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Archive for the ‘Randomness’ Category

Yesterday I wrote out a long whiny self-pitying post because I was having A Bad Day. But I didn’t finish it or post it you’re welcome  and today I am feeling MUCH better. So let’s try some randomosity.

  • It’s Friday, which used to mean something. For me, it used to mean the end to silence. My pre-pandemic days used to be filled with blissful silence and multiple, consecutive hours of time to myself. Now, I am with someone 24 hours a day. Well, unless you count the couple hours a night when my husband and I go to our separate corners of the house – he to the basement to play video games, me to the living room to watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I have two episodes left in the series and I am DEVASTATED. Whatever will I watch next?!?! Anyway, I suppose I should count those two hours as alone time, but I DON’T. I guess what I am missing is productive alone time? Time where I could write or exercise without being interrupted? I don’t know. Anyway, NOW Fridays are meaningless because the weekend is just more of the same. Well, I suppose weekends are now two days of no school, which is FAR preferable to distance learning days… but it still feels the same. Just with less sobbing.
  • I harvested some lettuce yesterday. I probably should have taken a picture of what the lettuce looked like, all full and fluffy, before I cut off a bunch of leaves. But I did not. I don’t expect your disappointment, should you feel any at all, to last beyond this sentence. I added carrots and onion, as is my custom, and doused the whole thing in ranch dressing. It was fun to eat lettuce that I grew and harvested but it wasn’t as crunchy as grocery store lettuce. I read about that and knew to expect it, but the salad was still a little… limp.
  • Still on the topic of salad, somehow: I got a head of iceberg in my curbside grocery order yesterday. It was the smallest head of lettuce I have ever seen. Imagine that someone had chopped a slightly-below-normal sized head in half and then carefully wrapped the cut edge in the outer leaves of lettuce. I have not checked to see whether this is what actually happened — that I, in fact, am the proud owner of half a head of lettuce. Well. Nonetheless. We must not complain about these things. The grocery store gods taketh away, but lo, they also giveth! The last time I got curbside delivery, I ordered two 8-oz containers of sour cream, on sale for $1 apiece, and instead received two three-pound containers of sour cream, and was charged $1 apiece. That is SIX POUNDS of sour cream for $2. So what if I had to remove a bag of green peppers from my order yesterday and throw them directly in the trash (they were so wrinkled and softened and had large spreading bruises and I am so very sorry but I was not ever going to eat them) – I have a BOUNTY of sour cream. If there is a sour cream shortage in the near future, you know who to blame.
  • How long will it take to figure out the New Shopping Rules? I’m not talking about masks and one-way aisles etc. I am talking about PLANNING when a) you don’t know what a store will have and b) you don’t know when you’ll be able to go next and c) you are not quite able to predict what you will run out of/need? I am erring on the side of Buy All the Things, Just in Case, but even so I encounter deficits. When I went to the store a week ago (was it only a week ago??? time no longer makes sense), I did not realize that I needed to buy my husband the milk he likes. And then by the time he told me he needed more, I had already placed the curbside pickup order (you have to order five days in advance, and there is no way to update your cart once the order has been placed) and am not planning to go to the real grocery store for another week if I can help it. Well, and when I can go will depend entirely on my husband’s in-office schedule. Perhaps he could have let me know when his milk was half-gone, so that I could have put it on the list. But of course HE doesn’t think about things that way, because a) he has never been the primary grocery shopper and b) he has not adjusted AT ALL to the scarcity of both shopping frequency and available items. Well. Next time we will know. And I still haven’t gotten the hang of not being able to run to the store for odd things I forget, either. I am kicking myself for not anticipating how much I would be craving avocados. But we do have a good supply of tomatoes for those in my family who like them. And, of course, the aforementioned sour cream surplus.
  • I have been on a quest to find margaritas. For some reason, I have a serious hankering for a restaurant-style marg. I mean, I have tequila (for now), and I always buy limes when I go to the store, so I can make my own at home. But, while lime-juice-and-tequila is good, it is not quite as satisfying as a big ol’ properly mixed drink. Plus I am tired of squeezing limes. And it takes a LOT of lime juice to achieve my preferred level of sweetness. Fortunately, we have a few Mexican restaurants in the area that allow you to purchase margaritas. Unfortunately, takeout tacos are not very good. Nevertheless, I think we’ll try them out this weekend if ONLY so I can get a proper marg.
  • Last night, I had a very long in-depth dream about writing a memoir. This is ridiculous because I have a very un-book-worthy life. I think it might be my brain’s reaction to the very mediocre memoir I am reading right now. I like memoirs. But some of them can be SO DREADFUL. This one is particularly boring. And it seems AWARE that it is boring, because occasionally the writer will throw in some event that seems designed to counteract the tedium… but it ends up feeling forced. This one also seems very superficial, like the writer is declining to do any sort of introspection about his life. I don’t know if that’s because the writer is afraid of introspection, or incapable of it, or if the introspection itself is boring, or if there’s something deeper and more sinister beneath the surface that would get out of control if he examined it? I don’t know. But I’m disappointed and a little exasperated with the writer. He’s led an objectively interesting life and could at the VERY LEAST go into some interesting details about the behind-the-scenes world of radio programming. The little he does share is not enough. (For me.) I wonder if it’s harder to write a memoir when you are still a working celebrity. Maybe you have too many concerns about blowing up your life or ruining your relationships to be as forthcoming as you could be. Perhaps I have unrealistic expectations here, but I would think that the POINT of a memoir is to be as honest as possible. Okay, okay. I know the ACTUAL point is to make money. I’m not naïve. But if you are going to read a celebrity memoir, I recommend Jessica Simpson’s – in which she writes as though she is sharing her life story and intimate feelings with a friend – over this one, which feels like the writer is simply sharing sanitized-for-syndication stories with an audience of strangers. Which, of course, is exactly what he’s doing, why am I so hard to please?!?!
  • There are a couple of gift-giving occasions coming up, and I am struggling to figure out what to GIVE. First is Mother’s Day. My husband and I ordered gifts for our mothers yesterday after discovering just how extensive some shipping delays have become. Even so, the gifts aren’t due to arrive until the day AFTER Mother’s Day, which is a bummer. I am kicking myself for not planning ahead. Anyway, I would ALSO like to get something for my sister. She is a single mom who works full time AND of course cares for her daughter almost constantly. And now that her daughter is home with her 24/7, there aren’t even any thoughtful preschool teachers to help her daughter make her a card or anything. So I definitely want to celebrate her in some way. The hard thing is that we aren’t particularly close, so I don’t know, for instance, her favorite local takeout places. A gift certificate to an online store might be good – like Sephora or something – since she can use it to order exactly what she wants. But gift certificates are also so impersonal, even if they are useful. Maybe that’s what we’ll end up doing. But I am OPEN to any and all suggestions for great gifts that ANYONE would like.
  • Again, on the Mother’s Day topic: Can you think of any way I can get her daughter to make her a Mother’s Day card/gift/anything without her knowing or needing to be involved? I considered reaching out to my niece’s father, but he is in law enforcement and therefore kind of busy. I have the contact info for my niece’s father’s sister, but she is ALSO a single mother and I don’t want to make her life more difficult or rub the whole Mother’s Day THING in her face. Whereas I can give Carla a fairly wide berth when she is on FaceTime, and even leave the room to let her chat with her grandparents or whomever, my niece is four-almost-five and seems to need constant supervision. UGH. I don’t know what to do. Any brilliant ideas? At all?
  • Speaking of my niece: Her birthday is coming up in May as well. I am thinking of getting some sort of decorate-your-own-cookies kit to send her… and some sort of gift. Ideally I would get a her a gift that allows for lots of independent play and minimal setup/cleanup. But apparently now that my own daughter is nearly seven, I have completely forgotten what a newly-five-year-old is capable of and likes to do. HELP?
  • And now I am starting to feel pre-anxious/sad about Carla’s birthday. It is at the end of June and I had hoped hoped hoped that we would have achieved some sense of (new) normalcy by then… But it doesn’t look like that will happen, does it? I know people all over the world are dealing with shelter-in-place birthdays, and it’s not really a big deal, even in the — what’s the opposite of “grand scheme of things”? short-term scheme of things? But I am already sad and overwhelmed at the idea of making the day special for Carla. Okay. I am going to Not Think About It right now and allow Future Me to deal with it in a few weeks. Perhaps things will have changed.
  • My husband and I plan to embark on a Baking Project this weekend. We have already made a couple of fun things – including homemade naan (YUM) and homemade cinnamon rolls (ALSO YUM) – but this time we want to try a lemon olive-oil tart. The only thing holding us back is a lack of a tart pan. I think that we can get away with making the tart in a regular pie pan because it doesn’t matter what it looks like so much as what it tastes like. My husband disagrees because he is even more of a Stringent Rule Follower than I am. Neither one of us is willing to budge from our clearly superior position. So for now we are at an impasse. Maybe I will see if tart pans are part of Target’s curbside pickup offerings. (I won’t tell my husband unless they ARE; I don’t want to appear to have given up my perfectly reasonable alternative solution that easily.) Maybe I will make focaccia instead.
  • Surprisingly, most of all to me, I have been keeping up with my loose Housecleaning Schedule pretty well. The clutter still presents a constant threat, but we’ve been hacking away at it when it springs up and seem to have gotten into a rhythm. Yes, I know this is like talking about how your baby is finally sleeping through the night; I know how Putting It in Writing works. But SO FAR. My floors are free of debris, my appliances – but for one completely anonymous handprint on the fridge door – are shiny, the clean laundry has been folded and put away (ignore the dirty laundry in to-be-washed piles on my closet floor; I can only handle one load a day). It’s pretty neat and tidy around here. Except for one thing. Apparently I forgot to put “clean the microwave” on the to-do list. It looks like an episode of Law & Order: Cheese Dip Explosion Unit in there. But it has a door I can close so most of the day I feel like there is no problem at all. Isn’t that the very best kind of solution?
  • It feels like I am writing about the exact same things I’ve already written about. Am I the blog equivalent of your elderly Aunt Sylvie saying, “Stop me if you’ve heard this already” before launching into the same old story about that time she saw Bette Midler in the dog park that you can recite along by heart? If so, please forgive me. My brain is so very foggy and there is so very little going on in my life right now.
  • It seems that I have become A Person Who Cannot Get Rid of Jars. Sure, in The Time Before, I kept the occasional jar; I use them for homemade salad dressing and pizza sauce and lime juice (for margaritas). But I never had more than four jars at a time and was perfectly fine putting an empty (washed) jar into the recycling bin. But now I am INCAPABLE of getting rid of them! Just now, Carla finished another jar of pickles and I said to myself, “Self, you already HAVE a pickle jar. And ten other jars. You do NOT need this pickle jar. Just rinse and recycle. Rinse and recycle.” And I kept muttering, “rinse and recycle” to myself as I rinsed it and put it in the dishwasher because obviously I am going to keep it. Such a strange form in which my pandemic anxiety has chosen to manifest! It’s not like there’s a JAR SHORTAGE during this pandemic! I would feel much less perplexed by my choices if I were hoarding toilet paper. Or yeast. But JARS? This is going to be A Thing Carla talks about with her future spouse, isn’t it? “Oh, I know it’s weird. But as long as I can remember, she’s always had shelves full of jars!” “What do you MEAN you got Mother a collection of artisan jams for her birthday? You KNOW she has a jar problem!”
  • We just got an email about summer camp.  I opened the email with pounding heart and mounting dread. I mean, I know deep in my bones that camp isn’t happening this summer. And even if it IS an option, will I actually feel comfortable sending Carla? Would it be better to keep enrollment to people whose parents work full-time and really need childcare? But right now, in the first week since our governor confirmed there will be no more school this year, I feel like the prospect of No Camp — no, the prospect of being Carla’s Sole Source of Support and Entertainment… and also food and clean laundry and cuddles and discipline and education — is just too heavy and heartbreaking to face. But there is no ruling yet. The camp just wanted to let us know that they will decide in the next few weeks. THE SUSPENSE. IT IS WORSE THAN THE KNOWING.
  • In Other Things We Don’t Yet Know, I am torturing myself about school next fall. It is so far away that it really isn’t worth fretting over. So many things can and will change before August. But I keep turning over and over in my mind the question: what would have to happen to make me feel safe sending Carla to school? I know I am in a uniquely privileged position of even being able to think about this, of even being able to consider NOT sending her (if that is something I would consider, which… I don’t know!). My barre studio sent out an email survey this week, asking about measures we’d like to see before we returned to studio workouts. And I found myself asking something similar: what would have to happen to make me feel safe returning to small, enclosed room full of heavily-breathing women? I don’t know. Well. * Brisk brushing-off motion. * This sounds like another concern for Future Me.

