How Stella Got Her Mixing Bowl Back

When I was in 2nd grade, my music teacher took notice of my Fierce Lesbian Fingers ™ and told me that I might be a decent piano player if I took lessons. He started teaching me which keys played which notes, and explained the clefs to me. After a little while, he told me it was probably time to ask my mother to teach me more at home.

I came home from school that day and told my mother that my music teacher said I was born to play piano (which he did) and that he thought I should take lessons. My mother said, "You want to learn to play piano? Here -- play this." She handed me the sheet music for the theme to The Incredible Hulk circa 197something, and opened the piano for me. 

We actually had two pianos in our house for a while, and before you go thinking ooooo-la-laaaa, let me point out that both of them were ancient, out of tune, non-functioning player pianos handed down to us by our congregation, because white people give weird shit to the poor.

One year later, I could play the theme to The Incredible Hulk, and just about anything else I wanted to play. Watching me play piano was cringe-worthy, to be generous. My fingers were in all the wrong positions, I twisted my wrists around like I was playing drunk stripper Twister, but it sounded magnificent. I taught my little brother and sister how to play, too. We's each sit at a piano and play off of each other (add overpriced, under-poured martinis and we would have invented piano bars) (I also invented pore strips around this age) (true story). It was wonderful, and I loved every minute of it. I used it as an escape -- no one bothered me when I played, my mother was kind to me while I was playing, and even forgot herself enough to pass me the errant compliment when i got through a particularly challenging piece. I played almost day, and got, while not Julliard good, pretty damn hood-good. 

And then I moved to Colorado on January 9th, 1992, and never saw my mother, those pianos, or that house again. And I haven't been able to play the piano since. 

I can't explain it, I just lost the ability to do it. It doesn't work. I can barely muddle my way through the first of Dr Bruce Banner's sad, lonely steps into the unknown future before my fingers stutter and trip over themselves and my brain remembers, 'Hey wait. WE AREN'T DOING THIS ANYMORE'.

It's no one's fault; it just happened. And it happened again a whole lot of years later, but this time it was with baking. 

I used to bake a lot. Like, a lot-lot. I've been a hobbyist cook for many years, but one day I just woke up one day and thought, "Hmm, I'd like to make a Yule Log for my in-laws for Christmas." And in three days, and a whole lot of homemade buttercream later, I did. And there was much rejoicing. 

I baked avidly for years, and then one day it just stopped. I kind of stopped cooking, too, but when things got really gong show crazy with Soon-To-Be-Ex's drinking, I just lost the will to bake. It was no one's fault, really, I just didn't want to anymore, and when I tried it flopped, and that made me want to less, and so it goes. 

But I kind of felt the twinge come back this summer, while I was in California for seven weeks working and staying with baby god-daddy & co. I think I started to remember who I was during those weeks I was gone. That's one of the hardest parts of being the enabler in a co-dependent relationship -- we take on so much of the other person's shit that we don't have room for any of our own stuff. This is no one's fault but our own, and it's a hard habit to break. 

Seven weeks a few thousand miles away from one's co-dependent isn't the worst way to start breaking that habit. 

While I was at baby god-daddy's house, his wife and I talked a lot about what she bakes (the baked goods of the Gods, in case you were wondering where to find them) and what I used to bake, and you know, I kind of started getting the itch again. She'd bake cookies and we'd think up fun ideas for ice creams to go with them. We'd eat her favourite cupcakes and we'd talk about what other kinds of buttercreams would go with the cakes. I'd watch her mixing batters and I'd start missing the smell of flour. 

So I came home and started baking again. Turns out, I still gotz it. In fact, I gotz it, plus. These? Are cookies. I made them, and they aren't dead. 

Cookies are my life-long foe. I have never successfully baked a cookie, until now. Now I spend my nights dreaming up new variations on these little masterpieces. My kids are telling their new friends that their mom bakes the best cookies on Earth. I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING. I am going to have to order new business cards now, because it seems I am no longer a cookie assassin. 

I don't even know what this means for my future, but I do know that it's probably time to start posting weekly recipes again. It's been, what, years since I did that last? Yeah, we're bringing sexy back. 

