Friday, September 30, 2011

New Book Giveaway Link!

For a free SIGNED copy of this new book from one of my very favorite bloggers, Liz Owen, go to Mabel's House. She's wicked funny and crafty and stylish. Here's a book excerpt:

Once one has breathed in the deep pungent aroma of sewage, you never again forget the nose-hair singeing, eye clawing, throat gagging experience. It comes over you slowly. You begin to feel like a character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as your muscles involuntarily jerk and you run screaming and blowing raspberries. Anything to get away from the mind-numbing stench.
But let me explain.
It was 6:30 a.m. I was standing in my retro pink tiled bathroom trying to open my bleary eyes and ready myself for work. As I stood there, peering into the mirror and wondering what demented nighttime fairy had planted four new wrinkles on my face, I paused and sniffed.
“Matt… what’s that smell?”
Matt staggered from the bedroom in his underwear, eyes half shut. “I don’t smell anything.”
I pointed my nose into the air like a hunting dog. “Seriously? You can’t smell that? Did you go to the bathroom in here earlier? I told you to use the room spray when you do things like that.”
Matt puffed out his bare chest and gathered his pride as best a man can with sleep in his eyes and a small hole in the side of his underwear. “I just woke up!”
I frowned, catching a glimpse of my makeup-less hot-rollers-in-hair state and tried not to think about the fact that I looked fifty instead of twenty-nine. “Well, help me figure this out. Because something smells ripe.”
We sniffed the sink drain and ruled it out as a suspect.
“Is it coming from the toilet?” Matt asked, examining it from top to bottom.
“No, that’s not it,” I snapped. I’m not known for my milk of human kindness in a disaster. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a survivor. I plan on eating my radish like Scarlet and clawing my way out of the nuclear dust while dragging my loved ones with me. But I won’t be doing it with positive phrases and a smile.
“Hon, I just don’t know. We’ll call a plumber after work, maybe it’s coming from under the house.” Matt staggered a little, trying to get past me and out of our tiny bathroom.
“Well, that’s just great,” I moved aside and pulled the shower curtain back so I could perch on the side of the tub and give Matt room to move out the door.
That’s when the full brunt of nastiness filled the air around us, a swirling mix of excrement and acrid stench that would have brought the sewer dwelling Ninja Turtles to their knees. Where the normally slightly-clean-with-a-hint-of-soap-scum bottom of the tub should have been, there sloshed gallons and gallons of brown sewage.
I clutched the front of my sweatshirt and held my breath. Matt began to dry heave.
“Get out and shut the door!” I screamed as we bumbled into the hallway.
“I’ll deal with this,” Matt grabbed my shoulders, trying to talk and hold his breath at the same time.
I could feel my eyes glaze over, the horrors of typhoid and hepatitis in our bathtub filling my mind. But more importantly, I could envision our evaporated savings account. In my mind’s eye I could see the long, gray hallway at the bank. A worker shrouded in a black suit pulled a set of keys from his pocket and unlatched a small locker labeled “Owen Bank Account.” Inside were two small stacks of quarters and a few crumpled dollar bills. It was bleak, not only because the banker with an unimaginative wardrobe gazed at me with an expression that could only be interpreted as “You’re a Big Fat Loser,” but also there was a very definite possibility we wouldn’t be able to pay for a plumber.
I wasn’t necessarily a spend thrift. In fact, I was downright frugal when it came to decorating with thrift store furniture and rewired vintage lamps. But the fact was, we were poor. We were starting out at starter jobs with starter salaries. We were starter adults with a starter bank account.
“Okay,” I nodded numbly, thankful that Matt was taking the lead on such a disastrous biohazard. “But make sure the plumber is super cheap. We don’t have much money!”
I left for work like a wino stumbling through a fog, not really remembering my commute, not really doing any work as I sipped my coffee and stared blankly at the computer screen. A disaster of such gargantuan proportions had previously been unthinkable in my life, and now I found myself attempting to push the image of a vast sea of bathtub poop from my mind. But I was sure of one thing: Anne Shirley never had to get ready for work while breathing raw sewage.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Feeling a bit dreary

Rainy days. Today we at least got a break to be able to take a morning walk. Bored. Annoyed with online conversations that just upset me. Thinkin about dumping Facebook. I've thought that for a while, and now with the new changes I'm thinking about it even more. Going to cheer myself and my family with a warm fall dinner tonight of roasted stuffed pumpkin and mull wine. Hope your Tuesday is sunnier than mine!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fall feast oops...

I made a fall feast last night, and made two mistakes. First, I failed to put nearly enough salt into the two loaves of bread I baked. Second, I forgot to photograph the food...was very very hungry!

