Saturday, October 25, 2008

always busy cooking up an angle

pumpkin pie with chocolate on top

Sometimes the part I dislike most about my job (which is to say, this work I do for no money) is that I'm always here. And in the always being here, there are few absences with anxiously awaited returns, like the hero welcome the husband gets when he comes in at the end of the day. It's not that I don't like being here - I do. But nobody misses me because I'm rarely away and if I don't get the same glad smiles from finally coming back home, I have to find another way. And, generally, that way is called chocolate.

So, just between you and me here, I didn't get a baking bug tonight to satiate my own sweet tooth, no. But some days are grumpy days, and today was fine, but tempers were, for inexplicable reasons, raw and rubbed wrong it was just a little off, as far as Saturdays go.

While dinner was in the oven, I threw together a quick pumpkin pie. Canned pumpkin. I know, I know, but I keep some cans on hand when they're on sale at this time of the year. One of those well appreciated quickie conveniences. I should puree up a bunch of pumpkin and keep it for the same reason, and I have done that before, but I haven't bought a pie pumpkin yet this year. Anway, pumpkin pie filling in the food processor (molasses, pumpkin, rapadura, spices, an egg, you know). Cookie dough-ish batter in the mixer. Pressed the dough (like chocolate chip cookie dough minus the chocolate chips) into the pie plate. bake for ten-ish minutes. Spoon on filing, bake til firm. Sprinkle on chocolate chips, return to oven until melty. Spread melted chips with spatula. Take out pie, let cool for an hour.

The little one went to bed before it was ready, but even as he was walking, so slow and tired, through the kitchen on his way to pajamas, he stopped, "What that Mell? Tumting mell toe good!" and then, peeking in at the oven and turning on the light, "Pie!" And that's why I did it. Because I knew how much they'd like it.

But also, it was good. The melty chocolate chips on top of, well, any sweet baked treat is something I do frequently because this little family of mine loves the stuff. And considers no baked good truly complete without it. I'm ambivalent about the cocoa bean, but don't dislike it outright, so it's no trouble, really.

No trouble at all.

(do you know the lyric this post title is from? )

Thursday, October 23, 2008

twist my arm

Nah, no behind the scenes coercion from my friend Lisa, but she tagged me in a 'six random things' meme and, well, I'm feeling particularly amenable and generous today. So generous that I treated my children to cookies at the bakery and small toys at the toy store. And then said Yes! to pie after dinner. You'd think it was my birthday or something. . .

I almost passed because it feels like I've exhausted every random fact about me, magnifying every pore in frightening proportion, describing my last tic and quirk with the most tedious detail, but then I remembered, wait! That's over there, in my little basement speak easy, with the secret knock and dark windows. This space is less familiar, I'm more guarded, deliberate. It feels a little like I'm talking to myself in the city park here, anyone could be listening, but are they?

1. I do, in fact, talk to myself. So blogging to myself wouldn't be such a stretch. When I make some sort of a clumsy gaffe (hello too much political commentary!), I grumble, "april!" and, I must admit, it's the only time I hear my name and it doesn't take me a couple beats to go, oh! that's me. You'd think after all these ::cough, 33:: years, I'd be right attached to it.

2. I love old polyester old lady shirts best. Not any old polyester shirt. But I can sometimes see one from a distance at a thrift store and know, in the cut and the fabric, that it's the one. I have a number of these favorite shirts. I wore my newest one today:

another thrift store polyester old lady shirt
And, as a bonus: here's a post from last year wherein I wrote about this same thing and there's another picture of me in an old lady shirt in front of my same orange wall. (creature, habit, yeah yeah yeah).

3. I sing Amazing Grace to my son every night. If he's having a hard time falling asleep, he might get the extended lullaby selection, the order of which I developed when my girl was wee and took, in her very spirited child way, a long, long time to zonk out each night. So mostly, it's just the one song, but it might be some traditional churchy songs (Jesus loves me, etc), fading into a patriotic medley, then on to Dream a Little Dream of Me (hey, I'm no Mama Cass, but I try), and finishing it up with either Cat Steven's Moonshadow or The Counting Crows' The Rain King. My repertoire is limited.

4. I abstained from eating any overt cow dairy for nearly a decade. And then, in the last week, I willfully and knowingly ate some. Twice. Pizza. What next? (bacon.)

5. I am a horrible knitter. I learned how years ago, from a combination of looking at a kid's knitting book and seeing one demonstration from my friend, Sarah. I jumped right into my first project and have been knitting along, so slowly ever since. But I never seem to get more than one or two little things made a year and my skills stagnated at very beginner level and I still can't follow a pattern and I know so many superknitters, it's a little embarrassing to be the lone less-than-mediocre knitter working with plastic needles and lion brand yarn on a stockinette scarf. So be it. (oh, okay, so mostly I have wooden ones, but plastic sounds more dramatic).

