Thursday, September 30, 2010

Making Robert Frost Proud (Part 2)

2010 marks our 6th fall season in Charleston.  Since our first fall season, I’ve been wanting to drive up to NC to pick apples.  For whatever reason, we had never actually done it, and I was determined to make it happen since we won’t be here next fall.  
When we were getting ready for the trip, I told Will what we were doing, and he started crying (so much drama).  When I asked him what was wrong, he said he didn’t want to go to North Carolina because he would miss South Carolina so much.  No matter how hard I tried to explain to him that we were going to be gone for approximately 36 hours, he continued to cry about how much he was going to miss his bed.  And Mo-om, the apple farm won’t even have any toys!  Drama.
Despite Will’s protests, everything was going as planned--we grabbed dinner to eat on the road after our family pictures, and the boys fell asleep for the majority of the drive.  They went back to sleep pretty easily when we got to the hotel, and as I fell asleep, I had visions of our happy family picking apples, maybe skipping through a meadow holding hands with flowers tucked behind our ears?
The next morning, the boys were kind enough to sleep in until 8:00 (WOW!), and as we woke up slowly I realized...CRAP.  That thunder that woke me up at 6:30 was the precursor to a huge storm.  What now?  WTH were we supposed to do in Hendersonville, NC on a Sunday morning now that we couldn’t go apple-picking?  How was I supposed to convince Will that I wasn’t wasting his precious toy-playing time in SC?  
As we got up and around, thunder clapping outside the windows, Scott kept shooting me “What are we going to do with these boys?” and “We drove all the way up here...for what?” looks.  After grabbing some waffles and boiled eggs in the continental breakfast room, we loaded up the car and started driving.  I pulled out the complimentary Hendersonville-Flat Rock map from the hotel, and told Scott, “Don’t worry.  The boys will think it’s fun because we’re going to make it fun!  I don’t care if we stare out the windows of the car and talk about how pretty the trees are.  WE ARE GOING TO HAVE FUN.”  I might have been a little on edge.
After making a pass through downtown Hendersonville (a town completely asleep because everyone was at church), I started worrying that we really were going to have to talk about how pretty the trees were, but as we moved outside of Hendersonville to Flat Rock, I spotted the answer to my prayers--the Flat Rock Village Bakery, which had a sign reading: Open Sundays 8-5.  Hooray!

We ordered three items to split between the four of us (we’d already had our lovely continental breakfast): a savory tart (which Ben referred to as pizza), an almond croissant (which I’m not embarrassed to admit was eaten almost entirely by me), and an ooey gooey pecan sticky bun.  As we sat down to eat, Will said with over-the-top enthusiasm, “THIS IS THE BEST BAKERY EVER.”  (See, it’s all about making things seem fun even if it’s literally raining on your parade.)
In reading the map, I saw that Carl Sandburg’s historic home site was right up the road--maybe not the first activity a 5-year-old and 22-month-old would pick, but at least it would keep us out of the storm for awhile.  Things started looking up as we left the bakery, as the rain had changed from downpour to shower to a light sprinkle.
By the time we parked at the historic site parking lot, the rain was basically a mist, and we started our 1/2 mile adventure through the woods to the house.  As we ran up the trail, Will shouted back to me, “I’m winning!”  I started running faster to catch up with him, and he laughed that big belly laughter that we somehow lose in adulthood and added, “Mom, we are on a superhero journey, and these woods are very dangerous!”  He stopped suddenly, put both of his hands in the air and shouted, “THIS IS THE BEST ADVENTURE EVER.”
By the time we toured the house (with a very uptight park ranger) and the goat farm on the property, you would have thought we’d taken the boys to Disney World.  Ben was entertaining himself by imitating the crowing roosters, while soaked from jumping in puddles.  Despite a rough start (when the park ranger and Scott almost had a knock-down drag-out fight over the edge of Ben’s shoe stepping off the carpet), Will said his favorite part of the house tour was the first room because there was a stack of family games on the coffee table and he likes playing games.  (I really, really love that Will could articulate this AND appreciate a tour of a historic home at age five.  I was aware at that moment--and still am--how lucky I am to have him as mine.)

