Thursday, January 31, 2008

Things You Notice as You Lay Dying

I'm the world's snarkiest sick person. Fevers make me perfect and the rest of the world decidedly not. Case in point: Ellie Krieger. On Tuesday I woke up from an unplanned nap on the couch to find her show playing on T.V. I would normally rejoice at the opportunity to watch anything other than the Disney channel but, because I was sick, I couldn't concentrate on anything but her preternaturally smooth forehead.

Seems our Ms. Krieger is friends with Mr. Botox. At first I was mildly amused. She's on T.V. and is probably under all sorts of pressure to look young and pretty by some leathery, old toad in a suit. I don't upload my pictures on flickr until I airbrush the hell out of my wrinkles, so who's to say what I would do in her position? My amusement, however, quickly turned to annoyance around the 32nd time she opened her eyes freakishly wide. I guess Ellie realized that a frozen forehead lacks a certain emotive power. To counteract her frozen face, she repeatedly opened her eyes really, really, really wide while the corners of her eyebrow muscles quivered at the strain of almost being used. She looked like she had Grave's Disease.

Ellie, Ellie, Ellie. Didn't I just read a year or so ago your article on the powerful effect of good nutrition on skin? What happened? Did you finally realize that broccoli and carrots don't pack quite the same punch as Botulinum Toxin Type A?

I was in a lather by the time The Mister came home.

The Mister: "Hey. How are you feeling?"
Jules: "I'd be feeling a lot better if Ellie Krieger would stop making those damn googley eyes at me."
The Mister: "What?"
Jules: "Exactly. And she needs another 5cc's over her left brow. I think I saw movement when she pulled out the blender."
The Mister: "Not feeling any better?"
Jules: "NoI'mnotfeelinganybetter! I'm dying! Feel my forehead. Is it hot? It's totally hot, right? Hot and wrinkled, Ellie. Hot and wrinkled. Look! Did you see that?! She did it again!" {click}
The Mister: "You do feel warm. Maybe you should put down the camera and get some sleep."
Jules: "Yeah. Well. Maybe."


P.S. I'm sure you must be wondering what kind of loser sleeps with her camera. Well, I have a perfectly good explanation. Fevers make you sleepy. You just can't fight it! Try as I might, I kept falling asleep on the couch and waking up in a panic, confident Mickey and Nicholas were in all sorts of trouble. At one point, I just wanted to pull them over and say, "Look, Mama is very, very sick. I'm going to save us all a bunch of time and hand over the Henckels right now. Remember: blades out and quick, short jabs. OK? Good. Now give Mama a kiss before she slips into a coma."

They never got into the knives, thank goodness, but Mikey did find my camera. That's why I have an awesome picture of this green thing, presumably in my house.

I'm not positive, but I think this is the sun.

At some point Nico wanted in on the fun, but Mikey pulled rank. Nico had no choice but to scream bloody murder. I shot up ten feet in the air from a dead sleep. After I landed, I took my temperature (103!) and decided everyone needed a nap. After the boys were tucked in bed, I went back to the couch and watched 3.2 seconds of Paula Deen fondling mayonaise before falling asleep. I woke up a couple of hours later to Ellie's frozen face and a camera on the ottoman next to my tissues. Mikey must have dropped it there during the mel'ee.

So, you see, I'm not a loser who sleeps with her camera. I'm a loser with a fever who takes blurry pictures of TV chefs who may or may not be using Botox. There's a big difference.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sick Day

Everyone but The Mister is sick around these parts. Me, Nico, Mikey, Baby Mickey, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Baby Red Bird, Soccer Mickey, Big Mickey, and Santa-Winnie-the-Pooh are fighting some sort of pandemic threatening to take us all down. So, I may or may not be posting for a couple of days--at least until our fevers are down. Taking care of two sick little ones is pretty miserable when you're sick, too. I'm trying to think of something witty and funny to sign off with, but I'm too tired. I will say this: Definitely not my favorite moment. ;)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Call Me Gregor Samsa

Have you ever read Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis? In this classic short story the main character, Gregor Samsa, wakes up and discovers that during the night he has transformed into, basically, a giant cockroach. I found an e-text version here for those of you unfamiliar with the story. Something similar happened to me not too long ago. No, I didn't wake up with an exoskeleton; it was much more sinister. I woke up and realized I'm turning into my mother.

