Happy #11 Jeffrey!

He opened his kilt, and hooted with delight “MY MAN SKIRT!!!” and promptly donned it. Just wait until he opens the other package from Scotland tonight… His birthday letter will be up later today. We’re off to the Lego store with birthday money from grandma burning a hole in his pocket. Do kilts have pockets?

Random Crap: Wistful Addition

School starts a week from today, and I just got the pool passes for the summer from the management company. Finally. My lease was signed in MAY. Way to be on top of things, peeps! We should get in maybe one… two… swims, before they close for the season!

Mosquito bites suck. It’s not even worth being outside at twilight when the bloodsucking thieves come out.  I claw at myself for days, looking hot and pockmarked in the process. Awww yeah.

Cicada season seems to be ending here too- the incessant droning humm of their song is quieter, and I’ve found several of them dead in the yard. Abby is fascinated and has put them in her bug jar; the boys have run away.

Jeffrey will be eleven tomorrow. ELEVEN. Y’all have been reading about this kid, if you’ve been around here that long, since he was three. He’s tripled in size!

Have picked up some more freelance work for the fall- it’s on a wing and a prayer, but I love having freedom and flexibility. I think I can parse it together until school starts in January.

Speaking of grad school, I have a meeting set up with my department chair to talk about research and direction. I kept pinching myself yesterday, not believing it’s really real. Or maybe I was scratching mosquito bites…? Holy crap, someone wants to talk to ME about RESEARCH and direction I want to go! How did this happen?! >squee!<

Tomorrow I’m making a Lego cake. Again. Only this time, Jeffrey has requested no fondant, just chocolate icing. So, this cake, instead of red, yellow and blue, will be the elusive and rare brown Lego 8-brick.

Two packages have come from family members, shipped from Scotland. I wonder what they contain? Is the world ready for an eleven-year old red-headed kilted bagpiper? Ready or not…

I have a ton of family getting married this year- only all the weddings are in California. It’s near certain I won’t be able to fly out. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Oh! Good news! Auntie Heather is expecting her first baby! And we now live close enough that I can drive to see her and her awesome family. I just have to avoid the bats, right? I wonder how long my rabies shots are good for…

Every once in a while, I miss the old house so much it hurts. I know the dangers of nostalgia, and I know the pretty-outside only hid something that was gone on the inside. But boy… it sure did look pretty while it lasted…

Then I look at them now, at our lives now, and think… maybe this is pretty danm good too. I’m pretty sure I will look back on the sweetness of now with longing and tenderness and know that we have chosen the good part— no matter when or where we are.

Recipe: Take the Cannoli. Leave the Gun.

Oh yes. Yesssss, indeed. You bet your bootie they taste as good as they look! For those not in the know, a cannoli is an Italian rolled-tuile cookie filled with an amaretto-ricotta cream and tiny chocolate bits. They’re not a cake-walk to make, but they translate to gluten-free quite well at home, so it was totally worth it. If you don’t believe me, watch.

Almond Cannoli

  • For the cookies
  • 1/3 cup light Karo syrup
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup slivered almonds, pulsed to meal in food processor
  • 2/3 cup gluten-free baking flour (or regular if you’re not allergic)
  • For the Filling
  • 16 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp amaretto or almond extract
  • 1/2 cup tiny chocolate chips
  • dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350*. To make the cookies, put the Karo syrup, butter and brown sugar in a medium sauce pan on low heat. While that is melting together, whirl the almonds and flour mixture in a food processor until the consistency of coarse cornmeal. It’s okay if there are small pieces of visible almonds. Yay for texture! Put in a mixing bowl. Pour the melted butter/sugar over the top, and mix well.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, and place five 1″ balls of dough on each. (a small dough scoop works great!)  It will run. It’s okay- it’s gonna run- hence only five cookies per sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

When you pull the cookies from the oven, they will be flat and thin- let them cool for 2 or 3 minutes, then cut the parchment paper around each cookie, and wrap the still soft and warm cookie around a dowel, wooden spoon handle, or anything cylindrical you have around- I used a paper towel tube covered in foil. The parchment will hold them in place while they cool. Once they cool, they’ll be crisp and you can slide them from the tube.

