Friday, July 29, 2005

Life Lessons

They say you should learn something new every day. It's a little after noon, and I've already got a couple under my belt:

  • If you're going outside with the intention of pruning the rose bush, for God's sake woman, put on some shoes!

  • We have one rose bush in the front bed, not two like I'd previously thought. Clever disguise, rose bush, but I've figured you out!

  • If you have the bad habit of putting your tongue between your teeth when you're concentrating, and if you went to the dentist this morning and your entire mouth is numb, you probably shouldn't work on pruning the rose bush until after you get the feeling back in your mouth. That is if you ever plan to use your tongue again.

  • You may think you're a kind and patient person when it comes to plants, but a climbing rose will quickly take it right out of you.

It's been a busy day.

Monday, July 25, 2005

And she's buying a stairway . . .

As all good children must, at some point in our lives, my siblings and I each, individually, in small groups, and collectively, took it upon ourselves to drive our mother stark raving mad.

PJ and I both took piano lessons for eons (ok, maybe just years). And the number of times mom took it upon herself to remind us to practice our lessons was at least a bizillion (that one's literally true, I swear). Browsing the sheet music at the local mall one day, PJ and I happened upon a piano transcription of "Stairway to Heaven". We bought it, took it home, and proceeded to play it as a duet, quite loudly, at the slightest provocation. We imagined my mother, whose musical tastes ran to Barry Manilow, Anne Murray, and Neil Diamond, hands over her ears, gnashing her teeth in agnoy.

Flash forward to a couple of weeks ago. PJ, Steph and my parents were all here to help us with the painting of the new house. I'm up on a ladder, roller in one hand and brush in the other, when I realize my mother's singing along to the radio:

"There's a lady who's sure, all that glitters is gold . . ."

I locked eyes with PJ, who's on the other ladder, and we both busted out laughing. Mom locked up at us: "What?!"

"Nothing mom. We just never realized you were a Zeppelin fan."

Vacation List

Things Pukka and I dared each other to say to our pilot while leaving the plane after our landing in Detroit on Saturday:

  • First day?

  • Don't worry, I'm sure you did much better on the written test.

  • I've been sober for three years now. Trust me, it does get better.

There were more, but neither of us can remember them now. And besides, I've got to leave for work. First day back after being gone for 12 days, and I'm pulling a 10 hour shift. I'm sure it's going to be excellent.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Secret Spaghetti Casserole

Last Thursday, Pukka emailed me to let me know that a co-worker's son had been in a bad accident and was in a hospital. My family's Italian, so pretty much my first reaction was: "We should take them some food."

I emailed mom right away for the recipe I had in mind. It was a staple at the potlucks and community dinners of my childhood -- a dish that's easy to prepare and that satisfies even most picky eaters. She sent it back straight away, and that night, even though I had previously declared it too hot to cook, I put together the casserole and put it in the freezer so that we could take it into work with us the next day.

When did I become a grown-up?

Ok, so maybe not so much of a grown up, because it took us a couple of days to actually remember to take it into work. But we did finally remember and Tuesday night, Pukka came home and told me that John said his family loved the casserole. I was glad I'd thought to include the recipe for them in case they ever wanted to make it again for themselves.

I grew up in a small town. My mother grew up in one even smaller. When my grandmother died, much of the town came to the visitation. (Heck, half the town was related.) After the services, my mother stopped by the office of the director of the funeral home to thank him for everything he'd done. They started talking, reminiscing about my grandmother. And during the course of that conversation he asked my mom for the recipe for this casserole.

Every funeral dinner he could remember, my grandma had brought this caserole, but she would never give him the recipe. Would my mom give it to him now?

Mom did, and in exchange she got a prized recipe of his wife's, under the condition that she never share it with anyone else in Marseilles.

When I first remembered that Grandma had kept the recipe secret, I felt a little strange that I had given it to John's family so freely. I never even thought about it -- growing up, every woman that cooked for me knew how to make it -- how could it be secret?

In reality, the recipe's a fairly unremarkable thing -- simple ingredients thrown together with minimal preparation. As I thought more about it though, I realized that the power in casseroles are not in the recipes, but in their service. Because when you make one (or anything else for that matter) and take it to someone who is sick or hurting or in need, they can hear things like, "I care enough about you to sustain you." or "I want you to have the time to attend to the things that are most important." And that is an unbelievably wonderful and powerful thing.

