Good humor makes all things possible.
-Charles Schultz-

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
-Shakespeare-The Merchant of Venice-

Monday, May 28, 2012

Come on'a my house, my house. I'm gonna give you candy. *

When Lillie was in Chicago living with Sam and three other boys, one of them dragged home a sorry little particle board side table, which was sort of beige with tan speckles.  Not endearing, but resolutely sturdy in a Mennonite kind of way, and Lillie saved it from being hurled into a dumpster.  Actually Sam wanted to drive over it a few times first with his Jeep.  So when she moved home the little round table (along with a stunning old headboard and footboard,which lived in the basement and no one in the building claimed, and which I am planning on putting to use eventually), made the long trip to the Golden State in one of those wobbly zippered U-Boxes.  Imagine the wonder in the little refugee table's eyes when we unzipped the U-Box and turned it loose to frolic and play in the land of milk and honey.

When I was pregnant with Annie and putting together her nursery, I painted my husband's childhood dresser, a hand-me-down crib, and a little square end table, Benjamin Moore Navajo White (I don't know why I remember that except that my mother-in-law [who is a Realtor and landlord] used that paint in every house she ever painted, including mine.)  It was a good color, although a little too banana milkshake for my taste now.  Remarkably durable too:  I've used that dresser and end table through three decades and many moves and it's looking pretty ragged    with nary a touch-up!  It's a little depressing that my living room holds the only furniture I have purchased since 1980 (except for a TV and mattresses)...but fortunately someone invented paint--so I could have "new" junk, and also to keep me from job-hunting.

What's this, round lizards?   No.  Phooey.

The little round table has a peculiar orange-peel  texture and the curves defy sanding.  Maybe I should have painted it orange?  And there is Lottie, checking out the larger ball feet (Michael's, with coupons) I chose to replace the odd small ones it was born with. It's still several inches lower than my mattress.  Yes,  well.

These are the new feet, painted Martha Stewart Camellia Pink Satin. 

Reptilian rapture, even while sporting a stump from his last pilgrimage.

When I came in from painting I almost fell over this lizard in the bathroom.  I am very grateful that I was not already...sitting down.  After an involuntary shriek I ran for the plastic cookie tub we keep handy atop the fridge to clap on top of the steady stream of lizards who come inside of their own volition (I'm convinced lizards have no brains at all) or are smuggled in by Lottie.  It does help if I am diligent about keeping the doors closed, but on the other hand, I've come to believe that lizards (1) enjoy being tortured by the cat and will find their way home from across the street just so she can chew off their tails and legs again, even sprouting replacements to keep her happy; and (2) think the inside of my house is actually lizard heaven and are divinely delighted to be here. Who am I to disagree?

Here is the round table all pink and ready to go live next to my bed.  When it's cured for a few days and I've artfully arranged a few things on top, I'll take a picture.

Time to come inside, little table.  Lizards love it in there, and you will, too!

That's the headboard leaning against the wall in my garage.  It requires a different  kind of bed rails which will cost about seventy-five dollars on Amazon and as you recall  I don't currently have much income to speak of.  It has a few minor dings and I don't know if I want to paint it or not:  yes it's beautiful solid wood (walnut, maybe?) but my walls are chocolate brown so it might not stand out much and it's not a family heirloom or anything (even if it was, that family's heirs [probably boys] couldn't be bothered to take it along when they moved); on the other hand most of the other bedroom furniture is painted except for my cedar chest which I use as my other bedside table, and my bedding is white with a jade green quilt.  My current bed, which I purchased with my husband, is brass and white iron and I never really cared for it but apparently neither did his girlfriend, so I got it along with the kids and his mother's old chairs and her kids' dressers.  I got the better deal though because the girlfriend had to take my husband.  Of course they bought all new furniture.

The next thing on my painting roster is that old Navajo White dresser--I think I'm going to strip the top down completely and stain or seal it, and paint the rest with my custom blend of 3/4 White : 1/4 Heirloom White Rustoleum Ultra Cover, but I have to heave the wretched heavy television off the top before I wrestle it outside.  Speaking of Memorial Day--where's there a big burly Marine  when I need one?  (That's what she said.)

Update:  The other side of the room looks like looters came--everything from my dresser is in shopping bags while I sand, prime and paint that dresser (which is turning into rather a pain in the paintbrush).  But I promised to take a picture, so there you go.  Here in all it's Samsung camera phone splendor, is the little pink table confidently performing its job as a nightstand.  Now I'll go put back all the litter that actually lives on top.

Photo credit to Meg from Radical Possibility for the Feminist Killjoy barrette picture.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Not that kind of miracle

I don't think I've ever posted a recipe, but my daughter often blogs about cooking and baking so yesterday, when we decided to make enchiladas out of the chicken I was thawing, she pulled out her camera and started taking the pictures she'd need for her Miracle Method Enchiladas post.   There are innumerable enchilada recipes and you probably have your favorite but I'll bet you haven't made them like this.

Ingredients with a monkey, a dinosaur and assorted Mexican wrestlers.  Bonus!

As the sous chef  I decided to chop the cilantro using Lillian's new herb scissors--or as they are now known, the Edward Scissorhands Special Chiffonade Implement of Mutilation.  I'm clever enough to use regular kitchen shears to chop herbs but was no match for this multiple-scalpel tool, and almost immediately julienned my middle finger, including the nail.

