Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls, from scratch, for our Christmas breakfast.
I'm a pretty good baker, if I say so myself, and they turned out spectacular. Caramel-y, cinnamon-y, ooey-gooey deliciousness on a plate with a cup of cranberry wassail to wash them down.
As I took the rolls out of the oven, though, I noticed the top element seemed to be drooping--a screw had un-screwed itself and needed to be replaced. In my caramel-induced euphoria, however, I forgot this until the afternoon as I was setting the dinner rolls to proof.
Not a problem--Boy#2 is just two years from a doctorate in electrical engineering at one of the nation's most prestigious universities. This means he can fix a stove, right? Well, no. It means he can tell me exactly how the transformers and switches work on the stove, but for actual repairs it's best to call the Sears guy. That was the conclusion I reached immediately after I saw flames shooting from the control panel. (Two says they were only electrical sparks--potato, potahto.)
And that's when the Christmas miracle came in. In the past, I have been known to be just a touch...brittle? shall we say? when it comes to going with the flow. I have my plan mapped out in my head, and the plan does not vary. If circumstances such as a non-functioning oven cause the plan to need amending, those sparks coming out of the control panel pale in comparison to the mighty fireworks shooting out of the top of my head.
But yesterday, when I knew I had rolls AND a ham AND a corn casserole on the menu, I was the kitchen equivalent of Mary Lou Retton in my flexibility.
"Not a problem," I told Boy#2, Husband, and Boy#3, who by now were clustered around the (unplugged) stove looking worried. "Let's wait until tomorrow and call someone to fix it."
I know! Who was that woman, who was not wringing her hands and weeping? Instead, I grabbed the roaster oven and set the ham to glazing, then made the first of several dozen trips up and down the basement steps to where our canning stove had sat unused for a couple of years. Only 20 minutes after its original scheduled time, with just one pan of rolls inedible because I hadn't figured on the substitute oven's warm enthusiasm for its task, Christmas dinner was on the table.
Christmas miracles come in all shapes and sizes. I do believe my unaccustomed moment of good attitude in the face of unexpected circumstances may have been one of them.
Merry Christmas, to you and yours!
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
I know, I know. the last time I wrote was approximately the day after Thanksgiving but you know what? Time really does go faster as you get older. December has FLOWN.
And what has happened since I left you staring at my garish new lipstick?
1. Many of the Boys are home! Wooo! The House on the Corner is once again awash in laptops and shoes. Parents of toddlers and teenagers, take heart. This is the best stage ever, and so worth any angst that preceded it. The only ones missing are...
2. Boy#1 and Lovely Girl, who are winging their way this direction today, but not to the House on the Corner (yet). We've entered the era of shared holidays, so our family Christmas will be Sunday, which actually is fine with me. I am completely inflexible on the matter of giving thanks on Thanksgiving Day, but Christmas? The longer it lasts, the better, because that leaves me more time for...
3. Baking! I do love to bake, and my trusty KitchenAid doesn't even get put away these days. So far I've made bierocks, bread bowls (for the traditional Christmas Eve soup following church), and many gallons of peppernuts. Still to be kneaded up today are breakfast rolls (a new recipe) and dinner rolls for tomorrow. I'm almost out of flour, though, so I'm sending a Boy or Boys to Wal-Mart for provisions, which brings us back to...
4. Many of the Boys are home, and they are old enough to fight the Christmas Eve crowds at Wal-Mart so that I don't have to.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 11:04 AM
Thursday, December 19, 2013
First it was the hipster glasses, which I'm actually coming to like quite a bit. My brutally honest friend said they were "Awesome!" and that "They make you look younger," which we all know is second only to "They make you look thinner" in the hierarchy of wonderful compliments. Then my hip and cool designer friend said she thought they were great, and not nearly as hipster-looking as she had thought they would be which may be a little bit of a back-handed compliment when I think of it.
But I'm getting used to looking at myself in the mirror and not recoiling, which is the first step toward acceptance. I did, however, notice that the new and bolder look meant that my pared-down make-up routine was not working so well. Put a set of tortoise-shell frames on top of an un-made-up AARP-eligible face and the face disappears entirely.
