Sunday, February 28, 2010

Introducing Gigi Brulee

Yesterday was not one for the books. The great part was that my alter ego (more on her later) made an appearance, and turned things around for me. I'm going to blame a large part of yesterday's behavior on Please Makit Stop...So there. Deal with it. It started out as a grand morning, filled with blueberry pancakes by the dozens, as my brain shut off halfway through mixing the batter. I recently purchased and promptly read, cover-to-cover, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. This gal is a woman after my own heart and stomach. No, she's not a cannibal, but her wit, humor, cooking savvy, photog skills and overall likability make her one of my new (virtual) best friends. Huge Kudos to Tammy for crawling under my rock long enough to say, "Hey! You! Check out P-Dub!! She's fab!!" Anyway, one of her first recipes to go through my test kitchen was the Sour Cream Pancakes, to which I added fresh blueberries. This has become WyoBaby's new fave food, and in the last two weeks, she's consumed it on five different occasions. They're light, fluffy and oh-so-simple. The first few times, I made a regular batch, but quickly realized we were a few 'cakes shy of full bellies. So yesterday, I decided to make 1 1/2 batches. This went well, up until the third ingredient, when my brain, which betrays me on a daily basis, kicked into double-batch mode. Having finally realized this, I had to go back and add more of the first two ingredients, resulting in enough batter to feed 10 people. But Lord love him, J plowed through those pancakes with a gusto not seen in days! I think it was the fuzzy green, light-up St. Patrick's Day Pimp Hat he donned for breakfast which gave him the little boost in appetite...

Put this hat in the following pic, and you'll discover the vision seated next to me at the breakfast table. Happy Sunday morning to me!!

After the great pancake feast of '10, my beloved husband and child headed for the hills, leaving Yours Truly to tackle the breakfast dishes. Fine, thank you very much. So after shining the kitchen, I moved on to bigger and better things, such as vacuuming. This would be where things went downhill faster than a dog covered in Crisco (inside joke, courtesy PH!). I have been telling J for a solid year that I loathe and despise our vacuum. You may remember we have two cats, and those two produce the hair of four, I swear. Most of our flooring is hardwood, so the extent of my vacuuming is three good size area rugs and two bedrooms. Consequently, I don't really feel I'm asking too much of the ol' Dirt Devil, and yet, it insists on tormenting me. Daily. I could almost swear it sits in the closet at night and, with the help of my mop and broom, plots new and exciting ways to turn me into a quivering mass of nerves. Yesterday was no exception; the only thing different was how I defended myself against my enemy's strategic manueverings. After spending five minutes running the dang thing over the rug in our office, something in me snapped. I believe it was right around the moment I realized it would have taken less time for me to get down on my hands and knees and pick up the debris than I had just spent willing the vacuum to work. The house was empty at the time. All of a sudden, in true toddler fashion, I threw down the vacuum and burst into tears. As my hot angry tears streamed down my cheeks, it occurred to me that this was doing nothing to improve my situation. I wiped my snot and tears on my shirt sleeve (it was a ratty sweatshirt!), sucked in my bottom lip, picked up the Dang Devil, and stomped out of the room. After slamming it down on the dining room floor, I opened up my laptop and clicked on iTunes, knowing somewhere in there lay the key to my sanity. After waiting 10 minutes for it to open, (my PC has also caused me to bawl like a baby, in despair of how SLOW its processor has become) I set out to find some pick-me-up tunes. Now, I don't shop the Top 10 because if I did, I'd be listening to the same songs as every 16 year-old in America. I like to check out the What We're Listening To section. It was there I found a little jewel entitled Preservation: An Album to Benefit Preservation Hall & The Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program (that would be the abbreviated title). The album pic alone was enough to grab my attention, so I previewed a coupla songs, and was hooked y'all. The beauty is, it was a smokin' deal! Twenty-five songs for $13.99; how can a girl go wrong? So I clicked Buy Album, and used the last of WyoBaby's gift card to restore my sanity. (I now owe her some downloads, but it was TOTALLY worth it!) People, you need to check out this collection. It is jazz at its best. As soon as the first song began to play, I was no longer WyoMomma, Housecleaning Lunatic Extraordinaire, I was Gigi Brulee, (I'm a foodie, whadya want from me? It's one of my fave desserts!) sitting at a beat-up wooden table, sipping whiskey in a N'oleans jazz dive, watching through the smoky haze as a mysterious stranger headed my way. (Household appliances reduce to me a sobbing, slobbering mess; I have a penchant for drama, okay?) As I let the sultry jazz notes seep into my brain, I felt the tension melt away, and regained my perspective. Good music is some of the best therapy out there.

This morning, having returned to a more sane version of Moi, I hopped on the ol' World Wide Web (thank you Al Gore!) and began researching vacuums. I have found The One. It's a Hoover, and all the reviews say it's pretty much the best thing since New York Cheesecake. Of course, I started out thinking I needed (like the very air I breathe) a Dyson, but have since changed my mind. And for the record, that was in no way a result of J stating, point-blank, that we WOULD NOT be shelling out big bucks for said machine. Totally unrelated. Came to that conclusion all by myself, right after I put on my Big Girl Panties.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

This Round's on Me Baby!

