Sunday, March 28, 2010

with nothing to do, I feel a little naked

Our evening last night ended nicely with a festive dinner, with friends and a last gasp editing session on the paper Rolf is presenting in Bremen.

Cross your fingers that is goes well.

Freyja was excited to get to stay up late and watch a German puppet show from the 70's on video, in Onkel's room.   

The editing required one wine run to Plaid Pantry...

I packed Rolf suitcase at 10:30pm, took him to the airport this morning and found myself with nothing to do all day.  No deadlines, no demands (other than the very demanding Princess).

Freyja had two playdates, one before and one after, which is awesome for me, as the companions free me up to do things like catch up on the Anthony Bourdain blog, and finish a book.

Mark helped me vacuum up the cracker crumbs after the last child left and some how it was 6:00pm.

I am having cheese puffs and coffee for dinner ( a winning combination!), and calling it a night.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

cooking my ass off

I have been in a cooking frenzy.  

Rolf is leaving for a trip in the morning, so we are having a little going away dinner party tonight.  

I have pork tenderloin stuffed with prunes, cabbage rolls, a root vegetable gratin, red potatoes with dill, all ready to be baked.

I also made a Schwarzwälder-Kirsch-Torte

 Which is basically a booze soaked chocolate cake, layered with cherries and Bavarian cream, then topped with whipped cream.  

 The tricky part is making the cream, without curdling the eggs, or burning it.  
basic pastry cream (excellent if I do say so, and I do) 
3 egg yolks
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2
1/4 sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 flour

mix everything but the cream together in a bowl, with a whisk.  get all the lumps out! 
heat the milk but don't let it boil! 
slowly pour half the milk into the bowl with the eggs etc.  whisk vigorously and constantly, then pour the contents of the  bowl  back into the pan of milk and stir constantly over medium heat, 
until the custard thickens. 
This makes a great custard filling for eclairs, napoleons, cream puffs, or a good custard topped with fruit.

 Freyja got to go see "Don't let the pigeon drive the bus" at the North West Children's Theatre, which is why I had the time to mess around with a fancy cake.  

She went with Wawa, Mark's mom, and got a new dress.  It is all very exciting! 


Thursday, March 25, 2010

giving it a listen to

same old saw

Can't I just sell my soul to the devil, and have my life transformed into this painting?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's Wednesday, and just like that SPRING arrived

I adore this time of year, when it is still cold enough to be pleasant, but sunny and full of emerging color.  I don't know why grape hyacinth is not used more in the US in flower arrangements?  I loved seeing them in florist windows in Germany.

Our yard is shameful really, we should be run out off the street on a rail.  The Camilla doesn't seem to mind too much though.   Freyja won't let me get rid of her jogging stroller, she likes to push it around the yard and pile dandelions inside, so there is sits, guarding the secret hideaway.

Look who I found on the table! The big sneak, likes to get into any open vessel. 

For the past month of so Freyja has been wearing the ladybug costume day and night, as much as we will let her.  My mother sent her a ladybug travel, neck, pillow, which she is using like a ladybug stole.

A large natural foods store donated TWO carts of grapes to the school, not realizing it is spring break, so I now have a giant bowl of grapes!

I went in today and felt grateful that I can dress just like this FOR WORK! Not too bad.

a flick of a switch

I have this compulsion to decorate things, and my light switches haven't escaped. 

No minimalism here, folks.

I love this Chagall painting.  

I love the goat playing music in the corner.  What an excellent goat. 

 The Creature, is my favorite.  We have a little rubber Creature too, that the kids play with in the bath, oh, and a stuffed doll too.  We are big fans of the Creature... and who doesn't love Tin Tin, in their stairwell?

I would have chosen this goat, had I been able to find an image that was the right orientation, but I couldn't, so I have the other goat.  There you go.   All of the light switches are made from ugly plastic switch covered, mod podged with images brazenly and shamelessly stolen from the internet. 
My husband has worked in the publishing industry for so long, that it has made him very cranky and uptight about copy write laws.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I am sitting around waiting for 9:00pm, so I can watch LOST.

I have two hot books going at the moment
The woman from Hamburg by Hanna Krall , and once again I am taking the easy way out and suggesting your read this review.  I keep stumbling onto stories set in Poland, and by cracky I like them! 
This gal is a great writer, using a really subtle touch, that gave me chills, in the story where the fellow goes back to the town and points out this and that house, and what they used to do, and their nicknames, and the fact that they are all dead.  Really powerful and unsentimental.

