29 August 2010

we are not starving...

Friday: We had a good ol' fashioned dinner party. Three of our couple friends join us for
Fresh Mozzarella/Basil/Tomato appetizers
Cream of Corn, Leek and Red Pepper Soup (with homemade Creme Fraiche, my fave!)
AngelHair with Shrimp and Cream Sauce
Walker's House Salad (well, the dressing was off..)
French Bread
Amaretto Freezes (that didn't freeze, but that's why we should approach all things with charity, right? especially my too-late-in-the-freezer-to-freeze-properly desserts)

We had a grand old time visiting, toasting, and feasting on God's glorious bounty he has given us.

Saturday: My baby brother brought his even baby-er girlfriend to meet me. She's a doll - and held her own with me, brother, husband and daddy, which is a feat - let me tell you! We had tomato tart, Pasta a la Vodka, another Walker's House Salad, still off on the dressing. My dad's girlfriend brought dessert, which were caramelized 'naners over ice cream with hot fudge sauce. Which I am for!

Sunday (today): We're having Sabbath Brisket - well, it's my mother's brisket recipe, but i discovered a couple of years ago that one can use the same recipe with any type of roast - so, really, it's an english roast, but we're still calling it Sabbath Brisket. And potatoes. And dessert, salad, bread.

Monday: Bean Burritos. Wonder if we'll ever get sick of them? I try to stretch us to 14 days apart, but sometimes it's hard, especially since the other four forsters seem to love them as much or more than I do.

Tuesday: I'm celebrating a dear lady's birthday at a friend's house, so the crew will be eating leftovers.

Wednesday: Two nights in a row off!

Thursday: Stew with leftover Sabbath Brisket and hot cheese sandwiches.

Who thinks that I'm ready for fall? My menu says yes!

More to write, more to say, life is busy in such a good way.

20 August 2010

So we don't starve

Friday evening: Very late dinner with good friends coming in from out of town. Trying a new manicotti

(although I have just learned I shouldn't be calling it manicotti, even though everyone else does - i should be calling it cannelloni. Manicotti is actually made with crepes. I am not making this with crepes. I promise.)

recipe given to me by my friend Amanda. Hers may have been tinkered with (I haven't compared notes), but she is working from this - A manicotti recipe that is fairly traditional, but doesn't use those blasted manicotti noodles that make me want to burn down my kitchen.

Saturday evening: We have a friend's little boy's birthday party late in the afternoon, so I imagine there will be food there. We also have a (different) friend coming in from out of town (two groomsmen visiting in one weekend - what are the chances?!), and if we're still hungry later, we'll snack on leftovers with him. His favorite food is Tabasco, so anything I give him, he'll just add a disturbing amount of the stuff to it. So as long as I have at least 2 ounces of Tabasco in the house, I can feed him anything.

Sunday lunch - Spicy spinach and cheese lasagna - one I've adapted from a recipe of my dear friend Mel. One of my favorite recipes. If i get a chance, I'll take pictures.

Sunday supper - Redfish with taters and asparagus. And favorite friends. (Yes, maybe we're actually pulling a Hannibal Lector...)

Monday - I'm taking supper (and five extra eaters) to my mom's house - Roasted chickens and cheddar risotto. Both are Nigella Lawson originals. She has stolen my heart with her grammatically correct, perfectly efficient, always beautiful sentences about food. Her very British cuisine and my very southern tastes don't always go well together, but when they do - Yes sir ree bob, it's great.

Tuesday - Chicken Pot Pie using leftover Roasted Chicken. Mastering the artful and economic use of leftovers is one of my lifetime food goals. I can say I am not yet there, but I'm a lot further than I was a year ago.

Wednesday - Subway night at church. I think. Well, I know it's church and I'm not cooking.

Thursday - The family is eating leftovers, and I have some good girlfriends coming here for a visit. Each of the four of us is bringing a finger food to share. I'm doing capresi salad - and maybe some shrimp dip as well.

And Friday we'll start all over again!

Posting what we're eating is really holding me accountable. I didn't do it this past week, and we got off schedule.
There is always room to move this stuff around. If something happens on Tuesday, we'll have leftovers then and Chicken Pot Pie on Thursday - etc.

And no soup this week. Paul will be so sad. (not really.... he is not the soup cheerleader around here....)

Oh! I almost forgot!
A few friends of mine laughed hysterically at me and my food ignorance the other night. I was saying how I love to roast chickens, and love chicken salads (both 'chickensalad' and green salads with chicken in them), chicken enchiladas, dips, pot pies, sandwiches, soup, etc. made with left over roasted chicken rather than boiling chicken and dicing it up (or whatever way one might do it.)

I said, "i love it - it just takes FOREVER to pull apart chicken - I don't like it chopped in the food processor - it gets too mushy - but hand pulling it apart takes me a lifetime."

(I'm prone to hyperbole. I try, in my old age, to only use ridiculous exaggerations - like "a lifetime" - so that everyone knows I'm exaggerating.)

So, anyway, my friends, to whom I'm lamenting about pulling chicken woes say, "Just throw it in your kitchen aid."

I, also prone to know-it-all-ness, say "No - i don't like it in there - it's too mushy."

Friends, patient with my know-it-all-ness, say, "Not your food processor, dear, your kitchen aid."

Who knew???? Everyone but me?!?!? One can throw chicken in a stand mixer, turn it on, and it pulls it apart for you - in nice big shreds, rather than in small, gross, texture-of-canned-chicken-mush? Seriously - who knew?

