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October 2005
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December 2005

November 2005

Sandwich

How many random little bits can I cram into this post?

* We had a surprisingly nice holiday.No spats. No tension. Lots of food and even more wine (see last post, note my blushes- "muscial"? good grief.) Everyone cooperated and Patrick had so much fun with his cousins I thought the excitement might kill him. He. Was. So. Happy. To. Have. Kids. In. The. House.

* Last Tuesday I went to Patrick's first parent-teacher conference at the preschool (they are required to hold two a year to stay licensed.) During the prior week she had assessed them from a short list of different skills like counting, shape recognition, etc... . Patrick, she began, was able to recognize his printed name. Patrick, I could have told her but did not because, well, why would I, suggested that we change the "a" in his book to two "o's" and then the pig in the story would SPLOOSH! into the water rather than SPLASH! Because, in his words, a big pig like that would make more of a splooshing sound when it hit. He also looked at the word "segue" the other day, had me pronounce it, looked at it again before stating, critically, "One of us is wrong, mommy." And you can see his point. So, yes, he can recognize his name. It is his thing. Also he got all of the shapes right and the colors and he was the only kid in both classes who instantly counted all of the objects in his head and... well, you know Patrick. He's good with these school-y skills. BUT he FAILED scissors. Failed completely. She tried to have him cut a straight line and he almost took off a finger. So she suggested ways I can help him with his scissor work at home, and I was suitably chastened. Numbers are cool and all but numbers can't get you out of a brown paper bag, should the need arise.

The informative part, actually, was getting to hear about how Patrick is blossoming around the other kids. He was very shy and reserved for the first few weeks but she told me that he has come around. He is the go-to man for help with puzzles or the computers and he is always willing to play with everybody. She said he was delightful. And I was delighted. You just want your child to be happy and nice, you know?

* Speaking of schools, this morning Steve and I toured the Montessori school we had talked about last year. Steve loved it. I liked it. It has all of those nifty Montessori materials plus sixteen acres and a few alpaca. But.... I don't know. Something about the place didn't seem quite right for Patrick. If I could articulate it maybe you could help me with it but I am struggling to figure out what did not quite work for me. Maybe *I* am more of a traditionalist and I had a hard time with the apparent lack of structure? But Patrick would totally thrive? I don't know. I will have to think about it and in the meantime I think we need to look some other places, including the public school here. We have another year and a half until kindergarten but it is my nature to freakout early and often. Keeps the blood flowing.

*Hey hey! Blood flowing! I am on a sequiturial ROLL here! Speaking of flowing blood, Steve's sister, the nurse practitioner, convinced me that my stitches should come out. She only leaves them in her patients for three days, she said. She poked at mine and tsk'd and said, yep, they should come out. As I am not anxious to haul myself back to my primary care clinic where I would have to wait and would probably catch something gross, I said ok. She took manicure scissors and tweezers and some rubbing alcohol and removed the sutures. And left. And my abdominal wound promptly popped back open and is slowly leaking blood as I type (four days later.) Steve said it looks like a gun shot wound and, what with the round blackish-reddish hole, I would have to agree.

The universal lesson here is:  um, don't listen to my sister-in-law.

The question is: do I have to get this thing re-stitched? 


(hello)

Happy Happy.

My entire houseful of family was asleep by 9:30 this evening so I have a few minutes to habla bonjour, now that I have excavated the kitchen a bit. You know, the whole modern open floor plan is nice and all, but it is hard to have the living spaces look like anything other than raw ass when one has more than 2.5 people in residence. Every time I looked to the left during dinner tonight I saw the massive pile of filthy pans scattered about the kitchen and lost conciousness. And yet what can you do? Pasta needs to be served hot.

In the past week or so Patrick has obliging memorized all of my favorite bits from Les Miserables (the muscial, not the novel) and he spent the day peppering his discourse with what I personally think are the very the best lines. I suppose that is why I sing them all them time and why he, my child, has learned them. In any event he is all about that great duet beween Valjean and Javert in the first act. Consequently, and I suppose not surprisingly, he sounds deranged.

