Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

Tibi gratias agimus quod nihil fumas.

It says "...freedom of...", not "...freedom from...".

"It's amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness. People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we're compassionate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint." - Penn Jillette







Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesdays With Mum

I have a weekly date with Mum.

We spend Tuesdays together.

For a while, I brought the kids up to her place and we would spend the day harassing her cat and generally invading her home so that Someone could have a quiet day.  For the last few months, however, he's been keeping the kids at home and giving Mum and I a day to do whatever it is we do without the kids around.

Thank you, Someone, for a day to breathe!

Mostly, we talk.  We do things while we talk - knit, crochet, visit her local yarn shop, attend quilt guild, run errands - but always, we talk.

We talk about the past, the present, what we think the future holds.  We tell out stories a few hours at a time, hers, mine, the tales of the people we know.  We gossip and laugh and get serious.

I would love to say we are secretly international jewel thieves or rock stars, or that we don costumes and fight crime with slick moves and pithy catch phrases, but...nah.

Sometimes we go somewhere, do something.  Almost always, Mum buys me lunch.

I love these Tuesdays with Mum.  I think of it as banking memories against the inevitable days when I will want to have such a savings, when there will be nothing more to deposit and I will want something to help fill what will be a tremendous void.

Don't get me wrong, we're not exactly ordering sackcloth yet...although Mum DID have a conversation with a cremation society last week, which I would have loved to have heard because we both have something of an irreverence regarding death.  It's just that we both know no one lives forever.  No one.

So while we're living, we're making sure we sift through the sands of time for whatever shining gems we can find, polish them up, and set them in the crown of memory.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

We Shall Eat Cake!

I made a six-flavor pound cake for Sprout's birthday.  I love this cake.  When we visited Someone's mother two years ago, she made this cake and I declared it unfit for human consumption, and said that I would dispose of it properly - by eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until it was gone.

Gramma B was kind enough to give me the recipe.  Did you ever read an old book and see a recipe called a receipt?  Anyway, she gave me the recipe AND her vintage bundt pan, and I made if for Sprout's first birthday (tasted great, looked a mess) and then for my birthday (came out terrific), and now I've made it again.

I don't dare make it too often, or I'll need new trousers.  Two sizes larger.

I thought I would share the recipe so you can avoid making it too often, too.  I warn you, it's a little costly at first, because of all the flavorings, but after the first bite, you won't mind.

The players
~~~~~
For the cake:
2 sticks of butter.  Butter.  Nothing else will do.  No, it won't.  Butter, I tell you!  Ahem.
1/2 cup shortening.  Crisco makes it in bars, now, with easy-measure lines so you can just cut it.  I adore them, they make my kitchen life so much easier.
3 cups sugar.  Do your teeth ache?  Mine do every time I read that.
5 eggs, well beaten.
3 cups all purpose flour - none of that specialized stuff for us, we want the handy-man of the flour world for this!
1/2 teaspoon baking powder.  I didn't realize until a few years ago that some baking powder has aluminum in it.  I don't buy that kind, any more.  I like my aluminum outside me, like covering a delicious cake...
1 cup milk.  Now, some folks say skim is as good as whole, and if you're one of 'em that's fine, but I use whole milk.
1 teaspoon each coconut, rum, butter, lemon, vanilla, and almond flavors.  I pre-measure them and use pure extracts where I can.  I dig how the lemon makes the liquid cloudy - reminds me of chemistry class.

For the glaze:
1 cup sugar (oh, my poor teeth!).
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon each coconut, rum, butter, lemon, vanilla, and almond flavors.

Action
~~~~~
Cream butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs (which have been beaten until lemon colored).  Combine flour and baking powder.  Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, alternating with milk.  Mix in the flavoring.  I use a stand mixer, and once the flavoring is in I let it run for a few minutes while I prepare my bundt pan.  I spray my pan liberally with Baker's Joy.  Very liberally.  Perhaps I am a bit crazed about it, but the first time I made this cake I used cooking spray alone and it did. Not. Work.  Baker's joy lives up to its name. So, while your batter is mixing, prepare your pan, preferable a bundt pan but you can use a regular cake pan if you like.

