Monday, December 29, 2008

Peanut Gallery

It was back to work after an extraordinarily light previous week, so I did it in style and put in 12 hours and three meals. Surprisingly easy, probably because I was so rested and, quite frankly, ready to return to my sometimes maddening but always entertaining residents and staff. Immediately following my shift, I donned my workout gear and headed to a vinyasa yoga class that I've been frequenting. Luckily, my yoga high didn't get me lost this time, and I came home afterward to a quiet, albeit crumby house (the kids apparently heated up last night's waffles for breakfast). (Is it exhausting how I can always make a short story long?)

I poked around the kitchen a bit, not particularly hungry, but always game for an inspired snack or salad, then gave up, lit a few candles and sat in my Chair of Fabulosity with a cookbook. This evening's cookbook was one I'd used for the first time just a few nights ago. Not without hesitation, I prepared a Spiced Peanut and Sweet Potato Soup for myself and the kids. Usually when I venture into less commonplace fare, I can win over one, maybe two of them. But this was a huge hit with all three. (I'm holding back the recipe for just a few days. I'll explain later.) I wanted to see what other secrets this magnificent manual might hold, so I began flipping through it, but was unable to get the peanut soup out of my mind.

So I did what any girl would do. I ran a bath. Quiet, cool night. No errands, no children. And shortly after I started the water, I looked in the fridge at the peanut butter. Inspiration was tickling my tastebuds. It was time to create. I checked the pantry and was elated to see a can of coconut milk. I knew I was onto something. And while the tub filled, I created a delightful peanut sauce for my broccoli. Sure, it could go on any number of foods, but I was craving something green and at hand.
Ginger's Peanut Sauce
1 c. lite coconut milk
1/3 c. natural peanut butter
1 t. Sriracha chile sauce
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 T. lime juice
1 t. minced garlic
1 t. grated ginger
1/2 t. salt

Combine over low heat. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

The only problem was that my bath was ruined. I soaked, impatiently waiting for the opportunity to devour my beautiful broccoli, lightly tossed in the nutty, spicy sauce. I'd hate to know the carbon footprint of my gallons of hot water and its impact on the environment since I didn't even enjoy it.

A couple of important details. . .I didn't measure anything -- as usual. Just giving you fair warning. I'm likely pretty close, but if you find it to be disgusting, please let me know and I'll tweak my measurements. Also, unless you have a use for the other half of your can of coconut milk, I'd go ahead and double this baby. As I was experimenting, I was somewhat conservative in my quantities. I'll probably whip up the rest of this tomorrow. Hey, maybe I'll even measure!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ginger's Bread House

Sure, I did it again. I'm amazed at how I can ramp up my posts with several in a row and then disappear as if I've been locked in my Closet of Eternal Joy and Happiness (it happened to Emily, by the way).

So though it might seem obvious that I update you on my first Solstice at the new house or provide an update on my Match.com adventures, I think I'll make my grand return with tales of two baking enterprises.

I'd suppose it's been two weeks ago that I invited Billy, Sparky (formerly known as Activities Assistant Josh) and Christina (she blogged about this too!) to the house for bread baking lessons. I'll admit, I'm not the best of teachers as I took over as they sat at the bar while I occasionally blurted out a tip or trick. First we made my regular everyday sandwich loaf, along with a cinnamon raisin one, then a potato bread that was handed down from Christina's grandmother. The first loaves were mixed, kneaded, raised, baked and eaten without pause. From the outside, we must've appeared as a band of starving refugees. Between four adults and three kids, we devoured three pounds of bread in about 45 minutes. And it was all worth it.

Christina's loaf didn't fare as well, it was reported. We started it here, but sent it home to bake and the results were not phenomenal. Sometimes, as hard as it is to admit, freshly ground whole wheat flour isn't the perfect ingredient. There I said it. But don't expect to hear it from me again.

And as six Decembers have come and gone since moving from L.A., the same number have passed since I've ventured into gingerbread house making. I'd guess that we made them with the Pusateris, Andersens and Charests for two or three years and it was always a delightful event. I'd spend the better part of a day baking house parts while others would gather candy for decorating and actual nutritious food to sustain us through the backbreaking process of house assembly and adorning. It was a perfect holiday tradition that I couldn't bear to continue once we relocated in the Midwest. I'd considered it a few times but I could feel the return of the heartbreak that was leaving our hand-picked family from the West Coast.

This year, however, I could stomach it. If ever there was a time for me to reinvent an old tradition, it was now. New house. Nickname: Ginger. Not much else holiday-ish going on. So I did it. I hit the bulk bins at the grocery store for a reasonable assortment of candies, baked the house and let the kids have at it. They loved it and I loved watching them. I can be quite a curmudgeon this time of year, but they make me remember that I need to step out of my own self and let them have some joy. Which in turn gives me joy.

Joy to the World.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday Cheer?

Imagine my surprise when I returned a call to my divorce attorney and was immediately put on hold. No. . .that part wasn't surprising. In this season of incessant holiday sing-alongs, jingles and carols, one might anticipate a chirpy (albeit politically incorrect) Musak version of Angels We Have Heard on High while waiting to be patched through to the correct office, but I was stunned by this haunting pipe organ. A bit ominous, no?

Toccata and Fugue in D minor - Bach

Only YOU Can Prevent Syrup Abuse

I'm picturing Smokey the Bear pointing his index finger at you while tapping a maple for sap.

A couple of nights ago, Em put in a special request for waffles the following morning. I couldn't come up with a valid excuse to avoid the task, so early Friday, I thumbed through a couple of cookbooks and picked a new recipe. The twist on these was one I've used in the past. Sweeten the waffles (or pancakes) with maple syrup (oh please-for-the-love-of-baked-goods, don't consider anything but the real stuff). I've had varying degrees of luck with the last few recipes, as well as my dear iron. Sure, it's 50 years old, but it's still got some kick left. Anyway, I made said waffles and by the second bite, they had been declared The Best Ever. I'm happy to take each culinary victory as it comes. Even in the shape of a grid.

That afternoon, the kids called me at work asking if there were leftovers. They enjoyed the last two and promptly begged for another batch for Saturday. So this morning (after I got my arse kicked at spinning class. Woot!), I doubled my quantity. As of now, I have less than a dozen small waffles that will potentially hit the freezer, but by the afternoon, that number might drop significantly. Even if they nosh all afternoon long, the best part is that there will be no drippy syrup mess about my kitchen. They are all completely satisfied to eat them just as they are.

And on that note, I return to my food blogging ways and pass this gem to you. . .

Maple Waffles (from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes)
Makes 12 4-inch waffles; serves 4-6

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 t. vanilla extract
3 egg whites
butter or oil for greasing iron

Preheat the waffle iron. In a large bowl, stir together flour, powder and salt. In another bowl, combine milk, syrup, oil and vanilla. Stir the maple mixture into the dry ingredients until well combines. In a clean medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into batter. Grease waffle iron and spread batter into it. Cook until the iron no longer steams (about five minutes) or until the waffle is browned. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sit and/or Spin

Twice this week my exercise plans have been blown out of the water by circumstances completely beyond my control. Hmmm. That might be a exaggeration. But really. I'm desperately seeking a place for the blame, and I'd prefer it not be my own shoulders.

So Monday I woke well before the sun and gleefully headed to my class. It was a fair morning, probably already 40 degrees, and after leaving the house, realized it would probably be a good day to run. But I had missed that class for almost three weeks due to work (and perhaps a bit of play), so I faithfully drove toward the gym. And then Hot Red Speed's idle slowed a bit, and just as quickly as it had started a few minutes prior, the engine stalled. And I knew what had happened. I had run out of gas. I had run out of gas. What 38 year old runs out of gas? Ok. Please listen to my excuse. Please! I had just come off my long working weekend. You know, the one where I go to work at 6 a.m. both days and return after 6 p.m. both days. The little gas light made itself known over the weekend but I continually ignored it. Before dawn, it hardly seemed prudent. After my days ended, I was rushing home to get to the kids. Sure, I typically have some down time on those days, but why on earth would I consider buying gasoline when I could be reading a cookbook? Anyway. A kind young man stopped to help (I didn't feel comfortable leaving my van unattended in the left turn lane of Ward Parkway at Gregory), brought me a couple gallons and I made it home. . .but not before stopping for petrol.

