Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I find this interesting.

It makes me think about blogging.
And journaling.
And of all those pictures I take, at least 25% of which (you won't see these on the blog, you're welcome) are of stuff lying in the street.

What are we really doing here, anyway?
What compells me to save these things -
these ideas, these combinations of words, this stuff that I've already used up?

Yeah, I don't know either. I got nothin', as they say.

But I'll still be doing it next year. I'm pretty confident of that.

God's peace in 2009.
Thanks for looking through muh rubbish. With me.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Finally, a recipe!

You thought I would never shut up about the panic attacks, did you? Well, more coverage of my pathetic mental state is no doubt upcoming, but I made a really good dinner tonight! It's alarmingly healthy and really, really delicious!

Christmas Leftover Pasta.

Set 2 pots of lightly salted water to boil, and heat a large cast-iron skillet.

When the frying pan is hot, pour in a glug of olive oil.
Slice one large onion into medium slices, and drop them into the pan.
Add a bit of salt and pepper.

You are carmelizing these onions. The classic way to do this is explained with beautiful simplicity here. I always cheat a little - throw a quarter-cup of water and cover at the start, which I think softens them a little faster with less chance of burning. But you have to uncover them for most of the cooking, or they never carmelize. Anyway, you're cooking those until they are soft, much smaller, dark brown, and sticky. It'll take a while.

When one pot of water boils, add about 10 brussel sprouts (cleaned, stemmed, halved or quartered), plus whatever leave have fallen off into the Tupperware, and several handfuls of fresh broccoli florets. Let these boil for a few minutes, until they are brilliant green but still pretty hard.

When the other pot boils, cook a little pasta - I used 1 cup of Barilla Plus multigrain rotini, which takes at least 10 minutes to cook.

When the onions are completely limp and brown, push them to the sides of the pan and pour a small amount of olive oil into the center. Drain the vegetable and drop them into that pool of olive oil for sauteeing.

When the pasta is done, drain that (save a little liquid) and add the drained pasta to the pan. Mix everything together and add a little more salt. Turn off the heat.

Let it mingle for a couple minutes, serve in bowls. Really good with a sprinkle of pine nuts.

This would be great with some mushrooms in it, and it would work great with fresh spinach or chard, I think. Even Ian ate it! Well, not the sprouts, but everything else. This makes 2 generous entree portions.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I think this might actually help me.

I bought a giant (8.5x11, for me that is giant - I've been on the 5x8 format since 1988, when I bought my first daytimer at Price Club on Security Blvd). Anyway, I bought this giant but otherwise not particularly distinguished datebook for 2009, because I need a lot of room to write because I need to keep track of basically everything on the earth - my schedule, work deadlines, availability of church volunteers, Eric's gigs, Eric's social life, Ian social life for crap's sake.

What about my social life? you may well ask. Well, it's in there too, though it does not require a lot of room to write.

Which is largely by my own choice. I like to work, I like to hang with my husband, I like to read, I like to cook. I even like spending time with my kid, (although jeez! He needs to back off a little! He's getting awfully possessive. Frankly, I could use some space in that relationship.) Socializing has fallen far, far to the bottom of the list. And I'm not aware of missing it, usually. (Unlike, say, the time alone to write/read/think, without which I become observably twitchy.)

But I suspect that I actually need it, on some unacknowledged level. At least something low-impact, like going to my knitting group occasionally, and chatting with people who do not know me well and do not expect anything from me. Just hanging out.

(Hmmm. Except the last time I went to knitting, which was MONTHS ago, I was outed as a religious professional and got into a huge deep spiraling conversation about death.)

(Except - I liked that. It was actually stimulating and there was good give and take, and I think I helped the person a little.)

All I can say is, the last third of 2008 has been doing its level best to KICK MY ASS, and I am still here,"... hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair (most of the time)...struck down, but not destroyed."

(I wasn't planning on quoting this next part, because I don't understand it - "We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." I don't understand that intellectually - I couldn't put into my own words what point Paul was trying to make - but I kind of feel that sentence in my bones. It rings true on some non-rational level.)

Okay, here's where I go all Christian-y on you. Sorry, I know this will not mean anything to most people, even followers...but the end of that chapter (2nd corinthians, incidentally my favorite book, chapter 4) says something I hope I can come to believe:

So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

yeah, What she said.

My house is warm. This morning, my lucky kids have presents. I have presents, and we're having a great big breakfast. (To be followed later by more presents and a great big dinner.) No matter how bad things get here, we will not be competing with 98% of the world for misery. Having trouble finding the money for car or washing machine repairs is a luxury. Having loved ones to miss speaks to the great gift of loving and having been loved.