Every parent has a moment or two when they're caught up short. It happens when the Fruit of Your Loins takes a little mirror and shines it on the lessons you've been teaching them. The reflection isn't always pretty. But on a good day, it might be wrapped in humor, so that makes it easier to look at.

I'm not one to turn down a glass of wine in the evenings. It's yummy, and oh-so-relaxing after a particularly trying day. Like when you run into a Rude Little Rascal Driver (last time Tammy, I swear!). If you look at a previous post of mine, you'll see the empty wine bottle in the background of a pic of WyoBaby. I did not consume its contents in one sitting. Let the record show that the witness does not frequently go on Cab benders.

When I purchase a bottle of the Nectar of the Gods, WyoBaby is usually with me. WyoBaby is with me when I do most things. I'm a mom, and the nature of that role means I have said Baby in tow as I gallivant all over town, running a million errands. On one such day, I pulled up to the local drive-up, and my kiddo said, "Mom, I'm thirsty, can I have a Sprite?" Sure, why not? "I'll have a bottle of Red Diamond Cabernet, and a can of Sprite for WyoBaby. Thanks!" I really didn't think much of it until weeks later. At her orchestra concert, no less.

Every spring, all the schools in the district put on a concert in the Jr. High Auditorium. This means that about 500 hundred kiddos cram onto a stage with their violins to play five variations of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It's stinkin' cute. But that many little bodies, combined with all the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends in the audience, turns that place into a Bessemer Furnace. No, my storytelling isn't prone to exaggeration, why do you ask? Folks, it's stinkin' hot in that place.

During this particular performance, two years ago, all the little fiddlers had made their way onto the stage and belted out the first rendition of Twinkle, when a sweet little girl who is near and dear to my heart, lost her dinner, center stage. That's how hot it was in there. Another little guy sent up rescue flairs, until his Momma walked up to the stage and helped him down. They were dropping like flies up there! And the audience wasn't faring any better. I'm fairly certain I lost five pounds as I turned into a puddle in my seat. It was like being in a sweat lodge, only we hadn't forked over big bucks for the pleasure...

The performance concluded without further incident, and all those little ones filed off stage, making their way into the audience, where they joined their families, to watch the older kids' concert. WyoBaby was sweating like none other, but still felt the need to sit on my lap. She puts off some heat, people. I continued to puddle, and her little cheeks reached a healthy shade of beet. At one point, she whispered in my ear, "I'm soooo thirsty! After this, can we stop at the liquor store and get me a Sprite?" I did my best to suppress my laughter, since the high school kids were in the middle of Henry Mancini, and whispered back, "Baby, we don't have to go to the liquor store to get Sprite, we can get that at the grocery store." "Oh, okay, well then can we go to the store after this a get me a Sprite?" How could I say no?

Just remember, your little ones make all sorts of connections you might not be aware of. So don't be surprised when they ask you to swing by the local watering hole to grab them a cold one. Pop, that is.

Mmmm...Chicken Enchiladas

This is one of J's faves. He prefers corn tortillas, which pretty much goes without saying, but the flour ones are easier to handle...Whichever you choose, throwing them in the oven while it preheats will help soften them; just don't forget to take them out, otherwise they'll turn crispy. This is the voice of experience talking!

Cody's Chicken Enchiladas

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 small onion, diced
1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup salsa verde or green chile salsa (any brand you prefer)
4 or 7 oz can diced green chiles (or jalapenos if you're feeling sassy!)
1 pkg low-sodium taco seasoning
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
3 cloves garlic,smashed & peeled (more if you want)
1 tsp kosher salt
4 oz can chopped or sliced black olives (optional)
finely grated cheddar cheese (as much as you want, keeping in mind it will soak up moisture, so you may need to add more liquid to your mix)
large handful cilantro, roughly chopped
package of flour or yellow corn tortillas
heavy cream (a good amount)
Kosher salt
Monterey Jack cheese, grated

First thing, wrap tortillas in foil and put in oven. Begin preheating oven to 350.
If using chicken breasts, cube and brown in a skillet. Put in large bowl. Otherwise, just shred the rotisserie chicken & put in bowl. Melt butter in skillet, add onions and saute briefly. Add to bowl. Add ingredients through oregano. Put garlic on cutting board, sprinkle with kosher salt and mash with a fork to make a paste, add to chicken mixture. Add olives, cheddar and cilantro, and season with fresh ground pepper. Stir well to combine.
Pour enough heavy cream in a shallow bowl to dip tortillas. Add some salt to the heavy cream to season, stir to combine. One at a time, dip a tortilla in cream, fill with chicken mix, roll and place in 9x13 casserole dish. Pour any remaining cream over top of enchiladas, adding more to make desired amount of sauce. Sprinkle with a generous amount of Monterey Jack, bake 30-45 minutes until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven, let rest five minutes before serving. Garnish with Cilantro Cranberry Sauce if desired.

