Merlot Mudpies

Can a blog be about gardening, cancer, family, food and life all at the same time? Oh good.

Crying to the Cable Guy July 30, 2009

Well, with a frantic week of work, activities, heat, and hormones, my resolve about writing every day flew right out the window. Didn’t it? And I am sorry about that. So here I am, picking myself up, dusting my keyboard off, and climbing back into the blog saddle again.

What I want to write about is tomorrow. Because tomorrow a very little thing is happening that is going to make very big changes in our home. I’m both thrilled to the tips of my toes and scared to death. Tomorrow, the cable guy is coming. We have a torturous two-hour window time frame. If you hear a high pitched keening wail between 4:30 and 6:30 PM Pacific Time, it’s likely me watching the cable man shut off all our channels, packing up our DVR, and taking it with him — stopping to block our line on his way out.

Yup. We’re giving up TV.

Now don’t get me wrong. We are going to still have a DVD player and a handful of hand-picked videos to watch on it (what would life be without an occasional episode of 3-2-1 Penguins, I ask you??). And I know there are plenty of shows you can watch online. But we are severely limiting the ease of access to these things and I’m really quite thrilled about it all.

When I can think through the panic.

It’s not a monetary issue. The money we save will be nice for sure. But it’s an issue of value. We were paying for a whole lot of stuff that we loathe and a whole bunch of other stuff we didn’t want at all to get a limited few things that we sort of enjoyed sometimes.

The main adjustment will be for my son and I know that’s going to be hard for us. But frankly, I’m looking forward to that, too. I’m looking forward to my default NOT being turning on an “educational” baby sitter while I finish the dishes.

I’m going to have to plan my days better, build in longer times to get things done with his help, and I have a feeling I’m going to have a LOT more conversations in which the other participant responds only with one word, “Why?”

And hopefully, a month from now, it’ll be really normal and I won’t remember what it was I thought I’d miss about having channels.

But in the meantime…would it be SO bad if I walked crying through the courtyard and waved goodbye to the cable guy?


Seeing and Being Seen July 25, 2009

When she was a senior in high school, my mom was nominated for and then won the Miss Elsinore contest in the little town she grew up in.  She went on to get a runner-up slot in the Miss Riverside contest that same year.  I remember being agog at the fact that my very own, every day, utterly normal (only in a kid’s eyes!) mom was a beauty queen!  I would press her for all sorts of details and was constantly left a little disappointed because she seemed so completely uninterested in it all.  She would say things like, “Well, it wasn’t ME on that stage.  I had on 10 pounds of make-up!” and “Oh I hated that picture…but you know, I DID get to leave class one day for that photo shoot and that was pretty fun.”

The first time what she was saying to me really started to make sense was when I was a teen.  I’d brought the story up again and begged her to drag out the photos and she told me a few details of that week to make me happy.  “Mom, were you SO popular then?”  She laughed.  “Well, I had a date every day that next week!”  The thought of it made my toes positively curl with glee.  “And did any of them end up being your boyfriend?”  “Oh, love, NO.  No.  They didn’t want to go on a date with ME.  They wanted to go out on a date with Miss Elsinore.  To say they’d gone out to dinner with the local beauty queen.”

And there, plainly, was the crux of the matter.  Mom did not feel like, when she won that contest, it was based on real things.  She did not feel that she had been really seen.  She didn’t feel that it really had anything to do with who she really was at all.  Any real piece of her that had been there for judging had been slathered under pounds of stage makeup.

When I fell in love with my husband, I barely remembered how to put makeup on.  It was in 2001 at the tail end of my mother’s first bout with cancer.  It had been a grueling year and I felt stripped of artifice of any kind.  When we met I wasn’t looking for a relationship at all — I was utterly unprepared to be charming or beautiful or socially acceptable.  I was in a stage of my life where I grossed people out inadvertently by just explaining the day-to-day basics of our lives.  What we found funny at home other people in non-cancer world did not find funny.  When people asked, “How are you?” I couldn’t gracefully tell anymore whether they really wanted to know or if they were just asking because that was how conversation was supposed to go and the next line was supposed to be “Oh, fine thank you!  And you?”