My children did not miss a single meal this year. We didn't flee from a war, we didn't need medical help and not get it. We have a computer and an internet connection, for crying out loud. The fact that I bought any yarn at all, even if it had been a single ball (which it so wasn't. I cop to that.) means I had extra money. I have people to take care of, and people who take care of me

Christmas thoughts from a great blog, Yarn Harlot by knitting teacher/writer/designer Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

We had a wonderful holiday visit, and great Christmas eve services, and I am still beat.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

fa la la la la, la la la ARRRRRRRR.

1. Ian wants to be a pirate for Christmas. (It's my impression that 'fancy dress' events mark many holidays in the UK, and so hundreds of little Ians probably are pirates for Christmas.)

2. Its the 23rd, so of course we just watched Seinfeld in syndication. May I say that the Festivus episode (actual title, The Strike) represents a pinnacle of smart-assery to which all of us amateur smart asses aspire: to have a family inside joke adopted as a holiday in households all over the world. In my family, a rough equivalent would be if the Mitchell Family Greeting (kermit-like arm flailing, open mouthed head rocking) or the Miller-Mitchell All-Purpose Note ("Gun noot. B. Bacson.") somehow came into universal use. Even my own household does not adhere to these customs.

3. This reminds me of a David Sedaris story, one that I feel so close to my own heart that I cannot even remember where it's from, presumably one of the early popular works like Barrel Fever. David and his many siblings, in adulthood, have gathered for a family holiday, and are staying at a motel. Some circumstance (perhaps they won't smoke in front of their mother, who has cancer) has them sitting outside by a dumpster, sneaking cigarettes in a drizzle. Their father shouts out from the motor court patio at them: "You know what's wrong with you kids?"
and they answer, in a single, exhausted voice, "yeah, we're SPOILED."

The first time I read this, I gasped, caught in perfect tension between snorting laughter (because damn, that's hysterical) tears (at the realness) and blind astonished envy at the writing. I tried to read it to Eric immediately, which came to nothing because I couldn't squeak out a sound.

After several minutes, I calmed down and read it to him, and now it's quoted quite frequently.

Hummph: The Muppet Show, The House at Pooh Corner, and David Sedaris. Add to this The Long Secret (which is where my brother and I learned to turn to one another and say "Jesus hates you.") and it's a pretty good overview of the cultural influences on my upbringing.

Merry Christmas. Should we ever get around to it, we'll post something or other at

Saturday, December 20, 2008

busy kitchen 2

just knocked over an 8 oz bag of coffee beans onto my kitchen floor.

painstakingly picked up the beans, many of them one by one, finger and thumb, and then rinsed a collander-full in cool water.

These beans came all the way from Ethiopia to make me caffienated. They were roasted by a friend of mine.

I'm not going to keep them from their destiny just because of a little kitchen floor dirt. Far be it from me to stand in their way.

Also, my kitchen smells AWESOME.

Busy Kitchen yesterday:

a couple batches of these, for neighborhood distribution and church on Sunday

8 loaves of bread - a couple of loaves burned! which has never happened to me before! Weird!

plus a double batch of this, which I would make again with sharper cheese

and a pound of this, which needed more hot peppers. I didn't have the tiny red peppers I used last time, which come from a houseplant...guess I should have stopped by the auto shop and checked to see if the plant was still producing. My store-bought peppers reflect my timidity in these matters - I am terrible at getting the peppery-ness right.

The salad and the cassarole were for a party, where all the food was amazing. I also totally lucked out at the competitive gift exchange (Is this a southern thing? I never heard of this activity until I moved to the dc area. You know, where you draw numbers, and then, when your turn comes, you can either take a wrapped gift or poach someone else's desirable gift? It can be totally cut-throat - last night was hilarious, but moderately civilized- and it definately is entertaining and revealing of character.)

Anyway, I ended up with a cookbook and placemats! So we can eat our seasonal produce on handloomed indigeousnous textiles. That totally rules.

It also totally rules because the gifts we contributed were very popular, totally in keeping with the theme (good for the recipient, good for the world) and as close to free as humanly possible. I made a reusable string grocery bag (it actually wasn't finished yet - I put it in the box with the needles and a note) and a couple organic free-trade dark chocloate bars. (Expensive for candy bars, but very cheap for a Christmas gift.)

