my quote of the moment: "if you can attain repose and calm, believe that you have seized happiness." ~julie-jeanne-eleonore de lespinasse

March 30, 2012

"its just me"... but not anymore

there are so many things i want to write here. things that are going on in my life. or things that are going on in my head. real things. personal things.

all too personal things.

because while i know this is my blog, with my thoughts and my feelings, it's not exactly anonymous. things said online have real world consequences. i know that all too well, it's a lesson i've learned over and over again. and i'm trying my best not to repeat it.

and yet, it always catches me by surprise when i'm talking with someone, physically with sounds and not just glowing words on a screen, and they reference something i've only written about and never said out loud.

for a very long time, my online persona was very different and very separate from who i was in real life. the things i'd say, the jokes and references and discussions of topics about things that would never come up in my real life, i loved it so. i built a place for myself, separate from my physical being. still, i was careful not to share too much or go too deep. the net is a haven for freaks, and though i enjoyed hanging out with them in cyber space, i didn't want them invading my real space. there was a line i didn't cross.

now though, that line is blurred. and i feel the need to be even more careful with what i say and how i act. my online persona can affect how people see me in the real world in this age of digital dependency. and so i was forced to give up my separate lives, to close the door on anonymity, to craft a more careful and well thought out internet identity. because whether i want it to be true or not, i can't pretend the other half doesn't exist. the people i interact with online are now the same people i see every day.

to be totally honest, it makes this so much harder. it was easier when i had the freedom to say whatever i wanted, because i knew no one was paying attention to my ramblings. i could be vague, or not so vague, rant about what was bugging me, get it out of my system, and move on with my day. now things are not so easy. no matter how ambiguous my descriptions, there are those that could figure out what and who i am talking about. so my online de-stressing could turn into real world complications, with hurt feelings and offenses taken, when all i was trying to do was get it out of my head so i could move on.

and the other side to all of this, the one that i forgot about and was recently reminded of, is that the internet is forever. the things we say and the images we upload, they are permanent. even if we erase them on our side doesn't mean that they weren't already shared or downloaded, saved or physically printed. so things typed in a temporary fit of anger or angst could live forever. and when it can be printed out in black and white, it's so much harder to take it all back. in this world of over-sharing, parts of our past have ways of catching up with us in the most unexpected ways. and it's not always so pleasant.

and so, though there are things i want to say and share, i know i need to hold myself back. because i don't want my words to haunt me. or to be brought up later. i want what i say and share here to be things i would tell my children. because these words will be here for them to find, and i want them to be proud of me.

March 28, 2012

yumminess in a can

today we're going to head over to my dad's for dinner, which is nice for a number of reasons. first is that i don't have to really cook. second is that i get to spend some time with my dad and mom, and maybe even my sister, which is always fun. and third is that i get to make the dessert!

yeah, i know, i make desserts all the time. but whenever i get to take it someplace, it just seems more special. like if i bake brownies or something, and then eat them right out of the pan without even letting them cool, so they're still all gooey and warm, that's something i can do every day. not that i do that every day, though now i kind of want brownies. but if i make something to take somewhere, i put more thought in it. if i'm sharing it with others, i want it to be something different and awesome, something they don't get everyday.

so knowing that i'm in charge of the dessert tonight had me searching through my recipe collection. i wanted something yummy (of course), but still something easy. it also needed to be something that would travel well and didn't need to be refrigerated, because we'll be in the car for awhile running errands before we get where we're going. it also had to be something i could make with things i had on hand, because i really didn't feel like going to the store today. which isn't a big deal, because though we sometimes run out of basics for dinner (like meat), i will always have a well stocked baking pantry.

going through recipes and looking at my shelves had me thinking about ingredients that i just couldn't live without. things that will always be stocked on my shelves. of course there will always be brown sugar and white sugar, and flour, baking soda, and baking powder. and in the spice cupboard will be vanilla and cinnamon, cloves and ginger and cocoa powder. and always sweetened condensed milk.

yes, that creamy, gloopy stuff in a can. how i love it.

sweetened condensed milk, it is my guilty pleasure, my favorite secret treat. i could eat it by the spoonful, and have. i have drizzled it on plain rice with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, for a very lazy version of rice pudding. i have drizzled it on ice cream. and on crushed iced. and on fruit. and when the all-too-small can is empty, i pour hot coffee in it for a special treat, a trick i learned from "old man and the sea." and of course, if you melt chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk together in the microwave, it's the easiest fudge around.

so of course, for tonight's dessert, i found a super easy recipe that uses sweetened condensed milk. and chocolate chips and cake mix and butter. it's going to be awesome. a well stocked pantry really is the key to a happy tummy.

