Friday, September 28, 2007

Gettin' Happy

I went shopping a couple of nights ago. I just needed a little pick-me-up, and look at these cute shoesI got at Kohl's!

Aren't they adorable?

And they'll go great with the grey pants I bought as well as this:

I love retail therapy!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Blame Game

I am sooooo tired. I can't be creative enough to write anything interesting. Sorry. I also can't clean my bathroom, and I promised myself I would. I'm blaming it all on:

1) Anne Tyler whose book The Amateur Marriage would not let me go until I finished it.
2) The Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. Why would a grown woman watch their tryouts instead of going to bed at a decent hour? Why?
3) Top Chef. Can't they just tell me who wins already?
4) Mr. Wicke. Because he didn't make me go to bed and only laughed at me for too many nights in a row.
5) My very comfortable, TV-watching chaise.
6) The stairs. Because they were too tall to climb when I was that tired.
7) My kids. If they weren't so loud and needy during the day, the quiet peacefulness of the night wouldn't be so enticing.
8) My dog...because...well haven't you heard of "kicking the dog?"
9) Okay, Fine!!! Me, alright? Because I'm clearly too stupid to put myself to bed at a decent hour.

I was much happier being able to blame someone else.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

After Years of Pretending to be on David Letterman...

The Madame Queen offered to play the "interview game," and I signed up. She got to pick the questions, and I tried my best to answer them honestly and entertainingly since she requested that I post the answers on my blog. So here they are, and if you are not interested in hearing any more about little ol' me, read no further.

However, if you're still here and feeling adventurous, leave a comment asking to be interviewed, and I'll pass on the love! I'll get to pick 5 questions for you to answer and post on your blog, but then you have to offer to interview someone else. If you're in, leave me a message, and be sure your email address is available either in your message or on your blog so I can send you the questions. Any takers?

Besides being a mom, what is your greatest accomplishment in life?
Whoa! The word "greatest" is just so intimidating that I had to skip this question, give it some thought and answer it last. After all day, it finally occurred to me and I dug through some old boxes to find it. I taught school for 7 years before we were finally able to adopt our first baby. Now lots of people say teenagers are really tweerpy, but I can't help myself; I just dig 'em, and upon leaving mid-year to stay at home with the baby, many of my students gave me cards and well-wishes that knocked my socks off. Here is some of the things they wrote:
"...I've learned and grown from you so much both in character and in academics...You taught me how to be a better person and how to enjoy life to the fullest, not to mention all of the wonderful writing skills you passed on to me..."

"...You have changed my life in a way no one could ever do...Your passion for English has given me the thrill for learning this subject which in years passed I have never experienced..."

"...Thank you for helping me discover how to write my best work. You inspired me to write what I feel and not just words...You brought so much joy and happiness into the room and we really appreciate it..."

"As my teacher and inspiration to love to learn, I shall remember you forever!"
Besides my kids, that's what makes me most proud. Here's a shout out to all the many great teachers out there! Keep up the good work (even though they don't pay you what you're worth!)

If money were no object and you had all the time in the world, what would you like to learn how to do? Why?
There a number of things I want to learn right now. Like how to bake artisan bread and to speak a foreign language. (Isn't it awful that I don't? Not the bread part. The language. Regret over bread would make me a little nutty!) Those I will probably try at some point, but the one thing that I will probably never do because of money and time would be to go to culinary school. I really like to cook, and I would love to be more technically educated.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Now I know the south really knows their comfort foods, but up in beef country where I was raised, nothing is better for comfort than a good steak and a baked potato. Mmm.Mmm.

If you had to lose one of your five senses, which would it be and why?
Clearly the only way to figure this out is through the process of elimination, as in which one would I miss the least, and I guess it would be the sense of smell. While I would miss some favorite scents like fresh cut grass, cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven, rain, mountain air, and Mr. Wicke's cologne (do I hear a catcall in the background?), there are a lot of nasty smells I could do without pretty easily. I won't name those because my mother tried to teach me that there are just are some things we don't talk about. It didn't always take, but she tried. For her, I will edit myself here.

