1. Pretty Girl From Chile - The Avett Brothers
2. Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours - Stevie Wonder
3. The Valley - Los Lobos
4. Sheeps in the Meadow/Stony Fork - Doc & Merle Watson
5. This Old Town - Nanci Griffith
6. What Are They Doing in Heaven Today - The Be Good Tanyas
7. Pay Me My Money Down - Bruce Springsteen
8. Welfare Music (live) - Bottle Rockets
9. Willin' (live) - Uncle Tupelo
10. Big Time in the Jungle - Old Crow Medicine Show
Appetizer: Who was the last person you hugged?
Julie, at the door to her kindergarten classroom this morning.
Soup: Share a beauty or grooming trick or tip with us.
Tweeze your eyebrows in natural light whenever possible.
Salad: What does the color yellow make you think of?
Main Course: If you were to make your living as a photographer, what subject would your pictures revolve around?
Snow, I think. I don't usually carry a camera with me, but the times when I most wish I had one is when I'm walking in the neighborhood in the winter and see a beautiful scene.
Dessert: What was the longest book you ever read?
I think it was probably The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, which you might recall I killed myself reading for a book group meeting that ultimately never happened.
1. I'm looking forward to starting my cookbook project next week.
2. I don't handle conflict very well.
3. Bacon is something I could eat every day.
4. Warmth and sunlight do not necessarily go hand in hand during a New England winter:
5. March, here I come!
6. I don't have any tattoo(s).
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to eating ribs, tomorrow my plans include working for a few hours, and Sunday I want to try to bake pita bread for the first time!
Let's say you could designate one salty snack (you know, something crunchy that comes in a bag) that would be magically free of all fat, calories, sodium, carbs, blahblahblah. It would have absolutely no effect on you, regardless of how much you ate. What would you pick? Popcorn? Potato chips? Pretzels? (What, are you crazy?) Fritos? Tortilla chips? Cheese Doodles? Something else?
Me, I think I'd go with that old standby, potato chips. Cape Cod, to be specific. I buy only the 40% reduced-fat kind, but if they're going to be freebies, I guess I'd go for the whole shebang. (For the record, this is one of those rare reduced-fat products that really does not suffer one iota in comparison to its full-fat cousin.) Runners-up would be Smart Food (cheddar popcorn) and Cool Ranch Doritos.
I added Beautiful Children, the debut novel by Charles Bock, to my Wish List as soon as I read the rave in the Book Review a few weeks ago. Now Susan points out that the entire book is available for free download for the next 3 days! So I did it. It is extremely unlikely that I will read an entire novel (400+ pages!) on my computer screen, but perhaps I'll give it a try; then if I like it, I'll buy it. Or maybe I'll find that I like reading a few pages now and then in between working and blogging.
*No, not mine—for any price!
Time to learn something!
1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!
I think this is the first time I've ever gotten a date:
August 6, 2003
I remember only the first item.
About 8½ months after the fact, I have at last seen the final episode of "The Sopranos." I'm pretty proud of myself that I somehow managed to avoid the inevitable media flurry last June—as I sat down in front of the TV last night, I still had no idea how it would all end.
In case there still exists someone on the planet who (1) hasn't seen the finale, (2) still plans to see the finale, and (3) hasn't already heard how it ends, I've saved the spoiler for after the jump. (For the record, I like the "after the jump" feature for just such occasions as this. Otherwise, as you know, I never use it. In fact, when I read other blogs that begin posts on the main page and require me to click to continue, I pretty much never click over. I have to be really motivated, as with an intro that says something along the lines of "Click here to find two new recipes, one involving bacon and the other using lots of dark chocolate.")
Remember that new client who wanted to meet me? Well, I forgot to tell you the greatest part about working for them: They insist that I edit hard copy! Since they're a consulting firm and not a publishing company, the people who prepare these reports I'm editing are not editorial types, so they want to see actual marks on actual paper. Heaven! I think the other reason is that the reports are not Word documents, since they have tons of graphs—I forget the name of the software they use, but I certainly don't have it, and it probably doesn't come equipped with something like Word's "track changes" feature anyhow.
It has been eons since I've gotten to edit hard copy—and in case you haven't guessed, I've missed it terribly. There are plenty of really good reasons to do all editing electronically, not least of which is the oh-so-wonderful "search and replace" function, but I prefer to actually write on individual manuscript pages.
When my first project with these folks came along, I went up to my office to hunt for my beloved green Col-Erase pencils. Nada. I think they must have been victims of the big office cleanout of last October. I probably sighed and figured that I'd never need them again, and then just tossed them. Granted, it doesn't sound like something I'd do, but I can't find them anywhere, and there aren't as many hiding places now that it's so clean up there. I used to have cases of them, along with other colors—although my preference is green, because it's easy to see against black type (unlike, say, violet), it photocopies well (unlike many shades of blue), and it's not too bossy (unlike the very popular carmine red, for instance). Back in my in-house days, we used to edit in one color and typemark in another color—I usually typemarked in violet or red.
