Saturday, January 31, 2009

I would like to thank the Academy...

But mostly, my friend and fellow blogger, Megan, who has enjoyed my ramblings and given me the following virtual award:

I appreciate her recognizing me, and am glad to know some people like to read what's rumbling about inside my head. I had to think for a while on who I will pass this on to...there are quite a few "fabulous" blogs out there that I read and enjoy.  I love peeking into other people's's virtual voyeurism at its best. 

So...the nominees are:

Kelly at Bachelor Girl.  They broke the mold when they made this chick.  Witty, quick, insightful and full of the good old fashioned Roman spirit...not to mention a very dear friend.

Jorie at reMARKable times.  She is a true writer and her way of stringing words together will reel you in. Don't look unless you want to be addicted to her "keeping it real" wit and style.

Andrea at Always Remember.  A courageous, beautiful and un-dimmable spirit.  Her blog is a chronicle of pain and healing as she learns to move forward as a young widow.  My heart whispers prayers for her and hers as I read.  Her passion and strength will move you.

These are my current top picks of "private people" blogs (meaning, no big names, no fame, no advertising banners...just real people like me sharing a bit of their souls online.) Enjoy your award, ladies! You deserve it.

Now, I'm headed to the after-party. The red carpet is so taxing. 


My Papaw is...
-the sunshine on ripe tomatoes and the itchy fuzz on okra.
-the glint of a crooked front tooth in a rare smile.
-the hush of a prayer from the end of the row, 2 rows from the back.
-the shake of a terrifying finger to a squealing girl whose ribs needed counting.
-the comfort of a cracked black naugahyde recliner with a beach towel over the back.
-the temperance of raisin bran on a Sunday morning.
-the secret of Brylcreem in the bathroom and Afrin in the bedroom window.
-the creak of an old green yard swing.
-the smack of an after-dinner toothpick.
-the bite, strong and unmistakable, of ribbon cane in a big gold can.
-the scuff of black vinyl slippers by the back door, with the heels folded in.
-the odd frosty smell of squirrels in the deep freeze.
-the crinkle of a red vinyl suit and fuzzy white beard.
-the swing of long arms, palms turned back.
-the damp of khaki coveralls and a straw hat.
-the shimmer of opalescent fish scales clinging to plywood and strong arms.
-the security of a Stearns in an old green fishing boat.
-the sinking feeling in your gut when a tornado looms.
-the buzz of wisteria in the spring and pink azaleas in Easter pictures.
-the frustration of a small child on Christmas morning.
-the bitter cold of memories of Europe.
-the blare of LSU over kitchen clatter.
-the bark of small dogs who were never pets.
-the crunch of hot french fries pulled out of a greasy paper bag on the stove.

He is strength, temperance, patience, and steady, often unspoken love.  He is stability, predictability, and perseverance.  He is a lack of folly with a hearty laugh.  He is a formidable memory, even as he fades.

He is not confusion, weakness, hopelessness and fear.  He is not vulnerability, neediness, and frailty.  I will never remember him for the last, passing things he was, the leftovers, the things that remain.  I will remember him for the real true person he was, the Papaw of my childhood, when our roles were in proper order, and he was not waiting.

Dearest Pap, may your wait continue to be filled with the joy of your greatest accomplishment: the family who treasures you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rite of Passage...

We had a big night yesterday.  The weather forecast was quite questionable, with ice storms blowing in from the Northwest.  I had been meaning for some time to take Harrisen to the public library and give him the grand tour, ever since he asked me one day, "What is a library?"

Bad mommy. Bad mommy.

I thought with an impending snow day to keep us cooped up in the house, some new books and kid videos would be just the thing to weather the storm.

We walked into the building and Harrisen marched right up to the big granite counter.  Totally un-coached, this was the conversation:

H: Hello. I'm Harrisen. What's your name?
M: I'm Melly.  How can I help you?
H: Well, I need to check out a library book.
M: Do you have a library card?
H:  Hmmm...No, I don't.
M: Well, you have to have a library card to check out a book. 
H:  O.K.  I need a library card.
M: Good. We'll get you one right now.

