Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bullied: A Confession

I was bullied growing up. A lot. I was an easy target: shy, skinny, insecure, quick-to-cry, and, most crucially, slow-to-tattle. For some unGodly reason, I didn't rat out my tormenters, no matter the offense. A kid who doesn't tell is the Ultimate Lottery Ticket for playground thugs.

I've been thinking a lot about bullying lately. Actually, if I'm honest, I started thinking about bullying 9 years ago, when I got pregnant with Miss D. I remember talking to my mother over grilled cheese and soup, saying, "I hope this kid has more spirit than I had. I was a wimpy kid. I've always hated that about myself. I want this kid to be tougher."

The Good News: Miss D. certainly has spirit. In spades.

The Bad News: Miss D. is incredibly sensitive. Like her Mama, tears well up in her eyes easily and often. And when I see those tears, a cold shiver rattles through me. I can't help it. I both cherish and mourn that soft little heart.

Miss D. learned about bullies last year, in first grade. First. Grade. I couldn't believe that we were facing the Ugly Dragon so early in her school career. But life isn't fair, eh? So I tried to navigate her through the minefield as best I could, and we did okay, I think. But it's a long and jagged road ahead of us; just thinking about it deflates me.

I thought about bullies the other day, when I was going through a shoebox of old photos and stumbled across this one.

This photo was taken my senior year in high school. A group of kids from Advanced Biology took a week-long whitewater rafting trip down the Yampa and the Green Rivers. I was a member of that group. So was Jill.

That rafting trip was filled with thrills, hi-jinks and hilarity. It also had a surprise waiting for me--a surprise that had a lot to do with Jill.

A little background. Jill was odd. Odd enough to place her far, far down on the social food chain. On that food chain, it wouldn't be a stretch to call Jill a paramecium.

Parameciums eat lunch alone. They sit in the library alone. They are the last ones chosen for the flag-football team in Phys. Ed. I'll stop there--you know who I'm talking about. Every school has them.

It also didn't help that Jill had bright orange hair and ghostly white skin and was blanketed in hundreds of freckles. She sported glasses. And braces. And outdated, off-brand athletic shoes.

Jill was in my section of Advanced Biology. One day, when I was out with strep throat, our class chose lab partners for the dreaded Rat Project.

Every year, the Rat Project struck fear in the hearts of Advanced Biology students. The Rat Project was a month-long, intensive dissection of an enormous white rat. Each pair of students got its own formaldehyde-soaked specimen right after Thanksgiving. And if, by Holiday break, the dissection wasn't completed, one student in the pair toted that rat home and stuck it in the deep freeze for a few weeks. Just the idea of shlepping a half dissected rodent, the size of a cat, cram in beside the ice cream and the Stouffer's dinners? It gave me the willies.

Long story short: because I was absent on partner-picking day, I got Jill. When I learned that I'd be spending a month alone with Jill and a gi-normous, reeking rat, I was less than pleased. I am ashamed to say that I even sulked a little.

What I didn't know was that being paired with Jill was a happy accident in disguise. Turns out, Jill loved dissection. She was good at it, too. She enthusiastically tore into Godzilla (our rat) and had him rationed into tiny, dessicated bits in no time. When Holiday break came around, we bid Godzilla goodbye. No deep freeze for us.

After the Rat Project, I forgot about Jill. She went back to her own table and her paramecium existence. And then Spring came. Jill and I were assigned to the same raft on the Yampa Adventure. Again, I was less than thrilled--a week in a small raft with Jill and a handful of others, attempting pleasant chit chat and paddling like mad? Yick.

The first morning, Jill emerged from her tent slathered, head-to-toe, in a heavy layer of zinc oxide. The snickers and remarks were immediate.

"God, doesn't she know what normal sunscreen looks like?"
"Who's Casper?"
"EEK! Bright light! Bright light! Mogwai!"
"Hey, Marshmallow girl!"

I was furious. Nice. Our raft was a laughingstock. Jill adjusted her floppy hat and pretended not to hear, paddling harder than the rest of us.

One night during the trip, I couldn't sleep. In truth, I hadn't slept much the entire week. The ground was hard and lumpy and the tent smelled funny and the spring nights were shockingly cold. I'm an indoor girl. Restless, I grabbed my jacket and headed outside. I wandered along the river for a while, listening to it burble and eddy beside me. When I got to a group of large rocks, I was surprised to see a long-haired figure sitting there. Jill.

"Can't sleep?" I said.
She shrugged.
"I am so not a camper," I said. "I hate how lumpy the ground is. My tent smells weird, too, like wet dog or something."
She didn't answer.
"Wasn't that gross today?" I rattled, plopping down on a neighboring rock. "All of those water crickets we ran into? Ewwww." I shivered. "Those things were freaking huge."
Pause. "That was kinda gross."
"Jeez, I'm freezing. How long have you been out here?"
"I'm out here every night." She pointed skyward. "You can see the stars really well from here."
"They are pretty. I have no idea what I'm looking at, though."
"Not even the dippers, there?"
She laughed a little. And then she pointed out each constellation, one by one, patiently guiding me through them and explaining what I was seeing.
"That's cool. You know a lot about stars."
She shrugged. "My dad bought me a telescope when I was nine."
We talked about stars and planets and space until, teeth chattering, I headed for the stinky comfort of my tent.
"Thanks," I said, over my shoulder. "For the lesson."

I'd like to say that Jill and I became friends after that. I'd like to say that for the remainder of my high school year, I smiled at Jill and chatted with her in the hall. I'd like to say that I told everyone in the raft the next morning how much Jill knew about stars. I'd like to say that. But I didn't do any of those things.

I never bullied Jill, but I bore witness. I did nothing to stop the giggles and eye rolls and barbed remarks. It's not something I'm proud of, particularly since I was bullied as a kid and knew the collateral damage. I knew, and I did nothing. And those who do nothing aren't much better than the ones hurling the insults, are they?

I attended my 10-year high-school reunion, hoping to see Jill there. Hoping to tell her that I was sorry. That she taught me a lot that night. Of course, she did not attend. Why on Earth would she want to see us again, walk into a room of old, ugly faces?

It's something I hope to tell Miss D. someday. How one night, one starry spring night, a freckled girl taught her mother a lesson. In more ways than one.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Neighbor Friday: Bon Appetit Hon

Hi Friends! While I'm gambling my life away in Sin City, I'm entrusting you to the wit of Wendi from Bon Appetit Hon. She's bringing both the funny and the tender today, and I know you'll love her as much as I do.

For more Won't You Be My Neighbor fun, click on the icon below and visit Amy at The Never-True Tales!


Before I get to my Neighborly contribution....there's all kinds of backstory to this. Like I didn't own a car until I was 25 so all my commuting was done on the bus. I even lugged bags of groceries home on the bus every week, otherwise I didn't eat. Most of my bus memories were of the weird people that were attracted to me for some the lady with a deformed arm (I don't know how to say that kindly) who asked me if I could help her button her pants or the people that talk to the voices...yeah, that kind of thing. And I had kind of forgotten about this memory for the longest time, I think because it was so normal (well, for me).

After the worst breakup I've ever been through, I really questioned whether I would ever find love, if I was worthy or capable of being loved. And then this memory came back to me. And it gave me hope. Which I needed, especially after the therapist I had started seeing to try and put the piece of my shattered self back together got busted for helping a man break out of prison. There is nothing like the feeling of turning on the 11 o'clock news and seeing your therapist in racy boudoir photos (which she sent to said inmate) and learning that she broke some convict out of the pokey. Yeah, that's the woman I want helping me to understand how to make better choices... So after all that blathering, here's my story.

