Guess which state holds a bunch of world records for largest vegetables? Ever see an upside-down tree in someone's front lawn? I'm talking about Alaskan gardens in my guest post, Growing Strong in Alaska. I hope you'll come on over to Scribbit and tell me what you think . . .
Dinner last night: spaghetti and meatballs, garlic twists
I used to reserve Fridays for a regular feature I cleverly entitled Friday's Five, wherein I plucked a fabulous blogger from the Internet, sat her down in an uncomfortable folding chair, and asked her five random questions. I don't remember why, but I took a short break from interviewing. What was intended as a brief interlude morphed into a lengthy hiatus, which mutated into a cold and insensitive avoidance of my weekly Q and A session.
I've noticed that the followers section has been growing over there on the sidebar—which thrills me and humbles me and, frankly, blows my mind—and I've been wanting to get to know some of these wondrous people who have bravely subscribed to my site o' drivel. I suspect that they're victims of a hostile computer virus, which has assigned them to my blog against their knowledge and/or will. Quite possibly, feline pets high on catnip have stumbled across keyboards and accidentally signed up their owners to my site. Whether they knowingly subscribed or were duped in a cruel and heartless prank, I shall brazenly select potential subjects for Friday's Five from my list of Fabulous Followers, convince them that it is in their best interest to answer my questions, and post our visits where everyone can listen in on the fun.
So! Friday's Five returns next week, and until then, here's a list of past victims whom I've interrogated and whose blogs I highly recommend:
A set of train tracks follows the shoreline about 1/2 mile from our house, and every night the train blasts its horn as it crosses the road into civilization. At first it annoyed me, but now I kind of like the familiarity and consistency of the Alaska Railroad's late run.
I snapped a pic of this actual one-car train chugging down the tracks,
1. Chipotle. How in the heck are you even supposed to pronounce chipotle? I dare you to say it five times, fast. I pity the poor kid who works the Taco Bell drive-thru and has to listen to people try to order um, achip-ottle, er, a chip o' tattle, what? a chip-olay? Whatever, dude. A grilled stuft burrito.
2. Tilapia. Another food word that I'm not sure how to pronounce. Ti-LAP-i-a? Or til-a-PI-a? I distrust a seafood that I had never heard of in my life until about 5 years ago. Where does this tilapia fish swim? Why have I never seen it in the wild? Is this a fake fish, like the "krab" in so many restaurant dishes?
3. Green. Why must this word embody the environmental movement? I'm too literal-minded of a person, so every time I hear the phrase, "green home," I think of a house painted green. When I read about a designer who's into "green dresses," I think she specializes in an avocado shade of fabric. When I'm told to "think green," I get confused. You want me to feel jealous? What?
4. Ambivalent. When I was a little kid, I mistakenly got it into my head that ambivalent was a synonym for antagonistic. To this day, I have to pause and mentally sort it out, so if you're talking to me, it's safer just to say, "I don't care one way or the other." If you use the word ambivalent, I might think you want to fight me.
5. Puke. To me, this is the cuss version of vomit. I can handle it if you're talking about your fat, alcoholic Uncle Fred puking in the hedges. But your sweet baby sick with the flu, "puking all night"? That seems so coarse. I know, I know. It's just me. But if you start in with some story of how you got sick after eating bad chipotle tilapia over rice and ended up puking into a green shopping bag, I'm going to get real ambivalent, real quick.
You may recall that I spent a short time in New Mexico. You may recall this because that’s all I wrote about for two weeks and you’re sick of hearing about my daughter’s soccer trip and if you never see the words Albuquerque and Hot, it’ll be too soon. Harumph.
I only bring up Kim’s Amazing Desert Adventure yet again, because although I did confess that I left my husband and 3 daughters at home, I don’t think I mentioned that my mom was there with them for the first 2 days. We all thought it would help with the transition, and indeed her cooking and assistance with household chores prevented my husband from being overwhelmed. She then took off for a couple of weeks to gallivant across the ocean, returning to my house just the other day for an extended visit. I picked her up at the airport and brought her home, where she was met with a round of hugs and happy shouts from her four granddaughters who all adore her.
The veddy interesting part—at least to me—occurred the next morning. The twins woke up and got in bed with me, as they have done each morning since I returned home from New Mexico. One stroked my arm. The other clutched me in a bear hug. What’s going on? They were clingier than usual, which until I went on my little trip, was NOT CLINGY AT ALL. And this morning in particular my previously independent and fearless children were acting like I was going to vaporize at any moment. They refused to go downstairs without me, and then proceeded to stick by my side like glue. Although they couldn’t articulate their fear, I think they were worried that Grandma’s arrival signaled my impending departure. I finally decided to talk with them about their abandonment issues, inasmuch as you can converse with 4-year-olds.
I asked them, “Do you think Mommy is going away again?” Neither said a word. One daughter stared unblinkingly at me, thumb in mouth. The other nodded her head silently, eyes filling with tears. “I’m not going anywhere,” I assured them.
