Thursday, December 29, 2011

The grab bag approach continues

Here's a phrase that surfaces sometimes when I'm thinking about doing things I don't want to do or trying to move gracefully through the world: complete the gesture. If I washed a load of clothes and dried them and pulled them out on the floor in front of the drier -- I should probably fold them and put them away. I'll be happier when it's done and my floor is clear. Complete the gesture; get to the end of my original intention. I'll acknowledge that grace is not always achievable in this life and that sometimes the fucking laundry (thanks Weet) can just stay on the floor while I attend to other urgent matters. But my default setting is way-laid-back when it comes to housework and arranging my immediate surroundings. I need fortification when it comes to getting things shipshape.

We've kept the house fairly picked up for Christmas and my mother-in-law's stay. It could use another session of all four of us picking up everything we see on the floor in the living room. Maybe tonight! What can I use for bribes? Vacuuming hasn't become commonplace but there's hope for more often than quarterly.

Elaine was an enthusiastic guest as usual. She washed many dishes and listened to the kids explain lots of things. She gave me the book I'd asked for (Yay! Hats for cats!) and money and gave Nod an extravagantly expensive Columbia coat that he asked for. It's red and black and he looks just one red cross patch away from ski patrol when he puts it on. We ventured out to Cabela's the day after Christmas to find a hat for his extra large head. They had a few brimmed wool hats left and a few of those were extra large. He ended up with a good looking Pendleton crushable in black. I favor brown or olive but after all, the black goes with his new coat. Everyone and his dog was at Cabela's -- lots of returners and whole families wandering, some crying babies and toddlers. We peered at the giant catfish, looked briefly at the gun library (love that name), the girls fed the other kind of fish (sorry, I didn't inquire) and we got the hell out of there. It was the mall experience I didn't have before xmas. And that'll do thanks.

Coming into the airport parking garage somehow Elaine and I got to talking about past Republican presidents and the comparative speaking abilities of GBs I and II. We agreed that we didn't appreciate GB I's ability to string together coherent sentences until we met the next one. She suggested that the elder's honorable military service also made a refreshing contrast to every other president after him. I felt that that was leading us down a path we couldn't agree on and made a vague noise. Katy asked whether Reagan was a good president and I said It depends on who you ask, then I wondered if that would offend. I think Elaine said something about him having done good things for the country. And that was enough of that.

We had a fab turkey on xmas day. 11# is small for a turkey. I dry brined it (see the LATimes for instr) in two days and it cooked fairly quickly and was great. I'm going to try and remember to stick with small. We are still working on it but have made much progress. I asked Nod this morning if I could chop and freeze the remainder of the meat but he stayed my hand. Maybe turkey enchiladas...? I made the gravy later in the day after the feast. Nod doesn't care about gravy so there was no pressure from him. I love it but I find it a time consuming process that demands much attention and drives me bonkers if I try to do it after getting everything else ready. Now finished, it is delicious. Once it went into the fridge it geled because of all the gelatin from the roasted bird. I love to lather it onto the bread for my turkey sandwiches.

But actually I am now in the mood for lasagne and have decided to double my recipe and do two at a time, one meat and one veggie only. That way everyone in the fam is happy and there will be enough to freeze for later. And it's enough of a production that I'll be happy to get twice the finished product.

We sent a birthday card signed by lots of neighbors to Maria, the girl from Brazil who lived here for almost two years with her parents. She and Katy have been emailing a lot lately. One day she and Katy were online at the same time and so got to send short msgs back and forth for instant replies. K cried this morning when I was shooing her off the computer. Maybe you don't know what it's like to have a best friend who lives all the way in Brazil! she wailed. I guess not, at least not exactly. I decided to hold my tongue and be sympathetic. K is having some more pangs that look like adolescence lately.

Katy is also bored at school and I don't know what the best approach is. Language seems like a good target. She and some friends have been learning some ASL at Boys & Girls Club (college student teacher and deaf classmate are helping). Favorite sign: bacon. We're also going to check into some French classes that a schoomate is doing. We looked at one of my old elem. French textbooks but it doesn't look like the place to start.