You may ask yourself,
"Where is that large automobile?"
Why can't she just use regular colored pencils? What's so damn special
about Col-Erase? Well, for starters, they really are erasable, unlike
colored pencils made for drawing. Second, they hold a nice
I had no luck finding Col-Erase pencils at Staples, so online I went. I
found a few vendors, all of whom charge slightly more for than for a of a dozen pencils, but I had no choice. In the meantime, however, I reluctantly did my first report with one of the kids' green colored pencils, but they have a thickish point and don't erase at all, so I feared I'd be out of luck (or have to make a big mess) if I changed my mind. As it turned out, for that first project, the client emailed me a PDF file and I printed it out, so I was able to print out additional copies of pages if I needed to make a change to something I'd written. I don't want to put my printer through that much regular work, though, so from then on they've sent me the hard copy via FedEx.
And a few days later, my pencils arrived, and I'm a happy camper again.
Last week I made an extremely addictive snack, as unlikely as it sounds:
1-lb. bag faux baby carrots, halved lengthwise (You know that those bags of finger-sized carrots aren't really baby carrots, don't you? They're just big ol' carrots peeled and machine-turned to look like baby carrots. Regardless, for this recipe, just buy the bag and be done with it.)
1¼ cups water
1 cup cider vinegar (You could certainly use plain old distilled white vinegar instead, but cider vinegar is a little milder.)
¼ cup sugar (I will use slightly less next time, since carrots are pretty sweet on their own.)
2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1½ Tbsp dill seed (Important: not dill weed.)
1½ Tbsp salt
Dump carrots in a heatproof bowl. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Pour brine over carrots and cool, uncovered. Cover and refrigerate carrots for at least 1 day to allow flavors to develop. You can keep the carrots (still in their brine) in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month. But I bet you'll eat them all sooner than that.
I also tried a different brine formula for pickled cukes, but it was way too sweet—I ended up throwing them away. So I will not share that recipe with you until I tweak it a bit. Or I might just try throwing a few cukes in with the carrots next time and see if that works. I'll keep you posted.
When we go away for the weekend, we often leave in such a whirlwind of packing that it's a rude shock to come home and find the house looking like a disaster zone. "Someone must have broken in! They didn't steal anything, but they did scatter books, toys, shoes, sweatshirts, cups, dirty socks, and papers all over the place!" (For some reason, the inverse is not necessarily true—that is, when I return home and find that I had in fact left everything pretty neat, I don't remark on how nice it is to come home to a clean house.) This past weekend we left before emptying the dishwasher, so the sink was still full of dirty dishes upon our return. That was a bummer. And the mountain of laundry in the living room hadn't folded itself! Our goal was just to hit the highway as soon as physically possible, so I wasn't going to "waste" precious travel minutes on housekeeping.
How fast can you type the alphabet backward? I did it in 6.0458889 seconds, which isn't as fast as I thought it would be, considering that I know the alphabet backward and thus didn't need to wait until the letters flashed on the screen. (Jen, I expect to hear from you on this!)
Here's a long list of obsolete skills many of us have. I admit that I don't know what a lot of them even mean, because they refer to old computer gaming systems and other early tech stuff, but here are some of my favorites from everyday life:
It's funny to consider how commonplace these activities were in my childhood—and even young adulthood—and yet my own kids would have no idea what I'm talking about! Some of the items on the list were that way for me too, like starching a removable collar or using a clothes wringer. And some others are not yet obsolete; I still whip cream with a whisk, adjust the pendulum on a clock (we have a few antique clocks), use the Dewey decimal system, and rewind videocassettes.
I've been trying to serve myself smaller portions at dinnertime, because I am definitely a member of the Clean Plate Club. I don't consider whether I'm still hungry (or even really full), I just keep eating until everything is gone. And if there's more on a serving platter near my plate (or even in a pot on the stove), I'll eat that too. Then I sit back and groan in distress. It doesn't seem to help that I'm aware of it; I just keep doing it.
