snowfuckingday…

After several false starts we’ve got a snow day.  A fucking snow day.  For those of you that live somewhere that actually gets snow let me explain a Portland snow day to you.

You only know it’s a snow day because the school district calls to wake you up to tell you it’s a snow day.  While this should be an occasion to sleep in all snug in our beds before waking well rested and snug to rub the sleep from our eyes, it isn’t.  Instead we must pop out of bed and throw on snow gear RIGHT AWAY so that we don’t miss any of the snow.  Because it will be gone or worthless by 10:30 AM.

No, we don’t really need the snow gear, but we have it so we need to make good use of it.

If you’re lucky you manage a walk, a snow ball fight and a very thin snow angel while you gross someone out by eating fluffy white flakes right off a tiny tree branch.

Happy snow day Portland!  May your socks be warm, your cocoa be hot and your snow be fluffy.

mending…

I sat with needle and thread.  And tweezers and scissors.  And an ice cold drink, just in case.  But I sat with needle and thread and mended things that needed mending.  A button here, a ripped seam there.  And the zipper of my favorite bag.

The end stop had come off and when I unzipped it I really unzipped it.  The teeth parting neatly all the way until none of them met.  Fuck.  Damn. Shit. Motherfuckingpieceofshit. I can’t take this.

It was a frustrating day.  I remember that, though I don’t remember what the specific difficulty was.  Some days enough is already enough and then something small is dropped on top like a rotten cherry and the world seems to fall apart around you.  That zipper was the rotten cherry.

I tried halfheartedly to fit the pull back to the two separate lines of teeth but with hands shaking in frustration it didn’t happen.  I cursed some more and set it aside with the end stop and the zipper pull tucked inside for me to tackle another day.

And tucked away it stayed for several months waiting for a day I had the wherewithal to deal with it.  Yesterday was the day of much wherewithal as I tackled a mountain tiny tasks that needed tending to.  But fixing the zipper on my favorite bag gave me, by far, the most satisfaction.  So much so that I felt like celebrating.

As is so often the case, it’s the little things that make or break me.

focus…

Shit hits the fan every now and then.  The last year that fan has seen quite a bit of shit and this particular week has certainly not been an exception.  When you’re already struggling to keep your head above water and someone sets a full 10 gallon hat on top of it… you tend to struggle a little more.

So I wanted some clarity.  One thing I could see and decide clearly and easily.  It should help that this is a calm weekend.  A time to revel in a bit of normalcy.  But it leaves time for my mind to wander even as my hands perform the mundane tasks of the day.  Load the dishwasher.  Fold the laundry.  Sweep the floor.

I needed a focus.

I remembered a day a few months ago where I inadvertently photographed only orange things.  At least it began unconsciously.  By the end of the day I was looking for orange things to capture.  It made me laugh.  It calmed me down.  Not the color, but the knowledge that I had a theme.  I decided to give that form of concentration another chance.

So I asked the twitters what color I should photograph and post today and the answer is red.  I’m hoping this will not only give my mind a linchpin but since red was just one of 5 suggestions it will give me something to concentrate on here as well.

Focus.  Concentration.  A focal point.  I need that.

hbo shows, meet cami’s life…

There are days as I sit and watch the world go by and listen to those around me that I wonder if I’m in the waiting room for HBO shows.

One mom talks about her divorce and her ex’s divorces.  Messy and messier still.

Another hands out homemade cookies and talks about the planned community they wish to move to.  It’s its own city.  Within a city.  I wonder if she’ll start selling drugs.

The one that always comes late sits in the corner laughing forcefully talking about beer and remote controls and I can tell that the energy behind her laughter isn’t joy but I can’t quite find its source.

The woman next to me makes and receives text after text and pushes back her perfectly maintained thick black locks while reading about martial arts and running outside to take calls in a hushed whisper.

Alone surrounded by empty chairs sits the woman on her phone. Her younger son on her lap as she wrangles playground parents from her older child’s school.

And the grandmother who can sew anything. Like… anything…  It conjures images of a seamstress in horror movies and things that have been sewn together when they, in fact, should not have.

Snippets of the dark side of their personalities come through and I can picture freeze frames of them at home. In the car. Digging a hole in the middle of the night.  Smiling as they dress down a community of incompetents.

