Sunday, February 17, 2019

Valentine's Day... and Barney Fitzgibbon

Because our anniversary falls just after Valentine's Day, we have always reserved the day as a day for the family. Every year I have come up with a simple theme, and created an evening around that theme and an amazing home-cooked meal. This year, since my daughter had been talking recently about not remembering most of the Disney classic movies, I decided to use a movie as my theme, for a quiet at home dinner-and-movie. Lady and the Tramp is a sweet story that seemed perfectly suited to Valentine's Day. With a quick trip to the secondhand bookstore, I found not one, but TWO copies of Little Golden Books. One I kept intact for our children's book shelf, and the other I used to create a few tiny decorations. The cover became a portrait inside of a tiny vignette complete with a wine-bottle candle, and the pages became a hanging mobile suspended from our swag lamp.

For dinner, the obvious choice was a spaghetti dinner. With two vegetarians, meatballs were a bit more of a challenge however. Fortunately, thanks to Pinterest, I found a recipe for a zucchini-based vegetarian "meatball" and decided that we would have:
* Spaghetti with "meatballs"
* Gluten-free crunchy breadsticks
* Moscato poached pears
* and for dessert... a cannoli pie.

Now I like to think of myself as a moderately accomplished baker. I have been baking from scratch, since I was 8 years old... and baking gluten free, for 13 1/2 years. But pie crust is something I have never attempted. My mother, who taught me to bake, hated pie crust. She only made it twice every year; for my father's birthday, and for Thanksgiving. And on those two days, she would pound her fist, stomp her foot, bite her lip, and shout at the top of her lungs, “Oh, Barney Fitzibbon... Darn it all to pieces!!!” as she fought mightily against the evil terror that eventually became a crust.

So... I have been afraid.
Of dough.
For thirty-five years.
I swore that I would not attempt “Barney Fitgibbon” pie crust EVER.
Or maybe not until I had mastered gluten free baking.
Definitely not until I could manage meringues and macarons.
Until finally, I found myself out of excuses.
I was not ready. Who is ever “ready” to tackle their Everest? You can be prepared, but you are never really ready.

This cannoli pie was going to have a crust. A real crust, not a cookie-crust.

After 5 ½ hours of mixing, pinching, stirring, chilling, rolling, chilling, pricking, baking, chilling, filling, and baking again, all while biting my nails and second-guessing myself I have created...


The edges are rumply and unlovely.
There is a tiny hole where the dough separated.
The crust is a darker than I'd like.
The filling started to scorch in the two minutes between soupy and done.
And... I am proud of this ugly pie. It smells absolutely divine. There was a bit of extra dough that a baked as a test, and it tasted absolutely amazing. And the filling smells positively heavenly.

It is not pretty. It is obviously a first attempt that will require my family to suffer through chocolate pies, crusted quiches, and crusted vegan pot-pies until I am absolutely satisfied. But it is enough. And it will taste all the better, for the thirty-five years of fretting that's gone into this

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Garden Post: 2/7

There is a blizzard warning one county away. The roads are slippery, there's a windchill warning, and the local schools are closing early. 

Here inside the house, warm inside my mountain of fluffy throw blankets and wool bedsocks I can sit with my hands warming on my cuppa and look out the window and just enjoy the silence that a good snowfall always brings. 

We live between three highways. Even in the middle of the night, there is road noise. But when it snows, everything falls silent. The traffic noises fall away, the birds are quiet, and there is nothing but the quiet rustle of fresh snow falling on our skylights. This is the kind of quiet that you FEEL as you sit, watching the snow fall, with nothing interrupting you but the occasional whoosh of a stray breeze playing amongst the trees. 

One week into February, we have already started our seedlings for this year's garden. This is our 11th year of intensive square-foot gardening, and we are excited to be starting herbs from seed for the first time. Our worm colony wintered in a worm-bin in the dining room, and we used the rich soil from their beds as our starting soil. In the window, we have started: cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, savory, rosemary, basil, lemonbalm, dill, and strawberries. 

And so, our season of waiting and anticipation begins. From a row of paper cups, will come months of fresh herbs, and enough produce to cut our summer & autumn grocery bill by 25%. On our 128 sqare-foot deck, will be an oasis of organic goodness. 

This year's garden will be rearranged to make room for squirrel-proof cloches to protect the strawberries. We are also growing dill and marshmallow for the first time. We have scaled back on the type of plants we are growing, in order to grow more of what we love. Since squash and corn is constantly ravaged by the squirrels, we will have more tomatoes and three types of salad greens instead. 

The months of watering, weeding, and chasing squirrels are before us. For now however, it is a time for quiet waiting. 

