worry

The Boy Child, who is in fourth grade, is not what one would call “fond” of math. Or writing. And until recently, reading.  If you ask him what his favorite thing about school is he will usually answer “recess” or “lunch”.  (Sometimes, lately, he will say he likes when his teacher reads aloud during lunch.  Which I love.)    This is not a new thing.

Last night he brought home a math “pre-test”, in preparation for the actual test today.  He did it on his own first, and then I went through and told him which ones to correct.  This involves much gnashing of teeth – “it’s too hard!”.  The frustrating thing is, when he takes his time and focuses, he does very well.  He is fully capable of the work.  But since he doesn’t enjoy it, he doesn’t focus on it and gets half the problems wrong.  When he does it a second time, he usually gets it right.  It is exhausting, reminding him that he DOES know how to do this, trying to convince him that is capable. He simply does not believe it, for reasons that completely escape me.  He sees only the ones he gets wrong, not the ones he got right all by himself.  Even when I point this out, he will shrug it off.

This morning I found a note on his door.  It said “GO AWAY”.  And “P.S. I would just like to relax for once”.  And something about his sister.  Clearly, he is stressed about this test and it breaks my heart.  It was never my intent to cause him more stress; I was trying to relieve it!  Could it be that my efforts to ENCOURAGE him by talking about it and telling him to just do his best have actually DISCOURAGED him, put too much pressure on him?  I realize that not everyone likes math (or writing for that matter) or is a super genius.  I don’t expect him to be. But I worry (already) that he will end up asking if you want fries with that shake.  That he won’t be able to get into college and get a job that allows him to “live in San Diego in a condo with a chimp and be single”.  I know he will find his own way – I would just like it to be sooner rather than later.

For now, we will continue to forge gently forward with the math and writing and hope for some kind of confidence breakthrough.  I am at my wit’s end.

outta whack

Some days are just not good from the get-go, and not for any reason you can put your finger on.  I didn’t stay up late or drink too much, but my eyeballs don’t fit quite right, and my pants are bugging me. The morning light is not the right color and the way that tree is tilting is annoying.  My socks don’t match and one has a hole where my second toe is. I need some new eye cream but can’t pick one (no doubt if I had one, all would be right in the world).  My breathing is out of sync, like I’m one breath off.

Could be a migraine thing – been on the edge for a couple days.  A massage might do the trick, but who has the time or money for that.  If I could just streettch a little more, maybe I could get back on track.  The thought of doing actual work today is peeving me – it really is a day best suited for Pinterest and Mexico research.  Certainly not for talking to anyone.

I did happen to unearth a whopping gift card for Sur la Table last night – perhaps a lunch time stroll will set me right.  Though no doubt lugging back some heavy pot or pan will irritate me or they will be out of whatever it is I want. I am a whiny little baby.

It really is a crying shame we don’t have bars in our office a la Don Draper.  I have a feeling coffee won’t be cutting it today.

monday words #1

Seeing as  Monday is usually a day when most of us could use a little pick-me-up, today I’m starting “monday words”.  Good stuff to get you through the start of the week.  It’s only fitting that we start with one of my favorite poets, e.e. cummings.  He lived from 1894-1962, and wrote plays as well as painted.  You can read more about him here.  I’ve always like his poems because they usually are interesting visually on the page.  He staggers words, often leaves out punctuation. They become something else altogether when read out loud.  Each word has a purpose.  Nothing is extra.  The one below is bit more traditional in form.   I hope it perks up your Monday.

[love is more thicker than forget]

by E. E. Cummings

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail
it is more mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea
love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive
it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky

the wheels in my head

I ride the bus downtown to work every morning, about a 20 minute ride. Usually I get a seat.  Sometimes, I knit and/or listen to music. Always, though, I percolate.  It’s mostly quiet (the crazies are still asleep at 7 am) and the perfect time to just sit.  Ideas and plans pop into my head as I watch the world go by. I’ve got a sassy red Moleskine I can jot things down in, because lord knows the brain can’t keep track so well anymore.

Some people see numbers or music in their heads.  Or how to kick the ball just right or make a winning argument.  I see words and patterns. I can usually see where the comma goes. I see that red does go with everything.  I see polka dots and stripes.  I see outfits.

Some people see how to shoot that spaceship and get all the points.  Or what that twenty-sided die means.  I see when the pie is done and what you can make out of all those cans of food.  That brussels sprouts ARE delicious.  I do NOT see sushi. Or fruit with chocolate.

I see how to pack the car, not all the bad things that might happen on the trip.  I see the time line of what needs to get done and the happy hour at the end of it. I see that memories are being made in the middle of the mess.