I filled out the paperwork, and Melly the librarian began the process of bar-coding and computer-entering that eventually resulted in a silver plastic credit-card with a 20 item limit and zero percent interest.  

I couldn't help but think back to my first library card, which was issued at the Gilliam Branch Library, which, at the time, was one room in the building that served as the fire station, mayor's office, and library, as well as an impromptu clogging studio two nights a week.  The library card itself  was manila cardstock with my name typed on it.  It had some sort of metal plate on it that was used to make an imprint.  I remember having to sign the little card in the back of each book and having the librarian rubber stamp the due date with one of those adjustable date stamps to put in the front pocket.  The front pocket is still the same, but it now gets stuffed with a computer generated receipt as your reminder.

So, he got his library card and bee-lined for the kids section. Juvenile Books, to be exact.  I led him over to the picture books. All seven long aisles of them.  Overwhelmed, much?

I decided that it would be best to limit the selection for the first go round.  I took him to the very last aisle, and told him he could select 5 books.  His method of selection was pretty interesting. He would pick up whatever seemed to catch his eye and exclaim, "Oh, I want to check out this one!"  Some of them were deemed "Too scary" and others, "No, no, no, no, no...." I could never determine what his exact criteria for check-out-ability was, but we ended up with a pretty good variety.  The themes were mud, cows, a bald kid, a snowman, some bugs, and a Curious George thrown in for good measure. 

He has taken extremely good care of his temporary treasures, and seems enchanted by his stack of "new" books that he likes to remind me are "just borrowed".

The impending ice storm never panned out, but I am glad it gave me a push to introduce my son to what I pray will be a long and rich relationship with one of the great jewels of a civilized society.  I just hope we are still civilized enough to have real books, in real libraries, when it comes time for my grandchild's first library card.

Friday, January 23, 2009

For the love of marmalade...

My husband loves orange marmalade. LOVES it.  Peanut butter and marmalade sandwiches on my homemade sourdough bread are his weakness.  Before marrying him, I had only heard of orange marmalade, in the Paddington Bear stories. It wasn't something that people really ate, it was a storybook-sugarplum-sweet.  His taste for marmalade was positively exotic to me!

I recently bought 2 huge bags of satsuma oranges.  It became obvious that they would go bad before the kids and I got around to eating them all, so my January issue of Martha Stewart Living with it's cover depicting Martha ladling hot marmalade into jars was exceptionally timely.  

Making marmalade was my first foray into jam and jelly making. My grandmother always made jelly and jam, since my grandfather finds jelly a crucial condiment for all three meals of the day, but when I phoned her during my marmalade-making she told me she had actually never made it.  I was in a brave new world, and without a recipe, since Martha's all called for weirdo ingredients I didn't have.

Here's what I did:

I peeled all the satsumas and meyer lemons (thanks Kristel!) I had in the fruit bowl.  I would estimate that was about 5 lemons and 8 satsumas.  I seeded and chopped the fruit and sliced the peels into thin, small slices. I added about 2 quarts of water and a tablespoon of vanilla, and brought it to a hard boil on the stove.  I let it boil for about 5 minutes, then removed it from the fire and let it cool.  I moved the pan to the fridge overnight.  (This I learned from Martha. I think it allows the pectin in the peels to release so that the marmalade will "jell")  The next day, I brought it to a boil again, and boiled it for about 15 minutes, until the peels were very tender.  Then, I measured the mixture and added 3/4 cup of sugar for each cup of orange mixture.  (This was Martha's proportion).  I stirred well, then brought the whole sticky mess up to 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.  The marmalade smelled heavenly and browned to a golden caramel color. Lovely. 

The next, and most fulfilling step was re-creating Martha's magazine cover, where I ladled my yumminess into glass jars.  Well, I also got a big kick out of using my pinking shears to cut the adorable little gingham circles in citrusy-colors to top the jars, but that step is purely optional.

