Author: Luisa Perkins
•1:51 PM

I 'met' the lovely NHKnittingMama almost immediately after starting this blog. She's a cheerful, very talented gal; I hope to meet her in person someday. Back in July, she posted a pattern she'd created herself for Mandy's Candy Bag, along with a contest challenge. Love it! I had to participate. I used Sugar'n Cream yarn in the Rainbow colorway. Just by the by, if I were the folks at Lily Yarn, I'd rename the colorway "Fruit Mentos."

I finished my candy bag weeks ago, but haven't posted a photo of it until today because I haven't had any candy in the house to put in it. I know; it's shocking.

Of course there has been chocolate in the house, but my loyal readers know that I don't consider chocolate to be candy. "Why?" ask the newbies up front. Because it's just not fair to all the other candies. That's why.

Today I realized that NHKM's contest deadline is coming right up, so I filled the candy bag with other stuff: the cool flowers Hope made for me last Mother's Day and some special treats for my dear friend Kara. Now that I've digitally captured my candy bag for all time, I'll put the flowers back in their vase and take the bag to Kara's house. It is part of her fabulous, yet long overdue prize for winning this contest.

Thanks, NHKM! I plan to make more candy bags for holiday gifts this year!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•11:07 AM
I never get tired of eating summer squash, but my family doesn't always share my enthusiasm. A couple of years ago I searched through my recipe books to find some new and exciting way to showcase (or hide) all the zucchini we were getting from our CSA share. I didn't have to look far; after Julia Child, the cookbook author whom I consult most often is Marcella Hazan.

Marcella's Italian Kitchen features "Il Fricandò di Casa Mia." A fricandò (pronounced "free-can-dough," NOT "frickin' doo") is a mix, a hodge-podge, or a medley. In summers past, I have adapted this recipe depending on what I have had on hand, either from the garden, from the Farmer's Market, or from the CSA. Here's a loose guideline:

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 ripe plum (or other) tomatoes, chopped
2 medium zucchini or other summer squash, chopped
Olive oil or 1/2 stick of butter (or both)
Salt and pepper

Optional and Delicious:
1 bell pepper, seeded, cored, and chopped
2 ears fresh corn, shucked (or leftover fresh corn, already cooked and cut off the cob)
Fresh snap beans, snapped
Fresh basil and/or parsley, chopped fine

Blanch the optional snap beans and/or corn in boiling water; cut the corn off the cobs and set aside. Saute the onion in the oil and/or butter over low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for another few minutes.

Add all the other vegetables you're using, the optional herbs, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables have given up their juices, the resulting liquid has reduced down almost all the way, and the vegetables are tender (test the zucchini or a green bean). Add more salt and pepper to taste. Don't overcook it; you don't want a mushy mess. At least, I don't.

I made a very fine batch of this the other day; everyone here gobbled it down in a flash. I almost never grow the same variety of vegetable from year to year, but this year's summer squash is so delicious that I'll be buying the seeds for this variety again. In case you're interested, it's Baker Creek's Patissons Golden Marbre.

**Updated** I forgot to mention that this dish + rice = a terrific vegetarian meal. We are not vegetarians, but we do try to limit our meat consumption. So...there it is.

Some of you only visit me here when you're searching for a recipe; I can live with that. In fact, I'm making a Recipe Index on the sidebar just to make things easier for you. See? I love all my readers, no matter what.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•2:49 PM
Recently I heard a song on the car radio that I had forgotten even existed. However, I could immediately sing along with its every word.

She's young now, she's wild now, she wants to be free;
She gets the magic power of the music from me...

Ah, yes. The Canadian power trio Triumph accurately captured me in lyric form back in 1983. I was 16 and graduating from high school. I had a great boyfriend, a regular D&D group, attention-getting hair, a library card, and a functional stereo. I had my whole life in front of me. What more did I need? Life was good.

Fast forward 24 years to the other day. Even as I belted out "Magic Power" along with Rik Emmet, I laughed at the incongruity I have become: a 40-year-old woman driving a mom-style vehicle complete with two car seats in the back, with XM Radio's Big Tracks channel blasting so loud that people in other cars look over at us involuntarily at stoplights. Am I now ridiculous? I wonder.

Only my mother terms me 'young' anymore, and this knitting, pie-baking, classics-loving, church-going woman I've become is not anyone's definition of 'wild.' And would I want to be free of my hot spouse, my fun kids, or my weed-infested garden? Not on your life. On the surface, I've become the epitome of The Establishment against which rockers have been railing for decades.

