Wordless Wednesdays

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Outer Limits of Sanity- Part One

There has been an unfathomable amount of upheaval around here lately, and I've had many questions about WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON, and I am here to answer those questions for all those inquiring minds out there. This will probably be a ridiculously long post, but I shall strive to write my little heart out and make it worth your while. I might get emotional. I might scream. It is possible I will take a bathroom break or two. And so I sit here with a hot cup of Orange & Spice tea to tell you that Something Huge is happening in our lives. Something I've dreamed about for years. Something I'm thrilled about and slightly scared about and quite sad about, all at the same time.

We are moving.

2000. miles. away.


Yes, it's true. After waiting, and waiting, and WAITING for four, somewhat agonizing years, we finally know where we are going. It's been quite the experience. I will tell you that it is very, very difficult to pretend your life is not in limbo when it really is. Every decision you make concerning homes repairs, children's activities, etc., is constantly being weighed with, "Gasp! But what if something happens in the next few months with Steve's job??" I fully realize that life just happens sometimes, and there is not much one can do other than roll with those punches, baby, and wait for the fun to really begin.  We've really run the gamut of possible relocations these past few years. At first, it was Iowa. Iowa Iowa Iowa for three years. Oh, yes. Most definitely. Once I really wrapped my mind around returning to a life in a cornfield, I was pretty okay with it. Sure. I can do this. I lived in the country my entire life before I met Steve-O. I did the small town thing. And while there are certain aspects of country living that I still miss terribly (THE PEACE. THE QUIET. Running around like a small, feral child. Wait; what? Never mind.), I've become quite accustomed to life in a small city, and I kinda like not having to drive 15 minutes just to put gas in my car. Plus, I like drive-thru coffee. ALOT.  Anyway...I was all right with Iowa. BUT THEN...

Just like that, nope. No, you are not moving to Iowa. We've changed our minds. Um, okay. It's not like we've put our lives on hold for the past three years or anything like that. But I got over that pretty quickly because...

For two, glorious months, it looked as though we were moving to Minneapolis. Now THIS I could get into. My only stipulation was that I would need a coat that covered my backside COMPLETELY. And about 7 more pairs of Cuddlduds.  But I could handle the cold, because it was MINNEAPOLIS, PEOPLE.

But it was not to be. I kind of felt like this.

After a few more months of hemming and hawing, we had our answer. Yakima, Washington. After a whirlwind past few weeks which included a trip to Yakima for myself and Steve (Kate was our chaperone. :-) getting our hardwood floors refinished, and many, many nights of staying up until 1:00 am cleaning and organizing (as God is my witness, I'm done staying up until 1:00 am to CLEAN, ever again), here we are with our house on the market and me trying to keep a house with 5 kids ready for showing at any given moment. I have never been closer to becoming insane. I shall look back at this time in my life as existing in the outer limits of sanity. Nothing more can really be said of the matter.


I have more to say about living in Kenosha, WI for 8.5 years when I said I would never, ever live in Kenosha. It's been an extraordinary time of personal growth. It's been incredibly difficult at times. I want to share what I've learned, and I might actually be serious for once.

But you'll have to check back another time to find out. :-)

Stay tuned, friends. And thank you for reading.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