For now, the garden sleeps.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


So here's a lighthearted post, and a Christmas Break idea for my friends with kids. I love stuffed animals. My younger friends can tell you about Schnurgle, Eyelash, and Radar and their escapades. My kids can add stories about Pax, Dinglehopper, Radar's Minions, Slurpie, the owls, Dwibbles… yeah, there are a lot of stuffed animals in this house. Heck, I have a heating pack shaped like a stuffed owl! My kids like to BUY me stuffed animals, because they're awesome kids that love to get things that their mama likes. But I don't need more stuffed animals. Because reasons. And space. And downsizing. So about a year ago, I decided that I'm going to hug the stuffies at the store. That way they know they're loved and not forgotten, before they find their forever homes... but I can leave them there, rather than bringing them all home. And this works for my kids, as well. Now when I'm out, I'll detour through the toy department to hug any stuffie that looks like it needs a little love. (I DID mention that I love stuffed animals... RIGHT?!?) I was at the store a week ago getting dog food, and hugging every plush puppy when a younger boy asked what I was doing. So I told him quite honestly that I was giving the stuffies hugs so they wouldn't feel unloved! He asked if he could help, and his mom 'rounded the corner to see her son hugging stuffed animals with a crazy 40-something woman. She asked what we were doing, I explained my ENTIRE reason, and SHE started grabbing stuffed animals! There we were, strangers, in the toy aisle, sharing love with inanimate objects... so we wouldn't have to bring them home and clutter our homes further. We hugged every critter in the store, wished each other well, and left happier. With nothing added to our carts. It was a happy moment. That cost nothing, and unexpectedly brightened two other people's days as well. It is worth repeating. Possibly every time I buy dog food. And just maybe, it's worth sharing with my friends. Because reasons. Or space. Or downsizing.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Word of the Year: Stretch

(We have had months of various internet issues lately, so I'm posting a few VEEERY late posts.)

Last year's word of the year was Psalms. I read them, studied them, wrote them out, (still working on that - my hands are worse than I'd expected) listened to them, colored them, embroidered them, (arthritis again - I finished ONE piece, not 12!) drank from a mug covered in them... and by July I was wholly and utterly tired of them. It's not a flattering truth, but while I knew that many of the Psalms were more plea than praise, I hadn't actually thought through the fact that a full HALF YEAR of Psalms would be spent absorbing a plaintive, oppressed, pleading David. Did I enjoy my year in the Psalms? Yes. Did I learn and grow? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Yes, but not like this. From now on I will take my Psalms in manageable chunks. Lesson Learned. 

For this year, my new word is something that has been embedded into every aspect of my life lately. For 2018, my word is stretch. 

It's not an obvious word for someone who is constantly trying new things and lives with a genetic disorder whose calling-card IS hyper-flexibility... but yes, this year I need to STRETCH. 

In my faith I am developing and stretching new muscles. After more than 25 years of working with young children, I am being led to work with adults; younger women, and newer mothers. This is not my comfort-zone. This is not what I have "always known" and this is not where I have trained since I was 10 to work. But this is the direction I am being led, so I will become more flexible as I learn new ways to share.  

Within my family I am no longer the Amazing Mama who is needed for bandaids, bedtime snuggles, lessons in long division, or how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Nor am I a "retired" mama whose hatchlings have flown the nest. I am both, and I am neither. I am the mama who is helping her daughter learn to work from home as her body is falling apart faster than we can keep her together. I am the mama whose son works 5 days a week, yet can't remember to check the temperature before heading out the door in layered pants and a winter coat on a 50F day. There aren't parenting books for this, so I am breaking my own path as I stretch to fill the new needs of my children. My husband is beginning his fourth career path. His hours are painfully long, and he comes home having stretched physical muscles that haven't been worked since his school years. We are all stretching to fill the gaps that his new career is leaving at home. 

And with my health - yes, I need to stretch more. Arthritis and joints that now dislocate 30-60 times each day (lately as often as 30 times in as many MINUTES!) are leaving a once hypermobile mama with increasingly less ability. I cannot eat what I have always eaten. I cannot walk as long as I want. I cannot bend to tie my own shoes, let alone lie on the floor and scratch my chin with my toes looped over the back of my head. I am not who I used to be, and the new me is in constant pain. So I will learn new ways to stretch. I will flex new muscles. I will grow in different ways. To quote a favorite television show...
Last year we completed two 5Ks. I now know that I can "run" 3.1 miles in one hour with my wheelchair. THIS year, along with another 5K, (or two) I will be completing a 10K. My goal is to "run" a 10K in two hours.

It's a stretch. But I was literally born flexible. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ducky Day

This year we decided to have a Ducky Day on the third anniversary of my mother's death. Starting this year, we're choosing to turn the day into an annual celebration of all things rubber duck.

(The books in our seasonal book basket tell the story of the original shipping-container ducks that our duckie-release is inspired by.)

We created a few simple decorations to brighten the house; a simple wreath from an old bath scrubbie and an embroidery hoop, floating miniature ducks in our mason jars, and a tiny paper garland for the fireplace. In the dining room we placed a sailor-duck (in honor of Mummy's time in the Navy) in our lantern along with four baby ducks.

