village people

Tonight I am going to spend time with a couple of girls I’ve known for many years, in the sort of way that there is comfort and ease in each others’ company no matter how long it’s been since we’ve been together. No need to put on a show; I’ll probably wear my soft pants and take off my shoes. There will be food and drink and dishing. And rebalancing and resettling of the business of our lives.

Sometimes when I am overwhelmed and out of sorts and wondering about the point of it all, I stop and breathe for a moment and remember the good things – surely there must be a few. The biggest: my village. The people I’ve known since college have been here the longest and own a big chunk of my heart. The ones who came with them, too. Our Roanoke family – not by blood, but by choice. How different my life would be without that giant circle of good people. Our Rosens and extended Rosens. Our Green Lake moms and dads. The Underwoods and the geeks that came with The Geek.

Social media makes it easy to reach out and stay in touch when you can’t always do it physically. I can’t give that up despite the dumb quizzes. There’s a secret Facebook group called Mommy Dearest – it began with my like-minded mom friends, raising our kids the best way we know how, not afraid to mock ourselves, raise a glass and maybe ask a serious question or two. It’s over 60 people now who don’t even all know each other, but they offer support and laughter. My village keeps growing.

That’s why I make the Geek help me clean the house and do the shopping for parties even though it’s not his favorite thing. It’s why I am constantly feeding people. It’s my way of giving back what they give to me. Those of you know who you are – thanks for answering the call and making my village so bright and funny and necessary.

 

the way back

I posted this status on Facebook a while ago:

Sometimes I still feel like that girl that used to wonder around downtown in the 80′s with a camera, having coffee and a cigarette outside the old Nordstrom. Life was good then.”

 It was so easy then. No doubt there were struggles of some sort, but nothing major comes to mind. It seemed like the possibilities were endless, not that I’d considered any.  Then, like now, I tend to live in the moment. Which explains how I ended up here.  But I digress.

Now that Nordstrom is many spaces, including Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. Back then, the Rack was actually in the basement of Nordstrom and had real treasures. What is now Nordstrom was Frederick & Nelson’s – I actually tried on wedding dresses there. I sat outside the Nordstrom coffee bar with my coffee, cigarette and camera, watching the world go by and probably considered myself quite arty and European.

There were no weighty decisions to make, save when to have coffee or meet a friend. High school and college overlapped these years – I’d go back to college in a heartbeat. (High school can suck it.)

No Facebook to check, no constant tether to anything but what you were doing right then. How much more brain space I must have had.

I’m sure I didn’t give much thought to life in 25 years. But I gotta say, now that those 25 years have come and gone, responsibility blows. The worrying blows. Being in charge of small people and a business is hard. Most of the time, I find myself wondering where the real parents and bar owners are. I am afraid on a daily basis that I am doing it all wrong.

A friend commented on my status, wondering if we’d look back in 20 years at this time in our lives in the same way. I’d say the only thing this time has to recommend it over the future is our relative health, but who knows? I find myself thinking more frequently about the fact that I should probably pay a little more attention to the future (amid slight panic) and a little bit less to the now, but I am afraid to miss anything.

I know that girl outside Nordstrom with the camera is still in me. It might be the only thing that gets me through some days.

At the old Ace Records in Ellensburg - 1987/88?

At the old Ace Records in Ellensburg – 1987/88?

just right

You guys. We did it.

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Moms

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Mmm, snacks!

Dinner!

Dinner!

So, yeah. The days of endless projects and prep are over. I survived and lived to tell about it.

Thanks for your kind words here and on Facebook about my last post. You guys are the best. And in other news, I just saw the before photos of the kitchen – SCARY. A reveal post soon.

giving thanks

It will come as no surprise to many of you that I like a good party. I like to go to them and give them. I am particular and controlling and bossy about my parties. I like the planning and the cooking and the eating and the friends who come.

In early October, I decided to host Thanksgiving. That is not unusual in and of itself – I have done it many times before. But this time it’s special. I coerced my parents to make the trek north from Oregon – the first time ever. The Geek’s parents, his uncle and our good friends Creepy, Lin and Spike (yes, that’s his name and well-deserved) will all come.

Since then, I have repainted the dining/living room, part of the kitchen and hallway, installed new curtains, made The Geek lay a vinyl plank floor, repainted the kitchen cabinets and made new curtains for the lower 3 cabinets that don’t have doors. I have switched out the china cabinet in the living room for a more mod glass shelf bookcase. I have created a Craft Hall.

I have planned the menu and braved Costco and Whole Foods. I have IRONED.

Even for me, this is beyond the pale. But this is no ordinary Thanksgiving. The Geek’s mom is slipping away. Her memory for short-term things is not good. Not good at all. She will ask you the same question every time you talk to her, even though you’ve told her the answer 10 times before. She loses simple things. For the first time a few weeks ago, she forgot how to do the books at the bar, something she’s done for probably 25 years. She cried in the Geek’s arms because she knew. She knows.

