Archive for the 'Home' Category

12
Mar
20

the world gone mad

Or maybe not.

empty streets

The problem is we have no way of knowing except in retrospect.

So the best advice is probably to stay home unless you can’t, keep 6′ away from people, bow [Namaste] instead of shaking hands, use your sleeve to open doors, wash your hands. And don’t be an asshole. You don’t need 6 24-roll packages of toilet paper and 7 large bottles of hand sanitizer. Leave some for everyone else.

Here are some helpful recipes:

LEMON GINGER BREW

Peel and chop 8 ozs. of ginger root (½-1″ pieces is fine)
Scrub and juice two lemons — put juice aside.

In food processor, process the ginger and lemon peel until it’s a coarse paste. Add 6 cups of water to a large saucepan and add the paste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half (30-40 minutes)

Strain the juice off the pulp, mix in the lemon juice and ⅓ c. agave syrup, maple syrup, or honey if desired. Let cool. Store in glass bottles (if possible) and chill.

Add ¼ c. to hibiscus tea and/or 16 ozs. of fizzy water and drink throughout the day.

NATURAL COLD REMEDY (have ingredients on hand, and make and start drinking at the first sign of illness — throat tingles, scratchy eyes, etc.)

In 4 c. of water in a medium saucepan, add:
1 lemon, cut into thin slices
2″ piece of ginger root, cut into thin slices
5 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
10 whole cloves
1 T. whole coriander seed

Bring to boil and then simmer on very low (it would just barely be bubbling — we’re not trying to reduce this one) for ~15 minutes. Drain. Drink ½ c. hot with honey every 2 hours.

You can also easily make your own HAND SANITIZER:

70% rubbing alcohol
30% aloe vera gel

Shake together in one of those little travel bottles. Voilá.

 

Seems like a good time to start the next weaving project do my taxes make monkey bread read. Feeling very lucky that I do most of my work from home anyway and can hunker down, although there will still be substantial financial losses from a series of workshops I was supposed to be doing in California in a couple of weeks.

What this country really needs is

  • affordable medical care, so people who need to be tested can afford it
  • a social net that gives you a month mortgage relief and/or a couple weeks disaster pay so people can stay home
  • a president who isn’t a narcissistic, blithering idiot

[Alas.]

 

 

 

09
Aug
16

Random Thoughts

Yes, I’m still here.

Waiting till I have something to say I guess.

And now just these:

This world is not a meritocracy. It sucks, but it’s true. Discuss.

There might be something to be said about an unforeseen problem brought on by showing your children unconditional love, as in no one feels compelled to clean the house before your return after a long absence. Creating the psychological need to “earn” love might be underrated after all.

One can definitely gauge one’s fed-up-ness with the world, that is, the state of politics and the American citizenry’s unwillingnessifnotinability to actually Face the Truth, by one’s propensity to take “Cook’s Illustrated” to bed rather than the New Yorker.

Alas.

 

 

 

10
Nov
14

the disease of busyness

Read this.

I believe it, I agree with it.

I also feel that there is too much time spent in “pursuit” of something, and not enough time left to create. People don’t sit and stare and watch the world and think creative thoughts — what happens to our poets and playwrights, our composers and artists, when every minute to spare is spent being entertained by our phones? Parents drive their children to take more and more AP classes and to be on every academic team available and to prepare for way too many standardized tests, but don’t support their school district’s music and art programs and, as soon as the child gets “too busy,” discontinues their music lessons, even though this is probably the ONE area of the child’s life that involves personal expression, investigation, long-term discipline and artistic creativity.

I’m aware of this almost daily when I contemplate how much more financially comfortable my family could be if I were willing to work more hours and realize that I really don’t want to. That my time for yoga and reading and knitting and weaving and sitting on the couch every night with my husband watching hockey or Netflix movies or worthwhile TV series on DVDs (currently The Good Wife, although we’re almost out of discs — any recommendations?) is as or more important to my and my family’s comfort and happiness than a few hundred more dollars a month in our checking account. And then I’m SO grateful that I have that option, that I get to make that DECISION rather than being forced to work 2 or 3 minimum-wage jobs just to pay the mortgage and buy minimal groceries — a situation I know is true for many.

But many of these choices that lead to what I’m going to call Diseased Busyness ARE choices. Even Only Daughter right now has 3, 14-hour days each week because of extensive Nutcracker rehearsals. She leaves the house at 7 a.m.; is home for half an hour and then at ballet until 9 (if they let her out on time, which they rarely do), at which point she comes home and eats dinner and does her homework. She’s not getting enough sleep, she’s stressed half the time, she’s probably not eating enough, but this is just for a couple of months, so I accept it. Even though I don’t think it’s particularly good for her in a short-term sense, I believe it is in the long-term, but only because it is short term. Does that make any sense?

Anyway, I fear this lack of “down” will exact a cost on all of us, on society, ultimately on our success as PEOPLE (not automatons, not worker bees, but thinking/feeling/creative/compassionate people).

I believe it so much I’m going to do something I don’t usually do, but post this on BOTH of my blogs, and link to it on my personal AND professional Facebook pages.

Let’s start a rebellion. Let’s not over schedule. Let’s not pull out our phones when we have less than 10 minutes to wait for something. Let’s try to maintain a balance for ourselves and our children of work-, hobby-, and creative/artistic pursuits. Let’s leave our houses dirty and eat dinner together. And when we ask someone how they are, ask how their heart is — not about how many awards their child has won or how many committees they are on, but really ask — How ARE you? And then take those minutes (since you’re not going on your phone anyway, remember?) to really listen to the answer.

02
Oct
14

every single time

I flinch.

Every single time I watch this.

Please share it with everyone you know, love, everyone who owns a cell phone, everyone.

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152195912647751

04
Jun
13

a new kind of blueberry

Second Son’s birthday is today.

The tradition is that your favorite meal and favorite dessert are prepared for you as per your request.

For dessert he wanted, and I quote: “Sugary, really bad for you blueberry pie with at least a stick of butter and none of that whole wheat, organic, free-range blueberry crap.”

Can’t you just picture the little blueberries, running free, frolicking in the sunshine?

I had no idea.

11
May
13

why I don’t have a problem with mother’s day

Tomorrow is what some consider to be a Hallmark holiday. Ann Lamott hates it. Husband’s not a fan. First Son thinks it’s kind of coercive, and therefore meaningless, like being forced to apologize. Several of my friends on facebook have linked to Ann’s article disparaging it, uttering comments of agreement.

I read the article, thought about it, tried really hard to see her point, and then decided that she was kind of missing it.

Like, a lot.

Yes, mother’s day is probably difficult for women who would have liked to have had children, and for whatever reason, did not. Yes, mother’s day will probably be difficult for women who have lost their mothers (Me! Me!), or who had children and have lost them one way or another (tragic death, estranged relationships).

But is it necessarily true that honoring something that is, in fact, quite important, is dishonoring everybody else?

And just because something might be difficult for some people does that mean it should be vilified? There are tragedies and losses every day, sometimes even on national holidays; do we all avoid any possible reference to any possible reminder to any possible pain?

Husband thinks Mother’s Day is a pathetic excuse for pathetic people who treat their mothers with apathy at best and disdain at worst 364 days of the year, and palliate their consciences one day in May by buying grocery-store bouquets and offering to mow the lawn.

Are you my conscience?

Are you my conscience?

I agree, and think that all children everywhere should honor and appreciate and help their mothers at every possible opportunity.

But still.

There are a lot of people I think of as my “mothers” besides my mom. My mother-in-law for example, who has recently agreed to “adopt” me (thanks, mom!), my sisters, my best friends Jackie and Jill and Yelena and Meghan, my husband, who loves me and nurtures me and seems to always see the best possible version of me there is. I, likewise, feel that I am “mother” to many people — my friends, my husband, my students, my children.

We would all love to be honored and appreciated and thanked regularly; but we’re busy people, and we forget.

Is it really such an awful thing to thank all of those people who have loved us and nurtured us and always tried to see the best possible version of us that there is?

I don’t think so.

I imagine that all of those women out there who don’t have good relationships with their mothers, or whose mothers are no longer with them, or who have never had children, or who don’t have good relationships with their children, I imagine that all of those women have been “mothers” and “daughters” to other women, other people, would like to be honored, and thanked. Let’s broaden the definition, let’s broaden the scope.

And thank all mothers, everywhere.

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I’ll mow your lawn, if I know where you live.

 

 

05
Dec
12

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Am having a bit of a stressful ride lately, and the next 10 days see the culmination of it all. I try to focus on living in the moment, but I’m finding it particularly difficult not to just wish it were December 15.

In a nutshell, two big concerts to perform in, and one to sponsor/produce. Meanwhile, lots of people either not doing their jobs, or trying to do mine — both situations which cause a lot of extra work and/or stress for me right when I have a gazillion other things I really need to be focusing on; or should maybe just be sitting on a cushion with my palms on my thighs chanting Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. . .

om

I did manage to clear my day today up until around 5 p.m. to stay home and regroup, so I am heading to practice soon (I will not knit. I will not knit. I will not knit.). I did start the day making my famous (infamous?) drunken Christmas cake. Actually, I started it last night, as I macerated the dried fruit in a good dose of brandy overnight. I did a fair bit of sampling of the batter as I prepared it, which means I was actually possibly maybe a tiny wee bit hammered before breakfast. I’m sure the coffee will counteract it and there should be no adverse effects.

It is a great recipe, adapted* from my very battered “Joy of Cooking” cookbook, so here it is:

Sheri’s Drunken Christmas Cake

The night before (the fruit can macerate up to 24 hours):

In a large (8-cup) mixing bowl or measuring cup mix 2 c. golden raisins, 2 c. dried currants, and 2 c. chopped dried figs. Pour 3/4 c. of brandy over and stir well. Cover. (Stir occasionally if you can — once before bed, once when you get up in the morning)

When you’re ready to make the cake:

Bring 1 c. of butter out to put on the counter while you make your coffee, assemble ingredients, etc.

Butter 8 small ! bread pans, bottom and sides.

Preheat oven to 300˚ (275˚ if it’s convection)

Put the butter into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until smooth and creamy.
Add 2 c. packed dark brown sugar, and beat on a fairly high speed until lightened in color and texture, 3-5 minutes.

While this is beating, I mix the dry ingredients:
3 c. unbleached white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I heap this one)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Whisk together well with an egg whisk to thoroughly blend and “sift” the flour.

To the butter/brown sugar mixture, add:
1/2 c. dark molasses
grated zest and juice of one orange
grated zest and juice of one lemon
Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

When this has been fully incorporated, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with 3/4 c. of brandy in 2 parts, mixing well (on low speed) after each addition. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a couple of times so all of the flour stuff gets fully incorporated.
So: 1 c. flour mixture, mixmixmixmixmixmix, 1/2 of the brandy, mixmixmixmixmix, 1 c. of flour mixture, etc.

Now mix in the macerated fruits, and 2 c. of coarsely chopped almonds and/or hazelnuts. (I suppose, if you really felt it was necessary, you could use walnuts.*)

Divide the batter between the 8 pans (you can make this into one giant cake in a tube pan, but I like to give them as gifts, and they really serve better if you can cut up one loaf and leave the rest wrapped up until you want/need it).

Bake for 2 1/2 hours. At 1 1/4 hours rotate the pans so the ones on an upper rack get traded for the ones on a lower rack. (The JoC recipe says to bake for 3.5 hours, and to disregard the fact that the cakes look quite thoroughly done an hour earlier, but I have found these to come out a bit dry and crumbly, so I have shortened the baking time.)

Leave cakes in the pans to cool on a rack for at least an hour. At this point, if you like your Christmas cake REALLY hammered (who doesn’t?) you can drizzle (slowly) another tablespoon or two of brandy over each one.

To store: Soak a piece of cheesecloth in brandy, squeeze out the excess. Wrap the cake in cheesecloth, and then put into a sturdy freezer plastic bag. If you wrap the cake in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, you can actually age the cake up to a month. If I do this, about once a week I remove the cheesecloth and soak in a little more brandy just to keep the cake moist and discourage any molding. I’ve done this year after year, and the cake has NEVER gone bad.

Here’s how it all looked before I put them in the oven:

You know you're a good cook if your counter is really messy. And my apologies for the beat-up looking cantaloup in the background. And not sure why I got the eggs out. There are no eggs in the recipe.

You know you’re a good cook if your counter is really messy. And my apologies for the beat-up looking cantaloup in the background. And not sure why I got the eggs out. There are no eggs in the recipe.

I wish you could smell how good my house smells right now. Yum.

Yesterday I made candied citrus peel:

candiedcitruspeel

(If you click on the picture it should link to where I got the recipe.)

Okay. Enough procrastinating. Must go practice now. (I will not knit. I will not knit. I will not knit.)

p.s. Is anybody else having trouble with the updated WordPress platform? I have never had so much trouble inserting pictures and having them go into the post where I want them and not having my links disappear. Grrr. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, y’know?

*Adapted meaning brandy has been added beyond that which has been called for, and that I have omitted things I cannot abide: dates (taste like boogers), walnuts (taste like dirt), candied fruits of any sort (taste like candle wax). Don’t ask me how I know these things, I just do.

13
Nov
12

there but for the grace of music lessons go

Only Daughter had her first “orchestra concert” tonight. She actually asked me not to go. She took some violin lessons as younger youngster, and feels that the exertions of the 6th grade ensemble are, in a way, beneath her.

I went anyway.

(As a pointed aside, they’re not. Beneath her, that is. She had 5 teachers in 4 years because they kept moving away or graduating from college or taking so many out-of-town gigs she would have one lesson a month so she learned 1/4 what she should have, and absolutely nothing about how to read music much less how to understand what she was hearing.)

The orchestra did a fine job, all things considered. It was noted that there were approximately 75 musicians “on stage” and approximately 65 versions of any given note at any given time, but what’s a person to do?

One of the directors stood up at the end to thank all of the parents for going that extra mile (really? it’s “extra” now? shouldn’t it just be part of what everyone should be expected to do if they want to be a living, breathing, feeling member of the universe?) to support their children’s efforts to learn to play a musical instrument.

Okay, fine. Thanks are good. I’m fine. Really, I am.

Then he talks about the benefits — to the brain, to the person, to society, to the importance of students learning to communicate that which cannot be said in words; I start to think, okay, so he’s not a total doofus. But no, I “forgave” him too soon.

Wait for it. . .

“Maybe if more children learn to be thinking, feeling members of society, fewer of them would be flying airplanes into buildings.”

Oh. I had no idea. If only the terrorists had had music lessons.

=

 

Idiot.

 

22
Oct
12

New Year’s Resolutions, in October

Heard a little bit of discussion on the Diane Rehm show this morning by various pollsters, including how unreliable the answers to the “Do you intend to vote?” question are. One of the pollsters compared it to how committed people are on January 5 or so to carry out their New Year’s Resolution.

