We got home late on Wednesday night, and it’s been pretty busy ever since. Along with the usual unpacking and laundry, I’m taking a fiction writing class–my first ever–and I had an assignment due on Thursday night. Which I couldn’t manage, but I got it in by Friday morning, so that’s not too bad. We were supposed to use research in writing something for this assignment, so I took advantage of the recent travel and set my story in and near Fort Pulaski. And, no, I’m not sharing it. It is probably terrible.
Anyway, while I was chugging away on this thing, my cat was letting me know that she had missed me very, very much. Isis jumped between my keyboard and me, which is not altogether unheard-of, but she was so excited that she was pacing back and forth and swishing her tail hither and yon, and next thing you know, she’d knocked my beautiful lamp off my desk. Dammit. Luckily, the lamp itself didn’t break, but the bulb inside it did break, making a big mess on the carpet, and the lamp sort of disassembled itself. Putting it together was a bonus activity I would have rather skipped.
Also while I was researching/laundering/writing/re-assembling my lamp on Thursday, J was experiencing post-vacation anxiety. She had gymnastics in the afternoon, and she said that she’s “always awful” when she’s taken time off because she’s out of practice. So she looked fairly miserable on the way there. Luckily, she had a better-than-usual practice, including getting to try two new skills, so she came home feeling completely psyched. Then on Friday, she pulled out her trumpet for the first time in over a week and found, to her delight, that she still knows how to play it. We also received a notification that some art she’d made is going to be in an art show. With all of it right in a row, she became almost giddy with her own sense of fabulousness, which is an uncommon occurrence for her, so that was lovely to witness.
Meanwhile on Friday, M was pretty thrilled to get back to playing some soccer after her vacation hiatus. She always looks so happy running onto the field–I love it. She’s also got this thing she does where, when she’s been exceptionally aggressive and pushy or something and knocks a girl over, she immediately flushes and waves her hands around and looks entirely shocked, like she has no idea who just made that girl she was defending against fall. It’s pretty hilarious. M’s not a huge fouling offender or anything, but it’s just comical how she immediately goes into I’m Completely Innocent Mode. Which, come to think of it, is sort of her general modus operandi, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
Saturday was Cute W’s birthday, so I also spent some of Friday afternoon preparing for that. After we’d indulged for our vacation down South, Cute W had chose the moderately-healthful-but-still-super-tasty Rick Bayless Chicken Tacos we love as his birthday dinner. For dessert, he requested our favorite Chocolate Mousse, which is not in the least bit healthful, really, but seemed preferable because it at least produces less in sheer volume than our other birthday treat staple, our magnificent chocolate cake (a recipe also from McCall’s Cooking School).
On Friday afternoon, I found myself rushing to pre-prep some of Friday night dinner (homemade pizza) so that we wouldn’t have to push dinner to super-late after M’s game, plus I’d aspired to do the chocolate mousse, which really does taste better the second day. M was extraordinarily patient with me when I left five minutes later than we’d planned (okay, ten minutes), after having only stretched out the crusts and reduced the sauce for the pizza and only separated the eggs for the mousse. In fact, I was separating the eggs quite badly, which just became messy and frustrating. Whatever. I swabbed myself off and ran out the door to join M waiting in the car while I left J at home as she cheerfully sliced mushrooms for the pizza.
M and I were speeding toward the game when J called me. “What’s up, hon?” Of course I immediately wondered if she’d cut off a fingertip or something. That stuff happens. But no. J just wanted to know where we might have some white vinegar. “Umm. . . in the pantry, on the left, chest height, it will be a big jug, but we might be out.”
“Which pantry?” she asked.
“The pantry,” I answered. “We only have one pantry.”
“To the right or the left of the refrigerator?” she asked.
“Okay,” and now I was sounding a little testy, another case of, how did my kids miss this basic fact? But I soldiered on with my I’m-trying-to-sound-patient-but-we-all-know-I’m-losing-my-patience voice. “Okay, hon. We have a bunch of cabinets all over the kitchen, but the part of the kitchen that I call the pantry is the two cabinets that are to the right of the refrigerator, the ones that stretch from the floor to up high.”
“Okay. . .” she said, rummaging.
“Now, what do you need vinegar for?”
“Thanks, goodbye!” she sang, and click, she’d hung up on me.
So then M and I speculated, why does she want vinegar? I feared that she might be trying to clean up some sort of stain. M wondered about pickling or sauce-creation. M had to know. She called J from her phone.
“Why do you need vinegar?!?” she demanded.
“What. . . ?” J answered, sounding vague and confused.
“I know you want vinegar, I’m right here with Mom, what are you doing with vinegar?”
“Nothing, goodbye.” And she’d hung up. Again.
Now M and I were both laughing. M called again.
“I demand to know: what are you doing with the vinegar!?!”
“Nothing,” J answered, and this process was repeated once or twice. Then J, I kid you not, made fake static crackles, informed M that she was “breaking up” and hung up on her again. Okay.
Quite the mystery. We met Cute W at the soccer game, and I re-told the story to him as we watched. Then we headed home.
Upon arrival M demanded to know about the vinegar, but since J was unresponsive and she had a sleepover to get to, she abandoned the effort and headed upstairs to shower. Meanwhile I hustled to the kitchen to continue my various projects. Once M and Cute W were safely out of earshot, J took me aside and pulled the laundry door aside to reveal a cooling cake and a pile of dirty dishes that she’d used to make that cake.
First: Adorable. She is so cute, and how nice of her to bake for Cute W’s birthday. Or, rather, his Birthday Eve.
Second: J had had a baking crisis. She wasn’t able to remove the cake from the pan in one piece, so now she needed help. The original recipe had called for a plain cake with just some powdered-sugar detailing. I advised her that I thought the best way to salvage the cake was to whip up some frosting that could be used to paste the pieces together.
Now, in addition to being behind on cooking dinner and prepping chocolate mousse, I had extra dirty dishes to clean, I needed to coach J through making frosting, and Cute W couldn’t help in the kitchen at all because it would spoil the surprise. Sigh.
I ended up giving up on the chocolate mousse until morning, but the chocolate cake was delicious. I took a picture of it and texted M at her sleepover: “Here’s what the vinegar was for! Don’t you wish you were home right now? There probably won’t be any left tomorrow.” Which was complete BS. The cake was rich even without frosting, and with the frosting it was crazy-rich. Plus Cute W had been sent home with cupcakes from a co-worker. There was no shortage of chocolate at our house.
J had found her cake recipe in the latest edition of the American Girl Magazine. It turns out we didn’t have any of the white vinegar called for in the recipe, but J Googled for substitutions and went with lemon juice. Yay, her. She said, “I feel like the magazine kind of expected the parents to actually bake the cake, because the whole article focused on making pretty designs with powdered sugar.”
“So, you feel like they kind of underestimated you?”
“Yes!” she agreed. “That’s exactly it!”
Well, they are foolish indeed. I would not underestimate this kid.