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Min’s Irish Soda Bread

For as long as I can remember, my mother has cooked her famed Corned Beef and Cabbage for each and every Saint Patrick’s Day. Except for Christmas, I never felt further from home in New York than on St. Paddy’s Day, 3,000 miles away from my family and our delicious traditional meal.

So you can imagine how excited I am for tonight’s Family Dinner! That’s right! In honor of Saint Patrick and Frost Family Tradition, Mama Frost is making her wonderful Corned Beef and Cabbage and I baked two loaves of Irish Soda Bread to go along with it. Mmmmmmm…. I love me some Irish Soda Bread! My mom gave me this recipe, and I think she got it from her father, who probably got it from his mother, Min. But I’m just guessing.

Grandma Min’s Irish Soda Bread

Oven: 325*
Prep: 10 min.
Bake: 65-70 min.
What you’ll need:
A 9×5 loaf pan (I use a 9″ cake pan and it works fine.)
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
raisins

P.S. As I typed that list out, I realized that I totally did not add the baking soda to my Irish Soda Bread. What happens when you skip the baking soda in a recipe? (We’ll find out at dinner tonight.)

Preheat your oven to 325* and grease your loaf pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, BAKING SODA, sugar, and salt.

Blend egg and buttermilk, then add all at once to flour mixture.

add buttermilk and egg

Mix buttermilk and egg mixture into flour mixture until just moist.

mix in until just moist

Stir in the melted butter…

add butter

Then… defile the Irish and add RAISINS to the mix! Yes, that’s right. Traditional Irish Soda Bread does not contain raisins, at least not according to the Internets. However, my family’s traditional recipe does include raisins, and it’s delicious that way, so do as the Frosts do and add raisins! Yum! (Also, don’t really defile the Irish. We love and adore the Irish. In fact, the Frosts are Irish. So maybe the Internets are wrong about what makes Soda Bread authentic.)

add raisins

I have no idea how many raisins you should add. Just throw in a bunch until you think it looks right. And be sure not to forget the baking soda. It is, after all, Irish Soda Bread.

Pour your batter (it should be thick and gooey, like the batter for scones) into your greased loaf pan. I like to use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixing bowl clean. Put it in a 325* oven for 65 to 70 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

irish soda bread

Well, it looks fantastic. Too bad this blog doesn’t have smell-o-reading because it smells fffffaaaaannnntaaaasssstic! Now you’re going to let it cool on a wire rack for thirty minutes to an hour.  For best flavor, wrap it in a clean dishcloth and let it sit over night before serving. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Now for your daily sleeping wiener:

wiener dreams

(Tomorrow I’ll tell you what the fam thought of my soda-less soda bread. Seriously? How could I forget the baking soda?)

***It was awesome, by the way. Delish. Everybody had multiple helpings, and one of my brothers even skipped dessert so he could justify eating more of the sodaless soda bread. But really? The true star of the show was my mother’s Corned Beef and Cabbage which, Holy Mother of Goldfish, was so incredible, so much more incredible than I even remembered, it was completely worth moving 3,000 miles across the country for.

Continuing Efforts

Before we get started I would just like to say, for the record, that I loathe and despise flash photography. At least the flash photography that is the fruit of my Olympus Stylus 600‘s loins. So I no longer use the flash, but instead choose the “available light” setting, which allows me to take grainy, furry photos that sort of capture a slightly more realistic, warmly-lit appearance. At least I think so.

Moving on.

Here’s our eat-in kitchen as of tonight:

sideboard

You may remember it from these photos, which were taken three weeks ago. Sort of a big improvement, no? There are still things out of place, but it’s coming along. The shelf over the kitchen window, for example. It’s really too high for our cook books, which is what we started putting there. I think we might start a collection of vintage everyday dishware and display it up there. Not sure yet.

The counters look really messy in this photo, but that’s only because Mike made me fresh lemonade (a current obsession of mine) and I didn’t bother to clean up before I took the picture.

