How open lines of communication and pet names can strengthen your most important relationship

So, Dick works for a company that is in the top 10 of conservative companies in the entire world. He loves his job. Even though he has to wear a suit everyday and shine his shoes and be interviewed as to his personal righteousness every two years. He actually says he doesn’t notice his tie anymore. (Dick = ties like Jane = bras, if that tells you anything).

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It being the month of Love, Dick and I have been communicating more than usual. I lie: we communicate pretty well all the time. I could hate my life, hate Dick, hate the kids, hate . . . don’t know what else there is to hate, but I would tell Dick about it first. We talk.

We even have stupid endearing nicknames for each other. He calls me Scrappy, I call him Dickie Boy (only with his real name instead of Dick). And other nicknames for other things that I won’t share in public. As I said, we talk, and, uh, snuggle.

Today I google talk’d (like IM) Dick around 10:30. I wrote, “you there, hot stuff?” because I had no idea he was, at that moment, giving a demonstration on his laptop to the general counsel of this very conservative company. I don’t think I’ve ever used the phrase “hot stuff” before in my entire life.

They had a good laugh. Dick still has his dream job. And I’ll be a little more cautious in my communication from now on.

WFMW: Pizza, Pizza, Calzone!

Who remembers playing Duck, Duck, Goose? And did you ever use different terms, like Chapstick, Chapstick, Lipstick? Good, me neither. How incredibly lame that would’ve been. So far, my kids are too young for Duck, Duck, Goose. But when they get a little older, we might just have to play Pizza, Pizza, Calzone, ’cause that’s what we eat almost every week.

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Since I am not a purist when it comes to cooking or eating, I’ve assembled recipes/methods for everything from easy individual pizzas on frozen dough to gourmet calzones from scratch. And for the sweet tooth, a great dessert pizza.

Whether you’ve got five minutes or fifty, and just a few ingredients in the pantry or lots of fancy fresh ingredients, you can impress your people tonight. Here it is, choose-your-own-adventure dinner, but first, a note for shopping.

At the store

For the crust, you’ll need frozen roll dough or flour, water, salt, yeast, sugar, and oil. Your sauce can be canned crushed tomatoes with Italian herbs or your favorite spaghetti sauce (I like Sandra Lee‘s, minus the mushrooms). Then, whatever toppings you normally like, including fresh basil and alfredo sauce if you want to try bruschetta pizza. Mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, olives, bell peppers, and for the calzones, also chicken, broccoli, and cheddar or meatballs and barbeque sauce. Whatever.

The only kitchen item that really makes a difference here is a pizza stone. You can get one at Pampered Chef, or do what I did: ask friends if they have any seldom-used bridal shower gifts lying around (thanks, Tracey!). Your pizza stone stays in the oven all the time, requires no cleaning (maybe the occasional rubber-spatula brush-off) and no greasing or cornmeal.

I lost my nice pizza cutter, but have found my butcher knife does a fine job. Oh, and a cutting board for getting the pizza from the oven to the table. Just pull the pizza off the stone with your fingers; or, if you still have feeling in your fingertips, (and really, if you cook a lot, why would you?) use a fork.

Oh, and check the last paragraph for dessert pizza ingredients.

Easiest Pizza

This is great for busy-night dinner. Preheat oven (and stone) to 450. Defrost frozen roll dough (evenly spaced on a plate) for about 10 seconds in the microwave. Roll each ball out to about 5-inch diameter and top as desired. Use enough flour when rolling out so you can transfer the topped pizza from counter to oven with your hands. It’s best to keep these simple so you don’t end up with toppings all over the floor. Bake for about 5 minutes, watching for this look:

easy pepperoni pizza

Pizza from scratch

Shalece’s Pizza Dough
(makes 2 thick-crust or 4 thin-crust 15-inch pizzas)

Preheat oven to 450. In a small bowl, mix and let sit for 5 minutes:

1 c warm water
1 TBSP or 1 packet instant yeast
2 tsp sugar

In a large bowl:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 TBSP oil

Mix in yeast solution and kneed until smooth. For thick crust, separate into two parts. For thin, four. Roll out to about 15-inch diameter. Use plenty of flour so it doesn’t stick. Poke with a fork all over and place on pizza stone (or on a greased cookie sheet, if you must).

Bake for a few minutes, then pull the oven rack out a ways and top while in the oven. (Uh, be careful to not have kiddies around at this point). Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly.

