Plastic Fingers

Before I left for Houston, I went to get a manicure, and the sweet lady at the salon talked me into getting acrylic tips. I was an easy sell- I was nervous, and I wanted to look pretty. My nails have never been a hotbed of good looks- seriously, anyone who does the amount of things with their hands that I do cannot have a nice manicure for long. So I bit. And oh, boy howdy, did they look pretty! A French manicure is always classy in my book, and my hands suddenly looked… well… feminine. It was nice.

It did find I poked myself a lot. They weren’t that long- it’s just that I’m used to relying on my hands to be something besides pretty. I had trouble typing, dialing the phone, opening a diet cherry Dr. Pepper (egad!)  and even texting on my old skool phone. But I sure did feel pretty when I wrote something or shook hands with a new friend. Beauty is painful, right?

It’s been three weeks, and I noticed they were growing out and starting to look a little bedraggled. I needed to either get them fixed-up again, or take those suckers off. The kick in my decision direction came on Sunday. I needed to sew something, and I went to put my thimble on. WRONG! Nope, no thimble with nice nails. Not gonna happen. Then, at church, there was a lady I did not know sitting in front of me in RS, and she had these insanely long, obviously fake dragon-lady fingernails. But they were also French manicured. And that did it.  Is that awful? I don’t want to be the Thimble-less Dragon Lady.

So last night I sat down and chipped, peeled, hacked and gnawed those suckers off. Aaaaaaaaaaah. The relief is palpable. My fingers thank me. My fingers are SO happy they feel like Sally Fields. I can type quickly again, I can wipe bums without stabbing anyone, I can pick little noses and dial my phone- I can do all kinds of things, and I CAN use my thimble again! Hooray!

So my foray into being a fancy girl was fun, but ultimately, for me, plastic finger-extentions were more pain and handicap than they were worth. It sure is nice to have my ten little friends back… and we’ve got to get to work!

Utterly Fascinating


Today is Bean’s birthday, but we spent yesterday at the County Fair to celebrate. Why? Well,  we had free passes for yesterday, and it would have cost us $32 to get in today. Yay for free passes!

It was hot. And the Fair was full of… “Fair” people. Oh man, is it fair for me to even say that? But dude, honestly, you know what you are thinking when I say “Fair people” and it’s not pretty. I spent half the afternoon trying to shield my kids from things, well, unfair. Oh, kids! Look over here at these newborn piggies- not at the barely dressed couple dry-humping by the camels. I’ll just let that one stand for what it is.

With a few diverting tactics on our part, the kids were oblivious to the seedy underbelly of the carnival, and they blew their entire Fair budget on the sling-shot thing that bungee’d them high into the sky. I think it was worth it- way better than the dirty ferris wheel. (Have Fairs always been so scungy?)

We looked at the 4H and Grange displays (cool) and walked through the event centers with the infomercial guys yelling at everyone as they passed (not cool). Beanie is coveting a Snuggie (what IS it with kids and those things?). Jeffrey thinks the Slap-Chop demo is the best invention EVER, and Abby wants stamps for her fingernails. Time to go look at the sheep kids!

The sheep were gone already. That’s what we get for waiting for the last three days of the Fair. The bunnies were gone too. Instead we got lots of chickens, enormous geese, some alpaca, a ton of cows and horses, baby pigs (for sale!) and, um, the aforementioned camels.

After the barn animals, the midway, the expo centers, the bungee jump and some salt water taffy, it was time to go. Waaaay past time to go. Which of course means both Beanie and Abby thought it was a great time to go all rubber-band noodle kid and liquify their bones while they turned on both the waterworks and the air-horns.

Nothing more fun that dragging three hot, tired, sugared up, crying kids through the Fair parking lot. The very big, very dusty, very hot, very stinky Fair parking lot. The car was a million degrees when we finally found it, and Bean was screaming this was the worst birthday EVER because we wouldn’t (pay $24 to) let them ride the dirty ferris wheel.