No one told me!

Now I know. And I'll be trying it monday night! I'll report back!

Learn something new everyday.

19 August 2010

On Grammar

First of all, and I hate that I have to say this, but grammar is important.

It gives order. It is a system of rules.

Early in our marriage, Paul and I had a fight about a particular etiquette rule. He said it was stupid. I said it didn't matter whether the one particular rule was stupid (it wasn't...), but that it falls into a system of rules that provide order.

Very recently, Paul and I had an interaction with some rude people - or rather some people that to us seemed rude, but they themselves may have very well been shocked to hear our conclusions. Paul said that he didn't understand why they didn't just follow the RULES. And of course he is, and I was, right. Just follow the rules of etiquette, and your life will be easier. Everything will be clear. If you are supposed to do something in a social situation, and don't do it, people wonder whether it was a slip or a purposeful slight. If you just follow the rules, you don't have this issue.

Well, just follow the rules of grammar, and your writing will be clear - people will know what you're talking about.

Now, I am defending grammar whilst writing in the language most riddled with exceptions and errors in the history of language. There is no doubt that the people in Ur were clearer than we English speakers are - not to mention we bastard American English speakers. But, I was born into America, and here I shall plant my flag.

This question has arisen in my life today. What shall we do with a name, singular, ending in s.

Let's take, for example, Collins. Or we could use Ada Brooks. Yes, I have saddled my family with, not one, but two names that end in s, and so are subject to this confusion that, apparently, is confusing to EVERYONE.

I was taught, by my English teachers and my grammarian parents, that all nouns, proper or not, follow these rules:
  • To make a singular noun, no matter its ending, possessive, one adds apostrophe s. The car. The car's backseats. Collins. Collins's seat. If you say "Collins' seat," people might think that there is more than one Collin sharing a seat.
  • To make a plural noun, if it already ends in s, possessive, one adds a simple apostrophe. The families. The families' suppers. The Forsters. The Forsters' home.
  • To make a plural noun, if it does not end in s, possessive, one adds an apostrophe s. The children. The children's grammar lesson.

Now, from what I can tell, people don't disagree about the above rules. They just disagree about whether proper nouns follow the same rules.
No one (or at least I hope no one) suggests that if you say, "the class's field trip," you should actually say, "the class' field trip."

Take the word glass:

Class - singular, non possessive.
Classes - plural, non possessive.
Class's - singular, possessive.
Classes' - plural, possessive.

Why should Collins not follow the same rules? I hope it's not because we want to save time writing or typing an s.....

But, what people say is that because it is a Proper noun rather than a regular old noun - because Collins is 'Collins' and not 'glass' - he gets a pass - Collins gets to only add an apostrophe.

I disagree. I happen to have MLA and The Economist on my side. If you've ever read The Economist, and you care about language, you should know that you want them in your camp.

I think proper nouns should follow the same rules as regular ol' nouns. People struggle with grammar. I struggle with grammar and I care, for heavens sake. Which means we don't need any more categories than we already have.

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends the traditional (my way), but allows for the alternative (those who would say "Collins' seat").

Now... one argument that I might be willing to entertain is this one:

When one says, "Go get in Brooks's car," one almost always pronounces the second s. And if one doesn't, he or she sounds like a redneck and my father, whose name is Brooks, is liable to stop and correct that person - in front of all sorts of people.

But... when one says some things - like "Go get in Collins's car," one does not pronounce the second s. I might be willing to go with the argument that things should be written as they are spoken. So, if I had my pronunciation druthers, when making possessive my first child's name, I'd add the apostrophe s, but when making possessive my baby child's name, I wouldn't.

But, I'm loathe to make it a "whatever you feel like saying" grammar rule. Because, well, we have enough of that in America. And, the written should always be 'official' while the spoken is dialectical. You say tomato, I say tomato, but we both spell it the same way. Because written language needs to translate.

(Now, I would never take away poetic license - I'm talking about in pure non-artistic, if you will, writing. Newspapers, lists, essays, etc. Fiction and poetry can do as they please - you know - if you are a reputable author or poet.)

Some will say that this whole discussion doesn't matter. In the list of things in the world that matter, it really isn't high up there. Those people are right.

But consider the most recent prevailing bastardization (try not to get nauseated):

People are now using apostrophes to mean pluralization when dealing with names. So, let's pretend your last name is Jones. People are now writing, for example, "The Jones' have neighborhood watch this week." That is nonsensical. The Jones' (if you are going to even allow for just a simple apostrophe at the end of singular proper nouns ending in s) means nothing. It certainly doesn't mean more than one Jones. Joneses is the only way to write that. And it doesn't mean more than one Jones are in possession of something - to do that means that you have to write the Joneses'.

It's not so dangerous when you are saying, "Collins' seat," or "Collins's seat." But it gets really dangerous, if because of that confusion, you have people who don't know the rules. And because they don't know the rules - because they think they can willy-nilly decide on grammar rules based on what makes them happy - then you have people who actually think they can add an apostrophe to pluralize.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, should put terror in the hearts of grammarians, english teachers, writers, and parents everywhere.

Next time in On Grammar, well discuss the serial, or Oxford, comma and its uses. Something which I left for a time and to which I have recently been converted back.

Aren't you pumped?

Emotional Children

[It was a dear friend's pink birthday party. She's three. And one of Eas's best friends. He couldn't not participate... and I think he looks rather dashing in pink. Although, the headband might be a bit much.]

