Nov 30 2009

Sometimes all it takes

is a walk around the lake. I was fed up. Bored. Antsy. Annoyed with myself for all of the above. So I took a walk. And on my walk I saw clouds the color of bruises and sherbet. I saw the sun set and the moon rise, innocent and optimistic, nearly full and dangling from fishing line. I saw an island of seagulls perched in the middle of the lake like origami flicking to life. I saw a girl pull out her ponytail holder and her beautiful hair tumble out in wave of auburn. I saw the city shimmering silver, a magical two-dimensional movie set. I saw a giant bald eagle in the same spot we saw him yesterday, perched on a lamppost, King of the Lake. He craned his neck to watch me beneath him. He looked massive against a darkening sky and I whispered, Hail King.

Nov 27 2009

Thanks for nuthin, Bubbles

Last year, Thanksgiving brought us Tom the Nut Pecker. It also brought us Tartare, Meester Panqueques and Lil’ Salami from Seattle. By contrast, this Thanksgiving was shaping up to be uneventful, mellow even. In the wake of the South American feast (which was lovely and super fun and, I think, had the intended effect of leaving our guests with full bellies, happy taste buds and dizzy heads), Mama was feeling tired. And maybe it was my general fatigue combined with my general inability to say no to Saint James that landed me smack in the middle of Petco on Tuesday evening, trying not to touch anything and gagging a little at the smell. What can I say? All he has to do is play the tremulously hopeful card and I’m butter. $47.96 later we were fully equipped for the arrival of . . . drumroll please . . . a crayfish. I can just see Dolly and Soul Daddy’s eyebrows shooting up into their hairlines because down in St. Louis, they eat these suckers by the thousands every spring at their big crayfish bonanza and the only money they would consider throwing after a crayfish would be for some cold beers to chase them down with. But here in the upper midwest, we are asses who think glorified shrimps can be pets.

So on Wednesday afternoon, I sat in my minivan, watching the drizzle hit my windshield, waiting for Saint James to emerge from school with the creature, thinking I can’t fucking believe we are going down this road again. Our family’s success rate with classroom animal cast-offs is dismal, and the brooding sky and my uneasy gut portended more of the same. The look on Saint James’ face, however, was enough to chase away my misgivings. Excited and proud, he carried the thing like a new born baby, were said baby floating in a plastic tub, looking like a nasty tiny lobster. And so, in a deja-vu like trance, I drove home, careful not to slosh the newest addition to the familia, letting myself get caught up, just a little, in the joy of naming him. By the time we pulled into our driveway, Bubbles had been christened and I watched in wonder as Supergirl acted super helpful and carried Saint James’ backpack for him so he could deliver Bubbles to his tricked out new pad, complete with realistic pebble bottom, faux seaweed and Tiki guy. 

Folks, I think you know how this is going to end. At around ten o’clock on Thanksgiving morning, I was up to my elbows in turkey giving him the butter massage  of his life when I heard a heart broken wail from the basement. Saint James ran up the stairs, fear and sadness stamped on his flushed and puffy face and cried that Bubbles was dying. What? What? Already? How do you know? I sputtered, my arms held aloft like a scrubbed-in surgeon. He’s on his baaaaaack, screamed Saint James, and his claw fell ooooooffffffff. And that is when my heart broke into little pieces. I didn’t even get to feed hiiiiiimmmmm. And then the little pieces of my heart broke into even littler pieces, which I had no hope of collecting, so slick were my hands with turkey guts and butter.

The rest of the day went by in a fugue of fretting about the turkey and fretting about my son. Up and down the basement stairs he went, over and over, to check on freakin’ Bubbles, at first emerging wracked by a fresh batch of sobs and finally too weary to cry, passing through the kitchen in silence. Doctor Dash whispered that maybe he had too much water in his aquarium, so we went down to check, not that we would know too much water if we saw it. Saint James had moved Bubbles to a smaller bowl where he had put him on top of a piece of cat kibble (incidentally, I’m really glad I paid $16 for a bag of cat food, of which exactly one niblet was used). Bubbles appeared to be clinging to the nugget for dear life and all those little pieces of my heart on the kitchen floor jumped up and broke into even tinier pieces, approximately the size of Nerds. Oh man, that’s so sad, said Doctor Dash, it’s like putting a steak over the face of a dead man. And it was. It was exactly like putting a steak over the face of a dead man.