Yet loud rock music continues to be a joyful indulgence of mine on a daily basis, Sabbaths excepted. My kids love singing along to songs they've learned at my knee; it warms my heart to hear their clear voices joining in on "Sweet Home Alabama" or "Baba O'Riley" or "Roxanne." Rock is somewhat of a family affair; we had a great time exploring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago, admiring relics like John Lennon's report card, the pieces of Paul Simonon's smashed bass guitar, and Jim Morrison's Cub Scout uniform.

My love affair with rock is not limited to the music of my (or my parents') youth. Through friends and the sorcery that is iTunes, I've discovered new treasures like Foo Fighters, The Fratellis, and Coldplay. But would The Veronicas or The Arctic Monkeys be happy to witness me, someone old enough to be their mother, dancing around my kitchen to their latest hits? Or would they run, screaming in terror? I rather suspect the latter.

Here's a highlight from my trip to Utah last week. I sat reading in my hotel room after attending the first day of a mission conference. Suddenly I heard music I recognized coming in through the large plate glass windows that overlooked downtown Salt Lake City's Gallivan Square. I opened the drapes to see a huge crowd gathered around the amphitheater ten floors below. I quickly did a web search on 'Utah Free Concerts,' which confirmed that I wasn't dreaming: Calexico was playing. I opened the metal window louvers so that I could hear well, ordered some Room Service nachos, and sat back in my private sky box seat to listen to one of my favorite new(-er) bands. I reveled in my good fortune, and couldn't wait to tell my kids that the group was even better live than on recordings.

Will it always be this way? I have a vision of myself as a 90-year-old great-grandma, driving a powder-blue Lincoln Town Car with the bench seat scooted way up, and The Raconteurs or Great Big Sea roaring through the sound system at a decibel level high enough to compensate for my faulty hearing aids. And maybe then, if Triumph comes on the radio again, I'll let my quavery, old-lady soprano soar along to celebrate that I am young at heart, wild about life, and free from any concern of what others think about my long-standing affection for the magic power of rock and roll.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•3:00 PM
When Veronica Mitchell of Toddled Dredge proposed the theme for her blog carnival, "Before There Was Disney," I quickly signed up to participate. I chose to re-read The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm, translated by Lore Segal and Randall Jarrell and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

This book was a favorite of mine when I was young; my mother gave it to me on my tenth birthday. I read it, along with collections of Perrault, Hans Christian Andersen, and Oscar Wilde, over and over again. I treasure this canon of fairy and folk tales, drawing upon its themes and details often in my own writing.
When I was a child back in the mid-seventies, you could only see any given Disney cartoon about once every seven years in a movie theater (preferably a drive-in, with homemade treats, to save money). In one generation, the way children experience entertainment has changed radically. Kids today, mine included, can pop in a video or DVD on a whim and memorize a film through repeated viewings in close succession.

Patrick loves to quote The Brady Bunch Movie when Mike says, "You know, Cindy, when you tattle on your friends, you're really tattling on yourself." When it comes to fairy tales, this rule certainly applies.

I'm not a Disney-basher, but I do find it interesting to track the way The Big Mouse's storytelling has evolved, from the more or less faithful rendition of Snow White (1937), in all its grimness (pun intended); to the changing of the ending of The Little Mermaid (1989) from Andersen's tragic original; to the drastic morphing or outright invention of heroines like Princess Jasmine (1992), Fa Mulan (1998), and bran-new Princess Maddie (2008) for the sake of multiculturalism in recent years.

According to Disney, every girl should be able to identify with a Disney Princess, and since it's much harder to code-switch when experiencing a visual medium as opposed to a written, the princesses' physical characteristics assume paramount importance.

Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm were linguistics professors who contributed significantly to the first comprehensive German dictionary. Germany as we now know it did not exist then; after the fall of The Holy Roman Empire, that geographical area was divided into many small kingdoms and principalities. The Brothers Grimm gathered the folk tales that made up their famous collections (and conducted their groundbreaking research in the field of linguistics) in the early nineteenth century in an effort to help create a German identity. Contrary to popular myth, they did not go door to door, cottage to cottage to record the stories, but gathered them primarily from the middle class and aristocracy, who in turn had often heard the tales from their servants.

The stories themselves bear the hallmarks of a rich and diverse cultural imagination, but they also have much in common with one another. The reader finds strong Christian overtones throughout, and nearly every tale has a not very subtle moral. Goodness is rewarded; evil is punished harshly and unstintingly. The stories are grisly as a matter of course, a fact that can stun readers raised with post-Victorian notions of what childhood should be.

