Cucumber Crap & Chicken Pies

Dear Grace,

Lucy! What a little mischief-maker! But she is just so cute, how can you even get mad at her?

I am sure I mention this frequently, but Abe and I are trying to get healthier. I think we would be doing better if I found any joy whatsoever from cooking healthy food. One week we ate nothing but chicken and rice. I wanted to die. Then I baked some cookies and all was right with the world. Then I gained back the five pounds I had lost. I am in a constant battle with the same five pounds. Go me!

The other day, Abe brought home some exotic healthy juices that sneak vegetables into the concoction. This particular brand was “It Tastes Raaw” and Abe selected the pineapple cucumber variety. I was doing things around the house when Abe called me to the living room to try this amazing juice. It smelled like cucumbers and dirty socks and tasted worse. It certainly did taste raaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwrrrrrr. We immediately threw both bottles away.

That weekend, Netflix acquired two new seasons of my favorite show: The Great British Bake Off. Abe and I spent our weekend watching delightfully polite British people bake amazing breads and pastries. Naturally I was inspired, and decided (at Abe’s request) to try a chicken pie recipe and make puff pastry from scratch. Despite my poor photography and amateur baking skills, they turned out AMAZING. I was just tickled with myself. The pastry had this amazing flakiness and it was just so darn delicious. All that butter just made a world of difference between these and an American chicken pot pie. Hearing the sound of the pastry flaking was even more enjoyable than eating them. I used this Mini Creamy and Cheesy Chicken Pie recipe from The Flavor Blender, and I also used her puff pastry recipe. 

 

 

 

 

 

The recipe took some time to make (mainly because of the pastry), and I wish I had a larger dough cutter (mine is about 2″ in diameter), but they were amazing nevertheless. I will probably make them again, but will most likely keep them as a special occasion food.

It all boils down to this: Healthy food is terrible and butter makes everything better.

Love Always,

Millie

Cookie Day

Dear Grace,

My first week of Christmas Break has been wonderful. Today a school friend and I got together to for a cookie baking day, and besides the nuisance of hauling my KitchenAid in and out of my car, it was a great day. No disasters whatsoever. It was even a rainy day so it was perfect for cookies.

I made these peanut butter cookies, which are absolutely perfect every time and stay soft for days. I expect to be baking much more in the next couple of days for treats for friends and neighbors, and Abe and I are in charge of the whole Christmas dinner for his family so I will be in my kitchen for the next three days at least.

With regards to the #LightTheWorld prompt for today, I am grateful for you. I have a lot to be grateful for in my life, but I have an exceptionally wonderful family. I feel so lucky to have a big sister like you who is my best example and my best friend. And I am so lucky you wanted to write a blog with me. I love you, Gracie!

 

Merry Christmas Week,

Millie

Post Thanksgiving Reflection (Never Satisfied)

Dear Grace,

I think we ought to keep a tally of how many people unwittingly call you a grandmother. How is that even possible?

The aftermath of Thanksgiving has been unusually satisfying. It was our first at Dutchman House and although I missed going to Hometown to be with Mumsie and Pops and having our usual pit turkey and recklessly participating in the Hometown Turkey Trot, it was lovely having our first big holiday at home.

Jake & Cara (the brother and sister-in-law who can) came and stayed for a couple of days and at first I was anxious about Dutchman House’s lack of decorations and the fact that Cara always looks perfect, but honestly everything went great. And now I’m anxious about the fact that everything went without a hitch that maybe I was blind to the hitches . . . But honestly, we had a full turkey and a spiral ham and my homemade rolls (I’ll put the recipe below) and mashed potatoes and three pies and Cara made these green beans that were like crack and it was all amazing. Something should have gone wrong. The turkey should have been too dry or the rolls should have burned, but no, nothing went wrong. We even all went to the movies after dinner and Chloe the world’s most dramatic three-year-old only disturbed the people around us by being too excited about the monsters in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Why did nothing go wrong? Now I am nervous that the perfection of Thanksgiving means Christmas at Dutchman House with Abe’s family will be a disaster.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Love Always,

Millie

Crescent Rolls

  • 2 potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. butter (softened)
  1. Place potatoes in a saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool, and mash.
  2. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  3. When yeast is ready, mix in 1 cup mashed potatoes, sugar, shortening, eggs, salt, and 3 cups flour. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough has become stiff but still pliable. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and up to 5 days.
  4. Deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, and form into rounds. Roll out each round to a 12 inch circle. Brush generously with melted butter, and cut each circle into 16 wedges. Roll wedges up tightly, starting with the large end. Place on lightly greased baking sheets with the points underneath, and the ends bent to form a crescent shape. Cover, and let rise for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Muffins. And Recitals. In the Opposite Order.

Dear Millie,

Both those recipes are fantastic!  The roasted cauliflower is one of my favorite recipes ever in the history of the world (and you know how much food means to me)!  The Man Salad.  I am not big on salad to begin with, so the fact that I even HAD the recipe to begin with says something!  It’s called Man Salad because men actually like it.  Abe proves it yet again!  I got the recipe from our sister-in-law.  She’s the sister who CAN!