Some of you may have figured out, especially if you read the comments/discussions that ensue sometimes, that I broke a bone in my foot around 8 weeks ago. I would like to say it was a result of something heroic and/or exciting, like tripping over the lead runner in the Chicago Marathon, but actually I just stubbed my toe on the foot of my bed, in broad daylight. Now I’m not all that graceful, and am often doing three things at once while thinking about at least two other, completely unrelated, things, so these kinds of pratfalls are not all that unusual. I even laid on the bed, whimpering softly, for about 10 minutes before I limped out to the kitchen to tell Husband what I had done. Not that I wasn’t expecting sympathy, but these occurrences are quite frequent, and I didn’t want to push my luck. When the throbbing was getting worse rather than better, though, I thought maybe a little sympathy, and, oh, maybe an ice pack was in order.

The stupid thing was that two weeks more passed before I had it X-rayed, including a weekend when we were power washing the deck and house and I walked right off the edge of the deck while looking up at the soffit I was washing. (I don’t know how to spell soffit. I think that’s right, but wordpress is giving me grief. Anyway.)(And the deck is only ~ 3 feet off the ground, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.) Of course I was barefoot, because my toe hurt too badly to wear shoes, and of course I landed on the broken foot, so I’m sure that didn’t help either. So yes, I broke a bone in my foot. The tip of what I’m calling the 3rd toe bone — I’m sure there’s a more technical term, and I’m also quite sure the doctor employed the technical term at my appointment after my X-ray, but I don’t remember it.

It’s this one:

Which means that my foot hurts more than my toe hurts (although the toe looks like someone else’s, like a little sausage, and doesn’t match the other toes), and it has taken a ridiculously long time to heal. I wore an actual shoe on Saturday for the first time in 6 weeks (we won’t talk about the two weeks I was wearing shoes when I shouldn’t have been. What can I say? I’m an optimist.) I managed to walk ~ a mile with Husband each day over the weekend, and my foot is tight and sore afterwards, but at least I’m off my butt, finally. I did have a yoga Groupon which has now expired, and my plans to restart the couch-potato-to-5K thing has been a bust, but maybe I can start next week. . .

I also have started a new juicing plan. I’m hypothyroid, and, while I take Armour thyroid, it often feels like the only result of thyroid medication is that my blood tests show a normal TSH level; I still feel half asleep most of the time, and am always always cold (my temperature the other morning was 96˚). A side effect of hypothyroidism is slow metabolism (it just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?), and I have heard that drinking fruit and vegetable juices as meal replacements a few times a week helps give your digestive system a break and this is supposed to help fire it up, somehow.

So three days a week I’m drinking home-juiced carrot, carrot-apple, carrot-beet, carrot-cucumber-wheatgrass, apple-pineapple-ginger, cherry-pomegranate, etc. juice instead of eating breakfast and lunch. On the days I do so I still have a healthy dinner (although the temptation sometimes is to eat more for dinner than I would otherwise, because, hey, I haven’t eaten all day so I deserve it, right?). I tend to lose ~ .5 of a lb on juicing days and then gain .25-.4 of a lb on non-juicing days, so I’m not really seeing this as an effective diet strategy. Also, on the next mornings, the whites of my eyeballs seem orange. They’re probably not really orange, but they seem orange.

Oh, and I’ve stopped shampooing my hair. =:-O

I have read, on more than one occasion, how bad it is for hair to shampoo it — I mean, think about it! We wash it with this stuff full of chemicals, most of which have been demonstrated to cause cancer in rats (rats with particularly clean hair, but still) and which removes all of the healthy oils and nutrients from our scalp, and then instantly put goop called “conditioner” on it to undo the damage we just caused.

I did “wash” my hair this morning with baking soda paste and then “conditioned” it with some apple cider vinegar. Of course, I thoroughly rinsed the baking soda out first, as I was not 7 and trying to make a “volcano” in my shower. I think I might smell like a pickle, but my hair looks fantastic. (And isn’t the henna-ing still looking nice? I keep thinking maybe I should stop bothering, since I have to re-apply the green mud every month or so to cover my roots, but then I see a picture like this and think, “Fine. I’ll keep doing it.”)

If you haven’t noticed, I’m deliberately avoiding any discussion of the presidential election.

I am also trying really hard to avoid eating the cold sesame noodles in the fridge. Carrot and beet juice just doesn’t have the same zing.

Oh, and speaking of hair this is what we did over the weekend:

Despite my concerns, it seems to have turned out fine, I have earned “hundreds” (I think it should be thousands) of “Mom coolness points,” and she did not get sent home from school.

So there’s that, then.

21
Jun
12

We can all, actually, have it all (but who wants it?)

Kristin Howterton posted recently on the underlying tension of gender roles in the pursuit of an egalitarian marriage. You can read it here.

The underlying premise is that, despite our (meaning, mostly women’s) efforts to find equality in both the home and the workplace, many women still feel guilty getting home to see their husbands cooking dinner with a crying toddler on his hip or wonder whether it’s fair to expect that men should PROBABLY contribute to the household chores if their wives are working outside the home.

I know, right?

Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but this kind of thing does not make me feel guilty.

I responded at length, including replies to other commenters.

Most substantially:

I think we all learned the lessons of our childhood, and watching our parents, and have to struggle with these lessons, maybe just a little. But when I read these two sentences:

“When I walk though the door and see him cooking dinner with a crying toddler on this hip, I get a gut check that says, ‘Oh dear. I should be doing that.'”

and

“I think people our age have wised up to the idea that if a woman works, then the husband should probably step it up and help with some of the domestic duties as well.”

I just want to weep.

You think you should be doing that, but he shouldn’t? And the husband should PROBABLY step up? Ugh.

It’s his household as much as yours, his children as much as yours; and even if they’re not “his” children, but, say, maybe even “only” his stepchildren, his marriage to you makes him an equal partner in domestic needs if he wants to be an equal partner in domestic bliss.

I think there are ways people can balance things. I knew a couple once where the mom stayed at home, so the “housework” was her job, but when he was home, the childrearing was shared. That seemed fair. I guess you could do a proportional thing: he works 40 hours per week to her 30 so she does 60% of the housework. I guess you could even divide it proportionally to reflect the amount of money brought in, but I think that’s a terrible idea and think I shouldn’t even suggest it. (The jury will disregard the last statement.) My husband make 50% more money than I do, but my scheduled work time far exceeds his, so he does most of the cooking, laundry, and shopping. I clean when I can get to it. It works for us.

No shoulds, no probablys about it.

Fortuitously, Anne-Marie Slaughter writes in the issue of The Atlantic about “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”

It’s a very good article. It’s long, but worth it. Some of the best stuff is at the end.

Her arguments could be summarized thusly:

Women can have it all, but only if there is a radical paradigm shift, including if men start demanding the right to have it all, too. Meaning that it’s not a sign of unprofessionalism or a lack of commitment for ANYONE to want to take time to take care of their children, their aging/ailing parents, or even, GASP, themselves.

The idea that women who take a different track so as to raise their own children are NOT less ambitious; the realization that one of the biggest challenges is that the hours of a school day continue not to coincide with the hours of a work day (we won’t even talk about the havoc wreaked by snow days and 2-hour delays); the fact that women have to make trade-offs that men do not — these are realizations that can and should trigger real change, change that requires an effort by the majority of us out there, male AND female, or they won’t.

Ms. Slaughter ends with a goal, if not a challenge:

I continually push the young women in my classes to speak more. They must gain the confidence to value their own insights and questions, and to present them readily. My husband agrees, but he actually tries to get the young men in his classes to act more like the women–to speak less and listen more. If women are ever to achieve real equality as leaders, then we have to stop accepting male behavior and male choices as the default and the ideal. We must insist on changing social policies and bending career tracks to accommodate our choices, too. We have the power to do it if we decide to, and we have many men standing besides us.

We’ll create a better society in the process, for all women. We may need to put a woman in the White House before we are able to change the conditions of the women working at Walmart. But when we do, we will stop talking about whether women can have it all. We will properly focus on how we can help all Americans have healthy, happy, productive lives, valuing the people they love as much as the success they seek.

That’s the ticket.

Where do I sign?

02
May
12

today’s rant

It just took me longer to hang up 3 towel rods and remove a new curling iron from its packaging than it would take a self-respecting nuclear physicist to disarm a weapon, and probably with more frustration and risk (to me) of physical injury.

Are you telling me that with today’s technology the best solution for hanging towel rods is still that tiny little screw driven into the bracket with an allen wrench that doesn’t really quite fit the nail head exactly? You’re crouched on the floor, where there’s no light, peering upward bewilderedly while trying to screw a microscopic screw into a microscopic hole while holding the towel bracket with one hand so the rod doesn’t gonk you on the head (again). How hard can it be?

And does a curling iron really need to be installed into a 3-compartment cardboard contraption, with each flap glued closed with super glue and then the whole thing machine-melded into a hard plastic shell that can’t be dismantled without a blow torch and/or a machete?

(Reminds me of the Bud Light commercial with the couple in the car and the hitchiker: “We should pick him up. Look, he’s got Bud Light!” (And an AXE!?!?!?!)

Where was I? Oh, yeah.

It’s a curling iron. It’s not a weapon.

It’s probably easier to buy a handgun; I’m sure it takes less time. Plus now I’m bleeding. Take THAT concealed weapon laws.

There go two hours I can’t get back.

Maybe I need more coffee.

15
Apr
12

fed up?

I’m sick of politics and politicians, I’m sick of women being treated like chattel, I’m sick of feeling like no matter how I spend my time or my day or my life or my money I could have/should have spent it better.

I peruse headlines for something to write about and I just sigh in a combination of resignation and despair.

I’m going to take the dog for a walk, and then we’re going to have tuna steaks and salad for dinner, with an amusing white wine.  Then I’m going to write a list of things my son should do between now and when he graduates from college and moves to Madison, Wisconsin to start his FIRST REAL JOB (yarly! yeah! go First Son!) (get a credit card, buy clothes for work, figure out what furniture/dishes/potsandpans he needs and how many of those things he can get from our basement on his way from Cleveland to Madison, research cars and think about what kind of a car he wants/needs/can afford, etc. etc.) and then I’m going to read my book or knit.

I’m also going to ponder, as I have been for the past two weeks, two really important questions:

Should I quit at least one of my jobs?

Can I afford/justify these boots?

These two questions are, in case you didn’t notice, directly related.

And the boots are $515, ifthatmakesanydifference.

I’m thinking no, no matter what the answer to the first question is.

And I can’t wait for my glow-in-the-dark paint to come so I can make these jars:

That’s all.

 

05
Apr
12

Angioplasty for 4 please?

20120405-001944.jpg

Husband’s birthday cake, once frosted, will contain 3 sticks of butter. I’m not exaggerating. I’m suggesting we just smoke a carton of cigarettes each and go remove asbestos from some falling down, lead-painted building and call it even.

08
Mar
12

call me Martha

Made 2 Roman blinds for the “piano room” front windows the other day. They fit perfectly, Husband installed them without drilling through his thumbs, and they looked SO MUCH BETTER than the dirty, hideous, puke-green-with-some-kind-of-apples-or-roses valances that were there before I decided that I must, as they say, strike while the iron is hot.

So this morning, after a biscotti and a soft-boiled egg and 30 minute of hip-opening yoga with Jason Crandal, I decided to make the valance for the back window. This window is of the picture-window type, coming in at a whopping 107″ wide.

Leaving off the details relating to the 2 hours of sketches and math involved in converting a pattern for a 52″ valance into a 107″ valance, the two trips to the fabric store to purchase sufficient fabric, and the 20 minutes of meditative breathing to establish the right frame of mind “preparation,” here is a chronicle of the day (I was going to Twitter as I went, but I only have 7 followers, and I didn’t want to interrupt the creative process):

9:30

Facing an enormous pile of fabric. Stripes, stripes everywhere. This is either going to look really fabulously fantastic or I’m going to go blind.

10:00

Have managed to cut out all of the pattern pieces and still have a full yard left. Clearly I suck at measuring/planning, but this is a good thing because now I have enough to make a blind for the front door and we will no longer have to worry about people peering in at us as they try to deliver baked goods or subpoenas (as if either ever happens) while we are emerging from the bathroom.*

10:30

Sewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsew
sewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsew
sewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsew
sewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsew

Wow. This is going really well! I’ll be done by noon for sure.

11:23

Sewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsew
sewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsew
sewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsew
sewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsewsew

I must have sewn 17 miles of seams already. This is ridiculous. What was I thinking? There is no way this is ever going to be done, or that I won’t have murdered someone just for the sake of finding something else to do.

12:07

2 “cascades” plus 5 “swags” plus 3 “trumpets” = 1 too few “trumpets.”

Must cut another “trumpet.”

No longer have sufficient fabric for front-door Roman blind. Peeping Tom’s take note.

12:35

Am buzzing on a caffeine high from 6 shots of espresso and breakfast being three and a half hours ago. Time for a turkey sandwich and a pear. No beer. Not a good idea when “sewing.”

1:10

Return to the task with renewed vigor and confidence. Must lay out 11 panels of now sewn-together valance parts onto 7.5 yards of fabric lining, using a 6′ long table.

1:27

Valance seems to be running too far to the east on the lining; must lay out again.

1:39

Valance now running to the west (only because I started at the other side). Must figure out why this keeps happening before I start cutting.

1:45

Oh. On third try realize that am pinning the seam allowances towards the “trumpets” rather than toward the “swags.” Question whether this can really make that much of a difference.

1:52

It does. Valance now pinned to lining.

Start cutting.

Husband comes in to ask how things are going. I reply that, despite earlier reports, valance will not be completed by lunchtime. Also report that am beginning to feel a little angry, but only a little. Husband suddenly thinks of something Very Important that must be done in The Other Room. (I call it “running for the hills.” Coward.)

2:05

Begin sewing 7.5 yards of lining to 7 yards of valance. Realize that “cascades” were attached on the opposite sides from where they were supposed to be attached. Am not sure how such a thing could have happened. Decide I will just deal with this later.

LATER

Can’t just “deal with” this. Realize that the result of mistake is that the rod pocket for the “cascades” is ~ 12″ higher than the rod pockets for the “swags.” The result of this will be that the majority of the valance will fall ~ 3′ above the floor.

After long and careful consideration, decide this won’t work.

Husband hears strange noises from kitchen. Comes to investigate. Offers helpful advice, support, and a willing ear while I talk through my idea for solving said problem. Challenges claim that the pattern states that at this stage in the process it is important to start drinking. Am unable to provide documentation. Must have lost that page in the scuffle.

Husband redeems himself from being a “party pooper” by helping to rip out “wrong” seams, and watching encouragingly while remedies are made.