I see when it’s ok to buy that cheap trendy thing and when you need to pony up for the real thing. I see treasures at Goodwill AND Chanel.  I do not see spray tans and the Pouf.

I don’t always see what needs to be cleaned or washed. I do see what needs to be knit, or sewn or painted.  I see where that couch needs to go and what rug will work.

I see when my kids need a push or a hug. For that matter, also the Geek. (Though I am not always right with that one.) I do not see letting kids jump on the furniture or be rude in restaurants.

Some people see only straight married people. I see people who love each other getting married and making happy families.  I see the minute we are in RIGHT NOW, not the minutes 10 years from now.  Which may be a problem 10 years from now.

I see my family in my friends.   I see possibilities. I do not see NO. I see the sun over the horizon, not the shadow of the dark.

The wheels in my head are pretty darn loud. But it beats the quiet.

1985

FOLLY

The cloud had turned on its V-8 engine

and started to swoop down on me like

some of those filthy seagulls but I

blew it back with a mighty gust

into the plaid-striped sky and made it cry

great big silver tears I thought it might

get its friends to gang up on me but I

was wrong

the cherry sun whisked in to save me

gathered me up in its shiny arms

and set me down, nicely bronzed, in Tralfamadore.

 

COWBOY MIKE

He saunters in from the open range

and plops himself down

on a counter stool,

ten-gallon straw hat always

in hand or on head.

He wears mahogany

polyester pants that cover

swinging limbs that constantly weave in and out.

I sigh and gather his usual -

year-old coffee (his whiskey),

spoon (his six-shooter), napkin (his bandana),

and water.

Gingerly I set it down

in front of him, waiting for his pained

eyes to focus.

Painstakingly polite, he thanks me

and empties the cream container

into his overflowing mug.  Reaching

into his fringed jacket,

he pulls out his cigarettes,

lights up a Marlboro

and breathes deeply, never failing

to exhale in my face

when I walk by, nauseating me.

I cough and gag, partly

from the smoke but mostly from disgust.

He drops ashes on the formica, oblivious

to the glass ashtray.

Oftentimes his friends will tag along -

Alice, who should be someone’s grandma

or the zoned-out hippie who says another planet

is coming to reform him.

All drink cream with coffee in it

bought with America’s money.

Cowboy Mike sometimes carries a model American flag

and waves it proudly, trying

to tell me about the war

but I never listen.

I block him out.

Then he carefully pays,

leaving a few pennies

in the puddle of coffee and ashes.

He turns and shuffles out the door

toward the road

and home.

 

NIGHT

the retarded child drew

a picture of a stallion

it was the blackest horse

with the meanest red eyes

I had ever seen.

Then, in broken wet speech

he told how only he could

ride it.

- Jim Van Sweden

the great purge – part one

When we moved into this wee tiny place in April 2007, every room needed work.  There was wall paper to remove, walls to paint, windows to replace, umpteen handrails to remove in the bathroom.  The only thing in good condition was the hardwood floors.  And the tile in the bathroom was decent too, once you got past the desk lamp as light fixture.  And the accordion door in place of the actual door.  But I digress.  This is what the kitchen looked like.

This is looking in from the dining room, where we were removing wall paper (hence the giant bits of missing wall.) The door on the other end goes into the garage.  We don’t talk about that.  In a perfect world, we would have replaced the cabinets then too, but windows without cracks were higher on the list (and in a perfect world, we would have bought a killer mid-century house to start with).  So we decided to paint what we could, replace the counters and sink and get a stainless steel frig.  We took the doors off the cabinets and…they’re still off.  Started sanding them and discovered one of the layers of paint is some weird uber glossy stuff that WILL NOT SAND.  So this spring we will try some Kilz on them first.

The counters we got are a black and white speckled Corian, because it goes with everything.  Good thing too, because this year I decided I no longer liked the butter yellow I had painted the walls.  The walls in the dining/living areas are a pale blue, and in a house this small it’s better to maintain a little continuity.  The kitchen is now a slightly greener version of the pale blue.

And now the point of this post.  This is what the kitchen looked like last Saturday. A hot damn mess. FYI, if your initials are JWR or RD, you may want to avert your eyes.This might sting a little.

Painful, I know.  In an ongoing effort in the New Year to declutter and make our spaces more efficient, I opened a can of whup-ass up in here over the last week.  Still not perfect, but closer.  For inquiring minds, this is about 20% of my cookbooks.

See that dish rack? Indeed, we have no dishwasher.  None of the places I’ve lived in since I left home has had one, so I don’t really miss it. I hear they are fabulous. And we put the bottom doors back on in the middle to guard the garbage from a certain yellow Lab.  You can see the lovely orange color they were once.

