Rock on

I’ve recently returned from a trip to North Carolina, and my experiment with posting from my phone wasn’t a particularly resounding success. The pictures looked fine on a three-inch screen, but blown up in all its PC glory, the blog came off a bit puny.

So now I’m subjecting you to the afternoon I spent with my two boys in Chimney Rock, NC, which is moderately famous for having been the location for many of the scenes in Last of the Mohicans. (The main attraction of this film, though, as every red-blooded American woman knows, is Daniel Day-Lewis. Sooo much sexier than Abraham Lincoln, and I’m speaking as someone who almost majored in history.)

Anyhoo, juicy Hawkeye notwithstanding, the scenery of Western North Carolina is beautiful, and equipped with camera and offspring, we ventured out to view some of it.

Here is the aforementioned Chimney Rock, around which a state park has been constructed.

It’s large, don’t get me wrong, and somewhat more impressive than this picture presents.

Of much more interest to the members of our little party, though, was the Broad River, which runs alongside the road leading to Chimney Rock Park and behind the row of shops and tiny tourist cottages that line it. (Not to be confused, by the way, with the French Broad River, which sounds as though it were named for a character in Moulin Rouge!)

The trees may be bare but the weather was warm, and much time was spent hanging out on the rocks and skipping stones.

Also posing for photo ops. He was, he informed me, sitting as he would for a school picture, but with a real backdrop.

Older brother decided to go with a Mohicans stance.

It might have been only early spring, but there was quite a bit of evidence of new life along the river. Here we found some lamb’s ear growing wild. Though I didn’t include anything in the photo to provide scale, you’ll have to trust me that this was about the size of a cabbage.

Nearby was a bush struggling with some new growth.

Speaking of growth, growing boys need to touch, jump, run, and otherwise terrify their mothers around rushing water.

I know this doesn’t look all that scary from your safe vantage point there in front of your computer screen, but trust me, he’s running.

After some quality time on the river, we crossed this actual rock bridge (not a particularly unusual sight if  you’ve been to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, but still, this was a nice example) and made our way to Cutseyville.

Here is one of the sights you may behold in Chimney Rock, instruments of torture!

I lie; they are pieces of antique rock-climbing equipment. Nobody expects the Spanish Rock-Climbing Equipment!

We stopped by Chimney Rock Gemstone Mine, a nice little store featuring rocks of all sorts, some wrought into jewelry, others laying about for the simple admiring. Now, Trassie, when he’s not scaring me to death by leaping across uneven terrain, can be found playing Minecraft, an interesting single- or multi-user game that’s been described as “Legos for adults.” As the name suggests, the Minecraft world requires a lot of mining, in addition to building, so naturally Trassie is interested in rocks and gems.

He is the proud new owner of a hunk of emerald calcite, which he paid for with his Own Money. (Amusingly, at least to me, that link goes to a site called Kids Love Rocks.)

Not to be outdone, Christopher also made an Own Money purchase, but I didn’t have a presence of mind to document his acquisition of a deadly weapon, er, pocket knife. Is is, however, an “assisted open” knife, which as best I can tell is a polite term for “legal switchblade.” He’s been mockingly threatening to cut me ever since, and every time he says it, I hear Rocky saying “cut me, Mick.”

Documentation of this trip wouldn’t be complete without some evidence of my presence, so here for your admiration is a shot of me loafing on a rock, clad of course in my most comfortable boots.

As it turns out, they aren’t a particularly good choice for sure-footedness on slippery river rocks but who cares? I LOOKED GOOD.

And no trip with two sons would be complete without snickering at something. In our case, it was one of the stores in the village, which proudly presents, in cartoon form, a happy Chimney Rock. As I began snapping away for this photo, Trassie started to ask why I was taking a picture of the store, but the words died on his lips and he collapsed into a fit of snickering worthy of someone who can’t say “balls” or “nuts” without extended periods of mirth. Yes, we all three stood in the street laughing like 15-year-old boys, and only one of us had an excuse.

Yes, I am the mother of boys.

We never did make it to the boot store; a closed Harley shop promised it had another store somewhere along the (one) road through town, but I never saw it. Which means of course it doesn’t exist, for can you believe there was a shoe store within a few hundred yards that I couldn’t smell out? Of course not. So no new boots or boot yearning for me. Although I did notice, upon our return to Lexington, an billboard advertising a boot store with a gorgeous pair of Luccheses about a mile high.

But I digress.

I took more silly pictures of the boys.

And a little more scenery.

We got some cokes at the Ye Olde Store and we felt we had DONE Chimney Rock.

Let me tell you: We had a ball.

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If you like it, put a ring through it

In December, my daughter turned 18. In October, I’ll turn 50. Oh, how old I feel.