3:14

Husband helps hang Really Really Long curtain rod despite directions for freakishly large drill bit, and. . .

3:37

. . .looks on approvingly while pleats in “trumpets” are adjusted for maximum effect.

 

This is all I accomplished today. It’s all I can do not to look at them admiringly every 7 minutes. I’m quite certain I have other things to do.

But Martha’s got nothin’ on me. Well, except ~ $970 million or so.

 

 

 

*Who designed this house, and decided it was a good idea to place the main bathroom directly in line with the front door?

05
Mar
12

Goldberg, Variation 1, Take 1

After taking Dex to the vet for his ahem gender revision surgery, spent the morning doing yoga

I will do this. I don't know when, but I will. I'll be sure to let you know

and being Martha Flipping Stewart making Roman blinds for my front windows.

I have some group classes starting soon, so thought I’d calm myself down preemptively get in the mood by practicing a little Bach.

Recorded this on my iPhone on the first take. A little rushed in a couple of places, a little sloppy here and there, but not bad for the first run.

Recording quality isn’t the greatest. . .but I’m going to put it up anyway to try to get me off to a good start.

And, in addition to the order from chaos, it just seems so darn joyful.

Hope you like!

Goldberg variation 1

04
Mar
12

Help!

There has to be a better way. Does anyone have any suggestions?

20120304-182133.jpg

14
Feb
12

heard at dinner

Only Daughter: “If I weren’t lucky enough to have you as a mom” (see, already a diplomat, and she’s only 11!), “I would like Kristi” (the mom of two of my piano students), “or Mrs. B_____” (the mom of a friend of hers), “to be my mom.

Long silence.

Me: “Yeah, they’re probably a bit more cheerful than I am.

OD: “Ya’ think?

Long, awkward, silence.

Me: “There are more important things than cheerful.

Aren’t there?

04
Feb
12

the end of the week

1. Dexter the Dancing Dog will go to great lengths to lick the cayenne-laced-butter I’ve applied to the pole that holds the bird feeder (trying to discourage poaching by the resident squirrel population), but will not eat a salt-and-vinegar potato chip. He seems to think it’s trying to attack him.

He also will play outside for an hour and then come in and pee on the kitchen floor. Any suggestions? I’ve just about had it.

2. Nothing tells internet sites to make your passwords not work like your being in a hurry.

3. Komen backed down, and has reinstated funding to Planned Parenthood. Girl power!

(We need a salute — anybody got any ideas?)

Although I just found out that Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms. Why not? Maybe they should.

4. Only Daughter came to me last night with a dental flosser and a request to remove the “seed” from behind her last tooth. It was a new tooth. And lo and behold, there was another one on the other side! She’s 11. Barely. A very tiny 11. Aren’t these supposed to come in around 12 or 13? Hope there’s room. Plus she wanted to know if these were her “smart teeth” like her brother just had taken out.

5.  A girl around 12 fell off the balance beam last night at Only Daughter’s meet, and hit what seemed to be seven points on her way down. She laid on the mat for what seemed to be a really long time while the coach leaned over the beam and encouraged her to get back up. (O.D. sat, a handful of feet away, hands over her mouth in horror.)(She’s terrified of the beam, as well she should be. But still.) The girl stood up, gave the coach “ten,” got back up, and nailed the rest of her routine. I had tears in my eyes. Granted, I was a complete sap yesterday to start with — I also cried over  Billy Collins’ line from On Turning TenI used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light; if you cut me I would shine” while attempting to read it to a student. (It is a really good line. But still. Get a grip forcryin’outloud.)

During the meet First Son called asking for my homemade macaroni and cheese recipe. I emailed it to him. That was kind of fun, in a “look at you all grown up” sort of way. (I can write that because he tells me he doesn’t read this blog anymore. So much for my captive audience.)

6. O. D.’s friends for her birthday sleepover finally just arrived — 13 minutes late. She stood at the window, Dexter in her arms, wondering if they were going to show up or not. I made her a heart cake with chocolate frosting and lots of different kinds of sprinkles, thinking about a colleague of mine whose son just died of complications from Hodgkins disease and a rare blood disorder. He was 26. I was picturing her making him his 11th-birthday cake, and envisioning his life, and not seeing this in a million years. Meanwhile Jeff Buckley sang about how, when his time comes, he knows he will leave the world with a satisfied mind. I wonder how many weeks before he died it was when he recorded that song.

Life’s too short. And too busy.

I suggested to Husband that we quit the ratrace and start an alpaca farm. In Italy. I think he thought I was kidding. I’m not. Well, not completely.

In a not-really related story; a conversation from earlier in the week:

Husband: I think we need to get a more “manly” dog like a German Shepherd or a Wolfhound or something. I feel like such a whimp walking Dexter.

Me: But he’s so cute.

Husband: I know. That’s the problem. He’s all puffy, and plus he doesn’t really walk, he kind of prances and bounds around. It’s humiliating.

Me: Maybe we can put a leather vest and one of those collars with the spikes on him.

Husband: Well that might help a little. Like the really long spikes?

Me: Sure. But think of the attention you can get from women who see you; we’re all saps for cute dogs.

Husband: I saw some women while I was walking him. I think they were laughing at me.

Me: What made you think that?

Husband: Well, they were walking and smiling, and kind of talking out of the corners of their mouths like I wouldn’t notice that they were talking, and then when they met me one of them said, “Okay, that might be just about the cutest dog I’ve ever seen.”

Me: See?

Husband: Exactly. Completely emasculating.

I’m thinking this:

rather than this:

Any thoughts?

30
Jan
12

Something worthy of the 501st post. . .or maybe not

Politics: Is it really possible that the Republican party can’t come up with someone more viable than Mitt Romney and his millions and his condescension, or Newt Gingrich and his volatility and personal and professional unreliability?

Religion: Read this post by the Circular Runner. (Another one of those “what he said” moments.)

Home: Dexter the Dancing Dog has seriously backslid on potty training. I hope it’s just a teething phase or something. He was with Only Daughter at Only Daughter’s Dad’s (ODD?) house for the weekend — complete upheaval, probably, and I think he missed me. He won’t get out of my lap this morning. He’s very soft and cuddly, so it’s okay.

Culture: Saw two great movies on DVD over the weekend — Contagion and The Conspirator. The whole time I was watching Contagion I was worrying about picking up my own wine glass in case I was going to catch something. And Marion Cotillard has the most beautiful accent I’ve ever heard. Robin Wright was absolutely amazing in The Conspirator, and the issues addressed: the rights of civilians to civilian trials, the beliefs held by people in power that law can and should be suspended in times of “war,” hit way too close to home and the Bush/Iraq era.

Books: Just finished reading Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending. Loved it. Don’t know what to read next. Any suggestions?

Music: Does anyone know how to use Ping? I want to be able to post music for my piano students to listen to. I thought that was kind of what it’s for but I can’t figure out how to use it.

Music part 2: Just finished putting the whole book of Honk! on CD for an area high school for rehearsals. Nothing like trying to learn and record an entire musical in a week, not to mention the 2-hour long argument I had to mediate last night between my digital recorder and iTunes. (I prevailed, finally.) Does anybody know why iTunes insists on reordering things when importing? I had to manually drag all of the tracks around (3 times, because the first two times didn’t seem to transfer correctly) and then when I burned it to the CDs it removed all of the labels from the tracks. REALLY FRUSTRATING! Although I’m sure it has a lot more to do with me not really knowing what I’m doing than about the limitations of the program itself.

Blogging: Two blogs I’ve recently discovered which I’m really enjoying: Redamancylit, where the blogger posts excerpts from various writings, many of them profoundly beautiful; and musicandstroke, written by a friend of mine, a percussionist, who suffered a stroke about a year ago, and who writes about the recovery process and how different life/the world looks afterwards. Check them out!

Family: First Son is about to turn 22. Why does that sound so much older than 21? And Only Daughter will be 11 on Wednesday. Sheesh.

Some pictures from the last week of facebook postings:

And this, just because you can never have too many boots, or cats:

 

20
Jan
12

stop me if you’ve heard this one

It’s made its rounds, I’m sure, but as an owner of a very uppity Siamese cat and a very enthusiastic puppy, this is really hitting home these days.

Dexter the Dancing Dog

WHAT PETS WRITE IN THEIR DIARIES
A Dog’s Diary……..

8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm – Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm – Milk Bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm – Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

A Cat’s Diary…

Day 983 of my captivity….

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets.

Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am. Bastards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies.” I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I will try this again tomorrow, but on the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released – and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now………

31
Dec
11

New Years Eve Dinner 2011

First, make Husband an eggnog.

Shake 1 egg, 2 T. sugar, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg and 4 or 5 ice cubes together in a jar. Add 2 c. milk. Shake again. Put 5 ice cubes in a tall glass. Add a shot of brandy. Fill with egg mixture.

Now make yourself a Manhattan.

Put 5 ice cubes in a glass. Shake Angostora bitters over the ice. Add a generous shot of Crown Royal and a 1/2 shot of sweet vermouth. Add 2 maraschino cherries and pour in a bit of the cherry juice. Sip slowly. This is serious stuff.

Put 1 c. of faro in a saucepan, add 3 c. water. Bring the water to a boil, and then turn down as low as you can so it doesn’t boil all over and make a mess on your stove. Cover and simmer (carefully! carefully!) for 15 minutes. Drain the extra water off, cover, and let sit until you’re ready to eat.

Meanwhile, mix 2 T. of black sesame seeds and 2 T. of white sesame seeds in a flat dish. Coat 3 or 4 tuna steaks with sesame seeds. If Husband realizes that there aren’t enough sesame seeds in dish, quickly add more.

Peel and finely chop (slice it one way, then slice it the other way, then chop it against the “grains” you’ve just created) a 2″ piece of ginger that you dug out of the back of the freezer.
Cut 1/2-1 lb of broccolini into 2″ pieces.
Open the package of edamame so it’s ready to roll.
Mix 2 T. canola oil, 2 T. rice vinegar (unseasoned!), 1 T. soy sauce in a bowl or 1 c. liquid measuring cup.

Find out when the 1st period of the hockey game is ending so you can time the rest of the dinner preparations accordingly.

When the 1st period of the hockey game is about to be over, put a wok on the 2nd-largest burner, because Husband will need the largest burner for the tuna steaks.

Add 2 T. dark sesame oil to the hot wok. When the oil is almost smoking, add the chopped ginger.

Throw in the broccolini and edamame and ask Husband to start the tuna steaks.
(He should brown them in hot canola oil in a non-stick skillet, 1 minute on each side.)

Keep stirring the vegetables until they start to brown, Pour in the oil/rice vinegar/soy sauce mixture. When it starts to bubble, add 1/2 c. cashews. Stir for 30 seconds or so until everything’s hot, then turn off the heat.

When the tuna steaks are done (no more than one minute per side!), put them on a board and cut them into strips.

Make a bed of arugula in one corner of a large dinner plate. Top with the vegetables, then the strips of tuna. Serve the faro on the side. Spoon out some of the sauce from the pan and drizzle over the tuna.

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Serve with a good sparkling white, dry “champagne” of your choice.

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Watch the rest of the hockey game.

Toast 2012, and each other, and your children, and your life.

It’s all good.

15
Dec
11

week 4, but who’s counting?

Many interesting things have been learned in the past few weeks.

Dexter would like to share some of them with you:

1. Sniffing nonchalantly all around the kitchen as a decoy from the true destination — the cat’s food dish — has not been entirely effective. Thinking in a Mr. Magoo voice “What, I’m just wandering around, and just happen to be over here by the cat’s food, but that doesn’t mean anything” doesn’t seem to help either.

2. They still want me to pee outside, even when it’s raining. This seems unreasonable, and I would like to appeal, but I’m not sure of the proper channels, nor that my case would be heard with impartial minds. The cat seems to think I’m a Philistine, but I’m too frightened by all those stairs to see where it is she goes, which leads me to

3. The cat seems to think I’m a Philistine, which reeks of discrimination, and to resent the fact that I “get” to go outside, while she seems to have earned some type of privileged status, of which she does not seem to be the least bit grateful. She stays in the warm comfort of home, and to add insult to injury, gets to eat whenever she bloody well feels like it, whereas I have to wait for The Superior Beings to deign to put my food dish down for what seems like, like 10 seconds? This does not, on the whole, seem to be fair. I would present this argument, but imagine there might be a pithy, meaningless response such as “life’s not fair,” and no meaningful action taken. One must choose how one spends one’s energy, after all.

4. The cat also does not like to “play.” I don’t understand this. I’m nothing if not a barrel of monkeys. I prance, I jump, I prowl, I chase things around the kitchen and bite at their legs. This is “fun.” She, on the other hand, only minces around the kitchen on her dainty little paws, and yowls and hisses at the slightest provocation, and seems particularly perturbed when I try to initiate the bite-her-legs game while she is eating from her omnipresent cat dish. On second thought, perhaps she just does not like to have her meals interrupted. I will try again tomorrow.

5.  There are yummy things to be found out in the greenery out by the back fence (near where the “hammock” whatevertheheckthatis used to be), and under the deck. I can’t understand why my owners are so distressed when I try to bring bits of these things into the house, nor what they mean when they say I have “dog breath” and “might end up with worms,” or perchance need to have something called “greenies.” Note to self: research this at the first opportunity. I think they might be overreacting.

6. They give me these stick things I like to chew, (Yum!), but they won’t stay in my crate. I need either solid walls, or opposable thumbs.  I also need to learn how to spell opposable.

7. I hate to keep returning to this peeing thing, but sometimes, when I pee outside, I get a treat, and sometimes I only get pats and cheers. This inconsistency is confusing. Does anyone know if something could be done about this? I also like to pee and poo where I choose, and having to be on this thing called a “leash” is really messing up my mojo. Even if I run over to the neighbor’s yard, I’ll come back, eventually. What’s the worry?

Finally, here’s a clip of a humiliating moment from this morning. The things I do to make these people happy.

Dancing Dexter, kind of

12
Dec
11

where’s the line between service and harassment?

Husband and I have decided to take advantage of the not-to-be-believed low mortgage interest rates, and are refinancing our home. We’re basically taking 15 years off the mortgage at an increase in our monthly payment of about $45. That must be a good deal.

We are going with a local bank/banker that was recommended by one of my piano student’s parents, who works in finance, so we figured he would know a good bank/banker to work with. Unfortunately this is a bank with which I have previous experience; the type of experience which caused me to close all of my accounts with them ~ 15 years ago and never look back.

But they are offering the best rate at the lowest closing costs, so what can you do?