"You know," I thought yesterday as I looked in the mirror without recoiling and saw only tortoise-shell, "what I really need is some bolder lipstick. Or some lipstick, at all."
Because, yeah, I tend to forget my lipstick on a daily basis.
So while I was spending $300 at the grocery store last night (yay! The Boys and a Lovely Girl are coming home!) I threw a lipstick into the cart. It was red and on sale for $5.99, so I figured I was all set.
Except that when I went to put it on this morning, I noticed that the name of the color was "Hot Passion." A clue, maybe? In the next four seconds I went from this:
Even after wiping off as much of the color as I could (see used Kleenex above, which I can add to the phrases I never thought I would use on my blog) I feel as if I'm the female version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, except that instead of my nose it's my lips that are capable of guiding Santa's sleigh tonight.
Please, don't shout out with glee when you see me.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 10:03 AM
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
"In your status, post 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard. They don't have to be 'right' or 'great' works; just the ones that have touched/impacted you. Tag 10 friends, including me, so I'll see your post."
Oh, dang. Even laying aside the detail that "impacted" is my least favorite of all verbs, seeing as how "impact" is NOT A VERB BUT A NOUN AND I HATE THE VERBING OF NOUNS, this seems like a daunting task.
I am a reader. I have read insatiably since I was old enough to hold a book by myself, and picking 10 books out of the thousands I have read will be tough. Fortunately, I am an OLD reader, and not only can I not remember punchlines to jokes, I can't remember what book I was reading yesterday much less which one I read a decade ago. So I will be following the prompt to the letter and not thinking too hard about it.
Before that, though, a disclaimer: Quite obviously, the book that has touched/impacted me the most has been the Bible. But I don't consider the Bible a book. (I would be glad to go into this in more detail, but this is not the right post to do that.)
So here's my list of 10 books that have stayed with me:
1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I read this while I was a Peace Corps volunteer, when books in English were few and far between, and it blew. my. mind. What is quality?
2. To Kill a Mockingbird. If I could have written one book, this would have been it. So simple, so complex.
3. Babies and Other Hazards of Sex. Dave Barry. The Elvis of funny writing.
4. Tom Sawyer. I put this one in because it's the earliest book I remember reading. I told my mother she had the wrong version of Tom Sawyer; she had the one written by Samuel Clemens instead of the one written by Mark Twain.
5. Harry Potter. I loved the books in this series for themselves (such wonderful use of the language) but they will have a spot in my heart forever for the hours I spent reading them to the Boys. Hours and hours and hours.
6. The Five Little Peppers. Our next-farm-over neighbor, a spinster who lived by herself in a house with no electricity or running water, gave this series to my sisters and me when we were children. The books were under her candlelit tree when we opened the gifts on Epiphany and I can still conjure up the smell of the kerosene heater by thinking of the Peppers and how they grew.
7. A Wrinkle in Time. Oh, how I loved this, and love it still. Meg, with all of her self-perceived flaws, was my hero and tedious car trips still make me long to tesser.
8. I'll Love You Forever. This children's book was given to me after the birth of one of the Boys (either #3 or #4, I don't remember) and I SOBBED as I read it to the older ones. Then Much Younger Sister pointed out how badly the family dynamics in that family are out of whack, and now I roll my eyes at the sight of the cover.
9. Tess of the D'Urbervilles. This book is on here because it made me realize that I have terrible taste in literature. My high school English teacher told me I would LOOOOOOVE this book, that it was WOOOOONDERFUL, and would make me CRYYYYYYY. Instead I found it BOOOOORING and wanted to shoot Tess for her inability to wake up and smell the coffee. Boooo, Tess.
10. Becoming a Woman of Excellence. This Cynthia Heald book/study was the gateway drug to small group Bible study, and changed my life. I'm going to cheat and piggyback Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby on this entry, because it was the study that had the most influence on the way I, well, experience God.
And there you have it. I have now free-associated 10 (11) books that have stayed with me, and since I can't tag everyone on Facebook (not knowing your names, as I do not), go ahead and leave a comment:
What 10 books (or 5, or 1) books have stayed with you?