And then today. My Friday class involves a speedy drive from dropping the kids at school to the gym. I typically make it there very shortly before it starts. Which is fine, except I don't get one of the "good" bikes for those classes. But I was ready to go nonetheless. And as I pulled up to the elementary, Audrey sadly realized she'd forgotten her backpack (though she had remembered her treasured unicorn, Pretty). So I dutifully headed home to retrieve her schoolwork and took it back to her, knowing yet another plan to enjoy my spinning buzz had been foiled.

Now, sure. I could've gone on in and run on the treadmill or lifted weights, or both. . .but I know you've been missing my ramblings. Right?

Friday, November 28, 2008



photo credits to Martin

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

What was it I was wishing for yesterday? A laptop, you say? Well, as so very many other necessities and desires have fallen into my lap (get it, lap?!), so has exactly that. Neighbor Teri gave me her old one. It's not ancient, it powers up, it will connect to the internet once I get a router (are you listening, universe?) and it was free (to me, anyway.) I know I've rambled on and on at times about how blessed I am and how wondrous my friends are, but seriously. Seriously. My life is flat-out charmed.

So Martin and I played the roles of "Unconventional Separated Couple" again today. He brought over turkey, ham and dressing while I made a roasted vegetable tart, mashed sweet potatoes and pumpkin cheesecake. We enjoyed a lovely lunch that was reasonably stress-free then he swept the kids off to a movie while I went to work to prepare and serve dinner. All in all, nothing shy of a dandy day.

And for that I'm grateful. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Match Game

I've concluded that a laptop would greatly improve my productivity. I would blog more often, I might email you more frequently, perhaps my bills would be paid and my bank register kept current. Though I love all parts of my home, the basement is a fairly chilly place this time o' year, and I'm frequently competing with the kids for computer time. I'm considering standing in line at 4 a.m. on Friday, hoping to snag a cheapo, but knowing me, I won't. Perhaps I should just have a Laptop Fun Run and ask for sponsorships. I ran 10.5 miles yesterday. Wanna donate?

I've enjoyed my three days off this week. Sleeping late, hanging with friends, watering plants, surfing Match.com.

Yup. I did it. I'd been considering looking into it since I moved out, but a series of events stemming from a silly night out with Chef convinced me that bar hopping must be the worst possible way to spend my free evenings. And with the wisdom I gained from my first months on MySpace, I'm already filtering out a solid 95% of the incoming mail. I'm not seeking everlasting love there. A few nights of entertainment along with a smidge of romance would be nice. And if something real comes along, I'll enjoy that ride as well. I certainly didn't expect three months of magic when I met Wasabi Boy. I'm open to whatever comes my way.

Hasn't that been my recurring theme of late?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Emily the Thirteenth

I vividly remember when my home pregnancy test gave me two little blue lines for the very first time that I grinned at Martin and said, "We're going to have a teenager!" Lo and behold, I proved myself right. As of 8:45 p.m. this evening, my dear sweet 9 lb. 2 oz. Emily turned into a 5'5" thirteen year old. I'm perfectly aware that the challenges that I've faced thus far have been nothing compared to what I'm likely to encounter in the next several years (lest we forget there are two more waiting in the wings). What a crazy ride we're all enjoying!

With the recent dissolution of our marriage, Martin and I have tried to keep things amicable -- especially when we're around the kids. We want to maintain as much of a sense of normalcy tied to special days as well. So tonight
I headed over to Martin's house and we had a family birthday celebration. Em requested a fondue dinner so Martin kindly obliged and her dessert wish was shortbread cookies which I happily prepared. We all stood around the kitchen island like we have so many times and shared a meal and chit chat and love. It was a lot of fun and I hope to continue our family traditions in our own non-traditional ways.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Big Fat Greek Housewarming

It had been four weeks to the day since Concert Katrina and I victoriously moved a pretty fair sum of belongings from Horton St. to Delmar when it only seemed appropriate to open up the new house to any one daring enough to subject themselves to my rusty hostess skills. And lucky for me, 25 folks came.

Last night my home was filled with fun and food and friends. I served a Greek-ish spread of felafel, hummus, tzatziki, pita, spinach rice balls, gyro meat, pasta salad, a couple of other sides and even though I said you'd be the second to know when I made it (and clearly, you're not), the Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Ouzo Poached Figs. I'm fairly certain no one went hungry and Hostess Treat Claudia experienced her first Mediterranean meal. (I'm ready for you to come over again -- it's been 24 hours, after all). I'd never made felafel from scratch and the cheesecake was a first for me too, but luckily no one gagged (at least not in my presence) and I really had a great time making the dishes.

It was fun to introduce my friends to each other too. A few readers were in attendance and I was able to put faces with nicknames. Chef, who has more dirt on me than anyone around, kept my dignity reasonably intact (to the best of my knowledge). MySpace Steve and his new love came by along with a couple of their friends (I have an adventure to share about them -- someday soon), Mrs. Diggs and her brood joined in, Wasabi Boy stopped in for awhile, Activities Assistant (we've got to get you a kitschy name, Josh) brought an HCC volunteer and her boyfriend. Bummed Billy didn't make it. And on that note, there were so many others I would have loved to have shown off. Know that you're all welcome any time. This house is very eager to have you to come over.

And after I tidied up the chaos this morning, my home thanked me and gave me a big hug. It's ready for more.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I hate it when I can't come up with a clever title

Ok. So most of you might have figured out that I had sweet, sweet dreams on Tuesday night. I continue to get goosebumps when the reality of the election and all that it encompassed sinks in. And it happens in little pieces. A snippet of news. A glance at a leftover yard sign. The notion that my children will see someone who is dynamic and intelligent and brave and strong leading this country.

And then some moron hitting on me at the Girl Scout meeting tells me he's disappointed that he got elected and that Obama refuses to put his hand over his heart during the pledge because of his religion brings me back to the reality of living in Kansas with a bunch of backwards-ass idiots. And that I might need to ease back on my friendly-to-everyone demeanor. Because the last thing I want to attract are Nascar lovin', gun wavin', don't-know-what-NPR-is kinda guys.

But mostly I'm just happy.

And I've been trying to think of all of the blog-worthy events that have happened that I've not had a chance to tell you. And here's one of many. I'll pass on the gory details of too much Scotch and photos that have been sworn to secrecy and I'll just post a pic of MySpace Steve and me at his ex-wife's Halloween party (they're my divorce role models). I had a blast. Though I'm not sure at what I'm gazing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

No Rest for the Hopeful

I'm afraid to go to sleep tonight. Four years ago, I cautiously dozed off, television in the background, hoping the vote count in Ohio that was too close to call before midnight would turn the state blue. But a rude awakening slapped me across the face and I've been mourning the results since. And I'm not even going to mention (oh, I guess I am) the previous election that was so unethically stolen from the rightful winner that our founding fathers most certainly rolled over in their graves and considered a return trip to England.

So here I sit, listening to pundits and politicians carefully hint to me that my favorite front runner since way back when might very well become the 44th president of these United States. And I don't think I'll hit the sack until McCain concedes. This is the most important election in my lifetime. An aging Supreme Court is of enormous concern to me and an Obama win would comfort me greatly, likely continuing the trend of a fairly balanced bench.

There are, of course, numerous other important reasons that this win is so critical in my mind. And I know some of you will wake to your own sad reality tomorrow. I just hope it's the minority of my readers who share that sentiment. The bulk of us will be joyous for the next four years knowing that our passions and efforts have been worthwhile and a promise of change will be realized.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

She's Baa-aack!

What a long two weeks it has been! Window broken, purse stolen, home changin', phone gettin', full week o' workin', bank account fussin', late night bowlin' and I'm sure a couple of other big events that have fallen by the wayside while I was anxiously awaiting the connection of the precious internet to my shiny new digs. And then another two days passed before my friendly ex- and personal computer doctor trouble-shot and replaced the network card on this aging beast of a p.c. (Thank you, Martin)

So finally, I have returned. And I need your phone number. Most thieves don't leave the sim card behind when stealing a phone. So if you want me to call you in my abundant free time, email me your digits at jennifer@mountainoflaundry.com and I'll get you programmed in.

