Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Lemon of a Cake

On Christmas day we were invited to attend dinner with my friend's family. She has quite a large family and they take turns hosting the event. She rented a local lodge and gave us our assignment: bring a couple desserts. Hah! No problem. Desserts are my specialty. I love to bake. Yay!

I had recently found a lemon cake recipe online that sounded delicious. It was to be made in a bundt pan, so I thought it would be festive and a bit different, figuring folks would probably have had a belly full of sugar cookies and chocolates by now.

Christmas Eve I set into making the cake. Well, it called for cake flour which I didn't have, but that's no big deal...but then I ran out of regular flour with a 1/2 cup to go so I substituted whole wheat flour. Oh, and I didn't really have buttermilk, so I soured regular milk instead, and I didn't really have lemon zest, but who's going to miss that?

Into the bundt pan it went. Out of the bundt pan was a bit more difficult.

After much coaxing with a butter knife it finally came out...well most of it anyway. The chunks left in the pan I carefully removed and fit back into their places like lemony pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I figured that once it was frosted no one would be the wiser.

The next day I made the icing. It was very uncooperative and runny. Hmmm. I put it in the fridge for a while hoping it would thicken up somehow. In the meantime I made a nice easy gingerbread cake from a mix. It was smelling delicious. I took the gingerbread out of the oven and set it on a burner to cool. Unfortunately, Sis decided to make some Top Ramen and accidentally turned on the wrong burner. I took the icing from the fridge, and as I was trying to convince it to pull itself together, I heard a loud crack and the sound of glass flying around behind me. Pyrex pans are only so tolerant of intense heat, and my gingerbread cake was now lying in a lovely bed of shattered glass. Festive yes, safe for consumption, no.

I frosted the lemon cake and well, basically the frosting just ran off onto the counter. The powdered sugar never really blended with the butter so it was all lumpy. This was not looking good-literally. I consulted with Sis and she confirmed that we in no way could bring that cake to the party.

So I went to plan B...which involved a bag of sugar cookie mix, and a box of chocolates I had received as a gift. So much for my incredible baking skills!

As a side note, later that night Sis decided to try the lemon cake. After all, the frosting that we licked off the counter tasted great, and looks aren't everything, right? Wrong. It tasted as bad as it looked and had the texture of a stale brick. Ewww.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mother Mary

Today at Church I was part of the Sacrament program where I and several other women read parts of the Nativity Story. This was a little different though, one woman was John the Baptist's mother, another the mother of Joseph, another the mother of Mary, another the wife of the Inn Keeper and yet another the wife of a shepherd. It really brought new perspective to the story as seen through these women's eyes.

I got to be Mary. I had the smallest part but I was very honored to be chosen to speak her part. I really liked the passage that I read and thought it quite profound:

Yes, I am Mary, and yes, Jesus is my son. Indeed, blessed am I among women. My story is an old one, told and retold from before time began and once again here today by these women whom I love so well. It is a story of spirit, rather than history, and its simple and inspiring truth must and will be manifest by the Holy Spirit rather than by the words of men. I am a woman, much as the women among you, gifted with the divine opportunity of forming a partnership with God in providing a mortal temple for the spirits of his children. It is a sacred thing, motherhood, whether it concerns the Christ or any one of the infinitely precious spirits sent to many of you. It is sacred, holy and beautiful beyond description. For in the pure and undefiled love a mother for a child, mankind comes closer to approaching the love of God, than at any other time.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Very Talented Teacher Indeed

Nat brought her class picture home from school today and she tells me, "Mrs. B did a mistake on our class picture. She drew Annissa on it and she moved away."

I couldn't help laughing. I could just picture her kindergarten teacher toiling away at drawing surprisingly realistic portraits of each child for the class picture, and in her exhaustion accidentally drawing Annissa's as well, even though this girl had moved away a month ago. Silly teacher!

When I was little, I remember thinking that the music I heard from the radio was actually the band performing live at the station, and I was older than kindergarten at that point. It just never occurred to me to think through the logistics of it all until I was a bit older.

