Wednesday, July 29, 2009

OCD and Pancakes

I have been on a bit of an organizing craze lately. It started with my wanting to move the sofa, which led to all of the contents of the living room being shuffled around and rearranged. The next day (literally, the very next day), the bedroom needed to be rearranged (for some reason the computer desk had started to annoy me in its then-present location--made me feel rather claustrophobic for some reason...). Once that was satisfactorily rearranged, the baking cabinet soon fell victim to my organization mania, followed by the Tupperware cabinet, then the top of the refrigerator.

I am not sure if it is because school will be back in session soon--which, of course, heralds the coming of fall...and I have always been more serious about fall cleaning than spring cleaning. I mean really, one simply must do fall cleaning, otherwise you are stuck in an enclosed space for months on end, possibly even snowed or iced in at times, so it only makes sense to get your surroundings as tidy and enjoyable as possible beforehand. In the spring, no one wants to be cooped up inside, so what does it matter in the grand scheme of things if there is a dust bunny under the bed? It's not like the thing has you cornered in your room. In fact, you are probably outside planting something in the yard, happily oblivious to the fuzzy little ball of dust. If you are stupid enough to paw around looking for dirt, it serves you right to have to spend a perfectly lovely spring day cleaning...

But I, anyway, I am not really sure what, exactly, is prompting my latest cleaning rampage, but the need to clean and organize has caused me to inflicted my sickness upon those closest to me. My husband recently spent an afternoon sorting through all the papers on our computer desk, and just this evening I had my dear friend over, and we made two double batches of pancakes (pumpkin pancakes and wheat pancakes, thank you very much) and put them in zippy bags to put in the freezer, so that the kiddos could have hot pancakes in the morning, should they so desire, at any time in the foreseeable future. (Something other than the frozen store bought variety, which has the nutritional value of a hockey puck, and tastes only slightly more appetizing, and that is just because it has maple syrup on it.)

I have no idea how this disease will manifest itself. I have been wanting to sort through all the kids' clothes before school starts, and I have contemplated cutting the surplus herbs in the garden to dry them before fall, oh, and I could clean out the van...

They say the first step is to admit that you have a problem, but I think I will wait until I get a few more things done. It would be a shame to let all this motivation go to waste.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Matter of Lives and Deaths

This past weekend was my birthday, and for the first time in five years I actually celebrated my birthday. I even enjoyed it! (And, trust me...that is saying something.) I have serious birthday issues. Not in that, "Gee, I can't stand the thought of growing older" kind of way. I am fine with older.

No, my issues come with more baggage than a couple of new laugh lines... It all started on July 19, 2005. I was at work, and the receptionist buzzed me, "It is your mother," she said in her soft, lyrical voice. Smiling, I picked up the phone, and awaited my mother's chorus of, "Right about now you were greeting the world!" Instead, I heard a very haggard voice choke out, "Honey, it's your uncle. He walked into a diner and shot a girl."

What? My uncle? But he hated guns! And he would never hurt anyone. This is the man who gave a homeless person one of his cemetery plots. This is the man who lived with his long-time "partner" and tended to their home and gardens in a tiny town an hours drive away. This is someone who spent hours pouring over perennials in the flower catalogues. He spent his spare time and every spare dime creating a beautiful park for the town out of a tumble of weeds and cracked swings. He was Citizen of the Year for crying out loud!

Oh, and there was that other thing...the fact that his own sister had been murdered just a few years before while working at the town's prison--stabbed sixteen times by an inmate. It had devastated him. How could he put another family in the same position?

So, yes, I have issues. It just seemed wrong to celebrate my life on the same day that my uncle took someone else's.

But this year, while acutely aware that nothing had changed--he is still in prison, and she is still gone--somehow, some of the normalcy seeped back into my life. I went to a movie, and out to dinner, and I even ate some birthday cake and (for a while at least) that piece of my life that I had set aside was back.

I am still learning, though...learning how to live among all those that went before, yet who still seem too much with us.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Greatest Sin

I was once involved with someone who sincerely believed that the greatest sin was ingratitude. He would wax poetic about how all the evils of the world could be traced back to this. At the time, it seemed a little extreme. But I am starting to see some merit to his argument.