I heard Michael Pollan on NPR recently talking about his book In Defense of Eating, and he said that the Japanese typically eat until they are about 80% full. Which in some ways seems weird—how could you possibly know when you're 80% full?—but it's a nice goal to aim for. And I just saw an article proposing yet another theory as to why the French eat so much more fattening stuff than Americans do but are, overall, thinner. The reason given this time is that they stop eating when they're full, regardless of whether there's still food left on their plate (or elsewhere on the table). Americans, on the other hand, eat until the food is gone (or the TV show is over, even more pathetically—and that's another theory too: that Europeans traditionally consider mealtime an important time for sharing food with friends and family, not for watching TV). I know that the French (and the Italians, as well as probably most other cultures) also eat less of each fattening food than Americans do—they eat smaller portions of meat, cheese, bread, etc., and larger portions of vegetables—which is something I'm also trying to do. (I also suspect that smoking has something to do with it, although I've never seen any statistics about this. All those skinny French women smoke, and smoking is definitely an appetite-suppressant, as well as something else to do with your hand and mouth instead of eating.) Pollan's mantra is "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I should be able to do that. (By the way, by "food," he means real food, not artificial "edible food-like substances." He recommends not eating anything that your grandmother wouldn't have recognized. Although in my case that would rule out things like pesto, shiitake mushrooms, chipotles in adobo, etc. Heh heh.)
I'm lucky that I've never been overweight, but I've certainly noticed that my "comfortable resting weight" is higher than it used to be. (By "comfortable resting weight," I mean the weight I can effortlessly maintain without changing my activity level or diet.) I'd like to stop eating so much at dinnertime—not least of all because I frequently complain that I'm uncomfortably full. The hard part is that I'm also trying to prepare more food at one time so I can have leftovers to work on throughout the week for lunch, and when I see there's more of something yummy in the pan, I just want to eat it. Or if the kids reject something I've made, I hate to let it go to waste....
Pete is the opposite: He stops eating when he's no longer hungry, regardless of what he's eating. He can leave one small bite of a cookie on his plate. I admire that, because I think in terms of serving size: I eat a whole cookie, a whole steak, a whole bowl of salad, that scoop of rice, this amount of asparagus, a handful of cashews, whatever. I intend to try to slow down when I eat and really gauge whether I'm still hungry before continuing to stuff my face.
Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock of No Depression were interviewed on "All Things Considered" last night. As I mentioned the other day, Alden and Blackstock (the links on their names lead to their blogs, which I have been following since I discovered them and will continue to read even more avidly now that the magazine is kaput) just can't put out a print magazine anymore without the advertising revenues from all those indie labels—who have had to slash their advertising budgets because of plummeting sales. And they are not confident that their favorite kind of in-depth (i.e., 10,000-word) story will "play" on the web—and I have to regretfully agree. I for one pretty much never read long articles on the web, no matter how interesting—although I'll happily curl up on the couch and read a magazine cover to cover. The hope is that they can somehow fashion some kind of web presence that combines the obvious bonus of being able to listen to music with the kinds of stories they and their readers have grown to expect and love. We shall see....
1. Red Apples - Cat Power
2. Aw Heck (live) - John Prine
3. Everywhere I Go - Willie Nelson
4. Oxford Town/Cumberland Gap - Crooked Still
5. Now She's Gone - Steve Earle
6. Gentle Annie - Ollabelle
7. Cry Love - John Hiatt
8. I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down - Elvis Costello
9. Me and All the Other Mothers - Loudon Wainwright III
10. Buckets of Rain - RedBird
1. Coming home is the best thing about traveling.
2. I love a good afghan* when I'm cold.
3. I often use the word hopefully as a sentence adverb—sorry to disappoint the last three people on earth who care about such things.
4. I'm reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen right now; I am loving it.
5. Sex is something I dislike talking about.
6. When I visited the vending machine area at the highway rest stop yesterday, I most looked forward to seeing Cool Ranch Doritos.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to seeing Barbara and Jerry, tomorrow my plans include reading while the kids ski, and Sunday, I want to hit the outlet mall one more time on the way home!
*By which I mean a knitted or crocheted blanket, although I'm sure people from Afghanistan are very comforting too, as are those big skinny dogs.
Yesterday I piled the kids into the car and we went into town to pick up Andy at his office and sweep him away to New Hampshire. Yes, he agreed to leave early yesterday—and even to take off the whole day today! We stopped at the Eddie Bauer Outlet on the way up and took advantage of their 70%-off sale: I got 3 pairs of socks and a sweatshirt, and Andy got 3 sweatshirts, a long-sleeve polo shirt, and a pair of jeans—all for $67.
Today we went to the mountain, they with their skis and me with my book and reading glasses. It was a tricky day for Andy, because the kids are at different ability levels, so he felt pulled in two (or occasionally three) directions for most of the day. Tomorrow will be easier, because Barbara and Jerry are on their way up to join us now. But it is also wicked cold, as we say up here. It can be perfect weather in all of New Hampshire, but on Cannon Mountain it is always windy and snowy. Good thing I'm the only one who seems to mind.
In case you're wondering why I have 5 items in my "In From Netflix" sidebar item instead of the usual 3, it's not because I've upgraded my subscription. Indeed, as I've mentioned, we've been watching fewer movies than ever. But I had a great experience with customer service.