I wonder if some of my fun childhood memories were actually nightmares for my mom…

p.s. While at the grocery store last night at 11:30 to get “whipped spray creamy stuff” for Bean’s pancakes in the morning, (because of ongoing goal to ruin my kid’s birthday, right? yeah) they had the Snuggies in a display by the register. $19.95 at the Fair- $12 at Kroger.  Oh yeah. It’s wrapped and on the kitchen table right now. Becuase I love ruining my kids lives.

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Adventures in Julia’s Kitchen

This is a long one. Feel free to skip it and go eat an ice cream cone if your day is as lovely as mine. Once again, if Beanie hadn’t loooooved the sound my camera made while he manually shoved the lens, I would a) still have a camera, and b) this post would be awesomeness incarnate, with photos of my adventure and even my chopped off tip of thumb. Instead, it’s just words. I shall do my best to paint with them…

So a few nights ago, I was flipping channels and found a PBS channel showing old reruns of Julia Child’s Master Chefs. This is a fantastic show. I hardly ever find it anymore- it’s a double happy, because not only do you get Julia, but you get to see young (now famous) chef’s stammering and doing their clumsy best in front of the Queen.

This particular episode, I know now, was something of an urban fable. Nacy Silverton of La Brea Bakery was on, and she was preparing a Creme Fresh Brioche Tart with Caramelized Plums and a white wine zabaglione.  At the end of the unbelievably long and complicated recipe, when Julia tastes it, she stammers and tears up, and says aloud that she is going to cry, because this is the best dessert she has ever tasted. Wow. Nancy has been immortalized and cast in bronze, and this dessert is the urban legend of The Tart that made Julia Child Cry.

Of course, I had to make it.

At midnight, I was Google-ing “Nancy Silverton” “Crying Tart” and trying to figure out how to spell “Zabaglione”. All to no avail. Finally, I hit up PBS and Julia’s page, where it turns out, the recipe is only available in her book, Baking with Julia. I don’t have $39 to drop on a book- because really, I could already outfit a library with my cookbooks. But! I did notice you could watch video clips from the show. So I got a pencil and paper, hit play, and started writing. 

Yesterday, I used some of my precious garage-sale funds on ingredients, and got started.  I’ve never made brioche before, but when I worked in Palo Alto, there was a bakery that had the BEST brioche, and I’ve never been able to replicate it. (And for whatever else this recipe is, now I CAN make a screaming brioche)

So I’m working on the brioche dough, and realize with all the rise times, this bread won’t be ready until morning. So it’s a two-day recipe now. Whatever- that might work out better anyway. One of the labor-intensive things about a brioche dough is you have to add cold, mashed butter. If the butter is warm, the dough just gets oily. Keep it cold. So. I’m slicing butter into chunks so I can smash it with my bench scraper (it’s not as fancy as it sounds) and buttery-10″ crazy-sharp chefs knife slips from my hand and dances across my left thumb.

Oh, and another thing: My knives are wickedly, razor sharp. David hones them after each use, the way you’re supposed to do- and I adore having sharp knives. Almost always.

You’ve heard about the Ninjas with knives so sharp you can’t even feel them cut you? It’s true. The tip of my thumb and nail was GONE before I even knew it. It was so clean I actually got to watch it fill with blood. I know, gross out. Grabbing a towel, raising my hand and calling for David, I fought feeling faint. Not because I’m squeamish about blood- totally am not- but because dang, that was a lot of blood. And it was mine. Crap. Daaaavid!!

David comes down all sleepy (it was late, did I mention that?) Wha? Huh? Yeah, um, honey? I cut my thumb off- can you help me decide if this needs the doctor, or just bandage it and we play Taps for the tip? He got the first aid kit and a roll of duct tape. I kid you not. Men. After staunching the blood, we decided the piece wasn’t big enough to warrant sewing back on, and we could rig it ourselves with some Dermabond and bandages. No duct tape was used in the care of my wound.

