Friday, January 29, 2010

The Dishwasher

It is 11 degrees in my neck of the woods.  That is 21 degrees below freezing.  Tomorrow the forecasted high temperature is something also below freezing. 

We live in a town full of old houses which are full of old pipes.  We live in one of those old houses and we tend to those old pipes. 

The kitchen in our home is situated over the garage.  The pipes in question travel through the garage and it is on that trip that they freeze.  So far this winter, we've only had a minor freezing of the pipes.  Minor, in that, we were able to thaw things pretty quickly using a complicated and highly technical combination of space heaters, hair dryers, and a tea pot full of boiling water.  The only hitch in our giddyup has been the dishwasher.

There is a smallish black "bendable" plastic pipe which runs from the dishwasher to the garbage disposal.  It runs along the outside wall of the kitchen beneath the sink and IT FREEZES!  I learned last time around, that it takes more than a space heater to release it from winter's icy grip.  It takes begging, pleading, crying, a teapot full of boiling water, and a good bit of jiggling (of the pipe, of course).

Why all of the concern over a teensy black pipe? 

Well, when that pipe is frozen, the dishwasher will not work.  When the dishwasher will not work...I must.





I turned down all offered help (had to flex my superhero credentials), donned my yellow rubber gloves and commenced scrubbing. . . and begging and pleading and bargaining.  Finally, sometime the next morning, the sun came out and the dishwasher reported for duty, but not until I'd accomplished this...



...the old fashioned way. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pizza Recipe...Revealed!

Pizza is on the menu once again this Friday.  We usually make our own because after asking our chief economists to do an in depth cost analysis... 



...we've concluded that we can make three or four pizzas for the cost of a single "take out" pizza.   We also like to be creatively spontaneous with the toppings.

Here's what we do...


Crust:
Makes 1 large or two medium pizzas.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup hot water
pinch of salt
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar

(I use my bread machine on the pizza cycle, you can also use the dough cycle and let it run only half way through, or you can use good ol' fashioned elbow grease.)

Begin with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add one cup of very hot (the hottest your tap will allow) water.  To the water add a generous pinch of salt.  Add 3 cups of flour and make a well in the top of it.  Add 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast and a teaspoon of sugar.  Start machine. 

{If you are not using a bread machine, begin with the 3 cups of flour, add the yeast and sugar and salt.  Stir and then make a well in the middle and add the oil and the hot water.  Stir until dough forms, knead for a few minutes and set dough in a bowl, cover it and set it in a warm area for about 30 minutes.} 

My bread machine's pizza cycle is 50 minutes, which is long enough to get the sauce bubbling and the toppings assembled.

To make the sauce:

12 oz. can (or 2- 6 oz cans) tomato paste
2 cups of water
1 clove of garlic (or 1/2 teasp. minced garlic) 
2 teaspoons basil
3 tablespoons parsley flakes
salt to taste
sugar to taste

Combine all in sauce pan and simmer for a few minutes.  Take a taste and adjust ingredients to your liking. This sauce freezes very well.  I put it in freezer baggies and microwave it when I'm ready to use it.


Assemble and prep your desired toppings.  Some of our favorites are sausage, black olives, pepperoni, and lots of cheese, of course.  Some of us also like green onions and maybe an avocado or two.  Some of us don't.

Now, back to the crust...
I like to knead it a few times after removing it from the bread machine (you can pop it into a freezer baggie and into the freezer at this point if you like), and then go after it with the rolling pin.  If it is stubborn and too elastic, let it rest for a few minutes and roll it again.  Once you achieve the desired shape, place the crust on the pan and then, if you're feeling very adventurous...



...break out the string cheese. 



Cut it in half length-wise and roll it in the crust, sealing the crust completely around the cheese. 



Whether or not you add cheese to the crust, you'll want to brush it with some olive oil to help it brown nicely. (I usually forget this step until after I get the sauce or the topping on.  You can do it that way, but it's harder, with dodging the sauce or the cheese and pepperoni and olives and all.



Ladle the sauce onto the crust.  Don't oversauce, that'll make the pizza soggy.  The sauce recipe will easily cover two large pizzas with some left over for crust-dipping purposes.



Add the cheese next and then the rest of your toppings. 




Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.  Begin watching after 15 minutes and remove when the cheese looks like you want it to.