March 27, 2012

a jumbled mess

some days, i just don't know.

i don't know what i'm thinking, i don't know what i'm talking about, i don't know what to talk about.

everything is jumbled, and there's no way to straighten it all out.

hubby and i are buying a house. like right now, at this very moment, we are going through the process. and this process involves getting any and all information and papers required as quickly as possible. because we are on a very strict timeline, and if anything goes wrong, we don't want it to be because of us. so we're doing our best to get everything we need. really, though, it's mostly out of our hands, and there's not much we can do to help the process along. but in one month's time, we will have signed our lives away in exchange for keys to a place we can call our own.

during this whole process, though, we're also talking about everything we will need. really, we have everything from our old house that we can put in our new house. all of it is just in boxes and piles in various places. most of it was never unpacked, so throwing it on a truck to take it to the new place should be easy. still, there are odds and ends that we will need, like curtains and floor rugs. and whether we want to paint. and how we're going to arrange the living room. and being that i'm the one that's home more than anybody else, i feel like i should be the one that gets to make these decisions. still, i ask and consider any and all opinions. except how the boys said that their sister can sleep in a closet so they can each have their own room, because that's not happening. maybe one day we'll be able to afford a house where everybody has their own room, but that day is not today.

while all this new house stuff is going on, i also have to keep on top of all the normal day to day stuff. like homework. and also because school is winding down (there's only two months left), it means the great push to catch up is on. i hate this, and i hated it last year, and though i understand why, it's very stressful. and stress is counter-productive. last year there was much talk with all his teachers what reading level he was supposed to make it to so that they could say he passed. he made it, barely, but he was bring home so many books, and a word ring with sight words to practice, and a "sound" ring so he could practice letter groups to make it easier to sound out words, it was taking more than an hour a night, just to try to meet the state mandated reading level. there's not been much talk of that this year, but i feel it's only a matter of time. because how do you keep your older boy from being frustrated by the fact he is reading at the same level as his younger brother?

and then too, with all of this, i'm trying to keep all the dates straight of all the stuff we have going on. because all of a sudden our calender seems very full. family activities and holidays and birthdays and trips uptown, it's getting confusing. and then there's also talk about what we're doing over the summer, with who and when. plus we need to keep a few weekends open for moving in i suppose.

things are just crazy here. and more and more keeps getting added to my plate. really, i know it'll be ok, because most of it is stuff i just have to show up for, and nothing i'm in charge of planning or have any control over. and i'm very good at randomly showing up. the real trick is making sure i know who is supposed to show up with me. because one of these days i'm going to go someplace with the wrong kid, and then things will get really awkward.

March 23, 2012

why my boys are more awesome than your's

yesterday, it was very nice out. it has been unseasonably nice for a few weeks now. not that i'm really complaining. ok, so i will complain a bit, i do not like summer. the only good thing that comes in summer is my birthday, and that's months away. this weather is not fun. if it was just cool enough to wear jeans and a tee shirt all the time, i would be a happy happy girl. but it's not, it's basically shorts weather. which sucks because i'm a girl and either i have to shave or look like a deranged wookie. and because i love my hubby, i shave. or just wear pants and complain about the heat.

but this post isn't about how i'm jealous of boys and how it's totally acceptable for them to look like mountain men, this post is about my boys.

so yesterday, being so lovely out, i made them put on shorts (because they're boys and have no hang-ups about such things) and go outside and play before dinner while it was still nice. i also went out with fishie, because she likes to play outside. more accurately, true to being her mother's daughter, she likes to roll around in the dirt and damp grass until she makes mud.

while i was chasing fish, i happened upon my boys sitting next to each other on the swing in the yard. and it was idyllic , because i was behind them, and could only see the tops of their heads and their feet kicking back and forth.

and then one of them said "we'll be bros forever."

and then other answered "we'll be bros for life!"

and i honestly believe, with whatever might happen as they grow, they will be bros. friends can come and go, but family is forever.

March 22, 2012

a sunny spring in the form of sugary goodness

maybe it's just me, but in times of stress, i turn to sugar. it comforts me. and if it's a sugary treat that i'm making myself, the process of creating it is great therapy. baking is a science, and for things to go right you need to be exacting and orderly. when everything else goes wrong, i know i can turn to my recipe box, and as long as i follow the rules i'm guaranteed success. as opposed to the rest of my life where nothing is guaranteed to go right.

and so, after a panic inducing weekend, i came home and made rice crispy treats. but not just any rice crispy treats, i threw a bunch of m&ms in there, for their pretty colors. and for chocolate of course. and, because i kind of missed out on making fun st. patrick's day fun, i decided to really make the rice crispy treats look fun, festive, and rainbow colored by pressing sprinkles all over the top. cripsy, chewy, sweet, and colorful, these treats were just what i needed to perk myself up. in fact, until about 3pm, all i ate yesterday was small slices of rice crispy treats. honestly, that much marshmallow doesn't make for a happy tummy.

today, my thoughts are turning to fudge. but not just any fudge, i'm thinking lemon fudge. now, i know that probably sounds really strange to you, but i have a serious thing for lemons. and, around valentine's day, i found a recipe for strawberry fudge that only uses two ingredients. the strawberry flavor comes from strawberry frosting, which i despise with the power of a thousand suns (seriously, that stuff is so gross), but i was thinking the formula of a bag of chips and a tub of frosting could be adapted by using other flavors. of course, with my family, my first thought was peanut butter chips and chocolate frosting, which i have yet to try. but then, while walking through the store, i noticed the lemon frosting, which spoke to me. chocolate and peanut butter is a classic combination, but it's one i can make at home using other recipes. lemon fudge, on the other hand, is a recipe i don't have, one i've never seen. and so today, i have plans to make a sunny, lemon yellow fudge, with pretty yellow sanding sugar. it's going to be awesome.