For example:

During dinner tonight someone or other asked Patrick how old he is. For no apparent reason he replied: "Three hundred and eighteen."

We laughed and said, "You are three hundred and eighteen years old?"

"Yes," he said. Then he added the Les Mis. line: "You must think me mad."

I actually thought my mother was going to have an apoplexy, she laughed that hard. Encouraged by this response Patrick switched to act ii and crooned, "And you will keep me safe. And you will keep me close. And rain. Will make the flowers..... grooooooooooooooooooow." On the last note he spread his arms wide and closed his eyes. It would have surprised no one if he had broken into Riverdance as well. Patrick, as I have mentioned, is tone deaf. He sounds more like a Greek chorus than anything living. But, man, can he emote. He is fantastic.

Excision pathology on my abdominal wound came back today as a mere hypertrophic scar. So my bikini modeling days are officially over (now that I have made the world's ugliest scar even uglier) but I am pleased by the apparent lack of cancer.

What else? Um, if you can get your hands on a bottle of Cinnabar's Mercury Rising (a Californian attempt at a Bordeaux) I highly recommend it. HIGHLY. HIGHLY. Also, we will be in Perth (yes, PERTH) next November but we hope to spend a few days on each end in Sidney. I mean, unless I get pregnant again and it works and I actually have a baby but... um.... well let us not take bets, ok?

Speaking of which, it took seven weeks after the unassisted miscarriage to start a new cycle (about the same as a D&C) but Steve and I are officially cleared to... you know... how do I put this delicately... fuck like banana slugs, should we be so inclined.   

Hope you are well. I'll be around only intermittently until Sunday but feel free to write. Oh, and we just discovered that my email server is totally damned so if you think I owe you an email... most likely it has just been eaten en route.    

PS Fine. Sydney then. I will admit in a becoming and womanly way that I was PLOWED when I wrote this entry (like banana slugs?! how vulgar) but even if I had been full to brimming with barley water and good intentions I still would have spelt that with an "i". What can I say? I am that ignorant.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate  it today and general good Thursday wishes to the rest of you. 


Tastes Like Burning

Ow. Ouch. Or, as I said to my doctor today with perhaps more honesty than sensitivity to his possible beliefs, "Good christ this is painful!"

"Yeeaaaaah," he said.

"Is that lidocaine?" I asked.

"Yeeaaaah," he said, injecting me again.

"Mixed with what? FIRE?"

"Epinephrine. It helps to control the bleeding so I can see what I am doing but it does sting a little bit. One more!"

It seems incredible to me that I did not mention this here before but I tried to find a reference in my archives and failed, so who knows. A year and a half ago I had a mole removed from my abdomen. Two, actually, although one was not a mole so much as an aberration. Originally it was normal, then an albino patch, then pinkish, then darker pinkish, then it developed its own coastline and I decided it had to go. Interestingly, my doctor disagreed with this assessment and only consented to remove it in conjunction with a perfectly harmless little mole that was hanging out nearby. And which one did pathology deem "precancerous"? Huh? The one that *I* thought was skeevy, that's which one. Anyway, apart from the incredibly ugly scar it left, I was content to know it was no longer with me and forgot about it for awhile.

Recently, however, I noticed that the scar had begun to change. It was darker in some spots and there was a raised portion where it had previously been smooth. I showed it to Steve and he pursed his lips and suggested I should have it removed. When Steve takes my neuroses seriously that says something. Something like, "FREAK OUT NOW!" So I freaked, a little, and charged back to my primary care physician last week and asked what he thought. He agreed it was weird looking and suggested that I should have it removed and biopsied again. Today he reexcised the scar, burned the area during the most disgusting five minutes of my entire life, put in more stitches and said they will let me know when they get the pathology report. 