Until we get the proper doors back on, I decided to add some fun curtains.  Not everyone’s style, maybe, but the colors go well with the walls and the rug and it serves my purpose of enclosing that shelf.

Got rid of a bunch of crap under here and some spiffy shelf paper.

Put some snazzy magnetic spice jars on the fridge and made a sweet little curtain for that shelf.  Yes, I am aware it is too short. I have decided I can live with it.  I am auditioning that gray fabric as slipcovers for the food processor and blender that are now on the fridge.

The pantry.  Took 7 cans of olives out of here!

New accessories to finish it up!

Still need to replace the door into the garage – it has a *ahem* small hole in it due to busting through when we got locked out.  Once that is in, I can paint the trim and both doors to match the window.  And this pile is going to Goodwill!  The intervention from Hoarders is delayed a little longer.

spring is in the air (when it’s not snowing)

I know I’m not the only one out there jonesing to get out in the garden, despite tonight’s forecast for some white stuff.  To tide you over, here is a small listing of my favorite spring plant sales…

Early Bloomers Plant Sale (2011)

Arboretum, Saturday, April 9, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
At Plant Donations and the Pat Calvert Greenhouse

“Long one of the Northwest’s best-kept gardening secrets, Early Bloomers has become an area favorite. Featuring plants that bloom early in Northwest gardens and many others, the sale offers a great start on spring planting with hundreds of favorite and unusual plants. Perennials, shrubs, small trees, herbs and much more, with many surprises!”

We went to this last year and got lots of great stuff.  It is mostly donated by members, and plants tend to be small, but definitely worth checking out.  Word to the wise, parking is a PAIN – very small lot.  We ended up parking in another lot and trekking back to the sale.

FlorAbundance Spring Plant Sale (2011)

Saturday, April 30, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday, May 1, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Member Pre-Sale & Party

Friday, April 29, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Warren G. Magnuson Park, Building 30

“This magnificent sale, the largest in the Puget Sound region, features a glorious variety of plants from dozens of the region’s specialty nurseries. Species and hybrid rhododendrons, unusual annuals, favorite and rare perennials, trees, shrubs, beautiful conifers, groundcovers, vegetable starts, grasses, vines and even more. “If you love gardening, the Arboretum Foundation’s spring plant sale feels like horticultural heaven,” says garden writer Ann Lovejoy.

The Arboretum’s big fundraising sale – lots of vendors and plants!  Bring a wagon!  I got a currant last year, among other things.

NW Horticultural Society 4th Annual Spring Ephemerals…and More! Plant Sale

When:  Sat, March 12, 9am – 5pm
Where:  3501 NE 41st, Seattle, WA 98105 (map)
“A larger venue will allow us to increase the number of vendors & widen the range of plants available. World renowned horticulturalist Dan Hinkley will be speaking. In addition, there will be horticultural displays featuring many great plants (with an emphasis on hellebores) & a raffle for some special plants. All proceeds benefit the Miller Horticultural Library, which will be open, featuring books related to the season & topics we’ll explore, & to answer gardening questions. Held at NHS Hall, Center for Urban Horticulture.”

I have not been to this sale, but it sounds interesting and worth checking out.

Northwest Perennial Alliance Spring Plant Sale

When:  Sun, April 17, 10am – 3pm
Where:  9600 College Way N, Seattle, WA 98103 (map)
Description:  Info@northwestperennialalliance.org. Large selection of choice plants from specialty nurseries, members’ gardens & the NPA Borders. Discover new plant introductions as well as established favorites. Sale held indoors at North Seattle Community College cafeteria. Free parking in the visitor parking lots off College Way N, between 95th & 97th, along the west side of campus.

I made the family go to this one last year – one of my favorites!  Lots of vendors and unusual things!

 

AND The Big Daddy -

Master Gardener Sale

Mother’s Day Weekend, May 7th and 8th

Center for Urban Horticulture

The Lovely Miss Z and I went to this one last year – we splurged and bought the pre-sale tickets where they give you wine and food!  Definitely my favorite sale of the year! Got all my tomatoes here!  And probably some other things I didn’t need…damn wine.

I tried to post the info for Seattle Tilth’s sales but it doesn’t appear to be posted yet.

And though Swanson’s is a for-profit nursery, they do have a big sale where you can get some sweet bare root plants for 40% off!

