Tuesday, April 23, 2013

on the range {week 16}: nothing a little Pooh can't fix

{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we're doing, reading, and eating. It's a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}.

On the Range
April 16 - 22, 2013

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."
Vivi: To make us all feel better, we borrowed Winnie the Pooh from the library, which we can count on to cheer us up. This pic is Vivi laughing heartily when Pooh's growling belly makes him dance.

Charlie: Watching her big sis for directions on the next part of their game. She doesn't miss a moment.


  • Charlie is finally getting her molars this week, which in my experience has been the most painful of all the teeth to arrive. Poor little dear. There has been lots of cuddling in my house this week and several banana milkshakes consumed by all.
  • Vivi still calls insect repellant "bug scream." I consider it one of the last of her early childhood malapropisms, and I am in no hurry to correct her. It never ceases to make me laugh.

My week
  • I am finally reading The Hunger Games trilogy of books this week, and I can't put them down! No, seriously, someone pry this book from my hands and force me to feed my children. I think I avoided the books for so long because I was somehow convinced they were Twilight-ish in nature. I have no reasoning for this connection other than both series involve teens. But they are so much better than I expected, and I find myself juxtaposed between racing to find out what happens and not wanting it to end.


  • Sad and relieved. I am sad about the bombing, sad that prejudices about foreigners were just buoyed by one more "told-ya-so," sad that the boy they identified and caught is so young. But I am relieved they brought him in and that they did so alive. These people we've put in charge of our lives, they are amazing. I think we can't tell them this truth enough, so I will likely join the millions of other women who will be making them brownies this week.
  • Humdrum. It is raining and low 40's again today. Egads! I won't bore you with my complaints again.
  • Smug. I knew lots of my words of the day this week. Do you get this email service? I enrolled so I could learn some new words, but an unexpected outcome is that I feel smug at words I already know. I mean, who doesn't know the definition of "decamp"? It seems like a word even Dubya would know, you know?


  • Funny article from Gawker about a Fox & Friends reaction to a law requiring mandatory translation services in Ohio public schools. My favorite commenter, when asked what Gretchen Carlson would be translated to in Spanish, says her Castillian name would be "La Gringa Estupida de Wonderbread con Mayo."
  • My cousin Alice shared two hilarious clips this week. The first is Stephen Colbert's "Oopsie-Daisy Homophobe", which is brilliant. Boy does he ever have his finger on the pulse of political & pop culture humor. The second is a clip of a news team cracking up after interviewing Ryan Lochte. Thanks Alice!

Friday, April 19, 2013

waiting game

All four of us were stuck inside the house today while the manhunt for one of the Boston Marathon bombers went on around us. It's funny what goes through your mind when you realize there is danger present. One of my first thoughts was "Oh man, I wanted to go running today!" (because it's all about me, right?), and then a later thought was "Well, we're probably safe because we live up this dang hill." This is actually a good insight--I mean, even if you got up the hill, then you'd have to run up all our steps, so I figure it's about the most difficult place he could choose to go.

Anywho, at the prospect of having to stay inside my house all day, I did what any woman would. I binge ate a buttload of chips and salsa, then swept and mopped all the floors in my house. We occasionally listened to NPR and caught a few minutes of news, but we tried not to watch obsessively, figuring it could go on a while. It seemed to me like an unprecedented amount of manpower devoted to the capture of one man, and I laughed heartily at this tweet that aptly described the situation.

One consolation in this situation has been the fact that life goes on for my kids. Neither of them is of an age where we can explain what's happening to them, which is mostly good but a little bad. It was bad in that it's IMPOSSIBLE to explain why we can't let them go outside on what is truly the best weather we've had all year. But as I said, it was mostly good because who wants to have to tell their kids about real-life bad guys? I prefer for them to go on believing in the good in people. And really, that's what we're all trying to do, you know?

