Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!!!!


Schecky's Tar Monster


May your day be filled with treats...
(and if there have to be tricks, let them be good ones...)

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

(Every year, I want to carve this pumpkin. And every year, my elementary-school-aged son informs me that he thinks it is wildly inappropriate.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Little Red Hen Syndrome*...

raw pumpkin seeds
Well, yesterday was a nice day: lazy, laid back, just hanging as a family. Very homey, very nice.

Until I ask "Who wants to help get the pumpkins started for carving?"

Shecky announces "Not me, pumpkin guts are gross." (and he is so right about that!)

Bubba was a bit more subtle - he suddenly "remembered" that he had to go into the office. And he left! Whaaaaat?

So, once again, the despised task of degutting the pumpkins fell to me. Urgh.

toasted pumpkin seeds
I know that I shouldn't complain too terribly much about the boys declaring this a "girl job". There are several "boy jobs" around here that Bubba's responsible for, and for which Schecky is being groomed to perform.
These include things like taking out the trash, or capturing the spider and taking it to its new home in the bushes. (or, at the very least, killing it quietly and then pretending to take it to its new home...)

So, I found myself degutting three well-sized pumpkins all by myself.

sugared and spiced
and everything nice
The only thing that stopped me from saying "You know what, let's not carve pumpkins this year!" was the vision of pumpkin seeds dancing through my head.

I do love the roasted pumpkin seed. I really, really love them. And the only way that I can rest assured that I got every single precious seed is by doing the dirty work myself...

So I degutted, and deseeded - and ended up with nearly four cups of seeds! Beautiful, glorious, seeds which are - thanks to my salad spinner, a roll of paper towels, and my OCD - completely free from any pumpkin specks! Enough for four batches of this recipe:

Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Seeds
(or, as Schecky calls them: PowerPuff Girl Seeds
even though they don't have any Chemical X in them)

1 cup of fresh pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 250°. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides. (I use my SilPat mat for this, but as long as you stir the seeds regularly, they shouldn't stick...) Bake for one hour, or until seeds are completely dry.
I check on them and stir every 10 - 15 minutes. The drying time can vary greatly depending upon the moisture content of your pumpkin seeds.

5 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 Tablespoons cooking oil

Combine 3 Tablespoons of the sugar, and all the spices in a good sized bowl. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Cook until the sugar melts and begins to caramelize (a minute or two), stirring all the while to ensure that the seeds are evenly coated with the sugar.

Add pumpkin seed mixture to the bowl with the spices - stir or toss well to distribute the spices. Allow to cool thoroughly, then store in a tightly sealed container. I have no idea how long these should last, since they never seem to last very long around here.

A slight variation: as I was making my final batch of these, I thought to myself "Too bad there's no way to add some vanilla to this"... since my vanilla addiction is legendary. I really was only kidding, but then I remembered that I have some powdered vanilla on the shelf. I added 1/4 teaspoon to the last batch, and I must say it was quite nice. That batch is sweeter, rather than the zingy original recipe. But it was a nice little variation, and one I would try again....

I don't remember where this recipe came from originally - maybe Martha?
A quick Google search shows me that this is indeed virtually identical to Martha's recipe for Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds - except, her directions are far more well-written! I transcribed mine from the scribbly back of an envelope....

Anyway - I love it! I sometimes wonder if I could make this recipe using the "pepitas" that I sometimes see in the bulk food bin at WholeFoods, so that I could enjoy it year round. I'll probably never try that though - I think that only having them once a year just makes them that much more enjoyable....

*You know, from the old story - the poor little red hen who asks: "Who will help me plant the wheat?" "Who will help me tend the wheat?" "Who will help me (fill in the blanks with some other wheat related task)?" And she gets no help - until the bread is all done, then she's got help coming out the wazoo?

Yeah - well, this little red hen's thinking about getting all medieval and not sharing any of the pumpkin seeds...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Stupidly Happy...

There are a number of small things that are making me happy out of proportion these days. There's nothing big, nothing important - in fact, they probably all border on the trivial. However, they are making me smile, so I thought I'd pass 'em along. Maybe there's something here that'll make you smile, too...*

In no particular order:

I've just found the first two seasons of this show have been released, and are available at my BlockBuster! Not only am I enjoying them again, but Schecky thinks they are the funniest thing ever - so I am delighting in his delight. You'd think that repeated shrieks of "Not the Mama!" would get old, but they haven't yet. (Because, you know - he's the baby, gotta love him!)
The opening theme can be viewed here.

My thoughful, and wonderfully talented friend, Phil - who you all know as the Caretaker of the Digital LandPhil - sent me a surprise box of these last week. He remember that I mentioned the pink lemonade dum•dum in a post I made about a road trip to Nashville to visit MotherShip BBQ. It was just a lovely surprise that really brightened up my day. I have eaten an unGodly amount of them in the past week, but I can't help myself. They taste like friendship. And pink lemonade... (And that's a pretty darn irresistible combination!)