You can see we added a sideboard behind the table! I love it. This has been Mike’s room to decorate, and he went and picked that baby out all by hisself. I married a man with good taste, I did. I think there’s too much stuff on top of it, as well on the wood shelf above. Alot of it is stuff we’re going to hang on the walls, so maybe once that’s done I won’t feel so claustrophbic about those shelves, but we’ll see.

On the  lower right of the photo you can see the plastic bin under the sideboard where we keep clean rags. I want to get two really nice baskets to replace the bin. One for clean rags and one for dirty. Something a little more attractive than a clear plastic bin.

They’re not pictured here, but the seats on the chairs need to be recovered, and Mike wants to buy enough fabric so that I can make a matching curtain for the kitchen window. We’re thinking yellow stripes? Blue stripes? Yellow and blue stripes? (Mike has his heart set on something stripey.) Do you have any ideas?

Sidenote: The yellow straw pear-shaped placemats that hang above the sideboard belonged to my mother’s sister, my namesake, Patricia Frost. They are straight out of the sixties. The copper canisters and the copper pans all came from the house my family lived in when I was born. The table and chair set were given to my mother by my father’s father’s girlfriend, before he remarried my father’s mother. It’s been in my parent’s home, my cousin’s home, my brother’s home, and now it’s in mine.

Here’s the utility side of the kitchen. It’s pretty much done:

stovetop

The red spice tins in the spice rack to the right were my grandfathers. They’re over sixty years old and so are the spices inside them! The trivet over the spice rack hung on the wall in the kitchen of the house I was born in. The tea towel hanging on the bottom of the spice rack is a vintage Florida souvenir tea towel my mother gave me. It’s sprinkled with the names of all the cities in Florida. It’s fabulous.

Our little kitchen is a collection of treasures and relics.

Respawn

My brothers have gotten me and Mike into a game called airsoft. What’s airsoft? It’s simulated tactical warfare.  Mike played one time and then it was the only thing he and my brothers talked about for weeks. Weeks. Finally, on the day after New Years, Mike dragged me along for a game. And when I say “dragged”, I am not exaggerating.

“But I could go get a manicure today!”

“You’re playing airsoft.”

You guys. I could’ve gotten a manicure that day, but instead I spent the entire day with my brothers, their kids, and my husband, running around like maniacs, shooting at each other with BBs. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun.

In actuality, there is very little maniacal running around involved. There is, however, a whole lot of belly crawling through the underbrush involved. We play at Warped Ops, this brilliant airsoft field with trenches, a city, a town, and everything. It’s amazing. The field is big enough that if, for example, you are looking down at the town from a hill above when someone gives you directions, you will very likely lose your way once inside the town because everything looks completely different from inside than from above.

Last weekend my team, Green Team, had to steal a bucket of water from Goat Town, which was occupied by Tan Team. I was covering a group of soldiers who were covering the guy with the bucket. We were making our way to the well, under enemy fire the entire time, and one by one all the guys around me were getting hit. I ducked into a hut to take cover for a minute and found Sergeant Louise aiming his M16 towards enemy fire.

“Where’s the bucket?” I screamed, my heart racing.

“Frankie’s got it! Three o’clock!”

I peeked around a broken wall and saw Frankie running alone towards a pile of old tires, the bucket clutched in his arms. “I’ll cover him!” I dashed out of the hut. A spray of enemy fire whizzed over my head and then I saw Frankie go down. He screamed, “I’m hit!” as the bucket rolled from his arms toward enemy lines.

I dove for it and somersaulted into the tire pile. I sat up with my face in the tires, trying to make my body as small as possible. The stack of old tires formed a perfect airsoft shield around me. Bullets bounced off of them, but I was untouched. If I could just sit there long enough, the guys firing at me would likely get distracted by something else, and I could make it to the well and back in time to win the game. I peered over my shoulder, watched two more of my teammates go down.  A third threw himself into the tires beside me.

“Dude! When the firing dies down –” A glossy white BB smacked him right between the eyes.

“You’re dead! Respawn!” He crouched lower behind the tires, cradling his Thompson to his chest.

“It’s cool! I’m just gonna chill and catch a breath!” He shouted over the noise of fifteen fully automatic airsoft rifles firing thousands of rounds at us.

