Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Moving in air

'Air like wine' was one of my father's favorite sayings. (He also liked to take 'air baths' on long road trips. An air bath happens whenever it's windy enough to pretend the air is water. And it is refreshing after hours cooped up in the car.) We're having highs in the upper 80s / low 90s this week which seems delightful and more enjoyable than we expect from a Kansas summer. The mosquitoes will keep us safe from vanity.

Katy needs a recreational pursuit. I am going to call the parents of a classmate who does soccer to find out what program that is. She is so strong and deft right now, I really want to see her practice something physical. She taught herself to hula hoop at the beginning of the summer. Last summer she taught herself to do a cartwheel. I love to see her drive.

Lexi has been invited to go to the local pizza buffet tonight with a friend's family. I am a little unprepared (my baybee!) but if she's happy to go I will let her. Feeling somewhat socially inept on my own behalf, I hope I can help my kids handle their social lives as they get older and more connected. This ties back into the Austen I've been reading. There is a lot in there about the presence or absence of parental guidance and its success or failure.

Katy has phantom ear pain according to the doctor who saw her today. So I guess we'll dose her with acetaminophen and trust that it will go away.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Putting MP to Bed

After finishing Mansfield Park this morning I cast about to find some commentary. I was struck particularly by the control and restriction of unmarried women's movements in the book. I got a real feeling of claustrophobia from imagining how it was to be a young woman of property at the time. Marriageability was all and propriety required chaperones and no wandering about. The ghost of my eighteen year old self is sputtering about autonomy.

I disregarded all the school essays for sale and found "Reinvesting nieces: Mansfield Park and the economics of endogamy" by Eileen Cleere. I had to look up 'endogamy': the practice of marrying within the clan or tribe. In this case it refers specifically to the marriage of first cousins in the novel. Ms. Cleere doesn't have much to say specifically about the movements of young women. But her interpretation of Miss "Price" as a unit of value within the Bertram family is very pointed and worthwhile.

Thanks to an old list serve discussion, my goose mystery is solved. A green goose proves to be a half grown goose, killed at three or four months old. Well, of course. I am going to look for the book referenced by this list serve writer: Jane Austen and Food by Maggie Lane.

More of my notes on the book...

***I am come to Fanny’s resistance to Mr. Crawford’s suit. She has developed a backbone and made a stand so I can stop complaining about that. I am finding myself agreeing with the old people’s view of marriage as a long term association that doesn’t necessarily call for passion but for constancy and consideration. At an earlier age I would have dismissed all that in favor of lurve. Now I’m struck by how changed people are every decade or so. I suppose the maturing of my views was inevitable but SIGH.

(It also occurred to me yesterday as I left work how apt the concept of the evolutionary cost of reproduction is. I feel like I'm pouring my energy into my kids. It’s as it should be but I am a little appalled to see my life burning as fuel for theirs.)

***Fanny is making me roll my eyes with a constitution so nervous and fastidious that she stays awake all night with fever and chills in contemplation of her cousin Maria's potential (not yet confirmed!) adultery.

This said I have to own to a memory of discovering the adultery of an acquaintance at work when I was a youngun. I opened a piece of mail that had 'confidential' written all over it, figuring that *something* interesting must be inside. It was my job to open mail and so I rationalized my curiosity. And that curiosity was rewarded by some explicit purple prose concerning a recent tryst. It was from the lover of my coworker who I knew to be happily married and father of two lovely children. I was pruriently excited and absolutely appalled and (after reading it through) I shredded the entire thing, confidential envelope and all. I reasoned that allowing the sender to blame the post office for loss was much safer than delivering that particular card after I'd opened it. And this incident haunted me. I couldn't tell anyone about it who knew the acquaintance. And I burned with shame whenever I encountered him. It flashed into my mind from time to time for years afterward.

So Fanny, I can allow for some of your fears, tremblings and finer feelings. But maybe not all of them.

***Oh and the first cousin incest marriage creeps me out too.

***Friend Mary Crawford fails to place moral considerations above social and financial ones and is passed over by very moral Edmund. She is left to her leisure in London where we are told she never finds Edmund’s equal in steady uprightness and ultimately retires to a quiet life with her sister. (Although personally I hoped she would find a man who had a sense of humor and a genuine liking for her. She was my favorite character, even lacking a moral center.)