Cilantro Cranberry Sauce

1 can whole fruit cranberry sauce (I like Ocean Spray brand)
1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
large handful cilantro, roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 lime

Stir to combine.
This will have some heat to it. If you can't handle it, adjust the chile powder. Momma likes the heat, so this works for me!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


The following story does not cast Yours Truly in a flattering light. Turns out I'm quite flawed (as flawed as the day is long, in fact), and yesterday was a case in point. I would like to begin by saying that I try to be a nice person. Sometimes I fail miserably, but then again, sometimes I do okay. For example: I was loading my groceries into the car in the Walmart parking lot the other day when a little wisp of a woman called out to me, a perfect stranger, for help. Turns out she'd purchased forty pounds of wild bird seed, but couldn't heft it out of the cart and into the backseat under her own power. So I stepped up. She offered to help me lift it, and when I yanked it out of that cart without so much as batting an eye, she said, "Oh my, that's so heavy; you're quite strong!" Actually I'm not, but she thought I was, and that's all that counts. So I heaved it onto the backseat, and asked, "Now, do you have someone at home who will help you get this out of the car?" Folks, I was poised to offer assistance in the unloading of the wild bird seed if needed, but she assured me she did indeed have someone waiting to help her. I only hope they were as strong as I... The point of this little tale is not to glorify my kindness or bulging muscles, but to highlight the fact that I'm happy to go out of my way to help others. Most of the time. But yesterday? Not so much.

At the start of this story, I'm going to stop all you would-be nasty commentators with this one statement: I'm sure they are plenty of folks cruising around in motorized carts who are perfectly pleasant and polite. There. I'm not going to say that everyone who operates a Little Rascal is rude. I am going to say that every person I've encountered cruising the aisles of the local Walmart in one is. Let the nasty comments begin!

Let's just recap yesterday afternoon, shall we? I picked up WyoBaby from school and told her we had to make a quick dash into Wally World for just one or two things. We did swing by Starbucks on the way, because she needed sustenance in the form of bacon and gouda, and I needed caffeine.

I found an excellent parking spot, so I whipped the little PT Cruiser in, and we hopped out, ready to make the mad dash through Walmart. One of the items on my list was Epsom Salts, because I had a hangnail which got a little infected, and needed a soak in said salts. (Too much info, right?) Anywho, the Epsom Salts are located in the 'fiber aisle', so I stopped to look at all my choices. Let's face it, fiber is a good thing to have in your diet, and I was running low, so I decided to pick up some more. I had WyoBaby park the cart at the end of the aisle so I wouldn't be blocking traffic while I perused. As I read all the various labels, and tried to sort out which would be the best choice for getting things in my life movin' and groovin', I heard the faint sound of a motorized cart. I really wasn't paying attention, and after a minute or so, the noise stopped, so I figured the cart had moved on. Until I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and a pair of eyes boring holes into the back of my head. As I turned to find the owner of those eyeballs, I swear I could hear The Good, The Bad and The Ugly playing in the background. This guy had parked his cart across the opening of the aisle, creating a barricade. I was trapped. And he was shooting me all sorts of crusty glares. I was not blocking the aisle, people! I was tucked up against one of the shelves, reading labels. But this guy was staring me down as if I'd killed his first born child! So I said, "Oh, I'm sorry, am I in your way?" And I meant it! I try to be cognizant of the aisle space I occupy, so I don't get in peoples' way. To which he replied, "Oh no, that's fine, don't you worry. I've got all the time in the world." Only the way he said it didn't sound so nice. "I'm sorry sir, but all you needed to say was, 'Excuse me Miss (not Ma'am), can I get through?' and I would've moved!" "Well, I was just waiting for you to finish, because I didn't want to just whip in there and run you over!" It was the sarcasm dripping from his every syllable which made me think he didn't give a rat's patootie about my safety, and wouldn't have thought twice about running me over, backing up, and running me over again, if it weren't for all those pesky witnesses. I became so flustered I grabbed the first box I saw, threw it in my cart, and scrambled to get out of his way. And you know what? He motored his little cart into that aisle, and didn't even stop! He reached the end and turned the corner! He wasn't even after anything in that aisle!! Well y'all, I snapped. Like a twig. On a tree. In the Sahara. In the middle of thirty-year drought. I turned to the woman next to me, who had witnessed the whole ugly incident and said, "Well! Apparently, driving one of those little carts gives you the right to be rude!!" When my friend Tammy reaches this point in the story, she's going to send me a text, telling me I need to talk to Jesus. And she's right. But in the heat of battle, I lost it. I don't usually do things like that. But not only did I say it, I said it loud enough for that rude little man to hear three aisles away! And this lady, bless her heart, said, "Yep, apparently it does!" Thank goodness she agreed with me, because I was so fired up at this point, I wouldn't have thought twice about ripping into her too. I told you I'm flawed. I try very hard to keep my temper under control. But yes, I yell at other drivers (from the safety of my car), and keep up a running commentary on the lack of driving skills demonstrated on the road. I lose my patience. Does that make it right? Heck no! Was I setting a good example for my girl? Heck no! Did I explain, hours later, when the steam had stopped rolling off my head, that my response was not appropriate? Yes. And did I shoot him a nasty glare when we met up again, on the other side of the store? Yes. (Still flawed. Just in case you'd forgotten.)

There you have it. My showdown in the laxative aisle in Walmart. Epic, right? This was not a proud moment for me. But I wanted to share it with you, as a way of reminding myself to behave better next time. And to warn you about motorized carts. Alright Tammy, I'm done!! I'll be nice; I'll talk to Jesus! I will remind myself that next time a rude little man throws down the gauntlet, I need to step around it and move on, rather than grabbing it up and throwing it right back in his face. I'll smile sweetly and say, "I'd be happy to move out of your way!" That' what I'm shooting for anyway...

