Sunday, December 31, 2006

End of the year musings, avec champagne

Today I did a whole lotta nothing. Or really, a whole lotta baby-watching because these days I'm a weekend landscaping widow. I've mentioned here before that Husband and I have had this landscaper working in our backyard for the past week or two, and he's worked miracles on the boggy quagmire that would appear behind our house whenever a bit of rain would fall. It's now a boggy quagmire retained by a beautiful stone wall with a completely bog-less gravel path running in front of it. But seriously. We're hopeful that even the confined bog will go away once the hundreds of feet of drainage pipes Husband has been spending every.spare.weekend.hour laying are all in place. Then he gets a turn as a landscape widower once it's warm enough here for me to justify spending hours at a time planting things in these new planting beds we have all of a sudden.

In the meantime, I'm starting to think of what to get Husband for his 37th birthday coming up in a few weeks. I think I'll look into renting a room in a b&b in Asheville, or perhaps a rustic cabin or some such. Husband has a good friend living up there now and we could perhaps get him and his charming wife to go out to lunch with us while we're up there. (And if said friend is reading this, he should be sure and comment on this post, leaving me his email address which will be hidden from others. I do not have his email address and would like to hear from him whether he'll actually be around some mid-January weekend...!)

Anyways. My dear husband has just put a second bottle of champagne left behind by some mysterious but much-beloved guest at our cocktail party into the freezer for a rapid chill. We've just polished off the first bottle, see. Now off I go to curl up with him to get drunkish and watch Battlestar Galactica which is, as far as I'm concerned, the perfect way for us to ring in 2007.

Happy new year, y'all!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Out with the old

I know that it's not even the new year yet, but Christmas was 5 days ago. Anyone else out there looking forward as much as I am to getting all the dusty damn garlands, ornaments, and light strands out of their living rooms, family rooms, kitchens, porches, and front yard? I can't wait to purge this house of all things Christmas and get back to the clean, uncluttered lines of bare windows, mantels, and doorways, all lit up by the sunshine that will come in through a window unblocked by a big, dead Fraser fir.

I'm done with the winter holidays. Time to think about spring cleaning and vegetable seeds...

Friday, December 29, 2006

Cozy suburban vision meets bitchy mama reality

Do any of you suburban, SAHM types have this sweet little vision of having the neighborhood go-to house like I do? You all know what I'm talking about, right? The house in the neighborhood where the rooms all have interesting stuff to play with or look at, the backyard has swings and toys and other good stuff, there are pets to chase, crafts to do, the homemade cookies flow like wine, etc? Some part of me wants our new house to be that house. Some part of me very much likes the idea of having a house full of kids that I can play mama hen to and that Bean and Sister can play with until it's time to send everyone home to their grateful parents. I want the neighborhood kids to be comfortable here, to think of me as a nice mom, to have this house be a lovely, cozy backdrop to my kids' childhood that they'll remember fondly when they're adults. Nice image, huh?

So when a neighbor lady called up a little while ago to ask if her 2 bored, out-of-school kids could come over to play for a few hours because she wasn't feeling well, I should've been all sweetness and light and getting out the plate of cookies 'cause here was a chance to live my nice neighborhood mama vision! I wasn't. To the mom I said yes, of course they could come over and I was sorry she didn't feel well and if she wanted they could have lunch here while she napped and Sister would love to see them and yada yada yada. But when I hung up I fumed quietly to myself, even as I recognized that Sister would probably snap out of her own out-of-school funk if she had someone besides Bean to play with. All I could think, though, was, "They better fuckin' all like grilled cheese and baby carrots for lunch. I better not hear any babies screaming because they're feeling left out, dammit. No one better fight..." and so on.

Just call me the neighborhood bitch.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Kickin' back at last

Ahhhhhh. The lull after Christmas may be one of my favorite times of year. Or at least one of my favorite non-gardening times of year. It's such a lovely, empty, relaxing time. Sister has no school and I am therefore not required to get up at 6:15 to squeeze in a shower before I have to start hustling her around. I am getting good rest these days and have the mental energy to indulge in a couple of new-found obsessions: Battlestar Galactica, sudoku puzzles, and plant selection for a brand new landscape being created in our backyard even as I write this. I have no shopping, wrapping, or baking to do--unless I want to shop a little, like for quilt fabrics on sale on-line to start some new projects. And I may want to bake a little, like maybe a batch of some real Scottish shortbread which, according to a new book of Scottish teatime recipes I received, contains rice flour in addition to wheat flour. Yes, I may want to do these things. But right now I want to blog.

