Thursday, January 28, 2010

Grilled Cheese Sandwich, My Way

Have you ever tried to make a grilled cheese sandwich with hard butter? And the butter, when you try to spread it on the bread, just rips it to shreds. It's like you're scraping paint off the clapboards of your house to get it ready to be primed. I hate that. But I also hate 'softening' the butter in the microwave because then the underbelly of the stick is goop and you have to dig out its insides to get at the unspreadable soupy goodness.

I think you know what I'm talking about.

Well, I usually use this technique- if I happen to have hard butter when I'm making grilled cheese- where I just throw a (big) slab of butter onto the hot griddle and then let it melt. I then take my two slices of bread and soak up the butter with the outsides of each slice. Are you getting my drift? And then I construct my sandwich on the griddle, making sure no cheese is sticking out.

Well, I was confronted with this grilled cheese conundrum up in Minnesota one summer, and without a microwave as even an option to soften the butter, I simply started to make my sandwiches by throwing large slabs of butter onto the griddle. The problem was I was making a sandwich for this lady...

And she almost had a heart attack as she watched from the farm table she was sitting at five feet away from the stove. She thought I was going to give her a heart attack. She thought I was trying to kill her. She thought I was going to butter my pan with slabs of butter and then ALSO butter my bread with slabs of butter- an outrageous crime to the heart.

"No, no, no Ann. I'm just melting the butter and then soaking it up with the bread because I can't spread the hard butter onto the bread."

"Oh, oh, okay."

It was the only meal I ever made for her. And I think she truly enjoyed it, after I settled her heart. Up in Minnesota my mother-in-law called her mother the Kitchen Nazi. She kind of took over the space when she was up there and Suey just let her. She always made her own meals so I don't really know why she let me make that grilled cheese for her that day. But I'll never forget it. Not ever.

G.G. died in her sleep two nights ago. Her bones ached. Her heart ached. It was time.

I see her now though. She is hovering in a kitchen. I see her shifting utensils around. She is opening a refrigerator and meticulously emptying a dishwasher. I think I even see her making a grilled cheese sandwich. Her way.

Ann Mendsen Simmons
November 27, 1919-January 26, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Little Prisoner

She is my happy prisoner. Gloating in her boredom. Laughing at her 7 hours of solitude. Giggling at the meal delivery. Shit.

Claire has been hating school. Hate with a capital H. I don't know where we've gone wrong. We counted cars even before we made it to preschool. We have spelling bees on the way to the grocery store. We write stories together. Do math problems on the chalk board. We read every night. She measures things with Paul when they build stuff together. We try to make every experience a learning experience. For Kindergarten and 1st grade, she would cry when I wanted a day off from driving the 30 minutes to Bellwether.

And now this: Mornings of delay. Barely getting dressed. Going back to bed. Dragging her feet. Eating breakfast slowly to make us late. And around each corner: "I hate school. I don't want to go. It's so boring. We don't learn anything. We don't do anything. We sit on the floor too long. I'm not going. Period."

And then me: "Yes. You are going. Everybody goes to school. Find a way to make it fun. You don't have a choice. You're going."

This morning: screaming crying pulling hair out hitting brother.
I leave her behind.
I'm prepared to bring her back to school when I get home.
She still refuses.
I tell her she has to stay in her room all day long...7 herself.
She can only come out to pee.

Inside I'm writhing. She should be at school. Is this really going to teach her a lesson? I want her to be bored off her rocker, so bored she pleads with me tomorrow morning to wake her up early so she can get dressed and have breakfast and brush her hair and brush her teeth and be ready to leave when Momma's Monster Mini Van is ready. I'm convinced she'll never want to stay at home again. 7 HOURS alone in her room. By herself. Which is hard for her to do for 10 minutes, much less 7 HOURS.

I've been waiting for the tears. The whimpering. The whining.

It's almost noon. She's playing games by herself, making Valentine's for each of her classmates, coloring, reading, writing, singing, dancing.