 

That’s all I’ve got today, Internet. I am off to bathe myself in sour cream, probably.

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I am having a really rough time. A really rough time. The highs are there, sure, but everything is shadowed with despair. And the lows are… Well. They are low. (Not yet low enough for me to break into my Emergency Ice Cream, though. Let’s not think about how low that threshold is.)

Here are some good things:

Carla and I went for a neighborhood scavenger hunt. I “laminated” the list with packing tape, so that we can do it over and over. (I am imagining venturing into different areas of our neighborhood, rather than marking off the same across-the-street red door over and over.) (I also took notes on our walk of other items for another list, so that we don’t get bored.)

Scavenger Hunt

We did not find a single squirrel OR a baby in a stroller.

Target delivered my Oreos and I promptly ate six of them with a glass of milk.

Oreos + milk

One of nature’s perfect food combinations.

The lettuce we planted last week is ALREADY SPROUTING! Sprouts are a long way from nice fluffy edible lettuce leaves, but it’s a good start.

 

What’s making your day brighter today?

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To those of you who have reached out: thank you. You are so sweet and it makes my heart so full to know that I have such a loving little community here on the internet.

My household is fine. I mean, we are all supposed to assume we are infected with coronavirus, right? but we are currently showing no symptoms.

I have been so grateful to those of you who are blogging through These Unprecedented Times. I keep wanting to blog – I keep thinking of things to tell you – but it is very difficult to write when I am obsessively refreshing the fifty or so news sites I now check in with each day. Usually I avoid all news because it causes me such roiling anxiety, but… well, now the roiling anxiety is just a state of being so, why not feed it on a minute-by-minute basis with frenzied updates from all possible media outlets? (My news roll includes Washington Post, NYT, the Atlantic, and CNN, plus a conservative news site that my parents follow so I can read what they are reading, plus three newspaper sites from three different areas of my home state, plus the news site from my brother’s city, plus my own city’s primary newspaper, plus Buzzfeed because sometimes you just need a 17 Cranky Cats in Tiny Sweaters palette cleanser.)

Anyway, what I am saying is that I should probably tone down the fear scrolling and instead do more reading/commenting on your posts and writing some of my own. After all, what we all need in These Unprecedented Times is more of my semi-hysterical trying-too-hard-to-be-funny overzealous-use-of-capital-letters-and-parentheses day-to-day-ridiculousness, right? Okay, so literally no one needs that. But distraction is useful.

When it comes to Blog Block, there’s also the Carla Consideration, as anyone who is both trying to work from home and now taking sole charge of Every Single Moment of their children’s time will be INTIMATELY familiar with. Just now, I had to move my computer from the kitchen table to my office because Carla was busy coloring some unicorns in a coloring book. And by “busy coloring” I mean saying, every six seconds, “Do you like this? How do you like how I colored this? Mommy? What color should this unicorn’s hooves be? And its ears? And its eyes? Is this the color you meant? Mommy? Should I make polka dots on the unicorn’s skin? Do you like this shade of aqua? Look, Mommy.” And it’s adorable and I am actually (SO FAR) cherishing this extra time we have together, but it is IMPOSSIBLE to think when you are constantly choosing unicorn-fur shade and oohing and aahing over a unicorn’s rainbow mane. There are approximately 7,192 unicorns in this book, which is a blessing and a curse.

Any reasonable update of what I’ve been up to since my last post (ha – remember that? a million years ago in The Time Before?) (seriously – I know time has taken on strange qualities but I was SHOCKED to learn that I wrote that carefree keto post less than a month ago) should include Carla, so let’s start there.

Pandemic schedules

Schedules! Useful both for Planning Your Day and also Knowing What Day It Is! Now taking bets on how long I will keep this up, which would have been “two days” except for Carla’s semi-reproachful comment that I hadn’t made today’s list in time for her to read it while eating breakfast.