Posted by MomQueenBee at 11:51 AM
Monday, December 16, 2013
I'd had same glasses for several years--four years? Five?--and styles change, so when I went to pick out new frames the optician suggested I needed a new look.
"Styles are bolder today," she said. "You should think about making a statement."
I decided to go for this look:
Unfortunately, when I picked up the new specs on Friday I realized the statement I would be making was "Yo! If it were 2003 I'd look really cool, but instead I look like the kind of person who says 'Yo!' And also, the only person over 30 who can pull this look off is Tina Fey and you, doofus-face, are no Tina Fey."
This impression has been underscored and bold-faced by the reactions of those who know me and cannot avoid seeing the mistake on my face. So far every single person who has commented on the frames has done so in that way that makes you thank their mother for reminding them to not say anything at all if they can't say anything nice.
"Oh! You look...studious." and "Huh! Very...academic." "New glasses? It's always kind of a shock to have a new look, isn't it?"
Well, MomQueenBee, you are thinking, just wear your old glasses.
Unfortunately, the new pair has a slightly changed prescription, and even though I don't really like the way I'm looking, I like very much the way I'm seeing.
When I told Boy#1 about my glasses, he thoughtfully provided links to some folks whose choices in eye wear were even worse than my own. There's former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Gunther Cunningham, for example. The actual caption under this picture was "It was only after he left Kansas City that Gunther Cunningham was told his yellow glasses did not give him special coaching powers."
I think I'll steer clear of my boss today.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 11:12 AM
Friday, December 13, 2013
She is a very wise woman, one who has perfected the smokey eye.
Alexandra is here today because I don't have time for the intense effort that I put into Friday Orts and Blurbs. What? You thought those just were a lazy way to wrap up every week? Well, pffft to you. I spend HOURS jotting down ideas that occur to me while I'm watching Project Runway and drinking coffee.
Anyway, it suddenly occurred to me yesterdayt that CHRISTMAS IS COMING. The annual panic set in, and with one week to go (HOLY COW!) I realize I haven't finished the gifts I intend to hand-make. Or started them.
So today I'm taking a vacation day (hooray for full-time benefits and no more major deadlines until January) and working on those projects. Or rather, I'm thinking about working on those projects.
When Husband left for work this morning, he patted my chenille-robe-covered shoulder and said "I hope you're not still in this when I come home tonight."
That's when Alexandra told him to mind his own beeswax, that I was going to be a blur of activity and might have come full circle and be back in the robe by the time he got to the office, prompting him to shake his head sadly and mutter something about retirement and the boatload of fun he expected his wife would be when she reaches that Promised Land.
Then Alexandra urged me to take a nap, so I don't have time for Friday Orts and a Blurb. Later she's going to show me how to do a smokey eye.
I love Alexandra.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 10:12 AM
Thursday, December 12, 2013
|I am such a bad partier that I did not even take a picture of my own dipped pretzels.|
There are oh, so many things I love about this party. It has a defined beginning time (6:30 p.m.) and end time (8 p.m.), which is appropriately brief and gets us home in time for early bedtime. There simply is not enough time to have a bad time.
We have a white elephant/Yankee swap exchange, which leads to much lively debate. Oh, no, not over the gifts--over the rules of the game. We are the kind of sweet little old ladies who endlessly "You go ahead of me," and "No, no, no, you first, my dear," but are Xena: Warrior Princess when it comes to deciding whether a gift may be stolen more than three times.
We also each bring something to eat and unlike most times when women get together, we are highly non-competitive when it comes to what we throw on the buffet table. I made peppernuts but they didn't turn out right in spite of the fact that I've made maybe sixty-four entillion peppernuts during my life. So I threw some almond bark in the microwave and dumped in a half bag of pretzels and voila, off to the party. It's bachelor cooking at its finest and no one is judging.
So we sort of dress up, yell at each other about bad gifts, and stuff our faces with food other people cook, then we go home in 90 minutes or less and as we leave we agree that it may be the most fun we have during the entire holiday season.