We received a copy of "Flight of the Conchords" (Season 1, Disc 1) a few weeks ago, and only the first episode was playable—after that, the DVD made a funny noise and ejected itself. So I sent it back and they sent me another. This one never played even once. So I sent it back and they sent me another. This one played once, then not again. But I reloaded and it played. The next time, though ... not so much. I reloaded, but nothing. So I called the super-secret customer service line (I'll share it with all of you because you're so special to me: 877-638-3549) and got a really nice guy who felt my pain. He said he'd send me the next 2 DVDs in my queue as a bonus, and he suggested I try again for "Flight of the Conchords." I was hoping he'd say that they'd been having trouble with that one, but apparently not. So I hung up and went to try one more time, and guess what? It played. This time we didn't remove it from the DVD player until we were done watching.
In case you're wondering why I went to such trouble for a dumb DVD, it's because it's not dumb, it's brilliant! "Flight of the Conchords" is about two naive New Zealand folk musicians trying to make it in NYC. It is so hilarious that I find myself giggling throughout each episode and sometimes hitting "pause" so I can finish giggling without missing the next scene. I'm in love with Brett and Jemaine and can't wait for the next installment.
In between all the trouble, though, we watched "Mrs. Henderson Presents," which, I'm sorry to say, was all in all a mild disappointment. Bob Hoskins is aging beautifully, and Judi Dench is always a pleasure to watch, but otherwise? Meh. Overacted, overly staged, overly not so interesting. Sorry.
Last night I made a kid-friendly recipe from
Giardia Giada. It was very bland and thus really boring for me and Andy, and it was only slightly successful with the kids. I will make some changes next time—and there will be a next time, because the concept is a good one. Specifically, I will add some bacon (for flavor and kid appeal) and some peas (for color and nutrition).
Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina
1 cup pastina pasta (The kids were enchanted by the tiny stars!)
2 Tbsp olive oil (I doubled the entire recipe, but next time I'll know that I don't need to double the oil.)
½ cup cubed chicken breast (1" cubes) (Next time I will make the chicken pieces much smaller, so that they slip under the kids' radar.)
½ cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14½-oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup bread crumbs (Please make your own—just throw some slightly stale bread into your food processor and whiz. Store the leftovers in the freezer for the next time you need some.)
¼ cup grated Parmesan
1 Tbsp butter, cut into little bits
Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly grease an 8x8" baking pan. (Since I doubled the recipe, I used a 9x13" pan.)
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the
pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5
minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium
heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and
garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the
chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Put the chicken
mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes and their juices,
mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Dump
the mixture into the prepared pan. In a small bowl
mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over
the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter.
Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes and their juices, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Dump the mixture into the prepared pan. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Today Gabriela visited with her two adorable children; she used to babysit for us, beginning when Steph was only 8 months old! We had dozens of boxes and bags filled with outgrown clothes and toys for them. I served a yummy (if not terribly photogenic) coffee cake, yet another success story from The Weekend Baker by Abby Dodge. I have yet to make anything less than scrumptious from this book—and the recipes are easy as, well, pie!
for the topping:
16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of table salt
2⅔ cup all-purpose flour
for the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp table salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
12 Tbsp (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tsp vanilla extract
Position rack in middle of oven; heat to 350°. Lightly grease a 9x13" baking pan.
Make the topping: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add both sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir with a rubber spatula, pressing to crush lumps of sugar. Add the flour and mix until well blended and pasty. Set aside.
Make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well blended. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, melted butter, and vanilla until well blended.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently stir with a rubber spatula just until blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Break up the topping mixture with your fingers into medium-sized pieces and sprinkle evenly over the cake batter to form a generous layer.
Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Place the pan on a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers, covered at room temperature, for up to 4 days. (As if!)
It's been a long while since I woke up in the middle of the night convinced I was at death's door, so last night I did. I had a burning sensation in my neck and upper back/chest area, so that could only be a perforated esophagus, right? Not long ago I heard of someone who died from that, which is how I knew about it. This guy was in the final stages of alcoholism, and I had had two cocktails that evening, so that settled that. I was this close to going down to the computer to get all my passwords ready for Andy to take over after my death. Then something occurred to me. I woke Andy and said, "What does heartburn feel like?" Yes, dear readers, I have never had heartburn in my entire life, not even when I was pregnant. "Is it like the feeling of hot acid burning its way through your esophagus and/or trachea, but with no pain upon swallowing or inhaling, and does it feel better when you sit up?" "Yes ... zzzzz" murmured the King of Heartburn and suggested I go take some ranitidine. Which I did. All better! And I even managed to fall back to sleep—eventually.
I wasn't so lucky the night before. Steph had come in and said there was a strange banging noise in her room. Turns out that the gusty winds were rattling one of her storm windows. Not long after, I heard a different strange noise from downstairs. Andy assured me it was nothing. I said, "Well, OK, but I hope we're not getting burgled." He said, "And I hope you never use the word burgled again." I never did fall back to sleep that night.
