Making meringue is more like a science experiment than a cooking project -- you whip egg whites forever until they are changed from a bit of mucous-y gel to a huge pile of stiff and shiny fluff, add peppermint oil, powdered sugar and a few drops of red food coloring and pipe them out into pretty mounds. The next step I wouldn't call actual baking, but more like drying in a low oven for hours but the results are so yum and the texture is super cool - crispy and ethereal. Merry Christmas!
Never one to embrace pampering, Aunt Ruth had been trying to be helpful on her 90th birthday trip to Miami, but in her aversion to cause extra work for anyone INCLUDING THE PEOPLE WHOSE JOB IT IS TO HELP WITH THE LUGGAGE, she hurt her shoulder. Ruth's younger sister Susan and I understand that she's a sufferer in silence but maybe it was the pain insisting or maybe it was the relief (I felt it too) being with beloved and loving women, our egos plumped, our jokes laughed at, our stories and presence enjoyed, that bade her to shyly confess her discomfort to us one afternoon in the hotel room.
"Would you like me to work on you?" asked Aunt Susan and I was picturing some gentle massage but then Susan added, "I won't even touch you," and Ruth paused, then said, "Well. Alright," opening herself up to the experience in a trusting way that I found as moving as being a witness to Susan's body work.
Susan stood behind Ruth's chair and moved her hands over Ruth's arms, plucking out the bad energy and tossing it away, swirling the tension out of the top of Ruth's head. As her hands danced over her sister, Susan spoke quietly of how we carry burdens physical and emotional and even ancient ones handed down from our ancestors. It was one of those moments on the trip when belief and reason, faith and sense and doubt and hard memories all got put aside for the abiding love that filled the room. We three were coming from radically different places and the work Susan did may have not been what Ruth needed physically but Susan had taught us that week a Hebrew saying: "Rejecting joy is a sin" so we were all trying to be in the moment and accept and enjoy.
Susan gave me another gift a day later when we were walking through the park at the southern tip of Miami Beach.
"I remember your mother had an expansiveness. Like Jupiter. It was magnificence and grace and you have that too. I see it in you," she said and hearing that was good good medicine.
I had a black eye for three weeks after I got too vigorously sick after one Sunday brunch. The initial puffiness turned into a dark purple shade over my left eyelid that I was hoping could be mistaken for eyeshadow until it spread down below the eye into a conventional shiner. Not fun, especially for this month when I was already distracted and low with mourning summer's decline, but it was lovely how solicitous and suddenly gentle people in stores could be, especially that nice woman at A La Carte, who gasped and whispered, "Oh! What happened?" but not that lady at the pet shop who is probably best working with animals because she did not seem to notice how abrasive her loud inquiry felt on my bruised ego. Funny, they used the exact same words with totally different affect.
Anyway, I tried to be merry and black out one of my front teeth, borrow the neighbors' hockey stick and dress up in a Blackhawks jersey on Halloween but this pic of Zebra Nora, Mia's friend Madeline and Mia as Rigby from The Regular Show is much cuter than anything I could muster.
I was feeling relieved at the drama-less transition Mia seemed to be making to middle school when I fumbled into a minor tragedy around lunchtime one day -- I'd come to school to volunteer in the cafeteria and as I was leaving down the hall past the main office, a boy comes around the corner, stumbling. I gave him a passing smile, thinking he's got a bad foot or just pigeon-toed, but no, there's a crash into the lockers behind me and I turn to see he's on the floor.
The laces of his yellow sneakers are tied together and he was trying to undo the knot while he pulled the shoes farther apart. I crouched down next to him to help. Some girls walked by and one said, "Oh his shoes were tied together. How can anyone not know their shoelaces were tied together?" which was just what I was thinking, but cruelty is so easy that children may not even realize it. Or she knew very well.
I told the boy to put his feet closer together in the friendliest voice I could use and worked at the knot myself, but by this time he has scooted around closer to the wall to hide. I was feeling his shame but I was trying to be quick and no-big-deal and when the laces came free and he tied them as fast as he could, I let him slip away with a "Take care!" and no questions about his name or who could have done this to him.
My heart ached for this boy and for the girl who had an opportunity for good but chose the wrong way to react. And my heart ached for those children who witness cruelty. Because just to see it happen and to do nothing hurts them too. I wrote the assistant principal and she promised to, you know, "look into it" and I tell Mia and Nora every day as they run off to beat the first bell to "Be kind!" but it's not enough. The middle school really is a good school and I do see kindness and fun in the children there and the staff is responsible and sensitive but now I look for the boy with the yellow shoes every time I am there. I want to give him a wrong-headed hug. I want to co-opt a good phrase and tell him it gets better. I think I did all I could and it still feels like not enough.
CONCRETE CONCRETE JUNGLE WHERE DREAMS ARE MADE OF!
THESE STREETS WILL INSPIRE YOU!
MAKE YOU FEEL BRAND NEW!
Cousins! Randy's sister Rebecca and I ran out into the street during lulls in the Fox Lake Fourth of July parade, waving our flags and screaming "MARE-KA!" to the laughter of strangers and the acute discomfort of our kids.
