Zélie Likes the Fondue

z likes the fondu
I know my husband hates messy-faced-baby photos, but I can’t help but share with you the pure joy of Zélie and chocolate fondue.  We’re all a little under the weather this past week, so when you need to pull dessert out in a pinch, why not melt chocolate with a little cream and dip in some marshmallows.  It takes but two seconds and your little one-year-old and your growing-up-too-fast nine-year-old could not be happier.

grubby chocolate hands

As a side note, kids will eat damn near anything on a toothpick. This dessert could only be improved with little, wooden funsticks.

choco drip

Eurovision 2012

How oh how did Eurovision miss me all theses years.  Such a fantastic pageant of spectacular song writing and dance and excitement.  It’s American Idol without the painful commitment.  It has the beauty contest hosts.  It has the results at the end of the show!  We watched it with our little peanut gallery who were glued, GLUED, I tell you to the set.

There were so many moments. So many memorable moments that we hum and dance around the house days after the big event.

Leading the show, Humperdinck.  He fell a bit flat, but you have to love the Hump.  We now have a calf named Humperdinck (‘h’ year remember?).  The Albanian Björk was intense.  The Italian Amy Winehouse should’ve stuck to Italian.  The Denmark Morissettes were strong, but meh.  The French lady’s golden chonies caught our eyes.  The Irish water boys were squinted and smiled at.  And did you know Azerbaijan was a country?  MS spellcheck did.  But the real star of the show was the SockBun.  I was first hipped to the SockBun by my fashion blogger friend, Jen.  Once you know the power of the SockBun, you begin to notice them everywhere.  Eurovision 2012 was no exception.  Eurovision 2012 took the SockBun to a whole new level.  Some SockBuns were clearly inspired by native confections.  Others were of the classical Flamenco construction.  Let us not overlook the German ManSockBun.  A lazily fitted, gray, acrylic as though he just got out of bed and wandered on the set of Eurovision 2012.  This is a ManSockbun.  Slouchy hat == SockBun.
lalaLove
It was the kid’s favorite, Cyprus, that cranked the SockBun to eleven.  Each absolutely gorgeous dancer wore a SockBun.  One, took your one and said, “ah yeah?  How ‘bout two, bitch.”  Jen, I dare you.  Two SockBuns takes guts.  The dancers pulled it off as did Ms. Cyprus.  The “la la love” move can also be done to most Eurovision 2012 songs.

The only threat amidst the SockBuns and the Celine de Soleil magic was the Turkish pirates.  Turkey, I tip my Turkish hat (what’s that a Fez? Is it sugar coated?  Is it a sugar coated Fez?)  to you.  No one I know can make a pirate ship with gray, capes in my neighborhood.  Who needs all these sincere anthems when we can bring pirate back!

The quality of songs, performances, wind machines, lights was incredible.  If loving cheesy, over-the-top singing contest is wrong, GIRL, I don’ wanna be rightah.

Then there were the points.  That’s when Otto really got sucked in.  He would give you the play-by-play.  Exclaiming the top three, the losers, the countries most improving was his M.O.  Any time Ms. Cyprus got the big point package, the kids would scream (and waking poor Zélie as well).

The winner?  A modern dancing Donna Summer.  Modern dance!  I did modern dance.  The pitter-patty feet.  The sudden fall to the ground.  Martha Graham.  Martha Graham.  She was fantastic.  Right on key with Mr. T.  Truly, they were all fantastic.  I’m a buzz with all the energy.  I can’t wait until next year.

Three things to leave you with:

1>    The People’s Republic of Otto would like to share with you this point breakdown.  Very Important.

8 points – Russia

10 points – Turkey

12 points – (yep) Cyprus

2>    Lucy would like to tell Norway that the guy should not be wearing stretchy pants.  “Are you insane?!!!!  A guy in stretchy pants?????”  Consider yourself advised, Norway.  Good luck next year.

3>    “Albania is screaming, “ says Minty.  There may be some truth to that.

euphoria

Brent Sowed His Oats

oats

… and now it’s time for hay.  We’re excited to try oat hay.  The alfalfa hay has been stellar and we think the cows will also be excited with some bales of oat hay to mix it up a bit.  Brent sowed his oats in fall to try it out and see if oats will work with the soils.  He has to fluff, rake and bale.  We’ll see how much the field delivered and how well it works for the cows.  After that, it may crop up in our rotation.

(gotta love the farm paronomasia)
brent sowed his oats
More importantly though, is this horrible song I’ve been singing all morning thanks to Brent’s play on YouTube Wars:

Maybe I was a grumpy kid.  Maybe I wasn’t much of a morning person.  Either way, my sisters spotted my vulnerability and struck hard singing this horrible song.  I hate it even more as I reflect on the pure joy my sisters would soak up as they sang that song and watched me squirm.  I don’t think Brent knew this chord it struck within me as he clicked play.  And to that, I give you this.  I also squirm with this song.  I don’t appreciate the density of earnest notes.  But when you stick it on a muppet, suddenly it streams with harmony.

