Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cakes Amuck

Every now and then I get the urge to be domestic. Not that I'm not domesticated, it's just that I kind of suck at the whole Martha Stewart thing. My house isn't filthy but it's not exactly spick and span either. My meals are sufficient to keep one alive and most of the time they are tasty but they don't come with perfect place settings or garnishes. My baking is good but sometimes not too appealing to the eye.

I am only human after all.

But I greatly enjoy doing sweet things for my family (mainly my husband seeing as my son can't quite munch on cookies yet).

I decided to make an apple spice cake.

I got all my ingredients together, whipped them up according to the recipe, greased the pans, poured the mix, put them in the oven and even did the dishes while I was waiting for the cake to bake.

I was feeling very accomplished.

Even when the cakes came out super moist and done to perfection I think I was coming to the stage of pride before the fall because next it was time to assemble the cake.

I plopped one cake on the pie server and topped with the apple pie filling like the recipe suggested and when I went to get the other cake out of the pan I was distressed to see it tear down the middle.

No big deal, I thought. I'll just ice it together and no one will know.

But then the top started to give way with the icing. The two halves of the top started to slip to either side and another piece broke.

I tried to work as fast as I could but before I knew it icing was all over me, I had used three different icing tools and the cake looked like someone had dropped it on the floor, picked it up and stuck their fist in it for spite.

My husband came in and looked at my cake and started laughing.

"I'm not laughing at you, dear, but...." laughter cut him off.

I told him to grab a plate quick because if I didn't serve him a piece I was going to end up serving pieces of the cake from the floor as it continued to fall to pieces.

"Hold on," he said, and disappeared back into the living room and coming back with the camera. "We need to take a picture of this."

I've only ever made one cake before and that was for my husband's birthday almost three years ago and it wasn't nearly as complicated (I know you seasoned cake-makers are laughing at my use of the word "complicated").

Either way, we both had a hulking piece of delicious, though ugly, spice cake last night.

I promised Garrett his birthday cake would be prettier.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lawn and Garden

Why does it seem I get stuck with all of the "guy" stuff?

With spring having sprung we have some serious yard work to do. There are patches in the lawn that are missing grass, shrubs to be trimmed, leaves and debris to be raked from under the porch, the back of bushes, etc.

Having never had a lawn before we have absolutely no lawn care equipment.

My shopping list this morning looked like this:

Olive Oil
Grass Seed
Green Pepper
Italian Dressing
Lawn Tiller Thingy

The onion, olive oil, green pepper and Italian dressing were pretty easy but once I got to the hardware store I was standing in the aisle, rocking Garrett's stroller back and forth and staring with slack-jawed amazement at just how many rakes man had deemed necessary to create.

I asked an employee for assistance and after he asked me a few questions he said, "We have a rake over here that changes sizes." He picked up this adorable (can rakes be adorable) little silver thing and throwing a lever he adjusted the width of the prongs from wide to narrow.

It was cool. I was sold. Whether or not it is what I need is yet up for interpretation.

Next, it was off to find fertilizer and grass seed.

I turned the corner and once again I was astounded by how many different brands and kinds of seed and fertilizer that were available.

Looking in vain for the bag that said, "BUY ME, YOU MORON!" I settled on a bag of grass seed that claimed to be 99.9% free of weeds and had mulch and fertilizer included.

Sounded pretty idiot proof to me.

"Lawn tiller thingy," I mused.

What the heck is a "lawn tiller thingy" and why do I need one?

I'm sure I had good reason for putting it on my list but I couldn't remember anymore. In my ignorance of lawn care I don't think I have to dig up the soil to plant some grass seed.

I read the back of the bag of seed. The instructions said to rake the area bare and add the seed. HAHA.. I have a cool rake with which to do that so I don't need a lawn tiller thingy.

On my way to the check out I passed a kiosk filled with garden seeds. Cucumbers, tomatoes, spices, green peppers, pumpkins, squash, all beckoned to me in their brightly colored packaging.

I picked up a package of basil and images of a beautifully lush garden with shining, healthy, organic fruits and vegetables danced in my head.