Aging sucks but, as they say, it beats the alternative, so I’m attempting to embrace it with good grace. Part of that good grace is accepting the reality of my first statement, which is I am actually the mother of an adult-age human being. And being such, she announced that in honor of her birthday, she’d like to do “something 18.”

Uh-oh, I thought, steeling myself for a discussion about tattoos. But no, she had her sights set on piercing her nose. So what ensued thereafter was a long amusing conversation wherein I questioned her desire to be tagged like an animal, and indicated that my approval would only be forthcoming if she’d consent to have the procedure completed by a qualified veterinarian.

Unsurprisingly, she wasn’t particularly amused.

But after torturing her a bit, we agreed that the piercing would be accepted, but only after I’d extracted the promise that she wouldn’t nag, cajole, beg, or plead that I agree to a tattoo and the subject was taboo until such time that she’d both earned a college degree and was self-supporting.

And lo, it was decreed that a piercing of the nostril shall occur.

We hied ourselves to Bleed Blue Tattoo and Piercing, a dubious choice based upon the name alone. Seriously, can’t people in Lexington name a business without inserting indecorous body parts, functions and fluids? Apparently not. But to explain a bit for those without the benefit of living where I do, “bleed blue” refers to the University of Kentucky Wildcats, the local religion which inspires in its fans a stigmata of fresh blue blood.

In our company with the piercee, Claire, was her beau fantastique, Graham, and sightseer brother, Christopher.

Here we are, ensconced in Chez Bleed Blue, awaiting the piercing by one Zak, a multi-tattooed and pierced personage who, truly, was a delight to meet. I asked him about his facial piercings, which he referred to as “surface” piercings, which I misunderstood as “circus” piercings. Ha, ha! But no matter, turns out Zak actually IS a member of a circus, and serves as ringmaster for a small local troupe.

And so we proceeded with the procedure. These photos, by the way, were ably snapped by the aforementioned Graham on his iPhone, and don’t represent the breadth of his photographic ability. Boy’s good; look at his website and you’ll see.

Zak sterilizes the area:

Zak crams a long, dangerous looking needle up into her nose:

And finally, Zak tags the young heifer … ahem, excuse me, places the nose decor into the nostril of the 18-year-old young lady:

As you can see, it’s a painful and horrifying experience, especially for the mother/witness.

Aw! Poor pierced pup!

Honestly, the whole thing didn’t alarm me very much; I myself possess several piercings, though all are confined to the ears. I just have five, and they’re in the usual places: the lobes and one perched at the top of my left ear. Years of allergies and the accompanying dripping and sneezing have rendered me totally without interest in poking holes and jewelry into my own tender nose.

But as you can see, a puncture wound seems to have made this gal happy.

May she forever be moooooved by the experience.

That’s the way I like it

I’ve been thinking of going vegetarian again. It’s been nearly nine years since I fell off the veggie wagon, which I rode happily for about a decade previously.

Barcode me baby
Food Inc.

I wasn’t a PETA pusher. I wasn’t a Food Inc. convert. I wasn’t even especially doing it for any sort of diet benefits. Initially, I just got sick of the taste of meat, and the idea of going without struck me as something interesting to do, something that required some discipline, and something that might be good for me.

On the whole, it was. I liked being vegetarian for all these reasons, and I liked that I felt more energetic. I had no trouble with my weight. But, as I say, this was nearly 20 years ago and when you’re 30, or at least when  *I* was 30, keeping weight off wasn’t any problem at all. Now, eh. I weigh a lot more than I’m comfortable with, and, remembering how good I felt when I wasn’t consuming animals, I’m thinking I might do it again.

But things are different now. Tras, while a good sport in general, isn’t a bit interested in giving up meat. He’ll eat some meatless meals, and no matter what I do he’ll support me … but he just isn’t interested in giving up his PETA status — People Eating Tasty Animals. And hey, I do admit, even in my veggie years, I found it hard to resist pepperoni, of all things. Trassie, who’s 8, is a grazer and eats probably 60 percent of what I cook. He’s more malleable but he’s still in that “I hate X” phase, where X  represents anything the recalcitrant child has never tasted before.

So there’s that. In the previous vegetarian years, my older two, Claire and Christopher, were in the macaroni and chicken nugget years; that’s about all they’d consume.

They did eat a lot of bean burritos, too, but what they were eating was easy to whip up, and I could make my stuff separate, any way I wanted to. Their dad covered his own food.

Now, I like to cook and experiment. I do enjoy making some meats; cooking a whole turkey for 20 at Thanksgiving, for instance, was interesting. I once made roasted goat thanks to the generosity of a Muslim neighbor, who knew I’d like it when she found out I’d cooked and eaten lamb in the past.