It all started out innocently enough when I realized that she sure was smart to store her shoes in their respective shoe boxes and forgo a shoe organizer. If you were to go into my mother's closet you would see almost every pair of shoes she owns boxed and waiting on the top shelf of her closet. The only shoes relegated to the floor are her slippers and one or two pairs of shoes that she uses when she needs to do something outside, like take out the trash. I used scoff and go on and on about the time she wasted opening boxes. She pointed out that rifling for shoes on the floor of your closet while pushing aside the clothes hitting your face was the true waste of time. She was right.

One day while visiting her with the boys I decided to let her know she had a point about the shoes, and, during a moment of insanity, mentioned I should just do what she does and hope my house turns out half as organized as hers. She thought that was just great and started giving me all sorts of tips, which I promptly ignored. The clincher came at the end of the visit when I failed to return the TV remote control to it's rightful place in the TV Remote Control Caddy. For shame! She complained. I noted that she was crazy. She then delivered this little coup de grace, "Well, if you want to be like me you need to put things away in their proper location."

Oh. My. God. I left thirsty for many adult beverages.

Then, last week, the unspeakable happened. Again it turns out my mother was correct. This time about Tupperware and plastic containers. She hates all plastic items and thinks Tupperware is a waste of money. I've tried to bring her over to my side, but she won't budge. Instead, my mom continues to use the same Corning Ware containers for the last, oh, 30 plus years. You know the ones--they're white and they have the little blue flowers on the side. Yeah, those.

Here is how it all went down. I have a set of Corning Ware but only because I bought it as a wedding present and for one reason or another we never gave the set to the couple. It sat, unopened, in my garage for a couple of years because at the time Corning Ware = mom = shudder. I wanted something different. Something better. Eventually I got over it and started using them to serve food. They were fine, but nothing to hang onto desperately for 30 plus years. That is, until last week.

I was just getting ready to set up my lasagna in my favorite 13x9x2 pan when I realized it was still playing host to an orange cake. I picked out one of the Corning Ware dishes as a last resort. In fact, see that one on the right holding the food? That's the one I used.

Anyway, I set up the lasagna, put it in the oven, and when it was ready took it out and put it on the table. Hmm. That was easy. Then when we were done with dinner I--wait for it--put the lid on it and put the leftovers in the refrigerator. Sacre bleu! What is this?! I went from cooking to serving to storing in one fell swoop! I know you all think I'm crazy right now, but even though I watched my mom do this for 20 some odd years the practicality of it never really occurred to me. Now, looking back over the last 10 or so years, I'm the schmuck who cooked in a pan, served in a bowl, then stored in a Tupperware container. I've been cleaning three times as many dishes.

I hate to say it, but the older I get the "righter" my mom gets. This is an outrage! What's next? Blazers and sensible shoes?! I can't believe I'm admitting this, but now I'm thinking I need to expand my Corning Ware collection. I know, crazy. I always knew I would cherish my mom's Corning Ware dishes simply because they were hers ( she drive me crazy, but I love her). I just never thought I would actually find the God awful things practical.

Getting older is scary business. Scary business, indeed.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Favorite Moment

I've noticed an interesting trend on my visitor stats for the blog. The "Favorite Moment" feature is consistently the most popular. That doesn't say much, but still. Quite a number of you have picked up on my crack-pot routine and check the blog late Friday evening or Saturday morning. In just a few short months you all have learned I could never decide on my favorite moment before the 11th hour.

I actually enjoy deciding on my favorite moment. The process forces me to reflect back on the week and sift through moments I would probably forget were it not for this exercise. My favorite moments are hardly exciting because, quite simply, I lead an exceptionally dull life. To date, I have written about my hair, my dogs, my friends, my drink, and Mickey Mouse. Still, all 5 of you keep coming back and it's either because you keep hoping I'll write about something exciting (I won't) or you, too, appreciate the fulfillment found at 2:37pm on Tuesday when a stranger steps out of line to carry your items to the register just so you can weave your 32 ft long double stroller through the slalom course of sale rounders. (Thanks, 7ft tall African American man at Aaron Brothers! You were freakishly tall and chewed maniacally on a powder-blue floss pick, but that little act of kindness made my day and you, sir, are my favorite moment this week.)


So, I started thinking that it might be nice if all of us made a concerted effort to capture those little fragments in time that we would otherwise forget. William Lyon Phelps once wrote,

"One appreciates that daily life is really good when one wakes from a horrible dream, or when one takes the first outing after a sickness. Why not realize it now?"

