Thursday, April 30, 2009

since I have been reading nothing but garbage for MONTHS, I was excited when Maxwell brought me City of thieves back from his trip (my mother was reading it on the plane.
It is a well written short book, set during the siege of Leningrad. I enjoyed this story a lot, despite it's far fetchedness.
I love a story with a clear cut good guy, and right over might and all of that good stuff.
It is a tiny bit sentimental and at times veers over into Oprah territory, but on the whole I liked it a lot.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's not you it's me...

We are breaking up with karate.

It's been five years and it just isn't working out.

Maxwell has been doing karate for five years.

That is a long freakin time for a little kid to do anything, much less something as "intense" as this brand of karate.

I have pretty much hated it from the the get go, but Mark is very gung ho about exercise (guess which one of us is thin?) and I am pretty structured when it comes to structure and discipline.

We signed up for this class as a community school class at our local Jr. High school.

Two years into it they started their own dojo.

We should have gotten out at that point.
The children that continued on from our class attended the Japanese immersion school along with the teacher's children, and it was tough for Maxwell, not to speak the language (the class was conducted in Japanese), and to be an outsider. I tired to explain to the teacher that we feel almost as smug about speaking German, as she does about Japanese, but she didn't quite get my sense of humor.

The balance of the class was made up of adults that were super serious about the karate.

I mean hella serious.

Crazy serious.

The kind of people I like to make fun of- that serious.

Oh, Maxwell is left handed too, which was a major flaw, that kept mucking up his technique, a real inconvenience for the teacher.

What a bummer!

What were we thinking, having a lefty?

So there you have it.

We have faithfully shown up three hours a week for years and years.

We have never really liked the teacher- she pretty much sucks, is impatient, disorganized and was most likely a "mean girl" in jr. high (hey! I can totally tell that sort of thing, just by looking!). Her husband was nice and great with the children. He started teaching more in the past year or so, so we felt better in general.

I am not a big fan of competition, and I can't stand the "motivation" technique that requires the teacher to shame, embarrass or harass the student into preforming.
I am a big sissy and I can't stand that bully- coach- as- god, vibe, even a teeny bit.

So you can pretty much imagine how well I accept it when someone is doing that stuff to my child.

Don't get me wrong, I have very high standards for my children, some people, like my mother for instance, think I am a total hard ass with Maxwell, but I don't like the whole rough and tumble model of sports in general and mean coaches specifically...

BUT, for the sake of peace, and to hopefully allow my child to be a better person than I am, I have put up with it.

Over the years there has been a lot of shit that felt very close to abuse to me, and neglectfulness at the very least on the part of the teacher.

Recently Maxwell has been really reluctant to go to class- to the point of it being a real pain in the ass for me, to have to force him to go.

There were also a lot of new students in the class, and a couple of them were stars- you know that type that are just awesome at the activity, and the teacher just loved these kids, I mean she was all but drooling over their form and style.

It is nice that there are children that are exceptional, but I do not like paying for my child to be ignored so that the teacher can devote the lion's share of a "class" to one or two "good" kids, and that is what was happening more and more often.

Maxwell would spend his class teaching five year old white belts, and the teacher would spend the class working with the "good" kids (that is what Maxwell told me "she likes to work with "the good kids")


Not only does that model of teaching piss me off, as someone that works with children, but it also gets my goat on a personal level- it just rubs me the wrong way.

As someone that is almost always the exceptional one (except for sports!) I have always felt an obligation to help people that are struggling. I feel that this teacher is promoting this total dog eat dog philosophy, that offends the hell out of me.

This past Tuesday was the last straw, the deal breaker.

Maxwell waited in line for the entire class to "test" for a promotion to the next level.

The teacher asked him to move out of the way, so she could better see the "good" kid, and then proceeded to forget about his test.

He sat for an hour and a half waiting and he was crushed and had I had a lighter with me, when I came to pick him up, and found him so sad, I might have set her hair on fire-
( I would normally not hesitate to figuratively kick some ass, but she is a black belt after all and some kind of weapon or diversionary tactic, seems to be in order, in my violent imagery)

I was that furious.