The best we could do is let them in the (locked) mud room. They played "rainy day."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

from Boston, with love

Monday morning was filled with jubilation, awe, and patriotism. Upon waking, I sipped my tea and imagined how terrifying--and yet also satisfying--it must have been for the minutemen to fight off the British at the start of the Revolutionary War. I pondered the symbolism of hosting a marathon on the holiday meant to commemorate the event, and how the emotions at the start of the race are not unlike those of the militia. The thrill of crossing that finish line and the excitement of watching 25,000 people accomplish such a great feat on a crisp April morning represent two glorious freedoms that bring me swelling pride of country.

marathon runners

On Monday, those freedoms were briefly interrupted with horrific blasts. Maimed and lost lives. Pandemonium. But if you watch footage of the explosions and the immediate aftermath, you also see the inalienable truth of American, of Bostonian, people. We will survive, we will get back up, we will bond together to recover.

Monday's tragic event at the Boston Marathon is lingering in the air here, but not in the way you might think. Boston is a city full of tenacity, resilience, and hope--unlike any place I've ever lived. We are all running our own race, and we will keep going, always encouraging each other to the end, come what may. It takes more than a small person's feeble attempts to rattle our pride, our faith, our patriotism. Our leaders have promised to find the person(s) who carried out the attack, and I have no doubt they will do that.

To the cowards that attempted to destroy our love of life and each other: You picked the wrong fucking city. As Mayor Tom Menino said, “We are one Boston. We are one community. As always, we will come together to help those most in need. And in the end, we will all be better for it.” To donate to the people who most need it now, visit The One Boston Fund. #OneBoston

real smaht

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

on the range {week 15}: see tot swim

{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we're doing, reading, and eating. It's a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}.

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."
Vivi: This picture is obviously not from this week, but I hadn't gotten pictures off my little camera in a while, and this one is really cute of her while trick-or-treating in our neighborhood dressed as Batgirl.

Charlie: She had her last swim class this morning. I added a video snippet below.

On the Range
April 9 - 15, 2013

  • While Vivi is still unable to read, her artistry skills are moving right along. Recently she drew a picture of a paintbrush drawing a picture. I hadn't realized that kind of perspective was possible for a four-year-old to create on her own. That's good, yes?
  • Proving yet again that my life is an Abbot & Costello routine, I explained to Vivi that I was shoveling the fireplace ash into a bucket (specifically, my new old coal bucket from the trade shop) because I will save it to sprinkle in the compost. She replied, "But Mommy, why did you burn cash in the fire? That doesn't seem like a smart idea." And that's the end of our show, folks. Please tip your server on the way out.
  • Here's a video of my little fish, Charlie, on her last day of swim class (in which there were no other children due to it occurring during vacation week). We will miss her adorable, patient instructor. I'm sure there's no way to request a teacher at the Y, they aren't that organized over there, and they do seem to like to spread the wealth of talent; thus, Vivi has a teacher with braces who appears to be in seventh grade:

My week...
  • When it comes to home decorating and furniture organization, I am as useless as tits on a boar hog. Luckily my husband is semi-talented in this life skill and did some nice swapping of items in our upstairs rooms and then deposited an old dresser at Goodwill of his own accord. I'm looking forward to my mom's trip in a few weeks so she can add her tasteful touch.
  • Though I sorely lack decorating skills, I am an excellent organizer and purger of junk. One item removed from the house yesterday was a Barbie-sized plastic toilet, and I shit you not (hee) when I tell you it had a tiny handle that could be flushed to reveal a colorful sticker meant to represent the stuff that goes in a toilet, with accompanying sounds of the stuff going in. I consider myself a real peach for allowing said toy to be allowed in the house for a whole year before it got the boot. I mean really, who are these toy producers anyway? Let's leave something up to our children's imagination, shall we? I choose the dolls' bodily functions. I feel certain my children will some day forgive my stinginess. 
  • Yesterday's bombing of the Boston Marathon is of course on everyone's mind. When I found out it was for sure some homemade bombs and not a gas line explosion, my first thought was "the last time I lived in a major city that was bombed in this way was during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta." Then I thought about how sad it is that I have already lived in two cities that have experienced bombings in only 17 years. Then I thought about how fortunate we are as Americans not to experience bombings daily as they do in some places. So, yes, it's an emotional roller coaster around here.