Mine Eyes Have Seen

I was watching the movie Notting Hill the other day. Total chick flick. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I always get weepy at the end. There’s a scene where Julia Roberts gives Hugh Grant a painting. She says something about how it makes her think about what love feels like.

We all have our own ideas about what love feels like. Maybe it’s a touch on the back of the neck. Or the warmth of a hand in yours. But what does love look like? And how does that change over a lifetime?

There is one day I clearly recall being in the presence of a lifetime of love. I was coming home from work on the bus after a tragically ordinary day. The ride held nothing unusual and I took on my usual mass transit demeanor; I sat staring out the window, blocking out the noise and people around me. It must have been early spring because I remember being weighed down by the heaviness of my sweater and coat and the light fading early, long before I got home.

To gaze out the window facing me on the other side of the bus, I had to stare though an elderly couple that occupied the seats in front of it. I paid them no mind. To be truthful, I was oblivious to them until they signaled for the bus to stop. Hearing the ringing of the bell, I looked at the hand that slowly lowered to resume its place in the woman’s lap.

As the bus pulled up to the corner, the couple raised themselves from the seats. Once the doors opened, it took them a few moments to descend the steps. She exited the bus before he did and as he navigated those three steps, he practiced a routine that must have been familiar to him. Grab the rail, place the cane on the step, lower one foot, lower the other, place the cane on the next step, and so on.

My attention was riveted on them while most everyone else looked at the traffic light, probably hoping that we didn’t miss the green light and have to sit there longer. Once the elderly man reached the sidewalk, he reached over to his waiting companion, took her left hand, and quietly placed it just above his right elbow. Supporting one another, they walked down the street and out of my life, unaware of my interest in them.

I’ve never forgotten the feeling I took away from seeing that. To this day, it remains one of the sweetest gestures I have ever seen. In that one action I heard unspoken words of trust and respect, support and endurance. Watching that corner scene, I almost felt as though I was spying on the couple. It was no more than a moment and yet it was one that struck me as intimate and personal, not for public display.

I’ll never know who those people were. But if I could, I’d thank them for giving me hope that love can be present in the quiet moments of everyday life even after a lifetime together.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers: Ina's Baked Shrimp Scampi

I had to punt on February's first Barefoot Bloggers recipe, coconut cupcakes. Things got a little crazy at Chez T. at the start of the month. Things are still nuts--Hell, when aren't they--but I did make time to make the second recipe of the month, Roasted Shrimp Scampi.

Except. This recipe is a complete Ass-Buster. You can find the original recipe here:

Ahem. 12 tablespoons of butter and three tablespoons of olive oil? Holy Backside Suicide, Batman! And I'm escaping to Sin City (as we speak, actually) for my 41st (sheeeeeeeeiiiiiit, I am old) birthday. I can't be old and fat. That's just too depressing.

So I re-worked this sucker. I'm sorry. I just had to. That thing had no business starring in Half-Assed month. Which truly has been half-assed month, hasn't it, since I've hardly posted any recipes? Forgive. I'll make it up to you in March, pinkie-swear.

Anyways, here's the recipe in re-vamped form.

Half-Assed Baked Shrimp Scampi
adapted from Ina Garten
serves 6

2 pounds shrimp in the shell (12 to 15 shrimp per pound)
3 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1/4 cup minced shallot
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 extra-large egg yolk
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 425.

Peel, devein and butterfly the shrimp (cutting up the back where the black vein once was), leaving the tails intact. Toss the shrimp with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you prepare the garlic/butter mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Starting from the outer edge of a 13-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp, in a single layer, butterfly side down and tails curling up toward the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over shrimp. Spread the shrimp evenly with the garlic butter.

This is what they look like before going into the sauna!

Roast for 10-12 minutes or until hot and bubbly. If you like the breadcrumbs browned, you can pop the shrimp under the broiler for 1 minute.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Verdict: To quote hubby: "MMM." This scampi is still decadent enough--honest. By cutting the butter in half, but keeping the same ratio of spices, garlic and herbs, this shrimp has plenty of bang for the buck. It's love food, people. And you won't have to hide under the covers after you eat it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Guest Post: Naptime Writing

Hola, Readers! Since it's Freakshow Circus week, my wonderful friend Naptime Writing has generously agreed to guest post for me! I adore her. She's got just enough wit and snark to have me doubled over in giggles on a regular basis. She's also honest as Hell; if you haven't read her post on Ambivalent Parenting, you must head over to her blog right now and do so. It's sheer brilliance.

Enjoy! And thanks, Nap! You are awesome!


Walking a city street today I heard a man in a red and blue plaid button-down tell someone on the phone, “I’m wearing a red shirt and a khaki jacket.” Then he pulled his olive green windbreaker tighter and zipped it. Good luck being found with that description, I thought, and began thinking about how we describe ourselves and others and how really crummy we are at seeing reality.

All my life we’ve been told who and what we are by people who don’t really look. In my case, the snap-judgment labels paint a dismal picture. High maintenance. Overly dramatic. Controlling. Negative. Know-it-all. Bitch. Family and strangers alike are happy to tell me how terrible my personality is. Thank you very much, society, for finding a way to make me want to despise and fight every impulse I have, even if knowing exactly what I want, being emotive, cautious, creative, interested in learning, willing to share information, and a rather strict rule follower could benefit me as an adult.

Labels have always made me feel like I’m a burden---too much for most people and generally abrasive. I can handle that, I guess, even if I feel like crap about myself most of the time. But when I had a child I glimpsed some of the same qualities in him and wanted to spare him feeling that way. From only a few weeks old, my son stared suspiciously at anyone new and watched---without warming to them for days. People would try silly things to get him smile and laugh, while their antics received a cool appraisal that seemed to say, “Do you find yourself amusing? How lovely for you. I don’t agree.” People were offended. They said he was “so serious” and “surly” and “shy,” though none of those was true.

In reality, he was (and is) circumspect. He checks out every angle before diving in with wild, silly, and boisterous abandon. He just wants to make sure, first. Cautious. Careful. Qualities that will serve him well as an adult. He is, for instance, guaranteed never to buy from an infomercial or company with earning statements like Enron.

There’s nothing wrong with babies who laugh easily and enjoy strangers. But there’s also nothing wrong with children who do not think strangers are perfectly delightful. I don’t find almost anyone delightful, so why should I expect something different from a young person?

My child is a lot of things that other people don’t like. He has very strong opinions, and is quickly and loudly labeled by family and strangers “picky” and “spoiled.” He is intensely persistent and will cling to an idea for, honestly, more than a year if he really means it. (Ask me later about the “when will the cats die so we can have a dog,” and the “we need a metal detector just in case” projects he’s been engaged in for nigh on twenty months.) People who know him barely or not at all call him “spoiled” and “stubborn” and “a control freak.” He knows what he wants, he expresses it clearly, and he stands there and waits, often patiently, until he gets it. Sounds like the sort of thing people spend thousands of dollars to learn at a seminar after the impulse was beat out of them as children, but everyone is willing to tell me how unseemly these qualities are in a child.

Last week we went on a long walk that included a trip to my preschool-aged son’s favorite rock, bread store, and book store. But we didn’t have time for a toy store. (For the record, toy stores occur to him once every two months. But when they do, woo-hoo, stand back.) Endless raging and sobbing and carrying on for the final mile of the walk, despite logic, reasoning, empathizing, ignoring, threatening, and judicious use all the other tools in my Super-Mom Knapsack of Wise and Useful Tricks. We made it home, barely, and I made a mental note to offer a choice this week. So today we agreed to change the walk to include the bread store, book store, and toy store. As we finished THREE HOURS of awesome bonding as-much-fun-as-you-can-have-without-sugar good times, he told me we went to the wrong toy store, and again raged and sobbed and cried for over a mile. Despite logical efforts to point out the time of day, the heretofore child-centric nature of the walk, the appointment with the plumber, the possibility next time of going to a different store, the reality of using different names for different stores, and my totally legitimate five-miles-into-a-walk-while-eight-months-pregnant exhaustion, he would not let it go.