Ah, the innocence of childhood and the unlimited possibilities!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Just Following The Four Food Groups

(You have to remember a certain Carl's Jr commercial for this to make sense:)

Hot water. Tea bag. Box of See's. Don't Bother Me I'm Eating.

Hey, I never claimed I was eating healthy!

Which reminds me of my favorite Christmas movie, Elf, in which Will Farrell's character Buddy recites the 4 food groups according to elves: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup! Yum! 'Tis the season!

My mom used to always give Mike and I a box of See's for Christmas, and I would very conspicuously scratch Mike's name off the name tag to see if I could make him crazy. It usually worked.

This year one of his subcontractors sent us a box. I picked it up at the post office, noted its weight and shape, then proceeded to scratch my husband's name off the label and replace it with mine. I knew exactly what this seemingly inconspicuous brown package contained and I was going to claim it as my own! My little label adjustment did not go unnoticed and I was thoroughly lambasted by my husband and Sis. Just a little Christmas fun you guys, sheesh!

As soon as a box of See's is opened I always claim the chocolate that has the caramel and marshmallow layers in it (the treasured Scotchmallow). I'm pretty sure none of my family knows that this particular candy exists, as they have never sampled it, let alone seen it. I plan to keep them in the dark, for as long as possible, if not forever. It's my little secret, Bwwahhahaha!

The other morning I was in a hurry to go finish my Christmas shopping while the kids were at school, so I grabbed a couple pieces of See's on my way out the door. I never got around to eating anything else, and on the way home I realized that I was famished. That's when I remembered that I had little candy canes stashed in my glove box and proceeded to eat two of them. 2 of the food groups covered. If it wasn't for the candy corn I could easily adapt to the Elf way of life!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Snow Boots Are For Sissies

Sis and I went to the valley and did our Christmas shopping on Saturday and I splurged on myself and bought myself some new shoes. I don't think I've bought a pair of shoes for myself in at least a year, with the exception of flip flops. The shoes I had were a pair of slip-on clunky shoes, which I fondly referred to as my clown shoes. Let's just say they really didn't flatter my foot size, but hey they were super comfy. Kind of like baggy sweat pants for my feet.

So here's my new shoes:

My first pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars...ever. I'm very proud. And they are so darned cute that I don't want to take them off. Plus I got the coveted Teenager Seal of Approval so I know for a fact that I'm COOL.

So anyway, today we got a little snow. The first decent snow we've had this year, but only about an inch or so. I took Nat to school and proudly slogged through the slush in my new shoes, hoping everyone would notice that I wasn't wearing big clunky snow boots (or even my clown shoes), but that I was braving the elements in what may be the cutest shoes ever. Snow boots are for sissies people! True mountain women wear cute Converse sneakers and laugh at Jack Frost. Ha! Ha!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Favorite Ornament

This is my favorite ornament. My mom gave it to me on what would be her last Christmas.

Of course we didn't know then that would be the case, and that in 4 short months pancreatic cancer would rob her of knowing her last grandchild, or seeing her grandson graduate from high school, or from watching her eldest granddaughter grow into a young woman, or seeing little Shelby be baptized into the church that she held in her heart.

So on that first Christmas without her, as I was trying to make it one day at a time through the holiday that she always brought so much life to, I came across this ornament she had given to me the year before, and that I had completely forgotten about. I remember just feeling so blessed to have this last gift from her.

Holding this in my hand it was like she was giving it to me all over again. I could see her holding me on her lap and it was as though she were looking right at me through the picture. I am touched every time I look at this ornament, and it means so much to me that she thought to give me something so meaningful.

I don't pack this ornament away with the rest of the Christmas ornaments and decorations, I keep it in the top drawer of my dresser along with other things that remind me of my mom: a score sheet from one of our Scrabble games, a children's book, and a birthday card.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Turkey Talk

I won a contest! I'm so excited! Our local news website recently ran a contest to name a wild turkey hen that has been hanging around the shopping center in town. The prize was a $20 gift certificate to the local coffee shop where she is seen most often.

