Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Best Kind of Gathering (costs nothing!)

It works out to being about twice a year that my friends and I gather for a Saturday Morning Clothing Exchange. The email list that goes out advertising the exchange is I think the same one as a pretty interesting sounding book club, to which I've always been invited, but have never even read one of the books, though my intentions are always very good. One time, even though I hadn't read the book, I almost actually went to the meeting! But I chickened out at the last minute in typical me fashion. Ha, fashion. Because I'm really blogging about a clothing exchange and just got sidetracked thinking about the book club. Lol.

We take all our castoffs (and our husbands' castoffs, and some homewares and some kids' stuff... basically anything we need to get out of our life) to the home of someone generous enough to host us, and we separate into piles: tops, pants, dresses, shoes, men's, scarves, etc. Then we rummage through and try to be polite about it, even though we are all totally wanting to take home everything that everyone brought for ourselves. I'm not very discreet about my desire to revamp my entire wardrobe at these things.... I dive in face first and only come up for air when it's time to use the dressing room. (which is a bathroom, because we are at someone's house.)

These things are SO FUN. Often we all bring a little breakfasty pastryish thing to contribute and we have coffee and since we are surrounded by piles of clothes there's plenty to talk about, right off the bat. Naturally, we first talk about purging possessions, simplifying our lives, (it always goes back to the KonMari method,) and from there we move into the reasons we've got all these clothes to get rid of, which is usually due to the realization that we're never going to lose the babyweight. There's no awkwardness, because people hauling in loads of castoffs and breakfast pastries are natural conversation starters, and it's a diverse group so we really have plenty to talk about.

At the end of the morning, all that's left (which tends to be a lot) is donated; the one who volunteers to take it decides what center it goes to, and all that stuff is out of our lives forever, thankfully. Not that I have EVER gone home with less than what I brought, as good as my intentions for that outcome may be. No, no, I come home with OODLES of new things to wear! This time, I got a new dress!

I pretty much stopped wearing dresses (almost) nine years ago when I started breastfeeding because they are just so impractical. But now that those demands are fewer, I feel like I can pull it off again. And this one has buttons down the front, just in case.

Some people just come to visit, with no intention of taking anything home with them. This time we spent the last portion talking about the books that will be assigned for the book club in the months to come. Sometimes we bring kids, sometimes we don't. It's all very loose and leaves me feeling filled up with good social juice, and at the same time freshened by letting go of some possessions and acquiring some new bits for my drawers, which always feels good, especially if they were free.

If you're looking for more ways to be social with a purpose, I'd highly suggest this sort of gathering. I'm already looking forward to our next one! 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

On This, the First Day of Autumn

Happy Equinox!

Aahhhhhh, the autumn equinox when the calendar officially tells us that it's Fall and we are therefore granted permission to drink as much hot chocolate as we want and add spoonfuls of cinnamon to everything with wild abandon. I know, some people live for this time of year. Leggings, chunky knit scrarves, boots, a pumpkin spice latte always in hand. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Mmmm, Fall.

I like Fall, too. I don't adore it the way I used to, thanks to a few pretty miserable winters, but I can still appreciate it. I haven't had any official “tests” done to confirm this, but I've got this suspicion that I'm actually genetically part lizard, because I just love the summer heat. LOVE IT. I bask in it. I love the heat and everything else about summer except for mosquitos. But Fall is good, too. I guess.

Tonight to celebrate the Equinox, despite the temperatures here being in the 90s, I made potato soup and baked spiced apples. Sounds pretty fally, doesn't it!? And since I don't use real recipes, I thought I'd share my “recipe” in quotations, for both. 

First up:

Five Pound Potato Soup

Five pound bag of potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
An onion. If you don't have an onion, a handful of green onions will do. If you don't have those, use chives.
As much garlic as you love.
Carrots, maybe four? Peeled and chopped, or peeled and shredded.
Broth to fill the pot
Milk to finish
Chili Powder (optional)

Sautee the garlic, onion of choice, parsley, sage, salt in butter. After it smells good, add your chopped potatoes and carrots, stir up. Cover the ingredients with enough broth or stock or water with boullion, that you expect some will boil down by the time the potatoes are soft. Your end goal should be a thick, goopy mixture when you take it off the heat.