So here was the menu:

Butternut squash soup
Rosemary Bread
Homemade applesauce
Pinot Grigio

The soup was nearly a fail when halfway through cooking the garlic and onion I realized I had no stock or broth in the house. I rolled the dice and created this concoction for the soup:

  • Halve a butternut squash and roast for about 45 minutes in a 350 oven
  • sautee some garlic and onion in some olive oil (one small onion and 3 cloves)
  • Chunk up the squash and add it to the pot (if you would like to puree the squash, you can do that, or you could smash it with a potato masher or fork too.)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Add a half cup of white wine
  • pour a glass of wine :-)
  • Add in a cup or so of milk (you may need to add more as you are cooking it down)
  • Hold your breath and add a can of cream of something soup. I had cream of celery, but I can imagine a lot of varieties might work too.
  • Crack some nutmeg into the pot
  • Simmer until it tastes right :-)
Normally I would have just made a white sauce, then added maybe chicken stock, but this worked just great. Everyone liked it a lot. We buttered and salted our bread and left zero leftovers.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where I'm From

I am from Wonder Woman and Barbie Dolls, from drinking Pepsi from a tall bottle, big hair and Clark Bars.

I am a South Ender, Wilson Avenue, where you knew if someone wasn't really from the south end by their calling it the "south side." Where we knew half our neighbors our whole lives, and were terrified of the other half. Where we sat on the front porch on hot summer nights, looking down the row of everyone else on their front porches because no one had air conditioning.

I am from the smell of the marigolds and mums my mom always planted by the front porch, and the tomato plants Gram and I planted next door in the back yard. I am from my mom and her sisters giggling over pots of homemade vegetable soup.

I am from Saturday mornings at the bowling alley with my parents behind me yelling "straighten your arm!" and summer evenings at the diamond watching my dad or brother play ball. I am from the Righteous Brothers playing on the big stereo on feet, and Donato's pizza, just two blocks down the way, and Friday nights watching the Bobby Vinton Show with my parents . I am from Dan & Lois, from Danny and Erin, and from little Jerry, the baby we lost too soon.

I am from the potluck and the sixteen aunts and uncles and the twenty-five first cousins and the love and chaos of trying to hug everyone and talk a bit each time we meet. I am from the Best Grandparents Any Kid Could Ask For Ever, the ones who hosted sleepovers and fishing trips and trips to the racetrack. The ones who never, ever made a kid feel she was just one of twenty-five.

From "your eyes will stay that way if you keep doing that!" and putting teeth under the pillow and saying prayers of an evening.

I am Catholic school Monday through Friday , but Methodist on Sunday Mornings. I am Florence Starrett's Sunday school student, in her purple Sunday School room, baking and selling during her lessons on the talents, and sucking on hard candies she never failed to have in her purse. I am my parents' beautiful singing voices at church on a Sunday morning.

I’m from a shaky Irish heritage that was only ever brought up on St. Patricks day; the rest of the time I am flat cheese and white bread and American is it comes. I'm from over the top Christmas, with meatballs and relish trays and mom's potato salad, and packages from Santa until I was in my twenties.

From the little sister who wore my clothes and got my nail polish everywhere because she really wanted me to spend more time with her I suppose, the kid brother who played every sport effortlessly, and from leaving the old neighborhood to move somewhere "decent."

I am from the big family Bible with everyone's birth and death recorded in it, from the smoky smelling, faded photo albums, the back of each picture carefully labeled in my mother's lovely, tidy script, from my parents' wedding album and high school yearbooks that I studied for hours trying to imagine them young like me. I am all these faces from the past, yet I am living now. I am my parents' hopes and dreams. And still, I am myself.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Things I'm loving about welcoming FALL

Walking the boys to school in the leaves.

The cool night air (the closer I get to 40, the hotter I get, and temperature too!)

Having a few hours to myself in the morning.

Reading books while the rain falls outside.

Morning coffee on the porch, sometimes with a blanket.

Stew, soup and casserole.

Baking bread.

Fall beers and mulled wine.

Pumpkin in coffee, bread, ice cream, candles, everything!

Soccer practice in the rain.

Purple and yellow flowers in the fields.

Slowing down. Turning inward. Breathing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fall things

Collecting a fall bouquet; weeds to some, beautiful to others.

More collecting: our fossils from the summer, paired with a collection of seeds and pods picked up on our blessedly cool walk home from school.

A dinner of Lacho and an autumn brew to sip.