Spoon the batter into a 10-inch tube/bundt pan.  Bake at 375 for 1 hour, 15 minutes or until done.

You may have more than enough batter.  The bundt pan shouldn't be more than 2/3 full.  Any extra can go into another cake pan or (in my case) mini-bundts.  I usually get one regular and three minis from one batch.  The minis make good individual cakes for kids or distractions for me.

About twenty minutes before the cake is done, combine the glaze ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is melted.

Pour half the glaze on the finished cake while it's in the pan.

Cool for ten minutes, remove from the pan, and pour the rest of the glaze over the top.

I dare you to resist eating this.
~~~~~
We are celebrating Sprout's birthday tomorrow when Mum and a friend come over.  I hate waiting.  Think anyone will notice if there's a bite or three missing?

What's your favorite cake?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Woo-Hoo, She's Two!

The Sprout is Two today.

Two!!

Wow.

She is 35 7/8 inches tall, so if the formula holds true (take their height at Two and double it), she'll be about 5' 10", which just happens to be how tall both Someone and I are.  She weighs 25 pounds, one ounce.

She's 50'th percentile for weight, 75'th for height, and 100% our little biscuit baby.  Toddler.  Gah!

Toddler!!!

She speaks clearly enough to be understood by non-family.  What her vocabulary lacks in scope she makes up for with enthusiasm - she knows names, knows Mama and Papa and Buddy (her name for the Evil Genius), cat, water, juice, cheese, eat, sit, sauce (apple sauce), outside, shoes, want, hat, Pooh, Pingu, Shaun (as in Shaun the Sheep, a claymation show that she recently decided was delightful), moon,ball, candy (groan), blow, slide, and fish, and some more that I can't recall because I am a terrible mommy and don't write down every little thing she says or does.  She has a  "No!!!" and isn't afraid to use it.

If I ask her where her cup, her jacket, her shoes, Pooh, or any number of things are, she can find them and bring them to me, even if they're in another room.

She will climb anything that doesn't move out from under her.

Like her Mama, she is somewhat immune to the cold (except when she's sleeping - if she's even slightly chilled, she wakes up and tells me about it!) and playing in water.  Like her Papa, she loves being out in the sun (unless it's in her eyes) and gardening.  She adores her Buddy, would follow him through Hell if that's where he was going.  She has figured out how to hiss at the cats and make them run, which amuses her very much, them not so much.  She can put her finger to her lips and say "Shhhhhh", but she still doesn't have much grasp of the concept of an indoor voice.

She purses her lips and turns them up at us when she wants kisses, and she will wrap her little arm around my neck and pat me when we hug.

Her smile.  Oh, how I love her smile.  She can be so solemn, looking at the world and sorting things out...and then she grins that little girl grin, the trouble grin, the smile that expresses her whole being, her delight at the world, her joy in being, just being, and she incandesces and I melt into a puddle on the floor which she will fetch a towel to clean up because she knows that's what we do when something spills.

Two.

Strange how someone can go from small, wriggly, helpless, to larger-than-life, full-tilt-boogie, and fiercely independent in such a short time.

Strange to thing what changes we will experience in the coming year, the coming years.

For now, she is two and that is enough, more than enough.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Les Mis, Hollywood Style (A Review of Sorts)

I once had the good fortune to see Les Miserables one stage at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.  Beautiful theater, The Fox.Worth a visit if you ever have the chance.  I have never had a bad experience or sat in a bad seat there, and I've been up in the rafters once or twice!

The production I saw was terrific - well played, well sung, incredible sets, beautifully done all around.

I have the recording done by the international cast, including a young Japanese woman who reportedly didn't speak a word of English but sang the part of Eponine flawlessly after learning it phonetically.  I have played it so often, were it a record I'd have worn through the grooves by now.  As it is, I can sing the play from start to finish in my sleep.

Yesterday, a couple of friends and I took a day for us.  We went to lunch, and then to the movies.  We chose Les Miserables because I didn't know any of the other movies showing (I live under a rock, remember, with little media input), and nothing else looked interesting.

I'll be honest, I was a little dubious of Les Mis on film...until I saw that Hugh Jackman was in it.  Then I was all for it.  Come on...Hugh Jackman...mmmmm...

Three hours.

It was every minute of three hours from opening to end of credits.

I'm glad I got the large popcorn and the super-mega-bladderbuster drink.

