Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hand Me Downs

My parents beat me as a child.

Not really.

Well, actually, now that you mention it, they did beat me, but only when I really deserved it. Besides, they were equal opportunity beaters - wooden spoons, bare hands, Dad's belts, that extra piece of baseboard found lying around - everything was fair game. After all, discrimination was not tolerated in our household. Discrimination is wrong. Beating children is just fun.

I'm not hung up on it. However, it's come to my attention recently that my parents did successfully cultivate within me some rather serious neuroses, which are, only now that I am a big girl and running a house of my own that has other people in it, coming to the fore.

The first one is fairly harmless: I store all my pots in the cabinet with the lids on upside down. Why is this? I have no idea.

My mom does it. But she does it because her pots have to fit in a taller, narrower cabinet and so they need to stack. Apparently balancing them on top of each others' little doorknobby handles didn't seem like a good idea. So, she turns the lids upside down creating flat-ish surface upon which to stack another pot. Smart, no?

Well not so fast. My pot cabinet is roomy. There is no stacking involved, but it doesn't matter. If I put the dishes away all the lids are carefully placed atop their big-bellied spouses, upside down. If HC or P happen to put the dishes away and neglects this little touch, I will stop everything in the kitchen to right the wrong. It's a sickness.

The other tic that I can't seem to shake is my fear of television.

It's not so much an actual fear of television itself, but a fear of being caught watching television. You've heard of guilty pleasures? Well, I like tv okay, but the emphasis is really on the guilt with this one.

Growing up, television was strictly off-limits. I was allowed to watch a few videos that my parents purchased (restricted mostly to edu-tainment or classic Disney) but only with express permission. If I were really, REALLY good, there was a very, very minuscule possibility that I might possibly be allowed to watch "Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego," but I only remember that happening like maybe 5 times. Ever. Other than the occasional Masterpiece Theater that I was able to sneak into while my parents were indulging, turning on the boob tube was a great way to get some quick and concentrated parental attention (see above).

My parents' ultimate position was that tv was a waste of time. If I was really finished with all my homework and chores (which, let's face it, was never even remotely the case) then I could go read a book. Or play outside. Or pick my toes for all they care - but watching tv would just turn my brain to mush.

That is not to say that I didn't watch tv growing up. Ohhh no. I snuck all kinds of tv. Being homeschooled with my Mom working part-time, I had plenty of time alone. Well, I wasn't technically alone since my siblings were home with me, but I have to admit I was the most hardened television criminal in the family. While my brother and sister would wander in and out of the room depending on whether there was actually anything interesting on, I watched everything. Trashy talk shows. Reruns of Coach and Full House. Local news. Every Monday night when my parents were off at ballroom dance class, my glazed over eyes were fixated on Ally McBeal and Seventh Heaven. I was so bad, I would sneak over to my neighbor's house where I was supposed to be practicing piano (before my parents bought one) and watch daytime movies. They had cable! How could I possibly resist?!

Ultimately, I suppose the thrill wore off. By the time high school rolled around I had pretty much shaken the habit and by college I was at the other extreme. I looked down on my fellow dormers who wasted precious Chipotle money on television sets and monthly cable bills. I got to the point that even the sound of a television turning on (you know, that really high-pitched whine?) could make my skin crawl. I once kept a television in my apartment for a couple months for a friend who was moving and I never once turned it on.

Now, I've chilled out a little bit. My pre-established household came fully equipped with several televisions, one of them enormous, and with full-on cable bill to boot.

But even now I find it hard to enjoy.

Here I am, as pregnant as a seahorse and unable to reach my knees; I can't do laundry. I'm a grown woman; I don't have any homework. My parents are half a continent away; I get to make the rules, dangit!

And yet I still get a panicky feeling in my chest when I hear footsteps coming toward me as I recline on the couch, remote control in hand. Without thinking I mute the volume, or sometimes I turn off the whole television, thinking for a moment that whoever is approaching won't catch on. Even when I'm completely home alone with the television on, a little voice comes into my head and says truly horrible things like, "is this really what you do with your time? are you really this lazy? I mean free time is one thing...but television? how could you sink so low?"