“Respawn! Get out of here! They’re not gonna stop shooting if you don’t call your hit! You’re dead! Dead men tell no tales!” I moved to see if anyone was covering us and took a spray of plastic pellets in the Iron Face. And that was it. I was gone.

You guys, protecting that bucket from Tan Team was the highlight of my week.

That sounds really weird, doesn’t it?

IMG_20110102_115332

From left: Frosty, Jack, Lady MacDeath, Warspite, Cricket, and Coyote.

Yes, we have Airsoft nicknames. You know you wanna come dork out with us.

Melly Klistmas and a Happy New Lease

This is probably the longest stretch of time I’ve ever gone without writing in my blog. It’s been almost a whole month, you guys. So what’s been taking up all of my time, you ask? All fifty-six and a half hours a week not spent sleeping, showering, eating, working, and commuting? First, there were the holidays.

snowy village

Christmas was lovely. I didn’t get the Sylvanian’s out of their Thanksgiving outfits until December 21st, but it was totally worth the wait.

sylvanian xmas

I didn’t bake my traditional gingerbread people this year, but I did make all my own gift-wrap.

recycled wrapping

We had a wonderful New Year. Mike had to work New Year’s Eve, but I got to spend the evening with my brother and his wife, just the three of us, and it was absolutely lovely. Since Mike and I weren’t going to spend New Year’s Eve-ning together, we spent the afternoon together instead. And what does a young starting-out for the third-time couple do on a sunny So Cal winter day? They apartment hunt.

I had been hoping for a two-bedroom apartment, some outdoor space, and hardwood or laminate floors, but two-bedrooms with all those amenities in the San Fernando Valley are more expensive than you’d think. We looked at a couple of cute places, all brand-new laminate floors, lots of sun, one-bedrooms totally within our budget.  We looked at a couple of awful places, one-bedrooms outside our budget that looked good on paper but turned out to be carpeted windowless dens of misery.

We were getting ready to wrap it up for the day when Mike convinced me to take a look at a little apartment off Saticoy he’d seen the day before. A two-bedroom with a dishwasher, a balcony, a fireplace, and carpeting, it was right within our budget. However, as far as I was concerned, the carpeting cancelled out the dishwasher, the fireplace, and the second bedroom. I was determined to hold out for hardwood floors. And by that I mean laminate flooring would have been equally awesome, but carpet was out of the question. If we had carpet I would spend the next five years scrubbing dog butt-smear out of it.

“But the landlord said she didn’t care that we have dogs, she doesn’t care what happens to the carpet, so you don’t have to worry about it.”
“Dog butt-smear in the carpet is disgusting. I’m not living with carpet.”
“I’ll buy a carpet cleaner and I’ll shampoo it once a week.”
“No.”
“There are two bathrooms.”
“Fine. But we’re only looking.”

He turned onto a street lined with 1920’s Craftsman bungalows and palm trees. “This is probably where we’ll walk the dogs in the mornings. There’s a coffee shop at the end of the block.” I rolled my eyes and coughed the words “butt smear”. He turned a corner and parked in front of a little six-unit building. There were two kids sitting on the lawn out front, playing with a puppy under the shade of a big beautiful tree.

The minute I walked into our Harlem apartment, I knew I was home. I loved that apartment from the first moment I saw it, like it was a part of Mike and me and who we are together. I loved it’s tall windows with the deep sills, the shining original hardwood floors. I loved our neighbors and our community, but mostly I loved how happy we were while we lived there.

When Michael opened the front door of this new apartment and I saw the fireplace nestled in the built-in bookcases, I knew we were home.  We signed the lease three days later and started moving in right away.  Life has been incredibly upside down ever since we left New York, but never as much as it has been in the last fifteen days. We’ve been overwhelmed and frustrated and of course there is always some butt-smear, but you know what? That’s life. And a little at a time the boxes are vanishing, our things are finding their place in cabinets and cupboards, and we’re making this apartment ours. Welcome to another new beginning. Welcome to the Valley.

welcome-to-the-valley

The sunset off our balcony

Worth Moving Cross-Country For

celebratory_breakfast

Yesterday my brother was sworn in to the California State Bar. We all met at Marston’s in Pasadena for breakfast at 8:30, then we went to the swearing in, and afterwards, we had a fantastic lunch at the famous Hollywood restaurant, The SmokeHouse. I ate more yesterday than I ate on Thanksgiving and I swear, if I don’t eat again until New Years, it will be too soon. But it was totally worth it.

