Superfoods

Something in my fridge stinks and I don’t know what it is.

No lie–I have a super power.  I can smell things before other people can smell them.  I think I am part hound.  Or I was a hound in a previous life.  I can walk into my kitchen and smell that there is something amiss.  “What is that smell?”, I ask my family, my face contorted in disgust.  They all shrug and bite into their waffles, and my husband rolls his eyes, because I probably say “What is that smell?” or “Something stinks in here” at least 4 times a day, and everybody’s tired of it.  But then–THEN–2 weeks later we will be cooking spaghetti sauce and I will ask that same husband to reach into the pantry and grab me an onion, and he will emerge with a full-on rotting onion, all soft and dripping rotten onion juice, and I will say:  “HA!  I TOLD YOU SOMETHING WAS STINKY IN HERE!”

I have not figured out how to use my super powers for anything other than driving my family crazy and occasionally sniffing out rotten food 2 weeks before it is actually rotten.  It’s really a burden more than a gift.  It’s not like I’m one of those dogs who can smell when someone has cancer or something cool like that.  It’s more like I will be laying in my bed at night and feel completely distracted and unable to sleep because I can smell that something in the kitchen downstairs is decidedly not right but I couldn’t find it on my pre-bedtime stink search so now I’m just laying in bed smelling it and wondering what it is and trying to ignore it so I can go to sleep but I CAN’T GO TO SLEEP BECAUSE I CAN SMELL IT, so then I have to put Vick’s Vapo-Rub under my nose so I can finally go to sleep.

Anyhow, this fridge business is different than the onion business, because everyone can smell it, not just me.  That’s how you know it’s bad.  I have been through that fridge at least a half-dozen times in the past 3 days, sniffing and wiping and scrutinizing its contents.  Yesterday I roasted up 3 heads of broccoli, just to get it out of the fridge.  It was still fresh, but you know how sometimes those cruciferous vegetables can emit that certain odor?  I had to get the broccoli out of the mix, just to narrow things down.

The only thing left that might be questionable is the kale.

I mean, it looks fine.  It’s in a bag, and it’s not slimy or anything.  But it’s kale.  It’s easy to blame things on kale, I think.  I started eating kale as I was approaching 40 because it’s good for you, and it’s a superfood and all.  I have this complicated relationship with kale because I don’t love it, but if it’s prepped right I don’t hate it either.  It’s growing on me.  And after I eat it I just feel like the biggest superstar, because I just ate a superfood.  So I’m trying to eat more of it, and I try to sneak it into recipes, much to my children’s chagrin.  So this morning after opening the fridge, the husband said, “Just throw out the kale!”  But I feel guilty.  I should eat the kale, because it’s good for me and all the health experts say it prevents cancer and is a good source of antioxidants.  But realistically, how much kale can I eat in one sitting?  Also, what if I throw away the kale and then the fridge still stinks?  You see my dilemma.

And then this morning the husband was in the crisper and found a little nubbin of an English cucumber that was all soft and macerated and sitting in its own cucumber juice there in the corner of the drawer, cleverly hiding under the tomatoes.  Could this nubbin have been the source of our fridge odor?  I have to tell you, it was nasty and drippy, but I sniffed it with my super-smeller and it really was not emitting any smell at all, which is impressive if you think about it.  The bag of kale doesn’t smell either, but I think all of these vegetables are LYING TO ME.  I just gave a whole bunch of celery the boot last night because it was looking a little brown around the edges of the leaves.  I HAVE NO PATIENCE FOR BROWN CELERY LEAVES.

I guess I could spend a little time today making up a fresh batch of kale chips with all of the kale that I feel guilty throwing away.  Except for one small problem:  Kale chips sound disgusting.  I have saved many a recipe to my Pinterest boards for kale chips, but I have not yet been able to bring myself to actually make them.  Chips are made of potatoes or corn.  End of story.  Bake them, fry them, cook them in a kettle, whatever.  They are one of life’s simple pleasures.  They are perfection.  To try to imitate this perfection with a cruciferous vegetable just seems wrong.  I can’t do it.  And you know that I would be the only one eating them.  No way that I could convince my two kids to eat chips made of kale.  And then if they were gross I would feel guilty throwing them away.  Because of the antioxidants.  You can’t just throw antioxidants into the garbage next to brown celery leaves and macerated cucumber nubbins.

