Food · satire

When You Just Want to Eat

It’s been a rough week. It seems like the poo keeps hitting the fan, and there’s no time to recover before more poo comes flying.

Normally, I would sneak over to the grocery store and get a slice of tuxedo mousse cake. I might even eat it in the car with my fingers. But yesterday, in the midst of all of the scars rising to the surface of our collective consciousness, and the fears that our whole way of living was about to be broken, I wanted to eat something good.

Yes, it had to be delicious, and silky. It had to have heft. I wanted something warm and filling; something with flavor.

In a more innocent time, I was at a family camping park in the Netherlands. I was with my husband, my small children, and my mother. We went to the snack bar. As I looked over the menu, I saw there was nothing vegetarian. It had been a long day – twenty-some hours of travel, jet lag, sodas without ice – the works!!! So, I asked if there was anything “vegetarishce.”

“We’ll prepare something,” the server told me.

(Sigh.) I prepared myself for a cheese sandwich.

blog martyr
“I like chicken backs.”

But, when my meal came, it was far better than I expected. In fact, after a grueling day, the plate they whipped up in the kitchen in the casual family place at the camping park might have been the best meal I’ve ever had in a restaurant.

It was a red pepper ragout over polenta with a mixed green salad. So good, I could have cried. (I think I did, maybe.)

Yesterday, I was thinking about that meal. I even went online to the camping park restaurant, but they didn’t have a menu posted, so between allrecipies.com and YouTube, I tried to piece it together the best I could. (Knowing the Netherlands, it may have even been some frozen dish from Albert Heijn, the grocery store with vegan schnitzel. Yes, slap-your-pappy delicious vegan schnitzel!)

I couldn’t find it, but I did find this video of Alex X French Guy making something very similar – Ratatouille, or as he pronounced it, “Rat. Tat. Wheeeeee!”

Ah…doh…rabble!

Thanks to my jardin, I happened to have sun-ripened tomatoes and bell peppers. I had an eggplant. And every home in September has zucchini. It just shows up. So, I used that.blog veg

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gratuitous close-up

I chopped and cooked along with the 3-minute video, and about an hour later, I had the perfect rat-tat-wheeee and a French ~accent~. I made the Americanized version of polenta from the back of the cornmeal box, un-romantically named “corn mush” and we sat down to a healing dinner. Oh yeah, my kids kind of ate it!blog fini

It was whole, nurturing, satisfying, and much less fussy than that Disney movie makes it seem. And I didn’t have to wear a rodent in my hair while I made it! But I did anyway, just for authenticity.

So, here are my pictures. I hope you try it out. Scoop up your broken heart and take a hint from the French (who, by the way, claim to have the world’s most romantic city, and then they go and do something like this. ) Just don’t read the link while you’re eating, but do fix yourself some ratatouille or whatever nourishes your body and soul.

Salut!

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Crafts · Parenting · satire

Help From My Friend

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Friend and foes.

I have been under a rock. A good friend sent me this Holderness Family video about slime, which is already so last year (or more). It’s spot on, but I didn’t get to see it when it was released because I was BUSY trying to remove glue/shaving cream compounds from my counters.
I quarantined slime production to the kids’ bathroom. They carry it all over the house, and I have scrubbed it out of the carpet, picked it off the cat’s fur, and recycled three generations of plastic food containers that absorbed the soaps and scents.
My bane was the bathroom counter. Not only is it the slime-making epicenter, it’s also where my kids brush their teeth. So, the toothpaste spit gets in the act. Yuck.
I did what any adult woman would do; went crying to my mommy. Oh, I can only imagine what would have happened to me if I spilled purple glitter slime on the living room rug. She would have scalped me. And sent me to school with a slime toupee. But, I digress.
My mom thought it was totally cool that my kids, especially my daughter, had a slime habit. “Creative!” she said, “Sensory! Genius!” Yeah, yeah, but what about my counters?!?
“Have you tried Barkeeper’s Friend?”
“Which one? Rum or video poker? Neither seem to work.”
Of course, she was talking about the abrasive cleanser she used for years to make us clean the ring around the bathtub.
I ran out and bought some. Now’s the time I mention this is a free WordPress site and I don’t make a dime from Barkeeper’s Friend. (But, just in case you purveyors of fine household cleaning agents are reading, I’d be happy to talk!)
You can see by these professional, high-def pictures that I have a kind of camo-Formica thing going on. Perfect for a kids’ bathroom because it hides dirt, right? But it doesn’t hide texture! There’s dried glue all over the damn thing, and at first, I was using hot water, swearing, and elbow grease to wear down the topography. (No soap required!) But, I found that if I ran a wet cloth over the counter,

blog slimebefore
Not boogers, but an incredible simulation!

let it soften the glue,

blog slimeafter
Sparkling clean!

and then shook the magical angel sand over the whole area,

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Oh yeah.

everything sloughed right off like a sunburn.