Modern readers who cringe at the ghastly particulars that adorn nearly every tale would do well to bear in mind that until very recently in human history, even very small children witnessed all kinds of 'PG-13' details in daily life. Animals were slaughtered; parents and siblings died. Rules of inheritance and birthright were inflexible and unforgiving. Food could be scarce, so every bit of offal was used and valued. Large families lived with almost no privacy in very tight quarters. Medical and surgical procedures were performed in the home, with highly inconsistent results. We take modern plumbing and hygiene for granted, but even the shoddiest gas station restroom would be a miraculous and relatively odor-free environment to a nineteenth-century observer.

For me, the darkness of the original tales adds to my enjoyment of them. They feel real, despite their fantastical and archetypal elements; the characters are human and three-dimensional in a way that those in Disney movies can never be. I like the Princess cartoons in the way that I like a bowl of Spaghetti-Os or a Hostess Cupcake. They are satisfying on a certain level. However, they bear little resemblance to the much more compelling source that spawned them; I would never confuse a serving of Chef Boyardee with a plate of homemade Spaghetti Bolognese, or a Hostess Cupcake with a slice of Orange Butter Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting. Likewise, when I want to rediscover for myself or teach my children about richness and humanity, I'll turn to the original folk tales every time.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•12:01 AM
Oh, how I love Soap Opera Sunday, that bloggy brainchild of Brillig and Kate! See their sites for other soapy fun. If you need to refresh yourself on earlier installments of Clever Trevor, click here and here.Laura woke up at the crack of dawn on Friday. Normally if she woke up that early, she’d roll over, doze, and wait for her alarm clock, but today was different. She was going to see Colin again! She got up and started packing.
Twee had made a nest for himself in the covers of her unmade bed. He lay like a statue watching her, only the very tip of his tail twitching. “You know I can’t go with you.”
Laura nodded. “I know,” she said with a cheerfulness she did not feel. “We’ll be alright.’
“You also know that if Marie asks me anything, I can’t lie for you.”
“She won’t ask. We’ve got the perfect cover story. She works this weekend; she’s so tired, she won’t even miss me. Twee, I couldn’t pass an adventure like this up; I’d regret it forever if I did.”
Twee stood and stretched, arching his back and sinking his claws into her bedspread. “I’ll try to keep an eye on you from here. Just don’t do anything stupider than your current plan, okay?”
“Okay,” Laura sighed. “But it’s going to be fine. You’ll see.”

Jill and Laura met at the deserted Speech & Debate Room after school. “Are you ready for the party of your life?” Jill asked, bouncing up and down.
“I haven’t been able to concentrate all day; I can’t wait to see Colin! Get your briefcase and let’s get out of here.” Her own briefcase was just for show; she’d unloaded all of their competition files into her locker at lunchtime.
Jill paused in the middle of putting on her backpack. “My briefcase? I left it at home,” she said.
Laura couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Jill, are you out of your mind? We’re supposed to be going to a debate tournament! What is your mother going to think if she sees your briefcase? At the very least, she’ll do something heroic like drive it down to Fresno; you know how ‘supportive’ she is. She’ll ruin everything!”
Jill thought for a moment.
“I’m pretty sure I left it in my closet.”
“How sure is pretty sure? Maybe we should go by your house before we go downtown.”
“No way. If we do that, we’ll miss the bus.” Jill frowned. “It’s definitely in my closet; I remember now,” she announced. “Let’s just go.”
Laura looked at her friend for a long moment. “Alright,” she said finally. “If you’re sure.”
“I’m sure. Come on!”