  • As with the rest of the known universe, Carla is done with school for the foreseeable future. Her school has not gone so far as to put any sort of timeframe on our absence – but it seems like the world is moving toward cancelling the rest of the school year, so that’s what I’m anticipating. We are currently in Week 2 of her previously-scheduled Spring Break, which has given the administration a little breathing room to figure out some sort of distance learning program. We start next week and… I am VERY curious to discover how her very progressive, child-led-learning, no-homework-until-fifth-grade school designs remote lessons for a bunch of first graders.
  • Last week, because it was Spring Break, we put almost no limits on screen time. That was… awful. Carla loves screens but too much time watching shows transforms her from a curious, amiable, active child into a grouchy, defiant, hides-in-a-dark-room-with-only-the-images-from-her-ipad-as-lighting child and I do not care for it. So this week, we are doing more of a Loosely Scheduled thing. This means that I write up a list of tasks for us to complete each day (see above) and then we go through them at a very leisurely pace. It is better for Carla this way, because she just… needs expectations and targeted things to do. She’s good at distracting herself, don’t get me wrong, but unlimited screen time is NOT useful for her. It turns out that she has been very eager to complete all the tasks – more eager than I have been, truthfully; I’d rather sit and read all day than check off the items on the list I made. (Today, when I didn’t have a schedule pre-written and ready to go, she REQUESTED one. Then, when I made it, she pointed out that today’s list only has THIRTEEN items instead of FOURTEEN, when apparently the previous two days had – completely by accident – fourteen items. I am making this all up as I go along, Carla. There is no rhyme or reason to any of it!) I am relying heavily on the free daily activities and lessons from Scholastic, which requires next to zero thinking/planning on my part. Yesterday, we veered from Scholastic because I wanted to plant lettuce in Carla’s mini aero garden, so I designed a curriculum (HA) around the life cycle of a plant. If you think we are sticking EXACTLY to the schedule, you would be wrong. We definitely did not do a math worksheet yesterday, for instance. Or any exercise at all. Also, we have squeezed in lots of unscheduled cuddling/TV time – watching “educational” things like The Zoo and The Aquarium on Animal Planet.
  • We have been playing a lot of games. The games I enjoy include Exploding Kittens and Guess Who. The games I do NOT enjoy include Candy Land and Pit. We have a bunch of other games, of varying quality level, but I also ordered Sorry! from Target, which I have never played (full disclosure: mainly because I really wanted some Oreos and some tortilla chips, but they each only ship if you spend $25 and so I figured that a new game would help put us nicely over that total and also help stave off the inevitable cabin fever). Today, as you will note from our schedule, we will try out Bananagrams. Spelling work disguised as a game! Woo!
  • It is hard to tell what Carla thinks of…All This. She is, for the most part, a very happy, worry-free child. And that seems to persist, despite all these changes. I really need to lay off on things like telling her she shouldn’t eat an entire pint of blueberries in one sitting because they are hard to come by these days… and chiding her for wasting toilet paper. That doesn’t help anything. I am trying really hard to maintain as much a sense of normalcy as possible, but of course my husband and I talk about Pandemic Stuff all the time and Carla is very perceptive – I am sure she feels the palpable increase in tension around her. The only indication that she’s internalizing it is her sleep patterns: the other night, she came into my room at 4:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep until six. And last night, she wanted to sleep on the floor of our bedroom. But… these aren’t entirely abnormal for her, so it’s hard to say if they are Pandemic Related or not. I really, really hope that she is doing okay. Kids are adaptable and resilient… but man, this is all so uncertain and scary and… well, I just hope that everything works out okay.
  • One of the best things we are doing is daily chats with my niece. We have been Facetiming my niece – who lives in another state – and Carla has decided that they are going to read to each other every day. Carla is almost seven and her cousin is almost five. But they both seem to enjoy chatting with each other, and it’s nice for me to be able to have adult conversation – even if brief and interrupted – with my sister-in-law. (Ugh. I am worried about my sister-in-law, who is concerned she may be laid off. Also, she is a single parent who is currently working from home with a four-year-old. She is wonderfully creative and an excellent parent, but… what a CHALLENGE.) I should probably set up some remote “play dates” with Carla’s friends, but I’m not there yet.
  • One of the things I am as yet resisting is Group Interactions. Carla’s Girl Scouts troop leader mentioned that we could do meetings via Zoom or something (I am going to have to figure out what Zoom is, aren’t I?) and, while I get that we should definitely do our regularly scheduled monthly meeting, I am resistant to having additional meetings. It’s not like Carla can just hop on Zoom by herself. And I am not eager to participate in what will probably be a cacophony of seven-year-olds shouting at each other over various computers while their parents and troop leader try to get a word in edgewise. No thank you. Same goes for her ballet class. While the fact that her ballet teacher even suggested that they get together online makes me teary, it is so wonderful and sweet and caring of her to try to establish some sense of normalcy, I just cannot fathom how it would work. I am an introvert’s introvert, and the thought of even remote connection with other humans is challenging to wrap my head around.
  • What else can I update you on? Oh, obviously, keto is out the window. I lost nearly 10% of my bodyweight over the three weeks we did it, which was very gratifying. But I am putting keto on hold while we are in isolation because a) it is very expensive and requires a million trips to the grocery store to keep up our meat and cheese supplies and b) I need carbs to deal with the stress. I just do. On the plus side, being on keto just prior to a pandemic breaking out means that we have SO MUCH CHEESE in our house. Unfortunately, I am so sick of cheese that I have not been eating it. Except on tacos, which I have been loading into delicious, delicious shells.
  • My husband, obviously, is continuing to go to work each day. This is, technically, the most stressful thing in our lives right now. Which is fortunate; we aren’t sick, no one in our circle is sick. (Well, knowingly.) But getting sick feels… inevitable. He keeps leaving the house. He keeps meeting with people – patients, staff, other doctors – any of whom could be infected. When he comes home, he immediately washes his hands and changes his clothes. But… is that enough? I don’t know. I feel like Covid-19 is coming for us, at some point. We keep giving each other fearful, suspicious looks whenever one of us coughs or sneezes. Ugh.
  • My husband is not on the “front lines.” At least, not yet. His specialty is in the same vein as something like pediatrics or urology – where there is a wide spectrum of urgency. Some people need to be seen in the office or surgery center. Others, he can meet with via telehealth platforms or even over the phone. Some days, his patient load is fairly normal-for-a-slow-day; other days, he sees maybe two or three patients. He gets daily emails about changes to insurance and patient access and HIPAA regulations and emergency procedures. He and his partners have weekly meetings about staff changes and patient interaction. His primary office has closed all but one entrance and now takes everyone’s temperature when they enter. His hospital system, like others all over the country (and the world) is struggling with inadequate supplies of masks and gloves and other protective equipment. His hospital system, like others, is preparing for an overwhelming influx of emergent patients. His hospital system has informed him and other specialists that they may need to call on him to do Not His Specialty, but more general medicine, should the need for physicians overload the number of actual physicians available. The whole thing is weird and scary on many levels.
  • To drastically change tone, I have developed what I am referring to as Quarantine Skin. It is likely the result of a) not showering daily because what’s the point (there will come a point when I will need to shower daily for my mental health, but right now skipping showers feels more decadent than depressive) and b) near-constant anxiety and c) the leap back into an All Carbs All the Time lifestyle. I am less bothered by it than I would be if I had to be interacting with outside-my-family-humans, but I am aware that my body is not exactly happy with things at present.
  • As an introvert and an experienced work-from-homer, I am doing okay so far, in terms of our state’s Stay at Home order. Being at home is my preferred state, honestly. And we have a house full of books and videos and games and various digital distractions. Plus, we are very lucky to have a backyard – so, if it would only stop raining, we could go OUTSIDE. If I could just stop obsessing about the news, I would be much better. For the most part, I am sleeping okay. Not great – I wake up frequently to listen to my husband breathe, to listen to Carla turning over in her makeshift bed on my floor, to worry about what would happen if (when?) my husband contracts Covid-19 and brings it home to us, to worry about my parents and my brother and my friends – but okay; I fall asleep fairly easily and have been able to sleep in.
  • Sleeping in is probably the BEST part about this quarantine. My husband’s reduced patient load means that sometimes he isn’t needed at work until eight or even nine o’clock! There’s nothing any of us has to wake up early for, so we sleep in until decadent hours. Carla never seems to get enough sleep during the school year, so I am glad she is able to sleep until her body wakes her up.

 

Well. I have run out of steam for today. Please tell me how YOU are doing during These Unprecedented Times. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well, and I am thinking of you, and I know that this will pass. There will be A Time After This, there will.  And the best thing we can do is get through today in whatever way we can.

 

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It is a Call Week, so I am relieving myself of the drudgery of meal planning for this week. Ahhhhhhhhh, sweet self-imposed freedom from self-imposed obligation.

I just got back from chaperoning a field trip. Yes, the field trip I was whining about last week. I like to drag my worrying out as long as possible.

Taking responsibility for any children more than my own first grader is, as you may suspect, completely outside my comfort zone. The teacher may have understood this – she has met me before, after all – and only assigned me one other charge besides Carla. The little girl was so cute and held my hand whenever the teacher instructed the children to “find their grown ups.” I was HER grown up, so she was going to make sure I didn’t get lost. (Carla, in typical Carla fashion, did not care whether I was in her eyeline, just as long as I was ON the field trip.)

Our destination was what felt like an hour’s drive away. The duration of the trip – or, should I say, the perceived duration – may owe something to the endless games of “Would You Rather” and “I Spy” and “Twenty Questions” we played. We played enough rounds of each for me to have a clear Least Favorite (I Spy) and to never want to play any of the three again. These games were, however, preferable to the game the girls had been playing when we first got on the bus. “Hamster” I believe it was called. The gist, from what I understand, is that Carla was a hamster (hence the thrilling name of the game) and that the other little girl was her owner. I found it highly amusing that the other little girl would hold out a carrot – a completely imaginary, completely invisible carrot, mind you – and that Carla would say, “No, no, I want little pieces of carrot” and then the other little girl would not only not mind this arbitrary distinction (INVISIBLE and IMAGINARY carrot) but would readily comply.

This is the kind of thing that makes me hate imaginary play with my child. Give me reading. Give me art projects. Give me (gourd save me) a board game. (Not Candyland. Never Candyland.) But when it comes to following the meandering and impromptu and too-often contradictory rules of a game of pretend, I would rather stick a fork in my eye.

Speaking of forks, I am sort of wishing that my everyday flatware would wear out. My husband and I chose our flatware purposefully. We loved the contemporary sleekness of it. But most of all, we loved the heft of the utensils. They felt sturdy. Real. That’s the very thing that we hate so much about them now. The stems are TOO heavy; they are constantly falling off the edges of dishes or into bowls. They have rounded edges, too, so they slide off even perfectly flat and still plates and it is super annoying. It is time for them to go. But I cannot bring myself to replace Perfectly Good Flatware, you know? It’s not cheap, to buy a whole new set of forks, knives, and spoons. And there’s nothing broken or damaged about this set. It’s just stupid and irritates me on a near daily basis, that’s all. I guess I will just wait until the utensils wear out and I can happily replace them.

Of course, they are NOT wearing out. Not at all. This despite the fact that we seem to have officially crossed some sort of Household Item Breakdown Threshold, because over the past two years or so, I’ve noticed that more and more of our housewares are surrendering to age or overuse or existential dread. Our everyday dishes (purchased 2009) suddenly have big chips. The handles of our pots-and-pans-set (purchased 2003) have started to detach from the bowls of the pots. Our cookie sheets (2009) are dark brown and have a permanent aura of grime, not to mention they don’t seem to lie flat anymore. We’ve lost enough of our backup everyday water glasses (2009) that I had to order more. Our duvet cover (2009) developed a hole that I was unable  unwilling  unqualified to repair. Our bath towels (2009) suddenly seem exhausted and threadbare and completely resistant to the softening effects of Downy. Our kitchen towels (2009) are universally stained and resist being folded into anything resembling a straight line. Our everyday steak knives (2003) have been washed so many times the wooden handles are sprouting splinters that make dicing onions an exercise in bravery and pain. I am sure there are more examples.

I suppose this is the nature of things: they are temporary. You get as much use out of them as you can. And then you move on. Yet I am nonetheless bewildered by their disrepair. I have used these same pots in four different homes across the better part of two decades! Why would they fail me now? It is perhaps a level of betrayal that one should not feel toward inanimate objects.

We have so far replaced the duvet cover and the kitchen towels and the pots and the cookie sheets. I hope these signs of wear and tear confine themselves to our household items and don’t spread to our actual marriage. Perhaps that’s why their disrepair feels so significant: I am correlating them too closely with my marriage; understandable, since we bought some things when we moved in together (2003) and the rest when we got married (2009).

Moving on quickly lest we get too philosophical/metaphorical here: You will note that I said we have replaced several items. And yet the old, failing items remain. The dark and gritty cookie sheets? Still in the same drawer, on top of the brand new cookie sheets – which are so lovely and fresh looking I have been avoiding using them, lest they lose the newness. SIGH. I glance lovingly at the shiny new pots (well, they aren’t shiny; they’re non-stick) and pass over them in favor of playing another tantalizing round of Will It Or Won’t It Fall Off: Pot Handle Edition. The dingy kitchen towels are still folded, if haphazardly, in the towel cupboard and are still part of my towel rotation. At least I USE the newer towels, though.

