Appetizer: Using only 5 words, describe how 2004 went for you.
family = happy, healthy
Bush = bad
Soup: Name something you did in 2004 that you'll probably never do again.
See the Red Sox win the World Series!
Salad: What did you learn about yourself in 2004?
That I took the election way too personally.
Main Course: What notable news event from 2004 will stand out most in your memory?
Up until last week, I would have most definitely said the election, but now of course it's the tsunami.
Dessert: Name something you purchased in 2004 that you really, really like.
I pretty much never buy myself anything, and certainly nothing so frivolous! (More importantly, if I hadn't bought it, I would have had to say my measuring cups and spoons. And that would have been pathetic.)
Arianna Huffington lists the things she'd like to forget from 2004; here's a selection:
That the woman who dismissed a presidential briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." as a "historical" document is going to be our next secretary of state.
That a man who finds the Geneva Conventions "quaint" is going to be our next attorney general.
That it took 14 months and public protests from the victims' families before the president OK'd the 9/11 Commission, but only two weeks before the first hearings were held on Janet Jackson's boob.
That the Federal budget deficit hit $413 billion this year, and two-thirds of it is the result of Bush's tax cuts.
That Dick Cheney is talking about another round of tax cuts.
What Colin Powell did to his credibility. "You break it, you live with it for the rest of your life."
That picture of Lynndie England holding the leash.
The way the administration tried to sweep Abu Ghraib under the rug.
That George Tenet, who knew that the intel on Iraqi WMD was thinner than Lara Flynn Boyle on Dexatrim, turned into the Dick Vitale of WMD: "It's a slam dunk, baby!"
That George Tenet was subsequently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
That Osama is still on the loose — and releasing tapes.
That the Kyoto Protocol was ratified — and we aren't part of it.
That Ken Lay has still not gone to trial or served a minute in jail.
That 35.9 million Americans live below the poverty line — 12.9 million of them children.
That 42 percent of Americans still think Saddam Hussein was "directly involved in planning, financing or carrying out" the 9/11 attacks.
That, thanks to presidential cutbacks, we actually have fewer police and first responders on the streets today than we had on 9/11.
That Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld couldn't find time to personally sign letters of condolence to the families of troops killed in Iraq.
That Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz couldn't remember the number of soldiers who'd lost their lives in Iraq.
It started with a suggestion from Scott that we watch "Kiki's Delivery Service." Melanie mentioned that it might not be appropriate for my youngest, but that we ought to see "My Neighbor Totoro," also by Hayao Miyazaki. Well, we are hooked. We rented it from Blockbuster (I tend not to rent kids' movies from Netflix because they're never due back, and you know how kids want to watch the same movie over and over and over again...!) and had to return it today. We miss it already! I can't stop singing, "Totoro, Totoro...." So I just ordered a copy on ebay. (I didn't—yet?—buy any of the wonderful Totoro toys, posters, T-shirts, and accessories.) What a delightful movie! Julie watched it twice a day while she was sick (her fever finally broke, thank you).
I was considering a New Year's Resolution to stop hoping that something would happen to turn around the presidential election. I really, really do believe (not just hope) that there was rampant fraud at least in Ohio, probably in Florida, and very likely elsewhere. I've had numerous fantasies wherein incontrovertible evidence comes to light, or Dubya has a fright (a vision of a visit from a disappointed Jesus in his bedroom?) and confesses all, or the like. But I just can't give it up. Neither can Lisa Rein; check out "It Ain't Over Till It's Over: A Roundup Of The Recent Events Surrounding Election 2004's Ohio Recount and Voting Machine Fraud Situation." Via Boing Boing.
The death toll in Asia is now approaching 120,000, and they are still finding bodies. Chew on this for a minute: The largest death toll in the U.S. from a natural disaster occurred in 1900 in Galveston, Texas, when a hurricane killed an estimated 12,000 people. Think about that, and now imagine ten times that number. It's impossible to comprehend, isn't it?
