Thursday, March 24, 2011

Aint No Mountain High Enough

...too keep me from packin' for you, babe.

The baby and I are setting off on an epic adventure tomorrow evening. Before that can happen though, I must address the catastrophic laundry situation. On a normal day, the laundry piles are big. Often, quite big. Mostly because it's all the way down stairs and I'm both lazy and forgetful.

I never remember to switch the loads until I step out into the frigid bathroom post-shower and am suddenly faced with the reality of no clean towels.

It's even worse now that I've been avoiding the basement in all its torn-up, mold-farming glory for the sake of my sanity.

Today though, I'm up to the challenge. So far I've divided it up into several piles and I have one observation to make: You know you have a baby girl when you divide your laundry into darks, whites, delicates and pink.

That's right.

I have an entire load of just pink.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Moving On

So the basement flooded.

Big deal.

Who cares, even? HC probably cares because she has to actually make the "living room" live up to its name, but at the same time she's seizing the day and totally taking over A's room while it's going through this vulnerable stage so it all comes out in the wash.

Heh. Wash. You should see the dirt down there.

ANYWAY. The point of this blog is not for me to get rebogged-down in the drama that is my broken house, but instead for me to show you my lemonade.

Not real lemonade, mind you. My darling lemon tree is barely holding on through these winter months. Fake lemonade. For my fake feelings of serenity and acceptance.

The first one is this: I'm repainting in a big, bad way.

The hallway is going to be "iced mint". Yeah, that's right. The new guest room is purple and gold. And HC's room is (by her choosing) going to be light blue and grey. I'll be the first to admit that these color choices could be a mistake of epic proportions, but I'll also be the first to sass-back that I DON'T CARE. It's now or never. My love won't wait. (Kiss me my darling...)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dear Sanity,

Thanks for sticking it out one more day. Youdabest.

As a special thanks, I give you a little glimpse into one of the best scenes of my life from the past month. Happy girls with Legally Blond playing in the background. "Look how cute there's judge and everything! And jury-people!.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tomato Soup

It's officially the first Friday in Lent. As such, I've been completely inspired to try out a kajillion new vegetarian recipes. I even got a little over-excited and started yesterday.

Last night I made stuffed poblanos and veggie paella. Both were tasty, but I'm not sure I'd make either again. I know I did something wrong with the paella because, although I have never eaten it before, I saw a chef get booted off Top Chef for having non-crispy-crunchy paella and mind was definitely soft.

Next assignment: order paella somewhere good so my mouth knows what it's talking about.

Tonight I made Tomato and Gin soup, Spanish Lentils with Mushrooms, and Lemon Garlic Pasta. The lentils were decidedly UNpopular, the pasta was unremarkable, but the Tomato Soup really hit the spot. Also, I think it's cool because it uses potato as a thickener. So without further ado, a recipe:

Amanda’s Tomato-Gin Soup
Adapted from Gourmet

1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1 chopped shallot
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 lb. tomatoes, halved
2 pounds russet potato, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/3 cup gin
3/4 tsp. grated nutmeg

Cook onion, garlic and shallots in butter in a 4-qt. pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add tomato, potato, tomato paste, bay leaves, broth, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Discard bay leaves. Or, if you're like me, forget completely they're in there. Puree soup with a hand blender until smooth. Don't mind those little green bits. It's just the bay leaf you were supposed to take out. It won't kill you.

Stir in cream, gin, nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. salt. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve soup hot, topped with chopped chives. Alternately, top with freshly whipped heavy cream or a dollop of crème fraiche.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dear Forgiveness,

I have a question: Are you and "Forget" really such good friends? Because I rarely see you two together anymore. I mean, I get that "Forgive and Remember" doesn't have that "Bonnie and Clyde" ring to it, but you should really consider a change. For one thing, if something is worth your time, Forgiveness, it is probably worth Remembering too.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Little Advice, or, The Way of the Polar Bear

I'm taking a break from my Letter Writing Challenge because this entry will write itself all on its own.

Monday morning (as if that weren't bad enough) I was roused from the semi-sleep that I float around in after F's 5am feeding by a severe knock on my bedroom door. P moaned and rolled over.

"Yes?" I called.

P rolled back over and started to flail around as if attempting to hurl himself toward the edge of our rather large bed. "I'll get her!" he slurred as he clawed his way out from under the covers. He assumed that HC had missed the bus, as usual.