Leaving Carl Sandburg’s house, the sun was almost peeking out from the clouds and the rain had cleared out completely.  (Thank you, sweet baby Jesus.)  So, we headed back through downtown Hendersonville to the north side of town and pulled into Grandad’s Apples.  We made our first stop inside the apple barn/store to get our picking sacks--two pecks would be enough, right?  The lady behind the counter directed us to the winesaps and mutsus, and ten minutes later, we were back for more sacks.  Two pecks later, we had golden delicious and granny smiths to round out a 1/2 bushel of apples (roughly 45-50 apples total!).  The best part?  It all cost $13.

We spent some time hanging out in the pumpkin patch and running through the rows of trees on another superhero adventure.  The boys enjoyed some cold apple cider out of “apple sippers” (apple-shaped sippy cups), and I got an apple ornament to commemorate our trip forever.  What we didn’t know before we visited Grandad’s Apples is that some of Grandad’s grandchildren also own Pit Boss Barbecue located on site, so when we were all appled out, we headed to the bbq trailer for some pulled pork sandwiches.
While we munched, Will sat back in his chair and sighed.  With a million dollar smile he told me, “Mom, I don’t want to go back to South Carolina.  This is the most beautiful place ever, and I am so happy in my whole heart.”  (A far cry from the crying drama 28 hours earlier.)
So, everyone knows I’m a huge lit (literature not drugs) dork, so I would be remiss if I didn’t reflect a little on Robert Frost’s “After Apple-Picking.”  Probably Frost’s second most famous poem, “After Apple-Picking” has been analyzed to death by undergrads for the last half-century.  I’ve heard a range of interpretations about apple-picking representing sexuality to playing the stock market, but I tend to be a traditionalist.  I think it’s a poem about reflection, and although Frost was looking back at life as an old man, it applies to my life, as someone who has spent the last few months reflecting A LOT in an effort to make sense of things.  So, here’s the poem:
After Apple-Picking
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep. 
The beautiful thing about where I am in life right now is that I am not done apple-picking.  This isn’t a poem that wraps life up in a perfect bow, reflecting with peace and joy.  It doesn’t have a happy ending necessarily.  And that is where I find comfort.  I know that it’s okay to be unsure, to not be completely satisfied, to not rest assured that everything will be perfect.  It’s okay that some of the choices I make are going to end up in the cider-apple heap.  And I’m slowly but surely learning that it’s okay to leave some of the apples on the bough.
I get it, Robert, I do!  I am overtired of the great harvest I myself desired, too!  Life does not always live up to our expectations, and THAT.  IS.  OKAY.  Frost, I think, was tired after a long life, and I am tired after the short life I’ve lived thus far--tired of trying to always have my ducks in a row, tired of being everything to everybody.  Tired and ready to change the way things are done around here.
My twenties were a time to “get stuff done,” full of accomplishments and accolades and fast-paced achievement.  But thirty is ushering in a new era that includes being comfortable with being uncomfortable and being open to surprises.  The future is looking bright (even if there are a few rain clouds hovering about).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Making Robert Frost Proud (Part 1)