The other one is The Power of One, set in South Africa, during WWII.  Again heavy, but delightfully well written.  The brutality of institutionalized racism is captured brilliantly.  Some of the characters are a little too good to be true (not good, as in virtuous, but the way it all comes together is a bit far fetched), but I still want to know what is going to happen next. 

I am also reading Hurry Down Sunshine, which I am not really enjoying.  It is kind of a parent's worst nightmare, and something I fret about, and the writing is not appealing to me.  The author feels whiny and wimpy and unsympathetic to me. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On we go

Today was Mark's mom's 70th birthday.  We had agreed to host the party- a champagne reception at noon.  Mark stayed home with me on Friday (he has 14! YEARS of sick time saved up, so it seemed like a good idea).

I talked to the HR person at Food 4 Less, scolding them, and letting them know how irresponsible it was to not have any kind of procedure in place for emergencies.

I felt oddly free from anxiety and depression all day.

Hot damn! I am not dead on the floor of a filthy store, time to cheer up!

We did a bit of cleaning and went out to lunch and had a nice day together.

Saturday morning I got up at 7:00am, and started cooking an obscene amount of food.

We had all pretended to have forgotten Wawa's birthday.  Mark called and told her he was taking her to look at mattresses (she needs a new one, and he had promised to take her shopping).
He then pretended to forget his wallet.

She was appropriately surprised, when she walked in to find a little party- Maxwell and Freya yelled


Earlier in the day, I had walked out to dump the compost bucket, and I found one sweet little tulip growing out of the heap.  I picked it and put it on the buffet table.  I thought it was a lovely sign.

This jasmine wreath filled the house with an amazing fragrance.
I put out a hydrangea on the table, wrapped a scarf around it and called it good.
The candle holders are wine glassed turned upside down.
One of my best tricks.  

Freyja put on all her jewels, including a felted bead necklace we made at Christmas break.   I on,  the other hand put on nothing, not even lipstick.

Too tired,  to be bothered, as usual.

Mark's sister brought lemon AND lime drinks, which the children drank like crazy, oh, and a chocolate cake.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

when your number is up...

I went to Food 4 Less for  cheap  asparagus and Cuban saffron rice seasoning.
It is a huge, dirty, ugly store in one of the shabbiest parts of town, open 24/7, and almost always filled with poor people, looking for good deals and immigrant families cruising the extensive ethnic sections for specialty items not available any place else.

When I rounded a huge display of papaya, I found a  man lying on the floor, with very ragged, labored breath.  He was around 60, bald, slightly over-weight wearing a fleece vest and good quality, working man's shined shoes. 

I called to the produce guy to call and ambulance.  He walked away to the back of the store.  Time passed and the guy's breathing got really rough, with long intervals of silence in between breaths.

I yelled at a couple of old ladies.  They didn't seem to understand, and kept right on squeezing the produce. The store was pretty empty, much more quiet than I had ever seen it.  I spotted a youngish guy in bike tights with a backpack and ran up the frozen aisle to him.

"Do you have a phone?  I need you to call 911, then come help me, there is a guy passed out on the floor by the lettuce and I think he is having a heart attack!"

He phoned 911 and ran with me back to the man, who was starting to turn really dusky, blue in the face.  His eye were closed and he was silent.  Bike guy asks me if I can do CPR, and I say yes.

At this point the produce guy sauntered up and tells us to leave, that he has called a manager.

" No, we are not leaving, we called an ambulance and we are going to start CPR"  bike guy tells him.

Then the manager walks up with a digital camera, and suggests that he might just be passed out, it is clear to me that this guy is not intoxicated, He has neatly ironed pants, he doesn't smell like alcohol, he has not pissed his pants, he is not thrashing around and both the bike tights guy and I tell her to fuck off with her liability concerns, and she does. 

The guy on the floor is really quiet.  He is also really big.  I am concerned that my hands are too small to do quality compressions.  Bike guy is also nervous.  He says he fears not being able to push hard enough, too.
I dig around in my wallet for my CPR mouth cover, that I carry for work.   It is child sized, but I remember that I can turn it sideways to cover an adult mouth.  I turn the man's head, and am deeply relieved not to find vomit, or blood.  We check for a pulse, and there is a weak one.  I think I remember that you do not start compressions unless there is no pulse, but I feel like my memory might be wrong, because I am afraid of touching the guy.  His head is quite purple and his lips are blue. He is not gross, or scary, he is just big and motionless and a stranger to me.  He lets out this gasp that sounds like air being released from a balloon, and bike guy asks me if I think he is dead.

The EMTs arrive and I stand up, feeling relieved.