And the house is Great! I'm settling in fairly quickly and am thrilled every time I cross the threshold. I've had the honor of enjoying several friends' company here and I can't wait to throw a shindig. (Probably two weeks from Saturday if you're near your calendar.) It's a warm and friendly house with lots of built-in happiness from residents past. The energy here is great and I'm even sleeping well. It's absolutely my home and I'm certain many good things will come my way while I'm here. Perhaps you could come my way. That would be good :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I look like I've been in a bar-fight from all of my moving bruises, and my hands could double as medium grit sandpaper, but I'm elated to be sleeping in my new home. The kids have settled somewhat into their rooms and I into mine. There's a remarkable positive energy to the house. Very good things are happening in my life.

And as much as I'd love to rattle on about my fabulous new digs, I must head to work. I hope to have internet connected within the week and then return to my obsessive blogging habits of the past. For now though, I'm grateful to our public library system and their banks of public use computers.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rude Awakenings

I slept sooooo poorly last night. Actually, it started out as a potentially good night's rest and then around 3:30, Audrey awoke (loudly), missing her irreplaceable unicorn, "Pretty." I helped her find the purple doll, then she asked to sleep with me. Martin wasn't home, so I granted her wish. Then I didn't doze off. Ack. So around 5:00, I decided I could catch up on a long-due email and got ready for spinning class, had my Greek Delight for breakfast and a slice of bread made fresh last night (though I rarely eat before exercise), and headed to the gym. And when I got there, I sat in Hot Red Speed with my head low as the lack of rest caught up with me.

But with gas prices as they are, I had to do what I'd gone to do. So wearily I stepped out into the rainy dark and greeted my classmates with a tired sigh. Then I got my workout on and enjoyed a better-than-average class. Threw in a few minutes of abs at the end just to feel especially good about my morning and headed back to the van. When I got in, I noticed some dark splotches behind me. Had something spilled during transport to my new house? I flipped on the light and was appalled to see that my side window had been shattered and my purse stolen.

And that pretty much set the tone for my morning. Police report, credit card and bank calls, canceling cell phone, wishing I hadn't put the camera in my bag yesterday. That kinda stuff.

And if you haven't done the math, this is my move-in week. So Mrs. Diggs and Concert Katrina planned (and followed through) on helping me today with general unpacking and tidying. Mrs. Diggs took the morning shift and Katrina the afternoon. They both made me realize how blessed I truly am to have the most fabulous friends in all the land. . .

. . .even if someone is out there enjoying my less-than-stellar credit and writing checks that my a$$ can't cash.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Last Meal Served. . .

. . .but it was a happy meal. My buddy Toby left Hope Care Center on two much-stronger legs than those that walked in. He came to us about three months ago with not an ounce of fat on his weak frame. And he came to Hope with every intention of getting well so he could return home.

So he ate.

I learned after a week or so that I needed to plan for one or two extra servings for him at each meal and he appreciated every morsel. It was wonderfully rewarding to see him grow stronger and more talkative each day. And in those months he gained 37 pounds. Thirty-seven. Granted, it took more than food to help him recover. Regular meds and a caring nursing staff kept him upright and moving toward the dining room. But I do take a lot of pride in his recovery. He asked for recipes for a couple of his favorite dishes and I couldn't have been more sincere when I hugged him goodbye and told him I would miss him.

Have I told you lately how much I love my job?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Once again, I'm having computer trauma. The kids p.c. has a toasted video card it seems. This is not my diagnosis, of course. I am a true technology moron. Martin is the computer doctor at the house. And we'll try to breathe enough life back into this one that it can make the move to my new place in just over a week.

So don't take it personally if I'm not responding to your correspondence. I'll try to hit the library daily to keep up on things, and the home siuation will likely be resolved before too long. Just know that I am busy getting ready for the move, working, exercising and cooking. Same as it ever was.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Comfort Zones are for Ninnies!

It was a solid six weeks ago that I saw the signage go up at work for today's AIDS ride. I knew I was capable. I knew it was my weekend off. I knew I should do it. But it was uncharted territory for me. I've never participated in any type of charity walk, run, ride, swim or even talk-a-thon for that matter. What if I did it wrong? What if I showed up grossly mis-dressed? What if I accidentally expanded my horizons?

As the days and weeks passed, I stopped thinking about the ride. Until work on Thursday when a few folks were buzzing about it. And I made some mamby-pamby excuse to the effect of, "Oh, we'll see what I have to do for the kids that day." And pretty much knew I wasn't going to participate. Then Friday morning I realized that my Saturday fitness regimen would either be running eight miles or spinning eighteen, I started to feel silly about not playing along with my kinfolk at Hope. But alas, no working bike. And what about not riding outdoors since I was 12? That certainly deserved to be a factor. It wasn't until about 10 p.m. last night that I finally concluded I would do it.

I. Had. So. Much. Fun!!! I woke early, ate my favorite breakfast, snagged Neighbor Teri's bike, borrowed Emily's helmet and found my way to the trail. It was an absolutely perfect morning. About 60 degrees. A light breeze. My dear friends from work. My dear surprised friends from work. I registered, got my number and hung with my homies while we awaited our start. First the 35 milers went. Then my group riding 18. And last, the 10s. There were a couple of times on the trail that I felt lonely and assumed I'd lost my way, but at our half-way point, I found Super-Nice-Maintenance-Guy John and we grabbed a bottle of water then made our way back onto the trail. It was a challenge. Very different from spinning. I haven't decided yet which is harder.

And just as I thought I might be lost again, I saw a tent, a barbecue grill and kids passing out water and bananas. I'd made it. The ride was no outrageous physical feat, but overstepping my ridiculous mental boundaries was worth celebrating. I spent another hour or so chatting with my friends and noshing on a veggie burger, savoring my small yet profound accomplishment.

Let's bring back the lesson portion for today's post. . .

1. If Audrey can ride a bike outdoors, I should be able to as well.
2. Benefit participants aren't going to point and laugh even if you do something incorrectly.
3. Just do it!


And one big shoutout to Sam. Thanks for your support.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Riding for a Reason

Not one to prepare in advance for anything, just in the last ten minutes I have decided to ride in tomorrow's AIDS Bicycle Challenge. I'll be a part of Team Hope Care Center and am quite excited to bike in the wild. (Feel free to donate here.)

I have to borrow Neighbor Teri's bike since Em took mine a few months ago and has done quite a number on it. I tried to ride it tonight and it's a major tune-up away from being able to go 18 miles on a trail.

So no running before dawn. No early morning spinning class. A whole new world is opening itself to me. Biking with a helmet and two wheels. Interesting concept.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Movers and (Salt) Shakers

To allay all of your worries and fears, you should know that I managed a trip to Whole Foods today and restocked my Greek yogurt supply. I'm feeling much better now. Yes, the other brand was a reasonable substitute, but much like exercise for love, it wasn't exactly what I needed, and when the real thing is available, I'm gonna take that option every time.

Speaking of exercise, I forgot to tell you that I still love spinning. I had that bad morning and was ready to write it off, but persevered and am back in the groove. I realized today that I strongly prefer the 6:00 a.m. working-bloke class over the 8:30 a.m. at-home-mom hour. I'm gonna be brutally honest here -- not such a polite crowd at the latter class. Less chatty and not so friendly. A bit on the snotty side, really. Self-obsessed. And when I mentioned to the instructor one day that I had a job and wouldn't be such a regular, the inaudible gasp and subsequent total alienation was palpable. No love lost there. I dig my pre-dawn addicts all the more now.

And running. Don't get me started. Yesterday I ran six miles and was ready for more but I had to get home to get the kids ready for school. I really do need to pick up my pace or plot 90 minutes out of my sleep schedule to get more mileage in. It's a fun infatuation. At least until the temps drop below 40 degrees.

So I'm getting ready-ish for the move. In my days off this week I managed to get most of the utilities set up and have dug about town for furnishings and whatnot. I'll tell the kids this weekend and take them over to see the place. Then I'll feel a bit more comfortable dismantling portions of this house. I did sort through one cabinet in the kitchen this morning. I was astounded at how much I packed, how much I threw out and how much remained for Martin's use. And that's only 1/10th of what needs to be done. In the kitchen.