the other thing i found in the store, which must have magically jumped in my cart because how else did it get back to my house, is pink lemonade frosting. it's actually a new product, or at least one i've never seen before. they even have a pink lemonade cake mix and a cookie mix. i thought the frosting and the cake together might be a bit much for those that don't love lemon like i do, and i thought all that baby pink might throw off the boys, so i just picked up the frosting to try on vanilla cake. still, i can't get those cookies and all their possibilities out of my head. think of using the cookie mix to make a cookie pizza, maybe spread with some of this and throw some sliced strawberries on top. that sounds like an easy easter dessert to me.

so yeah, i think i've got sugar on the brain. now that it really feels like spring, i'm imagining all the fun and sunny dessert possibilities, nothing too heavy, and everything in pretty pastel shades. they're not my favorite types of desserts (i'm way more of a cinnamon and apple and pumpkin type of girl), but after the strange winter we've had, it gives my mind a creative and happy direction to focus on.

March 20, 2012

the black thumb of death

it should be no secret now that my family and i are going through the house buying process. it is exciting and scary and as confusing as can be. dear hubby and i have never done this before, so we really are relying heavily on the help and advice of those much more knowledgeable than ourselves.

and because this is the first house we can really call our very own, we've started to dream. how we want it to look, what improvements we want to make, how we want to use the space we've got. and we do have to be smart about how we use the space, because it's not a huge amount of house. it's certainly bigger than what we had before, and looking around it seems there's so much potential in those blank walls.

which is honestly the scariest part in my mind, and it's a shortcoming i've had that i'm still trying to get over. there is so much potential, only limited by space and money, of all the different things we could do. but then, what if we choose to do something and don't like it? or it doesn't work? and then we're stuck with all our bad decisions staring us in the face for the rest of our lives.

and then i proceed to hyperventilate.

and so, instead, i've been focusing on the furniture arrangement, how i want to put what we've got and where i want it. because if i don't like it, it can move. so it's something much less permanent and more manageable for my hyperactive imagination that goes from good idea to worst case scenario constantly.

my dear husband, on the other hand, has started to dream about a garden. which is kind of funny for him, because we've had homes with bits of land before that we could have planted a few things on, and he was never interested. now though, with this new house, we have a yard with a fence all the way around it. it's not a very big yard, but it's all ours and very clearly marked. and so he's decided he wants a vegetable garden.

honestly, i blame my mother. she's super into gardening. she's landscaped most of the places she's lived all by herself (with help for the physical labor). she also has a huge garden. last year the boys helped her plant a few things, and they loved to help pick stuff when it was ripe. and my hubby and i helped her build the raised boxes she's growing in, and also helped to build a deer proof fence around the whole thing. and she's expanded this year by putting in a strawberry patch, in addition to the snap peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, various peppers, carrots, squash, zucchini, lettuce, horseradish, onions, and pumpkins she'll have. last year she tried corn, which the squirrels climbed over the fence and ate, and also sunflowers, which didn't grow so well for a couple of reasons.

so my hubby wants to put a few raised boxes in our yard to grow some vegetables. i think we're going to limit ourselves to tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini, and maybe a little lettuce. i say "we," though i really mean "he." if i were to try and help, i know everything would die. my mother was gifted with a very green thumb, but me, not so much. early on in our relationship, my hubby realized that if he wanted to give me flowers, they should just be fake if we wanted them to look nice after three days.

he and my mother are making a great plan on how things will work, what we have to do and when we have to do them. and hopefully, if they need my help, they will give me detailed instructions so i don't mess things up. because i really do like fresh veggies, and if i can get them into my kitchen, then i'll definitely be in my comfort zone.

March 19, 2012

winter camp

this weekend was filled with fun and things and stuff and busy-ness. the boys and i went to winter camp with the cub scouts, a first for lumpy and i. if nothing else, i know he had a great time. the one dark patch was that i didn't think to bring sunscreen, and it was so lovely over the weekend, i ended up getting sunburned. still, all in all, my boys did very well and we are very proud of them.

it was nice, at least as far as bumble is concerned, to get to stand back and watch him interact with kids i've mostly just heard about and see how he did. sometimes he tells me how things go, and i've learned not to always take him literally. he's with a good group of kids, and watching them all play made me realize how good it is for him to interact with them in a more controlled environment then what he gets when he's at school with no parents around. my hubby is the one that was with him last year, so i missed out on most of the fun, but this year i got to go through it with lumpy.

and dear lumpy was his usual fun self. he had a blast, and for him it was doubly fun, because his den and his brother's den were together, so it was a huge group of kids he knows and already played with. there were times where he got all hyped up, and i could hear him rambling on and on, but everybody was very nice about it.

the other interesting thing for me was that i was finally able to really put names and faces together with the parents of the kids in bumble's den. it's very strange, sometimes, when they all know me through things my hubby and bumbles has said, but we've never been introduced so i really didn't know who they were. and with my hubby not being one for taking pictures, it's sometimes hard to remember who is who when they've only been pointed out in a crowd. and with me being so bad with names, it really made things tough.

so overall, it was a fun time. still, i think it's more something i can check off my list then look forward to. for me, there's too much else involved in the background that gets in the way of enjoying it. but i know it's important, and i will probably go again next year if the boys are split up into different cabins. it was nice they were together this year because my hubby wasn't able to make it the whole time and i was able to stay with both of them. besides, there are very few things that lumpy is actually willing to do with me, his not so cool parent that doesn't go quad riding or fishing or play football with him, so i know i need to cherish this time with him. eventually he'll get older and want to do things on his own and not have him lame mom following him around. even if he'll always be my baby boy.