I have an icky habit (I probably have several, but this is the only one I'm talking about today...) I chew on my lower lip whenever I am thinking. Or bored. Or nervous. Or stressed. Or just not paying attention. Or... OK, you get the point - I do it all the time. Therefore, the second the weather gets the least little bit cold, I am one poor chapped-lip girl. I've already confessed that I am a year round lip balm junkie but this stuff is my latest love. It's sugary, and pepperminty, and best of all, it hides the evidence of my chapped lips. Yay! It's a little bit pricey for a thrifty girl like me, but it is worth every penny...

I admit, I try not to be too political here - there are a number of people out there who express political views far more eloquently than I could ever hope to. Plus, I was brought up that there are certain topics that you don't bring up when you don't know the makeup of your audience: money, religion, politics, womens' reproductive rights, etc. among them. (But just because I don't talk of them, I do have very strong opinions about all of the above... but now I'm digressing.)

Anyhow, I saw this bumper sticker the other morning while I was driving Schecky to school, and I could not stop laughing. Of course, the Scheckster wanted to know what was so funny, so I pointed it out to him, and he burst out in hysterical gales of laughter too.
A minute or so later, once we'd both settled down, and there was silence again, his small voice pipes up from the back seat - "Who's Dick Cheney?" Which, of course set me off again. Then when I calmed down enough to explain that Dick Cheney was the Vice President, that got him started off again.

It was a very giggly ride to school, which was a treat. Usually the car ride to school is pretty quiet, as neither of us are big morning talkers.

And as long as we are on the topic of kittens, that brings me to the final thing that has been making me smile lately: my idiot daughter, Thing One, sister of Thing Two.
She is as sweet as he is cantankerous, but bless-her-heart, she is as dumb as a box of rocks. (I love being Southern, you're allowed to say anything mean, as long as you soften the blow with a "bless-her-heart"...)

Schecky had been playing with a small Styrofoam pellet, the kind that you might find inside a bean bag chair. He didn't know where it came from, but he wanted to save it, so he set it carefully on the table for safekeeping. Thing One hopped up on the table, and sniffed at it to see what it was. And promptly got it stuck to the end of her nose. And then freaked out and froze because she didn't know what to do about it. Being the great mother that I am, I giggled at her confusion first - then I went and got the camera. Finally, I helped her out and de-pelleted her.
This is my new screen saver...

Thing One

*And if there's not, please tell me what it making you stupidly happy these days...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I swear, this might be my favorite holiday...


I love it so....

don't forget to change your clocks!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Zombie Prom Queens and Drunken Pirates... (Oh My!)

I admit I often read your blogs, and look at your pictures of the lovely places in which you live, and I do feel a pang of envy.
The gorgeousness of Phil's Seattle; the hominess of Autum's small town; the spot-on perfection of Molly's Maryland? And the list goes on from there, believe me...

I spent much of my 20's really hating Atlanta, and hating the fact that I lived here. It's not an uncommon malady - it's even got a name: ABA Syndrome - "Anywhere But Atlanta."

But a funny thing happened in my late 20's/early 30's - I began to mellow out. At first, I had to work at it. I decided that I'd been here for a big chunk of time, and it didn't look like that trend was due to stop anytime soon. It just seemed immature, and kind of stupid really, to spend time and energy hating the city. I either needed to move, or get over it. Moving didn't work out, so I opted for "get over it".

But I think Atlanta met me at least halfway... it has really changed a lot in the 16 years I've lived here. Oh, it's not perfect, not by a long shot. But there are so many things that I enjoy, and so many things that I'm even proud of. I won't say that I am the city's biggest booster, but I no longer feel like I have to apologize for where I live. I still think that I'd like to end up in my beloved mountains someday. But I no longer feel the overwhelming urge and desire to GET OUT! ABA!
In fact, I kind of like it here.

And then there are the days when I wouldn't trade Atlanta for anywhere else in the world.
Saturday was one of those days...

It started off as a normal Saturday, albeit one with lovelier weather than most. Crisp, clear, windy - a perfect sweater-wearing Fall day. We puttered about a bit, and even got to take an extremely rare family nap! (We all climbed into the big bed with our books to read together, and one by one we fell asleep...) We dozed and drowsed for a while when all of a sudden - BWANG!

What the...?

And there it was again: Bwang! Bwang! Twang? Crash! Discordant chords of loudly played metal seemed to be coming from my front porch. I stumbled to the front of the house to see what was up...