Both these gifts were extremely hotly contested, poached as many times as the rules would allow. Because, in the competitive gift exchange, I'm totally not competitive about getting gifts - I'm competitive about contributing desirable gifts, as confirmation of how damn clever I am. Not that anyone necessarily has to know it was me. I just have to know. It's satisfying.

Should you be competitive in this way too, here's a hint for next year:
It is impossible to go wrong with chocolate.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

no casualties

A couple of years ago, after our first trip to the beach with our little darling, I quoted Heather Armstrong of Dooce as saying that traveling with a toddler equals SUFFERING. Oh, I avered, it was rough, but I wouldn't go so far as to characterize it as SUFFERING.

I was wrong.

I just spent the night in a glorious luxury hotel in Winchester, VA, where my husband had a gig. We ate gourmet dinners and breakfasts, stayed in a room with a wonderful bed with fabulous, million-thread-count linens, and a lovely rainfall shower. The pool was the kind of pool I dream about - the basement pool, with soft lighting and pillars coming up out of it and caryatids and a fountain. And a hot tub. And towels that would have been worth stealing.

In a town where the streets are filled with...yarn shops! Bead stores! Wine bars! Places full of handmade toys! Sidewalk cafes. Lovely old-fashioned Christmas decor.

I wanted to throw myself in front of a train.

Which I could have - they came though every couple of hours, past the beautifully restored train stone station. Even my tragic death would have been quaint and stylish.

Here's what the thing is, The books all say that kids love routine. Kids thrive on routine.

My kid HATES routine, all routine, with the burning heat of a thousand suns. He screams, he argues, occasionally he kicks...if he's in an unusually vile mood, he has been known to try to bite the person who is enforcing routine. (That would be me.)

There's just one thing worse. Guess what.

That's right. A disruption of rountine.

When Ian's routine is disrupted, he believes that this means all mores of civilized behavior are suspended. That it's okay to leap up and down on an upholstered banquette, to talk back to your parents, to see how loud you can scream, to never sleep. to stand in your crib and shout at people at 11pm. And again at 4:30. And again at 6:22.

I don't think we'll be allowed to stay there again any time soon.

I am very proud that I was able to administer some discipline (not that it seems to have made an impression) with appropriate self-restraint. I have said before - I don't beat my kid, but I understand why some people do.

Well, I didn't really understand. Until this weekend.

Between the frustration, the exhaustion, and the more-than-two-hour drive on absolutely no one in our family should take our intact bodies for granted this evening.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen:

extensive research has led me to declare,
definitively and without fear of contradiction:
that this
is the World's Skankiest Christmas Record.
(in case you miss a lyric, read them here.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Classic Literature, abridged


Me: I am Sam! Sam I am! Would you like green eggs and ham?


Me: Okay, then.


Monday, December 08, 2008

No kidding.

'Tis the season, I confess, when I climb the radio dial from my usual favorites (AMU, PFW, RNR) and head up to the Easy Listening end of things. Yes, "WASHFM, home of your" absolutely horrifing "lite n' easy favorites"......plays Christmas music, nothing but Christmas music. from now until midnight on the 25th. And that's what I'm listening to.

Yeah, occasionally there's a tidbit that sends me lungeing for the switch. Today it was Rod Stewart injuring O Holy Night....but to be fair, all Rod Stewart songs send me lungeing, except Hot Legs. There's some terrible, terrible new version of So This is Christmas, sung by (I can only imagine) some American Idol person, which should never be played anywhere under any circumstances.

But I love Cydni Lauper and the ReAnimated Corpse of Frank Sinatra, singing a duet about Santa. I love any version of Baby It's Cold Outside, even if it's not David Johannsen. Of course there's way too much Mariah, but you occasionally get to hear something really great, like Ella or Etta. Or even Mel.

Plus they play the Porky Pig song, (which I find is not actually Mel Blanc at all but some small-market DJ) singing Blue Christmas in character and you can hear someone, presumably the recording engineer, laughing himself senseless in the background.

And they play Snoopy's Christmas.

They played it Saturday afternoon, when we were in the car. From the moment that I heard the first fakey sound-effects-record explosions, I was a goner.

"Mommy, is that song making you sad?" asked Ian from his car seat.


Because of Snoopy. Because this record came out when I was 5. Because I have heard it so many, many hundreds of times, and the record itself - not just the lyrics or the melody, not the weird random bass breakdown in the middle, but every pop and groove of the recording - is grooved into my brain. There is nothing sad about the song, nothing I can think of that I am longing for or missing that the song embodies. It doesn't bring some specific memory flooding back.

