Monday, August 30, 2010

Happymiss radio

I got my first driver's license on the morning of my 16th birthday by rockin' 100% scores on both the driving and written tests.  With the biggest smile ever, I proudly drove my red used 1981 Dodge Colt hatchback to school right after I was handed my temporary license.  Thinking back, I probably left my stunned and emotional mom in the dust after I peeled out of the DMV parking lot without even looking back or waving goodbye.  Freeeeedom!

Even though other kids at school got new BMW's, Fiero's, Integra's and Suzuki's with stereo systems that cost more than my car for their birthdays, I was totally grateful that my mom bought me my little red Colt.  Plenty of friends I knew would only dream about getting a car in high school.  This car meant new found independence, no longer taking the bus or walking to/from school, driving to my favorite beach (the hatchback was perfect for beach chairs), driving wherever I wanted, learning how to drive a stick shift, and well, you know, I was beyond happy.

Sure, I wanted to be able to park in the Hey! My Rich Parents Bought Me A Brand New Car parking lot instead of the Mom's Hand Me Down I Have to Work Nights To Pay For Gas Don't Mind The Minor Dents alternative lot.  But, those rich kids with their new fancy cars didn't appreciate how lucky they were and raced around and crashed those flashy shiny cars and got more dents and scratches than celebrity diva drunk drivers.  No thank you.

I will admit, though, the one disadvantage of my car was that it only had AM radio.  I could barely afford gas, so I certainly couldn't buy a new car stereo.  So, I listened to the only station I sort of liked that wasn't talk radio...oldies.  Oldies meaning the 1950's and 1960's.  These decades were absolutely foreign to me, as I grew up listening to 1970's folk music (think James Taylor and Joni Mitchell).  Suddenly I'm exposed to Buddy Holly, Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Beatles, Elvis, Righteous Brothers, Supremes, and the Beach Boys.  This was not exactly what I had in mind as a sixteen-year-old who was just handed the keys to independence.  

At first I was rather annoyed (after all, I was a teenager), but once I started listening, really listening, I became more and more familiar with the songs and artists.  I (gasp!) actually started singing along and discovering my favorites.  I'd hear myself exclaiming "ooooh, I love this song!" and be-bopping around as I drove.  Then, I noticed the oldie songs would be in movie soundtracks, diner jukeboxes, and be remade by current artists.  I recognized them!  I had a new appreciation for the talented and innovative artists, catchy tunes, and groundbreaking sounds.  I was won over.

As soon as I could afford it, many many months later, I finally bought a new detachable face car stereo...with FM radio and everything!  Amid my excitement as I watched my shiny new stereo being installed, I had a brief moment of "aw, bye bye my sweet happymiss AM radio, you were good to me"...but then...then the stereo cranked out a U2 song and there were tears...tears of sweet modern music joy!

**yes, that's me around the age I got the FM stereo (I was too busy driving my car to take any decent pictures of it so this is the best I can do)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cool art

After a spectacularly mild summer, it's finally hot hot hot just as expected for August.  At 105 degrees and no ocean breeze, it's yucky.  Me no likey going outsidey in this heaty.

Today, I'm not into embracing the heat and going to a local fun water park (with all the other billions of people) or the ocean (long hot car ride with very boisterous children who desperately need to get back to school).  Everything takes effort, I'm feeling lazy, and my name recall memory is totally shot and functioning on a five minute delay.  Who's that on that new show The C Word, wait, wrong show, is it The Big C?  Yes! That's it.  And, the actress.  You know, the one in that wonderful movie with her screwed up brother played by that cute guy.  I love her.  She's one of my favorites.  Wait...ummmmm...

Five minutes later, while discussing with my husband how we need to get the house professionally bug sprayed because we keep finding eight inch long cockroaches having parties in our kitchen at night, I shout "Laura Linney!!!!!" and feel much much better.  Continuing on...

Our home has great air conditioning, a fully stocked fridge, a gazillion movies, Wii, a playroom loaded with stuff to do, and the internet.  Forget being social and adventurous and taking full advantage of the summertime outdoors during our dwindling few days of freedom before school starts - I'm simply not in the mood.  I am officially experiencing summer burnout.

So, after watching a movie, playing plenty of Wii, constructing a complicated marble run, playing with the very cool marble run, too much time on the internet, calling friends, cooking, snacking, cooking, snacking, building a Star Wars space flying thingy (give me five minutes, please), and a ten minute dance boogie, my daughter requests that we do an art project from her new art book
We settle on the section based on Kandinsky.  He painted and theorized with color and the abstract, with color often relating to feelings and music.  His famous painting of circles gives me that "I could paint that" feel, but it definitely grows on me once I realize how much thought and theory went into his work.

We fold the paper, then draw the circles with crayons, and paint over them with watercolors.  Here is mine which I name "Mellow Moments".
 Quinn names his "Grumpy Balls".
Talia picks "Rolling Changing Seasons" as her title:
What strikes me most is the serendipity of this particular artist and painting, and how it applies to our day.  His "Color Study of Squares" came out of his major fascination with color.  It obviously isn't about painting the perfect circles with the expected mix of perfect colors.  It is just about experimenting with art, pushing the status quo, seeing objects in a new way, and being original.  I always admire that. 