And this greeted my eyes:

View From the Front Porch
View from the front porch

It's the Sixth Annual Little Five Points Halloween Parade - and it is lined up right in front of the house. Oh - This. Just. Rocks. (And dare I say it? It rocks way better than the "d√ęth metal" band a few floats back which was warming up. Which accounts for the unexplainable bwang! that woke us up...)

The Little Five Points Parade is becoming more and more of a big deal each year. L5P is a tiny little area, which consists mainly of "alternative retail" venues - funny little thrift stores; actual honest to goodness record stores, dealing in rare vinyl; shoes stores that specialize in Birkenstocks and Doc Martens; independent book sellers (including the city's only feminist book store); several pubs... you get the idea. It claims to be the coolest place on the map between Greenwich Village and the French Quarter. It's very popular with disaffected youth, and disaffected youth wanna-bes, as well as hipsters and trendsters of all shapes and sizes. Walking through on a regular day, you might see Goths and Rastas mingling with tattooed Alterna-Moms pushing strollers. Rollergirls and Angry Rap Poets. FireDancers and TechnoGeeks. Tribal Drummers and slightly baffled looking tourists. Suffice to say, L5P does Halloween in a big old way.

We quickly wiped the sleep out of our eyes, and decided that even though we could see a lot of the parade from the porch, we wanted to see the whole thing go by. Schecky was particularly in favor of this idea, since historically the parade features lots and lots of candy flinging. (And this year was no exception.) So, Schecky grabbed his Trick or Treat bag, and Bubba and I grabbed our "grown up beverages in discreet go-cups" (because it's just that kind of parade) and we ventured up the street a little bit.

The main theme of this year's parade seemed to be Pirates. Pirates everywhere. But there were lot of zombies, Carrie-type prom queens, assorted ghoulies and ghosties and long legged beasties. These are a few of the participants that we passed on our way to a prime parade viewing spot...
SpiderMan...Frankenstein's Monster

Angel Baby

Unfortunately, I am not in love with the pictures that I took at the actual parade. Although, I am OK with that... I made the decision that I would rather focus on enjoying the parade, and Schecky's delight in it, than to try to focus on "capturing the moment".
I sometimes worry when I see people - when you're on vacation, or at some type of event, for example - who seem so determined to document every single moment on film. Are they enjoying the moment, or are they capturing it? Admittedly, when you capture the moment, you get to enjoy it later, I suppose - but for me that is a divide that I am very conscious of. And there are times when I make a very deliberate effort to put the camera down and just live.

Which is all just a fancy way of saying that we got a prime spot for parade watching (and candy catching), but it was located in weird setting-sun rays, and every single one of the very few pictures I did snap are spectacularly poorly lit.

It turned out to be really OK - I ended up having my cake and eating it too! My friend and neighbor, James, is a fabulous photographer (he's the guy who managed to make us all look cute in last year's Christmas Card) took some tons of absolutely wonderful photographs, which you can see here. Some of my personal favorites are: here and here and here and here*. The pictures are all fabulous...

*This last photo is of Blondie, Atlanta's official stripper poet-laureate, and the Grand Marshall of this year's parade. Never did I dream I'd ever live in a place where a stripper poet becomes a beloved symbol of the city.
I actually spoke with her before the parade, and she's funny and charming. I told her that I thought she looked great, and she replied "Oh honey, please! I look like crap today. I feel good, though. That's the important thing..." And ain't that the truth?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Brief Diversion // The Soundtrack Of My Life

This morning, while browsing through my daily blog reading, I really enjoyed this post from KatKat at "No Diet Coke For Mommy" on how to create "The Soundtrack for Your Life."
(In a nutshell, there are headings for different life events - go to your iPod, set it on shuffle and the first 18 songs that come up are matched up, in order, with the headings, thereby creating your soundtrack.)

I always enjoy seeing what music other people listen to, and what comes up on their shuffle. I was impressed with how apt some of her selections seemed to be.

In fact, I thought "I bet if I do that, I'll get a bunch of crazy random stuff that makes no sense." But, thought I'd give it a try, just for my own personal edification. It was nothing I planned on sharing.

When will I learn never to doubt the MusicGods? Some of the things on this list are every bit as good as KatKat's. I actually laughed out loud a few times, so I thought I'd share.
(Although, I do have to admit, I am a little bit embarrassed, too: first of all, for even having some of these songs - much less listening to and enjoying them - and for just exactly where they came in my life. I'll let you figure which ones out for yourselves*.)

