Thursday, November 30, 2006

Gently Bucking Tradition

My husband's family has a holiday tradition of serving plum pudding at every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

Before I met Husband, I had never experienced a plum pudding beyond the pages of a Dicken's novel. His family's tradition holds that, after a holiday dinner, the dark, dense-looking mass is brought out on a plate, doused in something very alcoholic - usually V.S.O.P - and set on fire.

Seriously. They light the flippin' thing on fire.

Being ignorant of the stuff, and eager to make a good impression on the family of this guy I was crazy about, I eagerly accepted a plate of the dessert when it was offered to me at my first attendance at a holiday dinner. I then proceeded to scoop on a huge blop of what I thought was slightly over-whipped whipped cream, and dug in.

You know that feeling when you go to eat or drink something, and you think it's one thing, but it turns out to be something else? That happened to me once at my grandparents' house - I came upon a lovely, tall glass of something that looked all the world like chocolate milk that turned out to be iced coffee. BLECH! Well, that's what happened when the plum pudding hit my tongue.

Let me point out here that there aren't actual PLUMS in plum pudding, and the assumption that this dessert would be something sweet and fruity was my first mistake. It's really a bread pudding made with raisins and currants, orange marmalade, a bunch of spices, and a good slosh of bourbon (Julia Child made this recipe famous in Husband's family, if that tells you anything). The whole thing is put into a bowl and steamed for however long it takes to congeal into a solid mass. Then, like I said, more booze gets poured over and the whole thing is set alight. Sometimes, more than once in a sitting. Seriously.

Oh, and that stuff that looked like whipped cream? Hard sauce, which is, essentially, butter, confectioner's sugar and....wait for it....more alcohol! About as unlike whipped cream as something can be.

Not being a big fan of spice cakes in general, and expecting something fruity and, well, pudding-like, I found that my first shocking experience with plum pudding was enough to ruin it for me forever. Though it IS fun to watch them do their pyrotechnics at the dinner table.

ANYWAY! Husband and I are hosting Christmas dinner at our house this year, and we're taking advantage of that fact to sort of nudge the plum pudding off the table in favor of something a little less....harsh. We'd first thought we'd do the whole yule log thing, but then I stumbled across a couple of recipes for chocolate steamed pudding. CHOCOLATE! Now THERE'S something we can get behind! Hell, we could even douse it in Grand Marnier and set the thing on fire, if it comes down to that!

I made this tonight, a recipe from Martha Stewart, as a sort of test-run to see if it satisfied the requirements of a good plum pudding replacement. It LOOKED good, and it TASTED good, but I'm not quite sure it's "it." It's a little too airy and light (yes, despite how it looks like a solid chunk of chocolate, it's actually quite fluffy inside), and I'm not sure it's dense enough to not soak up whatever we're pouring over as accelerant. I've got a couple more recipes to try - including one that's a steamed chocolate bread pudding, which I suspect will be best in the texture department.

When I find a winner recipe*, I'll share.

(*if you have a winner recipe, point me to it, please!)

You'd Better Watch Out!!

A post in which I come off smug and holier-than-thou....

So, here's the scene:

I'm standing in line at a local mega-mart, returning some things I bought this morning after taking them home and realizing that they were either defective or outright broken. Next to the return counter is a branch of a local bank, and a mom is standing in line waiting for the next teller. Her son, a lad of about five or so, is crying. Loudly. About something he wanted but didn't have (I couldn't figure out what, exactly, he wanted: my Mommy-filter has long since been turned off to such communication as that).

This, in itself, is not blog-worthy. Kids cry when they don't get what they want. Mine did it, and I'm betting, if you have (or had, or will have) kids, yours do (or did, or will), too.

No, what I'm writing about here is how the mom chose to deal with this particular fit. After a few attempts at getting her child to quiet down, she pulled out this little gem:

"I'm telling Santa!"

Now, Ms. Cornelius just wrote an insightful piece about parenting and her experiences, as a teacher, with all sorts of different ways in which people go about raising their children, and I've got to add this bit to hers.

Did this mom stop to think, for a second, that she's putting more power in the hands of an imaginary being than she herself has as a living, breathing MOTHER?! Has she no other means of putting a stop to this kind of behavior and, if not, what does she use as a threat during the off-season? Seriously, what did the mom think this is going to get her? Because I can tell you what it DID get her - a kid who, horrified that he was going to get ratted out to the guy in the fuzzy red suit, only refocused his screaming from wanting something to NOT wanting something.