For the filling: In a mixing bowl, whip the whole milk ricotta with the confectioners sugar, salt and almond extract (amaretto would probably be better, but alas, I am fresh out). Once it’s well incorporated, add the chocolate morsels. Fill a piping bag with a wide round tip (or a zip-bag and nip the corner off) and pop it in the fridge to chill while you wait for the cookies to cool.

When ready to serve, (and do this right before you serve lest the cookies get soggy) fill each cannoli shell, first from one side out, then flip it around and fill the other side. Dust with confectioners sugar and a few extra chocolate morsels and enjoy!

I have six of these babies sitting on my kitchen counter, and I keep stabbing my hand with a fork as I reach for another one.


Mr. Bean Goes to Washington

So yesterday, we spent the day on the mall. It was miraculously not too crowded, and the Museum of Natural History was where we spent most of our time. FYI, never ever eat in the cafes at the museums- pack your lunch, unless paying $8.50 for three milks in your idea of a party. After the museum, Bean wanted to walk the length of the mall, but there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the siblings, so I sent them with a friend, and Bean and I took off down the mall, just the two of us.

It was one of the best afternoons I’ve had since we moved. I forget how much I enjoy my kids when I get them one-on-one, and away from the chaos of constant competition for my attention. The others had fun with our friend, but Bean and I were the definite winners.

As we walked, we talked about politics, elections, the white house history, WWII, and even the Emancipation Proclamation.

We talked a lot about Grandpa McKay, and what happened that is commemorated here.

This is a really amazing place to live, and I’m finding myself incredibly glad that we took that deep breath, despite the odds and the fears, and jumped.  Jeffrey and Abby met at us Mr Lincoln, and we all hung out there until I it was time to go home. The reflecting pool is finally filled again, btw…

The Butcher, The Baker & The Candlestick Maker

One of the things they don’t tell you about being a divorced mama is that you’re gonna get a whole lot more hats. To be fair, I’ve always had quite the collection of headwear, and never shied away from doing tasks some think of as men’s work. Growing up, my parents built our house, and I saw my mom help frame doors, pour concrete, hammer shingles and mud walls. So when I moved on to my own life, it was natural for me to see something that needed doing, and just do it.

I figured I could read a set of instructions as well as any man. I was correct.

Over the years, I’ve done the things my mom did, I’ve installed ceiling fans, changed outlets, reglazed window panes, painted innumerable things, rototilled, changed the oil in my car, used my purse strap for a fan belt in my car, caulked tubs, layed bricks, installed a new toilet, changed doorknobs, repaired a garbage disposal, hung curtain rods, refinished furniture, and found a partridge in a pear tree.

I did many of these things before I got married, and quite often I was too impatient for my ex-husband to get around to things when we were married, so I kept on doing them. One day he came home from work, and I had ripped the carpet out of the bedroom, torn down the tile in the kitchen, removed a soffit and done some drywall.   It was easier than bugging him to do it.

Once I was divorced, this kept up, of course- only now I was the mom of three by myself, a full time student, and I was still doing everything a stay-at-home mom did, plus all the “dad” stuff- mowing the lawn, getting the car stuff taken care of, yardwork, hauling the trash and recycle out, shoveling the walk and driveway in the winter, doing scouts with the boys, and so on… and so on… and so on…

You know what? I’m tired.

Tonight, the toilet upstairs wouldn’t flush. It was a minor thing, but the call of “MOMMMM!!!” from the bathroom is never a good thing, and I felt my stomach knot up as I just didn’t want to deal with it. I trudged upstairs, and took the back of the tank apart, and fixed the flapper, which had come unhinged. Yes, that’s an actual technical term. But it’s a term I never want to use, or for that matter, a thing I never want to see, ever again.

I’m ready to not be doing this by myself anymore. I’m so damn tired of everything being on my shoulders, and it was a slipped o-ring on a toilet do-hickey that finally pushed me over the edge. Let me finally take off a few of these hats and just be… perhaps… the baker— and mama. I certainly don’t intend to be the plumber. Ever again.