Much work to be done. Maybe I should get movin'. Literally.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stressed to the Nines

I think there are about eighteen things I have been meaning to blog about from the last few days, but work and other life events have kept me on my toes and away from the computer. And as the sun has set on my day and my eyes are beginning to cross, the only memorable (to my hazy brain) event I feel the need to report is the fact that Isaac has aged another year, while I have not. Pretty neat trick, eh?

I was unable to get my 12-hour workday covered, Martin took care of most everything for the big day, with the exception of a ninth birthday cake prep (see, Judi, I still do it, though with far less enthusiasm than in the old days), as well as fulfilling his breakfast request, coffee cake. So after work, I reported to a local pizza joint where Isaac and three of his friends were excitedly awaiting the second leg of their party -- bowling. We left shortly after my arrival and headed to Mission Bowl for ten frames of unbridled joy for the kids. Ten frames of personal humiliation for me. And then cake and gifties. A darn fine time, I'd have to say. It's good for me to surrender control of the party and food for a change. I guess I'm accepting my new role as working mom.

And as you can see, Isaac wasn't too bruised by my lessened participation as party manager.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A New Lease on Life

Some time ago, I acknowledged that I needed to "get a job, move out, get a divorce, and then [have a crappy mini-relationship]." It took two months to manage even the first of the three. Then I was inspired to get the ball rolling on the divorce while Martin was in China because I knew it could take months to get that finalized. But securing housing was a big looming cloud. With only a couple of months of employment under my belt, I knew it would be a challenge to find someone willing to take a chance on me. And while I'd crunched the numbers over and over and over, I was unsure that my budget could truly withstand the weight of rent and all of its accompanying expenses.

But as a gesture of goodwill to myself, I kept my eyes open for rentals. I checked out apartments in the area and frequented Craigslist to see what was in the neighborhood. It seemed that my bank account was not Johnson-County-Friendly. . .if I wanted more than one bedroom, that is. Soon, a couple of distinct possibilities worked their ways in and out of my life. And then last Saturday while I was running, I spotted a FOR RENT sign out of the corner of my eye (as I sped so quickly past a side street that I nearly missed it!) In our first phone conversation, I learned that the owner was hoping for more than my means allowed. I squeezed in a little ditty about being handy and having chutzpah and he encouraged me to see the house nonetheless. So Sunday morning I did. And it's a great house. Better than a previous one that I thought to be perfect. I was upfront about my history and current situation and a couple of days later, he informed me that he wanted me to be his renter. Within my fiscal parameters.

Then I ran through Hope Care Center in such a state of glee that the nurses likely thought I was having a seizure.

Tonight I signed my lease. I will be moving mid-October. This is as big a step as I've taken on my new journey.

Lucky me. Now I'm eligible to have a crappy mini-relationship. Hmmm, I hope that's optional.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Projectile Pyrex

or Martin Has Turned the Kitchen Against Me

Martin prepared a big pasta casserole for the kids for dinner. Shortly before it was ready, little neighbor Vincent came by and whisked the kids away on an adventure of some variety. When it was done baking, Martin got a piece for himself and left the rest on the stovetop. And the kids continued to play without sustenance for a solid hour.

A bit later, Audrey directed my attention to a strange smell in the kitchen and I headed in to investigate. I could see by an indicator light that a burner was on but it was too dark to know which one. I flipped the light switch but it only turned on the ceiling fan. I could tell that Martin had powered the wrong burner to heat the tea kettle but couldn't find the knob. And then POP! A 10 x 13" glass dish and its contents were strewn about the room. I shoo'd Audrey away from the shards of glass as she was shoeless. And then it started to sink in just how amazingly fortunate she and I were that we weren't hurt. We were both within two feet of the dish upon detonation. And pieces of Pyrex flew as far as 20 feet away.

Martin and I got to work on cleanup. I'm certain we'll be finding splinters of glass for the next several weeks -- hopefully not in our feet or our food. Emily was concerned that I'd be sad about the broken dish. Martin and I were bummed that the kids didn't get any tasty casserole. And Audrey will probably wince every time she sees a clear baking pan anywhere near a tea kettle.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Reunited. And It Feels So Good.

When a partnership is new, it's easy to appreciate all of the positive attributes of the other party. Excitement and new possibilities abound as the relationship grows. But as time wears on, that presence becomes commonplace and it's easy to forget about the very reasons you embarked on the journey in the first place.

Then one day you look at your partner with fresh eyes. You remember why it is you clicked in the first place. And your interest is renewed. Love is a beautiful thing.

I love my Cuisinart. Both of them, actually.

My big one had been relegated to nothing more than a dough mixer. For pizza at that. And the Mini-Prep, heck, it hadn't been plugged in for over a year. Then the Korean Pancakes happened. Julienne my carrots and I'll bend over backwards for you. Prune puree for carrot cupcakes? Pull out the Mini-Prep. Now it seems we're invincible as a team. I'm glad they didn't give up on me just because they were under appreciated. They knew I'd be back someday.

And so I will share with you a delightful sauce I whipped up for dipping my tofu (already fried! A Chinese market treasure). It's my tweaked version of a recipe from This Can't Be Tofu! (I bet you can guess what I added)
Sweet-and-Spicy Dipping Sauce
1/3 c. rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 t. grated fresh ginger
1 t. red pepper flakes
2 scallions (greens & whites) thinly sliced
1 T. minced cilantro
3 T. roasted peanuts, finely chopped (a perfect job for a Mini-Prep)

Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan and simmer until bubbles appear all over the surface. Add ginger and continue simmering until slightly syrupy (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Makes about 1/2 cup.
This was a really lovely sauce. I think it would be great on chicken or fish. Oooh, asparagus! And broccoli! I wouldn't say the possibilities are limitless, but I'm certainly open to suggestions.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Fluffy

As I am fairly weary, I think I'll just give you the short version of the last 24 hours.

Good Parts of my Day:
1. I ran five miles.
2. I met Emily's teachers and they all really like her and she's doing well in middle school.
3. I used the last two ripe bananas.
4. Audrey really likes being a Girl Scout.
5. The Fluff is gone.

Not So Good Parts of My Day:
1. I twisted my ankle while running.
2. I twisted my ankle while walking.
3. I twisted my ankle while standing.
4. I am now a Girl Scout.
5. The Fluff is gone.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hypothetical Warning

So, say you're walking down the street with your jar of Fluff and you need to tie your shoe. You don't want to put your Fluff on the ground, right? And then you see me approaching and you think, "Hey, I can ask Jennifer to hold my Fluff while I tie my shoe." But that would be the wrong thing to do.

Because I have a spoon in my purse.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

Somehow I feel a tinge of guilt when I enjoy myself as much as I have today. Sure, I put in 64 work hours last week, but seriously, following it with three days off then a real weekend? I feel like I'm on vacation.

I woke well before the sun made it over the horizon and after a good while of tossing and turning, hit the road for a sunrise run. The air was so crisp and clear, I felt like I could go on forever. Five miles is as close to forever as I've ever gotten, so I was pretty pleased with my trek. Then I came home to make the aforementioned muffins, which continued to get rave reviews as an after school snack (Me: "Wow, you kids are sure eating a lot of those." Isaac: "Have you tasted them, Mom? They're awesome!")

An hour or so later, I went to the gym for lifting, followed by my favorite first fitness foray, yoga. Aaaaaahhhhh. It was magnificent. I twisted and folded and stretched and arched much to my delight. And from there I enjoyed Korma Sutra with MySpace Steve. I think yoga followed by Indian food is some kind of karmic bonus round. I'd been craving it for weeks so it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Oh wait. It's only 1:00 p.m.

Then I'll pick up a couple more ingredients for tonight's dinner and head home. I know you're chomping at the bit wondering from which cookbook I chose the menu. Ok, it's not even worth bringing up, but I do think I'll snap up all of the $.46 copies (yes, the $.44 one has apparently sold) and give them as holiday gifts. Salmon in a Vibrant Sauce. Swiss Chard and Sweet Pepper Stir Fry. Chilled Plum Soup with Ginger Syrup. (Darn it, none of the recipes are on the Eating Well website.) As always, I savored my time in the kitchen and was pleasantly surprised at the dinner table when Emily and Isaac loved the salmon, though Audrey didn't. She admitted that she didn't want anymore green food (the marinade had lots of cilantro and jalepenos) because she'd eaten so many spring rolls last night.

And now I'm delighting in a glass of Shiraz. Finally, the perfect end to the perfect day.

