Tag Archives: The Casa

More Muffins.

I don’t bake.

That is, I don’t bake anymore.

When I left culinary school, it was largely because my pastry chef assured me that I could indeed, NOT, bake. Like, AT ALL.

So I left school, and I went to work for a coffee shop, where I went in each morning at 3:30 a.m. to work. And what did I do, you ask?

I f*cking baked. And that chef was WRONG because I was good at it.

But I never liked it one bit. The recipes and rules and precision of it all.

Keri. No. Likey.

I love to cook. To riff. To toss things in a pot and see what happens.   My roast chicken coping method is the closest I come to a rule book, and that my friends, is an ART.

Baking is math. I hate math. (Sorry boss…  I know you don’t like me to admit that.)

It’s just not me.

Except that now it is.

March 15th I had to do something.  I looked across the room, at my son sitting on his tablet, content for the moment but concerned about what was then his “extended spring break,” and I needed action.

In the kitchen I had bananas. I had ancient flour in a good airtight container in the depths of the pantry.  I had baking soda.  I had mayo. (yep. Mayo. Google it.) And I had these dudes in my house who were just going to BE THERE like, for WHO KNOWS HOW LONG (ok… they are my family, and they live here, technically – but still…. WTF!?)

So I took out some stuff, and I took out my big ass mixing bowl that gets like, NO action, and I started baking.

I kind of haven’t stopped since those first banana muffins.


those first banana muffins

Because right now, in the face of absolute chaos, the rules of baking feel good.

I can follow a recipe and if I do it just as they say, it comes out just as it should.

We can’t say that about anything right now. You can follow everything they say and still end up sick, or jobless, or mourning or whatever other shitty thing might randomly dump on you.

Baking is control. In a time when we have no control.

Judging by the amount of #breadporn pics blowing up every time I open Instagram now, I am far from alone in this.

Incidentally, I have mad respect for the bread effort – it was very specifically what I think of as “the French bread incident” that finally drove me out the door of culinary school forever. So if you have bread skills, I salute you.

So I stick with what works. Goodness knows these boys can put away some muffins, and so there is a constant demand from the (albeit fairly captive) audience around The Casa.

Outside of my kitchen, the world, and sometimes even other parts of my house, are saturated in unpredictability. (Seriously, what the hell kind of art project/Tasmanian Devil impersonation is going on in my living room right now!?)

But back in the kitchen the warmth from the oven is making me feel toasty and safe, and the well-loved big ass mixing bowl now has a place of honor in the front of a convenient cabinet, ready to help me restore the order in my mind and in my soul – at 375 degrees, 18-20 minutes at a time.

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How I spent my random vacation.

We have 6 bedrooms.


We have 3 people (4 if you count Binky the Wonder Dog, and we probably should because he would be the first to tell you he is effing “people” and don’t forget it,) in our family.

It is too damn many bedrooms, but whatever.

So The Mr has one bedroom upstairs as his office, and I had previously taken one of the bedrooms in the finished basement as my office.

This left us with 2 fully-outfitted spare bedrooms. 2 bedrooms just sitting around waiting for someone to come along and sleep in them or whatnot.

The spare room in the basement is TRICKED OUT – you get your own LEVEL of the house, FFS. Walk-in closet, the best TV in the house, surround sound, my favorite sofa, and a private bathroom.

The one upstairs is smaller, you share a bathroom with our 5 year old (“Captain-NO-Aim”) and his army of bath toys, and you are right up in the day-to-day of our family’s crap. It was the 2nd tier spare room, for sure.

It was also time to transfer Jr to a true bed, since he was bustin’ out of his Toy Story toddler bed to an extreme degree.

So I developed “The Plan.”

The Plan entailed us moving the queen bed from guest room B into Jr’s room next door, then moving my office into said unneeded guest room, and then finally the changing of my old office into Jr’s exclusive playroom.


We moved the bed into his room and got him rocking and rolling as a “big boy” (although he does still have to take a semi-hilarious running jump to get into the thing for the moment.)

Then came the last 2 steps.

And a confession. I have a LOT of stuff.   I had been cramming the clothes Jr had outgrown into that unused bedroom closet for going on 4 years, and when we moved in I had just shoved boxes marked “Keri Office” into my office closet and shut that dang door.  Then filled two bookshelves with a fraction of my favorite books in that room (hello, English degree nerd girl,) slapped some pictures on the wall and called it good.

A reckoning was coming, people.

I took a whole week off of work to make it happen, people. (And also because I had hella comical amounts of vacay accrued, yo.)

Things started off well:

Mimosa buneh ready 4 ALL THE PROJECTS.

But things, um… deteriorated kinda quickly from there…. (this is the kind of crap you miss when you don’t follow Keri on snapchat – @reluctntnburbs.)

I quickly discovered I hadn’t really purged ANYTHING from the time we had Jr…. I threw it in bags and moved it out of The Treehouse when we left the city.

There was this:

Uh oh.

And this:

Oh noes! It’s one of 80 hats I apparently liberated from the hospital!

Which escalated to this:

That escalated quickly.

And a LOT of this:


And this:

Ruh roh, queso. (With a SPOON, mind you.)

And of course this:

That salad is to keep my wine company, people.

Big ol’ shocker – Keri wasn’t handling change well. Because we have NEVER seen that before (ahem – hereand hereoh and lookie here…  I DIGRESS!)

Anyway – after I  succumbed to my weeping and eating honored my emotions regarding the treasures that avalanched out of my closets I discovered in my purge, so much more than just a clean office started to come into view. I was able to pack a few boxes for dear friends who have little guys that can get more use out of the tiny cutie clothes and I have taken two car loads of various gear to donate at A Precious Child.