I jump up and down and wave my arms
HERE! Over here!
so they can see us behind the papaya display.

We give them the little information we have, and stand around and watch while they work on his motionless body.

A  crowd starts to gather. 

Bike guy and I shake hands.

You are a good guy

I tell  him.

You are too, um, a good gal.  I can't stand around and wait for this to end.

He tells me.

I think the man is dead, but I wait around anyway for a few more minutes, then I go on with my shopping because I can't think of anything else to do.

A lady asks me if the man has ID.  I tell her I have no idea, but I would think so, because he was shopping.  He must have his wallet, he looks like a wallet kind of person.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It was a remarkable sunny, springy day, and I was given a giant bag of mushrooms and three potatoes, so something cool, picnicish and saladish  was in order.

I made a simple potato salad, with some dill from my tiny plant on the deck, and also some mushroom pate, which the children hate, but I like, so there!


I just got off the phone with my friend Dom and we were lamenting growing up poor and the tendency toward hoarding it cultivated in both of us.  She told me that she purchased 34 pounds of Barilla pasta today, because it was on sale.
It was the good stuff, I couldn't pass it up

I am wayyyyy worse, or maybe it is just because I have a big basement...

Whatever the reason my be, I have enough food on hand in my kitchen to survive the apocalypse, not to mention what I could live through with my basement stash!

 This is after I pulled two big boxes out for the food bank, just last week!

I counted 24 cans of sardines in the basement.
We don't even eat sardines, but Rolf (also a total hoarder) thinks that fish is a good thing to have on hand for the end of the world, because it is a good source of protein, and god knows that when the end of the world rolls around we want to keep our strength up! 

Secret creepy basement storage room, filled to the gills with fish, dish soap and tomatoes! 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Losing my voice

 I always lose my voice when I am stressed out...

This has been the most stressful past six months ever- really, just a constant state of relentless stress, with a barrage of things beyond our control going wrong,  

B I G 


l i t t l e.

Today my new work computer was all screwy, which caused about 10 HOURS of work to be lost and I just lost it. 

Normally I am big crier, but today I was really angry  beyond tears, at the absurdity of the whole work computer situation. 

I snapped  

I did not sign up for this shit! 

I now have no voice.

I have never really understood people that punch, or throw things, but I am really starting to see the beauty in that sort of release. 

I stew, and simmer and rage on the inside until I am sick and voiceless or have a headache from crying, none of which does a bit a good. 

There are those sickeningly healthy, balanced people  that exercise away their frustration. 

That will never be me. 

I recently started a pilates class, and all it does it make me more angry.

Talking is always good for me, but I feel like I have talked the ears off my most trusted friends and I have no new spin, things are just really shitty with no end in sight.  

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Quick like a rabbit

We had a family dinner to attend at Mark's mother's place, and we were responsible for the deserts.

I made a carrot cake, a corn cake shaped like a bunny and a coconut cream pie.  

I had been wanting to try out the bunny mold for a long time. 
Rolf brought it back from Germany and it was sort of intimidating.  It bakes  upright on this sort of elaborate frame.   It WORKED!  it was very exciting.

I left the carrot cake unfrosted, but put some little frosting carrots all around the top.  It looked super when I first did it, but the cake wasn't cooled all the way, so some of the carrots ran, making it looks sort of  fun housish.

I forced Freyja to wear this very sweet jacket she inexplicably hates, and could only be comforted if I included her picture in this post.  She is all about self promotion, and deal brokering.

Simple vegan carrot cake:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 oil
1 teaspoon soda
3/4 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded apple
1/4 rice milk
1/2 cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup raisins

bake at 350 for almost an hour.

makes a 9x9 square or a small babka mold.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I am a big meany with crashing all around me

This is one of my favorite photos of Maxwell and me, from when he was three, despite my poor choice of lipstick color.
I set out to post it with the birthday post, but then my computer crashed THREE times during scanning, so I gave up. 
For some reason it worked just fine today.
I spent two hours today in the computer repair shop, frustrating the dickens out of a very sweet fellow named Scott, getting my work computer fixed, or rather getting my new work computer to recognize my old files, which Scott had transferred to the new computer he built just for me. 
A new computer seemed like such a good idea, but it has turned out to be a big headache, and now I feel exhausted by the whole affair, which is particularly frustrating, as I had set the afternoon aside, in the hope that I might nap a little. 
I have not slept worth a darn for a couple of weeks and I am at that crashing point (along with both the computers I use).
The minute I walked into my office to drop off the computer, I was handed a message from Maxwell's school telling me to pick him up.
He was sick.
For the second day in a row. 
Which really pissed me off, because I was selfishly wishing for a little peace.
Just an hour.
I know that makes me sound like a terrible person, and I suppose I may be a terrible person, a terrible tired person.
When I picked him up he was, just as he was yesterday, fine.
He said he had a stomach ache, but I don't know  what to think, because he seemed fine. 
The illness struck precisely at social studies time, two days in a row.