It's lunch time. I have to deliver her her lunch. I was thinking of bread and water.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Got The Blues.

And we're not talkin' the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Blues. Or the Rolling Stones kind. I'm in the dumps. Down there somewhere, digging around for something to grab onto, besides my lack of self esteem. I'm not sure if it's SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) or PMS (Pity Me Syndrome) or DDD (Down in the Dumps Disorder) but whatever it is I saw a little light yesterday. And it started when we had to pack up ancient photo albums. We're moving furniture so I can get me my new maple floors. Hoo-yah.

Choking a little on the dust mites and their swarm around my head, I happened upon this guy. Auggie just asked me why he had hair. That's a good question I said.

Paul Bunyan used to race C1 kayaks. They're the kayaks you see in the Olympics...the racers on their knees, paddling through a course of gates. It's rough. Legend has it that Paul was on the Junior National Team, winning medals and all, and making a name for himself.

But he soon made it out of the C1's and into a river boat. Here he is on the Gali River in West Virginia.

And then he moved onto a 'play boat' which is smaller and designed specifically for doing tricks in the water. But STILL...big water.

And BIG waterfalls in Northern California. Circa 1996.

I took this shot of him on the Trinity River in Northern California in the summer of 1997.

He tackled the Pacific Ocean.

And got worked over by the Atlantic.

And almost got sucked into the big brown water of the Colorado.

Paul Bunyan has kayaked more rivers than I can remember and although he'd tell you that he's growing cautious in his old age, I do believe that if he did it more often he'd be able to conquer the Gali once again.

He got me into a boat when we lived in Colorado. I shed many a tear walking around shoots he thought I could run; I grew many a fear heading toward strainers, not in my boat but in the water. I didn't hang onto my boat when I bailed. I never got my roll. I white knuckled it the whole way down the river. I don't think I ever smiled once.

Well, I shouldn't say that.

I always had fun on the raft. Lugging his tired ass down the flat parts of the Colorado.

It's uplifting to remember the better parts of your better half. I'm grateful the better parts of my better half are so cool. I hope he goes back to the boat someday now that I can take a better picture or two. He can bring the spawn, and I'll shoot the rapids with my camera instead of my boat. And then I'll carry all their asses across the flats and feel like I'm a really important part of their fun. Yea, I think that's what I'll do.

Monday, January 18, 2010

HOT baby HOT

I took this photo of my mom and dad at my Mother's 40th birthday party. Can you tell I used my Polaroid? It was 1986. The fall. I was thirteen. I think I had braces. My mom is a beautiful woman. She's has always had the nicest skin. And back then she had jet black hair. Although she may have been dyeing it. It's white now. She just recently gave up trying to hide it. She is even more beautiful.

My dad surprised her at one of their favorite restaurants. People drove from far and wide. I remember some friends from Massachusetts. Maybe Pennsylvania. We had a nice meal. My dad paid. We went home. Maybe there was more to it, but that's all I remember.

I don't know who was in charge of decorations for the night because whoever wrote "Hot Harri" on that pumpkin just didn't know hot.

Because this is HOT. At 40. HOT.

Yea, I'm talking to you.

And yea, she just turned 40. Hello? HOT!

Yea, we're talking about you.

I'm pretty sure, if my memory is correct, there was no crazy rockin' band. I know my dad tried hard, as he hadn't planned a party before or since that night in October, but there definitely wasn't a rockin' band.

And for god-damn sure my mom didn't do this. Of course, not too many momma's can.

And I can't quite remember that night in 1986, but I'm fairly certain my mom didn't snap into a Slim Jim like Jen can.

And if my memory holds true there wasn't much touchy feely stuff going on at the restaurant.

However, last Saturday there was love in the air.

mmmhmm. yup. lots of love.

People were feelin' the love.

They were gettin' down with it.

They were showing their pearly whites.

And bumpin' and grindin' on the dance floor.

Now, if my memory serves me right, and it's a little cloudy right now, last Saturday night nobody was looking 40. Not near or around 40. We were all trying to live in the 70's or near and around the 70's.