If you haven't already made a donation to the relief effort, please do so. If you've already given and can spare a little more, then do that. As I mentioned before, registered Amazon shoppers can make a donation to the Red Cross with just a single click.
I was impressed when I went to the Apple site and saw that the entire front page was devoted to an expression of sympathy to the victims and their families, plus a list of links to charitable organizations.
We watched the first half of "Gangs of New York" on Sunday night. We watched the second half on Monday night. We took a break on Tuesday night. We watched the Discovery Channel special feature on "Gangs of New York" tonight. We are done now.
From a historical standpoint, this was fascinating stuff. I must have been absent the day we covered this slice of American history. Even Andy, Mr. American Studies himself, wasn't aware of all the Irish gang stuff in NYC during the Civil War. So that was really interesting. The movie itself was good, but certainly too long and overly dramatic. And I can't imagine why they cast Daniel Day-Lewis as an American and Leo DiCaprio as an Irishman. Liam Neeson had a teeny part but was great. Day-Lewis overacted, if you ask me. (You never ask me, but this is my blog.) So, all in all, not a waste of time, but not all that memorable either.
The Red Cross is now projecting at least 100,000 deaths from the tsunami in Asia. Can you even imagine? That's like waking up one day and finding that an entire city, like Cambridge or Provo or Berkeley, has been wiped out. I just went to Amazon and made a simple one-click donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund; I hope you will too.
Today when I was unloading groceries, I thought I was gently letting go of a bag containing two bags of Pirate's Booty and two bags of Cape Cod Reduced Fat Potato Chips, but in fact I let drop a bag containing two quart-size glass jars of Claussen Kosher Dill Halves. Onto my sock-clad right foot. The jars did not break, because my big toe broke the fall.I can't even describe the pain. I put arnica on and iced it for a very long time, but it hurts like a mother. I think it might be broken.
I am not a poet, nor do I play one on TV. I'm not even terribly good at reading poetry. But I do admire those who write and read poetry. My sister's friend has a poetry blog, and he would appreciate any feedback on his work. I like to read about how his poems come to him. I guess it's like songwriting—some people get the idea first, some the words, some the rhythm. And then somehow it all has to come together! I imagine that's the challenge of the craft. So go on over and see what you think.
We got a huge amount of snow Sunday night! And it's cold. I need snowpants this year. It's ridiculous trying to play out in the snow in jeans. And I think I need real snow boots too. What I don't need is to moonlight as a snowplow driver. This may be my worst performance ever in any game. Try it.
I was cleaning out some old boxes of office stuff (see #4 here) and came upon a yellowed scrap of paper I'd clipped from the Times Book Review. The book reviewed was Making the Alphabet Dance by Ross Eckler (published in 1997); the clip was a sonnet by one David Shulman:
"Washington Crossing the Delaware"
A hard, howling, tossing, water scene:
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
"How cold!" Weather stings as in anger.
O silent night shows war ace danger!
The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When general's star action wish'd "Go!"
He saw his ragged continentals row.
Ah, he stands—sailor crew went going,
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens—Winter again grows cold;
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.
George can't lose war with 's hands in;
He's astern—so, go alight, crew, and win!
What's so great about this sonnet? Look closely. Each of the 14 lines is an anagram of the title, "Washington Crossing the Delaware." That's right, every single line contains only those 29 letters, no more and no fewer, just rearranged. Astonishing!
It seems to me that a lot of people live in fear—and most people fear the wrong things. For instance, many people are afraid to fly, but they get into their cars every day without worrying. And yet, the statistics overwhelmingly show that it's much safer to fly than to drive! Here are a few statistics I found:
1. In the entire history of commercial aviation, fewer than 13,000 people have died in airplane crashes. Three times that many Americans lose their lives in automobile accidents every single year. The average person's probability of dying in an air crash is about 1 in 4 million, or roughly the same as winning the jackpot in a state lottery.
2. Each year in the U.S., 1 out of 6,800 drivers dies in an auto accident. The rate for airline passengers is 1 in 1.6 million.
3. Statisticaly speaking, if you get into an airplane every day, it would take you 26,000 years before you would be killed in a crash.