Even though I was not, and am still not a connoisseur of orange marmalade, I appreciate the tangy zest of this good stuff on hot bread, and I thrill in making something special for the ones I love.  

(Scot was so moved by the marmalade he even did a whole little photo shoot for my blog. Thanks, honey!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Something's Fishy...

I have a new career. I breed and sell tropical fish. I just started 2 days ago, but I have already been so successful in my store that I have made thousands of dollars and discovered 45 rare breeds of fish.

I take it by now, you realize this is some sort of fantasy, right?

Well, it's better than fantasy. It's an addictive, fun and almost free application for the iphone called "Fish Tycoon". *also available to download for pc and mac.

I usually try to downplay my addiction to various computer-related things to my husband, as he tends to scoff at my online pursuits (even while he is in the process of ebaying/craislisting/youtubing, himself). He gets e-commerce. It has real money, and real rewards in the mailbox. Real people showing up to meet him in parking lots to exchange money for stuff. He gets it.

He does not get:
*message boards
*role playing/SIM games
But this new game is so fantastic, and my addiction to it has been so rapid and complete that I don't even bother hiding it from him. I'm immune to his eye rolls at this point. And this one is so "ridiculous" to him that he actually laughs in a humorous way. Sort of.
The game consists of 2 tanks of fish, some cash in the bank, and a fish store. You manage your tanks of fish, feed them, breed them, research their environment, learn about advertising, and manage their nutrition, fertility, and longevity by purchasing improvements for your tanks with the money you earn selling the offspring. The game progresses in somewhat "real time", so you
develop patience as well as a bit of anticipation to see what glorious hybrids you come up with by breeding your inventory.

The kids are fascinated with my fish. They love to climb up to wherever I have stashed my iphone and poke around at my tanks. It does, after all, create bubbles and make a fascinating whooshing sound when you touch the tanks. And I suppose it's pretty harmless. But I can't help but worry that they might accidentally breed a sick fish or put my Greenfin Spotanus up for sale by accident. And that would be bad. Very bad.

I think SIM games are great fun. I remember at the dawning of the internet when all of my friends and I would swarm the computer labs at Centenary College to play "Foothills", which was a combination game/chatroom. It operated on DOS, which is kinda hard to even fathom now. It is good for me to escape and pretend. I have that dramatic streak in me, so "pretending" is like a daily requirement. And face it, it's fun to do something wild that I would never do in real life, like.....hmmmm...breed tropical fish! I have a hard time remembering to feed "H" (our real fish) in my actual life, so becoming a Fish Tycoon is indeed a break from reality, not to mention the fact that I have customers swarming my store to purchase $45 fish as quick as I can get them in the tank. Have these people not watched the Dow Jones? Are they not aware of the recession? Oblivious. Totally oblivious and loaded with discretionary income. It's a breath of fresh air.

So, I expect my obsession with my fish to last another week or so. Last night I didn't even get up to feed them in the middle of the night, and I can't seem to keep any of the really interesting or pretty ones around for long. I woke up to about 20 dead fish this morning. That really cramps the style of on online fish tycoon. What's the point of a game if it doesn't turn you into a rockstar? I could kill fish in real life. In my virtual reality, I want to rock the fish breeding world. And, I just can't see myself poring over genetic spreadsheets for a game the way some whackjobs out there do. I'm not that far gone.

Ooops. Gotta go. My Golden Goldbulbs are maturing, and I need to sell the suckers before they croak on me. Gotta love virtual reality.


Harrisen has, of late, been a perfect joy to be around. Polite, considerate, mannerly, and precious. This is quite a change from the emotional roller coaster we were on with him between Thanksgiving and Christmas, where his mood was as changeable as Louisiana weather in winter.

Being Daddy's sidekick in the evenings for dusk-views is one of Harrisen's favorite things. He likes tagging along and watching Dad work his magic.

He must have been especially cooperative yesterday, because Daddy promised him a cookie for his good behavior. Daddy also, evidently, used an unfamiliar cliche' when describing this promised cookie to Harrisen, as this was the conversation we had as soon as they burst in the door:

H: Mommy! I want a cookie with my name on it. Daddy said I could have one because I was so good!
K: (puzzled) Honey, we don't have any cookies with your name on them.
H: But Daddy PROMISED! He said as soon as we got home there was a cookie waiting with MY NAME ON IT!