After a mile I stopped and had The Talk with him. This talk has been a long time coming and I issued forth calmly and a bit more self righteously than I wanted. The Talk was given, unfortunately, in my own mother’s voice. To wit:

The world does not revolve around you. There are times in life we don’t get what we want. Sometimes other people are in charge. And right now, since I’ve heard you and talked with you and explained to you and told you my answer absolutely will not change, this conversation is over. And if I hear one more word about this, just one more boo-hoo or word or argument or idea, I will park the stroller and walk home alone.

The Talk had little effect, but the threat worked just fine. Score another one for old school parenting and the my-way-or-the-highway approach I vow to avoid. Unless I need it. Or just want to use it. Because, really, principles are all fine and good unless you don’t want to stick to them, right?

At lunch I told him we can compromise and negotiate and that it’s great that he knows what he wants and keeps trying. The way he feels is important, and it’s quite impressive that he articulates how he feels and makes himself clear even when people disagree. Yay for him. But that when I say my answer will not change, the conversation is over.

He said it was good to know that. And that maybe we could play just one game before naptime.

He’s going to be a great CEO. Or lobbyist. Or both.

Monday, February 22, 2010

White Bean Dip with Roasted Garlic and Rosemary

Okay, Readers! Those of you who wanted a homemade hummus recipe are about to be rewarded...with something that ain't really hummus.

But. This dip has a nice hummus-like consistency and is absolutely delicious, particularly when served with the homemade pita chips below.

I know, I know, who has the time to make their own stinking pita chips? Well, obviously you do because you are also the same freaks who make your own hummus.

Be warned, however. The combination of the dip and the spiced chips is so addictive, it may just hurl you headlong into a jag.

I also thought the dip was delicious when spread on romaine lettuce leaves, topped with sliced turkey, and rolled up, burrito-style. Almost as good as my crack snack.

White Bean Dip with Roasted Garlic and Rosemary
adapted from The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger
serves 12 as an appetizer

2 cans (15.5-ounce) white beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 tablespoons whole roasted garlic (recipe follows)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
the grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine all ingredients except salt and pepper; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with fresh vegetables or pita chips.

Roasted Garlic

1 head garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375.

Cut the top third of the garlic head off so that the tops of the cloves are exposed. Place the garlic head, unpeeled, in a small ovenproof dish and drizzle with the oil.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 30 more minutes or until garlic is soft and golden brown. Cool. Squeeze the roasted garlic from each of the cloves and mash into a paste. Store any additional roasted garlic in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Spiced Pita Chips
from The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 pita breads (preferably whole-wheat), cut into 8 wedges each.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Combine the olive oil and spices in a large bowl. Add the pita wedges and toss to coat. Spread the wedges in a single layer on two baking sheets and bake, tossing once, until the pitas are brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Cool.

These will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3 days.

~PS: Just a little aside to let you know that this week is a Freakshow Circus at Chez T. If I'm not commenting/visiting your blog much this week, please know that I'll be back next week when things slow down!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Giggles

I'm passing this along to you today because it's too good to keep to myself. I wish I'd been witty enough to write it. Go visit Nap!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Slow-Cooked Asian Comfort

It's official: I am over winter. Over it, I say! It's been one of those rare winters where we've had snow on the ground since Christmas. Snow on the ground since Christmas blows. Especially if you have small children and are the Shmuck in the Neighborhood Who Lets All the Stray Kids Into Her House.

A few weekends ago, it was cold and snowy and I had a house-full of kids...most of whom were not my own. I was frantic all day, running from room-to-room, trying to prevent the utter destruction of my house. It was harrowing.

The good news? I'd had the foresight to plop dinner in the crock-pot early in the day, so it was just a matter of cooking some vegetables and soba to serve on the side.

The Chinese call this method of slow-braising "red cooking"; the meat turns a reddish-mahogany hue from the soy and is fragrant with anise and cinnamon.

It's incredibly comforting. Especially after a day preventing mass destruction.

Asian Pork with Noodles
serves 6-8

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
6 to 8 whole dried shiitake mushrooms*
1 pound soba or ramen noodles
1/4 cup water chestnuts, sliced
2 Fresno chile peppers, seeded and thinly sliced**
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil. Add the pork and brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Combine the broth, soy sauce, sherry, sugar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, star anise and cinnamon stick in a 5 quart slow cooker. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the garlic, ginger and mushrooms. Add the pork, cover and cook 4 hours on high, then 2 hours on low, or 6 hours total on low.

Transfer the pork to a platter, cover and let rest 15 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the broth and halve them, then return to the broth. Skim fat off the top of the broth.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles according to package directions. Slice the pork, removing any pieces of fat. Divide the noodles among bowls and top with some of the broth, mushrooms and slices of pork. Garnish with the water chestnuts, cilantro, chiles and scallions. ~I also steamed some broccoli and added bean sprouts for crunch.

* I couldn't find these to save my life. I just used dried mixed mushrooms.
** ditto the Fresno peppers. Jalapenos work fine.

It was a perfect night for noodle slurping and cuddling and watching Jeopardy! Which is exactly what we did. Okay, maybe winter isn't *all* bad.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Neighbor Friday: Bad Mommy Moments-Update!

Hi Readers! I'm so happy to bringing you a ditty from my dear friend ck over at Bad Mommy Moments. Ck is truly one of my favorite writers. She's funny with a capital "F" but she can also bring you to tears in no time; if I didn't love her to pieces, I'd hate her. I'm that jealous of what she can do with a pen (or a keyboard).

I've been an ardent fan of her blog since I first started blogging last April. This girl can bring it!

She's bringing the funny today, so relax and enjoy!

For more neighbor fun, click on the icon below and hop over to The Never-True Tales for some good reading!

And in the I Am a Total Dork Department!
...I forgot to mention that I'm at Kristen's awesome site Motherese today! I'd love it if you'd come visit!

ONE and I enter the bagel bakery with great hopes of different things. I want an everything bagel, lightly toasted with just a *kiss* of cream cheese. She wants cream cheese – lots of cream cheese - with or without the bagel. For me, the soft and crunchy breakfast is what I’ve been craving for the last thirteen hours. For her, the bagel is a mere vehicle to get the creamy spread into her mouth as quickly as possible. I won’t allow her to eat it directly from the tub at home--and she would. I'm a meanie that way.

ONE is all about white these days. White shirts, white dresses, white nightgowns. The moment I clothe her dolls, she strips them back down to see the white canvas of their torsos. Warm milk is her drink of choice. Basically, if there is anything nearby in any shade of white, she wants it.

Like the attention of the white-haired lady waiting behind us for bagels. ONE smiles at the woman until she makes eye contact and waves back. An invitation.

ONE: “My mommy has a baby in her tummy.”

WHITE-HAIRED LADY: “Oh does she?”

ONE: “I going to be a big sister.”

WHITE-HAIRED LADY: “Isn’t that nice.”

ONE: “Yeah.”

The white-haired lady turns to me.

WHITE-HAIRED LADY: “She speaks very well.”

ME: “Thanks.” I tap my feet. Our bagels should be done by now. I am so hungry I’m about to rip it out of Bagel Boy’s hands, but he hasn’t put the cream cheese on it yet. He seems confused by the toaster.

ONE: “My mommy puts whipped cream on my gy-nie. Makes it feel good.”

The white-haired lady’s mouth dips into a little O. She stares at me. So do the people behind her. I smile and pull ONE close.

