Save my marriage

Posted by The Wizzle | Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2010 at 8:10 PM

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I am in need of a design intervention.



I'll give you the rundown, and you all come and tell me what to do. I've got an idea, David has an idea, and we aren't really seeing each other's vision. This is where you come in, dear readers!



I got new curtains this week. I love them, they are absolutely perfect for our color scheme and style and everything. These curtains have the terracotta from our living room, the orange from the kitchen, the blue form the TV room...and they've made me reconsider an idea that I've had before and pushed aside. It's kind of crazy. Want to hear it?

See that rock wall? See all that stucco (it's everything gray in the pictures)? I kind of want to paint it all white. Nor stark white, but just barely not-white. Here's why:

1. We have *a lot* of color going on here. I feel like it is time to find a neutral, something that can carry through the whole house - hallways, some "through" spaces, just something to rest your eyes on. The current gray of the stucco now is, I feel, too dark to be that neutral. (It's darker in reality than it is in these photos - it's most accurate in the first one, to the right of the rock wall). The house is quite dark on the inside and I think the lighter color would be just the thing to perk it up.



2. We also have a lot of "features" to work with: dark wood doors and trim, arches, rock wall, wood beams, columns, stucco, fireplace...just a lot of eye-catching 70's design details. Some of them I love (beams, dark trim, fireplace) and some of them I am neutral on (rock wall, columns), and some of them I could definitely live without (stucco, arches). I feel like painting the stucco and the rock wall would tie those things together, and if they were light and neutral, like the ceiling and hallways, they would be relegated to "background" status, allowing the beams to take center stage. I would also want to take that accursed arch over the fireplace down and put a horizontal wood mantle up, to echo the beams. (I'd love to get rid of all the arches, but that might be a long-term project.)

3. I hate the kitchen orange and the stucco gray next to each other, and from the dining area that color combo is right in your face. I hate it. I have tried to ignore it for a couple of months, and I still hate it, so one of them has to go. David thinks we should paint the kitchen the terracotta color of the living room, and I think we should paint the stucco white, and round and round we go.

4. See how pretty those curtains are? The lovely balanced color scheme? No gray. Just cream. That's not a coincidence.

5. I have a lot of sad, 70's brown oak cabinetry. Perhaps you noticed it. It's in the kitchen, every bathroom, and the mysterious wetbar. I think the cream would flatter that wood more than the gray, and since a kitchen remodel is a giant financial leap away, I do want to work with the existing cabinetry.

My husband loves gray. It is his favorite color. We painted his office pencil-lead gray, lest you think I am completely heartless and domineering. I don't dislike the gray stucco color, in a vacuum, and I do think it makes the stucco look good. But I still think the white is the right move for all the reasons detailed above. So, vote in the comments please:

a) Paint it! Paint it all! White is clean, fresh, and modern. Rachel, you are a genius.

b) Leave it gray, are you nuts? Why do you keep repainting everything? Your husband must be a saint.

c) I have a great idea that will solve all your design problems. It is _________.

If you read all this, you get a cookie. If you can actually help me solve this dilemma, you get two.

I have issues

Posted by The Wizzle | Posted on Friday, August 27, 2010 at 10:45 PM

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Remember my tea towels? Well, they appear to be breeding in my kitchen. (I really need to keep a closer eye on things in there.)

It made me sad to keep them in a drawer, so they are now proudly displayed in place of honor in my kitchen. Form and function, my friends. This is what it looks like.

So you can all have something funny to tell your therapists on Monday, and make yourselves feel less neurotic, I will leave you this evening with my thought process as I placed my new arrivals with their more seasoned counterparts:

1. New towels acquired at Sur La Table. Appear to be similar quality to my Most Favored Tea Towels, and can be gotten with considerably less hassle and expense. Haven't washed them yet, so can't say for sure, but I have developed quite a discerning eye for this kind of thing if I do say so myself. I am optimistic.

