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Posts Tagged ‘randomosity’

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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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 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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Two short anecdotes for your weekend reading pleasure enjoyment amusement eye-rollment hate read whatever.

One Bad: When the family was here, we all went out to dinner one of the nights. Our reservation was at 6:30. The rest of the family arrived before me – Carla and I had trouble finding a parking spot – but we got to the restaurant at 6:30 on the dot. (I had told everyone else that the reservation was for 6:15 because I am mean.) We walked in and there was a man and his child in front of us. The hostess grabbed some menus and escorted them to a table. Carla and I waited for the hostess to return.

The door opened and a woman rolled in. You know the type. I am not going to describe her, because every descriptor makes it seem like I think everyone with [descriptor] is an ass, when that it just not true. She power-walked right past me to the hostess table. I edged closer, because I was there first, and she had a kind of bulldozery aura about her. She looked at me, “Is anyone here?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, pleasantly, glad that she’d acknowledged my presence. “The hostess just took someone else to his seat.”

The hostess returned. We had been waiting for maybe a minute at the most. The hostess smiled at us, trying to work out who to speak to first, and the other woman leaned onto the hostess table and said her last name and the number of people in her party.

“Excuse me,” I said, more tightly this time, but still aiming for pleasant, “we were here first.”

Instead of saying, “Oh, whoops, sorry” or “Oh, man, I thought for some reason you WORKED here, even though you are wearing a coat and are accompanied by a young child!” or “I completely forgot my manners! What was I thinking?” she gave me a superior little scoff and said, “Well, I have a 6:15 reservation.”

“I have a reservation too,” I said. I was firm. “And I was here first. You can wait your turn.”

At this, she put her hands up defensively, pasted a Deeply Surprised But Also Bitchy Look on her face, and said, “Well, I’m not going to argue with you.”

The hostess, clearly relieved this little exchange had not escalated further, escorted me and Carla to the table where our family was already sitting.

Fin.

Except… NOT fin, because… WHAT? I am still bewildered by the whole interaction. And flustered, because I absolutely hate confrontation. And really, would it have mattered if we had allowed her to go first? No, it would not have mattered. Maybe the gracious thing to do would have been to let her manhandle her way into being seated first. But she was so BRASH about pushing in front of us! And so… unapologetic about it! There was NO WAY she didn’t know that we were in line before her. Absolutely zero. And then she acted like I was being ridiculous or argumentative for asserting that I was there before her? What the what?!? We are living in a SOCIETY!

I am trying to teach Carla grace and patience and forgiveness, of course, but I am also trying to teach her to be aware of other people and to take turns and to stand up for herself… and I guess I chose the latter options to model for her in that moment.

The second worst part – after having to get into any sort of confrontation at all – is that it felt/feels like such a big deal. My heart was pounding. I felt like I was being ridiculous – justified, but still, like I was engaged in a playground argument of the first grade maturity level. (“It was MY turn on the swing.” “Nuh UH, I was here first!” “Nuh UH, was!”) I felt like my voice got overloud and squeaky and my indignant meter had been ratcheted up way too high.

Why can’t I be easy-breezy during a confrontation? Why couldn’t I have smiled pleasantly and said smoothly and cheerily, “Oh, you know, we were here first!” and then just not engaged her anymore? Why, instead, am I still feeling vexed and embarrassed a week later?

Side note: She said that she had a 6:15 reservation and we were definitely there at 6:30. So she was LATE. Which does not give her any excuse to line hop. But it makes me extra irritated. Lateness on your part does not constitute submission to your will on my part.

One Good: Remember when I was complaining about Target the other day, and how I had to drive all the way back to the store and wait for some security person to review my transaction just so I could get a refund for an item I did not buy?

(Brief detour which will have you further wondering why this falls under the “one good” heading: Remember how in the same post I also mentioned that Target is always making errors in what they charge you? Well, I went to Target this week and bought Home Alone 2: Lost in New York PURELY because it was on sale for $6. And then it rang up for $9.99. Fortunately, I caught the error. But SHEESH, Target. GET IT TOGETHER.) (Also, when the cashier keyed in the adjusted price, she had to choose an option on her computer screen to, presumably, explain the reason for the adjustment. I didn’t see all the options, but the one she picked was something like “customer disputed price.” Well, yes, I disputed the price. Because it was incorrect. Why is there no option for “item scanned at a price that was different from what was listed on the display,” huh, Target?)

Home alone 2.jpg

Why this is the only point in this ridiculous post I am choosing to illustrate with a photograph is beyond my powers of understanding. Also, why didn’t I buy ELF as well?

Anyway, I went to Whole Foods to pick up my Thanksgiving turkey. While there, I also added a few other things to my cart, and when I checked out, the amount that the cashier told me I owed seemed… like a lot. But I was in a hurry and I was really fretting about how I was going to brine my turkey by myself and, after all, the turkey was expensive and Whole Foods in general is expensive (and I don’t normally shop there, so I’m not really familiar with HOW expensive) so I figured the total was probably right and I had just underestimated the total of what I was buying.

I should have looked more closely at the receipt right then, but I didn’t. Instead, I drove home, unloaded my bags, and then looked at the receipt. Which is when I discovered that they had double charged me for my turkey. My enormous $44 turkey.

Listen, please forgive me when I tell you that I overlooked an extra $44 being added to my receipt. It is one of my key failings as a human, that a) I have no idea what things cost and b) being in a store suddenly renders me incapable of doing simple math and c) I get flustered easily and don’t take the extra twenty seconds in the store to just make sure I haven’t been overcharged. It drives my husband CRAZY, believe me, and if I knew how to fix it (budget in advance! or at least have some idea of what it will cost to buy the things you are buying! or for the love of peanut butter just take the extra twenty seconds to check the receipt! yes, you are right!) I would do it, but it seems to be a part of my brain that doesn’t work.

(By the way, I recognize the immense privilege glaring through the above entire paragraph – please know that I do.)