ME: “No, no, Sweetie.” I force a laugh. “That’s not whipped cream. It’s Des-i-tin.”

ONE: “NO Des-i-tin. WHIPPED CREAM like on my JELL-O.”

ME (low voice): “Pea, relax. We’ll talk about it when we get in the car.”

ONE: “NO! I GOTS WHIPPED CREAM ON MY GY-NIE.” She plops down on the floor and reaches under her (white) skirt for her (white) panties.

ONE: “I show you!”

The store is silent. A baker’s dozen worth of customers lean in.

BAGEL BOY: “I got an E-T toasted with cheese and a Raisin Cinnamon with extra cheese over here. Anyone?”

I grab my irate child before her "performance" gets our bagels comped and pull her towards the register. Bagel Boy waits for us there, his eyes wide. I throw some crumpled bills at him and leave without my change.

I keep my eyes forward as I march my screaming child to the car and buckle her into the car seat. She yanks her bagel out of the bag and hurls the wax paper to the floor. I let it fall and slam her door shut.

I take a deep breath. Another. I get in the car and back out of the parking spot. I catch ONE’s reflection in the rear view mirror; a white goatee already lines her chin. As I drive away and take a bite of my highly-anticipated, lightly toasted everything bagel, I realize it’s dry.

Bagel Boy forgot the cheese.


Thanks, ck, for agreeing to be my neighbor today! I love ya, kid. You always make me smile.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Old Friends and Muffins

**Shameful picture alert!** Seriously bad hair and gangly limb warning! Proceed at your own risk!

And also, if you EVER tell my girls that I was once a cheerleader, I will make a fancy pair of earrings out of your kidneys. There will be no cheerleaders in the house of Chez T. We are a cheerleader-free zone here; cheerleaders are blood-sucking zombies in disguise.

I will also take a moment to preach against the wrongness that is my hair. Sun-In is whack, people! Ah, the 80's. So much shame, so little time.

Stephanie moved to my town the summer before eighth grade. She hailed from Connecticut and was far, far more mature than me. Initially, she was bitter about the move from her beloved East coast, but after a while, she settled in and focused on more important things. You know. Boys.

Unlike me, Steph could flirt. She could even converse with boys. She wasn't afraid of them, which boggled my mind. She could walk past a group of boys, stop, say a few words and move on without pissing herself.

She also had glorious, thick red hair, boobs and a closet full of Guess jeans. Why she hung out with me, I have no idea.

But boy, was I grateful, because the summer before eighth grade, in typical teen-girl-mean-girl fashion, my circle of friends decided that they hated me.

That summer, they called me in the middle of the night and whispered, "Everybody hates you, bitch." They bribed the most popular of boys to ring me up and deliver blows like "Hey, did you know they all got together this weekend and burned every picture of the group that had your face in it?"

Until Steph arrived, that first day of 8th grade loomed in front of me, black and horrible. And then, like some East coast angel, she fell on my doorstep and I was saved. She was worldly, unafraid. By her side, I could be brave.

Like many teenage girls, Steph was always on some crazy diet. I'd never been on a diet before; I needed a few spare pounds, honestly. But watching her, my sophisticated and gorgeous friend, pore through Seventeen magazine for diet tips, I was smitten. It seemed like a very savvy and glamorous thing to do. So, like any good Lemming, I followed.

We went on some doozies. There was the Smoothie Diet, the Lean Cuisine Diet, the Cottage Cheese Diet, the Baked Potato Diet. Of course, neither of us needed to diet. Not one bit.

Steph had a mother who tolerated these little bouts of craziness; her mother struggled with her own weight and knew diets like the back of her hand. Steph was fully allowed to sit down at the dinner table, refuse the meal being served and slurp down some sludge of fruit and yogurt and wheat bran.

If I'd tried a stunt like that, Mama would have eaten my head.

So I really only could "diet" over at Steph's house. The routine was usually the same: I'd spend the night on Friday, we'd follow the diet through Saturday and then, bored to tears by rabbit food and hungry as pirhanas, we'd eat our way through Sunday.

It was rather easy to de-rail at some point, because Steph's mom was a terrific cook and baker. There was always some amazing treat in the kitchen, luring us in.

One weekend, after a particularly dismal Saturday on the Grape Nuts Diet, Steph and I smelled these muffins baking Sunday morning. Between the two of us, over the course of the day, we killed the dozen.

Who needs Grape Nuts when you can have these succulent, not-overly-sweet muffins? Just don't eat the whole batch yourself.

Banana Tia Maria Muffins
makes 12

1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup honey
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup mashed, ripe banana
1/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons Tia Maria, Kahlua, or other coffee liqueur
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups whole wheat flour

Cream butter and honey until fluffy. Beat in eggs, bananas, milk and Tia Maria. Sift together the salt, baking powder, soda and flour. Add to banana mixture by hand until just moistened. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Drop into greased muffin cups, filling almost to the top. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

~These muffins also do nicely with about 1/2 cup of nuts or mini-chocolate chips stirred in.

Blessedly, Stephanie and I are still friends. Although our diets were destined for failure, our friendship endured. As soon as she grasped that high-school diploma, she ditched our mid-West butts for her beloved East. But though the miles between us are many, our hearts still know each other, in ways only old friends can.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Scotch Butterscotch Sauce

Any of you who come here with any regularity know that there are plenty of reasons to pity my husband. Plenty.

But the reason I'm talking about today involves sweets. The lack of sweets. Specifically, the lack of any sweets in my house geared towards anyone over the age of 8.

We have *kiddie* sweets--fruit snacks, chocolate-chip granola bars, dum-dum pops. But dark chocolate? Haagen-Dazs ice cream? Any cookie besides a teddy graham? Nope.

It's not that hubs is fat; he most certainly is not. And it's not that I don't love him; of course I do. It's just that I don't crave sweets. I really don't. And so, when I'm at the grocery store, I forget about them. I remember the sweets for the girls--I'm not that stupid--but then I just sort of drop the ball. I ignore the candy/cookie aisle and traipse straight to the chip/nut aisle, which is more my speed.

My poor hubs does crave sweets. And if he's in the throes of a bad sweet jones, he's sorta screwed. I'll hear him pawing desperately through the pantry, sniffing out the smallest bit of chocolate, and I'll feel a pang of guilt. I forgot him. Again.

I also don't bake, so we have zippo baked goods on hand. Except at Christmas, when he dreamily ate his way through Cookie-of-the-Week-Month.

This results in some good-natured grumbling on his part. "Christ, do we have one item in this pantry that doesn't contain salt?" he says, riffling through the shelves. He has been known, on occasion, to get so desperate that he actually enters a grocery store. And then he'll come home, hide his stash, plow through it, and forget the cupboard is bare. Repeat.

This Valentine's Day, I decided to make hubs a delicious, sweet, adult treat. Because he's an excellent husband and dad, and he weathers sugar deprivation so valiantly the rest of the year.

I whipped up this sundae sauce for my sweetie. It's wicked simple and butterscotch-y good. I bought some artisanal coconut gelato, toasted up some almonds, and we were in business.

Except. The day got away from me and I forgot about dessert! I suck! Even when I make dessert, I forget about it!

I even forgot about it until Monday afternoon, when I opened the refrigerator and saw the jar of sauce on the shelf.

Sorry, honey. You are stuck with a Lame Wife. But cheer up, sweetie. This is waiting for you when you get home.

Scotch Butterscotch Sauce
makes about 1 cup
from Bon Appetit Magazine

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons scotch whiskey
1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir sugar, cream, butter and syrup in a heavy large saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and simmer until sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes.

Cool slightly. Stir in scotch and vanilla.

Valentine's Day: Then and Now

Then: The day before Valentine's day, get self a bikini wax, new flirty undies, ingredients for a romantic dessert.