Meet My Kitchen Bench

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I’m actually an extremely neat person.  It’s just, at the moment, it’s all very one-step-forward with eight little steps back.  And similar to having your drunk uncle ransack your house in an adult diaper muttering “Otto!”  “Lucy pop!” demanding to be fed as he staggers with a glass dish to the kitchen, there is an enormous amount of physical work to keep the house from caving in.  I try very hard to tidy and tuck-in the kitchen before I go to bed, but sometimes after the bread is cooked, the bed calls sooner than expected.  Today, this is on the bench:

–        One five litre plastic bottle that was once full of wine from the dude down the road.  I bottled it using that orange funnel.  Only briefly sealed because glasses, beef and sauces call its name.  If you live in wine country, why the heck are you buying at the shop when you can have the dude pour it out of the oak barrel (actually syphon it) or the cement vat.  We giggle.  We talk about the weather.  Rain is good for grass farmers and bad for wine makers.

–        Two bottles for Z.  I’m a mama. Bottles have  a way of waiting for washing on the bench

–        Brent’s Giraffe Mug for his morning brew.  Each year the kids pick an ugly mug to celebrate Father’s day.  Father’s day is coming up.  Sadly, Zach Efron no longer greets Brent in the morning with images of High School Musical.  We are but weeks away from this year’s unveiling.

–        Two giant bags of ground grain.  One is Rye flour.  The other is Einkorn.  Both are organic.  Both are from a farm down the road.  We don’t eat much of the stuff, but when we do, we like to roll old style.

–        A blender, A kitchen-aid and a wand.  All live on this bench because they are American powered which means they live near the transformer.  The blender made Brent’s coffee protein shake.  The kitchen-aid made this new cake I’m working on served with custard.  The wand pureed the potatoes for tonight’s fish pie.

–        A little rami with that five or ten lines of chocolate the kids couldn’t get out of the pot de crème au chocolate I made last night.

–        Two bowls, one green, one black left over from Chili Friday.  The chili is getting good.  I’m starting to get my schtick with the chili.

–        A long, white handle of a spatula that helped scrape out the last of the cheap-arse mayo that I buy because I’m lazy.  I have friends in the duck bidness.  They have excess fat they have no idea what to do with (other than duck confit).  I know my future in duck fat mayonnaise.  I can do it.  I need to get on it.  I’m motivated.

–        A not-very-clean cooling rack that Lucy uses when she makes cookies.  Ain’t no better skill you can teach your children than “how to make a chocolate chip cookie.”  Lucy is the chocolate chip cookie master.  Don’t be messin’ with her.  She owns it.

I also see a sippy cup put on the bench because Zélie enjoys tipping the sipping cup and spreading water around the house for everyone to enjoy.  I see a yellow pan I bought in America in the sale bin, unloved.  That yellow pan is the best pan I’ve ever used.  Its main duty is fish.  It never lets me down.

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… and then there is our little “sensory tub,” the spice drawer.  There is nothing more satisfying than Star Anise in a little plastic tub in one hand and whole Cinnamon Sticks in a little plastic tub in another to pass the time away.  I’m not a sensory tub mom, my sensory influence gently guides the kids over to the  hose and points them in the direction of dirt.  My favorite phrase at this time of year is “go away and come back when it’s dark.”  At this time of year, dark is at ten.  The kids are discovering all sorts of interesting spring things (tadpoles, bird nests, broody hens).  These things do make it to the kitchen bench.  We made tadpole food.  If we look closely, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Bonne Maman jar full of cloudy water and swimming tadpoles.  I may have popped that one outside.

Grass, It Does A Body Good

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Oh spring.  You are here.  The cows are happy.  The grass is growing.  Diverse plants wait for their trip through the rumination machine.  Brent manages the pastures to keep the fields strong and the cows conditioned.

Geez, Luna Was Such a Cow Today

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These are the stories I hear when Brent comes back from a hard day in the pasture. Over the years, we’ve both managed humans of various disciplines. Dancers, Actors, Volunteers, Friends, Children, Geeks, Math students, Students and Cats. After a year of working a little bit with the cows, I’m starting to recognize similar techniques used for teams and herds. I’m not saying managing a team of geeks is like managing a herd of cows. Okay, yes, that is what I’m saying. There is a dynamic that goes on with the herd. The report from the field when Brent comes in is not unlike the drama he would share when coming home from the magical office of high tech. “oh so-and-so was in a mood. “ OR “some cow was trying to enlarge its empire” OR “so-and-so was on heat” … really this is not unlike the office life. The weather, the hormones, the status, all these things play their part in the make up of a day. What would geek managing be like if electric fencing were part of the regime? No, kidding aside, the time you take to get to know your herd is magic. They learn that when you appear, great food follows. You learn that if you keep them happy, they maintain great condition and keep healthy. Four to Five PM is “horny heifer hour” where the girls are a bit nutty. Let them eat. Let them finish their day. Otherwise, they’ll get all giddy. If you walk into the paddock and no one pays you any attention, they’re full. If they see you from a distance and come follow along, they’re ready to move. You learn their moods. Brent has a schedule for them that suits their needs so everything runs smoothly.

cows

These two above are standing there.  Yeah.  Standing there organizing.  They’re thinking about that rumor about greener grass.  Two minutes later, they sit, they ruminate, they dream.