But see, my brioche dough was only half done. David, I need your help.

David smashed all the rest of the butter and cleaned up the kitchen while me and my throbbing thumb went to bed. When I got up this morning, the dough was doubled in the fridge, and ready to go. Wooot!

Doing things with one thumb is hard. Just so you know. Thumbs are pretty significant.

Dividing the dough in half, I roll out enough to make the tart, and use the other half to made just a simple pan of bread. I made up the filling with creme fresh and eggs, then put it all in the oven. That part was easy. Next came the caramel sauce and zabaglione. Carmel sauce I can do. The only problem was, it called for white wine. I don’t have any.  Hit Google again, it says apple juice  with a splash of cider vinegar is a good substitute for white wine in recipes. That, I can do. Strike one.

Screeeeech. Stop right there. If you EVER find yourself making a recipe that takes TWO days to make, do not, DO. NOT. substitute ingredients. File away for future reference. That is all.

Caramel sauce is easy. Pot the sugar, keep it down the side to avoid seizing, and watch until it colors. No problem. What was a problem was that I also had no Tahitian vanilla beans. So I used extract. Strike two. Can you see where this is heading? Too bad I couldn’t.

See, the thing about a caramel is that you reduce it. A lot. So what started out as a tiny teaspoon of vinegar condensed into a syrup of apple vinegar that even a cup and a half of sugar couldn’t cover. So far invested in this by now, I cannot admit that the vinegar is overpowering and press on. I set aside my hot “wine” caramel sauce and separate four eggs for the zabaglione.

I have to temper the eggs with the hot caramel, and whip them over a bain marie for at least five minutes, to cook the eggs. Every cooking school student learns zabaglione the first year. It’s not hard, it just requires attention, and that you never, ever stop whisking. I can do all that. I whip and whip. And whip and whip. Then I whip some more. Nothing. It’s supposed to get thick! Putting it back over the bain-marie I cook it for another five minutes, and it finally begins to thicken. I must pat myself on the back for tempering them without cooking so much as one little curd of egg. It’s about the only thing I did right.

Whipping the caramel sauce into the warm zabaglione, I still refuse to admit it smells like vinegar. It’s yummy, dammit. It made Julia Child cry, and mine will too! (One way or another, right? Riiight! Har har har.)

Pulling the brioche from the oven, it’s a picture of perfection. It’s toasty and golden, puffy and glossy from the egg-wash and sugar crust. The creme fresh is set perfectly in the middle, and it looks awesome. Siiiigh. Thank you.

The next step is sauteing sliced firm stone-fruit in the “delicious” caramel sauce. Well, I didn’t have any plums or nectarines, so apples would have to work, right? Yeah, strike three. That and sauteing in my Vinegar Carmel. Strike four five and six.

Cutting into the tart, I call the kids and David to come sample this delightful slice of heaven I have created. On each plate, I put a small wedge of the brioche tart. I top it with the caramel-sauce sauteed apples, a dollop of the zabaglione, some fresh toasted almond slivers and a light dusting of powdered sugar. Just like Nancy Silverton. Just. Like.

Only not.

Jeffrey took one bite and spit it out. David took a bite and closed his eyes. Stomping my foot and near tears I stammer, “I worked two days on this, and you are going to enjoy it with me!” I took a bite. Oh. My. Hell.

Imagine overcooked dried out sweet rolls with mushy apples soaked in sugary vinegar with a poached egg on top. Oh yeah.


This is why I’m not a baker. I love to cook, and think I do a pretty good job. I can replicate restaurant recipes, and make a lot of food I’m told is good. But baking? Even though you do it on the same court as cooking, it’s an entirely different animal. It’s precise. It’s exact. It requires recipes not be deviated from. Not one inch. Or ingredient. This is why I am not, and never will be, a Baker.