And it was St. James’ desperate act of tenderness that made me vow NO MORE PETS. Never, ever, ever. Not ever again. Ever. Never.

That is, until Bubbles really died.

And with my boy limp and weeping, his sobs resonating through my chest like thunder, the words tumbled out before I could catch them. We’ll get a fish, sweetie, hush now, we’ll get a fish.

Nov 23 2009

These separate lives we lead.

One morning you notice your kids hug you goodbye as soon as they spot the bus, before it gets too close. And then when they get on the bus, you see one hop into the first seat, the other move to the very back, as far apart as two siblings can possibly get. You watch and wait, a twitch in your wrist where a wave waits to flutter free. You see both kids on their knees in sweet profile, their noses, shoulders and words pointed excitedly at someone in the seat behind them. They don’t look back at you. The bus door closes with a sigh. And all is right in their world.

Nov 23 2009


Is it me or does the dark just seem darker this year? Every night, it takes me by surprise, like a hooded figure, suddenly appearing from behind a shadowy corner. It is sudden and it is unequivocal. Ink deep and solid to the touch, night means business. It comes upon us like a blind fold. Like a cast iron skillet to the head. Where is the soft retreat, the fade out, the gloaming? Where are the moments when everything shimmers, suspended between tangible and intangible, between being here and being gone? Where is the glow that melts over the hills and the rocks, allowing you to believe, for a second, that there is warmth and potential for motion in those seemingly immutable forms. It could be me. Or it could be the dark. But it just seems darker.

Nov 19 2009

High prep mode.

tomatoesI haven’t had time to write because I’m in the balls out planning stages for a Chilean Argentine Feast that we’re hosting with La Chilenita and her hubby, Sporty Scrivener, this Friday night. This whole week has been a flurry of emails, menu tweaking, ingredients sourcing, linen ironing, tomato fondling and taste testing. I test drove the skirt steak from Clancey’s, prepared it a couple different ways, Dash scribbled notes on graph paper, we looked at each other while we chewed. Yes. Good. I have literally purchased tomatoes from three different places and tried them all in search of something that approaches tasty. Alas, this is not the time of year for delicious tomatoes, so I picked the most flavorful, albeit unripe variety from the Linden Hills Coop and stashed them on my windowsill. Every day I examine them to determine their ripening progress: I gingerly probe them, take their temperature, listen to them with a stethoscope, eyeball them, sniff them and probe them some more. I have an elaborate plan should they lag behind. They need to be perfect by Friday and it is a delicate dance to coax them to perfection. Don’t make me do it, I whisper, knowing no one will be happy if I have to stuff them into a paper bag with an apple. I’m not even sure this works with tomatoes like it does with avocados and bananas, but desperate times call for desperate measures. La Chilenita is running around town doing much the same because this feast needs to be GOOD.

This dinner was part of our parish’s live auction and proof positive that chivalry is not dead. Last spring found me at the annual gala, on crutches and stag (Dash was on-call). I wasn’t going to go, but I got a few calls, and you know me, I HATE to miss a party. My Little Springroll and her hubby Runner Laddie kindly gave me a ride, carried my clutch, signed me up for stuff, got me wine and generally clucked over me and made sure I was fine, which I was, if a little pathetic. I was, however, fretting that our dinner would be allowed to blow through the room like a giant tumbleweed. When the auctioneer started to talk about it, La Chilenita was no where to be found, I had no way to escape and so I went into full cringe-hide-under-the-tablecloth-mode. And this is when my two heros of the night swaggered into town. Yes, maybe they wanted the dinner for 8 that much, maybe they did it for a good cause, or maybe they did it for the gimp in the feather headband nervously pretending not to pay attention to the proceedings. Maybe, just maybe, they did it for friendship. Ten Gallon and Runner Laddie had a blazin’ showdown and all of the sudden the dinner was sky high, higher than anything else and I went from full cringe to full swoon because NOW WHAT THE HELL WERE WE GONNA DO? La Chilenita and I are just little ol’ us! We’re home cooks, not fancy cooks!  And that last slew of bids had firmly pushed us into fancy terrain! Holy shit! La Chilenita and I looked at each other agog when we found each other. No worries, we’ll make it great, it’s gonna be great, it’ll be fun, it’ll be great, great, it’ll be great! we assured ourselves, knowing we had months to plan. Nothing like the balm of time. Until you run out of time. We pictured ourselves leisurely perusing cookbooks in her backyard with glasses of wine on warm summer evenings. Instead we met at Sebastian Joe’s, leaves on the ground and our hair on end.