I am not worried, per se, but I would rather not have a chunk of my alabaster skin floating in a jar, pending inspection. And I was not encouraged when I asked the doctor what he thought could cause the scar to change like that and he looked at me like I was simple and said, "Uh, I don't know. Recurrence of the abnormal cells?" Frankly, I can get that sort of unwholesome speculation from google.

In the meantime I am nursing my weeping wound and taking Tylenol and treating myself gingerly. For example, I decided that dinner preparation might be taxing so we all went out for sushi. Tomorrow morning I plan to sleep in and possibly buy some new pants. In the afternoon I am getting my eyebrows tended to and my eyelashes darkened. Little things, but I am convinced that they will help to speed recovery.

I wanted to write about food again but, ugh. Not right now. 


As Promised, Sort Of

Broccoli with Spicy Balsamic Dressing and Olives (& Feta. Maybe Pinenuts. Or Sundried Tomatoes?)

Steam broccoli. I am not trying to insult you here but (just in case): take 1.5 lbs of broccoli (a medium'ish bunch) and separate the florets from the stalk and then steam them for 4 1/2 to 5 minutes. Tender but crisp, you know?

Vinaigrette:

2 t balsamic vinegar

2 t red wine vinegar

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 t red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy)

1/4 t salt

1/4 c olive oil

Combine. I save old jelly and salsa jars and lids for just this purpose. Put the ingredients in, twist the lid on and shake shake etc. 

Toss warm broccoli with the vinaigrette and oh, say, 1/3 to 1/2 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives. Feta would be nice too. And I just thought of pine nuts. Wouldn't that add a lovely crunch?

I would go on but we have an unexpected dinner guest and I am being rude, right this second. Speaking of food do you want to know what I served this surprise guest?  Frozen pizza, leftover filling from last night's stuffed peppers, beer, a turkey sandwich and some of the chocolate chip cookies Patrick and I made today. He is 24 and underemployed and would, in theory, eat his own shoes but still, christ, where are my standards? Can you believe I can produce a menu like that and still have the unmitigated gall to attempt to sneak into the coterie of the hostessing elite? For shame.

I have an unpleasant "procedure" tomorrow morning (did I mention this? the hacking out of the abdominal scar thing? well, I'll tell you about it) but I will try to finish this up tomorrow. By all means carry on with the recipes- they are delightful and I hope you are getting as many ideas as I am.   

PS Damn it, I forgot to tell you. Now, I would have SWORN that only a complete idiot would think that sweatpants are as warm as jeans or a nice pair of corduroys. In fact, I would put them in that order: cords, then jeans, then sweats. I am talking about the $3.99 Target sweats here, by the way. They are practically perforated. In fact, I suggested that Steve could have just wrapped the boy's legs in a couple of papertowels for all the good those skimpy little pants were going to do him. Biting, you know. I am biting like that. However, this is why I ask the questions. You (by which I mean THIS section of you, over here) seem to think sweatpants could indeed be warm. Warmer, even. Warmest, perhaps. So I shall apologize to my husband as I trust your opinion and it is apparent that there is no One Clear Answer. Oh, and I put Patrick in his snowsuit anyway. Between that and the ear-flap hat and the mittens he could have done the Iditarod.

PPS OF COURSE it is 20 degrees here. It is November. We even have some snow on the ground.

PPPS Did I mention that we are going to Australia next November? Well, we are. And it is obvious why. 


This Would Have Been Much Longer

Typepad would not let me write a post all afternoon and now that I am finally in again Patrick has just woken up and requires homage.

So reeeeeeeaaaaaallly quickly, this is the corn gratin recipe (which I see someone already posted a link to below, thank you) and this is the pickled onion/cranberry recipe. I will be back later this evening to continue our lovely discussion on food.

Oh, hey, in the meantime, help me out with a marital dispute, will you? Which do you think a child would be warmer wearing outside in twenty degree weather: sweatpants or jeans/cords?


Are We Having Ham?

What am I making for Thanksgiving? I shall tell you.