And I wonder for a moment about their real stories.  The ones I don’t know and never will.  That no one will. Unless, of course, they get caught.

of words, thoughts and symmetry…

It began as a conversation with my daughter. Discussing eyes.  Then eyelashes.  Mascara.  We ended up at fake eyelashes.

The fake eyelash is something that many women have a chance to get to know throughout their lives.  Some of us loathe them.  Some of us love them.  Some of us manage to avoid them.  My girl has set herself on a path where a pair of fake eyelashes or two may someday come into play.  Whether it’s lucky or not, her mother has had an opportunity or 20 to wander a day sporting those long lashes.

So as she asked I reached into the silver train case that over the years has become home to my various cosmetic accouterments.  She waited patiently as I pulled out the false lashes on their special holder, my lash curler and then a tube of lengthening mascara that I rarely use and explained to her the lash “longification” processes.

I expected them to be viewed as implements of torture but they were received with curiosity tinted by trepidation.  At her request I applied one and batted my mismatched lashes at her.  Through a peal of giggles, my own, I heard her loud protest that it was horrible and reached to pull off the lashes.  Before I could strip them off she stayed my hand and asked instead that I put lashes on the other eye as well.  And so I did and as I did I began the the talk that I heard so often as a child and that I hope mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, caregivers, teachers, coaches and female role models all the way around give to kids.  No.  Not just them.  Fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers and male role models too.  That people are beautiful for who they are.  Special by their very nature and  beauty is in the eye of the be-holder.  But that yes it is fun to get dressed up and sparkle from time to time.  And with that and a few tickling swipes of my luxurious lashes they were unceremoniously removed and placed back into their case for a far off time when I may need them and we were left to think.

And what began as silly talk about long lashes became a few simple words on the symmetry (or lack there of) of the human face. It expanded to thoughts on the human form.

Later, alone with my thoughts I ruminated on the lack of balance inherent in human nature.  Not just in our thoughts and desires but in the world today.   And to the lip service given to balance – to symmetry – to equality – when what we really want is just to be happy.

shorts…

I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not.  It could come as a total shock to you, but it’s Tuesday.

Yep.  Tuesday.  The second day of the week (if you start the week counting on Monday.  Which is how I do it.  Monday is the beginning of the WEEK.  Sunday is the WEEKEND).  But for some of us lucky individuals last weekend was a 3 day weekend.  So Really Tuesday is the beginning of the week because Monday was the weekend.  Which meant a long weekend.  And now a short week.

You see Tuesday is usually our calmest day here at the house of Kaos.  It’s mellow.  Monday is crazy get back in the groove go go go day.  Now today is crazy go go go day but with extra busy sprinkles on top and tomorrow?  Tomorrow is already Wednesday.  That’s mid week.  The week is nearly halfway over.

I feel like I’m running around in shorts mid winter losing my mind not knowing which day of the week it is or which way is up.  Also I’m cooking brussel sprouts for dinner and I was raised to believe those are evil and gross but now I think they’re yummy.

So a short week pretty much means the sky is falling.

now that’s pressure…

I’m making potato salad.  I am.  I’m doing it and none of you can stop me.  Mostly because I’ve already made the potato salad.

Yeah.

Stressful.  Don’t you get it?  That it’s stressful?  Because it is.  Because I don’t make potato salad.  I make a lot of things.  I make a fucking lot of things but potato salad is one of those things that I do not make. The reasons are many and varied but it’s primarily that the two times I have attempted to make potato salad in the past I  1) burned my hands on the hot potatoes and 2) overcooked the potatoes.  The Former is painful.  The latter makes for something more akin to mashed potato salad.

But potato salad was on the menu for tonight for many reasons.  Not the least of which being that I may have overestimated the amount of potatoes that were needed for dinner last night and there were a bunch left over.  Since we could all stand to tighten our financial belts I am loathe to let food go to waste.  Thus, we’re having potato salad.  That isn’t where the pressure comes in.

The pressure comes from the fact that my mom makes pretty darn near the perfect potato salad.  Though I have been recently informed that her potato salad is less than traditional by someone who claims to have superior potato salad knowledge.  She puts sliced black olives in it.

That’s normal right?

