Wednesday, July 31, 2013

First World Problems

Seriously, though, it's just a matter of perspective, right? Surely we all have the right to complain sometimes.

So, a few evenings ago...

The kids and I were alone for the evening, and they were playing in the water table in our yard while I was destringing sugar snap peas. Maggie was down to panties since her dress had gotten slightly damp (Leo could be wrung out but couldn't have cared less). I had told her if she wanted to remove her panties as well, she had to play inside. Somehow this instruction was heard as, "You can play in the yard naked as the day you were born so long as you bring your wet clothes inside first." Oh, well. It's not like Brian's childhood friend and his modest, quiet daughter hadn't just dropped by to chat.

Actually, that part was just funny. Did I mention the sugar snap peas? Maggie loves sugar snap peas, and even Leo was getting into the action of stealing them from the colander once they were destrung. I had to stop them at one point because I needed them for this pasta recipe.

Eventually, we moved inside and all took a turn for the worse. I made the pasta and served it with oranges on the side. The oranges were gobbled up, but the pasta was scorned. Did I mention my children's love for sugar snap peas? They also love pasta. Ricotta has no taste and the lemon was extremely mild. Basically I served them sugar snap peas in noodles, and they found it utterly disgusting. Please tell me other mothers deal with this too. Individual foods are acceptable; prepared, combined foods are the worst of insults. This happens every night I attempt a real meal, and I am beyond tired of it. Leo littered the floor with his, and Maggie sat in her chair and whined. I ate mine, left the dining room and proceeded to clean the house (and start into a leftover half bottle of wine) to ease my irritation. Eventually, Maggie claimed she had eaten five bites. If she had, they were miniscule, so I filled her fork with one more and told her she could be done if she ate it (by this point it was bedtime anyway).

Then, while getting her changed for bed, she informed me she'd put her food on the floor. We headed back to the dining room to clean it up, and I discovered she'd spit her entire mouthful masticated pasta and peas onto the dining room floor. It took all my reserves of patience to wet a paper towel and tell her she'd better get busy. She didn't hesitate. And she didn't complain when I told her to get back in her chair and try that pasta again (though she did gag dramatically while eating it--the girl's got flair).

I celebrated the end of two bedtime routines with another glass of wine and an episode of Benedict Cumberbatch (which I truly believed was a name made up by my father the first time I heard it) as Sherlock Holmes (I'm eating this series up, by the way, though I find it hard to distract myself from BC's truly homely physiognomy) for me.

But then Brian stepped on my wine glass and smashed it like it was June 17, 2007. I finished my episode on the promise that there was more wine left in the bottle. But what found in the kitchen was  dirty dishes and an empty wine bottle. Brian offered me his empty (he didn't realize) glass in apology and taunted me with his blue teeth the rest of the evening.

 My bath was too hot. My marble went down the drain. And I had to wear my railroad train pajamas. I hate my railroad train pajamas.

(By the way, I just discovered this book is being made into a movie with Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner!)

First world problems, as I said. Maggie may not be the only one with a flair for the dramatic.

P.S. I did get flowers and an apology from Maggie, prompted by her daddy. Very sweet.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lest I Forget: More Maggie Talk

While in Texas, Maggie discovered she and her cousin Jessica both love radishes and pickles. As the evening progressed, Maggie moved on to a rolled-up slice of ham (never between bread, never with cheese, "just ham"). I wondered aloud to Maggie whether Jessica also loved ham and suggested Maggie ask Jessica. And, my favorite line from Maggie ever:

"Can ham?"

Dear Jessica responded, "Yes, I can love some ham!"

Maggie had a little stomach bug the other day. While Brian insisted on the BRAT diet, I suggested we at least get her some soda. Enter her first parent-sanctioned half-glass of ginger ale. It was a hit. A few days later:

"Mama, can I have some more of that gingerbread man soda?"

One morning at breakfast:
Maggie: Mama, sing the fly away song.
Mama: (complies), Do you like that song?
Maggie: Yes.
Mama: I do, too. I'm glad you like it.
Maggie: We should take a picture of that song.

