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Friday, November 4, 2016

Mookies or Coofins

This is a completely selfish post because I just ate one of these baked creations for breakfast (okay, two) and don't want to forget how I made them. I could write down the recipe on a piece of paper, but then there would be a 100% chance of me losing it.
So I'll save it digitally. And share it with anyone interested.

I wanted to make cookies and was feeling lazy and found a box of cake mix in the way back of the pantry. From there, this is what happened:

1 box of white cake mix
2 beaten eggs
5 Tablespoons melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 or so cups of white chocolate chips that I chopped up into little pieces

Mix it all together. Put in well greased mini muffin tins and bake at 350 for ~15 minutes.

It's a cake mix, to make a cookie, shaped like a muffin.  The world is our canvas, people.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A real piggy of a diet

It all started with a bag of pork rinds and a bottle of wine.
            I was in the checkout lane and an older gentleman and his wife who I frequently see at the YMCA where I instruct came up behind me. “Let’s see what she eats to stay so fit and healthy.”
            It was only a quick trip to the store. I looked at him and laughed while the cashier rung up pork rinds and wine. “Diet of champions?” I replied in giggles.
            It just so happened that the bag of pork rinds, which strangely enough my family loves, came with an error. There was no flavor sprinkled on them, as the package stated, and instead of a savory salt and vinegar taste all we got was the bland fried skin of a pig. I thought it must be a random goof, so the next time I was at the store, I picked up another bag.
            The same, tasteless fried skin. Something was terribly wrong.
            The two bags sat on my counter for a few days, while I contemplated what to do. I could take them back to the store, but then I would want a replacement and there was a good chance that the entire stock was bad. I could email the company in hopes of some sort of apology and compensation, but I wasn’t sure I needed to go that far. I thought I’d just try another plain pork rind and let it go. But the plain rind was so bad that I dug out those two bags and emailed the address on the back. Polite as can be, I wanted to alert them that they were having some issues with their deliciousness.
            Days later, an email response came. She apologized and offered to send me a case of salt and vinegar pork rinds in return for my troubles. A case! Not a coupon or an apology, which is what I was expecting. No, an entire twelve bags of pork rinds, sent with expedited shipping. Supreme customer service.
            I was floored. I was drooling. I was sure that I’m the only person I knew that was going to have a case of pork rinds on their doorstep by the end of the week.
            And they came. My children were ecstatic, although I’m not sure they realized the challenge of consuming so many pork rinds. Weeks later, our pantry is still bombarded with them. I take them to potluck picnics, and no one is brave enough to even try. “They smell like bad gas, but trust us, they’re delicious! And low carb!” Still, no takers.
            And so begins the summer of pork rind, a definite bag at every cookout and barbeque, a salty and fried fatty snack of champions. (I’m sorry to inform friends that the bottle of wine was just fine, so you’ll have to supply that yourself.)

Originally written/published 5.31.15.

Mom's intuition strikes again

Sometimes, mothers just know.
Mothers know things that are things are going to happen even before they happen.  We have extra eyes, extra ears, and some other maternal sixth sense. We can toss good sense and reason out the window in exchange for a gut feeling, and chances are we’ll be happy we did.
Such was the case when my daughter’s friend came jogging up to me.  She said my kid had fallen on her scooter and had asked for me to go to her. I instantly knew something was wrong because, as a rule, our children do not simply lay there if they are hurt.  They are the ones who brush it off and continue to play while the blood cakes in their socks. They are tough.
When I was called for, something had to be different.  I saw my daughter lying there on the ground, holding her hand.  I checked the wound and saw a tiny scrape, and no blood. Maternal warning sirens started going off in my head—if there was a big cut, I would know why she was so upset. Trying to stay calm and not flip out, I just walked her home and we all sat down for some water and an ice pack. With a comforting voice I asked her questions about how it happened, while I frantically searched things on my phone such as, “child broken bone symptoms” and “fractured arm” under the table so she couldn’t see. I called my husband, the voice of reason, who was of course not home at the time.
“Should I take her in?” I asked, as if his diagnosis from a state away was far better than my own two eyes and the look on her face. “Nah. Probably just a sprain. We’ll see how she’s doing in the morning.” He is usually right, the one in the marriage who doesn’t overthink things. But as we drove my daughter’s friend home, I kept glancing at my child’s eyes in the rear view mirror.  There was no overthinking this one.
The ER doctor called it a fracture even before the x-rays, and I was not at all surprised.  I think I knew the moment I saw her there on the ground next to her scooter. This is certainly not the ideal way to start off a summer when you’re seven years old, but if this old mom uses her intuition, I know she will be just fine. (I fear more for her brother. A hard cast is a built in weapon for sibling rivalry.)
Kids will always be kids, no matter how we try to bubble wrap them.  And moms will always be moms, seeing and knowing and calming and feeling.

Originally written/published 5/17/15.