Orange you glad I didn't say Banana?

Did you think I forgot about those bananas? Hardly. . .and I knew you didn't want to miss a minute of my life so I'll ramble for a moment or two to distract you from thinking about your failing stock portfolio.

I wasn't even going to mention these. Then Isaac said, "These are your best muffins ever, Mom," at which point I felt compelled to share my concocted recipe with you, my adoring fan base.

(If you do choose to make these, please don't measure anything carefully. I eyeballed most everything, and only after Isaac's comment did I decide I should jot down the gist of the recipe.)

Best Ever Banana Bran Muffins

Makes 24 standard sized muffins

2 c. wheat flour
2 c. wheat bran
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. freshly ground nutmeg

1 c. raisins soaked a bit in 1/2 c. orange juice
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 c. plain yogurt (I used fat free)
2 eggs
1/2 c. brown sugar (honey, agave nectar or molasses would be great)
1/3 c. hazelnut oil (olive, grapeseed, vegetable oils or melted butter should work)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare two muffin tins by oiling cups or using cupcake papers. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a medium bowl combine wet ingredients. Pour wet into dry and mix until just combined. Now would be a great time to add a handful of walnuts or pecans if your son isn't allergic to them. Pour into prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon sugar if you roll that way. Bake for 13-16 minutes, or when a toothpick comes out clean.


I wish I'd remembered to use some ground flax seed in these. I'll probably add 1/2 cup or so next time and reduce my oil even further. Vegan substitutions would be super easy too. And there are enough to last a few days in the breadbox.

Only three ripe bananas to go. . .

Monday, September 15, 2008

Seoul Food

Just as Big Sis is skipping her way through The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, I guess I'm hurrying through my Rush Hour cookbook. As seems to be my modus operandi, I spent my first day off work cleaning, shopping and cooking. This morning I had a couple of cookbooks out looking for a banana bread recipe (they're really ripe) and realized I should plan a dinner. Since my last menu was such a hit, I grabbed my new favorite book and browsed the summer menus. And though I'd never even eaten these before, I was certain that Korean Pancakes would hit the spot tonight. It was accompanied by Sticky Rice with Peas and I reprised the Gingered Peach Gratin as per Isaac's request. Made a shopping list and, well, I went thrift shopping. Luckily there is an Asian market next door to a store I frequent so I easily justified my trip. While in the market (oh, what fun it was!) I was inspired to add spring rolls to my menu and picked up a couple of other interesting finds.

Long story short (and you do know that I could go on and on, right?) Delicious! I couldn't have imagined a tastier, more perfect meal. I really didn't know what to expect and the pancakes were magical. The dipping sauce was amazing. The spring rolls were fresh and, well, springy (Audrey ate ten) and their sauce was delightful. I subbed red sticky rice and it was quite lovely. Added some fiery kimchee and I couldn't have been more pleased. Or full. But it's a happy full. And my soul is nourished too.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Weight-ing is the Hardest Part

So it would seem that someone who averages six workouts each week would be pretty fit and lean, right? Well, that's what I thought, but over the last few months, I've watched (and felt) my britches getting tighter and my blouses all the snugger.

Not long after I began spinning, I felt like I finally had found my size. But do you know what happened then? Those darn Peanut Butter-Jalepeno Sandwiches. Sometimes I'd eat three or four a day. And then I started eating lots of raw nuts. Cashews, almonds and pistachios, oh my! I was pretty sure I was immune to weight gain. I was working out all the time, right?.

I realized after none (oh yes, I mean none) of my shorts fit that I should probably step on the scales. From my pre- lifting/spinning weight, I'd packed on a whopping 17 pounds. How does that much fat sneak up on a body conscious woman? Ok, I acknowledge that some of that is muscle mass. But certainly not even half of it. So I figured I'd drop 10 lbs. -- a simple task, right? -- and be on my merry way. Well, since that was June and this is September and I'm telling you about it now, you can probably infer that it was not, in fact, a breeze.

And, just in case you haven't been taking notes, I'll remind you that I work in a kitchen. Ever heard the saying, Never trust a skinny cook? Well, I'm apparently trying to appear very honorable in my profession. One month at work = five pounds on my ass. (Mind you, I'm not wigging out over this. But I would like to pull on my jeans without doing a funky dance. And more clothes seem economically foolish compared to less food.)

So I've been watching what I've been putting in my mouth over the course of the day for the last week. And I equate how my own personal mass has increased to a trip to Costco. You put this and that and a few of those in your cart and all of the sudden, your total is $300. Same goes for all those little calories in all those little tastes I take. In the name of feeding people well, mind you.

So must I become like a wine-taster and expectorate after I have sampled the flavor?

Oh, if I could just stay away from those pesky nuts that have caused me so much trouble. And manage to keep my fingers out of my sauces. . .

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sailing the Exxon Valdez

What on earth is she talking about? She's getting more cryptic by the day. I hope she's getting enough sleep. . .

Ok, so today was looking like a super-easy day at work. I got there and Chef had a gorgeous meal ready to pull together when noon rolled around. I only needed to make a mir poix for a shrimp stock and assemble one chef's salad. Dinner was a simple menu that I could prep and then sit on the counter listening to NPR for a couple of hours. For the moment, I would keep up with the dishes and help serve out lunch. So I hit it. Among many utensils and pans is a 12 quart stock pot with about a gallon of oil that we'd used for a couple of days. Typically, I just run it down the drain with some hot water and run the disposal at the same time.

You're kinda seeing where this is going, right?

In a matter of seconds, I felt myself slipping. I looked down and oily water was spilling from the trap at the bottom of the dishwasher. The sink drain was clogged and I had created the mother of all oil slicks. All just twenty minutes before serving lunch. We scrambled a bit and then manage a squeegee and a mop to get up some of the mess. The floor was ridiculously slippery so I put down a generous serving of baking soda all around the kitchen. As the activities assistant pointed out, it looked like a coke party gone bad. But we were able to walk without falling and got lunch out with more effort than usual. And maybe an extra yelling match as well. (No, I wasn't involved in the tiff. . .just responsible for it)

My Super-Nice Maintenance Guy observed the fiasco. He could tell right then and there that any plans he had for accomplishing anything today were shot. Drains were disassembled, grease traps were examined, pipes were snaked. . .and the water still wouldn't drain. A couple hours into the saga, while sweeping greasy baking soda in a kitchen with no clean dishes, I could see that I had created quite a situation. Maintenance, housekeeping and kitchen staff were all directly impacted by my mistake. But I learned something new today. We have a grease pit outside next to the dumpster. "At the expense of 22 man-hours," grinned Chef.

Then he and I brought the lunch dishes outside and washed them in tubs with the garden hose, bleach and a scrubby. Dinner's got to be served, right?

Actually, in the end it was not my grease that caused the drain back-up. It was the masses of food we put down that disposal on a daily basis. I just timed my oil dumping perfectly so that I could make the kitchen floor disastrously slippery for the next week or two.

Because I like to shake things up, you know.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Eating Well, Indeed

Tonight's menu was compliments of a cookbook that I picked up at the Pembroke Hill garage sale a couple of years ago (I hear they have a good soccer team this year) but have never used. Last night as a surveyed my oversized collection of books, I pulled the Eating Well Rush Hour Cookbook out (available for $.44 used on Amazon), thinking it might be destined for the to-go pile. Then I thumbed through it. It's brilliant! Fifteen menus for each season. A main dish, a side and a dessert. Nutritious and delicious, each and every one. Pictures for some of the items. And that is what got me. Those balsamic roasted onions. I had to have them, despite being from a winter menu. I paired them with their cookbook counterpart, the pasta ruffles, and added dessert from a summer menu, the gingered peach gratin. In less than an hour we had a delightful dinner. I guess I should pay more attention to the books I have.Pasta Ruffles with Tomato-Basil Sauce, Balsamic Roasted Onions and Gingered Peach Gratin

Saturday, September 6, 2008

To Tell the Truth

It's been nearly two years since Martin returned from L.A. with the news that he wished for a separation from our marriage. That was followed by many months of me pretending he hadn't said that in a very, "ignore it and it will go away" fashion. I experienced a moment of clarity in August of last year after insisting we go out to celebrate our 15th anniversary. We conversed in a rather civil fashion and while I took that to mean, "sure, I'm committed to this", by the end of the evening I realized in a gasping-for-air sort of way that, in fact, the train had derailed and that all my strength and will were not enough to get it back on track.