Friday, July 26, 2013


We came home from the beach last week to find our first ripe pinos (tomatoes)!

The "black cherries" were ripe, a kind of tomato I first planted the summer Maggie was one and would pick any tomato, red or green from our bushes and pop it right into her mouth.

That's not a black cherry there, though.

True to form, Maggie disappeared the bowl of tomatoes before I could taste one. Now, she heads out to the porch every morning to see if any more are ripe. Between her and the varmints, we may never be able to build up a supply for a salad!

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I read on facebook this morning that it's Cousins Day. Which it may or may not be. Nevertheless, I'd like to devote this post to four of my favorite people in the world and some of favorite photos of them (sorry about the photo quality). Informal or formal, they make any occasion more fun. And there's hardly anyone with whom I'd rather spend my time.

To semi-quote Sex & The City (the movie, because it's such a classic, you know), the women could "rule the world." Not to mention, keep it fed really, really well. Pictured are a lawyer, three teachers, a therapist, an engineer, a marathoner, and some really phenomenal cooks.

But not one of them is too serious to be silly.

Love you, Katie, Kate, Robyn, and Ali! Happy Cousins Day!

Monday, July 22, 2013


Actuallly, leftovers the next day

This may be one of the easiest dishes in the world to prepare, and it is so good. It has fast become a company meal for me because I can prepare pretty much everything in advance, and everyone (that is a meat eater, at least) seems to like it.

First of all, buy yourself a big old hunk of pig meat (the recipes I originally consulted call for three pounds, but I've used five because I cut a fifteen-pound pig hiney into three pieces to keep in the freezer). Boston Butt or pork shoulder or something like that. It should be fatty. Salt and pepper that sucker and pop him in a slow cooker with some liquid for 6-8 hours. That is it! After 6-8 hours, the meat will be full-flavored and falling apart.

For full disclosure, I started with this recipe from my beloved Smitten Kitchen, who got it from the Homesick Texan, whom I also follow. Mine is super simplified, meaning I don't bother cutting up the meat in advance, and I do the whole thing in the slow cooker. The first time I made it I used orange and lime juice and cumin as she suggested. The next time, I used the two juices but put in a chipotle chili in adobo sauce (BTW, see P.S. for best way to store that stuff.

Possible ingredients

I love the fresh taste of a crunchy cabbage slaw dressed with lime, salt and cilantro with my carnitas (see top pic). I add in narrow slices of sweet and hot peppers to the slaw if I have them. Pickled jalapenos are good, too, as is sliced avocado. I always seem to eat carnitas with a tomatillo sauce in restaurants, but I've never made it that way myself.

The one flaw in my preparations thus far is that I have not found good corn tortillas. Please do not be tempted by Market Pantry or even Trader Joe's. Disappointing, they both are. I was feeling pretty down about the lack of an HEB (as mentioned before) when The Dude pointed about there are about 50 hundred Mexican shops and bakeries within five miles of our house. So, next time...

P.S. I have never known what to do with the rest of the can of chipotle chilis after using the one I need for a recipe. One is killer, as is! I came across this solution that everyone in the world may know but me, but just in case...
Freeze the rest in an ice tray! Once frozen, remove to a freezer bag. Easy, peasy.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Whew! I am home from intense vacationing and ready for boring old day-to-day life for awhile. But while I was out and about, I came across the most wonderful vocabulary word that seemed made for a blog share:

(n.) lit. “place of wild strawberries"; a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation; a personal idyll free from stress or sadness.
(Thanks to That Kind of Woman.) 

Lucky me. I've got two, and I visited them back to back:

Heidelberg Lodges, New Braunfels, TX

Super Moon!