I think my husband and I both suffer from (varying degrees of) a very dangerous combination of practicality and sentimentality. Alone, they are often stronger than logic. Paired together, logic has no chance whatsoever. Why do we need three coffee machines?Logic asks. What if we have a lot of people over at one time? Practicality answers.  We have never once used these crystal glasses of your mother’s, Logic points out. Plus, we already have your grandmother’s crystal upstairs in the dining room and we never use those anyway. Inarguable, right? But we might have a big fancy party someday and need EXTRA, Practicality counters. And they belonged to YOUR MOTHER, Sentimentality says. Game, set, and match.

Sometimes I wonder if I should get really into Marie Kondo like its 2014. But – from my very limited understanding of the Kondo method – I petulantly disagree with the whole “keep only things that bring you joy” principle. And I am sure – SURE – that the actual Kondo method has exceptions for things of practical necessity. I mean, no one keeps a bottle of Advil or a plunger on hand for reasons of JOY.  It’s probably more a method of thinning down multiples of things – like cardigans or jeans or stuffed cats (every single one of which brings Carla joy, I don’t even have to ask).

What does Kondo have to say about occasional-use things, though? Like a ricer or a bottle of hydrogen peroxide? Neither is going to save your life (or unclog your toilet), and I am going to venture a guess and say neither is going to bring you any sort of joy. But sometimes you just need a ricer.

I couldn’t find my ricer this past Thanksgiving, to my husband’s chagrin and my moderated glee (he and I have differing opinions about the optimal smoothness of mashed potatoes). And I wondered if I somehow got rid of it without remembering? Would I have done that? Did I say, “No joy” and toss it into a box of things headed to Goodwill? That doesn’t sound like me, (see above re: knives that give me literal splinters) but… I have no idea where the ricer could be. (Where IS my ricer?) Wherever it is, I think it’s rubbing elbows with my knife sharpener, which I cannot find either.

I could see myself applying – with prejudice – the Kondo method to my kitchen. I mean, the pots whose handles are ready to release themselves from the pot at any moment should definitely go. We ALREADY have replacement pots. Sure – addressing Practicality – it’s nice to have extras, but they are rickety and liable to break just as you are transporting a pot of hot soup from stove to counter. And yes – addressing Sentimentality – they were the first pots my husband and I bought when we first lived together a million years ago, but they are JUST POTS. In no way do these pots bring me joy. More like apprehension.

I could also go through my Drawer of Kitchen Crap and pick out the things that no longer bring me joy. The herb stripper I was so excited about when I got it? I use it so infrequently. And really, I don’t NEED it that often. And it’s just the wrong shape for the drawer, so if it isn’t positioned exactly right, it catches on the top of the counter and holds the drawer closed and I have to jiggle and jam my hand into the drawer and wiggle things around until I can get it open again. IT CAN GO.

Kitchen drawer

Drawer of Kitchen Crap

What about the Bundt pan that I have never once used and which I fully plan on continuing to never use?  Just because it is in Brand New Condition is no reason to keep it.

What even is a Bundt cake? Is it really a thing, that people make and eat? Is it, like, cake cake? Or is it, as I imagine, more of a bread? Is it good? Have I been missing out on all sorts of Bundt-related deliciousness all these years that the Bundt pan has been taking up space in my pantry?

I could go for some cake right now, honestly.

After all, even if I have forgone meal planning, it does not mean that I can forgo actually FEEDING my family. They continue to require sustenance. Cake counts, right?

All right, I am off to scrape together some sort of probably-non-cake food for my child. And then maybe see if she can I Spy my ricer.

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It is the Friday before Christmas, alert! alert! If you have small children who happen to be attending their FINAL DAY of school before the New Year, perhaps you are using part of your day to frantically wrap presents without excited and curious interruptions. Not that I would know from experience or anything.  Let’s do some holiday randomisity, shall we?

UPDATED TO ADD: I wrote this and posted it and then RAN out the door to take Carla to the doctor (ear infection – woohoo!) and didn’t get a chance to read through and edit it. So now that it is Very Late at night, I am trying to edit it and of course I have some changes. So the below is now Edited, although possibly more half-assedly than it should be, and also there is a new bullet with a link to my new (-to-me) favorite Christmas song.

  • It is FINALLY looking like Christmas around here. We actually have SNOW, which helps in Making Things Christmassy more than it probably should; good thing I don’t live in Florida, I guess. I have decorated everything. And even the tree finally has some ornaments on it. We plan to do a pizza night (why yes I HAVE deviated from my meal plan already, what of it?) and finish adding ornaments tonight. I love decorating for Christmas. I think it has to do with memories of Christmasses as a kid – my mom always decorated our house for the holidays and so it doesn’t feel REAL until there are stockings hung up on the mantel and Christmas books stacked on the bookshelf.

Xmas 2

  • Speaking of books, we got Carla a copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which is a book I remember with great fondness from my childhood. My husband read about it with deep suspicion. “Is this a religious book?” he asked. Well, I don’t really consider it to be religious. Although it does center around a church Christmas pageant. And is about, you know, the Christmas story, which is the story of the birth of Jesus… who is kind of a religious guy. So maybe it is religious? I don’t know. My clearest memory is of the antagonist in the story – oh don’t make me look up her name; Something-Jean maybe? – holding a doll that was supposed to represent baby Jesus and there being this moment of grace and wonder and awe when the protagonist connects Something-Jean’s experience to that of Mary. It’s a great moment, and I am really excited about reading the whole thing to Carla and enjoying the book from the perspective of an adult. (I do have that little half-fear that it won’t live up to my memory of it. Like how I have such fond memories of reading and loving The Poky Little Puppy as a child, but realize, as an adult, that it is repetitive nonsense.)
  • We can’t start the book until tomorrow or Sunday – and I hope we can finish it by Christmas; probably; it’s short – because TONIGHT we are reading the very last half of the very last chapter of the first Harry Potter book. UPDATED TO ADD: Nope. Still haven’t finished it. We all fell asleep mid-read. Carla has been LOVING IT, as my husband and I knew she would. We are all loving it. All three of us cuddle up in bed at night and my husband reads the book to all of us. He’s really great at doing accents, and I love how he differentiates the characters. His Hagrid is my favorite, but he does a spot-on Scottish brogue (or is that term just for Irish?) for Professor McGonagall. He’s been enjoying this so much that he went rogue and bought Carla the illustrated editions of the first three books for Hanukkah. He’d brought up the idea weeks ago, and I told him I thought it was silly to do so because we have all the paperbacks and we don’t need TWO versions of the books. But he felt so strongly about it that he used his own money to buy the illustrated set which I think is so cute and it’s true that Carla is going to love them. (Updated to say: It feels weird to mention Harry Potter without acknowledging that there is some current conversation about comments made by J. K. Rowling. I am exhausted by – gestures broadly – everything, and I have done exactly zero research into what’s going on. I keep typing and re-typing things to round out my thoughts, but they aren’t coming out the way I want so I am giving up.)
  • And there are so many other books we need to read! I really should have gotten out the stack of holiday books MANY weeks ago so that we’d be on top of things rather than so far behind in our holiday reading. So, we’ll do Harry Potter tonight, and then I really want to read Carla some of her many Hanukkah books tomorrow night – since Sunday — and not tomorrow as I have thought As Fact for many weeks now — is the first night of Hanukkah – and then we can read some more Hanukkah books and some Christmas books in the coming days. So far we have only read Bear Stays Up for Christmas and Latke the Lucky Dog, but there are many! more! to get too.
  • I am finding that it is a little tricky to balance out the Jewish traditions I want to ensure remain a part of Carla’s life with the Christian traditions that I also love and want to uphold. I want to be fair to both sides of her heritage. But the truth is that I am not Jewish and my husband, who is Jewish, doesn’t really have the time/energy/desire to push the Jewish traditions. So I am left muddling my way through them. I think we’re mostly fine when it comes to explaining/celebrating Hanukkah – there are lots of good books and I have a pretty good handle on the Maccabees etc. and my husband says the blessings while we light the menorah each night. But when it comes to the bigger holidays I tend to feel a little lost. That is a topic for another day, though.
  • Speaking of Hanukkah, I wanted to tell you about the MOST AMAZING video “hack” I have ever tried. Year after year I watched as our menorah grew caked in candle wax. Year after year, I chipped wax off the menorah any way I could think to: knife, toothpick, fingernails. And then I googled it last year and watched this excellent video about three different wax-removal options. I tried the option of putting your menorah in the oven, on a pile of damp paper towels, at 200 degrees for 15 minutes. And it looks like a BRAND NEW menorah!!!!! This trick also works with candlesticks, which I tried as well.
Menorah 1

So shiny! Nary a fleck of wax anywhere!

Menorah 2

Even the candle holes are TOTALLY CLEAN!

  • I have another life hack for ya — and this one’s on the house. Trader Joe’s makes really decent frozen, oven-bakable latkes. Making latkes from scratch is a true labor of love; all that potato shredding and all the frying. It is so nice to simply heat a few Trader Joe’s latkes in the oven — they bake up nice and crispy and are really quite delicious. Easy peasy.
  • The menorah is literally the only Hanukkah décor I own, which is a little sad. But I am really pleased with the Christmas decorations this year. If you asked me, I would say that I have a loose Tree Theme, although as I look around at the assorted decorations, I see that really there are only six trees, well, seven if you count the actual live Christmas tree – and seven trees do not a theme make. Oh well.

    Xmas 1

    Carla’s magnatile creation really adds that certain extra something, doesn’t it. Can’t you just picture Santa sliding out of the chimney, trying not to make any noise, and accidentally stepping on it and it collapsing in a noisy heap all over the hearth? Poor Santa. I will have Carla move it before Christmas Eve.

  • I am really delighted by my new stocking holders this year. We have had the old ones since 2003, which is the first Christmas my husband and I spent together in our own apartment. They were FINE, but there were only two of them, so when Carla was born, we had to find a third that sort of went with them, and I could never find anything except a flat silver rectangle. So I have been looking for new stocking holders for six years and I FINALLY found them. At Pier 1 Imports, of all places. They are heavy, so hopefully Santa can fill up the stockings to the brim without them crashing to the hearth. And they are wood, which goes with my Mantel Trees. And they are cute. Also, they were 50% off, which is good because stocking holders are PRICEY. I think they were something like $20 apiece, so I’m really glad I got them on sale.

