Thursday, March 26, 2009

How could I?

Yesterday I had an on-site customer visit--the first in maybe a year or more. It started out well and then the system refused to restart. From there, I went into five hours of controlled breathing exercises while trying one, two, forty solutions with a customer over my shoulder, the clock ticking and the internal buzzing of re-scheduling a horse riding lesson for one daughter and needing to call two other parents who were graciously carrying for the kids.

In the end, the system came back up and I got to fight 5:30 traffic to get back to my children and the dry cleaners before it closed at 7 pm so that Mike would have blues to take on his trip today. I made it. The kids survived fine, a bit overtired, but happy to have played with friends and watched movies. The two wonderful moms who watched my kids for much longer than any of us anticipated survived -- perhaps barely, I don't know as they are both gracious.

My life is no longer setup for full-time work. I don't have the childcare structures in place nor the co-ordination of schedules. I can't really imagine making the sacrifices to go back to that schedule. Yet, soon we'll have to do so at least for awhile as we go to school next January. Yesterday was a dry run, a rather limp-along bumpy dry run.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Goodbye faieries and princesses

MeiLin, at least, has moved on ... to Star Wars. She is taking Maiya partway with her. Enjoy. (Oh, and they are modeling their new swimwear.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Coming Out

Yesterday morning, I reached for the kitchen faucet to pull out the retractable handle and spray the sink's morning mess down the drain. Suddenly, a considerable water stream hit me in the face and neck, finding a great ravine down my sweatshirt neck. I had the handle in my hand, now no longer connected to the faucet by the retractable cord. I felt a moment's panic and then my brain kicked in. After turning off the water and cleaning up the puddles, I thought "great...what do I do now." Then, I slapped myself. Get it in gear and fix this problem. And I did. Not a great handy-woman work story, but somehow it reminded me that I can do these mechanical things I don't usually do.

Now, my sister had an even greater moment this week when she ran down and shamed a grown man who pickpocketed her cell phone on the streets of Rundu. She ran him down. Wow! My sister has true steel underneath, but even I was a bit surprised. She might have been too. But, sometimes, the moment, the emotion, the need pulls you through and you just do it.Seattle will seem so tame.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Carmel Crackers

My mother's family has an interesting family dessert. We call them carmel crackers. They have no caramel in them and no connection with Carmel, CA. Essentially it is a fudge sandwiched between two saltines, reminding me of a quick and poor version of a pain au chocolat. They provide a juxtaposition of sweet and salty with chocolate holding it all together. No one measures and everyone in the family does it slighly differently, all going by what "looks right". As in all candy making, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Today, I decided to start measuring. So, this is Carmel Crackers, Take #1.
1/3 c. cocoa - this time I used Hershey's Dark Chocolate blend cocoa. My mom always uses regular Hershey's cocoa, which makes a lighter chocolate, but I didn't have any
2 1/3 c. sugar
a little bit of salt
1 1/2 c milk (I used 2% today)

You mix this together in at least a 4 qt or larger pot as it will boil up eventually. The trick is to stir over high heat until it is a rolling boil and then keep going. You want the soft ball stage of about 238 F. I don't currently have a working candy thermometer and I am pretty sure my grandmother never had one. So, we do the cold water drop test. Drop some of the mixture in a cup of cold water. It will initially dissolve/make the water cloudy. Keep cooking and stirring until it rolls into a soft ball when it hits the water. This test is a bit iffy until you know what it looks like.

Then, take off heat and add in 2 Tbsp butter and 1 tsp vanilla and stir. Now, this time, I took it off too early (despite the test) and ended up re-heating it. That isn't ideal.

You keep stirring until it cools and starts to get thick. As soon as it starts to thicken, you put a Tbsp on a saltine and then top it with another saltine. The fudge starts to turn thick quickly -- so be ready.

In the end, this take showed me that I used too much milk and might need a bit more sugar to get it to set up. At first it was a thick syrpy consistency adn then started getting too granular. Next time, I'll try 1 c of milk.

Of course, the girls and I are not wasting them--they are still good enough to eat.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Conversation with a 7yr old daughter at the shoe store

Mom: You need some Spring sandals to wear to church, school and around.
Daughter: These! (holding up a pair of strappy glitter gold ones with a one-inch heel)
Mom: No, those would kill your feet and you are too young for heels.
Daughter: Why?
Mom: What about these white ones (leather, cushy, adjustable straps, secure).
Daughter: Hm.
Daughter: These! (holding up an almost identical pair of strappy, no cushion, foot killer shoes with one-inch heel, only in sparkly silver)
Mom: Um, no, those are the same as the other ones.
*Cell phone rings. Dad on phone from Hawaii to say hi to daughter.
Daughter to Dad: Yes, we are at the shoe store. [listen] Yes, but Mom won't let me get any of the shoes I like.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Not the same

The cat and I are watching a romantic movie, a "chick flick". This means Mike is gone on a trip, I have homework to complete and I am lonely. While the cat is warm and cuddly, he licks himself, smells a little off and shows little interest in the movie.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Day Before

Haircut time tomorrow. I've reached that point where I am almost crazed with my hair...yes, that point where I almost walked into my husband's barber and had her cut it. She might have done a great job. I will never know. I go tomorrow. I think I am getting a bob. I think I will like it. Yet, time has proven that every visit to the salon is hazard by many well-laid plans, ideas and thoughts. Plans go awry. Ideas might work on her hair, but not mine. We shall see.