That’s a keeper.

It hasn’t completely healed my relationship with slime, but it reduces my cleaning and weeping time by a lot. Removing the dried-on slime might almost give me the same satisfaction that making the slime gives my kids. Hmmm, I think I will share that with them. Something tells me it might put a damper on their process.

diabetes · education · Parenting · satire

Sugar Time!

I used to work as a secretary in a large office, and part of my job – since everyone in the office had a candy bowl – was to go to Costco and get hard candy in bulk. It was an assortment of anonymous, generic candy: peppermints, butterscotch, those disappointing gel-filled strawberries whose wrappers were actually the best part of the experience (they say you eat with your eyes first, anyway.)Blog sugartime

I think the actual bag weighed twenty pounds. It was the size of a bag of dog food. I used to heft it up into the cart. The brand on the bag was “Sugar Time,” which I thought was the perfect name.

If anyone had ever accosted me in the parking lot, I would’ve said, “It’s Sugar Time,” swung that bag at them, and knocked them out cold. Naturally, they’d be wearing a striped shirt and a mask…

Anyway, I think about that big bag of candy every year about this time, because on top of the normal school supplies, the clothes, and other stuff I buy my kids for school, I also have to buy:

10 icing tubes (if my son can’t swallow, the sugar still gets in his bloodstream through the gums)

3 bags of Starbursts (for plain old low blood sugar)

2 boxes of Chewy Granola Bars (in case it’s a long way till the next meal)

2 packs of juice boxes (yuck).

10 pocket folders of the same color, labeled

Snack-sized zip lock bags

blog mykitchen
What my kitchen looks like before school starts.

and then I have to go to the T1D Mod Squad site and print out almost all of these things for my student who has Type 1 Diabetes. (T1D Mod Squad has all kinds of resources including this very user-friendly breakdown of ADA regulations, 504 info, travel/TSA links – anything you can imagine.)

Then I put all of that stuff together in 10 packages and distribute them to all of my son’s teachers, the library, and school secretary. (This is not all we do to prepare for the year, there’s a bunch of other forms, medications, diabetes-specific supplies, etc.)

We’re lucky most of the staff remembers the drill from year to year. They’re great with my son, as they are with the many other students who have health issues. (Thanks, school! XO)

Still, I dread sugar time. It’s a reminder that my kid can’t just go out for recess and run around without someone looking out for him. It means his teachers won’t immediately know if he’s just being a goofball (he’s my son, after all) or if his blood sugar is low – or high – diabetes is weird like that.

I know I need to let go, relax, and hope for the best. It gets easier when you know what to expect. Every year, my son gives a short presentation to his class. He’s good at explaining Type 1 and patient with answering questions. I am actually relieved and proud that he’s bright and kindhearted enough to handle most of the diabetes-related social issues that come his way.

But, make no mistake: if anyone decides they’re going to cross my kid this year – It’s Sugar Time!

Psst! – If you want to support a great cause, T1D Mod Squad is a 501(c)3 non-profit that helps families living with T1D and advocates for health care and other important issues.

Food · Small Businesses

Totes Comfs!

It’s the hotness of summertime. I’m not complaining! I love thunderstorms, fireflies, and basking. I love it all! (Except you, mosquitoes. You can eff off.)
I love not cooking, and eating more fruit and salad. Just today, I was thinking of a place I used to eat decades ago, famous for their Chinese chicken salad – Comforts Café in San Anselmo, CA.
Now, I went to Comforts maybe ten times in the years we lived in Corte Madera. It was close to my office, and impossible to get seated, but they had takeout. Beautiful bakery, fancy imported bottled drinks, and adorable white cardboard boxes of Chinese chicken salad! However, I never had the famed chicken salad because all of my adult life, I’ve been vegetarian. (Womp, womp!)
I did, however, have a mighty hankering for their Chinese TOFU salad. I went to the mystical internet and found the chicken salad on Epicurious. I skipped the entire part about the chicken, made the dressing, pressed some tofu until it was dry and spongy, marinated the tofu in the dressing for an hour, and tossed it with the other ingredients.