Saturday, February 20, 2010


This is why I am now changing my handle to WyoMomma:

Clearly this is not the outfit a Fashion Baby would wear; this is more of a WyoBaby getup. So's this one:

I am totally okay with this; WyoMomma is more my style.
Happy Saturday!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Welcome to My Zoo

How to care for your new Sea Monkeys: Find a plastic container (I like to use Tupperware), add water and Sea Monkey Water Conditioner. Let rest 24 hours. Open Sea Monkey Eggs package, dump contents into water. Replace lid on plastic container, put in a north-facing window. Now, here's the important part - walk away. Make the welfare of your Sea Monkeys the farthest thought from your mind. Ignore them for a good two weeks. Wait until your Fashion Baby decides she's ready to admit her Sea Monkeys are dead. As you're cleaning your kitchen the next day, take plastic container out of window, remove lid and prepare to dump Sea Monkey carcasses down the sink. Hesitate for a moment when you think you might have just seen the slightest movement in the water. Upon closer inspection, realize the Sea Monkeys are not only alive, but thriving! To no one in particular yell out, "I'll be danged!! The things are alive!!!" Realize you're talking to yourself again, and decide to blawg about it instead.

Welcome to an average day in Fashion Momma's Zoo. In the course of my day, I make sure two cats have food and water and scoop their box. In a show of appreciation for the latter chore, they hop in a nano-second after I'm done, scratch, squat and bury. After all, you can't let a clean litter box go to waste!! When I change the litter, I can feel two pairs of eyes boring into the back of my head, waiting for the moment they can leap into the clean litter. I'm convinced they will hold it, no matter how badly they need to go, if they know there's a chance clean litter is in their future.

I also check on Bob the Frog, who is probably the most low-maintenance pet a person could have. Bob is a man a few words, unless it's 5 a.m. on a Spring morning. When Spring rolls around, Bob starts calling for the female frogs in the neighborhood. Bob fancies himself a ladies' man, and I just don't have the heart to break it to him that he will never see a lady frog again. But other than his early morning ribbits and croaks, we don't hear a peep out of him. Unless he forgets there's a mesh cover over his tank and goes for a flying leap across his 'pond', aka tank. Fashion Baby captured Bob last summer at a local pond, and it's taken him awhile to realize he can no longer go for his personal best in the long jump. When he tries, he hits the mesh cover so hard it makes a fantastic bang, which has caused this Momma to leap out of her skin in the wee hours of the night. And yes, a part of me feels bad about the fact that Bob's habitat is now one-eighth the size it used to be. So please, don't give me grief over Bob. Fashion Baby loves him, and he's well cared for. He's fed live crickets on a regular basis, because Bob refuses to eat his food if it isn't still moving when he swallows it.

At one point in time, we also had an African Tree Frog, Sandy. Fashion Baby determined on her own that Sandy was female, and no amount of questioning would change her mind. The problem with Sandy was she needed more of a rainforest environment, and we don't have many of those in these parts. So, when the temp dropped below 50, Sandy hopped her way to the Great Rainforest in the Sky. We left her in the tank a bit longer than we should have, and then one day, when my baby had a small boy over for a play date, the two of them decided to perform an autopsy on one Sandy the Tree Frog, deceased. They documented their findings, even diagrammed her teeny skeleton, and gave a full report. Cause of death was undetermined, but they were able to rule out foul play. When the small boy's mother found out they'd been handling the carcass, she kinda freaked a tiny bit, something about it being unsanitary...But I made sure they scrubbed all the way up to their elbows when they were done, and then the bones were tossed.

Fashion Baby tends to handle the loss of pets fairly well. Before either of the cats came onto the scene, she was the proud owner of Pebbles the Hamster. While the rodent was rather cute, I loathed the job of cleaning its cage. Loathed it, people! I'd rather scrub toilets with a toothbrush than clean a hamster cage, but I did it. Regularly. Because my baby loved her hamster. But one day, Fate smiled on me, and when I went to feed Pebbles, I discovered she would no longer require food or water. I dreaded telling Fashion Baby, because I knew she would be heartbroken, but when I broke the news, her response was, and I quote, "Ewwwww!! That's gross!!! Will you please throw that away?! Yuck!! Oh, can I have a cat?" Clearly this was a front to hide her pain. I'm sure she was weeping on the inside...

So along came the cats, one at a time, and then Bob, and Sandy, and a dozen fish here and there (all of whom received a proper burial at sea). And most recently? Two dwarf African Water Frogs, each about an inch in size. They came in a cute little acrylic cube, complete with gravel, bamboo and water. All you have to do is feed them twice a week, and add bottled water when the tank gets low. This was the baby's Valentine's Day gift, and I dropped a buck or two on it, I'll admit. Things went swimmingly for a day or two, until I found a floater. I swear people, frogs are not my forte. So the cats and I performed yet another burial at sea. When I texted the news to my friend Tammy, the response was, "Well, that's 34 bucks well spent, eh?" That's what I love about Tammy; she can always find the silver lining...So we're down to one water frog. And then yesterday, we purchased an orange Beta fish, (how cool is that color?!), and put it in a glass vase with orange glass beads and a plant. So far, so good.