Here's another example: Our school system presents an excellent program to help children avoid assault and abduction. Most parents' #1 fear is that their child will be abducted by a stranger. Statistically, this happens so infrequently that the numbers are almost negligible. (In 1999, 115 children were abducted by strangers.) When it does happen, it makes front-page news because it's such an unimaginably horrific crime. But what parents don't worry about enough is molestation by people their kids know, either relatives or neighbors or friends or babysitters or teachers. In 2000, 879,000 children were victims of neglect or abuse. And known perpetrators account for nearly 90% of all sexual molestation of kids. But unless it's a high-profile case, like the Catholic priests' scandal in Boston, no one hears about those incidents.
Or how about people who are afraid to type in their VISA number at Amazon.com's secure site but will hand their credit card to their stoned teenage waitress, who disappears with it in the restaurant's back room for 5 minutes. It's just irrational!
There is no question that there are places with higher crime rates than others, and situations that are more dangerous than others, and activities that are riskier than others, and so on, but I think people would be a lot happier if they could just stop worrying about dangers that are so remote as to be statistically negligible.
I'd been wanting an Orka, those neato silicone oven mitts, but I couldn't see shelling out $20 for one. So imagine my delight to come across a package at Costco containing two Orka mitts plus two Orka trivets/pot holders—all for $25! They are wonderful. You can really reach right into a pot of boiling water to retrieve something or pick up a roast chicken and flip it with your hands! And they go right into the dishwasher! I haven't found a use for the trivets/pot holders yet, but the mitts are way cool.
We have the best neighbors in the world. Madeline and Cosmo are in their late seventies (or are they eighty by now?), and they adore us. They have only one grandchild, whom they see only very infrequently, so they treat my kids like their surrogate grandchildren. They give them wonderful gifts for their birthdays and for Christmas; they pack up special Halloween goody bags for them, labeled with their names; they bring over huge sugar cookies from the bakery for every holiday; they show up with stuffed animals and See's lollipops out of the blue; they hang up Steph's drawings on their fridge and display our photos with their own children's; they bring us bushels of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and herbs from their garden. It's like having another set of grandparents across the street!
We worry about Madeline and Cos they way we worry about our own parents. We shovel their walk and offer to dig out their car. We call to check on them when the power goes out. How long can they continue to keep up with the house and yard? Who's going to outlive the other, and who would be able to manage better alone? They both have a variety of (mostly) age-related health problems, and we get concerned if we don't see or hear from them regularly.
Today we went over for our annual Christmas visit. Cos serves little tiny glasses of brandy; Madeline lays out biscotti, pignoli cookies, and other goodies. Cos always retells the history of panettone. Steph got barrettes and ponytail holders, plus a pen that has a built-in radio! Pete was in heaven when he saw his Spiderman toy with 27 articulated body parts. And Julie said, "I was wishing for dis!" when she unwrapped her baby doll. They get such genuine pleasure out of seeing us and the kids; I know that even when we're busy, we need to take a minute just to call or stop over to brighten their day.
Julie has a lousy cold. It started a couple of days ago with a fever ("All de parts of my body hurts!"), sluggishness, and lack of appetite; now she has an endlessly runny nose and eyes. And still no appetite. And yet we made her sit through endless rounds of family photos in the hopes of finally getting some holiday cards out, but they all came out terrible. She was either crying or picking her nose; the only one where she's smiling, her glasses are reflecting the light. I'll probably just go with the one we did for Stephanie's school project in September.
Pete lost his first tooth today! He thoroughly believes in the Tooth Fairy; like Stephanie, he had lots of questions ("How do parents know the Tooth Fairy's phone number?" "Is she smaller than a red ant?" "What if she comes when I'm still awake?"), but unlike her, he didn't seem afraid. He put the tooth right under his pillow, and I've already replaced it with a note and a silver dollar.