I shared in a previous post that my mantra for this year (having turned 30 a few days ago) is: stop complaining and throw your own damn party.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone complains about something all the time but does nothing to change it.  I’m not saying we can’t complain--we all need to vent--but we MUST DO SOMETHING, or we are just annoying.  (I call this concept the “bitch and switch.”)  Here are some examples that I hear frequently:
Bitch: I hate my hair!
Switch: Get a haircut.
Bitch: My boyfriend never spends time with me, and he’s NEVER going to propose.
Switch: Break up with him and get a life.
Bitch: My kids drive me crazy!
Switch: Get a part-time job.
Bitch: I never get to see my kids.  I feel like they’re growing up too fast.
Switch: Quit your job and stay home.
Obviously, these switches are generalized and the actual situations require more complex solutions, but you get the point.  Why sit around and stew in your misery when you are in control of your life?
I think we’ve all had moments when we assess our current situation (unhappy about lack of purpose, stuck in a job we don’t like, unsure about a relationship we’re in, etc.).  I found myself there in a bad way over the last year.  Even though my life was overflowing with fulfilling elements, I’d grown sad because something was simply missing.  
In so many ways, I have it all.  I’m married to one of the best human beings I know, a man who knows how to support without being overbearing and how to let go without neglecting.  I have healthy, smart, downright handsome children.  I am surrounded by fiercely loyal and dependable friends and family.  I live in a place and time when I have more opportunities than all the women who came before me.  I am so keenly aware of all these things and thank God daily.  Really, I do.
So what was it that was making me uneasy?  I came up with several possibilities.  My husband and I are definitely experiencing the “seven year itch” (I didn’t think this was real until I was here), trying to balance his job and grad school demands with the demands of the rest of our life.  I have been contemplating my next step--maybe going back to school, maybe to seminary, maybe just trying to write and actually publish--so many possibilities with a lack of direction.  My kids, as wonderful as they are, drain my energy so quickly, especially when I’m the only one here to parent.  On the bad days, I start ruminating on the fact that I have a Masters degree, completely wasted on piles of laundry and grocery shopping.  I have created ways to flex my brain muscle on these days by making up laundry poems: 
Pit stains, grass stains, ink stains, too,
Eek! Batman undies smeared with poo,
Stinky socks and underwear streaks,
I’ll be doing laundry for the next three weeks.
It’s not Rumi, but it’s the best I can do on four hours of sleep.  When I really want to challenge myself, I play memory games with the grocery list:
Magic erasers
Lysol wipes
Easy mac
I have a friend who is working on her second engineering degree but is currently a stay-at-home mom, and she calculates how much water is displaced when she steps into the bathtub to keep her mind busy.  I’m not the only one.
Like I said, I’m not one to bitch without finding a way to switch, though, so I started thinking of ways to start feeling better about my place as an individual in this family, in this community, and in this world.  Thinking back on times when I felt more fulfilled, I came up with a list of things I thought would help me get back on track emotionally and mentally.

WRITING keeps me grounded.  My journals from elementary and middle school are full of stories about the teachers I loved and hated, book reviews (mostly about how much I hated the books we had to read in school), and lots and lots of “I LOVE ________!” entries with a different name in the blank approximately once a week.  My high school and college journals are slightly depressing because I can tell I was self-editing in case my roommate/mom/boyfriend ever read it.  (How uptight do you have to be to not be honest with your journal?)  After college, I stopped keeping a journal.  Don’t know why.  Anyway, clearly, I have started writing again (which is why you have been staring at your computer screen for the last five minutes), and I am more than grateful for this outlet.  Not only do I feel better, but I also love all the responses I’m getting from a myriad of people--other SAHMs, working moms, single friends, elementary school friends, even guys!  Makes me feel like I’m not so alone.

HAVING A HOBBY is something I think of boy scouts and retired men doing, but I now officially have a hobby.  Being the only female in a house full of boys (even our dog, Bokonon, is a boy) certainly has its pros and cons.  I love that they have “guys time,” which provides me with ample opportunities to get much-needed “me time.”  There are times, though, when I feel I’m losing the battle with testosterone.  I’ve never been a girly girl, but I am definitely a woman and like to feel like one every now and then.  This is difficult when everyone in the house is wearing Ironman underwear, peeing in the backyard, and watching football.  At the peak of my 1/3 life crisis, I googled “ballet in Summerville” and found a studio close to our house.  The instructor was kind enough to allow me to join the advanced class (due to my prior experience as a dancer--ha!), and I finally have a way to connect to my femininity in a very real way.  I love the leotards and tights, the bun on the back of my head, even the clucky-clucky conversations of all the teenage girls.  Plus, after I took Will to the studio with me when I signed up and he told me “Ballet is too girlish,” I know that I have something that is and will remain just mine.  All mine.