Over here I am wading through about 15 different lists in an effort to organize myself for next week. As I see it, I am dealing with two separate entities: the Thanksgiving dinner proper and then what to feed everyone for the other four days. We will have my brother and his wife and their 3 and 1 year-old boys arriving on Tuesday night (I will hug and kiss them and share my bear, vows Patrick.) Then my mom and her gentleman friend and Steve's sister come Wednesday morning (yay! mixing the families. how... potentially weird.) So ten people at my house until Sunday.

Thanksgiving itself is pretty easy. In fact, as I recall, last year I complained about the lack of a challenge. Unless you are bold and moderne and utterly lacking in sentiment your main course is preordained. You must have a turkey and then everything else is just a side dish. It is hard to screw up a side dish, frankly, and you can usually make all or part of almost everything ahead of time so the timing is manageable. Huh, now that I think about it my mother-in-law did roast sucking pig** for Thanksgiving one year instead of turkey and... well no. Just no.

For the turkey I follow the Alton Brown article from the November 2003 Bon Appetit. I just tried to find it online but failed. Basically it is less of a recipe than a set of cooking instructions. First you brine the bird in vegetable broth, salt, sugar, water and ice. Then you fill the cavity (loosely) with chopped onion, some fresh herbs, celery tops, whatever. Then you make an aluminum foil shield that covers the breast completely (sprayed with cooking spray and put to the side because you do not use it at first.) Then you take about half a stick of butter and rub it all over the turkey. Put the turkey in the oven and roast it at 500 degrees for half an hour. Then remove the bird from the oven, put the shield on and stick a temperature probe right through the foil into the deepest part of the breast. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees, set the thermometer to go off at 161 degrees and leave it alone. No basting. Don't forget to let the turkey rest before carving. Alternately my brother has had success with grilling the damned thing and my mother swears by constant basting. To each his own.

Steve insists on copious quantities of gravy and I shall share a secret with you. I keep two packages of Knorr Turkey gravy mix in the pantry. If my own gravy goes awry or if the quantity is skimpy or if I just say to hell with the degreasing and the fuss at the last minute I can whisk up the Knorr in less than a minute. It is fine.

This is what I am thinking for the Not Turkey:

Good breads - bread keeps so well in the freezer and defrosts so quickly that I am going to pick up about 8-10 loaves of artisan breads at the end of the week and then just serve a random assortment

Stuffing - actually dressing because I do not stuff the turkey with it (much to Steve's chagrin.) Like my mother before me, I unashamedly use Pepperidge Farm Stuffing in the blue bag

Steamed Broccoli with kalamata olives and a spicy balsamic vinaigrette - I should really post this recipe on the side here. We eat it all the time and it is especially nice for Thanksgiving because you make the vinaigrette whenever during the day and it can forgivingly be served warm or at room temperature.

Mashed potatoes - 'nuff said

Black-eyed pea succotash with creole mustard dressing - I have never made this but the recipe looked good, so why not? Also, it is fairly healthy and contains no meat or dairy*.

Creamed corn gratin with fried onions and bacon - I made this for the first time last year and I loved it. You will note it is ludicrously fatty and contains both meat AND dairy. More for me.

Pickled red onions with chipotle cranberries - Doesn't this sound good?

One can of that odd wobbly cranberry jelly for my mother

Pumpkin pie - I.... I do not know how to make a pie crust. I know! Don't look at me! But I do not. So I buy this. I make the whipped cream myself, though. Huh? HUH?

Blueberry cobbler - I can, however, cobble

Lemon tart - I think. I am making a peanut butter chocolate tart for the night before and I will make a lemon one if that goes well.

And...... and what?

I think I need another vegetable but I am out of ideas. Any thoughts? What are you making? I love hearing about food. And let me know if you want me to post any of the recipes. I will be happy to do so.

I find it is necessary to sit down with every recipe and write the actual times that each one needs to be started and finished. Then I put a time table together for the day (and the days before. it takes four days to defrost a frozen turkey. do not learn this fact too late.) Some people mock this, but some people also have cold mashed potatoes and overcooked broccoli. I am just saying, is all. Tomorrow I will tackle the extended house guest issue, so join me, won't you?