So below you'll find the recipe for this casserole exactly as my mom gave it to me. The formatting of it is a little strange, almost like a shopping list and recipe combined. If you're so inclined, next time someone you know needs a little help, you can make them some casserole. All I ask in return is that you offer up a prayer to the gods of your choosing that my grandmother will someday forgive me for this.

Spaghetti Casserole::
1 1/2 pound ground beef
1 onion
28 ounce cut up or diced tomatoes
15 ounce tomato sauce
4 ounces of mushrooms
8 ounces of spaghetti
12 ounces of mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese

Brown the following:
1.5 # ground beef
1 c. chopped onion
1 clove garlic- minced or sliced
Drain and add the remaining and simmer for 20-25 minutes:
28 ounce can of diced tomatoes (or cut up)
15 ounce tomato sauce
4 ounces of mushrooms-drained
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp basil
Cook 8 ounces of broken spaghetti, drain and mix into sauce. 
You will need to have 12 ounces of mozzarella cheese also.
Put have of sauce mixture into a greased 9x13 pan.  Top with half of cheese.  Then repeat.  Top with Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Simply beautiful

So today I discovered, courtesy of my referral log, that if you Google "stubborness" and work your way down into the seventieth-some page of results, you'll come across me. That's just about as close to perfection as I've seen today.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Our own private "Cops"

Sunday night, I asked Pukka if he wanted to walk over to our new local ice cream shop for some ice cream (it's easier to justify getting ice cream if you walk to get it), and he said yes, so we got our shoes on and headed over there. We had just got around the corner and a little ways down the street when we heard someone yelling. When I looked down the sidestreet, it looked like there was a dad with a little kid on his shoulders and an older kid walking beside him. So I just kept walking. Then Pukka says, "Doesn't that sound like, "Help! Help!"?" I said yeah, it did kind of, but that I wasn't sure and the kids had a grown-up with them (and it obviously wasn't the man yelling) so I thought things would be fine. We kept walking a little bit further, and Pukka remarked again that it sounded like someone screaming, "Help!" It was around then that we stopped at a retaining wall for me to re-tie the drawstrings on the ankles of my pants. By the time we finished, it was obviously, "Help! Help!", and Pukka said he thought the little kid was hurt because he had seen them running them into the house. But there was still this constant "Help! Help!" so when I finished tying my pants, we headed back towards the sidestreet. At the same time, a guy in a pick up turned onto the street and got out. There were people running around in the yard and yelling, and I wasn't sure what was going on. When we got there, we quickly realized that the shorter person I had assumed was a kid was actually a short full-grown woman. She was still hollering for help, and the guy I had seen carrying the little kid was hollering other things and the guy from the truck was on the phone. Pukka went up into the yard and asked what was going on, and she starts hollering about how the tall guy had hit her and took her kid and wouldn't let her in the house. Pukka looks at truck guy and says, "You on the phone with the police?" The guys nods.

So we're kind of standing there waiting for the cops to show up. The woman's very intersted in telling us all about how bad this guy is, and the guy's yelling about how she's a liar. Then they start screaming at each other and getting all up in each other's faces. She turned away from him and I thought that maybe if I could get her to come talk to me instead of yelling at him he'd go back up on the porch. So I asked her something, and she started to come over to me, but then he yelled something and she turned back around to yell at him some more. And the logical part of my brain said, "Don't do this, this is a bad idea." but a louder part of my brain was saying, "I am not going to just stand here and watch him hit her again." So I went over to remind them that the cops were coming, and we could sort it all out when they got there, but they weren't paying any attention to me, and they were getting more and more agitated, so I just stood between the two of them with my hands on my hips to take up as much space as possible and let them yell over top of me. For a brief moment, I wondered why neither of the guys were coming to help me, but then I realized that either of them would probably be perceived as a threat, which was not at all what we needed. So I just stood there with my eyes down, grounding all this excess energy as best I was able. Fortunately, the police showed up quickly, and since we hadn't actually witnessed any crime, they let us go right away after they took Pukka's contact info "just in case". Decided we still wanted ice cream, so we walked down there and had some really good ice cream, and then came home.

And that was definitely the most notable event of this weekend. I'm still unclear what it means or how I feel about it. I'm fairly clear that Pukka feels I was unwise. He didn't see me insert myself between them, as he had turned away briefly, so it was a bit of a shocker for him. He always talks about how hard it is for him to keep track of my five-year-old self at the store and such. I'm not sure he'd realized my thirty-three-year-old self can be just as slippery under the right circumstances.