Sometimes I think that parents get from their kids exactly what they deserve.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Other People's Stuff

I spent this morning with Organic Mama, helping her begin work on sorting through the enormity that is her study/office.

I had made the offer to help her with this several times before, but she was never quite ready to take me up on it. Last week, she’d finally worked up enough gumption to square her shoulders and plow in, and I’m happy to say that we made some significant headway in the process this afternoon.

Her office had deteriorated to the point where she simply didn't know where to begin and I, recognizing her plight because I've been there oh-so-many times myself, assured her that it's MUCH easier to tackle an enormous task with a trusted girlfriend by your side. Having an emotional distance from both the chaos and the actual items that comprise it, an outsider is far more able to look at things with a critical eye, and far less likely to keep things that will only kick around until the next purge / reorganize cycle. Trusting that outsider when she says “seriously, do you NEED this three year old copy of the LL Bean catalogue?!” makes it that much easier to let go of all the familiar crap that makes you crazy, but that you can’t seem to throw away. I know this because WeedWoman helped me purge my wardrobe a year or so ago, and I ended up with three bags full of donatable clothes. I haven’t missed a single item, and felt so much better when it was all over.

There is a certain attitude that one has to take when dealing with rooms or drawers or closets or any spaces, really, that have taken on a life of their own. I learned this from my beloved mom, who approaches seemingly Herculean tasks with a matter-of-factness that I admire. She's practically brutal in her attack once she sets her mind to it, and it's from her that I developed my ability to divide, process and conquer even the most overwhelming of closets:

Pull everything out.

Separate into: “need and use all the time,”
“need, but use only occasionally,”
“never need, but love for whatever reason (sentimental, ornamental, etc.),”
“never need and don’t particularly love,”
and “oh, Dear God, WHY do I still have THIS?!”

Put each category into its proper place - the first three groups get cleaned, reorganized and put away, items in the second two groups are either chucked or set aside to give away.

There are a few places where I need to do some serious purging and reorganization - my basement and my linen closet being the two most urgent. Mom was the last person to tackle my linen closet - she managed to reorder the entire frightening mess while baby sitting Punkin’ Pie many years ago - and I’m proud and a little stunned that it’s taken this long to get back to a point where I’m afraid to open the door anymore. It’s reached that point, though, and I’m just realizing that denial is no longer a viable strategy for dealing with it. Organic Mama has offered to reciprocate and come by to help me.

I'm totally taking her up on it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Mall Decorations Went Up in October...

I'm still not quite into holiday mode.

I mean, sure, I'm thinking about the holidays; planning menus (at least, in a preliminary sense), thinking about what gifts to get for which loved ones, making sure I know where the holiday movies and music are, but I haven't kicked into full-blown holiday posture just yet.

I know people who see the day after Thanksgiving as the gateway to Christmas-land. The tree goes up on the third Friday of November; the Christmas carols CD gets popped into the car stereo (my sister does that one), and all the holiday sweatshirts with the santas and stockings and festive snowmen are worn with abandon (my grandmother and mother-in-law do THAT one).

Me? I'm not a "rush headlong into the holidays" kind of gal. I'm not a scrooge, by any sense of the word, but I'm not all that eager to rush to - or through - the holidays. I sort of approach it the way I do good, expensive chocolate. Take a tiny nibble off the corner and savor it.

I went into the basement the other day and brought up the poinsettia spray that I hung on the front door, replacing the autumn leaf wreath that's been there since school started. That's enough, for now. The Chili family will go a tree-huntin' sometime around the second weekend in December, and that's when it will really start to feel like Christmas to me. We get an ENORMOUS tree every year (we can, thanks to the high ceilings in the great room). It's right around that time that I'll agree to play the movies and the music that go along with the holiday, and I stop rolling my eyes at everyone ELSE'S decorations that have been up for almost a month already.

Everyone has their own way of approaching this time of year, and I certainly don't begrudge someone else's enthusiasm for the holidays, I just prefer to take mine slowly, and to enjoy it a lot for a short time, rather than a little for a long time...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Trying To Take My Mind Off the Water Bottle...