On our drive back from the airport Katy said that she heard that several girls in her grade started their period this year and two started last year during third grade. I said that it could happen any time after 8 (! god that seems unlucky to have to deal with that mess from the age of 8) but that probably it would happen when they're around 12 since that's the age that I and their maternal grandmother started. I also said that I didn't know when Elaine had started her periods and I didn't really want to ask her. I think it's been a couple of years since I did the last session of body maturation/sex facts talk. Lexi had forgotten what a period was so we reviewed. She asked about the sex ed book I'd checked out from the library so we'll get that one again. Good to refresh and see what new questions come up.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


If it is raining in the evening and the temperature drops overnight, the rain can turn to snow. A thin layer of ice may cover your car making it hard, or even impossible to open the doors. That's what I thought had happened this morning. No amount of banging on the doors helped. So we scraped ice off the Subaru (I was able to get those doors open with thumping) and were just a little late to school / work. Since I took the Sub and couldn't open the Mazda I had no parking pass. Of course I had a parking ticket when I left at noon. And then I went home to see if the Mazda had thawed. It had. But I also noticed that I needed to UNLOCK it in order to get in. The fact that it's locked being another reason that car doors might not open. I will be paying a $25 stupidity ticket to the venal grasping Parking Office.

I was a cooking rockstar and made roasted chicken wings and thighs and a potato leek parmesan frittata last night. I mailed my mom's bday giftie pkg today. Such accomplishments. I'm twiddling thumbs at work waiting for the five bell to ring.

The kids and I have been watching some Glee. They like it. I do too but it is short attention span theatre and not very appropriate, to use that popular parenting word. I told Katy last night that I was taking it back to the library before her grandma arrives. I just don't want to watch that with Elaine.

There is a picture of some people dressed up as the 3 Magi for a living nativity in this post. As noted in the comments, the secret to good magi is always funny hats. To immediately contradict this rule, Katy won't have a very funny hat, she has a costume-crown-looking crown. But as she's the ittiest Wise Man she's funny enough without.

Do you have a glow? It's lovely and sunny today here for the shortest day. Happy Solstice to all. And around we go again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Late but not out

Minutiae. I haz it. This noon I went home with a to do list. I didn't get to the birthday present shopping for my mother that I wanted to do. These were the things that had to be done:
  • Gas in car (it was doing that almost stalling thing it does when the tank gets low. Nod says it's a pressure sensor that needs to be replaced. Keeping the tank above half full works too.)
  • Find phone (I forgot it this morning and hoped the school would not need to reach me for child crisis. I wasn't very worried because they do have my work number too. I found the bugger next to the tv where I had left it last night after watching Wallander*.)
  • Take pill (tetracycline for my acne, I do not need to miss any pills.)
  • Bedding in washer (Lexi and I are a symbiont pair as she doesn't wake up to take herself to the bathroom in the night. Sometimes we're in sync and the bed stays dry. Sometimes I sleep all the way through the night (decadence!) or don't wake up at the right time, and the bed gets wet. We're having a wet week so far.)
  • Email teachers (I needed to tell them that I will pick the kids up on Thurs afternoon instead of having them go to the after-school program.)
  • Pluck (my whiskers are asserting themselves)
I got it all done (except for the plucking, whiskers bring luck, don't they?) and ate my lunch. I'm rather proud of scrabbling my way up to minimum standards.

*I'm watching some of the Wallander episodes, Swedish police procedural mysteries. Starring a grumpy rumpled Branaugh. The sort of thing I like to read. I'm not liking the dramatization as much as I expected to. Nothing wrong with it except for some predictability. I may abandon in midstream.

Gifties. Here's what I've got.
Nod: a box of 100 bits. M&Ms for stocking. I will give him an empty box to represent the hat we'll look for after xmas.
Need to get: nothing although I may get him the glow-in-the-dark frisbee he asked for

Katy:  green converse sneakers, black leggings, From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, little rainbow sketch book and star candies for stocking, calendar to share with her sister, goofy panda hat (she picked out the last two).
Need to get: pair of earrings, silver chain if I can find one for not much, stocking toy?

Lexi: Fairy book, little rainbow sketch book and star candies for stocking, Littlest Pet Shop thingie (that she picked out)
Need to get: something cute!, silver chain if I can find one for not much, stocking toy?

Elaine: gloves, empty hat box like Nod.
Need to get: pie plate (she asked for this)? Or?

Georgia, for birthday on the 28th: card, produce bag with asparagus on it, recommendation for Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, CD of our neighbor's sweet music.
Need to get: another asparagus thingie? magnet? it needs to happen tonight so I can box it and then mail tomorrow.

Need to do in order of direness:  Georgia, Lexi, Elaine, Katy, Nod.