Marie was nursing a diet cola while she paid the bills; she had to leave for work soon, and she’d discovered for herself why they called her shift ‘graveyard.’ Intellectually, she knew she wasn’t anywhere near death, but she sure felt like it. The cola helped take the edge off of her enormous fatigue.
The phone rang; she ignored it, betting that it was someone calling for Laura. But whoever it was persistent, refusing to hang up even after ten rings. Finally, Marie got up with a groan from the kitchen table to answer it.
“Hello, Marie, it’s Joan Westphal. Jill’s mother?”
“Oh, of course, Joan. How are you? Is everything okay?
“Fine, fine. But I just realized that Jill’s debate briefcase is sitting here by the garage door, so I thought I’d swing by and drop it off.”
“I don’t understand. Why would you bring it here?”
There was a pause. “I’m fairly certain the girls will need it for the tournament tomorrow. You know, they’re really on a roll; I think they could go all the way to State.”
Marie rubbed her forehead. She must be more tired than she had previously thought; clearly she was missing something. “I’m sure you’re right, but Laura said that the girls were sleeping over at your house tonight. I was relieved, because I knew I wouldn’t be off my shift tomorrow morning in time to drive Laura to meet the school bus for the trip to Fresno.”
Another pause. “I—I’m not sure what to say, Marie. Jill told me that you didn’t have to work this weekend, and that the girls were sleeping at your house tonight.”
Anger woke Marie up fully, a feat that the diet cola had been unable to accomplish. “No, they aren’t here.” She thought for a moment. “Listen, give me a couple minutes. I’ll see whether I can track the girls down. In the meantime, why don’t you call Mr. Jack and get the details on tomorrow’s tournament? I don’t know what’s going on, but this doesn’t seem right.”
“Okay. I’ll call you back soon.” Joan Westphal hung up.
Marie placed the receiver back on its base with extra care, because what she really felt like doing was throwing it across the room. She stalked down the hall and into Laura’s bedroom.
“Twee!” she yelled, looking around. “Twee, where are you?”
Twee detached himself from the shadows under the window. He arched his back and yawned.
“Looking for Laura?” he inquired in a bored voice.
“Where are they, Twee? And why did you let her leave you home?”
“You know I can only stay with her when she listens to me. She went against my counsel; I had to withdraw.”
Marie had to restrain herself from wringing the cat’s neck. “Where did they go?” she demanded with false patience.
“They took a Greyhound Bus to San Francisco to see those British boys play rugby. They’re planning to stay at the Fairmont Hotel. That’s where the team is staying.”
Marie sank to the carpet. “I don’t believe it,” she whispered.
Twee bristled. “You know I’m not allowed to prevaricate.”
“Of course, Twee; this is not about you,” Marie snapped. “I just can’t believe she would do something so stupid.”
Twee jumped down off of Laura’s desk, sauntered to Marie, and wound himself around her legs. She petted him absently.
“She’s lonely,” the cat said. “And she’s fifteen; it’s her job to do stupid things. She’s just trying to find her way.”
“I know, Twee, but she’s in over her head this time. And how will this look to Jill’s parents? I’m sure they won’t see this the same way we do. It’s so embarrassing. The single mother who can’t control her teenager; it’s such a cliché.”
“I’ve never known you to care what other people think,” Twee said.
“And look where it’s gotten me. I’ve been trying a different tack since we moved here; I’m going for respectability. But Laura may have just blown that to Hades.”
“Mrs. Westphal is calling.”
“Thanks, Twee.” Marie got up off the floor and got to the bedroom door just as the phone rang. “I’ll see what I can do to minimize this,” she said. “Let me know if anything changes.”
Tune in next week for Clever Trevor, Part Four!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•5:42 PM

Here's our junior hunter-gatherer. Christian just walked in and announced, "I brought home dinner!" Now we'll fry all fifteen inches of goodness up in a pan...nothing says 'summer in the country' like fried catfish.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•4:48 PM

Oh, we had such a FABULOUS trip to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The museum is amazing; all the kids loved it. I'm sure I'll work many choice anecdotes from the trip into future posts; I'll give you just one tidbit, since I'm pressed for time.

We bought Daniel a little stuffed plush guitar at the gift shop. As we were leaving the museum, he kept singing the opening of "Smoke on the Water" ("New, new NEW, new new NA-NEW!")over and over, to the great amusement of fellow museum-goers all around us. Then he'd whisper-scream, "Are you ready to ROCK? Let's get rockin'!"
It's hilarious every time. I haven't gotten tired of it yet; I don't see how I ever could.

Author: Luisa Perkins
•4:08 PM
This is part of Brillig and Kate's fabulous Soap Opera Sunday program. See their blogs for a list of other gripping stories! (Most of the others are not fictionalized, like this one is.) To read Part One of this story, click here.

After Jill left, Laura cleaned up the wreckage on her bed so she could finish her homework. Twee hopped out of Laura’s shirt pocket, unfolded himself from thumb size to cat size, and settled down on Laura’s pillow for a protracted grooming session. Laura grabbed her Norton Anthology and gave the cat a nudge. “Move over, Twee. I’ve got to do my English.”
Twee licked his left hind foot, ignoring her ostentatiously. Laura sighed and pulled the pillow out from under him, landing him in an undignified sprawl on the bedspread. Swishing his tail, he righted himself and waited until she settled herself on the bed with her pillow behind her back, then climbed on her lap and started kneading her stomach.
“How long are you going to let Jill believe that she’s actually doing anything with that stupid fake grimoire?” he growled.
“Oh, Twee. You’re being an awfully good sport.” Laura stroked Twee’s fog gray fur until he purred in spite of himself. “I don’t know. We’ve lived here five months, but I still feel like I don’t really know anybody. Everyone in this excuse for a town has known each other since kindergarten. Why should they let someone into their perfect little social circle all of a sudden at the beginning of junior year?”
“Because you’re the prettiest, kindest, smartest girl ever.” Twee’s imitation of Laura’s mother was uncanny. Laura laughed hard and scratched under Twee’s chin.
“Seriously. The reason Jill is friends with me is exactly because I’m an outsider. There’s no way she could have gotten any of those preppy girlfriends of hers to try doing magic; they’d think she was bonkers. And she knows I won’t be running off to spill her secret. Whom would I tell?”
“But why do you need a friend when you have me?” Twee blinked his glass green eyes at her petulantly. Laura set her anthology aside and hugged him close.
“Don’t be jealous, you big goof. I don’t know why. I just do. And it’s worth it to lend her a little of our power for a while. Hopefully she’ll lose interest in the magic thing soon anyway. Please?”
Twee purred in her ear. “You know I can’t refuse you anything—not that you should push your luck.”