In this day and age, a musical...even an epic, famous, hugely popular Broadway musical...just isn't the thing for film (Chicago being a noted exception).  Also, Broadway doesn't often translate well to film, does it?  There's something about live people, on a stage in front of one, something about feeling more drawn in by physical presence, that doesn't usually make it into film.  A play?  I'm in the room with the characters.  A film?  I am observing from a distance.

Some thoughts about the movie:

The actors sang their own parts.  Yes.  They did.  I know!  They did quite well, I thought.  Not trained-Broadway-polished-pitch-perfect well, but well enough that my ears were not offended.  Kudos to anyone with the chutzpah to take one any of those rolls without a lifetime of voice coaching!  I AM a singer, classically trained, and I only sing along with the CD if no one's around.  Hey, I said I could sing it, but I didn't say I could sing it well.  The rough spots, the occasionally wobbling note, somehow made it more...real.

The music was not entirely the same.  There were things taken out, thing added in, which threw me.

A few pieces of plot were switched about.  I don't generally approve of that.  It didn't help the story line  and I think it took away from one important dynamic.

The casting was brilliant - Russell Crow, Hugh Jackman, Ann Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen...

The acting was excellent.

When one knows the play, knows the music, and still gets...weepy...then one knows the film is well done, indeed.

A few seats down, some girls were sobbing at the end.  Sobbing.  Served 'em right for spending some thirty minutes in the middle of the film wrestling with a candy wrapper made of extra loud, Kevlar strength cellophane.  And for having a cell phone on and receiving texts in a theater.  Who doesn't know that's rude? Who???

I always feel a little annoyed with Fantine and Cosette, and sorry for Javert.  Well written characters do that, snooker me into having feelings about them.  Hugh Jackman was a delicious Valjean.  Of course, he's a delicious anything.

The Thenardiers were delightfully horrid, as always.

If you haven't seen the play or movie, or at least heard the sound track, right now you are wondering what the hell I am talking about.  Sorry.

I had the thought that, if nothing else, the film brings an epic, lush, compelling bit of storytelling out of the somewhat less accessible theater and onto the more easily affordable big screen, staying true enough to the original that folks can say they've seen Les Mis without quibble, and for that I think the film maker deserves lauds - thank you, Tom Hooper!

Over all, I enjoyed it enough to be worth the full priced ticket ( Holy cats, when did it get so expensive?  Granted, I haven't been to a movie in a while...okay, in years...but wow!), and would go see it again.  I feel confident that anyone trotting off for a film would be, at the very least, entertained by it.  The only caveat?  This is a full-on, no holds barred musical, and if that's not your thing you may not enjoy it as much.

Here, a gratuitous movie poster for your amusement:


What's the latest movie you've seen, and how did you like it?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mombies*


It's happening all over the world as I type.  Dark circled eyes staring emptily out at nothing.  Groans emanating from deep within at every motion.  Hands hanging slack, or outstretched and clawing for...something...  Heavy breathing, slurred speech.

All over the world, I tell you, and now at Casa de Crazy as well.

The Mombies have arisen.

We were up and down all night to rock, fetch water, frighten away bad dreams, grab a bucket to catch vomit, change sheets, whatever it was that the younger residents of our collective homes needed that couldn't wait until a more reasonable hour...say...maybe after ten?

We spend our days doing laundry, making meals, fetching groceries, taking out the trash, emptying the compost, cleaning rooms, and endlessly sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming floors that never seem to be clean.

What intelligence we once possessed is gone the way of the Dodo, and we have no idea what you are talking about, but we will happily smile, nod, and try to steal your coffee when you aren't looking, maybe deposit a child or two in your lap and run for the hills.

Our battle cry isn't "braaaaiiiiins", it's "draaaaaaiiiiiiinnnnnsss", as we hunt for the Liquid Drain Cleaner o' Doom to deal with whatever is stuck down the kids' tub drain before it gains sentience and demands a seat at the UN.

No, we can't carry on a coherent conversation, thank you.  We can't hear half of what you said, and can't make sense of the rest of it. 

Date?  What's that?  It's a fruit, right?  

Dinner out?  Not yet, it hasn't finished baking in the oven yet.  

Movie?  Isn't that something cows do?  

Free time?  Wait, when did we start having to pay for it?  

Uninterrupted sleep?  You made that up just now.

You have something on your face right there, let me spit on a napkin and get it off for you.

Did I have a point?  I can't remember...
~~~~~