  • Wake - Jambalaya (On the Bayou) (Hank Williams)

  • First Day of School - S'il Vois Plait (Sneakers)

  • Playtime/Childhood - Too Far Down (Husker Du)

  • Falling in Love - White Trash Rap (Linda Paris)

  • Fight Song - I Will Dare (The Replacements)

  • Break-Up Song - My Prerogative (Bobby Brown)

  • Prom - Wolves, Lower (REM)

  • Life's Okay - Personal Jesus [Acoustic] (Depeche Mode)

  • Mental Breakdown - You Know I Couldn't Last (Morrisey)

  • Driving - Holiday Road (Lindsay Buckingham)

  • Flashback - Monkey Gone to Heaven (Pixies)

  • Getting Back Together - Me So Horny (2LiveCrew)

  • Wedding - Too Young to Date (D-Day)

  • Birth of a Child - Smells Like Cartoon Planet (Space Ghost & Brak)

  • Final Battle - Fade Away (The Buggles)

  • Death Scene - Monster Mash (Bobby "Boris" Pickett")

  • Funeral Song - Sweet & Tender Hooligan (The Smiths)

  • End Credits - Always Saturday (Guadalcanal Diary)

So, that's the soundtrack to my life, folks! You should do this, too - it's dopily fun. You don't have to share the results - I had no intention of doing so - but I hope you will.

And remember... never underestimate the RadioGods....

*And I'll also let you guess which extremely inappropriate song I'll be humming under my breath all day, as I return to my regularly scheduled list of all the stuff I was supposed to be doing today...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thoughts on Halloween Cookies*....

Schecky and I, after much testing and research, have concluded that pretty much anyone can make a cute Halloween cookie.

But a truly hideous one?
One that looks like it has been masticated and then run over by a very large truck?
Well, that's where your true culinary creativity begins to shine...

Plus, the really ugly ones taste much better...

*I didn't intend for this to become "Food That Looks Like Ghosts" week - I guess it's just the season....

And, oh yes! The people have spoken: Drunken Pirates and Undead Prom Queens win by a huge margin. I'll get right on that....

Monday, October 23, 2006

An Embarrassment of Autumnal Riches...

It's funny, I'm so fickle - when I've not got much to say, I don't blog.

When I've got too much to say - I don't blog.

Sometimes, there is just no getting the balance right...

My recent silence has been a case of the latter: too much goodness. Which is quite a nice problem to have. These past few days have been just lovely - and it's been fun getting up each morning to see what new is in store. Fall can do that to you can't it?

While I try to organize my thoughts, and figure out how to talk about all the stuff I want to share without overwhelming everyone* - 'cause really, admit it, when you go to visit a blog and it's too wordy, you can't follow it all. Or if there are 8 new posts in one day? Yeah, I know - too much... - let me just proclaim that there is one thing I've got figured out:

Fall. Is. Finally. Here.

Why do I say that with such authority? (And didn't the calendar announce this *last* month?) Two reasons:

1. It got cold.
2. I made chili.

When I say it got cold, it got cold. It was only in the high 30's at noon, people. That's *January* weather around these parts! But it was clear and crisp and windy and just a great day. I wore two pairs of socks to the grocery store, because I am a big baby when it comes to being cold, but it was worth it.

Around here chili is the definitive sign that autumn is upon us, and winter's just around the corner. It is one of Bubba's all time favorite foods, and he actually asks for it year round. However, I'm the world's meanest wife, and will only make it when it's cold. Seriously, who eats chili when it's 90 degrees out with 300% humidity???

I'm not going to say that this is the best chili recipe out there - chili is a very subjective thing and my ideal might not match up with anyone else's. However, I am not embarrassed to admit that I spent years -- yes you read that right, years! -- tinkering with this to get it where Bubba and I like it.

I'll warn you, it's spicy. My mother says it is the worst chili she's ever eaten, and that she doesn't see how anyone can stand all that heat. To that, I just roll my eyes at her and remind her that it wasn't until I got married that I realized that you could make chili without an envelope of Chili-o. (Although, I'm not slandering Chili-o. In the grand scheme of things, it's not bad. But making your own from scratch isn't that much more difficult or time consuming...)

Anyhow, today was definitely a chili day, so out came the huge stockpot, so I could make a double batch, because we can eat on this for days, and if we do get tired of it - it freezes really well. (I once tried to make a triple batch, but it was kind of a nightmare: my big pot wasn't big enough and surface tension was the only thing keeping the chili in the pot!) The recipe below is the original, single batch recipe.

If you're not a fan of spice, go ahead and try it, just dial the spice amounts way, way back. That's what I've had to do since Schecky has declared that chili is no longer on his list of "foods I won't eat"** He likes chili, but only if it's not too hot. So I ease off on the cayenne, Tabasco, and a little of the chili powder... and it's still pretty darn nice.

Bubba's Favorite Chili

1 large onion, chopped (I like the yellow kind)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 lb ground sirloin (or chuck) (or beef) (whatever)

Saute onion and garlic in the oil in a large stockpot. Add ground beef; cook over medium heat until browned. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered for at least an hour. Stir occasionally, as you don't want it to stick and get too done.