2. Hosting a dinner party at my house tomorrow, want new towels on display. No time to launder them - too much else to do!

3. Iron towels while watching trashy television. This decreases Trash Quotient of said television by at least 30%.

4. Realize that, although two towels are dirty, I now have more towels than hooks to hang them on. Some people might think this was a problem. I myself do not.

5. Place new towels upon the rack, considering the following factors:
a) New Towels, having not yet been washed, are not very absorbent and thus for decorative purposes only at this time
b) hence, if a New Towel is placed on a hook with an Old Towel, it must be hung behind the Old Towel so that it is not mistakenly grabbed first. This will cause the man of the house to scoff and grumble in a most unpleasant manner.
c) hooks with two towels must be alternated with hooks with one towel so everything doesn't look all lopsided. Drape is important.
d) colors generally balanced and pleasing to the eye, ie all red towels not grouped together on one side in a clump

That about covers it. Although, I might go in now that I've looked at this photo and switch them around again so the two yellow ones are not on the same hook. How could i have missed that before?!

(If you come to my party tomorrow and compliment my towel rack, you get a prize).

It's a jungle in there

Posted by The Wizzle | Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 9:04 PM

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If you were a fly on the wall inside my brain (which you should be very glad you are not, by the way - it's like Grand Central Station in there, only the power is out and the zombies are coming), you might hear at least 4, and possibly all 8, of the following pieces of information:

1. If you can name the movie reference in that last line, I will bring you a loaf of fresh bread. Unless you are not local. Then you will just have my admiration from afar.

2. I think if I leave that clean load of whites in the basket for just one more day, it might fold itself. It's definitely worth a shot.

3. Had to dip into the old food storage stash tonight. Who knew I would actually use up 50 pounds of flour?! Does this mean I am officially domesticated?

4. I am watching a documentary about Orthodox Jewish matchmaking and marriage practices, and I tell you what: these guys don't look Mormon, but they sure sound Mormon! These aspects of our cultures have an astonishing amount in common. It's fascinating.

5. I love my in-laws. I really do. My husband's younger brother came home from his mission tonight, and we met him at the airport. He is such an awesome guy, just really an exemplary person. And I love every one of my husband's siblings, and his parents, just as much. I am a lucky, lucky wifey.

6. I voted in the stupid (closed primary - whatever) election today. But I don't even think I care what happens. I spent some time with politics a couple of years ago, and came to the crystalline realization that I like intelligent, elegant, respectful discussion. I like finding common ground. I like ethics, philosophy, humanity. I like smart people, with leadership skills, novel ideas, good judgment, and honest, courageous souls. Ergo, I hate politics.

7. I am waiting for something really, really fun in the mail. I love fun things in the mail. I'll show you when I get it.

8. I'm having too much fun watching the Daily Show to do this anymore. Peace out, everybody.

Pizza pizza

Posted by The Wizzle | Posted on Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 8:52 PM

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So, I've made this a couple of times in the last week (practice makes perfect, you know) and everyone in my house loves it. A few people have asked for the recipes, so here they are. I will give the recipe as in the book, which uses store-bought flatbread, and I will include the recipe I used to make my own at the end.

Turkish-Style Lamb Pizza (from America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers, Summer 2010 - probably my favorite cookbook series!)

2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 8x11 pieces lavash bread (if you buy this, the recipe is 30 minutes. If you make it, then it's more like 2 hours including the salad)
1 pound ground lamb (or ground beef, that's what I used)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 T tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 toasted pine nuts
chopped fresh parsley

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475. Brush oil over both sides of each lavash. TRansfer to baking sheet and bake until golden, about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, book lamb in a large skillet over med-high heat until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain meat and remove from skillet, leaving 2 T rendered fat in skillet. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, pepper flakes, and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add diced tomatoes and return lamb to skillet. Cook mixture until liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

3. Spread lamb mixture on each toasted lavash. Sprinkle with cheese and pine nuts. Bake until cheese is warmed through, about 5 minutes. Top with parsley if desired and serve. Serves 4.