What followed was a pretty-much unsuccessful lecture on cliche's and how they didn't exactly mean what they sounded like they meant. And what made it worse was that the cookies were all gone anyway. Poor baby.

Thank goodness for Little Debbie, because if that hadn't sufficed, I would have been hauling out the kitchen aid and pastry bag to pipe his name on a cookie. Darnit.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Last night, as usual, Harrisen offered the blessing for our dinner. Usually, he says the traditional Catholic blessing, "Bless us, Oh, Lord..."  but some days he goes renegade and says a very sweet prayer straight from the heart.  Last night had his dad and I holding our breaths and stifling giggles over our bowls of pasta.
H- "Jesus.....thank you for our food.  Thank you for our family.  And thank you for Diet Coke for Mommy.  And water for me and Evangeline. Amen."
Methinks I should lay off the little red and silver cans for a while.  

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I've seen the light.

You know how people who pass on to the other side and somehow make it back return with their perspective totally changed and a new outlook on life?  I think that sort-of happened to me this morning.

I have been battling some vile mixture of bronchitis and sinus infection topped with a healthy serving of fever and weakness for about a week. Last night was the worst. I literally could not get up off of the sofa.  I called my darling husband and told him that he had to pick the baby up from daycare because I simply could not get dressed and drive across town.  As he is so good at doing in crisis situation, he "jumped-to" and shuffled the preschooler home, switched cars, and went to pick up the baby.  

45 minutes later he was home with burgers and fries for everyone.  And...not just a burger for me, a cheeseburger.  He has, in the past, argued the take-out cheese issue with me.  He can't fathom paying .59 at Whataburger for a greasy slice of pasteurized processed cheese food when we have a big pile of them in the fridge at home.  But I don't WANT a kraft single on my Whataburger. I want the original melty cheese slice that is native to the burger itself. I don't want a cold stiff slice of cheese. You can't microwave it to melt it without removing all the vegetables, which is a pain in the ass, and even if you did, the bun would be petrified by the time you reached prime melting temp of the cheese. In my opinion, .59 is a bargain.

And, the fries... A big steaming box of fries.  Hubby and I have had french fry issues, too. In fact, I still have, posted on the fridge, a cut-out piece of a Whataburger wrapper that reads "The fries rarely make it all the way home."  Now, while it sounds funny and joke-like, let me assure you that it was not magnet-ed to the fridge as a joke any more than democrats put Bush stickers on their compact hybrids to joke about our President.  It was done in a cold know, the kind that comes from a sting so deep that you can't even form words about it?  The kind of hurt that arises from being denied a hot crispy french fry to accompany your cold-kraft-single-from-the-fridge-burger. grrrrr.

So last night, I was served a hot, dry, native-cheese Whataburger with french fries and the very last Diet Coke out of the fridge.  It almost didn't even matter that he dropped the diet coke on the tile floor before serving, or that I could hardly taste the meal with my sinuses in their broken condition.  The kids were at their places, eating quietly, and my husband was flitting about taking care of all of us while I watched Dr. Phil from the sofa. I mean, It was totally a Queen of Sheba moment.  This continued all night. If I needed something, he jumped. No lumbering, no deep sighs, no pregnant pause while he finished what he was doing on his iphone. Magical, perfect attentiveness all night long.

So, of course, I had to test the waters.  I'm a woman, after all. And I do this for a living, right?  

K- "Would you make me some chocolate chip cookies?"
S- (hopping to the fridge) "Sure, honey. Where is that tube of dough stuff?"
K-  "We don't have any. You would have to make them."
S-   "You mean, like, from scratch?"
K-  (giggling inside) "Yep, but it's not hard."
S-  (looking around for his keys) "I'll be right back"
K- "No, No, No...honey... don't go to Walmart. By the time you do that you could have mixed it all up. It's ok, you don't have to."
S- "It will only take a minute."
K- "You can't leave me here with these children. We might not all be alive when you get back."
S-  "Where is the recipe?"

