Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cooking & Cleaning & Atheist Feminist Cultural Critic Provocateurs

Back into the swing of things! After nearly three weeks of vacation, which included THREE snow days tacked onto the end of Christmas vacation, Noah is finally back at school and Jon is in the office. My Mon-Fri, from 8:00am - 3:00pm are mine again! Since snow days were called Mon-Tues-Wed, this week was just two days long. Yesterday I spent the time that Noah was in school cleaning and cooking, but today I reserved a couple of hours to actually leave the house, go to my favorite coffee shop and write!

This is truly my salvation. I think without an occasional trip out into the "real" world with adults and good music and good coffee and writing, I'd be very sad.  It's difficult and confusing because on the one hand, I'm doing EXACTLY what I love and have always wanted - to be a stay-at-home mother and housewife. I grew up with sitters and frequently came home to an empty house, so I wanted the opposite for Noah. But, on the other hand, I feel so much more removed from adult life than I ever have. Our school community and my friends are INCREDIBLE, but we usually only naturally talk about Mom and wife-ish stuff (which is of course completely great and fine and I need that). I also have a need to speak with people and hold conversations about non-kid things like politics and humanism and feminism and music and art (I'm guessing this is normal and that many of my Mom girlfriends need this too)!  I used to have these kind of conversations often. I miss it. And it gets even trickier to find because usually during the day I don't have time, so that only leaves night. And that's not easy. 

Also, while I count myself as incredibly lucky to live where I do..... it's safe, Noah's happy, it provides what we need...sometimes I conk myself over the head for ever leaving our opportunity in San Francisco. I oscillate between painful boredom in Michigan and then visiting large cities and feeling overwhelmed. 

So, the opportunity to walk out our front door, and step into a tiny bubble-world in this gorgeous coffee shop is so important to me. Sitting on a tall stool as I do, to type at the countertop that faces the front window, I've met quite a few interesting people. It's nice. Most days, even on the weekends, I'm sequestered at home in the evenings and there's little chance to interact with anybody. It's lonely sometimes.

Two of my very best friends form high school, the two Lauras, both happen to live in London. Their lives seem so interesting. I was emailing with one of the Lauras today. I had mentioned, as I've done on this blog before, that I'm interested in writing about deeper topics, like the ones I'd love to have conversations about with random people in coffee shops. I'm about as liberal as you get, I think.... and I worry that if I did speak my mind, that I would lose some of you. But, on the other hand, if I'm in a time of my life where contact with the outside world beyond Mommy things is fairly limited, maybe I can find what I'm looking for here, online? 

It's just a thought. Who knows, I change daily. Sometimes I just LOVE being home all week, getting household things done. And other weeks, I just want to be out.  It must mean I'm just human! 

Here is my cappuccino. Peeeerfection. I usually come to the coffee shop on Fridays, but it's an art to find a seat here. I have to wait until the lunch crowd leaves to find a spot, but at the same time, I have to be out of here before 3:00 to pick up Noah from school. It can be tricky because Friday lunch patrons tend to linger. Today though, Noah is going on a playdate! So, I can stay a little later. The shop closes at 4:00, so I'll stay, then walk to the bakery and buy some bread to go with dinner. I'm attempting to make THIS  broccoli cheddar soup recipe. It supposedly tastes just like Panera's broccoli cheddar soup, which is an all-time favorite of Noah's. I've already washed and prepped the veg for the soup and the salad, and the fruit, so I'm ready to go. I'll let you know how it is!

This was at the coffee shop earlier in the week. We bring Noah once in a while. He's into coconut water and brownies. I'm lucky he'll agree to come to the coffee shop with only a bit of bribing. 

I'd like to repost this recipe one more time. It's been a while. This is a version of Moroccan Carrot Salad. I made it for a party last week. I just like it so much. This salad is quick and easy to make, and healthy.  HERE is the recipe that I used. You might like to try it as well!

While we're still on the topic of food, just by the way, last night I made this cheese ravioli bake. It was delicious! I used fresh cheese ravioli. You then make a semi-homemade sauce by sautéing and simmering garlic, onions and diced tomatoes and a bit of pre-made sauce. It was great. Noah would not touch it. :(   He wouldn't even eat the plain cheese ravioli that I set aside. I have to be honest with you, this has been going on every night for years. Unless it's a steak or plain chicken, he'll barely touch a thing that I make. I'm at the point where I'm upset and sad and frustrated and truthfully don't feel like cooking anymore. I wish I could just give up and have Jon get carry-out on his way home every night. I didn't sign up for a child who refuses to eat even simple things like spaghetti and sandwiches.  