  • It's difficult to read the gruesome reports coming out about the victims of the bombing. This Globe article describes brothers who each lost a leg. They had been standing next to the family who lost their 8-year-old son. But my favorite article is on the Cognoscenti blog by a MIT professor of international security, and it's called "They Picked the Wrong City."
  • I've been pondering how to give the girls some good backyard play action, and I found this cute idea for an outdoor "mud pie kitchen." It seems simple enough that even I could build it. I wonder if I can get my hands on old crates or other reclaimed wood.

Monday, April 15, 2013

winter in perpetuity

The cat finds creative places to get warm and simultaneously gives me an excuse not to fold clothes.

Update (3:40pm): I published this post a few minutes before I heard about the blasts at the Boston Marathon. From what we can see on the news, they still are not sure what the explosions were, but since I can't get my phone to work right now to reply to the text messages I'm getting, I'll say it here that we are at home safe, watching the news to find out more.

I love three-day weekends. We are having one right now because of a Massachusetts holiday known as Patriots' Day, which commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord at the start of the Revolutionary War. My favorite part about the holiday is that they also run the Boston Marathon today, so there is an air of festivity about the day. This is also the start of "April Vacation" (aka "spring break" everywhere else in the country), so I'm enjoying the relaxed atmosphere in our household.

On Saturday we did pretty much nothing at all. The morning was spent sipping coffee at the dining room table and planning our summer trips while the girls played in a homemade sofa fort in the living room. We're looking forward to a kidless beach vacation in August. More on that later. Charlie had a fever all day, so much of the day was spent snuggling with her and reading my book. I didn't mind the excuse to slow down, and she's a trooper when sick. She just wants to cuddle but makes very few other demands of me. Every now and then she'd say in her cute toddler voice "Mommy, I gots a temper-sure. I need some mee-sin."

After the kids were tucked in, we watched the latest film in the Mission Impossible series, and I have to say I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It was fast-paced and somewhat cheeky, served with very little cheese, just the way I like it. I have become a big Jeremy Renner fan, so I enjoyed seeing him in two movies in a row (the last being The Avengers, which I also unexpectedly liked). When did Simon Pegg get so skinny?

I began yesterday morning with a cleaning bug, to the point that I sprang out of bed and started scrubbing the toilet before 8am. Nate staggered into the bathroom and looked at me as if I had three heads. With only a quick glance in his direction, I shouted "Clean all the things!" and continued on my merry scrubbing way. I barreled through the rest of my morning with a caffeinated zeal for purging our home of the unwanted things that linger in corners and drawers.

It must have been an infectious bug because before I knew it, Nate was at work doing some spring cleaning of his own. In another of our home organization vignettes, I sometimes I find Nate standing in a room for several minutes, and I know he is silently plotting something. This happened yesterday in the guest room--I interrupt him and asked him what he was thinking, because I am nosy. Then because I am the conceptual thinker, I loved his ideas and want to commence the project immediately. Being the analyst he is, he prefers to consider details from every angle first. Sigh. I left him alone for a while to ponder, attacking a closet in my quest to declutter, and then offered my services of lugging and hauling when he was ready to begin. We got rid of an ugly old dresser and consolidated the girls' furniture, then swapped out the guest bed for a roomier futon sofa. It looks great!

Later that day I went to afternoon tea with a girlfriend. Tea is one of my favorite and most-missed British traditions that I have gladly continued on occasion since returning to the states. Boston has maintained its tea connection, so you can find many a tea shop that offers afternoon tea in our area. We pigged out for two hours and still had enough to bring home for the kids to sample.