Here’s a short video of my brother being sworn in. The back of my head makes a brief appearance, but the very best part is when the judge says, “Counsel, please be seated.” I got little chills all up and down my spine and both my parents started crying. Not because the judge told them to sit, but because he called them “Counsel.” You guys, my brother is a lawyer now. I am so happy for him I feel like my little shriveled heart grew three sizes that day.

Someone finally turned a light on in there

NYC_10-07

Halloween 2007, New York City

When I turned 13 my father said, “Over the next few years, you’re going to start to think your parents are really stupid. You’re going to think we don’t know anything. And that’s ok. A few years later, sometime in your twenties, you’ll realize you were wrong, that in fact we know a lot and we have  a lot to offer.”

No way, I thought. That’s totally stupid.

When I was 15 I lied and told my parents that a particular New Years Eve party would be chaperoned by the under-age host’s parents. Of course it wasn’t. Of course the kid’s parents were in Hawaii and the only supervision we’d have would be from my friend’s twenty-one-year-old boyfriend who’d purchased three kegs and a pile of weed. My parents could always tell when I was lying, so as soon as I left for the party, they called the kid’s house. Ten minutes later, as I was walking up the front steps to the thudding of a subwoofer somewhere inside the party, my father’s car was pulling up to the driveway. He leaned over and threw open the passenger door.

“Get in the car. Now.”

I sputtered and balked, hot-faced and humiliated. I was furious, but I knew better than to try to defend myself. I had lied, after all. So, I got in the car and sulked the whole way home. I spent the rest of the evening watching Dick Clark with my parents, convinced they were trying to ruin my life.

That was the worst part of adolescence, I think. The feeling that I was a grown-up and I knew how to take care of myself and why wouldn’t they just leave me alone and let me live my life? Why were they always butting their nose in and taking over and so what if I want to go to a party where there aren’t any parents home? I can take care of myself and gawd they are so stupid. They totally don’t get me.

It might seem ridiculous now, but I remember those feelings well. Utter frustration and abject loneliness. The injustice of it all.  Teen angst at it’s angstiest.

Sometime between college graduation and New York City, I realized it wasn’t my parents that didn’t get me. They totally got me. They got me so well they knew what I was up to even before I did. It was me who didn’t get them. But they didn’t let my inability to understand stop them from being good parents. They knew I’d get it one day, and in the meantime, they loved me enough to sacrifice being liked by me. They gave up being cool and fun because being my friend wasn’t important. Being my parents – keeping me safe, healthy, and cared for – was what counted.

Nowadays you really could call me a grown-up. I’m married with beasts and I have a little bit of life experience under my belt. My parents are still my parents, of course, and I’m still their child, but I have a whole new appreciation for the parents they were while I was growing up. I mostly take care of myself now, though I often ask for their advice and guidance. After all these years, they’ve become two of my best friends. And much to the chagrin of my fifteen-year-old self, it turns out my parents are totally rad and really smart. Take it from me, kids. Listen to your parents. They totally get you.

Frosty’s Got Her Groove Back (I think.)

Chillin

V-Dog says, “Just chill, man. Just chill.”

Today marks three months since we arrived in Los Angeles and three months of living with my parents and all our animals. I wrote a one-month check-in, but I skipped the two-month because it was a much less pleasant month. First of all, it rained nearly every day. Also, the honeymoon of being home had worn off and I was reminded of all of The Valley’s flaws and did you know that sometimes it rains in Los Angeles? Because I was sure there was no rain here but it has rained at least forty-five of the ninety days we’ve been home.

This last month has seen it’s own trials, don’t get me wrong. But I think I’m starting to get into the swing of it. We’re beginning to get into a bit of a routine, which is great, I am a huge fan of routines. We’ve been spending a lot of time with family and we’re looking forward to the holidays. Also, I’ve gotten over the weather, mostly. I went to New York at the end of October and realized that sixty-degree weather is not cold. Sixty-degrees is lovely, thank you. I will never again complain about sweater weather in November.