March 16, 2012

he called me ma'am

right now i feel like i'm living a dream, and at any moment i'm going to wake up.

now, it's not anything i'd call a nightmare, though there is much stress involved. it's more like things just don't seem real, because everyone around me is treating me like a responsible adult, and i believe i'm anything but.

lately, i've been doing a lot of stuff that forces me to interact with other parents. and they treat me as an equal. like i'm a grown up just like them. like i'm not some young imposter that just happens to also have children.

and my boys' teachers also act like i'm an old lady that knows what she's doing. not really "old," but they act like i'm an adult. just because i'm responsible for my children's upbringing doesn't necessarily make me responsible.

which brings me to when i have to take my kids to the doctors. in the back of my mind, i worry that i'll take them in while they're sick and somebody will look at me and say "obviously this lady is too young and immature to have children. we must rescue these kids until she gets older and wiser." because of course my kids wouldn't have to go to the doctor if i knew what i was doing with them.

in the biggest example of craziness, dear hubby and i are making great strides in our attempts to acquire a house. in fact, today we went and signed bunches of paper so that some crazy people would give us a mortgage. and i say crazy people, because who in their right minds would actually lend my hubby and i money to buy a house? not that we aren't responsible in that respect, or financially sound, but it's more like i feel so young, and you don't go give money and houses to kids. or kids with kids. i think that's everybody's just going along with it because we've been able to prove that we understand how serious this all is. which is super. like super serious.

as silly as it may sound to some of you, i just don't feel that old. maybe it's because i don't feel like i've done much with my life, so i can't be that old. or that there are so many chunks of years that have kind of gone fuzzy when i try to look back, so they don't seem like i've even lived them. or there are days that i look around and wonder where these kids came from, because i only have little babies, cute and adorable, i can't be old enough to have grown boys like mine. they must be somebody else's.

i guess i just need to face facts, i am getting old. or older. and i've finally gotten to a point in my life where i'm doing grown up things. and not acting like an irresponsible punk. and that other grown ups are bound to notice and treat me with the respect that i deserve, even if i'm not sure that i've earned it.

i guess i better get used to being called ma'am by more than just the bag boys at the grocery store. even if it still makes me giggle. because unlike what anybody else thinks, in my mind i'm obviously 12.

March 15, 2012

boys vs. girls

i was going to write a long and rambling post about how boys are easier to raise than girls. and i had written most of it, so when i say "long and rambling," i really mean it.

honestly though, the simple truth is kids are kids. and when they start as babies, it doesn't matter what they have under their diaper, they need food and clothing and love and safety. and when they get to the child stage, they still need all of that, plus the freedom to explore their world and the reassurance that they are going to be ok at all times. the needs of children are simple things.

it's when life throws you a curve that things get not so simple, and as they get older, dealing with kids as they turn into tweens and teens gets more and more complicated. but i don't think it has anything to do with a break down along the gender lines. we as parents are raising our children to be their own person, to be individuals, and to lump all boys together or all girls together along some gender biased line seems wrong to me.

all kids are unique and they will present their parents with unique challenges. they will have their own strengths and weaknesses, and we, as we raise them, are supposed to show them how to highlight the best in themselves while trying to help them deal with the worst.

maybe i think like this because i'm not trying to raise my boys as "boys" or my dear fish as a "girl." i just want happy kids. and if that means that fish plays with monster trucks and wrestles and gets muddy, i'm all for it. and if one of the boys would rather help in the kitchen and have tea parties with his sister, then why should i stop him? i love my kids for who they are, not for what i can make them become. but then, i'm beginning to realize i might be in a minority with that kind of crazy talk.

still, there is one way in which boys are easier to raise than girls, at least for me. because fish has such beautiful hair, curly and shiny and blond like mine was, i don't want to cut it. and let me say, after years of getting away with giving the boys buzz cuts, actually having to brush a toddler's hair sucks.

