Thursday, August 29, 2013

College Move-In Week

Sean and I love living in a college town. There's plenty of art, culture, and smart people around, and there's always something to do. There's also the long, lazy summers, and the feeling of "having the place to ourselves" when the students are gone.

Now that school is starting back, there's an awesome feeling of excitement in the air.  Every college town needs this kind of energy-- the energy that comes from the new freshmen moving in, getting ready to make friends, reinvent themselves, and-- if given the opportunity--hit on their roommate's serendipitously hot older brother.

In all this excitement, it's easy to overlook the parents.  At least, it was easy to overlook them before we had a baby.  Earlier this week, Millie and I decided to increase Sean's love for us by bringing him a burrito at work (see also this article.) As we stood in line at the burrito place I noticed some eyes on us. Lots of eyes.  Eyes filling up with tears.

Ohhhhh! I get it.  It's the baby.  YOUR baby is going off to college, and you remember when he/she was the size of MY baby.  And now, you are so moved by that memory you are tearing up in the build-your-own burrito line. (Or, alternatively, you could be so moved by my Davinci-esque ability to dress a burrito with chipotle cream sauce that you are crying.) Either way, I understand.

Parents, I am so sorry to have caused you pain.  If it makes you feel any better, one day I too will be in your situation, and my heart will be ripped out by the sight of little babies too.  Then, it will be further ripped out over the next four years as I see my daughter only intermittently as her dirty laundry dictates, or when she needs to introduce me to some simpering young man whose name starts with a B-- like Blaine, or Blake, or Brett or something.... who I will loathe.

So, in preparation, I have decided to write a Millie a letter for when we move her off to College. Here's how it goes.

Dear Millie,

Your father and I are exhausted! How many more trips to do we need to make up these stairs?! Honestly, How many pairs of shoes can you possibly require?? In other news, we are SO STINKING PROUD OF YOU.  We know you are going to learn so much, and have so much fun at College.  Please don't tell us about the latter.  Seriously, the less we know the better. Incidentally, I saw you staring at your roommate's serendipitously hot older brother. He is way too old for you young lady! What did you say his name was? Brent...Brad...Brett? Wait a minute. Shit. 


Friday, August 23, 2013

Beer totally ruins slug parties

When I was little I had two pet slugs named Beauty and Spot.  We were pretty poor back then-- too poor to afford a pony-- but Beauty and Spot were always there for me, waiting underneath the cinder block in my back yard.  I remember thinking how pretty they looked in the sunshine-- all spotted and multi-colored-- like two miniature (and very sticky) rainbow trouts.

A lot of time has passed since then, and you might say that my views on the slug issue are EVOLVING.  That's because I've recently become interested in growing hostas, which apparently fill the same dietary role for slugs that Queso Dip fills for humans.  The slugs in my backyard have been gorging themselves each night while I'm asleep, in what appears to be an all night movie binge and hosta snack-a-thon.  As I look at the decimated, hole-filled remnants of my former hostas, my only consolation is the knowledge that my slugs are probably filled with self-loathing when they consider how much they ate the night before.  I know it's vindictive, but I hope my slugs are no longer able to fit into their cute jeans, and are lurking underneath my stone-work right now with their give-ups on.

slug damaged hosta
Here's what my Hostas look like now :(
It must be upsetting to think about my beautiful shade garden getting eaten, but don't worry-- I have a plan!  You know how, at a normal party (that is to say a party among humans,) when someone shows up with beer, the party only gets better? Well, I happen to know that beer has the exact opposite effect on slug parties.  Beer totally ruins slug parties!  At first it makes things pretty exciting, when one of the slugs first notices the beer.

"Hey guys! What's this over here? I think it's a buried tunafish can filled with beer!" the slug exclaims.
"AWESOME!!!!" The other slugs chorus.
And then, somebody yells "CANNONBALL!!!" And all the slugs pile in, having the most fun of their slug lives.