This year's Willow Tree is called My Sister My Friend. The darker figure appears to be an older woman guiding and standing behind a younger woman... something that is quickly becoming a new chapter in my life, but also who my Mummy was to me.

Our ducky release was kept very close to home. Four little duckies paddled their way down Rice Creek - a tiny stream less than a mile from our home.

Heavy rain, cold weather, and tummy troubles  caused us to re-think our epic water battle plans. However we are enjoying our quieter-than-planned day all the same.  We will be playing a few duck-themed games including one of the kids' favorite games by Bart Bonte - DUCK and having a light lunch with cheese and "quackers."

While today might not be quite as wildly celebratory as we'd planned, I think Mummy would approve. 

I even remembered to buy us new socks!


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Second Grade Goals

When I was in second grade, my teacher asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her I wanted to be a mom and a philanthropist. She told me that wasn't good enough, I needed to choose a REAL job.

While I don't remember the words, I remember the indignant rage that awarded me a trip to the principal's office that day.  It STILL resurfaces when someone suggests that motherhood isn't a "real" job today!

I was filing paperwork this morning, and realized that while it's not much, we're supporting SIX different nonprofits this year. SIX!!! That's before I consider things like thrift store "donations" since that's simple common sense to me. Sure the donations are small, but doesn't every charity loudly claim that "every penny counts"?

Three years ago, my husband lost his comfortable white-collar job of sixteen years. We were struggling to make ends meet, and our only donations were to our church. Who would have thought that three years later with a blue-collar, MUCH lower family income, we'd be thriving enough to help SIX different places that we hold dear to our hearts?

As a stay-at-home recently graduated from homeschooling mom, I consider motherhood my true career. While I may not have millions to donate, I feel that our small donations count towards a cumulative impact.

In my mind, I have reached my second grade goal. And it feels very real.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My "Stupid Little Blog"

Bloggers and ANYONE who believes in small businesses, I need your help.

I need your help spreading the word about how much an enormous company DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOU.

Backstory: after five different modems and a dozen technician visits in fifteen months via Comcast, (the only local option for cable service) when a Century Link (the only local option for DSL service) salesman came to our door we chose to switch our phone and internet service. We were promised better faster service, for a lower price. We voiced our concerns about past issues with Century Link, and were vehemently assured that ALL of those issues had been addressed and that Century Link was now a dependable, honest company that we could trust.

We have now had “service” through Century Link for exactly one month. Here is what has happened during that month.

On the day of installation a technician came to our house, and couldn't get the modem that Century Link mailed us installed properly. He then tried a second and THIRD modem from his truck, and after four hours of standing in my house arguing with his own technical support team, I finally had internet service. Yes he was here for FOUR HOURS, just to get us connected!

After he left when I went to call my husband and tell him we were online, I found the telephone cord dangling free... he had not connected the telephone. When my husband got home he tried to connect the phone himself, only to find that our modem DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A PHONE JACK! He called Century Link, and after 90 minutes of being forwarded to four different people and relaying the same issue each time, he was told to purchase a part from Target and fix the issue himself. Yes, we paid to have our phone and internet connected... and THEY NEVER CONNECTED OUR PHONE!!!

Two weeks later we called in to ask why our phone had not been working properly. Every time the phone rang it was being forwarded to a voicemail-box that we were neither told that we had NOR how to access after 1 ½ rings. We found this out after a second service technician was sent to our house. Yes, THEY SET US UP WITH A PHONE WE COULDN'T POSSIBLY ANSWER IN TIME!!!

Now yesterday afternoon our internet went out. We called to ask what had happened and when we could expect our service to resume, and after a full hour and being forwarded to four different departments we were told that we would not have service for 12-48 hours and that OUTAGES HAPPEN ALL THE TIME! I can agree with that, but FOR DAYS AT A TIME?!? When my husband, rather frustrated at the sheer number of problems we have had in JUST ONE MONTH, asked what could be done about our lack of service, we were told that if we wanted they would reimburse $1.33 of our next bill. Yeah, all those troubles were worth less than $2. Now VERY frustrated at the apparent lack of concern for a brand new customer, my husband said that this was unacceptable. After dozens of interruptions and insistences that this was the best that could be done for us, my husband said that I am a blogger and would be sharing our story. He was told,

I feel that being called little OR stupid is out of line, and I HIGHLY resent the implication that just because I am not worth billions, my voice does not matter. Rather than call back and yell myself hoarse for nothing, I am begging for your help.

If you find this as unacceptable as I do, would you please share this? Because I AM just one little voice... but with your help I KNOW my voice can carry and that if it's shared enough it CAN matter, EVEN to a 60 Billion dollar company!

Please, would you help this “stupid little blog” spread the word about how little Century Link thinks of you?