Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Holidays 2/27-3/5

2/27: Project Day, a perfect day to tackle organizing your closet or starting work on a new altered book!

2/28: Coffee Day. I plan to spend time at my favorite indie coffeehouse, Dino's Cappuccinos in Yellow Springs, Ohio, sipping a vanilla latté and studying.

3/1: Extravagance Day, a wonderful excuse to surprise your sweetie with flowers!

3/2: Dr. Seuss Day, which we always celebrate with a reading over a meal of green eggs and ham!

3/3: Veggie Day, a day to celebrate the bounty of the earth with some lightly steamed spring asparagus or a hearty gratin of root veggies!

3/4: Play Day, time to follow your heart to a fun activity like a trip to the Science Museum or an afternoon spent making snow castles and playing ice princess. Don't forget the Turkish Delight!

3/5: Ear Treat Day, a chance to craft a luscious new pair of earrings from beads and wire...or perhaps listen to your favorite CD. Carrie Newcomer & Taj Mahal are high on my list right now!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Holidays, February 20-26

20- Just in time for Chinese New Year (yesterday) is Chinese Food Day. I plan to hit my favorite Dayton area Chinese place, China Cottage, while I'm in town. We're celebrating Lundi Gras this year with King Cake & a hybrid of jambalaya and pasta. I will wear beads, boa and tiara to class tomorrow and take a King Cake to share with my fellow Dante scholars, too.

21- Hoodie Hoo Day. Please go outdoors at noon and holler "Hoodie Hoo!!!" at the top of your lungs to chase winter away. Of course, if you live in the other hemisphere, you will want to do this on August 21 instead!

22- Friendship Day, a perfect day to round up the girls for margaritas and art or to send a care package to a faraway friend.

23- Relaxation Day. If you don't think you have any time to celebrate this holiday, that tells you that you really need it even more. Make time. For ideas or justification, read Wayne Muller's Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives.

24- Cherry Day. I think I will make either cherry crisp or cherry tarts. Be looking out for my Luna Cooks blog about what I make!

25- Magazine Day, time to flop on the couch with your favorite mag and a mug of tea. I am partial to both food porn and house porn, but can never turn down a good issue of Greenprints, Christian Century or The Sun, either. Guilty magazine pleasure is People.

26- Sourdough Day, a fine time to enjoy a slice or two with your soup...or to make a version of pain au chocolat by slipping good chocolate into a slit cut in a thick piece of sourdough and pan-grilling it like a grilled cheese sandwich. Mmm...

A Visit from the Temper Fairy

Oy vey! What a stressful weekend! I am ever so glad it's Monday! The week before last, J made the very hard decision to allow Boot to try living with his father. We thought that it would only be fair to allow him to try it out, especially since he is convinced he will get better grades there and will fail here. We don't think his father is a good parent or a good influence, but since he will be influenced by him no matter where he lives, we figured there would be little to lose in allowing a trial period. The longer he stays with us, the more bitter he becomes about not being with his father. He has been aching & longing to live with his father more than half of his life. We thought that if he had the chance, either he would be happier and thrive (good) or would realize we're not as horrid as he seems to think and come back, only with better behavior, more respect and less bullying of his brother (even better).

Ever since he returned from summer visitation with Dark Man, his behavior has been dreadful. His frequent temper outbursts and sucking up all the air in the room have made life at home stressful to the point that I was actually happy to be away all week last semester, even though I missed J like mad. In addition to the nightmarish outbursts, his speech has also become littered with misogyny and homophobia. Lovely. In the past couple of months, he began to refuse to sit down and eat with us, often either plowing through a huge amount of food close enough to dinner that he wasn't hungry when we ate or falling asleep just in time to miss dinner, then emerging after bedtime to take up his kitchen marauder role. During family activities, he would often just walk out if anything he didn't like happened. His paranoia about us trying to undermine him was on the rise, as well. Much of the time since his 14th birthday, family activities and dinner were just the three of us, with Boot mad because he thought we had stolen his money or whatever the angst du jour was.

So, while we love Boot and enjoy his company on the increasingly rare occasions when he's pleasant to us, it's been a huge relief to have him living elsewhere full-time. Pie has been able to relax into being himself, kissing us, telling us he loves us, cooking and watching jewelry HSN. It has felt like a normal family, with normal, appropriate emotions expressed regularly. Ahhhh! We've had such fun just being a relaxed family with Pie. We even made a trip to Dave & Buster's and had a blast Thursday night. Pie holds my hands while we watch movies, asks how our days were and was thrilled when the snow kept me from going to school this week when he had snow days. He and I piled up in our bed & watched cartoons all morning. The difference between when Boot is here and when it's just the three of us is like night and day.

