Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cookies. But no milk.

Ever wonder what I do, all those mornings when I am awake when it is pitch-black outside? Typically, I am curled up on the futon-couch, chugging coffee, and reading the newspaper, the magazines, reading anything, basically, that I can get my hands on. But not this morning, oh no. THIS morning I was up quite early (4:45 a.m.) and downstairs, freshly showered, cup of coffee clutched in my hand, already-read paper residing in recycling bin...working, nay, SLAVING over THESE.

Cute, aren't they? Dying to squeeze into a tiny cardboard house and purchase one, aren't you? I can sense the excitement now!! This is my major volunteer project for The Cult's Holiday Faire. 300 of them. Granted, I have a merry little band of bakers, but many cookies to decorate and package. This keeps me up at night.
Moving many, many times in the past 15 or so years left me with one really valuable lesson, one that I actually took to heart and remember: Everything takes longer than you think it will. Everything. These cookies are no exception. I have been timing myself, and it takes about 90-120 seconds per cookie to ice and sprinkle, and an additional 45-60 seconds to package. Multiply by 250-300, and there is a serious investment of time here. Tomorrow morning some hapless members of the merry band will descend upon Justine's house where I will ride roughshod over them, driving them frantically towards the finish line, which is a noon deadline. Then they have to dry, then be carefully slid into clear cellophane bags, tied with a ribbon, carefully placed in a box, then transported to the Cult, then carefully hung wth clothespins from the inside of the little cardboard house...and then I will collapse, give it up, go home, and pray that Saturday goes smoothly.


I love these; I bought some gorgeous silver superfine sanding sugar that looks incredible with the white frosting. Speaking of the icing, this was the first time I have done any work with Royal Icing, which undyed is snow-white and dries to the consistancy of cement. I can highly recommend it; easy to make, fun to work with. Very very impressed with Wilton squeeze bottles, love them much more than decorating bags and tips. Going BACK to store today to buy more for tomorrow morning's fun.

Finished product, ready to hang!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Uncomfortable Lies. And Truths.

Every now and then, parenting throws me a curveball. I commend myself in some ways by not much taking me by surprise with Flipper, but with the mania of the holdiay season fully upon us, I admit that as the days tick by, I am growing increasing uncomfortable with the Santa-thing. Specifically, lying about it. This has caught me very much by surprise. Now don't forget, one of the reasons I chose The Cult was the way they embrace "the magic of childhood", the way they foster and cultivate every child's vivid imagination, and I still possess a pretty vivid one myself. When unable to sleep, something that has been happening more and more often of late, I fantasize about what I would do with serious lottery winnings. And my distribution of the wealth IS pretty creative, if I do say so myself. But the Santa-thing is bothering me in ways I never fathomed. For one thing, Flipper tends to want things to be very very specific. She wants concrete answers for things, although she can be pretty accepting of my "I don't knows" and even "I'll tell you when you're older." But I am a little shocked at how my normally rather pragmatic child has really embraced the entire notion of Santa, how fully she has bought into it. Hence the questions. Hence, the lies. There is a whole contingent of parents out there that do not think it is OK to lie to children about anything, and especially Santa. I thought these people were evil Scrooges, but now I have a glimmer of sympathy, although I was a bit surprised at the strenth of their convictions, and some of the just plain craziness. Check out THIS little pearl of wisdom via Google:

"Parents – in the name of human decency and your children’s future mental health, stop deceiving them. Just because your parents lied to you is insufficient reason to continue the emotional cruelty associated with the Santa Claus conspiracy. How did you feel when you found out your parents lied to you? Did you ever trust them again?"
(Why yes, I trust them to this day)

"The Santa Claus deception is more addictive than you might realize. It leads to bigger, more emotionally damaging deceptions like the Easter Bunny lie or Tooth Fairy fetish, with highly dangerous long-term side-effects. Is this what “Good Christian Values” are all about – lying to your children? You won’t hear Jewish or Muslim parents lying to their kids about Santa Claus?"
(Fetish? Sounds disturbingly kinky to me...)

Wow. SOMEONE is a tad bit angry, wouldn't you say? I found this perspective equally fascinating (and blessedly less hostile):

"I am so glad my parents never taught me about Santa Claus. They taught me that people believe in him, but it's only a myth. And besides, the only Person we are to believe in is God. He is the Source of all our blessings. And He wants children to honor their parents. Knowing that what they need or desire comes from their parents is helpful."

While I respect and appreciate her strong personal faith, there is a teeny tiny splitting of hairs here, if you will. White, long, chin-hairs, to be specific. My father, an atheist, taught me that "many people believe in him, but it's only a myth." Except he was speaking about God. Moving on...