P and I have an ongoing "discussion" about situations like this. My position is, if HC misses the bus, she better be prepared to meet the wrath of ME because getting to the bus is her JOB and jobs must BE DONE. P doesn't get a free pass if he doesn't turn in his column on time, I don't get a magic wand to take care of my business and she doesn't get to wake us up at that ungodly hour when we probably only got in bed four hours earlier just because she spent two extra minutes perfecting her mascara. Or whatever. P, on the other hand, is a softy and tries to shield HC from the fire-breathing dragon that I become on those mornings. Hence the half-conscious flailing and clawing.

However, the voice on the other side of the door broke in --

"I hate to wake you guys up so early...but...the house is flooded. Again."

Suddenly, P's flailing stopped. I muttered an expletive. Neither of us moved for a second.

"Is it bad?" I called out.

"It's pretty bad," she answered.

This time, P relaxed and nestled under the covers. "I'll just let you get this, if you don't mind," he whispered with his eyes closed.

Twelve hours, three dead mice and over 100 gallons of water later, our entire downstairs is being remodeled. For those of you who haven't seen my downstairs, it consists of HC's bedroom, a guest bedroom, A's old bedroom, a TV room, two bathrooms and a long hallway. It isn't pretty.

This all could have worked out a lot better if I had just gone and done the re-tiling down there already. You see, it has flooded every year for four years now, each time a different reason. Each time it messed up the floor a little more, and each time we would file with the insurance and resolve to replace the floor. The cork floor that we were so proud of (it's different! it's cool! it's eco-friendly! it's easy to install!) has proven a complete disaster. Even better than the way it looked though, is the fact that as I ripped it out with my bare hands, dripping with the frigid, unstoppable water that seeped in through the floor and the walls, I was charmed to discover the mold we've been propogating underneath it.

Last fall I almost committed to a new floor down there, but then my spendthrift kicked in and I thought, who cares if it looks a little beat up? It's not like we're trying to sell this house. We can live with it. Who wants to spend that kind of money for a cosmetic change anyway? Plus, it would have involved moving all the furniture and where would HC sleep?

Turns out, I was wrong.

By the time I went down to see what HC was talking about, the cork had absorbed so much water that what had once been a seamless floor was a series of haphazard cork boards strung around the room, not even attached to each other. They were floating around like little rafts. Trooper the cat was sitting on one board looking up at me pathetically, as if to say, "Please, don't make me go the way of the polar bear. I have no claws. I can't catch my own salmon."

Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me. When you give a mouse a cookie, she will want to go ahead and repaint while the furniture is cleared away, and why not throw in some new curtains as well. Oh, and let's just swap the kids' bedrooms while we're at it. No biggie.

A Little Advice: When it comes to homeownership, it's important to know the subtle difference between "cosmetic" and "necessary before the whole darn thing blows to pieces".

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dear Adele,

I've had your songs on repeat for week now. This is getting a little ridiculous.

It all started with that NPR concert that I watched while feeding my procrastination habit last Sunday about this time.

This blog entry may or may not be feeding the same habit.

Your retro sound, your look, your charming hurts me deep inside. Your beats are so good they even get to my little baby girl. There she is on her tummy, propped up on her hands as she contemplates the possibility of someday crawling, and when I pump your jams she bobs her head back and forth right one cue. It's killer. Seriously.


So far I've restrained myself and only purchased three of your songs on iTunes: Rumour Has It, He Won't Go and *sigh* Someone Like You.

Oh, Someone Like You.

It's not enough that you have incredible timing and expression. You must taunt me with an alto range that almost perfectly matches my own. If, you know, mine was about 800 times cooler sounding. At least when I'm rocking out my Queen of the Night I don't have to think to myself, "This could be you. NOT."


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dear George Eliot

Today's installment in my 30 Letters Challenge (not thirty letters in thirty days, mind you!) is addressed to someone who is deceased but with whom I wish I could communicate anyway.

In an autodidactic spasm a couple months ago I bought a recording of the unabridged Middlemarch for my Ipod. I knew little about George Eliot and nothing about the book -- except a vague sense that intelligent people respect both (and that dude looks like a lady).

Since I was a little girl I’ve always thought of my life as something small, like a very serious secret that, if let out, would scandalize no one but might just communicate Warmth or Calmth or Thought. Most people wouldn’t notice it at all. I still remember the look of incomprehension on HC’s face when I told her that as I child my main and ambition was to be anonymously influential. I had – and still have – ambitions that pull at me in the quiet hours, and while I never consciously assumed they are unique to me, it is startling to have each of them addressed in terms of familiarity as they were in Middlemarch by a woman whose personal life couldn’t have less in common with mine if she’d tried.

