Saturday, January 27, 2007

Be it resolved.

It was the historian's birthday a couple of days ago, and I had the pleasure of piling up the presents around him when he first woke up. And cooking him a favorite breakfast. Also sending a couple of birthday-ish e-mails during the day. The real news is, however, that when I was buying the presents, I was buying only presents for him. Rather than the sad but pervasive, 'one present for him, a couple for me' strategy that I happen to know other people besides me practice.

And that's because (throat clearing, drum rolling, a hush falls over the room) I have made a resolution not to buy any more (a) clothes or (b) books until June.

(small print: 1. the book buying retrenchment does not count the redeeming of gift certificates at Sam Weller's. 2. the book buying retrenchment allows for one exception, to wit: attendance at academic conferences where there is a book fair, such as AWP. 3. clothes buying retrenchment includes a moratorium on accessories purchases, to wit: shoes, handbags, jewelry. 4. clothes buying retrenchment allows for purchase of necessary underclothing. 5. clothes buying retrenchment may allow for symbolic clothing purchase in vacation situations, to wit: over President's Day holiday, when historian and megastore are on a little trip to Santa Barbara for anniversary, which may call for shopping of a symbolic nature, really, you know, just to be able to say, "I got that [clothing item of a symbolic nature] in Santa Barbara when the historian and I were celebrating our X anniversary." We'll just have to see.)

In the meantime, I am engaging in furious amounts of replacement behavior, such as organizing, sorting, and discarding all sorts of stuff that has crowded into all sorts of spaces. The sheer amount of floor space in my at-home study is breathtaking, and not just to me. I bring people around to show it to them. Bruiser and Betty can scarcely believe that they are allowed in, because there's room for them, and all the things they might have heretofore chewed up are put away in a tidy fashion.

The historian has hardly indicated any disbelief in my sincerity nor my ability to carry out this resolution. Friends, however, have openly scoffed. My daughter said, "That's a ridiculous resolution," but relented when I explained that if I kept on bring new stuff home, it was harder to see what old stuff I needed to give away.

In the meantime, I have allowed that I may still download (legally!) music and buy an occasional cd. I have been called by the allure of several items of clothing recently, but have talked myself off the ledge, as it were, and gone home with nothing more than toothpaste and magazine-sized file boxes to show for it. We're at about two weeks and counting, and I think it's going to stick.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Very superstitious.

The Jazz won last night, which was great, a fitting marker for a night in which running son moved back in for a two month stint. He also showed me the ropes of iMovie, expertise in which is a result of what appears to be his favorite high school class of all time, Film Making (it's possible that Fundamentals of Basketball might be the true best class of all time, but besides that). Thus, a tiny film-making exercise I gave myself in Final Cut Pro, he turned into an actual finished film in iMovie in about ten minutes. Of course, it's about 40MB too big for YouTube, so we'll have to figure out some other way to publishing it to the world.

But back to the Jazz: at the beginning of the season I was exultant and couldn't get enough--enough writing about basketball, enough actual games, enough talk about it, etc. But I find myself shying away from it these days. If they lose, I don't go near the sports pages. That's not all: I find myself reluctant to actually watch games. I find myself more listening to the historian and/or running son watch the games. Preferably from an adjacent room. As I mentioned to a friend this morning, I might go in to watch a few minutes of the end of a game it appears the Jazz have completely sewed up.

Will I jinx the Jazz with my amateur love, a love that has too many highs and lows? Can I just not bear even the thought of the crushing disappointment if they lose?

All I know is, with me not watching, they still have the fourth best record in the league.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Car wash.

Today, the historian and I were all over creation. To wit:

1. His office to pick up more files about the socialists in Utah.
2. Les Madeleines, for Saturday pastries.
3. Chad's, to pick up vegetables (Kale, spring mix, chard, carrots, plus farm eggs; alas, no collards or parsnips!)
4. Jr. Jazz b-ball game (we missed the tragic first quarter, where they got way behind, so that even playing even meant they lost by, well, a lot)
5. the car wash.

At the car wash, we chose the bay where the lady with the white SUV was just starting--we figured, one car, then it'll be our turn. The historian's car wash philosophy is, rinse off the grit and salt periodically. (My car wash philosophy is more geological, as in geological time, as in, this car will get dirty as soon as I wash it, and dirt is really the natural state of affairs, so why bother? This is why the historian is in charge of pretty much all car washing at our house.)

As it turned out, the lady with the white SUV had what amounted to a psychological disorder with regard to her car. Basically, she wanted to wash it, and wash it, and wash it, and then spank its shiny pink bottom (metaphorically speaking). I said to the historian, "she's gonna need to bag it and carry it home, otherwise it will just get dirty." (see my car wash philosophy above)

We watched helplessly, but with some amusement too, as the cars came and went, streaming almost-frozen car wash water from their shiny exteriors, while our white SUV lady kept scrubbing, and scrubbing, and scrubbing. Her car was fluffy with fluffy pink soap suds. Then the rinsing, which was impressively thorough.

"She won't wax, though, will she?" I wondered, hopefully, "because it's too cold, right?"

Then the waxing.

We managed to rinse our car off lickety-split, after the waiting. Here's what car washing looks like when the historian does it and you, car wash slacker, are on the inside:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Jam and cake.

