Friday, January 29, 2010

I Want Out of the Car

So last night, we were on the road again. Usually, I'm totally okay with this. I love to read, and what better chance to justify reading an entire book than when you're belted in to J's trusty steed, Big Red? At home, I always feel guilty about reading in the daytime, unless it's a textbook. I live in fear that the Good Wife and Mother Council is going to send someone over for a surprise inspection, and they'll catch me reading about Stephanie Plum's latest escapade, instead of dusting my knickknacks. "Well Fashion Momma, I'm afraid you've failed this latest inspection. You have laundry to do, houseplants to water, a cat box to clean, and dust bunnies to catch. I'm going to have to ask you to turn over all your books, until you can get this house back in shape." The Council is real, people, and I live in fear of its all-seeing eye. So rather than reading a quick chapter here and there, while the laundry is drying, or the dishwasher running, I'll stay up until 2 in the morning, missing out on precious hours of beauty sleep, just so I don't have my reading privileges taken away. Where was I? Ah yes, on the road.

We had a good drive ahead of us yesterday, so I was looking forward to digging into a new book, until I realized I was losing daylight, and had forgotten my reading light. If J would've agreed to turn Big Red around, I totally would have asked him to. But he wouldn't, so I remained silent. At least I had the promise of Starbucks in my future to get me through the reading withdrawal shakes. But, when we blew through the town where Starbucks lived, without getting a Venti Extra Hot Mocha for Momma, I began to melt. And then I realized that our child would probably get hungry for dinner at some point, and the snacks I'd packed were not going to tide her over. And there was nary a Mickie D's for thousands of miles. No Golden Arches. No King. Nothing but C-store food. And the girl is attached to her fast food. So there I was, straining my poor eyeballs to read just one more sentence before dark fell, wishing to all that was Holy that I had my mocha in my hand, and waiting for the girl to realize she was starving. I got a little testy. I was staring down several more hours in the pickup, with nothing to do. J is not a talker, so it's not as if we were going to solve the world's problems in the cab of that pickup, and the girl had her eyeballs super-glued to her DVD player. I had been robbed (through no fault of my own!) of precious get-out-of-jail free reading time. With each tick of the clock, we were getting closer to a starving child's meltdown, and I hadn't had enough caffeine to give me the strength to talk her down.

And then, J had to stop to refuel, because Big Red was drinking Diesel like it was a fine wine. I hauled my grouchy butt out of the pickup, helped my girl disentangle herself from headphone and charger cords, and stomped into the convenience store. We went to the Girls' Room, and washed our hands, and turned off the faucet with a paper towel, and opened the door with a paper towel (because you don't touch bathroom fixtures with your bare skin, hello!!), and went to peruse the fine offerings of Eddie's Corner. My girl went straight for the stuffed animals, because a girl can never have too many. So I spent 10 minutes saying, 'Yes kiddo, they're cute, but you are not getting one!!!' I was deliberating over whether I really wanted to eat a Deli Express Turkey and Cheese-like Substance sandwich, when my daughter walked up to me with a little black plastic thing in her mitts. "Look Mom, it lights up! You clip it on your hat, and push this button, and it lights up!" That's nice. It'd be great if I had a HAT. But I don't, so it does me no good. "That's great baby, but I don't think that will work for me." Maybe I should back up for a minute. When I started losing the light, which coincidentally was right about the time I started losing my sense of humor, J suggested I clip my little flash light to the visor, and I could use that to read. I believe J could sense I was going over to the Dark Side, and would've tried anything to get his wife some reading light at that point. Fine, I'll give it a shot. I clipped the flash light on the visor, and said, "Well, this'd be great, if I wanted to feel like I was reading by strobe light!" See what I mean about the sense of humor? Bless his heart, he tried everything he could think of to get it to work. Flash forward to the store. I was failing to see her vision for this little light. Then Daddy showed up. The two of them began talking excitedly, trying to get me to understand the beauty of this light. Apparently riding in the pickup with Momma when she melts is not fun for her family. I have no idea what the problem was. I was fine! Anyway, they eventually got it through my muddled brain that I could clip the light to the visor, tilt the visor down, and read!! Well, once I understood, I said 'Sold! I'll take two!' I grabbed the sandwich, a couple packets of mayo, 'cause Momma doesn't do yellow mustard, a cup of something closer to tea than coffee, and my new light, and skipped my way back to Big Red. The girl got all settled and buckled (turns out she was fine with the snacks I'd packed), J put five million gallons of diesel in Red's tank, I slapped some mayo on my sandwich, (which actually wasn't too bad), clipped my light on, and away we went. And Momma was once again a happy camper. Apparently it's true: If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy! I spent the next four hours in guilt-free indulgence. I'm still waiting for my Mocha, though.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Perhaps I should include a disclaimer at the beginning of my recipe posts - If you HATE to cook, you might not find your daily dose of joy here. However, if you only dislike cooking, and have resigned yourself to the fact that you must eat and/or feed your family, this post might be for you. And if you enjoy cooking, and are looking for something new, then keep reading!