Today we had hopes of seeing the marathon on a pretty spring day, but alas our lengthy winter is plodding forward with high winds and low 40's. The girls spent their morning sitting in the sunlit upstairs landing, the only warm spot in the house. I hope we'll get in a bike ride this afternoon while we still have a Daddy day-off. Right now I am sitting on a cozy chair while the kids have their quiet time, eating Haagen Dazs while I pretend not to notice the pile of laundry a few feet away. Now you know everything.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

on not becoming The Goops

Alternate title: But I still refuse to eat snails.

Have you read French Kids Eat Everything yet? I'm not finished with it, but it's already a game-changer for us. A lovestruck Nate turned to me at dinner last night and wistfully said, a hint of a glistening tear in his eye, "This is just how I wanted dinner to be." Okay, I'm kidding about that. That kind of husbandly praise is the stuff of dreams...

With how much I talk (read: gloat) about feeding my kids real food, it might surprise you I have a lot to learn about teaching kids to eat well. Yes, I usually manage to get my kids to eat healthy food, BUT I have come to dread meal time due to their whininess, messiness, disregard for normal decibel levels and decent personal space, and sibling rivalry that accompany every meal. I was becoming a cross between a hair-raising psycho and a punch-drunk lunatic at dinner, getting into immature discussions with my kids about who was going to get the purple plate and which child would be allowed to sing the third verse of the rainbow song.

Then, the clouds parted, and this book fell into my lap. Or something like that.

But, seriously y'all, I was skeptical at first about whether the tricks in this book would work for us. I have employed some aspects of attachment parenting, and one of them that I associate with the trend is to offer children choices and let them articulate their preferences and control aspects of their food world. If I had to pick one thing I've learned in the last week, it's that the science does not agree; in fact, it suggests children aren't capable of deciding what they should eat, and these decisions actually stress them out.

But the proof is in the pudding: how did the experiment work for us? I am dumbfounded by the fact that not only did these fancy tricks work, but they have made ME enjoy food more. Who could have thought that was possible?

Here's a nutshell about why I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, with a few caveats (so maybe, one enthusiastic thumb and another regular thumb):

Caveat first: I don't have as many ingrained issues with food as the writer apparently does [Example: she is a self-professed lover of McDonald's. Gag me with a spoon.], so I had trouble identifying with her tendency to whine about her great luck. She seemed to have begrudgingly taken on the challenge to feed her kids French food--WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE AND MARRIED TO A FRENCHMAN--whereas I look at these opportunities to mold and change my kids as fun experiments. To me, a person who doesn't thank her lucky stars that she can benefit from the wisdom of the best foodies in the world has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. But then again, I try never to judge a woman for a reaction to her mother-in-law's advice.

Having said that, I learned loads from this book. I've only been to France once and then only to Paris, but even after a few days there, I learned easily that the French have figured out how to make good food. They enjoy food so much and so well. What I didn't know was that they have many rules about what, when, and how to eat. Being someone who likes to cook and eat--and someone who is sometimes painfully attempting to teach my kids good manners--I appreciate a culture that is willing to take time in crafting good, well-mannered eaters.

I also didn't realize how many bad American eating habits I have--and even worse--that I'm passing down to my kids.  I had become resigned to my fate, forgetting--or perhaps never knowing to begin with--that I have role in their meal-time education (Rule #1). Could it be as simple as they were misbehaving because they weren't aware that there were meal-time rules?

French Food Rules

Food Rules
Illustration by: Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything

Here are few of the rules she discusses in the book that I am most taken with (in my own words):

Up the formality! 

The French lay a tablecloth (!!), even for small children; they forgo paper napkins and sippy cups, opting instead for glasses, cloth napkins, and real silverware; and they announce the beginning of the meal with a quick phrase, "To the table!" When everyone is seated, they say "Bon appetit!" to signify that everyone may begin eating. My kids love rituals so took to these improvements like buttah. Vivi sets the table with a purpose, as though she has been lying in wait for the chance to be given this task. We've always said a blessing, which is now like icing on the cake instead of the only ritual.