** Whoops! That would be a suckling pig, yes. That sucked.


Simile

I give up.

On Saturday I wrote a long post, moving and lyrical, that I am certain would have brought you all to your feet, laughing and weeping and shouting "Brava! Brava!" You can imagine my disappointment when I read it before posting and discovered that the piece disintegrated into incomprehensible nonsense by paragraph three. Steve and Patrick were both asleep by 8:30 and I was all alonely and I somehow managed to consume three-quarters of a bottle of bad wine (quickly, the faster to get rid of it) and, well, d;s:LI*A_HS yetg;jn SPOJ HFksu.

Sunday I started another post but Patrick wanted to type so I let him because I am weak and he was whining and he promptly hit that button on the keyboard (WHICH BUTTON IS IT? I can't figure it out) that causes my computer to reboot.

Monday I thought about writing but ordered groceries instead.

Today I felt inspired and I slapped something together and as I recall it was pretty good but seconds before I was going to post it the power went out here. No wind, no rain, just your random rural fuck-with-you power outage. I know you have told me to buy one of those power backup things and Steve uses one (and thus was able to save HIS work today, by the by) but my computer is in the kitchen and there simply isn't room under my countertop desk for it. As it is my computer sits sideways and when I want to put a disk in I have to move everything.

Anyway, I give up. Clearly I am not supposed to update my blog in any meaningful fashion.

So I will give you a mini Patrick story and call it a day. Ahem:

Most of the time Patrick emerges up from his nap in an awful mood so I have taken to flipping him on his back like a baby turtle and rocking him in the rocking chair for a while after he wakes up. It seems to soothe him and we talk and rock and it is infinitely more pleasant than the alternative, which is him following me around, crying.

Today he was telling me some patterned story where there were 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 of something doing something and then there were 20, 19, 18 etc. up until 50, 49, 48, 47... and so all the way down. He had his narrative firmly in hand and didn't need my prompting, so while he droned on with only my occasional "Oh my!" I let my mind wander. And what it wandered to was Thanksgiving and what I am going to feed everyone for five days and the fact that Steve has just told me his birthmother will be in town and wants to stop by with her familial posse that week... and I began chewing on my fingernail. Patrick stopped his story, looked at me, looked at his own hands, selected a matching finger, popped it in his mouth and started slurping on it.

I laughed. "Is that what I was doing?"

"Yeah," Patrick laughed. "It was funny."

He thought for a moment. "Funny like a dog with no legs."

And he LAUGHED and LAUGHED.

Seriously, I have no idea what to write about just now. Anything you want to know? Just give me a nudge over here, I'm feeling thick and feckless.      


Say Rambol

I am deeply ashamed to admit that I put gel in Patrick's hair today.

"Did you just pour water on my head?" he asked, incredulous.

"Yes."

"What is THAT?"

"Hair gel. Hold still."

"HAIRBRUSH TOO?"

"Uh-huh. Stop wiggling."

Which is why Patrick and I engaged in a complicated tango de la muerte on my bed this morning. I am still flushed from the exertion of plastering down those spiky chunks at the back and I am fairly certain that a cat sustained a collateral gelling in the process. But, and this was the point, for at least fifteen minutes Patrick no longer looked uncannily like the Statue of Liberty (you know, that statue with the dictionary) and I glowed with satisfaction.

Satisfaction mingled, of course, with shame (great shame) because my motives for trying to momentarily humanize Patrick are so very base. The preschool (that is rapidly becoming my personal Moriarty) sent notification that they would be having a class picture today and I struggled mightily with this news. On the one hand, yes, Patrick is long overdue for a haircut and I was planning on taking him for one sometime between now and Thanksgiving anyway, so I certainly could have done it this week. But my rebel heart continues to be too cool for school and I was afraid that the new haircut would look so obvious. Like I care. Picture Day? I scoff. I am too busy rocking to care about pictures, man. Then this morning rolled in and my little hedgehog slumped about so very overgrown and untidy and... and I cared.    

