Tag Archives: mothering

Holiday Baking Panic

My Pear Brandy Applesauce

As I’ve written before on this blog, I am not much of a baker.  Mostly it’s because I’m too stubborn to follow directions (I know, my loss.)   I like to riff on recipes, and that can work beautifully on the stove-top, but not so much when it comes to measuring out ingredients that make things rise and lift and puff.  So this time of year, I do things like make applesauce and add pear brandy to it and think pretty highly of myself. 

NOT my Bouche de Noel

Yesterday, at school pick up, one of my children announced, inbetween “can we go get ice cream,” and “my boots fell apart and I had to duct tape them together, but that’s okay, they look pretty cool that way because I used purple duct tape”….this little benign morsel of holiday cheer: “We’re having a party in French class tomorrow, and I promised my teacher I’d bring a Bouche de Noel (otherwise known as a Yule Log– you know, with the meringue mushrooms.) That’s what I get for addicting myself, and consequently my family, to the Food Network.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said. This after an entire day wrapping presents and putting up garlands. Fun in theory, until your back starts to hurt, and you start swearing at tape dispensers and can’t find the scissors for the fiftieth time. “You want to make a Bouche de Noel TONIGHT?” Yup, those little eyes begged from the back seat right there in my rearview mirror. Ugh.

Bouche de Noel is one of those things that I’ve planned on making one day. Like, when I have grandchildren or need to impress a visiting queen or something. It involves layering and rolling and whimsy and frosting prowess– things I aspire to have one day. But not last night. Last night I wanted to pour out a glass of vino and lie on the couch by the fire and watch old Christmas musicals like White Christmas. Still, I’m a sucker for the word “Yes” when it comes to delivering in the way of homemade goodies and my children’s wildest dreams…so to the grocery store we went (mind you, I’d just been to Costco, something I dread– I have a hard time with the smells of hotdogs and radial tires comingling).

And you know…sometimes you just can’t be that homemade kinda gal– not this time of year– not when you start to resent this season that is supposed to be about love and giving and receiving and “dreaming,” as my father used to say with a tear in his eye, gazing up at the Christmas tree. So I gave myself a colossal break– grabbed the Betty Crocker and the pre-made frosting and the whipped cream in a can and called it good.

My child said, “Oh, I feel kind of sad, not making it from scratch. We’ve never made a box cake before. It won’t be made with love.” Tough crackers, I wanted to say, but instead I said something like, “Well sometimes you need to give yourself a break. It’ll still be made with love. It’s all in the intention.” Then I grabbed another box of cake mix just in case, because I had zero confidence in this “loving” endeavor.

I’d seen Tyler Florence make a Bouche de Noel recently on TV and I recalled needing to make a sheet cake, and then cut it in half making thin layers to cover in whipped cream and roll. (maybe we could just get a bunch of Ho-hos and line them up, yes? No.) I remember something about the dough needing to be especially springy and moist (my least favorite word). It said right there on the box: “Moist.” This, as a result of putting the called for cup of vegetable oil into your cake mix, and no, not EVOO. So I grabbed a bottle of Wesson oil– something I hadn’t seen since about 1972. And off we went.

After dumping out two attempts, a few hours later, this is what we came up with. Not so bad. My kid made little French flags taped to toothpicks instead of woodland meringues and we smiled at each other, pleased. “You’re a lot different than you used to be,” he said. “You used to be more Martha Stewart-ish.” It’s true. “It’s important to have range,” I said. Thank you, in this case, Betty Crocker.

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Filed under Food, Motherhood, My Posts

When you let go…


A friend and I were talking yesterday about how we want so much to “happen” in our family lives. That we have a hard time seeing any value in sitting around watching TV on a weekend day when there is so much to experience out there in the world. I used to be one who tried to impose this opinion of mine on my family. But I’ve learned that it only makes things worse. Begets even MORE TV watching. And what I’ve come to find is that really, it’s only a temporary thing. It’s not like they watch TV 24/7. It’s just a way for them to wind down after the long work/school week. We’re very active people, curious and creative by nature, always on the move. Sitting quietly watching TV now and then isn’t going to fry anyone’s brain or undo all those beautiful memories I’ve tried so hard to inspire. It’s a way for them to feel safe and even bond. How is it different than sitting on a boat fishing, for instance? Or in a duck blind? How is active always better than passive? I have found that the more I let go of active being the “right” way, the more active they become. This, for instance, happened last weekend. Log peeling for our friend’s cabin in the woods.
Lessons lessons, everywhere…when you let go.

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Filed under Little Hymns to Montana, My Posts

New York Times "Lives" Column

On my side of the Rockies: (looking east)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25lives-t.html?hpw

This is a dream come true for me. I’ve been dreaming about getting in the back page of the NYT Mag since I was just out of college. I’m currently in a part of Montana which has never seen a NYT, and probably doesn’t care or know the difference, but I will be driving over this same “ribbon of a highway” depicted in my essay this Sunday publication day, and will be privately smiling…and so will provide some visuals. I took these on my way over. Lewis and Clark and me. yrs. Laura

On the other side of the Rockies:




This is what they saw in the distance looking west…can you imagine? And I just drive my Suburban over it, home in time for dinner?


Lots of squashed bugs. Lots of wonder beyond.

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Filed under City Hits, Little Hymns to Montana, Motherhood, My Posts

Summer Rules

I did it. I made a NO TV rule today. One week into summer and I was actively watching my children’s brains melt as they stared at what my grandmother referred to as “the idiot box.” I’m not proud of it. But maybe like you, I have work to do. I can’t be on full mom mode, or chauffeur mode, or camp councelor mode. I can’t be at the beck and call of the whim’s of teenaged texted plans: Can you take me to the beach, no to the bowling alley, no to the tennis courts, no to the mall? And I feel guilty and even a little scared of the next two months because my work place during the day, is suddenly a house full of kids with needs. Who can get pretty ornery when they’re not met. Even though I know that they’re great kids. Everyone says so. I’ve actually caught myself saying, “Would you speak to your teacher that way,” like a broken record. But it’s not their fault that they live here and that they need to eat and that it’s rained all week and that they don’t yet drive. So yes…I’ve been letting them watch a LOT of TV. Hours of Disney dizziness and tacky reality shows that make me shudder with shame. I’m what’s wrong with the world. So today, when in between conference calls I heard screaming and a loud thwack and crying and I ran into the living room watching remote controls flying through the air, I laid down the law. With fear and trepidation, I said it: “NO MORE TV!” And “NO, I can’t drive you anywhere. I have to work. This is what I do all day while you’re at school. And you’re going to have to figure out something to do…” (and then I chose my fate)… “TOGETHER!” And I confiscated the remote controls and stomped back to my office, shaking a little. These kids are old enough to really know how to push my buttons– that’s what their generation knows how to do best, after all. Rapid fire communication through little spring-loaded launch pads, and with the total system overload of what just a week ago was a well-oiled schedule from work to motherhood…I am a faulty launch pad and they know it. So I took in a deep breath and waited.

And lo…what I heard was silence. And then discussion. And then more silence. And then laughing. For an entire hour. And finally, I crept into the living room to see what could possibly be going on– had they deliberately disobeyed me and turned on the TV? Has my sovereign reign as their mother weakened in the knees? Did I need to adjust my crown and raise my sceptor and banish them to their bedrooms with books for eternity? I readied myself:

Here is what befell my eyes…

There is hope in Park Place.

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