Monday, March 31, 2008

don't bring that near me it smells like ladybug

One of the great and dreadful signs of impending spring in New England is the infestation of ladybugs. Actually about 2 months ago they came out on an unseasonably warm afternoon, it was seriously akin to the plagues in Egypt, (which had Moses story been set in New England I am sure the plagues would have been ticks and mosquitoes, ladybugs and Japanese beetle bugs)- they were swarming everywhere- I remember my son dashing in from the bus- coat pulled up over his head trying to battle his way to the front door all the while being bombarded by the tiny flying beetles! I opened the door shouting to confused child to run for it- he made it over the threshold we slammed the door and stopped to breathe and take in the collateral damage over 60 lady bugs were now crawling on the inside of our entryway window). And lo the season is upon us- now let me state for the record- there are few things I truly hate- but definitely at the top of my 5 HATED THINGS is the smell of ladybugs- when I talk about this most people think I am crazy. It is a little known fact that when a ladybug feels threatened it exerts a foul smelling liquid from its legs. This my friends is the worst part of lady bug season. I am not cruel to ladybugs and actually engage my children in a humane ladybug resettlement program, they capture them by the containerful and move the stinking suckers outside. My oldest tried to create a distracting lure out of legos for them yesterday when that didn't work he moved on to a and then a slightly more forceful bionicle ball shooter to "blast them off the high parts of the window" so they would drop down to reaching length.
Now the worst part is the ladybugs favorite hangout-- my bathroom window-- they seem to prefer places that get morning sun this much I have learned (or maybe they just think I am really HOT!) Whatever the reason, they flock to this window 40 or so at a time- and this makes my bathroom stink like ladybugs! So if i smell very strongly of my favorite escada perfumes these days- it is for my own benefit to overpower the foul ladybug stench. Truly few things cause me such dismay- I remember laughing because a friend in jr. high once put down her greatest fear was... nuclear war? famine?, economic crisis? no...killer bees-- and well i guess to be honest by comparison my fear of ladybug stink is quite wimpy by comparison. I am sure my children will growing up remembering their mothers classic line "Don't bring that near me it smells like ladybug!!"

Friday, March 28, 2008

Live like there is no tomorrow

We are a very death phobic society. We don't like to grieve publicly either. If you have spent time in many other cultures you know we mourn and grieve in very different ways. Given the fact that we will all die, as will our parents, our children, our friends we are not prepared to deal with these eventualities. We have not mastered grieving, loss, and death in fact we really avoid thinking about it. Through the miracles of modern medicine we have learned to put-off death much of the time. We lack the shared experience as is the case in so many cultures where death is such an everyday occurrence. For us we often only accept death when it takes place in hospitals, when all else has failed, or nothing more can be done. It is skirted in conversations with socially appropriate euphemisms and talked about in hushed tones, or others simply avoid acknowledging it. And for those who find death upon them, we often don't do enough or the right things to help them through the very emotional and physical experience of grieving and loss.

When I was touring a hospital in Africa I went to visit the morgue. To some of you this sound grotesque. As any person living in this part of AIDS stricken Africa knows, death is a very real, everyday occurrence, and some if not, many of your friends and family members have died in your lifetime. In many cases not painless deaths, not very timely old age deaths. You have seen death in it all its unpleasantness. I was slightly hesitant to go in but I thought to really understand the"experience of so many people it was something I needed to see. It is a strong image to see a place overrun with death. One I hope NOT to forget, I know that may sound very strange but I think too often we get into our nice comfortable lives, we fail to see the things that are really out there. If we did it could change the way we think and it would change the way we live.

In a church meeting once about helping people change their patterns of behavior I said, "I think the problem is people don't see enough death". I that was probably the last thing anyone expected to hear come out of my mouth on a Sunday morning. Seeing death reminds you of your own mortality, it reminds you of the mortality of those around you. It reminds you that the time here and now is finite both for yourself and those you love. We cannot cheat death, we cannot outrun it. One day it will come and often at the most unexpected time, on the most normal of days. It will come in all its silence, its stillness, its coldness and it will end a chapter. However depressing it sounds "what if I died today, or my parent, or my child, or my friend" actually makes you live better. It makes you softer, and more deliberate. And the most painful sting in death is regret. Regret for opportunities missed.