So I went to therapy a few months later. And I know she was trying her best to be objective, but in retrospect I can only imagine that my therapist was in disbelief that an able bodied woman couldn't muster the courage to put her children in school, get a job and move out on her own.

So here another nine months have passed and I'm finally getting to that place. There were a lot of changes for me to wrap my head around, so I'm not faulting myself for taking a little extra time. Kids in school. Check. Full-time job. Check. File for divorce. Check. Tell the kids. Ooops. We'd best address that. . .

So a couple of weeks ago I looked ahead on the calendar to see when I would have a free weekend that we could break our children's hearts. We agreed today would be the day. After lunch. You know I didn't sleep last night, right?

I must give credit to Martin for much of the ease with which the kids took today's news. He transitioned very smoothly from, "the landlord wants to sell this house" to "your mom and I will be living in separate spaces." I watched Emily closely and saw the moment when she clued in and she actually smiled. They immediately mentioned their friends who have two homes and how that was perfectly okay. Audrey later addressed a concern about time lines and wondered should she be packing. Martin merely suggested that she could start purging but that there would be plenty of time to prepare. I managed to interject what I felt compelled to say, but no one seemed bothered by the revelation. . .at any point during the day. I just put them to bed and all seems fine. I imagine there will be a greater reality to it when I move out (more on that soon), but they could prove me wrong again.

And I must admit, I feel a little empty that their reaction wasn't more dramatic. I think I needed today (which I had anticipated with much anguish) to be another big moment for me. And it wasn't. Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful beyond words that they are, for the moment, doing quite well with the news. I had no idea what to expect. And I certainly didn't expect this.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Jesus was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a governor.

(Credit to Daily Kos via Wasabi Boy)

Like much of the nation, I was interested to hear what Sarah Palin had to say last night. I tuned into the Republican National Convention shortly after 7:00 pm and painfully listened to the same re-hashed criticisms through four speeches. First, Mitt Romney -- what a bore! I can't believe he made it as far as he has in the political arena. I think he might be a droid. But that would be an insult to droids. Second, Mike Huckabee. Honestly, he was probably your (and I'm speaking to my two-and-a-half conservative readers) strongest shot at the White House this year. His was actually remotely interesting and though I personally wouldn't vote for him, I think he could've mustered more states than McCain. Guiliani. Aacck. More of the same attacks while patting himself on the back for being the NYC Mayor during 9/11. And Palin. She reads a good teleprompter. And she has sharp delivery. Her speech writer must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed. I didn't hear much that wasn't a jab, or just flat-out incorrect. Oh well. I wasn't expecting to be pleased with what I heard when I tuned in.

I've been trying all night to force myself to listen to McCain. But forty more minutes of the same might make my ears bleed.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Long Goodbye

Yesterday I unknowingly fed someone his last meal.

It was harder to watch him die than to know he had passed. He'd come to our center on hospice, though I wasn't told that until he'd been there for nearly a month. Watching him deteriorate -- from my perspective was to see him eat full meals upon arrival, then later to nibble at a tomato and leave the rest of the plate untouched -- was dramatic and astoundingly quick.

He became skeletal as his cancer took away the man he had once been. He'd lost his life partner to AIDS three years ago. And the person who visited him the most was his mother-in-law. She would bring those tomatoes he loved, sit with him in his room and just be there. It was beautiful to witness. She was saddened by the suffering he was experiencing. Her son had also succumbed to cancer, but it was much quicker and far less painful.

As his remaining weeks became days and then hours, we at the center tried to give him a sense of normalcy. He'd do little but quietly nod, if respond at all, to our comments and questions. He had fourteen siblings. Five or six were able to make it into town to say goodbye. I was moved at how they brought nothing but love and hope. Over my long working weekend, I got to know them well. I fed them and baked fresh cookies. My passion for tea gave his sister-in-law a mental distraction while we shared a pot. I told him that I'd see him on Monday when I left for the weekend. But he was gone when I arrived.

I thought I'd cry. But I haven't. By the last three days, he was a shell. His barely functioning body struggled with his soul to let go. And finally he was able to leave. We'll do a small in-house memorial and I'm sure I'll be moved to tears then, but for now I'm happy for him where he has no pain, no big sister speaking to him like a child, and all the garden fresh tomatoes he can stomach.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fashionably Late

I exited the homeschooling life last winter, but that community has continued to embrace me. There is a sweet teenager who is an eager babysitter. Emily and I still participate in a preteen meet-up at a local coffeehouse. And we stay in reasonable touch with several friends. We received an invite to a party from one of those friends a few weeks ago. My RSVP was not a timely one, but a "yes, we'll be there" nonetheless. And so today, after my long workday, I painted on a fresh face, faked a potluck bring-along, gathered my reasonably presentable children and headed her way.

Upon arriving, I didn't see the tell-tale string of cars that should have lined the street. I didn't hear revelry coming from the backyard. And I didn't smell charcoal and hot dogs. I sensed something was askew and sheepishly rang the doorbell. Hostess Claudia (does that make her sound like a snack cake?) answered the door with a wry smile. I'd apparently missed the crowd. By about 24 hours.

Suddenly I felt like I'd stepped into an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

She welcomed me into the house and offered us leftovers. And I laughed at myself for a solid ten minutes. Really. Who does this sort of thing? Why, Not Your Average Jennifer, of course! Once I let go of my embarrassment, I was able to enjoy myself. My kids quickly began playing with hers. She and I caught up on all the sordid details I omit from here and we had a delightful time. I must admit, it was a treat having the entertainer all to myself. But I promise to try not to make a habit of being a Day-After-the-Party Crasher.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Boy, I think it's time for a good recipe. . .

I'm definitely having some morning-after regrets to last night's post. And not because Martin is fighting back (and deservedly so). It's because I gave you a front row seat to something no one really wants to witness. Reality TV is all fun and games until its your friends or family.

I think I'll make a 24-hour rule when it comes to posting passionate rants. This blog was borne of my need to vent. I didn't intend for my treasured friends to endure my pain along with me.

Know I am well. I probably would've pulled the post this morning were I not fishing with my kinfolk at Hope Care Center. Hey, yeah, I went fishing. Even pierced my first worm today. See, life is good!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm Having a Bad Nut Day

Probably not an utterance you hear often, but that is precisely what I just audibly said to myself.

What makes for a bad nut day, you ask? Being out of walnuts for my Mediterranean breakfast is a big first strike. I convinced myself to enjoy the yogurt with only honey. Quite delicious, but after a couple of bites, I was craving a bit of crunch, so I added a few raw cashews. Then I looked at what I'd added and realized that #$%*ing pantry moths had gotten to them first (must be time to move -- I've never successfully rid a kitchen of those beasts). I then had to dispose of my precious breakfast nectar and try again. A new scoop of Fage, honey and then from the fridge (which is where we should all keep our raw nuts anyway) I took a few pecans. But the unruly bag toppled when I was returning it to its proper place and most of the nuts spilled to the floor. Luckily I believe in the five-second rule (and have been known to stretch it to 15 when necessary) and salvaged a few of them. And that is when I declared today a Bad Nut Day.

Hope you're having a Good Nut Day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mad Cow

Alright, not exactly. Angry calves -- not of the bovine variety -- spoiled my morning run. By the last 1/2 mile I was reduced to a wimpy-limpy walk. I have made them a promise that I won't run tomorrow. Only lifting or yoga. Then work, which usually involves several trips up and down the stairs for various provisions and the occasional fresh cookie delivery to my adoring staff. Hopefully then by Tuesday I can resume my new favorite cool a.m. activity.

Martin arrived home from L.A. last night. His movie is over and done. He's plenty tired, but the kids are thrilled to have him home so they'll likely attempt to run him ragged today. I'm going to head out and give the four of them some space.

But first I should start some laundry, clean the kitchen, tidy the living room, check the homework and make lunch. It's going to be a busy two hours. . .

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's All Greek to Me

How am I supposed to focus today when I have found a recipe for Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Ouzo-Poached Figs? And it's from Eating Well, too. My latest issue arrived a couple of days ago and I finally cracked it this morning. . .just after savoring my post-run breakfast of Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts. (Libby, you should know I, too, have become obsessed with one particular food.) This is going to hang over me all day long. I wonder when I'll surrender to my desires. . .

