I Love You, I Love You, I Love You

coffee

I’m not talking to Mike or even the kids.  No.  I’m talking to my coffee.

And I’m not even exaggerating.  I love my morning cup of coffee with milk, no sugar.  It is a sincere, profound, need-based love that I treasure and celebrate every single day.

My coffee loves me to.  I can tell by the way it wafts into my eager nostrils, and the way it warms my mouth and belly as the caffeine washes up to my brain erasing the cobwebs and clutter that linger from my night’s sleep.  Thank you, coffee.  Thank you.  I love you.

I can’t drink more than two cups each morning.  Too much caffeine makes Michelle jittery and has the “Marcia Brady” effect whereby I start signing up for too many volunteer assignments (come to think of it, this may have something to my recent two year stint as PTA President, but I digress…)

I don’t eat a thing until at least the first half of a cup has had a chance to permeate my cells.  Nothing can get in the way of my completely socially acceptable morning addiction.

As I grip–notice the way my hand tenderly yet firmly embraces this warm cup of happy–and raise the mug to my smiling lips, I know that at the very least, the next 3 minutes are going to be A-OK.

p.s. Check me out on Hometown Pasadena all week!  The Mangiamo section features my fab (and easy) recipe for summer fruit crisp!

Say “Hello” To My Little Friends…

melons

Summer melons from my local farmers market.  Want to make me smile?  This should do it.

We’ve been enjoying some summer excursions–which have been a total blast–that have caused us to miss our weekly fave farmers market–which is a total drag.  But this week we were in town!

From time to time I post my treasured farmers market produce for your viewing enjoyment.  This photo features the famous hand of my farmers market sidekick, Josie.  She wanted me to say that.

I am not one of those healthy-foody-type gurus who make people feel guilty by saying things like “You should really be buying your produce from a local farmers market.”

There are high points in every growing season, though.  Right now is one of those moments.  Summer fruits and vegetables are at a real peak in So-Cal.   Besides these gorgeous melons, stone fruit (peaches, plums, etc…), tomatoes and green beans are also in a real state of cha-cha.

If you haven’t been to a farmers market in a while, my advice for well rounded summer bucket list is to hit one in the next three to four weeks.  In other words: You should really by buying your produce from a local farmers market!  Maybe not every week, all your produce, all the time, as a life style.  If that ain’t your gig; fine.  I’m not judging.

However, if you don’t get your hands on one of these farmers market melons soon, I’m here to tell ya: you will be missing out on a real treat.

ANTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ant

This is an ant.  While we were away for 9 days this ant came to visit two cupboards in my house with TEN THOUSAND of his closest friends.  They found my honey jar (Think “fly paper.”  Too gross to share photo.  No joke.)  They found a dang Tootsie Pop that had been forgotten behind some cans of beans.

They marked a four foot trail from the back door to the pantry for so many days that all the Mother Nature-friendly methods of detouring them were almost tossed out the window before I even began.  Just so I could say I tried I put down some cinnamon and drew a thick line of chalk, used a few squirts of Windex and (after removing nearby food and appliances) and then wiped up the dead masses of ants.  I came back 5 (five!!!) minutes later and they had already returned.

I brought out the big guns: Toxic ant spray stuff that I hate to use.  I used it.  They returned. Again.

I teach my children to respect nature.  “Even the critters that seem unpleasant to us serve a purpose for our planet,” I tell them.  I tossed that notion right out the window by my third go on these intruders.

I hate these ants so much I cursed at them!  I did it!  Yes!  I hate them so much I began to take pleasure in their demise.  I fantasized about a magnifying glass and a ray of sunlight.  Then a blow torch.  Then a flame thrower.  Now we’re talkin’…  Go away you stupid little things that serve some purpose somewhere but are not serving any purpose here!  Go away I say!!!

I scrubbed my floors and sprayed one last time and this time I left their tiny little corpses as a warning to any of their ants that may be peering up from whatever crack in my 100-year-old-house’s walls from whence they are coming.  TAKE THAT!  THIS WILL BE YOU IF YOU COME INTO MY HOUSE AGAIN!!!  IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT!!?? I DON’T THINK SO!!!!!!!

