Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thirty Minutes? A Week?

Yesterday I heard the most jaw-dropping fact: on average, a couple will spend 30 minutes per week catching up with each other.  Thirty minutes per week of really talking -  about their jobs, their days, their dreams.

This little tidbit came on top of me looking at the clock each night this week at 11pm or so and asking myself When exactly does this happen?

After the dentists appointments and the school pickups and supper and bike riding time and emptying the dishwasher and sorting the laundry and searching for the permission slips and exercise classes and [oh hey!] work - paid and unpaid, of course - and lunch making and bill paying and crawling under the beds to retrieve Lego pieces and Polly Pocket shoes and stupid grocery shopping nope scratch that we won't get to the store..........

When exactly does this happen?

When exactly do I stay friends with my best friend?

When exactly do we get to talk about the screen play he might write when he wins the lottery and is needing to wind down from running a successful vineyard during the day?   When do we get to get things off our chest, to relate funny stories from the day, to gossip about the latest on Facebook, or to hatch hare-brained schemes to get bike lanes built through town?

When do we get to act like people who love each other, instead of business partners?

For all intents and purposes, we 'have it easy' - I am a stay-at-home-mom, he's got a really understanding employer who supports working from home on occasion, or an early night traded for a late night later in the week.  We 'get' to have him home for supper a few times a week, and then I completely understand when that means he hauls out the laptop for work after the kids are in bed.

"Having it easy," however, isn't the same as blissfully co-existing in total harmony.  We still want to carve out time for our own pursuits, our own private thoughts, a little eyebrow tweezing, a quick read-through of the latest in the European Champions League.  (InterMilan won today!) Add 'me-time' to all of the above, and you've got the recipe for how you end up at thirty minutes per week.

So if we're finding it hard to connect - if we're finding it hard to find the time to sit down and really talk - how hard must it be for so many more families!  Families trying to manage shift work, families trying to encompass two careers, families struggling with health issues or behavioral issues, families who are pulled in a million directions every single day?

Instead of throwing in the towel here, instead of saying with a heavy sigh "it's so HARD to be a modern family" - can I suggest something crazy?   I want to share with you a quote that came home from school last year, a sort of "Message from the Principal" thing.   We got things like this every week, and I don't know if the principal would even remember this if pressed.  But this quote has stayed with me every single day since then:
We live in a culture of busy-ness.  I do not think we will change this, but we can make choices for our children and ourselves.  Do we model for children a peaceful rhythm of activities in our own lives? [...] Do we carve out time for kids to be, to think, to create and to dream?
In our marriages, in our families:  there is so much at stake when we fail to connect.  Try, this week, to be more than average: aim for more than your thirty minutes with your significant other.   Try, this week, to connect and listen to the whole vineyard pipe dream, or the earth-shattering blog post, or, just listen to each others' quiet.

I'm guessing you won't be sorry you did.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The 3/50 Project

Did you shop in a local, independently owned store this week?  Did you go out for dinner at your local Outback Steakhouse, or did you stick to the family-owned diner up the road?

I have been amazed, as I get plugged into my small-ish community, to find out just how many independent business owners are out there.  I am equally amazed by just how hard they have to work to stay in business. 

I am one of those people who struggles to see how my individual efforts can make a difference.  But The 3/50 Project is something that makes individual action feel significant - meaningful, even.  The beginning of something huge.

Have any of you heard about this?

The 3/50 Project is a grassroots movement only a year old, dedicated to "saving the Bricks & Mortar our nation is built on."

The concept is pretty simple. It asks shoppers across the country to pick three independently owned businesses they would miss if they disappeared and to try and spend $50 a month shopping there (collectively).

The 3/50 Project website tells us that for every $100 spent in an independently-owned place, $68 stays in the community; at a national chain, only $43. Spend online though, and "nothing comes home."

