Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Peeking out

Headed back north today. Lovely cousinarama is over, causing actual tears from Katy. Nod and I are finally reaping the physical effects of our overindulgence. So hoping the drive isn't too hard. Welcome welcome new year, come gently.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Candied Orange Peel

It's not quite Christmas so I'm squeaking in my entry in Bee's virtual candy exchange. Here's my take on candied citrus peel. I was inspired by Anapestic's amazing orange blossoms. But having neither dry red wine nor 20 cardamom pods on hand, I decided to try my own variant with ginger root and cinnamon. You can come up with your own spicing or just use plain sugar syrup. My husband and I love this stuff, our kids think it's too bitter. I'm going to give some as presents when we're in Austin for the holidays.

The broad outline is: citrus peel is boiled several times to cut its bitterness and make the pith easier to remove. Then it's simmered in syrup, drained, rolled in sugar and dried.

Ingredients:
Peel from 8 oranges (score outside of orange with a knife to get large sections of peel, either thirds or quarters)

Syrup:
4 cups sugar
2 cups water
Slice of ginger root, peeled
1 cinnamon stick

Sugar and cinnamon for rolling

Put peels in large pan with water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 min. Drain. Repeat two more times. This can be done over several days, just toss the peels in the refrigerator in between. After the third boil drain and cool the peels. Scrape off the white pith with a spoon. Only get what comes off easily, don't worry about getting it all off, the peels will be too thin and fragile if you scrape it all. Slice peels in long 3/4" strips or whatever pattern you like. Anapestic got fancy with a little flower shaped cookie cutter.

Prepare the syrup by bringing the sugar, water, ginger root and cinnamon stick to a boil. Cook on low boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Add sliced peels, stir to cover, and bring back to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for about an hour. Drain the peels and cool. Keep cinnamon stick for another use, discard ginger root and set the syrup aside in case needed later (see * below). When peels are cool enough to handle, put a cup or so of sugar in a shallow bowl and whisk in a tsp of cinnamon. Roll each piece in cinnamon sugar and place on foil lined cookie sheet.

You can air dry the peels or use the oven. I recommend just leaving the cookie sheets in the oven for a day or two, without turning it on. I dried one batch for several hours at 170 degrees and they got too hard, shattering when you took a bite. *I put those peels in a pan and poured the reserved syrup over them for a day and a half. I drained them again, dredged in cinnamon sugar and air dried. And they turned out perfect.

Happy candy making.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh Maple Leaf

I tried to catch up on Canadian politics this morning. I heard something about the Queen suspending Parliament and wanted to know what was up, up north. So here are the fruits of my web surfing. First a Canadian political word definition: “prorogue” means to suspend or send home parliament. Maybe this is a word used for all parliamentary democracies but as I was never a poli sci buff, it was new to me.

Here is a knitting blogger who wrote a very readable piece on what the status was at the beginning of December. And here is a Canadian writer for Slate.com who gives a nice explanation along with the news that the Governor General (Queen Elizabeth’s appointed representative) went ahead and prorogued parliament until late January at the request of PM Harper. This gives him more time to try and get more support so he can remain prime minister.

Oh and here’s the Globe and Mail’s political page for a more newspapery source.

It sounds as though the financial crisis and worries are just breaking over Canada now, in slower motion than in the US. It makes me wonder about their newspaper/journalism situation too. Is it as dire as here? I am a little worried about living in a post newspaper world. I refuse to watch television news except for weather. I will continue to pick up news online in scraps. But I would like some fairly dispassionate authorities out there writing news. Perhaps a billionaire could take that on. Patronage journalism?

Happy reading.

Some To Done

And for yesterday's to do list, here's my score: one and three quarters out of 9!! My big fat 1 is that I shoveled the walks. And that gave me the right to pitch the rest of the items out the window anyway. But hark! I didn't stop there. I did all sorts of things not even on my list.

It was a good day yesterday. I left work early because I had to go get children on the slidy roads and wanted as little competition for those roads as possible. The worst part of the driving was getting out of my parking lot so I was pleased that we didn't have to slip all the way home. Once home the kids played in the snow while I shoveled. Shoveling tired my back out but I didn't pull any muscles. And it was lovely time, in the quiet white. It wasn't windy and it was cold but not terrible. I wished I had a sleigh to ride in.

I walked to the grocery store and got ginger root and ground ginger (now I'm armed). I say that's one quarter of a to-do item done, since I needed ginger for the orange peels and for my gingerbread cookies. I made supper and the children ate it. I paid some bills. I bathed the children. I cooked the pork for a sauerkraut soup I'm going to make (I predict that no one will eat that but me). Another half of a to-do item: I simmered the orange peels twice and scraped the pith.

God I was productive. Good thing I left a few more things for the rest of the week.

Pulling my head out for a moment, I will point you toward a quick blog post discussion of poetry. It contains a free interpretation of a Rilke poem that is interesting. I think I would like to read some Rilke but ideally I would also read some pungent context setting material as well. Can I get that at Target? (Edited to correct my spelling of Rilke, I always want to put another 'l' before the 'k'.)

Snew day

Two lists, inspired by today’s posts from Jonniker and the Belgian Waffle.

To do list
1. Address the Christmas card envelopes. I know that if I do this part, it’s almost done. I may try to write a little something that I can copy into each card. I’m aiming for a few sentences that give the flavor of what our lives are like but skew funnier or fancier. And plenty of sincerity of course.

2. Candy the orange peels. I’ve been collecting them in the fridge and it’s time to get them sugarified. Oh crap now I’ve remembered that I need to acquire gingerroot for this.

3. Shovel the sidewalks. If I close my eyes and believe in fairies, maybe my spouse will have done this before I can get to it. It’s snowing like billy-o this morning. If I actually do this one, I reserve the right to not get anything else done.

4. Set aside a growing feeling of panic and make a short achievable Christmas gift list for the eight people I need to buy for. That’s not impossible and most of those are adults who don’t get much any way.

5. Make gingerbread cookie dough. I’ve decided to mail some gingerbread cookies to my mom. That and kid pictures are what she’s getting for Christmas. But I do have her birthday present ready. Yay me and my concern for my mother’s feelings.

6. Buy a pack of gum per the Tooth Fairy’s instructions. Katy got her top front tooth pulled yesterday at the doctor’s office. It was flopping around and almost ready to fall out. But even so, she said it bled a lot after the pull. Nod said he could tell our doctor was disconcerted by the amount of gore. Of course it stopped after a few minutes. And Katy couldn’t be happier. The Tooth Fairy, after refusing to go out in the cold last night, left her 75 cents and an IOU for gum.

7. Download the pictures from our rickety camera. I think there are Katy’s birthday pictures and probably other important things on there. Or maybe it’s all dross but I must download in order to know.

8. Call the Danish up for a chat.

9. Don’t stay up too late lest horror and despair set in.

Things I am happy about
1. Getting to work on time even though the roads were full of the slippy snow. I wore my boots and my windshield wipers worked. (One very cold morning last week I turned them on while they were still frozen to the windshield. After a lurch they pulled up and started wiping. But they weren’t making good contact and the windshield was only partially cleared. I thought I would have to have someone work on them. Thank the void they healed themselves.)

2. How thrilled Katy is with her gappy smile and her slight lisp (she tends to call it a ‘lips’).

3. Our new roof = snug.

4. Bloggers who write stuff for me to read every day for free! Writing that makes me laugh, cry and wonder at humanity. I am grateful.

5. Discovering a stylish detective series from Australia. I’m enjoying Phryne Fisher.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sloth Rampant

I didn't leap out of bed this morning when the radio came on. But I did get up shortly thereafter. First I listened to the NPR morning guy (sorry, can't remember) interview one of their Chicago announcers, Scott Simon, about the Blagojevic scandal. At the end of the piece he said there was something about this story that brings the roses to your cheeks. I would have to agree. I think it's because it's so black and white, no irritating nuances. Also Gov. B. seemed to think he could get away with acting like a mafia boss. It's always entertaining to see that kind of presumption smacked down.

Got to work on time this morning and everything. It was a little less cold last night, that helped. This week everyone in my family has been wanting to sleep late. It's hard to get going when the reptile brain says wait until the sun comes out. We've made it to December 12th, only nine more days til Solstice! The older I get the more I feel circadian. I think early in my life winter blues just got mistaken for other kinds of stress and blues. Now I can feel it clearly. I wanted to go to sleep at 9pm every night this week. And I ate too many cookies. But I have tried to eat my fruits and veggies too and have gotten at least a minimum of exercise. And I decided that resuming a morning coffee habit is indicated. So sloth is held at bay for now.

Lexi's preschool pictures are amazing. It's fun when that happens.

Natter natter. Glad to be at the end of this quiet slow moving week.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cockles and Glitz

The huge xmas tree picture above is not my tree but another lovely blogger's from a year or two ago. It's my first header attempt, clearly I'll have to learn to crop something to fit there. Like Bee I believe in a Christmas tree hung with family treasures, ornaments that mean something and don't all match and get bought in one box together. And is there anything better than lying under a tree and looking up, dazzled with the shiny, smelling the piney goodness?