As I was scrubbing I couldn’t help shake the sensation that I had ants crawling on my arms!  Yipes!  Every hair that brushed my forehead made me twitch and flinch.  Ahhhh!!  I keep imagining them on my body.  Was that one!?  What about that!?

I have checked back and I don’t see any more ants.  I have a fan set up blowing the poisoned air out the door.  Gross.  For now, I will rest.  But just in case any of you (ants, that is) are reading this post over my shoulder: I will come after you again if I have to.

Gee Your Garage Smells Terrific

garage crock

So I recently mentioned that So-cal weather is ridiculously gorgeous.  This is true.  However, we are entering the two months (give or take) of the year where the heat up here in the foothills of Pasadena gets just a tad oppressive.  I’m not complaining (yet) but I do seek out some alternative food prep methods keep my kitchen from getting even hotter.

Here you see my crock pot simmering away on the shelf in the garage.  I threw some ribs in this little honey the other day but couldn’t stand the thought of the heat that would be gently permeating my personal space.  Enter: garage crock!

I also put my rice cooker out here if I use it on hot days.  Who wants a bunch of steam blasting around the kitchen when it’s 100 degrees outside?  Thanks, but no.

My family is used to these appliances sitting in the garage.  Sometimes one of my kids comes running inside with a “Mom!  The garage smells great!  What’s for dinner?”

Child Labor Law Revoked in Pasadena Home

Rhea laundry

“Mommy, where is my blue and white striped shirt with the spaghetti sauce stain on it?”

“I’m not sure honey (aka: nine-year-old child who spilled the sauce down your front after I reminded you to sit forward, over your bowl, while eating…)  It may not have gotten washed yet.”

“What!!?  You didn’t even wash it yet!?”

Wow.

“Thanks so much, honey, for bringing this to my attention!  Be sure to let me know if there’s anything else around here I should be aware of!”

 

Packin’ It Up!

picnic lunch

Nothing says “summer” to me more than picnic lunches.

There are plenty of things I dislike about living in Los Angeles County.  Housing is ridiculously expensive.  Traffic can be a bear.  Some parts of town aren’t so nice…

There are plenty of things I absolutely love about living in Los Angeles County.  The weather is ridiculously gorgeous.  The crowds are made up of people from all over the world.  Some parts of town are way cool.

If I focused on the dislikes, I’d be frustrated.  Due to big-city-modern-day-life-issues my children will never grow up like I did; roaming the neighborhood freely on bikes without mom knowing their exact whereabouts at all times.   This ain’t southern Minnesota (and it ain’t the 70’s either!)

So I focus on the cool stuff.  My kids have soooooo many experiences at their fingertips that I never even dreamed about when I was a child.  There are free summer concerts (often with big-name recording artists!) and multicultural fairs.  There are free/cheap museums galore.  There parks everywhere and (my personal fave) there are miles and miles of beaches.

When we head out for our various summer excursions–my regular reminders about the positives of raising a family ’round here–I do like to pack some tasty and healthy food for my crew.  We partake in food events, of course, but often I bring along the staples and we splurge on a treat here and there.  This meal planning not only serves the purpose of keeping us healthy, it is the more economical approach to travel.  I know my grandmother is smiling down on me when I say that. 🙂

A typical Calva-Despard lunch-on-the-go looks like what I have pictured above.  Sandwiches containing nitrate free meats are prepared on whole grain bread.  Summer pea pods and fresh carrots are ready for mouth popping fun.  Fresh watermelon awaits our finger tips.  Roasted peanuts are fun and packed with protein.  Kalamata olives are a salty treat, and for our sweet desires I baked homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie bars.  These are not “healthy” per se, but as I prepared them myself I control the ingredients and don’t worry about multisyllabic hydrogenated goop.  (They are also sliced into small squares as a little sugar is nice, but we don’t want to go overboard now do we.)

