Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The One With the List

You know how on Friends, they had the one about the laminated list of your five "freebies"--the five people that if you ever met them, regardless of your current marital status, you'd get a pass?

Well, Keith Olbermann is on my list.

Wanna know why? Check this out and see.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Can You Smell What the Beck is Writing?

I am addicted to cooking. This isn't too bad considering that I enjoy cooking and do it daily. I don't enjoy cleaning up afterwards, but that's another blog.

When my sister and I were little, Mom and Dad would take us to Cynthiana every Saturday (which seemed like forever away from G-town) and leave us with our grandmother while they ran errands and went grocery shopping. As a child, I resently this highly--the idea of my parents having the audacity to do something that didn't directly involve me was highly insulting--but I completely understand it now. I'm waiting for Christopher to develop my old talent of pulling a grocery cart down the aisle by tugging on the edges of the shelves, taking out the occasional display of cereal boxes, pasta boxes, and even ketchup bottles!

At least ketchup comes in plastic bottles these days. When I was little, they came in one size glass bottles, and they could smash spectacularly on the tile floor of Ken's Super-Valu if the cart hit the display at just the right angle. Maybe I was only three, but I understood angles of incidence, reflection, and refraction. Too bad I don't understand those as well today.

Anyway, while Mom and Dad left us behind, enjoying themselves, maybe stopping at Angelo's for yummy strombolis before making the usual rounds to the stores, Jamie and I hung out at Granny's tiny apartment, visiting with her and the odd assortment of aunts, uncles, and cousins who would stop by to say hello.

Granny had an old gas stove. I used to think she was silly since she didn't know how to cook on an electric stove. Her kitchen was tiny and cramped, but Granny had worked hard through her life, cooking every day for her family and keeping house while they tended to the old farm, and she had exactly what she needed and nothing more. Her mixing bowls must have dated back to the Depression--her pots and cast-iron skillets were at least that old. She always had something on the stove: brown beans simmering in a pot with hamhocks and onions and a skillet of cornbread, still steaming, waiting on the counter; a pot of boiled potatoes, fresh snapped green beans, and jowl bacon sitting on a back burner waiting especially for me; biscuits, sausage, bacon, eggs, and gravy made from the sausage grease (eggs were scrambled in the bacon grease). In the refrigerator was always an old Tupperware cake dish of Jell-o with marachino cherries, pineapple, and some other canned fruit I could never make out, all suspended in the gelatin despite my best guesses as to how that was possible, or the same dish filled with banana pudding, slices of banana, and nilla wafers, assembled in layers and topped with Cool Whip.

That banana pudding was Heaven for me. I don't know why I don't make it myself, but I know I loved my Granny's banana pudding and dream of it to this day.

Anyway, my point (if I have one) is that Granny always had food at the ready, and within minutes of walking in the door to her apartment, every family member was asked, "You hungry? I got a little sumthin' 'roun' here summare, iffn you're peckish." Of course, this standing question was always answered with, "I had dinner a little earlier, but I could eat."

Remember, on Dad's side of the family, they had breakfast, dinner, and supper. Not lunch. And brunches were unimaginable.

Granny would disappear into her kitchen, pulling out plates and bowls and forks and spoons and dish up whatever old time feast she had waiting, making sure everyone ate and had seconds and even thirds if they wanted it.

I would sop up the brown beans with my cornbread, drinking any leftover simmering liquid like soup. I would beg for those fork tender potatoes and green beans soaked with pork flavor, eating bowl after bowl after bowl until my mom would physically stop me from getting more. I would pick out the fruit from the Jell-o after puzzling over it, giving it to Dad to eat since he couldn't eat the sugary gelatin, slurping the Jell-o between my teeth and making disgusting sounds while Granny shook her head and Dad shushed me. And the pudding--oh! That pudding! I would eat the pudding in tiny little bites, as small as I could get on my spoon, eating each crumble of nilla wafer and slice of banana separately, making it last.

All these meals were eaten at her kitchen table, made of tin, pressboard, and yellow formica, while sitting on a padded vinyl chair under her kitschy 1950s pointy clock (the kind with star points all around that was ugly in 1980 but would be worth some serious money on Antiques Roadshow today). I would watch her as she pulled roasts from the oven, tended to her simmering pots, and sometimes wash her dresses and aprons with her roller washing machine, pulled up to her kitchen sink, with her washtub and washboard nearby for serious scrubbing.