ANYWAY, I was so upset with myself. This was not a charge I could overlook. And if I would drive back to Target to reverse a $12.99 charge, then I was DEFINITELY going to drive back to Whole Foods to reverse a $44 one. But I didn’t have time. (I didn’t know, then, that our Thanksgiving would be moved back by an entire day and that I, in fact, had a whole extra day’s worth of time.) I had to brine the turkey and wash potatoes and chop herbs and finish cleaning the guest room and and and.

So I called the Whole Foods and told them about my problem… and they simply LOOKED UP MY RECEIPT and refunded my extra turkey charge immediately.

It took five minutes. Which includes the time I spent berating myself for having to make an unscheduled additional 45-minute roundtrip drive to and from Whole Foods. I did not have to leave my house. No one in security had to review footage of me not buying two turkeys. I got my money back. It was marvelous.

The end.

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(Content warning: death)

It’s hard to get back into writing when you’ve stopped abruptly. Harder so when you don’t feel like writing. Or when you try to write but only one thing comes out on the page. Well, writing is a muscle, like anything. So let’s exercise it. And, in doing so, hopefully exorcise the sadness that is blocking the words from flowing.

  • My friend died a few weeks ago. There’s no way to soften that statement or the impact it has. We were friends for twenty years and now she’s gone. I was able to fly to her state for her funeral, and I’m very glad my husband’s schedule enabled him to take Carla to school and pick her up and that we had plenty of airline points and that my life is flexible enough to allow for it. I got to hug her parents and sibling and see a couple of friends we had in common and grieve in a space filled with other people who truly understood my feelings and knew exactly what I’d lost. I got to say goodbye. I am very lucky she was my friend.
  • I’ve been spending a lot of time being mopey and tearful and engaging in very trite philosophizing about death and what it means to die, what it means to be left behind. Hard as it is to believe, there is something worse, though, than college-freshman-level meditations on the finality of death. My thoughts turn, of their own volition – believe me, I try to reroute them – to my own death, the death of my parents, the death of my husband, and the death of my child. The same creativity I depend on to write actual fiction is now eagerly developing detailed and gruesome ends for those near and dear to me, and my melodramatic brain is DISTRAUGHT at these entirely imaginary scenarios. It’s been delightful a) living inside my brain and b) living with me, I’m sure, although my husband has been very kind.
  • Carla has that particular first-grade pragmatism around the subject and she has been curious and sympathetic, both announcing to random people at unexpected moments that “mommy’s friend died” and asking me multiple questions about death, burial, cremation, etc. It’s been helpful to me, in that it reminds me that death is a fact. It happens to us all. There’s no reason we can’t have frank, matter-of-fact discussions about it.
  • I’ve never wanted to be buried. I’d much rather be turned into a tree when I depart this mortal coil. It’s good for the environment and it offers a nice shady spot for my loved ones to visit should they feel the need. Obviously, everyone has their own preferences, and each option has (I’m sure) benefits and disadvantages. We’re lucky we live in a time that allows for so much customization of the death ritual. I don’t think I’d want a wake, for instance – although I can definitely understand why it’s so important for many people. It was helpful for me to see my friend’s body, to say goodbye in person, but also to see that she wasn’t there anymore; the life force that made her her had so clearly left her corporeal self behind, and that was important for me to experience. It was also nice (“nice”) to have a space for talking and remembering and hugging that was separate from the somberness of the actual funeral. Maybe I am talking myself into a wake. Although perhaps wakes are more of a religious tradition than a funerary one; I’ve only been to two in my life and both of the deceased were Catholic. When my husband’s grandmother died, we sat Shiva with his relatives; this had the same feel as my friend’s wake, but there was no open casket. I’m guessing other religions have their own versions, and maybe there’s a non-religious option I can ascribe to. I know I can look this stuff up but I’m not at the actual planning stage; more still in the sad musing stage.
  • Another choice that I can understand going either way: I really want a program at my funeral/memorial service. As at a wedding, I think it’s helpful to the attendees to have something they can hold in their hands, something to distract them should the homily go too long or should they feel grief overwhelming them, something that lays out the details of the readings and the songs and the people presenting them and sheds additional light on the deceased and her life/loves/preferences. I can see how difficult that could be for the living, though, to have to prepare such a document in a time of staggering sadness; another reminder that it is helpful for the living if we plan for our deaths in advance.
  • I’ve also been contemplating friendship a lot lately. I don’t make friends easily and I have a very strong sense of boundaries, so I have only a handful of people I feel very very close to. My husband, mhigh-school best friend, my college best friend, my grad school best friend, and two or three others that don’t fall into quite such neat categories. All of them, with the exception of my husband, live in different states (from me and from each other!). Some of them, I haven’t seen for years. My friend who died (the college best friend) – I was fortunate enough to see her the summer before last; previously, we’d gotten together for lunch about a year before; prior to that, I hadn’t seen her since my wedding, in 2008. In the interim separations, we kept up via one- to two-hour-long phone calls every month or so, during which we downloaded everything that needed catching up on. (It was never enough time to truly hear everything.) This is true of my other close friends as well. We’re so far away that our friendship survives almost entirely via phone or email. It works for us, but I am feeling some urgency about getting in more regular face time with these dear people. And, as I’ve posted before, sometimes there are ebbs and flows of relationships – especially, perhaps, those that don’t have the benefit of frequent in-person encounters. I’m feeling more panicky about that, too. There’s so little time we have on this planet. It’s so precious. Why aren’t we sharing more of our lives with each other, more often? Should I be FORCING my long-distance friends into increased interaction? Should I be ramping up my search for an In Town best friend? Should I be insisting that we find a way to see each other, cost and vacation time and family priorities be damned?
  • To get out of my mire of sadness, I’ve been: Exercising  – there’s nothing like panting in a room full of women all working on their plank form to keep your mind off death (the cooldown at the end, where we lie in corpse pose and let our minds free-flow, not so much). I’ve been avoiding the news if I can help it; it’s all terrible anyway but the pull of the awfulness is stronger than usual. I’ve been trying to spend more time outdoors, because my city is glorious at this time of year; the leaves are changing and the sky is brilliant blue and you can wear the sunshine like an extra layer of clothing against the chill that has infused the air. I put up the Halloween decorations, which I enjoy almost as much as decorating for Christmas. And I’ve been especially busy with appointments and housework and Carla’s school activities and watching football, which helps to redirect my feelings from panic about loss and the everyone’s inevitable demise to panic about being over-scheduled.
  • Writing about my friend helps. She was a remarkable person, and if I weren’t so determined to maintain a semblance of anonymity here on this blog, I would write more about her because you would find her inspiring; everyone who knew about her felt that way. But I will stick to writing about my feelings. Thank you for reading, even if it’s not the light and fluffy absurdity-tinged day-to-day ridiculousness you normally expect from this site.
  • I’ve also been overdoing it on the comfort food and comfort wine. So I’ve been weaning myself off of that and am back to weekends-only wine and planning healthful meals. I think I will even have enough energy to do this week’s meal-planning post, which I have skipped for a couple of weeks now. I am slowly getting back to normal. Or, slowly building a new normal – one in which my friend can no longer participate outside of my memories. It’s not easy. I will continue to take it one day at a time.