March 14, 2012

after this, i should get to go back to bed

today i'd like to rant a bit about my morning, about how much is sucked, and about how it could have all been avoided if people listened to me. or if my crazy side listened to my more rational side. but i'd still prefer to blame others, because seriously, who wouldn't?

anyway, way back in december, when lumpy had his regular yearly check-up, he kind of failed the hearing screening they gave him. i didn't think it was a big deal, but according to the doctors, he needed to see a specialist to make sure everything was all good.

really, i think when he took the tests he was just distracted. like fish and bumble were in the room with us at his regular doctor when they did the screening, and that's a lot going on in a little room. and i'm sure there was some similar distraction when they screened him at school. so i told his doctor i wasn't worried, but they still wanted me to take him for a proper test. so they sent out a referral, and the audiologist set something up for the middle of april.

well, yesterday i get a call saying that they have to change his appointment in april because something came up, but they have an opening at 8am today, could i bring him in then? and i said sure before i thought too much about it. and then i hung up the phone and kicked myself, because i realized what i just agreed to.

see, the specialist he was going to see was the same people i had taken fishie to on monday, because she has legitimate ear issues. the thing is, they're in the children's hospital that's about 45 minutes from where we live now. so to get there by 8am, we had to leave by 715am, which is crazy. just so you understand, my alarm goes off at 710am when i only have to get the boys on the bus. this morning i had to get up at 630am, which proves i'm obviously insane because i willingly agree to ridiculously early doctor's appointments that i don't think are necessary.

i am not a morning person. have i mentioned that yet? because it's seriously oh so true. in fact, the only morning person in my family is my dear bumble, and he's the only one that didn't have to get up crazy early to get to the doctor's. fun fact is that while i was getting up lumpy, bumble woke up anyway like it was nothing. poor dear lumpy, i had to help him get dressed and practically carry him to the car. thank goodness he doesn't weigh much.

so i loaded him and fishie up, and got to drive through stupid morning traffic. that's the other reason i must have gone insane when i agreed to this appointment, because for us to get to where the hospital is we had to drive around a major city center, and of course, at 730am, all the normal business types are trying to get to work. so i had to leave extra early to make sure we got there on time. and we did, thankfully.

and, as i knew would happen, we arrived at the office, checked in, and they took us right back. because of course they're not busy at 8am. and i talked to the doctor about my concerns, or lack there of. and she administered the test, which had lumpy sit in a soundproof room and listen for tones while fish and i waited in the hallway. and what do you know, but with no distractions he passed with flying colors.

so we were seriously in the office for about 15 minutes. and after that it was back in the car and rushing to get lumpy to school on time. which i managed to do, thank you very much.

so yeah, crazy busy morning. especially since getting through all of that is more than i do most days. so i feel like i deserve a medal or award or nap or something. though i suppose i can just reward myself with a cookie.

March 12, 2012

my cake pop adventure

this weekend, i made this:
it looks like ice cream and tastes like cake... and it's only three inches tall!
it was part of my first attempt at cake pops, which is something i swore i'd never get into making. i've known about them for a long time, and i never really saw what the big deal was.

for those that don't know, cake pops are smashed up cake mixed with icing and dipped in chocolate, and usually put on a lollipop stick. it's a very simple thing that can be endlessly varied by flavor and decoration. they are cute and portable. they're popular with kids, and great for theme parties, because you can use any color candy melt to coordinate. or, if you have lots and lots of time on your hand, you can make your pops look like animals or flower or anything else you can think of.

honestly, they fall into the category of highly decorated cookies in my opinion. they're very pretty to look at, and i like to read about them, but they're not something i have time to devote to. and they seem like the kind of thing that take lots of time to get perfect, especially if you're obsessive like me.

but then i found this recipe, which looked delicious and easy. and so i decided to try it. but the recipe said that there would be a bunch of cake mix left over, so i wanted to think of a clever way to use it up. and we happen to have those mini ice cream cones hanging around for a very long time, and i decided that making cake pop ice cream would be a cute and fun way of using up them up too.

because this isn't really a food blog (though i know i talk about food enough) i really don't have fun, step by step pictures of the process i used. but if you follow the steps in the other recipe, you can start from the part where i have a bunch of cake mixed with icing, chilling in the fridge. i rolled out balls of the mix, and dipped them in melted chocolate. really, it wasn't chocolate, it was chocolate flavored candy melts, which melt easily and set quickly but don't taste quite as nice as the real stuff. if i had more time (and energy) i would have used good chocolate.

so after i had chocolate covered cake balls, i stuck them on the mini ice cream cones and quickly sprinkled on the sprinkles and stuck on the pretzel m&m, which i used because it's nice and round so it kind of looks like a cherry. i let them set up on the counter and that was that.

if you ever do decided to attempt to recreate this, let me say that sticking the cake ball on the cone and then dipping the top in chocolate was much easier. i started that process halfway through and it worked out much better. and i'm thinking that if i had dipped the top of the cone in the chocolate before i put the cake ball on, it would have held the ball on even better.

all in all, i think these treats look really cute. and they weren't as involved as i thought they'd be to make. still, now that i've actually made a cake pop type creation, i don't think i'll be making them again. i'm just not really one for smashed cake, i think i'll stick to cookies and pie.