The boo-yah's of the end of school

I remember clearly the satellite radio program we were listening to, back when that free trial was making our car rides more exciting.  A fast talking man was the host, and he was telling his loyal listeners about a game that his children play called “Boo-Yah.” 
If you are not familiar with the term “booyah,” you should be.  It’s a great and entertaining word.  Often used as a shout of joy or an in-your-face exclamation, booyah is also a type of soup or stew of presumable Belgian origin that is made throughout the upper Midwestern united states.  Photos of it online make me hungry.
But in this case, the game Boo-Yah (with added hyphen) is a great way to pass the time, especially on road trips. The game goes like this: One person chooses a topic, usually a parent or other responsible person so that the topic has nothing to do with bathrooms.  The topic needs to be something broad enough that everyone can have multiple opinions on it.  For example, potato chips would not make a good topic. There is nothing bad about a potato chip, and anyone that tells you otherwise isn’t trustworthy.
Once a topic is chosen, the first person starts by saying something bad about it. He or she finishes by yelling “boo!!” in an angry voice. The next person in line alternatively says something really great about the topic, and ends with a cheering and positive “yah!!”
And so goes the game, round and round, until you can’t think of any more boo’s or yah’s or you’ve arrived at your destination or the parent involved can’t take it any longer and puts on music and dares someone to speak.
Usually, the game is quite good and we recently dug it out of our car trip archives and I, being the fairly responsible adult, chose the end of school as our topic, since it’s all any kid talks about these days.
The end of school…boo!
The end of school…yah!
No more Mr. Teacher…boo!
No more Mrs. Teacher…yah! (I’m too smart to put in actual names.)
I won’t see my friends…boo!
We can stay up late...yah!
No more [insert organized activity here]…boo!
Sprinklers and road trips and vacations…yah!
After that, the conversation trickled away from the game, and I thought about my own boo-yah’s of summer.
Kids around all day…boo!
Kids around all day…yah!
Juggling schedules because they aren’t in school…boo!
Spending time with them because they are growing so fast…yah!
Rarely having a moment of peace and quiet…boo!
Spontaneous field trips, backyard campouts, science experiments scattered across the kitchen counters, reading books we love together as a family, trying hard to savor every second…yah, yah, yah!

 Originally written/published 5.10.15.

The Summer itch

It happens before the poison ivy comes into full bloom and before the mosquitos emerge from the stagnant water of spring. It comes before the bee stings and the sunburn that you want to rub even though you know the pain will skyrocket with the very first touch. It is the summer itch, the unscratchable sensation that you are ready for our warm season to be here to stay.
My parents are born and raised Clevelanders. In their retirement, they decided to move to a sunny Carolina climate and have lived there for the past 10 years before returning home to Ohio. This is their first real spring back in the Buckeye State, and I want to pass them some hydrocortisone cream because oh boy, they are itchy.
“I went to the nursery and bought some plants for my garden. They told me not to plant them yet, but I don’t want to wait and I looked at the long range forecast and…”
I had to cut her off.
“Mom,” I said. “Have you completely forgotten what Ohio is like in early May? We could very well have a snow day tomorrow.”
“But the long range forecast is…”
“Is something that meteorologists must laugh about because spring weather is so very unpredictable. Give your tomatoes a chance to live. Wait.”
My parents aren’t the only one to start pretending summer is in full swing on the first day the mercury hits the upper 70’s. I’m not sure there is a kid out there who isn’t counting the days until the end of school. Not because he or she doesn’t like school, not because they are so tired of that one teacher or the homework. They just want summer. They long for the heat, the sprinkler, the ability to leave the house without it taking fourteen minutes to bundle up because the threat of frostbite this winter was real.
Even more than that, they want the freedom of summer. They want to wake up and drive me absolutely crazy and then venture off into a land of imagination and exploration. They want to spend their days doing things they want to do and their afternoons and evenings not running from piano lessons to sporting events and community meetings. They crave the unscheduled life.
And they aren’t alone. For as many lunches as I pack per week, for as many times as I say, “did you do your homework? Is it actually in your backpack?,” I’ve got a bad case of the summer itch myself. As much running as we seem to do as a busy family of five, I am ready for life to slow down. Maybe then I’ll be able to watch my children grow right along with my tomato plants.

Pass me the anti-itch cream, please. Double strength.

Originally written/published 5.3.15.

Monday, February 29, 2016

A society of stubble

I mustache you a question: how do you really feel about facial hair? Whether it’s a bushy hipster beard or a pencil thin mustache, no one can deny that the trends of men with something on their face is as ever changing as the razor blades that grace their bathrooms.
My father had a Burt Reynolds style mustache for all of my youth, until he went for the full beard that he still wears today. I have never, in my entire life, seen even a glimpse of my dad’s upper lip.
My husband is not such a stagnant man when it comes to decorating his face. There seems to be a fluctuation of follicles throughout the year as he decides to grow a beard during hunting season, keep it long for warmth in winter, and then shave it off in parts come spring. Last week’s goatee was yesterday’s fu Manchu, and is today’s standard ‘stache, with minimal coverage just below his nose.
Such options, men have these days.
Not only options, but long gone is the time when a clean shaven face was thought of as being groomed. Suddenly, men are spending more time and products on their faces than I do on my own hair. There are entire social media sites dedicated to the mustaches of certain celebrities, none of which are my high school English teacher, which is disappointing because to this day, that man epitomizes the true meaning of the mustache.
The short of it is, unless bound by a religious practice, men have nearly as many options on their face as women do on their heads. The popularity of the mustache or beard seems to be as booming as bacon and zombies, and no matter your personal opinion, it’s hip to be hairy.
And if you’re a man looking to sprout some fuzz, there is good news coming in our weather. Apparently, mustache hair grows faster than any other body hair and it grows faster in spring and summer than in winter or fall. And if you’re going to just shave, settle in because statistics show that if a man starts shaving at age 14, by the time he is 75 years old he will have spent 5 months sculpting that fuzz. That bit of time is only slightly more than the time he spends touching it, though. The average man with a mustache touches it 760 times per day, so says the Internet. (That’s roughly 45 times per hour if a man sleeps 7 hours, which makes me want to silently observe and count next chance I get.)
I suppose every gender needs to embrace his or her own right to make a statement, so men, may your faces become the canvas of your personality. Let it grow, let it grow.

Originally written/published 4.26.15. 
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