Now: The day before Valentine's day, clean up blood and gore from a scooter accident, wipe snot off shirt, run to grocery store for gauze and medical tape.

Then: The night before Valentine's day, order Thai food, take a warm bubble bath, paint toes, drink a glass of wine, cuddle with spouse.

Now: The night before Valentine's day, eat pizza on the couch, watch Apollo Ohno kill it on the ice, juggle the two warm bodies on lap so there's room for the cat.

Then: Valentine's Day morning. Surprise! Breakfast in Bed! (Meal: champagne, orange juice, naked man.)

Now: Valentine's Day morning. "Surprise!" Breakfast in Bed. Which is zero surprise because the 4-year old spilled the whole lot of goods yesterday, enraging the 8-year old. (Meal: orange juice, fruit, huge slab of butter...oh wait, toast.) Attempt to eat while two excitable children frolic/fight on the bed. Strip sheets from bed. Start washer. Wander into kitchen. Clean up huge mess.

Then: Valentine's Day gift: box of Godiva chocolates, savored slowly over a week, all to yourself. Thoughtful, mushy card.

Now: Valentine's Day gift: box of truffles from Target, devoured greedily in three hours, not one piece of it yours. This card.

Then: Valentine's Night: dinner at a little chic restaurant, champagne, epic nookie, fall asleep in spouse's arms...cozy, content, grateful.

Now: Valentine's Night: frozen potstickers, champagne, TiVo'd Olympic coverage, garbage out, clean hamster cage, break up fisticuffs downstairs before blood is drawn. Lurch into bed two hours ahead of spouse...haggard, frazzled, grumpy.

Hey, at least the champagne was a consistent element, right? And thank goodness the sloppy kisses and hand-crafted Valentines make it all worthwhile...right? Children:2. Valentine's Day:0.

Hope you all were spoiled this weekend! And if you've got a horror story for me, I'd love to hear it...because I'm sick that way.

Hey, if you get a chance, pop on over to Wendi's site, Bon Appetit Hon and visit me today!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Well-Deserved Gimlet

Do you have "family days" at your house? You know, weekend days where you ask the kids, "Hey, what do you want to do today?" and, barring a spontaneous journey to Mars, try to make that happen?

At our house, this is a dicey proposition. Consider the difference in ages: Awesome Stepkid R. (17), Miss D. (8), Miss M. (4). Do you guys know of an activity that delights a seventeen year old, an eight year old and a four year old equally? If you do, send me the memo, wouldja? Because I got nothin'.

What we usually do is take turns; ASR will pick the activity one weekend, Miss D. the next, and so on. It works okay for us, but often we will have at least one sulky child at said chosen activity, which is a pain in the ass.

A few weekends ago, however, ASR was busy at his mom's house, so Hubs and I asked the girls how they wanted to spend the day. The answer: lunch at our favorite neighborhood pizza joint, mini-golfing and a trip to Borders for a new book each. Sounds manageable, right?

So off we went. Lunch went okay, although it was a bit disjointed because Miss M. thinks it's funny to demand that Mommy take her to the potty every five minutes when we're at a restaurant. Especially once the food comes. Now realize that anywhere else, at any other time, Miss M. acts as if the potty is the Devil's Instrument. But when Mommy's trying to get food down her gullet? The potty rocks.

Mini-golfing seemed like a brilliant idea in the morning, when we looked outside and saw sunshine and blue sky. Ah, the wicked temptress that is Colorado weather. Sure it's sunny, but it's still only 43 degrees out and the wind had kicked up. We froze our cabooses off. Near the end, when everyone was ready to get outta town, more cheating went on than I think has ever been seen in the history of mini-golf.

And then, of course, there was the pee accident in the Checkout Line from Hell at Borders. Cue the wailing and the waterworks.

We arrived home, almost four hours later, drained of energy and in much need of refreshment. The girls sipped mugs of cocoa with marshmallows. Hubs and I felt we deserved something a leeeeetle stronger. Okay, a lot stronger.

What can I say? I think a rocking retro cocktail in the late afternoon is nothing short of brilliant.

Basil-Lime Gimlet
from Sunset Magazine
makes 4

3/4 cup gin (you can use vodka if you prefer)
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4-1/2 cup basil simple syrup, or to taste
lime and basil for garnish

Basil Simple Syrup

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup water and 3/4 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, stir until sugar dissolves and remove from heat. Add 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil. Let steep 15 minutes. Strain basil out of syrup. Leftover syrup keeps well in the refrigerator.

Combine the gin, lime juice and basil simple syrup in a pitcher. Add plenty of ice; stir, pour into glasses, enjoy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Neighbor Friday: Momma Made it Look Easy

Good day, Mates! I'm so proud to bring you words from Jen at Momma Made It Look Easy. She's a funny lady and can tell you a thing or two about life (or horse butts, whichever suits you). Enjoy and have a great weekend!

If you want more Neighborhood Friday fun, click on the button and head on over to Amy at The Never-True Tales!


First, I want to thank TKW for letting me guest post today. I can't do herkys or cook like her and I promise that you do not want to see pictures of my food. I mean I whipped up this taco mac and cheese thing this week (because I had no planned dinner and kids to feed) that looked completely disgusting (but tasted super awesome). So on to the post.

I'm so good I'm bad... or wait, is it the other way around...

I love being a mother. Unfortunately I'm not always great at it. Don't get me wrong. I'm good (like most of us). Most of the time I'm mediocre, but sometimes I really rock at it. Like when I make super cute goody bags for my daughter's preschool class... ahead of time (even though I usually just buy those nasty sugar cookies with an inch of frosting on top from the Walmart bakery the night before... or on the way to school) or when I talk to her about falling in love (or she talks to me, whatever). But then sometimes I totally suck. Like today.

Every Wednesday Baby Girl has dance. She takes tap and ballet. I love it. She tolerates it. I mean she loves to dance and the recital is totally her thing, but she really isn't about the whole class structure. I'm hoping she grows out of that. One of the great things about the dance school we use is that the teacher picks her up from daycare and all I have to do is pick her up from the afternoon class.

The only problem with that is that she gets out of dance at 4:00, which is the same time I get off work. Really it isn't a problem. I just leave a few minutes early and I get there right in time to pick her up. I don't even have to deal with the other dance moms (one of which brought a Valentines goody bag for all the kids today, gag).

Normally Jon, my office assistant, reminds me that I need to leave. I get to work and I get busy and I kind of lose focus and I forget what day it is and what time it is and everything slips away from me. He helps me remember. Today he was out sick. And we had surveyors in and I was having to kick everyone out of the office so I could lock the door and then I got a call as I was leaving and sat in the parking lot to finish it and then I called my mom to share some exciting news and I talked to her all the way home and I walked in and David said, "where's Baby Girl?" And I was all, "duh, she's at school..." (he does pick up every afternoon). And he said, "It's WEDNESDAY."


I RAN out of the house and RACED to the dance studio to get her. I was THIRTY minutes late. Luckily the dance studio is like two minutes from my house. I parked in the fire lane and ran in to get her. She was patiently sitting and waiting on the bench watching the big girls in the next class. She saw me walk in and yelled, "Momma," and jumped up and ran to me. I looked at the dance teacher and said, "ooops, sorry." She said, "no big deal" and went back to teaching. I'm guessing that I wasn't the first mother to show up late. Go figure.

I apologized profusely and promised her a Happy Meal for dinner. She acted like it really wasn't that big of a thing. And then I did what all smart moms do. I laid the blame on someone else. I said, "Baby Girl I'm so sorry that I was late, but Jon wasn't at work today it is HIS JOB to remind me to come get you and he wasn't there to remind me today. Blame Jon."