Tell me something cheering or distracting, please, internet.

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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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My ten-day challenge is over and I am in a very gleeful mood, fueled by Reese’s peanut butter hearts and pasta. I feel a little high, honestly. I don’t think I rebound-sugared this way after my No Sugar Month last year. Perhaps I need more than ten days to feel settled in the No Sugar Lifestyle.

Some randomosity for you this afternoon:

  1. Do you remember a while ago when I mentioned I wanted to buy a half sheet pan? And they were super expensive? And then Allison mentioned very tactfully that perhaps I was looking for a quarter  sheet pan instead? Yes. Well, I finally bought one from Amazon – this one, which came with its own little quarter sized Silpat (except it’s not a Silpat, it’s the same brand as the cookie sheet) (and it’s not the size of a quarter, it’s a quarter of… whatever unit of measurement a full sheet pan is) – and I LOVE IT. First of all, it is shiny and clean and the Silpat is not sticky at all (my other two – one a Silpat-Silpat and the other a Crate & Barrel version – persist in stickiness despite rigorous cleaning). But most important, it is exactly the right size for baking three chicken dinosaurs and some butternut squash cubes for Carla to refuse to eat, or for a personal size pizza for me, or for four slices of garlic bread, or for many other magical things I have yet to discover.
Sheet pan with mini-tortilla pizza, and sheet pan next to regular sheet pan. So shiny!
  1. Buying the new sheet pan got me to clean out my sheet-pan drawer. I threw away (!!!!) (the !!!s are because I have a very hard time getting rid of things) my old beloved regular sized cookie sheet which was warped and rusty and which could no longer be washed properly because it left rust streaks on towels and rusty drips on the floor. It is now gone. Well, it is now in the garbage can behind my garage, waiting for garbage day. I can feel its presence still. I hope eventually it releases its hold on me, but we have after all been together many years so we cannot expect to avoid the mourning period entirely, new shiny pans notwithstanding. I also moved a less rusty but not particularly attractive sheet pan and two cupcake/muffin tins into the pantry, where they are now accompanying other infrequently used items, like the madeleine tray and my springform pans which I have used twice?? and another cupcake/muffin tin. Why do I have so many cupcake/muffin tins? We shall never know. I replaced these items with my new-since-December (and still never used) shiny regular size sheet pans. I guess I think of them as more the guestsheet pans, you know, like the guest hand towels in the powder room that your mother scolded you for using because you were not a guest. No? Only me? I like to think I will pull them out for use when we have company, and our guests will admire how shiny they are. I just have to keep them distant enough so that they won’t be tempted to feel my Silpats, which, inevitably, will be sticky.

 

  1. I finally got to eat one of my failed stained-glass sugar cookies. It was good. No, it was adequate. I ate it grudgingly. But I am still super irritated by how poorly they turned out from an aesthetic perspective.

SG cookies 4

  1. Also (I am still on the cookies here) I am really annoyed that the giant bag of Jolly Ranchers we used for the “glass” had only three cherry ranchers. THREE. Listen, even if I hadn’t used them for finicky failure cookies, I would be annoyed. There were something like 16 to 20 of the other three jolly flavors (strawberry, watermelon, and fruit punch); that is a DRASTIC imbalance. In fact, I would have been MORE annoyed if my plan were to eat them all. Who’s in charge of QA at the JR factory is what I want to know.

 

  1. My husband isn’t a big Valentine’s Day fan. Usually, we exchange cards and that’s it. I do all the candy buying. This year, inspired by Swistle, I wanted to buy myself a big heart shaped box of chocolates. I enjoy the variety and surprise of those assortments, and I don’t need The Best Chocolate like my chocolate snob spouse does. So I planned an excursion to the mall to go to the fancy candy store with Carla so she could pick out candy for her father and to also visit See’s, which Swistle recommends so highly, and which I have only ever been to once maybe, so I could get a box of chocolates to surprise myself with on Valentine’s Day. To my despair, there is no longer a See’s at our mall! I swear it was there the last time I visited, which has been… at some point in 2019, even if I’m not recalling the exact date. Boo! Thwarted! Then, on a separate occasion, Carla and I went to Walgreen’s to pick out a card for her father (we need to spread out the excitement around here) and I looked carefully at all the Russell Stover and Lindt and Godiva heart assortments. The one that sounded best was $12.99 (some sort of “special” Russell Stover candies, but the three options featured on the front sounded yummy) which is a bit rich for my blood when it comes to drugstore candy, so we left without it. (Also without all the stuffed animals Carla picked up from the shelves and hugged tightly and told me she MUST own or she would certainly die.) Thwarted again. Oh well. I figured I could go back in a few days and buy it on sale. My husband is on call this week and has been getting home around eight. The night before Valentine’s Day, he arrived a little later. And he had bought me a heart-shaped box of chocolates! Most romantic $3.99 ever!