I really should start sooner next year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Food and Music

Braised cabbage by the braising expert Molly Stevens, thank you! When I announced my intention to braise cabbage, my husband made a face and asked whether this would stink up our house for the day. I said that he was free to leave if it did. But the dish cooks for two hours covered in the oven to start. Then goes under the broiler for the last bit when it's already mellow. So no stink at all and it was so good I had a hard time sharing.

I'd like to make ginger snaps. I've intended to all week long but there hasn't been a lot of extra time/energy. I can't quite get all the way to gingerbread people although my kids are ready to make some. Maybe next week.

"Oh my God! What is wrong with that apple!" Katy's heartfelt response to Lexi's apple pomander that she brought home recently. It is not a lovely object, studded with black cloves and sort of dented. I thought pomanders were made with oranges (that keep longer than apples). But it does smell good. We may re-purpose it to make cider soon.

I found a bird carcase in the freezer and made broth a week ago. Its size and perfume told me that it was last year's T'giving turkey. Thrifty! At least it got used in the end. The broth boiled quite vigorously and turned out cloudy so I'm not expecting anything great. JOC tells me (I consulted it after the fact, boo hiss) that the secret to lovely clear broth is keeping the heat down to a simmer. Okay, next time (scuffs toe). I'm hoping that sitting in the fridge has allowed some stuff to settle out anyway. I will use it to make this. More cabbage. It's a soup from Scotland but the cabbage theme makes me feel that the older I get the more eastern european I become.

Katy's 4th and 5th grade music program was last night. After last spring's waste of everyone's time I was a bit apprehensive. But I knew that Katy was accompanying one song on piano and that she'd worked very hard to get ready. The music teacher is new this year, a cute young person who plays flute in a rock band and has an easier time getting the kids' attention. (Honestly the retiring music teacher last year looked like she had one foot in the grave, poor woman.) And I was bowled over. It was delightful. The kids were tuned in and enjoyed the music -- almost everybody on almost every song. Katy had one performance under her belt because they sang for the school that afternoon. "I didn't make any mistakes," she bragged. "I felt hot and then I shivered before we started," she told me. We talked a little bit about adrenaline. You lived through it! I said. And she did great in the evening. The music teacher got choked up at the end and told the audience, You have the *best* kids! and she implored us to keep them involved in music. Aw. The electric bass soloist on Clapton's "If I Could", Olive, sort of stole the show for me. Aside from being terribly proud of Katy. I guess I'm allowed to leak a few tears at this sort of parent bait. I'm just a big squishy mom after all.

Neither food nor music: the war in Iraq is over. I heard that. Mostly I keep reading people who talk about knowing it was a bad idea to begin with. For me I had much more mixed emotions and opinions. I'm not proud of it but I wanted the USA to punish someone for 9-11. It was a common attitude that explains much of what happened. What I am glad about is that the US national mood does not seem so belligerent now. I'm sure there's plenty of ugliness in the storeroom should we need it. But we do seem to have worked that out of our system. Would it have been better to... Who are you kidding? There are no do overs. The decisions got made for good or ill. Here's to an abundance of caution when it comes to military action overseas. Did you know that the US Embassy in Bagdad is enormous and seems to be full of FBI and CIA operatives? I learned that today. Provocative and possibly unwise...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Itty bits

My tongue hurts. I have an inflamed tastebud. I don't know if it's caused by the same viral or bacterial thing that happens with mouth ulcers. The pain is similar. This one is in the middle of my tonge, just to the right of the midline. I don't feel it all the time. And yet I'm writing about it. Begone tiny ailment!

Our christmas tree is perfect. I catch my breath when I come down the stairs and see it lit up. I am really liking the idea of the tree as the sacrifice to the holiday this year. I'm over any scruples as to killing a tree for my pleasure. It is after all a beautiful, compostable, symbolic object. So much family history is on it, as well as shiny stuff.

Katy's music program at school is this Thursday. She is accompanying the singers on piano. I don't think she really has control of the piece but she's worked something up and I think it'll be good. She has been practicing regularly, and not freaking out much. I hope that part is a formative experience.

I'm two thirds of the way through Soon I Will Be Invincible. I like it quite a bit but keep expecting it to be shorter. The comic book motif just has me in the mood for a quickie read I guess. I greatly admire the layers and layers of hero/villain convention. The Nancy Mitford twofer of The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate was sweet. I may buy some of her other novels to keep in reserve, just in case I need something fluffy and British and vintage.