Those cookies up there are Oatmeal Coffee cookies on the left, and cherry pistachio cookies in the middle. The cherry pistachio ones still need some tweaking, but I've got the oatmeal toffee ones down to a science. The recipe is based off this one from Hershey's website. Someone in my Houston Al-Anon group gave me that recipe, and I have been messing around with it for a few weeks. Here's how I altered it:

  • Use 1 cup less oats than recommended (so 2 cups total)
  • Use a little less sugar than they call for (so, like, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar - you'll have to find your comfortable sweetness level. I was going for less-sweet entirely)
  • Mix the wet ingredients and refrigerate the mixture overnight, then soften it slightly the next day, and finish the recipe
  • For sure use the coconut, since you're using less oats
  • Add 1/2 nuts. I used slivered almonds that I then chopped a little, so they'd be about the same size as the oats. 
  • Use PLAIN toffee bits, not the chocolate coated ones. They're harder to find. They are also worth it.


Counting Down

Last year, I figured out what the hell an Advent calendar is. I'm a little slow on the uptake.

This will be the 11th Christmas I've ever celebrated. I still can't, with any clarity, explain precisely what the role of the Easter bunny is in April, let alone grasp all of these weird little Yuletide nuances. In fact, I am fairly certain that, 11 years ago, Advent calendars did not exist at all, and that you, the Western world at large, are simply trying to fuck with me on as many levels as possible over the holidays.

That's nice. Pick on the poor white trash cult-member kid every December. Stay classy, Western world.

Thanks to the Lord Almighty Twitter, the whole Advent Calendar thing clicked in my thick head last year and I decided that my children would be Scarred For Life if they did not have them. So I set out to procure for ourselves three lovely Advent calendars, a week into December.

My Christmas tree is full to the brim with little homemade ornaments all made out of clay or popsicle sticks, that all say, "Josh" and "197-something" on them. His mother kept everything, and we hang that everything on our tree every year. I came into this marriage with a dildo my dad gave me for my 18th birthday and one Cheshire Cat ornament that I didn't even know was an ornament until somewhere around 2002. His mother, thankfully, has been catching me up by buying me, and all of us, a new ornament every single year, and more thankfully not one single instrument of penetration, but it's not the same as having something old and handmade from your momma when it's your turn to get drunk and breed in the backseat of a Nissan start a family. I wanted, want, my kids to have something that I lovingly slaved over for months and months, beside, um, their bodies, to pass down to their kids someday. To remember me by when I'm blowing off their family Christmas to drink drinks out of coconut shells on exotic islands with their father, because I'll be damned if I'm not reclaiming our 20s in our 60's, dammit. DAMMIT.

And so I turned to the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom in the universe today, Twitter, and not only found out what exactly the fuck an Advent calendar was, but (thanks to my friend pgoodness) how to make one. Myself. All crafty-like and good-motherly-ish.

And that I did. It took me weeks and all of my neighbor's scrapbooking tools. I cut and measured and color-coordinated and spent more money than I'll ever tell my husband, and they came together beautifully. And now I have two calenders that are both 98.26% done, and one that isn't started yet, but everything is cut out and ready to go....

These I Made

...and these, too.

These I Bought

Because there is a Target right up the street and I am significantly more Fartsy than Artsy at the end of the day. And, apparently, the one and only thing I can start and see through until the very end involves that ill-begotten dildo.

Yes, This IS The Best I Can Do, Thank You Very Much.

This weekend, I was blessed with a houseguest. And we did almost nothing. It was quite epic. But after the kids were put down for the night, after we'd drank The Donor under the table and he was good and passed out on the couch, we staggered upstairs to my bedroom, turned the lights down low; she in her little, faded wife beater and me in my short-shorts. We laid together in the darkness, doing what any two, youngish, reasonably attractive, identical woman would do when given a dark house, a king sized bed, with red sheets, and a lot of wine....we stayed up awwwl night long.

Talking about cleaning products.

Now, I'm as much a hippie tree-hugging earth momma as the next girl, and since I'm also quite lazy and have three children who like money, I try very hard to stick to organic, bio-degradable, won't - burn - their - fingers - I - can't - replace - off cleaning products. I swear by my Bissell steam mop and my jumbo Heinz vinegar bottle, and yes it has to be the jumbo Heinz bottle because I grew up with a girl who was loosely related to the Heinz's and she had this, well, obsession with underwears. She collected them, like people collect spoons or feet or teddy bears. I, of course, was barely able to afford my brother's hand me down underwears, and I honestly had no idea their were so many options as far as undergarments went. It was quite an eye-opening friendship. And slightly intimidating. Which may be why it took me until I was 33 and threatened within inches of my life by someone to start wearing chonies at all. Either way, I only buy the Heinz vinegar now.