Merry Christmas, Free Spacers. I believe we've pretty much perfected this holiday party thing.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 10:48 AM
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
I'm sure there was an equitable distribution of who would come in first in each race, but I don't even remember the winning and losing part. What I remember was how I felt up there on my father's shoulders. I was invincible, on the team of this strong, determined man, and we laughed as we flew toward the goal.
Today my father turns 87 years old. I've written here often about what it's like to have the strongest, most determined father in the world. I wrote about his place in the Greatest Generation, how he left for the Navy when he was 17, and was loading torpedoes in World War II's Pacific battlegrounds before he was old enough to shave. I've spoken of how his vision for vocational education was the driving force behind an institution that has changed thousands of lives, thousands of families. I've made note of his multiple swimming championships in three state Senior Olympics competitions this year.
These days I don't see my father nearly as much as I wish I did. He lives a state away and between his schedule and my schedule (mostly his schedule), it's often a month or two between hugs. But that doesn't mean I don't see reminders of him.
I come across the picture of him lighting a fire in the fireplace, with 18-month-old Boy#1 watching intently. I hear Boy#3 talk about his first months of teaching, and remember that he is a musician today largely because he loved hearing Grandpa play the trombone. I see my children involved in church activities and know my dad was part of the godly heritage that was modeled in their grandparents. I look at my marriage and appreciate the 58 years Dad and Mom were married. Every day I have moments in my professional life when his modeling of commitment to the right thing influences my decisions.
He is still strong and determined and part of my life, every day.
Happy birthday, Dad. We're still on your team and standing on your shoulders.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 11:15 AM
Monday, December 9, 2013
(Alternate Title: Reflections After Watching The Sound of Music Live!)
(Second Alternate Title: Why I Don't Have Girls)
Oh, hey, Liesl! Yes, we're back! Yes, we had a great time, but I am exhausted. I can't wait to have the nearest frau draw me a nice hot bath and soak in that puppy for about three hou--what? You want to talk? Right now? Oh. Okay. Sure!
What do I think of Rolf? Huh. Well, why do you ask? You've been doing WHAT in the gazebo? Oh, for heaven's sake, Liesl. What are you thinking?
You are SIXTEEN! Sixteen years old. That is not even old enough to get a driver's license in most states, and don't give me any baloney about how that doesn't matter because he has his own transportation. Wait a year or two until you have triplets you're trying to fit into the basket of that bicycle along with the telegrams and you'll wish you had one of those nice big caretaker cars, even if that caretaker car doesn't have any interior wiring because some well-meaning nuns yanked it all out.
Darling, let's look at this for just a second. He is only seventeen. He still wears shorts during the winter, for heaven's sake, and do you want to hitch yourself to that fashion star for the rest of your life? You're a good-looking girl, Liesl--you could do so much better.
Has your father never told you anything about seventeen-year-old boys? Well, sweetheart, it's a good thing you have me here now. Seventeen-year-old boys are nothing but hands and hormones. I know he looked adorable in the moonlight in the gazebo....What? THERE'S NO GAZEBO? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GAZEBO?
Anyway, seventeen-year-old boys, especially seventeen-going-on-eighteen boys, are roues and cads. No, I am not going to define those for you. Perhaps you should have been studying for your SATs while we were gone instead of burning down the gazebo? Let's just say that when he offers you food and wine, you'd better make sure to have a food-taster. Someone who has joined the NAZIS definitely would not be above a little date-rape-drugging.
You are sixteen, Liesl. One of these days you may grow up to be a nun who is savvy enough to grab yourself a rich older navy captain with an enormous house and servants and children who have perfect pitch. When that day comes, grab that navy captain and tell him to put a ring on it.
But until then, dear, you're grounded.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 9:26 AM
Friday, December 6, 2013
The lovely Idena asked in a comment if decorating more than one room was even a thing. Wow. Idena, do you live in a Grinch-apocalyptic Whoville? I'd say if Facebook is any indication I may be the only person in Small Town who only decorates one room. Of course, there may be others such as myself who aren't bragging about our Grinch-homes on the internet. And I must say...