I have 3 years, 3 months, 9 days, and 3 hours until I turn 40. And if any of those professional party planners out there who planned this party have any crazy ideas about an 80's party for me, I know where Paul Bunyan and I can get a few HOT outfits....

Friday, January 15, 2010

It's Just Me, Trying To Make Sense of a Sad World

I haven't been able to really sit down and see images of the total destruction in Haiti until today. I'm haunted now by the images of the bodies piling up outside the morgues and am regretful that I turned on CNN. I don't do well with visions like that. I still carry around in my arms those two children in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. You know, the ones living in the cardboard tent...on the flats of a landfill...eating the garbage? And that was a movie.

I will give money to the UN for aide. But what I'd really like to do is bring home one of those babies I heard crying in the background as some American journalist stood in a makeshift hospital talking about how the orphans were kneeling at the bedsides of their dead mothers. And now I can't make their cries go away.

So I eat chocolate.
And hug my children a little tighter.

Stories of loss have been circling my inner ear for weeks now. Two local boys killed in a house fire on Christmas eve. Paul Bunyan came home with images imprinted on his brain of family circling the sole survivor of a car crash in which his best friend died. Local artist and my children's favorite author shot himself in his car last week.

I guess it comes in tidal waves. And I'm not that great of a swimmer.

So I eat more chocolate.
And hug my children a little tighter.

And because I can't buy one of those Haitian orphans, although I'd like to, I do a little retail therapy closer to home and I buy my favorite Stephen Huneck print, so we can all remember the man and his sense of humor.

And to remind us to sniff each other a little more closely, just in case we need to remember the scent of each other if, perchance, we don't get to see each other tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I just want to question him, the thug, as to why he made fun of my boy.

Who happens to look so god damn cute in the hat I made for him. From yarn I spun for him.

Who now won't wear the hat I made for him, from yarn I spun for him, because some bully made fun of him.

I just want to question the twerp. And maybe make him a little frightened, just enough so he pees his pants and has to walk around school all day looking like he did.

But then again my therapist moved to upstate N.Y. halfway through our work together. I have a lot of unfinished business.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cronus' Revenge

I don't think I've officially introduced this guy. His name is Sprinter.

It was an obvious name for him because on the morning he was born, late in the summer, Paul Bunyan found him sprinting around the pasture.

He's a hoot. He loves to run and jump and raise some Cain. I'm sad he's all cooped up this winter in the tent because he has no where to run and jump. I have a feeling he's making everyone in his stall a little crazy.

Sprinter is the product of an unplanned pregnancy, which can sometimes happen if Paul Bunyan (or house sitter) isn't watching too closely. For the longest time Paul Bunyan thought his dad was Lucas, who always seems to be the only male on the farm who wants to get jiggy with any of the females. If you know what I'm talking about.

But when Paul Bunyan got a call last week from ARI (Alpaca Registry Inc.) saying that there was no way in hell Lucas was Sprinter's father, he was perplexed. Who could his father be?? These were the choices:

1. Hamlet
2. Jumping Jack
3. Cronus, who passed away this fall.

You can read about his passing here, but if you don't feel like it just know he died a painful (although not long) death and he took a piece of me with him. I haven't been able to touch his blanket, which was shorn last April. We were kind of hoping it was Cronus because Cronus was the only offspring we had of Julia, who is one of the original alpacas Paul Bunyan brought onto the farm. She has since not been able to get pregnant. And we were sad that her lineage ended with the death of her son.

Well, ARI, with the help of our credit card number, was able to confirm that it was, in fact, Cronus who finagled his way into Lydia's stall to leave his mark on the world. Cronus was not loved or appreciated by all. He was a nerd. A geek. He was bullied and harassed and spit at and made fun of. We loved him. But all the other alpacas used to laugh and call him names.