So here’s what’s on the menu today:

Breakfast:  Smoothies made with bananas, berries, and kale
Snack:  Massaged kale, drizzled with a citrus dressing and tossed with walnuts and dried cranberries
Lunch:  Quinoa and mixed vegetable salad (featuring:  kale)
Dinner:  Teriyaki vegetables with rice noodles, edamame, and a side of sautéed kale.
Snack:  My tears
Midnight snack:  An entire bag of tortilla chips, with a side of Lay’s Classic.

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Revenge of the school bus driver

Last week was the last day of school.  Both kids came home with a mix of emotions, and ran off the school bus eager to tell me all the sad and tragic and happy things.  My oldest is starting middle school in the fall so he is dealing with the excitement of moving up, combined with sadness at leaving his elementary school and a healthy amount of fear of the unknown.   We talked and hugged, checked out their report cards, had a snack, and I sent them out to play.

About a half-hour after later, Leah came running inside to tell me that their bus driver had driven by our house on his motorcycle to give them a present!  She promptly checked with the kids next door and down the street and confirmed that she and her brother were the only lucky recipients of a special gift from the bus driver.  Why  this matters to her, I don’t know.  Everything’s a competition when you’re eight, even winning favor from your school bus driver.

Then I saw what the bus driver got them.  HE GAVE EACH OF THEM AN AIR HORN.


You guys, what do you think my kids DID to the bus driver this year, exactly?  And why is he punishing ME for it?  I am guessing he holds me responsible in some way.  I swear, I knew nothing of any misbehavior on the bus this year.  If they did something to tick him off, he could have just talked to me about it and I would have nipped it in the bud.  That’s the kind of parent I am.  I am a bud-nipper.

But no.  Instead, he bided his time.  Waiting.  For just the right moment.  For the first day of summer vacation, when they were returned fully to our care for two whole months.  When he KNEW there was no way they could bring those devil’s instruments on the bus.  He’s no fool.

On the bright side, they have learned a few musical tunes.  See “Jaws on the air horn” below.

Contractors are like bad boyfriends

We are doing a little (OK, not so little!) exterior renovation project on our house right now.  The house was built in the mid-1980’s, and though I’m sure the color “fecal brown” was all the rage at that time, I’m over it.  Since we moved in 6+ years ago, I have been wanting to give the exterior of our home a face-lift.  Unfortunately I have neither the savvy nor the budget of Joanna Gaines, so we’re just hoping that we can make our vision a reality.

This is the “before” shot. Hoping to have an “after” sometime this century.


We all know the old adage about renovating:  it will always cost more money and take more time than you think it will, which I can attest is true based on my own personal experience over the years of home ownership.

But here’s the thing about renovating that HGTV will never tell you:  Contractors are like bad boyfriends.  Trust me on this.  I’ve had some bad boyfriends in my day, SO I KNOW.  You call this contractor up for the first time for an estimate (which I think might be the contactor equivalent of a booty call), and they show right up at your door the next day.  They seem interested in you and they give you a professional estimate for a reasonable price.  You commit.  Then–NOTHING.  Crickets.  All communication becomes one-way.  You try calling, it goes to voicemail.  You email, sometimes to more than one address because you’re creepy like that.  No response.  You try texting, but you keep it light, you know?  Because you’re so breezy and easy to get along with.  You’re definitely not the type of girl to sit around your house waiting for your stone mason to text you back.

 

Why won’t you get back to me?  Am I trying too hard?  Not hard enough?  If you get back to me I will stop texting you, promise.

Don’t tell me that I just need a better contractor, or a different contractor, or that I should call this guy you know who is your husband’s brother and he’s so awesome and professional so he would never do that to me.  IT’S ALL LIES.  I have employed a least a few dozen contactors over the past 15 years and they have all done it to me at some point.  Sooner or later they ghost, and I find myself in the same old predicament–on my phone in the kitchen, stalking this dude who won’t call me back .  Hello, high school memories!

Inevitably, the contractor always seems to turn up a few weeks later, right around the time I am giving up all hope for our working relationship.  He is always full of apologies and excuses, just like those bad boyfriends.  And I am faced with a choice–do I smile, accept the apology, and move on toward a future in which my house is no longer the color of feces with 1970’s brick?  Or do I start over with someone else who could be just as bad or worse?  That’s the question.  That is always the question.

I would like to thank all of the bad boyfriends from my past who unknowingly but effectively prepared me for the rejection, frustration, and abandonment involved with home improvement.

 

 

 

 

The 10 phases of attending a school band concert


So, your child plays in the band?  Guess what?  Time for spring concerts!  In case this is your first time, let me guide you through what to expect at a typical band concert.