"he should have said something" is what she replied to our e-mail letting her know that we were done, and bringing it to her attention (she didn't even notice that she had over looked him!).
No, you are the teacher, you are the adult, you need to have a plan, a schedule, and and clue.

So after reading her e-mail explaining to me how some people are just not good enough for the "intensity" of karate, and how some parents simply cannot accept that their child sucks and lacks the capacity for intensity, I am delighted to put this particular "ancient art form" behind me.

Monday, April 27, 2009


this little chicken in a nest is for one of Miss F's friend's birthday. I try to make all the children at the preschool, toys for their birthdays, that are like the handmade toys in the classroom.
One child's mother is a really excellent seamstress, so we bought Disney princess dolls for that child- everyone else gets Waldorf stuff!
This little chicken is just a knit square folded in half, stuffed and sew together. I then crochet a cockscomb onto it's head... sometimes I add some orange or red on the beak, but not today.
the doll is modeling the cape, because if F got her hands on it, fogetaboutit, I would never get it wrapped up, for the party. I like to put this little piece of ribbon on the front instead of a tie, because I am always nervous about little kids tying anything around their necks.
big pile of stuff building up on the buffet. The Maypole is Friday and the birthday is Saturday, then I hopefully will have a clear spot for a while.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

teeny, tiny patio

I put in a tiny little patiolette today, in the back yard.

yes, the grass needs mowed, I know, I know.

a little square of flagstones to put the trash cans on, and to keep some of the grass at bay.

The sidewalk was too narrow in the space, to have a walkway and to have the trash, and it was a constant annoyance to me.


Was that ever some hard work!


The sand is still sitting on top of the bricks, because I am still letting it settle, but I think it looks pretty freaking good.

I dug down about 3" and removed the dirt and grass, then leveled it off, put down some course gravel, added the pavers, the filled in with fine sand.

My back is totally shot.

Mark was really surprised when he came up from working on the computer in the basement- I had threatened to do this for years.

Now I want to cover over the entire back yard. I hate mowing the grass, and the dog is the only one who ever hangs out back there.

I am so empowered by this project, I feel like making all kinds of brick paths, and designs!

She's Thrifty

I had a couple of good scores thifting this week.

I found these two champagne flutes- I have 9 of them already (a couple got broken over the years).

I bought them a couple of them about 15 years ago at Pottery Barn, I think they were $7 a piece at the time, which was really steep for me, my boyfriend at the time gave me the rest as a birthday gift.

I was delighted then, and I still love them.

They are heavy Hungarian glass, with beautiful subtle color, which this photo doesn't do justice to.

These two are blue and gold, the ones I have are crimson and gold, but I am still happy to have them, and at $1.99 each, they were a good buy.

I used to love Pottery Barn glassware, years ago, but recently they don't have anything that cool, just very boring ordinary stuff, nothing from Hungary or the Czech Republic, which is what I really like. Makes it easy not to shop!

I also found a copy of The princess bride and a nice pair of jeans for me (which were bootcut, which I HATE! but 10 minutes on the sewing machine took care of that!), for $5.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

On the street where she lives

This is what I am up to today.
I am making another rag basket, and I baked a lemon bunt cake.

two are totally unrelated, except for the color scheme.

I am not at all happy with the basket, so later this evening I will rip it all out, reroll into the big ball you see there, and start over. I am thinking a shallow elongated bed for the dog.

Freyja is a obsessed with the girl next door.

At least 10 times per day she demands to go see if Diane can play.

She walks right up to the end of Diane's driveway, and then loses her nerve to knock.

It usually takes her three or four tries, before she makes it all the way to the door.

If we say no, she screams and cries for a long, long time.
Sometimes she stands on our front porch and yells across the two houses in between our house and Diane's house in a plaintive wail-
"D i a a a a a a n e"
We catch her, and bring her back inside and the madness that is Diane love continues.