Time to learn something!
1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!
Here's what I got:
Bawarij were Indian corsairs that chased Arab shipping bound for India and China. They are mentioned by Ma'sudi as frequenting the pirate den at Socotra and Marco Polo describes them as pirates of Gujarat. Ibn Batuta describes them being warships with oars, fifty rowers, and fifty men-at-arms and wooden roofs to protect against arrows and stones. Tabari describes them in an attack upon Basra in 866 CE as having one pilot (istiyam), three fire-throwers (naffatun), a baker, a carpenter and thirty-nine rowers and fighters making up a complement of forty-five.
These ships were unsuited for warlike maneuvers and lacked the sleek prows or ramming capabilities of other contemporary naval units, but were intended to provide for hand-to-hand battles for crew upon boarding.
This kind of entry makes me glad I never went on Jeopardy. "I'll take Indian corsairs for $200, Alex!"
I've just found out that there are only two more issues of No Depression coming out before the magazine ceases publication. I only just discovered it 6 months ago (about 12 years too late...) and have been lapping up each issue so eagerly that I already can't imagine what I'll do without it. Co-editors Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock have determined that the music industry ain't what it used to be, and they just can't keep going on anymore. What a gaping hole this will leave. No Depression's stories, ads, and reviews have led me to the discovery of at least a half-dozen alt.country (etc.) artists I might not have ever heard of otherwise—and to the purchase of their CDs. Damn.
There are movies that Andy and I have seen so many times that we know most of the script by heart—and rarely miss a chance to spout off entire chunks of dialogue at the least provocation. Some of the usual suspects are "Jaws," "The Sting," "Finding Nemo," "The Godfather," "It's a Wonderful Life," "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "The Princess Bride," "The Pope of Greenwich Village," etc. (That last one is a particular favorite. Andy is a wee bit obsessed with that movie, so we are more familiar with the script than pretty much anyone else who didn't write it, direct the movie, or star in it. Quotations from it crop up nearly daily in our discourse, for no really good reason.)
In addition, there are lines from movies that we have incorporated into our everyday conversations—but in context as opposed to just for the pure joy of hearing them. I already forgot where I saw this link, but Jeopardy wunderkind Ken Jennings recently blogged about this very thing. (You can see his original list here, an update here, and the many pages of forum comments on the subject here.) My favorite from Ken's list was “I’m not sure I agree with you 100% on your police work there, Lou.” That's from "Fargo" and is used whenever you want to politely disagree with someone's deduction. I'm going to start using it right away.
Some of the most oft-used lines in our household are these:
There are dozens of others, but that's all I can come up with right now. Oh, and be sure to check out this related (and of course very funny) story from The Onion.
So ... what movie* lines are in regular circulation in your house?
*Not TV—we'll do that another time, I promise.
Yesterday I met up with CooksTalk pal (and occasional Verbatim commenter) RisottoGirl in Brookline to pick up our CSA meat shares—but first, a couple hours of shmoozing at Peet's, followed by a quick Trader Joe's spree. This month's share yielded chicken, ground beef, ground lamb, lamb rib chops, top round steak, and chuck steak, plus some free soup bones. Tammy and her boys are coming over tomorrow to divy up the spoils; my kids love when little ones come over because they get to feel big (and Mom usually bakes something sweet).
Yesterday Andy took Pete to see "Golden Compass," which they both enjoyed. They determined that it would have been too scary for the girls. Today Andy took Julie to see "Enchanted," which they liked, but they said that the ending would have been too scary for Steph. Then I took Steph to see "27 Dresses," which was as formulaic as it gets but really pretty enjoyable overall.
Before the movie, I took Steph to Target to search for, um, not exactly bras, but whatever it is that comes before bras. We found a couple of camisoles and something like a half-undershirt or sports-bra thing that seemed OK. Oh, and while we're at it, I might as well tell you that I found something that was just right for me, too. Yes, in the pre-teen department. So now you know. Sigh.
Hold on to your hats; I made this gorgeous rye bread:
It's from the same book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, that I told you about last month. All you do is substitute 1 cup of rye flour for one of the cups of all-purpose flour in the Master Recipe, add 1½ Tbsp of caraway seeds, and do a quick cornstarch wash on top so some more caraway seeds will stick. But really, you need to buy this book already.
I bought a box of vital wheat gluten, but I keep forgetting to use it. I'm told that a tablespoon or two added to bread dough helps give it a better rise (and adds protein, too). This bread tasted just perfect, but it could have been a little higher for my liking.
*I was IMing with Scott when this came out of the oven. I sent him the photo and said, "I can't believe I fucking made this!" He suggested I use that as a title for my post about it, but I reminded him that this is a family blog.
Appetizer: Name one thing that is unique about you.