 

  1. This is more of a side note to the above, but our Walgreen’s no longer has trash cans. It used to have one of those large pebbled trash receptacles out front, but it has disappeared. The reason I noticed is because I had something – receipt, tissue, some piece of trash Carla lovingly plucked from the floor – to throw away, and I couldn’t. So I went back in, stood in line, and waited patiently to ask the checker if I could toss it in her trash can. And she said NO, they no longer have trash cans! I wanted to ask her more questions, but there were actual customers lined up behind me and Carla was trying to scan her jacket pockets with the handheld scanner, and plus I was in shock, so I left without any more information. Seriously though: WHAT?!?!?!

 

  1. While we are speaking of Walgreens – this is how exciting my life is, recounting separate items of “interest” about Walgreens for Pete’s sake – I will tell you that I finally, after five years, did something I have been meaning to do for, well, five years, as I just said. I picked up a prescription and the pharmacist handed it to me, rather than the assistant/tech who normally rings people out. And it was the very same pharmacist who had been so very kind to me five years ago when I was SUPER sick from being pregnant, and still hiding my pregnancy from my BRAND NEW JOB that I had just started a couple of months prior, and the only thing that helped at ALL was Zofran. Seriously – I had the exact hours that I had to take Zofran so I could appear semi-normal at my job – and let me tell you, it wasn’t MAGIC; I didn’t feel WELL; I just felt less like I was in imminent danger of dying or barfing – and I took them religiously every single day. The prescription said I was supposed to take three a day (I think; I could definitely be misremembering) and I had to grit my teeth and clench my fists through the last two hours before I could take the next pill. But – despite that the bottle very clearly said “three a day” (or whatever), my insurance would only pay for, say, 45 Zofran a month (I am forgetting the exact numbers here). The prescription did not give you enough Zofran to take the prescribed daily amount, is what I am trying to tell you, which makes NO SENSE. I was forcing myself to survive on only two a day, but I was about to run out and I was freaking out about it. So I went back to the pharmacy and this lovely pharmacist told me that the cost for the amount of Zofran I needed out of pocket amounted to, say, $23 a pill, and even though I was miserable, I couldn’t justify paying $300+ to not throw up all over my office. At the time, I was nauseated all the time, even with the Zofran, I was working my ass off at work to make sure they wouldn’t be super pissed about hiring me when they found out I was knocked up, I was forcing my husband to subsist on things that didn’t require being cooked. And Zofran was the ONLY THING that was helping me get through it. So I learned all this information at the pharmacy when I was down to my last couple of Zofran and I burst into tears and the pharmacist was SO NICE. Not only did she say soothing things of the, “this is a terrible feeling, but you are going to be okay, and at the end you will have a wonderful baby” variety, she called my doctor and worked some sort of magic to get me a three-month prescription for the same drug that my insurance would actually cover. Don’t ask me to understand what happened or how she did it. All I know is that I ended up with more Zofran than I ended up needing (after my nausea finally cleared up around the 25 week mark). Whatever she did was MAGIC. Anyway, I have always held her in my heart with love and admiration and this most recent time, I told her that I knew she wouldn’t remember, but she had been so kind to me when I was pregnant and I always remembered that and I wanted to thank her. And then I ran out of the Walgreens because I felt super embarrassed.

 

  1. I am pleased to announce that I have achieved one of my 2019 goals. No, I have not finished my manuscript; one of the world’s great unfairnesses is that writing a 1,532-word so far blog post does not move me an inch closer toward finishing my novel. Instead, I have procured a new ottoman for our living room. The old one is very fancy and in a horrid state of disrepair. The new one is from Target, so I won’t feel horrible  if it doesn’t last more than a couple of years (BUT IT BETTER LAST A COUPLE OF YEARS), and it has the bonus of interior storage. It’s a little taller than the old ottoman, which is taking some getting-used-to, but other than that, it’s a fine replacement. Carla believes in her heart that the storage space inside it is for her toys (fine, gets them off the floor/side table) and uses it in her imaginative play. Her dolly has a lot of timeouts in it, despite my gentle urging to not put her child inside a lidded ottoman.
Old ottoman. You can see how the leather is peeling off of it everywhere. YUCK.
New ottoman closed and opened. I can’t take a straight-on photo to save my life.
  1. The old ottoman has become a bone of contention for me and my husband. First, you should know that neither of us is good at throwing things out (see above re: rusty cookie pan). Second, my husband hasn’t even HEARD of Marie Kondo, so he furls his brow at me when I say, “does it bring you joy?” and will not acknowledge how useful a barometer that question is. Third, we both feel guilty because it was (presumably) VERY expensive (not for us; for his parents) and we don’t know what to DO with it. It’s too beat up to give to Goodwill. Neither of us knows how to re-upholster, or we would have chosen that route rather than the Target replacement route. Which is all to say that my husband wants to keep it, and use it downstairs in the basement in place of the IKEA coffee table we’ve had since 2003, and I disagree because it is twice the size of the IKEA coffee table and a) won’t fit as well and b) will be a pain for me to move when I want to exercise. So for now we’ve compromised and it is leaning up against the wall in our living room. NONE OF THIS BRINGS ME JOY.
Ottoman 6

NO JOY.

  1. I have changed my mind. The stained glass cookies are not even adequate. The cookie part is fine, but the stained glass part sticks to my teeth and the strawberry flavor is off-putting against the flavor of the cookie. Even cream cheese frosting couldn’t help. WORST COOKIE EVER.

SG cookies 5

That’s all I’ve got, Internet! Have a lovely weekend.

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Usually, January is the month that lasts for two. But I feel like this particular January flew by. Here’s some randomosity for your Friday reading.

  • My mother-in-law got us tickets to go an author reading in a few months and suggested that, to prepare, we both read her latest book. The author – B. A. Shapiro – is new to me. The book is called The Collector’s Apprentice and it sounds v. interesting – love and art and revenge, all with the 1920s as a backdrop. Sign me up!