6. My father was born on the 23rd of November on his mother's 23rd Birthday. Several of his siblings are born on the 23rd (of different months), as well. I was born on the 23rd of October. This same grandmother died on the 23rd of October, 2000. I have a special relationship with the number 23.

(i was always the sort to break chain letters. the golden books pass alongs when i small, the postcard kind when i was older, and definitely the email forwards now. so, on the basis of consistent principles, i respectfully do not tag anyone, but do tell me something about yourself, if you're so inclined).

Monday, October 20, 2008


horse chestnuts
all in a row

I like the idea of a nature table, little bits brought in from out, like a small gallery of objects culled from paths and parks and sidewalks. But for all the nuts and seedpods and scraggly branches we keep on shelves and windowsills, there are all the more under the oven, splayed across the floor, stuck to the bottom of my foot. Carried in by the handful, by the pocketful, and admired, such lovely fleeting things, but also, played with and stacked up and rolled around in the back of tiny toy dumptrucks. So the nature table is a nice idea, but having these pieces around and a part of how we live, in the house or not, is better. Or, at least, a pretty good validation for elevating sweeping/dusting beyond the Sisyphean dread of other chores! ha!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

the more i see, the less i know

station impulsively switched -not another commercial, anything else- and i'm not a mom in morning traffic. i don't have two sleepy car-sicky kids in the backseat. the opening notes of weezer's sweater song and i am behind the wheel of my 2-door white ford escort. i am taken by surprise. i am scott bakula oh boying into the mirror. i am a thousand miles away. i am one thousand four hundred and seventy-seven miles away. i am me, fourteen years ago. i am eighteen. just like that. i believe in time travel. sure i do. isn't it amazing, the way you can be driving along like any day and then, without any preparation or warning or inclination at all, music can pick you up and take you some place else? maybe someplace you don't want be again. or someplace you've never been before but feels familiar anyway.

and so i'm choosing to be here right now. loving, dancing, living. because this would be a pretty sweet place to come and visit again. be with me. (this is say hey by michael franti and spearhead. it's not any song that makes me dance when everybody else in the house is sleeping. also, hooray for music videos with capoeira cameos!)

Friday, October 10, 2008

warm ankles = good

a bright sunny day in early autumn

On dry days, like today, with clear skies and no clouds and sunshine, the air is so cold. Last night we dropped down near freezing. Cold. But I am determined not to turn on heat yet. Our old house has funny (original) electric radiant panel wall heaters, a separate unit in each room. We can efficiently warm up one room without unnecessarily heating the whole house, but I'm still trying to hold out. I've been putting the boy to sleep in two layers of pajamas (a good idea anyway, since he kicks the covers off, cold or not). I wore a sweatshirt to bed last night. And when the husband said it was too cold to sleep, I said, "put on some socks, man."

Our winters are mild here, so when I say it feels like winter out there, it's true. It does. Which means we need to dress accordingly. I wouldn't wear a parka in July. But I'm so glad to have these ankle-warmers around this October:

warm ankles

Say you're not the super-gifted knitty sort, or the very talented crafty kind, but you have all these short pants, and your ankles are always cold and oh! what to do? How about felt up a large wool sweater in the wash, cut off the sleeves, pull them up over your legs. Ta-da! I've done this with several sweaters now. Okay, so the very first one was an accident: I was attempting to make baby pants for the boy, you know, back when he was still a little baby and when I sewed them up, I screwed up the rise and fat babies in big cloth diapers + low rise pants = no worky, so my girl snagged them out of the scrap pile and wore them as her own legwarmers. So I guess what I'm saying is she discovered them and has been utilizing the idea for a few years and I just finally rolled around to it yesterday. It's a very good idea.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

just in time for fall

Oh, we'll have sun breaks and dry spells and blue skies, now and again, but the drizzle and the bluster and the growing drifts of soggy leaves spell Goodbye Summer, in case last week's surprisingly warm temps caused any confusion. And when the cooler weather sets in, when the windows are splattered with rain and we all start thinking about wearing socks again, what's better than a crusty loaf of bread right out of the oven? Freshly baked bread is good in any weather, but the start of Autumn always makes me extra enthusiastic about the simple pleasure of a slice of bread and a bowl of soup.

dutch oven bread

I saw that No Knead recipe floating around, on the blog of a friend a while ago and on the blogs of some of those top tier popular patty types. And I admit I was dubious. I mean, I'm sure it's fine and tasty and all that, but what's bread making minus the Knead? That's like sewing without the, uh, needle threading. Oh wait, the automatic threader on my machine is pretty nifty. It's like sleeping without the pajamas. I don't know! It's less than, that's all I'm saying, less than the whole experience that I find pleasurable. I have written plenty about how I appreciate the mundane details, because even the dumb work we gotta do amasses into something spectacular (Life! how fantastic is that?!) and I am suspicious of employing too many time saving devices that, at the end of the day, get us to the same dang spot without the exhilaration of having done it all ourselves. That's a good feeling. (so says the woman who is over. done. finished with life without dishwasher. install an automatic, maytag, used, new, whatever and I won't ever, not once, bemoan losing the Little Red Hen-ness of scouring up a sink full of dishes. I swear!).