Do you ever embellish stories on your blog? If yes, why? If no, do you think it’s okay for other writers? Or would you feel cheated if you knew?
Well, Mr. Wicke says that I exaggerate every time I tell a story. But I think it's pretty clear that when I say, "He asked me like 50 million times," it wasn't actually 50 million, it just felt like it. Clear exaggeration, for effect and entertainment--ala Mark Twain, for example--is completely appropriate in my book.

But do I make stuff up? Never. I think the only reason I would do that is to make myself seem more interesting than I think I am, and I think that would make me feel bad about myself ultimately.

As for everyone else...well, I was really put off when the guy who wrote A Million Little Pieces copped to fictionalizing a lot of it. I mean I like a good story, but if it's told as a memoir then it should be based in truth or it's just a lie and pretty pointless to me.

That's all, folks. I don't know if you had a good time, but I sure did. Thanks Madame Queen! And be sure to let Letterman know I'm now giving interviews.

Friday, September 21, 2007

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Professionals?

The past two days have been a testament to why a woman needs her girlfriends. Here's the rundown:

10:00 am Drop Griffin off at my girlfriend's house for preschool. Four of us take turns teaching. Griffin LOVES it. It's FREE and I get 12 glorious hours to myself a month.

12:07 pm Go to Melissa's house to learn how to make THE MOST DELICIOUS whole-wheat bread from scratch.

12:28 pm She also gives us great recipes for whole-wheat pancakes that are blended in the blender. She says they are super delicious and so easy. I can't wait to try them.

12:42 pm Learn about Shar's, Mesa's best kitchen store where Bosh's, gluten, and the very best yeast are available. Who knew? Melissa, apparently. She also knows a whole lot more. Check her out here.

1:03 pm Another girlfriend in attendance gives me the address of THE BEST AND CHEAPEST fabric store in the valley. It's called Sass, and I must go there ASAP. She got enough chocolate velvet material to make 8 9ft. curtain panels for $60.00!!! Are you kidding me? Why did I not know about this store before?!

3:12 pm Pick up TWO warm, freshly baked loaves of bread from Melissa's house.

5:00 pm Make dinner for the dinner swap my girlfriend and I have been doing for over a year now. Included is one delicious homemade loaf of bread for her. It's the least I could do in return for the two delicious meals she gave me this week.

7:30pm Attend a lively and thought provoking bookclub with 11 fantastic friends. I also get to eat a lot of glorious and delicious food prepared by someone else. She even offered to teach us how to make her delicious homemade rolls that literally melted in my mouth. We're setting that up for next month.

10:00 am Project Friday Begins. This is a new idea that three of us had to take turns help one another accomplish a project on our list of to-do's. Today we purchased plywood for me to make a 4' chalkboard and 4' flannel board for my playroom, found Angie a comforter and sheet set for her son's room, looked for a spice rack for Shilo's pantry, and went to lunch together.

Whew! That is a couple of fantastically busy days! So it is no wonder that, in the quiet moments between activities, I have been pondering all the ways my life is and has been blessed by the presence of amazing and inspiring women. In addition to being amazing friends, they are the very best teachers, supporters, and cheerleaders. From them I've learned parenting tricks, organizing strategies, and great recipes. They've helped me sew curtains, refinish tables, and make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world (I finally got them right, Meg.) They've given me the most useful advice about books, marriage, discipline, and gardening, just to name some of the highlights.

I thank, with my whole heart, the many women who have not only made me, undoubtedly, a better human being, but who have also saved me thousands of dollars in class tuitions, professional decorator and organizer retainers, and therapist fees. And that is why every girl needs a girlfriend.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What Renee Zellweger and My Laundry Room Have in Common

A month and a half ago, on the long car trip from Wyoming, I listened to a lot of Dennis Prager. If you don't know who he is check out his book Happiness is a Serious Problem. I love it, and every Friday he devotes one hour of his radio show to the "Happiness Hour," a discussion on all topics having to do with being and sustaining happiness. It's absolutely terrific. Download a podcast tonight. Seriously.