Enjoy the pizza, which is healthier, cheaper, and delivers a much greater sense of satisfaction than the Domino's guy!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Whisked Away

I've been whisked away for a few days by my Man.  I'm in a lovely hotel room with my books, my computer, the remote control, and a complete season of one of my favorite television shows.  My Man is a few blocks away at a conference, listening to a favorite speaker from the west coast. 




As we traveled to our destination, (after making a rather large deposit at Camp Grandma) I commented that I could feel my mind "unwrinkling" a bit.  When this wonderfully crazy life overloads my circuits, my brain begins to feel much like a tightly crumpled up piece of discarded notebook paper.  The crinkled wad does not function well as a brain and therefore, I am thankful for the opportunity to iron out my "processor" a bit this weekend!

The children, it seems, were feeling a bit wadded as well, and were only too eager to shoo us off so that they could begin their "festival of joy" at our departure.  

So, this weekend, we invest in the "absence makes the heart grow fonder" account, and will enjoy the dividends as we dive back into real life on Monday!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lipstick on a ...?

It's all because I was a Girl Scout.  I know how to build a campfire using two different configurations of wood, how to make and use a sit-upon, how to make a fire-starter out of dryer lint and paraffin, how to fry an egg on a coffee can, how to sell a bunch of fine tasting cookies, how to apply basic first-aid, and of course, how to lend a hand.  Girl Scouts are honor bound to "do my best to serve God, my country, and mankind and to live by the Girl-Scout law."  

I was in the service of mankind or "mother-kind" as it were.  I was setting my sites on preparing dinner for the gang when the phone rang.  It was my Mom looking for a nearby outlet mall.  She'd gotten a little turned around and since my Man and I are shoppin' fools surely I could give her a little help.  Not a problem. I gave vague directions and moved to the computer to get the specifics.  After giving aid, I hung up the phone and returned to thoughts of supper.

"Mooooommmmm!"  the voice called from my bedroom.  "Molly...oh Molly...Mom look at her." 




"What 'cha got there Molly?"



L'orael 892, Raisin Rapture.
Oh Raisin Rapture, you did the job.  You were my "purse tube", always there for me when I needed a touch up, never too dark, never too deep like my regular stuff.  Oh, Raisin Rapture, I'll miss you so.



Her sibling almost caught her in time to prevent the damage that was sure to come at that hand.  Almost but not quite...




Look at that cute little lipstick hand print on my bedroom carpet.  There was one to match it on the light tan bedspread.  I wasn't that enRaptured by the color and therefore ran to the computer for help after tossing "Mary Kay" into the bathtub under the watch of her brother.

Googling "lipstick stain removal" yielded many results, most of which involved alcohol and dish washing soap. 



Perhaps they meant for me to take a swig of the alcohol before using the dish soap on the lipstick, because the alcohol applied to the stain itself did nothing.  Unfortunately, the dish soap wasn't the solution either. 

"Goo-Gone," said my Sister.
"Goo-Gone," said my Mom, "then use the dish soap to get the Goo-Gone out."  (My Mom was our Girl Scout leader for a year or two, can ya hear it in her voice?)




We keep this orange oily cleaner around for the supreme task of removing "sticker guck" from our books after the price tags have been removed.  Who would have thought to attack Raisin Rapture with it?  Goo-Gone was indeed the ticket.  Goo-Gone for the carpet, Vaseline for the baby.  



Oh Baby! 

I'm blaming this episode on Grandma, who distracted me by calling and asking for directions, (even though I'm the one who left my purse in reach)! 
The Girl Scout Pledge says nothing about assuming responsibility for one's own mistakes!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Friday Night Pizza

I learned much from a good friend about the value of family traditions.  The most important point, I learned was to actually "do"  family traditions.  My temptation is to put off today what I feel that I can  accomplish tomorrow in a more special or grand fashion.  In so doing, I never get the tradition accomplished beyond the planning stages, in all their grandure.  The simple things, the plain ones are the ones that actually happen.  I am learning that it is in the simple things that family togetherness flourishes.  

My friend's family enjoyed Pizza Night on Fridays.  So simple, what's the big deal?  Don't they get bored with the same meal every week? Tradition is made of deeper stuff right?  WRONG!  Since implementing our own Pizza Night a few months ago, one child or another usually asks, "What's for dinner?" and when I answer, "Pizza." Friday after Friday, the response is always one of excitement.  I half expect to hear groans of , "not again" from the crew until I remember the Friday night traditions of a different family.