We took our girls - ages 7 and 9 - to see Happy Feet last Wednesday. Later, we asked them which was their favorite part.

Get this answer from the seven year old:

"I liked the part where Mumble went off on his own. Even though all his people - well, his birds...well, whatever - even though no one wanted him to go, he said "I don't care. I need to do this, and I'm going to do this." I like that he did what he thought he had to do even when no one thought he should do it."

Seriously. This kid blows my mind on a regular basis. I'd love to take parenting credit here, but I really don't think I deserve it; she came to us this way.

If You're Not Outraged...

This has rendered me nearly speechless. How would one go about finding - and punishing - the people responsible for this?

Truly, I cannot begin to adequately express how visceral my reaction to this is. I am ashamed, yet again, to be an American.

And we wonder why the world hates us....

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thinking Ahead

I'm always moved by stories of people who put things aside for children. Not long ago, I heard a story on NPR about a mom who had written letters to her daughter at fairly regular intervals through her childhood. The mom died when the daughter was about 11, and the dad presented the letters to the girl when she graduated college. I was weeping in the car.

I haven't done anything like that, and I've been trying, long before I heard the Public Radio story, to figure out a way to honor the spirit of the idea without stealing someone else's technique. I think I've come up with something that will be meaningful to my children not only because of what it is in the "big picture" sense, but also because of what it's actually comprised of.

I love to cook. I sometimes joke that there are only three things that I'm reliably good at - I am a true and loyal friend, I am a fantastic mother, and I kick ass in the kitchen. My idea of the heirloom keepsake for my girls incorporates all three of these things, I think.

My plan is to ask people who are important to my daughters - aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins, family friends and family-related-by-love - to write their favorite recipes. I want the recipes in the handwriting of the people submitting them - that part is important - and I will scan them and have them made into cookbooks for the girls. I love getting recipes from people who love me; the connection I'm able to make not only to the process of cooking, but also to the end product, seems to always leave me feeling warm and well-loved. My hope is that these books will not only offer the girls a good foundation of culinary knowledge, but will connect them to those who love them in a very real and tangible way.

I'm not sure when I'll give the books to them - I suppose a lot will depend on when I actually finish collecting recipes - but I'm thinking they will be given to mark a momentous event; a graduation, a first apartment, a wedding, something like that. I began the process this afternoon by asking my grandmother, who's currently undergoing chemotherapy, to write out some of her favorite recipes. I got a lot of my kitchen standards from her, and I want to keep that connection strong in my daughters.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Someone explain to me, please, how, exactly, we're helping? How our being there is promoting freedom or liberty or anything other than grief and anger and hopelessness? So far, no one has been able to convince me that this is a moral, just, or even politically advantageous thing for us to be doing, and the more I hear about how things are panning out, the more angry, frustrated, and sorrowful I become. I'm pouring good energy into the Universe as fast as I can, but it doesn't seem to be making much of a difference....

**author's note: while doing research for tomorrow's blog entry, I came across this quote from Wicked by Gregory Maguire (page 204 in the paperback edition, if you're interested) that says what I'm trying to say better than I can say it:

"The wickedness of men is that their power breeds stupidity and violence."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Good News / Bad News

The GOOD news is that yesterday went exceedingly well. There were no obvious tensions (helped in part by the fact that the downstairs television sets were never once turned on, much to the football lovers' disappointment), the food was excellent, and everyone was in good spirits. It was the first holiday in recent memory that went off so well, and that in itself is something to be thankful for.

The BAD news is that this essentially means I've got no funny stories to tell you.

Today is going to be spent industriously avoiding retail establishments of any kind despite what I will expect to be some pretty enthusiastic efforts on Wayfarer's part to exhort me to join him at the mall to help him pick out new eyeglasses. I may do some online shopping - one doesn't have to fight for parking spots or deal with rude people at The girls and I will also be engaged in a thorough and complete clean/purge of the their room, and we'll spend the rest of the day generally goofing off at home.

Oh, and Auntie L sent us home with enough turkey to make some really decent day-after-Thanksgiving sandwiches. Guess what's for lunch...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Thanksgiving Story

I’ve been attending holidays with my husband’s family for about 15 years now. Up until this year, when Christmas will be at our place, my mother-in-law (MIL) has traded holidays back and forth with her sister-in-law (Auntie L); if one had Christmas one year, the other did Thanksgiving, and then they’d switch the following year.