Sometimes I welcome this obsession. I am delighted that someone other than me, is playing kitty, or playmobile, or whatever, with Miss F.

Often I wish there were other little girls on the block though- Diane is a very energetic little girl full of games like (draws a circle in chalk around Freyja) "anyone in this circle is a dummy", that zips around the neighborhood in kid high heels on her razor scooter. She drinks Coke, and eats donuts and has an impressive Hannah Montana collection. She is pure perfection in F's eyes and her father and I are arch villains for not allowing her to move into Diane's house. On top of all the other perks, Diane has a dog.
Not a measly poodle, but a real dog. A big, black lab.

I planted a couple of new lavender plants today.
The one I had in this pot on the front porch for five years finally dropped dead from neglect.
It was huge, and hadthrived, until we had that long cold snap this past December. That brown thing, is a very lovely terracotta snail Maxwell made in 1st grade and the white thing in the back is one of my ceramic heads, that Rolf broke earlier this week, but I couldn't stand the throw out.

The photo below is of my little sad quince tree. This year is has about 10 beautiful blossoms on it, so I am really excited to see if it bears more fruit this fall! The flowers are the most beautiful pink in the world.

Maxwell returning from drama class right when the sun was shining in a really bright and remarkable way outside. right before sundown, when it looks really bright.

You know those bible pictures where Noah walks out of the ark, after the 40 days and nights and sees the rainbow? That kind of lighting.

Freyja "chalking", in our shamefully unkempt driveway.
I think she thinks, if she keeps it up long enough, she will get some Mary Poppins action, and jump through the painting, into some beautiful scene, but no dice so far.
It is chilly as hell out, but I have given up on fighting her to put pants on. so it goes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

we can't get enough of the sweet stuff

On the weekend, our cooking revolves around sweets.

Rolf and I have built a 21 year friendship around cooking and a goshdarn lot of that cooking happens to be of sweets.

More him than me- but you all know I am a willow when it comes to this sort of thing and I
B E N D.

Mark (sweet hater) & Max are out for the evening?

(don't feel sorry for them, dear reader, they are out at a big ol' Greek Orthodox Easter bash hosted by Maxwell's best friend's mama, who is a amazing cook)

Dessert for dinner (as suggested by Freyja and Rolf)?

Why the hell not?

Here we see Miss F in her second skin, ballet dress, and Rolf with his trusty chemistry book in the background and his ever present giant mug of coffee in hand!

Our confection of the moment is panne cotta.

Except, Rolf has his issues with veganism, and gelatin, so we do this cruelty free style with


we still use fresh cream and I made a delightful sauce out of the remainder of the plums in the freezer!

In case you have been under a rock, Agar Agar is made out of seaweed, and it has the same thickening properties that gelatin does, except, it is NOT extracted from the hooves of animals (COOL)! You can find it at most Asian markets.

(old school) Panna Cotta

1 envelope of unflavored gelatin (approx. 2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups
heavy cream*
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup fresh
berries, gently washed, drained, and sweetened to taste**
6 sprigs fresh mint

For our more animal friendly version sub out the gel with Argar!

I made mine in a tupperware mold from the 70's that belonged to my grandma, but it works well in any custard cup.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


we made a walnut souffle today...

We had another glut of those farm fresh, free range eggs, and a big old net bag of walnuts,in the basement, we collected at that same farm in November.

That is Rolf shelling and then grinding a half pound of walnuts. He is also cursing the plastic nut mill (which I tried to tell him when we bought it, is intended for hard cheese).

A half pound is quite a lot of walnuts, if you have an over eager egg white whipper nipping at your heals (me), and a crappy nut mill.

I am totally pissed that my PERFECT meringue didn't come out well in the photo.

Overexposed again.

there is it in the lower left hand corner, looking all fluffy and perfect in every way, and while I am complaining, the eggs also look ordinary in this photo, when in reality they are beautiful subtle green and blue and browns.
Damn camera!

