Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dumping: a list

1. I don’t have anything to say.

2. There. Now that I got that off my chest maybe I’ll come up with something to talk about.



3. Oh yes. Let me tell you about Mr. Handsome’s odd behavior. I better start at the beginning.

Mr. Handsome works with a guy named Tim. Tim is young; Tim is bald. Tim likes my cooking; Tim is cool.

Tim’s wife was pregnant with their first baby up until this Monday when her water broke. (Well, she didn't have her baby right then and there—it wasn't actually until the next day that the baby got borned, but you know what I mean, right?)

Anyway, Tim and Mr. Handsome were at work when Tim got the call, and Mr. Handsome later reported that Tim, a normally measured, careful worker went all wonky, banging things around, rushing, and jittery as all get out. Mr. Handsome dropped Tim off at the end of the work day and then came home and told me all about it.

And then he told me all about it again a few minutes later.

And then he set about worrying that Tim's wife would end up with a c-section because she was being induced.

And then he ranted against inducements and medicine in general, and (loudly and angrily) mourned our culture’s dis-empowering view of childbirth. (He didn’t say it like that exactly—he doesn't use words like "dis-empowering" in his regular, ranty old speech.)

He wouldn't shut up about the baby. His enthusiasm was sweet and cute.

And really, really odd.

First thing the next morning, he-who-does-not-care-about-email made a beeline for the computer. There was an email. Tim had a baby girl and there had been no c-section. Mr. Handsome relaxed a bit. And smiled.

And then the next evening, over our supper of leftovers, he announced that he had stopped by Tim’s house on the way home from work. He said—and this is my husband we’re talking about, a man who (unsuccessfully) put his foot down after two kids, a man who is not inclined towards lovey-dovey-ness of any sort—this man said,

“That baby was so cute! She had a whole bunch of hair and was so pretty, and she just laid there. It was enough to make me want another baby! What do you say, kids. Should we get another one of those?”

The kids stared.

I stared.

Mr. Handsome continued gushing like a geyser.

“And Tim and Virginia, they were glowing. I mean, when Tim walked across the room”—and Mr. Handsome walked his fingers across the table top to demonstrate—“his feet never touched the ground! And Virginia was sitting on the couch but there was this whole cushion of air under her. It was amazing!”

Never before had I heard Mr. Handsome talk like so. Not about our babies, and certainly not about anyone else's babies. I still can’t make heads or tails out of it.

And I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I might never be able to do so.

4. And no, that story was not a roundabout way of telling you I'm pregnant.

5. Yesterday I made an apple pie and dumped the flour all over the floor.

6. Today I made apple dumplings and I didn’t dump any flour.

7. But I feel kind of dumpy nonetheless.

8. I’ve been rather uninspired in the kitchen. No obsessions, no fancy/weird/new dishes brewing. I’ve been feeding my family things like Farmer Boy Pancakes, spaghetti and meatballs, roast chicken, sloppy joes, meat and cheese sandwiches, and baked oatmeal. They’re thrilled and I’m bored.

9. Mr. Handsome is figuring out that he’s lactose intolerant. He’s been cutting back on dairy, switching from regular milk to lactose-free milk to soy milk. He feels much better off dairy, but I’m not 100 percent sure it’s really the problem.

See. he has a habit of imagining ailments and illnesses with wild abandon. He says things like, "I didn't sleep well last night. It must've been the popcorn I had before bed." Or, "I didn't sleep well last night. It must've been the ice cream I had at supper." Or, "I didn't sleep well last night. It must've been because I was hungry when I went to bed." So I don't pay him much mind.

(In fact, when he told me he thought he had cancer ten years ago, I laughed. So he went to a doctor shortly thereafter and then promptly had surgery because he did indeed have cancer. Let me tell you, he’s milked that attachment injury for all that it’s worth—and then some. But still, I don’t listen to him. I'm a cold-hearted woman.)

Regarding the milk problem, I’ve set up an appointment for him with an allergist. I want to know exactly (more or less) what I’m up against before I revolutionize our diet.

To sum everything up, our diet is kind of in limbo and that puts a damper on my kitchen puttsing.