It's just that some things just hit you, like that little hard rubber hammer hitting you on the knee at the doctor's office. My brain has reflexes too, apparently. And nothing seems to slow them down.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

world's easiest cookie:

This is a cookie I remember from my childhood (from other kids' houses - I don't recall my dad making cookies at our house. Cakes yes - cookies, not that I can recall, except the sliced Pillsbury roll.)

Anyway, there are lots of complicated recipes for these on the web, but there's NO EXCUSE for working hard at making this cookie. 4 ingredients, 12 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease a cookie sheet (spray grease is fine for this.)

Mix together:

1 cup peanut butter
(regular commercial stuff, smooth or crunchy - I've never tried it with natural peanut butter yet.)
1 cup granulated sugar (you could skimp on this; one recipe I saw suggested using Splenda, which I think would work fine, though I haven't tried.)
1 egg.

When completely mixed, roll into balls. Bake at 350 for 9-10 minutes. They don't turn brown, just look a little dryer.

While they're in the oven, unwrap some Hershey's kisses, dark or plain milk chocolate.

When you take the cookies out of the oven, remove them to a plate. and squish a kiss into the center of each.

Good warm, good cold. Good smooth, good crunchy. They even survive a little burn (I burned the first batch on Saturday. Still good.) Makes 18-24, depending on how big you make the balls.

this made me positively giddy:

When I journey, as a writer must, from town to town seizing people by the lapels to persuade them how effortlessly infectious my latest book is, they are too often not so curious about what is in the book. What they want to know is, how did I write it? Maybe they are scheming to run home and write my next one while I'm still out stirring up business. Even so, I feel I should respond.

"I'm not going to tell you," the novelist Donald Barthelme once said to an interviewer who asked him to reveal a certain narrative strategy, "because it's a secret."

"From whom?" asked his interviewer.

"From youm," said Barthelme.

Roy Blount Jr. in today's Washington Post Book World. The rest of it as at least as good. I kept reading random phrases aloud to my husband while he was trying to watch a football game (and also show our kid Christmas music videos on his laptop. So clearly, this was worth taking my life, or at least my domestic tranquility, in my hands.

And then we watched the hamster on the piano eating popcorn. And life got even better, if that were possible.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Music from Noggin helps me feel less crazy. Slightly.

Afraid Parade! from Kelsey Friday on Vimeo.

Side note: I went to Youtube (yeah, always trouble, I know) to see if anyone has posted this video. No one had, but one of the alternate suggestions for a search - along with "afraid of Americans" (a Bowie song) and "Soft Parade" (of course) was:

afraid of pickles.

Which led to various clips from the Maury Povich show featuring a young woman who was (and apparently continues to be) afraid of pickles.

I think that may be the name for my all-girl band.

Friday, December 05, 2008

So what you're telling me is: life on board ship was actually prettty grim

Me: Hey, little dude, time for a nap. Let's check that diaper.

Ian: NO! I am a PIRATE! Pirates don't get their diapers checked by anyone!

Me: Oh yeah? Really? So you just sit around in your poop all day?


Thursday, December 04, 2008

I feel like a new woman.

Mostly. The meds are doing a fabulous job. I feel almost like myself again. OF COURSE the is plenty for me to be jumpy about, like our ridiculously high electric bill and the rolling snowball of Advent and the Terrible, Terrible, Terrible About-to-be-Threes.

And of course, David is still dead, and please let me remind us all that THIS IS ALL HIS FAULT, all this crazy with the heart palpatations and the headaches and the not walking to from the kitchen to the bathroom without the phone reciever so I can call 911 in case I have a heart attack while washing my hands.

David, I wish you were here.

I would only punch you once, I swear.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Beans in the crockpot. (edited a little since the first publication)

The night before, rinse a pound bag of dried beans - I used Goya 16-Bean Soup Mix - and soak in cold water overnight in the fridge.

In the morning, drain and rinse one more time.

Put these in the crockpot with a couple of green peppers, a couple ribs of celery, and one large onion, chopped into large pieces. Add one can of stewed tomatoes (with liquid.) Add one cup vegetable broth, and a bunch - say, a tablespoon, unless your hand slips and you put in, like, a huge handful by accident - of Cajun seasoning.

Here's the deal with the crockpot: it's magic. I seem to be unable to screw up dishes in the our crockpot, which is at least as old as I am, and belonged to Eric's mother.

I started the pot on high before breakfast, and covered it and switched it to medium before leaving the house. But you could probably start it on medium and leave it there all day; you might even be able to leave it on low all day. I do not actually know how long these take to cook - certainly they would be done in less than 10 hours...maybe 6 hours on medium-high? Guessing.

