Friday, November 21, 2014

The power of the parental lie

When I was little, like maybe 7 or 8 years old, my parents went away on vacation.

To Hawaii.
Without us.

My sister and I were very confused.  Our family always went places together.  This was beyond mystifying. We pestered them with questions.

Where is Hawaii?  
How are you going to get there? 
How long are you going to be gone?

And most importantly,

Why can't we go, too?

Our parents patiently answered every one.

Hawaii is in the middle of the ocean, on the other side of California.
We are going on an airplane.
Seven days.

And then they told the world's greatest whopper.

We're going to go by ourselves first, to make sure Hawaii is fun for kids.

Well, that makes total sense, we agreed contentedly. As children who'd been subjected to many adult-oriented Washington dinner parties and boring work events, we knew all about stuff that was no fun for kids. Mom and Dad were doing us a favor by leaving us behind.  We cheerfully waved good-bye and waited for their report.

A week later, they returned home, literally glowing with happiness.  It turns out that when they landed in Hawaii, beautiful ladies gave them wreaths of flowers.  The beach was right in front of their hotel, they gushed.  The water was as warm as a bathtub, with little colorful fish swimming and swirling around their toes.  There were hula dancers and drinks with umbrellas and a swimming pool with a huge curvy water slide. They ate pineapple every single morning and it was spectacularly delicious.

We stared at them in awe.

Then, they opened up the luggage, and gave each of us a giant lei made entirely of candy bars.

Awe turned to skeptical disbelief*.

Hawaii seems like A LOT of fun for kids.

Our suspicions were well founded. My parents never did take us there**. But when I finally got to go as a grown up, one of the best things about the trip was indeed having pineapple for breakfast every single morning.

It is spectacularly delicious.

Fresh Pineapple with Mint and Tajin | Cheesy Pennies

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Care Packages

I don't know about you, but when I was in college, there was nothing more exciting than seeing a flash of pink peeking through the little window in your PO box.

The slip that meant: YOU HAVE A PACKAGE.

It meant a brown paper box with Mom's neat handwriting on it and stamps clustered in the corner was waiting for you behind the counter.  It would be filled with homemade treats, a clever note, a forgotten special something.  The goodies would be shared, of course, but the feeling of being unexpectedly touched by home was a magically selfish thrill.  Everyone else at the post office would look on enviously, waiting for their own miracle package slip to appear*.

Of course, that was a long time ago.  Before Amazon Prime and drone deliveries.  Before FedEx. Before email and Skype and the Internet.  Before parents and kids could text and talk with unlimited minutes any old time they wanted to.  Times have seriously changed.

I'm all for convenience and online everything, but when this company sent a brochure touting their "automated care package delivery service",  my heart broke just a little.

Then I shredded the damn flyer and started baking.  No kid of mine was going to get a pre-made box of corporate crap.  He was going to get a good, old fashioned, Mom-turned-on-the-oven-and-then-went-to-the-actual-post-office-so-I-could-get-a pink-slip-in-the-mailbox** kind of day.

I sent his favorite chocolate chip cookies*** and waited for the grateful call.
Instead, he posted this tweet.

Upstaged by my daughter's two second strike of the pen.  Hrumph.

Then I sent deep dark chocolate brownies****

Deep dark chocolate brownies | Cheesy Pennies

I got this text:

Not exactly gushing.

I sent brown butter cookie brittle with mini chocolate chips*****

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle | Cheesy Pennies


But when I sent this pre-packaged corporate crap for Halloween?

Assorted Halloween Candy | Cheesy Pennies

I get this:

Too bad, kid.  These are on the way.******

Halloween Candy Oatmeal Cookies | Cheesy Pennies

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spontaneous Pumpkin Cream Cheese Hand Pies

The plan was to make soup and salad for dinner tonight.  Then I went to Trader Joe's and this happened*.