I finally wised up and headed outside to make some pictures of the finished product. I am serving it with a plum sauce, from a plum tree at the preschool.

I harvested & froze the plums last fall.

The sauce is beautiful, and delicious, so it the souffle, which is really more like a flourless torte, it reminds me in flavor & texture of Mógyórós Torta, the Hungarian hazelnut torte that is also flourless, not gooey like a cheese souffle.
the kitchen scale is Rolf's new toy

You can tell he bought it because it is r e d.

I don't chose red things, at least not tomato red, but there you are.

He has wanted a kitchen scale for years, as they are commonly used in baking in European recipes.
I have rarely had call for one, and had no interest, but today we used it.
I had to take it outside to get a decent picture, normally it lives in the kitchen, naturally!

My pansies, that I use for garnishes are doing GREAT!
Hooray! I hate not having access to a bit of color.

Walnut Souffle, my quick and lazy version, adapted from the Joy of cooking
preheat to 350
8 eggs separated
1/2 pound walnuts, ground into meal (not butter)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice or lemon rind
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 buttered souffle pan

whip the whites into a firm meringue

cream everything else, but the nuts

then fold the nuts into the yolk mix

then fold the fluffy beaten whites into the nut/yolk mix

pour into a well greased souffle pan, and bake for 45 minutes, an a bain marie (if you don't know what that is you have no business baking eggy sweets!)

serve with some kind of fruit sauce or berries.

Makes and obscene amount so make sure you have people to eat it, otherwise you risk eating it with your poodle out of the baking dish.

Friday, April 17, 2009

more rambling without consequence or reason

It really was a dreary, terrible day.
More of the tantrum throwing from F. and the losing of the cool from me.

and I am tired as hell to boot.
I may never be not tired again- I think.

The past month has been like having a newborn again, with frequent night wakings. I am not coping well, and I am tired.

I feel the need to be selfish, but I can even get time to be selfish.

We wound up walking out right in the middle of ballet.

I am sure the other mothers thought I was a clod.

What they didn't know what that I had spent an hour before ballet listening to a tantrum and screaming over wearing tights. I was not in the mood for the high jinks that were taking place on the dance floor, so I picked her up and said "she is really out of sorts, I am taking her home".

At the time she was laying on the floor refusing to get up and go to the corner to start the dance.

The teacher was trying to drag her.

I was just over all the theatrical stuff and ready to leave.

You either get up and dance, or we leave.

I am not entertaining your "big emotions". We are leaving.

A woman on a tour of the preschool asked me something about "big emotions" ie, tantrums.

I am only compassionate about small, sweet emotions today, ask me again, in the morning.

The hard part is I have to go back next week and sit there in the cramped space with all these long suffering mommies and feel like the big insensitive, creep that pulled her screaming child off the dance floor.
Oh, well.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Yesterday I made an absurdly huge meal.

I used a Passover menu that I used to prepare years and years ago, when I used to co-host a big event, with friends.

I just felt like cooking, so I did, and I had this fabulous audience to cheer me on.

Rolf was delighted to have my sour cherry soup.

I don't think I have made it since we moved from the apartment in Northwest.

He is the only one that likes it, but he wound up eating it all- so there- it usually contains a liter of red wine, but I left it out this time, since he was driving, and I had some vague hope that Frey would eat some due to it's fruity content!

My MIL devoured the cauliflower gratin with horseradish .

I invited her at the last minute, because it seems silly to not have any guests.

I ate all kinds of things that are not on my usual diet, and I am sure I will feel some guilt at some point, but right now I am living with my transgressions.

A friend said recently, that she would like to fall in love again.

I would like to fall in love with my life again, the life that involved merry dinner parties with raucous guests and toasts.

Not this week.

making something of myself

Crafting. I like it. A lot.
but I am not one of those perfect crafters that produce picture perfect works of art.

I am in the process of making 45 garlands for the preschool May pole dance.