Part of the deal, though, is that we have to open an account with their bank to have our payments automatically deducted. As we have other bills that are automatically paid from our current accounts, I speculated, (correctly, as we found out later), that this was so that we would decide having accounts at two banks was too much of a hassle and we would just move all of our accounts to their bank. As the bank officer told us, we only need to have that account open for 12 months, because they figure, if we haven’t switched our accounts by then, we won’t. Strangely, he did not reply to my inquiry as to whether it would make any difference at all if I just told them that now.

I call this coercion.

But, they are offering the best rate at the lowest closing costs, so what can you do?

To make the whole thing even more fun, we have been getting repeated phone calls from their customer service department(s) asking us to rate our banking experience. Including a call after I went into one of their branch offices to deposit the $100 required to open the account. I think I was in the building for 3 minutes. I walked up to the counter, handed the probably-overqualified-and-underpaid teller my check and deposit slip, received my receipt, selected a cherry lollipop out of the festively decorated red pail, and made my departure. At 9:00 p.m. that night some poor probably-overqualified-and-underpaid schmuck calls to ask about our banking experience.

I call this harassment.

I am, already, supremely annoyed, and we haven’t even closed yet.

But, they are offering the best rate at the lowest closing costs.

What’s a person to do?

02
Dec
11

(cats and) dogs and what Cesar doesn’t tell you

Those of you who have been here before know we have recently acquired a dog.

He’s a very sweet dog, and very fun. He springs around like the little dog in the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons and dances on his hind feet when he’s excited and as soft as a puff of cotton, and, when he’s doing the things that puppies do, like pee and poo in the house or whimper in their crates at night because they’d rather cuddle up with you on your nice warm down comforter, he brings out the impatient side of me I haven’t seen since my children were toddlers. It seems to be kind of mild rage that surges, just below the surface, when they — puppies, small children — refuse (!) to behave in a rational manner.

Such as: Dexter hates to get his feet wet. It’s November, in Michigan. This means, when we go out to the “potty place” he has to walk across a deck and out into the leaves, and it being November (and now December) in Michigan, it’s often raining or trying to snow, and the deck and leaves are therefore cold, and wet. So I coax him out the back door with the smell of bits of hot dog in my hand, and coax him across the deck with gentle tugs on the leash, and then he stands there, shivering on the leaves, looking at me pathetically over his shoulder, and not peeing. I try “calm/assertive” (Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer; CW: “Cesar’s Way“): “Dexter, go potty.” (I say this every time he goes potty. I try not to feel ridiculous. Like, Duh? Why else would we be standing out here shivering in the rain at 3:30 a.m.?) I try calm/very assertive: “Dexter, go POTTY.” I try beseeching: “Dexter, go potty, PLEASE?.” Then I try reason: “If you’d go potty we could go back in the house.”

It doesn’t work.

CW: Don’t use too many words. Words aren’t words to a dog, they’re just noises, so keep the commands simple: go potty, no, tsssst (bad), click/click with your tongue (good), etc.

He also doesn’t eat much. I measured out 3/4 c. of food yesterday morning, there’s still 5/8 c. in his bowl. We don’t give him that many treats. He had 2/32 of a hot dog this morning to get him across the deck (after he peed on the deck step), and a half of a Kong (the smallest size available) worth of peanut butter yesterday. This is not enough food. I put the bowl down 3 times a day for 15 minutes each time; I coax him over by shaking it, he eats three kibbles. He then sniffs the whole perimeter of the kitchen, while I try to decide if it’s benign-dog-investigating-the-terrain sniffing or a I-wonder-where-is-a-good-place-to-pee sniffing, which means I don’t get a single thing done when I’m home because I’m constantly craning my neck trying to keep him in sight. After 15 minutes I put his food up, and then spend the next 5 hours trying to keep him from eating the cat food.

CW: Stand in front of the cat food, make eye contact with the dog (the dog is 5″ high, btw) and say, in a calm/assertive way, “No.” You should only have to do this 3 times.

Right.

Maybe he means three times per half hour. Maybe the eye contact is important, and would work better if the dog weren’t 5″ high.

Dexter also doesn’t like to be left alone. If I leave the kitchen (where he is kept for now, until he can be trusted not to pee wherever the urge strikes him, which, as far as I can tell, might be NEVER), he stands at the door and whimpers. Of course, if I’m in the room with him he pays very little attention to my presence. The same thing happens outside. We have a pretty big yard, and a fair portion of the back of it was fenced by a previous owner, and he loves to run around on the deck and sniff the knothole that serves as the entrance to the chipmunk’s home*, and scoot acorns around with his nose, and jump through the leaves (wet or not; it doesn’t seem to matter if the leaves are wet unless he’s supposed to be peeing). But if I go inside, even for a minute, he gallops to the door and stands there and whimpers. Of course, if I come out, he runs off and completely ignores me, so I guess I’m supposed to just stand there with my hands in my pockets.

CW: A dog can be cured of his/her separation anxiety very easily. When he/she is distracted by play, walk around a corner or to another side of the fence. When he/she begins to display anxiety over your absence, step into view, say “Quiet,” and wait for him/her to calm down. Then walk away again. After doing this a few times, your dog will learn to relax, comfort themselves, and go about their play.

I tried this today. He was outside, running around through the puddles (it was okay, he didn’t need to pee), scooting acorns around with his nose, etc. I walked into the house so I could peep through the front windows to see if Only Daughter’s bus had come, and he ran to the sliding glass door and pawed at it with his paws and whimpered. I came into view, said “Quiet,” he stopped whimpering, etc. We did this twenty seven times over ten minutes. He would wander off for 20-30 seconds after he could see me. But then some little puppy voice in his head would say “Wait; Where is She? Is She Still There? What if She’s Left Me All Alone or Never Lets Me in the House Again?” (If only that voice would say, “This would be a lot less likely if I stopped shitting on the kitchen floor, chewing on the kitchen table legs, and whining at 3:00 a.m.” I can dream I guess.)

I want a level of rationality that I’m just not going to get. I know this.

Cesar claims that, if you are completely consistent in your housebreaking habits, it can happen in a few days. Cesar is lying. We try to take comfort that he (Dexter, not Cesar) now whimpers in his crate if he has peed in it (so we can clean it up for him, I presume), and that occasionally he paws at the sliding door to go out, and sometimes this means that he needs to go out to go potty. Sometimes he’s just trying to get us to let him outside to play, so now we somehow have to teach him the difference between pawing at the door to go outside to pee, vs. waiting for us to take him outside to play.

Right.

And the cat, Sophie, is pissed.

She’s a Siamese. I think she might have played the role of the one on the right.

I can imagine her complaints:

First of all, he just got here, and gets to go outside already.

If she wants to eat she has to climb over the wall of boots or shoes or towels we’ve created to keep Dexter out of her food.

And she looks at him with utter disdain. She thinks he’s a total cretin. “You pee and poop in your house? You don’t clean up after yourself? What’s the MATTER with you?”

I mean, think about it — you show a cat ONCE where the litter box is, and you never need to show him or her again.

This ought to at least get her some kind of elite status or something.

She does balance it out by her insistence on trying to climb the Christmas tree, so it’s not like she’s perfect or something. She just thinks she is.

Dexter just wants to play. That’s probably not helping.

Anyway, puppies are cute for the same reason babies are cute. It’s the single most important factor in their survival to adolescence. Not sure what kicks in then; investment of time, I guess.

Dexter asleep in my lap. Look how cute he is!

And now a brief tribute to Husband. He didn’t really want a dog. They are a lot of work, and he likes for us to have freedom to come and go if things come up on weekends or road trips, etc. He also likes life to be as regular and calm and predictable as possible, and none of these things are true when you have a puppy in the house. But he conceded that if we really wanted a dog, he wasn’t going to stand in our way, and that he would be perfectly fine with taking care of the dog when I or Only Daughter were unavailable.

Every time the dog wakes us up at night, or pees in the kitchen, or whatever, Husband is calm and patient and just does what needs to be done. He also comforts and reassures me in the middle of the night when I am upset or worried that puppyhood is going to last forever and I’ve ruined our lives. He is the Best Husband Ever, although I sometimes wonder if maybe we would all be better off if, rather than comforting and humoring me, someone tempered my Pathological Optimism a little wee bit.

But maybe not.

In any case, as Husband says, we now have a dog. We will Make the Most of It.

*************

*These chipmunks are, in his own words, Husband’s “Mortal Enemy.” They burrow around under trees and plants and weaken foundations. Every once in a while we’ll be talking in the kitchen, and he’ll look out the back door and get this pensive, distant look in his eye, and I imagine he is thinking some profound thought or discovering the cure for cancer or something, and then he suddenly, quietly leaves the house. I have learned that this signals a chipmunk sighting, and wait expectantly for the sound of the pellet gun (or whatever it is; what I know about guns is only exceeded by what I know about everything else) and either his victorious reappearance or a prolonged absence as he lurks in the shadows, waiting for the little rodent to reappear.

26
Nov
11

almost a whole day. . .

Had taken a vow of electronic silence, but a couple things have come up today that I just can’t resist posting about.

First: Truth In Labeling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good to know.

This made me curious, so I looked a little further:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheesh. Are we really this stupid?

**********

In an “are we really this stupid”-related story, I ran across this article in last Sunday’s New York Times, about a woman and what she wore day by day as she went through her week. Apparently she’s quite wealthy, and philanthropic, and stylish, so, as my husband posits, we’re supposed to care.

Is this, really, “All the News That’s Fit to Print”? Or maybe, just a little more.

***********

We decided that this was a good day to take Dexter for a walk. He does pretty well with his leash when we take him out to go “potty,” and we took him for a short walk yesterday, and after a little resistance he had trotted along quite happily. Not so today. By the time we realized that he really was quite overwhelmed and was not going to take a step of his own free will he had damaged the bottom of 3 of his 4 little paws, and is limping around all gingerly and pathetic. I feel absolutely terrible, but I’m also a little irritated, because his feet seem to feel fine enough when he wants to sniff the wheelbarrow, chew branches, and chase his purple monkey around the kitchen, but are apparently too sore for him to bear the leaves and stones when we take him out to pee. Does it say something about me that I’m always quite convinced that I’m being manipulated by a 10-week old puppy who looks like a cross between an Ewok and a baby polar bear? (Cynical, party of one.)

Anyway, the guilt is almost more than I can bear. I’m a terrible person.

But I still don’t care what Muffie wore, or to wear she wore it.

 

 

 

 

25
Nov
11

recipes, a day late

Husband says that the last thing people want to read the day after Thanksgiving is recipes, and I’m sure these would have been a lot more useful to people a week ago, but the problem is I make things up as I go along, so I never have them until after the fact. Maybe they will be of some use for Christmas. I did have two things turn out better than expected, and a result of a combination of two or three recipes, so here you are.

Sorry I don’t have pictures. Too many things to do all at the same time to stop and take snapshots. I must be the Worst. Blogger. Ever.

Yam and Pumpkin Soufflé

Cut 2 lbs of yams into 2-3″ pieces (don’t bother peeling) and cover with water in a medium-sized saucepot. Cover, bring to boil, and then simmer until they are are quite soft.

Remove the yams from the pan and let cool on a plate, then peel and mash in a large bowl. Add 2 c. of pumpkin — either baked or boiled pie pumpkin or canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling; just pumpkin), 1/2 c. coconut milk (Silk brand or its equivalent, the kind made to drink, not the really high fat stuff in cans), 1/4 c. brandy (or more, I always think it needs more), 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. galangal (or ginger, but I like the galangal better because it’s a little milder), 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 c. brown sugar. Stir until well mixed. In a separate bowl, beat two eggs until light and frothy. Stir into pumpkin mixture. Put the pumpkin mixture into a deep pie pan or soufflé dish.

Melt 1 T. of butter in a medium-sized skillet. Add 1/3-1/2 c. slivered almonds, and stir, cooking until the almonds just start to brown. Add 2 T. of brown sugar, and keep stirring until the sugar starts to get thickly syrupy (mine didn’t really caramelize, and the almonds were starting to look like they might burn, so I took it off the heat). Spread the sugared almonds over the top of the soufflé.

Bake at 350˚ for an hour, uncovered.

Really light, mildly sweet, even the “children” liked them.

Apple Pie with Drunk Brandied Raisins

The day before:

Put 1/3 c. of golden raisins into a small dish or canning jar. Pour brandy over just to top of raisins. Let sit overnight, shaking to mix and redistribute the raisins whenever you think of it.

Cut 1/2 tsp. of salt into 2 1/2 c. of unbleached flour. Add 3/4 c. really cold butter, cut into tablespoons, and mix with the flat paddle of the mixer until fine crumbs. Sprinkle in 9 T. of ice-cold water, letting the mixer run. When the crumbs start to stick together into clumps, stop the mixer. Assemble the pie dough into a ball, wrap tightly in saran wrap, and refrigerate overnight. (I usually refrigerate for ~ 30 minutes, but this was by far the flakiest, most delicious pie crust I’ve ever made, and I think it was because I was trying to do stuff ahead, so made the dough and left it in the fridge over night. It was really a lot of work to roll out, my triceps still feel it, but it was definitely worth it.)

The day of:

Mix 1/2 c. brown sugar, 3 T. unbleached flour, 2 heaping tsp. of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. of salt. Peel, core, and slice (1/4″ thick) 7 Granny Smith apples. Add the apples to the sugar mixture and stir until they are completely coated. Pour in the raisins AND the brandy, stir again.

Roll half of the pie dough out on a floured cloth. Fit into deep-dish 10″ pie plate. Add apple mixture to the pie dish, arranging carefully so the slices are really packed in together. Dot with 1-2 T. of butter cut into little pats. Top with the other crust, brush the crust with milk and sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake in a 425˚ oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375˚ and bake for another 30-40. Fantastic. (You will taste the brandy, so don’t do it this way thinking the brandy flavor will disappear. Unless you’re like me, and think the dish always needs more brandy.)(Twitter post, @Sheriji1: Husband and I, in a nutshell, on Thanksgiving: Him: I like to stay ahead of the dishes. Me: I think this dish needs more brandy.)

************

Dinner was fantastic. We made a 21.3 lb. turkey for 5 people because First Son and Step Daughter couldn’t make it back. We missed them, quite a bit, and not just because they are the oldest and therefore the best at making enjoyable conversation around the table and really good at doing dishes. I didn’t make a complete pig of myself, but did eat enough to make a vow that I wouldn’t eat today (Husband claims this is cliché, a vow made by all and sundry aprés Thanksgiving dinner). I did end up thoroughly enjoying a piece of the drunk apple pie for breakfast (I feel no ill effects, but thanks for asking).

Really looking forward to the leftovers. I especially love “my” stuffing, but I can’t take credit for it, because I got the recipe from the Silver Palate cookbook. The Best Stuffing Ever.

It’s a beautiful day outside. Took Dexter for his first walk. After the first 5 minutes of basically being dragged by the leash while he reluctantly kind of paddled his little paws he walked like a champ. No “potty” for the whole walk, though, which seemed a little weird. Husband says he was holding it in so he can go where he thinks he’s supposed to: on the kitchen floor.