Cucumber Tzatziki-type salad:

Whisk 1 cup plain yogurt, 2 T extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (I have this growing in my front flower bed, how lucky am I?!), and 2 minced garlic cloves. Peel, halve lengthwise, seed, and thinly slice 3 medium cucumbers. Toss cucumbers with dressing and salt and pepper to taste.

Homemade lavash, if you are a masochist or on a budget like me. This recipe makes 4 big pieces, so you can either cut it in half, or what I did was make it as-is and use one piece for the pizza (it's bigger that the original recipe called for so all the topping fit right on it). I buttered another piece and then topped it with cinnamon sugar for dessert, and that left me with 2 plain pieces left over for snacks later this week. Even if you halved this recipe, you will have enough to make a pizza piece and a dessert piece.

1 cup warm water (105-110 degrees i.e, barely warm baby bath temp)

1 package of dry yeast (1 teaspoon if you buy this in bulk)

1/4 cup (1/2-stick) of salted butter (regular table butter), melted and cooled

1-1/2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of sugar

3-1/4 to 3-3/4 cups of unsifted flour (all-purpose or bread flour)

Measure warm water into a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top of water. Stir until dissolved. Add cooled melted butter, salt, sugar and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Add more flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out on lightly floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic. (may take 8 to 10 minutes) Place in greased pottery or glass bowl turning to greased side up. Cover lightly and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (an hour or so). Punch down and divide into 4 parts. Roll each ball and stretch to 10x14 inch sheets. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes to fully cook - or, for the pizza crust, cook 10 minutes or so until partially done, then remove and spread topping on. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, then remove and top with parsley if you want.

What I did was to make the lavash dough, then make the cucumber salad while it was rising. Then I rolled it out and made the lamb topping while it was resting and baking partway. Then I finished it off.

* * * * * * * * *

This is a fun meal, and I feel pretty frickin' smart having an entree, a salad, and a dessert that all "go" together. That may never have happened before, I'm not sure. If you don't make the flatbread, you could totally do this all in half an hour. And then it wouldn't make such a spectacular mess in your kitchen. But I don't know, maybe the homemade lavash is really *that* much better! I got the recipe for it from my ex-boyfriend's mother, with whom I am still in contact through a string of bizarre coincidences. True story.

So, enjoy. (The Pioneer Woman can have this food-blogging business, by the way. Between making the dang dinner, cleaning it up, and blogging it I think I've spent about 4 hours today so I've had about all I can handle. I hope to be back with my normal, sassy, self-deprecating blog that you've come to know and love tomorrow.) Good night, chefs!

First Day of School (for somebody)

Posted by The Wizzle | Posted on Monday, August 16, 2010 at 8:44 PM

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School is in session.

I was dreading this summer, to be honest. Historically, I have not had my finest times as a parent and a person when all the kids are home with me, all day, every day. I have a tendency to stress out, yell loudly and often, and generally lose my cool on a regular basis. I was mentally prepared for 2 months of survival mode, of low expectations and lots and lots of guilt.

But it was actually pretty awesome. We went swimming almost every day. We went on not one, but two road trips. We became even better acquainted with the library. We made our new house our new home.

Devlin and Eve, especially, became great friends. Maybe it's just that they had to present a united front against Iris, who wants to be a Big Kid really, really badly, and is continually all up in everyone's business. Maybe it's my patented, beloved "benign neglect" parenting style. Maybe it's an act of God, to preserve their lives and my sanity. But when those two are home together now, they play together. I can't get them apart. That doesn't mean they always get along, or even get along most of the time. They spend a lot of time "working things out", loudly. But I am satisfied that they are friends. And if that was the only good thing that had come out of this summer, I would be very happy indeed.