Didn't believe me, did you?

Just give me a moment

In honor of my blood sacrifice and close encounter with nine-fingeredness, Lillian decided that I deserved to write the enchilada post.  (She also thoughtfully squashed an enormous speedy beetle in my room last night just before he galloped under my bed and prevented peaceful slumber; garnering herself favorite child status.)

My brother Patrick (all my siblings are wonderful and inventive cooks) came up with these enchiladas with his son Nathan, and he made them for us one year at our annual ski-n-gorge in Reno.  The kicker is that you may use your favorite recipe and this will still work.  I used a slapdash combination of two I had in my file.  All measurements are approximate, but it made enough to match up with one package of tortillas, which will fill one big or two small pans:

Three boneless chicken thighs (just because I freeze them three to a ziplock bag)
1 double handful of yellow onion, chopped (I chop and freeze several onions at a time, don't you?)
2 to 4 chopped garlic cloves.  You know, some.
1 can tomato sauce (not pictured)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can olives, drained (Green Ripe olives are heavenly, but black are far easier to find)
1 can of refried beans (I used refried black beans, because I had them). Or use whole beans.
1/2 to 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth (Better Than Boullion concentrate is my favorite, but apparently not enough to get in the picture)
a big handful of chopped fresh cilantro (be extremely careful.  I'm just saying)
some chopped fresh basil, if you can get it (see precautions above)
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
A pinch smoked paprika  (I just discovered this and like it a lot.)
A medium sized jar of your favorite salsa, I like Pace Mild
1 pound of cheese, I used 1/2 sharp cheddar and 1/2 jack, chopped up into chunks
About ten medium size tortillas

Few things look less appetizing than raw chicken floating in cold water

Simmer the chicken thighs in a large pot about 15 minutes, drain and shred with two forks.  When that's done, soften the onion over medium heat in the same pot.  No photo of that.

Look out, here comes the Miracle!  Dump everything else, and the chicken, and yes even the cheese, back into the pot.  Heat until the cheese is all melted and it looks like soup.

I know, right?

While that's going on, wrap the tortillas in a clean towel, splash a little water on it, and microwave  a minute or two.  They will be steamy and soft.  Frying the tortillas is a big old nuisance, but if you really prefer how they taste, fine.  Make a hot greasy mess.   Next, oil your favorite enchilada pan (I prefer two smaller pans so I can freeze one and we won't get tired of eating enchiladas for three days.)

Oh, settle down.  That's sauce splashed on the wall.

Put a large bowl in the sink, place your big colander on top (over your wire rack if the colander wants to fall down into the bowl), and pour about half the pot of chicken soup into the colander.  Stir with a wooden spoon as most of the liquid drains into the bowl, then pour in the rest and stir some more, until it's mostly done dripping.  (Mmmmm...sounds enticing.)

That's a giant wad of paper towels in my glove.  You're welcome.

Like so

Spread some newspapers on the counter, which I usually do when I cook but forgot this time  (I was still wobbly from the slasher interlude.)  One at a time on a large plate, spoon about 3/4 cup filling onto a tortilla, roll it up and plop it into the pan.  If you are lucky, it will be about the right amount for ten tortillas.  Then, slosh the drained liquid over the pan of rolled up enchiladas, coating each one.  Don't worry about how marshy they look--it soaks up as they cook.  Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes until the tops look a bit brown.  The sauce will set up a bit more while you chop the avocado and get out the sour cream.  Throw away those  newspapers. (Whoa!  Clean counters!  After you made enchiladas!) I had to wash mine, once after the cilantro incident and again after the pans went in the oven.  There's no way to avoid at least a little mess.

And there they are


Would you ever have thought you could melt the cheese in with everything else?  Your favorite ingredients will be even better than ever made this way and aside from the draining step, the whole process is simpler and makes less of a mess than the usual method of assembly.  Try this out next time you make enchiladas and see if I'm right.

If you're at least my age, you will need a Tums later because tomato sauce gives you heartburn, doesn't it?   But you're probably familiar with that.  If you are younger than I am, be patient.  Someday you'll have to keep Tums in the cupboard, too.

Anyway today my poor middle finger looks I flipped off an aquarium full of piranhas, but half-hearted not really hungry piranhas.  I found some steri-strips and taped the flappy edges together and wrapped a bandaid on top.  I hate wearing a bandaid on my hand because every time I wash, which is more often than I realized, I have to get a dry bandaid.  Fortunately at my former blood banking job I was given a giant box of premium  bandaids that have GIVE printed on them, so I have plenty (although not the waterproof kind).   I wish I'd stolen  been given more latex gloves though; mine are almost gone.

My restaurant post ended in heartache and my cooking post was gory.  I might have to go back to documenting home-improvement  adventures.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Evolution of a mother

Once upon a time there was a nice  girl named Jenny.  

She had three children:  First Annmarie, then Sam and finally Lillian. 

Suddenly it was ten years later.

Or thereabouts.

And then ten more years disappeared.


Just like that.

Jenny's children were always very naughty.

She had two grandsons, Logan and Noah.

Also naughty.

Jenny is about to have another grandson.

His name is Brody.  He will probably be naughty.

Jenny has gray hair now.  She is not exactly a girl anymore, but she is still nice.  

And yet she does not know how or where they inherited all that naughtiness.

It's a mystery.

And they lived happily every after.