Documentation of our first foray into tableclothing. It's a Kenyan wrap skirt. Cute, huh?

Respect each other...and the food! 

Imagine a meal with small children in which you don't have to endure loud interruptions and whining. Wonderful, right? How is this magic accomplished??

Actually, it isn't that hard. Once I got started, I figured out quickly that the rules I was implementing were exactly what they were already doing at school. Duh. If they say "But I wanted the purple plate!," I say "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." If they say "I don't want tabbouleh!," then I say "You don't have to like it, you just have to taste it." And after both of those phrases, they pipe in with "That's what my teachers say!" Oh, right.

I can't believe I didn't use these rules sooner. I always imagined that if I stopped them from jumping around and yelling, I would somehow be stifling their joy. But while I previously would have used my "Let kids be kids!" go-to parenting rule, I now realize that what I was doing was robbing everyone, including myself, of a chance to eat a peaceful meal. By stopping the chaos, I offer respect to my dinner guests and myself--and to the food we are eating, for that matter.

Plus, I've added an element of fun by asking them a few questions about their day, like their favorite thing, something they didn't like, a funny part of the day, and a time they helped someone. Both of the girls relish this time to shine with everyone listening. And I relish the opportunity to start new Mom catchphrases.

No food bribes or rewards (Rule #2). 

This rule is actually harder for me than I had thought. In my opinion, this rule exempts the once-a-year bribe of "If you do well at the doctor, you can have a lollipop!" But it also means that you can't stuff your kid's face with animal crackers every time you're in line at the bank. You can't jump into the car knowing you're going to get stuck in traffic and bribe your kids with fruit snacks and chips to make it the duration. You can't swoop in after your kid falls down or doesn't get the purple plate and say "If you eat your peas, you will get a popsicle!" What I failed to realize is that I was teaching my kids to fill their voids with food, and by doing that, I was making their relationship with food emotional. Yikes.

No snacking (Rule #7). 

This rule is tied with the rule above. "It's okay for them to be hungry" has become my new internal mantra. Once I attempted to stop our constant snacking, it occurred to me I had been teaching Charlotte to be a snack monster (see: toddler terrorist post). Her hunger monster still rears its head on occasion; however, just as I wouldn't back down when I tell her it's time to brush her teeth, I feel confident that keeping her from simple carbs and sugary juice is going to pay off in the end when she learns to reward her patience with satiety instead of stifling it with empty calories.

Eat family meals together (Rule #4).

I always wanted to enact this rule, and I had done it sometimes, but I admit there were many occasions that I would spend their meal doing dishes or reading blogs in the kitchen instead of sitting with them. Now I look upon meal time as an important part of their education and sit at the table with them, even if I on rare occasion am not eating a meal myself (and I try to make sure I am eating with them). When they are finished with the meal, I let them have time to blow off steam and be silly (read: not at the dining room table), and I take that time to do my quiet recharging or cleaning.

I've been reciting a poem to the girls called "The Goops" that my parents recited to me as a child, and it has taken on a new meaning lately. Turns out that "The Goops" is actually a series of books written in the early 1900's to teach children manners, so it's no wonder it stands out now.

The Goops 
by Gelett Burgess (1900)

The Goops they lick their fingers,
The Goops they lick their knives,
They spill their broth on the tablecloth-
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!

The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew,
And that is why that I 
Am glad I'm not a Goop--are you?

the goops
Image credit: Gutenburg.org
Author's Note: I shared this post with Tasty TraditionsWorks for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

on the range {week 14}: new shoes!

{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we're doing, reading, and eating. It's a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}.

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."