Kyle, Paul, and Truman had their first piano recital this weekend.  As I was waiting for it to start, I realized that I could FaceTime Mumsie and Pops and they could watch it with us!  I quickly called and they were available, so being the doting grandparents they are, they sat through lots of beginning piano songs (including “Myrtle the Turtle” and “The Funny Bunny”)…you know, since they didn’t get enough of that with all of us kids.  I was very proud of how well the boys (and grandparents) did.  Because I was using my phone to FaceTime and Gordon was wrangling Lucy and Vanessa, a friend of mine offered to take video with Gordon’s phone.  I only just now watched the clips and realized why Mumsie and Pops may have been so entertained.  The video of Paul also includes a view of a kid on the front row who was digging in his nose the ENTIRE time!  HA!

Speaking of Paul, I have a recipe that he particularly loved.  The rest of us did, too!  You know those giant chocolate muffins from Costco a certain sister of ours used to bring to family reunions?  Sure, everyone liked the banana nut or blueberry ones too, but those…YES.  This recipe is a lot like those!  Possibly better?  You’ll have to try them yourself!  I’d definitely recommend chocolate chunks.  They’re SO good!  I think I got 18 out of the recipe?  I filled them up pretty full, too.  Vanessa helped make them and we had them ready when the boy got home from school.  They had their chores done in no time at all!  Awesome.  Paul describing the Double Chocolate Chunk Muffins said, “It’s like a celebration in a wrapper!”  Moments later, a chunk fell out of the muffin and he exclaimed, “My muffin just pooped!”

You could use the muffins to bribe your Cub Scouts.  And if they don’t behave, you can eat theirs.  In front of them.  With a big glass of milk.  But not a glass of milk from my house, because when I have the kids help with dishes, my glasses of milk look like this:

If you come visit, I will wash all of the dishes, I promise!

Love,

Grace

A Win for the Vegetables

Dear Grace,
Oh how we miss our sweet little Lucy! Abe tries not to have favorites, but I can tell he has a special place in his heart for Lucy. He gets a twinkle in his eye anytime she is mentioned. And thank you for your confidence in my future Shakespeare-quoting adams-babychildren. But taking into account that they will be at least partially like their father, it’s likely any child created between Abe and myself will be wielding a gun in one hand and a book in the other.

This week has been a busy one, and will become busier with the coming of the end of the semester. I have final exams to prepare a dance recital to put on and a host of other things to keep up with. But somehow it always works itself out, doesn’t it? Somehow I always survive even though I swear every year that “this time the stress is really going to kill me!”

With all the sitting around that comes with one’s spouse having knee surgery, it is no surprise that Abe and I have perhaps put on a few (more than a few) pounds. Abe has a good excuse to be sitting, and I sit merely for sympathy’s sake. So in an attempt to get even slightly healthier, I tricked Abe into eating some vegetables this week. Thank you for sharing both these recipes with me, because they were both a big hit with my anti-vegetable husband.

Roasted Cauliflower

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (peeled and coarsely minced)
  • lemon juice from half a lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the cauliflower into florets and put in a single layer in an oven-proof baking dish (13×9 should do the trick). Toss in the garlic. Sprinkle lemon juice over cauliflower and drizzle each piece with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are lightly brown. Test with a fork for desired tenderness. Remove from the oven and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. (Serves 4. Or just me.)

 

Man Salad

Dressing:

  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil (or 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/4 canola oil, just not all olive oil)
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

Mix ingredients together and let sit in the fridge for an hour.

Salad:

  • 2 bags romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 c. mozzarella
  • 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan
  • 8 strips crumbled bacon
  • croutons to top off

Mix everything together right before serving. Make sure to get all of the dressing, especially the stuff that settles on the bottom. Serve immediately.

The cauliflower is my favorite, but Abe said and I quote “I could eat this salad everyday.” This coming from the man who refuses any food if it is green in color. Of course the salad was helped along by the cheese and bacon, and I also added some shredded chicken because we ate the salad as our dinner and Abe looked so forlorn when I told him I was making a salad for dinner.

We may have dressed up our vegetables with extra meat and cheese, but I am still counting this one as a victory in that regard.

Love Always,

Millie

P.S. You and Gordon absolutely have to watch The Crown on Netflix. Abe and I love it. Thank goodness my husband lets me indulge in my British obsessions.

Hate Crimes

Dear Millie,

Of course you bought the best candy!  Will no one else think of the children?

Your mailbox stalker is most perplexing.  Have you even met your mailman?  How would he know of your love for Billy Bard?  Are you certain it wasn’t Abe?  That’d be a sweet thing for him to do.  But if it’s not him, I’m not sure if I’d be delighted, befuddled, amused, or genuinely freaked out.  At any rate, perhaps you can save the book for your children who (dare I even suggest) may be born without the ability to read?  Never mind, never mind, I take it back!  Of course YOUR children will be born reading (and quoting!) Shakespeare.  Maybe donate the book to a poor soul whose child isn’t born sonneting?