While I'm on a parenting jag (Can we all tell that the two main things I invest my time in these days are children and food?), I thought I'd mention the following.

My daughter (the one on the right...;P ) is emotional. What does that mean? Well, we probably shouldn't use that term, because really we're all emotional. I have emotions and so does Paul - even Collins has emotions, although sometimes I wonder.

Obviously, we all do (well, maybe not Dexter, my favorite psychopath, but you get it...). God gave them to us. On purpose.

Because really, emotions aren't the problem - much like our appetites for food, drink and sex, etc. There is nothing wrong with the fact that we want things - it's the way we control that desire that matters.

Ada Brooks has emotions in spades. She's got good ones and bad ones - but they're all strong ones, and she doesn't always know how to control them.

Anyway, that's our biggest struggle with Ada Brooks - enabling her to control her emotions so that she doesn't feel out of control, and consequently act out of control.

She used to break down, regularly, over the color of her socks.

She still sometimes cries when she cannot do a math problem as fast she herself thinks she should. And heaven help us if her letters don't look like she imagined them in her head (because her hands aren't able yet to produce letters that look like they're 'supposed to.')

She's intense. And we don't want to quash that. But if we let it run wild, well, I don't want to see what that looks like. Actually, I've seen it. It ain't pretty.

And that's a hard, hard balance to strike.

And one of my favorite blogs today had a post about this, which I thought was just beautiful.

So I thought I'd share. Here ya go - for parents of girls or boys (although this article is talking about girls, who are more prone to this stuff, I've known plenty of emotionally out of control young boys... and grown men - and they need the help controlling even more sometimes, because no one tolerates an 'emotional' man, while 'emotional' women are tolerated...too much).

Padding for their heads.

Let me first say that one of my favorite and most treasured parenting mentors is also the mother of a best friend of mine. I was expressing some thoughts on the following, and my dear friend quoted her mother (as she is prone to do, and wisely so), and gave me the synthesizing words that prompts the following parenting opinion.

Does that ever happen to you? That you have a bunch of thoughts and someone else is able to distill them into a nice, sweet little sentence?

It happens to me often - I get to be on both sides (the befuddled person who is unable to get clarity - and the person who stumbles into a situation and has all of the clarity) - and it's so nice. I love team work.

Team EFFORT! (as I say with a cheerleader-esque raised voice around here often).


I was talking to my friend about this the other day.

Children - both mine and others - seem to constantly want to destroy homes. Mine want to destroy my home, mine want to destroy others' homes, and other people's children want to destroy my home.

(I've had two bunches of kids here recently for play dates, and generally all of them know not to stand on coffee tables, which makes me want to have them back. But I've had others at different times...)

And I'm not talking about messes - Messes are clean-up-able.

Although, unnecessary messes are frustrating.

Also, children - all of them, it seems - want to destroy themselves by utilizing houses and their contents.

Collins wants to play in the bleach cabinet, Ada Brooks wants to draw with markers at the kitchen table, inevitably not keeping the markers on the page, and Eason, well, Eason wants to, quite literally, hang from the chandeliers (which is good for neither him nor the chandeliers).

Eason went through a stage, before I knew how to best help him control his house/eason destroying impulses, when we couldn't go to other people's houses without me needing a drink. I either had to follow him around OR had to be prepared to hear something crashing down. It's a miserable feeling. Learn from my mistakes!

I am diligent about this. Or I try to be. We aren't allowed to climb on the furniture - it's just a rule. (Yes, I get tired, and don't always perfectly enforce this, but I'm trying.)

We have a trampoline, trees, a deck, and bunk beds (the climbing on of which I do not police). We also frequent the pool, zoo, and parks. We also have bikes. If you'd like to act like a houligan, GET OUT OF MY HOUSE (if it's raining - go to your room and close the door).

You may be thinking, "yeah yeah - but I don't care about my house. I've child proofed it. They cannot hurt it, and it cannot hurt them."

Okay, then think about it from a stand point of etiquette. You want your child to be a good guest. To get invited places, right? To not be a burden on others?

Your child is going to visit other homes. And churches. And museums. And libraries.
And you want that. You want to be able to take him to museums and not worry about him sliding down the stair railing (like my monkey of a child attempted to do about a year ago)

It may even be my home. And if he swings from my chandelier, I'm going to tell him to get down. I just am.

I also do not need to have him here if he's not aware of some level of danger in life. And it's not just me. Grandparents, aunts, babysitters - they are not going to know what your child does and does not know. They may err on the side of caution, but they may not. And even if they err on the side of caution, it's going to get on their nerves.

We don't drink the bleach, run around sharp corners, climb to high levels, etc.

I love children - I'll paint with them, make chocolate chip cookies with them, spend more time than is necessary. My heavens - I home school my children, teach wednesday night children's class at church, and am about to teach two days a week at a school for kids ages 3 - 11.

I genuinely like the little buggers.

But that does not mean that mine, or anyone else's are allowed to break my grandmother's vases (the ones I haven't broken, that is).

No child is that cute.

And I am not in the minority here. Most people do not want their grandmothers' vases broken by hoodlums who have not been taught the difference between a house and the jungle gym.

And yes, you can put away the vases (mine are not out on the coffee table). But, like I said, my children are going to go to houses (houses who have no small children at home) where the vases are not put away. If they have no concept of things, and of their own potential effect on those things, they will not understand that some things are off limits. And that we don't run in the formal living room.