"It is not lying to create stories for young children. That is basically what is done when parents tell their children of imaginary creatures such as the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. From the beginning of time parents have spun such tales for the entertainment and education of their children. Rather than "lying," it can be considered "myth-making." Myths are a means of conveying certain truths pictorially rather than didactically. When parents tell their children tales of the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, the larger truths that are being conveyed mythically are that we are part of a larger universe and are watched over and cared for by good spirits whom we cannot yet know empirically. This can be considered groundwork for later introduction to the communion of saints."--

Needless to say, this is the explanation I like the best. But the point of this is not whether or not it is "wrong" to "lie" to your children; it is that it makes ME feel so uncomfortable and strange. I dislike trying to make up answers off the top of my head about Santa and his flight patterns, "Will he come to our house first or last?" I never expected to feel weird about it, but I do. Cannot wait for her to be old enough to grasp, Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus.

As a precious little aside to this, last Chrsitmas Eve we flew to Maui, Flipper and me. We landed at 10 at night, and got into my sister's decrepit and ancient Trooper for the 45 minute trip from Kahalui to her condo near Kapalua. As we drove away from the airport, windows down, warm tropical air flowing in, Flipper looked up at the red blinking light on a plane beginning it's descent and said, "LOOK!! Santa made it after all!!!"

p.s. the above is a true story.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wren and Stumpy

A few friends came over on Saturday, and one of them (the animal lover) commented on how many birds we have fluttering about the backyard, due to multiple bird feeders. The feeders also attract bushy-tailed rats, also known as squirrels. I dislike squirrels, due to a traumatic childhood experience with one. I will debate writing about it. But I certainly don't HATE them in any way, nor does it particularly bother me that they are able to access almost any feeder I put up. Flipper LOVES them. After all, she chose to be one for Halloween 2 years ago! I scatter feed directly on the deck outside the kitchen, and we sit there, Flipper and me, and watch them nibble nibble nibble with their cunning little hands and shiny eyes. When it gets a tad colder, we will buy huge bags of dried corn-on-the-cob for them, which they love. On Sunday, a gray and chilly day, we noticed a small squirrel in the yard, busily eating, that looked a bit...different. Then we figured out that he (or she) is missing it's right front leg and it's tail. Hence, it looks like a short-eared rabbit. Flipper is enraptured with him. I named him "Stumpy" because I just couldn't resist. I will attempt to capture Stumpy on my camera and post a picture of him soon. He has been a regular, and I am impressed at how nimble he is. It is pretty unusual to see a disabled or crippled animal in nature. Flipper will tell anyone about him now, and how "we are going to make it an easy winter for Stumpy." It is precious. Please let her grow up to be kind to animals!! Hopefully, he will be back again today. I have noticed that squirrels tend to run each other off from the area directly beneath the feeders, and he has been run off a few times. It makes me want to jerk open the door and scream, "Leave him alone!! He doesn't have a TAIL!!" But I resist, as I hope Flipper doesn't think me as TOO crazy when she grows up. I am a bit worried about her perspective when she grows up, as a result of reading Little Alters Everywhere and The Divine Secrest of the Ya Ya Sisterhood back to back.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Yesterday, while driving from Erika's house to my parents' house, my front driver's side tire blew out. Luckily, I was less than a mile from their house. Yay, Dad!! He showed up in about 10 minutes, put the full-sized spare on, while lecturing me about the exact right way to change a tire: loosen bolts BEFORE jacking car up, tighten them across from each other, but not side by side, etc. Then he said-get this-"You really need to be careful. It isn't YOU, you're driving Flipper around!" Thanks for the personal concern about MY well-being. But I had to remind him that I will never change a tire. And not because I think men are better at it, or I would rather wait 3 or 4 hours for Triple A to show up, but because I, like many women, cannot lift up a full-size tire and carefully place it on the axle. So we are pretty much out of the running for tire-changing right there. My sister might be able to do it with her Mini Cooper, seeing how the whole car is the size of a Matchbox car, thereby the tires are basically the size of Oreos, but no such luck with the Forester!!
The rest of Thanksgiving week-end passed by. Busy, busy. Fun, fun. Now, if I could only get the damn cookies done. I swear to all of you that the mere THOUGHT of these cookies keeps me up at night, or, rather, in the wee hours of the morning where I woke this morning at 3:15. Just like The Amityville Horror. I want it to be a success, be fun and magically happen without taking a few years off my life, but I am losing hope. I made about 45 more cookies yesterday, to compensate for the inevitable breakage that will occur. I might try to decorate a few ahead of time. I am nervous about freezing them, but they might keep successfully in a plastic container. But the icing will NOT keep; once I make a batch, I have to use it before it solidifies into cement. Wow, what a pretty picture! Aren't you eager to have your children buy and eat a few??
Lots of Holiday Funness coming up in the next few weeks. How I love my somewhat spiritual and yet in no way religious life! All the joy of the season, the cards, the tree, even the Nativity scene, with none of the church to go along with it. This year I am going to try and get Flipper and me dressed up in Christmas finery (her, not me) and go to The Carolina Inn for tea and to see the 12 Days of Christmas display they set up every year. Doesn't that sound like a precious mother-daughter event? Now, all I have to do is buy some matching Laura Ashley dresses....

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving. (turkey, gravy and whine.)