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"Warming the cockles of your heart"

I found two discussions of this phrase at websites of dubious authority. Both mentioned the shellfish cockles and the flower. Both thought that maybe the shape of the chambers of the heart was thought to be like shellfish by primitive anatomists. What rot. I’ve always assumed that the cockles of your heart are the little metaphorical coals of your heart. They grow dim and ash over sometimes. But when stirred up and blown on, glow brightly and warm you throughout.

After looking at the OED definitions I think that there are three likely origins of the phrase, none of them as pleasing as my own above. The first two metaphors, are the least interesting and are based on the shellfish. 1) is that the cockles of your heart are indeed the chambers of your heart, somewhat sort of slightly perhaps shaped a little like bivalves. 2) is that they are the far edges of your heart, wrinkled like a cockleshell. Metaphor number 3) is that the cockles are stoves, iron chambers that need to be warmed. Why would one need more than one metaphorical heart stove?! Humbug. There was nothing to suggest that cockles could refer to little pieces of coals or embers. Drat!

Wait! there is a fourth one that I like a bit more: cockle can refer to the little black seeds of the corn cockle flower. I like thinking of the little black seeds in my heart getting warmed. If they get warmed too much maybe they could pop like popcorn!

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Our Christmas tree is up awaiting lights and glitz. The girls came with me to the hardware store parking lot. (Unfortunately not the hardware store across the street, that would be too much to ask for.) And after looking at the long needled variety (white pine?) and the shorter needled variety (Scotch pine) found my favorites (firs!) and Katy and Lexi agreed on the best specimen (on sale!). The high school boys sawed a bit of the trunk off and squooshed it into the hatchback and we were off. It took about twenty minutes. When we took the tree into the sunroom, Katy was indignant that I wanted to wait for her father's help to move the heaviest couch in the world. I told her that we adults would get it set up after the kids were asleep and she could see it in the morning. She offered and offered her help but I told her she just couldn't help with that one. After I tucked her in and gave her a kiss she told me, "*Please* get the tree set up." Katy may be a good delegater when she grows up. Lexi last night was singing the entirety of the 12 Days of Christmas as she put up some decorations with pictures and lyrics on them. She has a cold and it was very cute to me to hear her singing with her stuffy intonation. She also kept saying 'milking maids' instead of maids-a-milking.

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Our Christmas card photo is done. Taken on Sunday after getting home from church and lunch downtown. Nod had a splitting headache and I think it helped him submit more docilely to the procedure. The kids were fairly charming except for the mad rush to look at the camera screen after each attempt. I now officially hate the light blue turtleneck sweater I was wearing. But it’s done. I selected the wrong shot to get twenty copies of at the drug store. (It’s the one where Lexi looks a little stoned, Katy looks smug and I look extra chinny. Nod looks exactly the same since he was holding very still due to his pounding head.) But now I've found the correct shot, and picked a border to cover up the electrical outlets that were flanking us. I'll pick them up tonight. I think it’s okay. I swear I will take our picture in November next year.

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I apologize for the murky description of potential supervillany in my last post. I don't feel able to discuss it any more openly and it may not be the upheaval I fear. More news as it happens rather than as I wildly speculate.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Super blips

The random blips continue.

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Thailand update. Okay, The Guardian (found via link from 3QuarksDaily.com) has given me an article which answers one of my questions. Here's a paragraph to explain why the Thai protesters (PAD) who shut down the airport are agitating against one-man-one-vote:

...the PAD therefore continues to find fault not only with Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies but also with the rural population that continues to elect them: the movement's leaders have gone so far as to call the rural poor too ignorant and uneducated to vote in the country's best interest. It is class warfare in the guise of political reform. Their seizure of Bangkok's airports was a power-grab for the country's conservative business and royalist elites, and an incendiary rejection of the electoral voices of the rural poor, who have elected Thaksin and his successors repeatedly and overwhelmingly for close to a decade now – and will probably do so again when fresh elections are held early next year.

So the majority keeps voting in Thaksin's puppets and the PAD are furious. So they want to take the vote into their own hands. No easy answers there.

I also learned that lese majeste (sorry, no accents today) is still prosecuted in Thailand. I have been confusing lese majeste with noblesse oblige all my life. So I learned the correct definition, injury to majesty - basically a serious insult to the crown, as well.

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I had to move the office Christmas cookies off my desk today. They were banned to our break room so I would stop hoovering them. The problem was that there were lots of different types. My grazing instinct was telling me that it would be good to eat one of each kind. Gah! I will try to save room for my favorite cookies and not snack so much on the run of the mill sort.

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What if my husband accepts a job with Lex Luthor? It's becoming more of a possibility. Nod's promised to have one or two of his attorney friends take a look at the employment contract, should one materialize. Okay, so this guy's not actually a super villain. But he's extremely rich, powerful and, according to anecdote, vindictive to those who cross him. When I was told the sum that this person might plunk down to buy Nod's talents I laughed so hard I fell on the floor. I cried, it was quite a refreshing laugh. It was just very unexpected. If this comes to pass (a seasonal phrase) everything is on the table. We'll have to decide whether and when and where to move. We'll be able to get rid of this too-much-for-us house. It would make for an unexpected and complicated upturn in our prospects. I'm already mourning this town. No idea if it will actually happen. Nod is proceeding with his various irons in the fire, knowing that the possibility is there but nothing we can count on. If a check and an employment contract appear, they will be accepted, barring mafia strings. And then we'll see what life with Lex is like.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Odds bods

NaBloPoMo (posting every day in November) is all very well. But I am not enjoying the first week of December backlash. There’s not much posting going on out there. Slacker bloggers – get posting!

Maybe I am that person at work. I was just stirring the sugar into my plain yogurt. I eat this every day. It was making small glurpy sounds. And I got all self conscious wondering if my coworkers abhor my yogurt habits. Then I felt hungry again and forgot about worrying. I love being in my 40s.

A few random writing idea crumbs. External framing/structure for fiction: twelve months. The temptation is to get all circulary. But it wouldn’t have to be that or any seasonal reflections at all. Just handy slots to put the action in and let the reader know it was getting along. Seems like I knew once, but what is a book of the hours? Doomsday book? I love the sensation of being hustled along by a book as a reader, whipped up to a gallop.

Time to go already. I put up the office xmas decor today. It's a bit drab but not bad. Yay for little colored lights. I tried to be logical and decided we wouldn't get a cut tree for home. But am too pouty! Must have tree!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Candles

Lexi burst into tears last night when after finishing dinner Katy blew out all the candles before Lexi could blow any out. So I relit one just for her. Sharing and fairness -- they're not easy, are they? I was going to say that they are not natural impulses but I don't believe that. Just not powerful enough impulses to make it easy to do. After getting to blow out the candle, Lexi's tears stopped. Thank goodness. That child has a powerful wail.

Total number of visits to the Episcopal church = 1. Number of family members who want to go back = 4. That number really surprises me, but how nice. It's a beautiful church and we were welcomed. I'm trying not to overthink it but will report if we keep going. I didn't take communion. Nod did, turns out he was baptised in the Methodist church at 12. He found an emergency baptism rite in the Book of Common Prayer if I get in a hurry.

My Ignorance of Thailand update: I thought Samak Sundaravej (of cooking show fame) was the current prime minister that the protesters occupying the airport were trying to get rid of. But he was out in September. It was his successor pm, Somchai Wongsawat, also considered a puppet (of billionaire Thaksin exiled in 2006), who was just ousted. And the protesters want one-man-one-vote overturned to change to a system of social/business groups having voting power. This seems so foreign to me that I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. Though it does remind me that I still don't know much about the Electoral College. Yahoo News has not explained the Thai voting distinction very well either.

Comments and Livejournal: I found some other people saying they had experienced this trouble with LJ IDs in Blogger. The response I saw said that in November LJ was supposed to update something soon to fix this. Pretty vague. If I hear about a fix, I'll let you know, AM. Til then, please be my mysteriously anonymous commenter. (Or you could set up a google account.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Headlong into December

I don’t have my Joy of Cooking at hand today so it’ll be general waffling as usual. Here’s a link to a pithy arts and culture online magazine. Perhaps there will one day be a better word to replace the phrase online magazine. And we need another word (or two) to denote the difference between a collaborative blog and one written by an individual.