TRAVELING is like cocaine to me.  One of the things that I consider a constant in my childhood through pre-marriage/pre-children life is that I always had the opportunity to travel.  Whether on vacations to the Caribbean or mission trips to Africa, I always had a trip on the horizon, and that was honestly my saving grace at times when life was all monotony and responsibility.  Between the Air Force and my children, my opportunities for travel started to dwindle more and more as time went by, and I finally came to the realization this year that if I really wanted to do something to get over this slump, I needed to make traveling a priority.  I’m not talking about two-week trips across the world.  I’m just talking about leaving the bubble.  In the last six months, I’ve gone to NYC and Atlanta on trips by myself, and I have a trip scheduled for November to Houston.  (I have to be realistic--my husband is gone all the time, and my kids are still relatively small, but it’s a start, right?)  In reality, the fact that we took Will to Africa when he was two proves that I haven’t lost sight of this aspect completely, but it’s so important to me that I want to make sure we keep our traveling shoes on, ready to run when we can.

SPONTANEITY is the spice of life.  (Will corrected me when I said this one time, telling me that it’s “variety” that is the spice of life...I think he learned this on one of his cartoons, but it’s still weird having a 3-year-old correct your aphorisms.)  Any parent will tell you that when children enter your life, spontaneity dies.  It’s a a quick death--like decapitation--one day you can leave the house at 9:50 to catch a 10 o’clock movie, and the next day, you can’t leave the house between the hours of 9 and 11 and then again between 1 and 3 because the baby has to take a nap (and Lord knows, it’s better for everyone involved for baby to get those naps).  Then there’s the stuff you have to have to leave the house--the diapers, the wipes, the snacks, the toys, the extra clothes for poop explosions, the medicine for the rash, the blanket, and the strollers (the one for short walks through the park and the one for long walks in case baby wants to sleep).  Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit--I am actually a very minimalist mom compared to a lot of moms I know (most places have a Walmart in case we forget any essential item), but it’s still a challenge.  It’s getting infinitely easier to be spontaneous as the kids get older, so I’m making a conscious effort to get away from our rigid schedule.
So, that brings me to this last weekend.  Scott put some leave on the books because he was going to lose the days if he didn’t.  At nearly the last minute Saturday morning, I booked a hotel and googled “u-pick apple farms in NC.”   We had to take family pictures Saturday evening, but I figured we could grab some Mickey D’s for the boys and head out after pictures, spend the night in a cheap hotel and explore our options in Hendersonville, NC all day Sunday.  It would be a quick trip, but it would satisfy 2 out of 4 of my new resolutions--travel and spontaneity.  (And obviously, now it’s satisfying the writing resolution, too, so triple score!)  This post is getting LOOOOOOOOOONG, so I’ll stop here.  To be continued in part 2...

(P. S. I'd love to know what kinds of things are keeping you sane!  Please share.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Comma Up High

So, the story goes that a mom enrolled her child in kindergarten and when she was asked to spell her child’s unusual first name, she said, “L-A-comma up high-K-Y-J-A.”  The comma up high was, of course, my favorite little punctuation mark, the apostrophe.
There is no other punctuation mark more misunderstood and misused than the apostrophe.  I will apologize now for the snarky nature of this post because some may view it as such.  Please know that I am not passing judgment on you if you misuse the apostrophe--it happens a lot.  But like Oprah says, when you know better, you do better.
After having our family pictures taken (possibly for Christmas cards this year???), I feel it is my duty as a grammar snob to encourage people to think about their apostrophe usage, especially during the upcoming holiday season.  Here’s a little apostrophe lesson:
(Plural) One cat is a cat.  Two cats are cats.  
(Possessive) Whose bowl is that?  It’s the cat’s bowl.  
See what I did there?  Cats=more than one cat.  Cat’s=belonging to the cat.  The first instance (without an apostrophe) is PLURAL.  The second instance (with the apostrophe) is POSSESSIVE.  Let me apply this concept to signing a Christmas card.
Merry Christmas!
The Johnsons
Johnsons=more than one Johnson.  Johnson’s=belonging to one of the Johnsons.  While we’re at it, Johnsons’=something belonging to all of the Johnsons.
So, if we were to sign our Christmas card “Love, the Johnson’s,” people would be left confused.  Which one of the Johnsons?  And what is that Johnson possessing?  Unfortunately, this phenomenon has exploded across Christmas cards in the last few years, as I have noticed more cards have an apostrophe than not.  (You’re not alone in your confusion!)  If all of this is too overwhelming, just know that you don’t ever ever ever ever ever need an apostrophe when signing a Christmas card from your family.
On a side note, if you have a last name that ends with an “-s,” you still don’t need an apostrophe.  This doesn’t affect most people, so I won’t go on and on, but if you are a Jones or a Velasques, you have to add an “-es” which is admittedly strange (Joneses seems like grammar Tourette’s sydrome) but correct.
My good deed for the day is done now that I’ve saved you all from making horrible mistakes on your Christmas cards.  (You can now commence scouring this post, looking for mistakes in order to make me look stupid for being such a snob.)
If you are as big a tight ass as I am, you might find this website humorous:  It’s actually really, really sad when you google “apostrophe” how many websites are devoted to pointing out other people’s apostrophe errors.  