March 10, 2012

biscuits on the brain

i love biscuits. it's a true and simple fact. and right now, i've got biscuits on the brain.

maybe it's because i've seen a lot of really yummy and awesome looking recipes online lately. or maybe it's because we took the kiddies out to eat to a place known for its biscuits. or maybe it's because it's strawberry season, and that of course means it's strawberry shortcake time!

over the years, i began to realize that strawberry shortcakes are made many different ways. growing up, though, we always made them with biscuits. in fact, we usually made them the quick and easy way by using bisquick mix and just making drop biscuits. we'd split the biscuits while warm and top them with sliced, macerated strawberries and a little milk. for us strawberry shortcake wasn't dessert, it was something we ate for dinner. kind of like our version of apple dumplings, but that's another story.

biscuits are also near and dear to my heart because they make my hubby so very happy. one of his absolute favorite things that i make is sausage gravy and biscuits, which is very nice for me because it's so easy. i've made gallons of gravy over the years, and the only thing that every ruins it at this point is when i get bad sausage. and of course i make biscuits from scratch to go with them. i have tried tons of recipes for good, homemade biscuits, and the one i keep using time and again is from my old better homes and gardens cookbook. sadly, the newer editions don't have my favorite recipe, so i'll include it here. it's super easy and reliable!

baking powder biscuits
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk

1. mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. cut in the shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. make a well and add all the milk, then stir until just combined. don't over mix!
2. turn dough out on floured surface and knead a few times just to bring everything together, until nearly smooth. pat out to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into circles. (i don't have a biscuit cutter, so i always just a plastic cup)
3. place biscuits onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 450.

i love biscuits for so many different reasons. from the fact that they are so simple to throw together to the fact that i almost always have everything i need on hand to make a batch. they're nice all warm, straight out of the oven. especially when slathered with good butter. of course i like them sweet with honey and jam. and if i throw some cheese into the mix, then they make a great sandwich, even warmed up the next day and topped with egg and bacon. if i'm feeling really fancy, i'll whip up a batch using buttermilk, and top them with cream and sugar before baking for a nice, crunchy crust. salty or sweet, biscuits are a definite favorite of my whole family.

March 9, 2012

six months ago

i was going to write a post yesterday about what i was doing six months ago. but i couldn't bring myself to do it. now i'm writing it at 230am, because these thoughts keep going around in my head and it's something i think i need to get out. so i am.

six months ago, i wasn't just stressing because i was trying to plan bumble's birthday party. he turned 8 exactly six months ago, and my mind really should have been filled with dinner and cake, balloons and decoration, and if i could throw a surprise party when it was just his family down here and if he would be surprised by it at all.

no, instead, six months ago, i was wading through muddy, gas and oil slicked water, trying to make it through my yard and into my house. tropical storm lee hit our area much harder than expected, and the water was coming up faster and higher than people thought. the day before i had packed up the kids and gone to my moms', because from there i could drive the boys to school if we needed to stay until the waters went down. we'd done it before when the creek behind my house flooded over the road, because if we didn't, we couldn't get out of our driveway.

and so, my dearest hubby and i drove around road closed signed, and had to explain to the police that stopped us how, in the rush to leave yesterday, i had forgotten a few things. and that's when we were told that our area was being evacuated. so it wasn't just a good idea that we were leaving, they were forcing us, and everybody else, to get out while we could. they said we had twenty minutes to grab what we could and then we had to leave.

so, six months ago, instead of baking all afternoon to making an amazing cake like i had planned, i was running through my house grabbing all the clothes i could, throwing them in bags and lugging them through greasy, sewage-smelling water to my car. and my husband was grabbing all the pictures off the walls and all my photo albums, all the memories we'd never be able to replace. (which is a funny thought in this digital age, that i couldn't get copies of my photo's because i'd lost the negatives) i went through and grabbed all the social security cards and birth certificates, the titles and loan documents and bank records, the old tax returns and W-2s, all the "important" papers that we'd need if we ever needed to file for anything from the federal government all the way down to the school district.

we grabbed everything that we could manage in a few suitcases and trash bags, and six months ago we were forced to leave our home, crappy as it was, not knowing if we'd ever see it again.

six months ago was also the day i realized that i don't do well in situations of stress. running through the house, trying to grab everything important and irreplaceable, was almost impossible to me. everything in my little house was irreplaceable and important, from the kids' pictures on the fridge to my tea set i had as a little girl. but i knew we couldn't take everything. so as we left i just hoped and prayed that my house would still be there when the waters went down.

and it was. and i know i was lucky, much luckier than even my neighbor who's house sat just three feet lower and they ended up losing everything. but still, it was hard. and i didn't lose anything that my insurance or FEMA considered valuable, but things are still gone that i can't get back.

six months ago, my life changed. everything for my family changed. and we're still trying to get things back on track. it's the hardest thing i've ever gone through, and continue to go through. and it's surreal sometimes, because i know most people don't even think about it. driving past my old house, seeing all the surrounding businesses open and coming back to life, everything seems normal. the only real reminders are the empty lots where condemned houses used to be. strange, gaping, empty spots while all around life goes on as usual, like six months ago never happened.