In a valiant effort to create something the whole family might enjoy, I dreamed up a vegetarian enchilada casserole, which bears only a passing resemblance to a genuinely Mexican dish. But it turned out great. Both Tras the husband and Tras the son liked it, as did Christopher the Beginning to Eat a Whole Lot More Variety Now That He’s 15. It hasn’t yet been tested on Claire, who these days dines most often in the company of Mssr. Le Boyfriend.

So here, my friends, is the recipe. Give it a try and see if you like it as much as we did. It sort of looks long and involved, but truly it’s not. Bon apetite!

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole

8-9 small corn tortillas
1 can red beans, drained & rinsed
1 can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 container large curd cottage cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
3 tsp onion salt, divided
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground sea salt
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh spinach
1 small can sliced black olives
Shredded cheddar
Red pepper flakes
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Sliced green onions
Plain yogurt or sour cream
Queso blanco or feta

In medium mixing bowl, stir together tomatoes, beans, cottage cheese, cheeses, eggs, and spices, reserving 1 tsp onion salt.  Set aside.

Coat bottom and sides of oblong glass baking dish (8×10) with oil or cooking spray

Wrap tortillas in damp paper towels; microwave for 30 to 45 seconds until soft. Lay 4 tortillas in the bottom, overlapping as necessary.

Spoon half the bean mixture over tortillas. Layer half the sliced zucchinis over mixture, top with spinach.

Place next layer of tortillas over spinach and press into place. Layer remaining zucchini and the rest of the bean mixture.

Top with some shredded cheddar, olives, queso blanco (or feta), red pepper flakes and onion salt.

Cover with foil and bake in 375-degree oven for 1 hour, removing foil after 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to set for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice into squares.

Serve topped with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and fresh tomatoes and green onions.

6-8 servings

Love and the application of lipstick

Like a good many women, I like to look my best.

Therefore, I spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom each morning, applying lotions, makeup, hair-styling products, and other mysterious unguents in a (more or less successful) attempt to make myself look slightly better than I would in the natural state. Which in my case would be a pale face accompanied by tired freckles, less-than-luminous eyes, and thin, non-luscious lips.

It’s the lip portion of my face that I’d like to discuss today.

My lipstick-wearing has changed and evolved since becoming a mother lo these many years. In my teens and twenties, I slathered on the lip color with abandon, never worrying about its potential effect on others. Sure, I was careful not to unintentionally give cherry-red lips to the men I loved (or at least smooched), but other than that, I lacquered up the lips anytime I felt the kaleidoscope that was my eye-shadow palette at the time — we’re talking The Cyndi-Lauper Eighties here — needed the balance of some glossy hues.

Then came the nineties, and my entry into The Childbearing Years. Once I’d produced an infant, I gave up wearing not only lipstick but also perfume, after experiencing the shock of receiving back perfumy infants when I’d allowed them to be held by over-scented female relatives.

But mainly I kissed my sweet babies so often that there never was time to even think about lipsticking myself. Occasionally I’d dab on some Carmex to ward off winter chappiness, but otherwise my lips were completely au naturale.

Later, with preschoolers around, the high-volume kissing tends to be reciprocated. You love to kiss them, and now they’re kissing you back. Double the smoochiness and lipstick-wearing its pretty much down to zero.

Then there’s the period in the middle years where they don’t seem to want you to kiss them all that much, say from around the age of 9 until about 14. Oh, they’ll put up with it a little, if there is no one important around — that is, one of their friends, someone around their age, or anyone who remotely resembles a human — and you get to sneak in a good-bye kiss now and then. But by and large, during these years, kissing your offspring is over.

Then come the teen years where they seem to crave it — then abhor it on alternating days. But never, ever, kiss them and leave your lipstick behind! That’s a death sentence from a teenager, right there. They will rub their face until it’s raw rather than having something as embarrassing as Mommy Lip Residue on their cheek, forehead, or whatever part you can snag before they flee. But oh how they hug and kiss when they themselves are in need of affirmation and affection! Mama’s need to kiss ’em and show these ingrates how much she loves them? Fuggedabowdit!

The only good thing I can conclude about these many-changing periods in the life of a kissing mother is that is spreads out the cost of purchasing cosmetics. Right now, with kids at the 8, 15, and 17 levels, I’m doing a moderate amount of kissing, and thus only remember to apply lipstick every third day or so. I’ll probably make it until Spring with this tube I’m on right now.

With no female relatives either in the possession, or in the manufacturing phase, of an infant currently, I don’t envision having babies to kiss on the regular, so my lipstick-wearing will doubtless increase.

But whatever the state of my lips may be, I’m happy to report that I am the satisfied owner of a husband who allows me to kiss him whenever the mood strikes, and I don’t remember any complaints as to whether my lips be lacquered or bare. He seems to appreciate any and all affection I throw his way, irrespective of whatever the state of my war paint may be.