Snazzy, it ain't. But it feels like home, down the the distinct smell inside the A-frame cabins. I think my father's family started coming here in 1941 and has continued to do so with some regularity since. I know we visited without fail every summer of my childhood. This summer was my first chance to bring my children, and I don't think any of us were disappointed. The faded cabins, the hot asphalt, the cold Comal, the familiar shallow swimming pools, and the lovely, lovely smell of the sycamores welcomed us in. The best part as always was spending time with aunts, uncles, and cousins I don't get to see far often enough. 

Fine people

Time-honored tradition

A new generation of cousins

My other sacred place? Lake Okoboji, Iowa


My family lacks some originality in vacation spots. We've been coming here in 1980 when my aunt and uncle bought a small, bright red lake house right on the shore of Lake Okoboji. You know the line in Field of Dreams, "Is this heaven?" The answer, of course, is, "No, it's Iowa." That applies to Lake Okoboji. Perfect temps, swimming any time of day, boat rides, walks to the park, relaxing on the dock, and games late into the night. Not the mention the amazing food and drink. The people in my family can cook! The small red house has long been replaced by a roomier one in a milder hue, but we still had nine children five and under so outdoors play was a not only desired, but needed. A grand time was had by all and, again, mucho quality time with aunts, uncles and cousins dear to my heart.

More fine people
The beauty of controlled chaos
A new generation celebrates the Fourth

How about you, readers? What's your smultronstalle?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summer in Texas

If you're going to summer in Texas, summer in Central Texas: cold rivers and a drier heat than in some other areas.

My parents are fortunate to live in a higher elevation and on a hill, in addition to that, so they get a nice breeze and a break from the worst temps. But there's nothing like the Guadalupe or Comal when it comes to a true Texas summer vaca.

On the banks of the Comal, getting ready to swim.
Feeding the ducks in the Guadalupe after a train ride.
It takes some a few years to really appreciate a cold river.

Sometimes tossing rocks from the shore is just better.
Drinking a beer in the Comal is hard to beat.
But this comes close.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What is safe?!?!?!

A few weeks ago, my mother sent me a list of the twenty fuits and vegetables that test highest in pesticides and the twenty that test lowest. The article also shared the negative effects of pesticide intake, which I mostly knew, but was horrified to read all together. I had been trying to save money by shopping mostly at Costco, but I resolved to do more shopping at stores that sell organic produce.

Then, my sister recommended a sunscreen (Babyganix) whose name turned out to be huge lie. Fortunately, she then discovered Safe Mama's Suncreen Cheat Sheet, which reviews various baby and child products and recommends the safe ones. The problem? Most of them have to be ordered online, and all of them are, of course, far more expensive than your Neutrogena (aren't they supposed to be good?) and certainly, your Banana Boat or Coppertone.

Then, my cousin emailed that she discovered Johnson & Johnson puts all kinds of nasty stuff in their baby products so, once again, I consulted Safe Mama. Yep, good recommendations, all pricey, most available online. Out went the J & J baby wash, and in came Burt's Bees, which only gets on OK rating, but is at least available at Target.

It makes me so angry that these companies don't care about the poisons they carelessly sell to the public, especially for children! Where is Erin Brokovich when you need her?

Sometimes I think the products may not be that bad, and I'm probably being an overanxious mother. But isn't it my job to keep my children as safe as possible? And isn't that worth the extra money? So I buy the stuff that's supposed to be safe (in addition to the above mentioned, I have bought safe bug repellent, and safe diaper cream--both Burt's Bees, so easy to find)
I have limited myself to those products, though. I am drawing the line before I go nuts with safe wipes, safe laundry and dish detergent, and safe backpacks. But should I? I'm sure if I started reading about them, I'd feel the need to get them for my babies.

Any thoughts on this from the blogosphere? What do you use with your babies?

And P.S., did you know most aluminum cans are lined with BPA?!?!? See this list for the ones that aren't.

And, P.P.S., I couldn't help myself. I checked the backpack list and was relieved to see Land's End makes good ones.

Oh, and P.P.P.S: used some Costco (Kirkland) organic canned tomatoes last night, and did not see the tell-tale plastic liner so I googled--Kirkland's BPA free (at least the tomato products).