There I was with a little straw hat and delicate gloves filling a wicker basket to the brim with masterfully home-grown goods. Oh, and there I was snipping fresh spices to add to delicious dishes, slicing my plump green peppers and mouth-watering carrots.

As I poised the package of basil over my shopping basket I looked up and saw the aisle of gardening tools. There were scoops, rakes, claws, hooks, tillers, soil, sprays of all shapes, sizes, warnings and cautions, doodly-wobles and snookle-tunkers... yeah, all that stuff I can't even name.

The happy images of happy gardening were banished with floating dollar signs and more ominous images of digging and weeding and spraying and sickly looking produce not fit for anything but a mulch heap.

I put the basil back in the kiosk and silently thanked God for reminding me I wasn't ready to take on a garden. One day, maybe, I'll satisfy the pleasant images of cooking with my own-grown vegetables and herbs but not until I master lawn care.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yard Work and Tears

The problem with being a wife who stays at home, alone, with a young child, is that when duty calls she has to somehow balance doing that duty and taking care of a baby.

Some women excel at this.

I suck at it.

There is a pile of leaves that has accumulated on the driveway on the north side of the house. From melting snow, rain and the freeze, thaw, freeze of early Iowa spring, they have somewhat glued themselves in place.

I got inspired to unglue them!

I thought of everything.

First, I fed the baby so he wouldn't get hungry in the middle of my work. Then, I took his play-saucer outside and set it up on the driveway, in the shade so he could play and still keep an eye on Mommy.

Next, I set out the rake, trash bags and broom so that I wouldn't have to go inside and leave my son alone in the middle of the driveway.

Finally, I pulled back my hair, put on my work shoes, dressed my son in a sweater and took him outside.

Settling him down in his play saucer I tinkered with him for a few minutes enjoying his laughs and coos and giggles.

Having established that he was quite happy I picked up the rake and started in on the leaves.

The moment the rake hit cement the siren sounded. And when I say siren I mean I heard that slow, startled screech that is my son's most violent cry, reserved only for the times when he is scared out of his mind. And a 4-month-old's mind is easily scared.

I turned to see him clinging to his teething keys, face distorted in the most preciously devastating scowl on the earth, tears already forming and falling down his cheeks.

The noise had frightened him.

I rushed to him and scooped him out of his saucer and he clung to me for comfort. A few soothing words, some pats to the back, a couple dozen kisses and at least six good hugs and my boy was smiling again but it was clear that the raking was over before it even really began.

Instead, we sat on the driveway and I let him touch the rake and the leaves, the grass, the buds on the bushes in the front yard, the fence in the back yard.

I explained that leaves grow on trees and in the fall the leaves fall off of the trees and we have to pick them up to keep our yards looking pretty.

I never did finish raking up the leaves in the driveway. The rake, broom, bags and even the play saucer are still out there.

In the grand scheme of things, I'd rather watch my son discover the world than rake anyway.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Home Repairs: WIFE STYLE

So, when there's a crack in the back door letting in copious amounts of freezing cold air (and letting out all of my warm air) and the plumbing under the sink is going out, what do you do?

Those are MAN jobs, right? I mean, my job is to cook, sweep, do laundry, you know, girl stuff.

But, when the hubs is out making a living for the family sometimes us gals have to get creative.

I don't know the first thing about plumbing. All I know is that every time I run the water in my kitchen sink I have to make sure there is a bucket underneath of the drain to catch all the run-off water. But, hey, I'm a smart gal, I can learn.

I stick my head under the sink and have a look around.

I turn on the water to get a sense of where exactly the problem is.

As the water bubbles out over a connector in a pipe I'm having fun turning it this way and that, making it worse, temporarily making it better, making it worse again.

My bucket is filling up nicely.

Then, HAHA. If I hold it JUST LIKE THIS, no more leak. But I very well can't stay under my kitchen sink for the next week and a half until someone comes to assist me (unless, by some miracle, God gives my four-month-old the sudden dexterity, understanding, desire and plumbing skills necessary to lend aide to his mother).

I look at Garrett. Nope, he's happily grinning away in his high-chair, sucking on his teething keys.

It's all up to you, Mommy.