March 8, 2012

just a few of my favorite things: food edition

there are a lot of times where things go wrong. it's a fact of everyone's life. unexpected badness or the worst possible outcome or impossibly awful choices. life sucks sometimes.

and when that happens to me, i have to still deal. with crazy little monkeys to look after, hiding in my room listening to angsty music so loud that my ears bleed while living in my pjs for days on end isn't exactly an option anymore. oh to be young and stupid again.

instead, if i'm in a real funk and can't get out, i turn my mind to happy thoughts. and more often than not, those happy thoughts are food related. today, i'd thought i'd share some of the food that makes my mouth smile and water.

brown sugar
chocolate cake
balsamic vinegar
rare steak
sea salt
fresh baked bread
cinnamon rolls
sour cream
hash browns
cheese steaks
soft pretzels
flavored cream cheese

i know this is kind of a random list. and most of them are just ingredients, but then my happy thoughts also include creating new recipes in my imagination. they might be simple things, but they make me happy with all of their possibilities and unlocked potentials. and that's definitely a happy thought that helps get me through the day.

March 6, 2012

self doubt and the real truth

so i've been questioning a lot of things lately. all manner of things actually, from all parts of my life.

maybe it's because certain things have not been going well, but i wonder if it's really all my fault. is there something i could have done differently. or didn't do. or did and shouldn't have. and i just don't know. and i'll never really know. but of course, i think that it must be all my fault.

because i'm the one in charge of things around here. i'm the one in control. i'm the one making all the decisions. so when things go wrong, it must be me.

which then brings me to wondering whether things would be better, run smoother, if i wasn't in charge. maybe if somebody else held the reins for awhile, things would start getting sunnier.

the worst part of all of this is the guilt. because i'm not only in charge of me, i'm in charge of my kids too. and i wonder if i'm ruining things for them the same time i'm messing things up in my own little world. that maybe i've done things and scared them for life. or the reason that certain things are messed up in their lives is because of me. and maybe they'd be better off in the long run if there was somebody else running things.

but then things kind of swing into focus, and a few truths emerge.

the biggest one is that there isn't anybody that's going to take over for me. it's not like i have an understudy waiting in the wings. and there's nobody better qualified than me to do this job anyway. not that i really have any qualifications or degrees or anything, but i've gotten years of on the job training with my little monkeys, and nobody else can say that.

also, and more specifically as far as dear lumpy is concerned, there is no one out there who would be able to prevent all the random medical crap that kid goes through. he grew normally, so no one would have known that he'd be so susceptible to pneumonia and that flu vaccines don't work for him. or that a simple fall off his bunk bed would shatter his forearm and dislocate his elbow when he was still in preschool. or that, most recently, he would have thrown up so much when he had the flu a few weeks ago that he damaged his esophagus to the point he now has acid reflux and that's why he's not eating or sleeping. though i wasn't able to prevent all his problems, i can at least help instill the benefits of excellent medical coverage.

another thing i realized is that there are probably very few parents in this world that would be able to really explain to their children why bad things happen to them. and why there are bad people that want to hurt them sometimes. because when things go sideways, kids want to know why. and why is such a hard question to answer.

also, i'm beginning to see that all the prepping in the world isn't going to guarantee success, for you or your kids. getting them into special programs and pushing learning before preschool might make them smart, but that doesn't mean they'll be nice. or have tons of friends. or even an easy time in school. learning disabilities happen sometimes. and social awkwardness. and random twists of fate that throw everybody a curve, no matter how much you planned for. early walkers aren't destined to always be the fastest runners, they just took steps before other kids caught up.

lastly, i'm slowly coming to understand that, even though the world might not always appreciate what i do all day, or even consider it a job if i don't actually get paid, my work is way more important that any random office drone. i am shaping the next generation, and i'm trying to make them kind, considerate, and respectful individuals. and there is no more necessary and important product for tomorrow than that.

March 5, 2012

sometimes the answer is "i don't know"

being a parent is hard and complicated sometimes. but the basic premise is very simple. we as parents need to look out for our kids. we need to cloth them and feed them and make sure they are protected. and sometimes being protected means we need to fight their battles for them and sometimes it means we need to make sure they are prepared to take care of themselves. take care of themselves physically and mentally.

we want to protect them from all the ugliness in the world, because there are some very dark and scary places. so sometimes that means avoiding the dark places. but sometimes the darkness finds you no matter what you do, and in times like those my gut reaction is to step up and protect. but sometimes i know i need to step back and let my kids handle themselves, because i won't always be there to protect and save them, and i need to know they can help themselves.

the absolute worst feeling, though, is when your children have to face the ugliness all by themselves, and they fail. because we can't always be there with our kids 24 hours a day. sometimes we need a break, and we take some time off. and so we intrust them to seemingly responsible adults. and sometimes things just happen, things nobody was expecting. and then you begin to second guess yourself. would it have been different if you had been there? would you have actually be able to save them, to protect them? or had the planets aligned in such a way that it wouldn't have mattered who was with them, because bad things happen sometimes no matter what you do.

and then the questions come. oddly enough, the question i ask myself is the same one my kids ask me: why? why did this happen to me? why do bad things happen? why are some people so mean?

unfortunately, there are no easy answers to those questions. and most times the best i come up with is that i just don't know.

it's confusing enough to be a kid these days, but it's worse sometimes when you do everything right, exactly how you were taught, and things still don't go how they're supposed to go.