For the record, I had no intention of slogging along in real life for two weeks without even the briefest dip into the blogging pool. I'm a bad, bad blogger. So I'm going to try to make it up here. I vow to blog a little something everyday, barring stupid Time Warner Cable connectivity issues here at the cave. It's not that I believe you've all been longing for a little window into my life (or into Husband's, as the case may be). Rather, it appears that this blog has almost completely taken the place of my pen and ink journal writing--all except for the really ugly stuff that I hate to put out there for the masses. If I want some documentation of the minutiae of my life-with-babes that I can go back to someday then I better get a little more disciplined about documenting.

Not a new year's resolution or anything, mind you...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The menu, as promised, but without recipes (yet)

I'm just thinking about putting on a giant pot of caramel sauce, a follow-up to an enormous pot of hot fudge sauce I boiled up today. Every year I give my stepfather an ice cream sundae kit for Christmas. Being the large, hedonistic ice cream fan he is, he never tires of this gift, just as I never tire of his gift to me, a big fat day spa certificate. In his kit, I include a quart Mason jar each of hot fudge and caramel sauces, a batch of his favorite nut-free brownies, some peanut brittle, toffee, purchased raspberry sauce, and maybe some chopped up broken pralines to sprinkle if I made a batch that had some break. I include all this detail just in case any of you are at a loss as to what to give an ice cream sundae lover on your list. If you use it, I hope you get day spa gift certificates out of it!

But the measuring out of ingredients made me realize that I had not yet lived up to my promise on Friday to post my cocktail party menu from last weekend. I don't feel up to actually posting recipes just now, but let me know if you'd like to see some. So here it is, for your perusing pleasure.

Little snacky type things:
  • Marinated olives
  • Tamari roasted almonds
  • Chili spiced pecans
  • Puff pastry parmesan cheesestraws
  • Platter of assorted cheeses, quince paste (to go with the Manchego), and crackers
For the vegetarians:
  • Wild mushroom pate with little toasts and almond crackers
  • Platter of roasted beets and asparagus, and endive leaves with aioli
  • Caramelized shallot and blue cheese dip with roasted potato wedges (a.k.a., oven fries)
  • Hot pepper and smoked mozzarella empanadas with avocado relish
  • Marinated sheep's milk feta, orange, and mint skewers
For the meat-on-toothpicks crowd:
  • Beef and mint skewers with Thai dipping sauce
  • Tandoori shrimp skewers
  • Chicken with peanut sauce and scallions in phyllo cups
And then some assorted little homemade candies and a fruitcake kind of hiding in a corner of the living room, because truthfully I didn't devote all that much time to desserts for some reason. Oh, and did I mention my sour mix? I make rockin' sour mix.

That's it! Gotta run because Husband's trying to get me to watch a movie with him. This weekend's been incredibly busy for both of us and finally we're getting a little time together here if I could just...tear...myself away...from this keyboard...

Friday, December 15, 2006


Phew! I haven't meant to completely abandon my blog this week. But between cleaning up after our party, planning Sister's Brownie troop meeting which included another party at our house--and by the way, 14 little girls literally make as much mess in 15 minutes as 40 adults over 6 hours, in case you had any doubts-- dealing with Bean going through a waking mysteriously every night at least 6 times phase, sending out Christmas cards, planning my Christmas candy-making and cookie-baking extravaganza...well, this is why I haven't been blogging. I suspect the rest of you are in the same merry boat, though I haven't checked your blogs to find out. I will, though. Really really.

But not just now. In about an hour I'll be leaving Bean and Sister with Husband while I go with my mom to Taylorsville, NC to visit a woman who was my stand-in grandmother from the time that I was in 6th grade through the end of high school This woman was the mother of my mother's boyfriend, and when their relationship ended (badly), my contact with Gran was pretty much broken off, too. I talked to her a couple times on the phone, and she sent me $20 my freshman year in college once, but after that I didn't talk to her.

She's turning 93 in a few days and my mother's ex-boyfriend asked my mother to lunch because Gran's asked about seeing us one more time. I haven't been back to Taylorsville since I left for college 17 years ago. It should be something.

So I'll catch up on my blogging this weekend and I'll even post the menu and probably some recipes from my party since some have asked. In the meantime, I hope you all are well and still alive and kicking in the blogging world.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The party is over

I'm feeling somewhat less poisoned today than I did yesterday, though--let's be honest here--hangovers take a lot longer to get over once you're past 30. Am I right?

Our party was a whopping succes, if I may say so. Many people came and had fascinating conversations with each other. Everyone loved, loved the food that I made, and they drank so much liquor I was actually shocked. Seriously, me shocked about everyone's liquor consumption! Nearly ever guest showed up with a bottle of wine in hand, but then left it on a side counter and made a bee-line for the cocktail table. I mixed drinks almost continuously all night long. We started out offering gin fizzes and whiskey sours since I had made my locally famous sour mix. When the sour mix and the gallon of gin and the fifth of whiskey were gone, we switched to mixing bourbon and ginger ale and cosmopolitans. Then the fifth of Maker's Mark and the gallon of vodka and the fifth of Cointreau were gone, so we mixed rum and Cokes and white Russians. Our liquor cabinet is down to the weird stuff now--Pimm's and pear liqueur and peppermint schnapps and that sort of stuff. But at least we won't have to buy any wine any time soon. Not that I feel up to having any yet.