In the year of which I write, Auntie L had Thanksgiving duty. Now, one of the things you need to understand about my parents-in-law is that they are very keen on formality. They like to have things be proper and respectable and, for them, that means something slightly below high tea with the queen.

As an integral part of this need for nicety, both of my in-laws have a pretty deep-seated disdain for television, particularly when there’s company around. What you should also understand is that my MIL’s brother, Uncle T, does NOT share this particular trait. As a matter of fact, it is true that there is a television in very nearly every room of his house. It is also true that Uncle T and his grown son love football (which makes me love them that much more!). Keep these things in mind as I tell you my story.

My father-in-law has a lovely tradition of putting little kernels of dried corn on everyone’s empty plate just before Thanksgiving dinner. We all stand behind our chairs while he talks of the very first Thanksgiving, of the struggles faced by the first settlers, and of how remarkably fortunate we are to have all of the wonders we enjoy. It’s a lovely tradition, and it chokes me up every time.

Well, this year, there was a particularly good football game going on just as dinner was about to be served. I was in the living room with the men, enjoying the game, when I heard the call to gather in the dining room. Dad went around and sprinkled the corn on everyone’s plate and Auntie L, her daughter Cousin A, MIL, FIL and I stood behind our chairs and waited for the men (my husband, his twin, Cousin C, and Uncle T) to come in to eat.

When it became obvious that the men had missed the call (yeah, right, they missed the call...), I went in to round them up. They were hanging on the proverbial edges of the seats - they knew they had to come in, but the game was this close to being over and it was a good, tight game. When I returned to the dining room (without the men), I found my FIL sweeping all the corn back into the bag and muttering under his breath. MIL had a stern look of disapproval on her face, turned to her husband, and assured him that “Christmas is at OUR house this year.”

It was a very tense Thanksgiving dinner.

Fast forward a month. The Uncle T family was expected at MIL’s place around noon or so, and Husband, Twin and I arrived early so that we could help with dinner preparations. One of the first things I noticed as I put gifts under the tree is that the television had been physically removed from the living room. It was gone! They’d taken it off of its table and hidden it. Seriously.

But that’s not the funny part.

Uncle T and the gang arrive, and the present-opening commences. Auntie L saved Uncle T’s “big” present for last. Three guesses what it was.

Yep. A portable television set. I kid you not. Uncle T spent the better part of half an hour tuning it to see what he could get from his sister’s living room. Luckily for all involved, he could only pull in the local PBS station - his reception was not strong enough to pick up the Christmas day football game, though it wasn’t for lack of trying.

I had all I could do to not choke on my eggnog.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What I'm Bringing

We're celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow at Husband's aunt and uncle's house in the next state over. I actually like having holidays there - well, I like having THANKSGIVING there; Auntie L is an excellent cook and Uncle T and his grown son love football. Of course, this annoys his sister, my MIL, to no end, but we're learning to live around that. Check back tomorrow for a funny story about Thanksgiving and t.v.

In today's installment, I'm going to share a recipe that my mom gave to me several Thanksgivings ago. I’ve modified it a bit, and she modified it before she gave it to me, and it’s truly one of the yummiest things on our Thanksgiving table. It is deceivingly simple in its preparation; don't let the "easy" fool you - this is some serious culinary mojo:

In a large saucepan, melt a stick of butter, then pour in about a cup or so of bread crumbs (store bought actually works best in this application). Stir them around over medium heat until they’re nice and toasty, then dump them out into a plate for later use.

Return the pan to the heat and melt another stick of butter (hey, I said there was mojo. Real mojo requires butter, and lots of it!), then toss in three or four chopped onions. Allow them to swim around in the butter and cook to a lovely, sublime softness - no browning, or you’ll wreck it! Once you’ve reached the magic translucent state, sprinkle over a half a cup or so of flour and cook that until it’s darkened a bit and smells slightly nutty - again, no browning!

Once the flour is cooked, slowly whisk in two cups of your choice of whole milk, half-and-half, heavy cream or a combination of these (two cups total if you’re combining. I do a cup each of milk and half-and-half; Mom goes all out with the heavy cream). Work that around until it begins to thicken, then pour the whole of it into a casserole dish, cover with the toasty crumbs, and pop it into a 350° oven until it bubbles - about 20 minutes or so.

