dazzling and interesting on a shoestring
Yes, we celebrated Easter last week, complete with eggs, bunnies, chocolate and not least of all, our Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life for us and was resurrected so that we might be able to live in loving relationship with Him in Heaven. That said, we went to church on Sunday morning, the little people dressed in bright dresses and Mom and Dad in comfortable shoes—the better to chase around said little people. Church for us is two blocks down the street at the park. Blessedly convenient and fun, too. There were coffee and pastries and fruit, and the obligatory Easter egg ‘hunt,’ which really consisted of laying (pun intended) out a hundred or so plastic eggs on the grass and then saying ‘Go!’ to the kids—an Easter egg dash, to be more specific.
Before church, there were Easter ‘baskets’ for all the kids. Since we can’t really afford cheap and breakable colored baskets, and I abhor that Easter grass that gets everywhere and sticks to everything, we improvised. I used paper bags, some nifty alphabet stamps, a few ribbons left over from presents and boxes of chocolates, and a sheet of repurposed yellow tissue paper.
We bought small bunnies and a bag of chocolate eggs to split amongst the kids and called it done. Really, that’s all they need. The chocolate will be nibbled at for the next few weeks, and the bunnies will be beloved for a week or so before they are added to the motley family of stuffed animals that grace the bed, or the toy basket or the futon in the twins’ room.
And that was just in the morning.
In the afternoon, Dad went for a bike ride, Mom worked on a school paper (boo) and the kiddos napped and relaxed. We do this everyday in hopes that Mother will stay sane. Just before the small people woke up, I wandered down to our lovely apartment courtyard, where everything is in bloom, and ‘hid’ about 20 plastic eggs containing absolutely nothing.
The kids didn’t care, or even, uh, notice. The hunt was the fun part. We met up with our neighbors, who just had to walk out their front door, and the smallest people wandered around looking confused, until a parent directed them to exactly where an egg perched in some foliage and then pointed to it.
‘Hunt’ isn’t exactly an accurate description, but fun was had. We sat on some steps and scarfed popcorn, pretzels, cheddar bunnies and raisins (Destitute Style Chex Mix, without the Chex) and drank a bit of juice before the younger kids ran around chasing the big one and managed not to obliterate the landscaping.
I don’t know what we feasted on for dinner, but it wasn’t ham. I made a call up to the relatives, talked to my uncle and to my dad and wished everyone a Happy Easter. Daddy-O and I put the kids to bed and watched some totally unrelated-to-the-holiday-movie—‘Catching Fire,’ I think.
Happy Easter to all and to us!
For Ms. Destitute, the sound of spring is the crack of the bat, the static of the AM radio and the voice of John Miller. Of course, we’re not tailgaters with season tickets (though we do have family friends who are very generous about sharing their tickets—thanks Steve and Karen!) but we express our fanaticism in our own way.
On the San Francisco Giants’ opening day last week, I dressed my smallest baseball fans in their Giants onesies to show their pride at the local playground. Oh, okay, so it’s really me showing where my loyalties lie, and using my children as adorable accessories… but, really, aren’t they adorable?
Since we don’t have cable television, for reasons both of principle and money, we listen to the game on the radio. And since we’re so strapped for cash, we don’t even listen to it on the internet—you have to have a paid subscription to ALL the games in Major League Baseball. I don’t care that much about any of the other teams to make it worth it, even if I did have the money.
So we listen to the radio talents of John Miller, Dave Fleming, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow on KNBR.
Ahh, that to me says SPRING! It isn’t just the score and the game being played that make my eyes tear up a bit (allergies not withstanding) but a touch of nostalgia as well.
I can remember lying in the back of my family’s 1972 Buick station wagon (complete with brown naugahyde interior) and driving home from a family road trip with the sound of John Miller’s voice coming through the single speaker. I was born in Virginia and lived there until I was almost seven, and in the early 80’s, John Miller was the radio broadcaster for the Baltimore Orioles. I never became an Orioles’ fan– that would have led to much disappointment and eventual disillusionment– but I’ve always been a fan of John Miller’s voice. It lulled me to sleep in the back of the car, it was the soundtrack to my teenage days of (topless!) backyard sunbathing, and now it keeps me company in the kitchen during my favorite months of the year.