I knelt down, knees cracking and practically falling over when they both grabbed at me to make sure I wasn’t going to scuttle away, and I asked both of them to look at me right in the eyes. I repeated carefully, “I am not going anywhere. Mommy is staying home with you, okay?”
I’ll have to be extra sensitive for awhile, and take them with me whenever I go to the store or run errands, which is a huge pain in my tiny and shapely behind. You think it’s inconvenient buckling one child in and out of his carseat, wrangling him into a grocery cart, and then keeping him fairly quiet and under control in public spaces? Try standing in line at the post office with two toddlers. That’s my duty as mom, though, until my daughters accept that even though Grandma is here I’m really, truly not going to disappear again for a week.
I’ve been humbled by their attachment to me. I obviously understand their need for me to feed and protect them, but I never realized until now how strong our emotional bond is. This mother–daughter love is powerful stuff.
Dinner last night: homemade chicken and rice soup, sweet corn muffins
In a house full of girls, you know that it's only a matter of time before one of them takes a pair of scissors to her head. My middle daughter gave herself a mullet when she was about 2, lopping off the sides of her long brown locks in two quick snips. My eldest child held off until she was in the 5th grade before deciding that she was old enough to cut her own bangs. If I were honest, I'd have to confess that even I have tried to trim my split ends using a hand mirror and my scrapbooking shears. So why bother getting upset when one of my 4-year-old twins circumvented all security measures and accessed some scissors in the bathroom . . .
Would it gross you out too much if I admitted that the scissors she used were a tiny pair of round-ended nosehair clippers that my husband keeps in his shaving kit?
Remember when we all used to say, "We're Gonna Party Like It's 1999"? What do we say now? We're gonna party like it's Two-Thousand Nine-Hundred and Ninety-Nine? That's a mouthful. Even "twenty-nine ninety-nine" is too much. I guess we'll just have to go retro and return to the short but sweet "Let's par-TAY!" I don't know why I'm even worrying about it, because let's face it, I'm no partier.
It's not like I don't know how to have fun. Some years are big party years in our house. This year just isn't one of them. I'm the family member who has to organize a celebration if it's to occur, and for whatever reason, I wasn't in the mood to throw a 4th of July barbecue this summer. Nobody else felt like it either, so a quiet day at home was spent by all. We hung out in our pajamas, watching movies and snacking.
At one point we wandered out to the driveway and shot off a bunch of noisemakers that my husband had picked up a week ago when we thought we might have the energy to clean the house and invite people over. Turns out we didn't even have the energy to get out of bed and go to church.
F is for Functional. When I packed shoes for a recent trip to New Mexico, I took sandals. I knew the temperatures would be hot and that I would be wearing mostly capris and shorts. What I didn't consider was MY STUPID BACK. Two days into traveling, my lower back was on the verge of going out due to sitting too long on the plane, sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, and running around all day in flat sandals. I had to act fast, and made my way to the nearest mall in search of proper footwear. I really, really did not want to stick my already sweltering feet into a pair of warm socks and then encase them in sneakers. I came across these "fit" flops at Macy's.
I think it was Macy's. I honestly don't remember. It might have been Dillard's. I don't know! It was some department store that we don't have in Alaska. ANYWAY. FitFlops are marketed as a mini gym workout or something, and are supposedly constructed to tone your leg muscles, which is not why I got them. I paid far too much money for them because I was desperate to prevent my lumbar muscles going into spasm and when I tried on these sandals they actually felt comfortable—cushy, but with arch support. I wore them the rest of my stay in Albuquerque, and they did indeed save my back from going out. I've been wearing them at home, too, just because they're so easy to slide into. They're nothing great to look at, but they sure are a comfy pair of flip-flops.
F is for Frivolous. In my youth, I always wore rings on my fingers, but over time I have ahem gained a pound or two and outgrown my beautiful bands of gold and silver. I can't even wear my wedding ring any more, because I had to cut it off when I was pregnant with the twins and my left finger mutated into a swollen Polish sausage. Thank you for that imagery, Kim. You're welcome. With all the fabulous handmade jewelry I kept seeing in Albuquerque, I decided to buy myself a late birthday present. I was originally planning on a chunky turquoise bracelet, but I ended up purchasing this sterling silver and opal ring.
I always thought opals were white, but these look bluish. They probably aren't even opals and I got totally ripped off, but I still like this ring. And it fits!
F is for Flavia. I'm probably the last person in the world to read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, as it has received all kinds of rave reviews and awards and you've probably already read it ages ago, but I really must recommend this book to mystery literature fans. I say mystery literature, because this book is well-written and character-driven, and might not appeal to those who prefer a quick summer read that's more pulp fiction in flavor. The author, Alan Bradley, is in his 70s and this is his first novel (although he's been writing most of his life—screenplays, short stories, a memoir, etc.) Bravo, Mr. Bradley!
The protagonist is a wonderfully precocious 11-year old English girl name Flavia de Luce, and I just love her and her sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. If you took Little Women and threw it in a bag with Anne of Green Gables and a bunch of Agatha Christie novels, shook it up, and poured it out, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie would fall into your hands. Sweetness is supposed to be the first in a series, and I look forward to reading more of Flavia's investigations.