That's a toughie. On the one hand, I'm unique because I'm the only me (just like Mr. Rogers taught me!); on the other, all the different facets of me are probably shared by millions of other people, just in different combinations. Well, except perhaps the tiny scar on my thumb in the shape of the Nike swoosh.
Soup: Fill in the blank: My favorite _________ is __________ but I like _________ too.
My favorite genre of music is folk/alt.country, but I like rock too.
Salad: What type of wood do you have for your home’s furnishings?
Mostly cherry and pine, I think. Some antique stuff that I don't know what it is.
Main Course: Who do you talk to most often on the phone?
I talk on the phone as little as possible; the answer is probably Andy, although each call usually lasts only a minute or two.
Dessert: What level of responsibility do you have in your job?
Sole proprietor, baby!
1. Don't Turn Around - the everybodyfields
2. The Memphis Blues (or Mister Crump) - Louis Armstrong
3. Thin Blue Flame - Josh Ritter
4. My Rights Versus Yours - The New Pornographers
5. Love You Like a Man (live) - Chris Smither
6. It's Just Another Morning Here - Nanci Griffith
7. Hard Day on the Planet - Loudon Wainwright III
8. Away - Kathleen Edwards
9. Take Me I'm Yours - Squeeze
10. Welcome to the Working Week - Elvis Costello
Here's a new meme for me:
1. Snowdrops are what? What the hell are snowdrops? I don't know.
2. I'm going to make rye bread for the first time today.
3. "This Is Us" by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris is a song whose lyrics have meaning to me.
4. Just one sip and I can tell if it's Absolut Citron or not.
5. Home is where I'm happiest.
6. I believe that a balance between companionship and alone time is a necessary part of life.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to catching up with Andy, tomorrow my plans include nothing in particular, and Sunday I want to pick up this month's meat CSA share.
For the first time since we met 20+ years ago, Andy and I are spending Valentine's Day apart. He was supposed to go to New York on Monday but switched things around when he made his doctor's appointment, so he left yesterday and won't be home till tomorrow (at which point he's going back to the doctor). I emailed this to him, though, so he won't have any doubts about my feelings for him:
At least my other favorite guy is here to show his love for me, even if it is a different kind of love:
Pete brought home an essay today that he wrote on the topic "someone I admire":
I admire my mom. I admire my mom first because she helps me with alot of things. Like my homework. I also admire my mom because she takes care of me. Another reason is she is VERY smart and has a cool job. I love my mom!!
The accompanying drawing shows him doing his homework and asking, "Mom, what's 130 x 3?" and there's me smiling and replying, "390."
I am so happy and excited right now I can barely contain myself. First, to recap: All of my in-house editing experience was with college-level textbooks, and that is still what nearly all of my freelance work is, too. And I love it. However, as you can imagine, I would give my eye-teeth for the chance to also work on cookbooks. I've been trying forever to break into the wonderful world of cookbook editing, but it's seemingly impossible. Publishing has always been famous for the catch-22 of "No one will hire you unless you have experience, and you can't get experience unless someone hires you." I was lucky to get started in an entry-level position and work my way up, gaining experience as I went along. But the cookbook thing? Not a chance. I know I'm a top-notch editor in general, and I just know I'd be great at cookbooks too, because I read and use them all the time and have a good sense of which ones work well and which ones don't (and I don't mean just the quality of the recipes). But I've never been able to get so much as one toe in the door. (Some of you might recall the closest I ever got, which was 2 years ago; I have not just a little schadenfreude that that particular magazine never actually got off the ground.)
So, fast forward to last June, when I saw a CraigsList posting for a full-time in-house editor at a small local publisher that specializes in cookbooks—oh, and sometimes parenting books! I replied to the ad, saying that I was not able to apply for that position (what with being too busy at home editing, cooking, and parenting!), but I hoped they would consider me for freelance work. I stopped just short of begging and/or offering to work for free. Of course I got no reply—that is, until a couple of weeks ago, out of the blue! The managing editor's email started with, "Here's proof that it never hurts to ask."
To make a long story short, I was given a sample cookbook chapter to edit as a test. I worked very hard on it, and I just knew I kicked butt. A few days later, the people on my list of references reported that they'd been asked about me—two are current clients and one is a former colleague who is now a bigwig at another company—so I knew that things were moving along in the right direction. Today I got an email saying that I'm in! I even got assigned my first project, and it's a doozy! I just can't believe it's finally happening.
And once I complete this first project (assuming it doesn't fall through like the other thing), from then on I'll be able to say that I do indeed have experience working on cookbooks, so those doors won't be slammed in my face anymore. I'll be in the club, at long last.
I've mentioned before how much I enjoy Jessica Hagy's clever little drawings over at Indexed, but I just want to mention it again. She does graphs:
If you've never checked out her site, you're in for an enjoyable few minutes—or hours....