The stats - if you're anything like me - may not move you.  Offer big numbers all around, and my brain fogs over.  But then I think about the small toy store where we buy all birthday presents, the local Mexican restaurant where the husband/wife owners know my kids and know that they like the beans and rice separated.  I think about my obsesssion with Atwaters coffee and bread, and honestly - the stakes become very clear.

What I love about The 3/50 Project is that doesn't ask us to break up with the Big Box Retailers like cold-hearted lovers.  Nope.  All they're asking for is fifty of your hard-earned dollars - spread out between three retailers.  It means you can still massage the Liberty prints at Target, even pick up a Max-Pak of NutterButters, and do it with a clean-ish conscience.

The one point I take issue with on their site is the suggestion that when we shop online, none of our dollars go back to our community.  Of course this must be the case if we're filling our virtual shopping carts on or Sephora.  But some very incredible designers - for example, EllieBellieKids or joyababy -  are selling their products online these days, and I would encourage you to always pursue the small business, even if it means buying online. 

The very best part of the project, though, is its encouragement to shop - and live - mindfully.  When we are conscious of our choices, surely we are the wiser for it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

John Cusack, The Boss, and Ex-Boyfriends: Part II

I could talk about forgiveness tonight.  I could talk about redemption.  Instead, I think we're going to go for the absurdity of life.  So absurd, in fact, that I found myself in tears of laughter by myself in my kitchen.

So. You ready for the Scoop?  The Big Story?

Yesterday we talked about the idea of 'do-overs.'  Or, at the very least, about the chance to go back to people in your past and make things right.  I have to say when I conceived the idea for the post, I was actually thinking about all the people in my past with whom I have unfinished business - you know the ones, where you're driving down I-95 at 8.30 on a Thursday night and the memory of the last conversation you had with them pops into your head and you want to stab yourself in the eye with a fork?  Yeah.  Those people.

But dangling the prospect of an old boyfriend story is so much juicier, right?

So there's this ex.  We didn't have a great breakup.  He kept my favorite sweater (this is an inside joke for him, if he's reading, and for anyone else who heard about that sweater that fall. Oh ok, so it's for everyone who knew me then.)  It's a long, convoluted story involving three continents, lots of letters, a long hot summer and a pathetic sort of anti-climactic end. 

Now, our guy Rob in High Fidelity let this one girl, Charlie Nicholson, be The One. As he says, looking back at their breakup, "Some people never got over 'Nam or the night their band opened for Nirvana. I guess I never really got over Charlie."  Now me?  I got over this.  We broke up that September and by December I was reporting to my parents that I might be getting married sooner rather than later.  And I was right.

But..... one of my specialities is carrying a grudge.  If, in the end times, they need someone to bear bad feelings until the end of days, I'm the girl.  This is no boastful claim, except to say that the sheer extent to which I work to preserve and defend my long-borne grudges is pretty spectacular.  I think I could probably hire myself out as Grudge-Bearer-By-Proxy.  I'm that good.  So it's fair to say I didn't *really* let this one go.  There were some pretty deep wounds, and let's just say I nursed 'em.

Fast forward [ahem] a bit, and we welcome the Brave New World of Facebook.  I get a Friend Request.  In a total gut reaction, I click NOPE.  Hell to the NAW, in fact.   And immediately feel bad that I did.

A year later, I finally decide I've hung onto this long enough. I click the "Add as Friend" button.

I send a friendly email saying hey.  We have a little email exchange,  where I completely over-share (I blame this blogging habit), and admit to having hung on far too long to all of this, that I hadn't been ready to forgive, but that I realized it was time, blah blah blah blah........  [hey! you in the back!  Wake up! I'm gettin' to the good part!]

This email response comes back:  "remind me please... for what?"

[crickets chirping]

Wait. WHAT?!?!?  In the instant I read that, I stopped short.  And then I giggled. Which turned into gales of laughter.  All by myself, in my kitchen.  Literally weeping with laughter - laughing at myself.