Lately, it seems like my role in the great family dynamic has deteriorated to something like a glorified housekeeper. This all came to a head this evening. There is something about being surrounded by three egocentric young children that can either be heartwarming and gratifying or soul-numbing and exhausting, depending on the day...

Today--it was exhausting.

There were the reminders to pick up their rooms, the cajoling to get them to eat their dinner, then the threats to get them to clean their room and, finally, out came the big black garbage bag...the sign that mom had reached her limit.

A bag of lost treasures later, all is quiet (at least for the moment).

They are all still in now wailing)...lamenting the loss of a favorite toy. And it would probably be just a bit overwhelming at this point. Except that my middle child just meandered in.

"There you are," she said, as if she had been searching all over for me, "I just wanted to give you this..." she said before planting a kiss firmly on my cheek and wandering back to her room.

So the pendulum swings back...gratitude.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Autumn Calling

I have decided that I am ready for autumn. The 4th of July is over, so there is really no reason to continue the oppressive summer heat. I have never been a "Dog Days of Summer" kinda person. Bring on the changing leaves, the brisk winds, the array of sweaters and jackets. (The kids starting back to school is an added bonus!)

There is something about the nip in the air, the sound of the school band practicing on the field in the early morning, and the smell of smoke billowing from fireplaces that makes me want to fill the pantry to the brim, to start bake with abandon (particularly anything in which I can include "pumpkin" as an ingredient), and to sort out the "winter clothes" and pack away the shorts.

Unfortunately, this mood has come particularly early this year. Yesterday I baked two dozen blueberry muffins, and two loaves of zucchini bread. And this morning I have already made a batch of homemade buttermilk biscuits.

But, for now, I am trying to pacify myself with merely planning for autumn. I am already collecting every pumpkin based recipe I can find. I am contemplating what the kids might like to be for Halloween. And I am trying hard not to "wish" the summer away. After all, there is still plenty of berries with which to cook and bake. Oh, and the peaches! The Porter Peach Festival is next weekend...

Maybe I can hold off a bit longer.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Summer Bounty

Well, along with the heat of summer we are finally getting summer's bounty as well. My in-laws planted a fabulous garden and are very generous with its abundance of zucchini, tomatoes (finally), yellow squash, red potatoes, and onions... As soon as the zucchini makes it to the kitchen, the kiddos start asking for my zucchini bread, so that is what I will be doing today. Although the rich sweet scent of cinnamon and cloves has a decidedly autumnal aroma, I can't pass up the opportunity to take advantage of the free zucchini! For those of you who are, likewise, lucky enough to have an abundance of zucchini, feel free to join me.

Zucchini Bread - Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3 eggs
1 c. oil
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
3 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. pureed zucchini
2 ½ c. all purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves

Grease and flour two bread pans; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Add the vanilla and zucchini. Mix well. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Mix until combined. Pour mixture into prepared bread pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted near center of loaf comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

My husband loves the bread warm with butter, but I think it tastes even better the next day (preferably with a nice cup of hot tea, before the kids have woken up).

Friday, July 10, 2009

History of Martyrdom

"I don't know if I have it in me" has never been a problem of mine. My problem is more "What the hell do I do with all this inside me?" Too many hopes, dreams, intentions, aspirations, and random tangents to keep straight. Hence this blog...a place to get on my soapbox about social injustices...a place to post that phenomenal lament writer's block...and to inflict on someone else one of the random songs from the unending radio in my head (and perhaps to exorcise it--or at least have company as I hum along. Alas, my singing voice is dreadful!).

"I don't know if I have it in me" confounds me, and I am fully (albeit contritely) aware that I seem less than sympathetic to those who suffer from this malady. Perhaps because I grew up with a great-grandmother who regularly admonished us, "Well, no one else is going to do it for you..." To this day, I assume that if something is important I had better get off my butt and take care of it myself. Unfortunately (as my poor husband will attest) this has resulted in my becoming a wee bit of the martyr. Ahem. But, by gosh, at least I am quite certain of my ability to be the best darned martyr around. (After all, no one else is going to do it for me.)