As we do the project, my kids struggle a bit with the folding and the circles and using color that they thought was one thing (red) but turned out to be another (pink).  They are so much like me in wanting to get things perfectly right the first time, or else!   But, in the end, they are smiling, talking with enthusiasm, and proud.  They learn that there are no "mistakes" in art, you make it your own, and sometimes it's just about the simple act of just doing art and expressing yourself.

So, even though I initially felt a twinge of regret that I didn't wear my supermom cape today by not taking my kids out for some fantastic summertime adventure like everyone else was probably doing (ha ha ha), I did just fine.  Like my kids getting frustrated with the circles and colors and perfectionism, I, too, need many more lessons in dealing with expectations, even though I've gotten much better in recent years.  Let go.  Express yourself.  Relax.  Have fun.  Relish the moment with joy. Maybe tomorrow we will be more adventurous.  Maybe not.  What's the weather going to be?  110?!  Uh, ummm, doing more art from Talia's art book in our air conditioned house sounds like a perfectly fine plan.  Me likey.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happymiss bread

Once in a while, I like to make my own bread, sometimes by hand but usually in the easy bread machine.  There is something just so comforting and joyous about smelling the bread baking and then eating the yummy fresh homemade goodness. Cinnamon raisin bread is one of my bread machine favorites.  It makes for great cream cheese and jelly sandwiches, also good with peanut butter and bananas, or better yet, fantastic french toast.  Delish!

Today I was in a bread making kind of mood, so I threw the ingredients in the bread machine per the recipe and three hours later the bread was done and...ummm...well, it turned out kind of funny looking.  It was sunken in the middle and the texture was just weird.  I am not sure what happened, only that I screwed up something.  What a damn waste.  Darnit!  And, of course because I'm feeling particularly tired for whatever reason (lack of gym? too many chocolate chip oatmeal cookies? end-of-summer-looking-forward-to-school-starting-soon exhaustion? life?), I feel a wave of negativity and internally criticize my baking abilities and unfairly get a bit down on myself.  Humph.

I take my bad baking mojo out on my bathroom - cleaning, scrubbing, wiping, disinfecting, and distracting.  Then, while scrubbing the toilet, it hits me.  No, not the foul smell of my cute boy's missed toilet pee.  Instead of just discarding the failure that was my cinnamon raisin bread, I can make a dessert bread pudding.  Ding!  Ding!  Ding!  My mom is coming over for dinner in a few hours and she always says she doesn't eat dessert (wink wink) but she always loves my dessert and never refuses and I haven't baked anything yet for tonight.  Perfect!

So, I put down the scrubber, dance over to the kitchen and get to work.  I cube up the bread and put it all in a baking dish.  Then I mix up some eggs, milk, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, raisins, diced apples, walnuts, and pour it all over the bread.  I let it all soak in a bit, then bake it for around forty minutes until set.  After dinner, I serve it sprinkled with a little maple syrup and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Let me tell you, my raisin bread pudding was most excellent.  I loved it and so did my family as they gobbled it up (especially my mom, of course).  How neat is that to take a failed loaf of homemade bread and turn it into a delicious dessert?!  I'd like to claim that I planned it all along (because, ya, it was that good), but I feel even better enjoying my unexpected happymiss moment.

*happymiss is an ongoing project of mine and you can check out the first post here

Monday, August 9, 2010

Delivering good times

In a perfect moment of synchronicity, a week before my girlfriend weekend away in Big Bear that was planned months ago, the fine folks over at Vons offer me some nice gift cards to experience and blog about their home delivery service.  Wow, right!?!  So, it's a no brainer for me to propose that I plan the menu and purchase all of the food and drink for our much needed getaway.  My two traveling companions cheer a big "yes!!" without a moment of hesitation.

This makes me beyond happy for the following reasons: I find comfort in planning and organizing, I am good at it, I love to cook (especially when I can spoil my deserving and thankful girlfriends), I feel like I'm contributing in an important way, and we will all enjoy delicious and indulgent meals that we don't usually cook for ourselves at home (no fish sticks or tater tots on this trip!).       