Jill sidled up to Laura in gym the next morning. “I have a plan,” she announced under her breath. “Cut third period and meet me in the Debate Room.”
Laura made a face. “I can’t cut Orchestra. I’m challenging for first chair today. What about lunch?”
“No, I’ve got a Girl’s League meeting. The Asilomar trip is coming up.”
“So let’s just talk in History.”
Jill rolled her eyes. “Fine. This is obviously not as important to you as it is to me.”
Laura looked over at Ms. Gormley, who was demonstrating the correct technique for a volleyball serve to the rest of the class. “Go to the locker room right now,” she whispered. “I’ll make sure Goreface doesn’t notice. I’ll meet you there in a sec.”
“How will you do that?”
“Just trust me. Go!”
Jill backed out of the gym, picking up her pace as she got closer to the door.
“Twee, don’t get mad,” Laura muttered. Flea-sized and shut in the locket around Laura’s neck, Twee grumbled. Laura could tell it was really just for form’s sake, though.
She grabbed a fistful of reality from behind her back and wove it into an airy screen that would let the class forget for a while that Jill and Laura existed. She tossed it over the group of girls. As it settled, she ran into the locker room to find her friend.
“Okay, spill it,” Laura commanded. Jill had hidden in the equipment closet; they were both perched atop of a pile of gymnastics mats.
Jill’s eyes gleamed. “Remember that debate tournament down in Fresno that Mr. Jack decided we shouldn’t do?” Laura nodded. Jill went on. “I never told my parents that it had been taken off the schedule. They still think we’re going.”
“Fresno and San Francisco are in opposite directions from here,” Laura pointed out.
“Oh, really?” Jill was too excited to maintain her sarcasm for long. “Just let me finish. All we have to do is what we always do for tournaments—with a twist. You tell your mom you’re sleeping over at my house Friday night; I’ll tell my parents I’m sleeping over at yours. After school on Friday, we take a Greyhound Bus to San Francisco and check into the guys’ hotel. We can hang out late Friday night, watch their game against Golden Gate on Saturday morning, then take the bus home. Then we’ll walk back to the school, and my mom will come pick us up, just like usual. It’s perfect.”
Laura could feel Twee vibrating with irritation; she grasped the locket to hide it while she thought. “It is perfect,” she admitted with a grin. “I told my mom the Fresno tournament was cancelled, but she’ll never remember. Have you ever taken the bus before?”
“No, but Ruth Tamson’s sister does it all the time to visit her boyfriend at Hastings. I’ll cut third period and walk downtown and get a schedule. We can look at it in Speech.”
“How much do you think the hotel will cost?”
“Don’t worry about it. If you can cover your bus ticket and food, I’ll spring for our room.”
Laura hated being dependent on her friend’s charity, but knew she couldn’t afford the trip otherwise. “I’ll pay you back,” she offered.
Jill waved her hand. “Whatever. Now, praise me for being a genius,” she ordered.
Laura’s enthusiasm was wholehearted. “You’re a total genius. Let’s call the guys after school and tell them!”
“For sure. We’ll use Mr. Jack’s office phone so it doesn’t show up on my parents’ bill.”

Tune in next week for Clever Trevor, Part Three!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•12:21 PM
The Mets lost a heartbreaker to the Braves yesterday. (The fact that it was Thursday, and thus Date Night, kept my bad mood from lingering; an excellent dinner at Café Maya and a viewing of The Bourne Ultimatum brought me right.)

The Mets have lost every series they’ve played against the Braves this year—four in all. They are still three-and-a-half games ahead of the Braves in the National League East standings. However, the Mets have two more series against the those Georgia Boys before the end of September, and I’m worried about this mental block they’re having.