I bet mine would have made Julia cry, too.

Almonds and Abby, Beanie and Butter

almonds5So I was upstairs taking a shower (what was I thinking?!). The boys were playing Lego and Abby was in her room. Nice and quiet. Nothing at all happening. When I got out of the shower, David and I went through some mail and then we all came downstairs. 

Evidently, Abby quietly came downstairs before us, for she had found a small tin of almonds on the counter, and they were now poured on the table.  “Who did this?” I looked at her.

“Abby did it.” she quickly volunteers. Well, at least she’s honest.

Grabbing the can, I ask her to help me clean them up- when I realize every. single. almond is wet, and completely devoid of salt. She had sucked on each almond, and deposited them in a neat pile.

What does one say to that? Anyone remember this? *sigh*

Introducing Ernie

ernieMy husband is nuts. He’s lost it. Remember Stella? Turns out Stella is a boy, and David just calls him Birdie now. He also carries him around the house in his cage, has him hand-tamed so all the kids can hold Birdie on their shoulders and cuts up fresh fruit and veggies for him every morning. 

Two days ago, I sent him to the post office, and he came home with another bird. The pet store is right across the street from the post office, and he strongly felt Stella-Birdie needed a friend.  Thus enters Ernie.

Ernie is a baby parakeet, she is lovey and sweet and doesn’t bite or peck at anyone, and as I write, David is heckling me for putting up a fake picture of his new Birdie. He’s eating a banana and teasing me, suggesting this cute illustration (which looks a ton like Ernie) is tantamount of putting up some random picture of a redheaded kid and calling it my son. I laughed at him. What say you, mamas?

He’s mumbling something now about needing a dog. I’m scared. There’s a cardboard sign down at the corner from someone selling puppies. Great Dane puppies…

I’m not letting him leave the house.

Connerie Au Hasard

Because blogging in the middle of the night is always a great idea! What’s with the insomnia lately? It’s sttress, (see, I’m not going to fix that typo, because even my fingers are stuttering) I know, but seriously, 3:34 a.m. and I’m all hot and sweaty and bothered. No, not from that; from cleaning out my pantry. Oh yes, because one cannot sleep when the messy pantry is calling. Never-mind the dishes in the sink, or the laundry monster creeping and twisting down the hall like some possessed half-zombie. Nope. The pantry.

My pantry is really more of  New York apartment. I’d lay money, somewhere in Manhattan is a sap with his twin mattress crammed into a closet smaller than where we keep our food. Food is important. And since my children were apparently born in a barn, and like to hoof up to the trough and eat from the box, the floor, the shelves or anywhere there might be a morsel of twinkie, my pantry looks like a sty.

I clean, organize and label, then my children go in and do gleeful piggy rolls while they throw boxes of cereal in the air, dance on cheezy puffy nuclear niblets and smear chocolate syrup on their rosy complexions with wild abandon.

That really is the only explanation.

So, I figure, since it’s the middle of the night, I’ve got about four hours where it will actually stay clean. With the newly added doorknob prophylactic, I may get another five minutes of clean.

My RS president came over today (yesterday? yes? yesterday.) and we took apart my sewing machine. It was like watching two chimpanzees try and figure out a how to fix a submarine (or some equally absurd metaphor).  Let’s unscrew this, and take that off, and if we could juuuuuust pop this thingy off, oh crap! I dropped the screw… what’s this do? No! Let me unplug it first! You think this paperclip will stand in for a screwdriver? Now where ‘d that little black thing go? Maybe  if I could just… uh-oh…

After about an hour, we managed to get the Genie back in the bottle, and agreed repairing Berninas is better left to the professionals. If you’ve never seen the insides, trust me, there are lots and lots of circuit boards, wires and little tiny thingys. Makes me want to oil up my treadle machine and give it a whirl- that’s just feet-powered. If I gave Beanie a whole bag of M&M’s, you think maybe…? Nah….maybe

This afternoon, David comes in the bedroom while I am doing a breathing treatment (asthma’s been particularly bad lately) In his hand were two empty Kotex tampon plastic thingys. He holds them out, ” Guess where I got these?”

