Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The only crisp thing about Fall around here

It's midnight, and the temperature in my kitchen right now is 82 degrees.  Yes, that is correct. The absolute coolest it has been today is 82 degrees, and I had to stay awake until now to experience it.

I've been glistening for weeks now, along with the rest of LA, as Fall has apparently been kicked to the curb so that summer can just hang out here for a bit while the rest of the country gets to have soup and break out the flattering knitwear.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.  I just want to want to get under the covers sometime soon, that's all.

In lieu of the elusive crisp autumn days, I had to settle for these crisp shortbread bars. Mind you, my idea of settling involves brown sugar, pecans, and chocolate.

Glistening burns a ton of calories.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fast Food for Grown Ups

I spent the past few days with my son, doing the Parents' Weekend thing at his school. Officially, there were campus tours, a football game to watch, long lines at the bookstore where everyone had some variety of sweatshirt in hand, a speech by the university president to be inspired by, not-so-subtle references to upcoming capital campaigns, opportunities to chat with professors and sit in on classes, and a slew of other activities designed to reinforce the wisdom of entrusting this place with our children.  

Unofficially, we were there to get an extra large pizza for leftover purposes, provide transportation to the haircut place, and go to Target and pay*.  

Cart full of college staples | Cheesy Pennies
Taken last year, but literally, we just bought this exact same stuff yesterday.

I totally get the idea that sometimes you need food, fast**.

I just have a very different idea about what that should look like.

Swordfish with Cracked Pepper | Cheesy Pennies

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Birthday Present for Mom

Dear Mom,

I have a big surprise for your birthday today. For the first time ever, I think I found the perfect gift. Are you ready?

Remember when I was away at school, and you'd send me boxes full of Dudley's fruit bars and a massive pack of Bic pens from the Price Club? There would always be a note inside, in your perfect cursive handwriting, with a tidbit about the guinea pigs or the cat or something funny about Mrs. Schneiders next door.  Advice and a prayer were usually included, too.

Remember how you invented your own version of Red Envelope when your grandkids were born and living a thousand miles away from you?  We unwrapped outfits, bought on sale, with the extra senior discount and free gift wrapping. Each one was topped with a bright red envelope with the grandchild's name spelled out in colorful stickers, and another handwritten note, this time in clear block letters for them to "read".

You even befriended the lady at the Burbank Post Office, convinced that your packages full of diaper coupons and nubby crocheted blankets heading out to new moms would get special expedited treatment*.

I loved getting those packages, and so did all the many, many other people who were lucky enough to find one of your priority mail boxes on their front stoop.  But now, I finally understand that sending them meant even more to you.

You were alone, but your heart was full of us. Of your children no longer under foot. Of your grandchildren babbling and walking without you. So you took all that caring and worry and pride and pure aching wish to be near them and boxed it up and put it in the mail, with cookies. You taped it with care, and walked the few blocks to the Post Office. You probably felt immensely better immediately, picturing the faces when the package was opened, knowing the love inside was from you.

When Jasper left for college last year, I wanted nothing more than to call you and say, "I get it! I barely thought of you the whole time I was at school and you just accepted it and sent cookies? I'm so sorry. Oh my God! How did you survive this?!? "

But it was me on my own this time. I couldn't call you. You were gone, too.

So I started baking. I took all my caring and worry and pride and aching to be near him and boxed it up and put it in the mail, with cookies. I taped it with care and drove the few blocks to the Post Office.**

I felt immensely better. I survived.

It turned out you knew exactly what to do, Mom. And now I do, too.

Mom in the Mail: Best Care Packages Ever

I started a care package company, and I named it after you.

It's called Mom in the Mail.***

Happy Birthday, Mom.

One of the many thank you notes that Mom saved from recipients of her care packages.  

