Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wednesday Wallow

Did you ever see the movie, Broadcast News? Netflix doesn't stream it, but they have the DVD (and the DVD pricing package doesn't go up until mid September) ANYWAY...It's a great movie about a TV newsroom with Albert Brooks and William Hurt as rival reporters and Holly Hunter is the producer. She is brilliant. Driven. Focused. Professional. And once a day she goes into her office and bawls her eyes out. It's her therapy. When she returns from her secret cathartic act, no one knows- her game face is on, she is back.

I relate.

I don't go into my room and cry, I'm not much of a crier--but I wallow. In private. I don't usually tell anyone I'm doing it, really, that would be depressing. And embarrassing- the moments are fairly brief  and those that care about me would be trying to snap me out of something that was snapped hours ago. Besides, they are not who I am entirely- merely a part of the package. And a part I really don't like to advertise.

If you don't have a public and a private persona--a different mask for your kids teachers or your boss,or even your friends and family than you have for the face in your mirror--well, goody for you. You are either lying or so in tune with yourself that you would probably not like to hang with someone as messed up as me. Move along now.

 Since I am living my life out loud and honest on this blog this month, I struggled with writing about these 2-3 hour jags about once every two, sometimes three weeks. Usually an event triggers them, today it was opening the newspaper.

 How I spent my morning, by Susan Vollenweider















Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Something about a blue streak

Teenage daughter rule #1: They will do something nutty with their hair.

Bekah came home from a girl scout retreat this summer with a blue streak in her hair. One night, the group mixed up a concoction and went to town on each other's hair. Several weeks after the retreat, she still had the blue streak.

Now, this child has been asking for awhile to get a streak of color in her hair. I had looked into it: the salon method bleaches a strip of hair, then colors it. The boxes in the stores use a similar method, with the added disadvantage of no formal training. You section off  the hair wrong it's going to be wrong for a very long time.

With this DIY version, the original hair color is still present and works with the dye, so keep your color wheel in mind if you do this.It also isn't as permanent, ATHOUGH IT LASTS SEVERAL WEEKS (did you get that?) The salon method leaves you with a vibrant streak, this color is a bit more subtle (you know, as subtle as a ginger with blue in her hair can be).

The salon method (around here) is 35 bucks. This method is under a dollar.


I let her refresh the streak the other day, and when I mentioned it to a gaggle of my friends, they were intrigued by the method. It didn't take much to convince Bekah to get another streak done for this.  Just to warn you: if you have a teenage girl at home, chances are that she knows how to do this already and you won't be telling her anything new. But little kids and other parents will think you are genius.

Supplies: Conditioner, aluminum foil,  saran wrap, comb, hair clips/elastics, towel to cover clothes, old toothbrush,plastic cup and spoon, and the special ingredient: Kool-aid. (the kind you mix the sugar in when you make the drink. You can use a kind with sugar, but it's kind of sticky)

This is about 3-4 tablespoons of conditioner, to one packet of kool-aid mixed well. Obviously the stronger the concentration, the deeper the color.

Section off (carefully) the hair you want to color. Pull the rest back out of the way with the hair clips and elastics.

Lay the aluminum foil under the hair, and paint the goo on with the toothbrush. If you were smart, you would wear gloves. I am not that smart.

Keep the foil as close to the scalp as you can

It washes off in a day. Ish.

Saturate the hair, and - just like Tabitha on Tabitha's Salon Takeover ( I love that show), fold the foil over the hair, and up to make a little packet of foil covered hair. Cover THAT packet with plastic wrap so that if any blue oozes out, it will be contained.

Cover the packet with headbands to hold it in place. This is a down side, it takes several hours. 4-8. Sleep in it, or time accordingly during the day.

There was extra goo. Guess who got conned into playing Hair Salon?

You can barely see it, on my right side. I'm ok with that.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Flying a helicopter out of my comfort zone

Last January I began to do something really out of my comfort zone. It requires huge chunks of time-often keeping me up long past the time my eyes should be shut. So much time is spent, and yet, I rarely speak of it in this space. Why? I thought that I didn't want the worlds overlapping in public much. The mommy blogger world, the columnist world--and this one. They feel separate, so I keep them separate.