And so now we rejoice in Sprinter's frolicking behavior. We rejoice when he spits at Tom Tom, who is one year older than he is, to get at the feed bucket. We rejoice when he slips into the big boy's pen and isn't intimidated or scared of them. We rejoice when he bucks and cavorts and doesn't give a shit what anyone thinks. We rejoice that he's big and beautiful and bold. It's too late to name him Cronus' Revenge, as he's already registered as Happy Hollow's Sprinter but as he stands to be our farm's nest stud, I think that's what I'm going to have to call him.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Little Miss Ass Saver's Cookbook

This is my friend Supa Cath. She is a Super Hero. Seriously. I know, I'm surrounded by them. She saves people's asses like nobody's business. I think I'll call her Little Miss Ass Saver. I know she's saving somebody's ass right now.

Anyway, Little Miss Ass Saver brought a special gift to this year's Yankee Swap. And if I hadn't gotten all greedy and stolen the waterproof vibrator and Hanky Panky underwear, I would have totally stolen Little Miss Ass Saver's gift. Totally.

As the night of the Swap progressed and my little waterproof vibrator sat forlornly in its plastic box, I molested Little Miss Ass Saver's gift. Totally swooned for it. I fell in LOVE. And I was sad. Many of you probably think I shouldn't have been sad to end up with a waterproof vibrator and Hanky Panky underwear. But you know how I feel about rechargeable batteries. So I sat with Little Miss Ass Saver's gift until Willow had to rip it out of my hands at the end of the evening, because was hers. Although I don't think she truly LOVED it as much as I did.

And so last night when I was coming home late from hockey and thought I would swing by and share in the joy of a glass of wine with all my wombats, I pulled into Little Miss Ass Saver's driveway to find that all the beeatches had left! But Little Miss Ass Saver had the house rockin' as she was washin' wine glasses with her mad skilz. And lo and behold there was a clean one for me. And so I filled it. And before I could take two sips Little Miss Ass Saver handed me this:

All taped up in a nice box from Apple. She handed me a cheese spreader to cut the tape and my hands shook as I looked her in the eyes. Could it be? Could it really be? A gift for me? But I didn't pole dance for it, or jump rope naked, or sing a nasty rap song about my husband's penis? Really? For me??

It twas! It twas! Still in its plastic case. I couldn't open it there. My hands smelled like moldy wet leather from hockey, still with oil on them from trying to undo a frozen latch to my hatch. I would wait to molest it later. And then when I did, all tucked under my down comforter, after a long ass burning shower, I felt the cover. So smooth. And I turned the page.

And Oh my god, TEN years!

And the Doctor's Peanut Sate Sauce.

And Katy's amazing kiwi salsa that I ate so much of at Burke that I was shitting kiwi seeds for a week.

And oh my, E's Cola Cake. Can you believe it?

And naked pictures of me because I wouldn't send Little Miss Ass Saver a picture of me in my red dress with my nipples poking through.

And Jen's Ginger Chicken!!

And Mud's Secret Garlic Soup, which isn't a secret. You just have to go to Mary's to buy it!

And our sweet Goddess Who is Gone. Although she'll never really be gone. Ever.

And Andrea's Chicken Marbella! mmm. I still have dreams about the sauce!

And Sassy Susan's fabulous Cilantro dipping sauce!

And Lee's Spinich Balls, which I picture her making every Sunday afternoon just to fit a few in her purse for the week's snacking.

And Jenny's Chicken Sausage and Kale Stew, which I have to admit I've never had but please can I make it right now?

And of course, look at this Super Hero. Truly a Super Hero rejoicing in the goodness of her Glory Bowl, which I could sleep in if I could.

And pictures of us. US. Us being us.

This book, this little book, speaks to me. I love food. Especially food associated with events. Especially food associated with friends. I love photos. Especially photos of my friends.

If you have friends (and I hope you do), if you have friends who cook good stuff (and I hope you do), if you have photos of your friends (and I hope you do) make one of these books. And then when you receive yours in the mail and rip open the box, molest it. You created it. So molest it. And then share it with your friends so they can molest it. I'm so glad Little Miss Ass Saver shared it with me. It's an heirloom now, as all homemade gifts should be.