If we lived this way we'd give more compliments, be more sincere, be less afraid to share our emotions, we'd give more of ourselves, we'd do more small simple things, we'd be more personal we'd make others laugh and smile more. Neal A Maxwell talked about living so we "touch others deeply, instead of being remembered pleasantly". This is a theme I explore in alot of my art. So today's wise words- Live like there is no tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

sorry, got this baby

To me, it's a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when you walk around. That way, if anybody says, "Hey, can you give me a hand?" You can say, "Sorry, got these sacks."
- Jack Handy
This concept rears its head often in our house- only slightly modified. When I pass off ss#3 to my husband, as I am madly trying to finish up on dinner or cleaning up from dinner, he just sort of holds him and paces back and forth from the kitchen to the family room. Last night I pointed out to him this inefficient behavior, I took this moment to clarify my expectation which is hold the baby AND help clean up. This allows me 10 minutes to appreciate using BOTH hands to complete a simple task. I repeated the above deep thoughts to smart daddy-o inserting baby for sacks as that is the case here and reminding him I can see through this little excuse. Then he asked half laughing, knowing full well he shouldn't go there. What I did in a day while holding a baby. As any mom of a young baby can attest there are maybe only 5 things or less that you do in a day while NOT holding a baby. And not only holding, but feeding no less. So of course I enumerated 50 odd tasks I completed that day while holding a baby. See no excuse!

Now on this same topic- either this is a Y-linked trait, my 2 yr old has mental telepathy, or reading SILENTLY to your baby in utero really has amazing impact, because the other week I was loading some stuff up in the car and I asked #2 to help me carry something to the basement. He ran off to the laundry room and returned with an empty old navy shopping bag on his arm and emphatically stated "sorry mom I've this bag" and proceeded down to the basement with the empty sack. I totally wished I had had the cameras rolling because it was a moment that needed to be immortalized 1. his ingenuity 2. the sheer coincidence of this behavior to his mothers beloved deep thoughts and 3. because I was the only one there witness it. I stood laughing and laughing, deserted and alone in my entryway still with my piles of stuff waiting to be hauled down, knowing real life was better than any SNL moment.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Is that an orange in your woods?

Oh and an lime and and apple too? Why yes, yes indeed. See I hate to waste things so if I have produce that goes bad instead of throwing it away, I chuck it into the woods behind our house. I think of it as my offering to the animals. I know many people would say I should compost, but lets face it composting stinks and I am not into things that smell. As a a mom there is enough assault on your olfactory sense everyday and I am not adding to it by choice. And truth be told there is something liberating about hurling a semi soft apple 15 yds at a tree and watching it pulverized into juicy bits by your own brute force, (or a shrivelled lime or a orange that is rock hard or any past prime fruit for that matter but, I do have my limits, I definitely draw the line at cucumbers turned watery).
This has always been a secret behavior something I do when my kids are napping or playing in another room but the other week my son caught me headed toward the back deck with some fruit in a mesh bag. I told him what I was doing and being the lover of nature that he is was in full support and asked to be the fruit tosser. I unselfishly agreed to allow my son a turn as the fruit chucker. Well 15 minutes later I noticed something in the middle of the backyard-- there in the middle of the backyard was the whole bag of fruit- see picture to prove it. No son, not the whole bag at once, bag included. Not in the middle of the grass where the lawnmower will choke on it, and the neighbors will think us trashy--- one by one in the woods. There is an art to this. Ahh, there are many things I must still teach my young sons.