Thanksgiving among strangers went very well. Our hosts were generous souls whose farm house was a welcoming place for all of us. Our girls had a great time running around with the other kids and dogs and looking at the farm animals. Katy even got slightly butted by a nanny goat. She was indignant at the time, but now she has something to remember! The food was good and the wine was tasty too. I think I had five small glasses of wine. It induced quite a glow before dinner was served. Dinner was much later than advertised. That part was harder on the kids than for we (beer and wine sozzled) adults. (Next time I would go ahead and fix them a plate rather than trying to fob them off with crackers.) These people are friends of a friend of Nod’s that he met on some virtual forum on polyamory or something like that. Nod tells me that our hostess kept quizzing him about where he and A. had met. She mentioned how open-minded they were several times, but Nod remained cheerfully unforthcoming. He has learned a little discretion in his old age. I liked A. just fine. Our hostess said she recognized me and I finally recalled meeting her at the Unitarian fellowship, she is the youth ed. director there. She is lovely and I think she has five jobs. I enjoyed everyone I interacted with, it was a friendly group.

I made my pumpkin pie the next day. With the all-butter crust. (See here for Smitten Kitchen’s bit that convinced me not to bother with vodka or shortening.) The crust did not drive me to distraction. I didn’t roll it as thin as I should have and it puffed up a little during the blind baking but otherwise it came together nicely. And the pie was magnificent. I need a deeper pie pan, the filling didn’t all fit so I cooked the remainder as a custard. The straining was a pain, just as expected, but the result was worth the extra hoop jumping. I might try cooking the pumpkin filling without the sweet potatoes, that would eliminate the need to strain. I don’t think they add that much flavor. Hmm…

I still have a disc of pie crust. We’ll see if I can roll this one out thinner. But I am not really ready for a pie project right now. Lots of other things to do this month.

We’re going to drive to Austin starting on the 23rd to arrive late on Christmas Eve. We’ll stay for a week and probably leave on the 31st. I want to get a kitten but want to wait until after our vacay – so I’ve been reading posts and almost calling. I think I’d better wait until we’re back. But what if there aren’t any kittens left in town in January?!

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From a discussion about local TV news anchors: “Her published age varies but she’s pushing sixty with a very short stick.” That phrase amuses me greatly, though I do feel obliged to note the sexism inherent in the sentiment.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Living Room Elephant

I wonder how the next two years will go in terms of world finance and world resources. I feel quite inadequate to the task of making any sort of educated guess. Around this time last year I thought that we were entering a time when resources would be strained but I didn't realize how kablooey the finance world could go. I thought there would be an adjustment but that those people who make the millions would just go on making them. Apparently not.

Have you read this amazing article by Michael Lewis, the author of Liars' Poker (a book about Wall Street in the 1980s which is moderately famous but which I have not read)? The article made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It's very educational; I now have a tiny bit more grasp on what imaginary things were being traded that went ffft. The slight ham-handedness of the writing clearly communicates the writer's sense of urgency. It seems that it was a good thing that the house of cards came down, simply for the sake of honesty. But it remains to be seen what'll go up in its place.

Now I try to have an open mind and a somewhat optimistic outlook. With young kids I can't afford not to be optimistic. I must believe that our lives will go on fairly unimpeded and that they will have a chance at abundance in their lives. But I wonder how the next two years will go. When I'm thinking apocalyptically I wonder if we should move my mother out here because at rock bottom, Kansas has water and grows things and NM doesn't so much.

Back to the vicinity of my navel, the 7 y.o. birthday party went well. My show of false confidence about not spending the morning before the party in frantic housework was shot down. But it wasn't as frantic as we have been before. The cake was delicious. So lemony good that I think I will post the recipe. The Totoro poster I drew (for pin-the-umbrella-on Totoro game) came out so cute! Katy wanted to color it in immediately but I fought her to a compromise: she colored the background before the party and colored Totoro in after the party. As a one and two year old, Katy used to ask Nod and I to draw things for her. Like a bird or a person. Then she would carefully scribble over every line of the parental drawing. She wasn't satisfied until it was completely obliterated. This seemed very satisfying to her and was very annoying to us.

The gang of girls played so well together that we even skipped the present-opening. Katy unwrapped them when there were just two guests left and that was much more okay with me. She got a lot of loot and will be cranking out the thank you cards this week.

Lexi's school took photos today. We'll see how this year's come out. It is always a surprise. Katy's retakes were better so we bought one of the smaller packages. I hope they come in the next week or so. We have to get out and take our family photo this week. I have been meaning to do it but it's the last week of November already. Ack! I have to insist upon the photo-ing. Nod is so appalled at his appearance that he would never do it on his own. But I really like having something to send to everybody. We hardly ever see our old friends. At least we can show them what we look like once a year. I got out the new camera to take pictures at Katy's party and discovered that it had no power left. So I whipped out the old one (held together with duct tape*) and that worked. I need to find the recharger for the new one today. I have a feeling that I put it somewhere "smart" and that it will take me a long time to find it. Curses!

*I dropped the old camera on the floor of Walgreens last August when I was trying to download its pictures and get prints ordered. I dropped the camera and cracked the battery door (this is why it needs the duct tape to hold it closed now) and said JESUS CHRIST! in front of a bunch of people. I was in a hurry and tightly wound because it was the last day I could get the pictures printed so I could overnight them to get to my Dad on his birthday last year. I got them there. And he died ten days later. I am glad I was able to get them in his hands. I couldn't do much for him or for my mother but at least he got my birthday card and got to see the latest pictures of some grandkids before he died.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bang Bang !!

I have been unable to find any decent or even amusing photos of actress Nancy Kulp playing bank secretary Miss Jane Hathaway in The Beverly Hillbillies. How sad. Here is the best bio I've found. As a kid watching reruns I found her character riveting and terrifying. Maybe I thought that her bluestocking peppiness was pretty close to what I could expect to grow into? And since she was merely a figure of fun (I had forgotten until reading the bio that Hathaway was permanently infatuated with Jethro) it was appalling to contemplate. I think I had a haircut earlier this year that brought my physical resemblance a little too close for comfort. Anyway, I miss her well-bred braying voice. Even if I don't want to look like her.

My hair's growing out now, not really by design. I just keep waiting to get it cut. And I keep finding ways to style it (my never before revealed secret is -- hairspray!) as it gets longer. So I can wait longer! I may try to get it cut after Thanksgiving but who knows if hair people are working then. I went to the discount cutters with my youngest daughter in September. And I've cut both of our bangs since then. But economizing can only go so far. I'll need these layers sorted out by a real stylist.

For the upcoming feasting I'm going to try Smitten Kitchen's pumpkin pie recipe. Well it started life as the Cook's Illustrated recipe, but she's my source. It uses some canned sweet yams in addition to the pumpkin. And I'm going to try CI's vodka crust since decent pie crust continues to elude me.

But first! We're in mid-birthday thrash right now. I made pumpkin muffins last night and iced the number 7 on them this morning for Katy's school treat. I will be baking her birthday cake tonight and icing it tomorrow. Lightning Cake from Joy of Cooking with lemon frosting. Tonight I'd better draw the big Totoro with umbrella image for her pin-the-tail-on game. And cleaning tomorrow. But Nod's been helping with the planning and at least the prep for the cleaning. So I feel supported and like we will not be spending 6 hours straight on housework before the party. We shall see if that's false optimism. Last night I found the mop! and a bucket! I shall be flinging bleach water around and doing a quick scrub on the important spots. Oh it is a suboptimal existence in terms of cleanliness in our house, yall. I went downtown and shopped for a silver necklace for Katy today. I found something with a nice pendant but realized that the chain is just steel. We'll see if I have time to worry about that before Sunday.

A friend reports that every movie he watches lately has diamond thieves in it. That's a pretty weird syndrome but I bet my husband wishes he were infected. Nod loves a heist movie. I'm not against them but I like more variety. Every movie I've been watching lately has been renewed from the library (Harold Lloyd shorts and Disney Princess Singalong which wasn't nearly as awful as I feared). I am pretty much in love with Harold Lloyd at the moment. Such a smile, and so boingy and usually playing a scrappy schmo. And he had only a hand and a half!

I must be feeling enthusiastic my exclamation point count is way up today. Have a good pre-turkey weekend.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bake and bake again

Here is my banana bread recipe. So you can make it and go to parties and people will rave about it. It's the old recipe my mother has always used with just a few changes. (In brief my changes are: a little less butter, a little more banana and sour cream, cook at 345.)

Banana Bread from the American Heritage Cookbook. [With adjustments by Nimble]

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour [1 cup a.p. flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour]
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick)butter [6 T]
1 cup sugar [less]
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated rind of half a lemon [why not zest the whole lemon esp. if it's small?]
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana [2 large bananas mashed]
2 Tablespoons sour cream [3 T]
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. [I whisk.] Work butter until soft (you can use half butter half margarine says my Mom but I don't) and cream in sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, add vanilla, lemon rind and bananas. Stir in flour mixture alternately with sour cream. Last of all mix in nuts if using. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for one hour or until a toothpick tested in the center comes out dry. Remove from pan and cook on a rack. Cut in thin slices to serve.

[I bake this in a glass loaf pan and it tends to get too dark on the outside at 350 so I bake at 345 for an hour and that is perfect. Nod doesn't like nuts so I don't usually include them. But if you're a nutter, pecans are wonderful in this.]

