Friday, November 21, 2014

A List


  • Have you guys seen this video?

Our kids are obsessed with this, and no wonder:  Michael BublĂ© (Caedmon's personal favorite), Idina Menzel (I can count on one hand the number of times our children have seen the movie Frozen, and yet they somehow know every word of the song Let It Go as performed by Menzel), and the whole video is lip-synced by kids?  With the added bonus of mildly altered lyrics to make Baby, It's Cold Outside 95% less Sexual Predator Anthem-ish?  I say YES.


  • On our recent trip south, I forgot our camera.  I suppose it's better to forget the camera than all your kids' pajamas (been there) or shoes for your preschooler (done that) or shampoo (almost every time), but it sure felt like a tragedy.  And I'm not even a particularly talented photographer.  I just like to take too many photos of my nieces; is that so wrong?  

Thankfully, my mom graciously allowed us to use her camera and her phone to take photos while we were there.  And by "us," I mostly mean Atticus.  I think he snapped around 3/4 of the pictures during our time there, so most of them are blurry, and many feature his fingers in the corner, but it's interesting to see things from his perspective.






  • I finally found a way to make Derek like homemade chicken noodle soup:  Add heavy cream and plenty of garlic.  This recipe for Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup was a winner with our family, which feels like a bit of a miracle; everyone but me in this house seems to be innately suspicious of soup, which makes no sense as we live in the kind of climate for which soup was surely created.




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Winter Gardening

It's November.  A November that doesn't feel like November.  It feels like mid-winter, except without the incipient I-haven't-been-outside-for-more-than-five-minutes-in-three-months depression and I'm-beginning-to-think-the-view-out-my-window-was-never-anything-but-white-snow delusions.  This whole being inside all the time thing is still relatively novel, but I can already feel myself heading for the doldrums that come from no running and no gardening.

The remedy to all this, clearly, is flowers.



Now.  Succulents are supposed to be these low-maintenance, fool-proof plants even those with brown thumbs can grow, but I have never had much luck with them, excepting my aloe vera plant, and I've decided that's because it's some kind of sick, masochistic creature that enjoys having me sever its limbs on a weekly basis to smear its insides all over imaginary hurts on our children.  Aside from that disturbing windowsill dweller, I've discovered a real talent within myself for killing all manner of succulents.  I have a knack.  This does not stop me, of course, from buying a new succulent every year or so, not because I enjoy watching things die, but because I am apparently an optimist who sees no need to operate on the plane of reality.  Plus there's a nursery just down the highway with a huge stock of succulents, so many different kinds and sizes and shapes, which makes sense, I suppose; I don't know how else a nursery is supposed to stay in business through an Iowa winter.  

Anyway, I got that one a week and a half ago, and it's still alive, hopefully learning all kinds of interesting things from its perch above the toilet.  I'm trying not to get too attached.



These, however; these, I have high hopes for.


The wonderful things about paperwhites are as follows:

  • Pretty.  Soooo pretty.  
  • I'm told they smell good.  I can never smell them.
  • Inexpensive.  I bought a bag with nine bulbs for $4 at Wal-Mart.  
  • Easy.  Can you fill a bowl with rocks?  Can you nestle some bulbs on top of those rocks?  Can you then fill the bowl with water until it just covers the bottom of the bulbs?  Then you can force paperwhites indoors this winter.  
  • If you're one of those super-moms, you can, like, teach your kids (or yourself!) stuff about plants and the growth cycle of a bulb (google can supply you with all kinds of handy dandy flow charts and visuals) and God's creation.  Just channel Neville Longbottom for five minutes, then have an extra brownie for your crazy awesome parenting skills.


Don't have a wide, shallow bowl?  Use mason jars instead, keep all the other steps the same.  Put them in your laundry room for an extra dose of life and decadence when you really need it.  I can't help you with the cute kid; he's all mine.  The sucker's an extra he charmed out of the doctor yesterday.  



If growing paperwhites just isn't going to happen for you this winter, don't you worry:  I'll be keeping you overly informed on the progress and status of ours for the next several weeks.  Rest easy, dear friends.