Boot arrived for his first visitation with us Friday night and within minutes was angry. Pie wants to take down all Boot's football paraphernalia and make the room his own, at least until Boot returns at the end of the school year. This seems fair. The trial period is until then. If he does okay at his father's and his father actually communicates in a civil manner with us, he gets to stay. We are looking for improved grades, better behavior (especially respect toward us and lack of controlling behavior toward his brother when he visits, along with no blow-ups) and continued communication. So, Pie told us he wants to decorate the bedroom "Star Wars and nerdy." He wants Godzilla and Iron Man posters, too. He has been afraid to put his Iron Man bust out for fear of it getting destroyed in one of Boot's outbursts. His Millennium Falcon was nearly destroyed Christmas Eve. Now, he can have his room as he likes. So, Pie and I had taken some of Boot's football stuff down and stowed it where it would be safe. Boot was furious. This makes no sense to me, since he has chosen to go live with his father and has his own room there to decorate.

He got over it, though, when we went shopping for J's birthday gifts at Target. He joked around with me and consulted with me on which Burt's Bees products J would like most. He went far above what most teenage boys would have done to get hold of a little girl's accidentally released balloon and return it to her. I was so very proud of him for that. He was very plesant to us the rest of the night. He was very controlling and critical with Pie, though. He was furious with him for not taking the Dave & Buster's cards (which Boot had mailed him) when we went and for "wasting Grandma's money!" Pie had been sent a Valentine card and ten dollars by their paternal grandmother, with whom Boot now resides (yes, his father lives with his mother...just like Matthew McConaughey in Failure to Launch but not one iota as charming). Being a typical 12-year-old boy, he took the money along to Dave & Buster's and used it once the $25 card we bought him was all used up. He had fun with it, which I'm sure was the intent. Boot complained on and on about how irresponsible Pie is, how he never listens, how he's a "bad little kid" and a "retard." I probably had smoke coming out of my ears over his treatment of Pie. He seemed to look at us as allies, co-parents or something, all struggling with the same difficult child. The only problem with that is that he's no parent and Pie is not at all difficult. Aside from not wanting to take out the trash in the snow. Boot was okay for the rest of the night, as we ate spaghetti and watched cartoons, but he kept picking at & nagging his brother. Pie's response was, "But, Brother, I had fun at Dave & Buster's. I just had fun."

Things got worse Saturday. Boot refused breakfast, but did sit with us while we ate. He was perfectly pleasant. He did take and hide a pack of Pie's new gum, but I don't think he meant it to be mean, just prankish. We all went to see Ghost Rider and Boot seemed in a merry mood until Pie refused to take his crap anymore. Boot had continued riding him and it finally came to a head when Boot tried to get Pie to eat his glow stick. Pie told us later that he heard they were poison, so he didn't think he should eat it. Blows were exchanged during previews and Boot got up and stalked out. J ended up having to miss the opening scenes of the movie begging him to come back. He refused, so she came back in and we watched the movie. I wouldn't have bothered. He is a constant walk-out artist and I think it just feeds his ego if we beg him to be with us. The movie was great and all three of us were in a fine mood afterward. We expected Boot had gotten the management to let him in to the apartment and we were right. His feelings were hurt because he'd been excluded from the fun, so he was angry. Pie wisely decided to spend the afternoon hanging with us, watching Ice Age 2 and eating battered fish. We invited Boot, but he refused, choosing instead to brood in the bedroom.

After the movie, Pie couldn't play his new game because his brother was watching t.v. When he tried to use his computer, his brother was downloading i-Tunes. We don't know exactly what occurred, but we were making soup when we heard an argument break out. J investigated & found that Boot had thrown chewed bubble gum at Pie and had sprayed him & the bed with Easy Cheez. What a jerk. At that point, I would have given Boot a heavy-duty consequence. But, it was not up to me. J came back out after getting things calmed down. Shortly, though, we heard a loud thunk. Boot had gotten angry again and had hurled a jar of peanut butter, whacking it into the wall, where it exploded all over the bedroom. Crazy. Truly crazy. He told us he'd thrown it, then said Pie had, flip-flop, flip-flop. Pie told us in detail what had happened. Since Boot had flung a can of frosting, which exploded all over their room on impact, on Christmas Eve, we are fairly certain that he was the culprit Saturday night, as well. I am so damn sick of his drama and psycho behavior. I am also sick of J trying to cajole him into being part of the family by giving him no consequences and trying to appease him. I know she is just trying to hold the family together, but if he is not held accountable for his actions, that's not fair to him or to those he hurts now and in the future. She and Pie cleaned up the mess while Boot sat at my computer muttering about "calling my dad right now" and I seethed in the bedroom. He gets pissed because I say he is acting crazy, but I think actions seem pretty damn crazy. He told J that Pie and I are traitors because we think it's calmer when he's not here. UGH!