You can make the whole thing ahead of time, too; just let it all cool, cover with foil and stash it in the fridge. You’ll have to add some to the oven time, and you may want to consider leaving the crumbs off until just before you reheat it, in case you need to add more milk/half/cream to the party.

I hope you all have a wonderful, safe, satisfying Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gay Marriage

I watched the second half of the Nevada Day episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip last night.

Yes, I know, that was the episode from last week. I have TiVo, I can bend time.

Anyway, one of the threads of the storyline was that one of the characters, Harriet, played by Sarah Paulson, is an evangelical christian, and was asked in an interview how she felt about gay marriage. Her answer was:

I said, “The Bible says it’s a sin.” I also said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” and that it was something for smarter people than me to decide.

She's been on the receiving end of some fallout about that comment, ironically from both sides of the issue. She was confronted by some gay men outside of a restaurant that resulted in an assault charge for one of the characters, and she was un-invited to a christian event because the organizers don't believe that she made a strong enough statement against gay marriage.

What I'm writing this post about, though, is how the writers chose to handle the issue through one of the other characters. Matt, played by Matthew Perry, is the head writer of Studio 60 and used to be in a relationship with Harriet. Though they've broken up, it's obvious that they're not over each other yet. The big problem is that neither of them can understand why the other thinks or acts the way they do.

Matt's been choking on this whole issue and is trying to reconcile the fact that Harriet really believes the things she's saying. Early in the episode, they have a conversation in Matt's office that goes like this:

You honestly think I’m a homophobe?

Harriet, I really can’t –

You honestly think –

Yes, yes, I do, and you know why? ‘Cause you are. Now go to work.

I said the Bible says it –

Yeah, yeah.

Don’t “yeah, yeah” me! And it seems to me every Democrat on a ballot answers the same question by talking about civil unions and leaving it up to the states and not wanting to –

I don’t need any reminding that my party is full to brimming of panderers and mediocrity.

What’s wrong with civil unions? And why shouldn’t we –

‘Cause there’s no way to the end of that sentence without saying that homosexual love is something less than heterosexual love, and watching you fall over it makes me want to hit you over the head with Liberace!

Later on, he confronts her again, this time asking:

But let me ask you something, how is my marriage, your marriage, or anyone’s marriage even marginally affected by the gay couple two doors down also getting married? And if it is, how does that become their problem?

I've been asking this question for decades. Not just since the neo-conservatives have made it into a political issue, but ever since I was a little girl and wondered why it was that my uncles couldn't get married. Banning homosexual marriage didn't make sense to me then, and it doesn't make sense to me now.

I've been listening to the "other" side explain their concerns, and I've got to tell you that none of them has come close to convincing me of the grave threat that gay marriage poses to marriage in general and American society in particular. Really, most of what I've heard on the opposing side of the gay marriage issue has been utterly ludicrous; I remember once, a man called in to the Diane Rhem show to voice his concerns. Essentially, his message was that if we let "the gays" marry, pretty soon people will want to marry their sisters or aunts or brothers, their dogs, their toasters! It will bring about the apocalypse!

Love is love, regardless of what form it takes. Marriage is hard, glorious, soul-fulfilling work, and every successful marriage is a bright spot in the Universe. I say, let there be more light.

Monday, November 20, 2006

They Say You Can't Touch Your Nose With Your Elbow...

...and I'm here to tell you that it's damned hard to take a picture of your own elbow, too.

I'm scheduled for a doctor's appointment this afternoon so that he can have a look at some weird bumpy things I've got on both my elbows and two of my toes (that's why I was trying to take elbow pictures, by the way).

They showed up a few months ago and I didn't really think anything of them at the time. If I'm remembering correctly, I've had them once before - they showed up for a while, then disappeared without any intervention from me. They're back now, though, and have been around for a while. They're not gross or oozy or crusty and they don't itch or hurt; they're just little raised clusters on both of my elbows, and I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea to have them looked at (asshole).

I'm betting that the doctor won't know what they are (that's the cynic in me talking), but I'll feel better knowing what they're NOT. If the guy looks at me and gasps, then tells me I've got two weeks to live, then, well, at least I'll have made it through NaBloPoMo...