The Evil Genius asked me why parents are weird.  I told him it's because we have kids - right up until then, we were perfectly normal.
~~~~~

This post brought to you by Sprout's nagging cough that woke her up every twenty to thirty minutes all. night. long.

*I totally thought of my post title before I found the picture.  Yuh huh, did too!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Umm...Okay...But Why Is It My Business?

Casa de Crazy doesn't have regular television.  No cable, no satellite, we rely on T's Netflix account for entertainment, so when things happen out there in the world I usually learn about it via Facebook or word of mouth.

Apparently one of my favorite actresses, Jodie Foster, received an award last weekend.  While making her acceptance speech, it seems she may have mentioned something about being...gay?

I must pause here to mention that I have not looked at one single moment of the many videos of her speech, nor have I read any transcripts from or full articles about it.  I have merely seen some headlines and some people's reactions to it.

So what I am wondering is twofold.

First, was there anyone who didn't know that she paddled on that side of the canoe, or at least rowed on both sides of the boat?

Second, umm, this matters why?

What business is it of mine with whom she sleeps or who she loves or takes up housekeepery with?  Providing she isn't doing anyone any harm, I don't honestly care.  I don't mean that in a angry, hurtful, mean kind of way - I wish her, as I do any being, a life of happiness and fulfillment.  My estimation of another person is not linked to their sex life.  Again, as long as no one is being hurt, I don't much care what kind of kink, vanilla, celibate or slutty lifestyle a body is living.

While I laud Mizz Foster for being herself, unabashedly, I just don't think it's my business.  Sexual activity is personal.  It is between the consenting participants.  It has nothing to do with whether I will watch a movie or read a book or listen to a song - THAT had everything to do with talent or lack thereof, and that I DO care deeply about.

Why have we become a culture that demands more than simply living one's life with honesty?  Why have we become a culture that demands that people, especially celebrities, announce publicly something so private?  Why does it matter?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ouch

This is a Nintendo 3DS:
This is what happens when you leave your 3DS with Super Mario Kart 7 in it on the bumper of a neighbor's Jeep unbeknownst to them  and they go run an errand, and the 3DS falls off the bumper onto a highway and gets run over once or twice or however many times:


The 3DS is, in case you were wondering, worth more than the blue book value of my van.  I cannot replace it.  His father will not replace it.  The Evil Genius?  Is heartbroken.  Tears.  Many, many tears.  Copious, even.

Can you keep a secret?

I'm heartbroken, too.

I hate that he has to learn this lesson this way.  He loved that thing.  Loved.  He actually took it out of his pocket and put it on the bumper so he wouldn't break it while playing with his friend.  He didn't.  Want. To Break. It.

Hello, irony?

Yeah.

So...ouch.

So how did you learn the lesson to be careful with your precious things?  Or did you?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gifted

My Mum is my staunchest supporter, literally and figuratively.

She is my cheerleader, my sympathetic ear, and more often than either of us would like, she's my wallet and erstwhile loan officer.

She keeps her mouth shut when she'd like to speak because she honors my alleged adulthood and my right to screw up my life however I choose.  She speaks when she'd rather stay silent because she'd rather lance the boil than let it fester, even when letting it fester would be less painful in the short run.

She will not let my children do without anything, even when it means she has to do without something herself.

She also understands that some things, while not essential to life, go a long way towards making life more bearable and even downright enjoyable.

That's why she gave me a new camera for Yule - can't be a photographer without a working camera, can I?

That's why she decided to give me an early birthday present.

Mum's laptop went kerflooey.  That is too a word.  It went kerflooey, leaving Mum with the need for a laptop.  She decided that I need a laptop, too, since Bob the Wonder Computer is long past retirement and has been largely unusable for the last year, leaving Casa de Crazy with the desktop and three computer-hungry people to use it.

Last week, we went on an outing and I came home with a new laptop.  It is a Gateway Somethingorother, with whiz-bangs, zoomers, and fooferaw to spare.  I have a deep and abiding affection for the keyboard, which is almost full sized  and only needs soft contact to type.  It fits my hands beautifully.  With it, I can once again blog at will.  I named it Albino Bob, because it is white and the name appeals to me.