Collectors Apprentice

  • I bought the book with a gift card. A gift card I’d had since… at least two Christmases ago. I am not good at usinggift cards, because I don’t want to waste them. My husband is the exact opposite. He BURNS to use a gift card immediately. I hoard them. That is how I came to have several months of pedicures last spring: because I needed to use up a gift card I’d gotten before it expired. It had been a present for my baby shower. In 2013. See? Gift card hoarder. It can really backfire, though, so I’m trying to be better about it. Once, my husband got me a gift certificate for a massage. And I saved and saved it and saved it, waiting for the best possible time to use it… And the spa went out of business. Let that be a lesson to gift card hoarders everywhere!
Gift cards

These were just the ones I found in my wallet. I have a problem.

  • The Collector’s Apprentice wasn’t the only book I bought with my years-old gift card. I spent the whole thing. I bought some writerly type books and some newish fiction I’ve been wanting to read and some classics that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. And now my side table/personal library looks a little… overburdened. I mean, it’s been a good long while since it’s been even nearly this bad. I don’t normally organize the books that way – they don’t fit. Usually the spines are facing the bed. Not that I read through them every night and select one based on the available titles. No, I read no more than two or three at a time like a normal person.
Side table

Note to longtime readers: This is NOT another pregnancy announcement.

  • Hiding behind my book stacks are a variety of chapstick and hand lotion (and pillow spray, which I love). My hands are HATING this weather. My entire skin, in fact, has decided to stage a rebellion. I have big painful spots on each arm, my legs are covered in a scaly, itchy rash, my face has alternated between auditioning for role of Teenage Acne and becoming so dry it peels off. It’s really lovely. My hands are the easiest to deal with. I have purchased a wide variety of hand lotions with oddly aggressive labels like Intensive Healing and Ultra-Dry Skin Relief and Uber Nourishing Dry-Guard Skin Milk. I have stashed lotion everywhere: my nightstand, my bathroom, Carla’s bathroom, the kitchen, my purse, my car. My cuticles are still peeling, but none of my knuckles are cracked OR bleeding, so I think I’m winning.

 

  • Some of those books have been on my nightstand for a couple of years. The upside-down Louise Erdrich book, LaRose, has been there for at least two. She’s an exceptional author and the book is very well done, but it’s so achingly sad I can’t get more than halfway through it before I need to take a break… and then by the time I can gear myself up to pick it up again, I need to start over from the beginning. Lather, rinse, repeat. My husband keeps asking if he can go file it (he LOVES to put books on our bookshelves) but I can’t bring myself to give up on it. Some of the books are just laziness on my part. My husband will be happy to know he can shelve the Tana French book  (very good, as per usual, but not my favorite of her works) and I need to return the Jodi Picoult book and The Association of Small Bombs and The Master Butcher’s Singing Club to their original owners. (I read none of them but have had each of them for well over a year now, so it’s time they went home.)
LaRose

Photo from Amazon.com of the hardcover version on my nightstand; the link goes to the less expensive paperback

 

  • Today is the last day Carla can sell Girl Scout Cookies. Since the weather has warmed up a bit, I think we’ll head out to the last few neighbors’ houses we haven’t hit yet. I am so glad this portion of Girl Scouts is over because I HATE IT. My parents never let me sell things when I was a kid. For one thing, my nearest neighbor was two miles away. For another, they were both “the boss” at their respective offices and felt like it wasn’t cool to ask their employees to buy shit from their kid. I remember distinctly a standoff between my mom and some hapless teacher who was trying to insist that I had to sell whatever scheme they were in the midst of: citrus fruit for choir, magazine sales for lord knows what reason (something to do with “weebles,” although I’m not sure how it benefited the school, exactly). My mom said no, the teacher said it was mandatory (how??? my memory isn’t great so I am probably misremembering) and so my mom wrote a check. And the teacher was sullen about it – the money was only part of the point, I think – but that was that. The end of my career as a salesgirl. This is all to say that I have a deep-rooted discomfort with selling stuff. And yes, I KNOW people love Girl Scout Cookies, and I KNOW this is teaching Carla valuable skills like counting money and interacting with people and memorizing a little sales script and facing rejection and yada yada yada but I HATE IT WITH THE FIRE OF A THOUSAND SUNS.

 

  • Along with most of the country, Carla’s school was closed this week due to cold, so we stayed home and entertained ourselves. By far the most entertaining thing that happened was that an enormous unfamiliar bird stationed himself on top of Carla’s swingset for a good hour or so. I took many pictures of the bird, from many different windows, with two separate cameras. Carla and I pored over our Birds of State book, trying to pinpoint what it was. I narrowed it down to a Cooper’s Hawk or a Broad-winged Hawk; Carla insisted it was an owl of some sort, although I think we can all (except Carla) agree that it does not have an owl face. I took a very boring video of our backyard squirrel, Howard, trying to get close to the bird, and the bird puffing up its wings. I mean, what was Howard thinking? Was he trying to scare the bird off of what he must consider to be HIS swingset? Was he just getting a better look? Did he want to snuggle? But I’m pretty sure a bird that size wouldn’t hesitate to eat Howard for Thanksgiving dinner, so I was pretty relieved that Howard gave up after the bird flapped at him.
Hawk 1

Even with my husband’s fancy camera, I couldn’t get a good close up. And this bird was posing like nobody’s business, fierce looks, lots of feather ruffling, he would definitely win America’s Next Top Hawk Model. It’s not his fault I have poor photography skills.

Hawk 2

Difficult to see because of distance and speed, but this is Howard, trying to sneak up on the giant bird of prey that should probably strike terror in his little sciurine heart.