Ergo the spontaneous baptism followed by copious amounts of Be Straight.

And in case you were wondering, no, I have never brushed Patrick's hair in his life. And yes, he usually looks like the littlest hobo, what with his consignment store clothes (good money on clothes for a child that rolls in dirt and grows exponentially every month? I think not) and filthy sneakers. What, exactly, is it you people think I would do with a daughter? Teach her to read?

At least he smelled good.


Soon I Will Belabor Thanksgiving

Steve's birthmother sent me a nice little birthday package consisting of soapy Crabtree & Evelyn stuff and a new mystery novel. After I opened it Patrick picked up the book and read the title (eventually) as "The Death of a Joyce Scholar." His shaky pronunciation, however, caused the last two words to sound very much like "joik scalia." Steve, who had left the Gift Opening to re-position a vomiting cat over the hardwood floors as opposed to the cat's preferred spot on the new rug, returned to hear Patrick repeat the title and asked me, "Wow, did Justice Scalia die?"

First, I assume if Patrick ever did call someone a jerk he would roll the 'R' beautifully and not mangle it like a Stooge. After all, we spent a fortune on speech therapy this year. Second, I doubt Patrick possesses the understanding necessary to accurately weigh the relative merits of Justice Scalia (constitutional interpretation, it suuuuuuuure is tricky- cain't let jes' anyone do it, you know) therefore it would be inappropriate for the child to simply dismiss him as a jerk- no matter how far he leans to the right. Finally, since when does Steve look to Patrick (Patrick!) for breaking news? As some well-wisher just reminded me in the comments, he's THREE. In sum: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

It was, regrettably, the last time I laughed all day, as Patrick chose my birthday to be felled by yet another virus and he spent the day glued by snot to my side, running the gamut from bitching to yowling. It turns out that I am all motherly love and gentle commiseration for the first ten hours but after that I need a break or I start to say things like, "Hey! How about another video?" and "Believe it or not, I don't really care that you are being driven insane with rage over the size of the washcloth. I just do not care." Also, all of the football teams I like lost, and all of the football teams I hate won.

On the plus side, Steve surprised me with a birthday coffee table and (most of) the rest of the new furniture arrived last week and my living room looks quite nice for the first time since we moved in. And my brother sent some new games and my in-laws sent china.      

So that was my day.

OH! And this is the first year that we did not spend the weekend in Florida (Steve shredded his knee, for those in the know) so we had no idea whether or not to expect trick-or-treaters. Being good citizens, we asked a neighbor. She said, "Oh good heavens no. No trick-or-treaters out here." So we did not buy any candy. And then do you want to know what happened? We got one group of trick-or-treaters! On Sunday! Sunday the 30th! And do you want to know who they were? They were the children of the neighbor we had consulted! And she was with them! ! ! !

!

Steve barreled into the kitchen, all flustered, babbling about kids at the door in costumes, and I had to break into my personal candy stash to save face. The nerve of the little beggars.

Speaking of Halloween (and then I really must go Do Something) Patrick brought home what his teacher called "an edible project" from the infamous Halloween Day (he enjoyed it, by the way. he was all excited when we picked him up and over lunch he talked about everyone's costume with an amused tolerance of their quirky ways.)Thing I present Exhibit A, The Edible Project.  I will give you a minute to guess what it is.

Uh-huh, that's what *I* thought too, but apparently it is illegal to distribute items of that nature to children in this state. Guess again.

Right! It is a twinkie smothered in melted white chocolate with two M&Ms for eyes.

"And what part, exactly, do you think is edible?" I asked the teacher, coldly (I didn't really. that would be impolite. and let us all remember that I am a big fat sugar-sucking hypocrite.)

But I mean, HONESTLY. He's THREE (thank you, again, random poster, for reminding me of that fact. imagine my embarrassment at the draft office) Twinkies! Chocolate! Bah!

And, as I discovered after he went down for his nap, it really wasn't even all that good.