Then, when the first slug decides that he's swam enough and he wants to get out and eat some more hostas, he realizes that he's TRAPPED IN THE BEER.  That's when the party gets ruined.

In essence, that's what I have planned for the slugs in my shade garden. You may think it's cruel, but I actually think it's a pretty humane death.  In all honesty, if we were allowed to pick our own death's I think Sean would likely choose DEATH BY BEER. My only hang-up is the loving memory I have of Beauty and Spot. They would be so appalled if they knew what a monster I have become. So, in remembrance of them, I have decided to dedicate a small corner of my garden as a slug sanctuary, which I vow never to contaminate with slug bait and beer.  RIP Beauty and Spot.  You will be missed. As for the rest of you, I know how much you are missing your fallen brethren.  It would mean so much to me if you would join me for a drink in their honor.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Zucchini Hash Browns

zucchini hash browns
Zucchini Hash Browns with Yogurt Dipping Sauce
If you're like me, this time of year you are probably up to your ears in surplus zucchini.  Let's say, hypothetically, you forgot to harvest your garden for about a week because you were too busy cleaning up baby vomit and reading terrible baby books.  I mean-- still hypothetically speaking-- these books were so terrible that you can only assume that they were written by a drunk chimpanzee, or possibly a robot programed to mimic a drunk chimpanzee, in some sort of algorithmic formula based on black and white farm cows.

Then, you realize that you haven't harvested your garden in a week, and you suddenly have a zucchini roughly the size of a whiffle ball bat! Your brain has two immediate reactions:

Reaction number 1:  I am a master gardener.  I should take this zucchini to the county fair, because it is surely the grandest zucchini in all the land, and I will be showered with blue ribbons. All the farmers will want to know about my innovative agricultural techniques of severe neglect, which allowed me to produce this prize zucchini.

Reaction number 2:  Oh Shit Balls! How on earth am I going to consume all this zucchini? I mean, how much zucchini bread can I honestly expect us to consume? Do I even really like zucchini that much?  Does anyone?  How can I con my neighbors into taking some of this zucchini?

This is the horrible state of zuchinni-ness I found myself in this summer.  I immediately went on the offensive, and spent an entire morning chopping, shredding, and otherwise dismembering my zucchini, which I named GORGOTH THE ZUCCHINI.  Then I took some of the remains of Gorgoth, which I scattered among my garden as a warning to any other zucchinis who were developing aspirations of grandeur.  Finally, I was ready to begin cooking.

I did the all of the usual zucchini tricks.  I made Zucchini Bread.  I made Zucchini muffins. I chopped, seasoned and sautéed zucchini, then froze it for consumption later in the year. And--after an entire day of cooking-- I still hadn't made a dent.  I still had two enormous ziplock bags of shredded GORGOTH zucchini.  Undaunted, I rashly invented this recipe for ZUCCHINI HASH BROWNS--- which sounds fancy, but it's really not.

Zucchini Hash Browns:

10 cups shredded zucchini (patted dry with a paper towel)
1 cup flour
1 small white onion
2 cloves garlic
2 eggs
vegatable oil

Here's what I did:

Start with 10 cups of shredded zucchini (use a cheese grater to easily shred your raw zucchini)
Chop up 1 small white onion
Chop up 2 cloves of garlic

In a small pan, sauté the onions and garlic with a little bit of vegetable oil for about two minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the raw shredded zucchini with the onions and garlic you just sauteed,  and then add:
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon salt

Stir together vigorously.  Your batter is complete.

From here on out it's a good old fashion fry up.  I used vegetable oil to pan-fry mine.
Using your fingers, grab a glob of batter and form it until it's about the size of a biscuit, and about an inch thick. Throw it in the hot oil until it's browned on one side.  Then flip. Once the hash browns are browned on both sides, set them on a paper towel to soak up excess grease. When ready, throw them on a platter and voila!