Alright, today is a soup day. It's cold out. I mean cold, as in your boogers might freeze in your nose when you step outside. Okay, maybe not, but that's how my daughter measures cold...Oh, I'll tell you a story about the girl's fashion problems when it dips below 60 in a separate post. So when it's cold, soup is always a hit. And this one is so chock full of comfort, it'll warm even the coldest of tushes. I give you Chicken Tortilla Soup I, or as I affectionately call it, The Diet Killer. I have another recipe, Chicken Tortilla Soup II, which is broth based, and therefore my husband's fave, but we're going with Soup I today. The first time I made this soup for J, he said, "It's good, but I like the broth one better." I think he said more, but I was in cheesy, creamy bliss, so his talking was basically white noise. 'Cause when it's cold outside, nothing makes me happier than a big, piping hot bowl of The Diet Killer.

Chicken Tortilla Soup I
Go gather: a large soup/stock pot, another pot for frying tortilla strips, chicken breasts or a rotisserie chicken, vegetable or canola oil, green bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, onion, garlic, tomato puree, chicken stock (or broth), sugar, chili powder, Worcestershire, hot sauce, flour, heavy cream, cheddar cheese, sour cream, corn tortillas, shortening and/or peanut oil, fresh cilantro.


1 medium onion, chopped
3-6 cloves garlic (to your taste), minced
1-2 Tbsp oil
4 C chicken stock (or broth)
1 medium green bell pepper, stem, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, stem, ribs and seeds removed, finely minced
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp Worcestershire
1/2 tsp hot sauce (Cholula is my fave)
14 oz tomato puree (I buy a 28 oz can, use half, then freeze the other half for next time)
4 Tbsp flour
1/2 C water
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed or one rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 C heavy cream (or if you're trying to be good, 1/2 & 1/2)
1/4 C sour cream (or to taste)
1 C cheddar cheese, grated (or to taste)
10-12 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips
Good handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

Start by prepping all your veggies, putting onion & garlic in one bowl, and bell pepper & jalapeno in another. Use a separate cutting board to dice your chicken breasts, if using. A note about cutting chicken breasts: If they're still slightly frozen, they're easier to cut. Give it a whirl. If you're using a rotisserie chicken, just shred or cut to bite sized pieces. And, if you're like my friend, who has a 'thing' with bones in her food, recruit a loved one to yank the chicken apart, so you can avoid touching the bones.

Where was I? Oh yeah, grab your large pot, and heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, saute briefly, just until they start to get soft. They'll continue to cook as we go. Add ingredients chicken stock through tomato puree. Stir, turn heat to low, let simmer 10 minutes. Stir occasionally, so it doesn't stick. Meanwhile, in your second pot, heat enough shortening (and/or oil) to fry tortilla strips. Fry strips a handful at a time, removing to paper towels, and seasoning with salt and chili powder as you go. Put in 200 degree oven to keep warm. Thoroughly mix flour and water, whisk into soup, let simmer 5 minutes. Add cubed chicken, cook 5 to 10 minutes. Or if using shredded chicken, cook only enough to heat. And now for the Killer part: Stir in cream, cheddar and sour cream (We were thisclose to sticking to the diet...). Oh yeah, come to Momma. Heat through, dish up. Sprinkle with cilantro, and pile tortilla strips on top. And if you're J, you'll squeeze a little fresh lime juice on there. Enjoy!!