10. And I’m anxious about my new camera. I ordered it last week, but when I placed my order I learned that the company was on holiday because of Sukkot. (Apparently they’re Jewish.) I keep hoping that maybe they’ll just send out the camera anyhow. I mean, my order was pretty straightforward so maybe it will just kind of happen to get mailed...somehow. Every time the UPS or Fed Ex truck go by, my heart starts to race and I suffer shortness of breath. Then when neither truck stops, I get all morose and sit on the couch thinking how much fun it would be if the camera would just materialize on my lap right now.

This same time, years previous: Peposo (beef with black pepper and red wine)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blissed out on bread

After the flurry of bellies and birthday and some dear out-of-town visitors and a guest post over at Simple Bites (about pizza sauce, three ways—check it out!), things are finally beginning to settle down around here.

My henna tattoo is fading and now I keep my tummy covered most demurely. I’ve ceased wildly waving veils and tick-tocking my way around the house (though once in a while I’ll triple shimmy down the hall, just for anyhow). The birthday flowers are sprinkling their petals, the birthday balloon (that we tied to the door of the refrigerator freezer so that the kids would be less likely to bop it every time they walked past) is starting to droop, the next to last piece of birthday chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting just slipped down my gullet, yum-yum.

And it’s cold outside. Or at least it feels that way after the close-to-100 degree temps we had this past weekend. This morning found Miss Beccaboo dressed in her new winter coat (thanks, Grandma!) furiously peddling her bike all over the yard with a skirt stuck on her head.

Mr. Handsome glanced out the window, saw her, and stated flatly, “There goes the flying nun.”

But really, what I want to talk to you about is bread.

A person might wonder just how many bread recipes are necessary to have up one’s sleeve. Seeing as I have a bunch already listed on this blog as well as another whole blog dedicated to the subject of sourdough, my answer is this: there is no such thing as too much bread. Ever.

I love bread.

In fact, when we were at my aunt’s soiree and went out to dinner that evening, as we waited for our platters of Indian curry and filet mignon to arrive, we went around the table and took turns listing off our favorite food—something that brought us comfort and joy and unending happiness. My answer was sourdough bread, fresh from the oven and thickly spread with butter and grape jelly.

So see, bread is my comfort food, the source of unending toothsome pleasure.

That my belly and bottom are squishy like bread dough is perhaps no coincidence.

Anyway, let’s talk about bread. A new bread. A bread that will cause you, as soon as you’re done reading this post, to stand up and walk out to the kitchen and mix it up. Because, as you will see, this bread is easier than a two-bit floozy and more delicious than mother’s milk.

(Not that most of us remember what our mother’s milk tasted like. But we’ve all seen babies breastfeed. It goes something like this: first they wait watchfully, hands wildly a-waving, as the shirt gets hoisted and the bra unhooked, and while they wait, they pant. Take too long unhooking the bra and you end up with a hyperventilating baby on your lap. It’s one of the risks of breastfeeding. And then when the child latches on, well—hold on to your hats people ‘cause that baby is going to town. There’s gasping and snorting, gulping, the I’m-drowning-but-please-don’t-save-me sounds, lip smacking, heavy breathing, and underneath all the ruckus there’s the steady hum, the sound of a contented baby peacefully purring. Yes, babies purr. Considering that I did this thing called breastfeeding for ten years and spent hours upon hours watching as my babies’ eyes rolled back in their heads in contented blissment, I think I might understand the magnitude of the “more delicious than mother’s milk" statement.)

I got this bread recipe from a friend of mine who borrowed my steam juicer to turn grapes into communion juice. (Loaning it to him made me feel holy, once removed.) In his thank you email he pointed me to a youtube video of a guy making bread. It was the best food video I have ever seen. I showed it to the kids (they were concerned because the dude took the Lord’s name in vain, twice) and then I showed it to Mr. Handsome just because it was so stinkin’ entertaining.

The gist of the recipe is this: mix together flour, salt, yeast, and water. Let it ferment for 18 hours. Shape it and let it sit for another two. Bake. Eat. The end. If you get up right now and make it, you’ll be pulling a loaf of bread out of the oven come suppertime tomorrow night.

Well, what are you waiting for? GET MOVING!

Besides its simplicity and deliciousness, the other cool thing about this bread is its name: ciabatta. I’ve seen the word all over the place, but I’ve never known how to say it. (The curse of the TV-less.) Turns out, it’s a blast to say—cha-BAH-ttah. It means "carpet slipper." But hey, don’t take my word for it—listen to how the youtube dude describes it. He’s much more entertaining than I am.