My dad had learned how to cook from his mother; after his time in the Army from 1946-53, he spent a few years as a bachelor before meeting his first wife, getting married, and moving to the pig farm in Ohio in '58. He made brown beans like Granny did, used her old cast-iron skillet for his cornbread, and on Sunday mornings, my family awoke to smell and sound of Dad cooking what later was known as the "Sadieville breakfast"--sausage, bacon cooked crispy AND chewy to accommodate my sister's and my different tastes, soft biscuits, eggs over easy, and that white gravy with lots of sausage grease and lots of black pepper. We'd come into the kitchen, still rubbing our eyes, while Dad would chuckle and pass me the butter for my biscuit before I even asked.

Some Sunday afternoons, Dad treated us to his special salmon patties--canned salmon, carefully deboned, mixed with cornmeal and crushed saltines, then panfryed in the cast-iron skillet in some Crisco. Every time, Dad would warn me not to eat too many since they were very rich, and every time, I ate salmon patties until I began to feel queasy and realized I'd eaten too much--but they tasted so good!

That's not to say my mother didn't cook. She did most of household cooking while my sister and I grew up--once she started working and I hit middle school, we all took turns cooking dinner after getting home from school. For a brief time after Dad had his heart attack when I was 11 and before he returned to work a year later, he had dinner ready every night when we got home. After he started working at Ashford, Jamie and I became proficient at making Mom's simple recipes, picked up from her mother and based heavily on convenience foods from the 1950s. Lots of Hamburger Helper, canned sauce and veggies, and rather salty and bland. I don't mean to slag my mother--obviously she learned from her mother and did her best, but her experience growing up in Pennsylvania in a relatively middle class home was much different than my dad's experience growing up in Falmouth after the Depression.

I kick myself now that I didn't pay more attention to my father's and grandmother's cooking. Obviously I paid attention to the flavors and aromas, but I didn't pay attention to the assembly. Many of the dishes I loved as a child I will never have again--Granny passed away long ago, and Dad isn't in shape for cooking a Sadieville breakfast any Sunday soon. Hell, he doesn't even live in Sadieville anymore! I did attempt brown beans a few months ago, using a combination of what I remembered, what I learned from Alton, and chunks of a ham I had baked the week before, but it wasn't the same. I don't know how to season a cast-iron skillet to add the flavor of 60 years of use beyond buying a skillet and using it for 60 years. I feel bad using too many convenience foods like fish sticks and chicken nuggets on the nights we don't get home until after 6pm, but it's impossible for me for make the simple, fresh foods I had as a child in the time alloted in my life today. My real opportunities to cut loose and play in the kitchen are on weekends--and that's if I feel like cooking after I get all the pots and pans washed from earlier in the week.

Despite this, I am very much like my grandmother in that I must feed anyone who walks through my door. It doesn't matter if I have dinner already made, don't have anything defrosted, or wasn't even expecting company. If you show up at my house, I will try to feed you. I may even be insulted if you refuse. My friend, Candi, used to joke that the only time she had a homecooked meal was when she came to visit (which she used do once a week). Now that she's moved to Ohio, she's told me what she misses most is my cooking. What she doesn't know is I miss feeding her more.

So, it's another rare weekend post. My baby is napping, my husband is working his one Saturday a quarter, and I have a kitchen to clean. After I get everything squared away, I think I might use those overripe bananas to make some banana bread, bake some cookies, and get some beans soaking for simmering tomorrow.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Go And Buy the CD

Like you know you that you should, but don't download this song.

And don't download any of these songs either unless you're pitiful.

Seriously. New album. Go get it--I will as soon as I'm done playing Halo 2.

My Blog Was Down, But It's Back Up

Doo-dah, doo-dah.

I actually had something I wanted to say this morning during the outage, but I forget it now.

I am craving some free time--seriously craving it, but I have no idea what I would do with it. My report isn't getting published today; something came up that needs to be captured in the requirements and we need another week to get those settled and complete the final review before publication. I still have three more reports I need to start, and a person in Bangalore I'm trying to mentor long distance even though I can't quite figure her out. I know she's very capable although she's fresh out of school, but I'm not being direct enough in my requests, I think. Time to bring it down a level and specify to the letter what I need. Not that I've been letting her dangle and guess what I want--I thought I was very explicit, but apparently not enough. I think it's also a cultural thing that, especially because she's new, she won't tell me when she has an issue or problem with someone not responding to her. So I have to intuit what she needs and specifically ask if she's getting that one thing, THEN she'll tell me what the problem is.

I'm fighting the urge to do the tasks myself for a few reasons--first, she needs the experience, and we're hoping that she'll become very valuable to us in the long term if we can work through the short term tasks. Second, I don't have time to these things myself--if I did, I wouldn't have gone to my boss to ask for another person. Third, I think I might just be management material someday, and this will become my daily life if I go that route. So I need to practice now and learn the challenges and when I do decide to go into management, I won't need to learn those challenges when my goals are on the line. My boss is urging me to take a lead position, but I'm declining for right now. First, if I'm going to coach people on how to be a business systems analyst, I need to get this stuff down for myself. Second, there isn't an open lead position on my boss's team, and I like where I am now. Give me a year (or till the end of this project) and I'll be ready. Till then, I'm not interested.