It is Thanksgiving, my least-favorite holiday-and it always has been. Never liked it, never will. It is also the only holiday I can think of that the presence of a small child does not render more special and precious. Next year, I swear to all that is dear to me, I am cooking for MY friends at MY house. With MY food decisions, MY Bon Appetit recipes, MY fine china. Shocking, is it not, that someone like me even owns fine china? But I do. Royal Dalton, Provencal pattern. Full place setting for 12, no less, including the berry bowls. So, got that Colleen? Justine? Robin? Next year, my house.

But right now I have a cold, making me even more Scrooge-like, and I am trying to tamp down my intense irritation and rage at Keith for taking Flipper to his mother's house (crying hysterically, by the way) and not coming back when he said he would, which causes total panic for me. That tamping thing? Not working, actually. Now I am worried AND furious. Flipper likes him, frankly, in small doses. I never really write about him, since he is better than a lot of dads I know, particularly given that we broke up when she was only 17 months old. And, basically, that he dislikes lots of me. (But not all). It is very hard for him to gear down with Flipper, to just let her be. Now, while he doesn't live with us (thank god) he does come over every night for an hour or two, and they do stuff together on a pretty regular basis. But it is special stuff, exhausting stuff. He took her and the damn dogs to the Haw River this morning for a walk, and when they got back and he left, she said, "I don't want to do anything else with Daddy today." But I made her, since we had committed. But I felt awful.

The other night he was in "his" chair, I was in "my" spot on the futon, and she was on the floor in between, having a very Waldorf moment. She got out all ten million of her play-silks, her all-natural cherry-tree blocks, and her 2 gnomes, the imaginatively named Table and Hat, and was busy telling a "story." Table and Hat went to the couch because they were cold and then they sat down and then they went outside... And I was trying NOT to let her know that I was watching, because she was very much in her own, precious, protected, Waldorf world at the moment. But Keith leans forward, starts asking her questions, interrupting her, to be INVOLVED. So I caught his eye from across the room and silently mouthed JUST WATCH HER. Much kinder than SHUT THE FUCK UP, don't you think? And, to his credit, he did. Enough complaining, especially when I have it better than about 99% of all single mothers I know, because I'm not really single. Juts without a sex-partner, but not, blessedly, without help. And for that I'll swallow my Scroogeishness and be Thankful.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fodder, Part 3.

Lest you think I just pop into the office and type out some amusing, witty entries off the top of my head, let me assure you that I do not. When I awaken in the wee hours of the morning (4:45 today) I often lie there, Flipper on one side, damn dog at the foot, and think about the upcoming day's entry. I WAS going to write all about how many close friends of mine are Virgos, (yes, I am serious) but then, while pounding coffee and flipping through yesterday's mail...I came across yet another frightful catalog.

And so, let us pick apart this idiocy. The title of the purveyer of such hideous, mechanical, grown up "toys" is The Sharper Image. Now, I remember this catalog from my youth, when it really was just for men, and typically everything in it was shiny chrome, black, or white. But that has changed, although I cannot decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Because the offerings, once designed to appeal to some sort of hip, tech-y, vaguely metrosexual bachelor guy living in some high-rise apartment in New York, are now designed to appeal (and I use that word loosely) to the whole family. If, that is, you belong to a family that wants to "shop for bots."

Dear God. (I said that recently at a party and my alter-ego friend that has the same name as me said, "pretty strong words for an atheist.") Bitch. Anyway, I do have to wonder at the following:

Sorry for the glare. Hard to photograph glossy magazine without glare.
How on earth is this even remotely (haha) appealing?
Get a load of this copy/hyperbole:

The Pleo dinosaur interacts with you — moving organically, expressing emotion, autonomously exploring and responding to the world around him.
Every Pleo dinosaur is unique. Yes, each one begins life as a newly-hatched baby Camarasaurus, but that's where predictability ends and individuality begins.
He develops his own personality, moods and habits — all shaped by the time he spends with you. In creating this life form, we merely set the wheels in motion. Making the magic is up to you and your Pleo dinosaur.
Pleo dinosaur's sophisticated sensory system has devices that enable him to see, to sense touch and to detect objects: a color camera, sound sensors, two infrared sensors, 14 motors, over 100 gears, 8 touch sensors and an orientation sensor.
On owners can connect, find training tips and download new enhancements to Pleo dinosaur.
For ages 8 and older.

There is so much to scorn here, I hardly know where to start. So I'll start at the top: this poor creature's eyes. Why the eyes? Well, because they're blue. So instead of "Pleo" perhaps they should have names it Aryano. Since no animals except humans and a few random malamutes and huskies have blue eyes naturally. Animals that DO have blue eyes-except humans-are albinos. Which means they have extremely poor eyesight/are blind. Which means, Darwin-wise, they are not longed for this world. They can neither catch prey nor avoid being prey. But enough of that little science lesson. Moving on...

Playful and lively
If your Pleo dinosaur loves a good tug-of-war or shows off in front of friends, congratulate yourself — it's all the fun you've had together that has made him the good sport that he is. In his excitement, he just might let loose with a few hoots and honks.
Wow, just what I always wanted, a robotic dinosaur that will show off and let forth embarrassing noises. Flipper could have easily fit this bill when she was about 1. And she often did.