“Oh no.”

David, looking a little green around the gills, “The boys were using them as trombone whistles.”

“Oh no… Ewwwwwww.”

*snerkle* Can disgust and giggles inhabit the same space at the same time? Gross. Ah, bribery, such a sweet thing in a bout 10 years.

Never Underestimate Your Two Year Old

So this afternoon, David and I decided to walk together to the bus stop to pick up Beanie. It’s crisp and cool here, and we were both feeling a little overwhelmed after discussing finances. The cold air would be good, and we could hold hands and pretend everything is fine for a few minutes. We told Jeffrey we’d be right back, and headed four houses up the street to stand on the corner and wait for the bus.

The bus was late. Like 10 minutes late, but we did enjoy being alone for those 10 minutes. We don’t get much alone time these days, and it was nice. We could see the house the whole time, and Jeffrey and Abby were both watching a cartoon when we left. What could go wrong, right? Right.

Bean got off the bus, we walked home, Bean and Jeff were playing in the living room, and I was muddling around in the kitchen. David called me from the stairs- and when he calls me “Tracy”, I know something very not good is happening. When I got upstairs, this is what I saw:


What is that? Aside from a very unmade bed… Let’s look closer, shall we?


Is it…is that… an egg? Eggs? Really? In MY bed? What the…




Home and Poop

Or, Two Great Things That Go Great Together, At Least In My Family

mmcookieThe flight home last night was easy and except for the last 25 minutes or so, Bean did fantastic. Play-Doh is a great therapy session on the airplane fold-down tray, and it even afforded me the luxury of a few minutes browsing in the Sky Mall Magazine. Does anyone buy anything from those? I mean really- just opening to a random page here- is the market that hot for: a talking Yankee stadium alarm clock? or a mascara warming oven guaranteed to heat your mascara better than a hairdryer? or how about a magnetic field generator for aging wine quickly? Someone must be buying this crap. But who?

What was I saying? Oh, yeah- the flight was good. Bean was good. The whole trip was good, actually. It was quick, and I didn’t have time to really connect with anyone but my immediate family, but it was a happy trip. We had a big surprise 30th birthday party for my brother Eric. (Remember dinner? Or the Poop Balls?) There was also much time spent noodling and nosing my darling new nephew, whom Bean loved. The weather was crummy, so we spent time inside, but grandma rigged a swing for Bean and all was happy and calm. Relatively.

My cousin Michael decided to introduce someone he is dating to the family- for the very first time. Ever. Like, as in, never introduced anyone, and thought, hey, a party with 45 family members is as good a time as any, right? To his credit, all went well, but I have never seen Michael more nervous in my life. And to Vince, his date’s credit, he rolled with the overwhelming family-deep-end with panache and grace. Even when my brother pulled out the laptop to show him what we found online the day before…

To fully understand, I have to go into the back story. No, even further… So Bean and CJ, my other darling nephew, were enjoying a fine Mickey Mouse cookie Grandma brought from Disneyland. Cookies, mind you, with lots and lots of black icing. Yummmm- especially for just-5 and almost 4 year-old boys.

The next day, brother Eric comes by Mom’s with CJ, and the subject, per normal, turns to poop. (What, that doesn’t happen at your house?) He tells me CJ had a really, really green poop. So green, he documents the green-ness with a photo on his iPhone- which he proceeds to pull out and pass around. Uh-huh, yeah, wow- that really is green. What would you call it? I dunno, looks like a shamrock green to me. Or maybe like a crayon. We speculated on why poop would be virtually glowing. And, like all seeking wisdom, I popped open the notebook and Googled “green poop causes”…

Turns out it can be caused by many things, but mostly by food color- ahhhhhhh, yes, the mountains of black food color metabolize as green, and suddenly the line between Disneyland cookies and nuclear poop becomes clear. The site was actually rather fascinating, but what caught my eye was a small ad for something called the Turd Twister. Hmmmm, what could that be?