So there you have it, my zoo. Final tally: two cats, two frogs, one fish. And Sea Monkeys. For now...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy (belated) Valentine's Day

It's way past my bedtime, but having just returned from the late showing of Valentine's Day, I'm a bit wired. And what better thing to do when I'm wide awake than put fingers to keys and make some sense of the crazy machinations of my brain train? It's not as if I should be trying to wind down, in the hopes of getting a sweet hour or two of sleep before rising bright and early to yell at my girl to "GET UP NOW!!! IT'S TIME FOR SCHOOL!!!" So, welcome to my midnight ramblings!

I went to this movie with some girlfriends, which is probably the best, and let's face it, only, way to see this flick. We laughed uproariously at all the funny parts (Taylor Swift/Taylor Lautner characters were particularly side-splitting), 'aaawww'ed at the sweet parts, sighed at the touching parts, and got a little teary-eyed when the movie got good and sappy, as any decent chick flick does! I'm quite sure that none of our husbands would have voluntarily gone to see this movie. We're talking a chick flick, entitled Valentine's Day, which opened on...well, you get the idea. That would just be too much. The combination of the whole scenario might in fact blow a hole in the universe, or render their Man Cards permanently null and void, or gasp!! destroy the space-time continuum!! And we all know that one of their jobs, as men, is to safeguard said continuum. Heck, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd traveled all over time, in THREE movies, doing that very thing. They electrocuted themselves, got in numerous fist fights (mostly because some version of Biff called Marty 'chicken'), got shot at by black market plutonium dealers, and sent a train flying over a cliff. No man worth his salt would risk destroying all of that hard work to go see this movie, no matter what his refusal cost him on the home front!

Before heading out the door to hop into the back seat of Susan's minivan, I gave J and the girl specific instructions. Mostly, I reminded J to put the food away, as I had not had the time to do so before the movie. And to G, I lovingly said, "Remember, you need to study for your math test, and read your book before bed." As we headed to the theater, all giggles and girl chat, the little nagging thought in the back of my mind was, "J is NOT going to put the food away. The two of them are going to get distracted with other things, and then they'll both crash on the bed, with the t.v. on, and I'll come home and have to put the food away, I just know it!" But as soon as the movie started, and all these actors (so many!) started losing love and finding new love, that little thought ran and hid deep in my subconscious. For two hours, I had a blast, laughing it up with my girlfriends. And even when we had to turn around and go back to the theater because Amy forgot her wallet!!!, and sit there and wait for some teenage "I don't care what happened lady, just get your wallet and get out" punk to walk by the doors so she could run in and find her wallet, sitting there waiting for her, I was still having a fabulous time. You know when you really enjoy a movie, you start quoting the best lines as you're walking out of the theater? Well that's what we were doing, and it was a hoot!!

When I got home, the house was pretty dark, and my two beloveds were catching flies on the bed, Food Network blaring from the t.v. I walked into the kitchen, fully expecting to find a mess, and folks, you could've knocked me over with a feather boa! J had put the food away! Well, all except the angel food cakes, which I knew wouldn't get put away, because they were not in the Food Zone; rather, they were hiding on the table. I saw them sitting there before I left, and had the brief thought that I should probably put them away, because no one would notice them sitting there, but I was too excited for the flick to see that inspiration through. But here's the best part: I smiled to myself, standing there in that kitchen, because I knew exactly what the Gruesome Twosome would do, and they did it.

Hollywood does a spectacular job of making love a grand thing, complete with swelling music at the romantic climax, soft lighting, perfect chance encounters, beautiful people, and those scenes when the one person finally realizes who they really love, and they go running after them, and catch them just in time, and when they find them, they breathlessly pour their hearts out, and they kiss, and live happily ever after, and no one ever has morning breath, or funky bed-head hair, or gains a single pound, or loses a single hair from their head. And seeing all that is a great way to spend a few hours on a break from reality, but honestly, I prefer reality. My love is walking into our house, seeing the two people who fill my life with joy, craziness, stress, happiness, tears, laughter, silliness, frustration, worry, peace, hope, kindness and love. My love is suddenly realizing I know them so well, I can predict their moves, right up to the point they do a total 180 on me. It's standing in the kitchen, looking past the sink full of dirty dishes, and seeing the meal we've shared as a family. It's seeing the big smile on my daughter's face as she runs into my arms after school, and seeing my husband walk through the door at the end of the day with a smile on his face and a kiss for me. And Hollywood has nothing on those moments.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Which Wednesday? Ash Wednesday!

I love Jesus; my family loves Jesus; my best friends love Jesus, and we celebrate His ultimate sacrifice for all of us. And this time of year, our thoughts go to that most beautiful gift of love. However, our house doesn't participate in Ash Wednesday the way other believers do. I am making no judgments either way. And I will admit that the extent of my knowledge of Ash Wednesday observation is that when you go to mass, you get the sign of the Cross on your forehead. When I was in school, it took me forever to realize that's what the black marks were on my classmates' foreheads. So in my ignorance, I would say, "Ummm, you got a little something on your face; it might be pencil lead...just lettin' ya know." And in return for my 'helpfulness', I got an, "Ummm yeah, it's Ash Wednesday, and that's the sign of the Cross (duuuhhh)." So I felt a bit silly and totally out of the loop, and that was all I knew about Ash Wednesday.