No. Wait.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Hand Pie | Cheesy Pennies

Hand Pies. I meant Hand Pies happened.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sausage and Kale...for Days!

-- From UrbanDictionary.

I'm not normally a "for days" kind of person, especially when it comes to food*.  But once I stumbled onto this combination?

Sausage and Quick Braised Kale | Cheesy Pennies

I was hooked.

It's this crazy, easy mix of spicy, hearty sausage and quickly braised kale.  I literally eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  With eggs, rice, pasta, soup or just in a bowl for a snack.  It's scarily healthy, since you use lean turkey sausage and cook out nearly all of the fat.  Then there's kale, the perfect slightly bitter foil for the salty warm sausage.  Kale is ridiculously good for you of course, but you'll forget all that once it soaks up the lemon juice and all those spices and becomes tender and delicious and perfect.

Yep. I got killer meals FOR DAYS, people!

Sausage and Kale with Brown Rice | Cheesy Pennies

Of course, it may last that long because my husband won't touch the stuff**.

Dad wants to eat the lawn | Cheesy Pennies

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Little Mouse and the Medium Sized Loaf of Pumpkin Bread

Many of my kids' favorite bedtime picture books featured adorable furry mice.


With all the changes around here, I'm feeling quite nostalgic for those simple cuddly times, so today's blog post will also feature a story with an adorable furry mouse.

Nibble, nibble little mouse.
On all the stuff outside my house.

Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Bread | Cheesy Pennies
But if you touch this pumpkin bread

I'll feed you to this monster head.

The End.

Too dark? Not bleak enough for today's jaded three year olds?
I can't decide.  At least not without therapy.

I do know that this moist, sweet and spicy pumpkin bread is just right for everyone.  

Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Bread Sliced | Cheesy Pennies

Monday, October 6, 2014

There are no words

I can't put down in words what it is like to have a dog in your life.

Especially this dog.

I could try "love".

But that wouldn't even come close to how wonderful it feels.  

It's like this:

And this:

Mixed together.

It is even harder to put down in words what it is like to not have a dog in your life.
Especially this dog.

I could say, "He had cancer."
I could say, "It came on very fast."
I could say, "We spoiled him like crazy and tried everything we could and hoped against hope that he would be OK somehow or at least not leave us quite yet and seized on every optimistic word and decided that since he still smiled whenever he was around us and liked those little chicken treats even when he wouldn't eat anything else and he had that familiar bounce in his step when he left the doctor and he knew I'd be home in two days and that the chemo was helping, they said it was helping god damn it, that because of all that he shouldn't die in his sleep, in the night, all alone, and be found very still, very cold, outside our bedroom door in the morning."

I could say, "I miss him so much I can't breathe."

But those words wouldn't even come close to how gut-wrenchingly miserable this feels. The keyboard is so wet with tears right now that I'm surprised it's still functioning.

I'm a little surprised I'm still functioning, too.

I say to myself, "He's OK now. "
I say to myself, "He was lucky to suffer so little, and to go at home in peace with his family nearby."
I say to myself, "Read that Rainbow Bridge poem. Believe the hell out of it."

None of those words do a damn thing for me.  I've tried. I hear them. I repeat them. I keep trying.

Finally, I say to myself, "He knew he was loved every single day of his life. Even the very last one. And you should be thankful for all of those days.  You were lucky, so lucky, to have him."

Finally, those are the only words that help.

Today would have been his 8th birthday. RIP Blackjack.  

Click here to read the collection of Blackjack stories from the blog.
Click here to see the beautiful website that my niece made in Blackjack's honor.
And to everyone who has been so very kind with words of comfort and compassion, with shared memories and shared deep grief, those words and hugs and thoughts have been appreciated beyond belief.  The measure of a great soul is how many people felt its presence, and by this yardstick, my goofy, gentle, sweet giant puppy had one of the greatest.  
Please click back here to check on me later.  I'm really hoping to feel better soon.