A new tradition has been born: Paella on Christmas Eve! We hadn't made it in a very long time, and the stars were aligned just so, as we were able to find two key ingredients:
|real bomba (paella rice)!|
I didn't follow any one particular recipe, although I did lean heavily on several variations by Tyler Florence (Mmm, leaning on Tyler Florence...oh, wait! Back to cooking!), mainly this one. In addition to the chorizo, we used chicken thighs, drumsticks, and shrimp, and we intended to use mussels but ran into a little difficulty fitting everything in toward the end, so we jettisoned that idea. I don't like mussels anyhow, but Andy does, and they do really make it look nice. Ah well. Next time we won't use so much chicken. We also originally thought we'd use some littlenecks, which I don't love either. So.
Everything was going along well, until I realized that the bottom was starting to burn. The prize in a perfect paella is the soccarat, which is the brown crust of rice on the bottom. You don't stir paella rice the way you stir risotto; you try to spread it out as much as possible on the bottom of the paella pan and hope for that crust. Well, I must have had the flame up a bit too high, because the soccarat turned a little black. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't right either. And, to top it off, some of the chicken pieces weren't competely done. So if I'd had the flame a little lower, the rice wouldn't have burned so fast and the chicken would have had time to get done. I also should have had less chicken and should have shoved it down deeper into the rice. But, frankly, the shrimp, chorizo, and rice were the highlights anyhow.
If you want to learn more about all the hows and whys of paella, start here.
So, Rachel and Gary came over with the kids. We started off with drinks and Spanish almonds, plus a yummy olive cheese puff appetizer I made (forgot to take a photo!):
1. Preheat oven to 400. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Mix together 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon paprika, and 1 dash Worcestershire sauce until dough forms.
3. Pinch off a small ball of dough and flatten it out. Roll dough around a large pimiento-stuffed olive and place on cookie sheet. Repeat, using about 40 olives.
3. Bake for 15 minutes, rolling balls around if necessary, until golden brown.
Andy found a very nice rioja, 1999 Coto de Imaz Reserva, which was terrific with the paella.
Julie had a fever off and on yesterday, but she was OK most of the evening. She started to fade fast and went to bed at her usual 7:00. Stephanie, Hannah, Pete, and Matty had a blast. They hadn't played together for a very long time, and it was just like the old days...
...which allowed the grownup to have a completely child-free, undisturbed dinner! What a treat! We let the kids stay up until almost 9:00, which is by the far the latest they've ever gone to bed. All in all, a truly lovely evening.
FQ TOPIC: Gifted.
FQ1: What's an impressive gift ($50 US or less) on your wish list?
Alice Munro's latest, Runaway
FQ2: What's an expensive gift ($500 US or less) on your wish list?
FQ3: What's an extravagant gift ($5000 US or less) on your wish list?
Today we met with Dr. Bhatt and scheduled Julie's surgery. We had to sign a thing that said that Dr. Bhatt had explained all the potential risks from the surgery. So, bleeding, scarring, infection? Yup. Overcorrection/undercorrection? Yup. Perforated eyeball? Yup. Loss of vision? Detached retina? Slipped muscle ("a total disaster"). Yup. Yup. Yup. All of the above. Can't wait till we get to sign the anesthesia waiver. (I say "we," when in fact Andy had to sign it because I was about to pass out.)
Dr. Bhatt made a point to say that none of those things have ever happened to any of her surgical patients. She said that after the surgery, Julie will have slightly swollen eyelids, a pinkish white of the eye, and some discomfort. We'll give her Tylenol and a topical ointment containing an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. She also reiterated that there's still a chance Julie will need glasses (even bifocals) after the surgery.
So, here's the calendar:
Jan. 11 Appointment with pediatrician to clear for surgery.
Jan. 20 Phone appointment with anesthesiology nurse.
Jan. 26 7:10 arrive at hospital (no food or drink allowed beforehand, so I'm glad it's first thing in the morning!)
Jan. 26 8:45 surgery, approximately 1 hour 15 minutes
Jan. 27 first post-op checkup
Feb. 3 second post-op checkup
Tonight I watched the deleted scenes from "The Fog of War." Some of them seemed to me just as valuable as those that were chosen for the film. I really can't stop thinking about McNamara.