I think he may have anxiety, for which I have the utmost compassion, (god knows both his father and I are as nervous and keyed up as a pair of poodle Siamese hybrids, after a couple of espressos ) I do, but geez, the timing really stinks.
We will work on finding the root of the stomach ache later, right now he is taking a nap and I am doing laundry and scanning and late to pick up Miss F.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I just finished reading  The curious incident of the dog in the night-time, which I really enjoyed, although the thought of a poodle stabbed to death with a pitchfork made me sad. 

I gave this book to my father for Christmas a couple of years ago, but had not read it myself.  I thought the author did an amazing job of showing Christopher's challenges without coming off as patronizing. 

It was such a departure from my usual fair.  It felt great to read something totally different! 


a different kind of crazy

My deadline for turning in the school choice forms is this Friday and I am still undecided.

When Maxwell was going into kindergarten I started feverishly touring school in January and had the form all filled out by March 1st.

I had a really clear idea of what was best for him, even thought  we didn't get our our first choice magnet school, and the second choice one we did get turned out to be a absurdly disorganized, unfocused mess and  totally SUCK.  (We wound up moving back to the neighborhood program in 3rd grade).

With Freyja I feel really conflicted and undecided and confused and a little sick inside.

We have a number of good choices, but the stupid lottery system is such, that for our top two school if you don't put them in as the first choice, then you get nothing.   The whole lottery system for academically focused programs is stupid anyway, but testing in was eliminated a few years ago to make things more fair.

Mark isn't being helpful at all.

Welllll both schools are goooood. 

Sorry Charlie, that is not helping!

He would be completely fine with sending her the five blocks and across the football field to our neighborhood school.
It is a perfectly fine school.  In fact it is a pretty sought after school in the lottery.

Why can't I feel ok about it?

Why must I feel driven to send her to one of the focus options

Because I am an intensely competitive person when it comes to getting the very best for my children and the notion of them not having the very best all the time, regardless of how unspecified the best might be, drives me nuts.  

I have been bitter for years that Maxwell didn't get our first choice when he was in kindergarten, even though he tested in the 99%.  It enraged me every time I thought of it.  In fact it still pisses me off.  Instead he got our second choice, which turned out to be a mess and I am still bitter about that whole debacle and at having to switch schools, despite taking so many pains to make sure his placement was well thought out and done with research and care.

So here I am again, six years later, in the same soup, worrying that I am making the wrong choice.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

too much tv is just right

We have been watching season one of Son's of Anarchy, which is about a biker gang in a small California town.  Very well done and interesting.  I am eagerly waiting for disk 3!

We also started Nurse Jackie which I am LOVING.  I have not found a character this relatable since Brenda from six feet under.  I love it and demand that everyone I know rent season one, right now.

the birthday boy

 Friday was Maxwell's 11th birthday.

One of his presents from me was having Aunt Karen come for a surprise visit, Wednesday night.  

Aunt Karen is my  best friend from 1st grade.  We met in Mrs. Bonarre's class at Hopkins elementary school in Sherwood. 

She is the person I would go to if  I ever needed to hide a dead body.  She knows all my skeletons and loves me anyway.

She lives in Seattle and doesn't get down here very often due to a crazy work schedule.

She and Maxwell have a super special relationship, so he was beyond excited to see her and that I let him stay home from school on Friday and go on a hike on Mt Tabor.


I did a sort of insane amount of cake baking Friday, as we were having three celebrations...

The first party was Friday night, with some of the grown ups that love Maxwell, but are not relatives. 

I made all of Maxwell's favorite foods, and we had lemon cake with strawberry sauce and strawberry ice cream.

Freyja decided to wear a ladybug costume for the event, and eat nothing but strawberries and pickles.

The next morning two of Maxwell's friends came over and had pizza and rootbeer, then went to see a matinee of Alice in Wonderland, which Maxwell had been planning for months.  He is a big Tim Burton fan, as well as a big fan of the book.
after the movie they spent several loud hours playing a video game, which I allowed because of the birthdayness, but I did eventually chase them outside, into the sunshine. 

Saturday evening we went over to Wawa's house (Mark's mom) for a family party with Mark's sister. 

I think it was a fitting fete for the world' best boy.