On the Range
April 2 - 8, 2013

  • Charlie had one of her first "Charlieisms" recently when we were standing outside Vivi's school. A few of the kids had been playing a game in which they pretended to be afraid of the cracks on the wall and sidewalk. Charlie didn't really understand the game and was understandably shaken, so I explained that sometimes cracks happen, and we don't need to worry about it. About 15 minutes later, Charlie ran up and a friend said "How are you, Charlie?," to which she replied "Sometimes we do crack!" We all had a good belly-laugh over that one. Good thing my friends know me well enough.
  • As I mentioned on Facebook earlier this week, Vivi is still occasionally having Vivisms, like the other day when she pointed at some scratches and said "I have three boobies, Mommy!"
  • Charlie swam without me in the pool this week! Her teacher says she's definitely ready to move up a level, but he's not sure they allow kids as young as her in that class. Go girl!
My week...
  • We are trying some of the ideas in French Kids Eat Everything, and so far it's a great experiment! More soon.
  • I am beginning to plan out our summer, and it's fun to think about all the adventures we'll have. I never realized that summers while staying home with my kids were going to be almost as good as the ones I had as a child. It's been unexpectedly great!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

first world problems

I have nowhere else it makes sense to tell you the following things, so I am just going to say them here now in this safe space. To make it perhaps a little more enticing than your average bitch-fest, I'll call this list my top 5 first world problems this week:

1) When I take Vivi to her swim lesson at the YMCA pool, there is a fellow mom who takes up too much space on the bleachers talking to a friend. She talks to him loudly and doesn't seem to notice how adorable my two-year-old is as she tries to mount the bleachers with her little flip-flops on and a lollipop in her hand. Instead, Blabbermouth Mom ignores this cuteness and blathers on about all the things that bother her, thereby forcing me to eavesdrop involuntarily on her boring conversation instead of reading my book like I want. Also, she has three sons, and their names are Chase, Cash, and Beau. Would you like to know more? Because I now know it all.

2) I was fixing the printer the other day, and while it was uploading the program, it gave me all these annoying updates that I had no idea how to interpret, e.g. "running package scripts." Am I supposed to know what that means? Why can't it just say "still working" or something vague?

3) People here say "kindiegarden." Like, EVERYONE. I loathe this mis-pronounced word, particularly when you add the Boston accent and it becomes "kindiegahhdun."

4) When I drive out of the street in front of Vivi's school, I have to make a left-hand turn from a stop sign onto a busy road on which there are cars moving in both directions every second of the day. Add to the traffic that the intersection is on a curve, and there is a line of cars parked on the road on both sides, so I have to ease out into the road to see if I can go. Oh, and in the winter, you can also add a giant mound of snow I can't see past. Most days, I end up gunning it, but I never come close to wrecking, or even putting these people out of their way by making them slow down. But 75% of the time, I know that when I do this maneuver, I will get honked at. Bostonians honk their horns all. the. time.

5) The sun has returned from hiding and is now occasionally gracing us with its presence, to the point where my pasty vampire flesh actually got burned a few days ago. In 55 degree weather!

Okay, so that last one isn't really a complaint. I am so thrilled that we are down to vests instead of big puffy ski jackets that smell of cooking odors and resentment. The girls and I have recommenced our almost-daily walks to Trader Joe's or Walgreen's. Yesterday we adventured in search of sidewalk chalk and scored big with a glittery kind. All that is to say, I am well aware that my few tiny problems are of the first-world variety, and I am in fact a lucky duck, maybe even the luckiest.

Now it's your turn. Lay it on me. What's got your panties in a bind this week?


Friday, April 05, 2013

rage, rage against the scattering of the jewelry

A few days ago I sat down to dinner with the family with a sort of smug satisfaction. All food groups were represented, it was on time and delicious, and Charlie had just wowed me with her cuteness by coming downstairs to dinner dressed like this:

But the mood would change suddenly a few minutes later when I noticed Vivi wearing a ring from my jewelry drawer. I let the fork drop to the plate, stunned for a few moments, which was long enough for Vivi to figure out what was happening and blurt, "Charlie took your jewelry, Mommy!"