Now, what? Read (Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel) or knit? Tough decisions.

**************

One more recipe — really good with turkey leftovers.

Turkey Florentine

Make 3 c. of white sauce — let me know if you need a recipe for this, but I think it’s pretty basic.

Add 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg (or more, if you like it really nutmeggy)

Toast 1/2 c. of slivered almonds.

In a large deep-dish pie pan or 10″ casserole dish, layer:

1/4 of white sauce

a “level” of fresh spinach

a “level” of leftover turkey white meat

1/4 of white sauce

spinach

turkey

1/4 of white sauce

spinach

turkey

1/4 of white sauce

top the toasted almonds and a generous layer of grated parmesan cheese

Bake, 350˚, until the sauce is bubbly and the top is golden.

Serve over fresh (Reames? is that the brand?) pasta.

23
Nov
11

Yeah, that sounds like fun

Dear MoveOn member,

Americans are talking about the economy—a lot. They’re talking about Occupy Wall Street and the Super Committee, about an economy that only works for the 1% and about unemployment.

But thanks to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, lots of talk about the economy means lots of misinformation about the economy.

So if you’re spending this Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family, and want to be ready with the facts to gently correct any myths you hear (they are family and friends, after all), we put together a short guide with five common myths you might hear and easy-to-remember facts to respond to them.

 

 

 

 

Looking for the picture above, found this:

That’s funny.

21
Nov
11

maybe I’m just not qualified

Those of you who visit here regularly probably know that I’ve recently acquired a dog.

Meet Dexter.

He is, as you can see, very cute, and very sweet.

He also seems to be pushing all of my you-suck-as-a-parent buttons, and I’m having a really hard time deciding I’m qualified to even potty train this dog much less be held accountable for my children. (For some reason “So far I’ve let them live” fails to qualify as a ringing endorsement, although there have been times that this alone was a heroic accomplishment.)

I actually spent several hours today wondering if this 10-week old puppy could actually be smart enough to be manipulating me by running around the kitchen sniffing so that I would take him outside to go potty play.

This isn’t possible, right? He’s a 10-week old puppy. Right? (I have my doubts, and I am definitely watching for other signs of coercive behavior. Just give me a minute until I’ve finished rubbing that soft spot on the back of his ears. . .)

So I spend my only 2 hours off between 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. snatching him up from where he’s running and taking him outside so he can sniff bits of bark, chase the leaves that are blowing around and chew on acorns and sticks. Over and over and over, to no avail. Well, to no avail to me; he got to sniff bits of bark, chase the leaves that were blowing around, and chew on acorns and sticks. He’s a puppy. What more could he want?

I then discover that he had actually already gone poo in his “bed,” and this is not the first time, and dogs aren’t supposed to like to do this, so I decide his “bed” must be too big, and put a giant soup pot in the back of the crate, with the lid on upside down so the crate will close but he can’t get into the pot. I finally manage to coax him into the crate with a toy and a “bully stick” (this is actually, to my surprise and chagrin, a smoked bull penis, but we do not speak of that, although I do like to imagine the boardroom meeting while they settle on the name .  . . bull dick, hmm, can’t call it that, bully dick, only slightly better, and it sounds like someone who would beat you up on the playground so he could steal your Hardy Boys book and pocket protector, [you know, that bully, Dick?] hey! I got it! bully stick! Ah, advertising.)

I digress.

Back to the puppy.

At first he settles in, but then he realizes that he’s been “had,” and starts to express his displeasure over this act of subterfuge and deception. He starts yipping, and just won’t stop, so I finally really start to lose it and put the crate in the garage so I don’t kill him*  can’t hear him anymore. About 20 minutes later Only Daughter gets home from school, so we have a peek to see if all is settled down, and we can’t see him anywhere. When I get closer, bending over and peering through the gate, I realize that he has managed to squeeze himself into the 2″ of space between the top of the pot and the top of the crate, and is now curled up in the inverted lid, sleeping.

What a goofball.

All of this is the day after an exchange with Second Son that went something like this.

Me: “I have kind of a busy day on Wednesday to come pick you up from school,” (it has already been determined that his college isn’t far enough away; IMHO there must be a 200 mile minimum to really encourage independence), “can I buy you a bus ticket?”

SS: “Seriously? You can’t pick up your child?”
Me: “Well, I can, but I have a lot to do, and that’s two hours out of my day, and it’s really not that long of a bus ride, and I’ll buy your ticket.”

SS: “I hate the bus. Can’t you pick me up?”
Me: “Well, I can. But I have a lot to do. Would you be willing and able to help with some Thanksgiving dinner preparation Wednesday night then? I was going to do some of that Wednesday afternoon.”

SS: “Is it really not possible for you to do something for me without me having to do something in return?”

Yeah, that went over like a lead balloon.

After I had shown Husband the email^ I wrote to Second Son, explaining how much I hate entitled children with selfish, narrow world views, and how offended I was that my contribution to his well-being that extended far beyond food, shelter, and clothing, but into tuition and vehicle provision and insurance and maintenance etc., etc. seemed to be not only unreimbursed, but also, more importantly, unappreciated, Husband huddled, shuddering, in the corner of the couch. “Don’t hurt me” he says.

As if.

First of all, he would never say anything so offensive, or ridiculous.

Second of all, well, what else is there?

So I raise selfish, ungrateful children, and my puppy won’t pee outside.

Sigh.

*He was not hurt. Except for maybe his feelings when I told him to shut up. He’s lying at my feet licking his paws, so I think he’s forgiven me.

^Second Son apologized on the phone last night for being ungrateful and selfish. It turns out that he hadn’t even read the email yet (apparently college students don’t check their email anymore, although they sure seem to send me a lot of them). I guess it’s not all as hopeless as it seemed.

And Dex pee’d AND poo’d this morning first thing, and his crate was clean. But the pot’s staying. For now.

19
Nov
11

Two Questions

1.  Is this decoration stupid or whimsical? Inquiring minds want to know.

2.  Have you ever seen an uglier outfit?

Seems like, if they want you to knit it, it ought not to make the model look like a block of wood.

Just sayin’.

08
Nov
11

feminist financing

I bought my house in July of 2007. Came back from my summer camp job for one night (stayed at a friend’s), signed the papers the next day, collected my keys, and drove back to camp without even going to the house (I didn’t have time). When I did come “home,” 3 weeks later, it appeared that a tree had fallen across the road and some mysterious fallen-tree-removing elves had come and cleaned it up. I waited for months for the bill.

Anyway. This was a big deal for me. I had separated from Former Husband about 8 months earlier, a man I married while in graduate school, and this was probably the first actual adult thing I had done by myself.

Of course this was right before the mortgage crisis really hit. If the bank had looked past my stellar credit rating (I was told it was in the top .1 of the top 99 percentile) at my laughably meager income they wouldn’t have loaned me quarters for the parking meter. But they did. And here I, and Husband, live happily with Only Daughter, Sophie the cat, Bear the snake, and (someone should really name the fish) the goldfish (I don’t name them because I usually kill them. Accidentally of course. This one, interestingly, has lived for a year and a half, and is still nameless). Oh, and maybe-to-be-named-Dexter the puppy who comes home a week from today. (So much for the rule of never having more pets than you have children.)

When I bought the house, I was granted the wonderful interest rate of 6.5% Seemed like a good deal at the time.

Now it’s 3.5%, so we’re refinancing.

And putting Husband’s name on the mortgage too.

These are both good things.

But I feel kind of strange about it.

I “found” the bank guy, but my schedule’s crazy plus I have to keep all this time free to write on my blog, so Husband is doing the follow-up.

He’s been asked for pay stubs and W2s, but it isn’t clear if mine are needed, too, so right now he’s sending his.

I know that this doesn’t really mean anything. He makes enough money to qualify for the tiny little mortgage on this tiny little house, and we will make sure that both of our names are on the mortgage, but a part of me feels irrelevant, marginalized. Not because of anything anyone is doing or saying, mind you, just because.

For the past three years I’ve been trying to convince Husband that this is His House Too, even if his name wasn’t on the mortgage, but I don’t think he ever really felt that way. And now I kind of understand. Because there’s this tiny little voice that’s saying to me, “But it’s your house.” And I can’t figure out where that voice is coming from.

Maybe because it is, really, the only thing of value that I own. My retirement fund is laughable. I do own a Baldwin grand piano that’s 111 years old. And a Prius. But that’s it.

Maybe that’s all it is.

I joke that Husband actually married me for my money, and this is all just of his diabolical scheme to get his grubby paws on my dough.

Ha!

But I think it’s more “feminist” than that. He makes more money than I do, he has a lot more saved for retirement than I do; maybe subconsciously my ownership of the house helps level the inequality a little. I guess I could ask to have my name put on his retirement account (guess I just did), but I don’t think that can be done, and that’s not something I’m worrying about anyway.

Is this a reaction to something that is purely symbolic? Or does it represent something more significant, more important?

In a related story he, laughingly (I found out later; I thought he was serious) suggested we roll in enough to put a hot tub on the deck. I’m angling for a heated driveway so I can get my little Toyota up the hill and into the garage all winter. Shall I open it up for discussion?

31
Oct
11

heard, at dinner, Halloween 2011

Only Daughter: So Willow Smith is famous and like totally shouldn’t be because she’s only 10 and wears really stupid clothes.

Me: Well, why do you suppose she’s famous?

OD: Her brother, Jaden, was in that Karate movie.

Me: Oh, so that’s Will Smith’s daughter. She’s famous because her parents are famous, and are apparently willing to allow her to make a spectacle of herself to exploit the publicity opportunities.

OD: Yeah, but she’s famous.

Me: There are better, more important things than being famous.

OD: Like money?

I’m so proud.

(When I harumphed, she said, “candy?”)(It is Halloween after all, and she did give me her [lone, miniature] Babe Ruth and [lone, but super size] Butterfinger. Such a good girl.)

In a related story, what’s up with this hairdo?

This has to fall under the “you don’t have to do it just because you can” category.

Sheesh.

28
Oct
11

today in politics

Today’s headlines re: the Republican candidates.

Just what this country needs; someone who can’t manage their own campaign.

But we all know what we really need, more jobs. Maybe Rick Perry has the answer. (If you click on each ad banner it will take you to the whole article.)

But then there’s this:

Meh. Details, details.

And then, last but not least, the stalwart long-suffering “front runner,” Romney.

Oops. That wasn’t the one I meant.

That’s funny, I didn’t even do that on purpose.

Here.

This all just makes me tired.

I actually got an email from People or the American Way a few days ago, with this in the subject line:

“Is it time you ran for office?”

I snorted and thought, as if! What sane person wants to run for office. And then it occurred to me.

Exactly!!!

In a related story, I re-posted this on facebook today, from a post that I can now attribute to Axis Mundi:

When Egypt’s people protested, we supported them. When Libya’s people protested, we supported them even more than we supported Egypt. When our people protest, we ignore them, shoot them, gas them, beat them, arrest them, and make fun of them on TV, the radio, and the internet.

As an American, how do you justify this?

And a friend replied:

we cheered and supported them in their fight over tyranny, and for a chance at maybe democracy, although that remains to be seen. I think our protests are seen as something altogether different and can’t be compared as apples to apples. If we are to avoid bankruptcy, drastic measures must be taken, and unfortunately, that means tougher times.. And yes, we will always have the rich, as we will always have the poor. Some things won’t change..Sorry..I think that’s why so many look at our protesters as a bunch of sob asses
I fear he’s missing the point.
Maybe some of these protestors are “putting on airs” by comparing the plight of the American middle class with the plight of Arabian people oppressed by brutal dictators — this is unfortunate, and regrettable; but at the same time, I believe it was Goethe that said that none are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. Our “democracy” is a fallacy, with our government being sold off to the highest bidder, and his statement that “we will always have the rich, as we will always have the poor” made me first wonder if he was actually quoting Jesus. (Knowing him as I do, I doubt it.) But when 1% of the population controls 40% of the wealth of the country, and the government is for sale, we’re all in trouble. A nation can only thrive with a thriving middle class. And while I count myself lucky that I’ve so far managed to keep my head above water, my children fed and housed and educated, I am exactly that. Lucky. The fact that I’ve earned a Doctorate and have 20 years of professional experience in my field, and the best I can hope for is piecework as an adjunct with no salary, no benefits, and no security is only one piece of the pie chart that shows the trouble this country is in.
Basta. It’s past my bedtime.
26
Oct
11

guess which is which

On my way to bed last night I fetched my phone from wherever I had left it and noticed I had 2 text messages, one from each son, each away at their respective colleges.

Guess which is from “First” and which is “Second”

Text message A:  How do you make those baked home fries so delicious?

Text message B:  Guess who has ibs?

 

I’d offer a prize for the winner, but it’s a) just too obvious and b) I’m broke.

Ah, parenthood. Who knew it would be this much fun?

 

 

21
Oct
11

caveat emptor

So, I blogged a few days ago about buying a couch.

On Tuesday, my husband and I went to get it.

We were very excited.

We brought it home, carried it into the house, unwrapped it from the sheets of foam, discovered that the legs were cleverly hidden inside a zippered pouch underneath, assembled it, and put it into place.

It looked very nice.

I arranged the pillows we had bought for it, and we stepped back to admire.

I then went into the kitchen to start preparations for my piano class, and Husband carried the sheets of foam to the dumpster after wrestling the old couch down to Second Son’s bedroom.

Twenty minutes later Husband was walking through the living room, and Sophie, our tiny Siamese, jumped down off the couch. He heard a ripping sound, and went over to look. One of her back claws had ripped a series of scratches/holes through what we had thought was leather to the polyester backing underneath.

Three important things have been learned this week:

1.

“Bonded leather,” despite the similarity of the name to “leather,” is not.

Here’s the description of the couch from the Worldmarket website:

Here’s a description of “bonded leather” from Wikipedia:

I don’t suppose this is a commentary on the American family, and “daily family use” implies a family who won’t ever sit on the couch because they’re so busy volunteering at their local homeless shelter, raking their neighbor’s leaves and/or studying for their MBA?

2.

WorldMarket apparently manipulates the comments/reviews portion of their website.

I wrote this review, on Tuesday, the 18th, on their website:

Your Rating: 1 stars
Headline: DO NOT BUY THIS COUCH

Cons : Tears Easily
Describe Yourself : Midrange Shopper

This couch was in our house for 30 minutes and had 4 scratches through the “leather” to the polyester underneath, a result of our 9 lb. Siamese cat jumping off it once. (She’s not “Wolverine.”) We were told on the phone that this does not qualify as “daily use,” and that they probably won’t be able to give us our money back.