It is these times that I have to take a deep breath and just remind myself -- if I get at least three things marked off my chore list before Mom gets home from work, she'll never know!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bun In The Oven and Tornado Pot Pie

I officially have 10 days until this bun-in-my-oven's timer goes off, at which point I'm going to cross my fingers and hope that this baby didn't inherit her mother's penchant for forgetful lethargy. I want her born asap. If she uses my ribs as a bracing point to push her head against my bladder one more time I might...well, let's be realistic. I'll probably just keep complaining.

In the meantime I'm distracting myself with various domestic challenges. They're proving even more challenging with a belly the size (and weight) of a prize-winning watermelon, especially since a watermelon doesn't kick and prod the poor 4H kid who has to haul it around, whereas my baby seems to have a take-no-prisoners attitude toward expressing her discomfort if I sit up too straight, squat for too long or even think about clipping my toenails.

One of the things I'm doing is cooking (shocker! I know). But actually I have no choice: Several days ago while at Stop and Shop, I was seduced by the "Big Buy!" chicken sale. I mean, who doesn't want save $18 on 10lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breast? Let's be real.

The problem came after I got home, and a freak tornado took out my power for the next two days. Yeah, that's right. A FREAK TORNADO. I moved allll the way from Tornado Alley to the Land of Martha Stewart only to have vicious winds toss around various trees all along our power line.

(Good Question: Why don't we just bury power lines now? It looks better for one thing, and Lord knows this county is all about aesthetics. Seems like it would also solve a lot of maintenance issues.)

Thank goodness no one was hurt, and that includes our house. Watching tree branches the size of my car fly through the air almost gave me second thoughts about living in what is for all practical purposes, a glass house. Don't worry, I throw no stones.

However, this meant that not only could I not cook for several day (electric stove and oven) but I also panicked any time someone would open the refrigerator as I imagined all the valuable cold air molecules tumbling out into my un-air-conditioned kitchen, leaving all the precious food inside to spoil. This did not bode well for my "Big Buy!".

Finally, early yesterday morning, the power was back. The chicken was fine, but it getting awfully close to its expiration date. Today, I took half of the chicken and made a couple of pot pies for eating and freezing. The recipe is really simple, so I thought I'd share:

As usual with my recipes, it's pretty flexible. I'll note various things as I go along.


1-2lbs of chicken breast, cubed (I consistently forget to actually *cube* the chicken meat before I throw it into the pot for cooking. Not a big deal, just let it cook and cool, then cube it.)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup peas, frozen (really this could be any kind of green vegetable you like. Broccoli? Sure. Green beans? Yep, just make sure they're cut up fairly small. Heck, you could probably throw in some spinach if you were able to get enough moisture out before hand. I think it is important to have a green vegetable in there both for nutritional value and for color, but don't hesitate to throw in random leftover corn, sweet peppers, potatoes or whatever else you have floating around. The only thing to keep in mind is that the more you put in, the more filling you are creating so try to keep the total veggie count below 3 cups. Also, if you're going to freeze it, only use waxy potatoes. The starchy ones get gross.)
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
2/3 cup milk
2, 9inch pie crusts (if you're making this to be frozen, I suggest only using one, as a top crust.)

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Throw the chicken, peas, carrots and celery into a pot and boil until cooked. When the carrots are al dente, drain the water but reserve 1 1/4 cup of it for later use. If you forget to reserve this, you can just use chicken broth.
2. Sautee the onion in the butter until it's soft. Add the flour and celery seed, stirring until thick.
3. Add the reserved water (or broth) plus the milk a little bit at a time, so that it ends up looking like cream of onion soup.
4. Mix in the chicken and veggies.
5. Season to taste. I usually use some unmeasured combination of salt, pepper, Lawry's, thyme, sage, parsley, garlic, tarragon etc. I'm not saying I use all of those things every time, I'm just saying those are some ideas to run with. Just add some seasoning, taste it, and add some more if it's still boring.
6. Grease/butter/spray the pie pan you're using so the crust won't stick when you go to cut it. Line the bottom of the pan with one pie crust, and fill it up with the chicken mixture.
7. Before you put the top crust on, now is the time to contemplate any decorations you want to put on the top, both to be fun and to allow for steam to escape while it's cooking. In the past I've don't initials, a turkey (that was for leftover thanksgiving potpie), polka dots, stars...whatever. Today I'm tired so I just took a knife and cut a large X across the middle.
8. Cover the filling with the to crust, pressing it onto the bottom crust to seal it.
9. If you are freezing the pie, wait for it to cool completely, wrap it in foil and saran wrap or freezer paper or whatever, and put it in the freezer.
10. If you are eating this pie for dinner, put it in the oven for 30-35 minutes until it looks really delicious.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Beat (the) Poet