Here’s hoping that the recent World Series champs will make it to the end again, not only because we love our local boys (when did pro athletes all become younger than me?) but because it gives us that much longer to turn on our trusty little transistor and listen to the guys in the broadcasting booth.
Happy baseball, everyone, and GO GIANTS!!
Other fun and Spring-y stuff:
How do the destitute celebrate Christmas? (That really depends on what they believe in.) At our house, we put up colored lights and decorate a Christmas tree. This year, it’s a tiny tree, because it has to be out of reach of four eager, uncontrolled and mischievous little hands. It’s festive, but not terribly fashionable. Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, Ree Drummed nor Elle Décor had any influence on our choice of tree trimmings. Mine and my husband’s childhoods had the most influence—Jim Henson, Kiwiana, the grunge era and a love of jazz and good bass players. There’s nothing on my front door proclaiming, ‘It’s Christmastime and we know it!’ You can’t see our tree from the front window—in fact, you can barely see our tree from across the room. But we know it’s there.
I like to put on Christmas music, because despite the fact that I believe in the original meaning of the celebration (a day, not necessarily historically accurate as the 25th of December, to celebrate the birth of Christ, the Son of God, who was eventually crucified and rose again to save me from my sins and allow me to spend all eternity in heaven with Him when I die) it’s really the only time of year I listen to Christian music. That’s due to musical taste, not an aversion to the message.
Here are a few of my favorite Christmas tunes:
‘Ave Maria’ by Chris Cornell and Eleven (from A Very Special Christmas Volume 3)
The tune is a familiar one, but the voice is unusual for what is usually sung in an operatic style. But being the grunge-child that I am, I love it. The song is a great tribute to the Virgin Mary, who is a minor star in this whole Christmas story, and being a mother, I cannot help but wonder at this young woman who gave birth to the Christ child in a stable, amidst rumors of scandal. What a woman. Chris Cornell’s voice gives the song the kind of grittiness that I think goes properly with such a birth scene.
‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ by Whitney Houston (from A Very Special Christmas Volume 1) This is Whitney Houston and modern gospel music at its finest. This was the kind of music she was born to sing, not sappy love songs for a scumbag like Bobby Brown. Brings tears to my eyes, not least of all because I will never be able to sing this great classic nearly as well.
‘O Holy Night’ by Tracy Chapman (from A Very Special Christmas Volume 3)
This is my favorite Christmas carol, regardless who sings it, or especially the red-headed woman named Anne who used to sing with the choir at church when I was growing up. If she sang this one at the Christmas Eve service, the whole evening was a hit. I love the lyrics to this song, by turns praising and in awe of such an event as the birth of Christ and then tender and sweet. Tracy Chapman’s sweet smoky voice and a simple guitar is all it needs.
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones Jingle All the Way
This is a family tradition that my husband and I adopted all our own, because who doesn’t need a little throat-singing and banjo-playing to shake up the likes of Bing Crosby and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Give me Bela over those ol’ stiffs any day.
John Denver and the Muppets, A Christmas Together
This album (and I mean LP, until it was replaced by a digital version in the new century, though we still have the slightly scratched vinyl edition) is a tradition from by mine and my husband’s childhood. John Denver can’t be beat for writing songs from the heart, and any time I hear ‘A Baby Just Like You’, I get all teary. Denver wrote it for his son, Zachary, thinking of Jesus as an infant and all that must have meant to both His father in heaven and to Joseph. It reminds me of my children and it reminds me of my brother, who was a baby when the song came out. My mother used to change the line Merry Christmas, Little Zachary to fit with her baby son’s name. I insert any or all of my children’s names, even if they’re not so little anymore.
And on a lighter note, the asides of Miss Piggy in ‘Christmas is Coming’, ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ and ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ are hysterical.
What are your favorite Christmas tunes? Are they family traditions or ones you’ve started on your own?
We were busy this summer. Here are a few of the things we did:
We went to a couple summer camps and had a few camp-like days at home—including Stalactite Experiment week (inspired by this awesome magazine called Alphabet Glue), Insect Experiment week, featuring ladybugs and pill bugs (and the gorgeous and rare albino praying mantis below), and Flower Experiment week, which just included lots of coloring.