UPDATED! It's not elbow cancer after all! It's eczema - or, at least, that's what the doctor thinks it is. I've got a 'scrip for hydrocortizone and instructions to come back in six weeks if it's not changed for the better.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I Miss Him

Johnny Grier was my favorite NFL official.

He became the league's first black referee in 1988 and officiated games until his retirement after an injury during a game in 2004. It seems he's now working as an officiating supervisor for the NFL.*

I can't really tell you why I liked him so much, but there is something about this man that radiated confidence and fairness to me. He always seemed like he loved his job; whenever the camera caught him, he'd be hunched over, leaning on his knees, paying very close attention to the game. I saw him talk players off of ledges and save themselves from penalties. I saw him laugh on the field. Grier seemed like the kind of guy who was thrilled to do what he did and never took it for granted.

I'm sorry that he's no longer in front of the camera. While there are a lot of fine, fair, and articulate referees on the field right now, none of them makes me smile the way Johnny did.

* Author's note: I'm disappointed by the lack of information I was able to find on the internet about Grier - there was nothing (that I could find) on or or any other source that I consider reputable. Actually, what I was able to find came from Wikipedia. I distrust Wiki, and I need to make the disclaimer that I can't vouch for the veracity of the information I'm giving you here. I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Taking Stock

If I'm figuring correctly (and you all know, given my mathematical skills, this is a questionable presumption), here's what I'll need to procure before Christmas dinner:

-at least five more place settings

-a set of 20 placemats and napkins (the most I have in a single set of mats is six, though I can probably mix-and-match to acceptable effect. I don't have enough cloth napkins to go around)

-a gravy boat. Scratch that - make it TWO gravy boats, at least

-a couple of platters. I'm going to go with two smallish turkeys rather than one ginormous monster turkey because a) smaller birds are more tasty and tender and b) I feel more confident in cooking smaller beasties to safe levels. The LAST thing I want is an outbreak of food-borne poisoning after my first ever Christmas dinner.

-more silverware. Husband and I had two different patterns of flatware when we met, but they were made by the same manufacturer and match well enough to not be obvious if one person gets one of my forks and the next gets one of Husband's. I'm pretty sure at least ONE of the patterns is still in production, so we'll augment our everyday utensils with another box of whichever pattern we can get and run with that.

Though they won't all match, I have plenty of wine glasses and water glasses. The coffee/tea cups will come with the place settings, so I'll have enough of them to go around as well (and, if it turns out that we borrow plates rather than cough up for new good china - my mom has offered to loan me some of her plates - I have plain, white coffee cups that will serve the purpose). I have an electric griddle that can serve nicely as a warming tray and, again, my mom has offered the use of her chafing dishes, so I'm covered with keeping things warm.

Really, looking at this list? I'd say I'm in pretty darned good shape, hardware-wise. Next, we start thinking about the menu.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Holy Crappy Weather, Batman!

Alternately titled: At Least it's Not SNOW!!

See the upper right hand corner of the country? The part covered with dark green? Yeah, that's where I live.

It's been raining, pretty much non-stop, since about nine thirty last night. And I'm not talking a light drizzle or even a passing squall, either; I'm talking full out, run for cover, flood-watch-on-the-Weather-Channel, wake you up from a deep sleep kind of heavy rain. The kind of rain that WeedWoman's husband likes to call "possum pounders."

We're so far, so good with the basement, though - the walls are oozing water through the cracks in the concrete, but the sump pump hasn't kicked in just yet. I'm hoping that the weekend is at least mild; I still have autumn bulbs to plant and all this rain will have softened up the ground quite nicely.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Unanticipated Benefits of NaBloPoMo

alternately titled "As if I Didn't Already Have Plenty of Ways to Avoid My Responsibilities!"

For those of you who aren't familiar with this, November has been declared National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo for short, though I'm not sure that the full name isn't easier to write out). It was the brainchild of Fussy, who, inspired by National Novel Writing Month, tweaked the idea a little bit then put out the call for blog writers to make a commitment to post a new entry every day for the month of November.