I also forgot to mention that I found the Philip Glass music intrusive, particulary the overbearing violins.
Here's a question for you parents out there, and this time it's just for straight couples. (I'll try to come up with a different question for gay couples or single parents next time.) Does Mama or Daddy sleep on the side of the bed nearest the door that sick/scared/sad/bored kids are likely to enter in the middle of the night? I'm putting my money on a 90% response rate for Mama. How does this happen? Is this something that men are told by their dads on their wedding night? "Son, I want to leave you with one last important piece of advice: Hi-hosey the far side of the bed from the get-go, even before you have kids. You'll thank me for this later." The strange thing is, even when we go up to New Hampshire, I'm still on the door side, even though that means I'm on the opposite side of the bed than when we're home! What this all comes down to, of course, is that I'm the first—and, often, only—one to hear about the wet bed, the tummy ache, the itchy mosquito bite, the out-of-the blue questions, and so on. One night I was coming in kind of late from book group, and Andy was already in bed. Pete was at the top of the stairs crying because he couldn't find me. I said, "Why didn't you wake Daddy?" He wailed, "I couldn't find him!" Hey, I know a king-size bed is big, but sheesh! It would never in a million years have occurred to Pete to walk all the way around (or crawl across) the bed to see if Daddy was way over there.
Five Old Year's Accomplishments*
1. I started this blog. Strange as it may sound, blogging has really made me a happier, more fulfilled person! Other than my book group, I rarely have the opportunity to express my thoughts and ideas. This is the ideal outlet, and I can do it on my own time and any way I choose. I've also met loads of great people, both bloggers and blog-readers.
2. I gave away a ton of baby clothes, baby toys, and maternity clothes.
3. Andy and I went away for an overnight!
4. I went to my 20th college reunion.
5. I joined Netflix exactly a year ago and have already seen something like 130 movies. I had originally just hoped to catch up on all the major releases we always miss at the cinema, but I've found lots of good, "small" movies that I had never heard of and would certainly never have been able to get at Blockbuster.
*It was supposed to be ten, to mirror my Ten New Year's Resolutions, but the well ran dry.
When my kids have a birthday, we have a family gathering with a small cake, ice cream, and presents. Then beginning at age 4, they also get a real birthday party with their friends. A few years ago we learned that it was best to put off Steph's party until January, when everyone's done with their holidays and parties. It's also nice to have a break after all the birthday and Hanukah gifts in December. So she's going to have a swimming party in January, and we'll get her a swimming cake at Party Favors, the most amazing bakery (remember Pete's shark cake?). They can do anything there. These are also the cakes we save for half-birthdays.
Anyhow, for the family party, we just get regular supermarket cakes. So I headed over to the market to order one of their "licensed character" cakes, which are really just generic cakes with plastic figurines stuck in the frosting. The only not babyish or boyish cake was, God help me, the Bratz. I despise the Bratz. We have never watched their TV show (is there even a Bratz TV show?), we do not own any of the actual dolls, and I think they're horrible. But Steph somehow thinks they're awesome, and it was that or Bob the Builder. The cake was suppose to look like this:
So I go to pick it up today, and the entire thing is bright yellow except for a blue and red starburst in front. Oh, and with a baggie full of Bratz taped to the plastic container. I complained to the woman who did it, who said, "Oh, I always do it in yellow." I said, "Well, I chose this one from the book because it's all pink and my daughter loves pink." "Oh, the frosting in those photos has been airbrushed, and we can't do that here." "I don't want airbrushing, I just want pink frosting." She offered to redo it, but I didn't have time to come back later for it. So she ended up writing "Happy 8th Birthday Stephanie" on a generic white-frosted cake with pink roses, and then I stuck the Bratz in it. (Oh, and she charged me half price!). Sheesh.
But we had a lovely celebration. Steph finally got a charm bracelet, which she's been wishing for. I decided not to get her a real one, because then we'd always be worried she'd lose it. So I got her a nice-enough costumey one, and I chose 4 charms to start her off: a rhinestone S, a green flip-flop, a box of crayons, and a pink and green flower. She was thrilled!