Now when I was a child my mother would make this recipe and then spread butter on a slice before she ate it. Butter cake with some butter on top. She is eating less butter these days; I find I'm a little disappointed in her.

My eldest daugher's birthday is this weekend. I will be baking pumpkin muffins for her class on Friday (with frosting 7s!). Then it's time to bake her birthday cake for the party on Saturday. If only I could delegate the rest of the party tasks I would be perfectly happy doing the baking part.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Words and Change

Word intoxication. It's something I have from time to time. Somtimes I have phrases that go through my head over and over, like songs. And I try to notice really surprising or pleasing word combinations in whatever I'm reading. I read the blog of a mom of 4, an expat American who married a Swede and has lived in Sweden for at least ten years now. I feel shy about linking to her for some reason but what you should know is that her url contains "revelry" and "Beverly". It's always fun to type that. Stephen Fry is back on the blog horse and has a recent post about choosing to celebrate language instead of correcting or mocking misuses. Fry's post is frothy and wordy and long and too short for me all at once.

Coming down to earth with a bump, I spoke with my mother last night about getting our households in the same state. Her investments have plummeted in value and she's thinking about downsizing and wants to be closer to me and the grandkids without having to travel each time. We have talked about her moving here. I found it very depressing. In my imagination it seemed that she would be giving up her network and the cool place that she lives for my drab reality. But imagining us relocating to ABQ isn't a piece of cake for me either. We made a plan to make a plan in the spring. I've been talking with Nod about that too. If things are not looking up for us by the end of spring semester (the university workplace and the kids' school year have taken over my timekeeping) then we need to be finding a new way to be. And maybe a new place.

Part of me wants to feel the exhilaration of escape at these thoughts. Get on the roller coaster of change and just ride it. But this time around, I'm not a child moving with my family. Nor yet a young adult risking only my own well-being if I pull up stakes and start again elsewhere. This time I must take the time to draw up the pros and cons and make informed decisions. I have to be the conscious decision maker, not the tag along. Like most things lately, it makes me feel tired. I'll have to see how that goes.

I'm sad now, I'm sorry I got started with all that. Better to tweedle along on the brain amusements level. Oh I do have some cheerful news once I lift my chin up off my shoe. Collectively my family went to three parties last Saturday. I went to two of them and I spoke with other adults and felt sociable. Nod stayed home so I could go to the Obama party in the evening. He was a little sick as well as not the Democrat voter in the house. The kids came with me, it was at a friend's house so they all watched 101 Dalmations and stayed up late. We grownups noshed and chatted about campus doings and kids and banana bread. I had a glass of very nice champagne and did I mention that everyone loved my banana bread? I guess it really didn't get any more exciting than that but it seemed like a sophisticated whirl to me. I made an effort and spoke with people and accepted their conversational friendliness. And I did not feel like a lump on a bump. Thank goodness. It's been so long I wasn't sure I still had it in me.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

In a theater near you!

I have been remiss. I have neglected to check the progress of artist and animator Nina Paley’s film Sita Sings the Blues. And it’s playing at film festivals in the UK and North Carolina right now! And in San Fran next week! So here’s the skinny:


UK: Flip Animation Festival, Nov. 7 at 6:00pm


UK: Leeds International Film Festival, showing Nov. 8 at 19:15


NC: Asheville Film Festival, Asheville NC, showing Nov. 8 at 5:00pm


Opening night of the San Francisco International Film Festival

7:00 and 9:15pm at the Embarcadero Center


And of course there’s more information on her website and more festivals in Russia, Florida, Canada, the Netherlands, whew.


It sounds like she’s broke and in debt and can’t make any money with this thing. Which is really sad since it’s getting such great reviews and I want to watch it! Why can’t I pay $8.50 for a ticket right now?! She sounds like a really prickly person and I wonder if that’s why she’s been unable to find a film co. to back her. But I know zip about how that would work.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Done with that

I am a happy person post-election. I am relieved that large numbers of voters managed to vote without major screw ups and without major conspiracy rumors. I am relieved that the result was so decisive. It was over so early I even got to hear McCain's concession before I went to bed. And he gave the most gracious speech I have ever heard. It was spare, sincere and encouraging. He moved me and I wish him very well.

Whew. Onward! I am proud to be a part of this country.

Here's another American blogger mom with a similar response.

God and Country

11/4/08 I have been reading about Thailand in one of my periodic attempts to widen the circle of my attention beyond my navel. A few months ago I read a Wall Street Journal article about Thai politics that surprised me by revealing the vastness of my ignorance. In particular I was shocked to hear that they had undergone a coup d’etat in 2006. Did you hear about it? It seems to have been a fairly nonviolent takeover by the military with the king’s tacit approval. The deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is summed up pretty much by the WSJ as a swindling millionaire (billionaire?). His anointed successor (Samak Sundaravej, also known for his feisty TV cooking show, now that’s some entertaining politics) was recently ousted as well. I am not actually able to give you a prĂ©cis of recent Thai political history but perhaps with more practice I can get the particulars under control. I encourage you to do your own reading. I am interested in Burma as well, I hope that that country’s government will change for the better in my lifetime. But history doesn’t make one hopeful.

I’m not looking at election results because it feels like watching the pot before it boils. I will occupy myself with useful tasks until it is time to check on that. God Bless America!

Oh and speaking of my uncharacteristically capitalized use of the deity, I am toying with the idea of episcopalianism. I was a strange child and enjoyed the nominally non-denominational chapel sessions (were they daily? maybe weekly?) led by Principal Father Cranston in my school in Rhode Island. (I loved him, he wore black with a priest’s collar and had a naturally occurring tonsure. He had beautiful hazel eyes and jowls and a growly voice with precise diction. I wish I could remember if his accent was high Boston or actually English. Maybe my mother would remember...) I learned then to say the Paternoster with ‘trespasses’ which results in lots of hissing among the congregation and is much more dangerous sounding than ‘debts’ (recent economic events aside). It was Episcopalian Lite probably with a few hymns, the pledge of allegiance and a brief address by our principal. I admire the Anglican church calendar, the cyclical and celebratory nature appeals to me.

A few months ago I had a moment of conviction that I could join a Christian church in the spirit of appreciating my cultural heritage without giving up my atheism. Sadly, that mental path of self-justification now eludes me. Should have taken notes! I’m still trying to figure out where my desire for spiritual ritual and community participation and choir contrasted with my lack of belief in the stated tenets of the church leave me. There is an Episcopalian church near us in town. The Unitarians are geographically inconvenient and they annoy Nod with their pacifism so we haven’t jumped in there. I went to a Unity Church service and a sing and found them too new agey for me. Advent is nearly upon us. If I perform further church experiments I will report my results.

Oh and another Christ-related note. Last Sunday, the day after staying up late and inhaling much sugar on Halloween, the children were (not surprisingly) extra squabbly. (I might also have been a little irritable myself, but who asked you?) I heard Lexi say “If you’re mean to me then I will be mean to you!” I got their attention and told them that Jesus said that if someone hits your face to turn the other cheek so they could hit that. The girls clearly couldn’t believe it. I told them that it’s very hard even for adults to respond to meanness with kindness but that’s what I wanted them to practice. Then I felt a little pompous. At least it distracted them.

And speaking of values… During my Thai reading today I came across a blog post in English. The writer mentions the Buddhist values that Thais can concentrate on during their uncertain political time. That was new for me, I liked it. I read another of her posts and learned that other ethnic and religious groups in Thailand are ignored in favor of the official national Buddhist identity. And that there is a stereotype that Thais in general look down on neighboring southeast Asian countries because they were colonized by European powers while Thailand wasn’t. Like I said, much to learn.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Masks

I feel the need to retreat to a place of fiction. Of facade and cartoon. This quotidian trail does not meet my needs. Here are my picturesque imagination games today:

*I'm a pioneer mother, keeping my children alive in the face of overwhelming natural obstacles and the need for tremendous daily exertion. We make do with very little and love each other fiercely. We are gifted singers and whittlers. We must have an odd doctrinal bent to our religion. Suggestions?

*We're a circus family, polyglot and jacks of all trades. Mixed with the physical labor and performance rehearsals, we keep up an active life of the mind, reading widely and debating philosophy and politics.

*I'm an imperious beauty with inexhaustible curiosity about what's in everyone else's pants. I love 'em and leave 'em wanting more. My need for change and drama drives people crazy but they never forget me.

*I'm an alpaca, all huge lashed eyes and tiny feet. I roam the low oxygen slopes of the Andes with my herd. We frisk and graze and watch the spectacular sunsets. I am proud and alert and ready to kick any pumas, dogs or foxes who approach the herd. Apparently we also use communal dung piles for elimination (who knew??).

*I am a sparrow and I can fly like a sparrow: flapflapflapflap, rise and fall, flapflapflapflap, rise and fall. My greatest joy is squabbling with my sparrow fellows, hopping, flapping and squerping.

