Objectively a disaster

February. A Saturday. I am not sick. Mimi is not sick. It is sunny. It is above freezing and getting warmer. There is snow on the ground, though. What better day to get a picture of some log cabins in the snow…? So, “Mimi, wanna go to the log cabin place?” I ask, and “Yeah!!!” she says.

A hour later we are showered, dressed, coiffed, and breakfasted. We have a picnic basket in the trunk and Whiskey Before Breakfast on the stereo. What could be better?


1. Partway through the drive I start to feel that some hair on the top of my head has gone agley. Not surprising, with the air vents blowing everywhere. I ignore it. Ten minutes later, a large brown house spider falls off of my forehead onto my sweater. I whisk it off, figure I have killed it, and congratulate myself for not disturbing the child.

2. Some time later, Mimi screams like a banshee. She has seen the spider. More screams, hyperventilating, hysterics, for the last ten miles of interstate before we can pull off for me to kill the spider. Spider, need I say, has long since disappeared.

3. So we go on our merry way, laughing about the naughty spider. We arrive at the park. There are three other cars there. Oops. Oh well, the website said the park is technically OPEN, and we have a picnic, so we eat it then enter the park.

4. They don’t shovel the walkways in this park. Good thing I insisted Mimi wear her snow boots. Except it turns out that hers are purely ornamental snowboots. She immediately begins to whine that her feet are cold, and shortly convinces me to sit on a bench to warm them up. Inside her boots, her socks are soaking wet. I strip them off, warm her tootsies in my hands, and put the wet boots back on.


5. Repeat, a hundred yards down the path. Convince her to keep going only with promises of stick candy at the general store.

6. The general store is closed for the winter.

7. Warm her feet twice more on the way back to the entrance. Normally, when a cabin’s re-enactor isn’t in for the day, the cabin door is open with a fence across it so you can peer in. The cabins’ doors are all closed for the winter.

8. We make it back to the entrance with only two foot-warmings because I tell her we’ll get cake at the canteen. The canteen is closed.


9. Get in the car. Take off her soaked boots. Put her mittens on her feet. Drive away. Oh well, at least I got fifty lovely pictures of the outsides of log cabins in the snow, and Mimi has swallowed the disappointments manfully. She is singing happily in the back seat and… she screams like a banshee again. The spider, warm and friendly after hibernating in my car for who knows how long, is crawling on her car seat waving his feelers at her. She tries to bat him away with a granola bar wrapper. In the rear-view mirror, I see the spider fly somewhere. She insists he fell into her car seat and is in her clothes. Ten miles of hysterics while I look for an exit.

10. Child climbs onto me, clings like a monkey, all the while demanding that I kill the spider without bringing her anywhere near the car. Pause for a brief lesson in physics and logic. Look for spider. Don’t find spider. We agree the spider is not in her car seat. I still have to karate-chop her to get her back into it. Tiny gods, get me home now.

11. Full stoppage of the interstate. Emergency vehicles have both lanes blocked a quarter of a mile ahead. Yahoos behind me begin to drive down the left lane. Shortly thereafter a string of fresh emergency vehicles wants to get down the left lane. I feel smug, but we still sit in traffic for fifteen extra minutes with a spider in the car and no cake in our bellies. Still, I bet the poor blighter who flipped his car had a worse day.

12. Finally, home. Phew. The trip was objectively a disaster… though to tell the truth, February is such a horrid month that even all that was better than staying home.

We won’t go to the log cabin place in the winter again. Lovely photos, though.


Happy New Year


Nigella Bites is the cookbook that defined the naissance of my competence in the kitchen. Funny to say that a woman whose instructions read like “I won’t explain the kitchen-torch part; this has been gone over often enough” is the one whose guidance I looked to… but then again, that’s exactly the slapdash approach I use for most things in life.

It has been on the shelf for a lot of years. Today I have gotten it down in order to make Nigella’s creme brulee. I used to make this creme brulee a lot, when I was in graduate school. I have a kitchen torch. When Sparks first moved in with me he decided it was a more appropriate tool for the garage than the kitchen, and absconded with it. He did that with a lot of my things, early on. A habit I have, fortunately, trained out of him.

But the torch has been found, and the custard is cooling. We are neither of us sure that the torch still has any fuel in it, but we’ll find out. If so, we will have proper burned-sugar-topped creme brulee. If not, we will have custard along with some Venetian fig-and-almond cake I had the foresight to buy from the specialty store.

Prosciutto-wrapped figs and aged Irish cheddar for nibbles beforehand. Game hens stuffed with apples, onions, garlic, and raisins for the main course (another dish I made a lot when I was in graduate school), accompanied by smashed sweet potatoes, roasted cauliflower, and a green salad of the guest’s devising. Custard and fig cake for dessert. Various wines and one bottle of bubbly, to toast.

I will put the pink cloth on the table, and put out my “wedding ring” china. Crystal glasses. A new year only comes once a year… better celebrate it properly.



Seven years of Pudding


What can there be to say? My kitty, my snoogums, my luck dragon, my walking teddy bear, my Christmas Pudding has been mine for seven years, today. Hard to believe.

She has blossomed this year. Mimi stopped being a menace and began to be a sometimes-source of petting, which Pudding appreciates, though she sometimes hisses when the attention gets to be too much. With Sparks and I Pudding has become more affectionate and insistent than ever. She gives love-bites now, which is new. She sits in my lap every evening after Mimi goes to bed. Last night when Mimi was sick, she meowed around before curling up on the foot of the bed, to make sure everything was all right.

Best cat ever. Love you so much, Pudding. If the move happens… I am so sorry about the car ride. We’ll do our best for you.


The midnight hours


We made it almost four years, but tonight, the night has come. Pookie has her first ear infection, and she is miserable. Puppy-whining, yelling “ow”, coughing, tossing, hair-clawing miserable. Unfortunately I gave her a dose of Benadryl at bedtime, so she is also too out of it to be talked sense to.

Eventually I turned the overhead light on, to wake her up as much as possible, and told her that Tylenol dissolved in water was “Hawaiian Punch”. She drank it. After another bad quarter of an hour, she has at least stopped whining.

She asked me to stay with her, though. “Sit right here by me, mom.” If you know my child and her fiercely independent sleep habits, then you know what an event that was. We sleep trained her, and we did it well. She has been in her Big Girl Bed for a year and a half and still hasn’t realized that she can get out of it on her own.

And so I sat by her, and will again, after I’ve unburdened myself of these words. Oh, the midnight hours I have spent in her little room, in that rocker, looking at the same pictures, huddled under the same quilts, waiting for her to fall deeply enough asleep that I could slip away. There are precious few of those hours, anymore. They only happen when she’s very sick.

She is miserable enough that the cat, Pudding, came to help. Pudding has always been good to me in illness; she has a knack for kneading cramping bellies. Tonight she meowed around for a while, then settled on the foot of Mimi’s bed, where I think she still is. Mimi knows I am gone. She is whining again.

She’s a pretty picture, my sick little girl. Her quilts. Her rose-printed sheets. Her hair on the pillow.

Ah, there. She’s calling for me. Goodnight.


Advent calendar


I didn’t do Advent Calendars when I was a kid, so I was sort of not-on-the-ball about doing them with Mimi. I bought this Playmobil one off of eBay, midway through last December. It wasn’t last year’s calendar. I don’t know what year’s it was… I just knew that I wanted all of those little animals.


Mimi loves it. Every morning the first thing she thinks about is “today’s Christmas door.” And the animals… oh, the adorable animals. This is one of those parts of parenting where you have to forcibly remind yourself that this is your child’s toy, and not yours.



Christmas ideas

Christmas is my favorite holiday. It brings all kinds of nostalgic ideas.

For instance, mightn’t it be nice to celebrate the Christmas season as the Twelve Days of Christmas, with Christmas Day being the first day of celebration, instead of the big blowout at the end? School vacations are geared to make this happen (though office schedules seldom are). Of course, there would still be the shopping, baking, wrapping, and decorating to get through before the big day. Maybe Christmas is the end of the celebration because by the time we get there, we’re simply too tired to go on.

Christmas also gets my crafty juices flowing. This morning I bought this pad of paper at Target:


Nice, isn’t it? Geared toward the woodsy, rustic look that is so in this season, and which I am really liking. But what to do with it? It’s not as if I’m going to make my own Christmas cards (found the perfect ones already). It’s not as if I don’t have more ornaments than my 9′ tree can hold. I guess I could use a few sheets to wrap small gift boxes. That doesn’t inspire me much, though. Meh, you know?

But what if the tree decorations were made fresh, every year…? What if there was a day spent cutting and folding and gluing, making a long paper chain, and whirligigs and fans and folded cranes, cornettes full of sweets and fine-cut snowflakes? What if this pad of paper got completely used up in trimming the tree, for one year only? What if paper decorations were made fresh every Christmas so that there weren’t decorations to store the rest of the year? Would that be cool?

I don’t know. I, for one, like to see the same ornaments come out year after year. Still it’s a nice idea, from the paper’s point of view. Because I honestly don’t know what will happen to it, other than being stuck in my craft room with all my other fancy paper.


A Mimi Little Christmas


Oh my gosh, the mall. Mimi and I went to the mall to see Santa… and it is CRAZY there. The hawkers, the decorations, the rides and special features. Who needs a village square? Who needs theme parks? Just go to the mall! You don’t even have to buy anything!


She did talk to Santa. She threw pennies in the fountain. She rode the merry-go-round. We did not ride the train. I had my hair curled. She had foils put on her fingernails. We sprayed perfume samples. I got a hot gel neck massage. We ate pretzels. She put a penny down the… penny-go-round thing. She played on the playground. I browsed a couple of stores. We were caught in a flurry of soap suds “snow” in the central court. We watched a mechanical bird sing, and remote control helicopters fly. Mimi… in an eerie re-creation of her grandmother circa thirty years ago… dragged me all around J. C. Penney, against my wishes.


And now I am home and exhausted. I am coming down with my second head cold of the season, darn it. I hope you are enjoying the holiday season, for better or for worse…