Not everything is a toy. Bags of flour in the pantry are not to be played in. Coffee tables are not good jumping-off spots. Chandeliers are not items from which one should hang.

It's just true.

So, what did my dear friend quote her mother as saying?

"We don't need to child-proof our houses. We should house-proof our children."

Thank you, wise women. That's what I was trying to do (without knowing what to call it). This is a very, very oft-fought battle around here - mostly because of my dear, sweet, funny middle child. See...?

But I'm trying.

And no - I'm not calmly explaining to Collins that the household cleaners will kill him. I lock that stuff up. Balance. Moderation. Wisdom. That's the goal.

Eventually, you have to take the bed rails off. The corner padding off of those sharp coffee table corners. Nine month olds who have a propensity for putting objects into holes should have outlet protectors. Three year olds should know outlets aren't safe and they aren't toys. But that shift does not happen magically....

Eventually, you have to say "Hey - if you don't run in the den, you won't go headlong in to the corner of the coffee table." Or maybe you should buy padding for their heads, so that when they're around other people's coffee tables, they'll be safe.

We must teach our children to be careful - or we'll be caring for them (and crying over irreplaceable vases) for the rest of their lives.

And you'll be tireder than I am - I promise.

Which is pretty amazingly tired.

12 August 2010

hoot hoot

I was just on frontage road in Jackson.

With all three of the progeny in the backseat.

And we passed our local hooters (which is on the corner of frontage road and one of the main roads leading into and out of our part of town).

And here is the short play that developed:

Ada: Hooters. Huh. What's that?
Me: A restaurant.
Ada: We've never been. Can we go today? We still haven't had lunch.
Me: Not eating out, and we don't eat there anyway.
Ada: Why not?
Me: Well, because they have a bunch women in there with their bosoms hanging out.
Ada: Sounds tacky.
Me: Yes, and frankly, wrong.
Ada: Sounds immodest.
Eason: Sounds funny.
Me: It is immodest, and additionally, it treats women as objects. But it is not funny.
Eason: Yes, it is too funny, Mama. Bosoms don't hang. Everybody knows that. At least not the good ones. Yours don't, so that's good.

And I regret so, so much.

10 August 2010

Rules made to be broken.

I read blogs on my lunch break. I had lunch break in quotes...like this.... "lunch break"... which would indicate that it is not really a lunch break. But it is, dammit. Because I have a real job.

And I eat lunch. And during that time, I take a break. For approximately an hour.

Collins naps, Eason half naps/half rests, and Ada Brooks has 'free reading' (a concept I'll make a goal to write an entire blog about, but am not making promises, since that list of things I need to read about grows and grows).

No one is allowed to bother me for an hour. I get silence, and I read blogs, and sometimes I watch a ridiculously shallow show on hulu. (Burn Notice? Covert Affairs? Do I secretly wish I was a spy? maybe...).

And I eat - most of the time leftovers from the yummy meal from the night before.
And I blog, although I allow myself to blog at other times too, because as much fun as it is for me, it's also one of my duties (the lines are blurry in stay-at-home-mom land), because this is the baby book, remember?

Does everyone know what "SAHM" means when you see it? It means Stay At Home Mom. I've never heard it pronounced, but I've just tried and I think it sounds like an arabic-ish pronounced Sam. Like Saham or something. (Is 'arabic-ish' not appropriate? I trust you know what I mean and know that I'm just trying to illustrate...)

Anyway... Today I was reading the Pioneer Woman Blog, which is usually very funny and bright and she's a homeschooling mom of four who treasures wit, loves food, and has great grammar. So, clearly I identify with her. She's not for everybody, but I enjoy the escape and humor she provides for me.

So... today.... here....

She writes about homeschoolers. Famous ones.

And you know who that is at the top of the page?
That's Agatha Christie.

She's my heart. It goes:
Ada Bee, Eason, Collins
A few dear friends and family.
Agatha Christie, John Irving, Charles Frazier.

Okay, so that may be an exaggeration (and granted I'm cheating because I put a few friends and family and who the heck knows what that means), but my point is, as authors go, she's one of my favorites.

I am against defending homeschooling. I've quit that. If you have issues, come talk to Ada Brooks - if, after spending three hours with her, you are concerned that she's either uneducated (including, but not limited to, academically, socially, or in the realm of humor) for her age, lodge the complaints with me, with details.

But, I've got a few dear people in my life who are kind of horrified that we're homeschooling Ada Brooks. And then this Pioneer Woman blog popped up. And I couldn't help but link to it. So...I'm breaking my own rule. Even my rules were made to be broken.

So... you people who fear that what I'm over here secretly teaching Ada to sew her own denim jumpers, know that if she turns out to be the next Agatha Christie, you can double kiss my tail.

But, clearly (or at least hopefully clearly), we aren't homeschooling to create our own version of Einstein or Edison or even Christie -

But what this list shows is that homeschooling does not prevent a homeschoolee from making a positive, normal impact on the world. (excepting from this list Andrew Jackson, Hanson, George Patton and Brigham Young)

No denim jumpers.


I promise.

06 August 2010


[Before you star reading, admire ada brooks's outfit for the day...]

I have said before that my children are strong willed.

I don't know yet which one is the most that way, but they are all in the running. I didn't think until recently that Collins was in the running. But he's not refusing to admit that the Cat is not a Dog, and it's worrying me...

My mother had three strong willed children. It's just what we do.