Maryann Evans (aka George Eliot) courted scandal by disavowing her Christian upbringing, living with a married man for 15 years, then, at the age of 61, married a man 20 years her junior at which point she promptly died. Known for being ugly, strong-willed and for often forming embarrassing, unrequited emotional attachments, Evans nevertheless wrote Middlemarch, which lays out more compellingly than anything else I’ve ever read, what it means to be a good wife.

Dear George Eliot,

I write to you tonight to express my admiration for your work. Reading Middlemarch didn’t change my life. It helped me to define it.

To articulate what I mean is a humbling task, since much of Middlemarch stands so perfectly on its own and adding my comments seems like costume jewelry on Venus de Milo: irrelevant, tacky and distracting. However, I must work with what I have, and what I have is my own experience.

In describing your hero Will’s emotional turmoil after he realizes that he ought to (for various complicated reasons involving class and propriety) leave the town Middlemarch and separate himself from his beloved Dorothea, you hit upon something that struck me to the core: “But what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope”.

When I heard this particular line for the first time, I had to turn off the recording and brood for a minute or two before moving on. I have witnessed that type of despair (although, thank God, not experienced it myself). To hear one sentence encapsulate such destruction is stunning at first. Then, after a day or to, its truth is inescapable.

Someone very close to me has been spent an agonizing few years under the influence of this type of despair. Every day he hopes that his daughters (estranged because of a very nasty divorce) will show love and affection for him again. Every day, he expects that this time they will follow through with their promises. They never do. His hope never dies, and yet every day it is starved just a little more. The destruction this type of despair, the eagerness of unfed hope, eats him alive.

There are other types of despair, of course, for instance the kind that leads to suicide. But at least suicidal despair leads has some release. It reaches a point where living is no longer necessary – in other words, where hope is no longer a consideration.

You continue in a later passage to describe how Dorothea (Will’s hope, who is both married and above him in class rank) feels while trapped, married to an unloving, if not malicious husband. You write, “Marriage is so unlike anything else. There is something even awful in the nearness it brings”. Here I am, happy in a very loving marriage, and yet I find this observation so moving.

You weren’t married when you wrote this – how would you know?

I don’t see anything awful in the nearness of P– so how would I know?

I feel that the word “awful” here doesn’t have to mean something “bad” necessarily, but perhaps something frightening. The vulnerability of spousal relationships is terrifying, especially so to one who does not find comfort and reassurance in her counterpart. I value P and our marriage so highly that I can experience through my imagination what it would be like to have a marriage and husband that made me question myself. The thought is, as your observer, truly awful.

But, while individual lines of your work remain in my mind, it is not the individual lines that I found the most powerful; it was the characters themselves. With devastating delicacy, you exploit their flaws and explore their gifts in a way that seems both realistic and instructive. You write that,”We do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual,” and yet the stupidity of Rosamond, the arrogance of Dr. Lydgate, the impracticality of Mr. Garth and the hypocrisy of Mr. Bulstrode are all of a very “usual” sort. What is unusual about them is your treatment of them.

In my life, I find that the most cruel and indelicate moments arise between two friends discussing a third. Among women especially, it is easy to fall into patterns of complaining and high-horse-iveness, especially when discussing husbands. How comfortable it is to rag on and on about his various flaws! In fact, it’s so easy that sometimes he doesn’t even need to have any flaws. Invention is the pet of boredom. Ego and self-delusion are major players in mundane activity and they’re just as dangerous now as they were when Middlemarch was new.

A good wife would never behave in such a way. A good friend would never behave in such a way. I aim to be both. My job is to love my friends and family for the good in them, lead by example and never avoid a chance to make a situation right. Above all, my job as a is to practice humility. Humility is not the same thing as deference, or even the same thing as flexibility. Deference implies timidity, and the arrogant are often flexible. Humility as I understand it is, among other things, the constant cultivation of a good intention toward people. It is the practice of allowing that I may be wrong, and that someone else may be right. It is the examination of my own intentions: Am I resisting what P suggested for a good reason, or simply because I don’t want to exert the effort of thinking about it? It is the keeping in mind that P means well for me and that anything I can do in service to him or my family is part of my calling as a wife and mother. It is the setting aside of egotism and thinking of others.

Being a good wife isn’t about getting your husband’s constant admiration or surprise vacations (although for many lucky women, these are some of the perks!). It’s about setting one’s self aside and thinking him (or your children) first. I have taken a vow not just to have, but to hold. Not just to be faithful to, but to cherish, my husband. For better or for annoying. For richer or for budgeting.

As long as we both shall live.

There isn’t much wiggle room in those words, but it was my decision to enter this union and I gave my word. So let’s make the best of it. (Which, in my case, is pretty darn good.)

Besides, as you write,”What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult to each other”?