This is me, in full-bore guffaw mode

All this time.  ALL THIS TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I bore this grudge.  I nursed the hurts, I replayed the insults.  I let it color my view of that entire period in my life.   ALL THIS TIME.  And come to find out, it isn't as vividly horrific in his memory.  Come to find out, he has no conception of what I could possibly have held onto for that long.

In an instant, the years of anger and resentment have become so incredibly silly.   Maybe the hurts weren't laughable, but giving that much energy to hanging on to them?  Just..... silly.

I couldn't have asked for a more profound A-Ha! Moment if I'd had Oprah herself sitting on my sofa.

Let it go. Let it go.  What in our lives is so egregious that we cannot possibly move beyond - that we can't offer ourselves the gift of letting it go?  This is giving yourself the profound gift of acting from a place of love, instead of out of fear, and that is nothing less than life altering.

(Now, for a really life-altering take on Unlocking the Prison of Fear, please click over to Ken Kovac's site here.  Intense.  If you want to keep being afraid, don't read.)

So, well..... crap.  There goes my career in Grudge Bearing By Proxy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

John Cusack, The Boss, and Ex-Boyfriends, Part I

I saw Hot Tub Time Machine.  I'm just going to put that out there.  I saw Hot Tub Time Machine, and I loved it.  It was most certainly not because of the Chevy Chase cameo.  I was there for one reason: John Cusack. 

I have proclaimed my love for Mr Cusack before,  but let me say this:  he could probably read the directions on a box of Jell-O and I'd be captivated.

Lately another movie of his has been on my mind:  High Fidelity. It was released in 2000 and - if you're not familiar - covers how "Rob, a record store owner and compulsive list maker, recounts his top five breakups, including the one in progress." (So says, here. And, if you're really interested, it's based on a cracking Nick Hornby novel by the same name.)

He's going through a breakup, and decides it would be therapeutic to contact other women he's broken up with:  "I want to see the others on the big top five.  I wanna see Penny and Charlie and Sarah, all of them, you know.  Just see 'em and talk to 'em, you know, like a Bruce Springsteen song."
Then The Boss himself enters the imaginary dialogue:
Boss: You call, you ask 'em how they are, and you see if they've forgiven you.
Rob: Yeah, and then I'd feel good.  and they'd feel good.
Boss: No, they'd feel good maybe, but you'd feel better.
Rob: I'd feel clean and calm. 
Boss:  That's what you're looking for.  You wanna get ready to start again, that'd be good for you.
Rob: Great, even.
Boss: You'd give that big final "good luck and goodbye" to your all-time top five and just move on down the road. 
Rob: [whispers] Good luck, and goodbye...

What's been knocking around in my head is the idea, this compelling idea, that you can go back.  What's more, the idea that you should go back:  go and find the people from your past - the people with whom you've got unfinished business -  just so you can understand. Go back and make things right.

And then Facebook went ahead and made this all a bit cliche.  It's not a tantalizing pipe dream anymore:  it's an everyday reality.  You are now connected with your ex-boyfriend, his new wife, their teenager who's old enough to babysit - oh, and the teacher who listened to you wail about what a jerk he was. 

There's no more trawling through the phone book, a la Rob: 
She's in the fuckin' phone book. She should be living on Neptune!  She's an extraterrestrial.  A ghost, a myth, not a person in a phone book!
This changes the terrain of The Deep Dark Past completely, when it comes to... processing.  It's all out there, just taunting you to click on the 'Add as Friend' tab.  Go ahead - ask your questions, offer your apologies, do what you need to do.  You can get it off your chest in under 24 hours.

But are you brave enough - stupid enough - to do it? The guys in Hot Tub Time Machine would argue that you'll change the course of history.


Tomorrow, Part II:  How Clicking the "Add a Friend" Made me Feel Like a Prize Idiot (and led to my biggest Aha! moment EVER)

To be continued.....

Thursday, April 22, 2010

She's Baaaaaaaaaaack!

All of the sudden she's posting again.  What is UP with that?