(you know you woulda wanted to)

ttWhat followed was half an hour of red-faced, laughing so hard my stomach ached and my make-up all ran off from the shedding of mirthful tears. We were laying on the floor we were laughing so hard. We were taking turns reading aloud because the other couldn’t catch their breath. Yeah, it’s that good. Well, at least if you think poop is funny. We do.

So, anyway, back to the party. Michael is there with his date, and brother Eric gets out the laptop in my mom’s formal living room and proceeds to read the whole site to Vince. Welcome to the family, dude. Sink or swim.

The Turd Twister.

You know you wanna… come on… (there are no pictures, and it’s not graphic, but it is a real product). We settled on “spaghetti” being the, um, funnest…. (and I’ll KNOW who clicks! Muah-Hahahahaha!)

A Little Story About Abby

You might see this little girl and think, “Aw, she’s pretty dang cute!” Then, as she got closer, you might find yourself thinking, “What the crap? What’s that all over her face?”

…Much like I did. “Abby, what have you been doing?” (thinking, oh man, I am in soooo much trouble in about ten years…)

No, my darling, hiding under the desk is definately NOT the answer. She looks up at me, adoring little pixie face, and sweetly chirps “Mama, make up!” You don’t say… I never would have guessed, Sweetie.

Ten thousand magical beans for whoever can name the Urban Decay pallette she got into… Girlfriend has good taste, what can I say?

Random Crap: T2 Edition

Holy crap, what a freaking week. And it’s not even over yet- today is teacher-prep day, and the kids are all home from school, too. What? Because the teacher needs a quiet extra day with no kids to get anything done? I don’t understand. Have mercy and let me have a mama-prep day!

T2 has been a pretty good kid, and other than the furniture moving episode of day 1, he’s been great. He and Beanie are more than the sum of their parts, but that’s typical for two little boys. They’ve gotten up on the counter and raided the candy jar, but dumb-on-me for having a candy jar. They’ve played outside in their jammies before I even woke up one morning, but the only casualty from that was socks that will never, ever be white again.

I went to the Temple Tuesday night, and it was the only peace and quiet I’ve had all week.

Last night was my quilters-guild meeting, and I had forgotten that this month was AT MY HOUSE. Yes, last night, eighteen ladies met in my living room, complete with petit-fours and hors d’oeuvres. I ran around like a chicken with my head off yesterday, between carpool, soccer practice, cleaning the house, managing four kids and a husband without a job.

Yesterday I got up at 4 a.m. because Abby had peed the bed and was cold and wet- so I took advantage of being up and went to the market to get all the stuff for my little forgotten party. Can I just give a shout out to Sara Lee cheesecake bites? Yum, cheating, and easy. My kind of snack. I never did get around to sewing my part of the quilt this month, so I promised to do it today and hand deliver.

Before next Friday, I have two bridesmaids dresses to make. I haven’t even started cutting them out. Guess what I’m doing this weekend?

Beanies meeting was this week, too. That wasn’t emotional at all. I’m fine.

Jeffrey had two field trips at school, and the teacher send home a note begging for a chaperon. Sorry, but something had to give, and I’m afraid it was my will to chaperon. He came home fine, so I’m assuming someone stepped up who was not me.

There was a bridal shower for a friend that I totally forgot about until it was over, and my other quilt group is having it’s annual retreat at a cabin out by the lake this weekend. While I originally signed up to attend, I’ll be a no-show. There is just no way I can take off for the weekend, leaving my husband to tend the house and hearth. He’s almost as ragged as I am- not that he is stressed about anything at all. Oh no. Ten months and counting today… The weight of the world my friends, the weight of the world.