Synergy In Action

yum
A retriever and a one-year-old have a symbiotic relationship.  She-dog with the insatiable appetite and She-bub with the opposable thumb.  Tosca, with her big ideas of breaking into unopened dogfood bags, masterminded this cunning plan.  It goes a little something like this:

–        The “barn cats” bust in with the claws and the bag and make a little hole

–        Bag gets moved inside by the big people, away from those pesky cats

–        get the baby in there with her fancy thumbs

–        et Voilà, girl be hand feeding the morsels

fud

Starbuck is Dead

starbuck is dead

Oh I do loves me some strong coffee.  In America, we used to have this amazing machine that giveth some perfect espresso every morning.  It’s gone now as are my yuppie years (and we ponder what an aging yuppie will become.  A “Guppie”, geriatric-urban-professional?  A “Muppie”, maturing-urban-professional? ).  As we settle into peasant farming life, you really must arrange your caffeine consumption to match your economical means with your palette.  After much research involving (close your eyes Michael) instant coffee, stovetop espresso, “French” press and drip machine among other crazy concoctions, we settled on this combination:

–        drip coffee machine

–        cheapest Arabica “doux” you can find

There is a very cheap “robusta” you can buy, but WOO BOY, don’t go there.  Bitter.  Yuck.  Doux (pronounced “doo” and if it’s cheap you call it “disco doo”) is the entry point to great coffee.  I picked up the cheapest filter coffee pot I could find and here are the problems:

–        horrible fill trough

–        small heating plate, coffee gets cold

–        only makes ten cups.  If you have four kids and herd of cattle, you need a lot of coffee.  More than ten cups.

So I bought Starbuck.  She was a tall, orange, drink-a-water with a horrible logo.  We popped a little mermaid sticker that Lucy had laying around to cover her brand. Knowing her coffee would never achieve coffee mogul-dom, we called her Starbuck.  Her fill trough stills sucks, but oh she made the coffee fast, kept it warm and delivered a stellar cup every morning two pots at a time.  At one point, we didn’t trust her.  In haste, we replaced her with a crap filter machine and stuck her out in the rain.  The replacement turned out to be a cheap weekend fling.  With apologetic wipes and a used replacement carafe, we brought Starbuck back in to fulfill the job she was built to do.   And she delivered.  I cleaned her every Sunday.  But this Monday was different.  She didn’t complete her brew.  She pooped out.  She became fatiguée.  After four cups she stopped.  I tried to revive her with all I knew how.  Silence.  She was gone.

R.I.P. Starbuck.  We laughed.  We cried.  We kissed twenty bucks good-bye.

… and with good YouTubeWars ammunition, we solute you with this … if you can replace “red” with “orange” it’ll all fall into place

The F-Word

boot and tractor

 

Due to the tremendous flood of premature birthday wishes, mainly my sisters, but really one of them … twice (she’s very happy that I’ve hit a big one) and my mother, all of them early (when you get no mail at all other than piles of advertisements we call “Conforamagasm” and bills, two cards rapidly tsunami into a flood), I suppose I should admit it and turn twenty-nine again.  But this one is special. This one launches me to a whole new number sequence.  Slide one over on the ol’ abacus, I’ve peaked another mountain.  I can remember way, way, way, way, way, way back ago wishing Brent his happy fortieth.  I looked high and low for a forty-year-old Scotch to ease his body into a new time zone.  Without spending thousands, all I could come up with is a thirty-year-old Talisker.  So I went with the “you don’t look a day over thirty” line (thanks for the tip stevem).  It seemed to work and the Scotch was divine.  Smooth as a baby’s bum with just enough peat for girls like me.  I like my Scotch peaty.

 

With my new unlocked wisdom, I am able to say things out loud like, “I don’t like the Beatles.  I am left unmoved.”  Or “Donchoo even THINK of texting at my dinner table.  Put the phone down and no one will get hurt.“ Or “Facebook is playing you for your narcissistic tendencies and profiting.”  Whew.  Blah.  That feels better.  But I can also offer advice.  Like, “have all your kids before you’re forty.  Except for my mom when a ‘happy surprise’ goes brat” or “making stuff from scratch is taking control of your life.”  Yeah, I’m full of it.  But the baby is crying.  The cake needs frosting.  The cows need checking.  The chickens need feeding.  I’ll take my new wise ass out and get back to work.