A strong will, like many personality traits, can be a vice or a great blessing. It is all in what we do with it. My own strong will got me into many a scrape, but it has also blessed me tremendously - the most notable of these blessings is probably my very strong willed daughter, who I may not have successfully birthed and raised without my very, very strong will.

A well meaning person recently said that she didn't think my kids were strong willed at all.

Perhaps it is because it is a misunderstood term.

It doesn't mean hyper (the most difficult to understand misconception of the term I've yet encountered).

It doesn't mean disobedient (children are disobedient for many, many reasons - all of which basically boil down the fact that they are little sinners like the rest of us - a strong will may be tied up in disobedience, but it ain't the same thing).

[The occasional use of the word ain't is just an amazing literary device for a southerner to use. Much like e.e.cummings felt about punctuation, I feel that I can use whatever words best make my point, even if they aren't correct. You know who was strong willed? e.e.cummings...]

Strong willed doesn't mean emotional. (It's not contrary to emotional, but completely separate from it. You can have a strong willed child who is emotionally driven and one who is not. For example of A, see Ada Brooks. For example of B, see me.)

Strong willed means exactly what it says. That person's will is, in fact, strong. If they want, believe or think something, it is hard to persuade them otherwise. Collins rarely wants something, but when he does, dammit, there is no telling him otherwise. Staples the cat is a dog. I dare you to tell him otherwise. Double Cat Dare you. Good luck.

If you can direct a strong will to only want good things, boy howdy - you've got yourself a weapon. If you let it run wild, well, then bless your little heart and the hearts of those around you.

Eason is a fun loving little person, generally joyful, but breaking his will is like cutting open an acorn squash. Again, good luck.

And Ada Brooks, well, she takes the cake. Going up against her is like, well, the Spartans going up against Persia. You may be smarter, stronger, have better weapons, but in the end, she will win. It is guaranteed.

Now - please, please understand that this does not mean that she gets her way. It means that you cannot change her will. She thinks she should not have to read biographies of people she doesn't find interesting. I can make her read them, but I cannot make her think she should. She doesn't like hot dogs. I can make her eat them (although that seems a bit ridiculous), but I cannot make her like them.

Parents often employ trying to change their children's wills. Some do this too little and some too much, but it is an oft-used tactic.

I use it when my children are doing something that is not my taste, but isn't against the rules.

So, if Eason is pouring his milk out onto the table, I don't try to change his will. "Eason - you don't want to do that do you? Pouring milk out on the table doesn't make any sense...."

He does want to do it - that's the point. We've all heard poor mothers who try this tactic. The fact is that it doesn't matter what he wants - he's not allowed to do that. Sorry.

[When Ada Brooks was Eason's age, I worked more than full time doing legal research and witness interviews for my lawyer Dad. She of course in various situations would say, "But Mama I want...." And i taught her that what she wants, while it does matter and is often interesting, it is rarely dispositive. Look it up. It's a great legal term that should be applied to parenting more often.]

But when Ada wants to be a cat for halloween, I'm not going to tell her "nope - not allowed" - I try to have good reasons for disallowing certain things, and my own prejudice that cats are tacky is not quite a good reason. But I try to change her will. "You don't really want to be a cat, do you? What about something a little more fun. A bat, perhaps?"

Or when Eason says he's afraid of the water, well, fighting against him wasn't working, so I had to gradually direct his will in a different way.

This morning, we've had a perfect example of Ada Brooks's brick wall of a will.

Yesterday, we had a big rain storm. And it sprinkled for a few hours afterward. Well, Miss Bee asked if she could go out and look at leaves. Sure...why not. Not my idea of fun, but, do as you please, little one.

So, she did.... for over an hour... And made a pretty circle.

And this morning she asked, first thing, "Can I go outside and collect more leaves?"

At this point, I made my fatal mistake. There is nothing wrong, per se, with her collecting leaves. Why should I even interfere.... she's six. How long could this whim of hers last? But, they were cluttering up my side porch and it seems silly, and I need to learn to keep my mouth shut, I know...

I said, "Hey bee - why are you collecting leaves?"

She said, "Why not?" [Smart little bugger]

I said, "Well, it's just that you're collecting oak leaves, and while they may be a rarity in some of our unfortunate suburbs, here in 80 some odd year old fondren, we have a plethora of oak leaves."
see tree in our back yard below....

[Side conversation about the meaning of plethora]

She said, "I just like them. I like collecting them."

Me, "What ya going to do with them?"

Her, "Craft..."

And round and round we went. And I lost. She is Persia. She has a million men. There is no point. So, unless I'm going to disallow leaf collecting in a classic Betty Draper move, I should probably just hush.

Really. Or, I'll be like those idiotic Greeks who knew they were going to die... just go home, people, just go home.

Occasionally, retreat is honorable.

05 August 2010

my darling husband is as spoiled as they come

Review of the last week's menu:

Friday - Kid Heaven (Totinos Pizza rolls, Boxed, Toy Story Themed, Mac and Cheese, Broccoli, Ice Cream Bars) - what can you say, but success! We had a great time with 12 of the 14 (out of utero) Oswalt grandchildren plus ours, and the kid food helped mightily. My favorite comment was something to the effect of "This is really great. My parents have been on P 90-X, and, it's been, well, awful."

Saturday - Red fish. I posted as much info about this recipe as I could. Here. And it was a super yummy success. My mother had her tonsils out last week and so I took the leftover fish and made a cream soup for her. Also, I made the left over shrimp sauce into a warm, cheesy dip with the addition of mozzarella and cream cheese.