Xmas 3

  • As part of my Christmas décor, I bought a little poinsettia at the grocery store for $5.99. I bought it on Monday. And it is dead. Already. What the what?????? Since I go to the grocery store approximately eight million times a week during the holidays, I went back today and got a different poinsettia – this one for $3.99. We’ll see how long it lasts.
  • Does Santa wrap presents for your family members? I don’t remember what he did when I was a kid. But he does wrap gifts for my family now – and uses different wrapping paper than what we use to wrap our own family gifts. I’ve heard rumblings that he chose HORRIBLE paper from Target this year that was super shiny and cute but that refuses to fold or remain taped. Poor Santa.
  • Wrapping is my least favorite part of the holidays. And I have to say, one of the big disadvantages to a) having family who live all over the country and b) having ready access to fast and often-free shipping from so many retailers is that we get a lot of presents that are not wrapped when they arrive. An increasing number, over the years. And listen — I get it! Sometimes you need to send something last minute! Or sometimes a much-wanted thing comes from a place that doesn’t wrap gifts! And it DOES NOT MAKE SENSE to order something that someone specifically asked for to come to YOUR HOUSE and then wrap it and SEND IT AWAY to the gift recipient. That is madness! A person should only have to pay for shipping once. So I am happy to help in a wrapping pinch, truly, when someone is in a bind. But it just seems like… so many binds. And so much wrapping that needs to be done. On TOP of all my own wrapping. Well, since I took care of all the wrapping except for my own gifts, perhaps I will pawn the rest of it off on my husband.
  • My FAVORITE part of the holidays is still the cards. We ordered our cards – for the second year in a row – from Mixbook, which is my new boyfriend. I used Mixbook to make a photo book for my mother when she turned 70 – collecting photos and memories from various family members and friends into an actual leather-bound book. And it was so easy to use and work with and the end product was GREAT. Creating and ordering cards is just as user-friendly and the product is just as excellent. And this year, we paid for express shipping with the promise that the cards would arrive by December 18. (We were late this year.) And the cards arrived A WHOLE WEEK EARLY. So Mixbook is my favorite favorite favorite. So very far superior to Shutterfly, which we used for several years because it was the best combination of cute template options and low cost, but which resulted in really ridiculous issues. One year, I think, the image on the screen didn’t match what the actual card looked like and there was a graphic covering someone’s head. And another year there was an issue printing our addresses on the envelopes, so the order was delayed AND we didn’t get the pre-addressed envelopes. And I think there may have been another year with another issue too, but those are the two that stand out most clearly. Now that I have found such a MUCH better option in Mixbook, I will never again be wooed by Shutterfly’s low prices.
  • As you probably know by now, as much as I love SENDING cards, I really really REALLY love receiving them. I love the store-bought cards and the photo cards alike. Of course, the photo cards are extra fun: It’s so great to see all the cute children growing up and the new babies and the expanding numbers of grandchildren and the families growing and changing.  I love the letters most of all – sappy and braggy and punny and religious – I love them all so dearly. I may have cried last night while reading the two we got – there is something so pure and lovely about typing up, in a letter, a year’s worth of big events and everyday mundanities and then adding in a handwritten note about how we haven’t see each other in so long and we really need to catch up. It all makes me so very happy.
  • Another thing that is making me happy in a Christmassy sort of way is Gwen Stefani’s “You Make It Feel Like Christmas.” Technically, it’s a duet with Blake Shelton, if that’s the kind of thing you need to know before listening. I fell asleep on the couch the other night and woke up to a Gwen Stefani Christmas special playing on TV. This song was included among many others and I thought it was quite a bop. According to Wikipedia, it came out in 2017??? How have I never heard it before? I asked the Amazon Echo to play her whole album earlier and the whole thing was a lot of good fun. I wish the Christmas radio station would include some Gwen instead of playing “Do They Know It’s Christmas” multiple times a day.

Well, that’s all I have for you today, Internet! Happy Hanukkah slash final weekend before Christmas!

 

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We returned from our trip some time ago and man, is re-entry into normal life hard! Also, I have completely fallen out of the blogging habit and need to leap back in. Let’s try to jumpstart things with a little randomosity, yes?

  • On the way to Europe, I was fine. Very little jet-lag that lasted maybe two days. On the way home? TWO WEEKS of waking up at 2:30 every morning, my body insistent that no, in fact, it was 8:30 and I was done sleeping. Didn’t matter if I’d gone to sleep at nine or midnight the night before, and believe me, I tried both. Didn’t matter if I took melatonin. Just wide awake at 2:30.
  • And then I got a monster cold, from all the lack of sleep. Super fun.
  • There were so many things to love about our trip, and I was prepared to return home and pine for the walkable cities and the suffusion of culture and the beautiful mountains. I was not prepared to pine for asparagus.

    Spargel w
    We were in Vienna and Munich during spargel season (spargel being, of course, asparagus) and MAN was fresh Bavarian asapargus delicious. I wouldn’t say I’m a lover of asparagus; I like it fine, and will make it occasionally for dinner, and once in a while I’ll order it at a restaurant. Okay, once in a GREAT while. But during our trip, we had many many bowls of spargelsuppe and I even ate an entrée that was made up of asparagus spears dotted with hollandaise. AND THAT WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITE MEALS. For this nacho-loving lady, having drooly fantasies about a plate of white asparagus is very off-brand. Anyway, I have been bookmarking recipes for spargelsuppe and eyeing the asparagus in my grocery store. I haven’t bought any yet; it’s just a sad facsimile of the beautiful bounty of fresh white asparagus we saw at farmers’ markets throughout our trip.

  • One thing I do NOT miss about our trip: the toilet paper. UGH. Even my cheapo Target brand toilet paper is like a angel’s kiss compared to the scratchy junk we used in Europe. Even the hotels had terrible toilet paper!!!
  • Since we’re already talking about the bathroom situation, can I tell you about a misconception I had? So, in the cities we visited, there were no free public restrooms. You had to pee, you had to pay. I never had the proper change on me, so anytime I needed to avail myself of the facilities, we’d either hike back to our hotel (which happened once, and only because it was on the way) or stop in at a café for some tea and cake and a bathroom break. I am really enjoying my bathroom-related rhyming in this paragraph. But one morning in Vienna, neither of those options was available, and I had to use a pay toilet in the middle of a market. I was dreading it. DREADING. I waited until the last possible second because I had visions of American rest-stop bathrooms in my head. Well! My half Euro got me into a PRISTINE restroom, with stalls that had been freshly cleaned, each with its own sink. It was a little weird that the attendant to the ladies’ room was a man, but once I got past that, it was a delightful experience. Well, as delightful as a public pee can get, you understand.

    Market 2 w

    Here is a picture from one of the stands in the market; I did not photograph the restroom. I’m sorry slash you’re welcome.

  • I came to the conclusion on our trip that mankind has not yet invented a truly comfortable shoe. Either that or my feet and ANY shoes are the Princess and the Pea of extremities. Sure, we were walking a lot (ten miles a day), but my husband was wearing his years-old loafers and he had ZERO problems. I had to rotate between my new-for-this-trip Sketchers and an old pair of Børn riding boots that I packed at the last minute because the weather was supposed to be so cold and rainy (it was, which didn’t dampen our fun in the least, see what I did there). Even switching between them, my feet were in constant agony. Oh well. I think I kept the whining to a minimum; at least, my husband didn’t murder me for foot-complaint-related-reasons, so I’ll call that a success. And I only got one lonesome blister, from my dressy shoes, which I have had with no issue for years and wore ONE evening only and yet they still ripped open the skin beneath my pinky toe.
  • Shout out to Rick Steves — whom my husband and I affectionately refer to as “Ricky” — whose guides are super helpful and always include easy-to-follow city walks. My husband toted his Fancy Camera all around Bavaria and his camera bag had a pocket just big enough to stow our Ricky selection of the day — Rick Steves Vienna, Salzburg, & Tirol while we were in those places and Rick Steves Germany 2019 when we were in Munich and Nuremberg. While Ricky and I don’t necessarily have the same taste in food, I am very fond of him and his dad-style humor.

    Travel guides.JPG

  • There is a very charming café culture in Vienna. Lots of cafes where you sit and have coffee/tea and cake. We ate a lot of cake. I miss the cake.

  • I also miss the beer. Beer and wine were plentiful and inexpensive AND delicious. Of course, the beer I loved the most does not seem to be exported to the U.S., but I guess that preserves its awesomeness a little more.

  • And the castles. I miss those too.
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    Hohenschwangau Castle, southwest of Munich

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    Fortress Hohensalzburg, which looms over Salzburg in a very intimidating fashion and can be reached by hiking or funicular. 

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    Neuschwanstein Castle, a stone’s throw away from Hohenschwangau. By the way, this photo was taken from a teeny rickety bridge spanning a crevasse between two craggy mountains. Was I certain the bridge would collapse at any moment? YES. Did it? No, I suppose not. 

  • Well, it was a great trip. Our plane didn’t crash (although the turbulence we experienced on the way to Europe was so severe I didn’t sleep AT ALL) and neither of us suffered any illness or injury. Okay, so I did fall down the stairs of our hotel in Munich, but it was the day before we left, so it didn’t put too much of a damper on things. And I didn’t break any bones, just got an enormous bruise, which, to be honest, is a fairly frequent occurrence anyway. I have skin like a peach.
  • And now we are home, and reintegrated into our lives, and trying to inject little snippets of our European fun into our everyday: we took Carla downtown last weekend and walked around the city (not the same as walking around Vienna or Munich or Salzburg) and meandered through the market hall (SO not the same as the charming markets in Bavaria) and bought some Bavarian beer. I am bemoaning the lack of easily accessible public transportation and charming (if renovated post-war) streets.
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    Streetcar in Vienna – my favorite mode of transportation

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    Adorable street in Nuremberg, which we knew to photograph thanks to the inimitable Rick Steves

  • Now that I am FINALLY sleeping again, I feel like I am getting back in the swing of things: coming up with meals to serve my family, thinking through Carla’s birthday party plans, tidying the house for my in-laws who will be visiting soon… Glad to have traveled, glad to be home.