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15 ounce can beans (Dark kidney, red kidney, etc. When I double the recipe I use one can kidney, one can black beans)
1/2 of a 6 ounce can of tomato paste (see why I like to double it? No pesky half-can left over)
2 1/2 cups of water
1 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar
6 Dashes of hot sauce (Tabasco, or the like)

1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 generous Tablespoon of brown sugar (and you know that means the dark brown kind!)

This is always served with apple slices and cornbread in some shape/size/fashion. Bubba likes sharp cheddar cheese sprinkled on top, which is a nice touch.

*Hey! I just remembered that my friend, GeekyMom, taught me a neat trick - how to create a poll. How about you tell me what you want to hear about? Or is that BlatantCommentWhoring???

**The list of "foods I won't eat" is allowed to be three items long. Scheck's list for years was "Lasagna. Chili. Gumbo." Now he eats chili, and I think that slot has been filled by "Fig Newton" He hates Fig Newtons. How is that possible? They're fruit and cake! What's not to love????

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I Am A Woman On A Mission...

Today the guilt began to sink in - I've not been doing a lot to justify my existence around here lately...

So I kicked it into high gear - today was a frenzy of cleaning, dusting, tidying, storing, ironing, groceryshopping, etc. Have not gotten to the knitting, but that will be my treat tonight as I sit and watch the Project Runway season finale*. I also didn't get to the bathroom light fixture - but have decided that it's better to run a single extension cord than to curse the darkness. Or something like that...

Anyway - even though I was a woman on fire today, don't worry - I still took time out to smell the roses. Or at the very least to watch some praying mantises, ummmm, doing it.

This picture cracks me up. Don't they look so guilty?
I know, I know - I'm a sick puppy...

* As far as the "who's going to win" question goes, I gotta say - I love 'em all. Even the ones that are easy to hate, like Jeffery and Laura. It would be nice if Michael did well, since he's representing the ATL. Unfortunately, I liked his final collection the least of the four. Oh well, it'll be interesting...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How Does That Saying Go Again???

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade? Or was it more along the lines of this:
When life hands you a whole bunch of stuff
(the sheer amount of which seems overwhelming)
ignore it all and make pumpkin bread.

I mean, that could be a saying, right? At the very least, if it is not a saying, then they've got to be words to live by - if for no other reason than that I lived by 'em today.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread...

Things I should have been doing:
  • Laundry - so what's new there?

  • Knitting - I've got so much I both want and need to do. Although I'm afraid that I may never realize the goal of actually stocking my etsy shop. I set it up a while back, but I've not managed to get item one up for sale in it. People that I like keep having birthdays, or having babies, etc. with the end result being that I'm gifting all my "inventory". Hey, I just realized - I'm like the town knitting tramp - just giving it all away! Hee hee...

  • Dealing with the exploded light fixture. Yes, today is day two in the "my one and only bathroom has no functional light source" saga. My excuse for not going shopping for a new fixture? It was wet, and I didn't want to go outside.
    For all my talk of how cool I think Seattle is, and how wonderful it must be to live there, I don't think I would last a week. It rained here for 24+ hours and I started worrying that my toes were starting to web together....
    Of course, it just this very second occurred to me that I probably could have done, oh say, some online shopping. duh. I blame this mental sluggishness on the rain, too.

  • General all-purpose house stuff - what I don't get it this: we were out of town all weekend. So who trashed the house? I wonder if we have poltergists? I'd hate to think that we were so messy that we managed to do all this to it in the course of settling back in....

So really, do you all blame me for ignoring most of that stuff? The knitting part sounds like fun, but I feel guilty if I knit when I've been ignoring the hearth and home. Ironic, no?

Anyway, the gray and blustery, wet, cold day just needed something. And that something was pumpkin bread. I wanted to try Molly's delicious sounding (and looking) recipe - however, I didn't have all the ingredients. (Going to the grocery store is yet another thing that I really should have done, as there is very little actual food in the house. Going to the grocery store, however, was out of the question because, as mentioned above, it is raining. And apparently, I'm a big baby who can't get wet...

So I browsed around the internets, until I found a recipe for which I had all the stuff. Although, I really don't want to think about just how old that can of pumpkin must have been... I wasn't 100% sold on the chocolate/pumpkin combination, even though the reviewers gave it rave reviews. I figured "What the heck, the boys will eat anything with chocolate," and decided to give it a try.

I'm glad I did - I really like the end result. It is different from a lot of pumpkin breads I've enjoyed in the past - it is very light, and moist, not at all dense the way that pumpkin bread can be. And to my delight, the chocolate is really, really nice with the pumpkin. I think this recipe is a keeper...

Keep in mind that the biggest criteria for this recipe was not to leave the house. I'm giving it to you as I made it, but I'll give alternate ingredients that might be good substitutions...

