Move Over Mary Poppins!

The real life adventures of one nanny, her husband, child, dogs, house, and whatever else crosses her path.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Can You Ever Get Enough of Stories About Dogs and Poop?

The Fallingdown House is never a dull place, even on a lackluster Monday evening on the cusp of July.

It was about quarter past eight. Mark went out to collect the curried chicken thighs from the grill. I was in the kitchen, searing some fresh chard and kale from a friend's farm share in garlic and oil and scooping curried brown rice, barley, and split red lentils from the rice pot. Felix was in his jumper, in the doorway between the kitchen/dining room and the family room, with Maurice and Amelie for an audience.

Imagine my disgust and horror when Mark came in off the deck and howled at Maurice, who was frantically licking Felix's leg. In our busy shuffle to get dinner on the table, we didn't see that Felix's diaper had sprung a leak, and that poop was running down his leg. Onto the pug's head. And the floor. And there are both dogs, eating it up. Mark evacuated the baby to the changing table upstairs, while I cleaned up the floor, the jumper, and the dog's head. I met him upstairs and we stripped, cleaned, and re-diapered Felix.

Dinner was still warm when we got back.

Sometimes I do wonder what has become of my life...

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Truth in Dreaming

Last night I was restless, waking often all night, checking the clock, and listening for Felix before slipping back under again, and it was subsequently a night for broken dreaming.

At one point, I dreamed I was walking, arms around shoulders and waists, with and old friend. Someone with whom I seldom speak and even more rarely see, but of whom I'm still fond. I said, "The most important friendships are the ones that survive even when we do stupid things."

The friend agreed, and we spoke briefly with detached nostalgia about some of our own stupidities, before departing so that I could go searching for someone I needed to find, needed with the urgency of dreaming, but without real cause.

The dream stayed with me all day, as did the truth of the sentiment.


Four Wheeling Starts Early

Last Saturday, Felix spent the morning with my parents while I got my hair trimmed and highlighted (oh, the girliness of me!). During the course of the morning Grampa had to fire up the four wheeler, so Felix got to try it out. Grampa says he liked it. Apparently, he even knew to grab for the keys!

I said, "when should I get his helmet?"


Chocolate Cashew Mousse Torte

Drat that Felix! Again with the distractions from the noble art of blogging...

June 22, 2008

Before I get into the Torte, let me say a few words about culinary content here on MoMP. A few kind people have commented asking for the Cupcake Alligator recipe, and while I'm flattered, I can't comply. I don't feel I can publish or distribute a recipe out here on the interwebs unless it's my own in some way. (In the case of the cupcake alligator, I followed the instructions from
Ladies Home Journal article to the letter.) If I can find an active link to something I've written about, then I will post that. If I've tweaked a recipe into something new, I'll publish it. Otherwise, I'm respectfully leaving other people's culinary business to themselves.

So, two weekends ago was Fabulous T's birthday, and we didn't get to see her until this past Saturday night for our opening deck evening of the season. In honor of her birthday, I elected to make her a cake. So, I grabbed some pages from Martha Stewart Living, February 2008, and wrote up a shopping list for the Cake of the Month.

Let me say this, I always love the concept of MS's recipes, but I seldom agree with the application of techniques. This one was refreshingly almost without technical "huh?" moments, except for the salt. Salted cashews, and an ill advised amount of added salt in pretty much every step. There's the salt that's necessary in baked goods, for flavor balance and whatnot, and then there's the lust appeal for salty-sweet (come here, you Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, you!), and then, there was this cake. I found it only marginally edible, once I imagined the salty flavor before actually taking a bite. Being prepared for the saltiness made it more palatable.

So, should you ever consider this cake, consider the salt beforehand.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Best. Ad. Ever.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gallery of Finished Objects

I've finally hit some kind of stride with my various knitting projects. The whole having a baby thing distracted me right in the middle of a long, and probably over ambitious, list of WIPs. I was bogged down, and the projects loomed over me, casting a pall over my knitting. And who wants a pall over the very hobby that quiets your mind, busies your hands, and fuels your creativity?

So, I chucked them all for a few days, knit up a scarf in a yummy yarn I'd been dying to play with for a friend's birthday, and kick started the rest of my finishing projects. And voila! suddenly things started coming together:
Fibby's Birthday/Graduation/You're the coolest Scarfy GoodnessDashing Fingerless Gloves
Malabrigo Baby Hat for Ayden
Dishcloth Cotton Bib for Elias
Jamie's Christmas Scarf - Yay, Christmas in June!
Dishcloth Mitered Square for Learning Purposes

Now I'm getting back to some long awaiting WIPs, most of which will reveal themselves in good time.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Strawberry Rhubarb Struesel Bars

Dear Readers, Felix distracted his mother the day this was written, and it subsequently did not get published until now. Please forgive him his transgressions, as he's only seven months old and doesn't actually have is act fully together yet. Thank you.