I remember walking toward Ryan one night at a little dive we used to go to after coming out of the ladies room and realizing that for the first time of any that I could think of when he looked over and saw me and lit up with a smile, he was smiling at me.  All my cracks and dings and rawness were right there in front of him and he was delighted to have me coming over to slide back into the seat across from him.  As much as I loved him for so many wonderful things, I loved him for that.

There is something, I think, about being laid bare, recognized for who you are, and loved in the face of it all.

This is, in the end, what makes the love of my Savior so intoxicating and breathtaking when I stop in day-to-day business and ponder him.

Think about it:  There are stars in the sky so far away that our very strongest telescopes can only pick them out as specks of light in the vast distance.  Yet our physical beings are determined by 25,000 human genes that were not fully mapped until less than a decade ago and are contained in such microscopic detail that no human eye could ever decipher them without powerful aid.  Romans 1 declares that what can be known of God has been made plain to men and that His eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen in the things that have been made.  What creation tells us is that our God is unfathomable.  He is greater than we can even begin to comprehend.

With the greatest of care and imagination He knit each of us together in our mothers’ wombs.  He named us before we had names.  He knew us before we could be known by any other being and knew us more fully than we even know ourselves.  Every hidden dark place, every decision made wrong, every hatred, every cheat, every selfishness, every slight given was before his eyes when he then chose to love us with a deep, never-ending, fierce, perfect love.  He holds back nothing in that love.  Nothing at all was too great a sacrifice — not even the cross.

If, tonight, you are needing to feel love — ponder on this for awhile.  As unlovable as you may feel you are loved beyond what you can possibly imagine.  If you are God’s and springing to the front of your mind is “Yes but you don’t know what I…” — I can tell you that no matter how you finish that sentence, no matter how dark the ending, God knows and he loves you anyway.  If you acknowledge him, if you love him, if the darkness of the things you keep tight in your heart make you understand your need for the cross and, therefore, thankful for it then I can assure you that He knows and loves you still with a love that makes all things good and new.  He sees you and He has allowed himself to be seen.

I’m just a little bit agog about all of this tonight and so I thought I’d share.  Maybe now my brain will quiet down enough for me to sleep.


Rocking the Grocery Store

I wanted to mention something that has been happening over the last few continued weeks since reviewing Mary Ostyn’s book, “Family Feasts for $75 a Week” and that is that it has just gotten more useful.  This week in reviewing my pantry (HA!  Really, it’s two cupboards because our apartment is wonderful but small), I found that I had nearly every ingredient for everything I wanted to make this week.  Aside from a few things we’d run out of and a couple of special fresh things (more salsa, for one) I wanted to make for a special occasion, we were set.  This meant that, even though I’d cut such a drastic amount off my budget the first month, it’s gone even lower this second month without my really trying simply because Mary’s way of thinking about feeding a family is just really practical and smart.

In saying this I want to assure everyone that I get NO monetary gain or gain of any other kind (save the savings from reading it) out of this book.  I know that such a whole-hearted and completely one-sided review might start to sound suspicious.  I’ve started to even feel a little self conscious about my excitement over it.  But it’s genuine and I think for really good reason.

That being said, today at the grocery store on my weekly run I saved over 50% total on my groceries between two stores: 58% at the first and 46% at the second.  Though I did use a couple of coupons that I had on hand, the bulk of this was due to a little bit of pre-planning before we left for the store so that I had a strategy for exactly what I needed from where when I got out there.

Hmm…perhaps breathing out, “Ohhh SNAP!” at the checkout when I heard how much I’d actually saved was a bit much.  But come on.  Let a girl celebrate.  You know what I mean?!