And then I turned Thirty

Well, it happened. I passed out of the most agonizing decade of one's life that is supposed to be simply wondrous and filled with all sorts of excitement and living life to the fullest and all of that other garbage do you know what I felt when I first awoke? Relief. Sure, there was a tiny jot of sadness that I'm no longer the youngest kid in the room, but really; I'm fine with that. A professor once told me that your 30's are far more satisfying because you know yourself far better than you did in your 20's, and you begin to "hit your stride". While this may not be true for everyone, I am finding this to be very true for myself. I think about when Steve and I were goggly-eyed newlyweds, and while those early days were wonderful in their newness and sweetness, I would not exchange what we've worked through and built together for all the honeymoons in the world. And so, goodbye, 20's. Even though I will remember you as the decade in which I graduated from college, got married, bought a house, had 4 (soon to be 5!) kids in 5 years, I will not miss the growing pains. I am genuinely looking forward to the adventures that my 30's will bring. Who knows what the future holds??
  This year, I had the delightful experience of having my birthday occur during our family vacation, which, I might add, was disaster-free this time around! Praise be unto the Lord!! No ER visits! No visits to the walk-in clinic! No barfing children! Sure, there may have been two brown recluse spiders in the shower during our stay, but no one got bit, so who's complaining? Not I! Ah, but it was a glorious day.  I drove ALONE into town with the WINDOWS DOWN and MY MUSIC playing as LOUD AS I COULD STAND IT because I COULD and darn it, I wanted to hear the music again. Do you hear me? I WANT TO HEAR THE MUSIC AGAIN. AND THEN... Brunch with my lovely sister Meg at Early Girl Eatery...surprise pedicures booked by my mama and little seester Angela...and just a fantastic time in Asheville, North Carolina. My love for North Carolina is no secret around here, and I was beyond relieved to see that the mountains were as beautiful as ever, the tea just as sweet, the foliage just as lush, and the pulled pork just as smoky as I remember. It is a grand thing to not be disappointed. To top off an outstanding morning, Steve and I were miraculously able to enjoy a date, thanks to the mad babysitting skills of Meg and her Ricky. A yummy dinner at Luella's Barbeque, followed by some wildly delicious ice cream and a most wonderful time of lazily wandering around one of the most amazingly astounding bookstores I've ever been to in my entire life. It was pretty perfect. And what's better than that? So take that, Thirty. I fear you not. Here's to embarking on another decade, even more adventurous than the last.

Oh, Baby.

Well, hi there. It's been a ridiculously long time, but I was busy bringing this sweet girl into the world...

Her name: Katherine Jane Johnson.
Born: August 5th, 3:11 am (yawn!)
Weight: 7 lbs, 11 oz.
Length: 20 1/2 inches long

And for the fifth time, we are smitten. Kate turned one month two days ago, and while this past month has been filled with sleepless nights, major nursing issues (sorry, gentlemen), figuring out life with 5 kids, homeschooling older kids with a toddler trundling around screaming and going all mafia on everyone else and a tiny newborn in tow, I totally can't imagine my life without her.  I am grateful. 

3 boys and 2 girls! I can only imagine the adventures we'll have. In the meantime, I will do my best to do a weekly post here at The Epic Adventures of Skarymop & Co. It will most likely be a little bit of everything. Food, recipes, pictures, and my rather useless musings on life, liberty, and the pursuit of sanity. Or something like that. Ahem. Thank you for reading, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Well, why not?

It's Friday. It's late. I should be sleeping. I've been desperately trying to capture a bit of creative time lately, which for me includes some form of writing. I'm 36 weeks pregnant (I think). I think I'll need hip replacement surgery after this sweet babe arrives. And tailbone. And feet. And, well, you know, pretty much everything. I made homemade bread this week. Why do I not make it more? It is so very wonderful and extremely therapeutic. I'm in the process of "sealing the deal" with potty training my youngest boy. Sorry if that was too much information for you. Oh, wait; nope. Not sorry. In the process, I'm quite certain he has relieved himself in nearly every square inch of my household. On the flip side, my floors and carpet are incredibly clean! I made greek yogurt this past month, and am now convinced that it's the only way making homemade yogurt is worth the effort. STRAIN THY YOGURT, I TELL THEE. STRAIN IT, I SAY! There are 4 dishes in the sink right now. To wash, or not to wash? I've been obsessed with Klondike Bars during this pregnancy, namely the dark chocolate covered ones and the mint chocolate chip. What would I do for a Klondike Bar? Probably far more than I'd like to admit. For no reason whatsoever, here are a few important things to remember about parenthood:

1) If you are naked, they will come. (sorry)
2) If your modesty is compromised in any way, shape, or form, they will come.
3) The odds of this happening are multiplied exponentially when there is only one bathroom in the house.
4) Three small boys using one bathroom will prove to be a tipping point. At least it is for me. If this is not the case for you, congratulations on being a far more holy person than I.

I think that's all for now.