My fantastically mulleted Lucy reminds me of Boo on Monsters, Inc.  She can talk a bit and she gallops and hops and jumps around laughing and giggling, and her bobbing, curled mullet just delights to no end.  Recently, she was in the kitchen playing.  I’m not sure why we needed to keep it quiet, but she was being a crouched little ball while holding a finger to her smiling lips and whispering, “Shhhhh, shhhhh,” (her little “shhh” sounds more like a little happy hiss).  Then she’d explode into an open-armed X-shape while yelling, “YAY!!!”  She’d quickly crouch back down and do it over and over and I couldn’t even ask her to stop.

Lucy loves to race.  She ropes her siblings and Gordon (and random visitors) into racing with her all the time.  They start at a door or a wall and run across the room or around the staircase and back to the starting point or whatever she chooses.  “Way, seh, doh!”  The best part is that winning doesn’t matter.  All the participants getting to the goal or performing their part is what matters.

Election Night, we had patriotic waffles.  Let’s pretend they looked like these:

Ours were rectangular though.  And cut up for the kids.  Okay fine, they looked more, ahhh, mutilated with vague referential Americana coloring.  We felt very patriotic at any rate, especially Paul who ate all his waffles plain.

One recent afternoon, the boys were talking about how peaceful our country is and how we don’t have to worry about crime or war here in the US.  I hated to burst their bubble, but I told them that just because we don’t see it, the problems are still there…even in our wonderful community.  At some point, I said something about ‘gangs with violence’ and 1st-grader Truman was completely baffled.  I tried to explain in other terms and he started asking weird questions about double basses and violas.  It turned out he thought I’d said, “Gangs with violins.”  HA!  Imagine people showing up and angrily playing Mahler at you!  Incessant playing of Pachelbel’s Canon in D would be considered a hate crime!

This is completely off topic (I hear you saying, “What was the topic?”), but thank you so much for categorizing our letters!  I couldn’t come up with tags to begin with.

Me trying to tag things: “Uhhhh…’blog’.  ‘Blog…POST?'”

By the way, I was tickled to see that people had found our letters and was surprised when someone commented (though I guess not really, because we did leave this open to the public and also left the comments open).  Then I saw that most of our views were from Russia, and the comments were spam.  We’ve gotten some in French, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, and English.  We’ve attracted spam bots worldwide!  Nonetheless, somebotty (*chortle*) has certainly found our letters to be helpful: “This piece was a lifejacket that saved me from drowning.”

I don’t think I’ve ever shared one of our favorite dinner recipes with you.  So, SO easy and it’s scrumptious!  It’s Slow Cooker Chicken and Gravy at The Magical Slow Cooker.  I first saw it at Real Mom Kitchen, who had adjusted the amount of water and has pepper to taste instead of measured out.  Either way, you need this on your menu this very week!  Perfect for Sundays and/or busy nights.  We had it for dinner last night and after I went out to do a visit, I came back home and had seconds (and you know I’m not fond of leftovers!).  We usually have it over mashed potatoes the first night and if there are leftovers (not very often), we have it over rice with cheese and pineapple and/or whatever else we have lying around (green onions, olives, etc.).  I’ve also added a can of green chiles to the leftovers and we had that over rice with cheese.  And possibly sour cream.  I think that’d work for burritos–the chile in the leftovers, I mean–if you use the lesser water amount and do 2lbs. of chicken instead of 1lb.  Or just have it over mashed potatoes again because we’ve also done that and loved it a second night in a row.  Anyway!  There’s your lifejacket for the day.  🙂

Lots o’ love,

Grace

Our Halloween (Because I Am Avoiding Thinking About the Election)

Dear Millie,

Abe’s leg is worrisome!  I hope they can figure out what’s going on.  Maybe he just needs a vacation to the Midwest?  You know it’s hunting season and if nothing else, it’d soothe his soul!

How did your meeting with the head honchos go?  You should have your students decorate your classroom.  In high school choir, we were divided up in groups and given different color posterboard and had to come up with something to put on them–inspirational quotes, pictures, etc.  It was a lot of fun and it turned out great!  There’s the time I decided we needed to decorate the dilapidated music classroom I had…that’s a fun story for another time!  It was me doing it though, so we can just skip to the end and know that it was a disaster.  😉

Did you know there’s such a thing as Election Cake?  And that the elections used to include a lot more food, parties, bonfires, etc.?  I think that needs to happen.  If only for the food!  Ha ha!  Danelle over at Let’s Dish Recipes posted a recipe for Old Fashioned Election Cake and included a little history of it.  Fun!