I taught a belly dance class and managed to wait precisely four days after the last class to break my pinkie toe. And then I began class again in the fall just five weeks later, giving it just enough time to heal. I learned what it feels like to break a bone—my first. Like many things in life, it was painful, and then annoying, but I managed just fine and life went on as usual. Which, I might add, is different then the morbidly popular ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’ Whatever it is could, however, leave you mangled, paralyzed or disfigured beyond recognition—let’s not go looking for pain in search of strength or toughness, okay people? Pain will come to you as part of life—learn to cope and then move along with grace.
Anyhow, enough of the toe, and philosophies on pain.
I applied for yet another blogging job to add to these two and failed to get it due to technical issues that had nothing to do with my wit, charm, abilities or experience. So fear not, we still have both feet firmly rooted in both poverty and obscurity and these blog posts will keep on coming.
We learned that it is better to use a hair clip than scissors to rid ourselves of that pesky lock of hair. We learned to walk, and we learned that just because we’re not walking doesn’t mean we have hip dysplasia (thank God!).
We grew a few things on our balcony garden, learned to love nasturtiums and hate aphids (ladybugs to the rescue!) and ate pesto, strawberries and parsley-riddled spreads thanks to our miniscule garden.
We learned how to do more on our bike than just ‘coast like toast’ and now use our pedals, and we learned to put a book down and return it to the library when it sucks… oh no, wait, I’m still learning how to do that.
This summer we lost a dear friend too quickly, though she had a good run at life and in the end, she wasn’t going to stick around and have people care for her. She cared for others all her life, people and plants alike, and now she’s in a better place, tending a celestial garden and loving everyone there without judgment or fanfare. Now we are learning how it is we explain death to someone not yet six years old.
We’re still learning how to drink out of a cup without sending it all down our chins, but at least we’ve decided to drink cow’s milk, which makes it easier on mama.
We’ve spent quality time with imaginary creatures, furry and hairy, including Babe, Mercy Watson, Elmo, Chester Cricket, and Bunnicula and enjoyed their company. Thanks to the wide spacing of kids, some of them are on their second round of introductions and others will get reintroduced in a few years.
This summer was spent living and learning, and no doubt the fall will be full of more of the same. Summer is a wonderful season, and we are enjoying this season of our lives.
Okay, class—tell me what you learned this summer. Type your answer in the comments section below.
At our house, a cake baked is not just a receptacle for birthday candles, but a gift of love as well, and so, our birthday cakes are homemade ones. They usually taste pretty good, offer an activity for creative hands and often provide a few laughs. Who can say that about a bakery-bought birthday cake?
We used our tried-and-true 1-2-3-4 Cake Recipe from Alice Waters’ Fanny at Chez Panisse, and as per my little helper’s request, we mixed up some turquoise frosting—turquoise is fast replacing pink as the color of choice for… just about everything.
Humorously enough, I started this post, thinking that this cake would bake and get put together just as easily as the Thunder Cake we made last month. My cake, however, had other plans.
It mixed up just fine, thanks to the ol’ Scovil hand mixer and seemed to fluff properly when I folded in the egg whites. In hindsight, however, I vaguely recall thinking that it might look a bit deflated. But I carried forth anyhow.
I planned to fill it with strawberry jam for the very specific reason that it was what we had in the house. At the end of April, even in Northern California, the local, in-season fruit selection is minimal. Strawberries are your best (almost only) option, if you don’t want to be eating fruit that hopped on a plane to get to your local supermarket. Kiwis are an option, but I don’t like them, so I feed them to everyone else in my family. Babies ate their first kiwi today, as a matter of fact. Fortunately, I loooooove strawberries. I eat them for lunch, breakfast, dinner, snack and with my bedtime nightcap (herbal tea). I try not to cry in July when they’re really too pale and dry to be delicious. I am, however, easily placated by the arrival of peach season.