You'll be the second to know.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Spun Out

I think I have fallen out of love with spinning. I made it back to my Friday morning class today and before my feet hit the pedals, I was dreading it. Every song, every hill, every sprint I hated. It's a good workout. A very good one. I certainly don't push myself to those limits when running. Am I just copping out? Getting lazy?

I have a theory. I discovered cycling class in February. It was shortly after I had started therapy, put the kids in school, dismissed the marriage and began my job search. It was an intense time and spinning was an intense distraction. For a fifty minute stretch, I could barely breathe, let alone lament the many difficulties in my life. A couple of months into my addiction, I connected the dots and saw that I was spinning my wheels yet going nowhere in more ways than one. So I tried running. I didn't like it, but I gave it more effort than before. And then my life started moving too. I think you get the picture.

So now that I can enjoy a decent run and so many other things are moving along swiftly and fabulously, do I really need to hop in Hot Red Speed three times a week to be abused by the cute girl with the thighs of titanium? Well, maybe I'll cut back. Cold turkey seems awfully harsh.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Blog is too Foodie-licious for You, Babe

I started sensing a few posts back that, as I feared after I found out Martin was a faithful reader, my juicy tidbits have only been culinary (oh man, I have to tell you about yesterday's recipes! Ok, later). No recent big revelations of new boyfriends, late night drinking binges, MySpace adventures. It's been bit pedestrian around these parts. Wow. You exercise. Yes, you cook. Can you give us something better?

Okay. Here's one. I met with the divorce lawyer on Monday. It appears this should be fairly simple. I think Martin and I can politely divide the household and the debts and the childcare and be on our merry ways. He's drawing up some papers and by next week it should be filed. I'm pretty blown away that this is finally really happening, but I don't think anyone could argue that we didn't give it fair time. It's been more than a year and a half since Martin asked for the separation. Though we have yet to physically go our own ways, we certainly have not behaved as a normal married couple for quite some time. And I've documented that here for the world to see.

So I guess you can chew on that for awhile. . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Running Like a Girl

Let's make that Grrrrl! I've been really enjoying my morning runs as of late. The weather in Kansas City has been nothing short of phenomenal so it's been especially easy to hit the pavement when it's a comfy 65 degrees when I head out as the sun rises. I realized this morning that it won't be long before it will be dark when I exit my front door at 6 a.m. Most of my exercise gear is black. I'll have to work on that.

And I found my way back to yoga this morning. I haven't practiced for more than two months as my two favorite teachers went on maternity leave at the same time my job search ramped up. I found an 11 a.m. class but didn't know what style it would be. The instructor turned out to be an old homeschooling acquaintance. It was a slow paced but very good class. Just perfect. I left refreshed and excited to restart my practice.

I am very much enjoying my first three days off of work with the kids at school (and Martin in L.A.) I've caught up with a couple of friends, enjoyed a cappuccino with Wasabi, made some tasty food, and tomorrow brings more of the same. I'll be making lunch for Concert Katrina and later joining Mrs. Diggs for coffee and toe-jobs. Back to work on Thursday and Friday should be fun as well. I dig my job.

And in case you're wondering what I've been eating (other than leftover curry), I traded a neighbor a glass of wine for four garden fresh tomatoes. I'm absolutely certain that I got the better deal. A basil chiffonade and fresh cracked pepper atop summer's finest fruit made today's afternoon snack stunning and satisfying. The remaining tomatoes are small. I'll have to barter for more very soon. Hmmmm, I wonder what I could get if I wandered the neighborhood with fresh-baked bread. . .

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No-Hurry Curry, part deux

Warning to Sam: Food pics to follow

The kids called me at work shortly after noon to ask if they could make no-bake cookies. I tentatively answered with a yes, but suggested they might prefer a fudge pop from the deep freeze. At that time, I also instructed Emily to take the curry that I'd put together last night from the fridge into the slow-cooker.

After I finished serving and cleaning up from lunch at Hope, I prepped a bit for dinner and realized I had a big slab of down-time ahead of me. I alerted the nurses that I was heading out and drove home to peek in on the kids. I arrived to find undercooked no-bake cookies, half eaten Annie's Cheesy Bunnies, a kitchen in complete disarray and two extra kids. Oh yeah, and an empty Crock-Pot.

So I cranked the cooker to "high" and started dinner. I also decided that I couldn't count on the rice being cooked to my standards and started it on the stovetop. Then I tackled the mess -- or at least a reasonable portion of it. And then I fell asleep.

I made it back to work in plenty of time to get dinner out for my adoring residents (ok, there are only a couple who are adoring) and was excited to taste my slowly simmered concoction when my long day (week) was done. I could smell it from outside and excitedly added the last couple of ingredients and tasted it. . . . .ho hum. Not as much flavor as I needed. I added salt, garamasala, cumin and, of course, ginger. Better. Then when served myself, I added sriracha sauce. It was exactly what I was craving at the end of my day. And best yet, someone else typed the recipe for me.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

No-Hurry Curry

Okay. One more day. Of my seven day stint, that is. I was completely wiped tonight when I returned from work. I looked around at the mess that had once been my tidy home and I sat on my arse. After a few minutes, I managed to tackle the kitchen then tuned into the Olympics. The women's marathon. Why is it that their pace is remarkably faster while running 26.2 miles than my 3.8 mile jog? I couldn't bear to watch for long. I was too embarrassed.

I then thought about how I'd purchased convenience foods for the kids to survive on while I was working my long weekend. And then remembered that they would be heading directly into a school week of not-so-healthy lunches. And I panicked. How will I juggle the nutritional needs of my children with my work schedule. Even on my not-twelve-hour-days, I'm not getting home until around 6:30. Then I make dinner? When do they do homework? Bathe? Play?

Slow cooker to the rescue. . .vegetarian style! I snagged Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker some time ago at the old Halfy's. I perused it once or twice but it never seemed necessary. It's a rare occasion that I realize dinner is coming more than 20 minutes before six o'clock, so why would I need a recipe that anticipates a meal by six to eight hours? Well, I do now. So while flipping between the Olympics and a couple of home design shows, I looked through the book. It contains lots of ethnic recipes and a curry caught my eye. I headed to the kitchen with a new found energy (again, glad to have cooking mojo leftover) and chopped and sauteed and seasoned and stirred. Tomorrow around noon, I'll instruct Em to turn on the Crock-Pot. And around 6 p.m. she'll start the rice. I'm already looking forward to the aroma that will greet me at the end of my workweek.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Out of Touch

Just a quick mention that I'm not ignoring you. Not at all. And my life isn't boring right now either. Not at all. I am, however, feeling pretty 20th century right about now. My laptop died. And then I tried using the other ancient laptop. Dead. So for a few days I used the kids computer and now it won't connect to the internet. Here I sit at work, using Chef's machine to check my email and connect with my massive fan-base.

So a quick update before I serve lunch. . .school starts tomorrow. Emily will hop her first school bus. I'm quite nervous for her to enter middle school. Isaac & Audrey will still be at the building behind our house. I don't know how the after-school juggle will pull together. Martin will be in L.A. next week then I don't know that anything else is in concrete as far as travel goes. (Oh yeah, he got back last Saturday night). So school. Yes. Another new something to fit into my work schedule.

Ok, time to feed the residents.

Yeah, fan-base. I like that.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Stir Crazy

At the end of my last seven day stint at work, I kind of surprised myself by longing to cook. My food. In my kitchen. Seasoned to my tastes. So as I drove the kids home from their grandparents', I asked for dinner requests. Audrey quickly responded, "Stir Fry!" and dinner had a plan. Upon arriving at home, I began marinating the tofu then made a quick run to the store for broccoli, snap peas and another red pepper and dinner was next to done. It was satisfying to pull together a dish for the family that I knew was healthy and delicious (note to my tofu detractors -- tofu can be tasty!)

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Then the next morning because I'd found a super-duper price on blueberries while on my stir-fry run, I made my annual Blueberry Danish This is a recipe I discovered years ago but only make once I've eaten all the fresh summer berries I can stomach. I swear it was prettier the first time I made it, but it was tasty as usual. And again, rather gratifying to be creating in my kitchen.