In the end, my two gunslingers realized they were bidding against friend, not foe, split the dinner and each invited one couple, all of whom are dear friends. So all our fretting and planning and cooking and tasting is a total and complete joy. We’ve got a sexy, candlelit room planned, a festive and sultry playlist, beautiful wines and a menu that we’re proud of. La Chilenita and I decided we would cook for our friends as if they were in a South American home. We’ll cook with time, we’ll cook with care and most importantly, we’ll cook with love. And if if turns out a little bit fancy? Well, tanto mejor! 

Nov 16 2009

Goddamn Catholic School.

jesusSupergirl: This is Jesus on the cross. When he was a little kid.

Theologically speaking, I don’t even know what to make of this. Laundrylogically speaking, I can see that Jesus had the same annoying habit of wearing two different socks that my kids have. You would be wrong to assume that Mary is a slovenly keeper of house. You would be wrong to assume that she just throws Jesus’ socks into his drawer in a jumble, that she doesn’t spend most of her free time on the hunt for rogue socks, trying in vain to reunite them with their mates. Maybe if Jesus had been a little more sensitive to how hard his mother works he wouldn’t have gotten himself into such a . . . ok. I’ll stop there.

Nov 14 2009

Sheepish Squash Claw.

Believe it or not, there are whole chunks of time when I float along writing whatever it is I write on this blog without getting all freaky deaky about it. Times when I feel like it’s fun for me, maybe fun for a few others, and I don’t give it much thought beyond that. But the thing about a blog is that it’s a solitary endeavor. I just put thoughts and words out into cyberspace and there is no one there to stop me. To check me. To laugh in my face. To go pshh, ya, whatever. I just deck myself out in my own particular brand of crazy and there’s no one to give me the stink eye and send me back to my closet.

I’m the peevish unabomber and like everyone who holes up with their own thoughts for too long, I start to go a little batty. And if you can indulge me in my stretchy metaphor that this blog is a remote, dingy, one room cabin filled with papers, empty cans and beaver pelts, then I dare say you’ll humor me in taking it a bit further and agree that this blog can also be a big, moist yellow batter cake with white buttercream frosting that serenely sits on a cake stand with the songs of angels wafting about it.

And the thing about lonely shanties is that every once in a great while, there’s a knock at the door. 

And the thing about beautiful white cakes is that it’s only a matter of time before a big gleaming knife cuts right through it.

And the thing about this blog, is that from time to time something jars me into realizing that this isn’t all just in my head. That all this crazy talk, all these absurd musings are real, that they’re out there and anyone can read them, giving them an up close and personal tour of the inner workings of my mind.

doubledollAnd then I feel deeply deeply sheepish. So sheepish in fact, that if I were one of those dolls that has another doll under its skirt that you unveil by pulling the skirt over the first doll, then the first doll would be Peevish Mama and the doll under the skirt would be Sheepish Mama. You see?  I’m doing it again. I can’t help myself. I do love those dolls though.

A few months ago, Dash and I were out to dinner with Pipes and his lovely girlfriend Sassy Jewels and Pipes mentioned that his youngest daughter had asked whether she could read my blog. Now I’ve known this little chickie since she was four. She now babysits my kids. I understand that she’s quite a little writer and I adore her. So my reaction was something along the lines of OF COURSE THE FUCK NOT!!! Luckily Pipes was on the same page and I don’t have to worry about corrupting the girl with my ruminations. But it made me stop for a second and take stock. There’s a lot of my “stuff” in here, and it’s not for everyone.