Scared and surprised
Let's not forget that this Camarasaurus is just a baby. Something in Pleo dinosaur's new environment scares him — see how he cowers? But the more he experiences, the more confident he becomes. And then he'll love surprises — the good kind.
"See how he cowers?? I am startign to feel sorry for this poor thing. Perhaps he cowers because he is BLIND and is well on his way towards being a mere appetizer for a hungry T-Rex.

Sad and vexed
A sociable Pleo dinosaur who's alone too long or a hungry Pleo who's not getting fed can turn into a sad Pleo. How can you tell? His droopy tail and forlorn look let you know that he's looking for a friendly pat or a taste of his favorite leaf. Does Pleo dinosaur ever get upset? Well, let's just say you shouldn't pull that toe of his too hard.
This reminds me, disconcertingly, of this:
"Baby Think It Over". The infant simulator is a lifelike, life-size (20 1/2 inches) vinyl baby weighing 6.5 pounds. It is anatomically correct and available in both sexes and five different ethnicities. An internal computer simulates an infant crying at realistic, random intervals 24 hours a day. Intervals can be adjusted from 15 minutes to 6 hours for a normal, cranky, or particularly easy to care for baby." And, if you rip the battery pack out to stop it's endless wailing, it registers as "abused." Meaning you fail the class.
OK, just one more:
Pleo dinosaur's hungry. Getting sleepy. But hey, what's that over there? Like any creature, Pleo dinosaur feels hunger and fatigue — offset by powerful urges to explore and be nurtured. He'll graze, nap and toddle about on his own —when he feels like it! Pleo dinosaur can change his mind and his mood, just as you do.

Perhaps not as quickly as I change my mind, however. Since Pleo is a BOY and I am a GIRL. Or woman. SOmetimes. As to the grazing, napping and toddling about, hey, just have a baby!! For a small child, too, the combinations are endless.

In a touching Waldorf moment last week-end, Flipper referred to my new glue-gun as the "glue-sword." Just beautiful.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It Finally Happened!!!!!!!!!!!

No, sadly, no one has decided to pay me to do what I do best: talk. Or, talk about celebrity gossip. Nor have I won the lottery by osmosis, since I never play but fantasize about what I would do with the winnings. But I HAVE been tagged for a meme by the stunningly beautiful Shanna. If you want to see how pretty this girl is, look at her blog, This is something that I have wanted to do for so long!! But you have to wait to play!! It is like Freeze Tag, when everyone else is running and you're like, Tag ME!!! Tag ME NOW!!!! Speaking of Freeze Tag, it is a game Flipper has just started playing with her precious little friends, and it is one of those things from your own childhood that gets buried/forgotten and then your own child resurrects it and brings it into the light, and you remember it so vividly, little snatches. Like I said, precious. BUT BACK TO ME!!!!!!!! The meme is...

Ten Random Things About Yourself That Others May Not Know.
Wait. This is harder than I thought. I feel like anyone who knows me already knows almost everything about me. Let's see now...

1) I never listen to music anymore, me who used to own 200+ albums, back in the day when albums existed, who has been to over 250 concerts, etc. In my old age, I love silence. And NPR. I am boring. Maybe that's number 2...

2)I was perhaps the world's worst student. I failed my first class in 5th grade (social studies) and it pretty much went downhill from there. One point seven high school GPA. For one glorious semester at WCU, I had a 3.8. Emphasis on ONE semester. However, ALL of my friends a geniuses. ALL OF THEM.

3)I hate my daughter's name. Too popular, too trendy; I just hate it. Every day (almost) I regret that I did not give her a name higher on my list, one that I really liked, or that I did not just bite the bullet and name her after my mother, Henrietta. What a great name!! It is, as the French would say, Jolie Laide, or ugly-pretty.

4)Twins have followed me my whole life, from my best friends in nursery school to Ella's father, and my reignited friendship with twins from 5th grade. There is no escape. When I found out I was, as they say, "with child" I prayed "it" would be "its." Not to be.

5) I collect children's series from the 20's, 30's, and 40's. I have well over 200 Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins (there they are again), Cherry Ames and Trixie Belden books. Many are first editions, and so worth a little something. I know a frightening amount of utterly useless information about these books, the "authors" (all were pen names) and their history. I cannot possibly tell you why I collect these...but I do.

6) Once, while living in Telluride, my sister and I found a lost chocolate lab and returned it to it's owner...Christie Brinkly. She is incredibly beautiful AND nice in person.

7) Me, promiscuous me, was so embarrassed while pregnant that strangers could TELL that I was pregnant, meaning they could tell I had sex at least once, that I wanted to wear a burka. Seriously. Or stay inside.

8) I have the very worst birth/labor story ever. I was at a party once and this woman was whinging (great British term for whining) about her "long" labor and I LAUGHED at her (she really was annoying) and then I "won" for longest/grisliest experience ever. Really. Take THAT, whiny-girl!!

9) I have driven all over this great land of ours, here to California and back twice, here to Colorado and back 3 times, up and down the East Coast, and it is amazing. An experience everyone should have, and one I hope to do with Ella one day when she is old enough to remember it, but young enough to be able to exist without her friends.