I was so mad by the time the soup was ready and Boot was sitting on the stairs saying he was never coming back (which, as far as I'm concerned, would be a blessing, at least until he gets it together) & would go to a foster home before coming back here that I was shaking. Rather than yell at him and get accused by J of escalating the situation, I removed myself to eat dinner and watch t.v. in the bedroom. I was too upset to read and had to get myself calmer before I could eat. I am SO GLAD he is not living with us full-time anymore. His weekend craziness after a week of calm and normalcy put the lunacy of our lives before he left into stark relief.

After J went to bed, I was working on an adult ed piece on the computer. Pie came out saying, "I'm hungry for bread!" Boot had actually sent him out to get root beer and bread, pretending it was for him, to sneak into the bedroom because Boot had refused to eat dinner, choosing instead to brood on the stairs. I told Pie that he would be in trouble if he took food in the bedroom because they are not allowed to have food in there. Boot managed to convince J & Pie that he needed to have it in there so he could calm down. It makes me SO MAD that he can just control the whole household and break any rules he wants...and manipulate things so that he actually gets permission to break this rule that has been in place since 2001. GRR! It actually caused a rare argument between me & J. About the only thing we ever argue about is parenting. I think she lets Boot especially, and both children, get away with way too much. She thinks I am too strict.

Sunday morning, J's 44th birthday, I slipped out of bed and went to the early service at church. It was snowing like mad, huge flakes coming down around me as I drove, snowbanks along the sides of the road. Simply GORGEOUS! And peaceful. There were only 8 of us for the early service and 3 for adult ed. It was a nice service, though, and a good class. We discussed the verse from Luke about Jesus allowing the children to come to him and how we should be as children. I wish my children could be as children. We also discussed some ideas for our next course of study. Then, I made some library returns and hit Starbucks. I wanted to get J a birthday latté and decided to try and make peace with Boot, with whom I was still very angry, by bringing hot chocolate to both kids. Boot's is still in our fridge, since he refused to drink it. They were still asleep, so J and I hung out in bed and watched Shaft. J had wanted to go to the art museum for her birthday, but (probably very wisely) amended her plan in light of the weather and Boot's temper. She decided she would open presents, then go to BW-3 for wings and trivia.

Boot sat with us while she opened her gifts, but said very little except when he was scolding Pie for nothing. Then, when we got ready to go to BW-3, he decided not to go. Nobody had done anything to him, but his mood had suddenly blackened. J asked him if he was going to cry because he looked so bad. He said, "I ain't gonna cry, but I am about to deck somebody!" No one had done or said ANYTHING to him that should have upset him. J tried to persuade him to come with us, but all it did was make her cry. I wanted to deck him for making her cry on her birthday. That is just flat-out cold-hearted. This is not the first time she has cried over him on her birthday. Before I met her, their father took them on her birthday, when she was supposed to have them. He did it simply to be mean and make her sad. He finally brought Pie back, but her birthday was ruined that year. Pie was happy to go to BW-3 and hang out with us. J cried all the way there, but was able to enjoy herself after all. We had a great time with Pie. I had been afraid Boot would trash the apartment while we were gone and Pie worried that he might burn it down, "with all the kitties inside!" (We should NOT have to be thinking this way and I certainly shouldn't have to feel like keeping a knife on my bedside table for protection in case Boot breaks the door down in the middle of the night. J thinks I'm paranoid & melodramatic. I don't. I have hung out with all kinds of wild punk-rock skinheaded & mohawked teenage boys. I dated a guy who was diagnosed psychotic-schizophrenic and carved "FUCK" on his chest with a stiletto for fun. I have had another boyfriend, who later tried to kill his wife, pull out a gun in the car when I was driving. I have been hit in the face by two people I've lived with. I've had a guy spend weeks screaming in my face every time he saw me because I wouldn't go out with him. I have never been so nervous of anyone as I am of Boot. It seems ridiculous for me to be afraid of him, but I trusted that those guys would not actually hurt me. I am not so sure with Boot and his hair-trigger temper. I have seen Heavenly Creatures & know it doesn't take much when you're dealing with someone irrational. I take precautions. I keep the phone with me. I sleep with the bedroom door locked. I am on my guard) When we got home, in fact, the scent of something that had been burned (not food and certainly not cigarettes or pot, but paper) was strong in the air. Boot was still sitting where we had left him, but he had been burning something. I don't know what it was, but it better not have been anything of mine.

