Friday, May 27, 2011

Foodie quote

I'm currently reading through the cookbook titled Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics and found this quote in the forward that I really liked and agreed with, although I'm not really a Southern cook, per se. More like a Mom cook, but even Susie, born and bred south of the Mason-Dixon line, agreed that I am definitely not a Yankee cook. "I don't think there is such a thing," she sniffed.

Anyway, here's Paula's thought on down-home cookin' and it reminds me a lot of what Julia would likely say about French country cooking, and Dorie Greenspan too: "Southern cooking comes from within. We show our love to someone through the kitchen, through food. We bake a cake or a pie as a welcoming gift or a show of support in tough times. Southern cooking is comfort food. It's flavorful and filling and makes you feel good.

"It does not require a sophisticated palate. It's poor-man's food. Kids don't have to acquire a taste for it. They love it from the start. Southern dishes do not require split-second timing. They do not 'fall' in the oven. We don't go in for ornate presentation, either, or sculpted desserts. We just heap food on the plate."

That's what it's all about, isn't it? Country food is country food, no matter what country you're in. Just make sure you heap it on the plate.

copyright (c) 2005, Random House, New York

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I was working this afternoon on this recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie cooking group so that I could get it posted tomorrow. I made a pastry crust, got it all fitted into my quiche plate and assembled my ingredients: bacon, spinach, onion, garlic, eggs, heavy cream, some salt and pepper, parmesan cheese...quiches are generally pretty easy to put together and I'm glad about that, particularly today. Last night, you see, we had some of the worst thunderstorms I've ever quivered my way through, complete with tornado sirens and howling winds, hail and whirly, twirly clouds in the sky. It was quite a night and left me with a storm hangover: all day long I've been twitchy and dove for the downstairs bathroom -- a windowless interior room -- when an ambulance's siren wailed by outside.

Anyway, quiche is a lovely, comforting food and this one sounded so good. I finally have given up on Dorie's pastry crust because it just never turns out right for me. Instead, I tried one from Paula Deen's cookbook, Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics, and I'm happy to say that it turned out perfectly: easy to throw into the food processor, easy to roll, chill and then fit into my quiche plate. Plus it was delicious, flaky and light the way pastry is supposed to be. I don't know what it is about those Dorie Greenspan pastry crusts, but I just hate them. All that butter and shortening going into a crust that shrinks and tears and doesn't cook evenly is a bit of wastefulness that I find extraordinarily annoying.

So! Quiche! It wasn't until I had everything ready to go that I realized that the bag of spinach I bought last week? It was nowhere to be found. Did I actually buy it? Did I buy it and then didn't realize that the girls were making salads like busy little rabbits? I don't know.

What I do know is that I made a very delightful Spinach-Bacon Quiche with no spinach, and it was very good indeed.

Almost here.....

The swim club opens this weekend. I'm so thrilled because it has been a long, long spring and an even longer winter and I wonder if anyone would think me odd if I fell to the decking, kissing it and weeping. Actually, on second thought, there might be a whole lot of people doing that very thing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PSA from a deep, dark brunette

This is a new hair color from John Frieda. I purchased the color called "Natural Medium Brown" in an attempt to stem the great grey tide that is overtaking my head, and let me say right here, thank you, recession, for making my life so vivid and full of new experiences, like coloring my own hair. Because without you, I never would have had the chance to try out this new foam hair color (messy, awkward; it's so much easier to use the L'Oreal or Ion from Sally's Beauty Supply, both of which have point-and-shoot applicators) and also to TURN MY HAIR BLACK.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


A picture of the ol' home place, where Papa lives.

Monday, May 23, 2011

NUNDAY: And here you thought nuns could only play bingo

My family plays this card game, Spoons, because it's an easy one for even the little ones to play. Although we found out that due to a certain ruthlessness in our genetic makeup, it became necessary to tell the little ones that not only could they not play with us, they couldn't even stay in the room where we were playing. Because my mother? She will wrench your wrist around on your arm and laugh while she's doing it in order to take possession of that last spoon.

I don't think this group of sisters plays quite that violently -- I don't see blood on anyone's habit -- but those flying hands lead me to believe that there's quite a spirited game in progress. Maybe if I'd found a picture of them taken later that day, one of them would have been in a sling? Who can tell. I doubt it, though. It would be very hard to say in confession, "I confess that I broke Sister Immaculata's pinky finger because she wouldn't give up the spoon." That would be difficult for anyone.

Prom Night - behind the scenes

This picture, taken outside the Indiana Roof Ballroom at about 12:30 Saturday morning, is proof positive that the prom finally got here after months and months of waiting. We bought the tickets in late January. We bought the dresses in early May. We found the shoes, the jewelry, the desired well as a glittery hair spray that made the girls' hair look like it had been sprinkled with diamonds. Everything was very lovely.

Unless you were at our house about ninety minutes before we left to take the girls to the dance.