When you've got that, (this takes occasional stirring and mushing of the potatoes so you can tell when they're really done,) you set it aside to cool for a few minutes before adding the milk. Then you add the milk, really just enough to make it more liquidy and creamy.

Note: I like my potato soup to also have broccoli and plain yogurt in it. However, MY KIDS HATE IT THAT WAY, so I make it more plain, like above. But you can add plain yogurt to thicken it (not too much or it's too tangy and tastes like you already ate it once, if you know what I mean) and you can clearly put in some broccoli to make it more healthy and, let's be honest, more delicious. I freaking love broccoli.

There you go! You can add shredded cheese too! I try to make cheesy biscuits or cheese bread when we have this soup because my kids (seriously! These troublesome youngsters!) don't like cheese in their soup. Whatevs.

Now here was the real star of the show tonight:

Equinox Apples

An apple per person, peeled and cored. Don't be afraid if you don't have an apple peeler-corer-slicer; I just use a knife. Make sure you leave a little bottom so the insides don't seep out. Place the apples in a bakeable dish; I use a cast iron skillet.

Stuff each apple with about a tablespoon of butter.

Make the mixture:

Brown Sugar
White Sugar
Vanilla extract

My exact measurements of the brown sugar were “what's left I in the bag,” which I dumped into the bowl, and added the other ingredients proportionally to that. It was VERY spicy to just eat plain, but once it was baked with the butter, it was the perfect amount of spice. The white sugar could probably be omitted; I used it because I'd put in too much vanilla at the end and needed it a touch sweeter, but since my initial measurement was what it was, I obviously was out of brown sugar. Sprinklings of the rest... maybe half a teaspoon of the spices?

Mix the mixture well until it's made evenly crumbly by the vanilla, then spoon about two spoonfuls into each apple's center, over the butter. Two spoonfuls was about right. I have made them in the past when I've thought “more is better” and it's turned out gross. You don't want to spice-out the apple flavor!

Bake at 350* for about half an hour. You can test the apples as they bake by sticking them with a fork to see that they are “tender crisp” or whatever the term is for “perfect baked apple” or “perfect steamed vegetable.” You don't want them soggy, but you don't want to have to use a knife.

These were really spectacular for our little fall celebration tonight. Thursdays are ballet night for Anja, and everyone goes together to walk over to the ballet school to pick her up while I finish up dinner at home. When they got home they were greeted with a pretty yummy smell! And an even yummier meal. I call tonight an autumnal success, despite the actual outside temperature!  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Today I Will Write!

It's Friday. Fridays are special days here because they have been designated “Mama's Day of Fulfillment.” Martin doesn't work on Fridays, and we've arranged a nice routine where he takes the girls someplace for awhile during the day so that I can work on my music stuff, write, record, etc. It's a nice way for us to take advantage of what is actually not an ideal situation—we wish he were working on Fridays, but it is what it is, and I can't complain about having time to myself.

Originally, the plan was that I would have the entire day to myself. (Ha! Laughable!) After the first Friday of this deal, we quickly learned the complete ridiculousness of that statement. The day has since been amended to be about two hours of time for myself, and it works out well that way. Over the past few months I've used that time to get a lot of recording done, as well as starting this blog up again. But somehow, every week, this simple plan proves to be almost impossible. Since it's fresh in my mind, I'll just recap this morning.

4:00am -
Somebody is in my bed. She is awake and very wiggly and getting kind of loud. She's not going back to sleep. The person in the toddler bed next to me is being woken up by her. Awesome.

4:30am -
I have moved to the toddler bed with the two year old and the four year old. It's crammed and I have to keep my arms above my head due to where they are situated, but I * think * they are both asleep.