It is not the original Bob, and will never replace him in my affections, but it is a mighty fine gizmo and has already become part of my morning routine.  I look forward to screwing up learning the ins and outs of Albino Bob's programming.

Welcome to the Casa, Albino Bob.

And thank you, Mum, for so much more...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Unclean

A friend of mine was recently disturbed to find that her children had lice.

They've been itchy for a while, but there was no sign of infestation until a few nights ago when her husband found proof of the critters in their daughter's hair.  The family was something less than thrilled.

My friend had the happy chore of calling everyone who had been to their house or had played with their kids to let them know.  I can understand the feelings that engendered, a little - no lice, here, but measles as a result of a reaction to immunizations, of course at a public event with lots of other kids.  It never happens when no one else is effected, does it?

So my poor friend has been having to treat her kids for lice, and the experience put me in mind of my childhood and lice.

To my recollection, I never had lice, but I remember louse checks at school, when the nurse would come into the classroom and use those disposable wooden chopstick tings to look through our hair for tell-tale signs of noggin-noshers.

Children with lice were removed from the classroom, banished until they were proven free of unwanted cranial crawlers.

To have lice meant one was unclean, untouchable, poor, somehow less than the other kids.  It was shameful and proof that one wasn't quite right.  It meant ostracism, hair combing, medicinal shampoos, lots of laundry, and unhappy days away from school.  Social groupings could change overnight.

We were sternly admonished to never share pillows, hats, coats, or scarves because one never knew when a louse might feel migratory.

Because of lice, we have "lousy", which used to mean crawling with lice but now means no good.  We also have "nit picking", which means detail oriented these days but was once an actual profession, wherein people would sit and comb through hair picking out lice and nits (the only way to delouse a person).  They had to be meticulous, and it was a lowly profession.

These days, we know that lice have nothing to do with one's social station or cleanliness - my friend's kids are quite clean - and there's less (if any) stigma involved.  They're just a fact of life in school - kids play, share clothing, and occasionally pass germs, rashes, and pesky parasites around the classroom.  Pragmatism reigns in dealing with all, happily replacing the hysteria of the past.

Sometimes, I like our social evolution.

What's your experience with louses, leeses, lice?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Birthday

So the Evil Genius is now ten.  We had a party for he and a friend yesterday at an indoor play-place/containment area, and then a friend's house for cake and nibblies.  I think everyone had a good time.
 The Evil Genius didn't know I was shooting his picture, so I actually got him looking like himself rather than wearing his big, goofy, you're-shooting-my-picture grin.  I love my new camera with the great big zoom!  I love my boy, who is growing up fast.

 Sprout, taking a much-needed juice break - those bounce houses are exhausting!

 The Evil Genius wanted an Oreo cake.  I had to press him to find out what that meant.  Lucky for me, in this case it meant cake/frosting with crushed Oreos in 'em, which made it easy on me.  I was afraid he wanted a cake that looked like an Oreo, which wasn't going to happen!

You can sort of see how the candles burned with colored flames.  They are a nifty idea, but I have to say they didn't impress me much.  The Evil Genius didn't much care - he just enjoyed blowing them out.

The friend with whom we shared the party turned four recently.  He had vanilla cupcakes with strawberry icing - his mother made them in silicon baking cups, so I got to see how those work out.  Turns out, they work just fine.

We had a nice number of kids of varying ages to play, some yummy snacks - K2 made what I dubbed Flying Spaghetti Monsters (cocktail wienies with spaghetti running through them like noodle-y legs) - and congenial adult company...and my boy is now a Tween.  A Tween!!  Ack!!!

Now I just have to survive Sprout turning two in a few weeks...holy wow...

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Perfect Love, Perfect Trust


Repost.  Sorry.  Feeling low.
~~~~~
If you're pagan, especially one of the flavours of Wiccan, you hear this a lot: "In perfect love and perfect trust."