Welcome fall!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Salad for fall

I made this salad for us last night, since it was a scout meeting night I needed something easy. Some chicken, walnuts, dried cranberries, blue cheese and apples on a bed of spinach. It's my husband's favorite salad to order at restaurants. I'm trying to pay more attention to what we are really eating at restaurants with the hopes of keeping us out of them! One thing I love about spinach is that it's super nutritious, you can use it for salads, and if it becomes less than crisp you cook it right up. I like it in my eggs in the morning. Also, it's a great cool weather crop. We didn't plant any, but we'll be able to get it locally for another month or two.

Another cool weather crop---lettuce! I always plant some in August and my little patio containers have already sprouted. We grow loose leaf varieties, and just keep cutting them. We usually get 5-6 cuttings before the plants are spent, and some years we are still harvesting lettuce until December, even here in Ohio!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Our third and final camping trip of the summer. We went to the Hocking Hills campsite, which is right near Old Man's Cave. Boiling temps in the high 90s kept us from hiking for more than a few hours. Thank goodness they have a swimming pool there! We canoed, hiked, swam, and when the rain came we shopped and ate at a buffet and read books in the tent by lanternlight. Personally I like the sound of the rain on the tent when the sun goes down---I feel very cozy.

I've enjoyed the camping, though it's not all perfect. Sometimes it takes an hour to get a good campfire going, which is a big deal when you're trying to boil water for coffee. While we experience a lot of new things and explore our world, we gripe and kibbitz to beat the band. Kids don't always want to go fetch water and kindling, or help with the dishes. They don't understand the concept of "don't touch the tent while it's raining!" Though I will give them this, I've not heard either kid say "I'm bored" in three camping trips---they both brought books and a drawing tablet, and spent much of their idle time either looking for bugs and things to "study" or riding scooters.

I hope that when the kids are older, they will remember the good parts, like seeing the naturalist talking about Ohio raptors, discovering silkworms in the trees, chasing raccoons away by the campfire, and being allowed to ride their scooters all through the campground, barreling down the hill like a couple of lunatics. I hope they someday make the connection that their parents chose these vacations because they knew at ages 5 and 8, it was probably one of their last chances to snuggle in with their cubs. In this day in age it is rare to have the time and opportunity to devote time only to each other, with no outside forces interrupting, be it computer, television, chores, work, obligations, activities or the neighbor kid who knocks on the door at 5pm every evening wanting them to go ride bikes. As they grow, these opportunities will dwindle, and I'm glad we threw our arms around this summer while we had the chance.

Friday, September 9, 2011

{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thrifted Thursday

At the end of our camping trip last weekend (will try to post some pics later) we hit up my favorite junk store, an antique mall in Logan, Ohio. I was a little shocked to discover that there wasn't much I really wanted. I pawed through some stacks of doilies, tried on a rhinestone necklace, but nothing was really popping for me.

This little tin was the only exception. "Really?" groaned my husband. Yes, really. I love the colors, and the scene with the little bears. Made a space for it straightaway, replacing a very boring thriftstore vase that never really struck my fancy anyway.

The most surprising thing about the trip: I actually felt visually overstimulated just being in the store. I only made it about a third of the way through before I found the boys (in the vintage matchbox car section) and told them I was ready to go. I'm pushing for a slightly scaled down, more minimalist lifestyle, and I guess it's working. That's what taking the summer off of junking will do for you. Hurray!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9 Years With My Best Guy

Over the weekend, we hit our favorite glass shop in the Hocking Hills to add to our Fiestaware collection. The shop sells seconds and blem pieces for ridiculously cheap, and we figure it will all end up banged up anyway, lol. So, last night I lamented that I hadn't bought or made an anniversary gift. "Sure you did," he said. Turns out the traditional gift for 9 years is pottery. (Yes he looked it up, he's romantic that way.)

I'm as happy today as I was that day.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The triumphant close of a week of food posts

Bruschetta chicken, for just the husband and me. He said it was tastier than anything he has when he's in Paris. (Go on, husband, flattery will get you everywhere.) Just a simple chicken breast, provolone, and a tomato relish of my own creation:

Several red and yellow garden tomatoes, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 sweet onion, minced
Several basil leaves
A splash of balsamic vinegar
A big drizzle of olive oil

I just let it all marinate in the fridge, and toasted some baguette slices under the broiler. We also had a plate of more olive oil for dipping. So. Good. A nice way to wind down the week.

Have a terrific Labor Day, and make something nice for yourself!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Three friends

In keeping with this food theme I have going this week, I give you three friends. I am sure you can guess they came together to make one heavenly sandwich. (Was just too darn hungry to photography my sandwich!) Reminded me that admonitions to eat seasonally are rooted in truth.