Some highlights:

  • The food was almost all eaten! This thrilled me because there have been parties in years past where not enough people showed up or cared to eat and we had a lot left to put away and eventually throw away afterwards. Plus, it's flattering as hell when your food gets eaten!
  • One neighbor woman got so drunk she started talking shit about another neighbor woman, who overheard her! Ouch!
  • Only one glass got broken! But many cute glass swizzle sticks with seahorses on them that I put out just for kicks bit the dust.
  • Bean had a great time for about an hour, but went immediately to sleep when I put her down, despite all the loud shrieks and music coming from downstairs. What a good baby!
  • Husband got many people to play this weird hand-shocking, reflex-testing game during the course of the party and all of them thought it was hilarious fun. Most of them were male, but I didn't need to tell you that.
  • Me doing and saying several embarrassing things to party guests that I wish I hadn't. I'm not even going to say them here because...well, at least one of them is SUPER embarrassing. Okay, I'll just tell you. I pinched someone's nipples and cussed at him for saying something extremely scornful to his wife in front of me. There. Just so you know, I am mortified now that I am no longer drunk. Hopefully I won't have to see him ever again.
But I figure if you wake up with a sense of unease that perhaps the party was a bit TOO out of control, then it was probably a damn good party. Everyone left smiling at least, including pinched-nipples guy.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Foodie mamas--are you out there?

We're having a cocktail party on Saturday, and I'm so very pleased to be resuming this mostly-annual tradition of ours after skipping it last year. Husband and I just couldn't seem to get it together with an 8-month old baby to concern ourselves with. This year, though, we're seasoned parenting pros and we've got more space in our new place, too, to fit even more friends and neighbors. I'm really looking forward to it, even though I have no idea what I'll be wearing.

More than that, though, I'm having trouble deciding on an hors-d'oeuvres menu. In years past, I had a million ideas and had to whittle my tremendous lists of canapes, crudites, and the like down to a number of items I actually had platters to serve from. This year, not so much. What's making it hard is not just my usual lack of time to plan, though that is a factor. More than that, I'm feeling a bit intimidated about cooking for everyone. I used to know my way around a professional kitchen like...well, I don't know like what. But my work was so a part of me that it was a part of my physical memory. My arms and hands were used to exactly the right movements necessary to whip egg whites, shake a pan of rapidly caramelizing sugar, flute dozens of pie crusts in minutes, and all the rest of those small tasks I did for years. Those physical memories are pretty rusty now. I've been out of that life and really that culture--because there is a professional kitchen culture--for a couple of years now. And some of those people from that life are coming to my party.

So chefs are coming. Not only that, there will be vegetarians. Then, there's my good friend on a gluten-free diet. Husband isn't so down with the veggie thing since I wooed him away from his virtuous vegetarianism with a plateful of warm fried chicken some years ago. He told me he wants "meat on toothpicks." How the hell am I going to pull this all together AND make it yummy and festive? Wish me luck, will ya?

And any menu ideas you want to throw my way would be warmly received.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Old habits

The other day I was waiting with some other parents outside the school for the kids to be released. Everyone was making idle chit-chat as usual. I was chatting with a mom I don't know very well, but who lived on our street til she moved last month and who has invited me to a cookie-swap party at her house. She told me that she liked my new-ish haircut and that the new-ish color looked nice, too. "Oh, thanks." I told her. "I used to dye it really bright red when I was younger, but I'm getting old for that now," I laughed.

She responded very seriously, "I'll bet you were one of those goth girls when you were in high school, weren't you?"

"Uh, we didn't have this thing you call 'goth' where I grew up," I joked back at her.

She was not to be put off. "Well, 'alternative' then. You were 'alternative,' weren't you?"

"Okay, alternative-ish," I said. "I mean, as alternative as you can be in Tater-hill, North Carolina," hoping she'd let it drop. She seemed satisfied with my answer and turned away.

I thought about it off and on for a couple of days, trying to figure out why it is I found it so funny and weird. I still don't quite know except that aren't we all supposed to have grown out of these labels now? Or if age isn't the great leveller, isn't parenthood? Where you so often have to swap out whatever clique-ish costume you might once have been accustomed to for something you don't mind getting spit up on or that you can roll around on the floor in? Isn't being a mom our new clique, where we may not have New Wave music or musty vintage clothes or drug use in common, but we damn sure all have kids and the kidless don't get it at all?

I dunno. Mabye we don't ever grow out of this stuff. I mean, I do still look for those moms who look interesting or "cool" on the playground to talk to. Hmmm...