This certain family was hard at work developing its own traditions in the 1980s. 



(OK, this was 1976, not quite the eighties, but you get the picture...I'm the one in the middle with the cheeks.  I've outgrown the dress, not the cheeks.)

This crew had what was quite an original Friday night family tradition and, like my friend's pizza night it was pretty simple too.  We weren't much of a TV family except for Friday evenings at 8 pm.  We'd gather around the TV with a bowl of homemade French Onion Soup and watch the best, the very best show that television programming offered at the time...



Still don't know which show I'm talkin' about?  Lemme help you out...
 


(Just sprucin' the place up a bit...)

Remington Steele and a good bowl of French Onion Soup with lots of melty cheese.  Is it any wonder we all looked forward to Fridays?  Necessary references to the ultra-handsome star of the show aside, my family loved having this show in common.  Every now and then we still refer to one episode or another in conversation and when we do, I can taste the soup and feel the security of the known. 

Simple family togetherness, simple family traditions.  Call it what you want-- it is a valuable thing.  It just screams belonging.  And with all of the things that scream in my world and in that of my family, I want one of the loudest voices that my family hears is the one screamming "YOU BELONG WITH US.  YOU HAVE THINGS IN COMMON WITH US!  YOU ARE ONE OF US!" 

And if I can add volume to that voice with a simple Pizza Night...




...then fire up the oven and call me Papa John!

(Recipe for the above pizza, crust and all...coming soon.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Interesting...

"These things come in threes you know," my Man said after I found my book last week. 

Interesting, thought I, and continued about my day.  The next evening, while baking a mammoth batch of cinnamon rolls, I found a strange looking little box tucked beside of my flour canister.  I thought that it must be a box of little candies that some kind soul had given one of the children and hoping it was full of chocolate, I opened the box with all haste.

What I found inside the rectangular box was a light green aluminium-ish cylinder with the year 1951 written on it as was the word "Retro".





Still firmly of the opinion that there was chocolate in that cylinder, I popped it open and tilted it so that its contents would fall into my hand.  I didn't hear the rattle of  candy coming down the chute, however.  What met my hand was heavy for its size and was wrapped in a black fuzzy sleeve.



My Man had appeared from around the corner and was watching me to see if I'd figured it all out yet.  After recovering from the thought that there would be no chocolate, it struck me what I was holding.  My Man had received a couple of very nice pens for Christmas and had been enjoying them so much that he wanted to include me.  Fun! 

This pen carries the name Tornado and my particular Tornado is magenta colored. Though, if you're interested, it comes in many other colors as well.

  

Kinda cheerful, aren't they?  They write well to boot! 

My Man is a bit of a pen FREAK and I was so honored to be included in the fervor.  I  think that it's a wise woman who joins her Man in his pursuits.  In so doing, she gets to share in the neat things, she has interesting non-parenting topics to talk about with her Man (even writing utensils can be interesting...if they come in lots of colors and perhaps if they are scented and play music), and maybe, just maybe it sends a message to her Man that the wise woman still finds him terribly interesting. 

Thanks dear Man.  Thanks for knowing that I'd get a kick out of a fine pen in a fancy color.  Thanks for wanting to include me in the "good thing" you were yourself, enjoying.  Thanks for the lesson I learned in the process which is spelled out so whimsically on the box...



Don't you  just love a company with a sense of humor? 

Wonder what the third surprise will be...


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Walking, Wondering, & Wishing

I went today at lunchtime.  Other days, I get there at about 9 in the morning.  Over the summer, I didn't go at all because swimming lessons made it inconvenient, but as I am deep into the gray days of winter, I'm finding it necessary to make my trips more of a priority.

I am, of course, talking about going to the gym.  I usually get to go exercise two to three times a week and it always interests me that the ages and stages of my fellow gym-mates change with the time of day.

If I go between 8:30 and 10:00 am, I find myself working out with the retirement set.  When I elect to exercise at lunch-time I am surrounded by students from the local colleges.  Each "workout group" creates its own atmosphere of fitness. 

Exercising with the retirees means that usually, I am the youngest, though not necessarily the fittest, person in the room.  I like that.  It is difficult these days to find a room in which I can make such a claim.  I notice when I exercise in the morning with this fine set of fifty, sixty and seventy somethings, that they are very well dressed for the occasion.  Once, I even saw a woman walking on the treadmill with her purse on her arm!  I was very impressed with her coordination and form.