I had a similar reaction in another situation when I ran into my friend La Chilenita walking with her friend. Oh, smiled La Chilenita when she saw me, this is my friend so and so and this is her first baby and I was just telling her about your blog! And I thought, oh dear God! This poor young naive mother will be prematurely and irrevocably tainted with my weary venom! She doesn’t need to know about how it’s all going to unravel for her a few years and kids down the road. Let her enjoy her baby and the smug belief that she’s a good mom. She doesn’t need to know how much she’s going to yell. She doesn’t need to know how much food off the floor she’s going to let her kids eat. She doesn’t need to know how many times she’s going to forget chess club. She doesn’t need to know she will disappoint her kids. She doesn’t need to know she will disappoint herself.

But I eventually shake off the cringe. I tell myself that if it doesn’t resonate with someone, doesn’t catch their interest, they won’t come back. It’s simple, really. Doors are made to be knocked on. Cakes are made to be eaten. Blogs are meant to be read. That is until you get a comment from the Minneapolis Farmers Market where, in simple terse words, they thank you for supporting farmers. Waah? All of the sudden you’re pulling your skirt over your head becoming Sheepish Mama doll again, because, really? Really? Did I really just subject this nameless, faceless, innocent at the Minneapolis Farmers Market to Squash Claw? Oh dear God.

Nov 11 2009

Squashed by the squash

squashOn Saturday we needed an easy adventure. The kids were feeling kind of bunk after their mini fevers, as was their mama on the day after the day after Snoop Dogg (yep, not as young as I used to be, and yet I continue to pretend). It was a gorgeous day and we simply couldn’t let ourselves sit around the house and oh, I don’t know, actually get anything accomplished, so we did what we always do when we need a little sumpin, sumpin and we went to the Minneapolis Farmers Market. It’s down to the skeleton crew now, but Chef Shack was there, so we had a tasty lunch of burgers, bison chili and mini-donuts while sitting on some gloriously sunny concrete steps. The kids got animal balloons which ended up causing more tears than joy as they popped and unravelled and disappointed in that special way that all balloons inevitably do. If only Devil Baby would let herself be convinced that it is precisely their ephemeral nature that makes balloons so compelling, but alas, she was having none of it and I rued the day she spotted that guy dressed like a clown dressed like a chef.

As we were leaving with not much more than some apples and some cool cabbage-looking flowers, I stopped at a guy selling different kinds of squash. Bespectacled, unassuming and dressed in clothes the color of the earth, he gently suggested I try a sampling for six dollars. Sure, I said. They were gorgeous and I’ve been diggin’ on squash lately. There is nothing easier and more delicious than roasting it with a little olive oil, real maple syrup and sea salt. He proceeded to fill a big supermarket paper bag with acorn, butternut, buttercup and carnival squash. The cornucopia pictured above isn’t even all of it –  I’ve already roasted an acorn, two carnivals and there’s a huge butternut in the oven right now.

This orgy of squash brings up a few issues: First of all, how are these people supposed to survive? All that work, all that risk, all that waiting, and he’s practically giving it away. Farmers markets are ridiculously cheap anyway, and when you get the end of the day or end of the season desperation sales, well, it just feels unfair. I don’t know what we can do except try try try to buy what we can directly from the source. We are able to do this with so little of our food supply, and for so little of the year, that it seems a pity not to make a bit of an effort in the summer and fall months to throw some of our dollars in the direction of our local farmers. I have a horror of sounding preachy. I too succumb to the cheap and out-of-season Costco berry extravaganza to keep my kids filled with fruit. I’m no saintly self-sustained off-the-grid locavore. But, I am full of guilt about just about everything. So in an effort to assuage said guilt, I told him I’d also buy a cabbage, which is now taking up the entire bottom shelf of my fridge. It’s huge. Like a rugby ball. Bigger. Like a watermelon. One dollar.

And if a twingey sad heart and a guilty conscience weren’t enough, I am also suffering from a peculiar pain in my right ring finger, aggravated from wrangling said squash. It’s hard to cut those motherfucking gourds! They are some seriously tough bitches, y’all. I think I need a cleaver, but as much as I love knives, I’d be too scared to wield a cleaver. I have no doubt I would have a horrible vision of chopping off my finger and then I would go ahead and do it. I seriously think I’m developing carpal tunnel. After wrestling with the bodacious butternut tonight, I tried to let go of the knife and my hand stayed in the shape of a claw. This can’t be good. I’m not sure how long I can go on like this. If Squash Claw isn’t a defined medical condition, then it needs to be and the New England Journal of Medicine needs to contact me asap. 