I served mine with a yogurt sauce (just mix greek yogurt, lime juice, cumin, and paprika,) and fresh heirloom tomatoes.   The result was pretty delicious.  I took them to a neighborhood party (yes, another one-- my neighborhood LIKES TO PARTY,) and even Tammy, Queen of the Confectionary Arts was impressed.

Hopefully, next year I'll remember to harvest my zucchinis before things get out of hand.  But, if not, at least I'll be ready---butcher knife in hand--to battle the GORGOTH and serve some delicious zucchini hash browns.  Perhaps the drunk chimpanzee who writes my daughters children's books will be enticed to try a few.

add to bowl of shreeded zuchinii, then add flour and eggs.  Stir.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Little Goat, Happy Cow, and Co-Worker Kitty

Our daughter is a great consumer of literature. I say that literally, because she tries to physically INGEST the books we are reading to her.  One time, I was reading "Goodnight Moon" to Millie, and she insisted on licking each page before we could move on to the next one.  I figured, what the hell, at least she's participating. 

Millie's favorite book by far is  called "Hide and Seek on the Farm," but we just call it "Little Goat." It's the kind of book you expect to find in the bargain bin of the Big Lots in Johnson City, TN.*  Even though it is a story about the adventures of a little GOAT, the cover of the book is just a giant drawing of a COW. That's because babies prefer cows to all other two dimensional farm animals, (it's the contrast!) a fact which the publishers of "Little Goat" knew quite well. The character of Happy Cow appears on every page, and delivers what Millie considers a show stealing performance.

Children's book, Cow
Happy Cow, oh how I loathe you.
*Our friend Emily works near the Johnson City Big Lots, and likes to impulse shop on her lunch break.

I am not exaggerating when I say that we read this book to Millie at least 20 times a day.  She is a mess without it, which is why, on a recent family road trip, I made sure to pack little goat and happy cow along in our bag.

After the first leg of our journey, we arrived at my sister's house in West Virginia at 1:00 am.  Surprising no one, Millie  awoke feeling refreshed and ready to play at 6:30 the following morning.  In order to prevent her from rousing the rest of the household, I took her downstairs and placated her by reading Little Goat continuously for several hours. Millie sat in my lap, pointing at/joyfully drooling on the pictures of Happy Cow.  It was on our 5th or 6th reading of the horrible book when Millie became distracted by something.  Nay, DELIGHTED by something.  I lowered the book, and saw what had gotten her attention.  We were face to face with my sister's curious, soft, and BLACK AND WHITE kitty.  Millie looked at me with pure ecstasy on her face as if to say "Mom, HAPPY COW IS REAL!"

Co-Worker Kitty, AKA "Baby Monster," helpfully sleeping on some documents.
Now, one thing you should know about this situation is that my sister works from home. Her cat considers herself Kelly's coworker, and diligently sleeps on, bites, or snuggles with any book, paper, or excel spreadsheet Kelly may be working on at the time. When she saw us reading a book, she knew it was her duty to get closer and see if she could nap on it.

The result was a perfect storm of cuteness.  Millie reached out and stroked the kitty's head.  The kitty accepted this snuggling serenely, knowing that anyone who was petting her would be wholly unable to file her expense reports. "Gah!" Millie said to the kitty. "Bow before me, pitiful human!", the kitty replied.  This adorable interaction continued for several minutes, until my coffee kicked in, and enough of my brain awoke to try and videotape it.  This of course put an abrupt end to their playfulness. Millie went back to reading eating her book, and Baby Monster went back to washing the spot where her testicles would have been, if she had testicles.

Fleeting though it was, this experience has taught me several valuable lessons about parenting:
1. God Help us when Millie discovers PANDA BEARS.
2. Get the video camera out before you start the pot of coffee.
3. "Coworker kitty" would make for a very interesting children's book.
4. "Coworker Kitty" would make for an even better internet meme.

lol cat meme, I can haz confurence call?