Now here's some completely random pictures for you!

Well. They may crawl into the dishwasher, use the floor for a bathroom, take turns injuring each other, and magically go deaf when asked to clean, but they are my heart and my life. Here's to the everyday, and may you enjoy the sanctity of your own bathroom this weekend.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Art of Generally Paying Attention and A Most Rewarding Salsa (or two)

I am a firm believer that one of the greatest skills you can cultivate in your life is the art of generally paying attention to the world and people around you. Not only does this bode well for functioning decently as a responsible human being, but my, oh my, does it make life far more amusing. Steve is often amused at how easily amused I am when I relate stories to him from my day with the kids.
Me: "AND THEN...there was this man in a white van with a HUGE white beard! It was FANTASTIC!!"
Steve: "Um. Okay, Mary."

Does this make me a simplistic person? THEN SO BE IT. You could miss out on a tremendous amount of marvelous things if all you strive to do is wildly careen from one task to another on your already-insane to do list. Slow down. Just sayin'.

And now for something completely different. Story time!

I went to Target the other day BY MYSELF (with thanks to my mother in law), and although I did my utmost to not waddle across the parking lot, I doubt as to whether I succeeded or not. My mission was simple: a new water bottle for one of the kidlets, and a basic t-shirt for myself, due to the embarrassing fact that I had spilled iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts all over the front of my shirt in the car. AWESOME. I normally wouldn't have bothered, but I had to hit the grocery store after Target, and I was a bit of a coffee-scented mess. I waddled to the maternity section and found a decent plum-colored t-shirt that looked absolutely NOTHING like a maternity shirt (why. must. everything. be. skin. tight.), but I knew that resistance was futile, so I threw it in the cart and went on my penguin-esque way. I was nearing the end of my quest, and made a quick stop in the party supply section to pick up some plates for my youngest son (3! On Monday! I WEEP.) Two young ladies walked past me, then proceeded to have the following conversation VERY LOUDLY in the next aisle:

Girl #1: "Oh my gosh; I just saw ANOTHER pregnant lady!"
Girl #2: "Wow, that makes, like, FOUR pregnant people we've seen today!"
Girl #1: "Yeah, and this one's about to pop, too!!"

They walked out of the aisle and were continuing to talk about this while looking directly at me. I threw them a look that said,"I'm pregnant. NOT DEAF."

Good. Grief.

I waddled as indignantly as I could out of there, bought my stuff, changed into my "maternity" shirt, and then spent my first two children's college education at the grocery store. It was a good day. The End.

And now...

Because if you're still reading this, you've been terribly patient with me...

For this, I give you salsa.

TWO. Salsas. Salsi? Oh, dear.

I went craving-crazy the other day and re-created a delicious, super-fresh pineapple salsa I had at Urban Burrito in Asheville, North Carolina when we went to visit my sister at the end of May (more of that adventure to come!!).

I rarely just throw a recipe together. I am fiercely devoted to recipes and measurements, but this just kind of happened. And it HAPPENS (bwa ha ha) to be delicious.

Pineapple-Cilantro Salsa
By Mary J. Johnson, expert imitator of penguins

-One medium-sized pineapple, diced quite small
-1/4 c. chopped cilantro
-1 small green jalapeno pepper, diced very small
-1/4 c. red onion, diced very small

-Prepare all ingredients, then combine in a serving bowl. Allow salsa to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the flavors develop and meld. You can certainly enjoy this with your favorite tortilla chips, but this would also be wonderful spooned over some grilled chicken. 

After such a sweet and light salsa, you might feel the need for something a little more savory and spicy. Allow me to introduce to you...

My Mom's Hot and Zesty Salsa
From me mum.

-1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained.(my mom always used Rotel brand, and I use it, too)
-3 large cloves of garlic, peeled
-A small handful of cilantro
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

-Place all ingredients in a mini food processor, and blend, blend, blend! If you do not have a mini food processor, you can certainly chop up the garlic and cilantro quite fine and stir it into the diced tomatoes and chiles. It will just be chunkier than the food-processed version. This salsa really shines when served at room temperature. My mom made this quite often for football games and other gatherings. It really is my favorite tomato-based salsa. It is HOT, and the the kick from the chiles is a bit delayed. Be warned! :-) 

One more thing:

Dear Target,
Your summer bowls are thrilling to my soul. Thank you for being awesome. 