My mom called to wish J a happy birthday and while I was on the phone with her, J took Boot shopping. When they got back, he was in a good mood, with a new blazer. I was relieved he was in a good mood for J's cake and the last part of the day, but I hate that he was rewarded for his awful behavior with new clothes. That doesn't make any sense to me. When they got home, it was just time to take J's cake from the oven. She had chosen a chocolate molten lava cake, made in a 6-cup muffin pan. We sang to her, she blew out her candle and we ate peaceably. I wish it could always be peaceful and normal when Boot's around. His dad arrived to pick him up shortly after the cake and he left, saying, "I love you guys." I was so, so, so happy and relieved to see him go. I will be having weekend class the next 2 weekends he is here, so I won't have to see him until Saturday night. Thank GOD!!! I worry about what will happen to Pie next weekend when he visits there. The consequences of "traitordom" will surely be harsh. But, there is little we can do.

I think we all breathed a big sigh of relief when he left. Pie played his new game and J and I watched The Gathering and then some t.v. We ordered Pizza Hut for dinner and Pie came to eat with us. More t.v., then bed. The return of normalcy. Hurrah!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Holidays February 13-19

February 13: Teddy Bear Tea, time to get out all your favorite bears for a spot of tea and some cucumber sandwiches.

February 14: Valentine's Day, on which I assume no comment is needed.

February 15: Thrifting Day, a perfect day to go poke around your favorite thrift store. I don't know the name of the thrift store in St. Petersburg, Florida where I got my Tony Lamas and should have gotten a big green velvet sombrero with silver spangles, but it was pretty cool. I am also quite fond of Village Discount Outlet in Dayton, Ohio. I haven't discovered the cool thrift stores here yet.

February 16: Cozy Day, a good day to snug in with a book and make a pot of your favorite soup for dinner.

February 17: Exotic Day, when you can put on a kimono to go out for curry and play the Gipsy Kings in the car on the way there! Unless you'd rather craft a banana skirt and do a little dance a la Josephine Baker for your sweetie?

February 18: The Birthday of My Beloved, but for practical purposes, also Cat Day. If you have cats, pamper them with a pot of fresh catnip, a sardine snack, a new toy mousie. If you don't have cats, get down to the shelter now and pick up a ball of furry love. I will be visiting the art museum and making a chocolate lava cake.

February 19: Winter Farewell...I know, I know, I am being entirely too optimistic here. But, I try to do things that I will be sad about missing if winter ends earlier than I expect. If you have snow, now is the time to boil some syrup and pour it over the snow to make candy (or maybe go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing). If you haven't yet taken the time to have a snowball fight or make a snow dragon, now is the time. If you like to cut out paper snowflakes for the windows, add them to the Valentine hearts that are still up. I'd love to hear what everyone's favorite winter activities are!

Making Art with my Valentine

Since I will be away for the actual day, J and I decided to celebrate Valentine's Day this past weekend. I was in charge of planning, leaving much of the weekend as a surprise to J. She loved that, not having to make any decisions and getting pampered. After the boys left with their father, we headed out to an early showing of Pan's Labyrinth. I heartily recommend this movie. I was absolutely delighted just to be watching a subtitled film in a mainstream theater. This delight was heightened by seeing the truly crappy Epic Movie last weekend. Not only was it exciting simply to be watching a film in Spanish, the film was very good. We first heard about it when J read Stephen King's list of the best films of the year in a waiting room magazine. It was at once a wonderful fairy tale and a horrifying account of life just after the Spanish Civil War. It was pure pleasure to see a film, not in an art house, that starred people who just look like people. I grew up on foreign, old and indie films, walking from my house to the Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs to see movies like Casablanca, Stranger Than Paradise and Fanny & Alexander. My mom loved Wim Wenders and Lina Wertmuller when I was growing up. I was even named after a character in Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point. J never saw a subtitled film until she was an adult and usually doesn't have the patience for them even now. She generally picks vampire and super hero movies when we're at the video store. On the way out, though, she kept saying what a great movie it is and said, "I didn't even mind the subtitles." I hope more Americans see it & have their minds changed about subtitles and other film "oddities" not usually seen in mainstream picture houses.