A BUNCH of writers answered that call - you can see the list here - and someone put up the NaBloPoMo Randomizer, a site that clicks one through a random selection of participating blogs. I've already put in a request to keep that site running after NaBloPoMo is over - that site is crazy-addicting! Through the randomizer, I've been exposed to a bunch of people I would likely never have encountered. There are a lot of really brilliant writers out there; people whose writing is smart and funny - sometimes one, sometimes the other, most often both simultaneously - people who post gorgeous photos, and writers who really care about what it is they have to say, whether they're commenting (or ranting, as the author of the piece puts it) on the separation of church and state in public schools or ruminating on the role coffee plays in their daily routine.

Here, in no particular order, are the blogs I've added to my bookmarks since November began. If you haven't checked them out already, please do. Oh, and comment, too, please - let them know you're out here and reading.

Two Blue Day

Eats Bugs


Meno's blog

A Tense Teacher


The Anonymous Truth

While I'm at it, let me add my old favorites, too (again, in no particular order):



The Grammar Snob


New Beginnings

Thrifty Mom in a Consumer World

PTA: Parent Teacher Asshole

It's all about community.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sorry! Can't Talk Just Now....

...I'm busy trying to get a handle on things around here.

The completion of my kitchen (or, to be more specific, the DAMNED-NEAR completion - the cabinet door isn't installed just yet) and the approching holidays have conspired to ignite in me my somewhat dormant nesting instincts. I've decided that today is the day that I'll vacuum the entire house (Yes! Upstairs, too!), finish all the laundry, organize and clean the kitchen (a good bit of Windex on the counter tops and some scrubbing powder in the sink ought to do just nicely), pay a few bills, organize my school stuff, make an appointment to have my Puck's oil changed and maybe, just maybe, assemble the two chairs and the art-supply cabinet I bought at IKEA yesterday.

Yeah, I know I'm asking a lot of myself, especially given that I'm almost out of laundry soap, I have a chiropractor's appointment at 3, and the girls had a half day at school today and so are home now (and not exactly chomping at the proverbial bit to help me in my manic housekeeping fit). I'll power through as much as I can, though - a list half-done is better than nothing at all!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Even Though It's Not Too Cold.....Yet.....

I'm totally ripping this post off from my new best blogger friend, The Grammar Snob. Her tag line is "semicolons make me hot." How can you not love that?!?

Things that I LIKE about cold weather:

Woobie sweaters. (In my house, things that are warm and snuggly and soft and make you feel all safe and snug are called "woobies" and we just love them.)

Woobie socks.

Comfort food. Chicken pot pie, beef stew, hot cocoa, warm pudding; stuff that just doesn't get eaten when the temperature outside is above 50 degrees.

Snow days. Yes, for as much as I bitch about the snow, I love snow days - unexpected do-nothing days when we're forced to stay indoors with no expectations but to stay in jammies, watch movies, and drink the above mentioned hot cocoa.

Listening to snowstorms from the comfort and safety of my warm bed
. I had a similar experience last night, listening to a pretty impressive rainstorm rage outside my window. I love the feeling of safety and security that comes from being bundled safely against the elements, and knowing that everyone I love is safe, too. It makes me humble and grateful to the Universe for all that I have.

Things I DON'T like about cold weather:

Black ice.

People who don't know how to drive in snowstorms.

Storms that coincide with events that force us out into them
. We had a wicked snowstorm on Christmas a few years ago, and it just made it a headache for everyone who had plans to be out on that day.

That it gets dark at three thirty in the afternoon
. I don't function well when it's dark out - all I want to do is get into jammies and finish the day. Sun's down? Time for bed! I've been known to have dinner on the table at 4:30 in the dead of winter. It throws all our timing off.

Stupid cold. By this, I mean the kind of cold where they run warning crawls on the bottom of our forecasts on the Weather Channel and the local weather guys tell us to not let our children wait at bus stops in the morning because they can suffer frostbite on noses and ears in less than three minutes. I mean the kind of cold where your car can't warm up between your house and wherever you're going, and you're not entirely sure it will start up when you're ready to go home again. I mean the kind of cold when your body pukes up the first breath of air because it's too cold for your lungs to process. I hate that.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Evolution of a Kitchen

One more day! One more day and my kitchen is FINISHED!

For those of you who may not know (Welcome, NaBloPoMo Readers!!), my family and I have been living through a massive addition to our home. The work started in May of 2005 and isn't quite done yet, though we're definitely making measurable progress.