December and January are the Birthday Blitz around here--it starts mid-December and doesn't quit till mid-February, with soccer coach son's birthday, which takes place in Kansas, so I don't bake a cake for that one. However, so far I've baked three cakes since mid-December, and will bake at least a couple more before it's all done, and that doesn't include the tiny cupcakes I baked for the big family dinner.

This year, I have ventured forth with new, untested recipes. While I was poring over cake recipes on Sunday for singing son's chocolate cake

(ME: What kind of cake would you like?

HIM: Whose birthday did you make a chocolate cake for?

ME: College daughter's

HIM: like that one, only chocolatier. Chocolate-y chocolate.)

I ran across a recipe that I thought would be good. In another cookbook, I read a recipe for a Blackberry Jam cake, not appropriate for this occasion, but I thought of the blackberry jam I made during my jam-making mania a few months ago, and it seemed like a good idea to fill the chocolate cake with blackberry jam.

So, cut to the layers coming out of the oven, me deftly turning them over, still in their pans, onto clean-towel-covered racks, then hightailing it to the dog park. An hour and fifteen minutes later: the cake layers refused to come out of their pans except in raggedy, sorry-looking parts. Mostly they came out. Mostly. I could tell from the clumps that didn't fall right out that the cake tasted good, though. So we had that going for us. Which was good, I guess, except that I had to do some plastic surgery on the cake, using ganache as the smoother/filler. And the sides just didn't get iced, that was that.

I decided to fill half the cake with blackberry jam and half with the ganache. I drew a thin line with the knife down the center of the cake where the Mason-Dixon line was for jam and not-jam. Then, on the point of serving the pretty-on-the-inside cake, I announced: "I filled half the cake with blackberry jam and half not, so tell me if you want a jam piece." Immediately, running son and his dad said, "No jam!" Everyone else wanted some of the jam half, and everyone thought it was good, and it was good. Even if the cake had a small tendency to fall apart. We all fell into a cake-eating daze.

My daughter thoughtfully opined that having "clumps" of jam--aka actual berries--was weird, though singing son and his wife disagreed. Her husband asked for another piece. "A jam piece?" I asked. "Jam it up, sister," he said.

Running son let out a shriek--"Jam bite!" Ineffective jam quarantine, I guess.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Friday, January 05, 2007

Reliving my life.

Today, my daughter decided it was time to venture out into the world with two children and a stroller. Or a 'buggy,' as it's called over here, a two-seater, one in front of the other. A mother with her two children leading the way while she propels them forward. And a grandmother tagging along.

As we walked to the post office and the library (a Carnegie library, so there you are--the Scotland-U.S. connection in a building) with small stressor after another (was that just me?), she and I had a chance to reminisce about taking multiple children out into the world to do errands. Hers is a small village, so she has become accustomed to doing errands on foot, and more power to her. In my day, we lived way the hell away from everyone, and if I were to go out, I needed a car. I had access to our car for much of that period of our lives, but not always. Also, our cars were sorry affairs some of the time, so you had to factor that in. I remember a period of my life when my persistent nightmare, waking and sleeping, was a car wreck in which one of my children died.

Miriam, the two and a half year old, could not understand why we thought it would be desirable that she keep her shoes on in the library, and had a little tantrum about it. The infant Evie was very patient, with only one small squawking period. We planned for treats for the youngster, bought another treat, and got home fairly tuckered out.

I mentioned--and not in a cautionary way, just a reminiscitory (word? should be--) way--that when I was in her shoes, I tried not to take all the kids out when I had errands to run. What did I do? I suppose I traded kid-minding with neighbors, or waited until the evening, maybe? Or Saturday? My daughter said, 'I have very fond memories of when you would take all of us to Reams--we always got a treat, an ice cream cone or a fruit roll-up . . .'

Well, there you have it. One woman's ordeal is another kid's shangri-la.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hello, hello, hello, hello--

Let me just say this: the cure to jet lag is to acknowledge to yourself that you're going to feel the same as if you had a bad, hardly-any-sleep night when you get to your destination, and go with it. Maybe that is my personal moment of zen for the new year.

I also recommend slightly longer-than-you-wish-they-would-be layovers, because it means you're not stressed out, just sleepy. It means you can buy a trashy magazine, the lipgloss you read about in your trashy magazine, a warm beverage, and chill at the gate before boarding the plane again. It means you can stretch instead of sit in a cramped locale. It means you can find an internet connection and send e-mails to your beloveds. It means that if you make an error and leave one terminal in the busiest airport in the world without collecting your bag and going through customs, you can have a do-over and still not be stressed out (you will feel stupid, but no lengthy layover can really cure that. Sorry.).

When I realized that (a) just because they turn out the lights on the overnight plane to London, it doesn't mean it's your bed time, and (b) I could really survive on very little sleep--my hell, I do it on a regular basis!--my attitude turned right around. What a miracle: the cure for jet lag in one's attitude. I might have to write a self-help book and make millions. I went to bed at a civilized 10 p.m., U.K. time, and woke up feeling almost completely myself this morning.

Lastly, reading a better-than-passable British police procedural during the whole journey made a difference. I started it on the plane to L.A., read it in the plaza at Hermosa Beach as well as on the actual beach, read it in the airport and on the plane, read it in London and finished it before I got on the plane to Aberdeen. It was called Dead Souls by Ian Rankin. It's part of a series that comes highly recommended, and there are at least eight more books in the series. Bonus!

p.s. The grandchildren, big sister and little sister, are adorable and the parents are doing pretty well, all things considered. I'll figure out how to post pictures tomorrow.


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