Anyway, one podcast that I can't get out of my head was the hour devoted to discussing the whys behind crazily thin women. His case in point were some recent and frightening pictures of Rene Zellweger, one of Hollywood's many cases of "Never too Thin or Too Rich." His point is that most hetero men do not find bony women sexy, so what is driving this obsession?

I've been thinking about it a lot, and here's what I've come to. It's just like my laundry room. See, on any given day, you can judge me by the condition of that one little room. When I'm feeling good and am on top of my game, my laundry room is a beautiful thing to behold. Everything is in it's place, and it is just nearly perfection, if you will. But when things start falling apart, the laundry room is the first casualty. Stop by sometime; you'll notice that the door is either wide open or shut tight. Look, I'm not sharing my dirty laundry with anyone, okay?

Consequently, the laundry room has become a bit of an obsession for me. It's as if I can control that one little room, I can control my universe, and when it's a mess the guilt is a burden I can't get off my mind. "You're behind, and you'll never catch up," it seems to taunt.

My guess is that is what happens to some of these skinny obsessed women. And it is just a guess because most of my friends and I still eat. I think it's all related to gaining control, or at least appearing to have control over themselves and their lives. The problem for them is that, unlike me, they don't have a door they can shut.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Great Little Read

This month it was my turn to pick the book for our book club, and somehow that always gives me a little angst. Pleasing a lot of different women is not an easy thing to do. It is so difficult that it almost gives me a little empathy for my husband. Almost. I must be difficult to please. Anyway, after considering my options I remembered a little book that I had enjoyed a couple years back.

Now since it had been awhile since I had read Anne Tyler's book Saint Maybe, I became a littl worried last week after talking with a book club member who wasn't crazy about it. "Oh, no!" I screamed inside. "I don't want to be known as the loser-book-picker." (Very different from the loser-butt-picker you may have heard about. But I digress.) The point that I am actually trying to make is how I can happily report that, after finishing it again this weekend, I am still crazy about this book, and I must share!

I think Ms. Tyler is a genius writer when it comes to depicting family life and relationships which is her usual subject matter. Her characters are well developed, always slightly flawed and and little quirky or off-beat but very real. She has a great ear for dialogue and a keen eye for the unspoken language in all human relationships. I think her depictions communicate the nobility of average, quiet lives, and she has a great sense of humor and irony to boot. Her characters stay with me, and I find myself thinking back to them time and again.

Ms. Tyler also wrote The Accidental Tourist which was made into a film in the 80's starring William Hurt and Gena Davis. Then in 1990, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Breathing Lessons, of which I am also a fan.

If you're looking for a good read, I highly suggest her work.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I'm Still Here...Just Trapped Under This Mess

Still chaos here, but improving. Today, since I cannot seem to be content with messing up 4 rooms, I am going to paint the laundry room. Why not, right? If the brushes and rollers are already out...

Well, here is what chaos looks like, and maybe is an explanation for why I can not be more interesting as of late:

Here's the loft all ripped up!

These cabinets used to be in the loft and were black.

Now they are red and will live in the family room.

Everything, and I mean everything, is out on the counter and waiting to be organized.

Well, they aren't before pictures. I never seem to remember to take before pics, but I'll post some pictures when I'm done...someday.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What was I thinking?!

On Friday, what started out as a simple little project of rearranging the furniture in our loft, turned into a full house explosion. Now I'm painting three pieces of furniture, covering cushions, making window coverings...I'm tired even thinking about it, but since I'm in total chaos right now, I've got to get busy. I can't live like this much longer. Sanity NOW!

Friday, September 7, 2007

She's on a Roll

The one-liners from my 5 year old daughter just keep coming! Two days ago soon after my daughter left for school my friend called and said, "I had to call and tell you what Logan said this morning. She's so funny!"

That kind of beginning always worries me.

This is how it went according to Kimball (husband of said friend who carpools the kids to school):

Emily (friend's daughter) asked, 'Daddy, is it better to be pretty or nice?'"

He responded, "Well, what do you think?"

"I think it's better to be smart."

All of a sudden Logan pipes up, "No! It's better to be pretty. My mom's smart, and sometimes she's mean."