  • Purely because it’s February, and not because I have anything at all to report, I shall update you on my goals/aspirations for the year. In short, I am not doing well. I have been writing my book, but not as often as I should. My “be in bed by 10:30” goal has been a laughable failure. Last night, for no reason whatsoever, I stayed up until 12:15 am watching Child 44, which wasn’t even particularly good. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t stay up past midnight good. And yet. Okay, I just continued listing all the ways I am failing at my goals and that way madness and tearful potato chip eating lies, so I erased it. One goal I haveaccomplished is to buy new underwear. I was at Nordstrom and there was a sale rack of underpinnings and I figured, I can spend $4 a pair on some new underwear! So I collected two pairs in my size and then found a whole big pile of Natori underpants in nice, bright, pretty colors. And they were on sale for $10.87 a pair, which is steep. But a salesperson happened to walk past and she said, “Those are our bestsellers. Everybody loves them.” So I figured a) Natori is the brand of bra I like best, maybe the underthings will be just as good and b) who am I to go against the undergarment grain? The only problem was that these fancy drawers were one size fits all. I asked the salesperson and she ASSURED ME that they really were magical and fit ALL SIZES. I was deeply suspicious, but wanted to try them – and also felt like it was a bit of a challenge, right? I mean, I’ve got a generous backyard, so if these lawn covers were truly going to be one-size-fits-all, then they had their work cut out for them. Well, I did try them on and they did fit… but I have yet to take the tags off and wash everything and wear them out and about. I will tell you that the Natori knickers rang up at $3.97 apiece, so I feel like even if they provide mere cautionary fodder for this blog, they were worth the price.

 

  • Lately, whenever I can’t find my phone, it’s because Carla has swiped it to take photos. She has her own camera – this Vtech Kidizoom camera which is actually quite cool – but the memory card fills up quickly. And I understand why, because I find evidence of her voluminous photography in my phone’s photo stream.

 

Carla Photos

Experimenting with close ups of floor, foot, and pet (stuffed) tiger. 

  • I really can’t believe it’s February. Despite the lingering cold, it feels like winter is on its way out. February is so short and then it’s March and spring and warmer temperatures. Sitting here in my cozy house with the promise of not just above-zero but above-freezing temperatures later today and all weekend, it is easy to feel like winter is going fast. Of course, I can say that because it’s my favorite season – and I LOVE snow, in particular. As part of my More Weekend Adventures goal, we went sledding a couple of weeks ago. It was Carla’s first time and I think she had a blast. I had to buy a sled, and I got a $9.99 sled from Target. It lasted for an hour before it sprung a big hole. Fortunately, it was quite cold so we were all ready to exchange sledding for hot chocolate, but it was disappointing nonetheless. I don’t know if we misused it – my husband and I did go down with Carla a couple of times; not all three of us, but one parent with the kid – or if the terrain, which seemed nice a deeply snow covered, was somehow rougher than it seemed… but it seems to me that even a $9.99 sled should last for longer than an hour. I wanted to return it, but my husband says it’s not worth it. Who knows if we’ll even get the combination of Good Snow and Survivable Temperatures again this season? And we did use it. Maybe we already got our $9.99 worth of sledding out of it. I’m new at this.
Sled

Sled, beautiful and unblemished, pre-sledding.

Happy weekend, Internet!

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Man, I haven’t done one of these small-takes type posts in a long time! However, I would really like to blog more often (I was thinking the other day that maybe I should just change my blog title to “Dinners This Week” because that’s about all I can manage most weeks) and maybe this is the key. As you well know, if you’ve been reading for more than five minutes, I tend to be overly wordyand I think that’s holding me back. Also, I am boring. I’ll be writing along, 3,000 words in, and I’ll realize, my GOD this is TEDIOUS. Takes the joy out of posting something, when you know it’s dull as a bowl of marbles. Sometimes I go back and read old posts and I think, boy, I used to be moderately entertaining! Well. Sometimes people change for the good, sometimes they change for the snoozefest.

Anyway. Random blurbs ahoy.

  • Last night I went out to dinner with a friend who was visiting from out of town. It was a lovely, lovely time and we talked about books – specifically The Friend, which had been a gift from this particular friend, and for whom I bought a second copy of the book because my friend MUST read it but also I need to keep a copy for myself – and work and family and travel. It’s been a very friendly week, which has been good: I had two nice hour+-long conversations with two separate long distance friends. I had a coffee with a friend who lives here in town, but who has been MIA for a good many months. I have another coffee planned for February with another friend I haven’t seen in a good while. And a lunch date planned for the last day in January with an old work friend. And then last night’s dinner. I am feeling very full and grateful right now. Perhaps if I record this feeling I can return to it on those inevitable days when I feel lonely and friendless. Friends: I highly recommend them.

 

  • The only bad thing about dinner last night was that I had too much to drink, which made the drive home ridiculously uncomfortable. No, not alcohol. I wasn’t drunk, or even tipsy. I mean I had literally put too much liquid into my body. Seems that I am constitutionally incapable of leaving a glass of water full. And the servers at this particular establishment were prompt in discharging their glass-filling duty, no matter how repetitive. The restaurant we went to was a good thirty minutes’ drive from my house, so as I poured my aching bladder into my car, I was feeling legitimately concerned about making it home in a dry state. If you are wondering, like my husband was, why I simply didn’t go to the bathroom during dinner like a normal human, well, I will tell you: We were having such a nice conversation! And I didn’t want to interrupt – not just the conversation, but the flow of the evening, you know? I was sure I would go when the server came to take our credit cards, but when the time came, it just didn’t seem like the right time. And then I needed to give my friend a ride to his car, and I felt weird about making him wait in the lobby while I went to the ladies’ (Side note: one of the things that drives me NUTS about my otherwise lovely husband is that he often waits until everyone has their coats on, all ready to go, before he heads to the bathroom. PLAN AHEAD.). So I just suffered instead. Perhaps you are also wondering why I just didn’t stop somewhere on my way home. Well, I will tell you. The city is… scary, okay? And the drive home takes me through some pretty undesirable neighborhoods that make me very nervous and edgy. And it was late and I didn’t want to be murdered. Peeing oneself is preferable to murder, right? Probably. I drove SO CAREFULLY the whole way home. Because I was sure that if I slipped through a yellow light or went even a tiny bit over the speed limit, I’d get pulled over and there’s no way a police officer is notgoing to arrest a woman who is sobbing and soaked in urine. I made it home. I know you were worried. My pelvic floor muscles performed admirably. Thank goodness for all those Kegels I did while pregnant, amirite? I mean. PHEW.