What a provocative book this has turned out to be. I do wonder what entertainment the author got from it. There is fun poked at all of the characters but it is the slightest joking in most cases. Edmund and Fanny certainly deserve one another but is their conduct a model for the rest of us? Maybe just for the very prim and very submissive and very sensitive among us. Who don't mind marrying first cousins (urgh).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Green Goose

This is the funniest error page I have seen in a while. (I was trying to find out what a "green goose" is, referred to in Mansfield Park as a disappointment to Dr. Grant who has to be consoled by his wife. Maybe it's a recipe? There is another comment about Dr. Grant complaining to his wife whenever the cook does something wrong.) I love the consolation offered at the bottom of the page: "Here is a picture of Colin Firth." The "now bugger off" is understood.

Yesterday evening brought one of the most dramatic stormscapes I've ever seen, bearing down from the north. Nod and I took the kids to the empty lot across the street to watch it come in. The clouds were every shade of gray. And then as they were almost upon us there were aqua and purple shades too, quite bruise-y. A cool wind came in ahead of the clouds, very welcome after the Hot wet blanket we had had. I thought we were in for hail if not worse, but it was only some heavy rain and then lighter showers. With plenty of lightning, thunder and a few power flickers. Drama, we got midwest weather drama.

Which reminds me The Fashion Show is on tonight. I'm about to turn off our satellite tv for a couple of months so I'd better enjoy it. Even though it's awful. This show has turned out to not have nearly the heart of Project Runway. And that one was bitchy, it shouldn't be hard to be as nice as they were. But it is. The host and hostess sneer and rarely come up with insightful comments. There is no advocate or supporter for the designers like Tim Gunn was on PR. It's a sad mess which I'm going to watch one more time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Austen summering

As we are now just around the corner to July, here is a camel picture taken last July 4th. Katy at the back looks as though she's urging the beast to go faster and Lexi has got a firm grip up front wondering what will happen next.

I have just started to read Mansfield Park at work. I have never read it before and am pleased to have it so accessible -- thank you Project Gutenberg. PG needs a few dollars from me. It’ll have to wait however. I guess I should make a list of those deserving my shekels, in the hopes of someday having some to distribute...

Nod is still uncertain whether he’ll close his required six sales by (when? end of the month? some time in) July. He has gotten good feedback from staff however, some attaboys and so on. Not banking on that, he had two interviews last week for part time jobs and has one coming up this week for a full time gig. We’re both trying to treat this possibility lightly. Counting chickens never goes well for us. Apparently we both have powerful imaginations.

Watched the end of Network last night. (The link is to an exhaustive recap. Here's Roger Ebert's review.) I had never seen it and was expecting a plot about a national emergency of some sort. Didn’t realize it was a dystopia story. I didn’t care for our craggy protagonist very much but it certainly held my interest. The part that made me laugh out loud was the left fringe terrorist groups arguing over subsidiary rights. Faye Dunaway was amazing. The mid 70s bralessness was also amazing.

I may have to forswear books and tv for a while in order to get some housework done. I tried grounding myself over the weekend in order to get our room picked up and all the winter clothes put away. But it proved to be an empty threat. I'll have to work on getting authority over myself. At least I've been doing the laundry. It's my favorite chore, probably due to the machine doing all the work and the free time between wash/dry cycles. Start it and check back later to start a new load. This morning I got up just after 6a and staggered down to the basement to unload the dryer, put the wet stuff in and start a new load washing before my shower. I made the kids lunches and cooked oatmeal. It felt tremendously productive.

I'm maintaining my pushups every other day and a grab bag of other pilates-type exercises. I'm pleased with the results in my arms. Still frustrated with my pudgy middle. Without some sort of sustained cardio I don't think I can shift that much. I will keep it in mind and look for the right opportunity. At the moment it seems that exercise optimism is my best ally. I need a nice cousin to put me on a horse for a ride every day as Edmund does for Fanny Price in MP. Though Mrs. Norris's long walks seem even more slimming. I imagine that one would want to walk quickly enough to discourage conversation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Comin In

Quest successful

My tikka masala kicked butt. It made enough sauce for twice as much meat. And I discovered that spiced and yogurted chicken breast under the broiler is delicious. So I learned much and enjoyed much tasty food. Ground coriander is one of the things I have been missing in my life.