In the meantime, anyone want some squash?

Nov 9 2009

Federico Aubele and Snoop Deeohdouble G

281x211Last week was a great week for music here in my peevish little world. Doctor Dash had the week off, so we threw sleep caution to the wind and ended up with tickies to see Federico Aubele at the Varsity Theatre on Tuesday night and Snoop Dogg at Epic on Thursday night. 

We’ve been listening to Federico Aubele for a long time. He’s Argentine, como yo, and his music is cool, sexy, smooth, ambient, complex and lovely. Total make-out music; it would also be great yoga music. We swooped into the theater and contentedly settled into a couple seats with a perfect view of the stage. How easy is this city? There is really no excuse not to go see music. Getting tickets is a breeze, parking is a breeze, finding a perfect spot is a breeze. There’s minimal hassle when your city is small but mighty. But I digress.

Aubele’s opener was a Spanish charmer, DePedro, with a beautiful voice and an incredible stylistic range. The young buck from Madrid crooned us like a Latin lover and deftly funked us up like a dirty soul papi, all with nothing more than a beautiful Spanish guitar. He sang in Spanish and his voice was over-the-top-my-cup-of-tea: a little rasp a little smooth a lotta sexy. At one point I leaned over to Dash and whispered that I was gonna make this guy famous – seriously, he needs to be discovered, and who better than me, right? You may not know this about me, but I discover people all the time. I’ve got quite an eye, especially for models. Unfortunately, all the cool photo shoots, the meteoritic rises to fame, the sold out shows, the screaming fans, that all happens in my head. But it doesn’t make it any less real, amigos. It was a pity DePedro was playing to a nearly empty room as he really deserved a throng of screaming girls. I can only hope he found at least one friendly ambassador of Minnesota to show him a good time after the show.

Federico took the stage in a hip black suit and his inimitable fro and I couldn’t help but think he had a total Beck vibe. Like Beck, there’s not a lot of excess motion and emotion, which, in the end packs a greater punch. His side kick was a willowy Nico-esque woman who seemed to be making a game of seeing how slight her sinuous movements could be while she backed him up with the voice of a sweet angel with a naughty secret. What can I say? It was super sexy, the music was gorgeous, sort of washing over you like a warm caress. Aubele was charming and had a fetching way of stopping every so often to explain what inspired the next song. You got the music, and you also got the little stories behind the music, which is arguably the best part and why we go to see live music. The artist, what they’re wearing, what they drink on stage, what they say between songs, who they have on stage with them, it all gives you a glimpse into the stories behind the music, and Aubele’s were quirky, tender, thoughtful and romantic. 

snoop-dogg-method-man-redman-devin-the-dude-lady-of-rage-at-epic.4076614.36                                                                  B Fresh Photography.

And then Snoop. Where to begin? I suppose with the big bad bummer that Doctor Dash heroically bowed out to stay home with a feverish Saint James so I could go bust a move with my girl Crackerjack. Ivory Tickler and Sweet Jessamine surprised us and met us there, as did two dudes from New York whom we had briefly chatted with at the 112 Eatery bar where we had a bite before the show. They knew we were in the motherhood business right off the bat, so there was no shadiness (Chief Big Voice, I can see you rolling your eyes), although one of them seemed to forget that as the night wore on and, annoyingly, had us both playing some serious D when really we just wanted to be dancing and enjoying the show. There’s a fine line between busting out your best big bootied hip hop ho moves and busting out your best crouching tiger hidden dragon defense moves. Both were required on Thursday night, and not just for NY guy – there was a lot of love in that crowd. Nevertheless, it was a great concert with Devin the Dude opening, then a killer set by Red Man and Method Man that really got things pumpin and jumpin (quite literally) and finally the one and only Snoop, who is one amazing little showman. He’s a superstar for a reason and he was ON, baby. The way these guys rap, that super quick mind mouth connection, the hooks, the humor, the stories, never fail to knock me on my bucket. It was a blurry, wild night, with lots of beers and blunts being passed around and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Crackerjack and I laughed and danced our asses off, getting our fix of that full-on base reverb in the ribcage (the other huge reason to see live music). There was even a surprise pop-in by Lady of Rage whom I had forgotten about until I saw these City Pages pics. She was great – a powerful mama working it out with a formidable voice and the words to match. I need to hear more from her.