Plus, in both Jr’s packed away gear, and the books and writings coming up from my former office, I have revisited so many special moments in the history of Keri.  I re-read papers I wrote in college (dang, college Keri could REALLY pick apart a Virginia Woolf novel.)  I sat in the Big Blue Marshmallow Chair, now newly rehomed in my office, and laughed and cried my way through the journal I kept for Jr during my pregnancy and our first few months together after his birth.  I brought up the table I use as a desk, remembering that it was a cast off from the University where my paternal grandparents worked, as a groundsman and a cook, and thought back to my memories of them as I sat, palms flattened against the top.  I repositioned, again and again, the mid-century modern typing table that my in-laws bought me after I fell head-over-heals for it during one of their first visits after we moved here, grateful that they love the history of things as much as I do.

Andplusalso, that cool old TV in the corner was my mom’s family’s when she was a teenager.

Did I get it all done in a week? No – I ended up taking the long way around, for sure. But it’s coming along nicely… both rooms are, actually.

And spending that week sorting and laundering and dusting and moving and living with those things that have gathered through the years allowed me stop and think and truly know what needed to stay, and what needed to be released back out to find another round of use and love.

Hokey? Of course. But it helps my heart, so I’ll take it.

Otherwise I am just the woman who spent her vacation drinking mimosas, eating chicken wings, and crying into a pile of 10-24 month sized punk band shirts.

(Let’s never speak of this again, shall we?)

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Zen Pear

In our house, the difference between “man” and “woman” can be easily demonstrated with a pear.

NO, I am not about to launch into a diatribe about how my is body shaped, and no there isn’t a standoff over who has to put in this year’s Harry and David orders.

It is this pear. This oversized, decorative, perfect (in my opinion,) pear.

The Mr, as it turns out, does not “get” the pear.

“What’s that?” Is that a big pear?” He inquired the night I brought it home and awarded it the spot under the family room TV (a high honor – we stare in that direction A LOT in this family.)

He continued, “what is that pear for? Does it hold stuff? Is it hiding something?”   (Do you mean like I am hiding my judgement about your lack of pear understanding, dude?)

No, my dear husband, it does not hold anything, or hide anything or really do anything. Why is it there?

Because, pretty.

Portly, perfect, pretty, pretty pear.

The Mr is baffled by the reasoning behind many things in our home, I have learned.

This sign for instance:

Or this one:

These branches seem to confound him:

Andplusalso my friend the owl:

Actually that last one isn’t totally true – The Mr is weirdly obsessed with owls. At a later date I have to show you the owl décor he recently brought into my life; but I don’t want to digress, (too late,) and I am not totally sure that the shock has subsided quite enough to bring myself to take a picture of it.

The bare, plain truth of it is, these items aren’t functional. I mean yes TECHNICALLY, dry goods and provisions are kept in the pantry, and if one of the dreaded yard bunnies ever breached the threshold MAYBE the white owl would scare it back out the door. (I’m grasping here, people. Work with me.)

The thing is – “because pretty” is just not The Mr’s idea of why something ends up in a living space. I get that. I respect that. I don’t disagree with that – you can totally use the fancy soap and towels in our bathrooms, yo. (Actually, there are no fancy soap and towels in our bathrooms, because that shit is even too extreme for me.)Through eleven years of marriage I have tried to ease him into the idea that some items’ sole function can actually just be looking pretty.

I know it is hard dude, but come on. I see you side-eyeing my pear.

You don’t have to “get” the pear.

Just let the pear be.

Zen pear.



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This is what “completely clean” looks like in our back living space, looking out from the kitchen over the island.
It involves toy storage, and a booster sticking out of the dining area, and Cozy Coupe parking.
And Elmo. Always Elmo.

Birthday cards and baby monitor and Little People buildings tucked in every corner.

In my kitchen there are sippy cup valves and snack trap lids drying in the rack along side my crystal wine glasses. Finger painted masterpieces and preschool info adorn the front of our refrigerator.

It’s not what “clean” used to be.

Gone are the days of perfectly arranged vignettes of breakable, ripable, pretty little such-and-sos on low tables.

Artfully “chopped” pillows carefully placed on completely straight sofas and chairs are fairly well a thing of the past at this point.

There are families in our life who confine the toys to playrooms and snacking to highchairs. Those who have perfectly coordinated family command centers to tastefully display artwork and schedules and information.
I kind of thought that would be us. The Mr is such a clean freak that for the first year or so of marriage, I took my glass if I left a room, because he would put it in the dishwasher if I left it sitting while I went to the loo. (Not. Kidding.) We have space for a playroom, and I do have frames in my office where I swap Jr’s art projects in and out to show them off.

Here’s the kicker.

I love seeing that “stuff. ” I like the toy cubbies and extra dish drying rack (hello- ours looks like fake grass! Cute!) and the Cozy Coupe parked by my dining table.

I like knowing that the things of our family surround us day-to-day; a place for everything, but it’s ok if things show while in their place.

Soon enough Elmo and plastic Easter eggs and tiny tricycles won’t be needed or wanted anymore.

Soon enough vases and plants can find homes on lower shelves, and protective blankets won’t be needed for sofa snack times.

Soon enough our family things will be very different, indeed.

I hope those things will find their places in our day-to-day decor as well, and reflect each of us to those we welcome into our home. Not gratuitous, but always gracious.

That’s the perfect kind of “clean” in this house.


Filed under musing