June 12, 2008

Last week there was fresh local rhubarb at a nearby grocery store, and situated as it was, near the yummy strawberries, I bought a few stalks. And a pound of strawberries. I had no specific plans, just an inkling that I should make something springish. Here's the rub: I don't like pie. And pie would be the obvious choice, right? So, I went to my notebook full of magazine clippings and looked for inspiration. What I found was a recipe for Blackberry Crumb Bars from a back issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. I tweaked it a little, and this is what I came up with:

Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel Bars

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, or 325 if you're using a convection oven (as I did), and liberally coat an 8"x8" square baking pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, such that the ends hang out over two opposing sides - this makes it easiest to remove the cake from the pan when it's cooled.

For the Strawberry Rhubarb Compote:

2 good sized stalks of fresh rhubarb, trimmed and stringed
One pound box of fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1/3 c. sugar

Cook the fruit and sugar in over medium low heat until they boil gently and stew together into a chunky compote. Let this cool and thicken a little. It will still be more "wet" than raw fruit, but it will do.

For the Struesel Topping:

6 T. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 t. Kosher salt
1 c. flour

Blend the butter, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Add the flour and mix with a fork until the mixture is a glom of moist clumps. Refrigerate while you make the bar dough.

For the Dough:

3/4 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 stick, or 1/2 c. room temperature butter
1 c. confectioner's sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Sift together the dry ingredients, and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Reduce your speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two additions, and blend until just combined.

Spread the dough evenly (and this is key!) in the pan, pour over the strawberry-rhubarb compote, and top with the struesel topping.

Bake until any the struesel and any visible dough is golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. If you can, find a spot to test where the dough is visible, and look for a toothpick inserted to come out clean. In my convection oven, it took about 35 minutes. In a conventional oven, I'd set a timer for 40 minutes, and go from there if it doesn't look done. It's crucial that the dough be baked through properly, otherwise the wet filling will make it doughy and yuck.

Let the bars cool completely in the pan before removing by lifting out the parchment ends. I cut this into 12 bars, but that's because we're greedy and gluttonous here at my house. I also like them cold, but they're equally yummy at room temperature.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Cleanliness Is Near to Godliness

Is Filth Near to Devilry? Cause this guy's there.

There's the wee buddha cherub...

Sweet, sweet floppy soap mohawk.

Washed, and chewing on Duckie.


Felix Hearts Buffalo Yogurt

LinkBlueberry Buffalo Yogurt from Whole Foods

Felix after a few spoonfuls!

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Thursday, June 19, 2008


I have one friend who is searching for that perfect job, and one friend who's family is considering relocating for her career. I suggest they all chuck their plans and force a hostile takeover on this company, or just buy out the brand from Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group, while relocating it to New England. Who cares if coffee has no relevance to any of their chosen careers? I know at least one of them has a deep appreciation for a strong cup of the brew. I think there's a future here.
Chase & Sanborn was first established in 1878 and was the first to pack and ship roasted coffee in sealed tins. Today, the brand continues its tradition of quality for value by offering consumers desirable coffee quality at an affordable price.



I Want Some, Too

Yesterday, Felix and I drove the kids to their grandparents' summer home in New Hampshire, and while we were in the Granite State, I decided to crash in on some friends who had a baby about a month ago. After all, who doesn't love a new baby?

So, there we are, visiting on the couch, and my friend starts to nurse. At a month old, you're lucky to get a break from nursing, but at seven months, Felix has pretty predictable needs. And at that moment, a meal wasn't really one of them. But almost as soon as the sucking started, Felix looks at me with a big grin, and starts rooting around my shirt.

Clearly a case of, "I want some, too!"

Babies really are clever wee things.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Women Under Sail, or Google Is My Stalker

I was just over at a friend's blog commenting about piracy and other sailing related things. I navigated to another post and glanced at the Ads by Google Box, and it said:

Women Under Sail
Sailing Classes for Women along the
beautiful Coast of Maine

I felt targeted. Specifically. It was creepy, and cool. Like Google was my stalker.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Focus Tighter to Enjoy Your Front Yard

Our house is a fixer upper, in the extreme. Currently, there's no front porch, so we're using the kitchen door (conveniently also on the front of the house) until such time as Mark gets the porch built. I'm not sure where on the list it falls, but it's pretty low priority as far as I'm concerned.

