Settling back in with a couple fish deaths and a trip to the ER thrown in for fun

Mom left today, and, as always, her departure made us all feel blue. She took Tom and me to the movie - A Most Wanted Man - and dinner last night; we went to Le Chat Noir, and it couldn't have been a more perfect evening to do so. They had all their floor-to-ceiling windows open, and a marvelous breeze blew slowly through all night long. We drank a sublime bottle of Aligoté, supped on endive salad, poached pear with blue cheese, onion soup and on and on, and then made our way home where we all quickly crashed. All night long I dreamed I was awake which is such a pits of a way to waste sleep. I felt positively gaga today but happy nonetheless.

After sorrowful hugs outside Terminal B, the boys and I made our way to the farmers market where they gobbled a margherita pizza from The Red Zebra, popsicles from Pleasant Pops and many, many slices of everything Toigo Orchards was sampling. We came away with loads of peaches, some Italian prune plums, wax beans, and tasso for the freezer as my stores were empty after last week's marvelous tart. It was hot as blazes by that point, so, sweating profusely, we came home with the definite plan to remain inside for the remains of the day.

On Friday, we'd gone to Pet Smart to purchase fish for the aquarium I'd set up Wednesday. Our local Pet Smart seems to be the place that folks who might love animals but have lost all love for humans as well as all happiness in life go to work. It is an experiment in depression to go there and interact with the employees, particularly the middle-aged woman who micromanages the cat adoptions and occasionally spends some time in fish and at the check-out and the much younger woman who appears to work solely in aquarium-based animals like fish and hermit crabs.

When we adopted Jack's hermit crabs, Young Gal, so unbelievably stern and unsmiling, helped us until a crab pinched her. She tossed him back into the tank, ran into the back without word, and we never saw her again. I finally had to go ask someone else to assist us. And all the damn crabs went and moped around in our lovely tank, shed their shells and died odd, naked deaths; one in pieces, limbs torn akimbo, and the other forlorn in the food bowl as if he just could not go on.

Months later, when we adopted Nutmeg, I seriously wondered if Older Woman would accept our money and our plea for the Nut. I mean, doesn't she want to place the cats into loving homes? We were basically crying with joy; she never broke even the idea of a smile.

Recently, Oliver suggested we try hermit crabs again, a proposal I emphatically and immediately rejected. Later, he mused, "What about fish?"

"Ok, Ol, fish are much more interesting. We can do fish."

Fast forward to last Wednesday, and I ask Young Gal to help me prepare: what did I need? How did I go about readying the tank? How many fish can fit in a 10-gallon aquarium? I said I'd return the next day, with the boys, so that they could pick out the fish.

"Oh, NO!," crowed Older Woman from a ladder down in frogs and crabs, "I'd wait at least a week. At LEAST! You need to let your tank adjust." And with that she went back to whatever she was doing near the ceiling.

Young Gal largely concurred: "You want to let the good bacteria build up, and the water temperature equalize..." Whatever.

"Ok," said I, "we will not come back tomorrow." I told the boys we should wait a week, but they were so eager, and I'd been so fastidious with the cleaning and measuring and preparing, and they really wanted Mom to be there, and so, after 50 hours, we returned.

Young Gal clearly recognized me but made no move to say hi or acknowledge that, by this point, we definitely know who each other is. I felt like I was skipping detention and the Grandmaster Tattletale was watching me and judging, thinking, "You fish killer, you. Didn't you listen to me and Older Woman?!" Her eyes burned into my back, but my love is with my darling boys so they picked out five fish: two neon tetras, one yellow GloFish, one black something or other and one orange and black. Their names were to become, respectively, Ning, Raider, Sunburst, Black Swimmer (nickname: Night Fury) and Lightning Strike.

Young Gal gave us the fish without smiling, and we hurried them home and transferred them with thrill.

Raider died this morning. Sunburst died this afternoon. And I swear to you I feel like that Gal sent us out with a hex so I'd learn my lesson. I'll have to don a wig to go back for replacement fish. The stress of fish, for the love.

And tonight I nearly chopped the top of my pinky finger off while cutting cheese for the boys' dinner so I spent two hours at the ER where seemingly everyone had cut their hands. Unlike the kale incident three years ago which left me with four stitches in my index finger, tonight I've only been dermabonded and bandaged, a treatment for which I'm feeling most grateful.

The boys are STILL up, but I've shut off my on-duty lamp and am off to bed. Tomorrow is September! When? How?

Amazing tart, literally exhausted

This is not the sort of dish that photographs well inside at night. For starters, I had to use my flash, and secondly, its color scheme is fairly lacking. That said, this tart was one of the most delicious things I've made in a while. Or "in a while" that I can remember.

I am so unbelievably zonko tired tonight. Ol and I slept in the basement together last night and were up for hours at a time, twice. He threw up all over me once though during our second visit to puke city he made it square into the toilet, gripping the rims like a frat champ. I loved the between heaves, he railed against the gross indignity that is puking. Agreed, Mr. O, agreed.

We shared sweet nothings throughout our slumber party, and honestly, he is the best combination of sweet, charming and truly funny. Jack is too but in a different way. I'm a lucky mama. Remind me of this when I want to jump off the roof. My favorite Oliverism came before bedtime though. I was doing the puzzle, Jack was playing Minion Rush and Ol was pitiful on the couch behind me. Percy was moaning and wailing about some sound that only he could hear (I know that literally that's probably true but it doesn't stop it from being damn annoying), and I said in a silly accent, "Percy, I wanna kill ya." Jack said, in an even sillier accent, "But we don't have any wea-o-pons." About thirty seconds later Ol says, in his regular voice, "Don't we have an axe?"

WTF, people? If it weren't hilarious it'd be marginally terrifying. Since I once caught him facedown on the sidewalk attempting to kiss an ant, I'm not remotely concerned. More I really appreciate his quick wit in the midst of soaring fever. Jack and I about fell out.

Back to the tart. Tom took the kids to his parents' house today at the very moment I started to implode from lack of sleep and lots of talking. Having frozen my lower back into a ridiculously taut seize, I took myself to the gym to stretch. Then I had to do some cleaning and finally I went to the market. While there it occurred to me that I simply must make a savory tart for dinner. Yesterday I was overtaken by a yen for caramelized shallots so those two desires laid the foundation for what would become tonight's tart.

My favorite crust (Molly Wizenberg's), the caramelized shallots (Nancy Silverton's), cubed tasso (from EcoFriendly foods), caramelized Savoy cabbage, goat cheese and an egg-milk custard made for a truly remarkable dinner. I'll write up the recipe tomorrow as I'm gleefully going to bed NOW, at 8:32pm.