January 23, 2010

When Fog Freezes

One morning last winter I woke very early, bundled Buckaroo, leashed the dog, and headed to the great outdoors where I discovered frosty particles dangling from every surface. It was the kind of beauty that made me reconsider my harsh feelings toward winter.

Because I am usually a late sleeper-inner, I thought I was daily dozing through this incredible spectacle (and was hoping to capture it with my camera the next morning), but Sweet P, who is required by the school district to rise at an ungodly hour, assured me that the dangly frost was a rare occurrence.

Since then I have wondered why the world looked so spectacular on that sunrise, and now I know: Freezing Fog.

My friend Rosie Mama mentioned that her mid-western friends were seeing loads of freezing fog out their way, and being the fanatical Googler that I am, I looked it up, and Lo and Behold: Freezing fog creates rime (not in anyway related to poetry) which is what was gathered and dangling all over my little world that morning so long ago.

As a side note: I was trying to explain to Buckaroo recently (little backseat driver that he is) that I had to drive slowly because of the fog. "What's fog?" he asked-- We're hitting the "Why?" stage now-- and when I explained that fog is a cloud that's very close to the earth, he asked, "What's erf?"

So much work to be done.

January 21, 2010

Guerilla Storytime

I'm gearing up to implement Phase 1 of Guerrilla Story Time. I'm not sure what Phase 2 might entail, but Phase 1 involves reading stories to Buckaroo in public places where small children are hanging out. The problem is that so far I've only come up with the laundromat as a possible reading spot. I suppose fast food joints might work, but then-- must we have to eat the food? They must be places where kids have a little time to spend hearing a story. Any ideas?

Also, I've actually decided against calling it "Guerrilla Story Time" as it doesn't really connote peace, so I need a name that suggests sneakiness or surprise. Sweet P and I perused the thesaurus and are considering "Blutterbunged Story Time," but maybe that's too much of a mouthful. Feel free to pitch your ideas here.

Happy Reading!

January 20, 2010

January 15, 2010

Retrenching/In Another Light

Buckaroo playing drums in music class

I've been complaining a lot lately-- not just complaining, actually: whining. I keep apologizing to the friends who graciously listen to me again and again, but then I catch myself starting back up.

A couple of weeks ago I started to write a new post about how frustrated I am that we're cutting back some of our expenses-- the kids' classes, our grocery bill, and Sparkle Mama's house cleaning-- but I couldn't finish it because I knew in the grand scheme of things I was being ridiculous.

I had just about finished the post when Haiti was hit by its devastating earthquake, and I thought I am an ass.

Yep, it's a bummer that I won't hear Sweet P's tinkering at the piano for a while and that I have to scrub my own toilet, but it's not devastating. My children are healthy and we all have full bellies, a warm house. The rest is gravy.

Even in the retrenching there were some blessings: Buckaroo's music teacher offered us a scholarship to continue her class, and Sparkle Mama quickly filled our time slot with the house of another my mama friends.

So in honor of the people who are suffering in Haiti, and because Americans are still fighting for their basic civil rights on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2010, I am going to try to be grateful every day for all that I do have. I know there will be days when I'll take my good fortune for granted-- I'm not perfect-- but I can at least strive for some balance.

Right now I'll make a donation and sign a petition or two. Here are a couple of links if you'd like to do the same:

Donate for Haiti relief: http://www.moveon.org
Donate for (or learn about) marriage equality: http://www.standingonthesideoflove.org

January 5, 2010

Feeding the Fire

R's hands are cracked and red and raw. They often burn and sometimes bleed. It's because of the firewood. We didn't get our firewood in the house before the snow arrived. I say "we," but I didn't help at all, which is probably why it didn't get finished.

So R digs under the snow every day, loads another pile of frozen wood into the wheel barrow and hauls it into the basement to dry. It doesn't really dry out, though, so our house is usually filled with a light haze of smoke. R is certain the wood is green, too, even though our supplier swears by its seasonedness.

Today I decided to haul the wood myself. It was a day of firsts (I also made chocolate mousse and pastry puffs). The whole wood thing is a miserable process; I nearly broke my leg and damaged our car. Don't ask. I also didn't wear gloves because when I realized I didn't have them I was too lazy to go back.

The snow is cold, as you might imagine, the wood is frozen, as I mentioned, and it's full of splinters! By the time I was finished my hands were on fire. Who needs a wood stove?

After all that, I still didn't arrive at a roaring blaze until 3 p.m.

I had already cast my vote for moving the pellet stove to the upstairs, but now I'm recasting it with extra oomph, although that does mean moving out the gas stove, which is a handy thing to have around in case of an electrical outage, as the pellet stove requires electricity to get it started. Seems like a flawed design to me.

You might be thinking: "So many sources of heat?" There are more. We also have forced central heat (oil) and a wall heater we've never used. R plans to remove that one day.

I was lamenting to Grateful Papa recently that what we really need in our house is insulation. Our house is a sieve, really. If I sit by the window on a blustery day, my hair blows in my face. Grateful Papa informed me that houses are far too well insulated these days, and there's no way for home pollution to escape-- it's all very hard on the lungs.

I suppose this means we should wait to insulate until we're burning properly seasoned wood. There's such a big learning curve to this whole home-heating business, so I guess we'll just throw on another layer and keep trudging to the top.

January 4, 2010


R and I took the kids to the North End last snowy Saturday for lunch and pastries. We went to Mike's Pastries on Hanover Street because we'd heard (separately) that it was the place to go. They had a huge selection of baked goods, and it was fun to watch them wrap the box in string, but my carrot cake frosting was a tad too sweet-- in fact, I'm not sure it was cream cheese at all.

My friend Grateful Mama says that Mike's is a tourist trap, and there's a much better bakery near there, but its name has escaped me.