For bruschetta pizza (thanks to Shalece’s Argentinian friends!), mix and set aside chopped tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, drizzle of olive oil and pinch of salt before making dough. Top with alfredo sauce and mozzarella, then sprinkle bruschetta mixture on top. Dick says it’s “in the top 10”:

bruschetta pizza

“Gourmet” Calzones

I got the idea for making calzones from i have to say. . . though I found a dough recipe I like better at allrecipes.com. But Randi(?) has great ideas for fillings and amazing pictures of the rolling, filling, and sealing process. Mine did not look like that. They turned out quite edible, however, and are also in Dick’s Top 10.

I brushed mine with butter and garlic bread sprinkle before baking. It is important to not put the sauce inside the calzone. Besides being more authentic, it prevents the filling from sliding out onto your pan/stone. Sauce is for dipping here.

calzones

Dessert Pizza

Holy pepperoni this is a long post! I’ll summarize. Try this recipe for Best Rolled Sugar Cookies, rolling the dough (again on a lot of flour) into 8-inch diameters and baking as per blah blah.

Make Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting, and prepare fruit toppings such as canned dark sweet cherries, sliced strawberries, kiwis, and bananas, and, my favorite, blackberries. Frozen blackberries are quite reasonable at Walmart. Let thaw and add sugar to taste. Heaven!

I wish I had a picture of this, but I think we ate it all before I could find the camera. Anyway, this is what works for me on Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday.

And since I still have contest fever, I’m entering this is My Ice Cream Diary’s favorite food experience contest. Obviously I’ve never made all of these foods in one experience, but learning to bake with ‘my’ pizza stone has been, indeed, a revelation. Usually I’m skeptical that some new-fangled (or even old) device can make such a difference, but it can. I’d even spend money to actually buy one for myself, if I had to.

Susan’s Frankenstein Impersonation

dscn1624-1-small.JPGI finally got to see Susan’s stitches. We went back to the ER to get them checked out. You’ll be glad to know that her temperature and blood pressure and pulse are all normal too. Anyone else think medical procedure is sometimes a tad . . . ridiculous? Not that I would switch our medical system for Japan’s, Mexico’s, Europe’s, or Egypt’s. Jury’s still out on New Zealand.

Although I am kind of concerned that the (CNA?) (Registration person?) (Triage person?) spelled sutures suchers.

We go back on Friday to get them taken out. Still in the dark as to why they used non-dissolvable. I should have asked: should not let my spelling-snobbery get in the way of the pursuit of knowledge.

If I lived in New York City

james-braly.jpgI’d be taking in James Braly’s show Life in a Marital Institution: “20 Years of Monogamy in One Terrifying Hour.” The New York Times says that the monologue is “appealing” and “well-constructed,” and that Braly “somehow manages to lampoon his wife, Susan, while also respecting her and her somewhat unusual ways.”

There are plenty of books, movies, and plays romanticizing infidelity and/or casual relationships. Think Doctor Zhivago and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Marriage is hard (monogamy isn’t hard for me, but marriage is hard sometimes). I’d love to see a theatrical take on marriage that manages to be real and funny and reaffirming. Maybe the mama bird diaries can go see the show and post a review?

Woooooh!!! We love you, David Archuleta!

So, Dick and I have NEVER watched an American Idol season before, and here we sit, Dick on his laptop and me with my book, schlepping through all the contestants, and here comes our baby, David Archuleta, ours because he lives just a few miles away, and we are GLUED to the screen as he sings Imagine.

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Jane (tear in her eye): I’ve got goosebumps. Hair sticking up on the back of my neck.

Dick (actually looking away from the computer for 5 minutes straight): I’ve gotta text in for him. (Dick knows how to text?) Dick actually sets down the laptop and finds our phones so we can vote.

Quick, call 1-866-IDOLS 10 or text “vote” to 5710. And if you want to see some more David, here’s his audition from Hollywood Week.

He was also on Star Search, apparently (Thanks, Marcy). Now this (and knowing that he has a voice coach) for some reason makes me not be so infatuated with him. I don’t know why. Isn’t it fine, even great, that he has been developing this talent for a long time? Apparently, it’s even cooler if the person didn’t know they were so talented or didn’t have to try hard to be talented. But really, it should be inspiring, motivating, encouraging to know that even people with ENORMOUS RAW TALENT work hard. Right?

Anyway, I’m off to download some of his tunes from Itunes.