She also got a gift certificate I made up that said I would take her for a manicure (we did this last year; for $5 they put pink polish on her nails and paint a flower on a few of them; she was in heaven!), plus a few odds and ends and some books. As soon as the gifts were unwrapped, she asked me to put on her bracelet, and then she scurried off to start one of the books. That's my girl.
The folks at Boing-Boing have developed a new game. You Google something and then look at the ads (over on the right) of your Google results page. So, for instance, if you Google "phlegm," here's what you get:
Phlegm For Sale
Low Priced Phlegm
Huge Selection! (aff)
Similarly, Googling "poopy diaper" results in these winners:
Low Prices & Huge Selection!
Registration Free. (aff)
Free Poopy Diaper
w/ $300 shopping spree. Aff.
The Boing-Boingers Googled WMD, devastation, vomit, 11-year-olds, and more. Silly, but fun.
1. Spend an hour a week putting photos in albums. It's time that Julie made it to the albums, don't you think? Once I catch up, I swear I will do every roll of pics the same day I get them, but I'm too anal to start with the new ones until I do all the old ones.
2. Frame Stephanie's best kindergarten artwork.
3. Make duck confit.
4. Go through the boxes in my office that have been there since we moved in four years ago.
5. Get rid of my old PowerMac, which hasn't been switched on in over a year. Any ideas what to do with it? Oh, and my old scanner.
6. Plan to start considering thinking about whether to contemplate getting some exercise. (Why can't I seem to go back to yoga, which I loved?)
7. Go through all my clothes and give away the stuff I will never wear again (some of which I haven't worn in almost 10 years as it is).
8. Make Andy go through all his clothes and give away the stuff he will never wear again (some of which he hasn't worn in almost 10 years as it is).
9. Try at least one new recipe a week. I'm usually pretty good about this, but I've slacked off lately.
10. Go on a date with Andy at least twice a month. (Yay, Brooke!)
Some of these look suspiciously familiar.... Well, in this season of rampant re-gifting, why not re-resolving?
I just finished watching"The Fog of War." What a remarkable movie. I just can't get over McNamara's candor. It's hard to believe that the guy everyone thinks of as such a warmonger really appears to have been opposed to war. He came across as extremely articulate and insightful and deep. I also learned a lot—there were many gaps in my twentieth-century history knowledge that were filled just in these 100 minutes.
I ended up feeling sad because I am certain that the kinds of conversations and debates that went on at the Pentagon and the White House in the sixties couldn't possibly be going on today. There's just no way that anyone in Washington is thinking about anything other than spin nowadays. McNamara made no bones about it: People make mistakes. The key is to admit them, learn from them, and not make them again. Our president refuses to acknowledge a single mistake; he said so during one of the presidential debates. Of all the arrogance!
I make the best applesauce, and you can too. Andy's mother taught me how. If you want to achieve a magnificent pink color as shown here, you need to buy the reddest apples you can find. I generally use all Macintosh, but I'll throw in a Cortland or two if the Macs aren't too red. Core and quarter a few pounds and put them in a pot with a little water, cover, and cook until softened but not totally falling apart. Then put
'em through a Foley food mill (yes, you must use a food mill), tossing the peels as the pinkish flesh is scraped from them. Then add some sugar and a little cinnamon. Yum! Serve with pork chops: Dunk bone-in pork chops in beaten egg, then in a mixture of 1 cup panko, 2 tablespoons Parm, 1 teaspoon sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in nonstick pan and cook chops until brown and crispy, turning once, about 10 minutes. Oh, behave!
Our movie choices tonight were "The Fog of War" or "Starsky and Hutch." Take a few minutes to try to think of two more radically different viewing experiences. Ready? Go!
OK, so we chose "Starsky and Hutch." It was totally goofy but pretty funny. If you are of a certain age and can remember the original TV show—when it was first on and was really cool—then you'll get a kick out of this movie. No one does over-the-top like Ben Stiller. And methinks I have a little crush on Owen Wilson.