 

  • Speaking of pregnant, which I am not, I almost stopped on my drive home at a very grimy gas station for the sole reason that I stopped there before when I had similarly misjudged the elasticity of my bladder. Only that first time, I was somewhere around eleven months pregnant and I literally could not wait. Pregnancy is really one indignity after another, isn’t it? Take, for example, this poor woman I saw last weekend, in a similar state of Birth Could Happen Any Time. I was parked in a Whole Foods parking lot, waiting for my husband, and this woman came out of an all-day breakfast restaurant and started swaying toward her car – you know that walk that pregnant women sometimes have, where their belly has forcibly commandeered everything, including balance and momentum and even gravity? She was parked directly behind me, across an aisle, and so I could see her in my rearview mirror as she abruptly threw up on the pavement. I averted my eyes and pawed through the crap in my car to see if I had water or anything to offer her by way of help. Alas; nothing besides my undying sympathy and solidarity. Several minutes later, I noticed a man and two small children hustling out of the all-day breakfast restaurant. The man hefted the kids into the car, next to which the poor woman was still standing, occasionally retching onto the ground. I should have given her some privacy, I know, but I was so overcome by a sense of pity and empathy and helplessness that I just kept staring at her in my rearview. She kept climbing into the car and then hopping back out to throw up again. My god. Why is pregnancy so miserable? I’d sometimes drive to work with a plastic bag open on my lap, so sure I wouldn’t be able to get to the office without vomiting. Pregnancy is gross and humiliating and uncomfortable, and, yes, I guess you get a human out of it at the end, but sheesh. What a process. Eventually the pregnant woman stayed in her car long enough for her husband to spirit her away. I wish her well.

 

  • In Trying to Be a Good Wife news, I am trying out a new kitchen cleanser. I have a well-documented love affair with bleach. If I could, I would use it with abandon on everything all the time. Alas, it’s not so compatible with granite countertops, so I typically use Lysol for my kitchen cleaning needs. But my husband HATES the smell. So much so that he refuses to wipe down the counters. Fortunately for him I enjoy both wiping down the counters and rolling my eyes at his aversion to faux lemon scented chemicals, so we’ve managed to forge a solid compromise between us. But today Method cleanser was on sale at Target. I already love the smell of the Method Daily Granite, so I got two bottles of the antibacterial cleanser, one in citron scent, the other in bamboo. A little full of themselves with those scents, if you ask me, but I am hopeful that my husband will not be quite so sensitive to at least one of them.

 

  • We are supposed to get a good walloping this weekend, snow-wise. So while I was at Target, I kind of did a little panic buying. When you hear that potentially your city is going to be snowed under, what do YOU panic-buy? I bought some normal things, like meat and vegetables and plenty of tortillas. But I also bought a sled. A LOT of construction paper. And eggs. Believe it or not, the eggs was the weirdest thing. None of us really eats eggs in this household, and, sure, I use eggs in baking, but I don’t have any baking projects planned. But now we have two dozen eggs to… not eat during the impending snowpocalypse. Or, more likely, to not eat during the perfectly normal wintery weekend we will inevitably have, because weather is impossible to predict.

 

And that’s all I have for now. What are you up to this weekend, Internet?

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Well, now that the World Series is over, I can refocus all of my Sports Stress on the election. It’s like a stress sandwich, with nothing delicious in the middle. So yay. Here are some random things, from my tired brain:

  • I went to Target the other day, and the cashier totally Kristen Wiiged me during check-out. “What’s ‘Thai sweet chili sauce’? Is it spicy?” and then, “Well, I KNOW sriracha is spicy!” and, “Looks like someone is going to be a princess for Halloween!” and, “Love that color nail polish!” and, “Oooh, what’s this? A top coat? And you have coupons for both!” I don’t have a problem chit chatting with the cashier, and I am sure it is DELIGHTFUL to see the variety of things that strangers buy each day, but it was mildly uncomfortable to have her COMMENT on it.
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Screen shot from nbc.com

  • One thing the Target Lady did NOT comment on? My taco shells. I bought two boxes and all but SEVEN SHELLS were broken.
taco-shells

WTF? Did someone at the store shake the box as hard as possible?

Carla actually EATS tacos, so we have them at least once a week. And I have never — NEVER — seen such a thing. I mean, in the one box, not a SINGLE SHELL was whole.

Well, I can bright-side my way to nachos for lunch, at least.

  • Halloween was SO FUN this year. Carla is at the perfect age, I think. She got really excited about dressing up (so much so that the hours between the end of her school day and six o’clock when trick-or-treating began took forever) and she was really pumped up by the idea of candy. She understood the concept of going up to people’s doors and holding out her little pumpkin. She didn’t really succeed in saying “trick or treat,” but she DID say “thank you,” so there’s that.

One thing I loved was that she would rummage around in people’s candy dishes, searching for the Perfect Candy. And some of them would helpfully choose something for her, and she would shake her head and say, “No, I have that already.” It was kind of adorable. Also a little bit embarrassing, but I’m choosing to believe that people felt more charmed than annoyed.

We made it all the way down one side of our block before she decided that she needed candy NOW. Instead of going up to the door, she sat down smack in the middle of one our neighbors’ driveway and started searching through her pumpkin to find something. To prod her along, I pulled out a bag of M&Ms and fed her one at a time after each house, kind of like training a puppy to heel. So she would dutifully march up to the door, collect her candy, and then turn around and open her mouth like a baby bird eager for a worm. We went through a bag of M&Ms and one roll of Smarties.

Our neighbors were so kind and generous. We have a great block, and most of the homes had full-size candies. And one of our neighbors was HIDING the good candy for the kids she recognized from our block, so when Carla finally made it to her house, she invited us in and gave Carla three full-size items. It was just so sweet. It made me feel giddy with the goodness of human kind.

  • The one negative moment this Halloween was a comment that I got about Carla’s costume, from someone who knows us well. Carla was a princess this year; last year she was a superhero. She chose both costumes, without input from me or my husband. Just, last year she was really into the superhero, so she wanted to dress up like that particular superhero, and this year she really wanted to be the princess.