10) I wake up every morning around 3:30-4:00, read for an hour, then go back to sleep. I am a total morning person, and generally fall asleep around 9 p.m., but then wake after 6 hours.

I am not tagging anyone, since most of my friend's don't blog.
Thing number 11...why 11? because it's one more than 10.

11) My sister and I played a game whereby we would send disturbing snapshots to each other that we took while compulsively documenting our lives. Like a car aflame on the side of a freeway, a dead cow in a field, her dog's face after an "encounter" with a copperhead...I could go on, but I won't.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Taking Back the Woods

Last Thursday afternoon-and again Saturday-Rose and I reclaimed our favorite walking spot. We used to walk this gorgeous, looping trail through the woods connecting our neighborhood to the more upscale one beside us. In the summer, the town of Chaopel Hill clear-cut and then razed flat on one side a bunch of acres. Like 50. Or more. To make soccer fields. Because, you know it is oh-so-important that kids learn to play soccer even though the odds of them getting a college scolarship for athletics is almost nil. This slaughter to make way for nothing was depressing beyond words, and so we quit walking up there at all. But the woods on the other side of the entry road to our neighborhood was cleared just a little for a parking lot, and in it's place was left large equipment, piles of brush and trees, and the Mt. Everest of mulch piles. So we have been heading up there, and, like moths to a flame, the kids are beside themselves with joy at being able to climb to the top. So we're back on it, traversing what is left of the trail, loving the incredible fall colors, since trees stressed beyond belief due to the hideous drought we are in have exceptionally brilliant leaves, and, basically, closing our eyes to the other side of the road. More tomorrow.

Look how huge this mulch pile is!! That's Flipper, beginning her ascent.

Baby Seamus and Ella make a final push for the summit.

Kids enjoy sitting in mulch crevasse.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I cannot remember another time in my recent life when I so looked forward to a Friday as this past week. Not for anything specific, in fact, Flipper finds week-ends to be a bit tough since I want to work around the house and catch up on household chores that I neglect during the week and she is lonely and wants to be with her friends, which requires effort from me and doesn't always work out easily. Her whining makes it a bit tough for me. But no matter. It is upon us, a relatively unscheduled week-end that I will hopefully use to catch up on some of the volunteer work that I need to do, specifically, build a house out of cardboard boxes, paint it inside and out, and create some sort of roof that looks "real." As real as painted cardboard can look, that is. I think I am going to make the house brown and the roof green "shingles" which will involve cutting out a lot of green-painted cardboard rectangles and affixing them to the roof. But I like this vision a lot. I might do some cutting of shingles today, in fact. I will also make another batch of cookies as I am worried that we will not have enough, and I love the sugar cookie dough so much that the excuse to make more is almost irresistable. I dislike gingerbread cookies so I am focusing on the sugar dough ones. It will be, hopefully, a win-win for me. In 2 hours I will be free!! Now, a quick picture: this is my neighbor's legs. The rest of his body is inside a culvert, trying to retrieve a soccer ball.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blue Skies and Angels

So, some pictures. I realize the last few posts were heavy on the verbage, so here are some colored visuals. First, cookies. I remembered, yet again, why I no longer make tons of cut-out cookies. BECAUSE IT IS A HUGE ANNOYANCE. The rolling. The chilling. The cutting. The transfer. The re-chilling. The baking...and on and on. It is so time-consuming!!!! So many steps!!! But look at the precious angels below!!!

Keith's mother, bless her, is one of those people who likes to be told EXACTLY what to buy Flipper for Christmas and Birthdays. How incredibly ideal for someone as innately bossy/controlling/rigid as me. I have set my little Grinch heart on the Fisher Price digital camera, and if Jean doesn't get it for Flipper, Jessica is going to get it at Sam's Club and I will pay her for it. Even though I am supposed to be done shopping! They are less expensive there and come with the case. There is a piece of me that is resistant to buying her a toy version of a grown-up device, since generally the adult ones are better, will last longer, etc. Plus, they don;t come in Hideous Pink and Ugly Blue. But she can drop this one and not break it,a nd they have gotten really really good reviews. And...she IS a kid! So she can have this now, and if she continues to love photography, she can move up in a few years and inherit mine, since I hope to buy a digital rebel before Maui in June. With luck, Jean will spring for the Pottery Barn Kid's rolling suitcase, which for some reason Flipper thinks is one of the world's great inventions of all time. Of course I want it monogrammed, light blue w/green trimming, blah blah blah.