That reminds me of a tacky woo-woo horror novel I once read in Santa Barbara. Well, I started it there and abandoned it when the atmospheric build up got tedious. It concerned a young woman who may or may not have been the embodiment of some bloodthirsty female deity. The book comes to mind now because of the many times her cinnamon and coriander perfume was mentioned. (Note to that author -- too many times!)

Next up cooking-wise: green chile stew. I've thawed my pork and my green chile and I'm ready to roll!

FB etiquette

Just had an old friend I was wondering about pop up on Facebook, that’s fun. And to make things interesting, I had another ‘old friend’ send me a msg. I don’t know what to do about her. I remember spending a lot of time in high school walking back and forth to the playing fields with her for PE and listening to her long and rambling pathological lies. It took me months to figure out that they were lies. I started out believing them and thought she’d had a really interesting life. But eventually the mountain of unfeasibility was more than I could ignore. Now I am less than enthusiastic about reestablishing any ties whatsoever. What would you do? “Friend” her or ignore?

Ghostie toasties

There has been a ghost story theme going around some of the bloggers I read. Here's the link to Antonia's request for ghost stories (lots to read in the comments and links there too) and then her *favorite* story illustrated.

I don't believe in ghosts. Mostly. I have enough to worry about on the physical plane. But I don't mind a good ghost story from time to time.

Summer solstice

Is upon us. I can tell because of the long daylight hours and the end of the fiscal year rush at work. It's taking a certain amount of energy. But I do feel productive. Should be more peaceful in the coming weeks. Happy summer, all.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Questing

Spice quest

I read The Pioneer Woman Cooks for Ree's sassiness mostly. Oh and I'd love to win a Kitchen Aid mixer, but her 6000 plus responses make that a little unlikely. Her recipes can be heavy on the heavy ingredients. (Scroll down for her peanut butter Oreo pie, shudder.) But sometimes I'm inspired by the recipes that don't rely so much on heavy cream. She had a guest last week post his recipe for chicken tikka masala. Although his recipe *does* call for heavy cream, I've been smitten and I must make it now. Finally got to the reg'lar grocery store last night to purchase all the ingred. except for the spices. Ground coriander and garam masala were for some reason missing from this Kansas discount bag-it-yourself grocery store. And from the mainstream grocery store near my house.

So I had a little project. I went hunting on my lunch break today. The Asian food store (I will note it's proper name, the Oriental Super Store, but I'd prefer not to use it) yielded ground coriander and when I asked for garam masala, the clerk told me about an Indian store in a nearby gas station. And then he added that there was an Iranian food store farther west in town. So my knowledge has grown by leaps and by bounds today. I bet I could get sumac at the Iranian store if I wanted to make kuku. (Now I've gone to look up eggplant kuku and it doesn't actually call for sumac. It was a baked persian rice dish I was thinking of. Hm.)

Back to the matter at hand, I hied me to the gas station mart. There were many things on the shelves there but I couldn't find my grail. The clerk knew what sector the spice mix was in and soon I had half a pound of garam masala in hand. It's a pretty big bag, I'll have to find a jar to keep it in. Even if I make an effort to cook more Indian recipes I am doubtful I can use this all up. But better too much than too little. Quest complete! On with the chicken tikka assembling.

Soixante dix

My MIL is turning 70 next week. I imagine that's a big one to experience. It's a milestone for the rest of us too, trying to think of her in her 70s. She has done a very good job of taking care of herself financially and medically. Thank goodness since Nod and I are still flailing and her other son's family is in Wales. She deserves a big fancy something on her birthday. The girls are making some art for her. I've taken a super cute picture of the girls holding up "70" and am making a card. So it's homemade sincerity from us, but we'll make it as fancy as we can.