I’ve been asked whether there were unsavory characters at the show, whether it was a tough crowd, and you know what? No. For better or worse, Snoop and Red Man and Method Man now have people like me as fans. Moms who earlier in the day were frantically searching for over-sized doilies at Michaels for the annual teacher lunch. I didn’t exactly see a ton of other people like me and Crackerjack, but I’d say it was a 50/50 black white crowd, a wide range of ages (everyone performing was our age), and a happy bunch (with the exception of a couple of tough chicks who didn’t like Crackerjack dancing in their business). I’m done wondering whether Snoop would be amused or depressed by the likes of us doing it up in the crowd. He was lucky to have us. We had a great time and so did everyone around us – kickin’ it old school, fo shizzle, ma nizzle.

Nov 7 2009

Is that the trip trop of little pointed hooves I hear?

bubble-boy-03-sI feel like I haven’t written anything in a while, but I have a really good excuse. It is SUPER hard to type and rub hand sanitizer into one’s hands at the same time. It’s harder than walking and chewing gum. Harder than patting your head and rubbing your belly. It’s also treacherous for the computer. Although come to think of it, this thing is seriously nasty and could use a little Purel sponge bath. It would be delicate work, but I think I could do it. Right about now, Doctor Dash is shaking his head and jumping off the kitchen stool to come find me and make sure I’m not really going to attempt this. Had he just kept reading, he’d learn that I have a better idea, one that doesn’t involve q-tips and a steady hand. I think I’ll just put the laptop on a cookie sheet and bake it in the oven for like five minutes at 350˚. That should take care of the germs, right? Sometimes I really surprise myself with my good ideas. I am a problem solver.

Anyway, you’ll have to excuse my writing hiatus while I’ve turned my attention to the world of microbes. For the last few weeks I’ve been feeling like a sitting duck, just waiting to get hit. It has been a total horror show: kids were dropping like flies at school, mothers were barricaded away in their homes feeling miserable, whispers of week-long fevers swirled around in a fetid stew of rumor, and yet we soldiered on. Every day when the kids came home from school I’d make them wash their hands, knowing full well that whatever germs they had encountered during the day had long ago sashayed through their mucus membranes and were mixing margaritas and grilling hot dogs in some corner of their little bodies. Still. Never hurts to wash your hands, unless by hurt you mean turn your hands into the dry wrinkly digits of an eighty year old woman. Their smudgy prints on my iPhone, which used to be nothing more than a small annoyance now portended illness and misery, which I frantically tried to erase with Clorox wipes and a prayer, only to find one of them playing DoodleJump moments later (thanks Chief Big Voice), starting the vicious cycle all over again.

Incidentally, it’s nice to see that the world has caught up with my life long germ-phobia. Such sweet vindication. I love seeing hand sanitizer every where I go. I never pass a bottle without a little squirt of peace of mind. It’s about time people. For the love of God, can I assume you will all stop touching the paper towel dispensers in public restrooms? Use your elbows. Of course this just means elbows are the new armpits, now that all coughing has been redirected to them. You may be wondering if I’m still going to my Saturday night square dancing gig. Not on your life. I’d sooner blow my nose in a dirty kleenex in the street than do si do with someone’s putrid contaminated elbow. Those days are ovah.

My kids were all sick with a fever this week, but it wasn’t THE FEVAH. I suspect it wasn’t the big pig flu because they were done with it after a day or so. Nevertheless my house sounds like a TB ward and I think we’ll have no choice but to just burn it down when they’ve finished spewing germs everywhere. I’m doomed, of course. How can I not be after a few well placed sneezes in my face? What ever happened to the ah ah ah part of the ah-choo, where you have time to move away, or at least close your eyes? Kids these days. Right to the choo, with no warning whatsoever. I’m doomed.

And yet, big pig still looms. There is no rest for the weary and until I can get my hands on that stupid vaccine for everyone, I can’t do much more than wait. And fret. And sanitize.

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