Next Monday is the 19th so that gets my attention and I am doing a little bit of holiday sweating. I am sending some cards, the family photo turned out fine. I am trying to find something for my mother and my mother in law. I just found a cute bag printed with asparagus on etsy. That may be it for G.

Such quotidian smallness. That's what I've got right now. And I'll take it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Into the cave

On Sunday I found myself unwilling to leave my house even though I wasn't doing anything very interesting at home. It took my youngest daughter's personal invitation to come join in Christmas tree trimming to get me up and out. (Nod was the one who sent her, he knows I like that sort of thing.) I was glad I went. When I came home I finished cooking for potluck and then I poured myself a very deliberate glass of wine to help with the socializing. Later I realized that I have a touch of the blues. I'm having circular thoughts about fading away, becoming a nonentity who no one will ever want to converse with again. Just typing that makes me get on that mental train again. But even if I am sleep inducingly boring at times I am still a human and I am still full of possibilities. Watch out! Seasonal and hormonal fluctuations be damned. I'm going to get my short sword and light the lantern and let's get on the way down this winter passage. No way out but through.

I've been tearing through Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate which I have together in one handy volume from the library. I am enjoying myself and reading bits about Uncle Matthew out to Nod who has listened patiently. The narrator thinks one should not raise children without a nanny. She observes that progressive don's wives who do so slowly become morons and their children look like slum children and behave abominably. There's plenty of distance between these (fictional) landed English weirdos and the rest of us.

We're going to get a Christmas tree, the one in the Common House is not enough. I have a new notion of where to put it. So I need to shift the tv stand and take all the VHS tapes down to the basement tonight. Maybe I can get  the living room vacuumed although after 8 weeks of not I'll be more surprised if I do. We did make some noticeable progress with the basement over the weekend. And Katy thinks we should rearrange the dishes and glasses so the kids can reach them. She's right. They can unload the dishwasher if we do so. It could even be fun. It is good to feel in charge of the objects around one rather than at their mercy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Red Rocks

We did it! Drove to Denver and back and got a good visit in the middle all in slightly over four days. It was a good proof that we can do such things. Maybe Wry will come out and bring his boys some time to visit us.

It's been almost a week since we've been back and the short days and holiday amp up have kicked my butt. But I'm getting through my Friday and I've started my period and onward!

We had a great time seeing wildlife on this trip. A friend who lives on the west side of Denver showed us the prairie dog towns at the edges of her burb. The critters were fat and active and those dusty fields were such busy places. The most populous fields were the grounds of the federal prison. No trees, good sight lines and black tailed prairie dogs are federally protected. A marriage made in heaven. As we were driving back and stopped at a light Katy sang out -- "aren't those bald eagles?" And damn! there were two eagles on the ground to our left, about 40 yards away. One was busily eating what we assume to be a prairie dog. Circle of life!

We saw deer and antelope. The pronghorns were a first for Nod, he was delighted. They were browsing in a stubbly field in the morning as we headed west out of Denver. I have seen them often in Colo, Utah in rockier country.

Allison took us to a great hiking trail. We made it up to the top of a ridge which allowed the kids plenty of rock climbing (both of them were almost baying with their desire to climb ) and left us still alive. I smelled a beautiful pine tree and it was vanilla ponderosa flavor. Mmmm. We were pooped after the high alt hiking. Drove over to Red Rocks Ampitheater since it was right there. I've heard about that place since high school when Angie Lee went to see U2 there. Still jealous. She was lucky to have a big brother, I'll bet that's why she got to go. The photo above is the southern view of the big stripey rocks. Thank you to the photographer I ganked it from. It is a gorgeous place. The sun was starting down and the kids were whiny so we just peeked over to see the seats and stage before scramming. I'm glad I saw it. And really I'm glad to have seen it without 20000 other humans to wade through.

The T'giving meal was great. My bro and his companion Jennifer toiled hard to bring the traditional meal to table. I miscalculated and had a little of all four desserts. I know now that I should have saved dessert for breakfast. As it was I felt a bit like an anaconda trying to digest a small goat. We had beautiful weather, got to get outside every day. Wry is doing okay and has his shared parenting routine and the boys seem well. We played a very retro board game: Payday. It has fabulous mid-seventies graphics. Wry said it's too much like real life (you get bills all the time and try to make it to Payday! every month) but the kids liked it. There was a lot of staring at skateboarding games.

Stay well and keep lighting candles. Then don't forget to blow them out. I'm starting to think that I need to set a timer every time I light candles. Realizing that I've walked away from them again! gives me the willies.