Other election-type fun: when the kids had some friends over and they put together this White House Cookie Kit from Trader Joe’s!

img_0810

I know it looks like I put it together.  The kids come by their talent naturally!  🙂  Shout out to the faboo missionary (you know who you are!) who picked this up for us.  That was a great time!

The boys had Thursday and Friday off from school before Halloween, so their classroom “Fall Celebrations” were held on Wednesday.  Kyle had decided to be Link from The Legend of Zelda.  One of our nephews had dressed up as Link a few years ago, so I tried to get our sister to send me the costume she’d made for him.  No dice.  “It’s so easy!  Just sew this and this and two triangles for the hat and add a belt and bam!”  My sewing skills are exactly nada.  Amazon to the rescue!  We ordered the week before the class party, and it said it’d be here Tuesday.  Perfect!

Tuesday came and no package.  I checked the account and YAY the package was on its way!

costume-order-fail

What.  “On time,” it says.  The day AFTER the party!  Lame.  I didn’t know what to tell Kyle, so I employed Step 2 of your recommended steps to dealing with unfortunate situations and waited for Gordon to break the news.  He was late coming home because he was attending a Gamer Club thingie for Workplace.  They gave out free t-shirts and he came home with a red one with bright neon green lettering all over the front.  I told him about the costume situation and he approached Kyle, who was understandably disappointed, and then Gordon said, “But look!  You could go as a gamer!”  The shirt was pretty ghastly and I tried to smile encouragingly as I said, “That’d be cool!”  Kyle snatched the shirt and said that’d be the best thing ever!  If I’d known I could’ve gotten away with a free t-shirt for a costume, well…things might’ve been cheaper!

Paul and Truman really, really wanted to be their Mii characters.  I was so stressed about how to make that happen.  They both happened to need pants, so I was out shopping, and whaddya know, they had pants in the exact same color as their Mii characters!  I realized that I had a long-sleeve black shirt in Truman’s size that I bought last year for super cheap.  I went looking for a blue one in Paul’s size, and they had one for $2!  I couldn’t figure out how to get their Mii faces from the Nintendo to the computer to the printer, so that’s where Gordon’s genius came in.  I don’t know what he did, but anyway, we just printed out the faces on card stock.  Brilliant!  I cut out the eye holes with my eyebrow razor because I’m so crafty with tools and everything.  😉

TrumanPaul

I’m also really good at getting pictures set up nicely on here.  Ha!  But isn’t that fun?  They had a Halloween thing at a senior care center on Saturday, and we just used duct tape to keep the cutouts on their faces.  Ha!  On Halloween, I used yarn to tie them around their heads so they could pull them up while wandering around and then back on their faces when approaching a door.  I have yarn!  And I used it to craft a Halloween costume!

People are awesome.  Besides the general feel-goodness of Halloween and people doing such nice things for children, two specific examples:

  1. The senior care center was such a fun experience.  The residents were just delighted to see all the children come in and the kids were so cute relishing the attention.
  2. The first house we went to for trick-or-treating didn’t have candy.  The guy’s fiancée pulled in just as we were heading out.  They’d miscommunicated who was supposed to pick it up (he’d also pulled in a minute or two before we showed up) and they felt so bad!  We laughed and wished them a good night, then went on our merry way.  We’d been going about a half hour and the fiancee’s car came around a corner from a few streets over and drove right up to us.  They’d obviously been driving around trying to track us down.  The guy jumped out of the car and had the kids take handfuls of candy!  He apologized for having not been ready when we came by, and we parents just stood there getting teary-eyed.

We got probably five trick-or-treaters, which is probably five more than last year.  Gordon let the kids who came take handfuls of candy.  I don’t think he was too disappointed to have a giant bowlful leftover.  The girls too.  Vanessa fell in some mud just after we’d run back into the couple from the first house and she was not going to knock on a single door with mud on her Doc McStuffins costume (thank you to friends with massive dress-up bins!), and thusly had much fewer pieces of candy (not even half!) than the boys.  Lucy was having none of this dressing up business, so she stayed home and ate candy with Gordon.

I told you about the butternut squash quandary…lots of squash and not knowing what to do with it?  I made something the kids even LIKED last night!  We don’t have a Trader Joe’s close by, so I can’t say whether this copycat version of their Harvest Pasta Sauce is close, but it IS good!  Check it out at melskitchencafe.com.  We added a little salt and pepper to our individual liking and of course added parmesan.  I even forgot to set the pressure cooker seal on, so it was halfway through cooking while the vent was open when I realized.  It was nearly 8:00 as it was and I thought it’d probably end up being a cold cereal night.  I reset the seal and turned it on for half the cook time, and it still turned out great!  Thank goodness for forgiving recipes.  Kyle said he wished he could eat eight plates of it, so there’s a pretty good endorsement.  The kids thought it was just an oranger (is that a word?  It should be!) pasta sauce, and never caught on that the flavors included butternut squash and pumpkin.  Win!