We added on a family room, a combination dining room and library, a master suite upstairs with a full bath, and extended the kitchen by six feet. Truly, People: we essentially doubled the size of our house.

Now, as I've already stated, the work isn't quite finished yet. We've moved into the living room and dining room, we're putting up bookcases and have installed a new (huge and glorious) dining room table, and my husband has been, bit by bit, putting the kitchen together. There is no progress whatsoever on the upstairs and, really, I don't care at this point. What I REALLY want is a finished kitchen. We're all still cozy and warm in our own bedrooms: I can close the door on the new rooms and never notice they're there. No, what has really bothered me - pushed me damned near the proverbial edge, in fact - is that my kitchen has been in one state of upheaval or another for more than a year. Don't believe me? Here's photographic proof.

The addition work began on May 31st of 2005. The kitchen extension was built outside of the existing kitchen, so we got to live a relatively normal culinary life until about August, when the breakthrough was executed.

Here's me, on August ninth, taking stuff out of the cabinets. Even though we still had a working stove past this point, all the food was scattered around the house in boxes and bins. Don't even ask me where the pots and pans were...

Not long after, the kitchen was essentially inaccessible at varying points. Here, for example, is what I found when I came home from work on August 26th, after the drywallers had their way around my house. If I remember correctly, I cried from the time I walked in the door until my husband arrived home....

My husband disassembled the half wall on the ninth of October. He later kicked himself for doing this because, almost six months later, he was busy rebuilding the wall in essentially the same damned place the old one lived.

We sort of limped around with mostly-instant food and a few key recipes cooked on a two-burner, Wal-Mart hot plate until my husband and his twin took the rest of the kitchen apart in anticipation of the new floor being installed. This was December 21st.

They reinstalled the sink and dishwasher after the floor was put down. Even without a stove, I was surprised by how much I actually used the sink. This is January 3rd.

The now mostly-famous trip to IKEA to get the cabinets happened January 17th, two days after my birthday. I was beside myself with anticipation.

The first cabinet was installed by my beloved husband on the 23rd of January.

By the 28th of February, the cabinet installation was well on its way. Notice that the sink is gone again? It was un-installed and re-installed no fewer than four times in the process.

Then there was a long stretch of not-much-happening. The oven, the stove, and a vent that we later discovered we couldn't use (UGH!) were delivered on the 27th of June.

On August 28th, the countertops were installed. Here's before.....

...and here's after.....

I'm not sure why, but I don't have a photograph of the oven installation - I can't begin to tell you why, because I've been obsessively taking pictures of every little step - but the stove was put in on the fourth of August.

Husband made some great progress on the last little bits this weekend. He finished putting the toe-kicks on the bottom of the cabinets at my insistence...
...we'd thought that we could do without them, but every single freaking time I dropped something, it would hit the floor and roll all the way under the damned cabinets. Ugh.

He also bought and installed the new microwave!

I don't use a microwave very often; it's mostly for reheating Olive Garden leftovers and melting frozen veggies. I DO use it, though, and isn't this a pretty one? Oh, and I found out this evening that thirty seconds on power level three brings a stick of fridge-cold butter to perfect cookie-making softness.

The only thing left to do, really, is to replace the door that we brought back to IKEA because it was defective. Guess what *I'M* doing tomorrow?

There are a few other picky little things - Husband wants to frame the microwave with molding and there are two ceiling speakers that have to be installed, but those are just gravy. As far as I'm concerned? The kitchen is DONE!!

Sunday, November 12, 2006


That's how many people we'll be hosting for Christmas dinner this year. The number could go as high as 19, if Husband's cousin and her new husband decide to come.

I've never had that many people in my house at once. Ever.

I'm not overly concerned about putting dinner together for all those people. I'm pretty good in the kitchen and my not having a full time job means that I'll be able to do a lot of preparation ahead of time. Besides, I'm sure that a lot of my guests will be more than happy to bring anything I ask them for.

No, my biggest worries continue to be how the two different families are going to get along. Well, that's not entirely the truth: I'm sure everyone will be perfectly lovely when they're all together in my house. What I'm not sure about - and what I suppose I shouldn't worry about because I can't control it anyway - is what's going to happen after everyone goes home.

I'm concerned that there'll be fallout from my in-laws, who don't get that my family is really my family.

I'm also concerned that there won't be enough room in our driveway for all the cars.