*I should add, I've used this recipe to use up turkey leftovers after Thanksgiving, and it works great!*

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On Thin Ice

I am typing this post with my one good hand, and my one severely bruised, aching hand. Folks, I fell on the ice. And the hardest part? It was self-inflicted. I put myself if the position to fall, hard, on a big ol' slab of ice.

My friend texted me yesterday morning as I was taking my girl to school, asking if we would like to go ice skating with her and her two sweet, adorable kiddos. Of course I said yes. This open skate thing is a smokin' deal, as in FREE. Free skate rental, free ice time. I was reasonably excited, tempered only by the fact that I have not put my feet in skates for 20 years.

When I was a girl, I couldn't wait for winter. We had a small pond near our house, and as soon as my parents decided it was frozen enough, I strapped on my skates and glided across the ice for hours at a time. Winter Olympics were my favorite thing in the world, namely the figure skating. I begged my mother for the same colored skates the women wore, convinced that if I had those, I could become the next Nancy Kerrigan. But apparently, they were not available in Small Town USA, and since this was before the dawn of the internet, I had to kiss my dreams of Olympic Gold goodbye.

Fast-forward 20 years. I put on my size 9 skates, walked ever-so-gracefully out to the rink, then baby-step skated around the perimeter of the rink for the first half hour, keeping a death grip on the wall the entire time. When I felt reasonably comfortable leaving the wall, I ventured toward the middle of the ice. Four year old kids were flying by me. I was wobbling and flailing my arms, do my level best to stay upright. After a good 15 minutes, I started feeling confident and increased my speed to snail. I was cruising along, talking to my friend, when all of a sudden things went south, in a hurry. Namely me. One moment I was upright, then next I was not. On the way down I thought, "Ohnothisisgonna..." THUD! "OHGOODLORDITHURTS!!! I KNEW IT WOULD, AND IT DOES!!!! IS THERE A CHIROPRACTOR IN THE HOUSE?! I'M PRETTY SURE I JUST FRACTURED MY COCCYX! AN INTERNIST, PERHAPS?! YEAH, I'M CERTAIN I'VE RUPTURED MY SPLEEN!!"

When I was young and flying across the ice, I was fearless. Sure I fell, a lot. But I got right back up, never thinking twice about the bumps and bruises. Now I'm afraid to fall. Mostly because I know it's gonna hurt, and it's gonna hurt for a long time. No jumping right back up for me these days...

But, I got back up, with the help of my friend, and got right back on that ice horse, taking dozens more laps around the rink before calling it a night. When we got home, I examined my extensive injuries. Well okay, injury. When I fell, I landed on the flat of my hand, sending my wrist bones up into my shoulder. I hit so hard, my knit gloves left a pattern of tiny blood blisters where the threads were jammed into the heel of my hand. I had a purple bruise the size of a quarter in the middle of my wrist. It was throbbing. Still, I felt like a bit of a baby.

When my husband came home, I showed him my battle scars, and his face went dead serious. Folks, my husband was a Navy Corpsman, translation medic. He was Doc. Doc's training was fairly extensive, but clearly did not include Sensitivity to BooBoos. If you have an infected toenail you want removed, Doc's your man. Heck, he'll take all ten if you ask. But a wicked paper cut? You're on your own. So when Doc's face turned serious, and he started studying my wrist intently, I knew this was no ordinary owie. He had me moving my hand, turning my arm, wiggling my fingers, and his concern seemed to be growing. Finally satisfied I would make it through the night, he said, "Well, I guess we'll know in the morning." Well, it's morning, and we know. It hurts. My range of motion is about one quarter of normal. But I have mustered, and vowed to push through the pain.