She was in the backseat shouting, "Blame Jon! Blame Jon!"

I think we both learned a valuable lesson today. See. I told you I rock.


Read my blogs,


Hope you enjoyed the giggle, readers! Thanks for checking in with us this Friday!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snooping in the Journal of a 2nd grader


I'm a snoop.

And I found this, spelling true to form:

When I Saw You

When I saw you I stared at you and the atraction of light hit us right away it was like a dream that I couldn't remark and now my minds gone Blak and now I have a secret that I could never tell and I hope this feeling comes back. When I saw you I stared at you and the clouds went away the sun came out.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

White Trash Motherlode: Crabmeat Appetizers

The girl with the clean face and the red dress is my sister's childhood friend, Katie. You know that stereotype about redheads and their feisty nature? Katie fit the bill. Many times, with Katie in residence, my sister got into mischief.

There was the time my mother caught them in the backyard, naked as jaybirds, playing "doctor" with a bewildered neighbor boy.

There was the time my mother discovered them, covered head to toe, in her favorite lipstick.

There was the time they sneaked yet again into my mother's room (a forbidden spot after the lipstick incident) and proceeded to pour an entire bottle of Chanel #5 all over Mama's bed.

I also think there's a little tidbit somewhere about a small fire, but my memory's a little rusty on that one.

It's a good thing that Mama and Katie's mother, Sue, were such good friends, because I think Mama was tempted to kill Katie several times.

Katie had a little brother named David--also a redhead--and he, too, was a pistol. His area of expertise was The Public Houdini. I can't count the number of times we'd be out somewhere, like a restaurant or a mall, Mama and Sue chatting away, and suddenly Sue would startle, wild-eyed.

"Where's David?" she would cry in alarm, and always, we kids had no idea.

The most infamous instance of the Public Houdini was at a rustic, Western-themed restaurant. This restaurant, in a show of cowboy gimmicry, kept a live bear on the premises. Before or after dinner, parents could parade their kids outside and lo and behold! There was a live, caged bear! PETA would be all over this shit now, but in the early 70's, I guess there wasn't a thing wrong with keeping a caged bear on restaurant turf.

On a rare trip to said restaurant, after the salad course, there was suddenly a "Where's David?" moment. Everyone scattered, hunting for David. He was discovered, standing nose-to-nose with the bear, tormenting the creature with a long stick. Then, between the dessert course and coffee, he vanished again. This time, he hit up the restaurant's quaint little General Store, and came back brandishing 2 giant Havana cigars.

Not surprisingly, Sue was often tired.

Sue held parties only a few times a year, but we were always invited and I always dreaded them. My sister and Katie would pair off and lock themselves in Katie's room; I was stuck with David. I would pound on Katie's door, begging admittance, but they always laughed and yelled, "Get Lost, Pest!"

Sulkily, I played G.I. Joe with David, who wasn't thrilled to be playing with me, either. My mind would race the entire time, imagining all of the awesomeness going on behind that closed door.

The only thing that made these parties bearable was the Crabmeat Appetizer Sue made. I'd wolf so many of these suckers down that I couldn't eat dinner. But Sue didn't mind. She knew that several hours with David was hard, hungry work. If a girl needed her crack snack to weather through, so be it.

Crabmeat Appetizers

1 stick softened butter
1 jar Old English Sharp Cheddar Cheese Spread
1 1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 (7oz.) can crabmeat, drained
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
6 english muffins, split in half.

Beat butter and cheese spread with a mixer until fluffy. Beat in mayonnaise and garlic salt. Stir in crabmeat.

Spread crab mixture evenly over English muffin halves. Freeze. When ready to serve, remove from freezer and cut each muffin half into 6 pieces. Thaw only a few minutes.

Pop in the oven under the broiler until bubbly and slightly brown.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Guest Post: Momalom

Hi Readers! I am so proud, excited, get the bring you Sarah from Momalom today!

I'm guest posting with a letter to my hideous, decrepit old body over there today, so Sarah decided to reciprocate with a letter to HER firm little 31 year-old body. Sarah, you whippersnapper. Quit whining, beeyotch. I jest. Sort of.


A Letter to My Body in its 31st Year

Dear Body,
In honor of Love It Up and the gushy month of February I was hoping to write you a love letter and send along some roses. But after I read Kitch’s letter to her 40-year-old body I decided to get real. I shall not mince words. It’s not my style, Body, you should know that by now. Let’s be honest, you gave me Mouth and I know how to use it. You do everything you can to protect Mind and must have some sense of what’s going on up there. So here it is:

You’re making me cranky. I can’t look in the mirror these days and I am growing to resent you. I know we’ve been through a lot and I have some blame in that, but maybe if we just air the dirty laundry I will feel better about punishing you in my “no-love letter.” I’m okay with admitting my faults if you are.

I hereby apologize for the following:

The tattoo. I branded you. Yes I did. It’s there; it’s bold; it can’t be hidden. I was young and dumb and didn’t think about your needs and wants at all. I know this. Let’s get over this one together, it’s gonna be a long life.

The drugs. It was a long road for both of us. There were good times and there were bad, but in the end it put us right where we were supposed to be, in the arms of a man I love dearly and an accidental pregnancy that turned my entire life around. Let the past pass and let’s live without shame.

The children. I know you are exhausted and worn thin. Your entire being aches and creaks and cries for rest. I know you cannot feel your feet some days and wonder if you are walking on air. I know that wrestling with the baby through another diaper change seems like reason enough to give up. But you have a weakness and that weakness brought children. I expect you to take a modicum of responsibility for this.

The little things.
I don’t take you for a run or get you a massage nearly as often as I should. I know this. I am sorry. I leave red toenail polish to wither and die with no promise to replace it until Spring. I’m sorry. I keep you up late and get you up early. I feed you too much and too little and all the wrong type of foods. I call you names and try to hide you under the sheets. Yeah, yeah. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.

Now let’s move on to you:

For issues regarding Hair, Skin, Ass and Libido, please see details HERE:. And by gosh by golly you best read them carefully.

For issues regarding Breasts, Stomach, Thighs, and Energy, please know this: You punished both of us by bearing such large children. How you couldn’t know that a 10-pound baby would deliver irreversible stretch marks is beyond me. How you could think I would ever bounce back from that pregnancy and the subsequent births of two nearly 9-pound babies, I do not know. How you can live with yourself knowing how my breasts have reshaped into no shape at all, and how my ass longs to be admired as the ass it once was, I will never understand. You have punished us both, dear body, and I’m not pleased at all. You cannot blame me for the children; you know your weakness was the sex. You are completely at fault for your need to fulfill Desire.

You plead with me to treat you well—to feed you right and work you out daily. However, I need you to dangle a carrot—the promise of a happier self and a stronger body—because at this point my attempts seem futile. I no longer want to be in battle; I want to believe that you will respond to the work I put in. Genetics tell me different. I see glimpses of Future Body at my local Starbucks and she is not exactly what I have in mind. Can we make a pact to work together?

Please know I do not expect you to become Elasta-Girl. But I do expect you to want to want this as much as I do. I will wake you up early and I will bring Ass to the gym if you can give me a glimmer of hope that Ass will be slipping out of her pants by the end of the month.

I do love you, Body. I will try to treat you better. I want to work hard for you and make our life better. Let’s give this a shot. And let me stress that time is of the essence. I await your reply.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Love Letter to Myself at Age Eleven

Dear Me at Age Eleven,

I love you. I think it's really, really important for me to tell you this because I know that right now you don't think anyone loves you. You are wrong, although it will be quite some time before you realize this.

Yes, you. That awkward girl who's all limbs and no substance, that girl who thinks she's weak and stupid and powerless and ugly. You. I love you. You are loveable. People in your life will meet you and know you and love you, just the way you are. Believe it.

