemistry) are permitted.
2.  You must sleep late and not wake Mama who as the bestower of gown day is also an unintended beneficiary of same.
3.  You must clean up after yourself because Mama doesn't clean up after you when you're supposed to be at school.
4.  You will probably have to eat cookies or other naughty foods.  Because you can.

I don't know who's more excited them or me.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Way too Emotionally Invested

Ugh.  I'm just so over this garden thing.  It's possible that taking on an enterprise that is subject mostly to the workings of nature, the least controllable force in the world, was not the best choice for me.  I spent three and a half years in therapy trying to conquer my perfectionism and difficulty dealing with items outside my control.  Hmmmm.  Remember that SNL skit from the '90's?  You know, Bad Idea Jeans?  Welcome to my world.

I have always lived my life under the premise that anything can be fixed by just working harder.  That doesn't work?  Work even harder.  Only that doesn't work when you're waiting for things to grow or trying to diagnose one of the 419,762 things that could be making Larry Tomato No. 1 turn yellow all over.

And if Larry No. 1 is turning yellow, it must be because I am responsible.  And I have failed.  Which is completely and utterly insane.  Because I bagged my own dirt, added in turkey compost, fed with organic teas and other exotic fish-smelling atrocities.  Watered effectively, staked appropriately, and personally went out each night, even in church clothes after Maundy Thursday and picked off each one of the fucking caterpillars that are eating everything.  Like I said, farmer may not have been the best choice.

I guess where my failure lies is in feeling like I wasted something.  Is it wasted time?  Wasted money?  If I am looking to this for a sense of worth and value, isn't it just as important that I am feeding my family vegetables whose origins I know intimately, whose life is an open book to me, who didn't have to be trucked in from anywhere?  And isn't it important that I tried?  And that it all looks so pretty?  Sadly, no.

And so here is where you have to get real about personal failure:  so what if nothing fruits?  What's the worst that could happen?  The worst that could happen is that I would have to go to the farmer's market and pick up what I need.  Or the HEB, for God's sake.  There are countless people in this world who don't have that luxury.  Frankly, they don't even have running water.  Or birth control.  Or any food at all.

It may be about time for me to get over myself.