This Thanksgiving is special because it might be the last one she can fully participate in. It’s special because we will all be making our own memories. I need the walls to be bright and fresh. I need that nasty kitchen cabinet to be gone. I need a new kitchen floor. I need the food to be how I picture it. THIS is what I can control.

Of course I know the most important part is all of us being here together. But the rest counts – it makes the whole picture. I need it to be right.

I hope your Thanksgiving is all you want it to be.

what i want to be when i grow up

Hi, friends. Been a while. I hope all is well in your world.

Nothing of substance to complain about over here, but I will admit to some mysterious aches and pains that have plagued me in recent months. Due in part to overuse and just plain getting old, I’m afraid.  I’ve been for some PT and gotten some exercises.

All this to say, I  ain’t getting any younger and it’s time to get serious. I’ve never HAD to exercise or diet. I don’t eat crap on a regular basis, but I could eat better. And for sure ANY excerise will be more than I am getting now. Apparently walking to and from the bus isn’t really cutting it.

I did do the running thing for a bit, and I enjoyed it. My knees, not so much.  Although I may give it another go at some point, right now my plan is to take a gentle yoga class and work in a body weight routine I can do at home – I am just not a go-to-the-gym girl.  I’m going to start with this routine.

This has been percolating in my brain for some time. But what really brought it home was seeing the 6 fierce ladies  in this video this week. They are simply amazing. It makes me actually look forward to what the next 20-40 years might bring. We don’t have to fade away with our tight perms and polyester slacks. We can stay stylish and fit and excited about life. Their lives aren’t perfect – some days it’s hard to get out of bed even for them. But they do it – looking great and having fun at the same time.

If I can be like them when I’m their age, I will be happy. I’m starting now.

Get yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and prepare to be inspired by these “Fabulous Fashionistas”.

picklelicious

Thanks to Darrin and Amanda, I found myself in possession of a Mezza Luna Farms box of veggies last week. Among the goodies was a pickling cucumber and a GIGANTIC Japanese cucumber. I do not exaggerate.

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Clearly, something had to be done.  Something of the briny variety.

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I used Ted Allen’s Refrigerator Pickle brine times 2, since I wasn’t sure exactly what my yield would be. According to the recipe, one batch makes 2 quart jars and I figured 4 jars would be a safe guess. Turns out I was right on. BUT if you use the recipe below as written, be aware it will only make enough brine for 2 jars (though I did have some leftovers).

For the brine:
10 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups white vinegar
6 teaspoons kosher salt
Several sprigs of fresh dill
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns (if you have ‘em)

*I also added maybe 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and a couple slices of jalapeno to each jar. So far they have a bit of spice but not too overwhelming.

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil, reduce the heat so the water simmers and add the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and salt, raise the heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt dissolves.

In 2 clear 1-quart jars, place a few sprigs of dill. Divide the seeds and peppercorns between the jars. Using tongs, remove the garlic from the brine and place 5 cloves in each jar.

I sliced the cucumbers fairly thinly, maybe 1/4″ to 1/8th, and packed the jars with them. I then poured the boiling brine on top to cover completely. Let them cool, and then cover and refrigerate. They will taste like pickles in a few hours and get better after a few days. The recipe says they keep for about 3 months.

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missing

One day, about six months ago, I was signing The Girl Child up for a two week stint at Camp Colman, where she spent two weeks last year and had a great time. I wanted The Boy Child to go this year, too. He’s never been, and as it was such a great experience and a big part of my teenage years, I wanted him to have that opportunity, too.

He was less than excited. Or any other positive word that one would care to insert. One could accurately say he dreaded it. And was not afraid to let us know it.

The Boy Child is an introverted sort. He also has an unhealthy attachment to his Xbox and Steam accounts – even more reason in my eyes for a week away. We tried to encourage him by reminding him that his sister had a great time last year, and would be there at the same time. He had friends going as well. He was not amused.

All this to say – it’s been almost a kid-free week in our house. At first, in the abstract, this sounded like a splendid plan. A whole week! Peace! Productivity! A stroke of brilliance on my part! The first time we’ve ever been without at least one child for this long. (There was a 3 day weekend in San Francisco for a certain joint 40th birthday party, but that’s it.)

Yes, it is the god’s honest truth that they drive me insane on a regular basis. Safe to say, a daily basis. That I worry about them constantly. That I nag too much and hug not enough.

Turns out, a week is a long time, people. Our house is deadly quiet. Yes, the Geek and I talk to each other, but it is still so, so quiet. No one asking if they can  eat another unhealthy thing. No one talking to his friends through headphones and trying to buy things that don’t exist in real life. No girl cracking her knuckles or the tap tap tap of texting.

Sometimes I wonder what it’s like for people who have careers, real jobs that satisfy some essential part of them. And then I remember that my real job, the thing I am sometimes best at, is being a mom. Even though I suck at it at least half the time, it is the thing that satisfies me.

And I miss it – I miss them. At first, I thought, “This is what it would be like without kids. If we’d never had any”. But that’s not true. Because if we’d never had any, we wouldn’t know what it feels like to miss them. To miss them like a part of our own selves is gone. The best part.