Eric checked the beans around one, and threw some more liquid in it - another cup or so of vegetable broth. (If you do not have a helpful spousal equivalent at home for the cooking process, start with more broth, or broth cut with cold water, when you put the dish together in the morning.)

When I came home at 7:30, the beans had been cooking for more than 10 hours. They weren't burned at all. The tomatoes and celery had disintegrated; the peppers and onion were delicious, as were the beans and the thick, savory liquid. I threw in some frozen corn and peas to brighten it up and add a little crunch, and heated those through. You should adjust the seasoning, now (unless your hand slipped and you dumped a whole ton of Cajun seasoning in. If that happened, it's too late, and it is what it is.)

Vegan, fat free, high protien, a little salty, very satisfying. Makes 6-8 servings, maybe more with rice. Yay, beans.

Much Better

Today was much better.

I had thought that take an emergency mental health day, but it was not to be. I remembered (at 11 or so Monday night) that I had promised a design job for Wednesday, and Tuesday would be my only chance to work on it. So I slunk in a little late, closed myself up in the Art Cave, and got it done. I usually love interruptions - sharing my office suits me very well - but I was really happy to have very few today.

I went to the doctor this afternoon, and just knowing that I was going to be seen helped ease teh crazy a little. Indeed, I did get the Uninsured Hypochondriac Package, and thank God for that.

And thank God for Dr. K, who listened to my heart and lungs, looked at my blood, listened to The Great Litany of Symptoms.

I got some meds, but mostly I got assured, in a very serious manner, that I am going to be okay. It seems to be working. I feel a little more like myself.

PLUS the beans in the crockpot didn't burn! They came out really good! I'll post the recipe here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

This was not a good day. I mean, as they say, the Lord woke me up this morning, so it's a good day...but that was pretty much all downhill from there.

spend about an hour trying to get our general practicioners office to answer their phone. Fine, I will take my sorry-ass, poverty-stricken, uninsured hypochondriac business elsewhere. That'll show 'em.
But where?

I raced out of the house on multiple missions, trying to get the shirts to the cleaners, the kid out of the house, the deposit to the bank, and back in time to get my car to the shop so they could tell me why the check engine light is on.

But, aha, one tire is completely flat.

great, unstrap the kid, move the shirts and etcs over to Eric's car. Make him come outside to bring me the key. Which I instantly lose, and spend a good 15 min looking for, crawling under the car, feeling through piles of leaves, whatever.

It was in Eric's pocket. Hey, at least his car's clean now.

The kid and I go on missions, Eric stays home and waits for the auto club guy, who changes my tire. Hey, at least my trunk's clean now. Unfortunately, my back seat is full.

Missions accomplished; I come home and make a pile of pancakes, which everyone eats. That was nice.

we all go and drop off my car; Ian falls asleep in the car, and we drive around for a while and then stop for burgers. They were pretty good.

Husband calls the shop, and finds out that I need 4 new tires, an oil change and a freaking CATALYTIC CONVERTER which costs AS MUCH AS A WHOLE CAR USED TO.

This is the point at which I begin to despair.

As we drive, we construct a rationale for putting off the catalytic converter replacement, and worry ourselves into a lather wondering about the price of special-order low-resistance tires.

blah blah blah, we're at the dealership for more than an hour for this and that. I am somehow able to keep from crying during this time.

We come home. Kid eats a hot dog and watched Charlie Brown Christmas on dvd. I cry surprisingly little.

I find a general practicioner in the Yellow Pages. I call his office, and the doctor himself answers the phone, and LISTENS TO ME TALK ABOUT MY SYMPTOMS. And tells me he will see me tomorrow. And what to do in the meantime. I will have to ask to him about his Uninsured Hypochondriac discount program.

While husband puts kid to bed, I go to the grocery store. Things are bruisingly expensive, and yet it cheers me up some - it is hard for me to feel despair in the grocery store. (Interestingly, I once experienced what I believe was a psychotic break in a grocery store - the Giant on Rolling Road in Baltimore. So I guess it's not actually impossible.)

I come home, put some beans to soak, and watch The Grinch, which is colored so brilliantly that I have to think it's been digitally remastered since last year.

I am still sad, still worried about a lot of things (and unable to discern what's a real, serious thing that I should be taking care of and what's just bad brain chemicals triggered by grief.) Still wayyyy tooo short-tempered with my kid. Still thinking of things that could go better at work.

I am ready for something different.