So, here it is, the simple but most excellent Girlfriend Weekend Way Menu:
  • Friday dinner/dessert - T-bone steak with sauteed red onions and garlic, smashed red potatoes, salad (mixed greens, cucumber, homegrown tomatoes, avocado), bakery fresh soft French bread, wine, sparkling water, and assorted chocolates
  • Saturday breakfast - scrambled steak and eggs (leftover steak from dinner), toast, jam, fresh fruit, coffee, and juice
  • Saturday lunch - touristy shopping and lunch in town
  • Saturday dinner/dessert - salmon fillet steamed in parchment paper ("salmon en papillote" because I'm so fancy like that), roasted rosemary red potatoes, sauteed broccoli, more French bread with butter, wine, and of course more chocolate
  • Sunday breakfast - see Saturday breakfast minus the steak 
  • Sunday lunch (sniffle...our last meal at the cabin) - mixed green salad with leftover salmon, cucumber, homegrown tomatoes, avocado, feta cheese, and the last bit of French bread...and more chocolate because it's a girlfriend weekend away with no children around, for goodness sake!
Two days before we leave, and with my shopping list in hand, it's time to place my online order.  Setting up my account is a breeze and so is shopping either by a search or by aisle.  I easily find everything on my list plus extra snacks and drinks, including lots of organic options and most importantly, plenty of dark chocolate and milk chocolate varieties (scoring myself some major bonus points with the ladies).  I even get $7 off my first order plus free delivery from my special Vons promotional code "SMLLSTFF", and you can all use my special code, too.

The morning of my getaway, as the friendly delivery guy hands me my bags of groceries, my main thought is "Why didn't I do this when I was exhausted and struggling with newborn twin babies with the darkest and scariest circles under my eyes and zero energy to go out in public and grocery shop?!"  I'm not so horribly sleep deprived anymore, but instead I'm busy entertaining my energetic and demanding emotional seven year olds in the home stretch of a considerably long twelve week summer break with a glaring lack of time to myself and the last thing I want to do with my precious "me" time is run errands when I would rather go to yoga or shop for a cute new purse or hunt for thrift store treasures!

I am grateful and fortunate to be at home with my wonderful and precious children, but, well, can you tell I desperately need a weekend away with the girlfriends?!?

And that we did.  The three of us stayed at one of the lady's neat rustic cabin, where we feasted on fantastic food (if I say so myself), good fortune and synchronicity, interesting books and magazines, great conversation, CHOCOLATE, a picturesque walk around the lake, fun shopping, lack of responsibility to anyone but ourselves, movies, neat wildlife viewings (bats!), facials, laughter, relaxation, and just the fact that we were ourselves.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Legos and corn dogs

My daughter Talia got whisked away this morning by one of her favorite bff friends from school for a day filled with hiking, lunch, swimming, and almost certainly lots and lots of giggles.  Can you say squeals of happy happy joy joy from my super social girl who loves her silly and sweet friend sooooo much?! 

Me?  I am glad for her.  The hardest part about summer is missing her school friends and I don't blame her.  If I had to go three months without seeing my girlfriends I'd wallow in misery and depressed emptiness.  I need my ladies!  And, it just so happens to be one of those fantastic lady friends that is graciously entertaining my daughter today.  I can't wait to hear how it went since it's a totally new thing for her to have such long a day without her twin brother.

It's weird.  My precious twin babies are venturing out into the great big world without each other.  I know it's healthy and good for them, but, well, it's new for me and I'm just a mixed bag of emotions over all of this.  Next thing I know, I'll be helping them submit their college applications.  I'm not ready for that yet!

Is her brother Quinn jealous?  Sad?  Lonely?  Mad that she gets to play while he's stuck alone with his mom?  Ha ha ha!  Uh no.  He's relishing the break from all that is his sister.  He's all smiles and relaxed and talking.  A lot.  Granted, it's mostly about Star Wars trivia and the scientific realities of the universe but I'll take it.  I absolutely love to hear what he's thinking without interruption and how his amazing mind works.
Did we spend our day kicking the soccer ball around?  Studying dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum?  Geocaching in our local mountains (although it's sounds really neat)?  Nope.  We hit the far away mall to specifically visit the very cool Lego store (for the first time ever!) and eat some lunch.  Not exactly creative, educational, or deep, but for a big Lego fan and an even bigger Star Wars fan with a wallet full of birthday money begging to be spent, it's a pretty great combination.
And for lunch?  Corn dogs and lemonade.  I forgot how good those are and how much I enjoyed such a special treat when I was a kid.  In fact, sadly, I don't ever eat those now because the chemicals do very bad things to my digestion (I believe it's one of those almost forty things that no one told me about).  But, today I "splurged" because I wanted to fully experience the day with him, and, well, those corn dogs are really yummy.  So, yes, we bonded over corn dogs and I don't care if it comes back to haunt me later because it was worth it.  Just look at that smile on his happy face.  And, ya, I was smiling right back at him.

My usually smiling Talia came home a little while ago with a rather serious expression on her face as she greeted me, not with a 'hi mom!', but with a cautious proclamation: "I would like to get my ears pierced".

You see, her bff friend that she spent the day with just got her ears pierced, so, well, uh, and she is very seven.  I answered her with a "We'll talk about it", to which she was not all that happy with at all.  She obviously wanted a "Sure honey, let's go get your ears pierced first thing tomorrow yay!!!" and did not appreciate my lack of commitment.  I told her it's not something we jump into just because her friend did.  It's a big decision to think about.  PERMANENT.  However, she hasn't stopped seriously talking about it with a slight tear in her eye since she's been home (or is the chlorine from the public swimming pool?).  Did I mention she is very seven?!  Is this only the beginning of what to expect from all this new independence?  Oh my.