Wednesday, November 19, 2014

SO FANCY

Over the past year, our dryer has gone from sending us polite messages that perhaps it might be time to start training an eager up-and-coming dryer, to passive-aggressively demanding its honorary retirement timepiece, to hurling blatant death threats at us each time we enter the laundry room because how dare we keep it from its well-deserved move down to Florida where it can play golf and bocce ball and whatever other fun stuff retired dryers do.  I think I saw it in a Cialis commercial the other day, which is not weird at all because a dryer sitting in a tub full of water holding hands with another appliance in a separate bathtub while on the beach makes about as much sense as humans doing so.


Our stackable, hand-me-down washer and dryer


It started with screeching.  Polite, pardon me, oil can! through pursed lips kind of screeching.

The screeching got louder.  It became grating.  It vibrated our tympanic membranes in a most painful fashion.

Derek and I read blogs and watched youtube videos and surfed the waves of the internet searching for a DIY solution to our problem.  And by "DIY" I do not mean "Do It Yourself," of course; I mean "Do It Derek'sself," so I suppose Derek was looking for DIY, and I was looking for DID.  But I digress.

Maybe if he had been able to wrestle the stubborn metal outer shell off of it, Derek would have been able to fix whatever problem was ailing our aging dryer, but that sucker was not coming off for anything.  He wrestled and banged and made impressive loud sounds, all for naught.  The dryer continued to screech, and we continued to live with it, until the clanging began.

A few weeks ago the dryer decided that screeching was not getting through to us.  It read a Joel Osteen book, put on its big girl panties, and decided it needed to Live Its Best Life Now and Make Every Day a Friday or some equally incomprehensible piece of bafflement and started throwing rocks around its insides anytime we had the audacity to try and dry clothing in it.

I swear it knew when it was me specifically entering the laundry room, because if the dryer was already running (as it so often is around here), it would hurl some particularly sharp piece of metal against its side, right toward my face.  It wore its bitterness at its indentured servitude on its sleeve.  Door.  Whatever.

And that is why, one day last week, when so many stores were running sales in honor of our veterans (I could tell it wasn't to make money because they put an American flag on the sales flyer.  Got me again, Nebraska Furniture Mart!), Derek and Caedmon and I trotted our little selves all around Des Moines to find a washer and dryer that was 1) within our budget, 2) energy efficient, and 3) preferably not homicidal.


[Cue angelic music]

I know, right?

You'll have to forgive me a moment here while I gush; there is absolutely no way I can be cool about this.  I knew that ship had sailed when Caedmon stared open-mouthed at the washer when the installation guys were testing it before leaving (never mind that I may or may not have randomly exclaimed "FANCY!" half a dozen times while they were here- I hope they realized I was in awe at our new appliances, and do not in fact have Tourette's, nor am I obsessed with Reba McEntire).  It's not just me, though; last night I walked into the laundry room to find Derek, Adelaide, Atticus, and Caedmon all sitting there, just staring at the washer as it did its revolutionary (ooh, puns) work of washing our dirty clothing.  

You guys.  That washer?  It uses thirty fewer gallons of water PER LOAD than our last washer did.  Our family does an average of ten loads a week; for those of you who get hostile when math is mentioned I will go ahead and tell you that that's a savings of around 300 GALLONS OF WATER EACH WEEK.  I have washed and dried five loads of laundry so far today and have already decided I can live with whatever dark magic that dryer employs because I can dry more clothing in less time than our last dryer with zero rancorous overtures.


Caedmon watching Fancy this morning.

Big thanks to Derek for taking off work early and Derek's dad for driving down to help finish installing the dryer when the actual installation guys were unable to do so.  Something about the wrong kind of outlet in the wall or something, I basically nodded and said "Okay," "Right," and "FANCY!" when the guy was trying to tell me what was wrong and blah blah blah.  This was not frustrating at all for Derek when he tried to find out from me what the problem was.  I am such a catch.


I got Fancy all to myself this morning for the first time, loaded down with a small mountain range of nasty sheets and clothing and towels and yogurt-soaked place mats.

She didn't let me down.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ooooh, Babies

A week and a half ago, we were in Kansas.



As I was going through the photos from our trip, I noticed a trend.








Nearly every photo of Atticus also includes a baby being smooshed and loved by our son.



Norah playing with a TOY pistol, my children looking enormous.  And old.


I have no idea where he gets it.



Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Honesty

It's that time of year, where you lie to yourself and those you love most about the possibility of getting a decent family photo for the yearly Christmas card.  You go to all the trouble of corralling children whose very last intention is cooperating in crafting a mendacious image of a smiling, happy, everything-is-awesome-and-so-are-we picture to send out to all your friends and family who would more likely benefit from receiving an envelope full of candid pictures snapped on cranky mornings and that day you made your son wear the most masculine of his sister's clothing because all his were still dirty (I'll get to the laundry when I get to it, ALL RIGHT?), with perhaps a hastily scribbled note admitting that your life isn't anywhere near perfect, and you'd be willing to bet the recipient's isn't, either, but that you still love them and wish them the very merriest Christmas.







And these were the good ones, friends.  



Friday, November 14, 2014

An Imperfect Week

Sunday night we got back from our trip south, and checking in after four days away from the internet resulted in me finding out/being reminded of all the things I had going on this week.  They were all good things, but they made me want to crawl in bed and pull the covers up over my head.  I'd just spent the past several days peopling, and I couldn't people anymore.  I spent the week channeling Rabbit and crying, "Nobody!" anytime any of my well-meaning Winnie the Pooh's asked "Isn't anybody at home?"  I would apologize, but believe me when I say it is for your own safety that I recuse myself at times like these.  

Still, stuff did happen this week.


It snowed, which means we busted out the snow boots, which means this happened:


Which means I was like,


Except I most likely won't kill anyone as a result of my frustration.  I'll probably just go buy them new boots to outgrow in another six months.




Derek and I dragged Caedmon around most of the day Tuesday shopping for new appliances (a post all its own for next week- I know, appliance blogging!  Things are about to get cray-zeeeee!), which prompted him to desperately ask, "Are we ever going home?" right around noon and our fourth stop of the day.  I remember being goose-stepped around Lowe's with my parents when I was a kid; I did not handle it as well as Caedmon did, possibly because I did not derive joy and entertainment out of opening and closing and opening and closing and opening and closing washer and dryer doors.  The salesmen loved us, I'm sure.


The above gif has nothing to do with Caedmon, but is instead the way I imagine each of your faces looked when you read the words "appliance blogging."  You guys are hilarious.




Wednesday.  Oh, Wednesday.  

Wednesday I broke the fridge.  Don't worry, Derek fixed it Wednesday night.  It turns out our fridge is like those divas who insist on Evian And ONLY Evian, Do Not Bring Me Any Of That Ozarka or Poland Spring Water, I Can Tell The Difference, except with the water filter.  Or it might be that I'm supposed to pay attention to the giant arrows on the fridge and filter and line them up.  Whatever.

Our fridge after the Water Filter Incident.  Thank goodness our fridge doesn't read this blog, or it would know I went from calling it a diva to a genocidal dictator, and then there would be no living with it.



Wednesday I also forgot our children.  But only two of them!

See, what happened is this:  Every Wednesday the school has an early out, and I spent the morning thinking it was Tuesday, so when a friend called that afternoon, I assumed she was asking me to pick her daughter up from the bus stop along with our kids, but her first few words, "It's Wednesday, and the kids have an early out" had me springing off the floor and freaking out because IT'S WEDNESDAY AND LIKE 15 DEGREES OUTSIDE PAAAAAAANIC, but thankfully she came to the rescue and Atticus and Adelaide were delivered to our front door via the safety of a warm car maybe 90 seconds later, which is better than they would have gotten if their own mother had been on top of, you know, their survival.

It's nice to think that this is the kind of thing I would Mother Torture myself over but the kiddos wouldn't even think twice about, but I can already tell that's not the way this is going to go.  That night at supper both the A's Worst Things involved that day's abandonment (every evening at supper we do Best Thing, Worst Thing where everyone gets a turn to share the best and worst part of their respective days, and oh, yes, the word "abandoned" was actually used).  


The one redeeming part of Wednesday was this book I got from the library:



It's WWII historical fiction whose narrative flip flops between a blind French girl and a German orphan boy fascinated by radios.  I'm about 100 pages in and it's excellent so far.  Thanks for recommendation, Deanna!