Mr. Phelps, I do believe you are on to something. So, I started my very first public flickr group called Things I Hope to Never Forget. I am basically trying to catalog fleeting memories (good, bad, and indifferent). Anyone can join, so come on over and share your favorite moments. In the meantime, I'll try to organize it a bit better and send off some invitations to those of you in my email address book.

See you there!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Melamine v. Ceramic: Mixed Feelings

The wedding gift we have used the most over the last eight years wasn't even on our registry. My sister-in-law's sister-in-law (got that?) gave us a 3-piece set of of white, melamine OXO Mixing bowls with a pour spout lip. I registered for a ceramic mixing set, but she dismissed the set as heavy, cumbersome, and prone to breaking. I chipped the pour spout off the largest mixing bowl before we were even married six months, ironically enough, but have continued to use them several times a week over the years because they really are very handy. In fact, until recently, I loved my melamine bowls. After 8 years, though, the bottom rubber part is starting to corrode. They stick to my shelves, and I can't set them on my counter without leaving behind a hard rubber residue that I have to scrape off with a butter knife. I need new bowls. Is it time to make the switch to ceramic and leave behind melamine forever?

Here are the bowls I'm contemplating. The first set is melamine and retails for $29.99. It has 6 nesting mixing bowls, and is from the Martha Stewart collection for Macy*s.

The second set is ceramic and retails for $39.99. It has 5 nesting mixing bowls and is also part of the Martha Stewart Collection for Macy*s.

I get one more bowl with the melamine set, but the ceramic set might be pretty enough to serve from. I think. I haven't seen them in person.

Which do you prefer: Melamine or ceramic? [gulp] Both?

Dinner Challenge: Chicken & Rice Casserole Thingy with Frenchs Fried Onions

Dinner really doesn't get much easier than this recipe. This one comes from my mother-in-law (hi, Pam!) and she swears she got it off the back of a Durkee's can of fried onions. I've whipped Google into a sweat over the last few years trying to get an official recipe, but to no avail. Why an official recipe? Because my mother-in-law gave her copy away years ago and I would like to see if the original had any secret ingredients we might be missing out on. If she did get it off the back of a can I doubt we're missing anything more exciting than pepper, so I'm not going to stress about giving an incomplete recipe. If you happen to have the original recipe, please let me know if I'm missing anything!

6 Ingredients

Chicken & Rice Casserole Thingy with Frenchs Fried Onions

4 Chicken breasts
3 cups Chicken stock
3 cups Instant rice, dry
1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
1 pkg. Frozen, mixed vegetables (broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts works well)
1 can Fried Onions

Preheat oven to 375.

In a dutch oven or large, oven proof pot with lid add salad dressing and turn burner to medium. Slice chicken breast into large, bite-sized pieces and add to the pot.

Brown chicken in salad dressing until barely pink inside. Add entire bag of frozen vegetables and allow to steam in pot for a couple of minutes while you to measure out the stock and rice.

Add chicken stock to pot with chicken and vegetables. Stir briefly to coat, and then add rice. Turn off stove and cover with lid. Let sit for five minutes. Take off lid and stir into chicken and rice mixture 1/3 of the can of onions. Oh yeah. Don't worry if there is still broth in the pot. It will steam off in the oven.

Almost Done

Without removing lid, place covered pot in oven and let cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, start checking your vegetables. When they are done to your liking, pull the pot from the oven, remove lid, and sprinkle the remaining can of onions on top of rice. Put back in the oven, without the lid, and allow to onions until the are golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes.

Chicken & Rice Casserole w/ Onion Crisps

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

You Can Thank Me for the Rain

I just can't seem to keep water-filled glasses in an upright position. In fact, I have spilled no less than 4 glasses of water since Christmas. It all started during an innocent lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. I reached across the table to hand something to Nicholas, knocked over my full glass of water, and watched in horror as it splashed all over The Mister and Mikey. The waiter came over with a towel and a look that said such behavior is best reserved for those still developing synapses.

Over the course of the last 3 weeks I have managed to spill three more glasses of water. My latest ham-handed attempt at civilized behavior occurred tonight, while preparing dinner. The most pathetic part of all of this? I didn't even realize I spilled the water until it occurred to me that onions really aren't that juicy and, if they were, my eyes would be burning like miniature meteors in my skull.

So, because I am to the left of normal, I decided that clearly the universe is trying to send me signs. Who better to decipher this code than my friend, Google? One ten minute search later and the results are in.