This endeavor has very little in the way of conventional rewards--but I won't stop doing it now. I'm too far in. It's too much a part of my life. I can't stop and I don't want to.

Your brain went in the wrong direction. Turn around.

I'm talking about the podcast, The History Chicks.

If you haven't ever listened, it's ok. It's not eveyone's cup of tea. But if you have never listened, how do you KNOW it's not your cup of tea?

It's not ALL girly, although we do talk about historical women.

It's not ALL educational, although you will learn something.

It's free.

Well, it's free for you. For Beckett and me it is pretty costly. Not only financially, but when you devote as much time as we do to this project, there is a price to pay

There was some start up expenditures, as well as gas, etc, on my car making the 52 mile round trip to her house for recording sessions.There are library fines for holding onto books just one more, ok...two more weeks so we can have them with us when we record.  Upgraded equipment is in our future, as well as attending some conferences that we think will help us.

When Beckett approached me to do this, I was hesitant. I thought my brain was pretty mushy. It had been a LOOOONG time since I had read much non-fiction..and it had been even longer since I was tested on what I had read. That's kind of what the podcasts are for me, tests. Did I understand this women? Did I take her into my life? Can I explain her- how interesting she was and why we should all remember her life? Tests.

Beckett describes the learning curve we did last spring as vertical. Here is a helicopter, fly up. Oh, and thousands of people will be listening as you do. Have fun!


The first few months were frenetic. Some really amazing people gave us some really amazing advice and we tried to follow it as best we could with the limitations that we had. (Beckett works full time and has a family; I  have two deadlines each week, write as much as I can and am still doing all the SAHM things I always did). Also we knew each other, but only online. Sitting across from someone and talking is very different than typing that conversation. Facial expressions, the verbal flow and cadence to their speech,...all things we learned.

I think we began to hit a stride about five episodes in. A routine developed, we got to know one another, we figured out what methods work best for us. Beckett likes to have hand written notes...pages and pages of them. I like to have an outline, several reference sheets and write up my notes- I just remember them better that way. I love to listen to her talk, so sometimes I get caught up in the stories she is sharing. Sometimes I will throw a left field pop culture reference in that stalls her out for just a second.

About ten podcasts in,the process started to be less nerve-wracking, more fun. We started to hear from certain listeners over and over again, begin to form relationships with them. For me, the fear that thousands of unknown ears were listening to be critical began to subside. I began to think of them as people who got me, not people that I had to be concerned wouldn't. They weren't listening to be critical, they were listening to be entertained and informed. I started to feel comfortable behind the mic, and online, and lost any formal, uncertain- what- to- share- edge I may have had. If that makes any sense at all.

We had to take a brief hiatus this summer to regroup. My kids were home, I had to turn my focus to them. But Beckett and I still worked on the project. Things that listeners will never know about, too boring to talk about, really. We really do communicate at least once a day, usually far more than that.

Now we are back for our second season. That sounds so official, so Not A Play Project anymore. But it FEELS like a play project. More so now than several months ago. My brain doesn't feel as mushy, and the vertical learning curve mindset is directed more at the women we study, than on technical issues. I still think of the material as a test, but I also think of it as time to sit down with my friend and talk. Historically based girl talk.

I am more excited than overwhelmed when I think," if we learned this much in less than a year, imagine how much we are going to learn this season!" We do have quite a bit to learn, and are still new to the game--but what a rewarding game it is! Well worth the price we pay.

Now that we know how to not crash the helicopter, how to keep in it the air, we can start to learn what all the other cool buttons are for.

If you haven't checked us out, go! Click HERE. You can listen on that website (in a separate window so you can still surf around while you listen)- or download on itunes (just search The History Chicks), or your favorite podcast aggregator (that's a fancy word for the icon you click on your phone/ipod that delivers the podcast to that device. Come one, if you never listened to a podcast, it's time to get out of your comfort zone!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ye Olde Fashioned Sunday Dinner

Think: After church family gathering over a weekly feast. Traditions being upheld, homestyle foods being served. Roasts and gravies and special potatoes. Tablecloths and mom in her apron, smiling over steaming platters of food.