Who are you today?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Turban Triumphant

I did it! I found a big piece of thin orange fabric and figured out how to coil it up on Katy's head. It's sewed together and has the earrings sewn on now. An accomplishment I call it. The glitter on those cardboard earrings is going to shed all over her stuff at school. Oh well.

While modeling for her grandma last night, Katy had her skirt pulled down to her hip bones to make sure her belly button showed. I encouraged a more modest waistband placement. She is happy about her anachronistic costume. I quizzed her and she can answer what country Carmen was from (Braaaaa-zzziiiilllll) and what she was known for (singing, dancing, acting, fruit on head and wild costumes). I also reminded her that besides the kids, most of the adults she knows won't know who Carmen Miranda is either (esp the under 30's who help with her after-school care).

So deadlines beaten for the moment. Come on, what's next? Time to take a family picture for our Christmas cards. After Nod gets his hair cut. Since we've turned the furnace on, everyone's hair is especially dry and straight. I just forget about that effect. Katy is going to need her hair tied up in ponytails or something nearly every day.

Nod and I went to Lexi's parent-teacher conf yesterday. It was the love fest I expected. Nothing but sunshine. I hope Lexi enjoyed it. She did some spelling for us with cut out letters. At first all her words were spelled right to left. I wonder if that'll persist. She seems to be doing really well with the sounding out and spelling. It's exciting to have literate critters for children.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Grimly she pushed on

This space feels like a playground I don’t have time for right now. I’m swimming in disappointment. My job stopped being fun this summer. I feel like I need to be productive and on point when I’m there and goofing on my blog doesn’t fit. (Nationwide, employers respond, “Ya think?!”) I’m trying to get my confidence back and be the efficient person I stopped being a while back.

Nod isn’t getting paid for one of the deals he was hoping for. Not a big surprise when I look at the overall pattern. He’s going to do health insurance sales part time and also is doing mortgage adjustment deals for those with ARMs they can’t meet. So you should take heart, he’s proof that the banking industry is trying to meet people halfway. I guess we’ll get by, as we have, with a little income here and there. I’m disappointed that there’s nothing to build on here, just enough to tread water.

He made me really mad yesterday by making a mistake. I think it shows that the lack of sleep is getting to him. Or he’s secretly dyslexic. When he left the house yesterday (temp in the 40s) he turned the thermostat all the way up. He says that he meant to turn it all the way down so as not to heat the house while we were all out. When I got home with the girls around 5:45p the doorknobs were all warm. It was more than 90 degrees upstairs. I was livid.


A positive thing today – I fit into some size 10 pants.


10/27

Monday now and my outlook is a bit more rosy. Not sure about the future of the blog. All I know is, today I blog.


This week’s lowering deadline is: Halloween costumes. I have a simple plan for Lexi’s black cat costume. The tail is 1/3 done and then I need to figure out the ears headband. But Katy’s Carmen Miranda costume is more challenging. Which reminds me I have to check the forecast and see if she’ll want to appear in a tank top or not on Friday. 68 for the high, eh, we’ll try it. She can always throw a coat on over. The turban will show anyway. And that’s the trouble: the turban. I don’t really have a good idea of how to get it to look right. I don’t want a Rosie the Riveter head scarf. I am going to adorn it with fruit made from paper and some jewelry. That seems like the easy part at this point. But wish me luck finding the right piece of fabric and getting it all coiled up correctly. And then she’s supposed to be able to take it on and off at school. Ay.

Thursday is the new 30 Rock. I'm ready to squee. I may go buy some wine to celebrate.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bang bang thump bang thumpity

You know that things are letting up if I can post two days in a row. Conference shenanigans seem to be under control thus far. And I don't have to work over the weekend. Amazing. Even if come Monday I'm hip deep in conference related crises, I feel so much better about things right now.

The roofers started last night. Rather, the crew that rips off the old roof started. And went on, past dark, until my husband went out and in broken Spanish yelled at them to stop already because the kids needed to sleep. That worked better than yelling at them in English which they cheerfully ignored. Yay for Nod's high school Spanish. And yay for roof progress. We haven't even had a frost yet! Things are looking up. I'm trying not to worry about the chance of rain forecast for Monday night. Surely we won't have sodden ceilings, right? Whatever it takes, we're getting a new roof. With the whitest shingles they've got.

Last night, to escape the relentless banging we went to the library's $5-a-bag night. They have a Friends of the Library sale twice a year in which they sell donated books and media and stuff that's retired from their shelves. There are a few days with marked prices and then they try to get rid of the rest by the bagful. It was fun sifting through the remnants. Tomorrow at 10am they're going to give the rest away. Nod said he wanted to go take another look just in case. This would explain the state of our bookshelves. Well, it's not such a bad vice.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Rolling

What a week.

Nod got over his funk. He woke up on the miserable side on Monday morning but then proceeded to have a better day than anyone expected.

Lexi came down with pink eye and was out of school for two days. Nod had a job interview yesterday so I was home with little L in the middle of the day when there was about a mountain of stuff to do. But yay for the cool job interview he had. And he has other plans and goals for diversifying his income stream. What an enterprising cuss. I went back to work and stayed late which was pretty productive although my brain had turned mostly to mush by the time I left.

I've just now confirmed that our chartered airport shuttle runs seem to be working. So conference attendees should be able to get here as promised. Whew. I spent a good part of yesterday worried about them. I faxed the schedule and passenger information on Monday morning. But then when I called to confirm yesterday I found that although my faxes had gone through, it was not to the correct destination number. Hurried re-faxing to the correct number. But no chance to check in with my contact to make sure they would be able to cover everything. So it's was on my mind all night and I have been a leetle tense this morning. But thank all the gods they have everything covered so far. I can feel my stomach unclenching. I may even eat a banana shortly.

Lexi is totally fine by the way, her schleras are white again and she was having a great time playing yesterday when I was home with her. I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have. When I got home late last night, Nod had raked some leaves for the girls to jump in. They were pretending to be hamsters and were rolling balls (hamster bowling) and curling up in the leaves (hamster beds). They were loudly adorable. It did take some quashing to get their inside voices back when we adjourned. While home from school Lexi was making some drawings, far more representational than I have seen from her before. My favorite is a bunny in high heels. Her bunnies have Large Pink Ears.

The weather yesterday was warm sun, with a chilly wind. Autumnally feverish is how I think of it. The sky could not be clearer.

I intend to survive this conference. Gloriosky.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Crise d'automne

9/15/08 Fresh apples, picked from the tree. No wax no staleness. Complex taste with winy sweet dusty tart crunch and juice. As soon as the Ike rains stopped last weekend we went out to a farm at the edge of town for some produce. The rain had kept them away from the farmer’s market in town for the first time in 20 years. After buying a few things and just enjoying hanging around, we drove down the road to the apple orchard. Last year we had picked apples there at the very end of the season when nothing was on the trees but red delicious. That time the best part was the fun of picking for Katy and Dan. But this time he had golden blush, jonathan, gala, granny smith. And they were large and beautiful. Is there anything prettier than laden fruit trees? Treasure in the leaves. We’ve been eating them all week. I love fruit desserts and I often intend to make them with fresh stuff we come home with. But often I cannot bear to cook them. The fruit is too good eaten out of hand to bother with pie dough or cobbler. And perhaps I’m lazy. But mostly a fan of raw fruit.

9/29 It’s hard to get anything posted lately. But I’ll throw this out to mark the passing of time. The conference we’ve been preparing for at work starts Thursday. I’ve come up to scratch I think (no more complaints) and finished many little projects. More will be finished in the next few days. I am choosing not to attend any of the festivities but I may drive an attendee to Kansas City this weekend. I suppose if I want to work in administrative support I really ought to learn to enjoy event planning. But instead I’m doing some occasional self-interviews to see what I really like these days. I need to be doing more of those things so the first step is to identify them. Wish me luck.

The US financial investment crisis is at the forefront of most people’s thoughts. I’m finding it slippery, I have a hard time attending very well to the news. I’m glad that congress didn’t rubber stamp W’s plan. But that’s about as much opinion as I can muster right now. It will certainly be interesting to see how things progress over the next five years. I’m more focused on our family finances at the moment. Nod should get paid for two good sized deals within the next three or four weeks. It’ll be most of his income for the year. There is a huge deal that is another step towards closing and could possibly close at the very end of the year. That’s positive but it’s nothing that can be counted on. I am holding my breath a little bit about our finances. Which probably doesn’t help anyone. But with my itty paycheck what else can I do? Nod is having a depressive, pouty, sick feeling spell. He was bummed out all weekend and woke up this morning feeling ill. I hope it passes quickly.

If you need some cheering up why don’t you read the Belgian Waffle? Today's entry is about French and English swearing. She may or may not be resigning her dreary job and she just makes me weep with laughter. It’s true: a crappy job may enable the best blog writing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blue sky roof acorn movie rule

It's raining today and I like that on a September 11. The clear vivid blue sky of September in 2001 is still a distinct and eerie memory for me. Seems strange to associate it with that disaster and pandemonium.