don't you love my playbook arrows...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

family pictures

As a mom one of your jobs is as family historian, which means capturing images of your family periodically through out the year. However you often meet with opposition as you diligently attempt to do your duty. Somehow my children cannot be convinced that if you cooperate fully the torture will be brief. However if you withhold smiles and full attention to the photographer you will only be subjected to greater torture. I just ask that you sit or stand where I asked you to, keep your appendages close to your body,look in the general direction of the camera and have a generally pleasant look on your face. But really that is too much to ask.
We snagged the 5 min. prior to leaving for church today to get our first picture as a family of 5. Thanks to the auto timer setting and the help of a barstool. There is no beautiful backdrop with flowers, buds and spring greens, because while it maybe spring for the rest of you here in barren-leafless-brown-trees-still-in-the-30s-New-England we don't see those things till mid May. Any outdoor photo would entail winter coats and would looking more fitting on a Christmas card. Yes, there was bribery with Easter candy. Yes, many images were shot on the sport setting which reduces the blur for whichever child happens to be moving when the image is snapped. But alas I have done my job!
The true hallmark of these photo torture episodes is the shrewish mother barking commands like: "look at the camera" "stand up" "sit up" "put you hand here" "smile" "stop making that face". Really if you can get 2 out 3 looking in the general direction of the camera we call it a success.
Happy Easter from our family to yours!

Friday, March 21, 2008

my adoring fan

When he is not cutting butter, flushing glasses down the toilet, eating cake with a lacrosse stick, wearing your br* as a backpack, mopping the floor with flour, or stuffing as many marshmellows in his mouth as he can before you grab him, he can be very endearing. He is my most adoring fan, anytime I do a new paintings (which is almost everyday lately) he says "OOOOHHHH new paintings" or "You worked really hard mom" or "Those are nice ones" or "I like it, I like it!" So, today as I was typing my butter post he came in clutching one of my new paintings- "Mom, this is my favorite painting! It's a good one".

did you know you can cut butter with an egg slicer?

No? Neither did I, but evidently my 2 year old did. It actually slices it into tiny segments.
Moral of the story: Don't leave a stick of butter out on your counter.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

you've heard of the running man, and the roger rabbitt...

but what about the dung beetle? my 2 year old cracks me up- I know as a 2 yr old my dancing was never intended to emulate the dung beetle!!? Is it a boy thing or have I gone terribly wrong in my parenting?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bread: the mark of a mother

To me making bread is a hallmark of motherhood-- all truly great moms make bread. Nothing brings comfort to a home like the smell and the taste of warm freshly baked bread. And not just the throw in the bread machine kind but real by- hand- from- scratch, bread. I grind my wheat, I grind my oats, I take off my wedding rings and knead it by hand. I use the same kind of mixer the women in my family have used to make bread for 4 generations. I like making bread because it is a tradition that transcends time and cultures- all around the world for thousands of years women have made bread for their families. In times of sorrow and celebration, in times of sickness and health. It is what sustains people in the most meager times. In my book, Bread is personal, bread is sincere, bread is intimate. It is reserved for special people. People who care for me, people who serve me, people I love, people I want to comfort. Quite honestly I will make cookies for anyone, but not bread.

All the great bread making women I know have "their bread recipe"- not one from a cookbook. finding your recipe is a sort of motherhood rite of passage. I started with one recipe. It evolved to the point that it no longer resembles the original recipe and I call it my own.

I became a true bread maker during one of the most challenging seasons of my life- the 3 yr span in between my first two boys when I had 7 miscarriages. I think I made bread to comfort, to care, for myself during a very lonely time. I often made my bread for my doctors, who saw more times than either of us can possible count. All of us struggling to figure out why at three months, after weeks of perfect normalcy, the ultrasound screen would yield only deafening silence and stillness. The whole sequence played over and over again like a video loop. Probably in some deep subconscious way, by giving this personal feeble offering, I was trying to bargain with God to show my sincerity, my deservingness as a mother. That somehow that in these acts of giving I might receive that one thing I was desperate for. Just as the recipe changed and no longer resembles its original, those years profoundly changed me, I lost the blissful ignorance, innocence of motherhood and childbearing and came through the other side as a stronger woman with the deepest love a mother forged in fire and tears.

So my bread comes with history, a very personal history, which I probably why I share it guardedly. As much as I hate the crumbs on the counter, few things make me feel more like a great mother than to hear my children cheer when I tell them I am making "my" bread. So if you haven't become a bread maker yet, I will offer you my recipe as a stepping stone to create your very own signature homemade bread.