I’ve made this bread nearly a half-dozen times so far. I wanted to see how it handled a higher percentage of whole wheat flour (freshly ground Prairie Gold wheat, for those interested in the nitty gritty). It works, I’ve learned, not all that great. Every time I increased the whole wheat, the bread got a little flatter and a little heavier so I’ve decided it’s best to stick with the original proportions (though maybe you’ll learn otherwise).

The only other change I’ve made to the recipe is that I sometimes skip the plastic wrap step and just dump it directly onto the baking sheet. And I upped the salt just a tad ‘cause I’m a salt fiend.

From the youtube dude, otherwise known as Chef John (I think)

3 ½ cups bread flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon yeast
2 cups warm water

Combine all ingredients and stir. The dough will be wet and sticky and beautiful. Cover the bowl with plastic or foil, making sure there is plenty of room for the dough to bubble and double. Set it aside at room temperature for 18 hours.

After 18 hours has passed, and 2 hours before baking (or 3 before eating), stir down the dough using a rubber spatula. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Dump the dough on to the pan so that it makes an oblong shape, like a carpet slipper. Flour the dough and cover it with a clean towel. Let it rise for two hours. Bake it for 25-35 minutes at 425 degrees.

Yield: one loaf that is best eaten fresh, though leftovers make excellent toast.

This same time, years previous: Butterscotch Cookies, Birthday Minutia, Ballerina Daredevils

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A jiggle on the wild side

Me dancing. I still can’t quite believe it.


To understand how far out of my comfort zone I was, you have to understand that I have never worn a bikini, avoided all highschool dances like they were the plague, don’t sport a single tattoo or body piercing, and am not an up-front stage-y sort of person. That I painted my belly with henna and then showed it off in front of a crowd of (mostly) complete strangers is slightly surreal.

Some people get culture shock when they move from country to country. I get culture shock just living inside my body.

We did two dances. The first involved only six of us and some gorgeous veils. (For the veils, Rose bought reams of white silk and then she and Terri, another one of the dancers, dyed and edged them. Miss Beccaboo said they smelled like the ocean.)

We swirled and twirled and tried our best not to let them slip through our fingers or get tangled up in our jewelry—no small feat. Factor in the breeze and it became an event of Olympic proportions.

The second dance involved the whole group and much shimmying. I had to shimmy for 16 counts. That's hard, especially when I still don't know how to shimmy. But I just smiled and pretended I knew what I was doing.

While I did confuse my left and right arms a couple times and totally lost the beat and stopped early for another part, I mostly kept my act together. I didn’t trip over the sound cables, drop my veil, or stand on the hem of my skirt and cause it to fall down around my ankles. My shirt didn’t come un-pinned and I didn’t smack any of the other dancers upside the head. Considering all that could’ve gone wrong, it was a flaming success.

A bunch of the other women decorated their hands and feet with henna. It turns out that henna shows up much darker on those parts of the body. The henna on my tummy stayed quite pale in comparison. But then again, maybe it's just me. As Anna Maria so kindly pointed out, "Your skin just doesn't take well to any sort of color." And Mr. Handsome suggested that I could've just cut a design in a piece of paper, covered my tummy with it, and laid out in the sun for an hour or so---it would've provided the same effect, just with a reddish hue.

Rose's hands.

Here we are pre-dance, sweaty and nervous...

And here we are post-dance, sweaty and elated...

I was exhausted.

Turns out it's hard work sucking in a belly for hours on end.

The photos are courtesy of my friend Steve, otherwise known as the husband of Anna Maria The Belly Vandalizer, the guy who helped me decide which camera to order (it's coming in a couple weeks!!!), and an awesome photographer. To see more of his photos, visit him at Thanks, Steve!

This same time, years previous: stream of consciousness, my beginnings

Friday, September 24, 2010

Painting my belly

Tomorrow I will turn 35.

Tomorrow I will also dance in public and show my belly.

That this has potential to be deeply embarrassing has not gone unnoticed by me. In fact, I’m shaking in my flip-flops.

Which is okay, as it turns out, because belly dancing is chock-full of the shimmy-shakes. So even if I just stand there and tremble, I’ll still be getting it partway right.

At least that's what I tell myself.