After four days of stomach virus, my body craved meat today. Apparently specifically in the shape of an Angus cheddar burger. After a swim, I found myself at Bear Rock Cafe in Shirlington at 10:25 a.m. ordering such a burger. It was lovely. Fresh baked, soft cheesy roll, big moist and only slightly pink-tinged meat, crisp leafy lettuce and tomato. Hold the onion for a day further away from the stomach virus. I even indulged in a cold Barqs to wash it down. Consumed by 11 am. I'm ready for the day now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ode to Humble Tomato Soup

Conspicuous consumption is out, according to the NY Times. Certainly this is not a surprising statement in itself, given the economic malaise and the apparent public disdain for anyone sporting an over-the-top gown at a charity function. And, even though I love to eat and eat well, I believe that we can rejoice in a return to simple foods.

This weekend I made a simple tomato soup with cheese toast and salmon cakes on the side--a homey meal that would not show up on most restaurants with cloth napkins. But, it was good. And frugal. Total cost for a meal for four: $5 (including the canned Trader Joe's salmon).

Tomato soup is deceptive. It can be an elaborate concoction with fresh tomatoes, prepared by poaching, skinning and de-seeding and calling for any number of base herbs, minute quantities of shallots and onions, cream or milk, butter and other rich coatings of the tongue. Yet, I believe these recipes mostly go astray. When tomatoes are in season and fresh, it is hot, not the time to serve a warm soup. Garden-fresh tomatoes are best eaten as they are, sliced with some salt and perhaps a sprinkling of green olive oil or balsamic.

Tomato soup is for cool days when you feel a bit down and need that extra astringent pick-up. Canned tomatoes of good quality work wonderfully well and make for fast preparation. Here is my recipe this weekend. It owes to my mother, who often made a similiar soup with or without noodles. With the younger children, I find my pureed version more accepted.

Humble Tomato Soup
  • Pour 1 28 oz can of good quality diced or whole tomatoes in a 4 quart pot over medium heat.
  • Add in 1 1/2 cups of either rice milk, soy milk or 2%/skim milk. Do not use whole milk or cream--these are wonderful, but not in this soup. You want a light taste. I prefer rice milk as it gives just enough richness with no additional change in flavor to the tomatoes.
  • Sprinkle in 1 Tbsp or more of dill. If you have fresh dill, wonderful. If you don't, good dried dill will do.
  • Heat the soup until just bubbling.
  • With a immersion blender, blend in the pot until smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, you may process in a blender and then return to the pot.
  • Add in a good seasoning of salt .
  • Taste and serve with broiled cheese toast and salmon cakes or add in some cooked noodles (smaller varieties or ABC-shaped for kids).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

To Miss Lizard and Other Postal Poachers

Please leave my sister's packages alone. I did not pick out these gifts for you. You might like Luna bars and the foam stickers could be amusing, but really, what will you do with the posters, books and clothes way too small for most adults outside of Asia? The color of the shirt is wrong for you. The pants will be too short. The artwork from my daughters will just be a puzzle to you, more than likely something you use to write down notes or visit the toilet. Going through someone else's mail might seem a mystery, but it really is a tragedy. Give it back. Pass it up. Let it go. Please.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Everything is faster. My hyped technology-driven expectations are high and my attention span is short. Mike reminds me that we cannot truly multi-task, but that doesn't stop me from trying. Blackberries have given way to iPhones, the next level of substantive technology addiction. I had critical reading skills once and patience to write long hand (and re-write).

Forty days is a long time now. A long time to prepare for anything, we think. Too long. Surely, we don't need 40 days, 10 would be enough. My desire for immediate success makes re-starting each day challenging, humbling.

Today, I again climb out of the rut, the sameness and struggle with my inner voices and the whisperings of email to focus, focus, for just a few moments on just being, waiting, preparing.

The Wish to be Generous

by Wendell Berry

ALL that I serve will die, all my delights,
the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field,
the silent lilies standing in the woods,
the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all
will burn in man's evil, or dwindle
in its own age. Let the world bring on me
the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know
my little light taken from me into the seed
of the beginning and the end, so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow day video

Snow day

N. Virginia doesn't handle snow very we have a snow day today from work and school thanks to the 4 or 5 inches of snow. After suiting up the girls, we went out for some snow fun with some neighborhood friends.