Sunday - For lunch we had chicken enchiladas - They were good, but my originaly mother-given recipe is better.... Oh well, have to try new things every once and a while. I had the privilege of cooking meatballs with a couple of my favorite women for supper. You know - like the spaghetti and type. They were great. They always are. I need to post that recipe.

Monday - We had pasta two days in a row (rearranging the order of weekly menus is part of their success). Chicken Romano is a favorite of mine and the fam's - it's fairly easy, but very yummy, and it brings back my childhood all in one bite.

Tuesday - We had cheese and onion enchiladas. Which required me to chop 8 (small ish) onions. My tear ducts have not yet recovered, but they were so good, it was worth it.

Wednesday - DOMINOS! At Church!

Thursday (so just a few minutes ago) - We had a new recipe. It is called "Baked Potato Soup" and you actually, you ready?, bake the potatoes first. Paul said, "Honey - this is like restaurant good" which required much jabbing from me. (Am i normally sub-restaurant quality?), but he tried to recover with "I mean like Walker's - not like Chili's" which did not fly, but then he further recovered with, "I mean- we should put this on the list of things you should serve if you ever open a restaurant." Yes, that's better, sweetheart.
It is a recipe out of "Food For Thought" - a birmingham, AL junior league cookbook, but of course I tinkered with it a lot, so I'll have to post that too. We had that, a big green salad and bagel chips.

(Also, i saved the potato skins to make, well, potato skins, tomorrow or the next day for appetizers)

So, weekly menu for this coming week:

Friday: Shrimp and Asparagus crepes, giant salad, homemade rolls, chocolate chess pie.

Saturday: Beef Wellington (Yes...) (with homemade puff pastry - hopefully I'll have the self discipline to take pics of this process), sharp cheddar risotto, green salad.

Sunday Lunch: Chicken Casserole (This amazingly tasty, amazingly against all of my culinary convictions, amazingly easy dish that is popular at church lunch), Watermelon. (This is obviously not a full meal, but the second sunday of each month, the church all eats together and this Sunday would be that second sunday - so we all bring something to contribute. And we all get fat.

Sunday Supper: Ha! I'm contributing a salad and peach cobbler, but my sweet dearest friend Calen is bringing the main course - and it's going to be a surprise to me. Sunday Supper is a tradition around here. We eat, each Sunday evening, with our bestest friends. Our dear friend, Jacob, caused this tradition by being only able to take a break from med school studying on the sabbath, and so that was when he ate with us. It has evolved a bit, but not much.

Monday: Rosemary Pork Roast and potatoes, fresh green beans. These are new recipes; I shall report.

Tuesday: Black Bean Burritos. We eat bean burritos too much. Except they're good, cheap and good for us, so can you do that too much? They vary between refried and black. Woo hoo - exciting....

Wednesday: BBQ at Church.

Thursday: Chicken Tortilla Soup. A super yummy favorite, courtesy of our friend Andrea.

So, that's what we're eating. I'll try to pick one or two to write about.

As far as life - there is always much to report. I have funny, joyful children who challenge every bit of me every moment of every day.
Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it's close. Really.

I surely do love life. And food. And Paul.... who says I could definitely get a job at Chili's.
Off for port, backrub, agatha christie - the perfect bedtime cocktail.

03 August 2010

Every Day

Every day, Eason puts his shirt on backwards.

Every day, I say "Eason, your shirt is on backwards."

Every day, he says, 'No it isn't,' with a mischievous grin on his face.

Every day, he then looks down and pulls out the neck, spying the tag.

Every day, I say, "Please turn it around."

And about 60% of the time, he does it.

I'm beginning to consider hushing.

02 August 2010

oh, bets.

Life has changed since the days of Betty Draper.

If you don't watch Mad Men, please begin. Sooner rather than later, so that I can have Mad Men-informed conversations with you. If you don't watch it, I can guarantee that at dinner parties (which will not die! because I throw them!) in 20 years, you will miss out on many an allusion. And that is always a pitiful moment.

[For example, the smartest man with whom I've ever had supper (and luckily get to sleep next to every night...), was never allowed any television as a child, and so if anyone says "Oh, that's such a Kelly Kapowski"
or even "yada yada yada",

he's as lost as a small puppy on the Natchez Trace. It is sad.]

Mad Men will be for our grown up generation what Saved By the Bell was for us during our middle school years, and what we thought we were in on with Seinfeld, when really were just babies.

But way, way more important. Mad Men is culturally revolutionary. I said it - here in 2010 - write it down. If I'm wrong, I'll bring you Monday Muffins. Remind me, in 2030.


If you watch Mad Men (and now that I've lectured you, you do, correct?), you will be amused/horrified/interested by Betty Draper's parenting. Many aspects of Betty Draper are interesting, but the parenting is (and no, I don't think it has anything to do with the fact I'm also a parent....) the most noteworthy.

Here is a scene that encapsulates most of Betty Draper's well, Betty Draper-ness.

Please. Take 80 seconds out of your life and watch it.

And laugh out loud.

Anyway, whilst watching Mad Men, if you are an adult, you will undoubtedly compare your station in life to those on the show. If you are a professional guy, you'll look at Don, Pete, Roger and the gang and say "gosh - life isn't really like that" and if you are a professional gal, you'll look at Joan or Peggy and think the same (and be thankful, i hope), and if you are a homemaker, you'll look at Betty and friends (although the friends are rare) and think "Oh My Heavens!"