Also, my favorite SIL got me this book for my birthday.  Totally worth checking out even if you don't have kids!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

“You can hide, but the song comes to find you.” -Rob Sheffield

A couple of years ago, while Will was singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” on the alphabet carpet for storytime at the base library, I browsed the shelves for new finds and nabbed a book because it had a great title and cover.  I sat down and started reading and was 30 pages in when storytime ended.  I finished it that night.  Rob Sheffield’s Love is a Mix Tape: Love and Loss, One Song at a Time is a love story, equal parts mourning the loss of his young wife and cataloguing the music that has made his life worth living.

For my birthday this year, my dear friend, N, who is a very thoughtful gift giver scoured book blogs to find a book that I’d possibly not read.  She came up with two possibilities and landed on Love is a Mix Tape.  I had, of course, read it, but when I opened it, I almost cried because I had forgotten about it.  (I liked it so much that I gave it to two friends who love both books and music for their wedding that year.)
A couple of days after my birthday, I picked Love Is a Mix Tape up and started re-reading, marking all the pages because this time it wasn’t a library copy.  Here are just two of the passages I find particularly stellar:
“Falling in love with Renee was not the kind of thing you walk away from in one piece.  I had no chance.  She put a hitch in my git-along.  She would wake up in the middle of the night and say things like “What if Bad Bad Leroy Brown was a girl?” or “Why don’t they have commercials for salt like they do for milk?”  Then she would fall back to sleep, while I would lie awake and give thanks for this alien creature beside whom I rested.”
“I have built my entire life around loving music, and I surround myself with it.  I’m always racing to catch up on my next favorite song.  But I never stop playing my mixes.  Every fan makes them.  the times you lived through, the people you shared those times with--nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape.  It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do.  Every mix tape tells a story.  Put them together, and they add up to the story of a life.”
There is also a pages-long segment of the book that discusses the kindness of people that blew my mind.  At 219 pages, this book is a quick read, but it’s brevity is made up by being jam-packed with moments that make you want to underline every word and put exclamation points at the end of every paragraph (which I did).  Enjoy, and then PLEASE let me know what you thought.  It will be like a book club except better.