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
2 cups sugar
1 can of canned pumpkin (mine was 15 ounces)
1/2 cup canola oil (mine was a scant 1/2 cup, as I was a teaspoon or so short)
1/2 cup vanilla pudding (I used a Jello Pudding Cup that I had in the fridge. Ideally, I would use half a cup of Vanilla yogurt - I really like the StonyBrook Farm French Vanilla for baking - but I was making do with what I had)
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour (Naturally, I didn't have enough all-purpose flour, so I substituted 3 cups + 6 Tbsps. of cake flour - I wonder if this is why it was nice and light?)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, blending together well. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in chocolate chips.
Spoon batter into 2 loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

I think that when I make this again, I might use half chocolate chips, half pecans. Because I love pecans. And I will certainly add a slug of vanilla extract, because I love it so....

Monday, October 16, 2006

Brace Yourself For the Deluge...

That is, in effect, what the weather report is here.

Not my own personal weather report - I thought I should clarify that since I do sometimes do provide my own personal goings-on in that way. No, this is the weather forecast for pretty much the whole SouthEast.
"Brace yourself, Bridget,*" the weather forecaster seems to be saying, "there's a whole lot of stuff that's about to come pouring down...."

And, that's a pretty apt metaphor for this post... There's a whole lot of stuff that I need to share here, so it's all about to come pouring out and pouring down. So here it goes, in no real order of importance (except for the first one)...
  • First off, and this is important: thank you to all of you who have checked in with me in the past few days - with your sweet comments and emails. Seriously.
    I was a bit overwhelmed (in a good way) and even though I haven't yet been able to respond, please know that I read every single kind word, and every offer of support, and it meant so very much. I really was touched by all the thoughtfulness and concern you showed me - and that's saying something, since as a rule I can be kind of a tough nut to crack... I know, I know - kind of hard to believe since *I'm* the one that's been going around spontaneously crying.

  • Secondly, the crying did stop. It recurred sporadically as I read the aforementioned comments/emails/etc - but that wasn't scary crying. I was crying because I felt truly lucky to have become acquainted with such thoughtful, caring people.
    Once I realized that the crying seemed to be going away, I began venturing out again, and I think it's all good again. I have no idea what the heck was up with that - where it came from or why. I can tell you that I'm not sorry to see it gone....

    Some of you made me feel much better by saying that sometimes it just happens to you. The scary crying, that is. And even though I like to have nice, clear, concrete reasons for things - it did make me feel better to know that this wasn't perhaps as bizarre as it seemed to me.
    Sometimes stuff just happens.
    Hey - someone should make a bumper sticker with that on it!

    Another really good theory, from a thoughtful and wise friend, posited that I've had a big year this year, what with the retirement from teaching and all. And that even though I seem to be handling it well, the transition from girl-on-the-go to stay-at-home mom, maybe it kind of snuck up on me. I didn't think that was it, but it does sound plausible. And, there is a kind of Freudian-ness to that theory - the fact that it happened when I was in the car, literally "on the go"... I don't know, maybe I am just overthinking it...

  • I got a chance to get away this weekend - Schecky had a three day weekend from school, Bubba took the day off from work, and we headed up to my much-loved hometown of Kingsport, TN. This was not just any old visit, however. The impetus for our trip was so that I could attend my 20 year High School Reunion.**
    Which was an absolutely lovely, wonderful time. There will be more about this in a later post, I am sure. I'm still trying to process it all, and put it all into words. But the really short version is that I went to school with a bunch of really interesting, and genuinely nice people...

  • Now that the crying is done, and I'm back in town - I got up this morning ready to get back in the game. I thought a nice way to do that would be to finally photograph the bathroom - yes, the bathroom of large holes in the wall, spider colonies, and the legendary toilet seat that would not be changed. So I got my camera, turned on the bathroom light, and before I could take the first picture....the light fixture exploded.

    Yep - you read that right. Exploded. There was a flash, a boom, lots of sparks, lots of smoke and a loud girly scream. (That last one came from me, the rest came from the light fixture.) Then there was silence. And darkness. And a trip to the breaker box to make sure that the breaker was off.
    Fortunately, my fantabulous plumber also does electrical work as well. His recommendation was that I replace the fixture, rather than try to repair it.
    My first thought was "Crud. I don't want to go out shopping for light fixtures today." Then I decided to pull a Scarlett O'Hara, because you know what? That fixture is still going to be broken tomorrow, I can shop for a new one then. I drug a few extension cords and lamps from other rooms, and Voila!, a temporary fix. A woman's work is never done...

    But I think that I'm OK now and can handle it. The rest of today will be spent reading the newspapers, mail and BlogLines entries that piled up while we were gone. Perhaps with a cup of cocoa, since it got COLD here while I was away. Tomorrow the knitting and the laundry and the light fixture beckon, and I'm OK with that...