Piece of cake really (although I will most likely also make several pieces of cake, too).

It is just a single crochet, using a double strand of yarn.

In this case I am using up a giant stash of really hideous synthetic yarn I inherited from Mark's grandmother.

I have boxes and boxes of the ugliest shittiest yarn on the planet, but it works well for what will most likely be a disposable product.

We have the families bring flowers to weave into their child's headband and


a garland fit for a king or queen!

I also whipped up a fabric basket, crocheted out of strips of cotton fabric. I make rugs using this same technique.
The basket came out really beautiful, but you can't tell from the photos here, because my stupid camera over exposes everything and makes it look ugly. I also forget to take the picture, until I had already wrapped the bloody thing up and put a jar of carob molasses into it and put it into the car, so that I wouldn't forget to bring it to work with me in the morning.

I took the picture inside the car, because right as I remembered that I wanted a photo, it started to POUR RAIN!
So there you are.

Me and my ratty photography again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

And they are OFF!

I just returned from the airport.
I put Maxwell and my niece on a plane to go to Washington DC with my mom, for a week.

This is an exciting adventure for them, but a tiny bit nerve jangling for me and my brother. As interactions with my mother go, this was largely very smooth.

In fact it was all feeling a bit too good to be true until my brother phoned me at 8:00pm to tell me that I needed to meet him at the check in counter at 9:30am so that we only had to pay the unaccompanied minor charge once, since they will honor it for up to three children traveling together.


What charge?

Maxwell has been flying alone for five years and there has never been a charge.

It seems that this airline, charges $75 for children flying alone.

Oh, good thing I know, since I don't usually carry $$$ on me, and I had not deposited my paycheck into my account, and I had just paid a big dental bill and was down to my last $50 or so in the bank... nice.

and why are we checking in at 9:30am for a 10:00am flight?

Oh, right, that is how my brother likes to do things- on the fly, at the last moment, without a plan.

Nein Danke,
not for me.

"Ummmm, I am really not comfortable with that plan. I would rather pay the full price and get there early and not be rushed or stressed."

It seems he had not made any childcare arrangements for his younger child, who had to be at school at 8:45, and they live (on a good day without traffic) an hour away from Portland.


As a rule I am not what you would call a calm person, and yesterday was a really ratty day, and by 8:00pm, I was sort of burned out, and naturally I became a bit upset over the pressure to meet at 9:30.

Eventually I asked Mark to deal with the plan, and I went to pick Maxwell up from karate practice.

When I returned it was all ironed out and we agreed to meet at 8:30, and if they were not there by 8:45, I was to leave and go through security.

And it all worked out well enough.

Naturally, because I had insisted on being early, there was not a soul in the airport and we had tons of time to wait around.

We got to walk on the people movers and eat bagels (that were NOT good at all!)

My brother got to lecture me about being overly polite, and overly concerned about other people, and being overly nervous,
all of which makes me nervous as hell.

All because I kept insisting that the children stand on one side of the other of the aisles, so that people walking faster could pass easily.

"Heidi, why do you care so much about those people?"

ummm, it's called being polite??

anyway we got through it and while I will most likely not sleep for the next week, until his is safely back in his own bed, I am glad that Maxwell gets to have a cool vacation, because god knows his parents are never going to get it together to leave town anytime soon.

weird and weirder

as I said yesterday, weird shit has been happening to me lately, and just now, when I logged on there was a loading problem and a message at the top of the page that the blog had been flagged for garbledgarbledcan'treadthemessage content. WOW!

I reloaded and VIOLA! here I am, but dang, it feels strange. I have had a heck of a time with posts being eaten, and comments being swallowed up, and friends being unable to post, so who knows.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

communication breakdown

I used to think of myself as a good communicator.

Not anymore.

I have no idea if I am getting dumber and more base lately, or if I was deceiving myself in the past when I fancied myself a good communicator.

Over the past year or so, I have had a number of really strange interactions that led to people getting offended or misunderstanding what I meant.