It's a freaking Norman Rockwell painting over here on Sundays!

Most weeks, after church, the family all gathers round a buffet spread set up on our kitchen island. We pray as a family, serve ourselves and head to the dining room to take part in this time honored tradition. Some weeks we have roasts, or chicken, or a giganto salad bar. On holidays we have a full brunch, a few times of year we have a taco bar. In the winter we often have a large kettle of homemade soup and fresh baked breads.

Fresh corn, Roasted red potatoes, bbq chicken...

(out of frame: big veggie salad) Roast chicken for those who don't like BBQ, and the BBQ, hush puppies

It's a wonderful tradition and I am glad that my family has it. But this is one of those areas where I struggle. Part of me loves that I am able to do this each week. It makes me happy that they enjoy it, and that I am the one to provide such strong emotionally wrapped memories for them. And the other part of me thinks, "Holy heck! This is a lot of work!"

And the other best/worst part: I've been doing this so long that I think I make it look easy.

We come home from church, I change clothes, put on my apron and get busy. By the time my mother-in-law arrives,within a couple hours,I am usually ready to put all the food on the table. That trick alone has taken years to perfect. I'm proud of it, but it also means that no one really knows what goes into these feasts.

I don't do it ALL alone- the kids help by setting the table. This week it was Noah's turn. He picked out everything for it and approved the beverages- ice water and cherry limeade.
Those are place cards, even if they look like paper. And he's still shy some napkins.

I know that in the romanticized version of this dinner, the family sits around telling stories for hours, lingering over the meal, and going back for seconds or thirds. In our version we usually end up talking about some sort of bodily fluids landing in places they don't belong, and the eating ( seconds included) is usually wrapped up in about 25 minutes. My mother-in-law and I usually are the last ones at the table.

I will say, my children are faulted in some manners. Luke slurps just about every type of food, Noah picks at his, and Bekah usually only eats plain chicken and potatoes. But they do ask to be excused when they are done, and they do clear the table. Then they all plunk themselves down in the living room.
There are five people hiding in that room. I am not one of them...

...because someone has to clean up this mess.

Within an hour of finishing dinner, the kitchen us back to it's clean state. I'm afraid it's traditional roles here, too..the womenfolk rinsing dishes, putting away leftovers, and cleaning up. Could we change this? Probably. Is it worth the effort, time, and broken dishes it would take? Probably not.

We sometimes have dessert at this point, this week we had bar cookies- layered graham crackers, melted caramel, peanuts, crushed pretzels and marshmallows topped with melted chocolate and allowed to set.Sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy goodness.

When I load the dishwasher with that final set of plates and cups,sweep the crumbs from the floor, and remove the tablecloth-  I take off my apron. My service is done. I won't make a later supper, they can have lefotvers or cereal, I really don't care. I'm not getting it for them, and they know that.

The family has dispersed, usually outside to play, and I have saved my most magnificent trick of the day. My audience is small, just myself. Closing the doors to the bedroom, I lay down .....and take a nap.

I wonder if Rockwell ever painted that image?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

You'll think of it now

"Mom? Can I have some hot chocolate?" Noah asked, wiping his morning weary eyes with his fingers so hard he was probably seeing flashes of light.

Clearly hot chocolate is just a gateway beverage to coffee. Sugar, a little caffeine, I make it with half milk so I can lie to myself that it's nutritious, but he's so cute sipping out of his mug, pretending it's coffee just like mom and dad, I don't usually deny him. Plus, the coffee mug he always chooses makes me laugh.

As I heated the water, I shook the packet of hot chocolate so that the powder would settle to the bottom and not fly around the room when I open it. I have done this act so often I do it out of habit, very absentmindedly. Probably like smokers who tap the pack against their palm to distribute the tobacco. Or people who tap the top of a soda can before opening it. I am one of those people too, I don't care if you tell me it doesn't do anything, I can't stop myself.