You should send me your pizza dough recipe!  What kind of pizza did you end up making last night?  I was surprised to hear Abe is such a pizza lover.  I guess I just don’t picture him enjoying a margherita pizza (and maybe he doesn’t!  Maybe he just likes it piled high with meat!).  At any rate, I’d love your recipe!

Love,

Grace

Date with Disaster

Dear Millie,

Date with disaster!  Ah ha haaaa!  Oh, you kill me!  I’m stealing that.

And hey!  Your blankets don’t look too shabby.  At least the fabric is cute?  And the pom poms?  I think your colors are better than the tutorial, if that makes anything better.

Picture day!  It was definitely memorable.  Since it happened to be my wee one’s birthday, we opened gifts to start the day.  She tossed the dress I’d picked out for her and kept rummaging disappointedly through the gift bag.  Win!  ??  I convinced/bribed the children to get dressed in the outfits we’d picked for the occasion and we headed out.  I wore flip flops because 1. I’m so fashionable, and 2. the blisters!  At least I was able to walk again, albeit not comfortably nor gracefully.

The van ride over was filled with every sort of lame joke, bathroom-related sound effect, and excited talking to be sure the children were all in happy moods.  We arrived on time for our appointment (even a couple of minutes early, if you can believe that!).  I’d grabbed a cart in the parking lot so I could better corral my children (okay fine, and so that I could use it as an inconspicuous walker).  Another set of (CUTE!) kids and their mom were already there taking pictures.  One of those cute kids was a newborn and he was not cooperating, so they were trying all kinds of tricks.

We were there waiting a good long while and everyone was behaving spectacularly.  Except then we were still waiting and my feet were starting to have issues.  The 2yo was reaching the end of her patience quota, the 4yo was telling me loudly that it was OUR turn and WHY was it taking so long??, the 6yo was running circles around the cart, the 8yo was doing some kind of kangaroo/T-rex hopping/screeching thing, and the 10yo was trying to pretend we were all just doing what we should.  The mom mouthed, “Sorry!” to me and the photographer and assistant/receptionist (the one with the “Disaster” tattoo) said they’d be with us in just a few minutes.  I felt bad glancing at my watch, but it had been nearly 20 minutes and we were running out of time.  Not that I had anywhere to be, but there’s a window where things come together and then it just…doesn’t.  You miss that window, and it’s over, my friend!  I’d had the kids perfectly coiffed and pumped up for our appointed time and things were caving.

The mom felt terrible that we’d had to wait so long and I assured her that it was just fine.  I don’t think she’d gotten what she wanted, because they hung around while we tried to set up.  They set the background up and positioned the older kids and by then, the 2yo had had it.  She was wailing.  I set her in the group and stepped away and she’d come running after me.  I tried sitting just off to the side with my arm stretched out holding her hand (or maaaybe forcing her to stay there).  No good.  The photographer was not very helpful (why wasn’t she trying any tricks with my cute kids as she had with her previous customer?) and she asked what I could do to get the 2yo to stay put and smile.  I assumed that was her job?  My mistake!

The other children were trying their best to be patient and it just went on and on with the photographer sighing loudly and tapping her foot while I repeatedly placed the 2yo in the frame.  I told the photographer I’d just like the picture and I didn’t mind if my daughter was crying.  There!  She’s there!  Everyone is looking and it’s actually kind of funny!  Please just take the picture!  The assistant/receptionist came over and tried to give my poor girl a stuffed bear.  She calmed down and the photographer said, “Oh!  I think she must just be freaked out by me!  Here, see if you can get a good picture.”  She handed the camera to the stunned Disaster girl (we’ll call her D) and walked off.  And then she left to get a soda.

D wasn’t sure how to hold the camera.  She knelt down and tried to get the children to all look at her.  She took several pictures and I could see on the monitor that none of them were centered, and that her finger had blocked the lens on a few of them.  I know they do editing afterward, so I was trying to not be worried, but three of the images did not include heads on my older children and another couple didn’t include at least one of my children at all.  Technology is amazing, but I was a little nervous about how they’d manage to pull an image together.

The photographer had returned by this point and seemed exasperated that we were still there.  Another group had arrived and the mom with the newborn was there and instead of taking over the camera, the photographer set her soda down and went to the register.  There were people gathered at the front who needed to be attended to, after all!

My 2yo by this time was screaming.  She could not be consoled.  I tried holding her and talking softly in her ear for a minute, but she was having none of it.  She wanted off the set.  I calmly told the camera-holding girl that I would very much like a photograph to be taken of my children as soon as I set my little girl down and got out of the frame and that I didn’t care what it looked like.  She looked at me wide-eyed and nodded and I looked at my children.  My oldest was doing his best to keep a smile on but it was coming off like a creeper.  The 8 and 6yo boys were wiggling around and were clearly done.  The 4yo was sitting on the bench with her arms folded and she was scowling.  I smiled and told them that this was it!  We really just needed one picture.  Everybody smile!