To gear up for the event, I painted my belly with henna.

Well, I didn’t paint it myself. I just laid on my back and tried not to breathe, let alone laugh or talk or do anything that would make my tummy jiggle, while my friend Anna Maria free-handed the henna. It took her about two minutes and fourteen seconds because she’s a total whiz.

Then I had to lay flat on my back for an hour while it dried. To get my newly-painted and still-slightly-tacky tummy safely home, I had to hike up my shirt and tuck it into my bra, sit ramrod straight with my tummy sucked in to keep it as flat as possible, position the seat belt most carefully, and drive as gently as possible.

Thank goodness it was dark outside.

Even with all my extreme precautions, my belly still rolled and pooched. (It’s what bellies do after they’ve been blown up with babies. Well, except for Rose, our snaky instructor who has four babies and a six-pack. What woman has a six-pack after birthing four boys, I'd like to know? It’s unnerving.)

So because I had four babies, the henna smeared. As soon as I got home I woke up Mr. Handsome and ordered him to come down and minister to my belly with a toothpick, q-tip, and napkin. He was groggy and confused, but after about fifteen minutes and lots of explaining, he finally caught on.

Then, to help the henna set, I was supposed to apply a mixture of lemon juice and sugar with a cotton ball. We, however, didn't have any cotton balls, so Mr. Handsome used a panty liner to daintily dip and pat.

I slept on my back that night and by the next morning the henna was dry and crusty. I softened it with some olive oil before pulling it off in bits and pieces, yipping every time one of my tender little belly hairs got stuck.

Bath time is quite the adventure. The stain isn't supposed to get wet since water can lighten it, so I have to drape my body over the edge of the tub and bathe my body in stages—first the top half and then the bottom half, with the back-washing being outsourced.

Oh, the suffering I go through just to have fun! I should probably get my head examined.

I'd like to pretend that my tummy looks so smooth all the time, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that these pictures were taken first thing in the morning before I ate breakfast or even drank my coffee. (And I may have sucked my tummy in just a little, too.) Because as soon as I chew and swallow that first bite of food, my belly falls to pieces. It swells and slouches, rolls and puckers, pooches and puffs. It goes hog-wild in its unbridled excitement over being fed.

Therefore, I will not be ingesting anything until after the dance tomorrow.

Yeah right. Like I could go for eight hours without eating. Now that's funny. I'll just have to settle for sucking my stomach in extra hard.

So if you come to the dance tomorrow and see a henna-ed bellied woman in a black coin belt with a pained expression, that'll be me.

Just tap me gently on the shoulder and remind me to breathe, okay? Thanks.

The One Who Is Baring All

This same time, years previous:
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, cross-dressing, and one hot chica

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

We love Fred

Fred is five-and-a-half years old. He got ripped off when he bought himself a bicycle (ended up paying $1600 instead of the original $200). He was buying a bicycle because he wanted to wear a bike helmet but thought it would look uncool to wear a helmet without a bike.

Then he dropped a large knife and it went right through his foot. His friends carried him to the hospital, but the doctors and nurses didn’t act fast enough and he ended up losing half his blood. It was the janitor who noticed that there was a pretty big problem (he was mopping up all the blood so it was kind of obvious) and advised the doctor to stick a “two plus two” into his arm, and of course, since two plus two equals four, he was referring to an IV.

I should also mention that Fred is an extremely popular college professor. When he teaches his classes, the room is packed with eager students, as well as journalists, bloggers, TV reporters, and even a sculptor working to capture the moment.

And we love him just as much as everyone else does. He makes us laugh and teaches us math in between giggles.

In case you haven't already figured this out, Fred isn’t real. He’s just the main character in a series of math books that starts with fractions and goes right up through calculus, statistics, and linear algebra, but boy oh boy, is he ever amazing.

This is my new favorite book and I feel rather evangelical about it. (And no, nobody is passing me big bucks under the table to write all this good stuff about Fred—I just am. BECAUSE I’M SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED.)

My sister-in-law owns the whole series—a bunch of hardback, nonconsumable books, each book ranging in price from $19.00 to $49.00. (When you consider that one year of Saxon math costs around $150, you’ll understand how much of a steal the Fred books are.) I’ve only purchased the first one because I wanted to make sure we liked it, but next time I order I’ll be getting a whole bunch.