Don't shake your head at me, Missy. Love will happen to you. I know it sounds nuts, but have faith.

I see you there, trembling in front of your neighbor's house. You are worried because the girl who lives there is often cruel to you and yet has offered to walk you to your first day of 5th grade. You have good instincts. Please start listening to them a little harder, because you know that girl is twisted and ugly inside. You can feel it and you have seen it but you will ignore it for a while. You will pretend that she's your friend because you desperately want it to be so. You will suffer for ignoring your instincts. Listen to yourself, even when you think you have nothing to say.

You do have things to say. You are not stupid. True, you are not brilliant at math but the teacher who called you dim last year was old and mean. You will listen so much to the things mean people have to say. If I could turn off your ears for the next few years I would, but since I can't, I just want to tell you that I love your mind. It is often dark and far too critical of you, but that mind is also creative and empathetic and capable of some pretty neat tricks. Believe Mama when she says you have a good brain.

See all that skin you've got? Thicken it. You will bear so much these next few years, but junior high is coming up and honey? You ain't even seen cruelty yet. That skin is like paper, so we have work to do. Do me a favor? Instead of worrying about that stray zit that might pop up on that skin, work on making it hard as adamant.

And as for strong. There's something strong in you that you don't even know you have. Probably because you can't see it and so much right now depends on appearances. It's beating in your chest, Hummingbird, and it's so tough that it's going to amaze you. I love your tough heart--you need a tough one--because people are going to break it sometimes. People you love desperately are not going to love you back, no matter how hard you try. Wishes you make are not going to come true; some of them will, but some whoppers coming up are just gonna whiz right past you, leaving you broken for a while. Friends who promise to love you forever, won't. But that heart, it's got grit. Don't doubt it. It will carry you through.

Okay, I'm done with the hard stuff. But I needed you to know that someone loves you and is watching over you. You feel alone, but you aren't. You just don't have the tools to dig down deep in the mineshaft; you will, though. And there's some treasures waiting for you, if you just have the courage to keep on keepin' on.

Love (and you'd better believe it),
Your 40-year-old-self

ps: Now that the big stuff is covered, can I mention a few little details?
~Quit trying to feather the hair. It will never work for you.
~Powder-blue suede vest and skirt? Kick Mama for that one.
~Yes, you will be forced to be Herbie Schroeder's square dance partner again in gym this year. And the next. But then it will be over and Herbie's four year Reign of Terror shall cease. It's the price you pay for those gazelle legs. Which you are totally gonna love later, promise.
~And as long as we're on the subject, don't worry about boys. They aren't even going to notice you until you are 20, and won't ask for any pound of flesh until you are 22. Yeah. Seriously. You will be left alone that long. So tell Daddy to chill.


***This is part of Love It Up at the awesomeness that is Momalom. Visit them soon!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Neighborhood Friday: But Then I Had Kids

Hola! I am so thrilled to be bringing you the wit and words of Liz at But Then I Had Kids! She's got a little ditty that's perfect for happy hour, so grab your favorite beverage and spend some time with us!

And after Liz has cheered you up, pour another drink and head over to Amy at The Never-True Tales, where I'm sharing something a bit darker today. Or don't. I won't hold it against you.

Maybe just stay in the Miami sun, drinking wine with Liz...that's where I certainly want to be! She's a firecracker!


Further evidence that mommyhood sucks the COOL right out of you...

A few months ago, Hubby and I had babysitting. Babysitting always means cocktails. A lot of them. So 5 1/2 hours and 3 wine bottles later (What? We were on the beach. It was hot. We were thirsty. Really thirsty.), we ended up on South Beach. We head over to THE pizza place...this place is synonymous with South Beach, clubbing, and the IT scene. Now you have to understand, this is not a chic place, really...more like a greasy, noisy, crowded hole in the wall with a gazillion delicious pizzas you order from behind a glass case and then stand around and try not to tip over in your drunken exhaustion as you thank the heavens that this place exists and wonder how in the world a place this greasy can mass produce pizza this good.

So we're standing in line and I am not even caring that we are finishing our night up at 8:30 while the South Beach-ites around us are just starting to ponder which uber-chic club they will go to before ending up right back at the same pizza spot. I am feeling pretty happy...the kind of happy you can only get with a bottle (or three) of wine, a day on the beach, and uninterrupted time with Hubby. This is when I get the uncontrollable urge to pee.

I saunter on down the long dark passageway of patrons and pizzas towards the bathroom. I yank on the handle, but nothing happens. I read the blurry sign on the door. Yep. Ladies Restroom. I pull again. Nothing. Within my drunken near-stupor, I notice an intimidating-looking brass contraption at the top of the door. I cannot for the life of me figure out what in the world that is or how it functions, but I know, with every passing second that I must get into that bathroom. Turning over to the end of the pizza counter, I spot an employee...picture: toothless trucker/homeless guy who happens to run a ridiculously lucrative pizza joint in South Beach. Yeah. I can't figure it out either. But there he was, raspy voiced and greasier than the linoleum.

"Hi!" I bubble over to him. "How do I get into the bathroom?"

Without even looking over at me, he grumbles, "Ya' gotta put a coin in."

I blink.

"A coin? What do you mean? Do you have a key or something?"

Unable to be bothered by the likes of perky, confused, sloshed li'l old me, he shoves a gold circle into my hand. "Here," he grunts.

"What's this?"

"A token." Still grumbling. Still not looking at me.

"A token?"

"Yeah, a token."

I look down into my palm. I blink rapidly. Confused. I stand there, frozen, my alcohol-saturated brain trying to make some sense. Then, suddenly, it dawns on me. My face lights up.

"Ooooooh!" I squeal, smiling. "You mean like at Chuck E. Cheese?!?"

Raspy-greasy-can't-be-bothered-pizza-guy finally looks at me. Now it's his turn to blink rapidly and look confused. After a long pause, he responds: "Sorta."

I skip merrily to the bathroom, token in hand.


Now didn't that put a smile on your face? Thanks, Liz, for being my neighbor today. You can drink wine at my house any time!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Guest Post: TKW's Dad Attempts a Recipe

Hi Lovely Readers! My very own Daddy-O is back in da house today! So grab a Coca-Cola and settle on in for my Dad's first EVER recipe!

ps: Daddy, sorry for the cartoon, but I couldn't resist. It's your reward for raising willful, outrageous daughters :) Love you, mistah.

The Nine Basic Food Groups

The Kitchen Witch (my lovely daughter) has some wonderful posts with beautiful pictures of food and rather complex recipes. However, most of them look like they came out of Paris and are completely undecipherable and beyond comprehension to someone born in the 30’s. Looking back on those wonderful years, TKW’s Dad remembers Nine Basic Food Groups. They are:

1. Pot Roast (with potatoes, carrots, onions and lots of gravy)
2. Hamburgers
3. Hot Dogs (Chicago Style)
4. Fried Chicken (alas, now forsaken for Costco Rotisserie Chicken for health reasons)
5. Fruit (mostly canned but fresh in season – Chicago’s summer)
6. Vegetables (mostly canned but fresh in Chicago’s summer)
7. Salad (mostly iceberg lettuce with French dressing, but sometimes Jello)
8. Potatoes (American fried, French fried, creamed or mashed)
9. Pie (always apple or cherry except for Thanksgiving)

I see nothing wrong with this list? I have no idea why TKW gagged when she saw it?

The true star of the list, however, is item #3.

To fully appreciate my favorite food (and following recipe), you have to understand that I grew up in a Western suburb of Chicago. I had an uncle who was a sportswriter for the now defunct Chicago Daily News. As his lucky nephew, I got tickets to lots of sporting events--and I certainly wasn't shy about asking for them. And every year, so began the Rite of Spring.