Thurs., February 10, – Sun., March 13
Early Spring Sale – 40% Off all Bare root Roses, Fruit Trees & Shrubs

The Early Spring Sale starts Thursday, Feb. 10th, and runs through March 13th. Save 25% off on all Perennials, Herbs, Groundcovers, Potted Trees & Shrubs. Save 40% on all Bare root items including: Roses, Small Fruits & Berries, Fruit & Flowering Trees, and Shrubs. The best selection, and the best time to plant fruits and berries is now! We have a huge selection of blueberries, cane berries, fruit trees, and strawberries – All on sale at 40% off.

See last year’s score below!
Now if this supposed snow would hurry up and get on with it, I could start taking inventory and rearranging so I could squeeze in MORE green goodies! Of course, there is an entire backyard to deal with…

not that i’m counting

WordPress was kind enough to send me some year-end blog stats, and I’ve thrown in a few of my own.

  • Number of times this blog was viewed in 2010:  2,000! That is  AMAZING to me.  Also, slightly crazy.  According to WordPress, that is 5 FULL 747′s!
  • Day with the most traffic:  March 12.  The day I launched it.
  • Posts with the most views:

we’re go for launch!

nineteen

brothers from another mother

birth of a quilt

a girl named sue

  • Number of tears shed: a shit ton.
  • Plants planted:  67
  • Days camped: 13
  • Plane rides taken: 6
  • Churros eaten at Disneyland:  6
  • Bags of ice bought while ice maker was broken for the Roanoke:  300+
  • Photos uploaded to blog: 206
  • Posts made: 43
  • Purses made: 8
    • Number of times Landlord and Landlord’s lawyer/brokers cursed: countless

    Here’s hoping that next year’s count will be full of nothing but good stuff!  Thanks for reading!

    the chewy

    For years my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe has come from Fine Cooking.  It kicks ass, and I have had no reason to look for another.  Until.  Until I discovered an intriguing recipe from Alton Brown called The Chewy.  My standard recipe varies from the one on the Toll House package because it uses cold butter, not room temp.  This makes for a nice, thick and chewy cookie.  It also makes an unholy mess when you try to cream the sugar into the cold butter.  (You’ll want to cover your mixing bowl if you try it. Just saying.)  But Alton’s uses melted butter!  And BREAD FLOUR!  And a little milk!  And it has a cult-like following.  Clearly, I needed to see what all the fuss was about.  (And if successful, try to make the ultimate oatmeal cookie, long searched for.)

    Full disclosure:  Some people are anal bakers.  They cannot veer from the recipe AT ALL. Everything is precisely measured. I am precise about NOTHING, except maybe butter and eggs, but that’s because they are conveniently pre-measured.  I know that I did not put an exact two cups of flour in, or a teaspoon of baking soda or salt.  The sugar was also probably off. So there you go.

    I’ll tell you one thing – using melted butter was MUCH easier than 2 1/2 sticks of cold butter.  I was a little confused about the creaming instruction – it mostly just kind of melted into the butter.  I creamed til it seemed thickened and well mixed.  The result was more like caramel, rather than the fluffy stuff I usually get.

    You then add the eggs, vanilla and milk, and finally the flour and chocolate.  It tells you to chill the dough, which is necessary because this is a VERY loose batter.  It doesn’t specify how LONG to chill it though. I gave it a couple hours.  He specifies a #20 scoop – mine was #40 which i THINK is half the size he used.  The first batch I left in balls, and they were done in 10 minutes.  Edges were a little too crispy so next time I flattened them slightly.  Same result, too brown.  Then I turned the oven down to 350, since my scoops were smaller, and upped the baking time to 12 minutes.  That helped a little, preserving the chewiness.  Can you tell the difference?  The one on the right was baked at 350, versus 375 on the left.

    And the verdict?  I’ll keep on cleaning up the unholy mess of my tried and true recipe.  Texturally, these seemed much lighter than my usual ones, less dense and chewy.  Sure, they might be easier to make (but more time-consuming since you need to chill them), but what’s the point if they aren’t the best you can make?  I may still tinker with the base of this to see what I can do about that perfect oatmeal cookie.

    The Chewy by Alton Brown (my notes are in red)

    • 2 sticks unsalted butter
    • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 2 tablespoons milk
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
    • Ice cream scooper (#20 disher, to be exact)
    • Parchment paper (I didn’t use any – I was out)
    • Baking sheets
    • Mixer

    Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

    Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. (Why?  I did it in the microwave). Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside. ( I rarely sift. Unless it’s powdered sugar. Just stirred with a fork a bit.)

    Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

    Chill the dough (I did for two hours), then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. My scoops were smaller – I baked for  10-12 minutes, after I turned the oven down to 350.  You want the edges to be golden, but the middle should still be soft and pale – they will set as they cool. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.