So last night, my baby girl was sitting on the couch with me when she suddenly announced, "I have to decide what I'm going to give up! That starts tomorrow!!" J looked at her as if she had two heads, but I knew exactly what she was talking about, because I had just discussed this very thing with my friend Tammy, when I picked up my girl from her house. You see, Tammy's small boy has been going to Logos Bible Study with one of his little buddies, and last week they were learning all about Ash Wednesday, and giving up things for Lent, and all those things. Naturally, the boy needed to share his newly acquired knowledge, not only with his family, but with my girl as well. He informed his father that if he would go with him to Logos, they could have dinner together, and then write their sins down on a piece of paper (showing NO ONE!), then place them at the Cross, and set them on fire. "And if you're really good, you get ash on your forehead." So the boy is jazzed for Ash Wednesday, and was encouraging his loving parents to choose what they were going to give up for Lent. My girl picked up on his excitement, and decided she needed to get in on the whole Lent thing for herself. And people, I am all about making sacrifices for God and Jesus, so long as my girl understands why she's making that sacrifice.

I tried to explain why people give things up for Lent, but I'm not sure how much sunk in, so I think we'll revisit the topic in the near future. Mostly I think the message was lost on my baby because she was going through a mental checklist of what she could give up, and carrying on a conversation with herself the whole time. Finally, she announced, "I think I'll give up video games!!" To which I replied, "Wow baby, that's impressive! I know how much you love to play those video games, so that will be a big sacrifice for you. Are you going to stick with it when you go visit Diane?" Diane is our wonderful neighbor, a retired international flight attendant, who is a hoot, and whom my daughter adores. When we get home in the afternoons, she hits the ground running, straight for Diane's front door, and she hangs there for hours, eating all sorts of yummy things, spoiling Pinkie the Cat, and playing the Wii. Naturally, I had my doubts as to the strength of my girl's resolve when faced with having to give up her Wii-ing at Diane's, but she's solid as a rock. "Well Mom, I do love my video games, but really, what else would I give up? I mean, I can't give up you and Dad, becuase you're my parents, and I love you and need you (Oh Lord, I love this child). And, I can't give up food, because I have to eat to stay healthy (She's right, she does. The girl is teeny tiny, and cannot afford to skip a meal). I could give up my bed, but then I'd just be sleeping on the floor, and probably wouldn't get very good sleep, and then I wouldn't be alert in school, and I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't want that to happen, so I need to keep my bed. And Mom, I can't give up my cats, because they're FAMILY, so that's out. So that pretty much leaves video games." People, she's nine going on 49; she is so wise. Meanwhile, J was on the other couch, silent as the grave. "Dad, what do you think you should give up?" I'm pretty sure he was pretending to sleep, rather than actually sleeping, but either way, silence. I could hear crickets in the background. Moving on then..."Mom, how about you? What would you give up?" Lord, I love my daughter, and I love the strength of her faith, but sometimes, she hits me a little too close to home. "Gee baby, I don't know. Let me think about it, and I'll get back to you."

Maybe I should give up sweets. I adore a good dessert, but they don't love me back, so that might be something I could give up. And it might benefit my waistline, in addition to my faith. But today is the day people! It's zero hour, and I haven't come up with an idea yet. I have precious few hours to make a choice, before my kiddo comes home and quizzes me. Ah, the faith of children. Time to go through my mental checklist. But I will tell you right now, Starbucks is NOT AN OPTION. Not at all. People would get hurt if I went without my venti extra hot mocha for a period of more than 36 hours. Starbucks is my weakness, and I'm pretty sure they put something 'extra' in the coffee to keep ya comin' back for more. I can't prove it of course, but still...addicting. The thing is, I am totally secure in my 'Bucks addiction, because the people I hold near and dear to my heart are equally hooked. So no one is about to hold an intervention: "We love you Fashion Momma, but your Starbucks consumption is out of control. It's taken over your life, and we're so worried about you!" And here's what I would say to them, "Physician, heal thyself!" Total non-sequitur, but it works, so deal with it. In other words, if you're living in a house of glass, you might want to put the boulder down. I'm rambling aren't I? Good grief. What was I saying? Oh, Starbucks is off the list of potential sacrifices. Went and got one this a.m. before heading to school with my daugther, to help with math centers, and while there, I decided to grab a hot drink for her principal. When we got to school, he was on crossing guard duty, so I put it on his desk. And lo! What to my eyes should appear, but another cup of the good stuff! When he cruised into the classroom later on, I let him know I was aware he was double-dosing it, and he said, "That's totally fine, because I really need it today!" Not sure I want to know what was on his horizon, but it didn't sound sunny. So I'm thinking the 'Bucks is off his sacrifice list also.

So, happy Wednesday people! I hope you're having more success with your self-sacrifice than I am.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bouncing Back

Folks, I lead an exciting life. Please, don't be jealous. I get excited when I find the dryer sheets I love, when they've been gone from shelves for months!!