Okay so you're dying to know the winning name aren't you? My suggestion was Cranberry. I had a feeling when I submitted it, that it may win. Of course, some of the names I was competing with were, Butterball, Strutin Stuffin, Drum Stick Walking, and Little Golly Gobble. I don't mean to be rude, but how could I NOT win? Hee, hee.

So here's a picture of my turkey, Cranberry. I am going to try to go visit her soon, since now I'm practically her owner.

When I got the email telling me I had won, husband suggested I call them and say, "Thank you, she was delicious! What? You mean the turkey wasn't the prize? Oops!" Yeah, he thinks he's pretty funny sometimes.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sleeping In Your Clothes is Not a Good Sign

Last night I read to the girls on my bed, their daddy shuttled them off to their room and then after some tv, I pulled the covers up over my fully-clothed body and went to sleep. I had on socks, jeans, a belt, a long sleeved shirt, and a light jacket. When I woke up I realized that sleeping in your clothes is not a good sign, although it's very convenient to be fully dressed already! (Just kidding people!)

So, I began to think of what might have triggered my lapse in bed etiquette. What I came up with is that I have been feeling completely overwhelmed lately. I narrowed it down to Christmas and daycare taking a toll on my sanity.

I've had my boxes of Christmas decorations sitting in my dining room for 6 days. I did finally manage to finish decorating the tree---yesterday. I counted 15 boxes of stuff. Sis has her snow globe collection, and Cam has his lighted Christmas villages, and then there's umpteen other decorations. I usually do the whole village scene and do 3 mini trees (in addition to the regular one), one of mini ornaments, one of husband's fishing Santas ornaments and one of Cam's Star Wars ornaments. Even though the kids have lots of their own ornaments and decorations, the bulk of decorating and all of the putting away falls on me.

I kept looking at the boxes, and looking at my messy house, and thinking about all the work of decorating, and then anticipating the undecorating and decided, "I ain't gonna do it this year!" I got the kids' special ornaments on the tree, the decorations that they love to play with out, the nativity scenes out, and called it good. I felt so much better after I made that decision!

It seems with daycare my house is in a constant state of chaos, and is always, always a mess. Even when I have the kids pick up and put away, they only do it half-heartedly and someone is always coming right behind them messing things up again. Again the bulk of putting away and keeping stuff organized falls on me.

It is driving me out of my mind, and apparently making me feel so overwhelmed that even changing into pajamas was just too much more to do in a day. I can take a hint. Time to slow down, and re-evaluate.

Cutting back on the Christmas stress has helped, and I am starting to look for another job. I am looking into working at the Indian casino in the next county. Even part-timers get full benefits, but right now the hour long commute each way sounds like a daily 2-hour vacation to me! Where do I sign up? Yeah, I definitely need a change!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ode To The Fake Tree

Sung to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree"

Oh fakey tree, Oh fakey tree
Oh tree of green unfading.

Oh plastic tree, oh plastic tree,
your pre-lit branches please me.

You're waiting in your cardboard box,
convenient and no trunk to chop.

Oh artificial loveliness,
You never leak your sap out.

There was a tree that was so dry
no needles left and I did sigh,

"The hardware store sells trees half-price,
on Christmas Eve, lets buy one!"

That's how you came to be our tree
Oh I do love you dearly

Don't have to wait on husband now,
when your time to shine comes yearly.

This will be our third year with an artificial tree. We would usually go into "the back 40" and cut our own, but what looks good outside doesn't always look (or fit) so well inside. Then there was the year that the tree decided to leak it's sap onto everything--from the ornaments to the carpet. What a mess---happy flippin' holidays!

For a few years we bought a tree at the local tree lot. First to find a time when husband could fit it into his busy schedule to come with us with the pick-up truck to transport the thing, then forking out the 50-60 bucks, then the waiting for husband to trim the bottom of the trunk off so that it would drink it's water, put it in the stand, and bring it in. This sometimes took days. And lets not even talk about getting rid of the thing once Christmas was over...