Don’t be fooled — Bonded Leather is not leather, but a fancy name for cheap, useless vinyl. Am so upset I probably won’t buy anything from World Market for a long time.

This is the ONLY review of this couch on their website, also submitted on the 18th, which just appeared today:

You can be comforted by the possibility that they didn’t completely disregard my review. I noticed yesterday that items which, the day before we had bought the couch, had been described as “leather” are now labelled as “bicast leather” (another form of leather “product” that isn’t, really, leather). So apparently, the reviews come in handy for them to make sure they cover their proverbial a$&es in how they describe their items.

3.

Store managers are a lot more willing to take returns when you talk to people at the corporate office.

And one thing, which I always knew, but apparently forgot:

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

**********

On a happy note, we found a beautiful Italian leather couch at a local furniture store which has been dramatically reduced, albeit still ~ 5 times what we paid for this plastic one, and which we can order in our choice of leather colors. I’ve always wanted a purple leather couch, and this is a gorgeous purple — not Barney purple, or Grape Nehi purple, but the color of a glass of a rich French burgundy wine.

This may end up being our Christmas present to each other.

The only bad part of it is, Husband has to wrestle the old couch back up to the living room for 8-10 weeks while we wait for the dream couch to arrive.

 

 

 

15
Oct
11

soupy sundays, except on saturday, and not soup

Have to go to a conference tomorrow, so won’t be making soup, and won’t have time to post any recipes. Thought I’d post today’s instead.

But first — our day. Husband and I went and bought a couch:

Cuz the one we have is squishy and poorly made and falling apart, and this one was $200 off and we decided that if you only spend $300 on a couch you don’t mind if somebody’s (ahem) piano students climb all over it and stuff.

I really wanted red or purple, but they only had it in “espresso,” so we bought 4 throw pillows, in various colours and embroideries, which cost $90 altogether. Not sure this ends up being a good deal, but you can’t just have a brown couch.

Then we bought groceries. Grocery shopping has been fun since Second Son, a.k.a. Eating Boy, has gone off to college and is eating his money’s worth of (room and) board. We have been spending under $200 every week, even last week, when we bought $96 of wine that would have cost $192 if not on “special”. We call this “saving money.”

This week our groceries added up to almost $300. Maybe partially because we spent/bought so little last week, but we also bought $20 worth of lobster tails and $25 worth of tuna steaks because they were having this aMAzing seafood sale (see? “saving money”); and $12 worth of pistachios because I love pistachios and have decided not to eat gluten for a few weeks to see if I feel better (hypothyroid; it sucks) and am trying not to eat potato chips. We also splurged and bought $7 worth of pine nuts — about a half a cup. Why are these so expensive? And where do these pine nuts come from? Are we negotiating with some really hard-core squirrel unions or something? Are they that hard to grow?  I’m going to sauté green beans in garlic-y olive oil and lemon juice, and then sprinkle 7 pine nuts on top for “flavor.” I’ll let you know if it’s worth it. (It totally was.)

(Do you ever get the feeling that pretty much everything I do, personally and/or professionally, revolves around what I’m going to eat and/or drink next?)(Yeah, me, too.)

Then we came home and raked some more leaves. We live in the forest, and there are a lot of leaves, and there are still a lot of leaves in the trees, but if we wait until they all fall there are too many to rake, so we did what we call stage 1. (Although I did stage .5 yesterday when I raked them all off the driveway so my poor little Prius could make it up the hill without slipping. Wet leaves = snow when you live on a hill.) Husband and Stepson did the front yard, and I did the sidewalk (for the second time today) and the deck and the back path to the compost pile. It was quite windy, so leaves were swirling around me in great wooshes of golden light, and the air is just cold enough to feel crisp and fresh without being so cold to need a coat. Especially when you’re working hard raking. It was lovely. Except for the fact that it felt like I was throwing a half a ton of leaves over the fence onto the compost pile, it was fun. (It probably wasn’t quite that many, but it was a lot. And I’m allergic. And I have a bad back because First Son weighed 10 lbs. 10 ozs. when he was born I’mnotmakingthatup and 30 lbs. when he was a year old but he still wasn’t walking because he couldn’t get his girth off the floor so I carried him around on one hip and walked like someone who has one leg 3″ longer than the other one for a really long time. So yeah, there were a lot of leaves. And I’m a big baby. I like to say “I’m a delicate flower” but Husband usually just snorts before he remembers that he thinks so too. Anyway.)

I have Husband’s permission to post our salmon recipe. This may actually be, basically, why I married him (see two paragraphs above; NOW the secret’s really out!!!) That and his mushroom risotto. And, well, never mind.

The Best (some call it Only) Salmon Recipe Ever

For a 1 1/2 – 2 lb piece of salmon filet:

Chop 1/2 – 3/4 c. olive-packed sun dried tomatoes (the more natural, the better; we do our own; I know, we might be psychopaths)

Chop 1 bunch curly parsley really really fine.

Sprinkle 10 cloves of garlic with a generous amount coarse salt and chop fine.

Mix these three things together and drizzle with olive oil until it kind of holds together.

Stir and cover and let sit for AT LEAST 2 hours.

Put the salmon skin-side down on a piece of foil with the edges of the foil folded up to make sides. Cut through the salmon flesh without cutting through the skin — make a cut down the middle lengthwise, and then slashes every 2-3″ crosswise. Stuff the slits with the tomato/parsley/garlic mixture, and then pack the rest of the stuff along the top of the salmon. (Don’t put this on the portion Stepson will eat, because he will just scrape it all over into a pile in the corner of his plate, and you can’t just throw that away, it’s like $7 worth of sun-dried tomatoes.)

Cook on the foil over red-hot coals (close the lid of the grill) until salmon is thoroughly cooked — 15-20 minutes probably, depending on the thickness of the flesh.

Serve with brown rice (we like organic short-grain) and a lightly-chilled chardonnay.

Apologize to everyone you sit next to the next day because of the garlic aura with which you are surrounded.

It’s totally worth it.

For dessert we’re having Pomegranate Gelato

Mix the seeds from one Pomegranate with a cup of water and simmer over low low low heat until the seeds are pale and soft. (Or you could be a little less of a psycho, and buy the POM stuff.)

Mix 2 c. whole milk with 1/2 c. sugar and 1 1/2 T. of cornstarch. Whisk until foamy. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until bubbly and foamy (don’t boil it over).

Remove from heat. Drain the juice off the pomegranate seeds into the milk mixture.

We were pouring brandy off of raspberries after 6 weeks, so we squeezed 3 c. of raspberries through a cheesecloth to get the brandy and raspberry juice, and added that to the milk mixture. If you don’t happen to have some of that handy (ha!), add 1/2 c. of raspberry, cranberry, or cherry juice.

Chill.

Process in an ice-cream maker until frozen.

Put into a plastic bowl, cover, and then put in freezer ~ 1 hr. before serving.

29
Sep
11

my day

1. What’s up with needing an invitation to Pinterest? Do they actually do some kind of research or something to make sure you’re not some kind of a rabble rouser or derelict? And how can they tell from my email address? I can just hear the conversation: “She uses comcast; probably a Communist.” Or are they going to evaluate my time-management skills to determine if I can enjoy the site without it destroying my ability to meet the obligations of my employment?

You’ll be relieved to know I’ve been accepted, although it calls to mind Mark Twain’s comment about being reluctant to be a member of a club which would have him as a member.

And this must be done on purpose, right? They aren’t actually that stupid?

Oh, just found out that I can’t join Pinterest without linking it to my facebook account. The Plot Thickens.

And no, thanks. Big Brother watches me enough, thank you. (And just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the world ISN’T out to get you.)

2. Drove an hour to pick up my mom at a meeting place after her last radiation treatment for a brain tumor. Was an hour early because Flaky Me transposed the hour of departure into the hour of arrival. Killed time at a book store that had more gifts than books, but I guess we all do what we have to to survive.

I did seriously consider buying a book of “Good Karma/Bad Karma” checks, but decided that, as entertaining as they were, I probably would never have the nerve to actually use one, although I would have liked to have had something to use on the the gum-chewing, rap-listening teeny-bopper ditz-brain who cut me off (from behind, which is difficult to do) at my last exit. A club might have come in hand. Apparently HER right blinker means she is going into the right lane, but MY right blinker doesn’t. Maybe I should award her a good karma check for her brazen tenacity in getting to that red light one car before me.

Anyway, I bought two promising novels off the remaindered table, for $5.99 apiece. It’s the end of the world as we know it; the fall of the Roman Empire. Combine that with the prospect of Rick Perry as president and I need to either kill myself or move to Canada.

He needs one of those Tshirts

Mom reports that doctor is encouraging re: her desire to donate her body to science, as her prognosis has exceeded the usual prognosis for this type of cancer by about 4 years. Her response is that prayer has made all the difference. Does that mean that the people who died within the first year of their diagnosis weren’t prayed for? Or God didn’t love them? Or the people didn’t pray hard enough? Or God had “some other message,” which, in His infinite wisdom Has Not Yet Been Revealed?

I was a good daughter, and only mentioned the possibility that other people may have been prayed for, too, and then changed the subject to, well, something, I don’t remember. Now I know that her faith gives her a lot of comfort and hope etc., etc., but I just can’t reconcile the whole idea of God healing some people because of prayer and not others. It just doesn’t seem fair to me, and if there is a God, it seems like he ought to be, at the very least, fair.

I then drove 2 hours to meet a friend of hers, who was picking her up to deliver her home. I felt like it was a relay, and she was the baton.

All went well, and only a little behind schedule, and then

3. Waiting for Only Daughter’s choir to finish rehearsing, and this huge storm blows in. Hail, and gale-force winds, and heavy rain and all of the kids are Ooooohing and Aaaaahing and the director is pointing out that there’s no lightning (flash, boom) and no tornado sirens (Weather.com: Severe Thunderstorm Warning) etc. etc. to try to calm everyone down. Six minutes later it’s over.

I get home, and the power’s off.

4. Ate antelope stew from the slow cooker (I know, right?) and then washed the dishes with water from the dehumidifier. Prairie women got nothin’ on me.

5. Listening to NPR on the way home from O.D.’s choir. How cynical are we, that we report, with great aplomb, that the United States Government has seen fit to fund its activities for the next four days.

Sheesh.

The power’s off until just now — 10 p.m.; 3 hours later.

This is typical for our neighborhood.

Only Daughter wonders if maybe we should move.

Now I need to go down and see if I can light the pilot on the water heater without setting my hair on fire. Like I did last time. And no, I wasn’t drunk at the time. They’re long, wussy, matches.

29
Sep
11

cold season

I encountered 28 students in classes and lessons yesterday. Without actually having kept a tally, I would guess that 23 of them had a cold of some kind.

I know I can’t catch it that quickly, but Only Daughter was “catching” a cold last Friday, and by the end of the day last night it was quite clear that I had been contaminated. I’m sure this was helped along by things like the fact that I’m such a terrible mom I forget to give a sick child their own glass in the bathroom, and by habits of hers like eating Black Forest ham® right out of the bag in between sneezing and coughing all over herself (isn’t that charming).

ANYWAY, I promptly made my cold remedy, and Husband and I both drank some last night, and this morning I barely feel anything at all. I mean in terms of cold symptoms. (I did have a second, enhanced, dose, with a healthy splooch of Southern Comfort in it, so I have improved significantly more than my teetotalling (ha!) husband, but am not, despite previous implications, numb.)

Here’s the recipe:

Put 6-8 c. of water in a large saucepan. (depending on how sick you feel, you might want to make the larger amount)

Add:

6-8 thin (butnottoothin) slices of lemon (throw in the slice from the end too; most of the good stuff in a lemon is in the peel* anyway)

a 1″ chunk of fresh ginger, sliced (you want at least 2 T. worth of ginger)

4-6 pieces of stick cinnamon, broken into bits (I beat mine into slivers by balancing the cinnamon stick across the top of a small mortar and poking/pounding it with the pestle; it’s very cathartic, and not too much work to collect the shards from all over your kitchen)

7-10 whole cloves

1 T. whole coriander seeds

(I’ve made this, in emergencies, with powdered ginger and ground coriander, but it gets kind of sludgy — okay if you don’t mind “drinking” it with a spoon; and I don’t think it works as well. Keep these ingredients on hand throughout the winter; I cut the ginger into chunks and store them in a plastic bowl in my freezer and buy the cinnamon sticks in big bags from somewhere like Penzey’s Spices.)

Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a REALLY low simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a mesh sieve. Drink 1/2 – 1 c. hot every 2 hours with a nice squeeze of honey. (Whiskey doesn’t hurt either.) DON’T DECIDE TO BLAST YOUR COLD WITH AN HERBAL REMEDY ATOMIC BOMB AND DRINK IT ALL AT ONCE. You will have a stomach ache like you wouldn’t believe. I’m not telling how I know this.

Make this and start drinking it at the first sign of an oncoming cold — you know that throat tickle, fuzzy-head, nose-just-starting-to-drip time. If you do, you can often beat it completely within 24 hours. If you make it later, it helps a little, but your cold will still run a fairly normal course.

*Is that how you spell peel? English is such a weird language. Which reminds me: Should I be concerned that I was helping Only Daughter with her spelling homework yesterday and didn’t recognize the word “kneed” as an actual word? And why are they called knees, anyway? And who thought of knitting?

27
Sep
11

bacon!

Had a wonderful morning this morning; yoga, several cups of espresso, long blog post (travelogue). Topped it off with bacon and eggs, and then dashed out the door because I’d dinked around too long to do my dishes. I did fill the pan with water to help it “soak,” one of the handiest dish-washing techniques known to man.

This is what was waiting for me when I got home:

Ew.

Gross.

This can’t be what’s happening inside my body right now, can it? Is there an antidote? (Besides red wine, it’s only 2 p.m.!?)

I mean, look:

Doesn't the one on the right look an awful lot like it's been stuffed with bacon fat?

I know the first picture is blurry. It’s too disgusting. I can’t make myself take another picture.

Does it make it any better that I was a good girl and drank my Metamucil first?

Kashi Go-Lean for me tomorrow. And I really have to start doing my dishes right away. That would all look so much better if I’d run the stuff down the sink.

 

 

23
Sep
11

early in the morning

So, we were all up at 5:30. Husband because he’s actually insane and wanted to do his mind-and-body-punishing workout before starting his day (we know he’s there because we can hear the grunting from the basement as he hoists himself up into his 55th pull up orsomethingequallyridiculous). Daughter and I because she had to be at school at 6:45 to get on charter buses for A Very Special Field Trip.

Can I just say that nothing gets your day started like getting to maneuver around 250 probably-already-not-that-good-of-drivers who are possibly as addled as you are by the fact that they had to get up in the middle of the night.