I am not addicted to Facebook.

I think that Facebook is the sparkly new version of (and Google, now that you mention it) Big Brother actively feeding all my personal information to The Man. I know that Facebook tracks my likes and dislikes even beyond its own site and monitors my internet shenanigans all over the place, even beyond its own borders and on places like Youtube and whathaveyou. I know that it even censors private messages sent between users.

And I'm ok with that.

I've made everything private that I possibly can (not that that covers everything, but we all have to make compromises, don't we Facebook?) and refuse to "like" anything that's not a friend's status for fear of some giant corporation opening a file on my reading habits, political persuasions and "laughing so hard you clap like a retarded seal."

Also, I won't friend anyone who I'm not actually friendly with in real life. Real life. Remember that? It's that place where sunburns come from, where awkward silences cannot be dismissed with a simple "brb" and where your friend Kenny can't just decide to look like Chuck Norris one day -- because he actually has a strange resemblance to Homer Simpson and in the real world, there's not much he can do about that.

The point is, there are people I know, but haven't gotten around to facebook friending because well...well, actually because I'm lazy and I usually wait for people to friend me before I agonize about whether to accept. Requesting their friendship is just too much work.

Today, one of those people I've left lurking in the nebulous state of "friendly but not friended" posted a picture of himself rocking out with a can of bug spray. Several of my friends commented on said picture, and while I can view the photo because of our mutual friends, I can't comment on it because we're not actually facebook friends.

The bug spray though, is some inspirational stuff:

Once upon a time, I wanted to be several different types of things which would earn me all kinds of obscure accolades and non-fame because only four other people in the world care about them. Like poet. And philosopher. I wanted to be famously anonymous and live in a tiny studio apartment in a nondescript Chicago high-rise, with only my cat and the knowledge of my intellectual and artistic prowess to keep me company.

While I was in the process of burning out on philosophy, I took an "Introduction to Poetry" class. It was devastating. Not so much because my talent was outshone by the other brilliant poets in the class (believe me, that was not an issue - and my talent had nothing to do with it) but because I realized that poetry is hard. And I am lazy. And I have no patience for people slobbering up all their made-up angsty self-obsessed liberal sniveling about the combined tragedies of post-colonialism and the fact that love will never come to those who have to invent their own inner monsters in order to make themselves interesting. You think I exaggerate.

The point is, I got tired of all the drama. If I peer-reviewed one more free-verse poem whining,"who are you to compare your pain with mine*?" I was gonna show them what pain meant. In the form of a baseball bat to the face.

*Seriously. That's a direct quote from a preppy black sorority girl raised in the Chicago suburbs with a complete set of dutiful parents and a lovely pre-med boyfriend. Another girl actually used the phrase "whiter shade of pale" in one of her poems - not as a Van Morrison reference, mind you - and expected us to believe that it was original.

Fed up, I decided to write about my own personal tragedy. I tackled deep issues such as dehumanizing consumerism, love, filth, and death.

Despite the fact that I totally butchered the iambic pentameter, my teacher gave me an A.

Perhaps she sensed my inner pain.