And just to round out the week:




This guy's spent the week in his snow pants, foam sword tucked into the back of his shirt, princess wand safely in a belt loop for easy access, running around the house yelling, "Fierce!  Fierce!  Fierce!" while brandishing the bedazzled wand at imaginary foes.  This makes me collapse in helpless laughter, because really, Fierce + Glittery Wand Accessory can only equal some sort of Project Runway Superhero and I know this is the very antithesis of the effect he's going for, especially when he tells me the wand shoots dragon fire at bad guys and BURNS THEM TO DEATH (emphasis his).  

How I see Caedmon this week:




How he sees himself:





The end.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Back to the Future, Food Edition

I spent a solid hour Monday after school doing panicked winter yard prep.  The afternoon high was 60 degrees, but I could feel the temperature rapidly dropping and the wind picking up as I planted front porch mums, dumped potting soil into divots in the flower beds, turned the compost heap, and stacked terracotta in the shed.  These are all things I've been meaning to do for weeks now, preferably at a leisurely pace, enjoying the last of the year's pleasant temperatures, not running in actual circles around my front yard with a rotting jack o'lantern under my arm because I can't decide which chore is the most urgent and thus must be done first or my life will just be over, do you hear me, over, but nothing motivates like the promise of a 40-degree drop in temperature from one day to the next.

Sometimes I attach too much importance to the mundane.  But you already knew that.

I got the most pressing of the outdoor needs squared away, and retreated indoors.  Yesterday morning we woke up to snow.  Just a dusting, but still- snow.  In November.  BLAAARGH.

The one good thing about cold temps- aside from drawing in those deep breaths of cold air, I love that, but not the kind of cold that makes your lungs feel like they're turning into brittle shards of ice and makes your throat wonder just what it ever did to you to deserve this treatment- aside from all that, the good thing is, of course, baking.  Temperatures plummet and my oven beckons.  But not in a creepy, come-hither way, you understand, more of a slide-some-apple-pie-into-me-baby way, which gracious sakes, is still creepy.  I don't understand what I've done to this post or how I've managed to violate my own oven.  I'm beginning to think I shouldn't be allowed to write after 11 p.m.

Right.  Baking when it's cold out.  Let's focus.

All this cold weather is rather fortuitous, as while we were in Kansas over the weekend celebrating a wedding and eating an early Thanksgiving meal and fighting over whose turn it is to hold the babies, my mom also passed on a recipe book my grandma picked up at an auction recently.



About 3/4 of its contents are dessert recipes and include titles such as Inspiration Cake (above), Peach Luscious, Plain Cake, Sugar-Saving Icing (to get you through all that pesky sugar rationing), and Saucepan Cookies.  It contains instructions like "bake in a slow oven" and enough shortening to choke a whale.  

My first thought had been to slowly bake my way through the dessert portion, but even I can't stomach the thought of feeding my family that much shortening- do any of you know if butter can be equally substituted?  Only one recipe cites its source- McCall's, May 1950- but the few savory recipes only serve to reinforce my opinion of mid-century American cuisine (ooooh, the salad molds):  Deviled Frankfurter Filling, Salmon Loaf, Cottage Cheese Salad (it involves cooked prunes and mayonnaise.  You don't want to know.  Save yourselves.) and Dressing Mold for Left-Over Fowl ("When preparing dressing, fix an extra amount.  Grease salad ring mold and fill with dressing.  Store in refrigerator.  Bake it next day, and fill the center with the remains of the fowl, creamed.  Garnish with greens."  GACK).

And somebody, PLEASE, shed some light on this untitled recipe:  "Mix ground coffee, unbeaten egg, salt and enough cold water to mix easily- corn bread batter- Heat water until steaming- add coffee mixture and bring to rolling boil- Simmer 10 minutes then remove from heat- Add 1 c cold water and let stand 5 minutes.  Ready to drink- Dip off carefully.  Coffee isn't done until foam breaks."  

Ice Box Cookies!
My sister Kelli and I were also both a little disturbed to find "B.M." as a common ingredient, but our combined sleuthing prowess led us to conclude that she meant Butter Milk and not, um, something else.  (Hey, this thing contains "Mystery Cheese Ball & Crax."  Anything seemed possible.)

Once I solve the shortening-to-butter conversion, I'm not sure where to start.  Devil's Food Whirligig Cake?  Sea Foam Fudge Cake with Sea Foam Frosting?  Or go more seasonally appropriate and try the Pumpkin Chiffon Pie?  All I know is I'm staying completely away from the pages labeled "Attractive Salads."