Scents I love: rainstorms, clean sheets, fresh laundry, warm cookies, my husband's cologne, you know, the usual. And, I really like my clothes to smell wonderful. About a year ago, I started using Bounce dryer sheets, and people began remarking how good my clothes smelled. So of course, I knew these were the sheets to stay with. See, exciting life, right? I get thrilled when I find great dryer sheets! So yes, my laundry smelled fabulous, and life was good. Until. Until I went to buy more in November, and the Walmart shelf was empty. As I felt the panic set in, I said to my daughter, "Ugh, they're out of my dryer sheets!!" Yes, I involve my nine year old in my shopping & laundry emergencies. They're never too young to learn the basics, you know. She stepped up, and together we scoured those shelves for the missing purple box. No luck. But it was okay, or so I thought, because the tag was still on the shelf where the boxes should be. I took that to mean they were just temporarily out, and the problem would be solved in short order. Yeah right. Week after week I went back to that shelf, hoping that would be the day my dryer sheets would be back. As time went on, I began to worry that Bounce had discontinued the fragrance, and that would explain the absence of the sheets which had made my life so wonderful. But the shelf tag remained, assuring me they would return. In the meantime, I checked other stores in town, to see if they still had luck. Some might say I was losing perspective over the whole thing, and I should have just picked a different fragrance and moved on with my life, but that's not how I roll.

When I find something I love, I stick with it. Until the manufacturer discontinues it, which seems to happen on a fairly regular basis. As a junior in high school, I started wearing Victoria's Secret Vanilla Lace perfume and lotion, and it became my signature scent. In another lifetime, I ran into my boyfriend (he was my ex at the time) at the local movie theater, and we were chatting for a bit after the movie. He confessed that he could tell the minute I walked into the theater, and knew it was me, because he could smell my perfume. Granted, he may have been exaggerating a bit, in order to get on my good side, but still. And then, Victoria broke my heart. She discontinued my Vanilla Lace! Yes, it was mine, and she took if from me!! I'm sure this kind of thing happens to other women too. Well I know it does, because I read the reviews and comments on the Bath & Body Works site, and often they express frustration over discontinued scents.

So back to (my) reality: No dryer sheets to be found in any stores. Oh the humanity! And then, about a month ago, the storm broke and the sun shone through, for one glorious moment. I ran into the grocery store just blocks away from our house, my daughter in tow, after just a few items, and my quick trip turned into a scouring of each and every aisle. I can't help it, I'm a shopper. It's one of the things I do. As I merrily guided my mini cart (which are so cute!) down the narrow aisles, I spied it. As I walked up to the shelf, I could hear angelic choirs, and the boxes glittered like so many golden treasures. There they were, the Holy Grail of dryer sheets, my dryer sheets!! Better yet, they had been marked down for clearance! I practically shouted from the rooftops, "They're here!!! I found them, life makes sense again!!!" I'm fairly certain every Safeway patron heard me exclaim to my daughter, "OH MY GOSH, I FOUND THEM, AND THEY'RE ON SALE!!!"

We quickly threw the four remaining boxes in the cart, and my daughter gave the shelf a good once-over, just to be sure we hadn't left a man behind. For a fleeting moment, I stepped out of my shopping euphoria and said, "I don't know, Kiddo, do you think I should buy them all?!" And this is where I got that most prized of confirmations, the ones which tell me I've done my job as a mother, "OH MY GOSH YES, MOM!! BUY THEM ALL, THEY'RE ON SALE, AND THEY WON'T HAVE MORE!!" So I did. What, I'm not going to take her advice? She's wise beyond her years! I walked out of that store with $20 worth of dryer sheets, and a new spring in my step. The first thing I did when I got them home was to tuck them neatly away in my laundry cupboard, and start a load of laundry, so I could use one right away! But I knew I had to be discerning about which loads got the good dryer sheets, and which ones got the 'alternative' dryer sheets. It had occurred to me on the trip home that if the store had put them on clearance, they might truly be discontinued,which was a confirmation of the fear which had been growing for months. And if that was the case, I was going to have to make them last, so I had to be discerning about how I used them. I devised a system of evaluation, in which laundry had to meet very stringent criteria before being issued a treasured dryer sheet. It went something like this, "Oh hello Mr. Towel. Thank you for your interest in the treasured dry sheets. I'm sorry, but I'm afraid your request for a good dryer sheet has been denied. This is not a reflection on you, or your importance in my life. It's just that I don't wear you, and therefore, the scent of the good dryer sheet would be wasted on you, as you sit in the linen cabinet. Please accept this other dryer sheet with my thanks for your continued service, and keep me in mind next time you're choosing a laundry service." It's my reality, and I'm quite happy in it...don't judge me too harshly.

All this time, that little thought about discontinuation kept popping up, until I finally went looking for answers. I found them on the Bounce website. When I received a response, it included a link I could use to locate stores in my area which carry the beloved sheets. Unfortunately, once I got to that page, I had no way to enter my zip code. However, I had been assured that they were not going to be taken from my life. But because I couldn't find them, though I searched high and low, I continued to ration. And then, wonder of wonders! I went down the laundry aisle in Walmart last week, and found a shelf chock full of the pretty purple boxes!! I nearly leapt out of my skin with joy, but I remained calm. Don't want people to think I'm some laundry nut...So now I can put an end to the rationing, and will be pleased to inform Mr. Towel that he will indeed be issued one of the good sheets. Ah, the bliss.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Just Drive It...

Okay, I have been very lax this past week and a half, so I might cram two or three posts into one day; we'll see how it goes...