But anyhow, we made another cake. And this time, I was going to try and make it pretty, too. Not beauty pageant, high-maintenance gorgeous, but down-home pretty. Think more Emma Stone and less Kim Kardashian. Okay, great. Now imagine that they are both birthday cakes…
And then my oven limitations and my baking abilities got into the mix with my pretty Hollywood Starlet fantasies and I ended up with Franken-cake. For some reason, one of the cake pans decided not to cook her cake all the way through. The other decided to sink in the middle like the Titanic in a sea of icebergs (and Leo DiCaprio when he couldn’t hold on to the wreckage). It was a sad, sorry sight. But I was not to be deterred. I don’t toss food just because it’s ugly—unless of course, it’s ugly because of the gray-green fuzz growing on it. So I performed a bit of surgery. I cut off the good parts of the half-baked one and then cut the other in half, for a double half-layer cake—in other words, a single layer cake with jam in the middle.
Post-confectionary surgery, we needed to frost the cake. My trusty assistant determined that blue and just a bit of green to achieve the desired turquoise. Only we didn’t have enough powdered sugar. As I said before, we were determined to make this cake—it was my birthday cake, darn it, and I was not going to let a simple lack of powdered sugar keep me from my frosting. Unfortunately, my neighbors are not the baking types, otherwise I would’ve had my five year-old trot over and beg a cup from them. The technique is fun and old-fashioned, almost always reciprocated and a great way to get to know people. But luckily, we now own a Vitamix (that’s another birthday story for another time) and I made, yes, made powdered sugar.
Thank you Vitamix and thank you, Internet. Nifty, no? So, after my trusty assistant came back to the kitchen after the Vitamix was done making noise, we mixed a little bit of pink and a bit more turquoise, with the pre-determined amount of food coloring.
Together, we decorated it with pink flowers (of course) and had a mini spelling lesson—that’s M-O-M-M-Y.
We may live in an apartment complex in an uninspiring section of suburbia, but we have a bit of nature here and there—landscaping notwithstanding, and there’s a beautiful plenty of that around here. We have a wide variety of fowl species fluttering about, from the crows in the tops of the cypress trees in the courtyard (I have fantasies of having a stuffed one atop my bookcase over my desk, Edgar Allen Poe-‘The Raven’-ish style) to the little sparrow-esque twitter-ers in the lower trees. The occasional hummingbird will zip over and check us out as we wait for the elevator down to the carpark, and from the sounds above in the early morning, it seems as if we live in a Canadian Goose flight path, going south in November and now heading back up north again in April.
The other day, this little darling duck made a stopover on her migration path to our pool. As I recall, she and her mate were here last year, too. Her drake, however, was nowhere in sight this visit. Has she been widowed? I hope not. My daughter and I were so glad to see her, that we galloped down the stairs and then tiptoed quietly to the fence to get a picture. The neighbors must have thought we were nuts. The feeling is mutual, but come on, it’s not every day that a duck lands in your pool.
As many of you might have noticed, I don’t include my kids in my posts. That, however, is about to change—a little bit. I want to keep my little ones safe from creepy people. And because none of y’all are creepy, I’m going to post their pictures here and share with you about a little experimental picnic we had this winter.
Winter in Northern California can be a little chilly, windy and rainy, but no snow. Those of you in other parts of the country may scoff at us and call us softies, but occasionally, we do complain. This post is not a complaint. But, um, we were cold…
We are enrolled in afternoon preschool (thanks to a generous family scholarship fund) but my husband had a doctor’s appointment scheduled an hour before drop-off. We have one car and two places to be. So the kiddos and I dropped dear ol’ dad off at the doctor’s and then cruised down the street into the old ‘hood where I grew up. It’s located right near a golf course and a gated community—to keep out the ‘riff-raff’ like us.
The sign here even says we’re not technically welcome to picnic on this narrow patch of grass, but the neighbors walking their dogs didn’t seem to mind— it helps to have a few cute kids with you.
So, anyhow, we brought a container of raspberries, water bottles, some string cheese, and a bag of pretzels and called it lunch. The little ones looked adorable in their matching hoodies (check out the ‘ears’ on top!) and the oldest did her best to keep warm and not lose the Frisbee in the gale that was blowing. We lasted about 20 minutes before we decided to pack everything back up in the car and wait for in the parking lot for Daddy to be done.
It wasn’t a picture worthy of golden-memory status, but it’s the sense of adventure that counts.