Today was the big day! Here's Pete with Derrick, his sensei, getting his yellow belt! Pete was very excited. Although this isn't the kind of dojo where everyone ends up with a black belt, they still don't want to set up the little kids for failure. So Derrick told me that he knew Pete was ready and had seen that he had all his required moves, but he still had to perform for the test. I was really nervous for him! He did great and was beaming with pride when it was over. Luckily our class schedule won't change, because the white and yellow belts practice together.
Oh, and I had to share with Derrick that yesterday Pete gleefully told me that Julie went to hit him over the head with a book and he fended her off using his #5 block! Hai!
On average, I would say we get invited to approximately two grown-up parties a year. This year they both came in one week! Last week we were invited to a cocktail party ("7:30 to whenever") at Vinita and Manesh's across the street. The "across the street" part is key here, since there was a bartender there who made a mean Cosmopolitan, and I should know because I had three! Then a very, very drunk woman made all the other women do shots ("...BECAUSE WE'RE ALL MOMS!!!"). I felt like I was at a frat party, but I did it. And these were all very nice, normal, bright people in dressy clothes. There was plenty of food, and we staggered back across the street around 11:30. I think Brooke was getting worried about us.
Tonight was a cocktail party (5:30–7:30) at Rachel and Gary's. I used to see one of them every day at preschool drop-off or pick-up, but they ran out of kids after Stephanie/Hannah and Pete/Matty finished up there. They forgot to have another kid to be friends with Julie. So we miss them and never remember to make the effort to get together anymore. We made a New Year's Resolution to get together more often. Or at least once. Anyhow, after we left, we went to a nice little neighborhood restaurant and split an appetizer and an entree, but I was pretty stuffed, so I have some herb risotto waiting for lunchtime tomorrow.
I decided I want to have a cocktail party this winter! I like to imagine all my friends from different parts of my life mingling together in my house.
"Collateral" was entirely predictable. I couldn't tell if I liked Tom Cruise in that role. He played it somewhat too automaton-like ("I'm a heartless killing machine!"), but there was something about him that worked for me. And I'm not a huge fan of his, so it certainly wasn't that grin, which we got to see only once or twice anyhow. Anyone who couldn't figure out the ending has never seen a movie before. Jamie Foxx was pretty good, although he overacted a bit on the "I'm just an innocent bystander; how did I get mixed up in all this?" shtick. All that being said, it wasn't a bad rental, and some parts were downright exciting.
"School of Rock" was a riot, although of course the kids were too precocious and the actual plot was beyond sappy. It could most definitely not have been made without Jack Black—clearly he just took that perfect "High Fidelity" character and made a movie out of it. I'm wondering if anyone who is much older or younger than I am (42—gulp!) enjoyed it as much as I did. It seemed aimed right at me.
Appetizer: What is something that never fails to grab your attention?
Cooking shows on TV.
Soup: Who was the last person who gave you money, and what was it for?
Andy gave me money to pay the cleaning woman yesterday.
Salad: If you were a Smurf, what would your name be?
A Smurf? Huh? Um, I guess Karen.
Main Course: Do you believe in astrology? Why or why not?
No, not much. I mean, how could everyone born in a 30-day period have the same personality? Or, if you're Chinese, everyone born in the same year??
Dessert: Have you seen any snow this year yet? What's the weather like today in your area?
Yup, we got a couple of inches in mid-November, and then we got a dusting overnight last night! It's gone now, but it was pretty cold and windy all day.
I'm really, really cool now, and I owe it all to Mac. She patiently described this whole RSS feed business to me, and I really almost get it! Actually, it comes in waves and flashes of understanding. But I've added a little dohickey to my blog that shows my RSS feed URL, whatever that means. More importantly, I've listed all my favorite blogs over at Bloglines, so I can tell instantly whether and when a blog has been updated. So although I don't fully comprehend what's going on, I do see what it can do for me. Sorta like my iPod.