1. Something bad is going to happen.
2. I can expect good luck in the future.
3. I am pregnant.
4. It is going to rain.

Numbers 1 and 2 cancel each other out, which is fine by me because I don't like surprises. Number 3 just doesn't work for me right now. I couldn't possibly take on another psyche to indelibly scar. I'm only one person, you know? That leaves me with number 4. So, for those of you who, like myself, enjoy the rain and are currently experiencing quite a bit of it--all I can say is you're welcome.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Orange Glazed Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions

Carrie's challenge is up and running, and she's even created a flickr group to keep track of all the great recipes!

I don't have much of a recipe tonight. It's just me using up more of my oranges. I used regular frozen hamburger patties and just cooked up a quick glaze to give the burgers a bit more flavor. I'm warning you now: I could never write my own cookbook because I tend to just add things willy-nilly. Take my measurements as approximations.

Orange Glazed Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions

For the burgers
6 Hamburger patties, frozen (or homemade!)
Hamburger buns, homemade (or store bought!)
2 onions
Cheddar cheese
Condiments, to taste

For the glaze
5 oranges, juiced (approximately 1.5 cups)
1/4 Soy Sauce
2 TB Balsamic or Apple Cider Vinegar
1 TB Ketchup

1. Slice onions in half moons and caramelized in pan with 2 or so TB of olive oil. Set aside on a plate when done.

2. In the same pan you caramelized the onions, and without cleaning it, toss in all the ingredients for the glaze and reduce by half. It's done when it is syrupy and can coat the back of a spoon. Transfer to a bowl.

Orange Glaze

3. Place burgers on the grill and baste with the glaze. When burgers are done, discard the remaining sauce.

4. With the burgers still on the grill, add the cheddar cheese and toss on burger buns if you like them toasted.

5. Take burgers and buns off the grill and add condiments to taste.

I have to say, I don't like burgers but really enjoyed these. I served it with a light green salad and a baked potato. Super easy, and a great way to use up my oranges!

Orange Glazed Hamburger w/ Caramelized Onions

Homemade Hamburger Buns


You didn't think I would make them, did you? That's ok, neither did The Mister.

I didn't need to make hamburger buns from scratch; I could have easily bought them at the store. But, somehow, making these make me a better mom.

I'm always thinking, and I get bored easily. Because of this I often take on too many projects and over commit myself. I check my emails constantly and carry the cordless phone in my pocket. When I am out, my cellphone is either in my hand or within reach. I'm not important. There is rarely a call or email that couldn't wait a couple of hours, and, yet, I am always available.

But, am I available for my boys if I am already available for everyone else? I worry they pay the consequence of my frenetic personality, and I don't want them to remember me as the mom who was always working. I'm not all about work! Case in point, I love to bake. I always have, and after so many years (my Kitchen Aid stand mixer is 16 years old) I've become proficient enough to tackle any recipe that strikes my fancy. I want them to know this about me, and remember it fondly later in life. And so, I choose to spend a day with Mikey and Nico and make in a couple of hours what I could have bought in 5 minutes.

Bread Maker

As a rule, it's not easy to bake with a 3 year old. You lose track of ingredients. Flour ends up everywhere but the bowl. There is a constant threat of boo-boos and burns. Sometimes it seems easier to just bake for them rather than with them. But, today I persevered, kept my mouth shut, and was rewarded when I suddenly feel a light touch and looked down to see this:

Why I Bake

The Kitchen Aid can make all sorts of intimidating noises when kneading a large bread recipe, and sometimes you just need a hand to hold and a shoulder to lean on until all the commotion is over.


I was rewarded again when we pulled the dough from the mixer and a little voice beside me sighed, "Oh, mama. It's just soooooo beautiful."


And so we baked. And kneaded. And we rolled up our dough into balls and sprinkled them with sesame seeds. Lots of sesame seeds. Maybe one bun got a bit more sesame seeds than necessary when mom wasn't looking.

Into the Oven

I hope the boys remember baking with me. I hope they know that when I look at them I am so filled with love that sometimes I can't breathe. I hope they understand that I am just trying to be a good mom they can be proud of. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, one day many years from now when they are both on dates with some little tramp I don't even like that they lean over and say, "You know, my mom bakes the best bread."

And that's why I made hamburger buns from scratch.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I Just Spent $44 on Baking Soda.

OK, maybe not just baking soda. But therein lies the problem! I found a recipe for orange cake and only noticed the missing baking soda after I had everything prepped. Figures. So, I packed up the boys and headed off to Trader Joe's for some baking soda.