I hesitate to write about baseball; I’m married to a walking almanac who is almost sure to notice when I get things wrong. But lately I’ve been considering the streak/slump phenomenon, since it seems to be an apt metaphor for the way I live my life.

As far as I can tell, there are two kinds of hitters in baseball: those who are pretty consistent at the plate, and those who are streaky. Joltin' Joe DiMaggio still holds the Major League record for the longest hitting streak, having had at least one hit in fifty-six consecutive games in the summer of 1941.

Baseball experts agree that a streak or a slump is rarely a matter of mechanics; much more frequently, whether a player’s bat is hot or ice cold is largely in his mind. “He’s got to get his confidence back,” they’ll say when someone is defeated at the plate yet again.

In life, I am streaky. That’s a nice way of saying that I am inconsistent. I’ll be on a roll regarding any number of things, from running to baking bread to foot-callus-maintenance. Then something will happen to upset my schedule, and I slump.

And, as in the oft-caricatured commercial, I will feel that I have fallen, and I can’t get up.

Sometimes a slump can be disastrous. In the field of geology, a slump is a particular kind of landslide, one in which the surface of the moving mass of earth remains largely unchanged, but the interior matter is drastically deformed. The most famous slump of this kind will probably be known to many of my readers; it occurred at Thistle, Utah in 1983. It dammed up a creek and the Spanish Fork River, eventually flooding the entire community. Thistle is now a ghost town; only roofs of some of the buildings remain visible.

My slumps are often like the geological kind. The surface of my life will look great; friends will even admire different facets of it. But internally, I’m a mess, and it’s a long time before I can sort everything out. Hopefully I do so before any dams I’ve created are too destructive.

Sometimes I’ll slump in one area while enjoying a streak in another: I’ll have a clutter-free house but a weed-filled yard. Or for weeks I’ll make my 1,000-word-per-day novel-writing goal while ignoring the dreadmill the entire time. Or I’ll indulge in a genealogy binge while skimping on my scripture study.

Sometimes a slump can be a time of retreat and regrouping. When I started this blog almost a year ago, I thought I had things to teach. I’m pretty good at a few things; the blog format seemed ideal for dissemination of some of the wisdom I felt I had gained in various areas over the years. After exactly two posts (one of which I later deleted), I abandoned my new endeavor for three months. I’d had an abrupt and humbling realization that sent me into a regrouping slump for the entire autumn.

When I started posting again in December, it was as a changed person. My focus was no longer on teaching (although, as a Brocket wannabe, I still like to publicize my domestic successes), but on honest expression and learning from others in the blogging community.

Running my life the FlyLady way helped me with consistency for a long while. But I am in a FlyLady slump right now (though the house is pretty clean, and my gorgeous soapstone kitchen sink is a joy to keep shiny: it's a mental thing). Maybe I need to get back in her groove and focus on Baby Steps in the essentials of my life so that I can build up steadiness once again. But I wonder whether, as effective as her methods are, FlyLady can only address the symptoms, and is not a cure for the root disease.

In his excellent book Pure Baseball, Keith Hernandez writes,

When I first came up to the big leagues, pitchers had all too much success worrying me inside. Lou Brock, who worked with me a lot, sat me down one day and asked, “Where do you like the ball?

“Inner half-away.” That’s the lingo for the outer three quarters of the plate.

“That’s right,” Lou agreed. “But worrying about your weakness—the inside corner—is taking away from your strength. Don’t let it do that. Look into your strength.”

Baseball really is profound. The key to overcoming the weakness is not to focus on it, but to look into your strength instead.

I tell people on a regular basis what I believe my Strength is. Perhaps the real question is whether I truly live what I say I believe, whether I can apply the Word to the mundane struggles of my daily life.

And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of … prophets:
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises
, stopped the mouths of lions,
Quenched the violence of
fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
(Hebrews 11: 32-34; emphasis added)

Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:48 AM
The Young Scientist
Hope's second grade teacher sent her a note the other day and enclosed this photo. In it, Hope is presenting her research project on Eastern Box Turtles, complete with papier-mâché replica, to her class. I love my girl and her enthusiasm for learning.

Everyone's a Critic

Daniel has a new habit of giving us running commentary on the music that happens to be playing. A few tidbits:

(Lenny Kravitz's "Fly Away"): "[Lenny] likes his guitar!"

(Foo Fighters' "Learn to Fly"): "Rock and roll!"

(U2's "Gloria"): "This song isn't so good." (I opened my mouth to argue with him, then remembered that he's three. There's time, people.)

(Alison Krauss's "Daylight," Sixpence's "Don't Dream It's Over," Hem's "Half Acre):

"Mama, it's YOU! (I'll let him keep his flattering-to-me illusion for the moment.)