Devlin started school last week, although I neglected to document the event until this afternoon. We managed to procure him shirts featuring robots, an astronaut, a pirate ship, and a veritable rainbow of colors. He proclaims his school wardrobe to be "fancy", and especially enjoys pairing these spectacularly obnoxious shorts with his new shirts.



The mother bear in me is delighted to report that he is in very good hands at our local public elementary school. He is proving himself to be not only very bright, but well-liked and a bit of a class clown, in spite of being the youngest. His teacher is a godsend and he is thrilled with his new class. He is already learning cursive and I think he is going to grow by absolute leaps and bounds.



Eve met her preschool teacher today, and her first official day is tomorrow. I don't know what she will learn this year in the Discovery Club, but listening in on her (highly) imaginative solo play today I picked up a couple of new things:

(looking at herself in the mirror) "The waist of your head and your body is your neck".

(playing with seven Barbies under the kitchen table) "This is Odette. That one is Odette too. They are all named Odette. And the horse is Odette".



She's a smart girl. She's officially in school, and out of the little girls' section at Target. I don't know what is happening to my life.

Although I think she wishes she was headed off into the cruel world with her siblings, at least I still have this little meatball to keep me company. I think we'll have some good times this year.

Beach Blanket Whac-A-Mole

Posted by The Wizzle | Posted on Friday, August 6, 2010 at 12:00 AM

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I'm in California. I have a camera, and once in awhile I have time to use it.



Today, we went to the beach. Me, my sister Emily (who very conveniently for me has no children of her own yet and so has boundless energy and patience and two free hands for all of mine) and all three of my water babies. It wasn't as scary as it sounds, because a) Devlin can swim proficiently now and b) Eve is won't go near the ocean. In this photo she is wearing goggles to protect her eyes from the scary saltwater, and she's 30 feet away from the shore. She never took them off.

Our more delicate bathing beauties observe their painted toenails in great detail, from a Very Safe Distance:



So that just leaves Baby Iris in the Dixon Family "Who Will Drown First?" competition. She only got an honorable mention, though, because we managed to pluck her from the undertow each and every time.



This was my first positive beach experience with children. I'm definitely not yet to the point where I can bring a book and work on my tan (lack of attention to my tan, particular in the upper thigh region, duly noted in this photograph). But I can imagine a time - in the future that I am told will be here before I can say Jack Robinson - when that might be the case.

Today was an unqualified success because:

I didn't have to go in the freezing Pacific any deeper than my ankles

I love being almost naked in the great outdoors

Sea air just smells so insanely delicious

My children all had a wonderful time and have declared they want to return the day after we get home

The lovely winding canyon road to Malibu reminded me of my husband

No sand made its way into any of my personal orifices


What will tomorrow bring, on our last day here in the beautiful balmy City of Angels?

In the box

Posted by The Wizzle | Posted on Sunday, August 1, 2010 at 8:26 PM

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We are embarking on yet another adventure tomorrow.

The kids and I are driving to California to visit my sister, the beach, and the Mouse House. Our husbands are both out of town on business this week, and the return to school is looming large. So we're making one last break for it. Between the free Disney tickets, crashing on the floor at my sister's apartment, and planning lots and lots and lots of sack lunches, this is shaping up to be the cheapest vacation in the history of vacations.

I've been packing all day, and I think I've decided that maybe my favorite part of travelling with my children is making them their little homes away from home. I pack a bag for each of them in the car, full of some of their favorite things to keep them (somewhat) busy, happy, and quiet on the long drive. I bring their "special blankets", their favorite stuffed sleeping buddies, and snacks galore: baby carrots by the pound for Devlin, clementines for Eve, and NO RAISINS for Iris.

I love doing this. I just distill the essence of each child into what can fit into a backpack and the pocket on the back of the seat in front of them. It makes me inexplicably happy to see all their things waiting for them on their seats, undisturbed, quiet, with everything good still ahead of us. I love their wildly individual selves, and I love imagining the adventures we will have - tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives.

Happy trails, folks.