As far as work goes, it’s starting to be fun again. For a minute things were really intense, but I’m settling in, learning how to work with the other members of my team, finding my voice. Michael hates his job, loathes and despises it, but as soon as he gets his California EMT card he’ll be moving on, so he’s not letting it get to him. Instead he’s looking forward to school in January. He finally got all his transcripts sorted out and he’s been given a date to register for Spring semester. The admissions office had given him such a hard time about his classes – as if Bio 1 in New York City is somehow sub par to Bio 1 in Los Angeles – it made me crazy. When I found out he’d gotten everything transferred over, it was all I could do not to jump up and down and squeal like a child. I am absolutely over the moon.

So things have been looking up. The second month home I felt like moving had been a mistake, something we rushed into, dear god, what did we do to our life? But this month feels good. Like we’re getting our groove back.

It occurred to me today that all of life is like this. That no matter what, there are good days and bad days, sometimes you’re in a groove and sometimes you’re in a ditch. Even when we aren’t making big life changes, things are always changing, and just because we find our way one day doesn’t mean we won’t get lost the next. I think that what I need to focus on is building a life that’s congruent with my goals. Even when things aren’t going the way I plan, if I’m at least moving towards something I want, I feel happy.

What are my goals, you ask? I’d be happy to tell you! In the next six months I’d like to spend more time with friends. I’d like to spend more time writing. I want to visit Florida with Michael so we can spend time with his mother. I want go on weekly dates with my wonderful husband. I want to be living in a little two-bedroom home that we love, that we could be happy in for at least five years. I want health insurance. And I want to be having fun and feeling successful in my career.

Those are pretty reasonable goals, right? Totally manageable. If things change between now and then, if my goals change, it doesn’t matter. After all, people make plans and God laughs at plans. And then people cry and get depressed. Then they make new plans and feel hopeful and there we have the circle of life.

A fellow walks into a bar.

I'm Too Cool for This Bird

My brother as Derek Zoolander, and his bird, Gracie.
Photo courtesy of my sister-in-law.

Congratulations to my brother who passed the bar! Me, I went right in.

(I totally stole that joke.)

We knew he was going to find out Friday night at six o-clock and when we hadn’t heard from him by twenty-seven after, we were all beginning to get depressed.

“Should I call him?”

“Don’t call him. If he hasn’t called us, it’s not good news.”

And then someone started banging on the front door so loud I thought for sure they must be holding a butcher knife and wearing a rubber mask. We all jumped up and ran to the door and it was my brother, triumphant, his wife glowing beside him. He didn’t say anything, just grinned and grabbed us for hugs. We all cheered and laughed, our eyes wet and our cheeks sore. Pop and I were in our jammies, but we ran upstairs to change and then Pop took everyone to Kate Mantalini’s to celebrate.

It wasn’t until later, while I was getting ready for bed, that I suddenly remembered why we moved home. It wasn’t for the weather, or the malls, it was for family. We came home so we could be around for moments like these. And I’m so glad we did.

Preparedness

babydoll

We found a house in our price-range. I took this photo inside of it.
What the picture doesn’t convey is the overwhelming scent of decay,
the mushrooms growing in the carpet, and the fallen-in roof
.

Had a super awkward moment at the checkout stand today. I’m buying four bottles of wine and a bottle of pre-natal vitamins. How weird is that? Right? What kind of person buys pre-natal vitamins and booze? I might as well be buying a bottle of Evian and case of laxatives.

“They’re not for me,” I volunteered when I got to the register.

“Pardon?”

“They’re not for me. The vitamins. Just the wine is for me.”

The check-out man stared at me, blinked.

“I’m not, like, a pregnant drunk or anything. Drinking and pregnant, bad idea. I’m not pregnant.”

A long silence passed. I chewed my lip. The lady behind me coughed. The checker looked at the bottle of vitamins in his hand and recognition lit his face. “Oh! Yeah. I guess I didn’t look at the vitamins. I thought, what’s this lady talking about?”