Another thing that I can't stop myself from doing is reading. Put words near me and I will read them. Cereal boxes, warning tags, I've even recently re-read the instructions that come in a tampon box. Of course I looked at the packet of hot chocolate mix.

My sarcasm level wasn't warmed up enough to make fun of the 'create the moment' line. Instead, I went with it and thought, "How sweet! Mother daughter moment. Some special time, just for them."   

The water still wasn't boiled so I wondered what they were talking about. Did my mind go to plans for the day, maybe Mommy and Me mani/pedis? Did I think Mom was telling Daughter how much she loved her and how proud she was of her? Was I sentimental enough to envision,"I used to have hot chocolate with your grandmother when I was your age."


The dialog that went in my head and stayed there and will never, ever leave and I have to start buying a different brand of hot chocolate because this is all I will ever think of...

"Mom, do you douche?"

Friday, August 26, 2011

Yadda Yadda Calcium...LIQUIFY!

I hate milk. I don't like the taste or the aftertaste. I think the last time I sat down and drank a glass of milk, straight up, Reagan was president. Or maybe Carter. It's been awhile.

I'll put milk on my cereal, in my coffee, and I'll drink it with chocolate or Kahlua in it. Maybe on a cold day in winter, I'll heat up some with vanilla and honey. And...yeah, that's about it.

I hear all that hoopla about calcium, so I pop a couple of those chocolate chews and call my bones good. The boys drink soy milk, and that is supposed to be full of calcium. And soy, I hear tell, is good for women of my age--you know, those of us racing to menopause?

But I can't get past the color of soy milk.

My friend Malea used to work at this yoga/healthfood joint and she made almond milk there. After pestering her with," how do they milk an almond?" questions and, "if it has a nipple, I can milk it!" quotes she gave me the recipe. Really- it's way more work than I care to do. But I was at the store, picking up the boy's soy milk, and the same manufacturer had almond milk. When I got home I felt brave and took a sip.

It tasted like a vanilla milkshake.

Low in calories, high in all that other good stuff of milk...I set out on a blender bender one morning to make smoothies with it. If a milkshake is good, a milkshake with fruit is better!

Smoothies aren't hard to normal recipe is one container of yogurt, one yogurt container of water, and frozen fruit. "Liquify"  is what the button I push on the blender says.

This day I used the almond milk instead of yogurt for two recipes, and both make two reasonable, or one giganto, servings.

In my humble opinion, the best of the two::

Berry Good Smoothie
1 cup of Almond Milk
1 packet of splenda
1 cup of frozen blueberries
1/2 cup of frozen blackberries


It tasted like berry pie.

I like pie. I like pumpkin pie. Just yesterday I had a Pumpkin Pie shake from Sonic (for dinner...hush, like you never had ice cream for dinner? Or drank your dinner? No? Don't judge, it leaves wrinkles.)

I wondered if I could whip up a low cal substitute. It was pretty good, probably would have been better if I waited for another day. I was kinda sloshing around at this point.

Pump Up the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
1 cup almond milk
8 ice cubes
1/2 package pumpkin pie pudding mix (This is seasonal, I had hoarded boxes last winter)
Shot of pumpkin pie spice.


Pudding doesn't set with soy milk, and I suspect it doesn't set with almond milk either, but the texture was still pretty thick. Not Sonic Shake thick, but my middle won't be Sonic Shake Thick drinking these instead of those. Sorry Sonic. (But you will still get my Diet Cherry Limeade, extra cherries, order at happy hour.)

I'm going to play around with this stuff for a while, but if you come up with a delish combination, let me know!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

W Is Still In The House

A few months back, Brian and I had a...disagreement. The details are not important. I won't play He Said/She Said And Had Her Own Blog So She Said It Louder. Let's just go with a universal generic aguement:  He was not completely supportive of a perfectly legal, moral and educational activity I wanted to do. I insisted on doing the activity anyway. He was pissed I went. I was pissed because he was stupid. Classic marital spat.

When I returned from said activity, it was the middle of the day. The kids were not home from school yet, the house was quiet.

