Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Are we fired up?! Are we ready for this week?! Bring it on! I want to hear about someone being extra psyched for their regular day. Ready to take on the world. In contrast, I am "a little hung" to quote Auntie Mame (thanks to Tom and Lorenzo of ProjectRungay for reminding me of that quote) after a full blown crying jag yesterday. It was followed by an afternoon nap and predictably that improved things mightily. No cheerleading in my brain, just a hankering for some.

I tried to do it all this weekend and ran into my wall. I tried to juggle kids and time and could not make it to an appointment to volunteer for church. It brought up all my disappointment and frustration. I don't want to be so feeble and limited. I want to be able to reach out and participate in the world. Not have to hide in my cave and recharge. As I was sobbing I realized that I was glad to have tried even with the failing. I suppose I will keep on trying. But I got to retire to my bed and hang out in frustrated-and-sad-dom for a while Sunday afternoon. 

Just read a funny 5 word summation of Twilight: "Virgin vampire nerds being boring". But this blogger also lists "iced tea" and several other things I like a lot as things he just doesn't understand. So be wary, people.

I have done with The Little Stranger and it wasn't my cup of tea. (The link is to an ambivalent review that about matches my reaction.) I didn't have any more nightmares. But I wasn't enjoying these characters all having a long terrible time of it so I skimmed the last half of the book. Skimming makes me feel guilty but I am glad to be done. I also feel a bit dim now that I've finished it. I expected that there would be an important pregnancy subplot to explain the title but I didn't see that at all. It was a very strong portrait of a landed family losing their lands / wealth / standing after WWII. Not to mention their minds and their lives. Would I have found it more entertaining if I was more interested in gothic lit or ghost stories in general? Qui sait. On to other things.

I think it's time for me to check the email list and see when our next neighborhood meeting is. And figure out what the birthday party of the weekend entails. Our weekends are so busy. My MIL reminded me that April and May are about as busy as November and December. It's time to gather! and celebrate! and spring clean! and --- leave me alone. I would like to get our bedroom whipped into shape. And I would like to take the girls to see How to Train Your Dragon. These are my lowly ambitions.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cake and Cake

Cake! Cream!
We've been eating strawberries since shortly before Easter. They haven't been great but they've been quite a bit better than no berries at all. After reading Sassy Radish's description and seeing that photo I decided I needed to make this Cake with Sherried Berries tout de suite.

I even bought cake flour to make it and I never do that. It turned out so well that I must recommend it to all bipeds. The cream you dress it with is whipped with mascarpone cheese. I hadn't ever worked with that ingredient before but I am a convert. This was butterfat brought to its highest expression. And the simple cake is a delightful manifestation of a stick of butter. All in all it is a transcendant Spring Dairy Fat occurrence sliced and assembled on the plate.

I ran out of sherry so only used half that's called for. I might try using triple sec next time. My cake fell a little in the middle. But I'm told that happens to every man now and again. The taste did not suffer. (I have been reading about sunken cakes and think I will follow baking911.com's creaming the butter and sugar suggestions next time I do this.)

There was lots of cream left over. Lexi wouldn't touch it but liked the cake and berries very well. I thought the cream would break down but it was very stable (that'd be the fat!) and lasted deliciously for four or five days. Wow, after writing about it, I'm almost ready to make it again. And then take it to a potluck. It was way too much cake (and cream!) for just us.

Further Cake
Last Saturday was Lexi's 6th birthday party which was a bit of a re-run of last year. Same location (rec center gymnastics room) same cake (BH&G devil's food). But Lexi did help me frost her cake this year (giant pink star! sprinkles!). And it was a new bunch of friends all from her kindergarten class. Those kids had a great time. They were totally sweet.

I pledge today to start next year's birthday party prep a month in advance so we can have cute invitations and timely mail delivery and so forth. As it was we pulled it out but I am tired of the last minute race. I will add it to my Outlook calendar now for both kids. I hope that good intentions plus calendar massage will get us started sooner next time.

Not Cake
Can't think of much interesting beyond the world of cake. Except the rain outside which is going to make my feet wet. A temporary inconvenience. Oh, and we're going to see if we can turn the old double stroller into a giant fish for this year's Art Tougeau parade in May. More deets to come if our plans come to fruition. It's not a dog cart (that's another post about the cart and the wonderful dog. Plus DIY plans if you're inspired to build your own!) but it still sounds like fun.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I may be too scaredy cat to keep reading The Little Stranger. I was so gung ho to start this book after loving Fingersmith. But last weekend I got to the first disturbing manifestation of something eerie in the crumbling mansion. And then I promptly had a nightmare about being harrassed by a ghost. I retreated and went with crossword puzzles and McCall Smith (In the Company of Cheerful Ladies) for a while. I think I will give it one more try before I decide to give up.