After the movie, I took J to Steak 'N' Shake for dinner. It was a perfect place to be on a cold night. I had a chili 5-way and J a Frisco Melt, our usual selections when there. After dinner, we headed home for a long winter's nap. In the morning, we lazed in bed a little while, caught Rick Bayless on PBS and Paula Deen on Food Network, ate Pink Lady apple slices and Vermont sharp cheddar with our coffee. Then, we ventured out for our big craft store adventure. J picked up Sculpey supplies to work on beads for the charm exchange we are in and I found some of that hideous craft foam for a challenge posted on my altered books list. Rumor has it that if you heat the foam and then stamp on it, it looks really cool. I haven't tried it yet.

We stopped shopping for a trivia and hot wing break at BW-3. I won 3 times in a row and was sure I'd fall on my way out. This is an old family joke, stemming from a summer when my aunt Jeanie visited and we introduced her to wing house trivia. Several times that summer, the person who had won the most rounds fell down on the way out of the restaurant. Hubris. After we made it to the car with no spills, we headed to Pat Catan's to check it out. The prices are certainly better than at Michael's. J loved it. I was less thrilled with it, thinking that it felt like a trailer park version of a craft store. I know, I am a horrible snob. But, the feel of the store and the examples of crafts possible with the supplies were truly cheesy. Nonetheless, I managed to find things there to buy. Of course. We hadn't been on a real craft store bender in over a year, so we had a ball. I need to hit Crafts 2000 sometime this semester, maybe with Evvi and Garnet in collusion. I can make Garnet some chocolate soup (I'm sure Evvi would be willing to have a wee taste, too) and then we can go shopping.

Once home, we dragged out the craft supply tub and got to work. I didn't try the foam trick because my heat tool was buried in the outside closet and I was not up to the task of digging it out. Also, I have 25 season-themed tip-ins due March 25, so they need to be my art priority. While J discovered the joys of push mold bead-making, clay mixing to produce cool streaks and texturizing with whatever "tools" she could improvise, I worked on my tip-ins. I finished Winter and got three of the Spring tip-ins completed. I am doing 6 for each season and one for all the seasons together. My Winter ones are "Snow Ice Cream," "Be My Valentine," "Always Winter and Never Christmas," "Snowman Night," "Les Fées d'Hiver" and "Mardi Gras." The Spring ones I have done so far: "Easter Morning," "Dancing the Maypole" and "Paris in the Springtime." I am really having fun with this project! After playing with art all afternoon, J remarked, "I can see how Evvi got involved with all those different art forms. Of course, she's really talented, but I can see how once you try something new, you want to get better and better at it." I told J that she is talented, too, it's just that Evvi has been at art for a very long time. Well, that and a huge dollop of natural talent.

We stopped our art madness at 8:30 to change into dressier clothes (and a tiara, in my case) for dinner at the Cabin Club. We had some wonderful steaks & I had a glass of lovely Riesling, a 2004 Von Wilhelm. Ha! I try to make it sound like I know wine. I don't. At all. I rarely drink it. But, this was nice. The crème brûlée, though, was my favorite part of the meal. It wasn't as good as the crème brûlée at the Art Institute in Chicago or at Encore Bistro in Loveland, but it was very good. We had planned to get back to art when we got home, but we ended up in bed instead.

Sunday morning, I went to the adult ed class I shall soon be leading while J hung out in the church kitchen with the choir folks, preparing for the Souper Bowl fundraiser. We had contributed French onion soup. When we were ushered into church, the usher sat us in the same row as Deann and Adrienne, the other lesbian couple. We both thought, "What is this, the lesbian pew?" After church, we were talking to Deann and she said they thought the same thing. It was really funny. We had a nice chat with her while I tried to sell people on the idea of coming to book group at the end of the month. My favorite of the soups I sampled was Minnie Hurley's ham and bean soup...it was spectacular. Of course, when I asked for the recipe, she started to tell me the procedure instead. With no pen and paper, I have only a vague idea of what she told me and I am fairly certain that what I turned out would not be what she did.