I took the girls to Kansas City for a family visit. As always, I trip over the past when I take a trip to the past. Here's the "pink bathroom" in the house where I grew up, with the same flowers that many many years ago I watched my grandfather Ed painstakingly cut from wallpaper with an X-Acto knife at the kitchen table and paste on the tile. Can you find the two yawning fairies that I always see in the petals? Can you see the scary face on the bathroom door?
My niece Maggie's wedding in Riveria Maya, Mexico. The girls walked the aisle with grace and Maggie took my breath away. With so much joy and so much love, Maggie and her husband Brad are off to a beautiful start.
It was a cruel month. The Senate failed to pass universal background checks for gun purchases. Now's a good time to review The Onion's tips for passing gun control legislation:
- Write gun control legislation. Pass gun control legislation.
- Before voting on gun control bill, try, if you can, to remember any recent examples in which guns have been used to kill innocent people.
- Acknowledge that it’s going to be hard to buck the pressure of the high-powered gun lobby, but not that fucking hard, dumbass.
- Consider if overwhelming public support for a particular measure is something you want to be associated with or not.
- Inform your decision by researching whether guns are good or bad when placed in the wrong hands.
- Muster everything that’s left in your black, desiccated heart to do something that might actually be of service to someone other than yourself.
- Carefully assess the other side of the argument wherein mentally unstable people can buy weapons at a gun show with no problem whatsoever, and then realize there is no other side of this argument.
- Put on your stupid little suit, run a comb through your greasy hair, go to the U.S Capitol building, pick up your fancy little gold pen, and pass a fucking gun control bill.
Ah, Variety Show. Even now, the memory of those hot, bright stage lights makes my skin hungry. Practices for the 2014 show start next week!!! Squee!!! And this year, I'm directing two numbers! I'm going to take it as a good sign that I can't help giggling every time I hear the vocal track to my songs. Well, at least I can crack myself up if nobody else.
The above pic is proof that Yes, I did publicly display The Purloined Leprechaun, my loaned trophy for winning Best Newbie, Chick Division, for the 2013 McKenzie Variety Show. Can you see the little guy peeking out? Can't wait to see who wins this coming year. Can't wait to write her a poem. Resisting the dangerous urge to channel Julia Roberts when she opened the Best Actor Oscar envelope and announced it was all about her by saying, "Ugh, I love my life! Denzel Washington!"
The month was a blur of Variety Show practices and Girl Scout stuff. One sunny and cold Friday morning I got up early and ran to Dunkin Donuts for a couple dozen and coffee gallons for the park district guys who would be unloading a few hundred shrink-wrapped pallets of cases of Girl Scout cookies in our cavernous village warehouse. For the next few hours a handful of cheerful mom volunteers and the hardest working guys in show biz worked their butts off to get the hundreds of cases holding thousands of boxes sorted and moved into piles for the dozens of troops arriving in minivans and trucks to pick up their orders for their customers. I was running the show, sort of, since the fork lift guys and the box cutter guys who ripped open the yards of shrink wrap and the whole park district crew had been doing this every February for years. It was actually really fun and exhilarating to hit our marks and have the orders ready for the troop leaders backing up into the bays right on schedule. Wish us luck when we do it all again in 2014!
We started the year in Avon, Colorado. The four of us skied in the sweet cold air and inner-tubed and rode a Sno-Cat up the mountain to a fancy dinner and partied at a New Year's Eve carnival and even hot-tubbed outside but the highlight of our trip had to be dog-sledding one bright and brilliant morning. The dogs were so cute and sweet and eager to go, they howled with excitement until we set out. The sleds had piles of plaid wool blankets and big red pillows to keep us comfy and warm on the thrilling ride and the ride itself, WHOO!! Fast and furious on the straight-aways and we even caught air on bumps a couple times. I don't know what I was thinking before hand, like there would doggy reins or something, but it was a total and magical surprise to see how the musher controls his hounds by voice alone, calling each by pet name and cajoling and encouraging, scolding and even apologizing when one slacks off and the musher fails to recognize at first that the dog needs to poop.
And that's the other real big surprise-that-should-be-obvious of dog-sledding: there is a lot of poop. Everywhere. On the trail, by the side, even occasionally flying through the air as it gets kicked up by doggy paws. Luckily, we dodged any missiles and understood another reason why the puppies were so delighted to be out of their kennels and on the trail. But we didn't let some necessary stinkers deter us from a mountain-top experience.
And please forgive me, but I'm going to use the whole experience as a metaphor for our year of 2013 and a goal for what's to come in 2014:
This year our little family was fortunate with good health and much happiness and fun and thrills (Mia's piano recitals! Rock 'n roll from our Little Drummer Girl! Six weeks of tap dance classes which was exactly enough for everyone involved! Some good grades! Learning Latin! Two merits that are the middle school opposite of demerits!! Travel and more travel! And more!) And also the occasional flying crap bomb that you can scream at or ruminate over or allow to ruin your sled ride (which I did too often) OR you can accept as part of the ride (which seems like a great resolution.) Look up at the blue blue sky, laugh at the bumps, thank the dogs for their energy, love the opportunity, hug your little one closer on your lap and enjoy the entire sunny, swift, happy, crappy ride.
Cheers, dear readers! Much love and gratitude to you and warmest wishes for a healthy and peaceful year!!