We fantasize about life being like the 50s and 60s sometimes. We think back to men who kicked ass through a 3 martini lunch. We think of women who either shattered the glass ceiling or made their homes in an incomparably perfect way- and they were always dressed to the nines and ready for a good roll in the hay.

Well, bull butter.

I am not Betty Draper esque, and have no desire to be. This lack of desire comes not from a desire to be "equal" or a desire to be at work or a desire to be respected for my brain. I mean - all of those (especially the first and the last) are things I would not be able to deal with the lack of if I lived a Betty Draper life, but that's not it.

The reason I'm not Betty Draper is because Betty Draper sucks. [Excuse my french. The only suitably descriptive alternative I could come up with was "blows" and please tell me that's better?]

Betty Draper is an abysmal wife, a bordering-on-criminal mother, a fairly awful all around woman, a terrible friend, and a repulsive employer.

Being beautiful, even perfectly like Betty, is nice. It is not something I'd pass up. But it ain't worth jack if your marriage and your children are swirling around the toilet bowl. She is always waiting with dry roast beef and a bourbon? Kiss my tail, Betty. Why don't you try listening?

So, clearly, Betty tends to infuriate me.
I bet....
If I were a bettin' woman....
That there are people - men and women - who covet the Betty Draper put togetherness. The 'hello - thank you so much for calling on me - would you like a cigarette?' smile. The 24 inch waist.

Well, tonight, I was standing in my kitchen. Glass of wine in hand. Stirring vigorously at a very, very yummy meal for the family. And I dared, for a moment, to compare myself to Betty.

The biggest thing that differs me from her - gosh I hate to admit this - is that Paul Forster is not Don Draper.

I was stirring this yummy meal and whilst I was doing this, Paul was quizzing Ada Brooks on Robert E. Lee, feeding sweet Collins, and trying to harangue Eason into picking up toys. Paul came home from a full day of various kinds of work, poured my glass of wine (and gosh, it never occurred to him or to me that I should fix him a drink), and started his work around our house.

I am married to a man who is fully aware what my hair looks like unbrushed, who does not sleep in pajamas, who does, in fact, sleep with me each night. I am married to a man who knows exactly what is going on in each of his children's lives. He says, "How long was each person's nap today?" rather than, "Why didn't you get Carla to take care of that?"

[If you don't know who Carla is, you haven't watched enough Mad Men, and so our relationship is doomed.]

So, for you men out there who secretly covet Betty Draper. And don't pretend you don't exist. Fine, you can have her. But be prepared for the following.

1) Hire daily, full time, just short of live-in help.
2) Give up on your children being attended to intellectually, spritually or emotionally. To be Betty Draper, one must say what she says once a show, "Go watch television."
3) Give up on a wife who cares about what is actually going on with you.

For all you women who secretly envy Bets, well, fine, but

1) Give up on a husband who knows or helps about your life with your family. Why? Because if he knows, then you cannot keep up the facade of perfection.
2) Hire daily, full time, just short of live-in help.
3) Buy a bigger television - the kids will need it.

All this boils down to one principle. We women, who are at home, now have our husbands respecting that position. Which really tends to ruin the whole cigarettes and perfect hair thing.

Dammit. If only we could go back to the good ol' days.

Redfish annalowrey

My favorite restaurant in Jackson is Walker's Drive-In. It's just good. Others are good as well, but not as consistently great as Walker's.

One of it's most bestest menu items is Redfish Anna. It's been on the menu since I can remember ordering it for the first time some ten years ago (perhaps much longer), and it's always been great.

It is a paneed redfish with creamy crabmeat and lemon butter on top. Usually served with mashed taters and either asparagus or thin beans. It's just amazing...

My favorite cookbook, I think, maybe.... Okay fine, in my top five cookbooks is this one:

I got it as a gift from a dear friend, maybe for a birthday, or maybe for a just because present. i don't know, becky sue, when was it?

Anyway - it is the recipe book from my favorite town in the world, Oxford, Mississippi.
I fell in love there, I nurtured my love of food there, I married there, I taught my baby to love the park and pool and also to walk and talk there.

And I ate. A lot.

I'm realizing at this moment in my writing that I cannot do a post on Oxford/Square Table and on Redfish Annalowrey or it will be novella length, so perhaps I'll do a series on cookbooks, because, well, I take them to bed like some women take romance novels.

And, and you'll be shocked at this: I have opinions about cookbooks.

So, I was flipping through Square Table some years ago - right after I received it, and I saw this recipe for Paneed Redfish.

I'm not a huge fish girl - I'm a shrimp girl, but you won't find me eating Salmon, Ahi Tuna (although I'll mow down a tuna melt), or many other little swimmers. But I love redfish.

Mainly because of my adolescent introduction to Redfish Anna.

So, I'm flipping through, see Paneed Redfish, read it, and think "I've found redfish anna, but really it's even better because it has shrimp on top instead of crabmeat, which I tend to prefer"

And I made it. And I've never had a dirtier kitchen or a more inefficient night (I was a toddler cook at the time), but it was SO good. And then I tinkered with it, and became a much better cook, and now it is mine. All mine.

So, here we go.

Early in the day - say 1 pm ish - (it is not necessary to start this early - just a tip for your cooking energy/sanity), chop up an onion - medium to large. small to medium dice. Put it in a pot with about 3 - 4 T butter. Do not turn on.