We had to postpone book group last night. First Heather couldn't go. Then Rachel. Then Sheila. Then Wendy. Then Nancy. Then I called Janice, Liz, and Claire and suggested we do it in January instead. I'm so very eager to discuss What I Loved (by Siri Hustvedt, married to Paul Auster). Has anyone out there read it?
Today Stephanie stayed home from school with a cold. She had been up a lot at night, unable to sleep because of her stuffy nose. I've never given the kids cold medicine (I don't take any myself), but I might've considered it last night if I'd had any on hand! She was so miserable. Anyhow, she didn't feel too bad this morning, but she was certainly tired and sniffly, so I figured she could miss a day. That gave her a chance to have a bath with Julie, which is a rare treat.
Lauren had bought Julie a new bath toy starring her favorite TV character, Dora, along with her cousin Diego and Boots the monkey. As you can see, Dora has swim wings, Diego has a life vest, and Booth has swim wings and a life preserver. The set also came with a little boat, and a slide that goes into a pool (hence the arms in the permanent "wheee!" position).
So here's my question: Why on earth would they make a swimming toy in which the characters immediately go face-down in the water? Didn't any of the geniuses in the marketing department think to test them in the water? (Needless to say, this never occurred to Julie, and she loves playing with her pals! Although when she and Steph were talking about their bath later on, Steph said, "And remember when Mom took a picture of Dora, Diego, and Boots drowning?")
Gee, I can't stand it when Mac sugarcoats things like this. I wish she'd just come out and tell us how she feels. (It probably goes without saying—but I'll say it anyhow—that I'm posting this because Mac is right on the money here, as usual!)
For those of you who are eagerly awaiting a holiday card from us with a family photo, it . . . um . . . must have gotten lost in the mail or something! Or wait, there was a problem with the photo printing, that's it! No, um, I ran out of stamps! I don't have your new address! I got sick from licking envelopes!
We haven't taken a photo yet.
Steph and Pete had their dental cleanings and checkups today. Steph's tooth was beyond wiggly—it really was hanging on by a thread. I was sort of hoping they'd yank it, but they didn't. Finally, after asking me to wiggle it for the millionth time this evening, I said, "Oh, honey, just pull it out!" and she did! She was very pleased with herself, and it was the first time I was present when she lost a tooth. So tonight we get to break in the Tooth Fairy Gazebo.
I enjoyed seeing my plumber so much last week (and paying him $85 to unclog my disposal) that I was delighted to discover a big, moldy wet patch of wallpaper in the hallway outside my bedroom and a bunch of peeling paint on the ceiling. All directly under the rarely used third-floor bathroom. There's no obvious answer as to what caused the leak, so we have to either cut a hole in the ceiling to take a peek or replace the toilet up there. He originally wanted to just lift up the toilet and redo the seal, but when he saw how old it is, he said it would be a waste of money and that we should get a new one instead. And charged me a discounted rate of $55 for that opinion! Now I get to call him back after the holidays to redo all the under-sink plumbing in the kitchen and replace the toilet (and hopefully not more).
Tonight was the last night of Hanukah, so the menorah was in full bloom—and you can see I even splurged on the fancy candles this year! The kids loved all their gifts; I chose excellent gifts for all 3 kids on all 8 nights, if I do say so myself!
The only thing I got online this year was a pajama outfit for Steph's American Girl knockoff (last year's big gift for Hanukah) from ebay. It was brand new, still in its packaging, but I forgot to look for the ever-crucial "comes from a smoke-free home" indication, and this arrived absolutely stinking of smoke. I hoped it was just the packaging, but alas, the pajamas smelled too. Nancy directed me to saturate them with Febreze and let them air out overnight on the porch. I did that (despite Steph's tears that Zoe needed to wear her pajamas that night), and it got rid of the smoke smell. Then they smelled of Febreze, but that eventually faded, as Nancy predicted it would. I'll never make that mistake again!
Now that all the Hanukah excitement is over, I can turn to the next event: Steph's 8th birthday one week from today! Yikes!