5:21am -
I realize there have been two kids fighting over me for awhile and begging me to get up. “When will it be day?” “When can we wake up daddy?” “I have to go pee pee!” “I have to go pee pee, too!” Take both girls to the bathroom where I realize they don't have any intention of going back to bed, no matter how good I make it sound.

5:35am -
Wake Martin, hand him the reigns. Go back to bed.

7:30 -
I get up and send Martin back to bed. Kids are insane. Candy Land is everywhere. They've already eaten two breakfasts. We're almost out of milk. They just keep laughing and zipping around and asking me to do stuff for them or with them and where is my brain and where is my coffee?

8:30 -
Two big girls wake up. Greta's daily drama of getting dressed goes down relatively smoothly, although she gets mad about not having the perfect shirt so she yells that she's going to wear “stinky dirty underwear.” Anja is in a surprisingly good mood and continues on her sewing project from yesterday. Get out the second half of yesterday's watermelon for breakfast. Nobody wants it after Ingrid spits her seeds back into the main bowl instead of into the “spit bowl.” Ingrid is also anti-spoon. She will need a change of clothes and a bath.

9:30 -
How many breakfasts does one family need? I take a shower and wake up Martin, get the homeschool day moving. Three kids are fully clothed, a miracle! Martin is eager to get them out the door for their fishing trip. I tell him to quickly run his errands first while we do school.

10:00 -
Martin leaves to run errands. Homeschool starts well. I make mental note of how many times I've washed the same bowls just this morning and my count so far is 4. Spoons too. Math takes a downward turn; Greta cries. She begs me to make hot chocolate and tells me subtraction is horrid. She isn't throwing her math book though, so that's a plus for today.

10:15 -
There is “a smell.” Greta and I search the house (which, in the course of the morning has come to look like a victim of some horrific straight-line winds) for dog poo-poo, but find none. Greta becomes hysterical. She makes a face mask out of a washcloth and toilet paper, but I can still hear her sobs through it.

10:30 -
We've learned about the Liberty Bell, the real Plymouth Rock and have sung the National Anthem, all punctuated by Elka and Ingrid asking completely unrelated questions like, “how do I color the fish?” and “How do I color the ball?” and “Where is my [very specific and no other will do] orange marker?” The mystery smell is still present.

11:20 -
Must make lunch! Plan on mashed potatoes and HALLELUJAH, find the smell in the potato basket! Martin arrives home from errands, shocked to find the girls not ready to go fishing and Elka still naked. Serious hunger meltdowns are happening. (How?!? THEY JUST ATE.) I find yesterdays' lunch in the fridge and warm it up instead of bothering with potatoes.

12:00 -
Martin is taking the girls fishing, dammit. Three girls are excited. Greta is not. Greta doesn't like the way her sandals feel today. Tears. She wants to wear her Friday socks, but we can't find them. More tears. After thorough search of the house, I remember that the Friday socks are in the dryer... but the load is still damp. HYSTERIA. Greta says she hates fishing and hates her Friday socks and hates everything. (Actually she only says, “don't like” because somewhere during their short life, the girls have gotten it in their heads that “hate” is a bad word and we aren't allowed to use it.) I realize that nobody actually ate their lunch because they were writing stories. Quickly peel and slice four apples and grab a sleeve of graham crackers for their fishing trip snack. Hugs and kisses, and they are on their way, with Greta hollering out the window as they drive away that she promises she WILL NOT HAVE A GOOD TIME AT ALL.

12:30 -
Everyone gone. The house is quiet. I have so much cleaning up to do. School books everywhere. Lunch everywhere. Rain clouds of parmesan cheese must have moved through the kitchen when I wasn't looking. I know the litter boxes upstairs need changing but I am seriously afraid of going up there because, even though I cleaned up the toys yesterday, today it is again begging to be declared a federal disaster zone. Pick up some scattered Little People toys. Decide it's better outside where I can't see the mess, and move my workings to the porch for the afternoon. Begin this blog post and wonder if Greta is having fun fishing.

I bet she is.