Coolth

June continues cool here, it's a little eerie. I am mostly enjoying it. And I do realize that if temps were more 'normal' I would be complaining about sweating and so on. Our A/C is fixed but mostly idle which pleases this utility bill payer. Katy's summer group went to the outdoor pool yesterday and shivered. They're going again tomorrow and I don't think that water's had time to warm up much.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mini mysteries entry

Now that I've finished it, Kingdom of Lies by Lee Wood, is still bugging me. The sex scene turned out to be better than the foreshadowing. But then we had an 'I can't trust you because you lied to me. And I have a past trauma. And I lied to you but I had a good reason' sequence that hacked me off. The cop protagonist getting beaten up scene was good. But the murder vic remained a weird cipher who had all these handy lurid qualities. A mixed performance, some of it handled well and some clumsily. With a better end than expected. Ho hum.

I'm going to try Nesbo's The Redbreast, translated from the Norwegian. I found a recommendation here when I was looking for reviews of Fred Vargas novels. Here is their review of my favorite Vargas novel so far, This Night's Foul Work.

There is a new Lindsey Davis book out and I've just checked and my library *has* received its copies! Alexandria another Marcus Didius Falco novel. An ancient roman detective novel doesn't sound very bright, but wait. The author's knowledge of roman history is deep and her world building is very strong. Add a great sense of humor, reliable stock characters and a brisk plot -- just my cup of tea.

Mm, mysteries.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Readreadread

Reading online

In my ideal imaginary world I read blogs and it feels like I’m visiting a floating virtual cocktail party. I flit from this one to that one, soaking up this particular writer’s voice or that blog’s eclectic food for thought. Too often though I find myself tearing through blog entries, until I’ve caught up with all my favorites and there’s nothing new to read. Less cocktail party than binge, I fear.

Looking for a new approach, I’ve been thinking about it from the perspective of the writer. My blog posts are usually hacky sack mode – written in one little bounce and then here’s a few more random bounces. Blog links, word play, child cuteness, family angst and some light politics are my usual ingredients. My things get dashed off, minimally edited and posted right away. Some bloggers bring more effort and polish to their entries. I can think of their posts as the equivalent of laying out a gift on a clean sunlit altar. (I initially wrote ‘offering’ instead of ‘gift’ but then that sounded too much like raw meat. Think fruit, flowers, a small piece of art, something picturesque.) But for some of us, blog posts feel more like snacks on paper plates. Or preschooler art maybe. I wonder where I was going with this. I guess I'm trying to figure out how to avoid the hangover of reading everything in a rush.

Reading paper

I’m in the middle of Kingdom of Lies by Lee Wood which is thoroughly mediocre but has me by the eyeballs. I can just barely stand to put it down. It’s a police procedural mystery set in Leeds and London with a subplot concerned with royal family history. The setting is well done and the protagonist police guy is pretty well sketched. But he’s too sympathetic, only rough enough around the edges to allow for the plot. And oh boy these characters don’t act very realistically. I’m looking forward to the unanticipated (by them) sex between the two main characters. Although the author could choose to let it remain unrequited and I’m sure she could make that just as cheesy as the sex scene I’m imagining. I’ll be sure to let you know. Anyhoo as soon as I get through that book I’ll be on to our book group selection: The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson. I reluctantly bought it new in hardback, last night at Borders. I had haunted the used bookstores in town but couldn’t find a used copy. And I left it too late to mail order one. Grumbledy grumble. I have confirmed that procrastination still sucks and still reduces my options! The book is about Joseph Priestly, scientist and priest and about early American history. This is my first non fiction book with the book group. Last month's discussion went quite well even though Notre Dame didn't get much of our love. I will report back.

Welcome

Husband and I will be confirmed in our Episcopal church on Sunday. I'm surprised that no one has talked to us about tithing or monetary gifts at all. There's a bit about it in a church brochure, but no hard sell at all. We're encouraged to find a service niche in the church. I am toying with food bank stuff but don't know if I have that time. We can bring supplies on Sundays at least. I am planning to be a choir-er once my coughing is quite gone. Maybe July will be a good low-stress time to start singing because sheesh, who goes to church in July? Then I'll be a little more in the groove when the fall semester starts and people get serious and go to church again.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Springy Hope

Glimmer
The bank has given us a loan modification and we are grateful. Our mortgage payment will be reduced by $600 down to around $1,400 per month. Still high for the property but so much better. Nod’s employment situation continues to dangle in the balance. (Dangle in the jungle?) He’s not sure whether he’ll make his quota of sales by the July deadline. If not he says he’ll take a warehouse job or something. Lexi will be done at the most excellent Montessori preschool after July so that’s another $500 per month off our expenses. Lord, even without a gainfully employed husband our finances are looking up.