Phase I:  Excitement and anticipation.
Whether you child plays woodwinds, brass, or percussion (like mine), you will be excited to attend this important event, potentially the performance of a lifetime.  All year your child has been waking up early twice a week to get to band practice, instrument in tow.  Finally you get to hear the fruits of his labor!  You mark your calendar, rearrange appointments, and shuffle any competing extracurricular activities so that the whole family is available to be in attendance.  How often are you treated to a night of FREE musical entertainment, after all?

Phase 2:  Preparation.
You rearrange your work schedule to make sure you won’t be late at the office that day.  You make sure to have a cup of coffee around 4 pm to get you through the evening’s excitement.  Getting home a little early, you have dinner on the table by  5 pm.  Can’t let your micro-sized musician go to his big concert with a rumbly tummy!   There is no time to linger over dinner, but you manage to get the dishes in the dishwasher and everyone has their homework done.  Your mini-Mozart has his instrument and band binder by the door ready to go.  A quick check reveals that everyone is wearing pants.  You are winning!  It’s  almost go time!

Phase 3:  Enter into the first concentric circle of hell.
You remind baby Bach that the band teacher wants all the boys to wear a shirt, tie, and dress pants, and all the girls to wear a dress or a skirt.  What?  A TIE?  I HAVE TO WEAR A TIE?  I HATE TIES AND I’M NOT DRESSING UP AND I AM NOT GOING AND I HATE BAND ANYWAY AND WHY DOES MY BAND TEACHER CARE WHAT I WEAR THIS IS SO STUPID I’M NOT GOING.   As you are putting out the fire in Ringo’s dressing room, sister shows up, after being asked to go brush her hair, in a beautiful off-white formal dress with a tulle skirt and sequined bodice.  You explain to sister that she should go put her jeans back on because a school concert does not require formal dress, while simultaneously trying to get your musician into a shirt and tie.  The incongruity is not lost on you, or your children for that matter.  It looks like it is all falling apart, but really, there is a simple explanation for this: You have entered the gate of hell.  “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” (translation, in case your Italian is rusty–“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”).

Phase 4:  Arrival and seating.
You and your family are now varying degrees of sweaty, angry, stressed, and resentful.  This means you are ready to go!  You pile into the family-mobile and drive in frustrated silence punctuated only by a mom-lecture from the front seat.  You get there early enough to get some choice seats–4th row!!  You see that the program you picked up on the way in mandates no flash photography, and requests that the audience express their appreciation with applause only, and not with “hooting and hollering”.  You make a mental note to contain your enthusiasm.

Phase 5:  Begin to unexpectedly enjoy yourself.
About mid-way through the first song, you realize, “hey, these kids are good.  Like, REALLY good!  I can’t believe these kids are in elementary and middle school!”  The music selections range from classical, to “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, to a jaunty Lady Gaga medley.  This is pretty awesome!

Phase 6:  Experience shock, awe and pride.
Then, all of a sudden, it’s the big moment. The 5th grade band takes the stage.  The conductor raises her wand and they begin to play as one, in perfect harmony.  You burst with pride.  Even though you can’t see your 4’11” percussionist in the very back behind the tubas because of the tall guy in front of you and all the flutes and clarinets in the way, you can hear all kinds of drumming and maraca shaking in the back and you just know–that percussion section is KILLING IT.

Phase 7:  Start to feel the fatigue of your day setting in.
You are enjoying yourself, you really are.  But after the adrenaline wears off from the pre-show circus at your house and the 5th grade band exits the stage after their third number, and the 4 pm coffee wears off, you realize that you are just plain tired.  You start to fantasize about your pajamas, and how good it will feel to take off your bra.

Phase 8:  Start to hate everything and everyone and SWEET MOTHER OF MARY how much longer is this concert get me out of here because I need to go to bed.
You look down and, to your dismay, you are only one-third of the way through the evening’s program.  You start to practice your deep breathing, just like your yoga teacher taught you.  As the moments go on, you start to hate people, all people, especially all the people around you who look like they are having fun, even though you were having fun a minute ago too, but now you changed your mind and you are no longer having fun.  You are tired and you want to go take off your pants and lie down in your bed, but you know that before you can do that you will have to sit in a long car line on the way out of the parking lot with all of these happy-looking people who apparently have much better coping skills than you and can stay up past 8 pm without needing a mental health arrest.  Screw them.

Phase 9:  Rush home to put everyone to bed.
You made it to the end.  Now, only 8 hours until you have to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn to get yourself and your kids up and out the door for school and work!  You sit in the stupid car line out of the parking lot, then speed home.  You order everyone upstairs to perform their nightly dental hygiene practices and get into their pajamas.  But, no.  NO. THEY CAN’T DO THAT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THEY ARE HUNGRY.  They need a “snack”, because heaven forbid they go more than 2 hours without some kind of carbohydrate-laden concoction filled with red #40 to stick in their little music-makers.  You say, “No, go to bed!  You’re tired, not hungry!”,  but your spouse “doesn’t think it’s right” to send kids to bed hungry, so he gives them yogurt while you haul your weary carcass up the stairs.  You brush your own teeth and get your own pajamas on and try to figure out why your children are so resistant to bedtime, which is the best time of the day, in your opinion.

Phase 10:  Recovery.
At this point, assume the recovery position.  Lie on you side in the fetal position.  Stare catatonically at the wall.  Feel proud of your child’s accomplishments.  Feel proud of yourself for being a super awesome good enough parent.  You may close your eyes and allow sleep to overtake you at this point.   Dream of your child, all grown up and performing in the symphony.

***The sequence of events in this blog entry and all characters appearing in it may or may not be entirely accurate and not at all fictitious depending on who is asking and whether or not you are going to tell my son that I blogged about that part with the tie.

Adventures in beauty 

My daughter has been obsessed with getting a curling iron.  That’s right, even though we have two girls in our house, we have not, to this point, owned a curling iron.  Ever since I grew out my two-layered, carefully sculpted/teased/sprayed to perfection “mall bangs” in the early 90’s, I have neither owned nor used a curling iron. Kind of like I did a barn-door in the opposite direction. I used to get teased by friends and family when I was a teenager about how much time I spent on my hair.  Now I just blow it dry and that’s the end of it.

Because here’s the thing that I have now realized:  I am really bad at doing hair.  I am all thumbs when it comes to french braiding, no matter how many times I practice.  When I do two piggy tails on my daughter, it turns out acceptable, but there is always one that is higher than the other, and the part in the back is all skewed, giving the impression that I forgot to put my contacts in before I did her hair.  I was never able to do any of those super-cute little girl hairstyles on her.  In fact, when she was a toddler, I kept her hair cut short in a cute little bob so that it was easy to care for, with minimal tangles and no need to do fancy stuff with it.  I can do a basic ponytail. I can also do the very popular ponytail-half-bun variation in which you don’t pull the tail of the pony all the way through so as to give the impression of a messy bun, but really it’s just a ponytail that gave up right before the finish line.

Leah has more money in her bank account than me, because it turns out that if you save your $7.00 of allowance per week for almost your entire childhood because all you can think of to buy with it is candy, but your parents won’t let you buy candy, you end up being Bill Gates.  So she decided that she wanted to use some of her money to buy a curling iron, in an effort to attain the coveted “beachy waves” that all the cool girls are wearing now.  I couldn’t argue with that, so we headed over to Walgreens the other day to buy a curling iron.  The previous weekend, she had been visiting family, and Aunt Jen had curled her hair beautifully, so she was set on getting the same kind of curling iron that Aunt Jen had used.  Never mind that Aunt Jen has some supermodel qualities that I will never have.  Leah had so much confidence that I was up to this task, I kind of felt sorry for her.

So this curling iron.  I’m looking at it, and it doesn’t have one of those push-lever things, like in the 80’s.  You’re just supposed to wrap your hair around it by hand and, um, not burn yourself.  What?  Oh, but it comes with a 3-fingered glove to use on your “wrapping” hand, so that’s helpful for the clumsy gals like me.  I tried to convince her to get the push-lever kind, but she wouldn’t have it.  I also thought an iron with a nice wide barrel would be good for those coveted waves, but no.  Aunt Jen used THIS one, we must get THIS one.  Thirty bucks later we are back at home, and that lever-less, narrow-barreled thing is warming up on the counter.  I think I heard it laugh an evil laugh at me.  Maybe that was my imagination.

I tried so hard you guys.  My supermodel sister-in-law even sent me a tutorial video with a drop-dead gorgeous twenty-something beauty blogger, which I watched dutifully.  I did everything she told me to do, I swear.  Here is the inspiration, and the outcome:

Expectation….

Versus reality. So, so close…

 

Then I tried to do myself, just in case.  And it turns out that when I use a curling iron, my hair ends up looking almost exactly like it did in Haiti, when exposed to 100% humidity.  Also a lot like Monica Gellar on Friends, when she went to the Bahamas.

Beachy waves?

“Haiti hair”

Monica can’t help it. “IT’S THE HUMIDITY!!”


 

I give up, man.  I just can’t do it.  I will never be a beauty blogger.  I will never have beachy waves.  My child will have to learn to do her own hair.