Turns out, I'm an all-or-nothing kind of girl.  This whole casual "I'll just post when I feel I've got something really good to say"  didn't work out so well for me.  Because guess what?  Most times I don't feel I've got anything good to say.

Now the fact that I go ahead and post blogs may seem to contradict that.  But really, in truth, every time I hit the ol' Publish Post button, I think to myself 'Yep..... and someone else probably has said that better.'  (Usually it's Heather over at Extraordinary Ordinary.)

So yeah, turns out the Post When the Spirit Moves You policy ensures that I post....never.

But folks, the absence from Facebook during Lent was G-R-I-M.  I may do a post at some point about why it ended up being an incredibly meaningful exercise, but for now we'll just say that All Work and No Facebook Makes Kirsten a Dull Blogger.

I knew I was addicted loved-in-a-healthy-way this Social Media stuff, but I hadn't ever really put my finger on what it added to my existence.  Apparently, Facebook is the way I think - out loud, with lots of people invited to comment. It seems that Facebook is my filter for the world right now:  through the simple interface I hear about breaking news stories, individual triumphs both large and small, and intriguing ideas are hatched as I scroll through posts and status updates.

This is all to say that the blog is a way to talk to you, about the things we're all thinking about.  The blog is a way to hear your response to my inner dialogue: a filter, if you will, to let me process my ideas and find out if they're just plain crazy talk.  I thought, at first, that I only blogged for myself, just to get the thoughts out of my head.   This week, though, it seems like a few of the posts have maybe rung true.  I've had comments that thanked me for honesty, for calling out truth that maybe we'd rather not deal with.

Quite simply, this made me happy.  I like that being honest, being plain-spoken, and being true to the voices in my head [ahem] reaches people, and generates a response.   

So I'll keep posting.  It's good to be back.  It's good to hear from y'all.  Keep it up, m'kay?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Control Yourself

I've been thinking about self control today.  (Tell you why in a minute - although you may be shocked by my admission, which implies that self control isn't always on my mind.)

At first I thought about describing to you the excruciating levels of self-control it took to keep my little mouse clicker away from the Facebook button on my taskbar during Lent.  But I didn't want you to make fun of me behind my back for being a tragic FB shill.

Then I started wondering what people think about when they ponder self control.  For me it references images of refusing dessert,  forcing yourself on a 12 mile run, or sitting on your hands to keep from flicking your brother's ear. (Have I just given you an embarrassing Rorschach of my inner life? Oops.)

I gave myself a little pop-quiz, and asked Self to write a 10-word essay on where in my life I felt I had any self-control.  Instead of dignifying that stupid quiz with a response, I merely pointed to the giant bag of Kettle Cooked Potato Chips from Costco that remains full, and felt very self righteous.

Then I remembered my [unposted] Gentleness post - the one that was supposed to have been in the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival on, yep, Gentleness.  I didn't post it because I felt so profoundly ungentle.  Because I decided that what I needed to talk about fell into the category of Self-Control in a much more profound way than Gentle.

My problem is my tongue.  [The start of all great blog posts, right?]

My tongue is razor sharp - it was in high school, and hasn't really softened with age.  It belies my very best intentions for gentleness, and while it can often be funny, I am so often harsher than I intended.

The worst part is, my sharp tongue is loosed most often on my nearest and dearest.  I will never understand what it is in the human psyche that allows us to maintain the highest levels of civility for preschool moms at pickup, for painfully slow coffee servers in restaurants,  for people who insult us on Facebook.  But let one of your kids mouth off, perhaps employ a new and useful phrase learned at school?  UNLEASH THE FURIES.   Let your husband fail to supervise the transition from dirty clothes to jammies?  RELEASE THE KRAKEN.

"Not suffering fools gladly," is, I believe, the commonly accepted phrase for this phenomenon.  But is there ever an excuse for lashing out, for saying the meanest thing you can think of, just because someone in your world has been judged (by YOU) and found lacking (again, only by YOU?)