BLOG comfort fud
Happy Salad!

Voila! Pretty damn close. (I also didn’t have any of those rice noodles that you have to fry, and wasn’t in the mood to fry anything, so I used chow mein noodles. Hey, this was a serious jones. I needed that salad, man!
It’s no surprise Comforts Café is still in business and has been for nearly thirty years. Someday, I’ll be back. Save me some salad!

Pets · satire

Help! My Cat Is a 60-Year Old Man!

We didn’t adopt our current cat as a kitten. A funny thing happens at our local humane society: kittens are $149 to adopt, but once they hit 1 year, they’re “Name Your Fee.” Yep – that says it all. People will pay a premium for an unpredictable fuzz-ball that will cause them a bunch of trouble to start with, but they won’t take a basically free cat.

Now, we’re kind of cheap, but more than that, I am a softie for an old cat! Old cats are the BEST cats! They are like slow, sleepy dumplings who just want a comfy home for their final days. I could go on and on about how awful it must be for senior citizen cats to find themselves in a homeless shelter wondering where their humans went while all the mewling little scrunch-faced kittens get the love, attention, and eventually families. It breaks my heart!

blog kittenwork
Kittens are a lot of work.

 

 

 

And when it was time to adopt this cat (our 20-year old cat had passed), I was completely ready to get an obese 14-year old with half an ear, but my husband talked me into a much younger model. We chose one that was one year and ten months. He was kitten enough for me.

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Wrap him up, we’ll take him!

 

 

Our previous cat had spent 23.75 hours a day in the same spot on the sofa. This one taught us our house had infinite places for a cat to climb, hide, and ignore you when you called. He climbed the Christmas tree! I know that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but our former cat didn’t even know we celebrated!

Worst of all, we brought him home while our children were in school, and we had to convince them we had adopted a cat because he was hiding in the basement ceiling. They thought we were playing a mean trick on them. (I don’t know where they would get such an idea…)

blog kittenyears
So crunchy! And the chips aren’t bad, either…

 

 

El Gato has been a kitten for the past 2.5 years, doing all the kitten things, and then yesterday – Freaky Friday style – he swapped bodies with an old guy. Early in the morning, he jumped up on our bed (not unusual), and instead of carefully tiptoeing up to find an unoccupied place, he marched up to my pillow, pitched his rump against the back of my head and started licking (his rump, thankfully – not my head).

I couldn’t get him to stop, only to move away a little bit so I could wrap my ears in the pillow and go back to sleep. When I woke up again, I was scrunched all the way down on the bed, and he was asleep in the middle of my pillow. He had man-spread! Even when I picked him up and tried to dump him off, he just looked at me. “Young lady, you are clearly mistaken. But, as long as you’re up, my bowl is empty.”

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6-pack
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keg

 

 

As I write this, he is considering whether he wants to play mousies with my son or finish reading the paper. (We had to get a subscription because of his sudden interest in the obits and the cost of crude oil.)

blog lawncat
$%@# kids  – get off my lawn!

 

I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Old cats are the best cats, and I love him. I’m taking him shopping later for a windbreaker, and then maybe if he’s in a good mood, I can get my pillow back.

If you’re in the market for a pet, please consider a rescue first! Yes, they can be curmudgeons, but they have a lot of love to give. ❤

Food · Parenting

Two-Step Tomato Abbondanza!

We have a neglected raised garden bed in the backyard. It had been part of a sandbox configuration, but for years, it’s been a weed patch and dumping ground.
This year, I really wanted to garden with it because it’s a nice, compact size, and it’s right in my line of sight when I look out over the yard, and I couldn’t deal with the shame! The shame!!

blog balcony
Formerly crummy! Now, a tomato fantasyland.

I’m in the frozen hinterland with only a very short growing season, so  I watched a dozen or so YouTube videos by MI Gardener.
Since watering was a problem for me (I’ve killed years’ worth of container gardens!), I went with the channel’s trench method of bedding. That’s where you dig a trench and fill it with spongy , water-holding decomposing matter like straw.