Sometimes, I am a bit lazy find it necessary to sleep in a bit in the mornings and therefore I exercise on my Man's lunch hour with the co-eds.  I really ought to get up early, no matter what, because at the gym during lunchtime, I am usually the oldest person in the room and definitely not the fittest.  I always have on the most clothing and am terribly grateful for every inch of it.  The treadmill on which I briskly walk, is flanked on either side by blonds with bouncy ponytails who are doing amazing impersonations of gazelles as they run.  Among this group, I am most often the best sweat-er.

Please tell me when, WHEN do the thirty-something moms go to the gym?  I think I wanna exercise with them if you don't mind.  Surely there exist more like me, who find it necessary to their sanity to get to the gym.  I need some similarly "fluffy" ladies beside me on the treadmill who are coming to terms with the baby belly that remains, but who want to be healthier in body and stronger in mind. 

I want to tread beside someone who, like me, believes that 40 minutes of walking and sweating will erase the memory and consequence of two-fisting Skittles the night before.  I wanna walk beside of a woman who is thinking about what she's gonna serve for dinner while she's trying to walk off the cinnamon roll or two she ate for breakfast.



I don't know when the "Mom's Hour" is, I may never know.  Maybe my peers are in the Zumba classes or maybe they are Spinning.  Until I find them, I've decided to rise early and hop on the treadmill between the Eds and Ethels instead of sleeping in and finding myself trying to match strides with the Ashleys and Ambers!


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Too Much.

I returned home from a lunchtime retreat a few days ago to find my nicely made bed sporting a new accessory.



It seems that my Man had discovered how to access my Amazon Wish List (I only had to show him how one time!) and had ordered one of the books thereon.  It was a fun surprise in what was turning out to be a trying day.  

Molly had finally gone down for a late morning nap and I announced to the older kids, "I am going to take a shower and it's gonna be a long one.  Does anybody need anything?"  

Assignments were handed out for the older two and some kid-friendly TV was tuned in for Kate.  I closed the bathroom door and went about getting cleaned up for the day.  Before the shampoo had a chance to bubble, the bathroom door was opened and a young voice said, "Mom, ------------- is on the phone and wants to talk to you." 
"Please tell her I'm in the shower and I'll call her back."
  (Didn't that sound polite?  I knew the caller could hear me and the shower water because my child had carried the phone into the bathroom.)

The next child into the bathroom was carrying a freshly awakened Molly.  "Tell Mommy good morning," cooed a cheerful voice as the shower curtain opened a crack and a face full of cheeks peeked through. 

"Hi Molly.  Short nap I see.  Take her to her high chair and give her some crackers."  Someday I will find that secret button that is hidden somewhere in the shower which alerts that sleeping child that she must immediately wake up and need attention. 

Last but oh so not least, Kate entered the bathroom, hands full of..."Mom, can I paint and glue with the Hannah Montana set?" (I'm still amazed that Hannah Montana has the time and wherewith all to make glue, but there her picture is, all over the bottle!)

"Absolutely not, Kate.  KATE please close the bathroom door." 

Too late! Molly had already gotten back in and didn't I want a hippo tub toy to play with in the shower?  No?  How about a towel?  Here's that hippo anyway. 

Shower accomplished, the day began to get a bit hectic.  Soon it began to snow and hats and gloves and scarves were needed ASAP and did I think that there was enough hot chocolate to go 'round and then from the neighbor child...

"Mrs. Gretchen, Kate is throwing snowballs at me."

"Well buddy, best thing to do is bob and weave I guess."

The look I got back from this 8 year-old snow-victim said, "But you are going to call her off, right?"

"KATE...IF YOU ARE PREPARED TO BE HIT WITH SNOWBALLS, KEEP THROWING, IF NOT...COOL IT!"

She decided that, in fact, she could dish it out but she couldn't take it and thus ended the snowball fight.  Building a snow fort kept the whole crew busy until after dark.  The evening that followed was a short one:  soup, showers, and sleep.