A few weeks ago, we were headed to church, J at the wheel. All of sudden he asked, "How long has that been doing that?" To which I replied, "How long has what been doing what?" Folks, I knew exactly what he was referring to, but I still played the clueless wife card. That's right, I did it. But I did hear a whirring noise; turns out it was the sound of suffragettes making like spinning tops in their graves, because I had just set the Women's Movement back 100 years. Honestly, I don't do car stuff. I can put fuel in it, check the oil level, add windshield fluid and change a tire. I have even changed the spark plugs, but that was under a mechanic's supervision. So when J asked what the noise was, I was unwilling to admit that the car had in fact been making a funny noise for a week or two, and I had chosen to ignore it. I operate under the same theory my mom taught me as a young lass, when I would complain that my brother was bugging me. "Honey, if you ignore him, eventually it won't be fun for him anymore, and he'll stop." So yes, I ignore noises in the car; I figure if I do, they'll eventually cease. But when I can ignore them no longer, I tell J, and expect him to take care of it. After all, that's why I married him. Well that, and now I don't have to lift heavy things, kill bugs, open jars, or do any of that kind of stuff. Oh keep your bra on, Gloria Steinem! I'm just kidding. Sort of.

And on a separate note, I would've made a horrible Women's Lib-ette. You see, I have a 'unique' bra size, so I find myself plunking down many clams for a single bra, and would have a heck of a time turning around and setting fire to it. You just don't incinerate a beautiful black Panache, for crying out loud! But I digress...

My response to J was, "Oh, you mean that noise the tire is making? I dunno, a few days, I guess," to which my loving husband said, "Well! When Big Red started making that noise, it was the U-joint going out!" Apparently that's a big deal, as my friend Tammy pointed out to me when I later relayed the story to her and our friend Amy. "Oh yeah, if that joint goes out, the vehicle stops dead. Right there. You are no longer driving. That happened to me once, when I was driving the old sod farm pickup, and that was before the days of cell phones, and I was out in the middle of nowhere, so I had to WALK!" Clearly, the joint is vital to the operations of a vehicle. Who knew. "Okay J, where do you want me to take the car to have it looked at?" "I don't know." End of discussion. I continued to ignore the sound, and true to my theory, it went away. Ta da!!!

I told J the sound had stopped and he said, "Huh. Well maybe you had a big chunk of ice wedged in the wheel well somewhere..." Hah!! I'm not the only one who 'ignores' car issues. Of course, having now written this post, it is a feit accompli that my car problems are about to get a lot worse...

Monday, February 1, 2010


It's Monday, and for most of us, it is not our fave day of the week. Sometimes I feel bad for Monday, since it's so hated, but then I remember that it's a day on a calendar, lacking the awareness that it's despised, as well as the emotion to feel bad as a result of this knowledge. So, I come back from Crazy Lady Land, and resume not being a fan of Monday. The question is, 'How can I make Monday a more pleasant day?' The answer, of course, is chocolate. And what I'm about to share with you is basically the mother of all Monday fixes, my Better Than... Brownies. That's what my mom calls them. I'll let you fill in the blank, but only after you've baked these bad boys. I must warn you, these brownies are not friends to your hips, butt or thighs, but they make life oh so wonderful. But you should be careful, once people discover you can make these, you'll suddenly have more 'friends' than you ever realized. I like to bake a batch and deliver them, still warm, to my husband's office. While I realize the hearty greeting I receive is more for the brownies than myself, it's still fun to see their faces light up when I walk into the room. Sorta like strolling onto the Red Carpet, only instead of being asked which designer I'm wearing, I'm asked what's in the pan I'm carrying...

Anywho, here we go...

Better Than... Brownies

Go gather:
9x13 pan, unsalted butter, unsweetened chocolate, sugar, vanilla, salt, eggs, flour, walnuts. That's it. Pretty simple, right? I mean, a box mix has about the same number of ingredients, and this is way better. I'm just sayin'....

Preheat oven to 325. (In most baking recipes, I drop the oven temp 25 degrees. It's more forgiving, and helps prevent dry baked goods. So when you come across a recipe with a 350 temp, try decreasing it to 325, and see how it works. If it doesn't help, you can always leave me a comment such as, "Look lady, you don't what the heck you're talking about!!!)

Lightly butter the 9x13 pan, set aside.

1 Cup unsalted butter
6 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (Or you can do like I do, just break the squares up with your hands. Saves having to wash a cutting board and knife)
4 large eggs, brought to room temperature
2 Cups granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Cups walnuts, coarsely chopped (toss 'em in a little food processor and pulse for a second or two, if using whole walnuts)

In medium, heavy saucepan, combine butter and chocolate, and melt on low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Or use a double-boiler. Let cool.

In large mixer bowl, combine eggs and sugar, beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. You want the eggs really fluffy, trust me. If they aren't, your brownies will sink after you take them out of the oven, and you'll end up with dense, thin brownies. Not good. So, beat those eggs! Beat in cooled chocolate mixture, along with vanilla and salt. Stir in flour, just until blended. Pour into pan, smooth. Sprinkle walnuts on top. Bake until toothpick comes out almost clean. If it comes out clean, you've baked 'em too long. Usually takes about 35 minutes, but check at 30, just to be safe. Let cool, dive in. You're welcome.