But now it's time to go to work. Where I will cook. And bake. And be fulfilled.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Dietary Deficiency

Turns out, I don't follow an average American diet. Okay, that doesn't come as a surprise to you, and I've never had reason to give it much thought. Until now. Because I'm feeding people who are accustomed to an average American diet.

Not a big deal, right? Well. Today a patty melt was on the menu. I didn't even know what was on a patty melt! I guessed pretty well, and we didn't have rye or Swiss, but I did manage the caramelized onions (and sampled them with goat cheese just to be certain they were good), but what about my fear of fried chicken? And this whole meat-for-breakfast thing is crazy, I tell you!

Almost every day this week I've been flummoxed by the menu to some degree. There have been no protests -- no one has thrown their food back at me. . .so I'd suppose I'm getting the hang of things. And my successful almost-patty-melt today gives me confidence that I might have a better grasp of things than previously thought. But just to be safe, I might study up on gumbo for next week.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Holy Smoke!

The kids are at my parents' place this week. I took them there on Sunday so they'd be cared for, fed and entertained during my last seven-day workweek before school begins.

Though there are not dogs, ducks or horses on the five acres that my folks call home, there are three shy cats, tree frogs and cucumbers. Audrey had no cause for concern as I left for KC on Sunday because Gramma & Papa's garden boasts a couple of plants that produce enough cucumbers to satisfy Audrey and maybe even a couple other people per day. She's been harvesting them regularly.

Once my kids are out of the city limits, they always have high expectations for pyrotechnics. So after they washed Papa's car (that's definitely what I'm looking for in a visit to the grandparents' -- manual labor), they were entertained with smoke balls, bottle rockets and a fountain or two. At least Dad is in his electric wheelchair when he lights things on fire. Sure, he's got a big flammable battery attached to his butt, but he can also make a quicker retreat if he drops a firecracker where he shouldn't.

I know they went swimming at a nearby pool. A big water slide kept Emily and Isaac going round and round and up and down for hours. Mom didn't understand why they didn't collapse of exhaustion. And Audrey kept Mom at a tight tether at the pool until she made a little friend -- a specialty of hers in almost any public setting.

But my biggest concern of the week is what they did last night. . .Vacation Bible School. I believe there are only three days of activities, and I have yet to speak to the kids or my parents after their first evening of playful indoctrination, but I do wonder what kind of detox I'll have to do next week. Most of you know that I fall fairly left-of-center when it comes to religion and spirituality. A big fan of being a good person for the sake of being a good person, I don't think scaring the hell into a kid is a great way to instill a sense of personal responsibility. Hopefully they'll return with a paper mache boat, a plaster of paris hand print and few Bible stories that will serve as cultural references. And no requests to attend that weekly festival of judgement and hypocrisy that was the cornerstone of my childhood.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

When Irish Eyes are Smiling

As I watched my marriage unravel over the last couple of years, I considered the lifetime of lonely that was to follow. For more than a decade, I claimed that if something happened to Martin (never acknowledging that something might happen to the relationship), I wouldn't pursue another love interest. I figured I'd heard enough friends bark about what pains in the asses their husbands were, that in fact, all men were the same. Why bother getting another model of the same lemon?

Then several months of lifeless matrimony passed and I realized that I could probably put up with some pain-in-the-ass in exchange for an occasional reasonably-good-time and perhaps a now-and-then kiss or two. When I suggested to Martin that we date others because we were clearly not going to fix what we had, I figured I'd goof around a bit at the bars with my girlfriends, maybe meet a couple of fellows who would turn out to be just like all of the others, then burn out like my other single friends -- followed by the aforementioned lifetime of lonely.

But my script has been hijacked. Though the potential for long term singlehood will always exist, and I did meet more than a couple of slouches who confirmed my hypothesis, it seems I have found -- or have been found by -- someone who makes me beam so obviously that it can be heard over the phone. I want to shout from the rooftop that I am deliriously smitten and happy and grateful to know Wasabi. There are many reasons that I feel this way, but today he showed me a sweetness that I've never before known. And now that loud smile has made it all the way up to my slightly-damp eyes.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On the Fringe

When I heard about the Fringe Festival a year ago, I envisioned quirky performance art like women shaving their heads, rolling in paint then weeping for 40 minutes. Wasabi Boy suggested we attend this year's event and as I trust his judgement (and really, what's the harm in watching two men stare at newspapers while wearing galoshes and clown noses?), I happily agreed, found a babysitter and we hit the town.

The first show we chose was the Bric-a-Brac Vintage Vagabond Variety Show and it was remarkable. It reminded me of my Renegade days (oh, if only I could link to that!) but happily didn't leave me longing to take the stage. I do, however, want to learn to play the bass now. That will have to take a back burner. . . Wasabi & I left really impressed and excited to see our next venue, The Alley Cat Revue, a delightful burlesque show that was equally impressive. I initially questioned the necessity of an Elvis impersonator dressed as a circus clown doing cheap magic tricks, but in the end it seemed to work. We then hit our last event of the night, a performance of Dances of India. It was good, but dragged on a bit and quite frankly, made us hungry for Korma Sutra.

While out on our date, we ran into a couple of acquaintances. Martin's best friend, Rossanna was at the burlesque show and a pair of Wasabi's friends who knew he and his ex- were at the dance performance. It was first a bit awkward, and then refreshing to be "outed" of sorts. Martin had told Rossanna of my new relationship as she and Wasabi have actually gone out once. And as for the other couple, well, they've not taken sides in the separation of their friends and it didn't seem they were uncomfortable with the notion of Wasabi out with a new woman. Kansas City is fairly small. Neither of us were surprised to bump into those we knew. Could it have been more dramatic? Sure. And we'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

. . .and the horse you rode in on. . .

Big Sis did a marvelous job of documenting my children's week at Camp Fulton Manor. Though I'll resist posting all 67 photos she gave me, along with the dozen or so that I took, I'll start with these three collages. . .

Catching toads, playing with Ringo, holding Basil while walking Dutchess, and playing with Slim


Riding Jet (who would later betray him), the eggs he gathered daily, climbing the rock wall treadmill at the Y, and the aftermath of being bucked off of Jet


Digging the kid-size treadmill at the Y, riding Dutchess led by Cousin E, where her tooth used to be, and playing with Most-Fun-Uncle

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Labor of Love

I'm being paid to do something I love.

I was mid-lasagne -- chopping onions and garlic (and my fingertip), building a sauce from scratch and blending cheeses when I realized how fulfilling my new job is. And though the occasional meal is a festival of fried goods with little or no creativity required on my part, most of what I'm making is inspired and delicious.

On Saturday, Chef and I headed to the Farmer's Market to choose vegetables and spices for the week. We were giddy looking about at local and unusual produce. The smell of fresh peaches and canteloupe wafted from the kitchen while I incorporated corn, tomatoes and herbs from nearby farmers into today's entrees.

So despite the tired that is draped over me after seven consecutive workdays, I'm gratified that I will return in three days to baste and broil for an appreciative public.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Silent Night

The kids are gone. I don't miss them.

Does that sound bad? It's not that I don't love them. I know I will see them again very soon. But you must remember that in nearly 13 years of motherhood, I've had approximately three days away from the children. That's 4,672 days of parenting less three in Portland. A vacation is surely in order. A working vacation, that is.

And I don't have a problem with that.

When I call to check in on the kids, Big Sis will ask if they want to speak to me and twice, Audrey's reply has been, "About what?" They're having a fabulous time. I only hope that the rest of the summer can compare to the adventures they're having at Fulton Manor. Today they went to the zoo and swimming. Isaac has taken over egg collecting duties. Audrey is enjoying Big Sis's cooking. Emily, well, I'm sure she's breaking some kind of Nintendo Pokemon records. I know they all three spent an evening catching toads. There have been fireworks. And they've been promised at least one more visit to the owl barn. My children are not missing me.

An unfortunate ongoing theme for me has been another string of nights with insomnia. I think, (though my memory is fuzzy at best) I've enjoyed reasonable sleep one out of the last six nights. So tonight when I returned home from work -- with no evening plans -- I first listened to the deafening silence of my home, laid down for a few minutes, started laundry, mowed the lawn, then drank a cup of tea with a two Unisom chaser. I expect to be incoherent very very soon.