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.

 

Ikea Hates All the Single Ladies, or, If You Like it Then You Shoulda Putta Hex Bit On It

I'm writing this post from bed. This is more remarkable than you'd think:

A) after toying with this for over a week, I'm admitting defeat and officially saying that I have the stomach apocalypse.

B) I am actually in my bed, not on a mattress on the floor.

Last weekend while the kids went to their dads, I put my bed up -- my very pretty, very king sized, very Ikea bed.

I've put together my share of Ikea furniture in my day, but in hindsight I realize that I've put together my share of Ikea furniture in my day with soon-to-be-ex. Have I ever put Ikea furniture together, alone?

Um.

Er.

No?

No, I don't think I have. You know why? BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. I live in a part of the country that is densely populated with the religion that doesn't totally always frown on polygamy, and now I get why every city densely populated with this religious group has an Ikea in close proximity -- you need at least seven sister wives to put the [expletive expletive] furniture together.

For a company so big on space-conservation, you think they'd be a little more sympathetic to the single and/or child-labour-less, but alas, Ikea hates single people and punishes us with bed frames that require a degree in Tetris and the superpower of being able to hault physics for at least two hours at a time in order to assemble. Oh, and the $7.99 Ikea toolkit. Which, for the record, is the best $7.99 I've ever spent.  

So I'm up off the floor, in my platform bed, which is just high enough for a puke bucket, which I think I might need because I Can Haz the Tummy Crab. Hooked on Fonics Worked for Me aside: When you tell your daughter you're sorry she has a tummy cramp, she's going to hear tummy *crab* and be convinced for years to come that she has an actual crab in her tummy and must puke and/or poop it out. Everyone in your family will adopt the term tummy crab, and it will eventually stop grossing you the fuck out. 

Everyone in your family will adopt the word tummy crab because everyone in your family will GET a tummy crab. Even the dog was hurling last week. We got the King Tummy Crab, it seems. Last week we all had [something something poop @suebob just stopped reading this post poop something] and then yesterday, I kept almost passing out from the near constant nauseous-dizzies. Last time that happened, I ended up with a tummy crab and a half.

This time I have neither the means nor the uterus for that deliciousness, so while I'm waving my >>llama eyes<< at Jesus and yelling at him to get off mah barren wasteland, I'm pretty sure I just still have the flu. 

Which leads me to my grandmother. 

No, I haven't taken any medicine today, why do you ask?

My grandmother wasn't allowed in our house, or us in hers, for the better part of my life. This was partly due to the fact that my mother had a tortured relationship with her, but also because my grandmother enjoyed the finer points of Satanism for a while, before diving into the channeling of shockingly uninspired historic figures. Really, if you're going to summon one's spirit to speak through you, do your homework. Pick someone better than George Washington. LIVE A LITTLE. 

But everybody needs somebody sometimes, even my mother, and when we were particularly ill, she'd like Grandmom come over to take care of us. And I miss that, I cannot lie. There is nothing better than someone taking care of you when you're sick. My daughter this morning offered to walk her own self to the bus stop so I could stay home and get my tummy crab out, and while there's no way I'm ready for that nonsense yet, it made me smile to know she cares.

And my grandmother, for all her craziness, did 'sick kid' like a G6, yo.

She would read to us and brush our hair and play us songs from Oklahoma on the piano and make us eat weak tea and dry toast all day long. Weak tea and dry toast aren't actually items, they are the world for sick-food, kind of like my little brother referred to my aunt & uncle, Jean and Wayne, as JeanaWayne. Both of them. It was a title, and so is Weak Tea and Dry Toast. The tea was never weak, and it was full of sugar and milk, and the toast had the most perfectly halfway-melted pads of butter swirled around grape jelly on top of it. Still, Weak Tea and Dry Toast. 

Which is what I'm nomming on right now, trying to keep everything in that should just come out already, because I'm an idiot. But I'm an idiot who can't stand the idea of hurling out a Tummy Crab, no matter how much better I know I'll feel after. 

My big brother actually started a Facebook thread asking people what their family's sick-foods are, and I find this a fascinating adventure into culture and tradition. So, I'm curious, what are your sick-foods? 

Entertain me, please. 

27 8X10 Color Glossy Pictures

I love Thanksgiving. It's my #1 favorite holiday ever. Here's why

In a nutshell, that link takes you to the story of the very first holiday turkey I ever cooked, which was kind of significant because we didn't exactly celebrate holidays, or have money for food. Oh, and that I was eleven, cooking a turkey. My son is eleven right now, and I simply cannot imagine.  

Basically, the food bank people know who the relgious crazies are and don't bother bringing them the bags of food that people donate at the grocery stores and the food drives. One year, someone accidentally left our family on the list, and two white people showed up at my doorstep with dinner.

The fact that two white people came into my neighborhood is story enough, really.

The other important fact to note is that the canned goods and groceries and money you donate actually do end up going to people, and you can be a Judgey McDickerson  all you want about grown-ups not being able to feed their kids, but it's no child's fault they are born into poverty. That bag of food changed my life. Without it, I wouldn't be writing this post right now about fancy-pants Thankgiving turkey, this much I guarantee you. Tis the season, and stuff

Moving on...

This is the year I figured out how to clean as I go with the cooking. It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only late bloomer. Because of this, I was able to take 27 8X10 color glossies with the circles and the arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, explainin what each one was, to be used as evidence against my Thanksgiving dinner, but of course I took most of them on my phone, and of course the day after Thanksgiving my phone's memory card decided to reformat itself. Because fuck my life. 

Bygones. 

I can still tell you what I made, and how I made it, pictures be damned...and it's all after the jump.

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Things I Suck At, and Things I Don't.

NaBloPoOhWhaaa?

Turns out, I'm just too lazy to post on my blog every day. So it goes. 

It's been a long time since I've posted a Super Saturday Supper, mostly because it's been a long time since I've attempted to be a blogger, and somewhat because geez, food blogging blew *up* and I am after all poor, humble hipster, but partly because I've been guilty of more of this than I care to admit.

I'm trying to do less of all of those things.

So I cooked some this week, and this

turned into this

and it's all the Pioneer Woman's fault. The recipe is here and it is *stupidly* good.

As for tonight, well, let's just say that maybe I hate bacon, but I sure do love me some dead pig.

There is no recipe for that. It's made of win and brown sugar and some other shit.

I suck at food blogging.

Next week, the full Thanksgiving menu goes up, even if it ends up just being soup. I'm kind of on a soup kick. Sue me.

My standard Thanksgiving full menu is here

My variations of the turkey and potatoes are here.

You are what you eat

Aimee sent me an email last week with a link to pictures of families all over the world and their groceries for the week.

It. Blew. My. Mind.

I thought I'd share. *Disclaimer: I do not own these photos. I just got them in an email. I Googled around a bit, and here is the photoset I found on FlickR, and here is the link to the book it seems like they came from.

Japan: 37,699 Yen or $317.25
Italy: 214.36 Euros or $260.11
Germany: 375.39 Euros or $500.07 North Carolina, U.S.A: $341.98 Mexico: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09 Poland: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27 Cairo, Egypt: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53Ecuador: $31.55 Bhutan: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03 Kuwait: 63.63 dinar or $221.45
Beijing, China: 1,233.76 Yuan or $155.06
California, U.S.A.: $159.18
Mongolia: 41,985.85 togrogs or $40.02 Great Britian: 155.54 British Pounds or $253.15 Chad: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23
What I found the most interesting is that the less money spent, the more fresh produce was bought. Conversely, those who spent the most purchased the most frozen and pre-packaged, which are the least healthy. Yes, maybe the quantity we can afford counts for something, but my friend GiGi and I bought thought that the German family was probably just as malnourished as the family from Chad. And we both agreed we'd rather be the Chad malnourished. At least our skin would feel better.

I decided that, since it was grocery day anyway, I would add my family to the mix. And so, here we are, the Mr. Lady Family, Vancouver, Canada: @$300.This is a full week of breakfasts and dinners, about 2 weeks of sack lunches, and doesn't include the 5 more gallons of milk and the 2 or 3 more pounds of apples and pears I will buy this week. And I want to state for the record that I only bought Kraft Singles because they were out of Provolone. And I like Kraft Singles. So there. The tab was actually $357, but that included the months vitamins, toilet bowl cleaner, etc. I subtracted those and went just with food purchases.

What I notice most about my own spending habits is that though I do buy a lot of produce and fresh foods, I spend an assload of money on prepackaged lunch stuff, like Teddy Grams and crackers. I do this because A) I am too groggy in the morning to put a ton of thought into lunch and B) I ate gross, free school lunch every day for 12 years of school. I overcompensate by sending my kids with really cool, enviable, swappable lunch items. School lunch is crucial social networking time, and I want my kids on the top of that food chain. Yes, I have issues. Yes, many of them surround food. I'm ok with it.

OK. So there it is. I double dog dare you to post your groceries for the week on your blog. DOUBLE. DOG. DARE.