    Now let's just all keep our fingers crossed that the rains aren't that big a deal. I already had a light fixture explode today - I don't really need to deal with flood water....

* I know that this is the punchline to a joke, or at least I think it is. All I know for sure is that the accompanying joke is long since forgotten, but this phrase still makes me snicker. Which probably only means that it was a dirty joke. Since, as we've discussed here before, emotionally, I am five and stuff like that makes me snicker....

**This was Bubba's theory about why all the crying - the stress of the impending reunion. I am not sure that I go along with that theory at all. I'll be the first to admit that I was anticipating the reunion, without really looking forward to it (if that makes sense?) I was approaching it with some apprehension, rather than pure enthusiasm.
But was I stressed out by it? I didn't think so. I did get a little anxious on Friday, right before we were slated to attend the first "event". I know that some people do a complete overhaul before a reunion - and I'll admit, about two months ago (when I had to send in the reservations, etc.) I thought "I should loseweight/buynewclothes/reinventeverythingaboutmyself/blahblahblah".

Then I thought "No, I'm not going to do that." This blog started at the beginning of the year, kind of an exercise in becoming more accountable to myself. To document what I was thinking and making, and coming to terms with who I am and what I have to offer.
To buy a whole new wardrobe, to do an eight-week juice fast? That seemed like I would be taking a step backwards in terms of coming to accept who I am.
So I made a conscious decision not to do it. Which I think was the right choice.
But I did have that last-minute feeling of "I wish I weren't wearing this old sweater and last year's jacket. And, oh yeah, wish I could have dropped 10 pounds before this..." I did get my toenails painted, though - even though no one saw them but me. And I had my high heeled "dominatrix" boots polished up. That helped matters immensely. Love those boots, even if they are a few seasons old. I feel tall, and confident in them....

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Coping, in my own way...

Well, I managed to go to school and pick Schecky up, and made it all the way down to the airport to pick Bubba up - all without anymore impromptu automotive crying jags.

Of course, that is about all I managed to do today. So as not to disturb my fragile* state, I spent the remainder of the day (while Schecky was in school) sitting on the couch and making this squishy bear. For myself.
(I'm not really sure that selfishness is what this situation calls for. But when in doubt...)

Do he look somewhat familiar? He probably should. I combined my two recent obsessions to make him.... It seems so obvious to me now that I can't believe that I never thought of this before:

dishcloth + little bear = this squishy little fellow

I used dishcloth yarns (see, you knew you recognized the cocoa and the teal!) and modified the bear pattern so that he has a tiny round body, and a great big head. I also slightly understuffed him, so he is squishy, squishy, squishy. He's soft, and just what I need.
(And you may have noticed that I took Schecky's advice, and went the BabyHenry route. There is something to be said for the huggabilty of the Hydroencephalitic Thalidomide baby**... )

Bubba has taken Schecky out to dinner, and I am taking MrSquish (like the over-emotional toddler I am) and going to bed.
I may get up to watch Lost, or I may just sleep straight on through. (So, no one is allowed to talk about it on their blog until I get to see it. That's OK, right?)

Thank you so much for all the lovely comments, and lovely emails that you've sent.... Probably shouldn't indulge the crazy lady, but I did appreciate all the kindnesses...


*FRA- GEE - LAY! Must be Italian....

**Sorry for the gratuitous use of "Hydroencephalitic Thalidomide Baby" - but you would be amazed at the number of Google hits that gets... For real...

But No Major Wrecks or Stalls...

A segment of this morning's traffic report, as heard on my car radio:

You are looking at least a 45 minute commute this morning, coming in on GA400, between Highway blahdeblah and I-285. There are no major wrecks or stalls, but a number of smaller isolated incidents have things pretty well tied up. Looks like they're in for a hell of a ride...

And this stopped me in my tracks. Why? It seems to be a fairly innocuous, even commonplace, traffic report. Because of what I was doing at the time.
Which was sitting in the car, crying. And not just a few little sniffles, either. This was a full-on, hard-core, uncontrollable Holly-Hunter-in-Broadcast-News onslaught.
And it was the third time in less than 24 hours that I've done this. Basically, each time I've gotten in the car and have been by myself, it just happens and I can't seem to stop it.

And it is Freaking. Me. Out.

I am not that girl.
I don't cry. I'm not one of those people for whom that is a point of pride - you know, those people who go around boasting about how they never, ever cry? It's not something that I am/am not proud of, it's just kind of the way that it is. I'm not a crier. I didn't even cry when Schecky was born... (and, on the few rare occasions that I do cry, I am more likely to cry when I am happy.) So what the hell is this?

Did I mention that I am Freaking. Out. A. Little. about this?