After church, we went back to Pat Catan's so that J could get more Sculpey and supplies. She spent the afternoon crafting a necklace for my mom while I dug out the art supplies from the outside closet and reorganized them so they are easier to use. I am missing most of my stamps and am afraid they are under several boxes of papers. Ugh! We need a studio! Once Pie returned home, J played video games with him while I finished my organization task. Then, we all went to the grocery. J gave Pie $10 to spend on whatever he wanted, thinking he might get some crab or lobster. Nope. He bought 10 more cake mixes! That boy is baking mad. He had made a cinnamon swirl cake with his grandma over the weekend and last night, he and J made a German chocolate cake. I did the prep for our Aegean omelets and baked a batch of buttermilk cheese scones, then plopped on the couch with a book. I am anxiously awaiting the Fed Ex delivery of my school books (classes start tomorrow, so I sure hope they come today since I have 5 chapters to read for tomorrow's class!), but in the meantime am reading Ariel Gore's book about parenting teens. She is so funny! J made our omelets when they got the cake in the oven. After dinner, we had some reading time, then bed, where I rubbed lotion onto J's poor, dry skin.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Too Cold For School

Or is it? Yesterday, it was -4 when I checked around 9:30 in the morning. My kids had the day off. Today, they are again off. The temp, when I checked around 2, was 8 degrees. I remember going to school when it was in the single digits, so I suppose they could go. But, I am glad they didn't, all the same. They are having so much fun just getting to flop here at home. Plus, it has given Boot a chance to show me things he thinks are funny on the internet (and why they think Lady Sovereign is scary...I still haven't figured it out, but Boot thinks the video he showed me should be all the explanation I need) & Pie the opportunity to sit and have tea with me. He loves to make tea for us & serve it in his lovely floral tea set. He has his own stash of tea bags that he keeps in his room. The room is a funny amalgamation of Boot's football stuff and Pie's beloved kitchen wares and vases. Plus, Star Wars everything.

I think I may use the cold weather as an excuse to make chocolate soup with animal crackers for our snack! Mmm...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Keeping the Taps Running

Man, is it cold! The kids don't have school today because it's -4 right now and was probably considerably colder before the sun started shining on us. So, I have all the taps in the apartment running, trying to make sure the pipes don't freeze. The cold water in the kitchen won't come on, which is worrisome. When I was a kid, the landlord wouldn't fix the furnace in our house and there was no heat or insulation on the second floor. It was always really cold when the temps got like this and we would leave our home and go stay with my grandparents until it got warmer. I think, though, that living in that house made it easier for me to stand the cold now. I just put on more clothes and deal with it. I am happy, though, to be able to afford to crank the heat a little higher when the mercury dips. Not everyone has that luxury, or even the luxury of heat or shelter at all.

We did not just hibernate over the weekend, although we did plenty of staying in. Friday night, Boot was released from his grounding and went to the movies with his buddies. We took Pie to the same movie. I hate that we only ever go to the movies to see things the kids want to see because odds are not favorable for me liking the movie. Such was the case this weekend. I made shrimp creole (recipe at www.lunacooks.blogspot.com), then we went to see Epic Movie. I wouldn't say it was horrible because I did laugh a few times & it was certainly better than the Garfield movie. However, if you are over 15, it will probably be a waste of time and money for you. It's pretty stupid. Next weekend, though, I think we are going to see Pan's Labyrinth. That should be really good. Yay, an adult movie!

Saturday, we took the kids to the West Side Market. Pie was very unhappy about being made to leave the house when there were video games to be played. However, we wanted him to see the market and spend time with the family. We picked up all kinds of goodies at the market: handmade pierogies, kielbasa made by a family that's been in the business since 1912, a chorizo & potato empanada, cabbage, green beans, asparagus. After our shopping jaunt, we dragged Pie around some more, on a quest to find a boxing gym for Boot. We drove into some fairly iffy neighborhoods, spotting in the process a little Dominican restaurant I am hot to check out. One boxing place looked abandoned, with dark windows and bars over the doors. Another had closed, replaced by a gym called Jarheadz, which only offered kickboxing & only as a self-defense course. None of that for Boot, who doesn't think that's macho enough, apparently. Pie and I waited in the car, wondering what on earth possesses him to want to get bopped in the face. Or why he would want to bop others in the face. Finally, it was Pie's turn to do what he wanted to do, which was to go to Target to buy a Star Wars video game he had saved up his money for. He never saves his money and I was very proud of him for doing it. Boot is a master at money saving, but that's not one of Pie's talents. At all. Saturday night, we stayed in. J & the kids watched t.v. and played video games while I read and looked at cookbooks. J made us a wonderfully homey meal with kielbasa, pierogies and sauerkraut.