Contemplating volcanic ash and its flight canceling effects. Nod told me the story of a flight that experienced all four of its engines going dead after flying through such a cloud in 1982. It's quite a tale. The pilots were able to restart three of the engines after they had cooled and some of the ash had come off. But the windscreen was so badly pitted that they landed blind, with only partially working instruments. This landing was described by the captain as "a bit like negotiating one's way up a badger's arse". That was a British Airways flight if you couldn't tell. 

Going to a university production of Anything Goes this Friday. I know plenty of the songs but haven't ever seen the show before. They are promising a stage full of tap dancers, which did not frighten me off. I'm hoping for a slice of pure entertainment pie.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Nitty

Nod's been interviewing and exercising and generally being virtuously and productively busy during his "hiatus". We've both been pleasantly surprised that he's gotten several interviews. He's done two second interviews this week. I'm hoping he gets hired for the job here in town. I'm a little afraid he may get hired for the second position that is out toward KC. He's too worried about money to turn down anything. But it's managing a big call-center cube-farm and who the hell wants to do that?

I had been feeling like a cat with all my hair sticking up. But I'm relaxing as I settle in. The routine is coming along and I'm mostly getting enough sleep. It's nice being in the new place. The old place is showing signs of being unoccupied already: the pollen and petal-fall has piled up in corners in the yard. But I'm not feeling that it's such a raw wound. We have access until June, a long time. Time to retrieve the oddments, sell what we can and discard the things with our names on them.

At bottom, I'm worried that we're digging in our claws on a steep incline. We've found a place we can hang on for now. But any new bump will send us skittering further down the prosperity slope. I have a plan to feel a bit more leveled once Nod is employed again.

Oh but here's the part that I'm having trouble thinking about. Nod is looking at the jobs he is currently interviewing for as temporary gigs. He has decided that he should get a masters in Social Work and get a counseling license to start a new career as a counselor. He's done some informational interviews and has a program picked out (at Washburn in Topeka). I asked him whether we could live off of student loans or would need to look for a hovel. He claims that my income, plus a part time job for him plus students loans will keep us away from hoveldom. I wish I felt more enthusiastic about this. I agree that one of us needs more career leverage. But student debt and starting over are daunting me. I guess given the choice between Nod flailing in the sales environment and flailing in counseling I would pick counseling. There now I've rationalized it. And maybe he will whip that degree out and do his internship and pass his licensing exam and build his business and...  Where is the career vending machine?

I found Prince of Persia as a flash game. I used to play it on my very first Macintosh. Despite the nostalgia, it is still a solidly annoying game.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Merry Swirl

Thursday afternoon:  I have lots of swirling things to do in the next 36 hours. Lexi's birthday is on Saturday. Oh crap, we need a birthday present. I made some minimalist birthday party invitations at work today, Lexi can decorate them. Recycling from the old house. The rest of the linen closet. A few important things like the framed photos on the mantlepiece, bowls/pans in the kitchen. Oh, I have to transcribe the children's height measurements that are penciled on the wall in the kitchen. Unimportant but I still want them: wrapping paper, sheer curtains. Get caught up on laundry. Muffins for birthday snack at kindergarten. Go to grocery store, get muffin ingredients and fruit for snack too. Bake muffins tonight. Make spaghetti sauce. Frost muffins in the morning. Pack all up so Nod can take them to school.

Friday morning: Got the grocery run and muffins done last night. My low point was at about 10:20p last night when I was ready to pour the batter into the pan and realized that the muffin pans were still at the old house. So I left the batter on the counter and drove over and retrieved that last small pile of kitchen stuff (with a certain amount of cursing under my breath). But I got to bed just before 11:30 so that wasn't so bad. Got up early to frost the little buggers. They are very cute. Some of Lexi's invitations are done and on their way. Her party list is done. I've RSVP'd for the next wave of bday parties. I have a pendant to give her and just need a chain for it. Nod has some other presents squirreled away. We will proceed merrily into this springtime.

"and whatnot"
I have recently become aware that this phrase is being commonly used by people (young than I) when they are trailing off in speech, in place of "etcetera" or "and so on". I heard it from an attorney interviewed on NPR yesterday as well as in the speech of college students. Now that I've noticed it I find it odd because of the quaintness of the word  "whatnot". A few years ago I learned that a display cabinet can be called a "whatnot". I just googled the phrase and found a passel* of blogs that are called "XXXXXX and Whatnot" which just reinforces my impression that this is a very popular filler phrase. I will try to be charmed.