Buzzy Bees and Gargening Again…FINALLY! July 21, 2009

Filed under: family,garden,Gardening,love,stories,thanks — Mary @ 9:24 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Tomorrow I’m heading over to break ground at my new garden site — the back yard of a family friend.  It’s closer to us (less than a mile), has an enclosed yard, and is one block from the beach:  A good treat for my son when he’s been with me as I garden.  I have a rototiller to put together and beds to measure out and I just simply MUST put in my tomatoes which have been languishing in pots outside our apartment for three weeks now.

Is this odd?  I’m approaching this with much trepidation.  Getting started on a garden is just so much work.  But at the same time, I’m thrilled to death to get going on it.  It’s been a long time coming and my fingers are itching for soil.  My final inspiration was sitting in our living room last night after the tomatoes were watered.  I could smell them and the window fan was actually pulling the scent of them into the room on cool air after the heat of the day.  The ache for green is officially irresistible!

I’ll dig out my box of seed tomorrow and figure out what to start, as well.  Although we’re in a weird month to start growing.  I’ll have to pull up my old planting charts for this area, as well.

Before and after pictures will come, of course.

Last night as I finished up some work before bed, I listened to my husband and son in my son’s room.  My husband had gone in to cuddle him before he went to sleep.  The conversation went like this:

“I love you, Buddy.”

“I love you, too, Honey.”

“Hey!  I’m not your honey!”

“Oh yes you aaaarrree!”

“I’m not your honey…I’m daddy!”

“NO!  Your my honey!” (Accompanied by the beginnings of giggles.)

“Oh yeah?  Well…do you know who LOVES honey??”



And then there was the most screechingly delightful round of tickles giggles and belly laughs heard in recent history. The perfect lullaby.

I am tremendously, infinitely, completely blessed.


Thrown Together Dinner: Chicken in Tomato Caper Sauce July 20, 2009

My eyes are open all the way again. Thank heaven! I don’t know what on earth I got into, but I was seriously considering asking my husband to take me to the ER at one point on Saturday night. Good grief! And never mind the fact that we had his company picnic with his brand new job (not even a month old) on Saturday. Luckily, the damage could be hidden by sunglasses.

As a result I’ve been a little off kilter and we’ve been eating out some and off our game. But tonight I had a bag of potatoes, some tomatoes ready to go bad, some cooked chicken in the fridge and some wonderful green beans I scored at Henry’s for $.77 a lb. So I got creative. This is what we ate:

Baked the potatoes and then mashed em up in their skins with butter and salt.

Steamed the green beans and then sauted them in olive oil til slightly caramelized and then sprinkled with just a dash of kosher salt.

I built the base of my plate with those two things and then made the pan sauce and used it to heat up the chicken. For the pan sauce:

2 Tbsp of butter
2 cloves of garlic, softened into the butter
1 small tomato diced and added to the pan to cook down with
Juice of 1 lime
1 or 2 tsp of capers
salt and lots of pepper to taste

I reduced the broth until it was just slightly thickened and then added in the shredded chicken until it was cooked through. I served the chicken over the potatoes and green beans and then used the sauce to dump over the whole top.

Our family, including the three-year-old, purred their whole way through.

The sauce took about 7 minutes from start to finish. And we made some more to take to lunch tomorrow. If I’d had parsley on hand I would’ve added some. And canned tomatoes — a small can — would’ve likely worked just fine, too.

Double yum.


Eyes Wide Shut… July 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mary @ 9:36 pm

Or, “How to get through your day with your eyes swollen shut.”  Which mine have been for nearly 24 hours.  And so I’m not writing much.  But I will when they open back up all the way.  Ow.


Date Night July 17, 2009

Filed under: rambling thoughts — Mary @ 10:47 pm

We had a date.  With a babysitter and everything!  We hung with friends and had very excellent mojitos.  Then we came home and made a sign.  The sign says “NO Monsters Allowed!!” and hung it on my son’s door with blue tape.  And that’s why he’s willing to sleep in his room tonight.  On the floor.  In a sleeping bag.  He won’t sleep in his bed.  Three year olds are wonderfully weird.  And dates are fun.


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