 

What have you been up to, Internet?

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I am skipping today’s Dinners This Week post. I mean, there’s no need to plan dinners when you’ll be eating dinner on an airplane, right? Let’s have some randomosity. Join me, won’t you?

First, let’s have some medicinal nachos:

Nachos 1

Chips. Top with cheese. Melt for 30 seconds in the microwave. Top with black beans and frozen corn. Microwave for another 20 seconds. Top with copious amounts of my favorite hot sauce. Add avocado, diced onion, and sour cream. Cilantro if you have it/don’t hate it. Tomatoes if you swing that way. Squeeze a wedge of lime over everything. Add copious amounts of sriracha for good measure. DEVOUR.

  • A lot of my fretting about Leaving My Bayyyyyybeeeeee has been channeled into Shoe Panic. As in, how am I going to walk around Europe for ten days without reducing my delicate feet to bloody shreds? So I have purchased and returned approximately 90,000 pairs of shoes in the past week. Nothing like leaving an important aspect of your planning to the very last minute!

 

  • These are the shoes I have ended up with: Skechers Go Walk Evolution Ultra sneakers (why do all athletic shoes have such ridiculous names?) and Vionic Minna ballet flats (in color “sand”) because I wanted to have walk-friendly shoes that were dressy enough for a nice-ish dinner.

 

  • Building on some of your great ideas for making the trip easier on Carla, I have bought her some books and other little fun surprises to open while we’re gone. There is a real dearth of fun, story-based children’s books about the very specific locations we are traveling to, which is DISAPPOINTING, but I did find this book about one of the cities on our itinerary:

Munich

  • You know that one of my big panics is Death By Airplane, right? So I have been desperately trying to get our life insurance upgraded just in case. Of course, the process takes waaaaayyyyy longer than I thought it would, so we just squeaked our medical exams in at the last minute and there is no way the underwriting will be complete before we leave. (I use these terms like I have any idea whatsoever how any of this works, which I do NOT.) HOWEVER. Did you know that you can get provisional coverage, based on the assumption that you will get approved? So that’s what we’re doing. We can pay a premium as though we’ve been approved, and then, when we come back home, ALIVE, we can pay any additional amount as needed. And if we perish while overseas, we’re covered. (I mean, as long as we are approved and have paid the correct amount; I’m assuming my parents could pay any difference after the fact.) Cool, right!?! Okay, maybe my calibration of “cool” has shifted in odd ways.

 

  • In other morbid planning, I tried to record myself singing to Carla. There are two songs I have been singing to her at bedtime all her life – one I made up while pregnant with her and the other is “Moon River” – and I have this desperate feeling that I MUST record myself singing them so she can listen to the songs (but will she?) to comfort her (but will they?) after my fiery death. But I can’t record myself! It’s so ridiculous! In every recording, I keep SWALLOWING in the middle of sentences. Like, “Mooooooon river, wider than a mile, I’m crossing [gulp] you in style someday…. [gulp] Dream maker, you heart [gulp] breaker….” It’s really distracting and annoying and I cannot NOT do it. I mean, have you ever tried to NOT SWALLOW when your body is telling you to swallow? And then try to SING while not swallowing? It’s absurd and obviously some sort of weird self-conscious reaction to recording myself. Do not suggest that I ask my husband to record me actually singing to Carla, because then I would die of embarrassment and also we are out of time. I am going to choose the least gulpy of the options and THAT’S JUST HOW CARLA WILL HAVE TO REMEMBER ME.

 

  • Abrupt subject change: Our Amazon Echo (Alexa) has begun telling me to enjoy my day. “Have a nice day,” she’ll say after I ask for the weather in the morning. “Have a good afternoon,” she’ll say sometimes after I’ve asked for the news briefing. It’s creepy but nice? And she only says it to me. She has never once used any sort of pleasantry with my husband. Also creepy? But it makes me feel vindicated in using “please” and “thank you” when making requests of her. My husband may not be on the good side of the AI after the uprising, but hopefully Alexa will put in a good word for me.

 

  • While I’m worrying about wholly unimportant things (recap: dying on my totally voluntary trip overseas; the state of my footwear for said trip; singing lullabies without swallowing; the inevitable AI uprising; will I have enough nachos to last until we leave for Europe?), let’s add in some panic about Carla’s birthday party. I think we have the venue down. And Carla has shifted from Tiger Theme to Seahorse Theme to Mommy, You Choose A Theme From These Five Cat-Related Categories Plus Foxes. So I am leaning toward Rainbow Leopard Theme, mainly because I have found the perfect party favor:

Rainbow Leopard

  • And the perfect cake to torture myself with making. (My husband heaved a great world-weary sigh when I told him about it and asked if I might consider just BUYING a cake.) (No.) (Does he know me?)

 

  • But I can’t find any great theme-appropriate invitations; some decent ones, but nothing I LOVE. And, WORSE, because I will panic about LITERALLY ANYTHING meaningless in the grand scheme of things, I cannot find any theme-appropriate paper plates and napkins. I can order them via Zazzle for around $60 for 40 to 50 plates-or-napkins, but can we all agree that spending $60 on 40 paper plates for a single party is excessive? I’m not saying it can’t be DONE; I wouldn’t judge anyone for spending $60 on 40 plates if that’s how they chose to spend their hard-earned money. But I think $1.70 cheetah-print paper plate — PAPER, not even hard plastic — is excessive and I really want to avoid it if at all possible.

 

  • So maybe foxes? I haven’t looked it up, but foxes could be a good alternative, right? It’s just that they are so Off Brand for my particular child, who wears leopard print probably three days a week (today she is wearing a faux fur cheetah print vest over a green dress and black leggings with faux leather patches; she has a very particular sense of style, this kid) and has leopard print boots and pretends to be a rotating cast of leopards/cheetahs/panthers on a daily basis. I am already exhausted by planning this party and I haven’t really even begun.

 

  • Please keep in mind that I KNOW that none of this is important, it’s a birthday party, not the Oscars or some other party that actually matters/has wide visibility, and really ALL parties pale in comparison to, like, climate change and gun control and matters of REAL IMPORT. I am not overlooking the absolute absurdity of wasting brainpower on this frivolity.

 

  • Frivolity continues: And what are we going to get Carla for her actual gift? She is fresh out of ideas, unless you count “more Barbies!” as an idea which I do not. The only things I can come up with are a) a new bike (although she has a perfectly good hand-me-down bike that will probably last her at least another year, in terms of being the right height, not to mention she staunchly refuses to let us remove the training wheels) and b) a doll, because she seems to finally be more interested in dolls than in stuffed animals. She has repeatedly asked for a basket for her bike, so she can collect things (acorns, pinecones, rocks) when she goes for bike rides… but I don’t think “needs a basket” is enough of a reason to buy a whole new bike… I don’t know. I am on the fence. What is the six-year-old set into these days?

 

  • I LOVED dolls as a child, and my mom got me a couple of Corelle (?) dolls that I cherished and played with for many years. (Oh wait, it turns out they are COROLLE dolls – Corelle is a type of dishware, it seems. My bad.) Is Corolle still a good way to go, doll-wise? American Girl dolls seem to be popular around here… although they are SO expensive I don’t think I am ready to travel down that road. I also used to love Cabbage Patch Dolls, are those still A Thing? (Ugh, I am cringing thinking about how the “preemie” Cabbage Patch Dolls were so coveted when I was a little girl. I guess March of Dimes used them to raise awareness about premature birth, but that went right over my head at the time. I can imagine it being a hurtful thing for lots of parents.) What is the current Doll Trend, is what I want to know? I thought, being a parent, this knowledge would sort of magically manifest in my brain but I WAS WRONG.

 

  • Speaking of brains: does your brain do that thing where, when overtired, it fixates on one word or phrase or song lyric to the exclusion of all other thoughts? Mine has been choosing “It’s raining tacos,” itself an agonizingly repetitive song, to replay ad nauseum in my head, at 2:30 am and beyond. Fun.  (No.)

 

  • My Inevitable Death Panic (which is both panic about my inevitable death and an inevitable panic about death) is manifesting in lots of cleaning, which is good, I suppose. But I have failed to take any Before photos, which makes it poor blog fodder. I just want you to know that I have done a LOT of work and gotten rid of a LOT of crap. I am kind of hoping my mom will open some drawers and marvel at how spare and tidy they are. “Maybe she died in a plane crash taking a totally unnecessary trip abroad, but, man, are her drawers neat and clean!” they’ll say at my funeral.

 

  • Let’s have one more photograph of medicinal nachos. These were yesterday’s, so I need to see if I have enough ingredients for another heaping dose before I make my way to The Land of Sausages and Schnitzel. DOCTOR’S ORDERS.

Nachos 2

Okay. Enough. What’s up with you, Internet? Lord knows we have enough Big Serious Issues at hand to ensure we never sleep again. But what utterly frivolous things are keeping you up at night?

By the way, my husband and I decided to limit ourselves to one phone while overseas, and it is his phone, so blog posting/reading is likely to be light/nonexistent while we’re gone. I promise photos of castles if when we return.

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Thank you so much for your helpful ideas and soothing words on my post about my upcoming trip. While I do not know how to make a paper chain, I really like the idea of having some way for her to “count down” until our return. So I plan to write notes to Carla every day, so her grandparents can read them to her. I will include little tidbits about where we are and what we’re doing. And I ordered some books for her to open every few days as little surprises.

Life is busy with preparations, because of course I have thrown myself into totally de-cluttering my house in response to pre-trip nerves. So here is an abbreviated randomosity for you.

  • A spatula got caught in the bottom heating element of our dishwasher (she says, not knowing any of the technical terms although pretty firm on “spatula”) and melted. Our house smelled like acrid burnt plastic for a VERY long time, and our dishwasher STILL smells horrid, despite having been run through several times.