Eh, it matters not, I have always loved it.  I usually just wait for her to come visit or to take a trip out to see her to get my fill of it but as I mentioned above, I had the potatoes cooked and ready to go.  So I went for it.

There was my first problem.  She usually mixes all the ingredients together just after the potatoes cook.  It makes the dressing get all warm and sink into the potatoes and it gets all gooey and delicious without being mushy. Also?  My leftover potatoes were red but I didn’t want to be a potato racist so I went ahead.

Second?  I don’t like raw red onions.  So I don’t have any in the house.  I decided not to buy anything to make my leftover potato salad.  Especially red onions since I don’t like them in the first place.

Third?  Would be my lack of celery.  And since my kid doesn’t really like the celery in the potato salad I figured it would be fine.  While stirring the salad all together without the onions or celery I realized I had removed the crispy raw items.  Oops.

Fourth? Olives and pickles and eggs were all added per instruction.  No problem there right?  Wrongish.  I don’t think I cut the egg up enough.  Or maybe I cut it too much.  Who knows with these things.  It’s a delicate balance.

Fifth and finally?  I fucked up the dressing.  There.  I said it.  I fucked it up to hell and back.  Remember how I didn’t want to buy anything to make the dressing? Yeah.  I totally assumed I had enough mayo.  I did not.  But I was already cutting down the recipe so I figured I would just cut the dressing in halfish…  Sigh.  No.  This isn’t how it works.  I wound up with too much vinegar.  Maybe too much mustard.  Who knows about the salt and pepper.  I DON’T KNOW.

I screwed up my mom’s potato salad recipe.  Completely and totally.  So if it’s good?  I’m just going to call it something else and smile smugly.  But if it’s bad?  I’ll stop making potato salad.  Again.  For a while.

examining the cheese ball…

This post was going to be called “may the cheese ball be with you…” because as I type this up I’m in bed with a bad cold snuggling with my kiddo and watching Star Wars Episode V.  But Cheese Ball and Star Wars in a blog post title, frankly seems like overkill.  How much goodness can one title really handle?

Not that much.  No.  Not that much.  Besides the point of this post is the Cheese Ball.  Yes that classic, for lack of a better word, cheesy Cheese Ball.  It has a bad wrap.  It’s thought of as a throw back to the 70’s with horrible rust and avocado colored kitchen themes.  Or worse yet, it’s thought of along the same lines as a fruit cake.

I need to tell you that a Cheese Ball can be a thing of beauty.  Unless you’re lactose intolerant or vegan.  Because there?  I cannot help you.

So… the cheese ball.  Let’s get on with the recipe.  I don’t know where it comes from in its original form but it has since changed.  It started as the one my mom used when I was a kid.  It’s probably off the side of some cream cheese package from 40 years ago, who knows.

Ingredients

– (2) 8 ounce packages of cream cheese
– 10 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
– 1 Tablespoon chopped green bell pepper
– 1 Tablespoon chopped pimento*
– Tablespoon chopped green olives*
– Tablespoon chopped onion**
– Finely chopped pecans or walnuts. Set aside.***
– ****

* Can’t find pimento? You can substitute the pimentos and green olives for green olives stuffed with pimentos.  I always have these on hand so it’s tempting to use them and I often do use them for the green olives, but if you can find a jar of pimentos I recommend you take the extra trouble.

** I always use yellow onion.  White would be fine.  I recommend against red or green.

*** I used salted mixed nuts.  And I should note that you really want these to be finely chopped.  You don’t want big chunks of nuts.  They ruin the cheese ball experience making it hard to spread and poking at the roof of your mouth in unpleasant ways.

**** Psst.  You there.  Keep it down.  This is the secret part that has nothing to do with the recipe my mom got off some package in some backwoods little town 40 years ago.  This is just something I like to add.  And since I’m bad at measuring you’re just going to have to use your noggin and be very careful.  I like to add a little liquid smoke.  Yes.  Liquid smoke IS TOO a thing.  It’s a real thing you can purchase at the store.  Usually I find it in a little dark bottle with a blue label and a yellow lid.  You know.  Near the worcestershire or the ketchup or something. I think I put about 1/8th of a teaspoon  in.  Maybe it’s a 1/4 teaspoon.  I’m not sure.  I don’t use a teaspoon.  I just put a little in the cap and then pour it in when it says to add the remaining ingredients.