Tuesday night I took Pete to meet Christine, his new speech pathologist. Her office is in Lexington, which is where I worked for 11 years in my pre-mommy days. We drove right past my old office building and then headed into Lexington Center, where I spent many a lunch hour eating and shopping back in the day. It brought back such a nice nostalgic feeling, even though many of the storefronts have long since changed hands (several times, for all I know). I was pleased to see that some of the restaurants and shops were still there, and it still has a nice little "center of town" feel to it.
We arrived early, so we walked across the street to CVS to pick up a few things I needed. On the way in, I noticed some posters featuring great old photos of Lexington Center. There was one from 1938 that showed the building that eventually became CVS; Pete said, "Is that what it looked like when you used to go here?" I laughed and said, "Hey, I'm not that old!" There was a woman behind us who overheard, and she laughed and said, "Kids think anyone over 30 is old!" Then, when we walked back over for our appointment, it turned out that that woman from CVS was Christine! Pete couldn't get over the coincidence.
Christine asked if we would allow her to videotape him, which was fine with both of us. First Pete met alone with her, while I read (actually: eavesdropped) in the waiting room. Her manner is very warm and friendly but at the same time firm and get-down-to-business. Then she called me in, and we all played Sorry! together while they practiced some of the things they'd gone over. She wanted him to mimic stuttering—to repeat the first letter of a word, first hard and then gradually lighter and lighter. She's trying to show him that his stuttering is caused by tension in his mouth and throat and that he can learn to recognize that feeling and control it. Then he went into the waiting room while she and I wrapped up.
I think it went well, although Pete was still feeling kind of tired and sick from his cold, and he was pretty reserved. I wondered if he felt uncomfortable having me in there with him, but Christine said that he was quiet before I came in too. He's never terribly outgoing with adults (besides me and Andy), and this was all very unfamiliar, so I think that's normal for him. She has a special certification just in stuttering, so we're hopeful. I realize that there will never be some kind of magical "cure" for his stuttering, but if she can teach him how to manage it, maybe he can feel more confident about controlling it if it gets worse (or even if it just stays the way it is, which is as bad as it's ever been). Next week is vacation, so we'll go back the following week for our second session.
1. You know those old stories of brand names that didn't play well overseas? The classic (
probably apocryphal—see comments) example was the Chevy Nova, since "no va" means "doesn't go" in Spanish. Fritinancy came up with a few more that had me snorting with laughter.
2. I would consider trying to come up with a six-word motto for these here United States of 'Merka, but it's more fun to just read all the ideas every one else thought of. I also think it's interesting how many of the commenters labeled themselves with name, age, location, occupation, and favorite presidential candidate.
3. What to do with your Crocs once the strap breaks, the mate is lost, they're beyond grungy (although, remember, you can run them through the dishwasher!), your kids feet grow, etc.: Donate them to Soles United, an organization that collects old Crocs, grinds them up, and makes new shoes out of them that are then donated to needy people around the world! (via Di)
Time to learn something!
1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!
Go get another cup of coffee before you tackle this one:
The reason for this is that the number of possible sub-groups of network participants is , where N is the number of participants. This grows much more rapidly than either
- the number of participants, N, or
- the number of possible pair connections, (which follows Metcalfe's law)
so that even if the utility of groups available to be joined is very small on a per-group basis, eventually the network effect of potential group membership can dominate the overall economics of the system.
Given a set A of N people, it has 2N possible subsets. This is not difficult to see, since we can form each possible subset by simply choosing for each element of A one of two possibilities: whether to include that element, or not.
However, this includes the (one) empty set, and N singletons, which are not properly subgroups. So 2N − N − 1 subsets remain, which is exponential, like 2N.
I can't even figure out how/why anyone would need to use this sort of information.
Regular Verbatim reader Steve turns out to be a talented potter as well as a clever blog commenter. What a delight to receive a package yesterday containing this gorgeous vase! And he couldn't possibly have known that the style and color scheme are exactly my taste; in fact, I already own a small pitcher that is so similar that you'd think they came together as a set. I wish I were a better photographer (and flower arranger, for that matter), but I hope you can tell how beautiful it is anyhow. Thanks again, Steve!
Last night I got into bed at 10:00pm, prepared to finally have a decent night's sleep, peaceful and relaxed after Andy's good doctor's appointment. At 1:00am Pete came in crying out of his right eye because his left eye was glued shut. I wiped away the goo and sent him back to bed. I then tossed and turned until 4:30am, unable to sleep. Does Pete have pinkeye? Will we all get pinkeye? Will I have to miss my mammogram appointment and have to reschedule it for god-knows-when? Will Pete be able to go to his appointment with the stuttering specialist? Why didn't I ask the doctor yesterday for the name of an orthopedist for my shoulder? And every other possible question short of "Why is the sky blue?" So I did finally conk* out at 4:30am and woke up again when Andy was leaving at 5:30am, then drifted in and out of sleep until I finally got up at 7:00am, not even close to well-rested.