After the kids were all tucked in I was able to get a better look at my new book.  It is called The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett.  The subtitle says, "The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession".  So far it has been fascinating reading.  It's all about the collecting and theft of rare books.  From the book jacket:
Unrepentant book thief John Gilkey has stolen a fortune in rare books from around the country.  Yet unlike most thieves, who steal for profit, Gilkey steals for love--the love of books.  Perhaps equally obsessive, though, is Ken Sanders, the self-appointed bibliodetective driven to catch him.  Sanders, a lifelong rare book collector and dealer turned amateur detective, will stop at nothing to catch the thief plaguing his trade.
I've learned much in the first fifty or so pages.  Did you know that a first edition The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss can sell for upwards of $8,000 or that a first edition of Pinocchio in Italian is worth about $80,000? 

My favorite quote so far speaks about books as more than just pages that deliver a story.  Bartlett asserts, "As much as they are vessels for stories (and poetry, reference information, etc.), books are historical artifacts and repositories for memories--we like to recall who gave books to us, where we were when we read them, how old we were, and so on."  I agree. 

I will remember The Man Who Loved Books Too Much as the book given to a woman who loves books too much by her husband who loves books too much on a day when their children almost proved to be much too much!



Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow Day!

The predictions of the amount of snow to come and of the speed with which it was to fall sent rivers of excitement through this household.  If one were to believe the weather reports of the local newscasters and take any heed at all to what the man at the convenient store reported, up to eight inches of snow in the next day and a half was to be expected.  I half expected to feel a literal thump as the inches fell to the ground all at once, as was predicted.   

Though no thump was felt, snow did begin to fall mid-afternoon and accumulated at about a half an inch per hour.  On went the boots, out came the sled, and over came the neighbor's child who had the day off from school and had been waiting for The Wright Academy to dismiss for the day so that snow-mates would be available.




Behold! The Wright Family Sled, purchased our first winter here in the "frozen tundra".

But look...




...the neighbor's sled.  It was a thing of beauty.



Look at 'em go.

But ours has this nifty string...



Useful for steering and pulling,


...and pulling...


...and spilling,



and spilling.

Hot chocolate was delivered to warm their insides, but their outsides...well, it was just plain cold.

It was even cold for the spectators.



It was necessary to leave the window opened so that the big kids could hear Molly "bossing" them.  She called to them constantly as they slid down the hill toward her vantage point.  She remained there for much longer than I'd imagined she would.  Even as her cheeks and hands began to turn rosy with cold, Molly refused to be distracted.  So...







If you can't join 'em...dress like 'em.




Happy Snow Day Everyone!




Monday, January 4, 2010

Devotions

I'm facing the computer now, but my ears are tuned in to another pursuit.  As I type, my Man is reading to the children about heaven for family devotions. 


"Family devotions" sounds so...holy, so sacred, so somber, so "don't-we-have-it-all-together?", so "reserved for the preachers family-ish"...doesn't it?  Well, please get that image out of your mind's eye.  It just doesn't happen that way here. 

As hard as we try, we often only take the time to "do devotions" once or twice a week.  Sometimes a week or two will go by between family devotions.  In the evenings, usually after supper and before he scoots back out for a meeting, my Man enters the room carrying a hymn book, a children's hymnal, and a devotional for kids.  What follows is, without a doubt, the loudest, most uproarious event in our day.

That the kids adore singing with their Dad is a testament to their measure of love for him.  Church members in many states can join me in affirmation as I tell you that my Man a joyful noise does make. 

I've never met another who so revels in singing praises to our King.  My Man sings from his heart, and with the strong voice of a preacher.  I love to watch him worship (but from a pew or two away is best), there is none more sincere.  He sings with the same vigor and volume in our kitchen with our junior choir as he does with the congregation on Sunday mornings and the children feel the need to match him decibel for decibel. 


               

Poor baby...



 

...she's sure that last song wasn't written in that key!

After the singing and the reading comes the praying.  Sometimes the kids each take a turn, sometimes everyone prays, sometimes it's just Daddy...praying for wisdom, praying blessings on his gang, praying God's protection on our lives.  It is a very special time for the Wright gang. 

Then the "Amen" sounds and we spend the rest of the evening in peace and harmony...doing chores, whistling while we work, in three part harmony of course...We smile warmly at one another, parents to children, brother to sisters, children to parents and go merrily off to bed to dream sweet dreams.  Oh yeah right...

When the "Amen" sounds we usually get right back to running and romping, refereeing a tiff or two or three while begging the children to get ready for bed, groaning about doing the dishes, rolling our eyes at one another, wondering what challenge and/or adventure tomorrow will bring...you know, like every other family in the land!



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