Many people believe the Rite of Spring is a piece of music by Igor Stravinsky. Idiots.

TKW’s Dad knows better. Growing up, the Rite of Spring was the un-official holiday of the year. The home opener of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The one day of the year when the Cubbies were undefeated and tied for the National League Championship.

And what does one do when you go to Wrigley?

Before entering the ballpark, you must, absolutely must walk up to one of the cart vendors and purchase a couple of Chicago style hot dogs, a Coca-Cola, and enjoy a truly gourmet and healthmark lunch.

Why do I say healthmark? Well, while the Chicago style hot dog was initially created during the 1893 Chicago Exposition and World Fair, it really became famous during the great depression years of the 30’s. Back then, you could get a hot dog with "salad" on the top for only a nickel, and money was really tight.

See? Hot Dog+Salad=Healthmark.

A Chicago Dog is a thing of beauty, as you can see. A better meal doesn't exist.

But if you don't have the good luck to live in the Windy City, I give you this recipe.


1. Vienna All-Beef Hot Dog (no cheating!)
2. Sweet neon green relish (Vienna Chicago Style preferred)
3. Mustard (Yellow! No Dijon! Dijon is sacrilege)
4. The Pickle (I like Claussen’s, or from the Puckered Pickle Company)
5. Onion (chopped white)
6. Tomato
7. Sport Peppers (these are essential, folks!)
8. Celery Salt (any brand will do...see how flexible I am?)
9. Poppyseed Bun (These are a bitch to find. Vienna makes them, but you may have to bribe a bakery to make them for you).

Now that you have the ingredients, all you have to do is properly prepare them.

Chicago Style Hot Dogs can be either grilled, boiled or steamed. However, any purist prefers them steamed. Place the dogs in a Dutch oven fitted with a steamer rack. Add a small amount of water to the Dutch oven(you don’t want liquid bubbling onto your dogs!) Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover tightly.

Steam 5 – 7 minutes or until Hot Dogs are heated through. Just heat them through; don't cook the heck out of them!

To steam the buns, stack them on top of the dogs in the last two minutes of cooking.

Place the dog in the bun and very carefully follow these most important steps.

~ Dress the dog, not the bun! The goal is to evenly distribute the toppings so you taste each ingredient in every bite. In this order:

1. Yellow Mustard – squirted directly on the dog, in zig-zag pattern, one end to the other.
2. Neon Green Relish – generous amount
3. Fresh Chopped Onions – to your taste
4. Two Tomato Wedges – placed along the crevice between the top of the bun and the Hot Dog
5. Pickle Spear – placed in the crevice between the bottom of the bun and the Hot Dog
6. Two Sport Peppers – Traditional and necessary for a real Chicago Dog.
7. Celery Salt – Sprinkle a dash over the Dog.

As this is TKW’s Dad’s first attempt ever at recipe writing, I must give full credit to two websites that do a much better job with far better information. They are and

There are many Chicago websites with reviews of hot dog restaurants, but I still prefer the Vienna Beef street vendors. On the West side there still is Parky’s on Harlem Avenue in Forest Park which has been in business for at least 50 plus years.

Unfortunately, the various health departments have vastly limited, if not done away with most of the outdoor hot dog wagons and carts, even at O’Hare International Airport (those jerks!) Some of the bars at O’Hare serve them, but they’re not nearly as good.

Fortunately, in Denver we have Mustard’s Last Stand, Chicago on Colfax Avenue and Woody’s in Littleton.

Because if TKW's dad ever has to make them for himself, he's in a world of hurt.


There you are, folks! Can you tell that these are words of a hot dog Purist? Daddy-O, thanks for giving my readers this *healthy* recipe, complete with assembly instructions! You are the best, Wallet Man!

Monday, February 1, 2010

SMAM Round-Up and Don't Fear the Fish!

Hello to February! And you know what that means, right? Bye-bye to Shrink-My-Ass-Month!!


Since there's a really good reason why I don't step on a scale, and haven't for years, I will tell you that I don't know if I lost any weight this month. And no, I refuse to examine my ass in a mirror. I remember vividly the trauma of the last Booty Scrutiny.

But I will say that my pants are a little looser. I no longer feel like a keilbasa stuffed into its casing when I slide on the jeans. So I'm good.

As for Hubs? He looks awesome! He looked great anyways, but he's worked hard this month with the exercise (something I wasn't nearly as motivated to do) and let me tell you--my man is smoking!

And still not satisfied. Sigh.

So, until we leave for vacation in March, he is still on a modified le regime. Modified in that I will no longer be cooking strictly SMAM-type recipes. But I will try to keep things relatively healthy around here.

So February is Half-Assed Month, I guess?

Anyways, on with the show! And I hope you'll stick around, because I've got some yummy things planned for us. Plus, another upcoming Guest Post from TKW's Daddy-O--something you know you don't want to miss, so tune in on Wednesday!


I'm sure a lot of you have fond memories of favorite foods from childhood. You know, those dishes that, when you heard the answer to "Ma, what's for dinner?" made you do a secret little herky in your heart and think "Yes!"

Personally, my favorites varied from year to year, but there were always certain dishes that I'd start yearning for, dreaming about, and then pester Mama relentlessly for.

To her credit, Mama always laughed and said, "I like requests." I feel like that, too. Requests make things easy on the cook because the "What's for Dinner?" conundrum is already solved.

Ambrosia over at Making The Moments Count emailed me a week or two ago, requesting a recipe for fish. You see, Ambrosia fears the fish.

She thinks she hates it, is pretty sure she might gag if she sees it and she is hesitant to cook it. But she's a brave girl, because she told me that she really wants to make fish. She wants to like it. She knows it's good for her and thinks she might be ready to give fish a second chance.

I think this recipe might be the ticket she's looking for, for several reasons.

First off, this recipe uses halibut. Halibut is an awesome fish to serve to fish-phobes, because it doesn't have any yucky bones or skin on it and it's got a clean, mild, very un-fishy flavor. Consider halibut the Gateway Fish.

Second, the fish is coated in crispy crumbs and then quickly pan fried. Put a crispy coating on any kind of protein and you're ahead of the game. Just ask chicken nuggets.

Third, there's yummy little sauce to finish things off and add a little zip. It makes things a little more interesting and is yet close enough to old Tartar sauce that it shouldn't seem scary. Although if you hate cilantro, feel free to use regular Tartar sauce.

And finally? It's one of the most beloved staff favorites from Cooking Light magazine. This recipe received the magazine's highest rating, and that's got to count for something!

Cornflake-Crusted Halibut with Chile-Cilantro Aioli
from Cooking Light Magazine
serves 4

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons reduced-fat or fat-free mayonnaise
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup lowfat or fat-free milk
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 cups cornflakes, finely crushed (I used Total)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
dash cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 (6-ounce) halibut fillets*
4 lemon wedges

To prepare aioli, combine cilantro, mayonnaise, serrano, and minced garlic. Stir well.

To prepare fish, combine milk and egg white in a shallow dish, stirring well with a whisk. Combine cornflakes, flour, salt and pepper in another shallow dish.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Dip fish in milk mixture, and then dredge in cornflake mixture. Add the fish to pan, and cook 4 minutes on one side. Flip fish and cook 4 more minutes, or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Serve with a lemon wedge and aioli on the side.

* If, like me, you can't find decent halibut on market day, substitute any mild white fish, like cod or snapper.

We enjoyed this fish! The girls even ate it, but dipped in ketchup. They wanted NO part of that freaky looking aioli. But they won't eat tartar sauce, either, so that wasn't a shocker.

Ambrosia, I've got a couple more recipes coming up for you, so if this one doesn't float your boat, no worries. There's hope for fish yet.