Ready to go shopping with me? Here we go.

I walked in, and remembered we were also out of granola bars.

I'll get those once we get to the snack aisle. Mikey won't let me forget.

It went downhill from here.

OK. I think I'll make my grandmother's recipe for panqueques* tonight. I need ground beef, but I think I have everything else. [*similar to crepes. These are stuffed with a ground beef mixture and baked in sauce, like cannelloni] Ah, here we are. Ground Beef. Should I use turkey? It would be healthier... Meh. Screw it.

Oh, with The Mister home today I should pick up some extra sandwich meat. Well, if we're having sandwiches I better get bread, too. Oh. Look at that! Hamburger buns. I do have some hamburgers in the freezer for emergency meals. Maybe I'll just pick up some buns, too. Let's take a quick look at the ingredients. Hmm. Sweetened with honey. That's not too bad. How much are they? WHAT?! Wait a minute. Don't I have a recipe for hamburger buns in
that one book? How hard can it be to make buns? Back you go, buns. Hah! I just saved $5. God, I hope I make those buns. Otherwise my ass will have to come back and get those stupid things.

Would you looks at that! Trader Joe's has that green casserole onion topping stuff that Frenchs' sells and it's not even the holiday's! I should make that chicken-rice-casserole thing for dinner this week. Let's look at the ingredients. Palm Oil?! Forget it.

OK. What did I need again? I have the meat. I have bread, sandwich fixings... I know there's something I'm forgetting. I'll just walk around the store and maybe it will come to me.

Oh, look! Here's that Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken everyone raves about. I should buy one in case I don't feel like cooking this week. Don't look at the ingredients. Don't look at the ingredients. Don't look at the ingredients.

Frozen vegetables. Well, I could buy these if I were making that chicken-rice casserole thing, but then I would have to use the green-bean-casserole-onion-topping-things and they have palm oil. It is a fast meal and Mikey eats it every time. But the palm oil is so bad. I wonder how much better the Trader Joe's version is than the Frenchs version? I never looked at the ingredients on the Frenchs can. So why be so hard on Trader Joe's for a little palm oil? Oh, alright. Just this one time.

What am I forgetting?!

Oh, crap! If I'm going to make that chicken-rice-casserole thing I need to buy chicken!

OK. Here we go. Fresh chicken. Where are the bags? They were over here just last week. This stupid store! They're always out of bags! Oh, bother. I'll just pick some up and hope none of the packages are pierced.

GAH! Chicken juice! Chicken juice! Oh gross! Crap. This is just perfect. Is there a God damned paper towel in the house?! No? Oh, that's ok! I'll just use MY JEANS. Disgusting. Sigh. Back to frozen foods. I'll get that big bag of frozen chicken.

One bag of frozen chicken. Check.

OK. Seriously what am I forgetting?




BAKING SODA! I NEED BAKING SODA! Whew. I almost forgot.

Rolling up to an empty check out line and what do I spy next to the register?

Oh, look! Granola bars. Whew. Almost forgot that, too.

And this, friends, is how I spent $44 on baking soda. Note, I didn't even have said baking soda until the very end and could have very well left the store without it. Lists? Child's play. I like to live on the edge. This is why I was so excited to read about Carrie's 5 dinner challenge. Five dinners we haven't made in a while to break us of our ruts and discover new recipes. Sounds fun, no? We'll see how I do. Tonight might not go so well. I'm a little tuckered out from juicing 264 oranges over the last 3 days. And my heartburn is so bad--from the aforementioned oranges--that I wouldn't be surprised if I opened my mouth and a red-hot stream of flames shot out like a fire breathing dragon.

Maybe I'll just make hamburgers tonight. Crap. I don't have any buns.

Orange Cake

(The orange cake I made with the $44 baking soda)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Feeling Tense

Raise your hand if you have an extremely overactive imagination and watch too many crime shows. Yeah, so do I. I've always been a supreme worrier, but something about becoming a mother really refines the paranoia. You go from worrying every now and then to staying up at night imagining all sorts of unspeakable horrors. I am especially famous for worrying when things are going too well. I tend to sniff out stress like a badger, and today was no different.

The Mister and I had a wonderful day yesterday exploring Los Angeles with the boys--so much so that we decided venture around our city's downtown to window shop and take some pictures of local architecture. Mikey and The Mister were a bit behind me, so I decided to wait with Nico (strapped in the double stroller) under the portico of an antique store we planned on scouring.