My comment about holiday hand towels being "dumb" (perhaps not the most reasoned of descriptors) certainly hit a nerve. There is apparently no middle ground on this issue, as everyone appears to LOOOOOOVE holiday hand towels or to HAAAAAATE holiday hand towels with absolutely no "meh" middle ground. Who knew?
The season of high demand for us semi-competent accompanists is upon us, and last night that did not please me. It was 13 degrees and snowing when I left for Christmas choir practice, and I wanted to watch The Sound of Music Live. Imagine my delight when I got home two hours later and could read the entire hilarious Tweet-storm that TSOML provoked without having to sit through the three actual hours of the production+WalMart commercials. One example:
"Julie Andrews is spinning around in her grave." "Julie Andrews isn't dead." "She will be after she watches this."
I am not judging whether or not the production was good (LISA) but Husband finally had to tell me to either pipe down with the snark-produced giggles or go to another room.
Husband and I ate in the new restaurant on Main Street last night, and people, our meal was really good. I had a delicious caprese half-sandwich and a cup of black bean soup. Husband had a rustic pizza. We shared (free) appetizers of homemade bread with herb butter. Yummmmmm.
But what made my heart go pitter-pat was that the restaurant/emporium sells SALSA LIZANO! Salsa Lizano, as my Tico-phile friends know, is the taste of Costa Rica. Without it you cannot make the foods that taste like my Peace Corps years on a fork. Gallopinto. Huevos con tomates. If you've tasted Salsa Lizano you know of what I speak.
I've been surviving for 30 years now on the kindness of travelers who risk the contents of their suitcases to smuggle me back bottles of this delicacy, but I always have doled it out as if it were the nectar of the gods and the gods were no longer producing nectar.
Please, Small Towners, go have a sandwich or an espresso or something at the Chef's Kitchen. You'll get a great sandwich and I'll have a continuing supplier of non-contraband condiments.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 10:44 AM
Thursday, December 5, 2013
"Candy canes! Great!" we huzzah-ed him.
"Not so great," T said. "Yesterday C (his five-year-old son) was here for a music lesson and he kicked over and broke the ones outside the performing arts building."
T and his wife, who are truly good parents, insisted that C write an apology note, then they took him downtown to withdraw his own money from his own bank account for the replacement canes. In spite of these stellar examples of How To Deal With Childish Anarchy, T remained worried.
"I can understand if he had broken just one, because he didn't know it would broke if he kicked it, but he went on and broke FOUR. What kind of a kid does that?"
I laughed and laughed. Obviously I had never told him about the time I Boy#1 and Boy#2 were about C's age. They were playing outside and I was vacuuming when the doorbell rang. It was an irate woman, one whom I'd never met.
"DID YOU KNOW THAT YOUR CHILDREN ARE THROWING ROCKS AT CARS?" she screamed at me. After I ascertained that none of the rocks had actually hit their targets (yup, they have my athletic genes), I apologized profusely and promised I would "take care of it." I was mortified that my children, the loves of my life, could be such utter hooligans.
I called One and Two in and prepared to give them what-for. In the case of One, this was unnecessary. My tenderhearted rule-follower already was in tears, and sure whatever what-for he was going to be given would involve a spanking. Or jail time. Younger brother Two had true regret in his eyes--but his regret was that he had not hit the moving car. No amount of lecturing or explaining that he could have DAMAGED SOMEONE ELSE'S STUFF made a dent in his lack of remorse.
"And in spite of that," I reassured my colleague, "Two has grown up to be a fine, compassionate, ethical man who has never been in jail. You're handling this just right, and C will be fine."
What kind of a five-year-old kid breaks something just because it's there and it makes a thoroughly satisfying crack when it breaks?
A boy kind, and someday T and his wife will laugh about this. Not today, but someday.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 11:06 AM
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
I'm not being modest about this, or fishing for compliments. "Oh, MomQueenBee, you are SO competent," said no one ever, but I value my own talents. My strong suits are willing semi-competence, and an ability to produce quickly under deadline. Oh, and the ability to correctly use the words "compose" and "comprise," but that particular strong suit is sadly under-valued.