Here are two shots Flipper took yesterday with my camera:

Here she is, Nature Girl, stalking across the field with her stick.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Must be positive today!! Never mind the 4 day splitting headache, my rage and frustration at Flipper wetting her pants 2x in one day, which threw kink in fun plans AND kink is precariously fragile emotional state...never mind any of that!! I actually got up quite early, 5 a.m. if you must know, and rallied tremendously, washed some expensive migraine drugs down my gullet with coffee, and baked my 25 cookies for the Holiday Faire gingerbread house cookie sale, which I am in charge of, in a way. Actually, not in a way. Just flat-out in charge of. Blessings to Robin, who lent me two cookie sheets that were so incredible I am going to buy them for my own self one of these days. You know, since I have so much extra time and money. As a side note: anyone out there that is familiar with Cook's Illustrated either loves this publication or hates it. Me, I am in the middle. I love the ad-free magazine's "look" and layout, I love the illustrations on the back and front since it is art and not a picture of food that has been so doctored with, so artificially and chemically colored, disguised, whatever, that there is no realistic way you will ever be able to recreate that at home, unless you paint your turkey with a combination of paint and shellac and then blowtorch it. Here, I'll pass along a little blurb about food styling:

That juicy turkey? Raw on the inside, blow-torched and painted on the outside. When you roast a turkey so it's cooked through, the meat pulls away from the bone and it deflates. To make the turkey retain its plump, juicy look, sometimes the outside of a raw turkey is browned with a blow torch. Parts that aren't quite brown enough are often painted or otherwise manipulated.

So. Back to Cook's Illustrated. Here is what I don't love. The smugness of the editor, Christopher Kimball, his whole "I am special since I live in Vermont and to show that specialness I will regale you with vignettes of my "rural" life" and quaint neighbors" plus, I hate the bow ties. But what really gets me is what I see as the rather colossal wasting of food: it is not unusual to open the magazine to an article on something "simple", say, brownies, and read this: "After 37 attempts, our dedicated, intrepid test chefs determined that the secret to moist, fudgelike brownies is to blah blah blah." Well, GREAT!! But...before good old number 37, what happened to the other 36 attempts??? I fear many such "failures" are tossed to Christopher Kimball's organic hogs.

At any every issue they test some sort of kitchen equipment. Often the results are quite predictable: KitchenAid Stand Mixer best of field!!" But other times, the cheapies win, the things that seem so hokey, so invented if you will, that there seems to be no chance of that item EVER making the "best" list.
Once they reviewed cookie sheets. "Nothing complicated about cookie sheets!", you may say. But black ones will bake them one way, shiny aluminum another, etc. etc. They reviewed, with scorn already lodged in their black hearts, the cookie sheets that have a thin layer of air sandwiched between two thin layers of gray non-stick aluminum (I think). I also think Wilton makes them, not a particularly top-of-the line baker supply chain, although they HAVE cornered the market on cake decorating. But lo and behold... these pans won. I, too, being a black-hearted skeptic, read this and filed it away in my equally black mind. But then...then I borrowed the two sheets from Robin. THEY ARE GREAT. Baked my sugar cookies evenly, perfectly, love the no-lip around three sides, I could continue to sing their praises, but I won't. Tomorrow: pictures of perfectly baked cookies, pre-decorating. I am quite proud of myself for not just baking them, but rendering the dough into cookeis, which I like much much less that hunks of raw dough, sawed off the chilled block in th fridge,and slowly nibbled and savored by me day after day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Invented, made-up problems

I have promised myself that I will get a jump on Christmas this year, but KodakGallery and Picasa are defeating me...the picture I WANT to use doesn't have enough resolution, but when I change the pixels to make them higher, it won't transfer out of Picasa that way. I am going insane. It is not in my nature to scrap it and pick another shot...I want THIS one, one that I made black and white, sharpened, etc., and I want it to work. So anyone out there that knows how I can make it work, TELL ME!!! I want the cards OUT by Dec 8. Shopping DONE by the next week. Becasue I will not go insane this year, no matter what. Yesterday we drove around in Robin's new car, checking out potential venue sites for the school auction. The kids were beyond good, endless chatter from the back seat with a few Lantern Walk songs tossed in. The kindergarten Lantern Walk was, I must say, a bit of a disappointment. No sense of magic, or of wonder, although I admit the bar was set pretty high last year. Everyone just seemed to be going through the motions, executing some sort of obligation that could then be checked off some list. The only good part was going to Allen & Son BBQ afterward. Flipper inhaled a disgusting rack of ribs all by herself. Now torn about the Spiral of Light, which I think is pretty incredible, but held on the same date of the only Christmas Party we get invited to, a real, huge, tons-of-food-and-drink and live music kind of party. We can't do both. I have this overwhelming sense that whichever one we choose it will be the wrong, disappointing choice. So sinking back into morass of depression right now. Must not eat to make self feel better.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Nothing Much

Casting about for something positive today; perhaps the ten minutes of rain could make my teeny tiny list? Week-end: fine. Meeting: fine. Work: computer unhappy, but fine. Am very very panicked about money, Christmas, school obligations...the list goes on and on...but feeling strongly as though I am just treading water right now and have made no real concrete gains on to-do list. Panicked about cookies, terrified that my vision will not come to fruition but will be a pallid imitation instead. Which will make me feel like a sad loser. Which perhaps I am. At least today. Flipper, though, now she is winner. At the risk of being every other parent/adult's nightmare, I will offer a tiny tidbit from her this morning, her first sentence: "I want my breath to taste yummier." Me too.