We are CRAZY about Fred.

It’s not just me, either. Earlier this week when I didn’t have much time for homeschooling and told Yo-Yo he could pick a subject and I’d pick another one, he promptly chose Fred. And when Mr. Handsome comes home from work, Yo-Yo sometimes reads him the entire lesson/story just because it’s so stinkin’ entertaining.

The other thing I love about Fred is that we’re (I say “we” because I fully participate in each lesson—I can’t help myself) learning more than just math. There’s also history and grammar, manners and science, and literature and art.

And get this. There are no endless columns of practice problems like you used to have in grade school. There’s simply the lesson and a few problems, of all sorts and all jumbled together, and then you move on to the next lesson. Boredom is not an issue.

When we started the series a month ago, Yo-Yo didn’t really know any math above basic addition, subtraction and simple multiplication (and even that was/is sometimes slow and belabored), and he had never done long division, but we jumped right into Fred’s world and with a bit of extra explaining, he was fine.

Want to read more about Fred? Here’s the website, here’s where you order, here’s an interview with Fred’s creator, and here’s Fred’s creator’s website. Since I ordered our Fred book, two more homeschooling friends have placed their orders, one non-homeschooling mom has ordered, and my father toted the book to school to show to one of the math teachers.

Fred is where it’s at, man. I’m tellin’ you.

This same time, years previous: Greek Pasta Salad, hard knocks (involves blood), retreat (ha!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm still here

I have not fallen off the face of the earth, in case you were wondering. I've been fine and dandy. It's just that life has picked up speed, from a bouncy trot to a canter, with full-out gallop mode looming in the near future.

Well, fine and dandy except for last week’s migraine. That wasn’t fine. That was bad, like hell-in-my-head bad. It knocked me out cold and then traumatized me, to boot. Now whenever I feel the ghost of the knife blade between my eyes, I freak out and pop pills like a full-blown addict. In fact, I believe that today is the first drug-free day I’ve had since that migraine.

Migraines are really, really freaky. They’re not like other illnesses (such as the stomach flu or a cold) where you feel them coming on, endure them for a bit, and then gradually get better. Nope, migraines kick you in the head and knock you out cold. And I mean knock you out cold. (I realize I've said that three times now. Sorry.) (But I WAS. I was TOTALLY knocked out cold.)

After losing my vision that fateful Tuesday afternoon (any seasoned migraine victim would’ve known instantly that something big and bad was soon to follow, but not little old naive me—I was completely clueless), I suddenly found myself unable to get up from the sofa, unable to speak above a whisper, and unable to open my eyes—they stayed shut for a full two hours and then mostly shut for another four.

What about the kids, you ask? Who took care of them while I reclined on my bed of pain? They did. They took care of themselves for the couple hours till Mr. Handsome came home from work, and aside from a few minor incidences—one smashed window, a flushed hairbrush, a broken leg, and a dismantled lawnmower—they did just fine. Kids are more capable then they let on.

Okay, so none of the above incidences actually incidented, but the truth isn't all that exciting and I didn't want to disappoint. The truth? They played for an hour before catching on that I wasn’t just being lazy and then they proceeded to plague me with lots of love and attention.

Sweetsie (in an eager, breathy whisper): Mama, do you want something to drink?

Me: No.

Sweetsie: Can I get you something to eat?

Me: No. My. Stomach. Hurts.

Sweetsie: Do you want a stomach pill? [Stomach pill = TUM]

Me: No.

Sweetsie: Please, Mama! Let me get you a pill and then you can eat something. Please?

Me: No.

Sweetsie (with a touch of desperation): But I want to make you something!

Me: Rub. My. Feet.

Sweetsie: Can’t I get you a stomach pill? Pleeeeease?

Repeat the above conversation a half dozen times and you’ll get the picture. When Mr. Handsome finally graced us with his presence, I rose on wobbly legs and crept upstairs to my bedroom chambers.

This past weekend was the annual soiree at my aunt’s house, and considering what had happened to me last year and the migraine I had just endured, I was petrified that some strange malady would inflict me the instant I started vacationing, so I took some preventative measures. I increased my pill intake, drank lots of coffee and wine (not that those beverages are necessarily beneficial in the war against migraines, but still), and tried to avoid looking at computer screens (easy, since there weren't any) and speeding objects (hard, since we had to drive there), and as a result made it through the weekend without incident.

