the gregarious homebody

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Gift

Every once in a great while, it happens. The planets align, the setting is right, the words are there.

A mother says the right thing to her upset child.

My beautiful 10 year old girl is hormonal. As in about- to-get-her-period hormonal. At least I think that's what it is. She's gotten it once, back in the summer, and the signs were the same: crying "for no reason," totally irritated by everything I say, and complaining of everything. Now, granted, this could've been M on any day of the week the six months before she got her period for the first time, but ever since then she's stablized and has been back to her sweet(er) self.

So the past two days I've seen the warning signs again and today she was worse. After yelling at her (I didn't say I was perfect) for being nasty, I told her to go get into my bed so we could talk. As we lay on our sides facing each other, I reminisced about being a preteen. Weepiness, easily hurt feelings, irritance at people (especially my mom), and a general yucky feeling. I had it all, I told her. And she looked at me and she listened.

Her complete attention was mine and though her face was blotchy from crying and I knew she was hurting, I loved it. I marveled at her beauty and I relished the moment. I couldn't help it. I know I'm on the edge of the precipice of REAL teenage girl behavior. I know the snuggles and the talks won't last, at least for awhile. So I gave myself the gift of enjoying the moment, even though it came out of M feeling bad.

The best part, though, was the fact that what I said worked. Those of you with little tiny kids are still in the phase where you are a rockstar. If Mommy says it'll be okay, it will. But the shine is off that rose (or whatever the hell that expression is) in our house and we never know if what we say will be listened to, let alone believed. But this time it was. And I just had to write it down so that some day (tomorrow? next week?) I can read this again when I'm feeling like the stupidest person in my family because I've been told I am by my teenager.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Handsome Husband Eats His Own Shorts

they're boxers!

HH got his Valentine present today and it did not disappoint. The cookies, from A Dozen Eggs, are ADORABLE and delicious. In fact, they taste as good as mine (and that's a real compliment from me!). I almost never order baked stuff because usually I look at something and say to myself, I could do that so why pay? But these cookies are delicious and impeccably decorated and packaged. It's amazing that their handmade because they're so perfect. I could never decorate with such detail and care. Laura is careful, creative, and, as a bonus, a really cool person with a great spirit. SO, I'm hoping everyone who reads this goes to her website and orders lots!

I thought I'd also post some of my own food porn. This is S's birthday cake from Sky High:Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman. His favorite donut flavor is Boston Cream Pie so I thought he'd like the real thing for his birthday. The cake is a classic sponge and rose beautifully but didn't have a ton of flavor. I think next time I'll add a little more salt and a lot more vanilla. The pastry cream was fabulous and so was the chocolate glaze, although I think I'll make 1 1/2 times the recipe for it next time. I keep saying "next time" so I guess it's worth trying again if for no other reason than it was be-yoo-tiful. I love a high cake.

And here's an example of my stellar cookie decorating. I made these for M's Twilight-themed birthday party. Cute, right? What this picture doesn't capture, however, is the icing sliding off into the goodie bags because I was too impatient to let it dry completely. See what I mean about me leaving these things to the professionals?

And, just for fun, here's one of "M's" gifts. HH questioned who it was really for

because I am a pervy almost middle-aged woman.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Nearly Dead Dog and a Recipe

I sincerely thought I was going to kill my dog this morning. He's just lucky he didn't commit his crime the day before yesterday.

Today is S's 13th birthday and our family tradition is to start the day off with a birthday cake breakfast. Not just any cake, though. It has to be Cynde's Cinnamon Flop. This cake is ridiculously simple (it has to be--my mom usually sucked as a baker) and amazingly delicious. And my mom made it for us for our birthday breakfast (and loads of other times) every year I can remember. One year she made two for my brother Brent's--one for the 5 of us and one just for him. He took it to his bedroom for safekeeping.

So I thought since S was a teenager now (OMG), I would make him his own. He LOVES this new tradition! He cut his in half and ate it in record time. Meanwhile, I sliced a piece of the other one and took it upstairs to read my morning blogs and snuggle with Annie. Yes, I left them both on top of the stove, but I put one of them (S's) behind some sheet pans and the other one behind a heavy flashlight. I thought they were safe.

S's "slice." Note cinnamony-brown sugar goodness

Then I heard a crash.
But did I think anything of it? Nope. I just assume S broke something and trusted him to clean it up. Until about 20 minutes later when I heard his "Uh-oh."

Here comes the dead dog.

The Pyrex round dish that my mother used every time she made the cake was in a thousand pieces on the floor with the all-but-one-slice whole cake GONE. I felt MURDEROUS. "WHAT DID YOU DO?????" was about the only thing I could do/say. Of course Muttel looked contrite/guilty. Of COURSE they tell us he has no real idea why I was angry because he is a dog. But I honestly think he did know and I was really annoyed to not get an apology. At least he didn't eat the Birthday Boy's cake. At least he had the decency to not lick his lips.

From now on it will make me sad to bake Cynde's Cinnamon Flop in something other than that pan. A little part of me will cry inside the first time I have to. But that cake is so good I won't stop baking it for sentimentality's sake. It's that good.

Right, Muttel?

Cynde's Cinnamon Flop

deceptively delicious, *wildly adaptable

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

About 1 1/4 cups milk

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

1 tablespoon cinnamon, or more to taste

1/4 cup brown sugar, or more to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch round Pyrex (*sniff, weep-weep*) pan, or something comparable if you don't have one *gulp* like I don't anymore, with Pam.

For best results, get a pan like this. Well, not exactly like this.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Pour in milk gradually, stirring to combine. Batter should be easily stir-able, but not soupy. Pour into pan.
Dot top with butter bits, sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar (really good if some of the brown sugar is in chunks) and then swirl a little with a knife, or better, with a finger (yum!).
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a pick comes out clean. Let cool (in a safe place) for 15-20 minutes and then serve. This is best if eaten soon after baking because it gets breadier as it cools (not that that's a bad thing!).
Baker's note: I realize there's no vanilla in this. I think the origins of this are some sort of "war cake" so it's pretty humble. I've tried it with vanilla and, believe it or not, found it too cloying.
But that's just me.
*Variations: Add any or all of the following, either sprinkling on top or mixing in:
--Chocolate Chips (or any kind of chip--my kids like it topped with M&M's!)
--Berries (may take a little longer to bake, especially if berries are frozen)

And, believe it or not, my mom has made it without the sugar, topped it with butter and cheese, and served it with chili!

I would LOVE to hear if anyone out there makes this--and makes it their own with some funky add-ons. Cynde would be so proud.

Monday, February 2, 2009

February 3

This date is an important one to me. Two of the most important people in my life died on this date, nine years apart. Ironically, those two people were my maternal grandmother and my mom. I could get all weird (and if you know me, you know how easy it is for me to go there), I might think that this will be my death day too. Who knows? If it is, I just hope it's a long long time from now. At least I would be in awesome company.

At first I hated this day. Losing my grandmother was so hard, the fact that I lost my mom on the same day was almost unbearable to me. On the first anniversary of my mom's death I decided to combat the sadness by having some of my favorite and fun friends over for a brunch. Everyone wasn't sure what to think of that, I think, but I still laugh remembering Gina breaking the ice. Someone had brought some flowers and was mortified when they realized that there was a Super Bowl pick with a football in it. I laughed and then almost peed myself when Gina said "Well it IS the Super Bowl of death anniversaries!" Excellent.

Now, every year I go about my day, knowing my yartzeit candles are burning in the sink at home. Those stupid 99 cent candles are such a comfort to me. In Judaism, the death anniversary is very important but not for morbid reasons; we're supposed to celebrate the life that person achieved. Of course I do my share of crying, but I've tried over the years to be happy for those tears because crying for them just shows me how much they meant to me, how much they affected my life, and how lucky I am to have been a part of theirs.

SO, I want to introduce you to these two amazing women and very briefly share what they meant to me...

This is me with Marjorie Jeanette Artz, or Mommom to me, Mother to her kids, and Margie to everyone else.

This picture kind of says it all. Hugging close, smiling big, with a cocktail in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The only things not visible are the spike heels and amazing amount of costume jewelry that were part of her everyday attire.

My mommom was FUNNY. When I was upset Steve's parents wouldn't accept me not being Jewish, she told me she didn't understand since I was "Jewish by injection." !!!

She was a party animal in her day.

She was beautiful and savvy but only went to the 8th grade.

She used to tell me, with complete love in her voice when I was 2 years old, "You are JUST so GODDAMN cute!"

She called me her Angel and gave Steve the nickname Honey Bun.

She took him on as a grandson not only because she was sad he didn't have any grandparents but because he was mine.

And to her, whatever I did, no matter how inconsequential it was, was wonderful.

And just LOOK at that outfit. How could she NOT be fun??

My mom and I were also extremely close. I have no regrets about our relationship and believe me, that was a real comfort when she died. But being close also meant complication. Her opinion was more important to me than my own at times. I can remember coming downstairs when I was a teenager and asking her if she liked my outfit. If all she said was "It's fine," I'd have to change to make it better. It wasn't her fault I was so sensitive to her. It was all me. It didn't really abate once I was older either. Sometimes I must admit to feeling some relief that I don't have to worry anymore that I'm going to disappoint her in some way. I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day with that!

Like her own mother, my mom was a LOT of fun. She taught me the value of being silly. She was always chasing me around the house, tangoing with me in the kitchen, and laughing with me about the silliest things. It was great to grow up knowing that it was more than okay to laugh at life--it was necessary.

My mom was also beautiful and a tremendous flirt. She did not pass that talent on to me and laughed that I became good at flirting only after I married the guy. That's her on her wedding day in the very mini wedding dress.

My mom was easy to talk to. I told her (almost) everything and knew that even if she got angry about some of it, she was glad to be told.

She was so proud of me as a person and told me often that she was proud to have been the one who raised me. I try to tell my kids this often.

She was cool and interested in things I was. She used to make us stay in the car until "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin was over. AND, at his first dinner at our house when Steve replied "Smoke what?" to her question "Do you smoke?" she didn't bat an eye.

She was a wonderful Granny to my kids. Even though they were only 5 and 8 when she died, they remember all the fun and crazy things they did with her, like having ice cream for dinner and being allowed to pee outside.

She trusted me to make all my own decisions from an early age and told me, right before I walked down the aisle, that she was proud of every single one.

On my wedding day everyone was healthy and happy.


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