Anyway, when Carla told this person what she was going as for Halloween, the person turned to me and said, “It’s nice that she’s interested in more feminine things.”

I mean.

First of all, gross. Second of all, what? Thirdly, REALLY?! Fourthly, why is anyone evaluating anything about the costume choices of a three-year-old? Fifthly, it makes me mad because – for a minute – it made me want to rip the princess costume off of Carla and dress her up like a lumberjack complete with beard and muscles (ALTHOUGH A LUMBERJACK COULD BE A PERFECLTY FEMININE PERSON TOO OMG) just for spite, and then THAT makes me mad because why? Why shouldn’t I just be delighted by whatever Carla wants to pretend to be, whether it’s a firefighter or a dragonfly or a ballerina or a freaking bowling ball.  Why should some stupid comment make me want her to be or feel or do anything other than what she wants? WAY TO RUIN HALLOWEEN, PERSON.

I don’t even care to unpack all that upsets me about that comment, or why it’s so gross and demeaning, or how it’s a symptom of a larger, more insidious problem in society, or how sad it makes me feel that Carla is going to have to face crap like this her whole life.

So I’m going to write it down here and be done with it and move on.

DEEP CLEANSING BREATHS.

  • My husband carved a cat pumpkin this year. That was fun. When it was dark outside, and the cat silhouette was back lit by the little flameless candles I put inside, it garnered a lot of compliments from trick or treaters. Carla and I did the messy part, taking the top off and scooping out all the guts and seeds. Then I roasted the seeds. Carla did not care for the seeds. My husband was eating some later in the week, and I overheard Carla say, “WHY do you like those Daddy?”

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  • Now that Halloween is over, I suppose I have to put away my Halloween decorations. I am not particularly good at decorating for holidays, but I really come through for Halloween and Christmas. I have some cats on pumpkins that I love, and a cool ghost, and a little ghost family for the bathroom. And this year I also found (at Target) a bunch of inexpensive multi-colored pumpkins with glitter stripes and polka dots. There are other things, too. I don’t really feel ready to put all the stuff away yet. Maybe this weekend.
  • I love how so many people go All Out with their Halloween decorations: zombies and ghosts and witches hanging out in their yards, pumpkin path lights, spiderwebs overtaking their shrubbery, graveyards sprouting from their lawns. I love it. Carla and I went for a walk a couple of weeks back and found a street where nearly every house had Halloween decorations, and it was so fun to point them out and discuss them together. I think it also went a long way toward making the holiday fun for Carla rather than scary. She seemed delighted by one neighbor’s human-size trio of glow-eyed witches and by another’s mechanized skull hanging from a tree. I’m glad it doesn’t freak her out.
  • I suppose now that I have to get rid of Halloween decorations, I can concentrate on Thanksgiving décor… But I don’t really HAVE any Thanksgiving stuff, aside from a fall-themed runner and maybe a non-jack-o-lantern pumpkin that I can keep using. I’m not sure what I WANT, in terms of Thanksgiving décor. But I really WANT it. Do you have any Thanksgiving or fall-type décor that you just love? Why can’t I stop typing décor?
  • And that makes me feel all giddy about Thanksgiving! I love this holiday! I can’t wait to pull out my Detailed Thanksgiving Timeline and start preparing for the meal. My parents are coming out for Thanksgiving this year, which should be super fun. I wonder if Carla will eat ANYTHING?
  • Of course, thinking about Thanksgiving gets me all excited about Christmas and Hanukkah, which I bet are going to be FANTASTIC, Carla-wise, this year. She is really going to “get” the whole idea of Santa Claus and I know she loved lighting the menorah last year, so it will be even more interesting this year. I think she’ll be able to look forward to things in a way she hasn’t before. SO FUN. I have some tentative gifts picked out for a few people, but now I can start gift-hunting in earnest. I also really want to get a tiny tree and some Christmas window clings for Carla’s room – she loved having her own Halloween decorations, so I think she’ll really enjoy Christmas ones, too. I have already put on the calendar our local Christmas tree lighting and food bank donation day, as well as our local menorah lighting. Maybe we will try to do a Santa Claus visit this year, too, if Carla is up for it. So those are fun things to look forward to.
  • Speaking of gifts (which I was, a while ago), my father-in-law AND father both have Major Birthdays this year. My father-in-law is first. And I am wondering, what the hell do you get to commemorate a major birthday for men who have EVERYTHING? Everything I think of seems either lame or completely out of the realm of possibility. Ideas? Anyone?
  • It’s a little hard to imagine Christmas with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having. I mean, we’ve been sleeping with the windows open and it’s NOVEMBER. On the one hand, this is awesome and I don’t want to waste it. On the other hand, I really want to wear the new vest and boots I bought, and I have a bunch of cute sweaters that aren’t being worn. So get with it, Actual Fall. At least the trees are super beautiful.
  • It’s so hard to believe that this nice weather is actually happening that I haven’t really been taking FULL advantage of the warmth. When it’s not raining, that is. I feel like I should be going for long walks outside with Carla. We have gone to the playground, a LOT, so that’s good. And she’s been playing in the back yard a bit, which is great. Okay, I suppose we also decorated pumpkins outside, and we’ve done chalk drawings on the driveway, and we did our Halloween Decoration Tour. So we’re not completely failing. But I kind of feel like I should go full on It’s Still Summertime, and put the patio cushions back out and fire up the grill more often. My parents got me a meat grinder for last Christmas, and so far I’ve only been using it to make ground beef for tacos and chili.

Freshly ground meat is SO GOOD. But the clean up is a little gross.

When really the BEST use would be for hamburgers. I think what’s holding me back is that it’s usually so dark by the time my husband gets home, that grilling isn’t particularly pleasant. We have a light on the grill, but it’s not particularly useful. Hmmm. Perhaps a really powerful, useful grill light would be a good candidate for a Christmas present??

All right, Internet. That’s all I have for today. What’s going on with you?

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