I wasn't really paying much attention, so all of a sudden I found a man and two women surrounding the stroller. The man started cooing at Nico in Spanish and--wait for it--started caressing his face and tickling him under his chin!

Back off my kid, pal.

He looked at me and said, in Spanish, "I love babies and he is the most beautiful little boy."

Uh huh. That's nice. I pulled the stroller closer to my body and the glanced at the women (one of them very pregnant) now fixated on Nico. The man then reached out to pick up Nico! He looked at me and said, "May I pick him up?"

"No. You may not." I promptly start shitting 5,000 bricks. The Mister appeared out of nowhere. Knowing him, he saw everything from 20 yards away and came running.

One of the women looked at Mikey and said to The Mister, "He reminds me so much of my son. May I give him a hug?"

What the Hell is going on here?

The Mister told them no, and they thanked us all left. We walked into the antique store and I just stared at The Mister and my boys, who I am now convinced were almost kidnapped. Then The Mister told me that they had already approached him and Mikey and that the women were caressing Mikey's head and trying to give him hugs. He had to tell them to take their hands off him.

Now the brick shitting is up to 10,350.


The rest of our outing was, essentially, ruined. I developed an instant migraine which has yet to leave. I kept imagining them blindsiding us from behind a corner and taking the boys. I told this all to The Mister who looked at me an said, "That wouldn't happen. I'd take them all down-- even the pregnant one. I'd roll her, too."

I'm sitting here writing, trying to put into words what only a mother knows. That once you have children, there really is no greater love than the love you have for your child. But it's not just love. It's fear, too. This immeasurable love is mingled with the most intense fear you will ever experience. Fear that wraps around you like a cold snake when you watch the news, watch certain shows, or take walks with your family on an otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon.

I burnt the chicken, tonight. It was a recipe for an orange marinade I developed and planned to share with you next week. My mind was on other things, and I set the oven to 375. Not a high temperature, but with all the natural sugars in the marinade the chicken skin is now black as pitch. It's perfectly edible, but certainly not appetizing. My parents should be here any minute, and all I have to offer is incinerated chicken. The Mister must have read my mind because he looked at me and simply said, "Look. Those people got to me, too."

Thanks, The Mister. It helps to know daddies get scared, too.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Favorite Moment

I've had many this week.

The week started off well with a little visit of the newborn variety. Always a plus, especially when you're not the one getting up at all hours.

Then again, I really did enjoy my brief foray in the wild animal kingdom.


Oh, but I did finally hang up our wedding invitation and portrait after two years in my parents' garage. That felt quite lovely to accomplish.

Getting There

But what about dinner with The Mister? Alone? At a place with nary a chicken nugget on the menu? Could there be a more favorite moment? I didn't think so.

That is, until today. I've been tired and feeling out of sorts. By the early afternoon, as a little vein on the left side of my head started to pound, the inexplicable exhaustion of the last week suddenly became very clear. Why, hello there, migraine. I haven't seen you in a while. How thoughtful of you to return! I have been eating crap, after all.

I called The Mister and begged him for an early return. He could hear the boys tearing apart the house and made it home by 5:25, not sure what he would find. He was practically running through the door.

Jules: "Hello." {Click} went the camera.
The Mister: "Hello. Am I your favorite moment?"

Jules: "Oh, yes." {click} "Definitely."

Hmmm. Or not.

(Drinky-poo by The Mister. An ex-bartender who can make anything-- and well.)

Turkey Breast with Cranberry and Orange

The Crockpot recipe turned out well. The Mister loved it, which means nothing because he will happily eat anything he didn't have to prepare. Like salt, gratitude brings out the flavor in anything.

The recipe is for Easy and Delicious Turkey from the ubiquitous Fix-it-and-Forget-it cook book. I changed the name so you could have at least some idea of the flavors involved. If you read yesterday's post, you know to expect oranges. I normally try to cook from scratch, or at least use whole, unprocessed ingredients. I don't like boxes, mixes, or packets for two reasons. First, they are full of crap and don't have one redeeming health quality. Second, they are often relatively expensive and can be easily duplicated with natural ingredients you already have in you pantry, saving you both money and time spent at the oncologist's office. That said, this recipe is full of cans and packets, but think I can duplicate the recipe and avoid some of the worst offenders (I'm talking to you, high fructose corn syrup). For now, though, I thought you might like to take a stab at the original. Ready? Here we go:

Turkey with Orange-Cranberry Sauce

Turkey Breast with Cranberry and Orange

1 fresh Turkey Breast, with bones
1 can Whole Cranberry Sauce
1 packet Dry Onion Soup mix
1 cup Orange Juice

Place washed turkey breast skin side up in Crockpot. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl and pour over turkey breast. Set Crockpot on low and cook for 6-8 hours. When done, remove turkey (with tongs so it doesn't fall apart) and place on cutting board. It should easily pull away from the bones. Slice into 1 inch slices.