“Right, pre-natal vitamins, ha! My bad.”

Could I be more awkward? Like the checker even cares. Like anyone even reads what’s on the labels of someone else’s groceries. And why do I care? They’re not for me, or they are for me but I’m not pregnant, not even trying to get pregnant, just … hopeful.

(This is where I whine about the problems in my first world life.)

Before we left New York we decided that next year was going to be THE year to try for a baby. Everything was going our way. Mike was almost done with school, we had great jobs, we were putting money in the bank every day. Obviously it would be easy to move across the country and buy a house and get pregnant by next year. Then we moved across the country and it turns out we totally can’t afford a house next year and Mike’s new school is giving him all this drama about transferring his credits and I’m afraid we were a little ambitious when we decided next year was THE year. If we manage to climb out of this hole we dug ourselves into, it will be largely because of the support we’ve gotten from my parents these last few months.

But I was just so damn excited and now I’m so damn disappointed. The thought that this dream was maybe that close to my reach made me so indescribably happy. And then I think about the women who try and try and it doesn’t happen and I’m terrified that that will be me. That I’ll put it off and put it off and then when we finally try it just won’t happen. And then what will I do?

I’ll live, I guess. I’ll figure it out. I’ll have Mike and we’ll be fine, whatever happens happens, we move on, I know. It would be heartbreaking but we would survive. Besides, it could all work out perfectly, so it’s silly to be worrying about it now. So I’m trying to stay positive. We are healthy, we are loved, and we are getting through this slightly uncomfortable transitionary period. And I’m taking some stupid unfortunately-named vitamins. Just in case. Is that so bad?

In the mean time, I will enjoy a glass of wine every evening, thank you very much.

The World Keeps Spinning

Shadows

My heart has been so heavy the last couple of days. Mike started working nights again, which is awful. But it’s particularly awful because he’s working a job that brings him absolutely zero satisfaction, so he’s not even enjoying himself. At least if he were doing something he enjoyed, like EMT work, or a property management gig, or if he was gone all night because he was taking classes or something, at least I would know he was getting something out of it. But instead I know he’s on his feet all night, miserable, the hours dragging by like years, and so it’s hard to sit through my own personal loneliness with a brave face.

Then there’s the weather. You guys, seriously. The weather has been cold and gray for days and days. It has rained three times this week. Are you honestly telling me that we moved back from New York for this horrible, gray, dreary weather? Seriously? Because I could have stayed in New York for this. And then at least I’d be in New York.

I don’t mean that. I really do love the Valley. But this weather is seriously bumming me out.

Next is my job. It’s super frustrating right now. I’m having to learn a whole new set of skills, and what it feels like is that I’m learning a new language, and I’m not going to lie, it’s a little scary. I’m learning how to do things I never thought I’d have to learn and on the one hand, that’s the entire reason I took the job. Because I knew it would challenge me in ways I’ve never been challenged, and that was exactly what I wanted. And yet.

I think the problem here is that I don’t handle change very well. Or maybe I handle change just like everyone else does, and maybe everyone else feels super overwhelmed by change. I don’t know. Can you answer that for me? Because all of these little life changes are starting to pile up and feel a little crushing, now that the honeymoon has worn off, and I’m freaking the eff out.

Deep. Breath.

Another. Deep. Breath.

And yet. We chose this. We wanted this. Mike and I both. We stopped going out and eating at restaurants so we could save up enough money for this. We talked about it and planned it out and when we found out it was all real, we were so happy we cried.

And there have been days since we moved when all we can do is grin at each other and knock fists and bro-hug, we’re that pleased with ourselves. There have been happy reunions and little victories and days we both felt our lives were too good to be real. So I’m not trying to say that we made the wrong choice, or that I was starting to regret our decision, or anything like that. It’s just that it’s life, you know? It’s complicated and messy and boring and then it’s fantastic and perfect and full of tiny bursts of light like shooting stars that make all the rest of it worthwhile. I guess the thing to do is try and find the peace within it all. The zen. So that the crappy stuff doesn’t matter so much and the happy stuff is the thing you notice the most.