Where was I? Yesterday, the first day back since break, was a fantastic day. You know why? This will sounds silly, but because I had the whole day to clean! This isn't an OCD thing, I was actually really excited to finally have a stretch of quiet time to clean the house. I could focus, listen to podcasts and get things done! (Btw, I highly recommend a podcast from Camille Paglia: Culture Critic, Provocateur and feminist. It's a recording of a lecture that she gave at the Chicago Humanities Festival on religion and how we need certain aspects of it if we don't want the continual downfall of western art. I was skeptical at first, but it was a fascinating talk. Just search for Camille Paglia on iTunes).  My reasonable goal for the day was to get the upstairs bathroom cleaned top to bottom. A real good scrub. I always surface clean the house but now I wanted to deep clean things. Starting at 8:00am, when Noah and Jon left for school, I emptied the bathroom of anything touching the floor. I dusted from the top down, including the fan. Then came dusting of moldings and blinds. And sweeping and more sweeping and vacuuming and more sweeping. I wiped down all of the base moldings and the furniture. Scrubbed the tub and shower and all the tile. Scrubbed the shower caddy, all of the soap bottles and even the waste bin! Then the toilet and sink and countertop. I washed the shower curtain liner and the big bath mat. And finally, got on my hands and knees to scrub the floor. It took hours, but it was soooo satisfying.

One thing that I like, is the challenge to find natural cleansers that actually do the job! I'd like to share a few with you! (That's me cleaning yesterday. Don't look at me! I'm not wearing any makeup!)

The first cleaners that I want to share (AGAIN) is a homemade, all purpose cleanser. Basically, you take an empty spray bottle and figure out how much cleanser you'd like to make. Then, you plan on using equal parts white vinegar and liquid dishwashing soap. The blue colored Dawn soap works well because it contains a grease fighter, but I've also used an organic, more natural liquid soap that was fine too!

Figure out the total amount you'd like to make and plan on one part vinegar to one part dishwashing liquid. You take your vinegar, pour it into a measuring cup and heat it in the microwave for about 90 seconds until warm. After that, pour equal parts soap into the cup and stir to combine. Next, put the mixture in your bottle and you're good to go! I usually wait until the mixture cools a bit to screw the top on the bottle. You can use this cleaner for just about anything, except for delicate surfaces that might be harmed by the vinegar like granite and marble. It is especially effective on the bathtub. You won't believe how it cuts through soap scum. It's amazing! Spray on your tub, leave for about a half hour or so, come back and lightly scrub with a brush and voila! White, clean tub! I personally think it works way better than traditional chemical cleansers. I also used this on the floor. It foams up nicely and is easily washed away. 

Another thing on my natural list is lemon. Yes! LEMON! Take half a lemon and rub it on your faucets. The acid in the lemon will dissolve any pesky soap stains. Buff with a cloth and you instantly have a shiny-as-new facet with little work!

Finally, baking soda & vinegar amazed me yesterday. Is that a funny statement?  Well, it did. Our shower curtain liner has some mildew along the bottom and I wanted to get it off. I didn't want to use bleach, so I googled for a solution. I was really surprised how simple baking soda & vinegar cleaned everything perfectly! First, fill your washer with warm water as usual. Add in your detergent with 1/2 a cup of baking soda. I might have used a bit more, because I was just eyeing it. Come back when your washer is on it's rinse cycle. At that time, pour in a cup of vinegar. Take out your curtain liner when it's done, and hopefully your mildew and stains will be gone too! Cool, huh!?

Some of the brands of store-bought cleaning products that I recommend include Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day,  Seventh Generation and Method! All can be found at Target. I also love my "tools"..... always dust-gripping swiffer-like clothes and magic eraser pads. I use Target's house brand for both , FAVORITE cleaning item from yesterday was my "cleaning toothbrush." 
GAME CHANGER!!! Dear everybody, if you don't already have one, RUN out and buy a cleaning brush. Mine is the OXO Good Grips Deep Clean Brush Set also available at Target. It easily cut through soap scum and gunk around our faucets and grout lines. The set comes with two, one I'll use in the bathroom and the other in the kitchen. These brushes are fantastic.