The Penguin Woman.

Get outside. IT'S FINALLY SUMMER!!! Even in Wisconsin! I took the flannel sheets off my bed! Triumph! Oh, and Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ten Musings

Well. Let's get right to it.

1) Soft grapes are an abomination.

2) Daniel informed me the other day that he has a teacher who is "allergic to triangles." I just...just love him.

3) When Steve returns home from a business trip, I find myself resisting a most burning desire to bake about 3 different cakes. Fondant Au Chocolat, French Style Lemon and Yogurt Cake, and some other French cake. Before you think,"Oh, what a sweet and benevolent wife", I'll stop you right there and confess: The cakes? For me. Steve's homecoming is the perfect cover for such an indulgence. (Hi, Honey!)

4) I typically do not care for cake or cupcakes. I know. That pretty much dumps me into the camp of "Not A Fun Person". Before I met Steve, I used to envision a wedding without cake. I imagined pie. I love pie. Pie as far as the eye could see. French Silk Pies EVERYWHERE. Banana Cream! Key Lime! Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Pie!! All my beloved friends, all present during the happiest day of my life. Well. Steve doesn't particularly care for excessive amounts of pie. So we chose the tastiest cake we could think of: marble cake with raspberry filling and buttercream frosting. I did love it. It truly was a good cake. BUT... it wasn't until I discovered French-style yogurt cakes that I realized cakes could be moist, mouth-wateringly delicious without being cloyingly sweet, and oh-so-simple. No layers or frosting here, which is good, because I seriously can't be bothered with either. A simple glaze over a rustic, single-layer cake and a hot cup of tea will do very nicely, thank you. Here is one of our favorite French-style yogurt cakes.  Bonus: Steve LOVES these cakes. Win!

5) I dream of a TV-free household one day. I'm not kidding, I'm not crazy, and yes; I really do mean that.

6) If you are 4 years old, it is extremely important that you start off each and every day by disassembling your father's small electric grooming devices, all the way down to stripping it of its batteries. Make sure you do this when it's your turn in the bathroom, so your mom thinks you're just doing an amazing job brushing your teeth. Chuckle to yourself when your mom finds the once-again stripped devices, and laugh even harder when your father puts the devices back together and PUTS THEM BACK IN THE EXACT SAME LOCATION AS BEFORE. Grown ups. They never learn, do they?

7) Watching your six year old play air guitar while listening to "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" is a most joyous activity.

8) Realizing that your youngest boy is a spitting image of your father is also a most joyous thing. At least, in my case, it is. BA HA HA.

9) Steve bought three different kinds of Irish cheese over St. Patrick's Day weekend. Not only did I fall ridiculously in love with him all over again, I was positively blown away by the amazing flavor, texture, and no-nonsense straight-forwardness of Irish cheese. I highly recommend Kerrygold Dubliner, and Wexford Mature Irish Cheddar. I am seriously dreaming of the next time I can wend my way to our local little delicatessen to acquire some more Dubliner.

10) I infinitely prefer Easter to Christmas. I only have about 56,493 reasons for this, so I just might have  to share them another time.

It's good to be back. I hope to be back on a more frequent basis. Good night to all.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Art of Owning a Scone

Over the years, I have learned with great shock that not every single person adores scones as much as I do. I can understand that. After all, what do most people think of when the word "scone" is thrown around? Some sad, woefully dry, rock-hard concoction involving some tooth-achingly sweet glaze  languishing in the glass pastry case at any given coffee shop. Appetizing? I think not! No, my friends; to experience a real scone, one must experience high tea (not to be confused with high tide) at an actual tea house of sorts, and depending on where you live, this can be quite a challenge. Short of hopping the next plane to England (which I'm not necessarily discouraging you from doing), the next best thing to a high tea scone is a good, honest scone made by yourself in your very own kitchen. I am in earnest here, because really; once you learn the art of making your own scones, you will never, ever, and I do mean EVER purchase one of those dry mouthfuls of wood shavings from any given coffee shop ever again. You may enter one of these coffee shops to purchase a beverage, but upon seeing that pastry case, you will scoff with such derision at the poor, unsuspecting hipster in front of you purchasing a blueberry scone (SNORT) and you will KNOW, you will KNOW that you have found the higher way. And other than your wild, maniacal laughter as you are escorted from said coffee shop, that poor hipster won't suspect a thing.