You probably suspected that all had not gone smoothly, right? Because these things just never do. Formal dances exist, I believe, to give families practice for weddings, so that when a groomsman's shiny shoes aren't included with his tux, or when the cake turns out to be not exactly what the bride had asked for, or when certain individuals on one side of the family come to the celebration wearing faces more appropriate for a funeral with matching attitudes, or when the service is unaccountably messed up, or when the matron of honor turns out to be three months pregnant by the time the wedding rolls around and can just barely zip up her dress, people can deal with these things without flying into a thousand screaming pieces. I know, because all of the above things happened at my wedding. And see how normal and calm I am, all these years later?

Our only enormous problem with prom arose from something I told Meelyn she should do to treat herself, and that was have her makeup done by an associate at the local Salon Professional Academy. True, the associates are still students, I told her, but by the time they get to the point of being allowed to do prom makeup and hair, as the sign outside the academy advertised, they are competent and well-equipped to make a girl look like a fairy princess.

Or so I thought.

Aisling's appointment was first because she opted for the whole hair and makeup package. The associate who did her face came in, Aisling said, with an enormous suitcase fitted with different compartments for her huge collection of cosmetics. They talked about the look Aisling wanted -- pretty and pastel, no harsh colors -- and the student-artist went to work, creating a look that Aisling was thrilled with, and indeed she did look very lovely when the girls came home later.

But Meelyn, my poor Meelyn....

Meelyn was asked to work the lunch shift at the fast-food restaurant she's been employed at for the past couple of years: the manager is finding it difficult, despite these hard economic times, to find employees who will actually come in when they're scheduled to work, and then lift a finger once they're there. So Meelyn went in to pick up the slack, which meant that she didn't get to go for her makeup appointment until 3:30 (since her hair is short, she felt she could manage it by herself, unlike the updo Aisling had for her longer hair.) Meelyn drove home and took a quick shower and then set out for the salon, where I'd dropped Aisling off an hour before.

Thankfully, Aisling chose to sit in a nearby chair and watch Meelyn's makeup being done instead of sitting in the waiting area with her book: otherwise, we probably would have had to have Meelyn's face sandblasted to remove the thick layer of orange pancake makeup the technician -- not the same one who did Aisling's face -- trowelled on. While watching the student smear the awful stuff on her sister's face, Aisling, whose personality is more, well, forthright like mine, rather than sweet and more aquiescent like Meelyn's, said, "Uhhm, should you be trying to blend that a little more?" when a traffic-cone-colored line appeared along Meelyn's jaw.

"She looked at me and rolled her eyes," Aisling said indignantly. "She ROLLED HER EYES. Like she knew what she was doing over there with her stupid Cheeto foundation!"

"I was turned away from the mirror, so I didn't know anything bad was happening," Meelyn sobbed, bright-white tear streaks marked on her face. "But when Aisli said that about the blending, I could tell something was wrong. And then there was the look on her face, like she was about to scream or vomit or both."

Apparently, the technician replied, "That's all the foundation we have" and went back to slapping the orange on Meelyn's face. You see, the students at the salon academy have to supply their own beauty products, whether those products be for hair or skin or whatever, and somehow, someone missed the fact that Ms. Facepaint was not exactly ready for that advertised prom makeup, especially since her only other accoutrment was a black Sharpie marker, which she used to color in Meelyn's eyebrows.

That was the point where both girls cracked.

Aisling said, "Okay, that is just not right," and she went up to the front desk to request that an instructor be sent over to parlay. When the instructor came over and surveyed Meelyn, sitting tensely in the chair while the associate carried on with the eyebrows, she immediately offered the services of the same technician who did Aisling's makeup.

"The instructor turned me around in the chair so that I could see myself and I knew I was going to start bawling in front of them all, so I said I didn't want anyone else to work on me and that I just wanted to leave," Meelyn sniffled, scrubbing her face with a face cloth and about a pound of cleansing wash.

Horrified, I said, "You didn't PAY for this mess, did you?"

"No," said Meelyn. "I just walked out and Aisling scampered out behind me. She'd already paid for her hair and makeup."

The two of them spent the drive back across the city to our house with Meelyn sobbing and bewailing her fate and Aisling trying to hold back her own sympathetic tears as she came as close to the line between Cussing and Not Cussing as she could without incurring parental wrath, yelping the story out to me via mobile phone. When they flung themselves into the house, I was standing in the foyer, uselessly flapping my hands and trying to keep myself from reeling and writhing and fainting in coils.


I hugged her and she cried into my shoulder and I don't know if I'll ever get that dreadful orange color out of my top, so my Oxy-Clean has its work cut out for it. Meelyn charged up the stairs to go to work with the aforementioned facial wash and warm cloth and I threw myself into one of the chairs in the foyer, aghast.

"What on earth happened?" I asked Aisling. "How could this have gone so wrong?"

"That student was a....a....complete and total beeyotch," Aisling replied flatly.

I gave her a narrow-eyed stare. "Be very careful."