 

  • Carla wants a tiger themed birthday this year. Great. I love tigers. But… I am not seeing a whole lot of tiger-themed accessories. Unless you want Daniel Tiger, which I do not.

 

 

  • Speaking of Carla and her birthday: I have just purchased the relevant book in Louise Bates Ames’s amazing, soothing, and very helpful series about children. “Loving and Defiant” is the subtitle. Yes, yes that does describe a certain someone in a very accurate nutshell. One of the characteristics of this age is, apparently, a return to the intense ambivalence of age two. Which was helpful to know the other day when I applied some spray to Carla’s hair to help it be curly and she (defiantly) combed it out, saying she wanted her hair STRAIGHT. And then not two minutes later burst into tears because she wants it to be CURLY. Thank you, Louise, for making this a totally reasonable incident and not something that left me baffled and reeling for the rest of the day.

 

  • No one in this household requires child safety locks on the cabinets, yet they remain on the handles, dangling, useless.

 

That’s all I’ve got! Tell me what’s going on with you, Internet.

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Today is the last week day of Spring Break. (Our spring break was two weeks long; we went out of town for one of those weeks.) (The first week went by MUCH more quickly than the second week has.)

Since my husband is on call, I have two remaining days of entertaining Carla, and then she is back to school on Monday. It has been a long week, through no fault of Carla’s. But I am not cut out for two weeks of spring break. Nor for being solely responsible for entertaining my child. Why yes, I am one of those people who says I need a vacation from my vacation.

  • It is no secret that I am an introvert. And being a parent has only heightened my need for alone time, I think. Not because I don’t enjoy being with Carla. On the contrary: I love spending time with her, and I especially love it when I have enough energy to plan and do fun things with her. But I need time to myself. It is essential for my mental well-being. Normally, after spending a lovely, fun-filled week with my husband and child, in-laws, sister, and niece (as we did last week), I would prefer to close myself in my office with my computer, some tea, and maybe some Reese’s peanut butter eggs and not talk to ANYONE for a good three days. This is not hyperbole. I am 100% serious. Instead, this week, I had my lovely energetic and talkative child at home with me all day every day. I also had multiple appointments scheduled, because I figured they would help break up the time. Instead, I ended up compounding the problem by needing to interact with additional people. By today, I am DONE. I have a friend who is returning from spring break tomorrow who wants to get our kids together and I cannot FATHOM such an idea. I cannot wait until Monday when I am going to drop Carla off at school, come home, and sit in my office silently All. Day. Long. I am even dreading the social interaction that will come with drop off. Since it was a long break, Carla’s teachers sent the kids home with everything in their cubbies so the classroom could undergo a good thorough cleaning. So Carla has a bunch of stuff to take with her, which means I will need to walk with her to her classroom. And that means running into parents – parents I like! and am friendly with! and want to talk to! – who will want to chat about spring break. I don’t think I can do it, Internet.
Matcha latte

Reese’s peanut butter egg not pictured because I am brashly using an old photo from a previous post.

  • I’m afraid Carla has had a pretty boring spring break. I am trying really hard not to feel too guilty about it. We have been spending time together and playing together every day. And she did have a WHOLE WEEK of sunshine and grandparents and swimming pool and cousin. But I do worry that she’ll grow up and remember how I kept her closed up in the house for spring break and all she did was watch TV. (That is NOT all we’ve done! We’ve gone bike riding! And for walks! And to the grocery store twice! And we went out for donuts one morning! And to the library! And to Tuesday Morning and Kohl’s! Okay, okay, so it’s not the most exciting roundup of things, and, yes, there was definitely some TV in there, but we Did Things.)
Donut

This was Carla’s donut. I ate mine too fast to photograph it.

  • Playdates are not the solution. Perhaps you are giving me the side-eye, because this half of the break would have been much better and more enjoyable for Carla if I had managed to set up some playdates. This was my husband’s feeling, in fact. However, the execution is not quite so simple. First of all, the vast majority of our friends are also on spring break, in exotic locations like Australia and Bermuda. By “our friends” I mean families that have a kid that Carla knows and likes and a parent that I know and like. Second of all, of the families that are or may be in town, they all have multiple kids. And I really still don’t “get” how to do playdates with those families. If you invite one kid, are you automatically inviting ALL of the kids in the family? Seems like that’s only fair. But that means a playdate at my house isn’t a great idea; our house is small and we don’t really have toys for non-five-year-olds. Plus I am not of a mental state to have a bunch of people in my house (see above re: introvert). Which means that out-of-the-house playdates would be the best solution, but… that requires planning. And THAT’s exhausting. What can we do? Where can we go? Can I really handle chasing my kid and her friend and possible siblings through the natural history museum? Do I really want to drive 30 minutes to the indoor playground? It’s been rainy the past couple of days, so outdoor playgrounds are out. And most of these families are people I’m not super familiar with. There’s one friend Carla would love to play with, but I have never met either of her parents. It is so hard to gear myself up for meeting a brand-new person on a regular basis, and I am definitely not up for it this week, when I have already exhausted my small-talk stores on conversations with my in-laws. I don’t think sitting across from another parent, staring blankly and fretfully into the ether as I try to think of something halfway interesting to say, would make such a great impression. So! Nothing it is!

 

  • Plus, as I mentioned, I have already shot myself in the foot by scheduling additional adult interactions this week. The window madness continues, for instance. A friend had recommended someone she’d worked with, and he – no longer at the window company – had passed my name on to someone else who still works there. Apparently my friend had told him how frustrated I’ve been with the Hard Sales tactics, so they sent me their lowest pressure person very best salesman. And truly, he was excellent. I know that he was using tried and true sales tactics, just as the other salesmen had done. But his were invisible. By the time he left – THREE HOURS LATER OMG – I was completely sold on the idea of fiberglass windows, when before I had only wanted to consider vinyl. And I was willing to strongly entertain his bid, which was three times as high as several of the other window people I’d met with. He was that good. And he was very nice, as have been all the other window salespeople I’ve talked to. But THREE HOURS is much too long to be talking to a stranger, feigning interest in Window Facts that you’ve heard several times already, wondering how many times you need to offer someone water/soda/a sandwich over the course of three hours, and deflecting bored-child questions. When it was over, I felt mentally drained. And of course, my poor aforementioned bored child had to watch TV the entire time because when it was off, she kept interrupting. And this guy wasn’t really a Kid Person, so he had no idea how to interact with/deflect her, and kept getting flustered when she’d do something totally normal, like ask why the window he brought was so small or volunteer that we’d had donuts for breakfast or complain, “WHEN is he going to LEAVE?” After I discussed things with my husband, I remembered that our house is not a three-times-as-high-as-other-window-bids kind of place, and I have one more  window sales call to endure before we either make a decision or I run screaming into the sea.
  • As our one non-shopping excursion this week, we went to a Cat Café. If you are wondering what a Cat Café is, it is an establishment that has a tiny coffee-shop space on one side, and then a much larger Cat Habitat on the other, and people can pay to spend time with the cats. It recently opened in a nearby town, and I knew Carla would be over the moon to go. And the weather was obligingly dreadful, so there would be no bike riding or playing on the backyard playset. We had to make a reservation, and when we arrived there was a long line of other cat fans so I’m glad we didn’t try to wing it. The café part was truly minuscule. You could order coffee or tea and the staff would bring it to you in the cat habitat; we didn’t order anything; I would be terrified that I’d spill tea on a cat. The cat habitat was like an enormous living room, with lots of human seating and bookcases and tons of cat-friendly apparati to climb on and play with.
Cat cafe1

That orange cat didn’t budge from his perch the entire time, even when a tween-age boy started throwing cat toys at him to “get his attention.” And this may be the closest you’ll ever get to seeing a picture of me on this blog, so savor it, Internet.

Carla was the youngest person there that day, and I discovered that she doesn’t really GET cats. She loves them, that’s clear. And I don’t know why I’d expect her to GET cats, when she hasn’t spent any time around them outside of Pet Smart.  But she thought they would be snuggly and friendly in the way that dogs are. Oh, Carla. Cats are SO not dogs. She immediately went up to a cat that was playing with one of the café staff members (who was in the habitat with us the whole time, introducing the cats, telling us about their personalities and backgrounds, trying to get them to be playful) and tried to pet it, and the cat, who was in the middle of playing, bit her on the arm. She was FINE, it didn’t break the skin. But of course she was surprised and betrayed and it probably hurt a bit and so she cried for quite a while. I took her to the bathroom to wash her arm and tried to talk to her about how cats are. Independent. Feisty. Unpredictable. Claws and teeth. I’d done a little of that before, but it’s one thing for your mom to drone on and on about cats in the car and another to be confronted, face to face, with a cat-being-a-cat. She calmed down and we went back in and eventually she got some cats to chase balls and attack little cloth fish and she even got to pet some of them. She was much more interested in playing with the cats; I would have preferred to have a big purring cat on my lap, but they were (understandably) a little wary of all these new humans milling about and seemed more interested in playing, hissing at each other, or sleeping in nooks that humans couldn’t reach.

Cat cafe 3

This cat was very amenable to receiving scritches and pats.

I wasn’t sure that it was a successful visit. There was the rocky beginning. And not a single cat snuggled with us. We were there for an hour, though, which was enough time for the shock of being bitten to wear off. By the end of our appointment, Carla was begging me to take her back. We’ll see. I think it would be much more satisfying if it were just you (and your kid) and the cats, rather than being one of twelve additional people. But it was still a fun, novel experience.

Cat cafe2

All the books were cat themed, as was the decor.