Then take a can of artichoke hearts and drain it and put them on your cutting board.

Then go at them like you've got a chance to chop up the precious comic books of your least favorite high school teacher. Or some other thing you have a secret desire to destroy.

And in a few minutes, you'll have:

And you'll feel better.

Add those to the pot. Put the top on.

Walk away.

Now hear this. Butter, artichokes and onions will not go bad in the span of an afternoon. This way you can get an annoying prep work step out of the way, cut your cooking time later by twenty minutes, and feel better about life. Do not listen to people about the boogie man of going bad things.
Butter takes a good couple of days to go bad at room temp. I have a friend whose dad insists on soft butter in the morning with his breakfast. Her mother puts it out for him each night. Never has there been an adverse reaction (except perhaps to his demanding nature.... =) ).

Now, later in the day, after you're ready to make the sauce for real, as early as 2 hours pre meal and as late as 45 minutes pre meal, come back to the stove.

Turn on pot. Medium heat. Stir occasionally. Let onions and artichokes cook down, you'll want to eat it with a spoon.

After about 10 minutes, grab the flour.

Flour is the best thing with which to thicken a sauce or soup, it just has to be done well.

Dump in 3 T.

Stir vigorously and turn down to low.

Now, grab the two best ingredients in the history of white sauces. Maybe in the history of the world.
Heavy Cream and Dry Vermouth.

Trust me.

In a measuring cup, put 1 cup of heavy cream. Get over it. It's a cream sauce. What did you expect? Soy products?

Lick your lips as you pour it into the artichokes and onions.

Now, in the same measuring cup, put 1/2 cup of the vermouth. Pour it in.

Now grab the best ingredient EVER:

One of my dearest, darling groomsmen in our wedding eats this stuff on chips. That's a bit extreme, but only a bit.

Throw in a few dashes. Tabasco is one of the only items about which I think a "dash" is an appropriate measure. 2 if you're squeamish, 5 if you're brave, 3-4 if you're me.
Stir. Turn up to medium to medium high.

Now, take 1/2 lb shrimp. I need an entire blog post on what shrimp is worth what money and what you should use in what, but for now: 1/2 lb most any size shrimp, chopped into pieces that are about as big as your thumbnail. We are not mincing, but we are not just chopping medium shrimp in half.
I used 31-40 size shrimp (Shrimp is sized with the number of shrimp per pound - so 8-10 shrimp are HUGE and 71-80 shrimp are teenincy) Medium shrimp are usually 30-50 shrimp. So i took one of my medium shrimp and chopped it into 5 pieces approximately, but trust me, I was not counting....

I regret no pictures of the shrimp chopping. I've had to use too many words.

Throw them in the pot. Stir. Put top on. Turn off pot. There is enough heat in that little pot to plenty cook those little diced up shrimp. Believe you me.

Take a bunch of asparagus. Lop off the bottom 20%. Do this before you take it out of the rubber bands. You'll thank me later.

Admire the beauty God gives us in food. Asparagus is pretty. No denying it. Of course, my favorite color is green....

Bring a giant pot of salted water to a boil. Throw in asparagus. Do not walk away. Do 45 jumping jacks (which should take you approximately 120 seconds). Take out asparagus, if it's small like this. If it's not small, give it another minute or two. Do not cook this asparagus for less than two minutes or more than five.

Then pull get it out of there.

See how bright green?

Now for the redfish. I admit, I failed at taking pictures of the following process, so you'll have to forgive me.

You need about 1/2 a fillet a person, or 1/3 of a lb. I allow 1/2 a lb, but always have left overs.

Put the fillet pieces (you don't want to cook them in whole fillets. Cut 'em in half. Perfect serving size.) Put 'em on a cookie sheet or somefin'. Sprinkle with garlic salt and lemon pepper.

Then dredge them in flour.

Then, 10 minutes before you want to sit down, put 4 T butter in the biggest skillet you have. Turn on Medium High. Give it a second. Put in fillets.
Follow these instructions precisely:
Turn on sauce, medium, stir.
Turn around and preheat your oven broiler to high.
Go to pantry, get out worcestershire sauce.
Flip fillets in pan. If you are having to do these in batches, you're going to have to adjust. Your goal is 2 minutes on each side. But really, buy a bigger skillet. You won't regret it.
Measure 1/2 cup worcestershire into a liquid measuring cup.
Juice a lemon into the measuring cup. (Should be about 3 -4 Tbsps. I won't tell if you used bottled stuff). Stir together with worcestershire.
Put fillets into a jelly roll or roasting pan or something with sides.
Pour lemon juice/worcestershire mixture over them.
Pop in oven.
Stir Sauce.
Pile four to six plates with mashed taters (which you've made during this process....).
Pop fillets out of oven (2-3 minutes in oven).
Plop fish leaning against mashed potatoes.
Place asparagus on top of that.
Pour sauce on top of all.

Unbutton pants and proceed to feast like a king.

Yes, the last ten minutes of this cooking experience are kind of frantic, but that's how you get Walker's quality food.. =) And you can see why there aren't any pictures of the last ten minutes.

What do the kids eat on nights like this? (I'm not opposed to giving them redfish - they'll eat it the next day - but when we have feasts like this, they usually go to sleep before we eat... so....

lots of times they get a sampler plate. Carrots, lettuce, chicken, pasta salad. All with a ramekin of ranch in which to dip it.

And a popsicle.

I'm tired now. And kind of hungry.