At one point I sat at the stop sign to turn left/exit while 17 cars turned right into the school drive; but ONLY TWO OF THEM HAD TURN SIGNALS. IT’S THAT STICK-LIKE THING THAT PROTRUDES FROM THE LEFT SIDE OF THE STEERING COLUMN — YEAH, THAT THING THERE WITH THE UP AND DOWN ARROWS ON IT. USE IT!

When we got in the car (at 6:25; it only took Only Daughter 8 minutes to put her shoes and socks on; I think we might have a record) it was pitch dark outside; “like 2 a.m.,” Only Daughter said. It didn’t occur to me to ask her how she knew this. On the hilly road before her school there was one little panel of fog, at Prius-roof height, parallel to the ground; my lights caught it in such a way as I crested the little hill that I actually ducked. (We’re fine.) By 6:50, as I was returning home, the sky was blue rather than black, with inky smears of clouds not yet caught by light. Kind of beautiful in a what-the-blank-am-I-doing-out-in-the-world-already sort of way.

By 7:15 a.m. I’ve found wrapping paper for two gifts I need to wrap, sorted and started the laundry, and written an email to First Son about the fact that sometimes there are better things to do in terms of building relationships with people than having to be RIGHT all the time (hmm, wonder where he gets that from). All before my first cup of coffee.

I have vowed not to go back to bed — too many things to do — but am wondering if sleeping on the couch counts. It’s a little couch, and not all the comfortable to sleep on, and the cat hair makes me sneeze. . .

1-12 The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)

 

18
Sep
11

comfort food

I think I’m having a midlife crisis.

Okay, I won’t soft-pedal it; I’m having a midlife crisis.

I can’t alleviate this crisis by leaving my husband and taking up with someone younger/richer/more handsome because I love him dearly and right now he seems like maybe one of the few things I’ve “done” right in my life, and I can’t imagine a day without him.

Besides, the crisis is mostly professional. For the first 10 years after my masters degree I mostly raised children. I couldn’t figure out how to practice 4+ hours a day, teach enough students to help make our budget more-or-less balance-able, and take care of busy toddler boys, so I just did the latter 2 out of 3. I played when I could, a little collaborative work here and there for area graduate students and miscellaneous faculty, accompanying my bff Jackie’s violin studio when she took them to contests or played recitals, that kind of stuff.

I’ve since spent the last 14 years as an adjunct at various colleges, while adopting my daughter from Korea and completing my DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) degree in 2005. This was prompted by the realization, as I worked as an adjunct in various college/university music departments, that I was as good a performer and probably a better teacher than a lot of the people I was working with, who had full-time, tenure-track jobs, so why shouldn’t I go for it? But you won’t even be considered for such a position without a Doctorate these days, so, after 5 years of 100-mile-each-way commutes, reading and writing and practicing and studying and performing while still being the primary parent (oldest son was 10 when I started), I had a DMA. And now I’m a fully-credentialed musician in a world with way more fully-credentialed musicians than there are jobs, and in an academic climate which favors piece-work-paid adjuncts over full-time professorships.

I don’t know the numbers on how many pianists graduated with DMAs in the past year, but there is currently ONE tenure-track position in piano posted at the College Music Society. One. In the whole country. One.

So, I’m having a crisis, and as far as I can tell, there are two things I can do about it:

1.) I can suck it up, be grateful I have any work at all, and continue to work at ~ 25% pay for the rest of my life (when compared to what full-time, tenure-track faculty are paid) or

2.) I can find something else to do, and by this I mean something for which I will be paid, which does not include such activities as writing a blog that 135 people read every day or eating my weight in potato chips. Fun as these activities may be, they do not contribute to paying the mortgage.

So. What are my options?

1.) Areas I am interested in and could maybe make a living at:

a) Nursing. Would have to start from scratch, reconcile myself to being a complete “newb” at the age of 50, and probably do things like hold bedpans and inject people with needles.

b) English/Language Arts for secondary school instruction. Would have to  start from scratch, reconcile myself to probably 4 years of school while still paying off loans from my DMA pursuit, still teaching, which can be rewarding, but is also frustrating as there seems to be a general dearth of curiosity/interest in learning amongst “students” today. And are there any teaching jobs anymore?

c) Writing for Pay. Have written two children’s books that start “Nicholas Picholas Tickle-Me . . .” and based on the mischievous antics of my now 18-year old. Also started one called “Hannah’s Hungry,” but haven’t finished it. Don’t know how to get them published, can’t seem to find anyone else who knows. Presumably this is done, routinely, given the number of books out there. And some of them are really dreadful. Have also considered trying to write articles and submit them to magazines, but have not done so, partially in interests of time. Also have a few short story ideas and a family history/memoir/birth-order-memory-what-makes-us-who-we-are book idea but not enough time to really pursue them. Would have to take some time off from earning actual money to see if these lead anywhere, and no windfall/lottery wins/inheritances in sight. Also feel like it’s an act of supreme arrogance to think that I have anything to say that that many people would want to read, and yet here I am. . .

d) Opening some kind of bed-and-breakfast. What I would really like is to move to Italy and buy a few acres and a little villa somewhere and grow my own grapes and host and cook for tourists. I could even teach piano lessons to all the little Italian children in the area, but would have to improve my Italian first. Or offer it as piano -and-English-lessons or something. Although sometimes I don’t even want to teach any more.

Sigh.

Lots of ideas, lots of ways to talk myself out of them.

I joke sometimes that my life’s goal is

2) to be a kept woman.

I don’t think I would be very good at it, though. This is the first semester in a few years I haven’t taught a Music Appreciation class, and, despite still having a pretty full teaching schedule, the lack of this prep has made my days seem rather long.

I’m trying to talk Husband into a dog. A little white Havanese, named Zuzu.

What do you think?

Meanwhile, I can always cook. Am making gumbo today. Have thought about starting a second blog called “Soupy Sundays,” and making a different soup every Sunday and writing about my life, my week, what’s going on with my “crisis” although it seems a little too Julie Powell.

Maybe just a new category then.

Today’s soup:

Gumbo

Heat 1/2 c. canola oil in a large cast-iron soup pot, then whisk in 1/2 c. whole wheat flour and lower the heat to low/low-medium. Allow to brown for 5-10 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Meanwhile, chop:

1/2 large onion

3 stalks celery

1 large red pepper

1/2 lb. okra (slices)

2 cloves garlic (slice, then mince)

Add the vegetables to the roux, stirring to coat, and allow the vegetables to begin to soften.

Add 8 c. chicken stock (recipe below), 1/2 tsp. cayenne or 1 or 2 dried red chilies, snipped into flakes, or 1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (use both cayenne and pepper flakes/chilies if you like it really spicy), 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper.

Bring to a boil, then add

12-16 ozs. andouille sausage (the nitrite-free kind if you can find it)

and allow the soup to simmer for as long as you’d like — 1 – 3 hours.

A few minutes before being ready to eat, add 1 lb. of peeled shrimp (the big ones are great, but cut in half so you have bite-size portions in your soup spoon), bring soup to boil and boil just long enough to cook the shrimp.

Serve with a crusty bread, and over cooked rice if desired.

I’d include a picture, but the shrimp aren’t in the pot yet, and I’m drying 7 bags of leftover bread bits on my stove, so I’m a little embarrassed. Maybe next time.

Homemade chicken stock

Every self-respecting cook should make this themselves. Way too much sodium in even the low-sodium kinds, and it’s easy. I like to roast a chicken for an easy meal, and then make the stock overnight.

In a large soup pot, put one chicken carcass, and add water to cover by several inches. Add coarsely chopped onions and celery (the top part with the leaves is the best), a handful of whole peppercorns, a couple bay leaves. You can leave the skin on the onion if you want a golden broth, and add garlic or carrots if you want it more flavorful, but this will make it a little less adaptable for certain recipes because the garlic especially adds a very distinctive flavor. I don’t use any salt, so I am free to salt the final dish.

Cover and bring to a boil, and then allow to simmer for HOURS. We often leave this overnight and put it in a bowl to chill the next morning.

This part is important: Pour the stock through a strainer into a large bowl, and chill the broth thoroughly; then skim the fat off the top before putting into 4-cup containers to put in the freezer.

 

Meanwhile, if anyone has any life- or career advice: Please share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

06
Sep
11

first day of school

Daughter: Can you come down and wait for the bus with me?
Me: I can today, but probably not every morning.
Daughter: You’re not going to wear that are you?
Me: No, I can put a sweater on.
(I put the sweater on)
Daughter: Is that what you’re wearing?
Me: Yes. I need to shower and get ready for work after you go. I’m not going to get dressed and put makeup on to wait for the bus and then do it again.
Daughter: You’re not going to take any pictures or anything are you?
Me: Can I just take one? I take one every year.
Daughter: Well, okay, but take it before the bus comes, and you have to kiss me goodbye before the bus comes, and no sloppy lipstick kisses (as if that’s EVER happened at 8 in the morning), and don’t wave good-bye or anything, just stand there.

Question #1: She’s 10 and I’m already embarrassing her? How precocious of her/me.
Question #2: I got up for this?

28
Aug
11

too late, too tired, so just randomness

Took Second Son to college yesterday. That was weird. The house is pleasantly but discomfitingly quiet without him. Spent an hour yesterday throwing out four years’ worth of homework papers from high school and sweeping spent spider egg sacs from his “closet” floor. (Ick. This sounds really bad, like we’re some of those people living in filth and squalor, 3 days away from showing up on TV, like those men who were found in their apartment behind walls of newspapers. The only thing in the closet was four years’ worth of homework papers and a box of miscellaneous computer/cell phone/random cords we’ll never need but for some inexplicable reason can’t throw away. Does that sound a little less Collyer brothers?)

Last night Husband asked if I was going to continue to check in with Second Son about when he would be “home.” When I asked Secondo how he felt about that, he texted back “For the record, I will be in my room every night by 9 p.m. doing my homework.”

Allrighty then.

I miss him a little, plus now Husband is using his room as his office, since he has a big desk down there and a really !!! bright light so I have to go looking for him if I need my back scratched or for him to tell me if my butt looks big in my pants. (It does, always, but never mind.)

Second Son does go to college where Husband works, so I decided I would “recycle” some of the stale cereal we found in the cupboard (in the kitchen, not in the closet with the spent spider sacks; ew!?!) by making some “Rice Krispie” treats to deliver to him tomorrow along with his bike and a pair of his jeans and the Apple AirPort because hisdormroomdoesn’thavewificanyoubelieveit?, except the marshmallows were so stale they wouldn’t melt.

I didn’t even know this could happen.

The new academic year starts tomorrow. I don’t wanna. Summer, like all good things, went way too quickly, and I want just a few more years weeks of sleeping until I wake up and only teaching people who actually want to learn something.

Couldn’t I just make that a requirement or something? I wonder how empty the universities would be if that were a prerequisite.

Only Daughter is looking forward to an extended run of being an Only Child. Hope that works out, although she’s already a bit of a hypochondriac and needs a lot of attention. Maybe that will get better when she’s not competing for high-carbohydrate snacks and TV time with a 6’2″ hyperthyroid 18-year-old.

Heard at Dinner

Daughter’s told that she is going to get driven to, and thrown in to, the lake if she doesn’t stop being ridiculous (we can’t remember what she was doing, but it doesn’t really matter)

Daughter: “That’s okay, I’m a good swimmer.”

Me: “No, you’re not.”

Daughter: “I am with good goggles.”

Right.

 

14
Jul
11

how do you know when the honeymoon’s over?

Last night Husband and I found ourselves home, alone, for the first time in weeks, and we spent the next two hours, yup, you guessed it, unwrapping marvels of modern engineering and setting them up on the counter. There were no passionate embraces, no shedding of garments, no fevered groping amid piles of cardboard detritus and bubble wrap.

Why, you ask? Is this an indication of a loss of passion? Are the flames of love dwindling? Have we grown tired of each other, bored, listless about what was once, not all that long ago, the driving force of our existence?

Well no, not really; at least I don’t think so.

Rather, the phenomenon can be explained by this single act:

Husband just bought a new espresso machine and coffee grinder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are very nice, and very pretty, and very intimidating, and I hope I don’t set the darn things on fire or run the boiler dry accidentally or forget to temperature surf before making my next shots of espresso. (Don’t ask.) (Okay, if you must know):

(Who knew?)

ANYWAY, these “marvels of modern engineering” (I was corrected, firmly, a couple days ago after calling them “contraptions”) came via FedEx yesterday. This was a relief, as the monitoring of the check-in points along the shipping route and the logistics of making sure someone would be home at the pivotal moment was taking up most of our free time.

They are, according to Husband, the best machines available at a comparably reasonable price, with 237 grinding options (I’m not making this up) available on the Baratza Vario grinder and solid stainless steel construction plus some other features I don’t understand well enough to list here on the Rancilio Silvia (we will call her Silvia for short) espresso maker.  (Husband actually launched into a long explanation last night, but all I heard was “Wuh wah wah waaah” like when the teacher talks on Charlie Brown.)

Last night, after the lesson on tamping pressure using a glass and the bathroom scale (I still don’t tamp hard enough, as my espresso comes out in under 15 seconds, and we’re aiming for a leisurely 25), and my ignored Dance of the Seven Veils, I fell asleep while Husband read the instruction manual.

He did wake me at 7:15 this morning. . .

with an expertly foamed cappuccino, followed by a lesson on appropriate grinding (!), brewing, and foaming technique.

Alas.

He is very cute when he’s all professorial, and it was important that I learn how to run the MoME while home without him here as my barista.

I’m now working on my 5th and 6th shots of espresso, this time with milk that I actually foamed (last time it just got really really hot.)

I’m very proud.

I think they send the 2 lbs of coffee for “free” because they know you’ll use up one of them on Day 1 just practicing. Maybe they should include some tranquilizers to counter the effect of AlL tHaT cAfFeInE!!!!

10
Jul
11

Home Alone

And no, I don’t feel like this

I feel like that a little sometimes when I’m Home With Children (HWC). I haven’t been in this house alone, I think, since April. I try to be a good mom. I try to be a patient mom. I try not to bite my daughter’s head off when she interrupts me for the 47th time to get her the cherry fruit snacks that we’ve hidden from Second Son (a.k.a. the SnackFooderator) or make her some toast or help feed her snake or paint her fingernails or spot her while she practices her walkovers or, well, you get the idea. I worry sometimes that my level of preoccupation is manufactured by my subconscious to mirror the level of my mother’s preoccupation — except she had 8 children, and I only have 3, and only 2 of them live at home, so What’s My Excuse?

Anyway, I’m in my house alone for the first time in almost three months. It feels good. I’m sitting on my (purple) couch in my air conditioned house eating tabbouleh, fresh mozzarela, and sipping delicious coffee. Does it get better than this?

It did, of course, take some kind of divine intervention for this to happen. Planets aligned just right with moons or something.