Did I mention that our A/C is broken? In the event that we ever have enough regular income to have an emergency savings account I would like to put about $1,600 a year in there. My sense of our average Murphy’s Law unexpected expense is that it’s $800 every six months. But not every six months so we could build up a cushion there, maybe.

Julia and the Hour Before Dinner
I have pasted a very large piece of Julia’s latest post below. Luckily her original post is very long so I comfort myself that *percentagewise* I’m not ganking an excessive amount. She describes the daily routine for her family of five. FYI older brother Patrick is 6 or 7 y.o. and the twins Caroline and Edward are about 17 mos.

Right now we have a weekday routine in place. First everyone oversleeps and then there is a mad dash to get Patrick fed and dressed and lunchboxed and take-home foldered, while Caroline and Edward totter around all bleary and hungry and demanding their damned breakfasts. Eventually Steve and Patrick make it out the door ten minutes behind schedule and Caroline Edward and I say, well, thank heavens that's over. Then some of us eat french toast and some of us drink tea. Then we play. Errands maybe. A walk. Lunch. Nap. All very civilized and leisurely. Patrick gets dropped off around four and depending upon his mood he is either a thing of beauty and a joy forever or forty-seven inches of grievance. Either way I give him a snack. Then the afternoon free-falls into sixty/ninety minutes of oh-my-god-shut-up-all-of-you- I-cannot-believe-you-do-not-shut-up while all three children decide they are hungry and a little tired and bored maybe and each one needs to tell me about their problems in agonizing detail; generally at the exact moment I am trying to move a cast-iron skillet full of hot grease. Or just as dinner prep reaches a crisis point the random starfish bath toy that has been lying under the breakfast bar for three weeks becomes as hotly contested as the Rhineland, with Edward screaming for it and Caroline running with it and Patrick swooping in to confiscate it without any authority whatsoever. The little ones howl and Patrick talks talks talks me to death about how, technically, it used to be his starfish bath toy and since he never officially gave it to them it is still his, so, really, he has the right to blah blah and the whole time he is holding it above his head and Caroline and Edward are jumping for it and screaming.

God I hate the hour before dinner.

She has perfectly captured the sibling crescendo of angst that happens so often before dinner. I only have two kids but her description rings so true. What a gorgeous stream of consciousness writer she is.

Magic
Here’s something that’s magic: push ups. It only takes a few days to feel results from them. I’m only doing cheater pushups (from my knees) at present, but I can feel a difference in muscle tone. It’s not visible yet but I figure by the end of June I’ll be upper-arm-proud once more. The other exercise I’m doing that I’m in love with right now is relev├ęs. Good old basic ballet barre exercise, rising up onto my toes, balancing for a few seconds and then bringing my heels down to the floor gently. I'm doing them without support so it's great for balance, and I can feel it in the muscles from my feet to my shoulders.

I've made myself yawn with the report of my exercise routine, but I hope to keep it up. (The exercise, not the yawning.)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wonky and Far

Things are happening in my sinus cavities. I feel pressure, creaking and prickling. There are spaces up there for the first time in days. It reminds me of getting water up my nose when swimming or the opposite -- being overly dried out in the high altitude desert. I have never been in a diving bell but I imagine that this shifting pressure feels like going up and down in one.

I conclude that my summer cold is doing new things. Apparently this cold is not done with me. But the change in symptoms could be its death throes. I am dosing myself with Tylenol and Laffy Taffy. (I wanted Starburst but couldn't find any nearby.) My husband brought home elderberry concentrate to "boost my immune system." It's pretty tannic but okay when drowned in grape juice. I take a multivitamin and some extra Vitamin C. And that's all I can do so that's enough about that.

I put Katy on a plane to Albuquerque by herself on Saturday. I was flustered. I had trouble finding the right parking garage and then I forgot to check in at the gate. So there was some tense flurrying. But Katy was cool as a cuke and she did just fine. 7 is such a competent age. It sounds as though her grandmother is wearing them both out with fun activities. I miss her. I forget where she is and then I remember. The house is much quieter and I find myself listening for her. I will be very glad to pick her up on Saturday.