By now you know the man leaves me notes. On the kitchen table was a note that said:

Came home for lunch. W is in the house.



The only W I could think of was water. We have a second story laundry room and have, on occassion, had water issues. I looked at the ceiling under the laundry room, and it was dry. 

It had been raining that day, maybe water had come in the basement. I ran downstairs and looked in all the usual places and found no water.

Maybe water had come in through the roof? By now I was a little nervous because if water had come in, and I wasn't home when it did, he would be really mad that he had to be the one to find it. Well, he would be a little mad about that, but morph it into a giganto ball of piss when combined with his anger over my outing. This would mean that he had one up on me, and I would have to find something that he did wrong to even the score.

Yes, "Love does not keep a record of wrongdoings"...I know. But marriage does. Sometimes. And this was going to be one of those times.

My heartbeat raced along with my legs as I darted up the stairs. Eyes up to the ceiling I checked each room-- Bekah's, the kids bathroom, the laundry room...nothing, the ceiling was dry...oh crap! What if it leaked into our closet?! I dashed toward our room and screamed when this caught my eye:

This is a LIFESIZE cardboard cutout of George W Bush. W.


Now, this was several months ago. I have not figured out a way to get W out of our bedroom without Brian throwing a mantrum. This belonged to his parents, and he got it in a move. Plus, no surprise here,  he is a card carrying member of the Republican party. While he sees some errors in the W Presidency, he still stands by the former POTUS. If I tossed it, he would hunt that thing down, and drag it covered in coffee grounds and banana peels back upstairs. Ok, he would probably stop to Lysol it off first.

I know what you are thinking, and trust me, I have not let W see any action.

So there W stands, smiling, all day, all night. We really don't even see him anymore.
The four kids, watching TV

And, not that I am looking to even the score or anything, but if anyone sees a lifesized cardboard cutout of Madeleine Albright, let me know, K?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Giving advice is a tricky business. Too much and you are a know-it-all pain in the neck; too little and well, maybe there isn't anything bad with giving too little advice. Unless someone is in harms way, then too little could be bad. But most advice isn't of the life or death variety. There are other ways to show people you care about them than offering suggestions on how they can make their lives better.

Lots and lots of ways.

I know what side I fall on, the too much. Learning to tell the difference between someone asking for advice, and someone venting didn't come naturally to me. And I still err on over advising. I'm working on it.

A week ago, when I decided to attempt this one a day blog thing, I took this picture. Like a hiker at the basecamp, eager and optimistic about the challenges ahead.
It was the first cup of coffee after the kids left for school. I was still without makeup (brave of me, I know) but so excited to get started! (That cup is really full, I should have been worried about my keyboard!)

So one week down, do I have any advice for that eager blogger? I mean, besides checking her shine levels and taking off her glasses before she takes a picture of herself.

I would tell her than she needs to be ready for the second week which is going to be really, really challenging. Her plate is going to be too full  and people are going to keep heaping more- then wonder why THEIR stuff wasn't done at the end of the day. I would tell her to resist the urge to shout,"bite me" at them. It's not ladylike and will accomplish nothing.

I would tell her to write down that great idea for a story that she got at 3 AM on Saturday.

I would tell her  to really give a thought to a bit more organization. Just because the kids are going back to school doesn't mean life is going to get less complicated. It's going to get MORE complicated.

I would also tell her to get one more loaf of bread when she goes shopping because she is going to run out a day before she is planning to hit the grocery store again.

I would tell her to ASK some people for advice.

You see at the end of this post, where it says, "post comment" or "comment" proceeded by a number? Click that. A window should pop up, a blank box, a word you have to type to verify you are human, and you can pick an identity or just remain anonymous. Just answer this question:

What advice would you give that eager woman in the picture?

Brave again. But I'm open to whatever-- general life advice, if I should do something different with my hair, writing advice, career advice...gimme whatcha got.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Buffalo Chicken OS Burgers- RECIPE!