Sunday morning, we stayed in bed instead of braving the cold to go to church. J made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast while I made the scones she was longing for. We did some errands in the afternoon, but mostly just hunkered down in the apartment. She started cooking for the Super Bowl in the late afternoon. I don't care a whit for football, so I headed out into the cold to go to the contemporary service at a nearby UCC. It was a great service and I spent a few minutes afterward talking with the tech director, who had delivered the night's message. It was a good one, and one I needed to hear right now, about how we may not understand the detours and weird routes our life takes, but God knows the way just fine. We also sang nice, reassuring songs about how everything is in God's hands and an adaptation of The Eagles' "Take It Easy." I was really glad I went, even though it meant time away from J. I worry so much about the house not selling, the custody case, whether I'll be able to find a church after I get my degree, whether I'll be able to stay healthy until I have insurance again, how we're going to afford the house taxes which are due this month, whether Rosemary's little boy is healthy...and on & on. Getting the message to relax was good for me last night. Sometimes, I get so worried, I can hardly breathe. Yet, my worries & problems are nothing to what a hell of a lot of people are facing every single day.

Once home, I made the guacamole and blue cheese dressing. J & Boot did the rest of the cooking, all Super Bowl food like hot wings & potato skins. I had suggested a nice pot of chili, but Boot said that's only for when teams like the Patriots or Packers are playing. Yeah, I don't get it, either. The only part of the game I watched was Prince's half-time show. I find it funny that the Super Bowl folks thought Prince would be an appropriately decent act for half-time. Of course, he did keep it perfectly decent the whole time...I wondered if he was maybe under the weather since the performance was kind of lackluster. J thinks he's just, like the rest of us, slowing down with age. I also find it funny that the elevator music in the grocery these days consists of bands like The Cure and Morrissey! How odd. Not to mention Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd music being used to sell things like cars.

Holidays February 6-12

February 6: Mid-Winter's Day, a good day to go out cross-country skiing or have a snowball fight...and then come in for hot cocoa spiked with cinnamon & cayenne! If it's just too cold to go out, as it is here today, make yourself some cocoa anyway & use the cold as an excuse to curl up with a good book! I am immersed in a funny and sweet book called Crawling: A Father's First Year by Elisha Cooper. Also holding my attention at this time is The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation by David Kamp.

February 7: Muffin Day, for which I will probably make Ghirardelli chocolate muffins from a box or gingerbread muffins, the recipe for which can be found at http://lunacooks.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_lunacooks_archive.html

February 8: Rebel Day, in honor of James Dean's birthday. You can simply rent Giant, East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause for a James Dean film festival. Or you can engage in some rebellious behavior yourself. This may mean wearing black lipstick and embarrassing your kids or it may mean participating in an anti-war protest. When I was a teenager & wanted to rebel against my folks, I would flee the Flipper music downstairs & go upstairs to blast Frank Sinatra. Rebellion looks a little different for the daughter of anarchists! If I'd really wanted to break my mom's heart, I could have voted for Bush when I became old enough to vote.

February 9: Fruit Day. I am partial to oranges & ruby red grapefruit this time of year, but there are all kinds of interesting fruits to try in the market this time of year. I saw cherimoyas, mangoes and papaya looking lush at the grocery yesterday. Since we are in Mardi Gras season, Bananas Foster would certainly be appropriate. I've never tried making it at home, but Brendan says it's easy as long as you are careful & don't have low ceilings.
Bananas Foster
3 tbsp. butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
4 bananas, cut in half crosswise, then lengthwise
3 tbsp. dark rum

Melt the butter in a 12" cast-iron skillet (or other heavy skillet) on medium heat. Add the sugar & cinnamon & cook, stirring, to melt the sugar thoroughly. Add the bananas & cook 3-4 minutes. Pour the rum over the bananas & allow to heat up. Tilt the pan and very carefully ignite with a match. Let it flame, swirling the skillet a bit, until it dies out, a minute or two. Bananas Foster just right served over vanilla ice cream. Hmm, I bet butter pecan would be good, too.

February 10: Blues Day. While Taj Mahal is my absolute favorite blues artist, I can happily spend hours listening to all kinds of blues. If you haven't heard Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women yet, get yourself on over to their website (www.uppityblueswomen.com) right away! Another talent who is not getting the national attention she deserves is Jonell Mosser, who can be checked out at http://sirensongs.com/jonell.html. If you get the chance to see either of these acts live, don't miss it!!! Both put on amazing shows! While I have never seen Taj Mahal live, he is #1 on my "To See in Concert" wishlist. I have been listening to his music since I was a baby with a blues-singing uncle.