I set the 2yo down and she lost it.  I was backing up to quickly get out of the frame and knew that there was a board under the backdrop that I’d need to step over.  I felt the back of it with my flip flop and lifted my water balloon foot, but the flip flop caught and I slammed down on the blisters so I wouldn’t trip, but then I did anyway, so I reached my left hand out to grab onto the counter but I missed and grabbed onto something metal and I was falling and the metal thing I’d grabbed was part of the printer and it broke off and I came crashing down in flailing slow motion and naturally the metal tray didn’t land flat, it landed facing up so it sliced the webbing between my thumb and index finger and (sorry for the graphic) scrunched the skin accordion-style as it did its damage.

“Whoa,”  the photographer said.  “Oops?” was all I could say, and I set the metal tray on the counter.  I grabbed some tissues and jammed it in my hand so the kids wouldn’t know what had happened.  I’d apparently startled the girl holding the camera when I fell, so the photograph she’d taken had the girls’ heads from about the bottom lip up, the boys above them, and then a lot of empty space above them.  Awesome.

I asked if we could maybe come back later as the other mom had.  The photographer turned with an exasperated look and said, “30 minutes.  These guys have been waiting,” and she gestured to the group who had been witness to one of my life’s crowning moments.

I thanked her, gathered my children into and next to the cart, and we left.  I was trying not to limp and the 2yo was just at her wits end.  We walked away and I picked her up and let her snuffle into my shoulder, leaving a wet blob on my shirt.  I had bled through the tissues I had.  Luckily, a girl from church was walking toward us.  I asked if she could stay with the kids for a minute while I used the restroom.  I hobbled to the restroom with the 2yo and did my best to wash up my hand while holding her.  I glanced in the mirror and was sorry I had.  I looked like I’d come through a terrible ordeal.  Well!  Not as bad as a pregnant grandma, eh?  I squeezed some paper towels in my hand to help with the bleeding and returned to the cart.

I couldn’t walk very well anyway and my feet were giving in.  I tried making small talk with the girl and ended up agreeing to anything and everything she said because I couldn’t think straight enough to do otherwise.  That conversation is how I ended up driving her to and fro and hearing about her potato picking adventures.  I know you can’t wait to hear about that!

I’d done my shopping the weekend before and the only thing I could think of that we needed were mousetraps.  We walked clear across the store to the place where they carry them, and there was an empty space where they used to be.  The time was nearly up, so we made our way back to the portrait studio.  My feet were killing me and my hand was throbbing.  I smiled at the mom with the newborn who was with D having her pictures printed off.  The other group finished up and it was our turn.  The photographer took over the printer and waved for D to finish up with us.  I told the kids we could be done really quickly if everyone cooperated.  The younger boys were completely wound up and were hopping around.  My 4yo rolled her eyes.  As soon as we stepped onto the set, the 2yo started screaming again.  Big, heavy sobs.

I assured D that I just wanted a nice-colored, centered picture, not necessarily with smiling children in it.  She just shook her head and when I saw the kids, I pointed and said, “Now!”  The bulbs flashed and I knew we had a masterpiece.

The photographer was now filling up helium balloons in the front to put around the entrance and my 4yo wanted one.  The photographer scowled at her, because these were for advertising, not for clients!  D quietly filled a few and handed them to the kids and tried to get pictures with them holding them, but the girls’ blocked the boys and no one could focus on the camera when there were bobbing balloons.  The 8yo was yawning in one of the pictures.  I announced we were done and I would like to just print some pictures.  The children immediately brightened and started playing.  The 2yo had calmed down but was so exhausted from all her crying that she just laid right down on the bench with the stuffed bear.

The photographer had left again.  D pushed her glasses up on her nose and squinted at the screen.  “I’m not sure we have ones we can work with.  Do you want to try again?” she asked.  NO.  She wanted to try some enhancements and maybe softer sides.  I was trying not to be rude, but her color enhancements were terrible.  I did my best to kindly point out exactly what we wanted, over and over, with no special enhancements or color treatments, please.  When she finally narrowed it down to her recommendations and the one I insisted on, she asked for my final selection.  I picked one of hers to humor her, and then I got what I wanted.  She hit print.  Nothing happened.  She jiggled some wires behind the printer and turned a circle and leaned around the corner to see if the photographer was anywhere nearby.  Nope.  She tried a few other things and the photographer finally returned.  “This will take awhile.  Why don’t you go shop or something?”

I’d already wandered around for half an hour with the children before and as much as I wanted to see if they had restocked the mousetraps, no thank you.  It was nearly nap time by this point, and by jingo I wanted the pictures and I wanted out of there!  I felt a little misled by the company name.

img_0881

In all fairness, they hadn’t said how many minutes.  I wasn’t trying to be rude or disruptive to other customers in Wally World, but it’d been 2 1/2 hours.  We had all reached our limit.  We waited for the prints as nicely as we could and then tore out of there.