The weekend included, but was not limited to, the following:

Incredible quantities of incredible food.

grilled tuna

my mother, timing the tuna

ice cream from California

a royal brunch

Countless games of Cornhole.

unpacking the fun

Entertainment—a professional bellydancer!

Chit-chat and in-depth conversations that covered everything from bodily functions to theology to fashion to food to movies.

The consumption of A Most Exotic Beverage.

Now I am back home, in the thick of studies and grapes, dancing and church meetings, cooking and cleaning, eating and sleeping. There will be much to talk about. I'll try not to stay away for so long this time.

Peace out, dudes.

This same time, years previous: Coffee Fix Ice Cream, Cornmeal Whole Wheat Waffles (these are totally amazing), Ricotta Cheese, and Pesto Torte

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'll give you this

I’m all foggy-headed and blah-yuck today. This past weekend our church had its annual retreat and it about did me in. Retreats are NOT relaxing. Can I get an amen?

I did, however, enjoy my time in spite of myself. (Except for Sunday. On Sunday everyone and everything fell apart at the seams.) Each year the kids are one year older (imagine!) and just that much more independent. This was the first year that I went to all the sessions (that I wanted to) and indulged in leisurely conversations.

That was nice.

I’m not really in the mood to write (depressingly enough, this is often the norm nowadays), but I’m popping in because PW told me to.

So instead of blabbing on and on about all my trials and tribulations, I’ll simply give you this:

It’s what I made with the lemon butter that was leftover from that swoony supper we had last week—skillet-blackened zucchini tossed with lemon butter, pasta, and Parmesan cheese. It’s not really a recipe, but I’ll pretend it is.

Lemon Butter Pasta with Zucchini

This dish is quite versatile. You can replace the zucchini with steamed broccoli, asparagus spears, or green peas, add in some meat (chicken or fish would be nice), play around with the cheese (feta, anyone?), use various types of pasta (or maybe even a grain). Whatever you do, don't nix the lemon butter. It's key, and it rocks.

1-2 cups leftover cooked pasta
1 small-medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and then sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2-4 tablespoons lemon butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Put the olive oil and butter (not the lemon butter) into a skillet set over medium-high heat. When it sizzles, add the sliced zucchini. Toss the zucchini around to coat it with the grease, and then let it rest a couple minutes to allow the bottom side to get nicely blistered. Toss a bit more till fork-tender (but not soggy) and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Add the lemon butter and toss again. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve.

This same time, years previous: hot chocolate, brown rice, white rice, and Indian chicken, pear-red raspberry coffee cake, family pictures

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Just like the enthusiastic breeze that's been whooshing through my windows and setting my papers a-flying, so is my head. It’s like my ears (eyes and mouth, too) are all open windows—anything that enters through those portals upends any ordered thinking that I might currently be applying myself to, setting my thoughts all a-swirl. No sooner do I pin down an idea to ponder than—whoooooosh!—a new gust of ideas comes blowing in, knocking whatever precious idea I was dwelling upon to the far recesses of my brain. I fumble and grab, bend down and pick up, stack neatly and weight down with heavy objects, but it’s no use. The ideas refuse to stay put.


I am still a picklehead. After nearly two months with zero commercial hair products—no gel, no shampoo, no conditioner, no hair spray, no mousse (not that I employ all of those products on a regular basis, but I’m making a point here)—I went to my hair stylist dude guy and plopped my butt down in the chair.

“Now, Jay,” I said, says I. “I want you to tell me what you think about my hair. I’ve changed hair products and I want to know if you think my hair is better or worse for it.”

Then I waited patiently while Jay lifted and looked, touched and fluffed. “It looks good,” he said finally. “The ends seem a little dry, but I think that’s because you need a trim. Why? What are you using now?”

“Baking soda and vinegar!” I half burbled, half giggled, practically giddy with pride.


And so I told him about my formula. He had never heard of such a thing which surprised me. I figured they warned stylists-in-training about weirdos like me, probably in a special class called “All the stupid things that people do to their hair and why they don’t work,” but apparently Jay didn’t take that one.