Leslie's Homemade Bread
3 c. hot water
1Tbsp. salt
1/4 c. oil
1 c. brown sugar
8-9 cups flour (4 c. wheat (red and white wheat combo), 2 better for bread, 2 c. oats)
2 Tbsp. yeast
1 tbsp. vital wheat gluten
1 egg

stir water, salt, oil and br sugar together. add 4 cups wheat flour, yeast and egg. beat 4-5 minutes . add 2 cups oat flour (take oats pulverize in blender to make oat flour). mix well- add remaining bfb flour and gluten. knead 10 minutes. place in grease bowl and cover with towel - let rise in warm spot until dbl. punch down divide into three loaves, roll out and form loaves. Let rise again until dbl in pans. bake 35 mins at 325.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

7th belated Star Wars birthday party

Another birthday party done! No, none of my kids are born in march but December was a bad month for us and it took the 2 succeeding months to get back on my game-- which brings us to last night. It is a great feeling when you have pulled off a major venture and today I am basking in post party relief. I am a big fan of the homemade party- anyone can spend hundreds to rent a place and buy a cake but "cool moms make it from scratch". I also firmly believe in the mantra "having fun doesn't have to cost alot of $". So for those of you on a budget I will break it down for you for a complete fun stars wars evening party at home for 7 seven year olds for $72.

The sequence of events:
1. "droid and speeder building with legos"- basically free play with the the giant underbed bins we have filled with legos. They were so into this I could barely break them away for the rest of the party. Cost= free (recycled use of Christmas presents- LOL) We took pictures of all the kids with their creations! Here is SS#1 with his speeder 2. "refreshment at Mos Eisely Cantina"- aka pizza and drinks, paper goods. cost=$20.00
3. "galactic creations"- acrylic paintings on black canvasboards cost =$5.00
4. "yodas swamp relay" think 2 room obstacle course/relay in the dark with glow in the dark bracelets complete with light saber battling (pvc pipe covered with 1/2 pool noodle and duct tape wrapped handle for each child) cost=$9 here is ss#1 pre party in part of yodas swamp
5. "festive celebration"- homemade R2D2 cake (here is a link to my how to make r2d2 cake tutorial) with marshmallow fondant and ice cream, opening presents. cost=$10
6. "miscellaneous intergalactic atmosphere"- itunes star wars down loads (some killer disco variations included), giant Darth Vader balloon, streamers, shreds, party favors star wars sports bottles and star wars colored pencils from target one spot cost=$28

Everyone had a great time in fact none of the kids wanted to leave so I'll call it a success.

How to make an r2d2 cake

Also available the 3-D yoda cake tutorial here. A small tutorial so other moms don't have to reinvent the wheel. You too, can make this R2D2 cake and probably do a better job than I did as this project did not receive my undivided attention. I was in no state for culinary perfection, I accomplished this while talking on the phone (as my friends Tamlynn and Lisette can attest), homeschooling my 7 yr old, holding my 3 mo old (in a sling) and keeping my 2 yr from destroying the house.
First I used 1 1/2 batches of my standard wedding cake recipe aka Shelah's best birthday cake recipe (which is really a poundcake) It is good because it is solid, heavy and doesn't crack and supremely tasty (my food phrase of the week). I divided the batter into 4- 6" rounds and 1 bowl with a 6" diameter, and 2 mini loaf pans. (I believe every kitchen should have the William Sonoma set of 11 glass nesting bowls!) Baked them according to recipe directions, wrapped in saran while hot, froze them. Pulled out the freezer 20 min prior to assembly. The day before I also made 1 1/2 batches of buttercream frosting and a batch of marshmallow fondant (using 2-10.5 oz bags and 6 cups of pdwr sugar) and stored them in the fridge. Create a cake base using a small metal mini pie plate and a 6" white saucer from my cupboard. Simply hot glue the metal pie pan (upside down) to the base of the saucer.

1. Frost 3-6" cakes and stack on top of each other and stack on the base(put frosting on the base so it sticks). Place the bowl shaped cake on top and frost. I stuck a bamboo skewer through the enitre assembly to secure from sliding.
2. Even loaf pans to make a flat rectangle and shape into leg shapes. Frost them.