* Based on personal experience, I think they probably did get sent out just a tiny bit faster than everyone else's.
** It is LA.  No way I walk to the post office.
*** In honor of Mom, use the coupon code "LOVEMOM" and get 10% off any order placed for my inaugural shipment.  She would have loved that.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Two lists

Things I am doing wrong*, according to my daughter:
  1. Hashtags
  2. Instagram
  3. Using Android instead of an iPhone
  4. Presuming to check in and see how the summer reading is going
  5. Cheering out loud at her soccer games
  6. Wanting the empty fruit snack wrappers to be in the trash
  7. Making friends with her friends' parents
  8. Asking her to speak to waiters 
  9. Singing along to the radio when it is on her station
  10. Breathing
Things I am doing right, according to me:
  1. Raising my daughter.
Summer Tomato Risotto | Cheesy Pennies

Also, risotto.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Growing Up

I am sitting in the airport in North Carolina, waiting for my solo flight home.  I check Facebook and my feed is filled with bittersweet photos of my friends, backseats full of suitcases and bedding, grinning, slightly anxious teenagers in front of brick buildings, or snapshots of dorm rooms neatly organized for perhaps the first and last time all year. People are reposting cartoons of mothers clinging to trees and wonderful articles about letting go of your orbiting little planets.

The thing is, it doesn't get any easier the second time around. It's different, because they are rushing back to a known universe, without the t-shirted volunteers and established institutional agendas for entry. They have things in storage and roommates they chose. I was there almost strictly for logistical support...a last good meal, the Target run, the rental car with a big trunk.  The need for me clearly receded with every load hauled up the stairs*.

Yes, this is as it should be. Yes, I accept and understand and, in unselfish moments, rejoice in this grown person who does not look back when I drive away**.

But I should still have brought my dark sunglasses to wear on the flight home. Especially because this song was on the radio as I dropped him off.

I'll be patient, one more month 
You'll wrap your fingers round my thumb 
Times are changing, I know, but who am I if 
I'm the person you become 
If I'm still growing up, up, up, up 
I'm still growing up, up, up, up...

I still feel those tiny fingers, round my thumb.

* In case I missed any of his subtle exit cues, there were several actual glares yesterday before I left for my hotel.  This is why I should not be allowed to do this alone.  Last year my husband forcibly removed me from his room.  I did redeem myself today by singlehandedly setting up a dual band wireless networkin 15 minutes flat, and buying him a large Mighty Meat pizza for late night leftover purposes.

** Of course. parents' weekend is a month away, so I'll be right back, full of resolve to be mature and independent.  Like my kid.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Grumpy Old Lady Makes Gluten Free Cookies

I have felt A LOT like Grumpy Old Man lately.

All these KIDS going to COLLEGE and AFRICA and DRIVING and dating WOMEN FROM FLORIDA.


Three goofballs on the couch | Cheesy Pennies
 Sure, they're cute and happy, but they are TOTALLY NOT DOING ANY CHORES RIGHT NOW.  

I want things the way they used to be. When kids stayed home and paid attention when you talked to them. When dogs stayed, period. When life was simple and cookies were made with a crapload of gluten and WE LIKED IT!

Friggin' progress.

Gluten-Free Milk Chocolate Cookies with Sea Salt | Cheesy Pennies

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rotating In

When you are a kid, the whole concept of taking turns and sharing is pretty challenging to grasp.

Image from GoComics.com

Then, when you get older, sharing becomes almost normal. Think group projects in college, or carpooling to work.

When you have kids, divvying things up is less optional and more a matter of preserving your sanity and achieving critical mass in the face of overwhelming odds.  And then, when the kids get older or even disappear, shared arrangements between friends become a coveted luxury.

I hit the jackpot with my carpool moms, and I've hit another home run with my weekly game night group.  Hostessing duties move from one home to another, giving us a chance to cook fancy or light as the mood strikes us, to try new things or old favorites, and crack open a bottle or two while we're at it. I've collected awesome recipes from my cohorts, like roasted chicken, summer pasta salad with roasted baby tomatoes, or a light and easy Caesar dressing for any weeknight. Mostly the dinners are low key, although I do go a little bit nuts with the birthday desserts for the group.  Most notably this onethis onethis one and this one. 

And now, this one.

Salted Caramel Brownie - ready to bake | Cheesy Pennies

Super simple supper with a crazy celebration dessert.  Both recipes are going right into regular rotation*.

Fresh Heirloom Tomato Tart | Cheesy Pennies