You can then do as I did and dip the slices into the orange-cranberry au jus, plate, and then spoon cranberries on top. You can also plate the dry turkey and pour about a ladle's worth of the sauce on top. The choice is yours, but I prefer the former method to keep the au jus from running all over the place.

This recipe is ridiculously simple and perfect for those days when you don't want to cook. I threw this all together while Mikey ate lunch in about 5 or so minutes. Prepping the turkey took the longest, but those of you who like to play fast and loose with salmonella can always skip that part.

To accompany the turkey I roasted three potatoes (sliced into wedges), one quartered onion, and one yellow bell pepper (also sliced into wedges) with olive oil at 400 for about 30 minutes. I also tossed baby greens with olive oil, a squeeze of lime juice, salt, seasonings, and a sprinkle of freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (parmesean works fine, too).

That's it! I hope you like it. Start to finish, I spent 15 minutes of actual prep time. I couldn't have picked up take out any faster, so this has inspired me to look to my Crockpot more often.

I'll be trying out a fistful of orange recipes. If you like, I'll post the ones that turn out well.

¡Buen provecho!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Orange You Glad Spring is Coming?

January heralds orange season in southern California. I have three productive trees and, while I look forward to all the fresh, citrus-y goodness, it can be overwhelming when you have a harvest like mine.

Orange season.

Over the weekend I baked three orange cakes, each one requiring over 1 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice. I just finished putting in the crock-pot some sort of turkey-cranberry-orange concoction that I will post about later in the week if it turns out well. I've made chocolate covered orange wedges and fresh squeezed juice. I've stuffed them in chickens and roasted them with root vegetables. On the weekends The Mister and I squeeze one over Tequila on the rocks. I think this weekend I will take some of the oranges and make a marinade of sorts with the limes coming in off our tree. The Mister will probably take a few and make homemade Margarita mix, too.

So, I've baked, simmered, dipped, squeezed, stuffed, and, of course, eaten oranges for the last two weeks. Here is what's left of my supply.


I know. I haven't even made a dent, and from what I hear there are people in the Midwest who would kill for my supply. Grass-is-always-greener anecdotes aside, do any of you have some recipes that require lots and lots of oranges? We're good cooks and adventurous eaters, so fire away!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Where I Tackled a Child to Touch a Lizard.

I struggle to post everyday. My problem? I lead an exceptionally dull life. I can't even say this is a side effect of motherhood. I've always been boring. My reputation is woefully beyond reproach.

Perhaps this is why I was so excited to hear The Wizard of Lizards was at Mikey's school and would be putting on a hands on presentation and petting zoo on all things reptilian, amphibian, and arachnidian.

"Can parents attend?" I asked the principal eagerly. To help out. Because I'm co-room mom. Aren't I supposed to attend these sorts of things? You know, to take pictures? Well, it's a good thing I was there! I was the only parent who showed! Ahem.

The show was great. "The Wizard" gave an interesting little talk about each animal on display before allowing the volunteers to handle them. I was the only one actually paying attention, but that's what happens when your audience is a group of 3 and 4 year olds. Another fine reason for me to attend! I was "The Wizard's" emotional support!

Mikey seemed to have a good time, with the exception of the Tarantula presentation.


He didn't volunteer for any of the hands on portions of the presentation, which meant he was one of 9 kids to hold up the python at the end of the show.

Uh oh!

Of course, I had to go to the front to position all the kids. I may have sneaked a quick pet while I was up there.

Big Snake!

The best part, of course, was the petting zoo after the show. When "The Wizard" said we could approach the animals for a closer look, I am sad to say I found myself tearing up there, dragging Mikey behind me. Remember that episode of Seinfeld where George pushed aside the elderly woman and children to get out of the burning apartment? Guilty. I couldn't get there fast enough to secure my Mikey's place at the head of the line, slow moving preschoolers be damned.