There's nothing big wrong, not at all. We're all happy* and healthy and fine. Admittedly, it does seem like things have been harder lately than they should be - everything has seemed that way. But it's more on the scale of "nuisance" or "frustration" rather than "tragedy".
Oh, and not that anyone asked, and this probably borders on TMI, but this can not be attributed to monthly hormonal changes. That would bug me if it were that, but at least I'd have a clue what was going on...
Well, wait? Could this be a menopause thing? I'm thirty-freakin'-eight, isn't that too young???

Bubba's out of town, but I don't think this is about that, either. He's out of town all the time, and I cope just fine. I'm a big girl, I can take care of myself. If anything, my problem usually lies in the fact that I am too self-sufficient. I have a hard time letting other people in because "I can do it all on my own, thank you very much...."

I think that is part of what is freaking me out. I feel like my coping mechanisms are all out of whack. And if they're all out of whack now, when things are going along at what should be a smooth pace, what the hell happens if something bad does happen, and I need them??? And why am I worrying about what might happen? Again, I'm not that girl, either - the one who worries about things that may or may not happen... ARRRRRGH.

I called Bubba last night. And cried to him about the crying. (Which brings the crying total up to four now, in case anyone's counting.) Which freaked him out - because he didn't know what to do, or how to fix it. We had a very ungainly and unsatisfying conversation - kind of the long-distance verbal equivalent of him holding me gingerly and awkwardly patting me on the back going "There, there."

So anyway, back to the traffic report I heard this morning. It summed it up perfectly: no major wrecks or stalls, but a number of smaller isolated incidents that combine for one lousy ride.

But what do I do about it????

*As part of the editing process, I am striking through "happy" - I'm not sure I am allowed to make that claim until I can get the hysterical tears under control....

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Happy Mail Days!

While the last little bit may not have been great for blogging, or creating anything for that matter - it has been excellent for mail! I would be remiss in not sharing...

First off, I was lucky enough to win "Crafty Karma Tuesday" over at Maize Hutton's site a short while back. I've been reading Maize for some time now - she does so much wonderful work, and I love that she is interested in so many things (and seems to do them all so well...) I also admire her lovely new crafting space (OK, and I covet it more than a little bit, too. sigh) and can't wait to see what she gets up to in it.

Anyhow, as I was saying - I entered her CKT drawing, and was fortunate enough to win this adorable little felted green bag.
I'm linking to her picture of it, because for some reason, my attempts at taking pictures were beyond craptacular.

The bag arrived last week, even cuter than in the picture, and along with it came some lovely little extras: some beads to play with, and a couple of wonderful knitting magazines, called "The Workbasket" from the 1950's. A comforting afternoon was spent pouring over them, snuggled up in the big chair with some toast and Diet Coke. (I wanted to snuggle up with toast and tea or cocoa. But Georgia's weather was not cooperating and it was too darn hot... The sacrifices we have to make...)

It just dawned on me that today is Tuesday, so be sure to head over to Maize's to see what kind of loveliness she's offering up today! She mentioned that she had a few of these felted bags, so maybe you'll get as lucky as I did...
(and while you are there, be sure to look at the stunning Mommy Tags that she makes! I've already been dropping hints to Bubba for the upcoming Holiday Season!)

The other goodie that arrived in the mail was a gorgeous stoneware pendant from Molly's etsy shop: MommyCoddle.etsy.com.

Molly is another blogger whose site I thoroughly enjoy, and while I've long admired many of her buttons and pendants, this was my first purchase. Now I am wondering what took me so long? I love, love, love this - the way it looks, the pleasing weight of it and the way it feels in my hand, and of course, the gorgeous robin's egg blue color (which I think looks quite nice with all the black and brown that I tend to wear).

She's got a couple more of this sort of pendant, as well as an array of buttons, coasters, and other pendant styles. Go check them out, I bet you'll love them as much as I love mine...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Radio Silence...

I had not intended to take a break - but I've been having a bit too much fun around here lately, and have imposed "Computer Free Days" until I get to a reasonable degree of caught-up-ed-ness....
Wish me luck with that!

During these Radio Silence Days, don't feel like I'm holding out on you... unless you enjoy hearing about a gazillion errands, and laundry and the sameold sameold mommyblogging blather that gives mommy bloggers a bad name.

In the meantime, enjoy this picture of Thing Two - the smarter of my two cats* - who at some point last night decided to make camp in the bathroom sink and has not budged. Not once. All day.
Since this is the only bathroom sink we have, it's been kind of a pain. I suspect that we indulge this cat too much; even Bubba went into the kitchen to shave this morning. This would be understandable, if the cat even pretended to be nice to us. Which he doesn't. He isn't nicknamed "Mean Little Thing" for nothing....
(And I would be lying if I didn't admit that I have had the urge to go in and turn the tap on full blast at least a dozen times today. I swear, sometimes I really am three years old...)

*Although that's damning him with really faint praise...