Saturday, one half of the best part of me comes home. I hope he had some fun and maybe learned that he can do a lot of things he never thought he could. After I’m done squeezing him, I hope he tells me all those things. The squeezing might take a while.

One uncertain, one ready to go

One uncertain, one ready to go

a walk in the park

So far this summer the weather in Seattle has been ridonculous – barely a rainy day in sight. It’s a little spooky, actually. Despite this, my kids have spent an insane amount of time in front of a screen of some sort. Yesterday, I’d had enough.

I laid down the law – it was Family Day and WE WERE LEAVING THE HOUSE. The Geek and Boy Child were on board with this plan, the Girl Child not so much. At all. Sadly, she chose to skip the Family Day at the expense of seeing her friends this week.

The original plan was to head to the Sculpture Park near Seattle Center, but given that this weekend was Bite of Seattle and the Center would therefore be crazy with people, we opted for the trails and views at Discovery Park in Magnolia instead. It’s one of those local places we don’t often think of going to – it’s been years in fact since our last visit. And we’ve never taken the trail down to the beach.

This is the view from the top, overlooking Puget Sound for you non-locals.

hilltop

hilltop 2

If you disregard the panting words of the woman returning from the beach who claims there are 250 stairs to the bottom and coerce your reluctant family to give it a shot, you also get to see this.

trail

I don’t think there were actually 250 stairs. Maybe 50, but it was nearly a mile long. And it was cool traipsing through the forested trails, expecting to reach the Shire around the very next bend.

At the bottom, your reward is this. This is the beach looking toward Golden Gardens and Shilshole Marina.

beachside

And this way looks toward Alki/West Seattle.

beachside2

For the life of him, Jack could not understand WHY there was all this glorious water that he was not allowed to go in (Seattle parks rule: No dogs on beaches.) We did cheat a little, but considering all the off-leash fully wet dogs we saw, we didn’t feel too bad.

jackbeach

Ack! Too far! Soaking wet shoe!jackbeach2

Also at the end of this spit is a wee, tiny lighthouse. No idea if it is still in use, but I do love me a lighthouse.

lighthouse

There is still stuff inside, so maybe they use it? No Hobbitses though.

innerlighthouse

It was a lovely walk with fantastic views, marred only by the absence of my favorite 15-year-old girl. The boys did manage to crack themselves up with this pose.

keepoff

It sure was easier back in these days. I’m hoping she realizes family time isn’t so bad before it’s too late. All that Gossip Girl and Kardashians  is gonna get pretty old pretty soon, right?

bw kids

rhubarb coffee cake

As is typical for any spring/summer weekend in Seattle before July 5th, it has been pissing down rain for days now. Mother Nature cares not that it’s a 3 day weekend or that people in other parts of the country are enjoying BBQ’s and sunshine on this holiday.

Which means that I was left with inside projects. I’ve been meaning to purge the pantry for sometime now. There were things in there from 2011! I do not fully understand how that is possible, since i HAVE purged it since then. I blame gremlins. Or my children. Which I realize is redundant.

In any case, 1 screwdriver of the liquid variety, a couple of hours and multiple trips to the compost/recyling bins later, and the pantry was back in shape. As a reward, I made this cake.

It is a coffee cake slightly adapted from a recipe in The Family Baker. She suggests you can use nearly any fruit, but I like it best with tart apples or, in this case, rhubarb diced small. For berries, I prefer a cornmeal coffee cake, but knock yourself out if berries are your thing. I think the sweet of the cake plays nicely with the tart of the rhubarb, and the cinnamon/sugar topping makes a crispy, spicy contrast to the tender interior. Even better, it’s a cinch to mix up.

RHUBARB COFFEE CAKE

(slightly adapted from The Family Baker by Susan G. Purdy)

Topping:

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine for topping.

Cake:

2 1/2 cups diced rhubarb (or tart apples, or berries of your choice)

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 salt

2 eggs

1 stick butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ square baking dish.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together. (Or if you are lazy like me, just add them all to the top of the mixed wet ingredients, next.)

Whisk butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Add fruit and mix gently. Spread in pan. Sprinkle topping evenly.

Bake about 35 min or until done. Let cool if you are the patient type, but I will tell you, it’s pretty divine served warm. I’d even gild the lily with some vanilla ice cream for a dessert.

Image

almost but not quite

I am a shy person.

This will come as a shock to some people, I am sure. But they will be the ones who don’t know me well, who don’t see the effort it takes to go outside myself.

Some people mistake shy for aloof or intimidating. Really, it is just another layer of defense. 

Sometimes, while in a group of people at a party or just people-watching, a feeling comes over me so close and tight it seems like a bubble. That no one else can see into or through, a little piece of time that I could almost fly through to another place or time. Away from this group or situation, into some peace or quiet place, a chance to regroup and recharge.

I try to grab that bubble, but I’ve never managed to hold it tight enough. I close my eyes for the smallest second, listen to nothing, but find myself in exactly the same place.

Such a comfort that bubble would be. Someday, I’ll grab it in just the right spot.