I like kneading bread dough. I have small appliance envy with regard to dehydrators and a vita mix, but care not to acquire a bread machine. I don't like the uniform bricky shape, for one, and I just dig making bread, for two. And while I seem not to do it as often as I should (save for the Sunday night pizza dough standard) fresh bread happens often enough around here, especially in cold weather, that it's not that unusual.

I have this new (old) Descoware dutch oven, shipped to me by my mom, found in my grandmother's kitchen, unused for decades, inherited from an Aunt, so long ago. And when it came in the mail a few weeks ago, I thought: bread! Okay, first I thought: score! Another piece of cast iron enamelware for my burgeoning secondhand collection.

my vintage cast iron enamelware

But then I remembered, oh! Dutch Oven = No Knead bread recipe. Okay, why not? And guess what? It's great! The kneading part isn't missed because the bread dough, in its slow rise over a day, becomes such a part of Kitchen Life, tucked in the corner on the counter in a bowl or plopped down front and center on a cornmeal dusted dishtowel, that I don't feel like I'm missing anything by skipping the kneading. Am I really making references to getting to know my bread dough? And then asserting that, yes, appropriate relationship can be formed without the visceral work of kneading? Yeah, I am.

When it came time to try this recipe out for the first time, I just googled it and pulled up the one published at Mother Earth News, though, it seems like there is little variation between versions. I thought it might be incorrect at first because it calls for but a quarter teaspoon of yeast. And just 3 cups of flour. I think it's a great recipe for maximizing limited ingredients (which is something we might all be doing more of from now on out).

It makes a nice, crusty loaf. Soft on the inside with lots of air pockets. Good chewy texture. (My great grandmother used to say: the middle's for your tummy and the crust is for your teeth). Slight tangy flavor, it only rises a day, so it's no sourdough, but it has a more complex taste than your standard loaf bread, I'd say.

I've made it a few times in the last week and I think it's going to be a regular around here.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

with what shall we pay it, dear liza, dear liza?

Please tell me I'm not the only one who gets an irrepressible urge to start singing There's a Hole in my Bucket every time talk of the bail-out floats by. With the taxes, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry. But the people have no money, dear Liza, dear Liza. And so it goes. The snake eats its tail and so many of us are holding tight to the little scraps by the wayside.

How can someone I've never met, been in the same room with, be so generous and kind? A certain friend did something today that was such a surprise, such a sweet gesture, that I don't even know what to say except Thank You.

Which means I might get back on the writing track, because the picture-ing should return to its regularly uploaded pattern. I am itching to shake up the look of this little blogspot place, but maybe a switch to someplace else all together? Thinking. And revealing, too, my tendency to cut and run. Oh, I'm very loyal and stick around long past a respectable welcome, but just using my living situations over the past several years as an indicator, I should point out that I don't even know how often a person should clean beneath a refrigerator, because I just do it every time I move. Which has been sufficient. So when I'm growing tired of the same title banner (that lovely curly headed baby up there is a whole year older now and couldn't squeeze into that orange stripey pantsuit for anything) why do I start poking around at other platforms? I guess it is the Clean Slate appeal.

And I don't buy for a second that there's any sort of Hope or Fresh Start or Healing coming down the pike any way we slice it come November. I don't think any plan has that much straw to spare and if it's not one bucket, it's another.

But there are, despite all the upheavals and uncertainties and very valid worries, kind people and bread (tomorrow I tell you about No Knead bread and my new/vintage Dutch Oven) and if you've got those two things, you've got community and without community, we're all leaky sieves. I feel extra full right now.

gladness doubled

2 rocks

Two weeks ago we went camping (again). I declared we should attempt a new destination, each time we have the urge to pitch a tent and build a fire. So instead of heading westward, we drove east, and landed at Silver Falls State Park. What's not to be glad about waterfalls and trails and two days of hiking? It was a good time. Even if we forgot a knife. And forks. And the big bowl for dishwashing. And a flashlight. And fleece for the husband. We had everything that mattered.

My son walked over to me, "I have someting in my pocket, mama. You wanna see?" "Yes, I do!" and he reached into his pocket and pulled out a little stone. "I have a wock in my pocket!" And then I said to my boy, "I have something in my pocket, also. Do you want to see?" "I do! What is it?" And I pulled out my own little stone. "I have a rock in my pocket, too." "You do have a wock in your pocket, mama! You do! We both have wocks!" And he smiled like this was the best thing ever. "Here mama, you can have my wock. And now you have two."