Stage One:  Second Son is finally working. He had a job lined up in April, they asked him to wait three weeks while they trained their first round of new hires. He waited three weeks, they told him they had hired too many people and didn’t need him. I thought this was really a crappy thing to do, and that they should have at least given him 10 hours a week for a month or six weeks or something to account for the fact that MICHIGAN’S ECONOMY IS IN THE TOILET and he waited through the three most important job hunting weeks for an eighteen year old — the three weeks before all the college kids come home. SO, he started over. Looked for several weeks, got hired in early June to work in the kitchen of a new hotel that was supposed to open on June 20, and which has taken its first bookings yesterday. When he went in last week (finally!) for the scheduled training there wasn’t even a kitchen yet, just a big empty room covered in sawdust. The crew stood around with their hands in their pockets, moved a few 2x4s, the chef bought them lunch and sent them home. So, finally,  Friday they installed shelving, yesterday he worked thirteen (13!!!) hours stocking and learning how to make things like spinach-artichoke dip and risotto (cool! but no, they didn’t get to eat it, and he didn’t bring any home. What’s Wrong With This Picture?). Today he is back for another long day.

Stage Two: Daughter is camping with her dad. There is apparently a pool, a camp store with lots of candy (Daughter: “There’s a camp store! With lots of candy!” Me: “Great! Do you still have all your teeth?”), and two boys, sons of friends of Former Husband, one of whom Daughter likes. I believe she may have told him that she liked him. Such bravery.

She’s ten, and wondering if this is an appropriate wedding dress:

I said no, unless you’re a jellyfish. She also wants to know who my Hollywood Crush* is (not Orange, or Grape, but maybe someone along the lines of that Logan kid who played Percy the Lightning Thief, or godforbidJustinBieber) and if it was okay for her to kiss boys now that she was going into fifth grade. (NO! NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO!!!)

Stage Three: Church was cancelled this morning. I’m the pianist, and this never happens. Every Sunday morning I whine about having to get up, and shower, and practice my little Bach pieces or my little Debussy pieces, and then the sermon goes too long, and I don’t get home until noon, whine whine whine. Not today. I was up, and showered, and had practiced all four of my little Bach pieces yesterday, when my phone rang.

Pastor: “Are you playing today?”

Me, in my head: “The time changed again? I thought I already missed that service back in March!” (I have issues.)

Me, out loud: “Yes?”

Pastor: “Take the day off. The power’s out: no elevator, no parking ramp because the door can’t open, no lights, no sound. . .

Me, in my head: “So?”

Pastor: “. . . no air conditioining.

Me, out loud:  “Oh! Now I get it!”

Anyway, there are lots of elderly people, lots of stairs to get to the sanctuary, it’s going to be VERY warm today. I get the day off. Nice. If only I’d known that before I’d gotten out of bed, showered, gotten dressed, put on makeup. But still. Sunday off. Nice.

Stage Four:  Stepson and Husband are playing paintball. I’m not kidding. Husband bought it on Groupon, and the expiration date is fast approaching, and the friends Stepson wanted to invite couldn’t make it, so they’re off playing paintball. It’s supposed to be 90˚ today, and they’re going to run around like commandoes (not to be confused with going commando) and shoot 500 little paint pellets at each other and anyone else who crosses their paths and have a rip-roaring good time.+ I think it would be kind of fun, definitely more fun than laser tag — a form of entertainment that must be one of the most shameless ripoffs known to man, right up there with bottled water, the ever-shrinking boxes of pasta, and the price of a box of tampons.

I digress.

I’m home alone.

Why does this feel so much better than being home with one teenager who sits in a chair and stares at a screen all day? It’s not like they interfere with my productivity, or prevent me from smoking crack or hooking up with strangers or something.

I can’t quite figure it out.

Anyway, I’m either going to go read my book, the Sunday paper, practice the piano, or, if I get restless, get groceries, or drive to World Market to buy important things like bamboo steamers, honey pots, and a large jar to make Limoncino in.

Limoncino

Using a vegetable peeler, cut the yellow part of the peel from 15 lemons, Be careful not to get any of the white pith.

Pour 750 ml of vodka or everclear into a gallon jug.

Add the lemon zest.

Cover and let sit for at least 10 days, up to 40 — the longer, the better. Don’t stir, or fuss with. Just let it sit.

When done waiting, (patience! patience!), mix 4 c. sugar with 5 c. filtered water in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Boil for ~ 7 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Add sugar syrup to the lemon/alcohol mixture. Cover jar, and let rest for another 10-40 days.

Strain the limoncino through cheesecloth to remove the zest. Pour into smaller individual bottles. Store in the freezer until ready to serve.

 

+Breaking news: Paintball hurts. Husband’s Observation: Every kid who spends hours in front of video games yelling “Boom! Headshot!” should go and get blasted a few times by someone they never see coming. Something to think about.

 

*Robert Downey Jr., Javier Bardem ( long as he looks like he did in Biutiful and not like he did in No Country For Old Men), George Clooney, and Johnny Depp.

03
Jul
11

Notes from Sunday

My good friends and colleagues are off for a month-long trip to and from Alaska, with gigs scheduled hither and yon. They are taking his father with them as their “groupie.” This is an act of either great patience or of extreme foolhardiness.  We shall see. I’m curious as to whether asking “Are we there, yet?” is or is not allowed.

There can’t be a job worse than cleaning out the refrigerator to make room for the haul from the grocery store. I’ve decided that from now on that there will be something urgent that must be attended to for at least the first fifteen minutes after the groceries come home. Husband claims that my needing to be in the bathroom for that long might be suspicious. Other suggestions will be accepted.

Oh, and food should not look like this. It’s too funny. It’s also funny that Husband had to come find me in the grocery store to show me, as if he were still twelve years old. Or maybe it’s not.

Notes from the bike ride:

Just because it says in The Gender Stereotypes Handbook that a) he should be waxing the Camaro and b) she should be tanning in the driveway, it doesn’t mean you have to.

If you’re going to make your kid wear a bike helmet, you should wear one too. The layers of hypocrisy are not lost on him, and are going to cause problems for you later.

Down is way more fun than Up.

If you’re biking around town on a Sunday, and you’re dressed like this:


you look ridiculous. You’re not in the Tour de France, you’re in a little town in the midwest, biking on a bike path, trying not to ride through dog poop and checking for cars coming out of side streets.

Just because you can’t haul your ass up that hill doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your bike.

Notes from the return:

Flatbread and hummus and an ice-cold Rolling Rock tastes really good after a bike ride.

Hard to think of something more entertaining than watching two teenagers try to figure out a) how to, and b) who is going to, clean up the dog puke.

Happy Sunday!

30
Jun
11

Confessions of a Plant Murderer

I give up, and hereby turn myself into the proper authorities.

I killed them.

I recently spent $50 for two of these flower baskets:

I bought them 4 weeks ago. They were full and lush and beautiful. When I put them into their special hanging baskets the foliage was so thick I could barely see to get the hanging chains around the pot. When I took them back to the store, 2 weeks ago, I was told that I had underwatered them, and that I should water them twice a day until water runs out the bottom. Now they’re still dead, but they’re also really really wet. I’ve removed them from their hanging locations on my front porch so as not to frighten neighborhood children.

I also bought four of these little mum pots:

These were not underwatered, but, rather, drowned in the water captured by the deceptively innocent-looking, brightly-colored, outer pots after the last big rain storm, a development which went unnoticed by me for a couple of days.

The above were all purchased from a fancy nursery chain, where I paid premium prices.

This basket was purchased at my grocery store for a humble $12, and for some reason seems to be thriving. Apparently my aura doesn’t reach to the back yard.

Go figure.

You’ll also notice the beautiful tomato plant in the background, which has yet to be eaten by the deer, and is, at this moment, the proud bearer of a single green tomato. This is, of course, only a matter of time.

I was under the mistaken impression that the stinky spray I squirt around the yard was actually protecting the daylilies by my mailbox from the local deer population, until I went to get the mail yesterday and noticed that, while all of the stalks are still there (they’re tricky, those rats with long legs), there were only 2 actual blooms remaining. I give them a day, two at the most.

I was visiting First Son in Cleveland over the weekend, and we were sitting outside Presti’s in Little Italy. (If you haven’t been there, get thee hither. And have a buccalati or two, and a cinnamon star, or three, and their antipasti, and a cappuccino. Not necessarily in that order. Their “Italian Sandwich” didn’t look half bad either, and the lemon ice was crisp and refreshing. And no, they’re not paying me for advertising. That’s funny, I almost wrote they’re not paying me for free advertising. Ha!) Hanging over our heads were beautiful flower baskets, not unlike this one:

As I had spent several hours there that day, first eating my lunch and sipping my coffee and reading my book (The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss, I highly recommend it!) while First Son worked his shift, and then again when he met me there afterwards, I eyed them frequently, on the alert for signs of wilting or the loss of the will to live.

I’ve decided my gardening efforts might be better spent with plants like this one:

Although one of the little metal petals (see what I did there?) have been bent by the hose. At least it’s not dying. Not yet, anyway. Give me a few weeks.

Here we see Second Son celebrate his 18th birthday:

First Son was 21 in February. Only Daughter’s a beautiful 10.

Given my record with plants, I guess they should count themselves lucky that I’ve managed to keep them alive for this long.

03
Jun
11

eating Italian

Last night’s Florence/Cinque Terre – inspired pasta dish:

Slice and sauté mushrooms of the button, portabella, and shittake varieties, enough to fill a 10-11″ sauté pan. Sauté in olive oil until they’ve released their juices, set aside.

In a separate sauté pan, infuse olive oil with 4-5 large, minced cloves of garlic over low heat. When garlic is soft, throw in a pint of cherry tomatoes that have been halved. Turn off the heat and let sit for the tomatoes to soften.

Slice a can of black, or kalamata olives, set aside.

Chop the hard rinds of the Parmesan cheese in your refrigerator into slivered-almond sized chunks.

Chop a medium-sized handful of Italian parsley.

Meanwhile, bring a LARGE pot of salted water to a boil, and listen to your son complain about how many dishes you’ve gotten dirty; deflect accusations that this was done on purpose in the manner of your choice.

Cook a pound of twisted pasta — rotini, or, if you can get it, trofie, until just al dente. Drain, rinse briefly, and immediately drizzle with olive oil.

Assemble the pasta in this order: cheese, mushrooms, parsley, garlic/tomatoes, olives.

Serve with a Tuscan red wine. Follow with limoncino and a good movie. Feel free to drool.

 

29
Apr
11

a post not about the royal wedding

Does everybody’s toaster look like absolute crap? I mean, seriously, take a good look. Do you really think you should put food in there, take it back out, and then EAT it?

I tried to find a good picture online, but the only pictures of dirty toasters I could find were so disgusting I couldn’t bear to post any of them and risk having you all think it was actually mine.

They should make one that dismantles and can be run through the dishwasher.

Plus now our dishwasher AND garbage can are both full. I think it might be time to move.

Also, I apologize if the post title misled you into reading this, thinking I was maybe being coy or clever and actually WAS writing about the royal wedding. I’ve been thinking about it all day, trying to figure out what it means that I don’t care, or that anybody does.

Any ideas?

22
Mar
11

more of life’s persistent questions

Is it a source of concern that the ribbon of toothpaste in the bottom of the sink looks an awful lot like the ribbon of toothpaste probably looked on Only Daughter’s toothbrush?

Does anyone else wonder, after cleaning their bathroom, how it is that anyone still has any hair on their heads?

If First Cat repeatedly escapes, and spends more time with his Other Family than he does here, should we continue to let him back in and feed him?

Why is it that Governor Rick Snyder can overthrow elected officials and install hired “Emergency Managers” without a recall process, but we can’t do the same to him?

Who knew that nutella + banana = pure delicious-ness, and why wasn’t I informed of this sooner?

 

Do some things ever change?

02
Feb
11

whimper of the pushover mother

I try to avoid reviewing things which I haven’t seen or read, and I have not read this book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua, so maybe I should just keep my opinions to myself. But based on what I’ve heard during her many recent interviews and read in the reviews, I’m pretty convinced that reading this book would not be a good idea for me. Not that I have dangerously high blood pressure or anything, but this could be just the thing to set me off.

This woman reports, with great aplomb, the following parenting pearls of discipline and motivation:

1. Her daughters are not allowed to waste their time participating in plays or sports (apparently too much a waste of time),

2. Her daughters are not allowed to complain about not being allowed to participate in plays or sports (perhaps out of concern that they feel, or **gasp!** express any emotion of their own),

3. If her daughter does not perform perfectly the next time she practices her piece at the piano her mother will burn all of her stuffed animals (because motivation by fear has proven to be so effective),

4. Her daughters must be #1 in every subject except gym and drama (apparently striving to be an Olympic athlete or Lynn Redgrave is not an appropriate goal),

5. Her daughters are not allowed to have a play date (Fun?!? Who has time for fun?!?).

When I first heard about this book, before I had heard any of the specifics listed above, I was interested — I am constantly trying to find ways to stimulate interest, passion, motivation, discipline, consideration, and respect in my children. I thought she might have some useful suggestions.

But the idea of teaching my children these concepts through berating, humiliation, and threats just doesn’t jibe with my own personal philosophy.

Does it do my child any good if I push him or her constantly so that they can achieve achieve achieve throughout their elementary and secondary educations? Am I then going to go to college with them to make sure they aren’t wasting my tuition dollars? I could share their dorm room with them, vet their friends, cut up their food. Maybe this makes me a typical “American” parent (said with a sneer by one of the commenters on the Barnes and Noble website); lazy, coddling, unworthy, but I’d rather my children learn these hard lessons the “hard” way, when there’s less at stake, then have them flunk out of Harvard because I forced them to go to law school when what they really wanted was to be a novelist.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that most of the students winning the scholar awards at Second Son’s high school awards ceremonies are Asian. Nor that my Asian piano students are also top students academically, studying in Chinese school on Saturdays, participating in at least one sport, at which they excel, and that they speak to their parents with respect and a complete absence of sarcasm. But I have also had adult Asian friends who bemoan their parents’ disappointment when they fail to achieve a difficult professional benchmark or reach the advanced age of 30 and are yet to be married.

Is it “American” (sneer) of me to want “only” for my children to find their bliss, achieve what they WANT to achieve, strive for independence, find happiness/fulfillment in the area, or degree of success, of their choosing?

There is a really funny line from Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, when the father is sending his sons to school for the first time, and sends a note with them telling the teacher that they are stupid and worthless, and to feel free to beat them as much as the teacher deems necessary. I was actually so amused upon reading this, with First Son when he was in 6th grade, that I copied it out and sent it with him to give to his teacher the next day. We were kindred spirits, and both had a good laugh. But only because it was so ridiculous.

Hmmmm. . .I wonder if she thought I meant it.

 

 

 




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