Several things have made "perfect love, perfect trust" run through my head lately.

My son...he brings to mind a mundane version of perfect love. He's a child and loves as a child does, without quantifying, without questioning, absolutely. All that matters to him is that he loves me and I love him, and that's just fine.

My ex-husband has not been very trusting. He wasn't while we were married, and he's still struggling with it now that we're not. I never gave him cause to distrust me, and had no idea the level to which the distrust went until we began the divorce and he was angry and saying things from a place of anger and uncertainty. He's trying very hard to let go of his distrust...and it's not easy. I am trying very hard not to take it personally and to be gentle with him in his process...and it's not easy.

I had a friend, some years back, whom I loved dearly. If not for him, I would not have met K, the sister of my heart, or any number of other folks who mean much to me and figure largely in my life...including the people I'm in the band with. We had a falling out. I had to take a stand on an issue, and he didn't like my position (neither did I, come to think of it, but it was necessary, if unpleasant)...so he chose to remove himself from my life. I still love him...but from a distance, because I must respect his feelings.

My friend Gypsy is a fairly recent addition to my life. She's beautiful, dynamic, and brilliant. I met Kit through Gypsy. Kit's another creative, bright, amazing woman. Gypsy and Kit have kids of varying ages, and between us we've got the whole range from infant to school-aged. I trust them with my child, would leave him with either of them (and have) without thought, without worry, absolutely certain that they'll look after him and do right by him.

I've asked many pagans to define perfect love and perfect trust for me. I usually wind up with an idealized definition, one that (to me) seems deeply flawed. In general, it seems, people actually think perfect love means perfect like, too - that the people with whom we share circle all get along and are nice and sweet and...er...gag... Perfect trust? Means no one makes mistakes and everyone behaves perfectly and...umm...barf...

Not that I think it's impossible to be perfect. But the few "perfect" people I've met in my life? Have been rotten at the core. They have a veneer of civility, or trustworthiness, that fools us all...until that one little slip.

I don't trust that kind of perfection.

Here's what I think (yep, I made you read through all that horse-puckey up there just for this - ain't I a stinker??): I love you for who you are and despite who you are. I love you with your flaws gloriously on display and your strengths there for me to wonder at. And I love you absolutely...even when I have to do it from a distance because that's the safest, healthiest place to be. I trust you to be yourself, utterly and honestly, without fear or shame or o'erweening pride. I trust you not to hide you fear and anger, your sorrow or hurt. I trust you not to hide your laughter and silliness, your whimsy and imagination. I trust you to be consistently who you are...even when that means you lie, cheat, and steal, because that's your nature. The person isn't the one who is perfect - the love, the trust are.

How about you? How do you define "perfect love and perfect trust"?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Challenge

I don't do resolutions, so here's a challenge:  for the next thirty days, go stand in front of a mirror twice a day.  Look yourself in the eye and sy "I accept myself unconditionally right now."

I'll let you know how it goes.  You do the same for me, m'kay?