I am full of almonds. Stuffed like a trussed roast. I wonder if you can cook meat with almonds to any good effect. Not that I wish to be roasted and eaten.

The conference we are planning at work approacheth, 1st week of Oct. And I am having to take part and feign an energetic competence at the preparations. I tried slacking quietly but was informed this week that that wasn't going to cut it. I hate event planning. But it's better than botulism.

Very good roof news. Our insurance claims guy says that we certainly need a new roof and there is plenty of hail damage to blame it on. We'll see what our allotment will be. We've already gotten an estimate from a roofing co. that I like so we'll sic them on it. Before winter! Imagine my glee. I am really amazed that Nod and I have been able to get out of our avoidant, depressive rut and get this project on the road. Thank the gods and the big oak tree in our yard.

Which isn't feeding us acorns this year. Last year it pelted us thoroughly with acorns. Here -- have some more acorns! But that was after a spring of spouting pollen so thick you could see it on our front porch. This spring it didn't have hardly any blossoms or pollen. I am guessing that there is a certain cycle going on. It has plenty of leaves and appears well otherwise so I assume the pollen and acorns and fat squirrels will be back in a year or two.

Via mamapop.com Have you heard of the Bechdel rule for movies? It's by Alison Bechdel from one of her 'Dykes to Watch Out For' strips back in the 80s. Her character said that she would go see any movie that met these requirements: 1. More than two women in it 2. Who talk to each other 3. About something besides a man. It's fun to think about movies that meet these rules. And it's clearly not superhero movies. Stranger Than Fiction works. See what you can think of... I'd love to see Hamlet 2 and Tropic Thunder and WAL E if it's still around. Even with few if any women in them. The wonderful thing about storytelling humans is that we can empathize with anyone/thing.

Which reminds me of Earth Logic by Laurie J. Marks. It's the sequel to Fire Logic and is holding my attention just as well. This one has lots of little tales in it which are wonderful. Still some brutality to the main character of the last book. What is up with that, LJM? Why is that character to endure all this physical damage? I frown upon it. But I like everything else. I think I'll finish it tonight.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cramming for Nov

Grasping at straws.

Via 3QuarksDaily, a link to a New York Times Magazine article by David Leonhardt discussing Obama’s economic leanings. (A tangential note that’s already out of date but nonetheless: 3Quarks has another Obama related piece today which I think is what one writer imagines he’d like Obama to say at the convention. I found it quite confusing, neither sincere enough nor satirical enough to interpret. 3Quarks is one of my favorite sites but I don't expect to agree with everything.) I’m trying to absorb this as well as I can. Years ago I would have been unable to force my eyes to focus on word strings of this type. But now I’m motivated to try and follow the money and figure out where we’re at and where we might be headed. I found the following very educational:

It’s helpful to start with a little history. When Reagan was elected, in 1980, tax rates on top incomes were so high that even liberal economists now say the economy was suffering. There simply wasn’t enough of an incentive for rich people to start new companies or expand existing ones, because so much of their profits would have gone to the federal government. Someone making the equivalent of $5 million in 1980 — in inflation-adjusted terms — would have paid a combined federal tax rate of almost 60 percent, according to research by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, two academic economists. (These calculations cover not only income taxes but also payroll taxes, capital-gains taxes and others.) Reagan, by the end of his second term, had cut this rate to about 35 percent. Clinton raised it above 40 percent, but the current President Bush has reduced it to 34 percent. So over the same period that the rich have been getting much richer before taxes, their tax rates have also been falling far faster than the rates of any other income group.

[By the way, I haven't read the link embedded in the quote above, I just didn't know how to get rid of it.] I knew that Reagan and Bush presidencies meant tax cuts for the wealthy but I didn’t know any numbers. I appreciate this summation. I didn’t realize that taxes were (considered) so onerous pre 1980.


All right, that’s enough learning for one day. Onward with the stream of consciousness.


Parents nights kill me. And I’ll bet they kill the teachers too. It’s the working all day and then having to be presentable and attentive in the evening. Luckily they don’t last long. I am very glad to have met Katy’s first grade teacher. I’m making Nod go to tonight’s for Lexi’s preschool. I’ve done my time! I’m going to sit on my spacious butt tonight and watch Project Runway. I let Katy watch half of the drag queen episode of PR last week and then sent her to bed halfway through. She was mad and I don’t blame her. But I didn’t realize how interested she would be in it. She watched the second half when it was on at 7am!! on Saturday morning. So thank you Bravo for playing them over and over and over again.


Books. I have checked out almost 50 items from our local library. That is the limit and I was told I was close to it last visit. The whole family uses my card. Nod is a bad library citizen so he doesn’t use his own card any more. Most of the books are not for me, except that I try to pick out story books that I like so I will enjoy reading them aloud. But I have managed to snag some of my own reading lately. Currently I am trying to get through Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett. I find that title annoying. I have been enjoying the book. I’m about two thirds of the way through and am waiting for the drama that will begin the end. I hope it gets tight and eventful again soon. I love the Rhode Island setting and her blunt assessment of the citizens there.


Last week I finished Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks. I was staying up too late to read it and enjoyed it immensely. I especially liked the world she created, her history was convincing and her vocabulary was really good. Even the swearing sounded organic which is quite hard to manage. “Accuser bugs” are a wonderful invention. Minor cavils: the across the board bisexuality was hard to swallow. (I’m a little disappointed in myself but that was my reaction.) And our heroine got banged up three times too many for my taste. Especially the last abduction, come on! I’m sure there could have been another mechanism to ensure the final showdown. Those items aside, it was a good romp. I am hoping the sequels are good too and have requested the second through inter-library loan.


Started this at the beginning of the week and will post it now before it ages any more. Still marching along briskly at work but the waves are smaller now. I’m not going anywhere for Labor day weekend. I just told Nod that I want to plan one outing and one major piece of housework each day. Our floors are killing me. I would like to feel more satisfied with the state of the house by the end of the long weekend.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Barge turkey

Sturdy Banana. Sturdy banana! I wish I had a production company so I could name it... Sturdy Banana Co. This silly phrase brought to you courtesy of my morning debate on which banana would best survive the trip to my office. The title of the post is a misreading of the name of one of the construction companies working on campus right now. I think it makes an excellent dismissive insult. You barge turkey.

I have just erased my half hearted complaint about the heat and humidity. I'll save it for some truly vile weather. The busker fair is happening tonight and tomorrow downtown. I hope it's as fun as it sounds. I wish I had $20 in dollar coins to pass out to them. Hm, maybe I'll do that.

Lexi has given up her school day nap and so arrives home v. tired and a bit grumpy. I keep being surprised by it and having to remind myself that it's a tired child yelling. But yay for the earlier bedtime. She barely has enough energy to complain that she is too scared by herself in her room and she will never fall asleep. And then she's out!

We watched Joseph King of Dreams yesterday, an animated VHS tape from our library.* It gets points for bible story faithfulness but loses the entertainment prize. Katy was very upset by Joseph's sale into slavery and subsequent imprisonment.

*I believe I've complained before about the library phasing out its video collection. But let me tell you again! They're going to get rid of all the videos in favor of DVDs. I must bow to the inevitable. But I probably won't ever borrow kids' DVDs from the library because they're always scratched up and unwatchable. What's the point?! Video tape is comparatively sturdy and glitchproof. Ugh.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Back and not

Below are the links and thoughts I was gathering for a fun post. But then I ran out of time and I can’t seem to make more. So I’ll throw out this quick greeting and you can enjoy those things at your leisure.

Back from ABQ. It was a mixed bag. Mom’s looking good but having eight extra people in her house pretty much threw her around the twist. She was the stressed hostess. The pool was great. Four of the cousins bonded and had a good time. One didn’t stay long enough, poor guy. The dogs were sweet. Including Ruby the wonder pup! Michael looks and smells as wonderful as I remember and we had such a nice time dropping in on him and Christopher at his ABQ High loft.

Saw Batman, v. good even though it’s true that that universe has no use for women. It started out very conventionally, new ersatz batcave, new suit development, and then it went all over the place. Afterwards I had a backache from the tension. I’m all for HL getting the posthumous Oscar.

Lexi’s night nerves took a turn for the worse this week which is part of my being strapped for time. Tuesday night I was in the bed for eleven hours straight, thank gods. Both Sunday and Monday I was up between two and four trying to help her go back to sleep. ‘I’m too scared when you’re out of the room’ was the complaint. It occurred to me just yesterday that I could have slept on the couch in her room. If you want sense out of me, don’t wake me in the middle of the night, you won’t get it. She’s doing better since then. I brought back the nightlight and gave her a quieter fan. Let’s hear it for sleep.