Amazing Invention

I took Tess to the City for a check-up with her eye doctor last Friday. I'd promised I'd take her to lunch, but we got out of the appointment early, and decided we had time for a quick run to The Museum of Natural History before eating. As we walked past The Dakota on our way to Central Park West, Tess noticed the subway entrance.

"What's that?" she asked.

"Those are the stairs to the subway," I told her.

"What's a 'subway?'"

"It's a train that runs in an underground tunnel all over the City."

Tess stopped in her tracks, grabbed my arm, and looked up at me with saucer eyes. "They HAVE those?" she cried.

Patrick and I lived in the City for 11 years after we got married; the subway was part of our daily life. But we left Manhattan when Tess was only two weeks old, and I tend to forget that the City has not been a crucial part of her formative experience as it was for the older three kids. Note to self: take Tess on train down to South Ferry on next trip to Manhattan.

A Modest Proposal

I received this missive from the boys yesterday, a response to my comment on this post. "Daniel signed by proxy," Christian and James each informed me independently.

In case the scan is hard to read, here's the unedited transcript:

"We the people of the United Rooms of the Perkins Household request to view the movie Alien vs. Predator. As you think the movie is dopey we are willing to do the following.

- James finishes Heidi, doesn't make fun of it at all and writes a superb 2 page essay on it.

- Christian finishes Little Women and writes a three page essay on it.

- No more complaining at all about homeschool

- We do double the chores we usually do

[Signed] James Perkins
Christian Perkins
Daniel Perkins [official seal]"

We are probably too permissive when it comes to the movies we let the big boys see, which becomes clear if you look at James's list of Top 20 Movies. The irony/disconnect becomes even more apparent when one considers that they watch no television other than what the little kids see on Noggin; Mets games; and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns.
I think most TV is garbage, and I deem the commercials to be worse than the actual programming. Yet they've seen every James Bond movie ever made.

The proposal is interesting. The boys know they have to write essays on their assigned reading anyway, and they almost never complain about homeschool (at least not in front of me). But the double chores offer is enticing. I must ponder it.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•12:01 AM
Author's note: I'm very excited to be participating in that blogging genius Brillig's worldwide launch of Soap Opera Sunday. My entries will be fictionalized to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

Updated: Oh, ooops! How could I forget to link to the fantabulous Kate? Sorry, dear! You get full genius credit on this co-adventure of yours.