5 things I am sure of

dscn1603-1.JPGThe Salt Lake City Track Club 30th Annual 30K Winter Series is over. And I did it! I ran the 15K on Saturday in 1 hour 42 minutes and a couple seconds. Which sounds like a very long time, but is really an 11 minute/mile pace over the 9.3 mile course. So not bad for someone with the opposite of a runner’s body.

Not bad? Who am I kidding? That is FREAKIN’ AWESOME!! (Hey, I’d rather look like a runner, but since I don’t, I gotta brag somewhere). The “medal” they gave out was pretty cool, though. It made Sally and Susan think I’d won. And really, that’s all that matters.

Here are 5 things I am sure of:

1. I have finally joined the ranks of the serious runners, or maybe that’s the seriously well-insulated? Either way, it felt great to run in a tank top in 40 degree weather.

2. People who are are ahead of me, walking, really do deserve to die. If you’re going to be ahead of me, have the decency to at least look like you are suffering.

3. Running with a womanly complaint is even worse than running on a normal day.

4. It is best not to eat beans the night before a race, even if they are Cafe Rio Beans.

5. Even though a marathon is not in my future (my knees still hurt), there are plenty of 10K and 10 mile races around. Next I’m going to run in the Rex Lee Run to raise money for cancer research at Brigham Young University. Rex Lee was president of BYU when Dick and I were first there. I didn’t know him, of course, but cancer is always a good thing to run against.

Even if you don’t want to run yourself, you can honor a cancer fighter and have a runner bear the name of your cancer fighter.

It’s pretty sad running alone. If anyone would like to join me, and will be in the Provo, Utah area on March 15, (and if you run a nice, leisurely 11 minute mile), give me a call!

There is nothing like a head wound . . .

. . . to remind you that you would rip out your own beating heart if a) you knew how to transplant it and b) your kid needed it.dscn1614-small.JPG

Susan fell off the back of the over-stuffed chair in our living room tonight and hit her forehead on the window sill. It bled. Then it stopped bleeding quite precipitously, and I was pretty sure it needed stitches.

Since Spot has been throwing up mysteriously (well, the process isn’t very mysterious, but the cause is), I elected to stay home and Dick got to make the ER run.

I am happy to say that it was Dick’s fault (he pulled the chair out from the wall at Sally’s request without looking at Susan’s precarious perch) and that there was nothing suspicious (in terms of DCFS — I have a semi-real fear of them) about this injury.

I’m only glad it was Dick’s fault (similar to the time Sally had nursemaid’s elbow in Cairo) because usually it (the screaming, the impatience, the irrational frustration) is my fault.

The triage person looked at the cut for half a second and agreed stitches were needed. Eight of them, it turned out, along with five shots of anesthestic after Dick turned down general anesthesia. Sally and I prayed at home (why didn’t we think of doing that before they left for the ER?) and she wrote a cute letter to Susan. By cute I mean she embellished the letters with flowers and polka dots.

Dear Susan, I love you so much. I hope you are okay. Did the stitches go well? Love, your sister Sally.

We also cleaned up the house and watched some more Remington Steele. The first because cleaning (or baking) seems to be the thing to do for injuries or illness, and the second because, why not?

Susan was bouncing of the walls when she got home a couple hours later: the sign of a successful hospital run. These are our first injury-related stitches, though not our first drug overdose (Tylenol) or concussion scare (Sally had a CT scan a couple years ago). We have to go back in a couple days for inspection, and in five for stitch removal.

I don’t know if use of the old-fashioned, non-dissolvable stitches is an indication of seriousness or cheapness? Maybe some medical-type can enlighten me?

The nurse assured Dick that the cut was very good scar-wise; if it scars at all, it’ll be along the line of her natural forehead creases. As if my first concern is scarring! But I guess after the trauma is over it is a pressing concern. Wouldn’t want anything to affect her chances of being totally unblemished as a teenager.

The bandaid was completely unnecessary, but Dick had been promising her a bandaid for two hours, so, by golly, she got her bandaid. And the “rainbow care-a-bear” the nurse let her choose didn’t hurt either.

Is it better or worse for them to get injured in such a mundane way? I can make rules like Don’t run out in the street, and Don’t put your fork in the light socket. But Don’t climb on the furniture just doesn’t get much respect.

Anyway, we did remember to pray after they got home. Thank you for taking good care of our kids. We need all the help we can get.