"Well, she was. How could you be that bad without knowing how bad you were? How could you agree to do someone's PROM MAKEUP and not even have a basic understanding of skin tones. And how could you make someone's eyebrows look like that?"

"I don't know," I responded wearily. "It's beyond me. But I do know that I'm going to place a strongly-worded telephone call just as soon as I can do it without screaming."

When Meelyn's skin was purged of the horrible color and the drawn-on black eyebrows, she and Aisling went to work and made her look very lovely indeed. How fortunate to have a young, fresh complexion, because I guarantee if we'd been trying to make ME look better, it just wouldn't. Have. Happened. Once her makeup was sorted and she was glowing, Meelyn did her hair, which looked very cute: a quick spritz with that really very nice glittery hairspray, and the two girls were ready to get into their formal gowns -- classic black and white for Meelyn, apple green for Aisling -- and then into their chariot (otherwise known as the minivan) to be taken to the ballroom for an evening of dining and dancing - the most grown-uppy fancy party they'd ever been to, especially without us.

We picked them up, yawning, five hours later. As we drove home, their happy voices spilled over each other as they told us about the dinner, their friends, the music, the dancing, and most of all, the beautiful Indiana Roof Ballroom, which looked like a fairyland with slowly swirling stars projected onto the floor all evening.

"When I went to the prom," I said reminiscently, "it was in the Girls' Gym at the high school and there were paper streamers hanging off the basketball goals."

"We know," said Meelyn. "You've told us a thousand times."

"Ten thousand," corrected Aisling.

"You both look beautiful, even after dancing for hours," my husband said. He took my hand and squeezed it. "Two young ladies, barely girls anymore."

"Unless they say 'beeyotch,'" I declared.

Monday, May 16, 2011

NUNDAY: iPhones are for everyone

"Sister Maria Josef, have you downloaded that iPod app so that you can pray the Divine Office without a breviary?"

"No, Sister Catherine Michael, I've been too busy checking to see what nuns were being featured today on InsomniMom, so OH MY SAINTS AND WIMPLES, IT'S US! LOOK!"

May I?

It's May, the glorious, blooming month of May. The month when our school year, like everyone else's, starts winding down, but in lots of ways the "winding down" is more like an application of sharp, pointy spurs than a gradual lessening of activity that winds up on Memorial Day weekend with a graceful fall into a hammock.

No, we are going all-out around here. The girls, at my insistence, have to finish every last chapter down to the final period in every book they have. Firstly, because I remember what it was like as a public school teacher, feeling so frustrated because there was never, ever enough time to complete a textbook. Could I honestly say that my students had taken a complete course in American Literature when they didn't finish the last four-chapter unit in the book? Maddening. Secondly, home schooling is really expensive and I want to know that we're getting every last penny's worth out of those books, darn it!

Thirdly, I'm a tiger mom. My friend Shaun called me that last week and I was thrilled. I admit that I have worked the girls really hard: they take about eleven subjects per semester and doing so has given them opportunities that they never would have had in either public or private school. Using the Indiana Core 40 webpage at the website of the Indiana Department of Education, I planned coursework for them that would give them the best education we could manage, so I feel like it's only fair to make sure they work to the back cover of every book. Rowr!!!

So they are working at top speed, remembering that I (tiger-mom) grade them on the 96-100 = A grading scale, trying to finish their books before our last day, which is Tuesday, May 31. On Wednesday, June 1, they're hoping to start Chemistry as a summer school course. Whew.

I am in the midst of preparing transcripts and we're all waiting with bated breath for Mee's SAT scores to show up on May 26. It doesn't leave a lot of time for blogging.

Typing is difficult for tigers, after all.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

NUNDAY: Putt putt putt

Who knew the cloister's grounds included a nine-hole Nancy Lopez course for the nuns to use during recreation? (And don't you love those hats?)

It's been a longish kind of week...

It's been one of those weeks -- a seven-day period in which I have been called, several times, to exercise a love for the human race that I do not feel. Mostly by not killing someone, because I hear that kind of decisive action is frowned upon by 1) God; and 2) society, at least the kind of society I have been participating in during my forty-something years. And wish to keep enjoying, unless I get a better offer to move to a desert and become a hermit. I would like to think I'm not alone in this and not just wandering in a MURKY HAZE OF MENOPAUSAL ANGST, but sometimes I feel terribly alone. Everyone else seems so....nice. Except for the people I'd like to kill, who are idiots, every last one of them. Ain't that always the way?

Monday, May 2, 2011

NUNDAY: Algebraic mayhem

Here in this picture we have one Sister (N), a number of swarming children (X and Y) and some hidden Easter eggs. What combination of N + (X + Y) equals the moment when Sister yells, "Brian Joseph Casey! You give that basket back to Mary Clare RIGHT NOW! And Christopher! CHRISTOPHER! Stop eating those eggs! They've been unrefrigerated for seven hours! And....and....JUST EVERYBODY STOPPPPPPPPPP!!!!"

Ooops. Too late.