This has come up at work over and over, and a few times now in my personal life, while I feel innocent, clearly it has to do with me, and my way of communicating, otherwise there is no way it would happen so often.

One example that is really silly, is the Rolf became grossly offended by a Shostakovitch record I put out, as a sort of decoration and accused me of "trying to tell him something", WOW, that would be taking passive aggressive to a really creative new level!

I am sort of fresh out of ideas, other than crawling under a rock and enacting a "radio silence". Not very practical, but it is the solution that appeals to me the most.

It has been a rough week. I had a mom yell at me, over some four year old squabble, that she felt I was not taking seriously enough, someone flipped me off in a fit of road rage, all kinds of vibing at work, Mark being prickly, Rolf accusing me of sending messages with classical music records from the 60's and on and on.

I am going to try to limit my colorful or creative expression to here and otherwise keep my yap shut.

Friday, April 3, 2009

here is to you my dear

My dear sweet husband, took me out to for supper at Bread and Ink, my favorite place ever.

He brought home the perfect flowers, and he was perfectly understated, to not spook me. Good work, honey!

I love Bread and Ink... nothing unexpected here, everything perfect, just as I like it, from bread to salad to all my special requests. These folks know there stuff!

I used to love the Yiddish brunch here so much, I used to love to sit and have a long Sunday morning here, but I have not had the luxury of having brunch for so many years, and I don't think they serve it anymore anyway, but our dinner was lovely, our server was lovely, the wine was perfect, the table service looked good and simple, the tomato sauce was homemade and passed my rather harsh standards.

I love their bread.

I love this place.

THANKS HONEY for getting me.

My heart is brimming with gratitude to Miss F's friend's mama for inviting her to a "dinner date", for inviting us in for a glass of wine, when F wouldn't leave without a fuss, and to MIL for watching Max.

This is the anniversary of our commitment to be together and it means so much to me, to be able to celebrate like a grown up.

the apple and the tree

I don't ask my children to do a whole a lot of cleaning up. The one thing I do ask Maxwell to help with is keeping his books picked up, as they become a tripping hazzard (I am usually the one that trips).

So off I send him, and wait, and wait and wait.

Then I go up to check.

One of the coolest things about being a parent, is having this tiny person who looks just like you, and has a lot of personality traits like you...
In my case we both have this sort of serious, mildly, Eastern European look going on in most photos, that makes it seem like we fear, some Cossack is going to come pillage any moment.
For most of my life people have been commanding me to SMILE! and I hate it, so I almost never ask it of Maxwell... it's ok, with me that, along with my dark circles and tragic high cheekbones he got my sense of drama, and love of books, and zany lack of organizational skills.

This is Maxwell "cleaning up" the library area- you are soooo busted!

This is me giving up on the library (landing), ever being tidy for longer than five minutes.

Tart tatin

I made this French classic on a dare from Rolf last night.

He has been trying to make one for years, with no success, in fact with much failure, generally producing an inedible greasy mess.

Mine came out well, but I came near burning the heck out of my torso in the process of flipping it out of the pan... so I don't really see myself baking another one anytime soon.

The cake is baked upside down, to produce the caramel covered apples on the top, which involved pulling a 9" , 350 degree cast iron pan (HEAVY!!) out of the oven and flipping it's contents in one motion onto a serving plate.

The flipping went ok, but boiling sugar/butter poured out all over the counter and splashed over my front, but luckily I was wearing an over sized t-shirt, which I ripped off instantly and didn't get burned.

It made a giant mess, though.

Despite losing a good deal of the caramel topping, the cake was deemed a huge success by Rolf, so I suppose it was a good evening after all.

I used our "apfelmachine" a German apple peeling and cutting device, that is really cool and old fashioned looking, to cut the apples into uniform slices, and peel them at the same time.

I like any excuse to bust that thing out and make some uniform apple slices!

Maxwell karate chopping something in the fridge- don't ask why