3. Then roll out a rectangle of fondant to wrap around the metal pie pan base to make the center leg (calculate to match the size or your given base- use those HS geometry skills) then roll out fondant rectangle to cover cylinder part of r2d2 and roll out fondant and cover legs.

4. Color part of fondant gray with wilton colors. Roll out to ensure right size- drape the 6 in bowl you cooked with fondant in cut a smooth edge. Then Place circle on dome. Mix wilton silver dust with lemon extract brush over dome to make silver. Create various grills, and r2d2 droid parts and repeat silvering (use a drop of water on back of fondant to make fondant adhere to fondant)

5. Color some fondant blue using wilton colors (again make various necessary shapes- helps to have an r2d2 action figure for general reference- i did not make mine entirely accurate- i didn't have that much time or energy) create various shapes and adhere to fondant. red m&M for red light. Viola R2D2 is done

6. I made a mini cake 6" for "candles and easy party cutting". Frost with buttercream- decorate with leftover fondant to coordinate w/ r2d2.

Yield 1 R2d2 cake and 1 small cake for easy serving and candles. (you can see a close up a shot on my cake blog) Good luck!
PS If this helped you or you have in tips- do post in the comments)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

tree 6, olive trees

more paintings-Reaching tree #6, Gethsemane olive trees variation for my own archival purposes- no comments required

for the love of indian food continues

well I took courage, fueled by your supportive comments and the bend it like beckham aloo gobi recipe and once again ventured to my local indian grocery store (open from 4-9 pm) and got some supplies (and a really tasty samosa for 90 cents!! must get more!!) I did try to converse with the clerk and other patrons but they eyed me very suspisciously- i even told the checker I had a roti maker-and here are the results...
Naan- which didn't puff up like Manjulas did in her youtube video- but still tasty, supremely tasty aloo gobi (2 thumbs up) and some moroccan pan cooked chicken with couscous also a tasty favorite ( it used alot of the same ingredients so i figured while i was knee deep in fresh chilis, garlic, ginger etc we'd have an international feast!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

for the love of indian food

Indian Food - Yum!
When it comes to food- I can do Italian, I can do Turkish, I can do Moroccan- but Indian overwhelms me- perusing the aisles at my Indian grocery only serves to remind me I know nothing about cooking Indian food. Because if you know me and how I cook. I usually go off the recipe with my own intuition a bit and I don't know Indian spices well enough to ad lib.

I had alot of Indian and Pakistani students when I taught at a college in California and I wish I had asked them to teach me how to cook. I remember them making rotis with the preschool kids as a snack activity once (but alas my job was observing and grading how they taught and that means focusing less on what they taught). See I want the good "traditional family recipes"- the true gems--the ones gleaned from your grandma, neighbor up the street etc. not the standard cookbook betty crocker ones . I have often been tempted (although my sensitivity training tells me this is not the right answer) to stop some Indian people I encounter at the grocery store and ask them to share their recipes with me- that may sound crazy and culturally insensitive but really where is the forum for this type of cultural exchange, I ask you?? should I go into the store hold everyone hostage at spatula point and demand recipes? Maybe I should post a personal ad or maybe this is an idea for the next big global social networking site.
Married, white, female, SAHM likes painting and walking on the beach, ISO Indian friends for recipe exchange (and possibly Bhangra dance lessons) (maybe those bollywood dreams aren't a loss after all).
I mean I have a hard time hanging out at my local Indian grocery store with my 3 kids and casually sidling up to grocery patrons in attempts to strike up a friendship with the underhanded hopes of eventually gleaning some Indian recipe knowledge from it all.
The fact that I can't cook Indian food is a shame because actually it is a little know fact but smart daddy-o, designed one of the only roti makers (aka tortilla makers) on the market. When we were first married Allen was working for a start up company in Ca. He did some design contract work for an appliance manufacturer whose president was Indian and therefore one of his niche products the roti/tortilla maker . And I will say "ergonomic press handle" concept design was mine oh lowly non engineer that I am.
So after an Indian food discussion with some friends at church I decided I should try to make some Indian food including roti (including using my roti maker for rotis) and naan (ss#1s favorite food) My prayers for Indian food help were answered when a google search found me Auntie Manjula- in all her Youtube glory to teach me the fine art of down home Indian cooking.
So Indian populations near me can now shop in peace without the fear of smart mama cozying up to them for their recipes.