The portrait?  Brilliant.  The boys were standing in the back.  Starting from the left, 6yo Truman is punching himself in the side of his face, 10yo Kyle is gripping his brothers trying to keep them in place with a hurry-and-take-the-dang-picture smile, and 8yo Paul is in the middle of making farting sounds.  The girls are sitting on a bench and 2yo Lucy is crying and reaching out for me with a tear running down her cheek and a wet stream under her nose.  4yo Vanessa?  She’s covering her ears with both hands and glaring at Disaster.  It is awesome.  I have it hanging next to the front door.

It has been a few weeks since our “date with Disaster.”  One of the girls I visit teach had heard about having had our pictures done and when I went to visit her last month, she had new family photos on her wall and individual shots of each of their three boys.  “Oh yeah, it was great!  The boys were already dressed nicely one day, so we decided to stop in and get pictures.  In and out–Portraits in Minutes!”  Indeed.  Disaster and the photographer are no longer there.  I don’t know what happened.

Love,

Grace

P.S.  I told you my favorite biddy hooked me up with butternut squash, right?  I had seen online that I could cook it up in my Instant Pot pressure cooker (if you have one and you definitely should, place it on the steamer rack/basket thing, add 1 cup of water, hit Manual, set the time to 10-13 minutes depending on how big your squash is, let it cook and natural release for 10 minutes, manually release any leftover pressure, remove the basket and squash and let cool a bit, slice it in half and remove the seeds and goopy stuff, peel off the skin using a paring knife where needed, and then mash the squash until smooth–if you have an awesome blender, throw it in there–and then use it however you’d like!  I froze most of mine to use later).  I wondered if I could get away with making pumpkin pancakes subbing in squash and it worked great!  The kids had no idea and it was really good.  I made it just like the recipe said except I used squash.  Try it!  Pumpkin Cheesecake Pancakes.  You’re welcome.

Stars for Everyone (but Mostly for Me)

Dearest Sister Millie,

I love broccoli!  I love cheese!  And I love broccoli cheese soup!  I’m not sure I’ve ever had Mumsie’s (where was I??  Sometimes I wonder if we had different childhoods.  And parents.), but I remember when she first started making that broccoli cheese concoction for smothering baked potatoes.  Mmmmm.  Maybe it’s one and the same?  At any rate, I’m going to have to make it!

Guess what I did today?  I polished acorns!  A friend of mine invited me out to her adorable farmhouse for lunch.  Last time she had us over (I had Vanessa and Lucy with me), she made us pierogi.  They were filled with mashed potatoes!  I’d never even heard of them.  Anyway, after lunch today, the girls all played while we chatted at the table and cleaned acorns.  We’ll be painting them at a Relief Society activity next Tuesday.  Isn’t that fun?  If I didn’t already have commitments, I’d be going to hunt mushrooms with her tomorrow.  Hunt for mushrooms!  I love this place.  When I left, she handed me a jar of pure maple syrup tapped from the family’s trees (pure maple syrup is amazing!).  She also gave me a carton of fresh eggs from her chickens.  I love her!

She texted me later that she had found a huge bag of mushrooms today.  Of course it reminded me of something I’d eaten and so I sent her a recipe I love–portobello mushroom lasagna.  It is so, so good!  I can’t say my whole family was crazy about it because they aren’t all crazy about mushrooms.  But I am, and in case you are (except I’m thinking you’re not?), here’s a link to the recipe!  Ina Garten.  You’re welcome.  Although I do have to say that I used maybe 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg instead of a full teaspoon.  And I added more cheese–maybe 1/2 cup?  And I can’t promise they were portobello mushrooms either.  They were whatever I couldn’t pass up buying at the store (I am ashamed to admit that I don’t know what kind the ones are that come in the packages that go on super sale and I go mushroom crazy for a bit!  Do you know?).  Anyway, if you like mushrooms, you’ll like this!  If not, sorry.  I’ll send you a recipe for something you like.  Maybe Abe would like mushrooms since they aren’t green?  Or if you add enough cheese?

Welcome to the wonderful world of Neato!  It’s the best pet I’ve ever had.  I did like our Roomba, but it has given up the ghost and joined the choir invisible.

I can’t believe Abe has three months to go!  At LEAST?!  That’s nuts.  You might need to take on a second job to support his online shopping.  Ha ha!  One sure cure for cabin fever is to leave the cabin and come and see meeeeeee!  I will start stocking up on apple juice.

I happened to be in Walmart a few weeks ago with my nearly-four-year-old daughter, Vanessa. I can’t even recall why I didn’t have the other four children with me, but anyway, there we were. She was sitting in the cart and we walked in and noticed that what used to be a mini arcade had been turned into a portrait studio. Now, you may recall that my last experience with a portrait studio happened on my second son Paul’s birthday. I had taken to having my children’s pictures taken on the occasion of their respective birthdays. I had made an appointment in advance and the day before his birthday, I received a phone call confirming the appointment. The day of, the birthday boy was dressed and ready to go out. I quickly checked my email and a confirmation message had arrived early that morning. We headed out the door and when we arrived, the lights in the studio were off and there was a sign:

 

img_2824

 

NOT COOL.