  • One of the other ways I tried to Make Things Fun this week was by throwing a couple of Movie Nights into the spring break mix. Movie Night, Movie Afternoon, whatever. We’d make popcorn and snuggle up and Carla was pretty delighted by that. I think we may make Movie Nights a weekly event, she seems to get such a kick out of them. One of the movies we watched was the live action 101 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close and Joley Richardson and… Jeff… Not Bridges… Jeff… Daniels. Jeff Daniels. I don’t know why I get them mixed up. Oh! And Hugh Laurie is in there as well, pre-House days, I guess. This movie is from 2000, but it holds up pretty well. There are some mildly violent acts – Home Alone style. And some salty language (you, know, like “butt” and “shut up” – nothing too outlandish). Glenn Close is fantastic as Cruella De Vil. Her outfits alone make the movie worth watching; she wears press-on nails on the OUTSIDE of her gloves! And the whole time I was watching it, I was marveling at a) the sheer number of animals featured in the film and b) the dogs’ (in particular) stellar acting ability. Pongo is one well-trained pupper, that’s for sure. It was an entertaining movie, but the part that I found most scoff-worthy is that the Joley Richardson and Jeff Not-Bridges characters meet and then immediately, on their first “date,” decide to get married. I mean. What?! I get the whole love-at-first-sight thing. And falling in reckless, lifelong love seems perfectly acceptable for DALMATIANS, or, like, animated characters like Anna and Hans (although at least in that movie, Elsa and Kristof both object strenuously to getting engaged to a stranger) but… come on. Seems like a lazy way to move the plot forward. Couldn’t they have already been married… and then Pongo spots Perdita out at some adopt-a-thon event, and that’s how the dogs get together? Or maybe both dogs live at Joley Richardson’s house and Jeff Not-Bridges visits them as he’s getting to know Joley? Well. Aside from that ridiculously unbelievable plot point (yes, more unbelievable than animals talking to each other), it was a very enjoyable flick.
Dalmatians

photo from amazon.com

  • Did you know that there are no Os in the word “Dalmatians”? I did not, until I just wrote the bullet above.

 

  • I am really looking forward to getting back to my writing next week. Two weeks away from my work in progress is a LONG time. I did work on a story while I was out of town – a continuation of a story I started writing last year over spring break. But it feels like a distraction from the main project rather than anything meaningful.

 

  • And now, I must go start on The Folding of the Spring Break Laundry. I have been very successful in washing the clothing. Where I have been less successful is in the folding, which is really the ABSOLUTE WORST.
Laundry

My personal shame.

Did you have spring break this year? If so, did you do anything fun?

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Well, it is FRIDAY. Spring break looms! I am looking forward to READING. Here’s some randomosity for you.

We replaced our water heater. Our old one was small-ish – you couldn’t have two people take back-to-back showers and expect for the second person to have hot water – and in the past couple of months, it had begun knocking every time you even washed a spoon. The water heater’s death knell, if you will. It was nearly 10 years old anyway, and supposedly water heaters only last 7 to 10 years. So it was an anticipated replacement, and we were glad to upgrade to a larger tank and happy to end our game of Will It Leak chicken. Our plumbing company is excellent, and I have never had a bad experience. But when the plumber wheeled the new tank in, he pointed out that it had a dent in it. “Ding,” he called it, which seems so flimsy and insignificant a thing. But to me, it looked like a DENT.

Water tank 1

Ding or dent?

He assured me that it was cosmetic only and reminded me that their warranty covers parts and labor should it turn out to be NON cosmetic, which is less reassuring a comment than perhaps he thought it might be. And he would chop a few hundred bucks off the cost, he said. He would be happy to swap it out for a new one, he said, but there was no guarantee the next one would be ding free; these things get bumped and banged around on trucks and he sees dings ALL the time! Some even worse than ours! And he wouldn’t be able to tell if the new one had a ding in it until he took it out of the box. Plus, he didn’t have another one on his truck, so he’d have to leave and go back to the shop. But it was really up to me. Then he looked at me expectantly. I said, okay, go ahead and install it. But inside, I was yelling, no! Don’t give me a dented water heater!

Listen. When I buy a thing, I want it to be Pristine. Maybe a scratch in a refrigerator door or a ding dent in a water heater has no impact on the functioning of said appliance. I don’t care. Part of the reason for getting a new thing is that it is new. No one has put their grubby ketchup-covered hands all over it or rammed it with a broom handle or knocked a ladder into it. My oven has a permanent stain around one of the burners and some scratches from being careless when removing the cast iron grates when cleaning it. The door handle of my freezer is kind of wobbly because the shortest member of our family insists on leaning on it despite repeated requests to the contrary. Our kitchen table is stippled with the wounds of a fork being jabbed into it repeatedly, not to mention some ballpoint pen marks that refuse any attempt to remove them. These things happen. Normal wear and tear. But when a thing is NEW, part of the fun – nay, part of the very thing I am PAYING FOR – is the fresh, clean, lack of marks-and-scrapes-and-dingsdents.

When we got our dining room table and chairs and our barstools from Crate & Barrel many years ago, ALL of them had issues. A couple of the barstools were wobbly – which the delivery person tried to blame on my uneven floors (which are not uneven, thank you) and some of the very expensive, all-wood dining chairs had scratches in them. I made the person take them back and get us new ones. (I think it took more than one re-delivery to get non-scratched dining chairs, OMG.)

I always worry that I am being overly picky. The people who are trying to get you to accept the scratched/dingeddented items certainly make it out like I am being wholly unreasonable – it’s just a little scratch! You can still sit perfectly well in a chair with a deep vertical gouge in one of the legs! And maybe I am being unreasonable, I don’t know.

Whatever. The dinged dented water heater leaked so the plumber had to get a new one anyway.

Water tank 2

El Dento before it was hooked up and began to leak and was then summarily removed.

I have a Shrimp PSA for you, Internet.You may be aware that shrimp have a “vein” on their backs, yes? And that you should remove it before eating? (It’s not a vein; it’s the shrimp’s digestive tract or something equally gross.) Well, when I buy shrimp, I try to get it shelled and de-veined so I don’t have to deal with disemboweling the things before I cook them. (Or deal with looking at their creepy bug eyes and legs and exoskeleton.) (Why do I eat these things?) Well, the other day, I was prepping the shrimp for the shrimp scampi meal I love to eat, and I noticed that there was a long, dark stripe on the underside of the shrimp. Maybe the de-veiner missed one, I thought. No, ALL of the shrimp had it. I painstakingly removed one gruesome string after another. Ew. I looked at the bag the shrimp come in. It said clearly that they are DE-VEINED. Well! I was going to for sure call the company and complain.

Turns out that shrimp (I learned after Googling, fortunately not after yelling at some poor shrimp customer service rep) have TWO “veins.” One is the digestive tract and the other is the circulatory system. A de-veined shrimp has been relieved of the former; the latter remains. Apparently you can eat the circulatory stuff just fine. But… EW.

So now I am weighing my preference for shrimp over chicken against my preference for not removing a creature’s circulatory system. I really don’t like being reminded AT ALL that the shrimp I am about to devour was once a living creature. It’s bad enough that I have to remove their tails; I do not want to do anything else. But now YOU can make the decision BEFORE shelling out $20 for a bag of veiny shrimp.

Do you think other omnivores and carnivores feel this sort of squeamishness about their prey? I mean, not cats. Cats are sadists (and I say that with love, because cats are my all-time favorite animal). What other explanation is there for a) toying with a mouse until it is nearly dead with fear and b) leaving the bones and fur of one’s meal on the threshold between one’s human’s bedroom and the hall in the spot most ideal for being stepped on by said human and c) gleefully presenting one’s human with the innards of a mouse as a gift?

Do you think bears are happiest when they are eating berries, and, although they recognize that creatures are probably higher-yield in terms of nutrition, get all yicked out when they have to catch a writhing salmon in their bare teeth? Do you think owls squeeze their eyes shut as they swoop down to grab a mouse for dinner and say, “Eeeesh, I really wish this thing didn’t have whiskers”? Do you think lions are all, “If only my zebra came de-hooved!”? I, for one, want my meat to be as far removed from Living Thing as it possibly can be. Ground beef does a great job at looking Not Alive. Same with a fillet of, say, tilapia. Anything with bones gets a little too close for comfort. Down this road vegetarianism lies, I know, but I really am not capable of giving up tacos.

I have a new favorite kitchen gadget! My husband got me this amazing can strainer, which I LOVE. I make lots of things with canned black beans and chickpeas and kidney beans, and it is such a pain to get out a big unwieldy strainer to strain and rinse one or even two cans of beans. The strainers take up so much room in the dishwasher, and their handles get in the way of other dishes and it’s just so annoying. And then I have to do the weird dance of rushing the rinsed beans over to the pot on the stove, dripping water all over the counter and the floor. So when I received this can strainer as a birthday gift a few weeks ago, I was DELIGHTED. And it works very well! It’s small, so I can just put it on the top rack of the dishwasher, and it takes up very little room. My only complaint – and it’s really more of an observation – is that it seems to take longer to rinse the beans than it does with the strainer; they are more crammed together in the smaller confines of the can than in the roomier strainer. But otherwise, it’s wonderful. Plus, it’s cheap: the one I have is selling on Amazon for under $4. Or there is a stainless steel option that’s under $8.

Can strainer

Photo from amazon.com

There is a particular kind of lentil soup I am obsessed with. It comes from my local Lebanese restaurant, and it’s light and lemony and soooooo good. It is also $5 a bowl, which is reasonable as a treat but not on a day-to-day basis. So I have tried to make it at home and continue to fail.

This recipe is quite good – Lemony Lentil Soup from Gimme Some Oven – but the restaurant version doesn’t have any carrots in it. So, seeing as I really detest cooked carrots anyway, this is not going to cut it as a substitute.  This Middle Eastern Lentil Soup from BBCGoodFood is closer, and I really like the bright note that the turmeric adds, but it’s still not right. There is definitely no turmeric in the restaurant soup. Cumin, maybe… but even that I’m not sure of.  I don’t know what else to try, to get it closer to the restaurant soup. Any ideas? Based off of… nothing, since you aren’t eating the same soup I am? Still – I am hoping you will know exactly which spice will make it taste right. And I am willing to experiment. Lentil soup is GOOD.

Lentil Soup

My attempt to make the Middle Eastern Lentil Soup with a few add-ons. Good but not right. Also, the restaurant tops its soup with crunchy little pita wontons. And that makes ALL the difference. So yummy! But I could not get my hands on any pita wontons the day I made this soup.

Well, that’s all the randomosity I have for you today, Internet! What’s going on in your neck of the woods?

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