Or will he?

I'm sorry. I'm currently listening to David Bowie as I type this, and it's forcing my writing into wild overdrive. I'll try to remember that I'm actually writing about SCONES, for goodness' sake, SCONES. The epitome of high British society!! Get it together, Mary!


So, yes; make your own scones. I shall save you the trouble of finding a good recipe and post my own marvelous, wonderful brain-child of a scone recipe. If you do feel like embarking on a rather useless search of your own, all I can do is urge you to search for British or Scottish scones. Us Americans, well, we just really do not have the slightest clue when it comes to a successful scone. After all, we're the ones who came up with the coffee shop "special"!

Scottish Scones with Apricots and Vanilla Bean

-Adapted from Molly Wizenberg's "A Homemade Life".

This recipe is by far my absolute favorite homemade scone recipe. As Molly states in her original recipe, feel free to play with the flavorings in this recipe. Instead of 1/4 cup of snipped dried apricot, try 1/4 cup of another dried fruit, or play around with different citrus zests. Lemon! Orange! Lime! *GASP* If going the citrus zest route, the original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of zest, so keep that in mind. I usually make these as lemon scones, but a vision came to me as I was texting my sister Megan (this is not uncommon), and I knew I had hit upon a combination to kill for. I had found my scone. I was OWNING this scone.  

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 heaping tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup dried apricots, snipped quite small (think the eraser head of a pencil)
1 whole vanilla bean (Smell it. Right. Now.)
1/2 cup half-and-half, plus more for glazing
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture, squeezing and pinching the butter (this is very therapeutic) until the mixture resembles a coarse meal and there are no butter lumps bigger than a pea. Add the sugar and dried apricots, and whisk to incorporate.
   Pour 1/2 cup half-and-half into a small liquid measuring cup (I usually use my 2-cup measuring cup) and add the egg, whisking well to combine. Using a small, sharp-tipped knife, split the vanilla bean down the middle, then scrape out the seeds (tip: flip the knife around to use the dull side for scraping out the seeds, press down on the bean, and in one, smooth motion, move the knife from top to bottom. The seeds will gather on the blade of the knife.) Place the vanilla seeds into the cream/egg mixture, and once again, whisk well to combine. This will smell just wonderful. Pour the cream mixture into the flour mixture, and using a fork, mix until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a kneading surface (it will look like a dry, shaggy mess. Don't be alarmed!), and using your hands, squeeze and press the dough into a rough mass. Continue to gently press, gather, and knead the dough until it JUST comes together (Molly suggests kneading no more than 12 times. I have never disobeyed her. Sorry; I am a second born child. I always do as I'm told.) There may be some excess flour that is not absorbed, but that doesn't matter. As soon as the dough holds together, pat it into a rough circle about 1 inch thick. Cut the circle into 8 wedges.
   Place the wedges on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Pour a splash of half-and-half into a small bowl, and gently brush the tops of the scones with a thin coat to glaze. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool slightly, and serve warm, with butter, or clotted cream, or lemon curd, or strawberry jam, or nothing at all, if that is what your heart desires.

Note: These scones freeze remarkably well. To freeze, allow the scones the cool completely, then transfer them to a freezer bag. To reheat, allow them to thaw in the fridge overnight, then heat for about 10 minutes in a 300 degree oven just before serving.

Make these, and prepare to be the envy of all the hipsters who frequent those ironic and sad coffee shops, searching for perfect scones and who knows what else. And with that, I will most likely never mention hipsters again on this blog. Good night to you all.