Anyway, my Christmas competence is even more semi- than most of my other competences. I am always the last one to have my decorations up, the final house on the street with no lights peeking through the front windows, the obvious slacker when it comes to ho-ho-ho-ing.
But this year? On the second day of December, in the Year of Our Lord 2013, the House on the Corner is Christmas-ed!
Boo to the yah to all of my (imaginary) detractors who didn't think I could do it, with a special fist-pump for those who have warned me Santa Claus will not stop at our house on Christmas Eve if I am screaming up the chimney "JUST A MINUTE! THE TREE IS ALMOST UP!"
Of course, decorating for Christmas is not what it used to be. Over the years my holiday prettify-ing of the entire house has shrunk like the Grinch's cold, hard, heart, until the pretty is now all contained within the four walls of the living room. I'm not criticizing you if YOU want to throw holiday spirit into every corner of YOUR house, but two things: l) holiday hand towels are dumb, and 2) don't come crying to me when you're still picking holly berries out of the guest room carpet in July.
And if you are one of those who has posted on your Facebook page "The first of our six trees is up and decorated!!!! I love this time of the year so much!!!!!" I am not judging. Good for you, I say, even if the use of multiple exclamation points indicates I am saying it with just a bit of sarcasm. I will love visiting your house, and truly, I will admire those themed trees.
Just don't expect me to be doing anything similar. Ever. Notice the still-unlit spot on our tree where the pre-lit lights decided this year not to light? Semi-competence is enough for me.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 10:09 AM
Monday, December 2, 2013
|Martha Stewart, eat your heart out. Also your gizzard.|
And so it's December! After waiting all year for the Best Day of the Year, said day has come and gone and was truly lovely. But before we move on, a few random observations to clear out of the observation tower:
Observation #1: This is the first year in my long series of preparing Thanksgiving dinner that I tried brining a turkey and roasting it in a roaster. I was an Oven Bag early adopter and never looked back from the convenience and ease--until this year, when all the cool kids were brining and roasting.
The brining was not exactly easy, what with the need to clear out refrigerator space for a 23-pound bird marinating in a plastic bag containing three gallons of salty flavor, but I worked around this issue by using an ice chest on the deck in 33-degree weather. It also was convenient to have the gizzards in advance so that I could make my special gizzard dressing, which is MINE AND ONLY MINE AND NO ONE ELSE WILL EAT IT! MWAHAHAHA!
However, I had never realized how long a turkey takes to roast when it is free-range and un-bagged. The exact time for this step is "forever, plus two hours." Holy smoke. At the moment the turkey was scheduled to be set on the table, the meat thermometer was reading 130 degrees, which is approximately the temperature at which Ralphie's mom would be telling his dad "You'll get worms!" (YouTube failed me when I tried to find a clip from this seminal moment in A Christmas Story.)
I had the joy of telling Husband "Yes, that looks done to me" with each slice he carved off the carcass of this reluctant feast, so next year it's back to an Oven Bag.
Observation #2: Slow cookers are my friends when it comes to preparing Thanksgiving for a crowd. How many did I have plugged in? Let's see--one for the un-special dressing (What? You didn't think I'd leave all the non-gizzard eaters without dressing, did you?), two for green bean casserole, one to keep the gravy warm, one to keep the mashed potatoes warm, one to keep the rolls warm.
And since I seem to be making a lot of non-solicited endorsements of Reynolds products today, their stock probably rose last week thanks to my multiple purchases of slow cooker liners. I'm a huge fan and so are the people who did the dishes while I rested my tired feet on an ottoman Thursday night.
Observation #3: Do Cyber Monday deals seem to not be quite as spectacularly amazing as they were in the past? I offer as proof the following deal that Amazon.com thought would induce me to hand over my credit card number this morning:
- Order in the next 7 hours and get it by Tuesday, Dec 3.
- More Buying Choices
Really Amazon.com? You think I can be bought for FOUR CENTS? Well, considering that I just endorsed two different Reynolds products and Reynolds paid me no cents at all, you may be overbidding.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 10:07 AM