Self-control.  It takes self-control to reign in the anger, the judgment, and the frustration and to, instead, act from a place of love.   In the Yellow House,  my self control is nothing less than love.  And I am obliged to seek it daily - as an act of love for those that I cherish most.


This is posted as part of Bridget Chumbley's One Word at a Time Blog Carnival, on Self-Control.  I  am dying to go check the other posts to see if anyone posted about not eating those Costco chips.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Judging a Boob by its Cover

I go to this exercise class at Crazy O'Clock in the morning.  I love it, because it's different every time I go, I get the workout out of the way early in my day, and I get to catch up with friends from all over town.

But one of the best things about it is the total lack of 'posing' that goes on.  There is no such thing as the right outfit to wear - you see everything from the latest Saucony running shoes to those Reebok high-tops straight out of 1986, and you see as many worn-out concert tees as you do high-tech wicking material running shirts.  Even the strongest in the bunch never really stand out from the crowd - we're all just there to get a good sweat going and shock the muscles out of the night's hibernation.

There have been a lot of newcomers in recent weeks (bathing suit season, anyone??), and one woman has stood out in particular.  I overheard her at one of her first visits telling the instructor she'd run a marathon in the last year, but was recovering from some injury. You can tell she's incredibly fit:  front of the pack whenever we run sprints,  all manner of high end workout gear, and, well... she's really built.

It may be indelicate to mention this, probably not the 'done' thing, but the woman is remarkably fit, in all the right ways. Very.... perky. 

Normally I wouldn't mention this.  I would just think, oh well done for her!  Must be nice.  She must've worked hard to look like that.  

But then, last week, she wore a t-shirt to work out that had a giant Juvederm Botox logo stretched across the front of all that perkiness.  And I have to admit I looked at the 'well earned fitness' in a whole different light.

 I was judging.  Sure.  Believe me - having just hit thirty-seven I am starting to look at 'having a little work done' in a WHOLE different light.   But still.  Would I be ok with advertising that to a whole room-full of sweaty women?

It got me thinking.  These days, are we really ok with just slapping an ad for our Botox treatments across our boobs? (Did she get the shirt, and a free canvas tote bag, for buying 10 treatments in advance?) It may be that a suburb of Baltimore is a whole different part of the world than the OC, for example, but I need to know, interwebs:  is having the work done not really the secret it once was?

Just know I'll be judging you if you wear the t-shirt to Boot Camp.

[Aw, c'mon - I'm just joshin'.  Not really, I won't.]

Post Update:  I just have to clarify that it's not that I think she's used Botox in all of the perky parts of her.  Its just that the unashamed advertising of Botox then led me to wonder how much of the overall picture had been 'enhanced.'  Perhaps an alternate title of this post could be Sour Grapes. ;)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Unusual activity

Did a few things today that I never imagined I might do. 

I wore dark purple eyeliner [by accident.]

I cried during an organ concert.

I stood up in a pulpit way up high above a congregation and talked about my faith.

And then I blogged about it.

I've always sworn that I wouldn't force my faith down other people's throats.  I've often told myself that I don't know enough about theology, world religions, or even Christianity to comment with any authority on matters of faith.  However, there comes a point where the separation of Church and State of Nilsen (if you will) becomes disingenuous, and those two worlds intersect in the most inconvenient and powerful ways. 

What follows below is the text of what I said, way up in that beautifully carved Presbyterian pulpit.  Words that I never thought I would utter to myself, much less in public, much less as one of the speakers in church. It took every ounce of faith in myself to get up there, every ounce of nerve to keep my voice semi-steady, and every ounce of gumption to believe that my words were those that needed to be said.

Here's what I said.  And you know what? If it doesn't float your boat, I don't need to know about it.  I'm feeling fragile enough, with all of this personal glass-ceiling shattering going on.

I always loved school. 

I was that annoying kid in class who was excited about spelling bees, read ahead in the reading books, and longed for the end of summer vacation so we could get back to school.  Sure, by the time I reached college I realized there were a few areas in which I'd never excel - that's what majors are for! - and learned to dread deadlines with the best of them. 