Some of the things I tackled defenseless children to see:

Two Frogs


Two Turtles


One Tortoise


Four Snakes and Two Geckos


One Ancient Iguana


Three More Frogs

More Frogs

And One Blue Tongued Kissing Lizard

Blue Tongued Kissing Lizard

(Note the iron grip on Mikey's wrist. You're going to get kissed by that lizard, dammit! Yes, I got a kiss to.)

The Wizard of Lizards is also available for birthday parties and corporate events. I may have him do Mikey's birthday party this year. Ahem. Because Mikey loved it so much.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dear Ada + Will Ashford

Do any of you read Dear Ada? If you don't, and are an art lover, I suggest you click on over and visit her fantastic blog. Most of her selections are fine art (and therefore out of my budget), but it's still a fascinating read on what's current in art.

I'm always pleased with her selections, but today she really captured my fancy with artist Will Ashford. Altered, vintage book pages is a popular medium right now, but I haven't seen anything executed this well before today. He actually makes the words on the page part of the art which is, of course, very appealing to me.

He finds most of his books at garage sales, street markets, and used book stores. I am smitten. Aren't you?

8 Years.

Today. And he can't say my dad didn't try to warn him.

On our wedding day, my mother in law turned to my dad and said, "All I want are grandchildren with your daughter's smile." He, without missing a beat, shook his head in agreement and said, "Yes, but watch out. With the smile comes the mouth."

Luckily, The Mister's heart is bigger than my mouth. Most of the time.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Design Remix

Can someone explain to me the allure of appearing on a show like Design Remix? The premise of the show is to redesign a room in your house with furniture you already have in the room “plus surprises from other parts of the house.” I don’t get it. Was Candice Olsen busy? Why would you want to use your own furniture? You picked it! And you applied for a design show! I’m going to guess that what you picked most likely sucks, or at the very least doesn’t work well in the room because, I repeat, you applied to appear on a design show. I thought the whole point of essentially admitting on national television that you have no style was the promise of a newly furnished room. You give them permission to humiliate you, and they give you free stuff. Seems like a fair trade, no?

By the way, I should talk. I shouldn’t be too rough on HGTV. The show’s concept inspired The Mister and I to remix our own living room in hopes of reclaiming some adult space from the boys and their toys. Two years ago, we moved from a newly built tract home to a mid-century ranch. We had all sorts of renovation plans that we quickly put on hold after I decided to quit my job and stay at home with Mikey.

One of those plans included a new fireplace and furniture for the living room. Our old furniture looked lovely in our previous home, but in our older, more compartmentalized ranch house the furniture is the wrong scale, color, and style. The fireplace? Well, it’s a bit imposing. We put the mantel in right after we moved in so we would have somewhere to hang stockings for Santa, thinking it would be a temporary fix. We placed the furniture in the room and left it, hoping to replace everything soon. It never happened, and before we knew it the entire living room and entry way was overrun by toys.

Toys, Toys, Toys

Who's house is this, again?

A total redesign is currently out of the question so, right before Christmas, The Mister and I set about moving some furniture. We redid this room for $0. Like an episode of Design Remix, we used everything we already owned.

We started off by repositioning our ginormous sectional. We tried every conceivable configuration and finally settled on this one. It’s still too big for the room (it’s pretty much all you see when you come in the front door) but I think it turned out ok. I don’t love the heavy piece of carved wood above the television unit, but it serves a purpose. That’s a little “surprise” from the garage I dusted off to hide a 2.5 inch hole in the wall we couldn’t avoid if we wanted to watch TV in this room. Something lighter would look better (maybe even a plant) but it didn’t fit with my $0 budget.

It's All Wrong!

Before the Remix.


After the Remix. Better, no?

Of course we also moved every single toy into the den. The den is now a mess, but you can't see it when you first walk in the house, and with everything in such a small room it is fairly easy to clean everything up on a moment’s notice.

From the front door

No toys!

After--No More Toys!

Better. Much better.


We have children. They require toys. I prefer laughter over a clean house. Usually.

The Culprit

The culprit.

We moved the large mirror to the dining room. I want to redo this room, too, only with money. For starters, I would love to find a round table, replace the light fixture, and put down a rug. I’ve also thought of papering the wall behind the mirror or painting it a different color. We’ll see. For now, I’m just happy I can walk into my house without being blinded by a sea of toys.


Hello, I'm beige. How may I bore you today?

Dining Room.


Have any of you remixed a room? I’d love to see before and afters, so link away in the comments if you’re up to sharing!