I'm not sure which part is more offensive to me: That she doesn't think I'm pretty or that she thinks I'm mean. It's a quandary.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Picking at My Picatta

Because of the impeccable timing, I must post what happened after serving the Chicken Picatta I raved about yesterday.

Last night, upon finishing her chicken and leaving most of the pasta alone, Logan said, "It's a little sour for me." And then, putting a consoling hand on my shoulder, she soothed, "Maybe you can try again next time, Mom."


Well--just for the record: What does a five year old know, anyway?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Dinnerswap: A Housewife's Best Friend

Holy Labor Day, everyone! Did anybody else's house take it on the chin? Man, I have been trying to catch up all day. I guess that's what I get for really vacationing over the three-day weekend. Well, it was good while it lasted.

Today's post will be about my next favorite housekeeping trick--next to laundry-load-a-day. If you missed that one the first time round go here. Anyway, my next favorite trick is the dinner swap. My friend and I have been at it for just over a year now, and we're still going strong, despite my mother's doubts in the beginning.

Here's how it works. My friend cooks on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I cook on Tuesdays and Thursdays for both of our families. Friday through Sunday we are on our own. I think both of us finagle a meal out over the weekend, and most of the time I have so many leftovers we have a leftover night as well. Add that all up and most of the time, I only have to cook 3-4 dinners a week.

Now, I'm a girl who even likes to cook, but let's be honest; anything you have to do everyday gets a little old. The gift of giving me two days off and still getting a terrific homemade meal...Well, it is just AWESOME! And it's really no big deal to make a little extra if I'm already cooking anyway. The other side benefit is that we are both saving grocery money because we don't have to buy so many ingredients. Maybe now you see why it has become one of my very favorite homemaking tricks. It's a win/win all the way around.

Some things that make it work:
1. Ideally the partners should be within easy walking distance. If I had to pack my kids in the car and haul her meal across town while mine got cold, it wouldn't last long. As it is, I just put her servings in those nifty disposable tupperware things, load them in our shared wicker basket and walk the two doors down. Easy.

2. The families should eat similarly. I could no way share meals with a vegetarian. I need my meat. My friend and I also agree in parenting style in this area. No special or extra meals for kids. They've got to eat what is prepared. And there is usually enough variety so there is something they like. We also don't get nuts with the gourmet ingredients. I mean it's good food, but we both have kids. Enough said.

3. Flexibility and communication are a must. Sometimes schedules need to be adjusted. Thursday soccor practice means that we eat earlier on that day. We just make it work.

4. Another great help in the beginning was signing up for recipes at Dinner Planner. Every week we'd get 7 recipes with, and--this is the best part--a color-coded shopping list. It was like dinner by numbers it was so easy. Plus it helped get us out of the "food rut" we had found ourselves in. You know--you make the same things over and over again. New ideas really help, especially when it comes right to your email in-box.

Like I said, my mother thought it would never last, but so far I can't imagine going back. Maybe someday it won't work for us, but for now it is just dreamy! If you can find a buddy, I encourage you to give it a try. I'm so glad I did. Gotta go. Tonight I'm making Chicken Picatta. Yum!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

This Might Explain Something

My character developement has one major influence: Mockery. You see, I was a girl born after 5 older brothers. Heaven did see fit to bless me with one sister, but unfortunately she was 20 years older than me and too long gone to be of much help on a daily basis. Now, I don't know how much you know about young men, but I can tell you, with authority, that the only form of affection they are capable of is constant ribbing. Now that I think about it, that goes for adult men, too. Ultimately my brothers haven't changed a bit. They can find any reason to tease me mercilessly.

A poor girl can't even make a sandwich without being subjected to their mockery.

It's a good-looking sandwich, right? Apparently that was the problem. I took it on the chin for that pretty little nibble, and if they can find fault with my sandwich artistry, imagine the torture I was put through during my dating years. It was ugly folks.

So if, once in a while, you hear a note of sarcasm, jest, or the outright jab slip into my dialogue, you'll understand that I can not help it. Those were mother's milk to me. And please consider my feelings once in a while and throw me a bone. After all, if you're not making fun of me, I can't feel the love. It's just the way I was raised.