This is NOT a foodie blog. BUT I like to cook. Mostly I like to cook because I like to eat. Mom taught us all pretty early on and we were making whole dinners by age nine. We each had a night to cook, had to make sure the ingredients were on the shopping list the week before, and we made dinner before Mom and Dad came home.

At nine.

Very true.

I'm teaching my kids to cook, but the one who is taking to it the best is Luke. Probably because he likes to eat. Yeah, DNA rocks.

The other night, while the rest of the fam had turkey burgers, I experimented with these for me and Luke. I have to say, they were FANTASTIC!

The sauce I am using, Party Fowl Wing Sauce, is new to the market. Beckett, my podcasting partner, is blessed with a chef for a husband. Chris, Beckett's husband, created this sauce and gave me a couple bottles to try.

The first thing Luke and I did was host a taste test with three different sauces: the one we usually use, a home-made version, and Party Fowl. My folks were in town and we had a mess o' wings one night. All of us (save one hold out who doesn't like his favorite sauce messed with) preferred the Party Fowl sauce. It has an extra kick of spices, but not heat.Since then, I have made Buffalo Wing Dip with it, and Luke and I prefer it over our old favorite sauce.

My dear friend, Other Susan (OS), shared her burger recipe and forming technique. It works with all kinds of meat and it's how I always start to make burgers. You get juicy, tasty burgers with minimal shrinkage even when you use cheap meat. (For Beef or Turkey Burgers, use milk instead of wing sauce, and add a splash of liquid smoke and your fav spices. Yes,  I said milk.)

The other day I found ground chicken at the grocery store, and had a DING! moment. This is what I dinged:

Buffalo Chicken OS Burgers

1 lb ground chicken
1/2 bottle wing sauce (two uses, as needed)
2 pieces of white bread
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Hamburger buns ( I used potato rolls)
Garnishes: blue cheese crumbles, shredded carrots, mayo/sauce spread,avacado slices-whatever.
Makes 4 whopper burgers, 8 sliders

Break up the bread and pour sauce over it, mushing it with a fork to look like this, or a little drier if you don't have panko crumbs, but they add a little something that bread never can:

 Add meat and breadcumbs and smoosh it all together. I use my hands.

I sprayed the pan with Pam, pretty much because it's a habit. Form burgers and cook over Medium LOW heat. There are some sugars in the sauce that will burn over higher heat, but will give a nice crust on the burger. Cover pan with a sheet of aluminum foil to help cook burgers, and fold back to release steam.

While those cooked- 10 minutes on first side, 5 on second- I made up patties for the freezer. The dent in the middle is what keeps the burgers from shrinking up (it's on the underside of the ones in the pan). Yet another use for Press'n seal wrap! 

For condiment sauce: 2 tablespoons each of mayo and wing sauce, and give it a shot of pepper. You can use Miracle Whip, I guess, but it will taste like crap.(Ok, clearly I am a Mayoist.)

Touch the thickest part of the burger, when it's firm, it's done. Err on the side of well done--it will still be tender. You can burn these, so keep an eye on them.
Top however you want, I went with a slice of creamy mexican cheese, avacodo and the saucy mayo- but blue cheese dressing and sliced carrots will be rocking my plate the next time!
And Luke and I agreed- there WILL be a next time!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I cleaned the garage.

Now I am sitting on my laurels.

I didn't take a BEFORE picture, because, quite frankly- it was embarrassing. Here is the AFTER.

Yes, this is much cleaner, hush.

He did help. 

This is actually one something we do that I like--Kid art goes in the art gallery garage. And it never comes down. I think some of those are Bex from Kindergarten 9 years ago.

I spent the morning cleaning up all the debris from storms. Someone explain this to me--I have these trees in the yard that have some dead branches. We get 60-70 mph straight line winds that topple healthy trees, and yet my dead limbs remain attached? 
My dead branches

And the neighbors formerly living tree.

And just so I can leave you with a completely disgusting image. I mowed my mother-in-laws lawn yesterday. This is my feet afterward. Gross. And I was wearing gardening clogs. Even grosser. I know. But totally helps the Laurel resting argument.

Happy Sunday!