 

You can imagine my delight when I realized I could restart my birthday tradition and have my nearly-four-year-old’s picture taken on her birthday the next week! I rushed over to make an appointment. The multi-color(ed?)-hair(ed?) girl at the register was friendly enough and as we talked, I decided that no, the school would be taking pictures soon and I would prefer to have all the portraits on my piano match. But! I COULD have the children take a picture together! The five little darlings! My heart was a-flutter as I pictured a massive portrait of my sweet earth angels hanging above the mantle where all could see. The girl at the register needed all their names and respective birthdays. As she typed, I noticed a beautifully scripted tattoo on her arm. It should’ve raised a red flag when I realized what it said: Disaster.

I chirped each of the children’s names and birthdates. At the bottom of the digital form she was filling out, there was one last question. “Your relationship to these kids…grandmother, I’m guessing?”

 

 

I laughed. It might have been a little more like a “Ha!” blast than a laugh. The girl gasped, her eyebrows shot up and eyes widened. Vanessa crinkled her nose and shook her head (and probably also rolled her eyes—she’s famous for that). The girl started gesturing heavily while she stuttered out an apology. All was made well again and I wondered whether I should detour my planned shopping route and swing on by the night cream aisle. She told me she’d get an appointment card and quickly scribbled out the date and time on a post-it note. She handed the very formal appointment card to me, and we were on our merry way.

I’m going to have to pause this story because it’s late. But not before I share one more thing from that evening.

Not twenty minutes after I had been asked if I was my children’s grandma, I ran into a dear friend. It is Walmart, after all! We chatted and her son swung around from behind her and said, “Hi!” I greeted him and he put his hand right on my belly and asked, “When are you ever going to have this baby?” His mom turned red and shushed him as I laughed and said that I wasn’t expecting a baby any time soon, but that I should probably cut back on the baked goods!

Pregnant grandma. It was a gold star day!

Love,

Grace

Cures & Consolation

Dear Grace,

Allow me to quote an entirely overused sentence from Anne of Green Gables: “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Really, isn’t October the absolutely best? Over the course of one weekend, the temperatures in the Great Southwest have gone from the 100s to the 80s. How in the world can the 80s be so heavenly? Now I can no longer use the weather as an excuse to avoid exercise. But I can use the fact that the rest of the year is basically one long holiday of feasting to give up on all physical fitness goals until the New Year. Go me!

In other fall related news, I made Mumsie’s broccoli cheese soup last night as a clever ruse to get Abe to eat some vegetables. When we were at Costco the other day I asked if he would be interested in eating some spinach to which he quickly responded with an absolute “no” based purely on the fact that spinach is green and green foods are gross foods. So to get my husband to go near vegetables, I slathered broccoli with melted cheese and it was a major success (although Abe was doubtful a meal without any meat could be worthwhile). I will include the recipe below.

It has officially been two months and ten days since Abe’s knee injury. We had the surgery follow-up appointment today, and Abe’s ever-stoic doctor told us that Abe will not be able to return to work for three or four months at least. I calmly nodded but inwardly began hyperventilating. Three or four months??!?!?!?!??!

Curse words.

Sadly, I am not the world’s most patient nurse and Abe goes through apple juice (Mumsie’s cure-all) by the gallon. Now I am Googling “Things to do while you’re laid up from surgery” in an attempt to save Abe from cabin fever. Abe, however, has found his own consolation in online shopping. Our house is now significantly more technologically savvy since Abe invests in items such as the Neato BotVac which does the vacuuming for him. Christmas will now be a much smaller affair since Abe’s Knee Surgery Shopping Spree.

But now we know that the way to cure and console being laid up is apple juice, soup, and online shopping.

Love Always,

Millie

P.S. I am so happy we’re finally blogging together as we dreamed all those years ago.

 

BROCCOLI CHEESE SOUP

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 6 oz. small pasta shells
  • 1 head fresh broccoli (or 16 oz. frozen broccoli)
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 ½ cups grated cheese

In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil over high heat. Add pasta, return to boil. Reduce heat and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Add vegetables and cook until pasta and veggies are tender, about 5 minutes more. Combine milk and flour in a separate container. Stir into soup, cooking and stirring until thickened and bubbly. Gradually add the cheese until cheese melts.

Notes from Millie:

  • Add the milk to the flour gradually. As experienced cooks will know, adding all the milk and the flour at the same time will make the flour clump up and then the soup won’t thicken. I found this out the hard way the first several times I made this recipe.
  • Add the cheese a bit at a time. Adding all the cheese all in one go will make the cheese clump into rubbery cheese globs rather than melting into the soup. This was also learned the hard way and it was disgusting.
  • If you have leftovers, just add a little milk to help the soup regain its lovely, original, non-cement-like consistency.