i raise my kids to respect others, to play nice and take turns and be fair. i'm trying to teach them conflict resolution, how to react to situations that don't include yelling or screaming or fighting. we don't use the words "shut up," it's always "please be quiet." and if all else fails, i'm trying to teach them just to walk away if the other kids don't want to play nicely and fairly.

it's hard for my boys to understand all that, sometimes. and it's even harder for them to put it all into practice, but they try. the most difficult thing for them to wrap their heads around is when they do everything they've been taught and the other kids don't want to play fair. and it's hard to explain that sometimes other kids haven't learned the importance of respect. and how it's still important to respect other people even if they don't respect you. but they have learned that if somebody is disrespecting them, it's ok to just pack up and leave.

but sometimes they can't leave. or things happen so quickly there's no time to react. and things go from good to bad too fast. and i'm left trying to explain to them why bad things happen. even when they did everything they were supposed to, exactly like we taught them. sometimes there are bad people in this world, and i just don't know why.

March 2, 2012

my kids are absent today because...

the boys are not going to school today. and of course i felt the need to make up an excuse when i sent a note in to school yesterday. and i tried very hard to think of an educational type excuse, to make this an excusable field trip, but i couldn't come up with anything.

because how do you explain in a note that the reason they're not in school is because they are getting new atv's, which need to be picked up in pittsburgh by 6pm. but first they have to go uptown to get their pap so he can travel along and make sure everything is all ok. because letting them go quad riding is the one thing they really love to do that we let them do, and it's how they can bond with both of their grandfathers.

and also, they are not in school today because they needed a break from school where they weren't sick. not that i think bumble is 100% alright and not sick, because he keeps getting up in the middle of the night and pacing. and he's decided he doesn't want to sleep on the bed again, so he sleeps under the bed surrounded by a wall of toys and stuffed animals. on a side note, i can only imagine what'll happen if he tries this at winter camp which is coming in a few weeks. because his dad can't come and i'll be in the other building with his brother. can you say fun?

and they're also not in school today because they are leaving in the morning to go uptown and i need help packing. as in, i feel they are old enough to pack for themselves with some supervision. but first they need to clean their room. though really the only reason they need to clean their room is because everything that gets stored under the bed was pulled out and thrown everywhere. the reason for such craziness i might have mentioned already.

lastly, the reason they're not in school today is because i needed a break. and getting them up and ready for school and on the bus and then coming home and packing and then picking them up three hours later, all while toting around an almost 40 pound baby that likes to scream to get my attention would have been it for me. all the hope in the world doesn't make things go right sometimes, and i just needed one day where i wasn't running around like a crazy person. and so, for me and my sanity, i kept them home.

the note i sent yesterday did not say any of that, though. i settled for "personal family problems," which i felt was as good a summary as i could come up with. and i know, i could have sent them. it just would have made for a very stressful morning. but every once in a while i want to do things the easy way. even if i'm judged as being lazy or lackadaisical. because i'm getting to the point where i realize that everybody raises their children differently, and some are just more different than others. and if different is the way i lean, i don't think it matters in the long run, as long as my kids are happy and healthy. because that's just the way it is sometimes.

March 1, 2012

warming houses with a party!

it's probably way too early to be thinking about a housewarming party. mostly because that kind of party takes having a house. which we don't. not yet. but we will! eventually.

and i like parties. and having people over. and showing off my culinary skills. and sugar and baking and fun.

so i figure, what better way to warm a house then with an oven? like housewarming while baking treats, not like redneck heating by leaving the oven door open. which is totally dangerous and stupid. not that i've ever seen it done in real life or anything.

anyway, something else i like to do is plan parties. usually just in my head because i don't like to talk to people, and if i were to have a party, i would be required to tell people about it and invite them over. and then probably talk to them while they're here.

have i mentioned that i might have a few issues?

so yeah, i've been planning the housewarming party i will eventually have. and because i can't imagine how i'll set it up or what things will look like, i've just been envisioning the menu. because the whole point is to have people over so they can wander around and look at our new house and marvel at our mismatched furniture and random "decorations" shoved on bookshelves and generally wonder why we have half the crap we do, i've been planning an appetizer style menu. little bits and bites perfect for carrying and munching.

so there will be meatballs and shrimp, because all three of my boys like meatballs and shrimp. but not together, because that would be kind of gross. veggies and chips and dip of course. and a cheese tray, because i like to pretend i'm a fancy lady, and fancy ladies totally love cheese, like nice melty brie or goat's milk cheese on crackers. maybe i'll even make some of my spiced mixed nuts, because i haven't done that in a long while.

i'm sure i'll have other savory foods, but mostly, in my head, i've been planning the dessert side of the snacks. like various brownies and cookies. and fancy cupcakes perhaps. and maybe a parfait, because "you know what everybody likes? everybody likes parfaits!" (if i could find a good clip of that scene, i'd totally be linking it)

anyway, i know it's really early to think about such things, but planning this party gives me something happy to think about. a direction to send my rambling thoughts when i lay awake at night and my brain just won't turn off. most of this might not even happen, if things go the way they usually do. best laid plans always falling through and such. and some might think i'm jinxing myself, like counting chickens when all i have are eggs. still, i'm happy in my delusions, and i like to think i'm not hurting anybody, so where's the harm?