I raced upstairs, and sure enough, in the place where I keep my engagement ring, my mom's wedding ring, and my great grandmother's cameo necklace, there was nothing. Instead, my ring was on the floor in the hallway, and all of the other various pieces of jewelry were scattered to the wind, amidst sheets and under toys. Oh Lawdy be!

Reader, I would love to report to you that I had a very calm and rational discussion with the girls about Mommy's personal belongings that are not to be played with, etc., but I think we know that isn't the case. I'm not proud of my reaction; as I've said before, I sometimes have trouble caging my inner tiger. On the plus side, I do try after a blow up to explain later that sometimes grown-ups misbehave and need to be reminded of the rules, and that I want them to let me know when they feel sad about the way they're being treated. If we can't be perfect, at least we can be honest.

I have since made our bedroom "off limits," and the point seems to have gotten across because I haven't seen either child step foot in that room again. Today Vivi said to me, "Mommy, I wish I could dig a hole into your room from the bathroom so I could sneak in there." Oh, sweet child of mine! I really didn't want to place a no-entry limit on them. I love the idea of them being able to come in there and lay on mom's big bed and peek into my closet. Hopefully in a year I'll be able to reinstate our room as a fly zone, but while I have a toddler who knows how to use a step stool but doesn't know how to employ self-control, it's probably a good idea to ban entry for a while.

I have more stories to share with you from the week. I missed you, friends! For now, I'm going to share one of my favorite dinners to eat when I'm spending an evening alone, as I am tonight. I'm eating a Spanish omelette, which is really called a tortilla, but I call it an omelette so as not to confuse my brain. Please don't bother telling me how many calories I'm ingesting when I consume this meal. I know, and I don't care.

fatty omelette for one

3 eggs
dash of milk
1/2 c. pre-cooked diced potatoes
smattering of caramelized onions
grated cheese
enormous glob of sour cream

There are some time-savers in my omelette process. When I have red potatoes on hand, I dice most of them up right away and either freeze them or par-boil them and put them in the fridge for the week. You'd be surprised how useful they are. I do this prep work because organic potatoes go bad very quickly (note: If you don't yet eat organic potatoes, here's why you should consider it).

Another time-saving step is that I caramelize onions while I'm making dinner for the girls or doing dishes, whatever. Y'all know how to do that, right? Cut an onion in half and then slice thinly. Start a skillet over low heat with some oil, add the onions, and let sit nearly untouched for 10 minutes. Then add some salt and mix them up. Cook for a total of about 45 minutes at the lowest heat setting, stirring only every 7-10 minutes or so. These are another item that I can put into almost anything, and it adds an extra layer of deliciousness.

Whisk eggs together with a smidgen of milk, then add to a preheated skillet coated with oil. Season with salt and pepper. In the first minute, push the eggs toward the center in a few places to allow the runny egg to move around the cooked egg. Sprinkle the omelette with potatoes and onions. Cook over medium on the first side for about 4 minutes total. Make sure it is loose, then slide onto a plate, invert the skillet over the top, and flip the omelette back into the hot pan to cook the second side. Sprinkle some cheese on top and let cook for 3-4 more minutes. Slide it out onto a plate and top with too much sour cream, salsa, and more salt and pepper. Eat it while you watch Midnight in Paris again. It's a little less fun the second time, but a glass of red wine helps.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

on the range {week 13}: positive turkey eating

{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we're doing, reading, and eating. It's a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}.

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."
Vivi: Moments after this photo was taken of her at a friend's birthday party, she began quickly grabbing as many chocolate seashells as she could before I could stop her. Then moments after that, we were waiting for my friend to find a knife to cut the cake, and child was so excited she began grabbing at the icing until I just reached across the table, grabbed a foot of the turtle, and slammed it on her plate. Pull up a chair, there are many more parenting tips to be found here.

Charlie: Easter Sunday, post outdoor playing. You needn't adjust your screen, as it is in fact dirt all over her face. Again, I'm here with parenting tips whenever you seek them.