I didn’t have straw, so I used an old log that washed up in the lake. It was sodden and stinky – perfect for my purposes! Since it was springtime, I also took advantage of about half a dozen dead fish that washed up in our yard. Stink-o-rama, and a little disturbing, but I was tired of my kids staring at them. And, they were far less stinky six to eight inches under. But enough about that!

I bought a seed packet of beets. (Love beets, hate buying them.) I also wanted watermelon* because my kids love it and I thought it would inspire them to help with the weeding. 😉 So, we all went to the garden store and they chose: watermelon, tomatoes and peppers. (HOT peppers – they like a challenge.) We brought them home, planted them in neat rows, and for exactly three days, the kids fought over who would water them. Then, they moved on with their lives. But everything was okay! Because of the log…blog magic log
MI Gardener also had a video about how to increase your tomato output. I thought this might be a gimmick, since this guy clearly had a lot more going for his tomatoes than I did. To boil down an 8 minute video, you flick the tomato flowers with your fingers. I did this whenever I saw flowers, thinking it wouldn’t make much difference and BEHOLD! I have a TON of TOMATOES!blog tomatoes 1 So many, my beets were completely eclipsed.blog tomatoes 2  Alas.
Basically, using only these two tips from that MI Gardener has given me tomatoes beyond my wildest dreams.

blog tomatoes 3
Tomatoes all around!

I didn’t actually have any dreams of tomatoes to begin with. And now, I have a bajillion. Thanks, MI Gardender!

Next summer – BEETS!

*The watermelon vine died early on. We planted it too early. RIP. I scattered wildflower seeds over its plot.

education · Parenting

Take the Money and Run

In the never-ending quest to raise money for our school, the powers that be have decided they want a “colorful-powder bipedal locomotion event.” (If I get sued, it will be for overuse of thesaurus.)

You may remember, I went to a motivational lunch for such an event a few years back. I honestly did go with an open mind, and hey – free meals will make people do just about anything! But, when I left, I felt horrible knowing that some public school kids begged their grandparents and smashed their piggy banks to pay for that meal.

My fellow PTO members heard my conclusion and we had the same fundraiser we always had with our own brand of fun incentives that didn’t involve anything more ominous than a pie in a face or a ride to school in a police car.

But that was then.

Now, there’s a new group of PTO parents (who we appreciate!), spring is somewhere on the horizon, and the year’s coffers are almost empty. The professional, for-profit fundraising vultures are circling with their siren song of huge returns and “hardly any” work. This year, someone else attended the free lunch. And they really took the bait. So, it would seem, we’re going to shell out and “spend money to make money.”

Maybe it’s not too late. When I went to the fundraising lunch a few years ago, I was incensed when – in the very same breath that they were promising us we wouldn’t have to lift a finger – the FUN-raiser, Dynamite Dave, hinted that if we wanted our school’s event to be a real success, we could find ideas on Pinterest.

Related image

Well, with all this talk about white t-shirts and colored powder, I did a little research of my own. You know what I discovered? It’s kind of FUN to make your own colored powder. And it’s FREAKISHLY CHEAP!

We used cornstarch (97 cents at Target), food color (I’ve had it forever, so I’m going to guess it was about three bucks. It’s $3.69 on Target’s website, but hey – I can do better. And, no, I’m not an affiliate.), and water.

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Here’s my daughter and a friend mixin’ it up! (You make oobleck first – this project just keeps getting better!)

Here’s the color drying.

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We only made a little to start

Here it is after we ground it back into a fine powder!

This was such a satisfying (and did I mention cheap?) activity, I want to make more of this. A LOT more. If anyone from our school wanted me to do a color powder project with, say, 300 kids, I might not say no. That’s how gratifying it was. Come September or October, it would be completely dry and ready for an “event.” (Wink, wink!)

Getting coated in colored powder looks awesome. But for these professional “fun” raisers, I’m seeing more of a tar-and-feathers motif. Atlanta Public Schools has a thoughtful blog and Facebook page on this subject – please give it a read!

I would still love to hear a heartwarming story about one of these events, so if you have one, please share in the comments! Heck, I’d love to hear either way. Thanks! 😀