Make the damn thing

Combine cream cheese (which you should have brought to room temperature… did I mention that?) and cheddar cheese.  Mix until well blended.  Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT THE NUTS.  THEY DO NOT GO IN THE BALL.  Okay.  So add all those other ingredients (the chopped bell pepper, pimento, olives and onions) and mix it all up until it is, well, all mixed up.

Chill.

Yes.  That’s right, Chill.  Both you and the blob of cheesy goodness.  For how long?  Well, for a while.  A while being at least 30 minutes I would guess.  Longer is fine.  Whatever.  You know your schedule better than I do.  When it’s done chilling shape it into a ball.  Or you can get crazy and shape it into two smaller balls. One of which you could freeze if you want to.  They freeze well.  Did I mention that?  Or you could get super crazy and shape it into a log.  Of course then I would have to rename this post examining the cheese log…  but I leave that up to you.

Now take that cheese shape you just made and roll it in the nuts.  Um.  The finely chopped nuts I told you to set aside.  Yep.  Those.  When it’s covered put it on a platter and serve with assorted crackers.  Or hunker down on the couch and keep the whole damn thing to yourself.  I won’t tell.

And that, babies, is the cheese ball.  If I can stop coughing long enough I’ll run to the store for ingredients so I can make one of my very own.

Also?  This post is being blamed on @ahockley for slamming the cheese ball.  Shame on you Hockley.  Shame shame.

the art of the sugar cookie…

I remember sugar cookies with great fondness.  Whenever we made them as a kid, which I don’t recall doing often, I took great joy in the cutting and decorating of them.  Frosting, sprinkles, candies.  Fun.  But the eating of the sugar cookies I never reveled in.  I never enjoyed.  I never even liked a little.  I thought the sugar cookies were gross.

I know right?  A kid that hates sugar cookies?  Go figure.

My desire to eat sugar cookies hasn’t changed a bit, but my desire to make them has been renewed.  That’s right, this sugar cookie hating girl is ready to put on her baking skirt and heels and a cute little apron, get out the mixer, the cookie cutters and the baking sheets and bake up a mess of cookies.  And then you know, decorate them.  That’s what moms do right?

I’ll leave the eating of the cookies to my kid.  A good portion of the baking, cutting and decorating will fall to her too, but the eating of them is going to be largely up to her.

But that is not really the point of this post.  The point of this post is that, as an adult, I have never made sugar cookies so I don’t have a recipe that I cling to as the one sugar cookie to rule all sugar cookies.  I went on line and found a few recipes for cookies and a few for frosting but I thought before I went on my merry way I’d ask you, yes you, if you have a sugar cookie recommendation.
Well do you?

Mom, you shut up.  You had your chance.

the season

It isn’t the rain that signals a change of seasons here.  The semi-constant rain cleanses and renews but it doesn’t mark change.  Nor does the blinding sun, which seems to come more in the dead of winter.  It seems determined to blind us more than to hold back the chill in the air.

The seasons don’t always reflect the time of year.  The calendar seems the only reliable way to find our place in time.  We turn pages or click through screens to find the date.  To understand where we stand in time and place.

It’s the eighth of December and the air outside is warm and embracing.  I don’t listen to the radio and I try to avoid malls whenever possible so I don’t have the ever-present seasonal music to remind me what is coming.  It doesn’t feel a lot like Christmas.

My daughter is cheered and filled with a sense of wonder and it is only when I see that gleam in her eye, that look on her face, that I’m roused by the spirit of the season.  I’m not feeling like a scrooge.  There is no feeling of animosity toward this festive time of year.  Things are just not as I’m used to right now.  Different doesn’t begin to cover the variance.  The stress I’m used to feeling when the calendar hits December is gone and replaced with something else altogether.  It’s stressful and uneasy in its own right, but in some ways easier to deal with.

It’s a passive stress.  It creeps in and nips at my mind and nerves but leaves my heart intact as I feel out the season this year.  Making new choices and traditions and waiting for the holidays to sink in.

Or for snow.  Fresh falling snow, I think, would tell me where and when I am.  So I look to the sky, mittens and hot cocoa at the ready hoping to dance in circles while the cold white fluff drifts down to engulf us.