But I never lost my fascination with academics.  Bliss, to me, was a desk deep in the stacks of the university library, with primary texts, critical texts about the texts, and lots of really sharp pencils for note taking.  I sat in the front rows of lectures, scribbling madly and trying to capture the very best of what my tutors had to offer.  I read far too many books for my own good, and far too often worked through the night on papers because I was having too much fun with the research.

When I finished college, I took a year off.  I went to live on a farm - a self-sustaining mission in France, run by deeply devout people  using their farm as ministry.  One gray day in November, I sat on the hard clay of the carrot field, pulling them up by their leafy tops in preparation for market.  The elderly patriarch of the family slowly made his way out to where I sat, and stood there chatting while I worked.  He asked about my plans for the next year, and I enthusiastically told him about the graduate program in art history for which I was registered.  There was a long pause:  he gave a French sort of sniff, accompanied by a dismissive wave of his hand, and said "this is all very well, but when will you learn to be UNE VRAI FEMME [a real woman]?" 

You can imagine the insult an idealistic female college graduate took from that. 

I believe, looking back, that his intentions were genuine - if maybe a little old fashioned - in asking what about life I was willing to learn, in the midst of all my studies.  His were the words of an elder - of a pastor who had ministered to generations of young women like me. He was not asking me to define myself through the mastery of puff pastry or the art of a crisply ironed shirt (which of course is what I took away from his comment.)  Rather, as someone who had first hand knowledge of the presence of God in his life, this man was asking me to open my heart and mind to the lessons that God would teach me in life, not in my books.

With the wisdom of hindsight, his words were, quite simply, prophetic. 

I don't have a name for what it is that I do every day, but I do know that it is life that has taught me the hardest lessons, and has refined my heart and mind.

I have learned to take knowledge from loss, to glean wisdom from failure.  My life since school has been filled to the brim with moments for which no amount of formal education would prepare me. In those moments, all that I was left with was listening to that Still Small Voice that had been there the entire time.  Jeremiah says "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust IS the Lord" - my faith could no longer be in what I 'knew' or had studied, but in what the empty, knowledge-less places could teach me:  that I had only to place my trust in the Lord, and the answers I sought would be there.

This has been a source of peace, of confidence, and of joy as I walk the path of life.  A true woman, "une vrai femme" may take the guidance of God's words in Isaiah:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
for I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Run run runaway

Back in college, there was this hill on my regular run - one of those hills that stretch forever upward. It was a long slow climb, steep enough to make your quads scream but not steep enough to justify walking.

I used to set myself these little goals to get myself up the incline:  "Just get to that little pothole - you can make it to there." Then, once I hit that, I'd look for the end of the pub fence, then the bumper of that red Fiesta up there, and so on.

Then, finally, the crest of the hill would come into focus, and often my running partner/steadfast friend Xander would dare me to sprint the last 100 feet.  And most times, I could do it:  with long strong strides,  I could spy the roundabout that marked the turn onto a long gorgeous straightaway through the village.

Well last week was the mothering equivalent of that hill.

I had a sick toddler, who apparently had nothing but a severe cold, but who constantly needed to wipe her snot fountain on my shoulders, constantly wanted to be held, and spent at least 4 nights waking up every hour, on the hour, and crying inconsolably until Mommy - of course only Mommy - would hold her and help her get a drink.  Her siblings, her father, her grandma - none were to touch her, none were to help her, or they'd be subject to the bloodcurdling wails of "noooooooooooooooooooo!  ONLEEEEEE MOMMMMMMEEEEEE!!"

Every morning I woke up more shattered than the night before, and encouraged myself just to get everyone off to school.  THEN I could catch a nap.  I slouched over my mid-morning coffee and told myself I could totally get through lunchtime, and then the baby would nap and then maybe I could too. Except that there was always laundry, always bills to pay, always One. More. Thing.  And then she'd wake up from the nap after 40 minutes, weeping from her own exhaustion and stuffy nose, and as I held her I'd promise myself if I could just make it through bedtime, I could go to bed early.  Of course I never did.