Fenruary 11: White Shirt Day. Don't ask why. For many of us, it will probably end up being White Sweater Day or perhaps White Shirt with Long Johns Underneath and a White Sweater Over Day, considering the below zero temperatures in many areas. My friend in Madison says it was -16 when they woke up this morning and it's -3 here right now. Brr!

February 12: Spaghetti Day. I have no special recipes to offer, since I usually just doctor bottled sauce (not Ragu, anything but Ragu) with onions, garlic, basil & oregano. But, it's a great meal for a cold winter night! Just don't eat so much you get what Graham calls "spaghetti belly!"

Thursday, February 01, 2007

February 5 is...

Mexico Day. It's a fine day to appreciate Mexican art by people like Frida Kahlo and José Clementa Orozco, read poetry by Octavio Paz and Sandra Cisneros or novels by Luis Urrea and Laura Esquivel and listen to Mexican music by the likes of Flaco Jimenez (technically Texan) and Thalia. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention one of my favorite actresses, directors and producers, the incredibly talented and deliciously gorgeous Salma Hayek. Whether you like serious films like In the Time of the Butterflies or fun romps like last year's Bandidas, Salma is fabulous. It's also a good day to go out to your favorite Mexican restaurant or to cook Mexican food in your home. If you're looking for a good Mexican cookbook, check out those by Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless.

February 4 is...

Home Day, a good day to snug in and enjoy your home with your family. I like to celebrate by purchasing a small gift for my home, perhaps beautiful cloth napkins or a new wooden spoon. It's also a good day to work in a dream home journal. I clip pictures of homes and interiors I like from magazines and paste them into my journal. Paint chips and fabric swatches can go in, too. This way, when we finally get our house sold and can move on, I will have a good idea of what I like.

February 3 is...

Bean-Throwing Day! It is a Japanese tradition to toss a bean on this day, in order to chase away Winter and welcome Spring. I need to pick up some dried beans, as I'm not sure a lentil counts! Might be fun to make some bean bags and have a toss with the family.

February 2 is...

Candlemas! I like to light every candle in the house in honor of the growing strength of the sun. In the Roman Catholic church, this day is celebrated as the purification of the Blessed Virgin and the presentation of Christ in the temple. Candles are blessed by the priest and a candlelit procession is held, representing the entry of the Light of the World into the temple. This feast day also commemorates the prophesy and recognition of Christ by Simeon and Anna (Luke 2: 22-38). It was a tradition that all Christmas decorations must be removed by this day, as well, although I traditionally do that right after 12th Night.

The day is also the feast day of St. Brigid, originally celebrated by folks in ancient Ireland as a festival of the goddess Brigit and in honor of the beginning of Spring. It was traditional to create a dolly out of grain sheaves from the last harvest of the old year in order to promote crop fertility in the coming planting season. Brigit was the guardian of the holy well & flame, as well as a goddess of the forge so this is a good holiday for people who work with fire, like my blacksmith mama. I do have a wild woman blacksmith t-shirt that I will wear. Brigit was also the goddess of inspiration and poetry, so it's a great day to write or read poetry. My wife & cats like to have poetry read to them, so I will probably get out some Yeats or Dylan Thomas to read to them.

It is, of course, best-known in the U.S. as Groundhog Day. I will be hoping for a couldy day so that Spring might come more quickly, although I am quite enjoying Winter while I don't have to drive in it. In addition, I will be sending out happy anniversary wishes to Nola & John, my cousin & his lovely wife, who were married the same year we were and are celebrating their 6th anniversary.

February 1 is...

Mary Engelbreit Day! My mom and I made up a calendar where every day is a holiday. I have been lax about celebrating the holidays recently, so I thought posting about them, with ideas for celebration, might spur me into action. Today, I plan to work on altered art in honor of Mary Engelbreit's love of art. I am preparing tip-in pages for a swap. The theme is "seasons" and I am making 25, so this is a perfect excuse to get going on those. I think I'll work on Winter today, since it's still snowy & gorgeous out. Cold, too, but not as cold as it's going to get. They are predicting single digits next week, with a high of 7 degrees one day! Winter is finally acting like winter! Time to bundle up!

If y'all end up celebrating any of my posted holidays (I will try to post every day, but offer no guarantees), I'd love to hear about what you did!