Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Phyllo Dough, Chess, and Voltaire

I bought some phyllo dough for a fancy recipe that required roasting an array of vegetables and cutting the dough into small squares to fit in cupcake pans so that we could have our own personalized little bundles of healthful goodness. It was a lovely thought, but it was Tuesday and I was tired and Fiona was having a conniption.

First, Fiona: her chess camp counselor recommended that we move her from the morning session to the afternoon session, for the more advanced chess students. 

This should be something to celebrate, right? But no. Because her afternoon daycare is apparently a lot more fun than chess camp. There were plans to go swimming at the Y on Friday afternoon. And now her life was OVER. 

A major, out of this world crazy screaming, crying fit ensued. "ADVANCED CHESS HAS RUINED MY LIFE! I WON'T GO! YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!" She was so over the top with despair that it was really hard not to laugh at the sheer absurdity of it. All because chess was getting in the way of swimming at the Y. Even though we have a membership to the Y and can go swimming there any damn day we want. 

If only she wasn't checkmating her poor unsuspecting morning chess camp friends, who apparently have become her BEST friends, whom she will NEVER EVER SEE AGAIN FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE BECAUSE WE MOVED HER TO THE AFTERNOON CAMP, where she doesn't know anyone. Oh, the woe!

The tiger mom lurking deep within me wanted to say, "Actually, yes, I CAN make you go. You're going and that's the end of it." And you're going to crush them all at the tournament.  But I didn't. My heart was breaking. 

As adults, we deal with disappointment every day of our lives and it's a challenge to not automatically think: "Get over it. This is life." As a parent, if you have the power to shield your child from sadness, more than likely, you will do it. You weigh the pros of giving them what they need intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, with what they want, deep to the core of their being. 

Sometimes, it's a close call. Do you let them eat Skittles for breakfast? No. Well, unless it's their birthday or something. Do you let them get covered in mud even though they're wearing their brand new swimsuit?  We all know the answer to that one is hell yes. Do you let them blow off chess camp so they can go to the Y with their friends, even though you spent good money for that camp and there's a chess tournament in two weeks? Dammit, I guess you do.

Of course, Laura and I listened to her pleas, offered options, none of which were as great as swimming at the Y. Maybe she'll meet some new friends at the advanced session, we reasoned. Maybe this would be all for the best in this best of all possible worlds! 

But eight-year-olds don't understand Voltaire.

It was a long, drawn out process and I still didn't have dinner started. (We're leaning toward letting her go freaking swimming on Friday with her friends. Because we're softies, that's why. It's a compromise of sorts. And she made a very, very strong, albeit exaggerated, case.)

So, finally, dinner. 

Phyllo dough is annoying. You're supposed to take each freakishly fragile sheet and brush it with butter while you keep the other sheets moist with a clean, damp cloth. Whatever, Martha Stewart. All my damp cloths are dirty. Phyllo dough is one of the main reasons I'm not Greek. 

I was not in the mood. So I took a few sheets, drizzled them with olive olive oil and repeated the process until my pan was sufficiently covered. It was a totally half-assed way to prepare this improvised  dinner.

 Top with your veggies of choice. I know some people hate mushrooms (I'm looking at you, Annabel), so you could substitute those with zucchini (yuck!) or red bell pepper, or anything you damn well please.
 I remembered I had some "fresh" spinach that was on its last stems, so I quickly sauteed it and added it.
    Top with goat cheese. 
Anything can be transformed into an impromptu quiche. Beat four eggs with about a cup of milk and add a cup (or so) of Swiss cheese. Season with salt and pepper, add the egg mixture to the veggies, and bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes.

When you really think about it, phyllo dough is like advanced chess camp. It's complicated and it pisses you off really bad, and you don't really know what you're doing, but in the end, it comes out OK. And if you're lucky, you get to have your phyllo and go swimming too.

Peace and love.

Monday, July 8, 2013

This Blog Post is not Sponsored by Dodge

I love getting the hell out of Dodge. It's not that Dodge is a bad place to be. It's just freeing to pack a bag, drive a few hours, and find a whole new temporary world to explore.

Mainly, I just like to  get away from the gigantic pile of laundry that I swear gets bigger overnight, no matter how many loads I fit in between "America's Test Kitchen" on PBS and "Weeds" on Netflix.

Maybe a better actualized person can find fulfillment in every ordinary moment of day to freakin' day life.  It's possible I have a few restless bones in my body.

We travelled a lot when I was a kid. We vacationed to places like Tunisia and Greece. I loved straying from routine. I loved drinking Orangina and eating sandwiches on the beach and I loved sleeping in a different bed, smelling of saltwater and coconut oil. I embraced the occasional, exhilarating chaos that came with carefree parents and late night swims in deserted resort pools.

My mom used to say she would love to live in hotel rooms, travelling from country to country without a worry or tangled string in the world. She had four children, so I'm sure her pile of laundry was even more daunting than ours.

In lieu of the lovely coast of North Africa, we went on a short vacation to Brown County, Indiana.

I can't believe I shot this with a grocery bag right at the entrance. Who wants to teach me Photoshop?

   The small pond right outside the cabin was smelly and the boat was swarming with ants, but we didn't care. 
 Because there was a hot tub. 

 Fiona is training for the Fort 4 Fitness Kids Marathon. She's a natural runner with a very competitive spirit. I can see her talent and I want to nurture it. It's been a challenge for me to not push her to do more than what is easy. I want her to push herself for her own sense of empowerment. Now that she's keeping track of her pace, she is fueled by the relentless need to outdo.

We jogged around Ogle Lake, taking walking breaks during the more rugged parts.

This random cat was sleeping on a bench right outside a country store we visited. When you haven't taken a photo of a cat in over three days, sometimes, you go into withdrawal. 
Cat girl went to the other side and became dog girl for a spell. 
Cornhole bed. It's a new thing.

Fiona helped Cyd turn herself into a scarecrow. I don't know whose brilliant idea this was.

This is what Monday feels like.
One of the best parts about getting out of Dodge is that it doesn't really matter where you go. Whether it's a fancy resort on the Caribbean or a quaint cabin in southern Indiana, what matters is that you get to shirk the mundane for a few days and hang with the people of your choosing. If you're lucky, you may get to drink an ice cold martini while soaking in a hot tub, illuminated by the glow of lightening bugs, and listening to the sounds of frogs and crickets. And after your second martini, you've totally forgotten about Dodge and its growing pile of laundry.

PS: Wouldn't it be ironic if you went to Durango, Colorado in an effort to get out of Dodge?
PSS: In real life, I prefer Hondas and Subarus.
PSSS: Also, I don't care what kind of car you drive, as long as you're kind.