new paintings

I can't stop painting really- I have this feverish desire to paint. I paint everynight (yes I even dream at night in paint format, I also sometimes dream in photoshop layers, or in blog format and even dream full episodes of the office- which could have been useful during the writers strike!) I have never been so prolific (except maybe for cramming before a solo show about 5 yrs ago). I have never been so driven to paint and I don't know what is causing this burst of creativity or where it is coming from but i hope it lasts! He is another in the temple square garden series and some olive trees from gethsamene (I went on study abroad to Jerusalem and Egypt and as you can see my palette is varying broadly.)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

my life ummm... saturday

My friend Rachelle was getting my life monday going again- and she challenged us to write a 6 word memoir...I thought about this all week in my few unspare moments of solace in the bathtub, at least when I wasn't hopping in and out to help one child or another. I decide I could be summed up as any of the following:
smudges of paint on my hands. (yes you can tell i am an artist by the tell tale smudges of paint you will often see on my hands-- right now as i type i see yellow orange azo, white and two diffferent greens) it is evidence of my unperfectionism. Its not that i don't wash my hands its just i am too busy off on another errand to waste my time scrubbing and scrubbing on tiny flecks that will eventually resolve themselves.
i don't believe in spell check- if you know me online - you know i make lots of typos and rarely run spellcheck again-- i got my main point across- you know what i was trying to say- it's when you are typing at the speed of light trying to cram in a few moments at the computer or typing with a baby in your arms-spellcheck, punctuation- they don't take priority and capital letters- just call me e.e. cummings
bit of this, bit of that.
If you know me you know I like to do a lot of things and keep alot of balls in the air at once- right now it is evidenced in the state of my house (AHHHH!!!) My mom was here oh so briefly to go to a wedding- so i have been taking maximum advantage of that help- but alas it is over. So yes blogging takes its place in the ranks, along side painting (shipping 11 paintings this week was as much work as making them- LOL), my other creative ventures, reading, being full time teacher (yes smart son #1 "went off the educational grid" a few weeks ago- actually he is doing dual enrollment- specials at school and academics at home (you may remember my post a while back about the challenges of meeting the needs of different learners--well the time came to take matters into my own already full hands), which also increases my chauffeuring allotment for the week, keeping a semi orderly house which lately is kicking my backside, being a good mom to ss2 and ss3, some volunteer work in the community, getting up and rolling with a new church assignment, trying to pull off a 3 mo late birthday party in 6 days, complete with 3-d R2D2 cake, planning a house addition.
Other ideas for me:
I think details dante's seventh circle.
rough drafts all the way baby!
double dessert all day every day
creatives shouldn't have to clean up (I am all for division of labor)
so I guess it the post shows that my ultimate 6 word memoir would be
too many ideas, too little time
because instead of one thoughtfully chosen 6 word phrase I gave you 7 which is once again- quintessentially me- the woman whose perfect dream job would be a professional brainstormer!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

the good the bad the ugly

motherhood brings its share of all these... today my morning was kicked of with a bang (no make that a splat) when son #2 while clutching boogle jr to his chest remarked quixotically that there was something in his mouth- this made me nervous because 60 hrs ago he lost his cookies all over his room. well 5 seconds later we had a instant replay of sat night this time yes all over my kitchen hallway and walls- I will try to spare you the graphic images but he was a mere 4 feet from the bathroom, trying his best to make it there, but alas on his way there he slipped and fell in his own pile of vomit-- I have to think that must be one of lifes greater unpleasantries, the only thing worse- being the mom who has to clean it up!

once again may i praise the disinfecting power of my steam mop!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

yes another tree

i know you are tired of tree posts here is tree #5- its one of my favs- it is being shipped to its new home in CA this week- as are it's other tree friends headed to new homes in ID and UT.