I know we're a candidate for Desperate Landscapes, but I mostly just shrug it off. We've got big plans. And plans take time and money. Our neighbors will just have to be patient for a few years.

Occasionally, though, I have to look for the bright side. My mom has been very generous with her perennials. She divides most springs, and she gives me plant halves of almost everything. In three springs, I've acquired some nice flower beds. I've added hostas, day lilies, primrose, purple sage, and iris to the property, all visible from the street. June is the best month for my perennial gardens, and this is how I get through the ugly rest of the year:

The crazy-ass rose bush by the kitchen door.

My great-grandmother's primroses, many generations later.


So, I just have to focus in on the small beauty, and let my vision glaze over the powder blue vinyl, the rock debris piles, the tarped siding, the encroaching weeds, and the porchless front door. I know it will all come together one of these days.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tomatoes: Strong Like Bull

A few weeks ago, Veronique gave me three tomato seedlings. My understanding is that these seedlings came from actual seeds from actual tomatoes that they bought and didn't finish eating, but she'll have to comment to clarify. I was in a hurry, so she wrapped them together in damp paper towel, and they traveled home to the Ham in a Whole Foods plastic bag (which is, of course, now an antique!). I put the whole traveling bag-plant-thingy on my back deck with every intention of buying some organic growing material the very next day, but what do you know, life got in the way.

Two weeks later, I finally managed to get the plants into a lovely outdoor pot that we got for our wedding, hand thrown by a friend of the gifter. Yes, they lived for two weeks in a plastic bag.

Then, just as I get them safely into a pot, we have a heat wave. Five days of hazy,. hot, and humid, with temperatures in the 90's. Suffice it to say it was unseasonable weather. Yikes.

But, though small, here they are, two of the original three seedlings, growing!


Friday, June 06, 2008

"You Gotta Sing the Face Wiper Song!"

It's funny, the things that stick in a child's brain. I learned pretty early on in my nannying career that Mary P. was right about the spoonful of sugar. One of the sweeteners for me was always making cleaning up a messy baby's face after a meal a humorous event. With Felix, I somehow got the Cliff Hanger theme song in my head, and adpated the lyrics for my own silly purposes. More on that later.

Now, despite my having a pretty decent, and decently trained, if rusty, set of vocal chords, O doesn't like it when I sing. I don't know why, and he's not telling, but perversely, I don't always stop just because he doesn't want me to sing. Especially in the car. I'm the Driver, and the Driver is an absolute authority, as far as I'm concerned.

This afternoon, while I was swiping off sweet potatoes and zwieback cracker schmear from my wee cherub's face, I skipped the song. I was in a hurry, and I just didn't sing. Felix complained, as usual, about the clean up, and I said to him, "Felix, we do this at least three times every day, can't we do it once without complaining?"

O looks at me, and says, "You gotta sing the face wiper song!"

And so, together (and when did he internalize my stupid lyrics?), we sang:

Face Wiper!
Wiping off your face!
And that's why I'm called Face Wiper!

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Witching Hour

Felix had what can only be described as a teething induced psychotic break this evening, during the time period my mother refers to as the "witching hour." The exact parameters of the witching hour are a little different for every family, but in general it's the no man's land surrounding dinner and bedtime on a school night. Playtime is winding down, it's not yet bedtime, suddenly, the caregivers have a lot to do, less time than they'd like to get it all done, and the kids still haven't expended enough physical energy, despite levels of psychological fatigue that approach exhaustion. Add any extra volatile emotions, unexpected guests, miscellaneous head bonks, or a teething baby and you have a sweating, keening, rocking puddle of a mother/father/nanny/auntie/gramma/sitter/whatever on your hands. A freezie, some homeopathic teething tablets, and finally a dose of infant Tylenol, and the little man calmed down enough to fall asleep, but not before spewing all over a carpet and two upholstered chairs, tearing out a chunk of my hair that may have contained actual flesh, and biting the breast that feeds him. Hard.

Find me a mother who says she's never wanted to turn away from the horrible, ugly monster she's dealing with and just keep walking until she found herself on a sun drenched different continent populated by scantily clad manservant types who love her ample ass and thighs and I'll show you a liar.

Parenting, no matter how you do it, is the hardest job out there. It's dirty, you never get a break because your work worries follow you wherever you go, even when the kids aren't with you. No one can work under those conditions without experiencing a gut level need to either run or completely lose your shit. Most of us would choose neither, I know, but in my case the fantasy keeps me from going postal.

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