WAIT! WHO AM I !? I just wrote SEVEN paragraphs on CLEANING! 
*Bangs head on the table. *
WHOOOOOO is this person? I like cleaning and taking care of the house, but I don't feel like I'm being totally authentic with the blog these days. I don't always want to talk about cooking and cleaning. I want to talk about politics and gay marriage and why American society is so SDRAWKCAB these days!!!! Sigh. ugh.


After writing this I walked around the corner to pick up a loaf of crusty bread for dinner. Then I walked home, but when I got there, I thought: "Wow! It's 4:00 and it hasn't started to get dark!" AND, being that I rarely find myself at 4:00 on weekdays not on my way home from school, or helping with homework or cooking dinner, I thought I should take advantage of this magical turn of events. So, I decided to go walking.

But, because I am a responsible type, first I fed the cats their dinner, put on hat and gloves, and turned on the porch lights (just in case). As I walked out of the house and down the driveway, Mr. Darcy drove by. Remember him? I had to stop writing about the interesting mystery that is codeword: "Mr. Darcy," because shortly after posting, I met him in real life, and I feel that it would be completely immoral to write about someone you've now met. It's unfortunate though, because Mr. Darcy is seemingly one of the most interesting and mysterious characters in my small, little suburban world. 

So I went walking through empty, snowy town.........

And empty, snowy nature.....

First I was feeling blue so I listened to the Smith's " Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" and I felt SAD..... :(

THEN, I decided to listen to more up beat music like M. I. A. 's "Paper Planes"  (my version is a  Stephan Ponce remix and it's sped up and minus the scary sound effects).  And after that I felt a little better.

 At some point, I was nearly knee deep in snow and ready to go home. Fleet Foxes "Blue Ridge Mountains" came on and I felt inspired. I felt better. Walking makes everything better....

At home I started dinner. The Panera-like broccoli cheddar soup came out wonderfully! Even Noah ate it!!! I was relieved, so relived about that. I had a very rare glass of red wine and proceeded to fall asleep. Jon congratulated me for becoming the only person to fall asleep five minutes into every episode of the first three THREE SEASONS of Portlandia! Which is so messed up because Portlandia is like....the best show!!! I don't know what it is, but as we've worked our way through the three seasons, I always only make it through one episode at most before passing out.  Granted, we always start watching at 10:00 or later, but STILL!!!!

Anyway, now it's tomorrow and a new day brings new beginnings. I guess I feel a little better. Jon was sweet enough to run some errands while I've come back here to the coffee shop for some more writing.  I've been trying to get a post out for days!

Here are some really important things now, before I go.

Every few months I check Cath Kidston's site  for new items. And usually I come back with a wish list. Here are my picks, AND a bag that I am  IN LOVE WITH!!!!!!

First, I think everyone must sometimes look like they live in a mushroom.  If you've always thought that David the Gnome looked kind of cute riding around on that fox, then this outfit is for you. 

It's tempting. Woodland chic.

These Cath Kidston 20th anniversary bags are both cute and functional. The patches are fun. I feel like I need more patches in my life. So do you. Maybe.

Here are three randoms that I love. A little London umbrella, the most ADORABLE teapot pullover, and the sweetest doggie pin.

And finally, my love, I pine for you! I want you! This new patchwork print bag. I'd really like one. This print would work for winter, summer and spring I'd say! Cath's bags are durable, wipeable and cute. I think that's a great combo. What's not to love!?

One night I made this. Because it's true.

Also, yesterday morning we were going to make eggs and Jon started getting all excited and saying: "Grab your camera, grab your camera!" I wondered what was going on and found this........ an egg smiley face. LOL.

Well, that's the scoop. Until next time friends, stay warm and  stay happy.




lisajay99 said...

Great post, Lauren - I have those cleaning brushes somewhere in my house - I need to find them!

Lauren said...

Hiya LisaJay99!

Thanks so much!
Ahhhh, you have them too! Don't they come in handy? I was thinking of just using and old toothbrush, but these bristles are stiffer, so they scrub better. I really like them!

Brandy D said...

I've never heard of Cath Kidston. Went to the site, loved it!