Work is a crashing wave. The start of semester is upon us and our first-week-of-Oct conference is closing in too. My think-positive Northern California self is picturing myself surfing or maybe jumping through the waves at the shore. The rest of me is selfishly hoping all this actual work recedes back across the sands quickly.

Katy started first grade yesterday and has 15 or maybe 17 kids in her class. What a great small number. She seems chuffed that she knows many of her classmates but not all. Hopefully the I don’t want to go to schoolitis will leave now. Lexi is one of the older kids at Montessori school now. The sandbox mosquitoes are chewing her up, ack. Otherwise all is well.

That was more than I expected to write. Back to work now. Leave the blogging light on for me.

From a British article exploring the concept of ‘good character’ and what helps create it.

“The necessary sacrifices of good parenting collide with the assumption that the individual is entitled to lead his or her life only by reference to their own desires. Parenting is a sacrificial, self-negating activity, and not all adults are up to the job. Finding the time, energy and commitment that needs to be spent over decades to raise a child well is tough. This has always been the case—and it should be noted that most parents now spend more time with their children than in previous generations. But the assumption that parents can have it all is entirely at odds with the reality of successful child-rearing. One of the most positive developments of the last half century is the entry of women into the labour market, but it has, of course, subtracted from the time and commitment to making homes and children, and men have seldom stepped in to fill the gap.”

I think this is extremely well put. I wish I had read it as a young adult although I suppose that wouldn’t have worked. (I would either have had a defensive reaction because I feared that I was never going to get to be a parent, or I would have found it irrelevant to my current life.) “Parenting is a sacrificial, self-negating activity,” what a profound and stark statement. I have felt sometimes like I was erasing my personality during my last six years of parenting. No regrets, mind you, but it has been an extreme ride.

For further exploration of parenting, I present to you, the Belgian Waffle.

Making me hyperventilate with amusement even while I worry about her body image. And the craft fete deserves further attention. I found her via Whoopee. Who also provides superlative cranky laughs. I can’t believe I forgot to link to Whoopee’s naked lady post, here it is finally.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Egg heads

Just popping in to post a link to a Crooked Timber post. The writer has asked for suggestions for naming two chicks. The comments include Bleak House references. Now that's a bunch of overeducated commenters. I love it.

Yesterday was a dim day, I felt very pressed down by circumstance. Today is better even though circumstances haven't changed much. I am making progress on my work and home to do lists so maybe that's the improvement. Glad I'll be traveling soon. And glad that the rain, and thus our roof leak, has stopped.

Outlander was checked out, alas. I have picked up one of her secondary series - a Lord Jim mystery, and a few other things that jumped out at me. We'll see if I have time to read after all.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Squishabizzy

Very busy at work this week. Our fall semester will include hosting a big (for us) conference. It has made this month much busier than I expected. But I think it's doable. Next I get to call the car rental places to confirm van prices. Have I told you before how I don't like event planning work? Still don't. Guess I'll focus on how much I like my health insurance.

Wow, boring complaining just shot to the fore there. What I'm really posting about is that I'll be in ABQ, the home of felicidad, for a week starting this Friday evening. We're going to frolic with the cousins, celebrate the end of Georgia's herceptin treatments (last one is tomorrow 7/30), pick raspberries in Rio Rancho and visit Miguel and his famous dog Ruby. I'm aiming for fun this visit. Picture me as a cartoon arrow, speeding toward the FUN target.

I'm reading nothing at the moment and it's bumming me out. Ooh, I'm remembering the Danish's Diana Gabaldon (sp?) recommendation. I may have to trot over to the library for that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Different Plan

Yesterday when I got in my car the hot air crisped my nose hairs. It was around 100F and the car had been sitting out in the sun all afternoon. I felt a little high from the heat. It just seemed to bake the thoughts out of my head, pleasantly. After shaking that off and while heading out of campus I spotted a safety officer. He was on his Segue, wearing both a helmet and a black uniform. I smiled, because I just don’t get to see enough people gliding along on Segues. But then I thought about how hot this poor individual must have been. It’ll be comfortable for them to cruise campus and make contact with the community this way in October. But in late July?! I would think the safety officers would know better than to court heat prostration like that.

Be sure and read about the GIANT FAIRY .

Lexi this morning played on the bath mat while I took a shower. Kind of nice that she wants to be close to me. Kind of annoying when she wants me to look at everything she’s doing and comment. I said no, I’m busy right now -- with the shower and the water and so on. When I got out I suggested that she go pick out her clothes and get dressed. She countered that she wanted to eat breakfast in her pjs. I parried with the idea that she could pick the day clothes out and take them downstairs, to put on after breakfast. She cocked her head and said, “Well, that’s a different plan!” And then she went and got dressed. Funny noodle.

I was thinking this weekend that Lexi’s experience of tv and movies is much different than Katy’s was. L wants to watch everything that everybody else is watching. Of course we noticed when she was a baby that she would watch anything, just liked that tv. We were playing some of our Walking with Dinosaurs video on Sunday. There is plenty of predator/prey interaction in there (all very dramatically narrated by the booming Kenneth Branaugh) so I was warning her about upcoming baby dinosaur deaths. She didn’t seem upset when we got to the end. Katy has always been so intent about whatever she watched. It would go right to her heart. So there were plenty of things that were too sad or too scary for her at 4. I think Lexi doesn’t take things in quite so directly. Or maybe it’s that she’s an old hand from all the tv she saw as a toddler at Dianna’s daycare. Mom guilt moment #678.

Skipping the justification of past parenting decisions, I’m going to get right to the good stuff: complaining about summer road work at my workplace. My closest parking lot is being resurfaced and some of my other potentially shady options are also blocked off for roadwork. And my philosophical acceptance ran out this morning. Rassafrackadee with this musical-chairs-like desperation! Give me back my quiver of parking options already. Grumble mumble mumble, shifty glances. Oh all right, I admit it – I do have a seven minute commute. And I could choose to arrive a little earlier to get one of the remaining desirable (partially shaded) spots. But I could also just keep grumbling for ten days and by that time the resurfacing will be done. Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sing Along Now



Oh my blabbity blab! Skeedly wah wah wah! Reduced to Patton Oswalt heavy metal guitar gibberish by Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog. Just watched episode one at work. Thank goodness for summer. Episode two is available tomorrow and then 3 on Saturday and they're all available for free until midnight on 7/20. Oh the goodness of Neil P. Harris as nerdly nearly super villain. And the musical format. Happy sigh.

Lexi woke me up several times last night around 3am. She has got the night nerves this summer. They're not night terrors, she just wakes up, gets a little scared and then can't go back to sleep without help. And because it was in the environs of 3am and I wasn't at my sharpest I didn't realize what would help. Finally she mentioned the nightlight lamp. Thank you my child, at least you can tell me now.

We had Katy and Lexi in the same room this winter and that worked pretty well. But during the early spring disease nastiness we moved Lexi back to the other bedroom to minimize the breathing on each other. Since then Katy has taken over her room with her customary fierceness. Sometimes she says that we should move Lexi's bed back into her room. But then she talks about creating a long list of her room rules. So I don't think so. After our NM trip we are hoping to get the parents moved into Lexi's current room and both girls into the biggest bedroom. There will be room for a dividing line on the floor if need be. And it will be a new territory they can share, not Katy's domain into which Lexi is flung.

On our drive back from Missouri this weekend Katy was watching traffic on the highway. She told me, "When I grow up I want to have an RV." Makes me laugh to think of our blonde sprite at the wheel of a big RV. Who knows, maybe that class of vehicle will be considered an appropriate starter home by the time she's of age.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Word Cloud, Yakking

All the other things I've been thinking about lately...

Here's a word cloud based on this blog. Whee!

Wordle takes any text you give it (or an url in this case) and makes a word cloud. Words used frequently appear larger than words used infrequently.

Found via Nag on the Lake, a lovely Canadian blogger with eclectic magpie tastes.

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Yesterday I was looking for Rivers and Tides, a movie about Andy Goldsworthy’s art. But I couldn’t remember the title. So I tried to remember his name and put “goldsmith” into Netflix’s search box. And it was the sixth item on the list! I call that good search. Bravo to Netflix and their programmers for reading my scattershot mind.

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Sister Wolf of godammit.com describes an article entitled “Are Men Boring?”:

…it was the usual anecdotal findings of irritated wives and girlfriends whose male companions had nothing to talk about. Not “nothing” exactly, just nothing that they cared to share in conversation with a woman. I did like this quote from neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine:

Connecting through talking”, she wrote in her book The Female Brain (2006), “activates the pleasure centres in a girl’s brain. We’re not talking about a small amount of pleasure. This is huge. It’s a major dopamine and oxytocin rush, which is the biggest, fattest neurological reward you can get outside of an orgasm.”

Yes, Louann, DUH, we love to talk. We are starved for conversation if we live with men. We will make conversation with practically anyone after being home all week with kids who only know how to yell, “BUT WHY? JUST TELL ME WHY!” when you don’t cave in to some demand. We crave conversation so much that we’ll talk to anybody who’s wiling to venture an opinion or relate some experience, however mundane.