I was surprised to find that Pete's eye was fine. Completely white and normal. Huh? But Julie had a tummy ache and was crying. She ate breakfast (Tuesday is Pop-Tart day! Woo-hoo!) and then felt fine and dandy. I'm glad, because today is the 100th day of school, and they make a big deal out of it in kindergarten. Pete felt he shouldn't go to school again, because of his runny nose. I said, "Well, it's early release, so you'll probably be OK there." He said, "Well, it's early release, so it's probably OK if I miss it." He won. So instead of school, he got to go with me to my mammo appointment. He has already been to my OB-GYN appointment and my bikini wax appointment, so why not? No, he did not come in with me. No, I did not remember to use the little towelette to wipe off my deodorant (the woman forgot to tell me and I didn't notice the little sign in the dressing room), so I hope the results are OK. I did tell her about it afterward, because I saw the sign as I put my clothes back on, and she said she'd make a note of it. At the place I used to go, you'd meet with an MD right afterward to get your results; not surprisingly, they went out of business. This place mails the results 10–14 days after the appointment.
*Here's another word I'm sure I've never read or written: I would've guessed it was konk.
Julie and Pete both felt better when they woke up today, but I still kept them home from school—Julie because you're supposed to keep a kid home until she's been fever-free for 24 hours and Pete because he has a very runny nose. Janet took Steph to school for me and then came back so I could go with Andy to his appointment! (She's also going to pick up Steph from school at 3:00—can you say "good friend"?)
All good news from the doctor, not least of which is that we both like him! Dr. Stern left some really big shoes to fill, but we both felt that this new guy is warm and smart and engaged and left us feeling very confident and cared for. He asked a million questions and was interested in every little piece of information we provided (I tend to over-provide, figuring that you never know what little tidbit is going to help a doctor make some connection). He concluded that Andy is just fine. He said that the tests done at the hospital (EKG, CAT scan, X-ray, stress test, blood tests, etc.) pretty much rule out all the worst stuff, like heart attack and embolism. He did another EKG in the office and it came out with "normal" printed at the top; he laughed and said that it's actually quite rare to see a completely "normal" EKG. He said that the fact that Andy has gone to the gym without any recurring symptoms is even better than a stress test (although he had only one or two regular workouts before he started having the lightheadedness, at which point he kind of gave up on exercising out of worry). So it seems that all of these symptoms are indeed "just" anxiety. He said that even mild hyperventilating—like just a few rapid, shallow breaths—can cause your hands to tingle.
So what exactly caused the initial sharp chest pain that then shot straight to his head? He said that we very often never find out what causes most ailments; all we can do is try to rule out all the worst things. He named a few possibilities, like an intercostal muscle tearing, a small vein popping, and a bunch of other things. I asked if those things could have caused the rush to his head, and he said absolutely, it's called a vagal response. He said he had the very thing last fall; he fell and broke his foot and had just enough time to shout to his wife, "I broke my foot and I'm about to pass out!" Andy didn't pass out, but it's probably the same sensation.
He said he's 90% sure Andy is fine; to get as close as possible to 100%, he wants Andy to get a blood test for thyroid levels (which can cause tingling extremities when they're out of whack) and an echocardiogram (he thinks it's highly unlikely it would be abnormal since everything else was normal, but still), then get the records from the tests performed during his hospital visit (they never got sent over—grrr!) and come see him again. We're hoping he can get an appointment on Friday, because the doctor is going to be out all next week.
Julie: Woke up with a fever, kind of logy* all day, missed her friend's birthday party. Might not go to school tomorrow.
Pete: Has a lousy cold and not much appetite. Skipped Sunday school and had to miss his friend's birthday party today. Might not go to school tomorrow.
Steph: Bored silly because everyone else is sick. Lost 3 teeth in 3 days.
Andy: Has not felt right since his hospital visit last month. Experiencing intermittent lightheadedness, tingly hands and feet, chest fluttering, fatigue, lack of appetite. Possibly "something serious," but more likely (we hope!) just classic symptoms of anxiety exacerbated by worrying (a vicious cycle). He has an appointment with our new doctor tomorrow to see what's what. I'd like to go with him, but I might be home with sick kids (see above).
Karen: In full caretaker mode. Pete even said, "It's a good thing moms never get sick, because they have to take care of everyone!"
*This is definitely the first time I ever typed, wrote, or read this word; I would have guessed that it was spelled "logey."
"If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few hours and it will change."
I can't find any reliable source information for this quotation; it's been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Will Rogers—and has been applied to quite a few other U.S. states and regions. Regardless: At different moments today we had bright sunshine, blustery wind, fog, blinding snow squalls, pouring rain, thunder and lightning, and "nothing in particular."