*and in the process I looked up 'passel' and was surprised to find that it's a variation of "parcel" (and of course means 'a significant quantity'). I had thought it was more exotic than that. In any case, a passel of something is about the same as a heap of it.

I've been invited back to the Moms and Daughters book club that we dropped out of last fall. They're reading Dahl's BFG for May. I think I'll give it a try. Maybe we can keep up. I'm touched that one of the moms asked us back. I had invited her to a theater event on campus. I'm trying to find some compatriots to go see Anything Goes at the university theatre in a couple of weeks. Nod doesn't like that song in particular (boggles my mind) and is generally not interested in musicals that are not Jesus Christ Superstar so I'm not twisting his arm.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Last Sunday was the big moving day. Furniture is all there. Nod found two young men and worked with them for six hours to get it all done. I took a few loads and ferried the children. And fretted and felt grief and shame and dislocation. There are random items in every room of the old house, clamoring to be picked up/thrown out. I would hate to have anyone see it. It is every fault I don't want to show. The new place feels like a nice vacation condo. I woke up with a sinus headache after the first night int he new place and felt distinctly hungover. But a mocha after lunch restored some of my faith in the future. Our neighbors/landlords are friendly and good at fixing things. Our next door neighbor offered to come keep me company at the old house while I shoveled. Very sweet.

Read some blog posts and several reviews of Burton's Alice. No, I'm not in a big hurry to see it. I enjoyed (mostly) his Sweeney Todd but it sent me back to the source material. From what I read, his Alice would do the same. I hear it's dark and a mishmash of the books plus (what sounds to me like an unsatisfying) meta-story. What would I do with Alice on film? Instead of Burton's darkness, use overexposed segues, washing out to white between scenes. Have all the encounters colored but not vividly and with white paper and black ink backgrounds. Even the forests, at least the edges. So inhabit and go beyond the Tenniel illustrations. Would I change the text? Would I cut? It seems so tempting to do a straight read through keeping everything. Mm retention, hoarding, treasure. But then again, how long does a straight reading take? Some scenes would be shorter or longer, some could be told without words. Story boarding the book(s), do I even know how to do that? What themes would I want to draw out? The intrigue and mystery of the dream world. And the practical exasperation of Alice at the nonsense when it goes too far. The melodrama of each character (Mad Hatter sorrowful or bossy or terrified and bootlicking).

Boingboing links to a very early advertisement for the wonders of electricity in the home. The boingboing curator imagines the ramifications of this change:
Finally, I love the last couple pages that allude to the real conflict between man and nature. Forget about simplifying housework. Centralized electricity changed energy production from a difficult, in-home process that kept the messy by-products of progress literally in your face, into something magical that happened when you threw a switch. The choking smoke was still there, but not at your house. There was still heavy labor involved, but it wasn't done by you or your children. For the first time, people were able to pretend that their standard of living was provided, free of downsides, by little elves that lived in the wall. All benefit, no detriment. Action without consequences. In other words, this is the point where everybody went a little bit bonkers.

Last Friday we took the kids and went to a free cultural event on campus, something I yearn to do more of in this town. We went to see the Tuvan musicians Alash Ensemble perform. Tuvan throat singing is folk singing that includes the exotic-to-us ability to sing two tones at once: a growly low drone and a high tone almost like bird song. So wonderful to be in the same room with that. It was packed and we were happy to have spots to sit on the floor. When I took Katy to the restroom later we got to see all the people who were standing all the way out the entrance hall to the exterior doors in order to hear the music. Lexi drooped towards the end but we stayed for everything but the Q&A afterwards. It was delightful music. Absolutely wonderful. I thought a lot about seeing Paul Pena and Kongar-ol Ondar in San Francisco ten years ago. I got to brag about it to someone at this show too ::smug::. This link is to "Ondar videos" including some with Kongar-ol Ondar in his big hat and some with Bady-Dorzhu Ondar as a child and also as an adult (he is in the Alash Ensemble) and maybe some other Ondars I haven't heard of yet. Are the Alash Ensemble coming to your town? Could be, they are heavy on the Nebraska dates on their event list.

Oh! Be sure and try to see Mercury during the next week, just after sundown. It is a rare opportunity to see it at all. It appears below bright venus after the sun gets out of the way. But only for the next week or so. Here's the info from Sky and Telescope.