Friday, September 24, 2010

3 Reasons Old People Are Awesome

Reason #1 No Filter
Our church’s demographic is similar to most small traditional churches.  By that, I mean there are a lot of old people.  We obviously have found several families in our age range, too, or we wouldn’t be going there still, but honestly the old people are one of my main reasons for staying.  I like the idea that I can learn from people who have lived more life than me, and I am so glad my kids can be around them since all our grandparents live far away.
One of the church’s best traditions is called Second Sunday lunch, which is when all the members bring covered dishes for a potluck.  This is my favorite day of the month because it means I get to eat old lady food--fried chicken, green bean casserole, homemade mac and cheese, and deviled eggs.  (Oh--and from-scratch brownies.)
Recently, Second Sunday lunch was cancelled.  Someone (a very stupid someone, obviously) thought it was too much of a hassle, so Second Sunday lunch was replaced with a $5 lunch, which included sandwiches, chips, and dessert.  After three months, everyone decided to bring back the traditional potluck for “Rally Day” (the annual Sunday school kick-off) in September.  I had the pleasure of sitting with some ladies who were very opinionated about the Second Sunday lunch debacle.
Here’s a general synopsis of the conversation that occurred:
Me (trying to make conversation): I’m so glad we had a potluck today.  This food is wonderful!
Old Lady #1: If you ask me, it was a stupid idea to ever change it in the first place.
Old Lady #2: If I wanted a $5 sandwich, I’d make it at home and save myself $3.50!
Old Lady #1: I think we all know who made the decision to change it, and she doesn’t even eat, so I don’t think she should have a say anyway!
I can not wait until I’m old enough to say whatever I want without caring who hears it.

Reason #2: Snail Mail
One of the highlights of my life is receiving something in the mail from Aunt Lucille.  Aunt Lucille is Scott’s eighty-something-year-old great-aunt (his grandfather’s youngest sister).  I have never met her, and if Scott has, he doesn’t remember.  He certainly couldn’t pick her out in a line-up (and he may not even be able to tell you how she’s related to him).  Here’s what’s great: she never misses an occasion to send a card.  Every birthday and anniversary, we get cards from Aunt Lucille.  She even knows our kids’ birthdays!
And like all old people, she sends letters inside the cards.  Each Christmas, we gather around her Christmas letter (hand-written, not a mass letter to all) and read it aloud.  Sometimes we do this multiple times throughout the Christmas season.  In the past, she has included pieces of fabric (to show us what she’s using to make baby blankets), and she almost always sends those little business cards that walk us through how to be saved.  (Praise Jesus!)
This year, when I saw her shaky handwriting on the outside of my birthday card envelope, I ripped it open to find the sweetest note:
Dear Leia, 
I hope you have a nice birthday.  I took the liberty of sending you a subscription for 1 year of “Birds in Bloom.”  I thought your boys might enjoy the pictures if nothing else.  Do you have any squirrels?  They make a pest of themselves here.  Mail time!
Happy birthday, and may God bless!
Love and Blessings,
Aunt Lucille
Her note was obviously cut short because she saw the mail person coming to the door, but it was still a great representation of the wonderful person she is.  I’ll post her Christmas letter--it’s sure to be rather lengthy.

Reason #3 Email
A few months ago, my parents decided to get rid of their desktop, so they gave it to my grandma who has never owned a computer.  My dad took it to her house, set it up, and explained basic emailing procedures.  Since then, my grandma has been emailing me once a week or so, filling me in on her fishing adventures in Heber Springs, AR.
This week, I got a forward from her.  The subject line read: Fw: Penguins - NOT for the boys to see.  When I opened the email, the body read: Hey--this is kind of “off color” but it’s about penguins. (I have always liked and collected penguins.)
Here’s what followed:
Did you ever wonder why there are no dead penguins on the ice in Antarctica - where do they go?  Wonder no more!!!  It is a known fact that the penguin is a very ritualistic bird which lives an extremely ordered and complex life.  The penguin is very committed to its family and will mate for life, as well as maintaining a form of compassionate contact with its offspring throughout its life. 
If a penguin is found dead on the ice surface, other members of the family and social circle have been known to dig holes in the ice, using their vestigial wings and beaks, until the hole is deep enough for the dead bird to be rolled into and buried. The male penguins then gather in a circle around the fresh grave and sing:
"Freeze a jolly good fellow!  Freeze a jolly good fellow!"
Then, they kick him in the ice hole.
Thank you, Grandma.  No, really.  Thank you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Middle of the Night Muse

When I was younger, I woke up from dreams (and sometimes nightmares) often.  I would pull out a piece of paper, a napkin, anything I could write on and jot down notes to use in my writing later.  I don't know when or why I quit doing this.  About a year ago, I was startled awake from a dream about my kiddos in Africa, and the notes turned into this the next day:

                           FISHERMAN’S SUN-TANNED SKIN.  I AM
                            THE ACHE IN THE SEAMSTRESS’ FINGERS, 
                             THE PAIN IN THE CARPENTER’S JOINTS.  
                            I AM LAST YEAR’S TEARS, THIS MORNING’S 
                            SONG, AND TOMORROW’S MYSTERY.  I AM 
                                ARMS STRETCHED OUT, HEART OPEN,
                               EMBRACING CHANGE TO COME. I AM 
                                THE BREATH OF LIFE IN THE FACE 
                                  OF DEATH, DAYLIGHT ON THE 
                                 OCEAN’S HORIZON.  I AM QUIET 
                                   PASSION.  I AM BOLD BEAUTY.  
         LIVED OUT LOUD.
            I AM AFRICA.
       I AM.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yummy Scrummy

Almost everyone at my fantabulous granny panty party complimented the chef on his creations.  After getting multiple requests for the recipes, I decided I should share his secrets.  The first two recipes were stolen and tweaked from Bobby Flay’s Boy Gets Grill, and the third was stolen from Kathleen Johnson, my favorite mother-in-law.  I apologize for not having any pictures.  I didn’t know I was going to post this, and I don’t want to wait until the next time we make these things.
First, our main course is one of the reasons I’m having such a hard time making the jump to being a vegetarian.  I LOVE BACON.  On my worst days, bacon makes everything better.  I could eat it at every meal, and on all those lonely nights when Scott is flying around the world, I’m tempted to create a life-size bacon man to lie in bed beside me.  I’m serious. I like it that much.
Bacon and Corn Quesadillas
16 thick slices bacon 3 ears corn, husked
canola oil salt and pepper
12 6-inch flour tortillas 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese 2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tsp ancho chile powder cilantro leaves
Grill the bacon on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side.  Cool bacon, then crumble or coarsely chop.  Brush corn with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill until lightly charred about 8 minutes then cut off cob.  Combine corn, cheeses, onions, and cilantro.  Make 4 quesadillas (double-decker style with three tortillas and two layers of mixture in each quesadilla).  Brush the tops of the quesadillas with oil and sprinkle with ancho chile powder.  Carefully place them oiled side down on the grill and grill for 2 minutes.  Flip and grill for 1-2 more minutes until cheese is melted and tortillas are crisp.  Cut into quarters and serve.

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I have to keep it real here and admit that I’m a potato racist.  I don’t have time for yellow or white potatoes.  If I’m eating it, it’s red potatoes only.  Other than that, the truth about this next recipe is that there’s nothing special about the potatoes.  It’s all about the dressing (which is good enough to drink as a cocktail).
Grilled Potatoes with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette
16 small new red potatoes 1/4 c. red wine vinegar mixed with 2 tsp honey
2 tsp. Dijon mustard 1/2 c. olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese salt and pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Boil potatoes until just cooked through but not soft, 10-20 minutes depending on size. Test by piercing; when skewer meets resistance but can slide all the way through, drain potatoes.  Whisk vinegar, honey, mustard, olive oil, blue cheese, and scallions together and refrigerate until ready to use.  Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, brush both sides with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill about 5 minutes until browned on both sides.  Serve potatoes with dressing drizzled over top.

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I don’t like traditional cole slaw at all, but this cabbage salad is pretty fantastic.  A little sweet.  A little crunchy.  When I was pregnant with Ben, I ate an entire batch (enough to feed four people) and didn’t feel bad about it.  In fact, I’d do it again if given the chance.
Crunchy Cabbage Salad
5 c. shredded cabbage (or one bag) 2 T. sugar
4 green onions 3 T. white vinegar
2 T. sesame seeds 1/3-1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. slivered almonds 1/2 tsp. pepper
1 pkg. chicken flavored ramen
Combine sesame seeds, slivered almonds, and crushed ramen noodles.  Toast on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about five minutes.  Combine ramen flavor packet, sugar, white vinegar, oil and pepper to make dressing.  Chill until ready to use.  Combine salad ingredients, dressing and dry ingredients.  Serve immediately.