My husband broke out the Kitchen Aid and made home-made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from scratch with nothing but a little direction from the impaired arm-chair Betty Crocker in the living room.  It was slightly hysterical at times.  Mostly when Harrisen drug his Learning Tower over to "help", as baking is our thing.  Scot couldn't quite deal with the chemistry of cookies and toddler "help" at the same time. I'm sure Harrisen was kinda confused.  Evangeline shrieking and hanging onto his legs was another high point.  I did rouse myself from my sofa long enough to disengage her from his lower body, as that's enough to make me postal, and he was already maxing out in the patience category.  

In the end, my husband produced a crispy-yet-chewy cookie that could have won some award, especially since he admitted that he had "probably never" in his 52 years made cookies from scratch, and if he had, he couldn't remember it.

So, I'm feeling better this morning. I'm sure it was a combination of greasy junk food and unconditional love.  These are the things I learned after coming back from the brink:

*cookie sheets can be used upside down with no noticeable deterioration in cookie quality.
*a little Clorox spray will dissolve petrified mustard/bun/pickle mixture from a high chair tray.
*stainless steel sinks are not always stainless, but steel wool helps.
*the same double, undermount, stainless sink set, at full capacity, holds three full dishwasher loads. 
*a dirty diaper left out overnight on the sofa table is really no different from one 30 feet away in an open trash can, odor wise.
*a three year old can pass for bathed with a wet wipe and hair gel.
*I am blessed beyond all measure with a husband who may not do it just like I do it, but is cheerful and willing to do it when I need him.

Three cheers, Scotty-boy. You rock.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Curbing the carnivore.

My uncle recently was diagnosed with a health condition that his doctor decided to treat with a strict vegan diet.  He has been living as a vegan for several months now, and when I saw him on Saturday, he looked like a college guy. Ripped abs and all. He's in his 60's.  He says he feels better than he has in years.  

I had read that eating vegetarian or vegan several times a week would save tons on your grocery bill as well as be a healthy switch for families.  So, I decided to give it a whirl.  My time in Senegal gave me some good direction for vegetarian fare. Suppers usually fed 12 people with no animal protein at all.  While lait caille (soured milk with millet) made me run for the hills, a supper of steaming lentils always was one of my favorites.  

I threw this together last night for my family and it was a huge hit. Delicious, low fat, high protein and full of taste.  Even Evangeline, with her developing palate gobbled it up.  Live as a vegetarian for an evening.  Your heart and pocketbook will love you for it, and with the full flavor and satisfying feel of my improvised African/Indian lentil concoction, I promise it will not be a sacrifice!

1 1/2 cups dried lentils
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2  cups chicken broth (can use water to make this vegan)
2 onions, chopped 
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 bag baby spinach leaves
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Saute the onions and garlic with the oil in a large skillet until clear.  Add lentils and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover, simmering about a half hour until the lentils are almost tender enough to eat.  Add the spinach, tomatoes and spices, continue simmering until the spinach is well wilted and the lentils are done. Serve over white or brown rice. 

Thanks, Uncle Jerry, for the inspiration!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Harrisen seems to have  absolutely incredible things pop out of his brain almost daily.  I always say, "I need to write that down..." and sometimes I do, and sometimes, well...

So, I decided maybe I should blog them. Share a chuckle with friends and family and archive his brain as it grows and develops. It's a neat peek into how he sees the world.

H- "Mommy! I have a collection of fingers, and I am studying them with this book light."
K- "Really? How many do you have?"
H- (counting) "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10! I have ten in my collection, and I can see them with this green booklight."
K- "That's fascinating."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Would you like fries with that?

I admit, I suffer from a very mild case of road rage.  Mine usually consists of a frustrated "People! People!" in traffic, or even a highly agitated "DUDE!" when cut off at an intersection.  In fact, my son can mimic me perfectly and loves to chant, "People, People....." when we are stuck in traffic.  I have never, however, understood how anyone could be moved to violence by an idiot on the highway.

