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Showing posts from 2013

Homemade Christmas

This year Phil and I began brainstorming for Christmas before Thanksgiving. We wanted to be smart and thoughtful with our gifts, and this meant spending more time instead of money on people.


In October we made our first batch of soap using the instructions from candleandsoap.about.com. Phil handled the chemicals and essential oils because websites suggested pregnant women not participate in these sorts of experiments. (Everyone is always pooh-poohing on pregnant women doing cool stuff.) The most surprising bit in the experiment was the lye, which we purchased in the form of drain cleaner from home depot. Mixed with water, the lye heats up all on its own and forms the base for the soap. To this we added our oils: palm, coconut, and olive.


The second most surprising discovery was the color of our soap, which I believe was caused by the red palm oil. That creamy pumpkin color inspired Phil's clever labels: Phil's Naptha—a play off of Fels Naptha, which is an orange laundry soap.

W…

Countdown

7 days until Winter Solstice
11 days until Christmas 18 days until January 28 days until baby’s due date



This was what life was like before any more little ones came.
The mandarin oranges were ripe on the tree. The Boston Ivy was dropping it’s rusty red leaves. The stag and the moon and the lady with cookies were all opened on the advent calendar. And I’ve just made fresh bread with my free bread maker. Phil and I ate slice after slice slathered in butter and dipped in the turkey broth simmering on the stove.













The green corners of our home are shaping up as Phil and I have moved pots here and there, replanted, transplanted, and made way for new plants. We hope to buy a Ginkgo in honor of the new baby. Lee received a navel orange, grapefruit, and strawberry tree. Perhaps the new baby will also get a Hollywood Juniper, but a Ginkgo will be enough. It is a tree that I’ve written into my story. Both Phil and Ilove it.





The garden against the house is producing lettuce, carrots, beets, ar…

All His Needs

Multitasking: it’s a necessary skill to mother. I don’t mean acting like you’re listening while checking facebook, or chatting on the phone while trying to cook. Those combinations don’t work well. I mean going about the necessary business needed to keep a household running in the midst of watching children. This is necessary. I cannot let my 20-month-old wander freely doing whatever he wills while I swiff or meal plan or change the sheets on the bed. I cannot ignore him for such durations of time.
I suppose if and when I have multiple children, I will become better at ignoring them, but for now I haven’t perfected that skill. Oh yes, I do believe it is a skill because I’ve seen a dozen mothers at central park who do not have it. They follow their children around the play structures: “No Mariah, don’t pick up that pinecone.” “Come here, Mariah. Let’s climb up these steps.” “No Mariah, don’t lay down on the floor.” "Mariah, look at the doggie!” “Say hello, Mariah.” “Say goodbye,…

Stick or Treat

We ran out of candy Halloween night. I should've anticipated larger crowds. Two years ago when Philip and I strolled around Uptown Whittier on Halloween, we were flabbergasted at the quantity of people. The sidewalks were reminiscent of Disneyland's Main Street at Christmas time.

I thought three bags of candy would be enough, but those were gone before 8 o-clock and the Batmans, Wolverines, walking dead, and princesses kept coming. So Phil started to tell kids that we had no treats left, only tricks. For one non-suspecting boy dressed up as a Minecraft character and unable to see out of his box-head costume, this meant a spoonful of pumpkin guts in his goodie bag. Phil had a tupperware full of the orange slime that he'd carved out earlier that evening.

I think dressing up as a convict was getting to Phil, that and his scruffy beard. We were wearing our orange coveralls gifted to us by my mom to help in household projects. Lee too had a black and white striped costume: &qu…

Over the Bridge

My clothespins hang on my laundry line like freshly caught fish, and the sunlight slices horizontally into my kitchen windows. Lee and I watch the days growing shorter, so we greet the mornings early with a walk, and in the evenings we watch the orange sun set before Philip gets home. The air is as dry as the brown leaves that the stroller crunches. We collect seedpods up and down Greenleaf, Bright, Comstock, and Broadway. Then we place them on the kitchen table for Phil to identify during dinner. It’s a plant ID test. We have settled into our new house rather like Cinderella’s foot into that glass slipper. It feels like we’ve been sojourners for the last several years and now we’ve come home. Despite the stained toilet, the receding shower grout, the dishwasher with a soap dispenser that doesn’t open, the gaps around the screens for flies to enter, the stucco peeling off the foundation walls, the splintering wood floors, the painted-shut windows, the outlets that don’t work, the fro…

Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill

This is a not a list for the individual who is short on time. This is the list for the person who enjoys working with his or her hands, who doesn't mind waiting for dough to rise, who plans meals ahead of time, and who isn't afraid of looking slightly unusual. If convenience is what you want, you must pay extra for it. If experimenting in cooking is what you hate, stop reading. The fact of the matter is this: making things from scratch saves a whole lot of money.

1) Only buy meat on sale.
2) If you must buy meat, make it last the week. Use it more like a garnish than a main dish.
3) Buy chicken with the bone and skin on. It's much cheaper than boneless skinless.
4) Buy bars of soap instead of liquid soap.
5) Don't buy Kleenex. Use soft toilet paper instead.
6) Never buy pre-grated cheese. Instead buy a brick and grate it yourself.
7) Never buy pre-grated cabbage, lettuce, or carrots. Buy a head and grate it yourself.
8) Buy cucumbers in season and make your own pickles…

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Lee in the window and hands all a helping
 Rubbish composting and little eyes sleeping Views of the hills that all seem to sing These are a few of my favorite things.
Holes that are gone and debris stacked in piles
Complete kitchen walls and Philip all smiles
New and old lemons and peppers to bring These are a few of my favorite things.
When the tools drill, when the dust clings When I’m being a crab I simply remember my favorite things And then I don’t feel so mad.
Clean copper pipes and blooms that can’t hide Green Boston ivy climbing there on the side  New baby to welcome before next spring These are a few of my favorite things.

Fred Taylor

My dad taught me to jump off high up places. He taught to me to question the automotive repairman, that scars are trophies, that “clean” is relative, and that some candy tastes best when slightly stale.
He used to point at trees or radio towers or rocks and say, “I bet you could climb that.” He still makes the best wilderness eggs: all runny in the middle with a crust around the edges, fried in bacon grease with a side of spuds. He sees difficulties as adventures, summits as destinations, and the wilderness as his living room. And still, he was man enough to see the Swan Princess with me when I was in grade school.
My dad is a desert kind of guy. On multiple occasions he drove his motor home down roads that caused the drawers of cooking utensils and the cabinets of snacks and even the refrigerator door to swing open and vomit paraphernalia onto the plastic carpet runners. His goal was to find a location where we could see no signs of civilization. This was probably done in order to lig…

Bread and Animal Noises

I have a view of my neighbor’s white roof from my dining room window. I can see their backyard and newly redone garage with its shiny turbine vents. I can see the white roof of their neighbor’s too, and the white rooftop beyond that. The electric and telephone wires hatch the view like spider webs.
The view makes me want to leap from rooftop to rooftop singing “Chim-chimney, chim-chimney, chim chim cheree . . .” twirling a broom over my head and using the bathroom vents as launching points. That’s probably not good for the shingles, and I probably couldn’t make it from one house to the next unless I had a pole vault or grappling hook.
I’ve found myself thinking like this on many occasions. If I tie this sheet to the top of this chair and then secured it to the ground at an angle, I could have myself a little ramp. Wow, there’s a lot of room under this bed; I wonder if I fit. Hmmm . . . this packaging has such interesting dips and rises; it could be a city; I can fit all Lee’s blocks …