Friday, November 9, 2007

I Hate Them

Remember the old post when Flipper referred to the dogs as "damn"? As is, "They're damn!" Well, they've graduated. Now, they are on my list of The damned. Yesterday I left work, drove home as fast as possible (the fact that I have never gotten a speeding ticket might just prove the existance of some sort of God to me)and headed home, fully intent on a quick bite, a race around the field, then back into the car to transport Flipper and one of her classmates to the playground. I opened my door to this...

That's FLOUR. As in, a previously UNOPENED 5-lb bag of flour. All ready for some Christmas baking. WTF?? They got it out of a grocery bag on the floor, and apparently put the hurt on it, in a playful frenzy. It isn't as though they get no food OR as though I had smeared bacon grease on the outside of the bag. The mess was huge.

That's their dog bed above. It had flour piled up almost 5 inches deep. 5 pounds is actually quite a lot. But I bravely dealt, then headed to the playground. Whereupon I regaled my tale of horror to Rose, Robin, and, ultimately, Keith.

Now here is a little game for all of you: Match the person above to the phrase below. The question I asked them each, after forcing them to listen to my tale of woe, was this:
What do you think I did first?

Here were the three responses:

a) You cut their heads off
b) You ran and got your camera
c) You got the straw out of your McDonald's cup
(I am not making these up, these were direct quotes)

Guess not just who said it, but the first thing I did indeed do, and there will be a prize. Made out of flour.

Sophie's mug shot. Note flour on her long nozzle.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


No real post today. Busy entering $$ numbers into computer for work, a monthly chore that must be done by the 10th of every month, and which causes me some real stress. But not much!! Instead of reading my pearls of wisdom, I urge all of you (what all 2 or 3?) readers to link to this photographer's site, click on the arrow and look at-really look at-each and every picture and read the comments provided by the subjects. His pictures are amazing; and the subjects themselves are even more so. It is somewhat time-comsuming, 15-20 minutes or more. But really amazing, in my opinion. Once there, click on Uncovered.

*20-40% of college-aged women in America have an eating disorder. Flipper NOT becoming part of this sad, scary statistic is right on the top of my wish-list.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Random Randomness

Maddeningly, my attempts to regain control over my early-to-bed (too early) and too-early-to-rise sleep cycle STILL didn;t work last night. I got home from a Cult meeting at 9:51. Keith was asleep in my bed beside Flipper. So I woke him up and he went home, after grabbing half of the carrot-ginger soup I made for dinner last night. Flipper gamely took a "no thank you bite" but the gingery taste was just too sharp for her. So she had an egg and a toasted English muffin with cheese instead. But even though I went to sleep at 10:15 (this is very very late for me) I STILL woke at 5, and lay awake until 6,and then got up...and then Flipper woke up too!!! This NEVER happens!! I don't want her up with me!!! I want to be ALOOOONNNEEE!!! But it was not to be. SO I made coffee for both of us, and she spent a solid 45 minutes sipping it out of her tiny teacup, pouring herself warm-ups from the tiny teapot, and the coffee blessedly put her in a good mood. But I know she'll take a nap today. In other Flipper news, she was leaning back in her chair at nap-snack yesterday when she fell over backwards, and (don't ask me how) she avoided fracturing her skull, but badly bruises her foot instead. How, I ask you? Her foot was perhaps 6 inches from the floor, and her head about 2 feet. As my sister said, "I see broken bones in her future." This is a rather disjointed post. So I apologize.

In happy happy news, I hung up a map of Kaua'i today in my office. Next June, as soon as the Cult releases us, we will be making our fourth trek to Maui, and then Kaua'i. We have only been to Maui in the past. I am beyond excited. I love it there, and Flipper is an amazing traveler, sits quietly in her plane seat for the hideously interminable flight (14 hrs total) and generally behaves so well that I feel like the best parent EVER. A fleeting feeling, but one I embrace nontheless. On Kaua'i we are going to try and stay at a biodynamic farm's B&B. Very exciting!!! Or the mega-Merriott since Kathryn gets steeply discounted room rates, and Flipper dearly loves a pool. Perhaps we will find definitive proof of the little people, or Menehune.

The Menehune Fish Pond is located along the Niumalu River. What the Menhune built was a bank, separating the river from the fish pond.
According to legend, the Menehune were the little people who worked at night. A princess and her brother contracted them to build the Fish Pond. The princess and prince were curious as to how the little people worked, so they sneaked up on them. The Menehune caught the pair, and they were automatically turned to rock. To this day, if you look up ahead to the right front of the Fish Pond, there you will see two sharp peaks, that represent the Princess and her Brother.

After this incident, the chief of the Menehune gathered his people together, and they moved to the north side of the island, by the dry cave. There the little people were so friendly, they were marrying the Hawaiian girls. Their chief didn’t like that, so he once again gathered his people, and this time moved them off the island of Kauai.

Later, when a census was taken on Kaua'i, 65 Hawaiians registered themselves as Menehune. So the race of little people lives on in the Hawaiian bloodlines to this day.
Really, what could be better than starting the summer with a great tan AND the chance to see the Menehune??