Dead Bug

A can of Ortho household insect spray
There atop my antique television
Stands amid the causal disarray
Of books and clothes, a pillar of precision

Crafted by a nameless day’s machine
Exactingly its contents pressurized
Displayed in-store with glossy brand pristine
And labeled as house-wifely customized

This can of Ortho household insect spray
Was gifted me, from lover who espied
A nasty bug that skittered on its way
And down the drain as if a water ride

Depress the valve, aim, and hold your breath
So goes this insect’s harbinger of death

Friday, July 2, 2010

10 Unrelated Domestic Ponderings

1. If I wanted to, say, cut down some trees on a boundary line so that I can see a hermitic neighbor's pond more clearly - do I actually need to *ask* said neighbor for permission? The trees are mostly dead. I've never met him. The trees are not near his house, and neither will they make either of our domiciles more visible to the other.

N.B: I'm not asking if I *ought* to ask the neighbor. I'm really just whining about whether I *have* to.

2. Is it normal for service people to make one's life more difficult than easy? I've waited two months for the estimate for replacing the heating downstairs, TWO YEARS for a sink repair (to be fair, they have to totally recast a custom-made sink) and two weeks for a returned phonecall for tree pruning. Also, I was getting some painting done at the house we have on the market, and though they quoted us three days, it has now taken a full week. The garden beds that were supposed to be set up in front of the garage have been delayed by a month, and the "once a week" lawn mowing is happening more like every 10 or 12 days (yeah, that's right, Handyman Dan. I'm grumpy and pregnant...and watching the grass grow).

3. Is it a bad idea to leave the television in the baby's room? We don't watch it very often, but it's the only place we have to watch VHSs (see Domestic Pondering #10).

4. Is there some connection between testosterone and the leaving of bathroom cabinet and kitchen cabinet doors open?

5. If someone says to you when you're 8 months pregnant,"That dress makes you look HUUUUGE!," how would you take it?

6. What makes tartar sauce, tartar sauce? Is mayonnaise the only crucial ingredient? So, for instance, if I wanted to rip-off the the ancho chili tartar sauce that they serve on the amazing fish tacos over in Washington, are there any other elements I need to consider?

7. How come so many people say "I could care less," when clearly what they mean is "I couldn't care less?" Am I the only one that hears this?

8. Why is it that my darling stepdaughter scolds me for not buying energy saving lightbulbs but then throws piles of clean laundry into the dirty laundry basket? Exactly whose energy are we trying to save here?

9. How could I have lived this long before discovering the deliciousness that is cherries? I never ate them before - except for that one time when I shared a bag with my brother in the back of Nanny's car on a long roadtrip, and even then it took me like three hours to get up my courage and try one. I was afraid of fruit as a child. Perhaps I have answered my own question.

10. Why don't kids' movies have songs anymore? Toy Story 3 is a funny alright, but hearing the kids quote lines isn't nearly as fun as belting, "I wanna be a man, Man-Cub..."

Such. A. Good. Song.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Counting Down


That's how many weeks I have until my due date. I think. I'm not great at math, so give me a week or two on the ends.

So far I have a crib and changing table, a bouncy chair, car seat and bassinet, some clothes, a few sets of sheets for the crib and a baby book. I'm pretty sure I have most of my bases covered (oh, I also have a stroller) except that by "some clothes" I actually mean "like 5 onesies and this reeally cute raincoat that will fit a toddler". So that should probably be resolved at some point.

Everyone at the hospital recently has commented to how active the baby is. She never stops moving. It doesn't matter if I am awake or asleep, swimming, singing, gardening, happy, grumpy or just plain zoned out - I'm getting the feeling I have a lot of chasing around in my future. Even during the non-stress test monitoring where they make you sit on a bed and track the baby's heartrate the nurse was laughing about it.

"Usually we have to give the mother juice or a snack to get the baby moving around," she said, "but yours has a lot to say on her own!"

Greeaat. If there's one word that does NOT describe me or things I enjoy, it's "hyperactive".

That aside, it's pretty reassuring and actually kind of cute to know she's tap dancing around in there.

At my last appointment I learned that she is already 5lb14oz. That's real-live-baby sized!

Also, her legs are still measuring on the long side, so clearly she's meant to be the first ever infant supermodel.