So anyway, since then I’ve washed my hair with shampoo once or twice or thrice, and I use a smidge of blue goop to mold my hairs into their proper place, but for the most part, I’m a die-hard picklehead. In fact, I’m not going to buy anymore shampoo. When the few bottles we have run out, I’ll coach the rest of the fam in the art of being pickled.


Just in case you didn’t believe me about our traumatic Saturday, here’s a picture of the Baby Nickel’s poor smashed thumb.

He cried for a long time after whacking it with that hammer.

And he still winces every time I thoughtlessly grab his hand to wipe it with a dish cloth.

(I interrupted his nap for that picture. I went into the room and woke him up just enough to get him to sleepily untuck his arm.)

Tonight, after I told him to stop trying to clean out all the purple under his nail with a nail file, he told me his interpretation of the thumb-whacking event: Hammers have lots of purple in them and when it hits it makes the purple go through. That's what.

I never would've guessed.


Last night a couple of us dancers (ha! that sounds just a tad bit more professional than my skill warrants, but I’ll run with it) broke into our instructor’s house (she’s sunning herself on some distant beach) to practice our moves.

Except that her front door sticks so it makes breaking in rather difficult. You have to pull the door towards you and push down really hard on the knob and then—wah!—the door flies open. Only problem is, the door knob is unusually close to the door frame so you leave a bit of your knuckle skin behind every time you enter.

Fortunately, I also know where she keeps the band-aids, bulk boxes of them probably purchased to bandage all the skinned knuckleheads.

(I’m thinking I might send my husband over there to reshape the door, whatever that means. Think she’d mind?)

(And while he’s at it, I’ll have him replace the light bulbs in her outdoor lamps. If anyone would have seen us teeter-tottering our way down the stairs at the end of the walkway last night, they would’ve thought we were absurdly inebriated.)


This is our bath water. We only get baths once a week.

Come Saturday night, we put a little water in the tub and bathe the Baby Nickel. Then in hops Sweetsie and in goes a little more water. And so on, up through Miss Beccaboo, Yo-Yo, me, and finally Mr. Handsome.

Please tell me you didn’t believe that.

Though I do know a farming Canadian family (or the son of) who did just that.

No, we get baths almost daily and that dirty water is from one day’s worth of four dirty kids. They hop in, soap up, and then stand to rinse off with clean water. We’re speed demons where bath time is concerned. No rubber duckies in this family.


I never showed you what other escapades the kids have been up to.

Here’s their high wire act.

They got out Mr. Handsome’s come-alongs and rigged up their own tightrope.

I don’t even know how to use a come-along.

They took turns walking the wire.

Yo-Yo and Miss Beccaboo got pretty good.

The Baby Nickel about castrated himself. He’s not been so lucky lately.

Then Yo-Yo and Miss Beccaboo built themselves a riff on a potato gun: an apple gun fueled by an air compressor.

They’d jam a piece of copper pipe into an apple and then, using a smaller rod, they’d push the piece of apple that was now in the copper pipe farther in to the copper pipe, down towards the other end that they had semi-closed off with a flat washer and electrical tape.

Then Yo-Yo would hold it steady (and aim away from the house, thank you very much) and Miss Beccaboo would stick the air compressor tube into the electrical tape-wrapped bottom end and let fly with a burst of compressed air and—wheeeeeeee!


I learned how to dry pears. It’s so simple it isn’t funny. There is no coring or peeling involved. Basically, you just sit back in a chair, put your feet up, and wave a knife through the air and you’re done. Crazy simple.

Okay, so there’s a little more to it than that.

But not much.

Cut out the blossom end of the pear and any tough little knots.

Pull off the stem. Slice the pear into quarter-inch thick slices, discarding the two little side cuts that are mostly all peel.

(Confession: I ate almost every single one and then wondered why my tummy felt funny.)

Dip the pear slices in lemon juice-laced water (4 cups cold water mixed with 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice)* and lay them on your dehydrator trays.

After about 8-12 hours at 135 degrees, you have yourself some lovely, chewy pear slices. (Either pop the seeds out, or eat them. I eat them and they're so unobtrusive that I don't even notice I'm doing it.)

Bag and freeze.


Oops, that one went by so fast I couldn’t catch it. Guess I’ll call it quits.

The end.

*This just in: Mr. Handsome conducted an experiment and left one rack of pear slices undipped. He reports that they were no different than the dipped variety. Yee-haw!

This same time, years previous: on being green