New Year's day, my little family of four was headed out of town to spend the weekend with loved ones in Arkansas. We stopped by the golden arches for a quick lunch on the go.  This particular drive-thru had two lines for your service pleasure, so I pulled up to the outside lane and waited for the attendant to take my order. Nothing complicated, mind you...Happy Meals, Cheeseburgers, Apple Dippers....all without condiments of course, since I detest the taste, smell and mess of anything that is applied with a plastic squirt bottle. I mean, ew. Really.  It took a good while for the attendant to ever answer the speaker, and when she did, it was a little bit of a tragedy trying to communicate. We were, after all, in the northern part of the city, and they do speak a variation of our dialect up there. 

In the several minute lag between me completing my order and her responding with my total, I hear honking coming from the hulking SUV behind me.  When I turned me head to see what the commotion was, I saw a middle aged woman gesticulating wildly, thrashing about in the front seat. I couldn't tell if she was in the middle of an attack of St. Vitus' dance, or if she was for some unknown reason becoming enraged at ME, but the repetitive arching of her long, curved red-painted, acrylic-tipped middle finger made me suspect the latter.  

In utter confusion, I leaned my head out of the car window and said, "What on earth is wrong with you?"  She responded with an explosion of profanity so foul I cannot sully my blog with even a recap.  Suffice it to say, she was, um, wondering what I was doing.  To which I hollered back, "I'm just placing my order." and I once again asked what on earth was wrong with her.  By this time, my honor had been challenged and my name defiled with a slew of awful words coming out of her filthy mouth, so of course, Sir Galahad riding shotgun jumped out of the car.

What the heck did he think he was going to do?  I mean, really?  Trounce the woman in the Micky D's parking lot?  Reason with her? Yeah right.  He did, however, in his best high-school-punk fashion give her a good dose of "bring it on...." complete with the puffed up chest and all.

Now, it's at this point in the story that I feel compelled to point out that in addition to the box of gaily wrapped packages, four suitcases, three bags of snacks, two restless children, and a partridge in a pear tree, we were also traveling with our Chinese Crested dog.  If you have never seen one of these dogs in person, well, I'm sorry. You have surely missed out on a truly delightful freak of canine nature. Josie is a little thing, weighing in at about 10 pounds. She has huge bat ears that stand straight up and are fringed with white flowing hair that also sprouts up on her head.  Aside from that, she's pretty much skin, as the Chinese Crested is a hairless breed.  During the winter she wears head-to-paw polar fleece pajamas...for obvious reasons.   So, suffice it to say, she's a lap dog extraordinaire and the pajamas give her a real "awwww" factor.

During the time dearest husband is inciting crazy woman into a full blown fistfight, I go ahead and look back, thinking I can at least reason with him. It's at this point that I realize he is defending my honor with his loud mouth and macho self...with a prissy chinese crested dog in pink pajamas tucked under his arm!  I would have howled with laughter right then and there, but, as these things tend to do, a lot happened in a split second, and evidently, Madame Road Rage was packing heat in her purple patent pleather purse, and had been threatening my husband (and the dog, I guess) with "some of this..." 

At this point, the manager, who happened to be in the parking lot, asked us if we wanted her to call the police. Since we had just been threatened with a gun, not 4 blocks from CCC, we decided that would be a good thing to do.  As the manager stepped away to make the call, psycho pulled up next to us, and brandished the cheap handbag again, making shooting motions and saying, "Want some of this? You want some of this?"  Over and over again.  Sheesh. All of 36 inches from my children!

We did manage to jot down her license plate as she sped away.  I always like to make words and phrases out of license plates.  For example, my husband's first three letters are JFA...and I have always thought it spelled out a secret little slogan that extols the merits of his handsome backside for all the world to see.  GGC?  Good Grief, Charlie....or Get Going, Creep.  You get the idea.

Well, does it surprise you that her license plate said OGR?  Happy New Year, to you, too...Ma'am.