Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Let Them Eat Cake

We're at T-2 days until we leave for our camping vacation, and there's a ton of stuff to do, so naturally time speeds up exponentially, just to make things easier. I still have to get a haircut (we have to pay for 5 minutes of hot water in the shower, and there's no way I can be done in under 5 minutes with a full head of hair), pedicure (because, um, doesn't everyone do that before 2 weeks of camping), some presents for Rachel's birthday on Saturday while we are on the road -- and, yes, she IS miffed that she is spending 6 hours in the car with her family on her birthday.

Did I say miffed? Actually, Rachel's disdain/disgust level will be through the roof. Her voice will be able to cut through metal, and she'll use it on us any time any one of us attempts to sound the least bit happy. We are so looking forward to this state of affairs.

Naturally, our car battery decided to give up the ghost last night because I had the temerity to run it for 10 minutes to charge my phone, so add "get new car battery" to the to-do list, will you? We are just lucky that this happened last night and not, say, on the night we set up camp, usually after dark, when we use the parked van's headlights to help us see what we are doing.

This is why we went to the moon, I guess
In other news, Brian returned late last night from his Seattle sojourn, where he ate good food, saw interesting sights (racing corgis!), and generally enjoyed himself from dawn to dusk. He's jet lagged and still sleeping; I haven't woken him up because I'm guessing his re-entry syndrome isn't going to be too pleasant.

Of course, he will probably cheer up as he helps us pack the car and then waves good-bye to us on Friday. Brian gets to stay home again this year, as his community college courses start up before we get back. I'm picturing him dancing a little jig as we pull out of the parking lot, actually.

For a brief time last night, however, I had all 6 of my kids sitting in the living room, laughing and joking and talking. I've pretty much waited 25 years for that moment, people, a moment which has made our long, arduous, ongoing slog through the teen years worth it. I don't ask for much, you know. Just brief spells of good-natured camaraderie amongst my offspring, with me there to witness it.

It was like Christmas in August, without all the gift-giving pressure and the ultra-flammable tree to worry about. More fun, is what I'm saying...

Engineered with brotherly love
And now we're off to Anna's birthday lunch - because, yeah, why not cram some festivities into the week, while we're at it? Thank goodness David likes to bake cakes. He's a rocket engineer (well, studying to be one) and is very precise. None of those sloppy specimens that I crank out, year after year, nope - his cakes are round and perfectly frosted and never look as though they have been chewed by rats.

Okay, click on that last link and scroll to the second half of the post. I promise, you will not regret the effort.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Down and OUT

When last we spoke, I had a head cold I was hoping to kick forthwith, so that my weekend would not be ruined. Yeah, no such luck. That thing kept coming back at me like the virus version of Rasputin, I swear it. I'd feel better, decide to weed the front yard, almost pass out, and stagger back inside. Then I'd feel better, make a vat of potato salad, and require a 2-hour nap to recover from the exertion.

There are a LOT of people living here right now. I HAVE to keep cooking. David flew in on Saturday, so now we have 5. Brian comes home from his truly excellent vacation on Tuesday night, to make it an even 6. He and his friend got to see corgi races today, he reports. Tell me, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO COMPETE WITH CORGI RACES? Brian's gonna hate coming back here.

Also, did you even know there was such a thing?

Yup, they're real. I like the one who turned a little somersault, myself.

I had the temerity to act like a healthy person Saturday morning: I went to the Farmers Market to pick up tomatoes; then I stood in the kitchen for an hour making a fresh, uncooked tomato sauce (fresh basil, too!) to greet David with. I paid dearly for that expenditure of energy, ending up taking another 2-hour nap (see virus version of Rasputin, above).

I was woken by Larry standing in the bedroom and saying, cheerily, "The neighbors are organizing an impromptu BBQ, so I said we'd be there." The poor man - I flipped out. "I CAN'T be there. I CAN'T. I'd have to get food ready. I CAN'T. I CAN'T EVEN GET OUT OF THIS BED."

Larry left to buy hamburger meat and beer anyway, mumbling something about how he'd take care of it.

So I dragged my sick, martyred self downstairs, pulled chicken out of the freezer, marinated it, threw together a chickpea/black bean/parsley salad for my vegetarians, asked Theo to pick up buns and potato chips, and then went back to bed, feeling very sorry for myself.

The BBQ went off without a hitch and without me - I got to lie in my house with the windows open (it was an incredibly beautiful day) and listen to all my neighbors having fun on the grassy lawn behind the tot lot next door to our house. The only good part (for me) was their deciding to do a bonfire, which meant Larry was able to get rid of the stack of wood he's been hoarding on our backyard patio and that I had been planning to advertise as FREE on Craigslist this week, once he went back to work.

That sentence is too long, but I'm too tired to fix it. That woodpile was a sore point, is what I'm trying to say.

Today? I feel the same, although the cold sores that were erupting all over the inside of my mouth yesterday seem to have died down, which improvement makes me feel a lot less desperate and panicked. Still, I had to use my hour's allotment of energy to make homemade salsa (still had a lot of tomatoes left which were threatening to rot if I didn't use them) and also a fresh peach crisp. I spent the rest of the day watching the Dick Van Dyke Show with Susie, who seems to have woken up with the same horrid cold this morning.

Oh, and I did this:


That's right - I cleaned the instrument panel on my stove. Every single time I go to use the stove or turn on the oven, I think, "What a mess!" But I never get around to cleaning it, because, well, I'm busy cooking at the time. So today was the day - I took the knobs off, scrubbed them, and then scrubbed the entire background and the display panel.