And this morning, The Girl asked when we could go skating again. My self-preservation instinct kicked in and I replied, "Oh, we'll see, maybe in a month, when Mommy's recovered..." We'll be back on the ice in a week, I'm afraid.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cat Scratch Fever

Now that the holiday season has reached its end, I feel I can spare a few minutes for my poor neglected blog. I am giving up time I could be spending packing away ornaments, snow villages, garlands, stockings and lights, but I feel a certain responsibility to update my readership on a somewhat regular basis. The sacrifices I make...

It has been a glorious two weeks, spent doing almost nothing, which was not at the top of my To Do List. I had grand plans; oh, the things I was going to accomplish! However, it didn't happen. Instead, my husband happened. Oh yes, he's had two weeks off as well, and somehow, his spur-of-the-moment remodel plans have chewed through my days. This wouldn't be in issue, if he hadn't chosen to begin the first of them on the 21st of December. But really, is there a better time to decide to rip down an entire wall of lathe and plaster than three days before a major holiday? I think not. So I was overjoyed when he announced that he was going to do that very thing. To one of our dining room walls. In the main part of the house. Mere days before my family was set to arrive. Can't you just feel my excitement? So there I was, in the throes of holiday preparations, staring down the barrel of construction. Fine. I'll just clean the house, bake five million cookies, wrap just as many gits, shop and cook and do well, everything while The Man takes his testosterone out on an innocent wall. And I'll just deal with the dust later!

He was making pretty good time with the whole thing, so I started feeling better about his decision to throw a big ol' monkey wrench into my festive season. Part of the project meant removing base trim, which revealed parts of the hardwood floor not previously finished and stained. Lord knows we had to have that done before the guests started to arrive. So on the night of the 23rd, he stained the floor and put on a coat of polyurethane to seal it up real good. I was blissfully wrapping the six millionth present, watching the Gnome Mobile with our daughter, and only half paying attention to his antics. Until he strolled into the living room and informed us that he had established a barricade to keep us off his precious floor. Then it hit me. G and I can walk around, but I guarantee that our cats will go right for the still-wet poly. And they did. Well, one of them did. Marley is not the brightest star in the sky. She's a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Her elevator doesn't go past the first floor. When she walks, her brain forgets to tell her back end to move. In other words, Marley is Special. So I asked my beloved, "Do you have a plan for keeping the cats out of there my sweets?" "No, they'll figure it out." The smart one did. But when Marley came hopping into the living room, shaking her paws and licking for all her worth, I knew she had not in fact 'figured it out'. This is when it occurred to me that polyurethane might be slightly toxic, and at that very moment, she was licking just as much of it as she could. "Great, how am I supposed to get that off her feet?!?!?!" Mr. Helpful suggested warm soapy water might do the trick. From his spot on the couch. It's a good thing I keep him around...

I have attempted to bathe cats before. I think it should be an Olympic Sport. For sheer entertainment value, there's no better bang for your buck than watching someone attempt to fling a little soap and water on a cat. Google "how to bathe a cat" sometime, and see what you come up with. I'd appreciate any pointers. So, I heaved a huge sigh, something any husband worth his salt would take as a sign that he was in trouble, huffed into the kitchen and ran a sink full of soapy water. I then huffed back to the living room, heaved an even bigger sigh, which meant he was sleeping on the couch that night, grabbed the offending feline, made the sign of the cross, hugged my baby goodbye, and headed back for the sink. Ten minutes later, I was thanking my lucky stars we had decided to remove her front claws. And all I did was wash her feet; the rest of her was bone dry. I was soaked. Head to toe. My right arm was bleeding from the ten-inch laceration she'd given me as she crawled up the front of me, I was covered in cat hair, and looked like I'd just been through a tornado. But her feet were clean!

I sank down into the chair, let out the world's biggest sigh and asked, "How are you going to keep the cats out of there until it dries?" "I DON'T KNOW BUT IT'LL BE DRY SOON!!!!" He's still sleeping on the couch.

We managed to put the house back together, eat our way through two days of family fun, and come out of it all with a beautiful new dining room wall. Merry Christmas to us! And for those of you who were wondering, the cat is just fine.