Of course, sometimes I have to bring my B game to the housekeeping, and that's when I'll bust out the Mr Clean with mountain and rain scented Febreeze stuff in it. Because that shit kicks ass. And is probably eating my pipes out from the inside, and may be responsible for melting one of the polar ice caps. I try not to bring my B game too often. When it starts to get dire, out comes the Tide and the hairspray. You can clean anything with a box of powdered Tide and some Big Sexy Hairspray. But when it's at critical, when my mother in law is coming, it's A game time.

Enter the lemon fresh Comet with bleach. $0.99. CANADIAN. Nothing in the world cleans anything better than lemon fresh comet with bleach ever. I clean everything with it; my counters, my walls, my floors, all of it. Sometimes right after I clean all of that with the Mr Clean stuff. And maybe the chemical fumes will kill me before I can pull my underwear that I'm now forced to wear down to go pee, but at least I'll be found dead on a 25 year old tile floor with grout as white at Michael Steele's heart.

Boudoir Is French For Weigh-Station

So, I'm making the bed in my room tonight at 8:15 and I'm mumbling to myself about how I shouldn't have to make it since I'm never the last one out of it.  I'm honestly just feeling guilty because it's the first time in years days that I've made the damn thing, and feeling kind of moronic to be making it three hours before I'm going to get back in it, and kind of annoyed with myself because who really, actually makes their bed anyway?

And then I realize that all the grown-ups make their beds and I just suck.

So I keep making it and I start thinking about Extreme Home Makeover and how they always make the master bedroom into an oasis or a sanctuary or a refuge or some shit.  There's always a reading area and a big-screen tv and gorgeous drapes and lush rugs and I wonder, do people really spend that much time in their bedrooms that they need all that?  Because if you do, sure, you probably want to make your bed once in a while.  My bedroom is on the 4th floor of my house and the only time I'm in there, I'm unconscious.  I have three children; it's not like I have time to just go lounge around in my room all day long.   And it's not as if anyone except my three year old ever walks past my door and peeks in, and if you do find yourself in the doorway to my bedroom there's a 99% chance you're up there to kill me and I really don't care if you have to trip over some laundry and rustle with the sheets in order to chop me into tiny bits with an old, rusty axe.

And before you say, "What about the ol' winkwink, nudgenudge?" I'll just say this: In my life, I have these two columns that I like to call Things I Will Do and Things I Won't Do and I'll give you three chances to guess which column "It; with the lights on" goes into.  If he's taking the time to stop, grab the night-vision goggles and check the state of the linens, he's doing it all wrong.

Now I do like my kids' beds to be made but the girl only has these two baby blankets so making hers is nothing and the boys have these ginorous loft beds and there are a few activities as equally futile as making ginormous loft beds that I occasional like to engage in, but every time I sit on the floor to converse with the toilet I notice that someone's dribbled peepee all down the sides of it and then I have to clean it, so I try to stay away from those sorts of things if at all possible.

I wish I were the sort of person who makes her bed everyday, but that would mean I'd have to be the sort of person who walks into her bedroom every day, and that's just not me.  I also wish I were the sort of person who folds the laundry right after she dries it, or the sort of person that washes the pan right after she cooks in it, and it occurs to me that if I were that sort of person my husband might suddenly become the sort of person who drags his wife into her bedroom randomly throughout the day.

But then the damn bed would never be made.

That'll Teach Me

Do you know what happens when you forget yourself for a second and write a really angry, seething sort of post on your blog?  Do you know what happens when you then re-think that vitriol laden post and re-work it into something deep and introspective?  Do you know what happens when you re-evaluate that post and get yourself stuck in a place where you can no longer find any words to say what should be something as simple as "What the fuck, yo?"

You walk away from the computer, go upstairs, and realize that your children have hidden pumpkins in their bedroom well past their expiration dates, and you also discover, upon picking them up, that one of those pumpkins thought it would be loads of fun to rot from the bottom up, that's what.