You will also notice a 3/4 bag of Trader Joe’s baked cheese curl things.  Again; not a “healthy” choice, but better than most.  A small portion for everyone brings a smile to faces without too many nasty calories to other places. (plus, I don’t like them so I’m not tempted.  Ha!)

One thing not pictured is our beverage.  Usually water, although I have been known to grab some small cans of apple juice or small carbonated juicey-drinky things.  I’m not big on the waste producing juice box scene, but I will admit that an occasional little something special to drink is appreciated even by me.

Ahhh… summer time!

 

Recipe for Stress Reduction

dinner time

It’s 8:48 am.  Time to make dinner.  Yes.  DINNER.

10 years ago I would look forward to evenings.  I would ponder, on my way home from work, what I was in the mood for.  I would stop by the store–any store I wanted–to pick up a random ingredient or 6 so I could creatively prepare a delicious and appreciated meal for Mike and me.

Uh… it’s not like that any more.  Enter baby # one.  I remember trying to soothe a fussy baby at 5:30 while I scrounged around my fridge looking for something resembled anything we might want to eat, like, for dinner.

It took me a while to eventually consider not waiting till this time of day–the worst time of day for every baby on the planet–to begin making dinner.   It took me till baby number 2 (which wasn’t long after the first) to be strong armed into cooking dinner at 5:30 in the morning.  Yup.  I did that more than once.

My darling Josie used to start the day with a big LOUD bang way early–with no intention of going back down.  Sharing a room with her sleeping toddler sister meant I would do my best to quietly entertain her in the living room.  Enough time passed that exhaustion had set in (you know, more than it already had) and I realized I had to rethink my daily routine.  Hmmm… I thought.  Maybe if I actually made productive use of my morning time, when the baby is happy and I’m up anyway I could relax later in the day.

And just like that, “making dinner before dawn” had begun.  Mike would sometimes come shuffling down the hall scratching his head in search of orange juice to the wafting scent of pork chops in the oven.

And also just like that, guess what: when the kids napped in the afternoon so did I.  And then, when the kids were fussy in the afternoon–like all those little darlings are–I could give them my full attention because dinner was already made.  Pop it in the oven for a quick reheat  and now let’s go look at ants on the sidewalk or play put the blocks back in the basket and then dump them out again, and again, and again.  Whatever.  Hey!  Let’s  even go to the park and enjoy the entire place to ourselves because all the other mommies are at home tearing their hair out over what the heck they should make for dinner. (sorry if that’s you- I’m laughing with you, not at you.)

I’m a morning person.  I’m fresher before noon, more creative, more everything.  Babies are this way too, often.  Sometimes my 9 month old might actually bounce up and down in her spinny-seat thing for, 20 whole minutes while I chop and stir.  20 MINUTES IN A ROW I’M SAYING!

Eventually my pre-dawn cooking schedule was mercifully morphed into a “morning routine” which, the other day, began at 8:48 am.

My third baby is now 6, so my kids aren’t pulling on my apron strings crying “hold me!” at dinner time, but with dinner out of the way I can still give them my attention–which, it turns out, they still need just in other ways–late in the day.

Plus, who are we kidding?  “What’s for dinner?” is the burning question on every mother’s mind whether we are home with our kids our out earning a wage.  What a stress reducer to eliminate that concern before the day gets going.  Now I know that no matter what last minute disaster is lurking around the corner, at least dinner is “off my plate” (sorry–couldn’t resist.)

Today it’s breaking triple digits in Pasadena.  Yikes.  This is just one more reason for me to get dinner done so I don’t have to sweat it out over my stove top late in the day.

Maybe you’re a night owl like my girl friend Lisa.  Maybe after the kids are asleep is when you start revvin’ up.  Perhaps this might be a time to make tomorrow’s dinner… just a thought.

All I know is that the only mothers who actually enjoyed making dinner at dinner time were totally faking it on TV like June Cleaver.  Heck, even fake ‘ol Carol Brady had Alice to do her bidding!

So, my recipe for stress reduction is: consider reconsidering your meal prep time if it’s not working for you.  Waiting till the bewitching hour is rarely the ideal hour to create a dinner stress free.  Hope this tip helps make some mama smile tonight!