I let go. Water rushes over the connector and into my bucket.

Because I've spent way to much time around Marines I can have a very colorful vocabulary when the time calls for it.

This time called for it.

My son laughs.

But, all hope is not lost. My husband has somewhat of an obsession with zip-ties. You know, the little plastic loopy-things that make GREAT make-shift handcuffs.

I run off and grab the whole bag. This is, after all, a serious repair.

Three zip-ties, a few more curse words, some creative angling, grunting and growling and VIOLA! no more leaking. I'm not sure what my husband will be more proud of, the fact that I fixed the leak or that I used zip-ties to do it with.

Now, on to the door.

First, a little back story.

When we bought the house the back door was not-so-cleverly sealed off with paint as it was not necessary. A beautiful set of french doors to the left of the back door made a sufficient entrance. At least the paint did a good enough job that it kept the winter air out and the heated air in and that was pretty much all I cared about.

However, when it came time to get a washing machine into the basement the only option was the back door. My husband went to work one afternoon, chipping away the paint and then ramming his shoulder into the door like you see in bad kung-fu movies until it finally gave way.

I hear a crash, LOTS of thudding on the stairs and a final, rather ominous finale of a boom in the basement followed by, "Umm, honey, I got the door open."

I figured as much.

The washing machine was dilivered, and we tried shutting the back door only to realize that there is no weather sealing or even a doorknob with which to keep the weather out.

It was a sunny day, it didn't matter.

Then my husband leaves and the temperature drops.

Not only can I see day-light coming through every crack around this door, but walking past it is like walking through a cold-air wind-tunnel. I don't even want to know how much energy we are wasting by having this door unsealed. Not to mention that when I sit in my rocking chair with my son I can feel the gusts of cold air sweeping over both of us and the heater kicking on for the one-hundredth time that hour.

This needs to be addressed.


Hey, it works for everything else, why not a back door?

Out into a bitter-cold April morning I go with duct tape in hand. I tape off all cracks from the outside then rush in and stand over a heating vent for ten minutes before I take masking tape (it's prettier and matches the paint on the door better) to the cracks on the inside.

To my delight, it works!

I have not felt a single draft from that door all day and walking past it induces no chills, fevers, sniffles or pnumonia.

It looks ugly as sin and soon I will demand that it is properly caulked off or, better yet, just made into a wall with real insolation and everything, but for now, duct tape works.

I'm on a roll. Next up? The breaks on the car.....

The Husband is Away, The Wife Will... What?

My husband travels for his job. Not a horrible amount but enough to make things a bit more interesting.

He used to be in the Marine Corps. That's where we met. That's when we fell in love. I got very used to absences, waiting for him, loving him from afar, learning to love being alone.

When he became a civilian we vainly hoped that it would mean the last of his travels.

HAHA.. Not so.

He got a civilian job that required him to travel more than he ever did for the military. I coped, just like I did while he was in the military.

And here we are. Four years and one kid later and I'm still coping.

The funny thing about being the wife of a civilian traveler is that people don't seem to give a crap. Tell people your husband is away on training or a deployment for the military and you'll get more support and encouragement than you could even imagine. Tell someone your husband's gone for a month on a civilian job and you might get an, "Awww, that's too bad." People seem to be under the impression that wives who give up their husbands for civilian jobs don't miss them as much as those who give them up to government ones.

Having had it both ways, let me be the first to say that the bed is just as empty, the things that are too heavy to be moved stay in their spot, the house feels just as alone, the things that need to be fixed are still in need or repair, the phone still can't replace the hugs and kisses. The loneliness is the same.

My husband and I used to tease that he should go back in the Marines so that we could see each other again. He tried the Reserves for a while, but it just wasn't the Corps he had known and loved. For him it was an all or nothing thing. He wanted to be there for his children so he went back to civilian life.

I'd shudder to say that he's not here for his son because he is. He loves his little boy with every fiber of his being and he's here when he can be, but sometimes he can't be.

And this is how I get things off my chest. Writing is how I figure things out, laugh at myself, share my experience, heal when necessary.

So here I am, a wife, home alone with our son, trying to make the best of it.