Are Men Boring? Is the Pope a former Nazi? Of course men are boring, because they talk only to achieve a goal.



This sounds entirely true to me. I picked a husband who likes to talk (usually). But I am totally in withdrawal from that talking with women pleasure. And that is an accurate description of children's conversation with their mother which often consists of demands and then demands for explanation of why their demands have been denied.



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There should be a word or a phrase to describe moving a computer window over so you don’t have to look at the still or moving pictures on the sidebar of whatever text you are trying to read. I do this every day so I can read without a brightly colored animated ad driving me out of my mind.

Protecting

I keep thinking I need to have the human predator talk with our six year old. Four is too young but six is old enough to try I think. I feel like I need to get across that some adults are dangerous. But I’m having a hard time starting the conversation. So here’s a space to extemporize and see if I like what I say.

Most people are helpful. Most people make mistakes but they’re not trying to hurt others. But some people do want to hurt other people. Sometimes they try to hurt feelings, they use words to hurt. Sometimes they try to hurt bodies. They take advantage of people who are younger/smaller/weaker than they are.

I don’t want you to get hurt. I want you to get away from anyone you see acting like that. I want you to tell me (parents or teachers) about it. If a person is hurting other people, whether kids or adults, it’s important to tell someone about it.

I am not even sure if I’m opening the lines of communication here or creating the bogeyman. What do you think?


At this point I googled and found this really well written and well thought out blog post. I've never read this person before, but she was just what I needed.


List of 12

This is a list from Gavin de Becker’s Protecting the Gift. It is twelve things every child should know about protecting him/herself before they’re mature enough to be left alone. It made me cry, but in a good way, and I am going to print it out and talk to Katy about it.

I checked out Protecting the Gift from the library but then chickened out on reading it. I just don’t want to read a collection of assault stories, even in order to learn better techniques. Just the techniques, please. I could have read it pre-kids but I do not need to stir up my limbic system that much now.

Oh and the two items from the list of 12 that are sticking out at me the most are: if someone who scares you says Don’t yell – Do yell and if you’re told Don’t tell – Do tell.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

From Barbie to Frida

Barbie movie. “You’re always free to begin again and you’re always free to believe!” If you recognize that lyric then I am sorry for you. I absorbed it while watching a Barbie animated DVD with my youngest daughter. I am not going to look up the exact title because I can’t be arsed to and it’s not as though I want you to go out and look for it. It was a weird and long and badly written computer-animated feature. I wonder if the people who worked on it view it as apprenticeship stuff. I would shudder to put that forward at the finished fruit of my labors. Swerving over now to give a nod to the better elements: the voice actors did a good job. And the song was catchy enough that I remember it. From a capitalism standpoint I’m sure there’s a market for Barbie animated things; it sounds like holiday impulse buying gifts for little girls to me. But don’t.

Watermelon watermelon watermelon. I don’t buy them out of season because a not-sweet melon is a pointless thing. But now it is time! We finished ours on the 4th and I’ve been pining for some ever since. Today is the day.

More Things in the Air: Petals and dead leaves.

I’m just going to throw these on to my list. First leaves. I remember walking in the mountains above Santa Fe watching showers of yellow aspen leaves come down among the skinny white trunks. I think aspen trunks look like they’re covered with eyes. As they get taller some of the lower skinny branches fall off. And in that spot where there used to be a branch there is a shape that looks like an eye. Check it out next time you’re in an aspen stand. Maybe someone on flickr has posted photos of aspen eyes. Don’t have time to look just now.

Petals in the air are even more evanescent, when the tree’s blossoms are done the petals come down in just a day or three. Throwing petals at weddings is a lovely recapitulation if you ask me, evoking the beauty and freshness of spring along with fertility and incipient fruit.

Yesterday I was walking under the trees on campus and thinking about petals and leaves falling. Then I remembered the gloriously terrible movie Legend. Circa 1986, Tom Cruise and Tim Curry in their only shared film. (I have been unable to definitively prove that from my imdb searching. But I have discovered that Tim Curry does a shitload of voice work, bless him. I hope he finds it a pleasant way to pay the mortgage.) Directed in part by Ridley Scott but there was some kerfuffle and at least one more director was brought in to finish and cut the wretched finished product. Beautiful unicorns -- horses with horns stuck on filmed in slo mo. The only problem being that they left in the moments when the horns wobbled. But I must pack all the delicious awfulness away for right now and concentrate on the one beautiful memorable image from that film that has to do with petal fall. I’m sure R. Scott is responsible for this, it was central to the movie and had some real emotional weight to it. Our heroine is a teenage girl, lovely and innocent. She is swooning under a tree from which petals fall in a blizzard. The evocation of petals in the air is wonderful and gorgeous. But then the blizzard of petals turns to ice. The evil forces are stealing her away. Her body is frozen in place while her spirit is stolen to the underworld. Time is stopped. I may have just talked myself into watching this horrible film again. I am warning you: Tom Cruise with shaggy hair and furrowed brow, talking earnestly with cackling dwarves. Hoo boy.

Speaking of movies I finally got Frida watched. I’ve had it from Netflix for two months now and it was weighing heavily on my conscience. After all that, it was great -- I liked it and I would watch it again. Salma and Alfredo were grand. Art and bisexuality, communism and love of country. All very tasty. The film has a surprisingly light touch. I would watch Salma Hayek in almost anything, she is such an all-around performer in addition to her vavavoomity.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Thumb, Le Pouce

Thumb update.

Better and ignorable. My doctor spoke with a neurologist at the beginning of June who said that there was probably “cutaneous pressure” on the nerve in my thumb. She said it might go away by itself and did not recommend doing anything about it. I think the numbness is a bit diminished from May. I would say it’s about half numb on that half of my thumb now. I can feel pressure and some surface sensation but not temperature. My grip is probably a little weaker then normal. The best thing is that the tingling and feeling of swelling has disappeared. So it doesn’t feel like an injury and I can do everything I need to do, thumbwise.

French news and culture tidbits in English http://frogsmoke.com/

The author describes himself as a Dutchman living in France for more than ten years. Here’s his description of this very entertaining site:
It is my attempt to illustrate why France is such an endearing and infuriating country at the same time, and why the French are a people that you love one day and hate the next. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been a francophile for all my adult life, but there are moments when this country and its people are driving me absolutely mad.

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I think I'd better figure out what we're eating on the 4th, I haven't made any prep for this holiday at all. Nod bought the bale of fireworks but I think we'll all go visit the fireworks stand on the edge of town so the girls can have camel rides if they want. Last summer Katy's camel ride was followed immediately by a tornado siren. I wonder if we'll be able to get a good spot at the lake on the 4th. Last year it was raining a bit and maybe it was less populous for that reason. Happy summer everyone!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Full

When the air is full of things, a list.

Hot air balloons. I want to describe the feeling of peaceful elation I had while watching a mass ascension of hot air balloons in Albuquerque in 2003. I’ve tried writing about it before and I may try again in the future because the sensation is one I’d like to have again and again. It was a morning with just a slight movement to the air so the balloons were rising up, truly in a mass. If the wind is stronger, they just stream southwards or westwards over the city in a colorful procession, not a cloud. But that morning they formed a host and occupied the air with some above and some below. Seeing the balloons filling the sky above me was like seeing gorgeous apparent spirits. It was almost as good as rising up into the air myself would have been. It was a visual experience that brought great pleasure and a feeling of well-being. Now that I think about it, I have to add that I was three months pregnant. I should acknowledge the element of the hormonal cocktail in my moment of bliss.

Fluff. This past weekend we visited a riverside park where the cottonwood trees and the steady breeze resulted in air full off bits of white fluff. The bright sunshine clearly showed it all floating. When there is so much carried along, the suspension shows the invisible air to us. It is revealed as a true liquid element. It draws the eye instead of being ignored in favor of the objects on the earth. My exalted feeling has something to do with the awareness of being both in the air and on the ground. (I wondered whether we would all be hawking up fluff later but it did not come to pass.)

Snow falling, especially clumped feathers of snow spinning down without a wind. I wish I could regain my childish rapture watching this type of snowfall. But as an adult I find my joy is impaired by worries about the roads, the school and work schedules and so on.

The coordinated movement of schools of fish and flocks of birds is also eye catching and consoling.

Thunderheads building into towers in the sky. They are more threatening than floating motes. The power in them is thrilling and sinister especially here in this weather rich environment. But the height alone has me imagining flight. How brilliant the white billows at the top are. And the piles of ice cream fractals in the column are beautiful. The observable movement of clouds in a blue sky is like a trick. When you’re not looking at them they seem still. But when you watch them they are always moving, blown across the visual field and also building or diminishing.

This list of things I love to watch would make me worry about being so passive except that watching these things feels very active. It makes me happy to be alive