On the Range
March 26 - April 1, 2013

  • Charlotte will now eat a quarter of a turkey sandwich, hence the title above. Previously I referred to her status as "negative turkey eating," rather than neutral, because she would ask for a turkey sandwich and then refuse it. Harrumph.
  • Vivi is trying to figure out how she can politely rebuff the attempts of a boy in her class to kiss her. Reader, it seems early to begin the cleaning of the shotgun in front of boys, so I'm willing to chalk this situation up to a rogue child who is in touch with his feelings. Luckily the girls are convinced boys have cooties. Do you have thoughts on this matter?
  • Charlie continues to excel at her swim class. She now is willing to paddle around the pool with both arms and legs, a floatie strapped to her chest. I think I am only one or two classes away from not having to get into the pool at all with her. Praiseallujah!

My week...
  • Easter snuck up on me this year, y'all, and I didn't do half the stuff I had planned, like cute little pastel sugar cookies. Maybe I'll do them next week and call them spring cookies.
  • There is a new store in our town that buys, sells, and trades antiques and common household goods. While I am not usually at risk for purchasing items at stores, this one is different. It reminds me of our little town auction in the UK, with some real gems like antique furniture, but also with other odds and ends like a desk fan from the '50s or a chick feeder that uses a screwed-in upside-down Ball jar. Good stuff! I plan to ransack our basement for treasures I can trade.
  • A lady at the gym left her giant cell phone in my coat pocket, then managed to sound ticked off at ME that I had driven off unknowingly with it. The most comical part of this story is the portion during which her cell phone began to ring loudly as I was driving to the library. I for one am glad I was the only adult in the car to witness that spectacle as I tried to figure out what was happening.

  • Cicadas are coming! It made me feel much better that, although a colony only comes out every 17 years, there are multiple colonies. When I heard this news, I was seriously questioning whether it was possible that the last colony was in the US 17 years ago, so I was happy to hear that more than one colony comes around.
  • A contest-winner on McSweeney's is writing about traveling little league baseball in Cobb County, Georgia. Having grown up a county over from Cobb, it's fun for me to witness her suburban escapades.

  • Nate made this fantastic Korean soup a few days ago. It was simultaneously one of the spiciest, most delicious, and most complex of dishes I've ever eaten. I might cook more often, but between the two of us, Nate is the gourmand. He appreciates good food and is willing to try ANYTHING he's been told is edible, and he has an admirable attention to recipe details. When he puts his mind to cooking, the results are often better than I've had in restaurants.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Easter with southern flavor

Note: crocs and sneakers were the kids' choices. But they did run around outside all day in them!

I'm titling this post with the name of one my favorite bluegrass banjo songs by Bill Monroe. I reckon it could serve as a mighty good soundtrack for this here post.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm in the midst of re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, or because I just always miss my family, but I decided to give Easter supper a southern flare. We had "hammus Alabamus," as my Grandaddy would say, cucumber salad, potato salad, homemade bread with butter, pickles, and ambrosia. Basically, I ripped off my aunt's traditional Easter supper, minus the bunny cake she always makes, which involves lots of coconut and is rightly gilded with plenty of jelly beans. Instead of bunny cake, I swapped in our tradition of hot cross buns (n.b.: cute video of Charlie in that link), except this time I made Jacques Pepin's brioche and used Thomas Keller's idea for how to put them in a pan instead of a brioche mold. Hot cross buns are supposed to be made on Good Friday, but I couldn't get my act together by then.

The ham was so easy. I got a pre-cooked and spiral-sliced ham from Trader Joe's that came with a packet of glaze mix. Ambrosia is easy too; I leave out the nuts and marshmallows and just keep it at pineapple, mandarin oranges, cherries, and coconut, tossed together with a little sour cream.

For an appetizer, we took half the Easter eggs (that hadn't gone into potato salad) and made deviled eggs with them. Mine include salt, lemon juice, mustard, mayo, and dried dill or dill relish, with the obligatory sprinkle of paprika on top.

What did you do for the holiday? Hope it was tasty!


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