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Shocking, even to me to me (HAHAHAHAHA)

Time to poke fun at recent catalogs, and their intended victims, sorry, customers. First, althought this isn't really a slam on the catalog but the customers, let's take a little look-see at this one:

Now, mind you, I love this catalog. I love the store in the mall just down from my office; the salespeople are incredibly helpful and nice, blah blah blah. But. I have become convinced, over time, that Williams-Sonoma (W-S henceforth) is not really a catlog for the serious home cook/baker. It is, instead, a catalog for one-or both- of the following: the serious home eater, and/or the hardcore wannabe. Because, at a certain level, to be able to afford W-S products, you must either be pretty well off, or working your ass off. Or both. Neither lends itself easily to actually spending time honing (haha, get it?) your knife skills. So, cleverly, W-S has accomodated for this deficiency in time/desire/skill. Note that I left money OFF that list, because they sell this, for 21.00 for two jars.

For those of you that can't see this well (it is hard to take pictures of the glossy magazine pages while crouched under my desk at "work") it is butternut squash puree.
I find this hilarious, that a company is basically selling grown-up baby food at a shocking price, but that there are people out there that will buy it, when it is quite easy to make. As in: buy a squash. Cut it up. Bake it until soft. Run it through the incredibly high-powered and expensive Cuisinart food processor you bought LAST year, and there you have it, for, maybe, 4 bucks? But I digress....the Christmas/Thanksgiving catalog is for W-S, like most retailers, their biggie. And it is filled with page after page of not just gorgeous dishes from France and equipment from Germany, but food. Page after page of pre-made, pre-packaged food for you to serve, with no effort beyond turning the knobs of your incredibly high-powered Viking stove, or, more pretentiously, your Aga, in a color designed for your kitchen. Begone, black and white appliances!! Bring back Harvest Gold and Avocado instead!!!! Now, moving on....

How I got on this catalog's mailing list, I don't know. In fact, I don't WANT to know. But on it I am...and it is dreadful. Like the old Spencer's Gifts stores from my youth. But, of course, since I am a total catalog junkie, I pored over the offerings, hiding my shock and horror at the tackiest of tacky offerings imaginable, until I reached this page.

Can you wrap your brain around this? A shocking (sorry, couldn't help that) version of the old game "hot potato" that instead of just leaving you "out" or whatever, delivers an electric jolt instead. WTF??
Then I felt disturbed, and tried not to think of it again. But I couldn't help it. Someone invented this. And someone else bought that invention, and is now marketing it. Just in time for Christmas!! Equally disturbing in the same vein is this, sold on the other page:

The copy that accompanies this "gift", nay, "toy" is also disturbing.
Go "mano a mano" against your adversary as the shocks get stronger adn last longer. 2 players. Age 14 and up.

I racked my little brain, trying to think of someone-anyone- for whom this would be even remotely appropriate. And then it came to me, in a flash of insight and brilliance just who would find this gift wonderful....and I was surprised it didn't occur to me sooner.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fall is here!!

I am torn today, torn between writing about the week-end AGAIN or the fodder I receievd via the US Postal Service. Torn, I tell you!! Perhaps I will be uncharacteristically compromising and do both, briefly. First, fall is truly here. Gorgeous. Trees changing, air crisp and clear. Rose and I took the kids to my pretend home (Ayr Mount) on Saturday, we frolicked in the woods and fields, and had an incredible picnic lunch before heading home. We talked about cheese for a long time. I love Ayr Mount, and will be forever grateful to Justine for turning us onto it. I like to pretend that it is MY house and I live there; I wander the grounds and imagine as it would have been one or two centuries ago, with me in it. Of course, I like to imagine it with central heat, antibiotics, dental care and birth control, but besides that, it seems pretty heavenly to me. Look at that "yard"!!

Flipper by pond; house in distance.

That evening we went to our annual neighborhood pig pickin'. So fun; the kids ran away and played and played. We stood by the huge bonfire and talked with our sweet neighbors.

Yesterday we went to a birthday party, for which I provided the cake. It was a bee cake, made with the bee hive cake mold from Nordic Ware, bought at Williams-Sonoma. More on them later. But here is the cake. Quite cute, if I do say so myself.

Actually going to hold off on the fodder-speak, and wait until tomorrow. But it will be worth it. At least to me.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Yet More Cuteness

The cuteness overload below. Halloween was fantastic; the kids, collectively known as "The Posse" ran pell-mell from house to house, and when some hapless adult answered the door all 5 or 6 of them would swarm inside, invited or not. She banked; gathering tons of loot, which Keith and I promptly inhaled our favorites of when we got home. She also got a million compliments on her owl costume, with the painted eyes. She wore cream tights and a cream long-sleeved shirt underneath. We traversed the neighborhood with Rose, Paul, Baby Seamus (pimpy cowboy), Kelly, Charles, and their twins, John and Tom. Like I said, The Posse. The twins look NOTHING alike, and I still can't remember which is which. Blessedly, Flipper can. They were girly ladybugs. So we talked, and the kids ran and ran and ran. Our neighborhood is so wonderful.