“I’ve got them,” Jill crowed as she burst into Laura’s bedroom. She pushed all the Laura’s textbooks on the floor, dumped her shopping bags on the bed, and pulled out the Fotomat envelopes. Laura sat up, closed her binder, and squealed in anticipation.
“Let me see, let me see!” She lunged forward, but her best friend stepped back with a sly smile on her face.
“Wait a sec. Do you have everything?” Laura nodded. “Marigold leaves? Nail clippers? Matches?”
“Yes, yes! I got all the stuff on your list. Come on!”
“Well, but do you want a cookie first? ‘Cause I got Chips Ahoy.” Jill stepped back as Laura bared her teeth. “Okay, okay!” She jumped on the bed and tore open the envelope. “I got doubles.”
“You’re the best.” Laura sorted through the photos. She stopped when she came to one of herself and a tall, red-haired boy who had his arm draped across her shoulders. “Look!” She held out the picture. Jill looked at it.
“You guys are so cute together. You look like you’ve known each other all your lives. I can’t believe the team was only here for a week.”
Laura took the photo back and gazed down at it. “I know. Colin is such a fox. How will I live once he’s back in England?”
“Hey, here’s one of Colin and Simon both on the field! I swear, Simon looks just like Anthony Andrews.”
Laura grabbed it and gasped. Colin, his cheek bloodied, ran next to a mud-covered Simon, who cradled the ball in his left arm. “Holy cow. Rugby is the sexiest game ever. I know it’s disloyal, but I’m glad North Yorkshire beat our team. And their colors are way better. Do you totally miss Simon already?”
“So totally. Why else would I pay extra to get these pictures back so fast?” Jill got out the cookies and started munching. “Fuel up, girla,” she mumbled, her mouth full. “I want to try that spell.”
Laura shoved a cookie in her mouth, then leaned over and pulled her mother’s Lalique ashtray out from under her bed. “Here’s all the stuff.”
Jill dusted the Chips Ahoy crumbs off her hands. “I’ll read, you do. That way, we’ll get it just right.” She rummaged through her bags until she found a tattered library book. She opened it to a dog-eared page and scanned it. “Open the window,” she directed.
“Wait—which picture are you going to use?”
“The one on the field. That way, if the spell works, we can talk to both of them.”
Laura opened the window. “Now what?”
“Crush the marigold petals into the ashtray. Now snip a little bit of the guys’ hair in with the nail clippers. Okay, now after I read the incantation, light a match and drop it in. Make sure it stays lit when you drop it!”
Laura held the match and the box down next to the ashtray and waited.
“Konupuyor, yabanci, unuttur,” Jill intoned. “Konupuyor, yabanci, unuttur!” She nodded at Laura, who lit the match and dropped it in the ashtray. The mixture flamed up, then exuded thick, black smoke.
“Oh, gag me,” Laura moaned, fanning the fumes away. “I hope this doesn’t set off the smoke alarm. My mom will kill me if we wake her up.”
“It’ll be fine. Okay, pass me the cookies. We have to wait for the ashes to cool.”
A minute later, Laura took the ashes and sprinkled them on the faces of the boys in the photo. “Now what?” she whispered.
Jill rotated her left wrist over the ashes. “Uyanik, dil baraji,” she said. She leaned down and softly blew the ashes away. Laura leaned over next to her and watched intently. Both girls held their breath for several seconds. Finally, Laura leaned back with a crash against the plastic bags littering the bed. “It didn’t work.”
“Wait! Oh, my gosh!” Jill grabbed Laura’s leg. “Get over here!”
Laura sat up and looked at the photo. Simon’s mouth was moving. “Say that ooyanni thing again,” she hissed. Jill looked at the book again.
“Uyanik, dil baraji!”
“…Jillyflower, I miss you…” Simon’s voice was faint, but his Oxbridge accent was unmistakable.
“Not even,” Laura breathed. Colin turned his battered, gorgeous face toward the sound of her voice.
“Laura, love!” He panted as he ran perpetually in place on the rainy field. “Can’t you get away and come see us in Frisco?”
“San Francisco,” Laura corrected automatically. “No one actually calls it Frisco. Ugh!” She grunted as Jill elbowed her.
“Don’t waste magic on correcting him, you idiot!” her best friend whispered.
“Do come, Jill,” Simon urged. “We’d have a little more time together before we go home.” He reached out with the hand not holding the ball. “Say you’ll be there.”
Colin waved, then resumed the pose he’d originally held in the photo. “Laura!” his voice sounded like it was coming all the way over the Livermore hills to the valley.
The two best friends looked at each other and screamed. Then Laura put her hand over Jill’s mouth. “We can’t wake up my mom.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Jill whispered. “I can’t believe the spell worked!” She hugged Laura, and they bounced up and down on the bed.
“Laura, we have to go to San Francisco this weekend.”
“Yeah, right. How? We don’t even drive yet.”
“I don’t know. But we have to see them again! They are only 90 miles away. Next week they’ll be back at school in Barkston Ash, on the other side of the world!”
Laura looked into Jill’s hazel eyes. “You’re serious.”
“Deadly. Come on,” Jill pleaded. “It’ll be amazing.”
Laura lay back on the bed and grabbed the cookie bag. “All right. But if we get caught, I’m blaming you.”
Check here next Sunday for Clever Trevor, Part Two!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•11:51 AM
Alchemy Casserole
Birchmount Potato Salad
Blueberry-Lemon Breakfast Bars
Buerre Café de Paris
Chocolate (or Peanut Butter) Chip Scones
Chocolate Drop (Mostly) Dead Cookies
Chocolate Soufflés with Melted Chocolate Centers
Confetti Salad
Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Tart
(The Only True and Living) French Fries
Grilled Mushrooms
Lucky Egg Drop Soup
Mother of Invention Muffins
Patrick's Pasta Sauce
Sourtastic Lemon Bars
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:25 AM

Well, thank heavens Anne Bradshaw tagged me for another meme, because I am a Bear of Very Little Brain this week and can't come up with much on my own.

Four Jobs I've Had:

Secretary in the grant-writing department of The Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene

Waitress at Marie Callender's in Orem, UT (Jeff Holland and Jimmy Osmond are both great tippers.)

Layout Editor at a French software company (Sadly defunct lo these many years; they published software for the Apple Lisa.)

Admissions Desk Personnel at The New-York Historical Society

Four Places I've Lived:


Four Favorite TV Shows:

Any Mets game
Star Trek (the original series)

Four Favorite Foods:

Confetti Salad (even better with shrimp in it)

Four Websites I Frequent:

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:

Four Movies I Love:

The Cutting Edge
The Lathe of Heaven (1979 version)
An Affair to Remember (1957 version)
The Freshman

Four Bloggers I Tag Next: