Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday:






Ah! Lovely Monday! I can't remember the last Monday I had off, I think I kindof like it.

I had every intention of getting up at 5 to check out the 5:30 swim aerobics class at the gym, but I juuuuuuuuussst couldn't peel my butt out of bed. In fact, I really didn't get out of bed to help the critters get ready this am; in my slug-ness I decided to let them tough it out on their own... and guess what? They didn't die or kill each other-- they ate, and Jacob even remembered his backpack! Wonder of all wonders...
And, if only to prove a point, I slept until 9:30, providing me with a none too subtle message that I am not a good candidate for a 5:30 swim class.

Our motorcycle trip was fantastic: we stopped at my parent's to say hello, and my sister's to drop off a gift for my niece. And then we "scooped the loop" in Kenosha with all the gang bangers in their pimped out cars, feeling like super-hot stuff on our Bavarian- and Itatian-made motorbikes amongst all the Harleys. We had the good fortune to score a curbside table at Villa D'Carlos and had an amazing time people watching while eating the world's best pizza (IMHO)-- there really is a great deal of wealth to be seen in Kenosha, altho not much of what we saw appeared to be gained in a *legal* fashion, cough cough (Sopranos, anyone?).
Then, to top off the perfect Kenosha excursion, we stopped at Caleo's and ate gelato until everyone felt a little nauteous.
The kids are at an age where they have to be dragged along on any trip that involves the whole family, but they eventually lighten up and have a great time, in spite of themselves. Grace did a bit more whining during the trip than I appreciated, considering her parents were taking her on a MOTORCYCLE trip, complete with pizza and gelato, but we're all kind of used to it. We've grown to realize that adolescence is painful for all parties within a 20 foot radius...

After I dragged my butt out of bed this morning, I looked out the front window to see that the crab tree had started to bloom! Yay! It's really the pivotal event I wait for all dreary winter long, that signals that spring is well established and the gardens are ready to pop. It's gorgeous! The blooms haven't opened completely, and clearly the neighbor's bees haven't discovered it yet: Typically, once the bees arrive, you can practically hear the tree humming from inside the house.
I had every intention of capturing the moment on film, and thought of it frequently as I rushed to get the am chores done. And sure enough, as if I willed it into existence by my fear, the sky started to get dark, and rumblings could be heard far off in the distance.
So in a fit of ridiculousness I ran outside in my pajamas with my camera, and tried to capture the blooms before they get washed away in the rain. Sure enough, it sounds like it's supposed to storm most of the week, just long enough for the flowers to open completely and start their transformation into crabapples.
It's a really hard tree to capture on film; no amount of positioning can translate how beautiful the blooms are; some deep pink, others white, most a spectrum in between. And the bees! I can't wait for the bees to come, so I can stand under the canopy and feel their mass vibration.

On a completely unrelated note, I have a job interview today-- wish me luck!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Thai Coconut Squash Rice

We went out for Thai food last night, and for no apparent reason, 1/2 way through the dinner I started feeling like the Thai-food eating guy in "Along Came Polly"; my guts started churning and I didn't think I was going to make it. I had been looking forward to that dinner for MONTHS!
But, the conversation with our lovely friends was great, and they gifted me with the COOLEST monkey tchotchke of an awesomeness I can hardly believe! It will be displayed with pride next to the Pee Wee Herman doll (or thereabouts).

So, since I didn't get to enjoy my Mango Tofu Curry and get a fantastic dessert, I decided to concoct something Thai-like for breakfast.
Recipe:


1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar (more or less to taste, I thought it was a little sweet)
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups cooked Jasmine rice
10 oz squash (I used a box of frozen squash, defrosted in the microwave)

mix coconut milk, sugar, egg yolks, and salt in saucepan over med-med low heat, stirring constantly until thickened (about 5 minutes).
stir in vanilla, rice, and cooked squash. Top with wax paper to form a seal and allow to sit for 15 minutes, until rice has absorbed some of the custard.
Yum! High in protein, vitamin A, and enough carbs to jump start your day! If your kids aren't fans of squash or brightly colored orange food, you can omit the squash (but it's tasty and sweet and they'd be missing out!)

Finally!

Finally finally finally! The ground has dried up enough to get the 16 asparagus plants in the ground-- any longer, and it may have been a moot point. That's the funny thing about planting, you never know what the weather's going to be like, and since I am not the most motivated person, I'd like the weather to be cooperative and the ground to be workable. We trenched them in the back prairie behind the archery target, across from the tipi. Jake mentioned he wants to get the old cover back on the tipi, but I'd almost like to look at new covers, since ours is getting so ratty. I sure do miss having it up (I miss late night Indian leg wrestling, is what I miss...)
I also broadcast about 15# of flax seed in the hard to establish areas in the front/side prairies; it looks like the mice got into the chicken's stash of flax, and since I'm not thrilled about feeding the chickens mouse poop, I figured I had to do something with it....
Flax is pretty, and a native prairie plant, so I don't feel bad putting it to use. Besides, the girls may want to hang out and snack in the prairie on flax and grasshoppers sometime the summer, so it'll have a dual function (pretty AND practical, my favorite!).

Well, we're off for a motorcycle ride to Lake Michigan; the weather is beautiful!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Journals

I was laying in bed this am, trying to wake up yet trying my hardest to stay sleepy enough to lounge in that dream state where your mind wanders without too many interruptions. As I lay there, I got to thinking about all the journals I've filled with scribblings over the years-- and where the hell were they, anyway? Because if those little books, dripping with embarassing, awkward moments and mostly complaining about my husband and children (the last 15 years, anyway) were to surface without the opportunity to do some 'splaining, it could get me in trouble, tee hee.
I've been journalling (pre-blogging?) since I was a kid; I always felt I had something to say of significance, stuff I couldn't find anyone to tell who couldn't suppress their snickers well enough to protect my developing ego (and thoughts of great profundity that the intellects of the common man *surely* couldn't grasp. Snort.).
I remember one of my first entries, probably when I was about 12 years old: It was my first attempt at writing my "New Year's Resolutions", and I was slooooowly beginning to realize that I was a hopeless geek, and tragically fashionably stunted (some things never change..). I also began to discover that I was, shall we say, a chubbo-- so my very first entry had to do with getting in shape and learning to breakdance, something to that effect. Unfortunately, I was still in the throes of my "Classical" period (I was hopelessly addicted to my "Hooked on Classics" cassette), and the moonwalk just wasn't coming together for me, so I can count it as the official first of many unrequited skills I wished to develop.
Shortly after that period, I discovered how powerful the written word was, when I started writing down everything I ate: "one apple, one oreo" (all day). At 12, and 5'4', I went from 120 pounds to 73 pounds in just a few short months. Control, control, control-- I was a control freak from an early age. Now, of course, I lack self control...I must have used up my lifetime supply at an early age.
I also, now that I think about it, kept a small notebook filled with mysterious words I found in the dictionary that I could use to insult people without their knowledge... a tad bit "banal" and "insipid", but cool (yes, I was a shit)!
And later, there were the notebooks filled with drawings and awful, angst ridden poems about death and how much I hated school, cheerleaders, school mascots and such; stuff that probably would have landed me on the Adolescent Unit or juvie if it was post-Columbine instead of the '80's, where teens only fantasized about "taking out" their classmates (even if "taking out" meant for me that I could yell and scream at my nemeses while lodging a coherent, uninterrupted rant about what jerks I thought they were...Life was simpler then.).
I wrote a lot in college, mostly beautifully eloquent philosophical ramblings I penned when I was supposed to be paying attention in class, where I ultimately deducted that life was all an illusion, blablabla. (Drugs were waaaay too readily available at my "Ivy League of the Midwest" college, where you could suspend academic probation indefinitely if your parents paid full tuition). This viewpoint was probably how I ended up shifting from the "creepy death and blackness" phase of my adolescence into the "wandering hippie" moment that was to define my young adulthood.
More later:

Gross!

I was raised in the country, and therefore, despite my mom's best efforts, our house was always dirty. Something was always crawling, growing, pooping, or being dragged into our house by 6 sets of feet (not counting the animals), contributing to the mess.
I always swore my house would be cleaner, and I thought it was... until I decided to invite someone from the City over and I realized that dead ladybugs and cobwebs are not an everyday part of the city experience. Yikes!
I've been dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming for what feels like hours-- where have all these dead ladybugs come from? I think they become invisible when their carcasses are everywhere you look, and you clean them up constantly; but the massive, could catch a rodent in 'em cobwebs waaaaaaay up on the ceilings are SCARY!
Jake has decorated a portion of the house, and it looks amazingly cool, but it's a collection of clutter that is impossible to clean and seems to grow cobwebs (and grow in size-- that guy has a lot of CRAP!) like it's a bug factory.
Having people over is a lot of work. I think we meed to make friends with some pig farmers, and the clean up wouldn't be so painful.

Mousies Go Bye Bye

I'm feigning sadness as I report that we are now less 13 little baby mice, who just left to go live at the pet store. I'm still not 100% sure about the sex of the 2 speckled mice we kept, but if they're boys and therefore capable of making even MORE baby mice, they're SO outta here.
The idea did help me to segway into a deep conversation with Jacob about how it isn't ethical to create babies if we are incapable of giving them a good home (always the mom morality plug! I try to never miss an opportunity to teach my kids not to make babies they can't raise..), but Jacob was very sad nonetheless.
Bye Bye Mousies!

Walk In the Woods:




With Jake back home and the sun shining today, it was a perfect time to check out the flowers growing in the woods across the street. But they were just about all gone! In only 3 days! Boooooooo... but I did take a few shots of the remaining flowers; rain really speeds the process from flower to fruit.
I'm hoping beyond all hope that the crab tree in the front blooms while the sun is shining, so I can get a few shots in before it rains and the flowers wilt and fade (as it does just about every year).

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday:

I didn't think today would come fast enough; I have been looking forward to having *nothing* to do all week! So Friday has finally arrived, my hubby is out of town, and both kids are away with friends; do I go out and do something exciting, something completely different?

Noooooooo... I want nothing more than to eat a bowl of ice cream, lounge in my pj's and maybe blog a bit... have a drinky poo and watch an episode of Bones. Then, when I can barely keep my eyes open, I'd like to read a little of "Alterna Dad" in my wine-buzzy haze and fall faaaast asleep. Sublime!

Today was the perfect day of work; just busy enough to give you something to do, but not so crazy busy that you forget to pee all day.
I live for those days... during the slow times the ladies were looking up cookie boquets, as in cookies on a stick--i.e.:
http://www.cookiesbydesign.com/

Very cute, but who in their right mind would pay $52 for 6 cookies? Apparently, lots of people. If I thought I could make a few baskets a week, and not be tied to my kitchen making/decorating a hundred cookies every day, I could probably be persuaded to give it a try. I know that people charge $3 and up for cupcakes from a shop, but I think they're lulu too. Maybe I just lack vision... or maybe I just don't want to weigh 350# by eating a steady diet of raw sugar cookie dough and frosting. For fun, tho, maybe I'll pick up a few cookie cutters someday and give it a whirl... but sometimes I question the wisdom of pursuing hobbies that make me FAT, as if regular life wasn't temptation enough.

I have a job interview on Monday for a position in Pre-Op, which I LOVE doing in Kenosha-- I just am not thrilled that the job is in Elkhorn, although I guess is a bit closer than Kenosha, and a whole lot prettier drive.
I would much prefer to work in Burlington, tho, but it sounds like nothing is going to come together. I think I've burnt out the recruiter with my perpetual job searches and applications, like, 5 years ago already (and who can blame her?).
And with camp coming up, I guess finding a permanent job could go by the wayside for a bit, anyway. Damn! I just wish my girlie wasn't so expensive... then finding a permanent job woldn't even be an issue.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bones

Bones
When I was but a young girl, I would spend many happy hours by my lonesome digging in our county ditches for BONES. My greatest excitement would be to find a skeleton, clean it, and re-assemble it... and sometimes, when I'd find a fresh one, I would leave it in a safe place until it was decomposed enough to clean and re-articulate. How cool is that?
I remember being soooo excited when I discovered that a colt had died and been left down the road-- I couldn't wait to "excavate" the skeleton when it was ready... and it was absolutely worth the wait.
I was the only kid I knew with an extensive skeleton collection, a light touch for dissection, and a full knowledge of mummification technique (note to self: sharing mummification technique for show and tell is NOT a crowd pleaser amongst your 12 year old peers). Sara Bisel, the Bone Lady, was my childhood hero: combine that with a burning love of learning and scary high SAT scores and you have a really promising future as a forensic anthropologist.
... and so I guess it's not too difficult to imagine the leap to becoming a nurse, in a mundane, path of least resistance sort of way.

I'm trying to remember if I chose way back when to be a mom over becoming a field researcher, or if I just fell naturally into the role by the tricks of biology alone. I think I knew in my bones that it would have been impossible to travel as extensively for my work as I needed to, that the world hadn't changed enough to accomodate my potential lifestyle without much pain and struggle. Did I just innately know that having a family was pain and struggle enough? But that no matter how dull or painful, it was somehow worth it to live a life in the suburbs-- surrounded by people who have nary a skeleton (literal, not figurative) to be found, in the closet or otherwise?

And has it been worth it? Choosing family over career?
I guess so.
In the grand scheme of biology, I only have a short while to establish a family, nuture it properly, and grow them to healthy maturity. But I have many years to establish a rewarding career, n'est pas?

I am grateful to the field of Nursing, for putting up with my indecisiveness, my restlessness; and I can truly say I've enjoyed the life experience-- working with people from all walks of life has been fascinating; meeting the challenge of a new job every 3 months has been exhilerating (sometimes). I can really appreciate having a flexible schedule, working around the chaos of our family, learning about my limitations (sore backs included). But do I want to be a nurse into my retirement years? Do I ever want to retire? Uh..... no.
On both counts.

I learned today that the job I've been waiting for now since the beginning of February will apparently NOT be posted, after all. WoW! It's been a longer and stranger trip waiting for the higher up folks to figure out what they're doing than the Dead tour, only not nearly as muddy. But what a mess...
I guess I could claim that I heard the news (gossip) from my co-workers, and not from the boss' mouth, but I'm still not 100% sure about the 10 hour shifts anyway and I should perhaps take it as a sign that it wasn't meant to be. Nice people up there, tho. Working casual is probably the way to go... good thing I have a Plan B.

For a while I thought about going all the way in this career, getting my master's/PhD and teaching and working as a nurse practitioner/nurse midwife, but I think the struggle women face even still in today's society is even more rampant in woman-oriented occupations, and again, I just don't want to make my life's legacy one of a contant battle just to do my damn job. Plus, nursing? Ehhhhhh....

I came to this occupation by default, after finding myself broke, pregnant, and alone (that biology is a bugger, it is. I had such a hankering to have a baby that I chose the LEAST qualified candidate I'd probably ever met at that point in my life. Tricks! Tricks of biology! I think at that point in my life I just wanted to do it ALONE. If for no other reason that just to see if I could.)

Science? Check! Convenient scheduling to meet the needs of a single parent? Check! High demand occupation? Check! Easily obtained degree (with preliminary dissection of cats)? Check! Poking people with needles and getting paid to do it? Check!
So nursing it was... and in spite of having a baby, all on my own with no one to help me, I still graduated first in my class with a 4.0 average. (Nobody gives a rip about your GPA in nursing, so I have to brag a little..)
And that was that.

Now, on the eve of my 10 year "anniversary" of my graduation from nursing school, I'm still having a great time canoodling about the profession, finding my path and enjoying the ride.

To date, these are the things I have done as a nurse, in chronological order:
Postpartum floor nurse (where I lost my mojo-- long story)
Childbirth educator for All Saints
Nurse/nutrition education at WIC
Childbirth educator for Aurora
Adjunct instructor at Gateway Tech in LPN program
*Camp nurse
Public health nurse (where I lost my mind)
*Nursing Lab staff at GTC
Senior resource coordinator (briefly)
*Walk In nurse specialist
*Pre-op admissions
*DTC/Infusion/Neuro nurse
*GI nurse
Hey! That's a lot in 10 years! (*= things I still do)
So, let's raise a glass to nursing-- the very best, completely unintended occupation that has kept me and the kids in clothes, food, and recreation for 10 years. May I be as entertained in the next 10 years, as I grow into understanding of where my wanderings are leading me.
Cheers!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Today:

In spite of my crippled status, I got quite a lot done today: I planted some poppy seeds in the prairie and gave the area a look see-- there are incredible amounts of rudbeckia and coreopsis seedlings coming up, plus some echinacea and flax, and all the perennial plantings I've put in are coming back up, which excites a dull gal like me to no end! People driving by on the highway must think I'm nuts, when they see me wandering about the front yard with my head down, looking for seedlings or scattering seeds, but too bad... I find it incredibly entertaining!

If I don't get the chicken coop garden put together soon, I may take many of the plants out of the butterfly garden and put them in the prairie-- I'm just not sure when we are planning to tear up the patio, so we may not need to rush. With my back ALREADY sore, I'm not looking forward to brick hauling anytime soon, but maybe I'll get started this weekend.
I took quite a few photos of the flowers that are blooming in the gardens; the nice thing is that with close ups, you can make the gardens look better than they actually are, but considering they are all relatively new plantings (the back garden was planted last fall), they look pretty darn good. The diversity of plants in that garden is very cool-- and unfortunately, it looks like it will have to be divided already this fall. (And I'll have to dig yet ANOTHER garden-- oh! my aching back!)

S'Mores Cupcakes

S'Mores Cupcakes (cheater version!)
I got it in my head to make these cupcakes for the ladies at work tomorrow:
http://cupcakeblog.com/
With some minor changes (her cupcakes are sometimes a wee bit too complicated for the likes of me, especially since I usually make things at the last minute.)
Here's my substitutions:

S'More's Cupcakes, cheater version

1 stick (real!) butter
1 box plain graham crackers, crushed (all 3 plastic sleeves)

1 Box Duncan Hines Yellow cake mix
3 eggs, room temp
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup oil

1 Large (13 oz) jar marshmallow fluff (or use meringue frosting recipe from previous post-- I told you I'm cheating!)

1 1/2 12 oz bags high-quality chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate this time, you can use any you like)
1 1/2 cups whipped cream

Melt butter, mix with 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
Fill 36 cupcake liners with 1 tb graham cracker mixture and press lightly
Mix cake mix with remaining cracker crumbs (about 1 cup), eggs, water, and oil for 30 seconds on low speed. Scrape bowl, and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes
Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full, and bake at 350 degrees 20-22 minutes
Cool in pans 5 minutes, and place on rack to cool
When cupcakes are completely cool, warm marshallow fluff in microwave with lid removed for 15 seconds. Stir, and microwave 15 more seconds, until it can be stirred easily. Place marshmallow fluff in pastry bag fitted with Wilton #12 round tip (or equivalent). Pipe fluff into center of cupcakes, taking care not to overfill (if the cupcake cracks, it's too full!)
Prepare ganache: heat whipping cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan (not to boiling!) and remove from heat. Have chocolate chips ready in heat proof bowl; pour hot cream over chips and allow to sit for a minute. Stir mixture until incorporated, and refrigerate until thickened to dipping consistency (until it's not too runny). You can either dip the filled cupcakes in the ganache until the topping is as thick as you desire (at least twice, usually), or you can beat the ganache until fluffy and pipe or spread the frosting on. If whipped ganache is too dry (as mine was-- just a bit!) you can beat in a small amount of whipping cream to the desired consistency.
Easy peasy!
UPDATE: After making and trying these cupcakes, I'd have to say that the crushed graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of the cupcake liners did nothing for me; I'd skip it next time. Also, the graham crackers in the cake mix made the cakes very dense (very much like a graham cracker), which isn't bad, but I might prefer to just prepare the yellow cake mix as per the package instructions and simplify the recipe. Many thanks to "Chockylit" for the inspiration!

OW!

Ow ow ow~! I hurt my back! I feel like a crabbity old woman, with creaky, achy joints-- my feet hurt, my bones pop when I walk. I think I may have hurt myself last week when I was trying to get a large patient into bed, but I'm forever bending funny to lock wheelchairs, start IV's, help patients into their chairs, etc and etc. And my back is just ACHING (well, sharp, stabbing pain is more like it) I took a vicodin the past 2 nights, and I have to say: that stuff is CRAP! The first night, I didn't sleep at all, I just felt like I was hallucinating with my eyes closed. I took it earlier in the evening yesterday, thinking that would help, but all I felt was impaired-- completely doped up, with no pain relief of any kind. And it wasn't like an enjoyable doped up feeling, either (give me a nice glass of wine any night!). What crap-- who would take that stuff for pain?
But sadly, not even the ibuprofen/ice is helping... I'm a mess!
I see so many nurses who are quite a bit older than me, still running around the unit. I have no idea how they keep up: I should be in the prime of my career, and I put myself out of commission after helping ONE patient into bed. Sad. I know I've just gotten back into clinical nursing, which I am soooo happy about, but I can't be that pathetic
I'd like to lay down, but it hurts-- it hurts when I walk, it hurts when I sit, it hurts when I think about sitting. Boo.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lazy Sunday:

We took our first family motorcycle trip of the season, sans Grace (Sadly. She usually rides with me, so I felt a little alone). What a great afternoon for a ride! It was a bit too windy for a long ride, but nothing dangerous.
We also took the dogs out for another walk earlier today on the south trail, which has dried up almost completely. There were hundreds of wildflowers growing along the wooded paths (may apples, mainly, and another I wasn't able to identify); I'll try to take another walk when I'm off on Tuesday and take my camera and wildflower book so I can figure out what they are.
Lovely, lovely spring!
I moved my chickie girls into the coop today, and the older gals were beside themselves, trying to get a peek at the babies in their brooder. Chickens are much like middle school girls: nosy, bitchy, and mean... they would peck those babies to death, given half a chance.
For the longest while, the older girls picked on the "runt" of the litter when they first reached maturity a couple years ago. The runt was the funniest chicken, the smallest (obviously), but odd, in her own way. If she truly *was* a middle school girlie, she would have been the one wearing the beret and all the black eyeliner, listening to bauhaus while writing deep and meaningful poetry.
Ms. Runtie never hung with the other chickens or bothered to lay too many eggs; she kindof hung off to the corners of the yard, chasing shadows in an odd, un-chickeney way. She seemed more of a pacifist than the other girls, and was the one the fox would have gotten fairly easily, if any were about.
When she *did* try to get in with the group, the other chickens would squak at her to get out of their way, and if she didn't move, they would attack her. Very middle school...
It was painful to watch, as it stirred memories of my own flock of adolescent chickies from my school days, who behaved very much like the girls who were giving Grace such trouble at the time.
Now, the chickens seem more mundane. I know the little yellow puffballs grow into nasty chickens, who I love but are naughty, and conjure up trouble every chance they get (they are notorious escape artists and love to torment the cat). And what am I going to do with the 6 old girls? Let them go? Chicken soup? Raccoon bait? Who knows... I really don't have the Farmer Girl thang down just yet.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Angst Rant

It is sooooo nice out, but I'm still trying to wake up so I might as well park it for a bit while I finish my latte. I always feel so guilty for sitting, for blogging, as if there are always better things to be doing, even when there aren't (well, I COULD be doing laundry...)

Jacob is playing outside, but Grace is stationed in her usual spot, lounging in a prone position on the couch in front of the TV. Damn! I hate the TV-- always have, always will. To me, it has forever symbolized the bottom of the bucket recreation, as if all possible avenues have been exhausted, and *yes!*, you ARE a loser, and have ab-SO-lute-ly nothing in the world else to do. Like I tell my kids: when you are old and can't get around, or if you become disabled and only have command of your remote finger, THAT is when you can become dedicated TV watchers. But until then, OFF THE COUCH!

Anyhoo, I am a wee bit irritated with my spouse, who from the dawn of our relationship (and once again last evening) has insinuated that anything I can contribute to the marriage, he can replicate with little difficulty, as if I make no useful contribution to the household unless I am working and bringing in a sizeable paycheck.
Gourmet meals? "I can cook", he said last night.
Shopping (which I hate)? "I used to shop."
Clean the house? "I used to clean the house, and I was a lot better at it than you."
Keep track of the kids, making sure they get all their school/house work done, and aren't running the streets at 2 am? "Uhhhhhhhh..." (He would never admit it, but years ago Jake would do nothing but snore when his 16 year old daughter would arrive home at 2 am, after hanging with a none too reputable crowd of kids. Ohwell. )

I always scowl when they release those stupid reports about how much your average stay at home mom would be paid if she charged for her services... especially when I hear heartfelt accounts from husbands who swoon supportively, "oh yes, Mary Jo is worth her weight in gold. Who would watch the kids, tidy the house, and keep the family together?"
My husband could, single handedly, and probably with one arm tied behind his back, says he.

But as I have been telling him since day one, if he thinks I am his "ace in the hole", his younger bride who will support him financially into old age, while he spends lovely afternoons fishing, he will be very disappointed. I am the girl who can be content just about ANYWHERE; the back of a VW bus, an Airstream trailer-- a cheesy apartment in the bad part of town. I really don't care how I live, as long as it's clean, and healthy, and has a kitchen where I can cook (even if it's a camp stove). I can live comfortably on any income, am a long time Goodwill shopper, and will not compromise my standard of living by always working, especially if I am working to fulfill the needs and aspirations of someone else (even if that someone if my spouse).

I went to school long enough to earn up to $40-some an hour, which is more than twice what my husband earns. And if I felt confident that he would sit his ass home and care for it properly, in the manner to which we all have become accustomed, I'd say, "hell yeah! Stay home and cook my organic food, wash and fold our clothes before they grow wrinkly and smelly in the dryer, check the kid's backpacks and sign all the notes, shake your finger at them to get the homework done and chase them off the couch so their chores get done! Woo hoo! I get to be a grown up again and not be interrupted 850 times while I am trying to get stuff done! See ya'll at 5, make sure that dinner's ready!" But, as experience has told me, hubby would be fishing 4 days out of 5 (as he did when he was laid off for 6 months and I was working-- thanks a fucking lot.), and there would be no dinner, no scrubbed toilets, no peace. He has had more than a couple chances to play "Mr Mommy", and he was very, very bad at it (let's not even speak of the chaos of when I worked 2nd shift...).

What is it about guys these days? Do they take no pride in providing for their families anymore? Or are they all still harboring grudges that we had the bad fortune to bear their children and screw up all their fun?
Who knows.

All I *do* know is that I am not too stupid to turn down a good offer when I see one. I would gladly be supportive of my wife, especially if she were dumb enough to put up with my stupid crap, yet wise enough to know what's really important: creating harmony in the home, holding the family together, smoothing the rough spots of life.

Last year, I earned over $30,000 dollars while maintaining a meticulously clean home, helped my daughter bring her grades up (considerably), helped my son make it into the gifted program, dragged their butts to and from after school activities, youth groups, prepared nutritiously well balanced meals, kept the house stocked with all necessry supplies, the laundry washed, folded, and put away-- maintained relationships with distant relatives, remembered and purchased gifts for all holidays, birthdays, family events, threw elaborate parties (while receiving no parties for myself, btw)-- all with very infrequent, yet well appreciated, help from my husband. And all while maintaining my own bank account, asking him for nothing, as I have for 13 glorious years.

It's not like I'm asking for cash, prizes, or a tiara or anything. Just a simple acknowledgement that who I am and what I do has value. That if I were to die today, some part of me would me missed by someone who couldn't just pick up where I left off, as if I were never here. I'm guessing it's what everyone wants, on a basic level.
And why is it so hard for guys to just say "thank you", "I appreciate all you do", instead of making you feel expendible? I'm sure there's some deeply-seated explanation that correlates with their penis somehow, but I'm just too frustrated to speculate at the moment.
Plus, the laundry needs to be switched, something needs to be taken out for dinner, menus and shopping for the week need to be planned, backpacks searched for forgotten homework...
I'd ask my husband for help, but he's off with his friends until this afternoon. And in a couple days, he'll be gone for several days turkey hunting.
Yeesh. It sucks to be a woman some days...

UPDATE:
After sharing my rant with my guy, Jake says he never wanted me to feel unappreciated, which is nice. We talked for a while, which we don't always do too very well; Jake is a deep thinker and can take days to fully reflect on things we discuss, and neither one of us can talk about our feelings very easily. Life is good! (Well, it's improving, anyway...)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Question:

As a nurse working closely with cancer patients a few days out of the month, I have been afforded an intimate glimpse of what the experience of dying is like.
And it's not exactly what I thought it would be, since my modern-girl struggles would have told me otherwise: I'd have to say that the most recurrent theme among those who know they are passing is that they desire the people whom they have loved all their lives to just be there for them. And that's it.

The best I can figure is that, in the end, it all comes down to relationships: it's never about money, possessions, exotic trips, or even the existential angst of self discovery-- it's about the struggles and joys of being in relationship with the people who have been placed in your life, for good or for ill, and the profoundly rich blessings people receive for simply making the effort.

From talking at length with my patients over the past few days (I'm filling in for a co-worker lately and working waaaaay too much for my liking), the only things they regretted were the loss of a relationship of importance-- the distance from a child, loss of a spouse, a strained relationship with a sibling. No substantial worries were ever shared about the conflicts they had with a co-worker or nasty boss, or the trip to Bora Bora they missed; I guess those experiences just didn't register on the radar when the significant moments of life were being weighed.

And that's where I'm left, today-- a place I've been many times:

As a mom who has been working a lot of hours the past few weeks, I’m beginning to question the value of voluntarily choosing to be away from the people who matter most, especially when I don’t have to. Why spend more time than is necessary away from my family in the pursuit of money, if it means missing out on what I’m discovering is most important to being alive? I can never get this time back; I only get one chance to impart to my children what our values and beliefs are, and I can't teach them if I'm not present-- physically or emotionally, when I'm just too burnt out to be there.

I want my legacy to be one of relationships: home cooked meals, laughter around the kitchen table, long bike rides and passing on a lifetime of healthy habits. I don't want it to be forever trying to steal moments for myself, the kids becoming couch potatoes and avid television watchers, dispassionate spectators in life.

When I work with my patients, it isn't so hard to see beyond the here and now of crabby teenagers and messy kid house and into the world of grandchildren, visiting-- of feeding them "Grandma's special" Asian chicken salad, going for walks on the bike trail, holding grandpa's hand; telling funny stories about when their parents were young.
And dying; I am finally to a stage in my life when I can see that, too. And, if what my patients tell me is true, it's not that bad, if you have people who love you and make your life worthwhile, in the great grand scheme of things; how simple, how beautiful, and completely free of existential angst.

Well, I'm off to make my life worthwhile: time to wake my daughter and kick my son off the computer. A long walk and our legacy awaits...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

When You Give a Working Mom a Cookie:

Ok: Early this morning I went into the computer room to check my work e-mail, to see what dates my boss was wanting for next month. I opened the e-mail, and realized I didn't have my date book.
So I went into the kitchen to find it. I didn't immediately find the datebook, but I DID see the crusty sink of dishes and the glop my hubby schlurped on the counter this am. So I found a washcloth, and began cleaning. Impeding my path on the counter were the rotten daffodils I cut the other day, and a container of scraps for the worm bin. Realizing I couldn't properly clean with the obstacles in the way, I put down my washcloth and tromped down to the basement to feed the worms.
Cluttering the bottom of the stairs was a large pile of laundry that needed to be washed, like, yesterday-- so I put down the worm scraps and dragged the smelly mass of laundry into the laundry room. I filled the washer, and realized that the gigunda laundry soap container was empty-- so I hauled my butt back upstairs so I could toss the container in the recycling bin in the garage. Remembering that I forgot to feed the worms, I ran back downstairs, dumped the scraps, and started the wash. Seeing the mess in the corner of the basement that my hubby left when he painted Jacob's bed last week, I engaged in a frenzied rush to clean up (before the cat decided to use the papers as a litter box).
Back upstairs, I finally got around to wiping down the counters, and washed up the nasty dishes.
Hearing the cat crying, I looked around the living room to see where he was, only to see that Jacob left his underwear lying on the living room floor and Grace left a pile of candy wrappers, some dirty socks and several cups lying about. So I picked those up, returned the items to their proper places, unlocked the cat from the bedroom (and fed the mice the cat snuck in the bedroom to get at-- glad to see they were still intact!), turned off all the lights Jacob left on, fed the cat, picked up papers from the kitchen counters, and wandered into the computer room, where random papers live until I can sort them.

I sat down, already exhausted, and started surfing the internet for a little mindless entertainment: only to see my boss' e-mail. Damn! Where is that datebook?

It was sitting right next to me, all along.
Sigh! I'll take that cookie, now.

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta, with Pilaf and Green Beans

Ingredients
Serving: Serves 4
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 , thinly sliced scallions
4 garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 Teaspoons dried oregano
2 Pints cherry tomatoes, halved
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 Pounds peeled and deveined large frozen shrimp, thawed, tails removed
4 Ounces feta cheese
Directions
Preheat oven to 475 degrees, with rack set in upper third. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add scallions, garlic, and oregano; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes. Cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until no liquid remains in skillet, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add shrimp and mint to skillet. Stir to combine; transfer to an 8-inch square (or other shallow 2-quart) baking dish. Crumble feta over top.
Bake until liquid is bubbling, cheese is beginning to brown, and shrimp in center of dish are opaque, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with pilaf and green beans:
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Near East rice pilaf mix
8 Ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths (I use a bag of frozen Woodstock Farm's organic french baby beans)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Directions
Prepare rice mix according to package directions. Add green beans; heat slightly until beans are cooked/hot, Mix in lemon juice. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 eggs
1/2 pound ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one lemon (1 tb or so)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and sugar (I used 1/2 sugar, 1/2 splenda. I know, it's bad for you!). Beat in the egg (lightly), then stir in the ricotta cheese, lemon zest, and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda, stir into the ricotta mixture. Drop by rounded spoonfuls (I used my smallest cookie scoop, about 1 tb) onto the prepared cookie sheet.
Bake for 15-18 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are lightly browned. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Note: Just be REALLY careful not to overmix these cookies, or they will taste "eggy"
Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 to 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
In small bowl, mix cream cheese and lemon zest until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup confectioner's sugar, mixing until smooth. Add remaining sugar, prn, until desired consistency.

Happy Birthday to Cathy!

I wanted to send a belated birthday to my sister, CATHY, who, as of yesterday, is the exact same age as Fergie.
From now on, for no apparent reason, really: all ages will be correlated with Fergie years.
I myself am 5 years older than Fergie, making me *5* in Fergie years.
When I told my sister yesterday that she was *0* in Fergie years, she really didn't seem as excited as I was... I mean, *0*-- that's practically like starting over!
Anyhoo, Happy Birthday, Cathy-- I wish you and your lady lumps a very happy year! (yes, it's still stuck in my head; can you tell?)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

AWC, Day One:

Last week, I finally mustered up the courage to join the local gym, and it only took me (almost) a week to go for the first time! Jacob had swim class tonoc, so I made a trip to the (evil) WalMart and purchased some workout wear, as I am too-- ahem-- "lush bodied", shall we say, for my former workout wear, or "pajamas", as they came to be known. A *smart* person might say that if I had been using them for working out instead of SLEEPING, I wouldn't be needing the next size up-- but nobody likes a smarty pants.

I really had no idea how any of the exercise equipment worked, so I quickly sized up the joint and chose the most familiar and least dangerous looking contraption: the exercise bike-type thingey (except you lean back when you ride it-- a nice improvement, as you can practically lounge and read while you work the flab off. How civilized!)
I wanted to appear confident and a non-newbie for my first trip to the gym, but for some reason, the bike bucked and wobbled as I used it, and I had no idea why-- I looked around, and no one else was clunking along... how embarassing! So I sat and pedaled the whole 30 minutes trying to radiate the thoght that "yeah, I know it's clunking-- it's cool! I like it like that" to the imaginary spectators in my head: I thought for sure the whole establishment was gaping to see what all the commotion was, to see if perhaps someone needed assistance or resuscitation, but no one seemed to care.

I guess no one cared that my shoes were a wreck, either-- I figured this whole week that I'd have to run off to the store and pick up a new pair so no one would think I was slumming it at the gym, but I think I was making that one up so I could put off going for another week or 2.

I'm hoping to make it back in the am to check out the swim aerobics classes. I know that the morning classes are usually frequented by little old ladies, some whom are in better shape than I am, so I am going to try my hardest not to be intimidated by the buff grandmas and their ability to kick my ass. My main concern, tho, is that the only swim suit I have is the granny-skirt style tankinni, which weighs a ton when it gets wet. I really hope the skirt doesn't get waterlogged and decide to creep it's way off my butt midway thru class.

Which really leads me to believe that maybe I'll have to postpone until I can go shopping... and until my behind has shrunk thusly such that I won't be needing the added tent of fabric to hide my cellulite.
Why oh why didn't I think of how complicated it would be to get skinny?

Why I Love This Country, Rough Draft:

I wanted to make a brief comment about how surreal it is that people are in a fear-frenzied uproar with the recent school shooting: Don't people know that sort of violence is fairly common throughout most of the world, and how incredibly fortunate we are to be insulated from it?

For a brief while I studied the genocides that have occurred on nearly every continent, where hundreds of thousands of people have been slaughtered en masse-- corpses littering the streets and sidewalks, the smell of rotting flesh, the buzz of flies everywhere, occuring with such regularity that it became common in some cultures. In many cultures on this very day, it remains common.

Losing 32 people is a tragedy I can't begin to imagine; I can appreciate, however, that we are so protected in this country that the entire nation reels when these types of things happen. But honestly, when compared to the incidents in the world around us, 32 is a very small number.

At moments like these, I count my blessings that in America, every life is important-- every death makes an impact and is a tragedy. Because, in our country "All Men Are Created Equal", the death of a Holocost survivor with a PhD carries equal weight with a 19 year old still finding her way in the world. I find this profoundly inspiring, and very unique in a world where this is rarely so.

P.S.

The pinkies opened their eyes today! They can see their momma now and chase her down-- but she tries her best to get the heck away from them as often as she can. I guess she's a modern, empowered gal, just fighting for a little time for "self actualization" (a little "Simple Abundance", perhaps? Yecch! I hated that book!)
The little critters are SOOOOOOOO adorable-- anybody want a cute little mousie? There are actually *15* babies we need to unload (hungry snakes need not apply).

Monday, April 16, 2007

Fergalicious?

At this point in the day, I'm not sure if I was a bad, bad girl and awoke this morning in one of the dimensions of hell, where "My Humps" plays over and over and over and over again until you plead to Satan for mercy.
All day long: "she's got me spending...." "Spending all your money on me, and spending time on me...." "She's got me speeeeeennnnnding" "My humps, my little lady lumps"... "My humps, my humps my humps , my humps, my little lady lumps".
I'd be concentrating on hanging blood today, talking with a patient, and all of a sudden: "she's got me speeeennnnnding!", with a little Fergie dancing around, fondling her humpy parts in the nether regions of my brain.
Milky, milky, coco puffs...

Tag, you're it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vj9swNR5-lY

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Spiritual Constipation

After sitting in church this am and listening to our (awesome) pastor (this is the guy who dressed up like the "red pill blue pill"character from the Matrix and did a few sermons, Matrix style), I realized that I am likely suffering from a form of spiritual constipation:

To be a Christian entails some degree of being in relationship with other followers, and I am avoiding it like the plague. Because, as Bob says: being a Christian means you have committed to not only loving God, but loving all people-- unconditionally. And since *true* love (vs romantic love) is a gift, a choice--it requires you to lay yourself open, leaving you vulnerable to being hurt. And since I have been found lacking in so many ways and snubbed in the past (the spurned lover! a tale as old as time...), I realized that I have found it less painful to discount my fellow parishoners out of hand, before they get the opportunity to reject me-- turning me into the bitter, lonely old gal I have become. Snif!

Because it is always easier to love people you know aren't going to reject you...

BUT: being afraid of rejection is no excuse for becoming an asshole.

The tech people (my husband among them, of late), are starting to put Bob's sermons on line. He just completed a series on the origins of the universe, which incorporated a fair amount of philosophy 201 and a smidgen of quantum physics. Bob (and lots of other pastors, truth be told) always says not to leave your intellect and scepticism at the church door on Sunday, which a long time doubter like me can appreciate. I am hoping those sermons make it, and soon-- my attention span isn't so great, and I probably take in about 35% of what is said (the doodling and list making probably don't help). He mentioned something a couple weeks ago about how the phrase "All Men Are Created Equal" would not have been spoken in a culture that espoused an evolutionary worldview (which, in the secret, blackest, depth of my heart I sometimes embrace, much to my shame.) And for some reason, I thought it was important enough to write down on my program. Wish I remembered why...
http://riverwood.net/

What's Blooming:

After Jake and I took a loooong walk with the dogs, who are behaving so well-- I got around to turning the small garden plot by the house again. I planted: beets, sno peas, mesculin and mixed lettuce, spinach, and onions. They're all cold weather crops, so they should do fine, even if it gets a bit frosty.
I have a couple dozen asparagus plants to get in the ground as well, but I'm not sure where to put them...

What's in the gardens:
Daffodils are coming back, and the later blooming varities are getting started
Tulips are coming up, but I hope they're at least a couple weeks away
Anemones are blooming (blanda bulbs and multifida Anabella plants)
Scilla are blooming
arabis Alpina Snowcap is blooming (pictured below)
the chionodoxa forbesii, muscari, and allium roseums started just before the cold, and are recovering ok
I'm sad that the crocus are done-- it was just too cold for too long


And finally, most everything is coming back, but nothing else is close to blooming for a while

Foodie Feast:

Tonight, we supped on a feast of buffalo steaks and wild-harvested venison tenderloin; one loin grilled with a cracked pepper rub, the other sauteed with garlic and onion in a red wine reduction. Jake also prepared some fried "hen of the woods" mushrooms he gathered from the forest across the way, with baked potatoes, grilled corn, broccoli, and a loaf of whole wheat bread. We eat like kings! And life is good...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Museum Visit #2

Our trip to the Museum of Science and Industry yesterday went well: I only experienced minor panic on the tollway (I think they're still finishing up the construction projects they started when I began driving 20 years ago), but we made it there and back in one piece, and far faster than the train. Parking was a dream, which was made nicer by the member's discount-- I decided to join when I discovered that there is a CSI exhibit coming next month that the whole family would like to see: Members get 4 free tickets to all special exhibits, free Ominmax tickets, and it's all TAX DEDUCTIBLE, those two magic words I discovered this year after doing my taxes myself.

In fact, they were having a sleep in last night at the museum, which boggled me with depths of coolness my adult mind could barely comprehend. SLEEP IN? At the MUSEUM??? It's like a geeky kid's greatest fantasy come true, only there were far more adults with their pillows and sleeping bags there than there were kids. MY kids weren't nearly as excited as me, either, and had the audacity to ask: "but what would we sleep in, mom? What would we wear tomorrow?" Obviously they were not grasping the magnitude of how awesome it would be to be locked in all night with the creepy coal mine and the plasticized corpses. Sleeping bag, indeed. Who was planning on sleeping?!
Kids these days...

I have to say that the Body Worlds2 exhibit wasn't nearly as, hmmmm, how shall I say it? *Enlightening* in the educational, curious geek style I was looking for. (Unless you're talking about a "geek" from the carnival; you know, the creature that bites the head off of live chickens and the like to the horror of the onlookers.) I was expecting to receive some clinical insight into the human anatomy; more and better information, a closer view of the of the absorbtive tissues of the small intestine, for example. I even paid the extra $4 for the audio tour, thinking it would thrill me with fascinating tidbits about the pancreas and the neural pathways, the motor mechanisms of the muscles and bones. But unless you are living in a cave and missed your third grade science class, it wasn't telling even my 9 year old anything he didn't already know. Sigh!

Say what you will, but Dr. Gunther Von Hagens is more of an artist than an anatomist, in my book. The delight he takes in positioning his plastinates is very evident; viewing his work you get a clear sense that he is likely not undertaking this grim task to advance our knowledge of the body, as he claims, but because he is drawn to work with corpses as his artistic medium. Dr Von Hagens fashions these corpses into what he insists to be primarily functional, but there is a distinct aesthetic, and an undercurrent of creepy sensuality present in every piece. Living and playing not too far from self described "artists" such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein, it isn't too hard to make the leap from the scientific to the macabre; but at least Dr Von Hagens found a more legit means to fulfill his yearnings, and I can appreciate that.

I heard recently that the good Dr. is shocking the science world by planning to create a double plastinate, through which the "anatomy of intercourse" will be demonstrated; bodies "transformed into an act of love with a woman or a man" (as he put it in his questionnaire to 6500 potential donors).

Yeah, right. If this guy hasn't already made one for each room of his house in various positions, I'd be VERY surprised. And let's not even speak of his desire to meld people with animals.... Shudder.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5651882

More and More Babies!

I got the call this morning to pick up our 4 new baby chicks: surprise babies (or, as Tracey would say "baby surprises!"), since they weren't supposed to arrive until after the first of May. Like all new parents, we weren't ready-- the coop is a disaster, but we had a nice, big cardboard box, and they seem satisfied with it.
With all the squeaking and chirping going on, the other animals are going crazy:

Why Robertson Davies is My Favorite Author:

"Thus it was that when Francis came to die, he had pretty well made up his accounts with all the principal figures in his life, and although he seemed to the world, and even to his few close friends, an eccentric and crabbed spirit, there was a quality of completeness about him that bound those friends tighter than would have been the case if he had been filled with one-sided, know-nothing sweetness and easy acceptance." p.773 "What's Bred in the Bone"

Can this man write a brilliant run-on sentence, or what?!?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Husband's Infidelity:

My husband received a call yesterday, which he was very hush hush about-- in fact, he was cowering in the corner on the phone, almost whispering-- making himself as conspicuously inconspicuous as he could, which immediately aroused my suspicions.

Was it my greatest fear (of late) come true? Was he indeed setting up an evening rendezvous, abandoning his wife and kids for yet another night? Noooooooooooo!






But yes, my husband, despite my protests, agreed to work the sound board for the worship team at church. Ugh!

Which normally, in a different time, wouldn't have been a problem. You see, at one time, I was just as eager to jump in and participate in the church experience as any new Christian would be...but after realizing, after many painful attempts, that I don't fit the "profile" of a pious Christian woman, I want nothing to do with it.

Point in case:

1) I swear. Sometimes, a lot. I heard one time in Bible study that Jesus would fix this somewhere along the way, but he hasn't gotten around to it yet. Shit.

2) I have an adventurous streak that nice, churchgoing folk just don't seem to get. I have no desire to scrapbook as my primary outlet of socialization; I don't sponge paint-- I could care less about decorating my Christian home with stenciled Bible verses on the walls, and I much prefer my Pee Wee Herman collection in the china cabinet to acrylic crosses from the local Christian bookstore. I want to hike, and bike, and interact with God's creation. And I have an incredible urge to shake my booty every now and again! If any of the congregation members we've met in the past 8 years has had an interesting past anywhere along the way, they've done a STELLAR job of concealing it. I like how my past has made me into who I am today, and I hate how much that threatens my fellow churchgoers.

3) I like sinners. They're fun, and they're real people. Give me an openly practicing homosexual anyday vs. a calm, quiet, constantly smiling, (vacuous), clammyhanded Christian, who will make you feel like you're from a different planet, even when you're on your very best behavior. I know these people are hiding something... I'd rather know what I'm in for when I'm dealing with people. Plus, I'm sick of always trying to hide who I am-- I don't have to do that with people who aren't hiding who they are, either. I figure, if you're always trying to hide your sins, how are you ever going to overcome them? You aren't. And those ever smiling, always happy people creep me out, big time. Zoloft, anyone?

4) I LOVES ME A TASTY COCKTAIL!!!! Where o where in the Bible does it say that "thou must abstain from the evil wiles of the Chocolate City Martini (a la BJ Wentkers)"? Really, when those tasty friends o my soul are $9 a pop, I verily shall avoid wanton drunkenness.

5) After many attempts, I have realized that I am not a fan of Christian music (Third Day is the only exception. That lead singer has a great voice and isn't to hard on the eyes).
Ok, ok-- you love Jesus! Me too! But your music is still lame.
Have you ever been to a Chriatian concert? Bizarre. You can hop around and do the "Christian Bop", but no dancing. Dancing is bad. And don't wiggle too much, either... Watch those hips!
And I have met the stupidest, most irritating folks at Christian concerts. I'm sorry-- if you have a baby, and you can't find a sitter, don't sit in the 5th row, right in front of the speakers, unless you have a special "hearing aid" fund for little Elijah. This is a bad parent maneuver I'd expect to see at the Grateful Dead concert, not the "Jesus Jubilee" at the Grace Church in Racine.
And no, I do NOT want to drive 50 miles out of my way at 1 am after a concert to find the nearest Krispy Kreme (with the Young Adult Ministry group-- dude!). I really don't think the drunks in Skokie thought it was funny that you were messing with them in the Drive Thru, giving yet another example of God's grace that you didn't get a cap popped in yo ass. I learned that night that downing a dozen doughnuts is an acceptable balm for the deep seated pain these young adults bear for their lack of casual sex and abstention from drugs and alcohol.
I resolved that night that my kids wouldn't grow up to be so gosh-darn DORKY. Kids, if you're still playing with video games and saying "dude" at 26, I will harass you relentlessly.

I'm just wondering what this new development will mean for Jake and my spiritual relationship: We've always cycled in our own little orbits; when I was a budding new Holy Roller, Jake wanted nothing to do with it (I think he was afraid I'd make him get rid of his porn collection-- and these days, I'm wishing I hadn't!) The Worship Team folks asked a few weeks ago if I wanted to do Power Point, which would be fine, I guess-- but when I told them I'd be happy to, since "I hate to sing, and it would be great since I wouldn't have to anymore", they kindof backed away slowly, as if my horns were briefly visible and the truth was revealed that I wasn't the full fledged convert they thought I was. Tee hee. That's ONE way to keep from being asked...

April?!?

So this is April? Wisconsin weather always makes me laugh-- at least I know that it'll be short-lived.
I had a moment today, so I finally went around and cut the daffodils that have already bloomed. What resilient flowers! They still look beautiful, even tho they bloomed a couple weeks ago, were frozen for over a week, and now, are buried in snow. Next time I feel overwhelmed by the winter doldrums, I'll think of the daffodils.
I do, however, feel badly for the poor chickens. They look cold.

Did You Know? (Scandal!)

I know that Easter is over, but did you know that Amazon.com sold these:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000IU1LZ0/ref=ord_cart_shr/103-5536951-3871815?%5Fencoding=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&v=glance

And with FREE Super Saver shipping to boot!

In Answer to Your Question, Part 1:

In response to the two comments I received earlier today (thank you, BTW!):
I really do love the gothic history and architecture of the Catholic church; I could sit and stare for hours at the statues, paintings and stained glass if the pews weren't so damn hard and I could understand a word of what they were saying
But really, I wish I could-- 'cause my daughter attends a very costly Catholic high school, and I know I'd be saving a bundle if we converted.
And to answer Heather's question (and remember, you DID ask): when I was a kid, I was a natural born atheist. I had a gut feeling that Jesus and Santa Claus were invented by our parents to trick us into good behavior, and in my deep conviction, I told every kid in my Sunday school class from age 6 on. I was a stinker, and eventually I shamed my mother into letting us sleep in on Sundays.
But, in retrospect, I never gave Christianity a chance. I had no idea what it was really about-- I grew into adulthood thinking it was about shame, fear, and the old "tricking us into good behavior" bit. My spiritual thought processes hadn't evolved one iota from my 6 year old misperceptions…pretty sad, if you think about it.
Spiritually lost, I wandered through young adulthood, taking the Modern Intellectual's standard journey thru the alternative traditions: shamanism (lived on an indian reservation), Wicca (my firstborn was "Wiccanized" at a Pagan Gathering when she was a baby—but please, keep that under your hat), was a whiz at the Tarot, and even visited a Rainbow Gathering or 2 (eek! Don't ask...)
I ultimately thought I'd discovered the best of *all* worlds when I stumbled upon the Unitarians, who provided a really good pseudo church-like experience with all the standing, sitting, singing and other vaguely familiar rituals that simulated a religious experience fairly well, without all the messy responsibility of committing to actually BELIEVING or worshiping anything in particular (other than your own cleverness at being able to circumvent the "rules", tee hee.) My spiritual growth came to a standstill under the guidance of the Unitarians, where I came to realize that singing praises to the "Spring Flowers" and "Winter Spirits" while dancing the Jewish dance and singing the "Rainbow Connection" wasn't bringing me any closer to an understanding of God or my place in the world. So I quit going.
But when your kids get old enough, it's fairly common to get freaked out about how insane the world is and try to find answers; ways to protect your kids from harm and from making the same stupid mistakes you did. Wandering aimlessly thru life is not a terribly productive way to spend your adult years, and I was hoping to spare my children the legacy of confusion I had wrestled with since childhood.
Eventually I grew tired of making up my values as I went along, realizing that I didn't have the first clue how the world fit together, completely stymied at how to convey our values--right from wrong--to my kids, when I had no idea what they were. So life, being the cyclical journey that it is, pointed me back to the beginnings of my spiritual quest. I had explored the alternative belief systems and found them lacking (the naked wedding at the Pagan Gathering was pretty much a "no Wicca" deal clincher for me), and thusly decided to give the religion of my forefathers a genuine chance.
I church shopped for a long time: I began enthusiastically with my childhood church, the Lutherans, and everything was familiar and hunky dory until I realized that I had not the slightest clue what any of the traditions were, not even the most basic ones. Why were they randomly quoting from the Bible? Why couldn’t I understand what the Bible readings were all about? What was the creepy reason behind drinking Christ’s blood (and eating his body? Yecch!) And when I mustered up the courage to ask the minister what "communion" meant, not only didn't he understand the depths of my ignorance, but he could barely explain it to me!
It was at that point that I realized I was on my own; I had negotiated myself thru doubt and pride into my atheism, and only I could wrangle myself out of it. Instead of continuing to use my intelligence to stunt my growth, I decided it was time to break free from cynicism and learn actually learn something USEFUL, dammit.
I realized early on that I needed a church that explained everything, pretty much word for word-- sort of a "Christianity for Dummies" kind of experience-- which was only to be found in a non-traditional church. In my efforts to read and understand the Bible on my own, I was lost, utterly lost. This eliminated the Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc, and anyone else who expected me to yodel hymns written in another century or another language (I can’t sing).
I also wanted to avoid the snake handlers and tongue speakers, thankyouverymuch, which took quite a number of churches off the table as well.
(to be continued...)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bars

I have never once in my life tried to misrepresent myself as anything other than a complete SNOB when it comes to recreation. Yes, it's true: I hate bars. I remarked to my hubby this weekend, when I had the displeasure of sitting in a smoky, smelly, LOUD bar, that all the folks in attendance were in desperate need of a HOBBY-- 'cause I could think of about 85 oher things that I would rather have been doing than just sitting there. At one point, I was even digging through my purse so I could re-organize my date book, but it was missing-- argh!

I mean, really-- what can you do? Smoke, purchase incredibly overpriced BEER (I can't imagine their wine list was very extensive), and shout yourself hoarse to try and converse (poorly) with your companions? Egads! How dull... You can't talk with your friends, you can't catch a quality buzz on piss beer, and the regulars aren't interesting enough to make for worthwhile people watching. (You've seen one drunkard trapped in the 1980's, you've seen them all--in fact, I think the guy playing pool was the same guy playing pool the last time I went into a bar, back in 1991. They're all the same guy, anywhere you go.)

I have often wondered why people go to bars: is it a class issue? Because the folks I see in bars look like they fall into somewhat of a lower income bracket. But I'll tell you, bars ain't cheap. Our (gross) beer was $11 a pitcher, and what is a pack of ciggies nowadays? Like $4? A game of darts was a few bucks per game, and the door was charging a cover for admittance.... so why couldn't you instead save your pennies and go to a gallery opening (free), eat (free) hors d'oeuvres, chat with interesting people (and actually hear them, and respond appropriately), bone up on local culture, and be able to breathe through your nose the next morning? Why, indeed.

Friends, all I can say is: LIFE IS SHORT. If it isn't beautiful, or stimulating, thought provoking, educational, or life affirming-- count me out. I got places to go... and a really nice Chilean wine to sample.

Goodwill Shopping:

Yay! I went to the Goodwill last noc, and found a BRAND, SPANKIN NEW flute for $50!!!! So, between cleaning, laundry, reading, and half assed science experiments, I was sitting with my "EasyFluteMethod" trying to teach myself to play yet another instrument. I am very excited!

I always wanted to play the flute, but wah, my mom made us all take string instruments since my older sister had braces and couldn't play flute, either. SO neener neener neener, mom-- I got my flute! I think I'll practice my bootie off and have a really awful recital prepared for Mother's day.

It wouldn't be so bad, starting off from scratch with a new instrument, if the kids didn't come along and shut the door when I'm practicing, and the dogs didn't look so *pained*. Ohwell, everyone's a critic... when I'm playing my "Jazz flute", Ron Burgandy style (a' la "The Anchorman"), my family will eat major crow. Oh yes-- they will... (insert evil laugh here).

I also found what I believed to be a Red Wing bean pot; but my dad said that the Red Wings didn't have "Red Wing USA" stamped on the bottom. I do have to say, however, that my dad has been known to be a wee bit full 'o shit, (bless his heart!) so I'll keep investigting. http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1574321927/ref=sib_dp_pt/102-1681454-8707352#reader-link
It's in MINT condition, with absolutely NO chips or cracks, only some minor crazing on the bottom and bottom edge of the pot. It even has a lid! So for $2.99, you can't go wrong., even if it is a fake. Gotta love the Goodwill!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Mi No Hablo Espanol:

I would really like to complete this Spanish Certification Course:

http://oldweb.uwp.edu/academic/modern.languages/

So I can chat with my patients and travel with confidence to exotic locales. Eventually, I would like to become proficient in at least a couple languages: Spanish, Italian, and French (maybe), since these are countries I'd most like to visit (Spain, Italy, and France, respectively.) I don't know if I'd like to go to Mexico, to be honest-- could you imagine getting sick there? Maybe I worry too much-- but after visiting Cancun for our honeymoon, gross! I much prefer toilets that flush, thankyouverymuch

Good Friday?

Once again, the holidays have arrived, and we aren't in the least bit prepared for them: I have bought all the kids' their (pagan) Easter basket stuff , but I still haven't mustered up the requisite "Easter" feelings necessary to fully participate in this holiday.

IDK, maybe it's because I was such a naughtygirl at heart growing up-- I just never made the connection between a bloodied and tortured God-as-man and sugar coated marshmallow chicks in a pastel basket (um, but it's not like Jesus was wearing a bunny costume and tossing colored eggs at the crowds... Really, He wasn't).

I think it's the problem I have with all the religious holidays: am I religious, a believer-- a true follower? Or am I, like most of us in the culture, simply clinging to the meaningless childhood rituals of overconsumption?
'Cause Lord knows, I've consumed enough...

I have the same existential dilemma during the Christmas season: is it about the birth of our Lord and savior, or the happy anticipation of a jolly obese man bearing food and gifts?
'Cause again, I surely got enough crap to fill TWO Airstream trailers and an extra storage unit, to boot.

I would really prefer that holidays weren't religious at all: I would like the freedom to celebrate the "Spring" ritual of welcoming the warmer weather and return of the birds and flowers with chocolate, sugar, and lots of color; without the pressure to "feel" anything more profound than happiness that I am no longer freezing my ass off and reveling in my depressive state.

And then, when the time is right, feel the profound wonder of how our loving God came to earth, not in the form of a king, but as a pauper born into a shit filled cave, helpless and needy and depending on the failings of common, everyday people to help him as he grew into adulthood-- and then was welcomed, one week, as a precious guest by an adoring group of followers-- only to be turned on by the same people and tortured, mocked, humiliated, stripped of dignity, and brutally murdered, Ed Gein style. This Jesus could have snapped His fingers and kicked our deserving asses for being flaky, for being so blind, vindictive, and horrific-- but instead, He died for us, choosing to endure every awful aspect of being a human, just so He could experience what it's like to be US and then take the burden of responsibility for all the crappy things *we* do onto Himself. Pretty unbelievable.

I couldn't take communion tonight, because I just can't reconcile the chocolate with the weight of what God chose to do, and what so many of us, myself included, just can't fathom. Any suggestions?

Easter:

Easter went very well: we didn't attend Easter services, and I really preferred it that way. To be honest, I am a dyed in the wool non traditionalist, and I don't have much interest or tolerance for routines or rituals. I find the familiar tiresome, especially when it comes to holidays.

I was telling Jake that I wish we could celebrate these religious holidays to correspond with the actual birth/death of Christ: once every 33 years. I think 33 years would be enough to keep the event fresh, the carols engaging... it seems like deja vu whenever the holidays roll around, just like it was yesterday that the tree was lurking in the corner, with no one interested in decorating it, the eggs were left unboiled, undecorated-- with the fat, drunken girl dancing on the table to "Celebrate Good Times" at the company Christmas party-- same, same, same. Always the same.

It was great to see everyone-- even Emily and Michael came (I took lots of photos-- Michael LOVES grandma's cupcakes! See his cute pirate bib? I made it) I also made 5 dozen Peeps cupcakes, all different colors-- they looked amazing, and were probably the best tasting I've ever made. The buttercream was very much like bakery frosting (I used the Wilton buttercream recipe), and I added ground coconut to the cake batter.

The Nuns who live behind us gave us a GINORMOUS chocolate egg, wrapped in beautiful foil-- it was made in **Italy**. I still am struck by how kind that was. I made them a dozen peeps cupcakes and dropped them at their door (I hope they found them..).
I would really like to get to know them better; they are from all over the world, which is fascinating, and I often see them walking on the bike paths, singing, "Sound of Music" style. Very magical, and very unusual (my favorite combination).

P.S. Don't feed your dog jellybeans, even if they reallyreally like them. Mr Six was a sad, sad boy today.

Heaven Knows...

My boss approached me today and asked why I hadn't applied for the position that was FINALLY posted after several arduous weeks of "yes, it's been approved" to ; "no, it's not going to go through" to; "oh wait-- I think it's going to happen" and then finally;" um-I guess a doctor will be leaving and we'll be overstaffed", which made me feel good that she was thinking of me. What a roller coaster ride, tho! I'm still dizzy.
And you know, I've looked every single day for weeks and weeks (well, about 6 weeks to be exact, but that's an awfully long time), and it never showed up on my log in! Apparently, it was posted over a week ago, and it was visible on every computer in the system but mine (OOOOWWWWEEEEEOOOOOOO... creepy). I even had the recruiter on the phone today helping me pull it up, and it *still* wouldn't materialize.
So anyhoo, after much to-do, she posted it again, and I was finally able to apply for it.

Wahoo! I'm happy, I guess-- but a little voice sometimes reminds me of the Smith's song where he sings "I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I'm miserable now". Not like I'm miserable or anything, I've just been around the workforce long enough to know that the happy love affair of new employment loses its luster fairly quickly. And since I've been there for over 2 months now, I've seen the dark underbelly of staffing problems, crabbity staff issues, the good, the bad, and the (rarely) ugly side of the docs-- but I still like it, and think I can do it, warts, farts, and all.

Keep your fingers crossed for me: if I can get a regular FTE, Grace will likely be able to attend her beloved Private School, and I can wrangle more $ for my retirement fund (tax free! Never have those words sounded so lovely since I did my taxes myself this year) and possibly finnagle my employer to pay for my Spanish certification.

Friday, April 6, 2007

P.S.

We went to the Milwaukee Museum today and purchased a family membership (we let ours lapse for a couple years after being members for a long time). We had such a fantastic time! Just to be surrounded by all that curiosity, both past and present, really charges my batteries. I feel as if I am finally awakening from a long, deep, sleep.
We also stopped by American Science and Surplus this afternoon, and wandered in amusement at all the oddball crap they have... fun! I was soooooo tempted to buy the formalin preserved, shrinkwrapped frog they had, and give it to Jacob in his Easter basket. As it was, I got him a periodic table placemat, a magic eye book, and a squishy egg game; for Grace, an expanding mermaid; and for myself, a 3-D spinning frog mobile and an alien to stick on my dashboard.

We started our day with lunch at Sharazad, and got the fantastic appetizer sampler, lentil soup, and shawirma. We also got the spinach pie, but it wasn't good AT ALL, and their stuffed spinach leaves weren't so good, either. But the hummus was even better, and I actually liked the Baba Ganoush and bean-stuff they had, for a change. As I suspected, they were under new ownership--but it was just as great as I remember it. The kids were fascinated by the hookas, and Grace's boyfriend was freaked out by the whole event-- literally. He looked horrified... but I just love to blow the minds of today's youth. In a positive way, of course. I want my kids to know that the world is a much bigger place than Burlington, Wisconsin-- that their spiritual and cultural battles should be complex and involve a great deal of CHOICE (especially for the holy rollers who were suckled Christianity at the tit, God bless their fortunate, one dimensional souls. Life shouldn't be that cut and dried, at least not for my kids.) I want them to see that the world is a dangerous, wonderful place in which one should be cautious with sporatic periods of recklessness. (i.e. as in, take the kids on long motorcycle rides for adventures, but make sure they wear their helmets!)

I can't wait for the weather to get warmer, so we can go downtown Milwaukee and wander about; I am so looking forward to Chicago next weekend! Our wanderings await...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Argh!

Why-o-why can't I be talented??? Naturally talented,that is: you know-- the kind that doesn't require effort, or practice??

I picked up my violin tonight, after having ignored it for probably over a year-- and guess what?!
I'm still as mediocre as I was when I last put it down. Wah!

I have moments of ok-ness, when I play, which is usually interrupted by intervals of sucky-ness. I wish with all my heart I could have the discipline to practice everyday, but I don't. I also wish I could find a good teacher, who doesn't make me perform at the mall with little children who play better than me (long story). Wishwishwish.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

My Gifted Little Monkey:

Being the ever cautious parent, I had mixed emotions when I learned today that my 9 year old was accepted into the gifted and talented program at school. I know Waterford puts lots of resources into their G&T program, which is fabulous-- and ever so unpopular these days, in our PC world... seems like everyone wants to level things down so that all kids are receiving "equal" opportunities: but that makes it real hard for those 3rd graders who would rather study organic chemistry than a regular 3rd grade curriculum.

I struggle with those issues myself, as I am acquainted with parents who are very unsatisfied with our special ed programs: But if my kid can be engaged and stay interested in school (and not become your average brilliant 10th grade pothead)-- isn't that important, too? I scored higher on my SAT's in the 7th grade (high enough to gain entry into any college in the country) than I did in the 12th grade-- go figure. I simply got lost, and bored, not to mention irritated with the social politics of school-- long before I graduated. And so what's a smart girl to do with herself, until she can go off to college? Sue her principal? Stage protests? Write "diatribes against her fellow classmates" via the school newspaper? Ride the "El" trains and drink with the homeless en route to underground clubs in Chicago? Hitchhike across the country? (Not like I've done any of these things, I'm just a' sayin...)

An interesting life, to be sure, but paved with hard knocks I'd just as soon my progeny avoid, if at all possible. As a kid growing up, I struggled to make my way with a family that didn't completely understand my learning needs, and never fully realized exactly where I could go with the right resources: I want my kids to have a clearer path, with an opportunity to develop the talents they find the most useful, so they can go farther in life and *enjoy* their successes more than I have. Less struggle, more success.

My crazy adventures make for great tales around the watercooler, but who really gives a shit? My truths are far stranger than fiction, but aren't terriblly useful-- except to keep myself entertained when things get dull.

Tonight, Jacob and I played with his organic chemistry molecular structure model set that I just got from e-bay. We were playing with methane gas (poopie gas, in case you were curious). We kept changing it from CH4 +2 O2 to CO2 + 2 H2O-- how fun is that? We went to the library, too, and canoodled around until we found a set of chemistry books written for kids, ones he might actually read. I am so excited he can enjoy his geeky side and explore it to the fullest.

On a different note, I would be *so* happy if we could go to the Milwaukee Museum next week over Easter break. We frequented the museums when we were homeschooling, and many of them became a second home to us. I love those places, and have forever! For fun, I purchased tickets for the "Body Works" exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago for next Friday, with the Omnimax movie showing of "Human Body" as well, and I am as gleeful as a schoolgirl! I hope the weather's nice, so we can wander about and see Cloud Gate and Milennium Park in the springtime. I'll always have a soft spot for Chicago, since it was my adolescent hang out. (Medusas, where are you???)

I miss being excited about the possibilities of the future, but I feel great knowing that my kids can have opportunities I let slip by.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Linguini With Sausage and Peppers

Dinner: Again, bootlegged from a Everyday Food recipe, but always modified to protect the innocent--
Ingredients
Serving: Serves 6
1 Pound linguine-- get the whole wheat or Omega 3 enriched kind, it's WAY better tasting (and better for you)
1 Pound turkey sausage, casings removed-- I used HOT Italian sausage
6 garlic, thinly sliced-- to be safe, I only used 3, but could have used more
4 yellow (or red) bell peppers, thinly sliced-- 4??? I used one, and it was plenty
1 cup low sodium, (organic) chicken broth
Frozen, chopped spinach, maybe 1-2 cups
Coarse salt and ground pepper, for seasoning
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for garnish
Directions
Cook linguine. Drain; return pasta to pot.
Meanwhile, cook sausage and 2 tablespoons water in a large covered nonstick skillet over medium until fat renders, 5 minutes. Uncover; raise heat to medium-high. Brown sausage, breaking it up with a spoon, 7 minutes.
Add garlic, bell peppers, and 1/4 cup chicken broth; cook for 2-3 minutes, and add frozen spinach. Cover pan and steam for 3-4 minutes, until spinach is defrosted. Add additional 3/4 cup chicken broth and heat through.
Serve, topped with fresh parmesan.
I made some "bruschetta", made with sliced italian bread topped with mild and hot gardinera peppers heated until toasty in a 350 degree oven. Tasty!

Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops

On the food note, I have a wee confession to make:
I used to think I was a Rachel Ray girl.
Some time ago, I purchased a bundle of her cookbooks, as they were selling at our hospital's book sale-- mega cheap, I might add.
And I have to admit, some of her recipes were spot-on, and made me very happy-- excited, even-- to be in the kitchen again. So I bought up a few more of her cookbooks, only to discover that a large portion of her recipes were odd, complicated, or sounded just plain narsty. And some truly WERE narsty (sorry, Rach).
Now, she truly is a genuine fireball of energy, and super spunky -- traits I can sometimes find endearing and wish I could emulate without large quantities of caffeine. But I really think in my heart of hearts I only love her super cool kitchen, with it's groovy avocado green tiles and retro fixtures and kitchenware.
However, if I had to pick one of her recipes that I couldn't live without, it would be:

Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops
Serves 4
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
4 (1-inch-thick) center-cut pork loin chops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (from a couple of sprigs), chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (eyeball it)
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup chicken stock or broth
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for the chops. Add 2 tablespoons of the EVOO (twice around the pan). Season the chops with salt and pepper, then add to the hot skillet. Cook the chops for 5 minutes on each side.
Transfer the chops to a platter and cover with foil. Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of EVOO and the onions, thyme, rosemary, and garlic, then sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, honey, and chicken stock. Cook until the liquids have reduced by half.
Once the balsamic glaze has reduced by half, turn off the heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of cold butter. Stir and shake the pan until the butter melts. Add the chops to the pan and coat them in the balsamic glaze.

Wanna Come?

Wanna Come?
This is where I'd like to go asap:

Horsefeathers
129 N Genesee StWaukegan, IL 60085
(847) 244-3100

I last went to this store probably over 15 years ago, and can hardly believe that it's still open. My ex and I used to hang out there occasionally, when they had a coffee bar (do they still? No clue.) and corny open mics that would make me shudder (speaking of cool open mics, check this out: http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=584844 I sure wish I could go. I have notebooks full of teen angst to share, and high school newspaper articles as well. I was very prolific in the "angst" dept in my day, and even still have my own as an adult. Some habits die hard...)

These folks had the most AMAZING vintage clothing, for which I have an incredible itch. Not that I want to purchase any, mind you-- ownership implies responsibility I simply do not wish to undertake-- but just looking at it, hanging on a hanger amidst others like it, makes me melt. I would even PAY for the opportunity to browse, hands on, thru racks of vintage clothing: dresses, hats, gloves, cashmere sweaters, nightgowns-- yellowing acetate brassieres... I love it all, with an odd, indescribable longing. I even love the musty smell of old clothing, the more prim the better. My daughter shares my strange obsession, and I love her deeply for it. Plus, she currently has the perfect Audrey Hepburn physique, and everything vintage fits her as if God himself intended it.

I remember going with my ex-- and what was it about the place? The smoke, the ratty tatty couches from my grandmother's era? The exotic coffee drinks pre Starbucks, that you coldn't find anyplace else? Or was it the romantic clinging to the last vestiges of my pre-children existence, which I dove into so headlong I never came back up for breath?

Who knows.

I think of how I dressed back then, and it makes me smile. I remember having an elaborate headdress (yes, headdress. You can snicker, but it was actually kind of pretty. And why the hell not? Now I have NO hair... not exactly what I'd call an improvement) made up of braids, silk scarves, a crocheted snood (don't ask)-- all twisted and knotted. I would recreate it, if I still had a creative bone left in my body. And some hair.

I miss not being able to express myself thru my appearance, even though I know it is simplistic and not terribly mature.
I miss not being so caught up in the worry of consequences.
I miss not worrying about what other's think, even tho I know it is a necessary part of "participating"-- even tho I know it isn't very much fun.
I miss thinking that life can be fun.
I guess I miss being a kid. Boo.

I suppose, in the grand scheme of life, we experiment as children as our world is expanding exponentially, until the consequences of our choices catch up with us, and mature us into adults. It's bound to happen to us all...
It just isn't too much fun-- you know, with Pandora being out of the box and all.

Anyhoo: anyone up for a road trip? I always am.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Pinkies!

The miracle of birth has descended upon the Koehler family, and we are the proud and slightly grossed out recipients of 14 (+/-) little baby mice!
Several weeks ago, I had the fortune of finding a Habitrail, complete with waterer, food dish, wheel, and bedding, at a local second hand store for a whopping $10. Maybe I should have seen it as a sign that folks were only too eager to dump all rodents and rodent keeping accessories, cute little plastic mushroom shaped waterer, sleeping pod, and all.
Jacob was all smiles when Jake brought home little "Vector", our female mouse #1, but with the little tiny mouse all by her lonesome in the vast spaces and tunnels of the Habitrail, Jacob thought she looked sad--so he asked if we could go back to the pet store and get her a female companion.
So the next day, Jake tromped back to the PetLand, where he acquired a really fattish looking black mouse. I remarked at how fat she was compared to little Vector-- but no one much listens to me. And boy, did she get fatter-- and fatter snd fatter and fatter until the day came when she couldn't fit into the groovy multicolored tunnels anymore to chill out with Vector. I figured it would be any day that we would find her with a (hopefully) small pile of babies under her, and of course that the rumors weren't true that she would eat them...
And today was the day-- just like I predicted. But again, no one much listens to me; women have an intuition about such things, even if it is concerning the gestation of a teeny tiny little mouse. Once it doesn't fit in the tunnel, how much longer could it be?
We came home from church and I heard some squeaking, and saw the mouse eating something gross and fleshy looking-- "ack! She's eating one of her babies!!!", I hollered, which of course brought the entire family rushing into Jacob's bedroom.
But no, apparently she was just eating the afterbirth and stimulating the pinkies to breathe. It really was too bad, tho, that the kids couldn't have seen them coming out-- I suspect there must be no finer form of psychological birth control than seeing guts and gore wriggling out the nether parts of a critter as a result of wanton sexual activity. I can't be certain just yet, but it looks like there are about 14, which is an insane number of mice to find homes for-- I don't even know 14 people who have hungry snakes. Altho Jacob did remark that he will refuse to give the mice away if the intent is purely gastronomical: "we're pro-life, mom-- remember?"
Oh yeah. I forgot.
I think I may be making a secret donation to the Salvation Army sometime soon; I'll sure miss the groovy mushroom pod thingy, tho.

Banana Chiffon Cake

I made these as cupcakes (about 48), and frosted them with cream cheese frosting-- they were really (*reallyreally*) good!!! Probably a new favorite. Light and sweet, but not too sweet (but I may experiment wth less sugar, just for fun):

Banana Chiffon Cake

2 Cups flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tb baking powder
1 tsp salt
one overripe banana
1/2 cup vegetable oil
7 large eggs, separated
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
confectioner's sugar, for dusting-- or cream cheese frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In medium bowl, mash banana. Add oil, egg yolks, vanilla, and 3/4 cup cold water; mix to combine. Add to flour mixture, and whisk batter until smooth.

In a large bowl, place egg whites and cream of tartar; using electric mixer, beat until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold into batter is just combined (do not overmix!). Pour into a 10-inch angel food cake pan with legs. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Invert pan onto legs over counter; let cool completely. Re-invert pan, and run a thin metal spatula around edge to release onto platter. Dust with confectioner's sugar or frost with cream cheese frosting. Eat like a happy little piggy in a chiffon induced haze.
Cream Cheese Frosting
12 ounces or 1-1/2 packages of Philly cream cheese1/2 stick butter4 cups sifted powdered sugar1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Bring cheese and butter to room temperature, and beat at medium speed until creamy. Add half of the sugar and the vanilla. Beat until combine. Gradually add remaining sugar, more or less-- until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.