And then I lay down on the couch again. Rasputin doesn't like me to get too much done.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Salad Days

Oh, we're in survival mode here today, folks. I'm dying from a head cold and didn't sleep (but, hey, at least I'm not sitting in my friend's vacation home, ruining a planned weekend of hiking and fun), Susie got braces yesterday and is NOT happy about it, David is arriving Saturday, I've got a not-fun dental appointment tomorrow morning...

Just like Hellmann's, but cheaper!
And I've still got to cook, cook, cook. Potato salad is on the agenda for today, to go with the leftover meatloaf from Tuesday. This has been the Summer of the Potato Salad - sort of like The Summer of Love, only more filling. I can't even count how many jars of mayo I've gone through (and, hey, it's only $1.89 a jar at Aldi's!). You see, back in May, I FINALLY figured out how to make this particular dish delectably creamy, rather than having all the mayonnaise just sliding off the potatoes.

Yes, this problem had been bugging me for a long time. 25 years or so, actually...

My original approach was to keep cutting the potatoes smaller and smaller, so there would be more surface area to absorb the dressing. This never worked, though. So, a couple of months ago, I finally hit on taking some of the potatoes after they are cooked, mashing them, and mixing them in with the celery and mayo before adding the rest of the cut-up potatoes. Eureka! I swear, I felt as if I had discovered the cure for cancer.

The Holy Grail, as it were, of side dishes
So, yeah, perfectly creamy potato salad - looks like I can cross that one off my bucket list.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Fantasy Camping

On Sunday, Larry and Theo and I went to the storage place to inspect our pop-up trailer - you know, the one we bought 6 years ago because Larry likes to camp and I don't, but marriage is forever? It was a surprisingly uneventful task - no gross bugs had taken up residence over the winter, no water had leaked through the new protective cover Larry bought last year, everything was there and sort of, well, organized.

But no flowers or throw pillows - we're not THAT good.
Larry and I sat there and stared at each other.

"So," he said, "I guess we're good to go?"

"Yeah," I said, checking inside the storage containers. "Looks like we just need paper towels and some trash bags."

Larry moved stuff around so I could sweep and wipe down the metal floor and the seat cushions. He opened his handy-dandy Coleman storage case that holds all his kitchen stuff and we checked that, too. Plates, bowls, silverware; metal pots; dish soap...all there.

"Is this for real?" I said. "We MUST be forgetting something."

I mean, hey, that's what we do.

Larry kept looking around. "Here's the stove," he offered, knowing I remembered the 2014 trip to a Maine WalMart, looking for a campstove to replace the 2 (count them, 2!) stoves we had managed to leave at home.

"There are 5 chairs in here," I said, checking the storage bench. "And they all work. What the heck?"

It's worth the effort. Really, it is.
"You know, it's a nice camper," Larry said, going around and unzipping the canvas windows to air it out.

"Yeah," I agreed, "like a screened-in porch on wheels. Sleeping in it's nice."

So we basked for a bit in our unaccustomed efficiency, daring to dream of a successful (i.e., not rainy) camping trip in non-humid Acadia, land of granite mountains and blue sea -- a veritable Eden where hiking and kayaking reign supreme, and children are never miserable about being forced to camp with their parents.

Look, I SAID it was a dream, okay?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Paint My Wagon

While Susie and I were staying at our friend's beach house, we watched her daughter transform - in a matter of hours - an older coffee table and side table into things of beauty - all through the miracle of chalk paint. Inspired, I decided that I, too, would turn a worn-out piece of furniture (and believe me, I have A LOT to choose from around here) into an attractively painted piece that anyone (and not just dumpster-divers like us) would want to have in their home.

So, in an unwonted fit of organized creativity, I not only managed to procure the proper paints and brushes since our return a mere week ago, I also actually painted a piece of furniture.

True, it's very small, but you have to start somewhere.

Susie is completely enamored of the color. "We should paint EVERYTHING purple," she said, as I brushed on the paint like the pro I am. I was similarly enthusiastic - that is, until the sun moved to the front of the house and I was stuck painting on the wax finish in approximately 90-degree heat. But, hey, I managed to get the finishing coat on, which is more than I can say for the last time I attempted something like this.

In other news, I can't keep up with the food consumption around here. Even with Brian away (he left us for Seattle, where he and a friend are staying in the friend's aunts house and living like kings for two weeks), I still have 4 kids to feed and I can't cheat by ordering a pizza, since Theo is here. I'm back to running the dishwasher twice a day, and baking breakfast goodies every other day, and generally doing what I did for, oh, I don't know, 15 or 16 years, before people starting growing up and leaving home.

I am entirely impressed by my younger self. She was very energetic, apparently.

In other other news, I woke up to a dead Fitbit this morning, which means I got NO credit for my morning jog/walk/stagger today. But it had charged up by the time I got back and now I have over 12,000 steps already, so TAKE THAT, Younger Self. I also weeded part of the back patio and sprayed natural anti-mosquito spray all over the vegetation and generally acted like a responsible homeowner, for once.

I know, shocking. I barely recognize myself. I blame the sudden drop in humidity levels (or dew point, as you weather geeks insist). I don't want to lose my momentum, so I'll sign off here. Tomorrow, I can discuss camping and our pop-up trailer and how Larry and I might maybe - just maybe - be getting the hang of this thing.


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