I found that the trees from the lot would dry out quickly and 3 years ago we had the tree that broke the camel's back. This tree was so dry and losing needles so quickly that by Christmas we were going to wake up to a festive brown twig and a carpet of needles. I had been looking at the artificial ones and noticed that all Christmas items went on sale at Ace Hardware on Christmas Eve.

On the 24th of December, I drove to the hardware store, got my pre-lit, easy to put up fake tree, brought it home, completely undecorated the real tree, threw it out the door, spent 20 minutes cleaning up needles, put up my new tree and redecorated. I've never looked back. Yay for fake!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Let The Games Begin

My legs are annoying. They have a mind of their own at night. I'm pooped, I lay down to drift off to sleep, and then my legs decide they haven't had enough action for the day and start in. They try to leave the bed and get up. They try kicking their way out of the covers. They try inventing new yoga poses for my toes. They basically really tick me off.

This doesn't happen every night, but often enough. I've noticed my legs are more likely to want to become independent of my body if I'm a bit overtired. Of course this is truly counterproductive, because I want to sleep but my legs keep waking me up, which makes me more tired, which makes my legs want to take advantage of me even more. It's a vicious circle to say the least.

The other night the toes on my right foot kept flexing. I would feel the muscles in my calf begin to tighten and then it would move down to my foot where my toes would all of a sudden have the urge to flee from one another. Very strange indeed.

The first time I ever noticed this phenomenon with my legs was when I was pregnant the first time around. I called it "stretchy legs" as it felt like I needed to stretch, but no amount of stretching helped. It only happened rarely then, but during my last 2 pregnancies it was very intense. Pregnancy really seemed to make it more extreme.

Only in the last few years has it gotten attention and been given a name: Restless Leg Syndrome. I was usually met with a blank stare when I would mention it to my doctors, so at least now I have a name for it and even a commercial product to reference. It definitely seems to get worse the older I get so eventually I'll probably have to look into treating it with medication.

Until then I will have my nights when it will be me and my legs-two separate beings in a fight over sleep vs. activity, rest vs. exertion, stillness vs. motion. Yeah, if I could kick their butt I would, but you can already see the conundrum that presents!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What Exactly is a Horehound Anyway?

Today I took the little girls and our dog down the hill to our humane society's fundraiser, Paws and Claus, where for $10 your critter can get their photo with Santa. It was pretty chaotic. There were other dogs everywhere plus 3 cats, one of which was in one of those pet strollers (hee, hee). I mean, it's a good idea and everything, but I still think those strollers are kind of goofy. I think the cat had the same opinion.

The girls got in the photo with Suey, our pit bull mix, and we got 3 shots, none of which were very good. In every photo, someone is looking the wrong way, mainly the humans. Even Santa couldn't get it right. Suey did pretty good at looking at the camera, but she has the wacky animal red eye in all of the photos, where it looks like you're looking into their skull and it's completely empty. I wasn't disappointed, I feel good about supporting the humane society no matter how bad their photography skills.

While we were waiting for them to print out our photos, we took a walk to the old fashioned candy store around the corner. Shelby wanted to see if they had horehound candy. She has been reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder and hearing about the candy in the book had piqued her interest. I waited outside the store and gave the girls instructions to go in, choose something, and then come out and mind the dog so I could pay for their treats.

They were in there a very long time. Finally a lady came out and told me my girls were waiting their turn very patiently while her mother made her purchases. She also told me how well-mannered they were and how Nat had told her the town where we lived, how old the dog was, and other interesting facts about our family. Nat loves to have conversations with whomever will listen---she is her father's daughter, no doubt about it!

They finally emerged and told me their choices. Shelby showed me a small tissue paper packet and told me the lady gave her some horehound candy to try. I paid for the girls' candy and came back out to find them spitting and drooling over a nearby flower planter. Horehound tastes about as good as it sounds apparently!

So that was our big outing today where we learned that the humane society people are good-hearted but not necessarily photographically inclined, and that back in the old days kids would eat anything if you called it "candy" and think it was fantastic. If only kids these days were so easy to please!