In any case, here is a dessert I had never seen in all of my sweet eating California days-- or even in Italy for that matter: sfogliatella, or lobster tail.

As you can see, there's some debate among Kitchen Unplugged's commenters about what constitutes a lobster tail or sfogliatella, and even whether or not they are the same pastry.

I'm sorry to say that I did not order this sweet crustacean from Mike's because I wasn't sure how it was filled (I don't prefer custards, and honestly, sea creature-shaped pastry isn't all that appealing on first sight), and our counter woman was somewhat stern with us. She was a wiz with that string, though.

Now that I know what's in the thing, we must return.

January 3, 2010

A Few More Words about Winter

Well we have officially arrived at winter, and I console myself with the thought that every day brings a little more light.

I moan about the cold more than I should, probably, because winter sans ice storm is really so incredibly much better than winter avec ice storm. My knuckles are tapping wood as I write this.

Here are a few more things I'm learning to love:

Sledding: We took the kiddies sledding down a big hill at Sweet P's school. The hill was nearly gigantic, as far as I'm concerned. The children were undaunted. Buckaroo didn't even mind getting a faceful of snow as he and R zoomed through the chilly fluff. My favorite part was the post-sled tomato soup and grilled cheese sammies.

The way the snow sparkles the air like fairy dust when falling from the trees in the sunlight.

The post-storm white quilt of snow on every branch.

The way Buckaroo's cheeks are bright pink apples when he comes in from playing in the cold.

I think I will love ice skating when I have a pair of skates that fit me properly, and perhaps when my ankles have built up some strength. We borrowed skates from the neighbors, and while it was an adventure, I could only skate about a minute before I needed to rest my feet. Sweet P, on the other hand, had much more endurance but struggled to stay upright.

Also, R gave us all crampons for Christmas (Sweet P doesn't let me say this word out loud as she says it sounds like something inappropriate). If you don't know, crampons are metal spikes surrounded by rubber webbing that one attaches to one's shoe soles for ice grippiness. I love them! Now the frozen lake really is one big front yard.

There are things I don't like, too, but I won't go into those at the moment as I'm feeling so warm and fuzzy about the weather. I realized today that while a bit of thunder and lightning can be exciting, I'll take a chilly, snow-covered, blue sky winter day over a warm and rainy one pretty much any time-- now that I have the proper attire.

I never thought I'd say that, let alone write it.

January 1, 2010

A Whole New Year

I struggle to stay in the moment. I tend to want to look backward (with regret) or forward (with anxiety) instead of enjoying where I am, and I'm really working on that. At the same time there's a lot of reminiscing happening around here-- everyone talking about where they were at the turn of the last decade. The first time someone asked me that question my immediate response was, "I don't really want to think about it," and yet here I am thinking about it. Ten years ago I was at the beginning of an end, and remembering makes me a little nauseous.

At the close of 1999 I had just begun the long separation from Sweet P's dad. We still lived together because neither of us had anywhere else to go. He slept on the couch. My dad visited for Christmas, and we spent it together, Sweet P-- who was just around the corner from turning three-- her dad, my dad, and me. It went well, surprisingly, except I burned the roast beast.

Then it was New Year's Eve, and Sweet P's dad and I were alone again. We didn't have plans-- together or separately-- or a sitter. We may have silently watched the count down. Then he announced that he was going out, so I stood at the third-story apartment window, watched him ride his bicycle away under the streetlights.

It was Y2K, and there were all of those wretched predictions, scare and hubbub. Everything would shut down and the whole globe would be thrown into disaster, they said. I went to bed alone wondering what the next day would bring.

The phone rang at 3 a.m. It was Sweet P's dad, and he was stuck in San Francisco. He had taken his bike into the city on BART only to discover they wouldn't let him bring it back across the bay. He was cold, calling from a gas station, asking me to pick him up.

I woke Sweet P out of her deep slumber, bundled, buckled her and drove through the dark and quiet city. I didn't know if the stoplights would work, if the world was in chaos, if there were nearby riots and looting. I was still a fairly small-town girl, and there were always too many highways.

I think about that drive sometimes-- as if it's a movie I watched-- and how much it represented my entrance into the new decade: not knowing where I was going or how I would find my way, dreading the arrival, being angry and afraid and feeling alone. I wasn't alone, though. There was a wise little soul asleep in the backseat.

Sweet P and I found our way that night without mapquest, GPS, or cell phone. It's nearly miraculous when I look back on it. There were no riots-- that I saw, anyway-- the streetlights worked properly and the sun came up in the morning. Sweet P's dad learned some things on his adventure, too.

Every day for the next ten years the sun came up, and from this vantage point I'm tempted to look back and shout to Sweet P, "We made it!" Still, I know this house in The Woods-- where Sweet P is on the cusp of becoming a teen, learning to love her bonus dad and little brother, and where I am learning the waltz of marriage and how to love the snow-- is only a brief respite.

In another ten years we'll look back on this place from somewhere else-- perhaps only metaphorically speaking, perhaps not. I know where I'd like us to go from here, but I'm not fool enough to say that's where we'll be.

In any case, in 2019 this is what I'll remember: Dec. 31, 2009 I sipped a white Russian with my girlfriends while Sweet P and her cousin played Legos with the little guys in another room, and the husbands in the basement chatted about furnaces. Later we tromped through the snow in downtown Orange, stomped our feet with a fiddler in the town hall, ate some pizza, chased Buckaroo and his buddies around ice sculptures lit up in the dark by twinkle lights, and nodded off on Sparkle Mama's couch. R drove us home; we rang in the New Year on our lake in The Woods, and I was happy.

Until that reminiscing, I'll continue trying to live the moment. It's my New Year's resolution.