Which is all to say that this past weekend was my long glorious straightaway sprint.  It was my birthday, you see.  We had a long-postponed inn reservation in Annapolis, and plans for a quiet dinner.  Not fancy, not exotic, just...... away.

The drive away from my parents' was quiet - Torbjorn seemed to understand my need to sit without talking.  And then, in a sprint all of its own, my inner dialogue spilled out, for the rest of the forty mile trip.  It was a stream of consciousness brain dump, filled with all of the half-thoughts that had flitted across my mind all week.   Gently, cautiously,  my husband unwrapped the crazy talk, tried to make sense of it,  offered hilarious commentary and generally filled in as Best Guy Ever.

We checked in at the B&B, and changed for dinner.  I had time to put on makeup - even the frou-frou bits like [gasp!] concealer.

 This is a shot of our B&B, from the steps of the Maryland Capitol Building.

We ate at Level - A Small Plates Lounge.  Silly name, the small plates thing, but what a place.  All the menu items are sourced from local farms/fisherman, from the crab ceviche to the buffalo statay to the goats' cheese risotto.  They even make their own tonic for mixers - amazing.  With no rush, no sitter to return to, we savored bits of rice and chorizo, we toasted with a lovely Viognier, and we so enjoyed ourselves we didn't even bother with the Banana Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Vanilla Creme Anglaise.  (Not that I minded skipping it.  At all.  And not that I woke up thinking about it. At all. )

We then spent the evening wandering the brick-paved streets of Annapolis, under shadowy branches of blooming cherry and dogwood.  Then - guess what we did?  You'll never guess, I'll just tell you:  we went to sleep.  The week was that bad, people:  all I wanted for my 37th birthday was to go to sleep.

Well, to go to sleep, wake up at 7am - listen for the toddler wail, not hear it, decide I'll never sleep in again in a hundred years, and then wake up again at NINE. O. CLOCK.  Out-freakin-rageous.

 To make my twenty-four hour escape magic, all you had to do was top it off with diner coffee, Belgian waffles, a side of bacon, and watching sailboats on the harbor.  And that, my friends, is exactly what we did.

that's me, enjoying the silence, in the middle of a busy diner

I just might make the next leg of the run after all.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Baking with The Boy

I'm told its a good thing to bake with children.  Apparently, it's what some of those crunchy types would call an Educational Opportunity.

I guess they don't have children whose single greatest joy is smashing eggs, and then egg shells, into smithereens, or measuring flour at warp speed 'cause that's a lot cooler, Mom.'   I'm not sure at which point in the sugar explosion you take the time to elucidate the concept of fractions, or when exactly the slick of melted butter stops being a lesson in 'solids to liquids' and starts being tonight's stain removal exercise.

You know me, I like to pretend I'm one of those crunchy types from time to time, usually when I've had a little too much flaxseed in my diet and a vague success with teaching someone letter sounds.

So yeah, yesterday we attempted a baking project.  Lars really is my best baker - he at least enjoys the process, instead of whining about not making it from a box like everyone else's family, or putting his entire face down in the bowl like his baby sister.

I read this amazing book last week, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg (also of Orangette blog fame).  Its the sort of book filled with short essays about life, food, family and love and... well, I guess just about everything else that makes my existence worth living.  She includes recipes.

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger was the recipe that Lars and I attempted (minus the ginger, only because I didn't have any) inspired by a bunch of black bananas in the fruit bowl.   I'm afraid you'll have to click the link, because the recipe is just too much to get into one blog post, but I really encourage you to head on over and get to know Molly and Orangette.  And in the meantime snag a seriously addictive banana bread recipe.

Turns out my Able Baker Lars wasn't so impressed with the finished product, and neither were his sisters, so Torbjorn and I have single handedly attacked the loaf with a - dare I say - dedicated focus.
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