Yesterday, I had a full house while working from home. CJ had some, tummy troubles, shall we say. I think he had too much juice the night before. Tom got CJ to daycare basically just in time to clean CJ up and bring him back home. Tom kept an eye on CJ while I worked, and after his nap, CJ decided he wanted to play in his room by himself. This is a way cool development! He's figured out how to turn on his stereo to play his CDs (basically hitting the play button), and he sorts his toys among his baskets. He knows which is the trash basket, which is the laundry hamper, and which are his toy baskets. He likes to close the door, so we pop our heads in every once in while to make sure he isn't trying to climb up the dresser, but otherwise, he's just fine.

Such a funny little boy--he's obsessed with keeping things tidy. If I'm changing his diaper, he has to put it in the diaper pail immediately. If he's eating and gets ketchup on his hands, he must have a napkin to wipe himself, and that napkin MUST then go into the trash. While I'm cooking, he plays in the kitchen and must help Mommy by handing me wooden spoons he pulls out of the dishwasher and throwing away any boxes or bags. I've had to fish my oven mitts and kitchen towels out of the trash cans thanks to his peculiar sense of order. He must have separate cups for juice, milk, and water, and a plate for his morning banana. And at bedtime, he MUST have his stacking cups, his monkey, his blanket, his two stuffed octopi, four small board books, three big board books, his soft basketball shaped rattle, and one of his pirates from his pirate ship (though he sometimes prefers the parrot). There's barely enough room for him! But all these things have to be in his crib, or he literally won't fall asleep until he has them all.

I am amazed at the things he is learning, and fascinated by his burgeoning sense of logic. A few examples:
  • In the bathtub last night, he kept standing up and dancing. I told him twice to sit down, and the third time, I said it more forcefully. He sat, and I said, "Thank you!" He grinned, then stood up again. I told him to sit down, and he did, and when I said, "Thank you!" he smiled wider and stood up again. That's when I figured out he likes the praise, and this is his way of getting it.
  • Yesterday, we caught him right after he marked the wall with a crayon. We told him not to do that, and I got a cleaning wipe to clean the mark. He watched me, then he started swiping all the walls he could reach with his hand, helping me clean them. I told him he was a good boy, helping Mommy cleaning the crayon marks--that's when he looked at me and grinned and marked the wall while I was watching him, then he swiped his hand over it and gave me an expectant smile.
  • Two nights ago, we got home late from work and I started on dinner as soon as we walked in the door. CJ comes to me with a big blue tumbler and pointed at the refrigerator door (where the ice and water dispensers are). I filled the tumbler with a bit of water, but he shook his head no and backed away--he didn't want it. Then he brought he a red sippy cup with juice leftover from that morning. I emptied the cup and washed it out, but when I opened the fridge, I thought he was pointing to the milk. I gave him the sippy cup of milk, but he shook his head no and backed away. Puzzled, I thought maybe he wanted the milk in a regular cup, so I got a small one and poured some milk in it--he wouldn't take it. Finally, I put together what he was trying to tell me with the original tumbler and sippy cup--I put some juice in a small juice cup, and he was happy as a clam, taking a deep drink before toddling off.

I should mention that once I got it figured out, I thought it was rather clever. His clues were good--not his fault Mommy was stupid. And of course, when dinner was ready, he had to have his plate, a fork, a spoon, all three cups with milk, water, and juice, his half eaten graham cracker, and a napkin before he would sit down to eat. He neatly lined up his cups, too, just so, before digging in to his meal. He let us know a few weeks ago he was done with his highchair--he climbed into one of the dining chairs and patted the table, telling me to put his plate there.

He's not even two! Those with more experience--am I raising a veritable genius, or is this a case of Mommy being easily amazed by normal development?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Wrong Number

Let me preface this by saying that since I don't speak Spanish, it's a safe bet that anyone calling me who speaks Spanish doesn't mean to call me.

I don't know why I answered the phone--I didn't recognize the number on the caller ID.



"Who is this?"





Two Posts in One Weekend?

It's almost too good to be true!

Still heavily into the nesting we've been doing this year. This morning, I took CJ to Target and got some odds and end--real cat food bowls for my kitties, diapers, new shoes, new trash can, and new office chair.

I'm not the type to revamp the way the house looks on complete whims every year. I tend to keep things until they complete break down. My husband just lugged a couple Queen Anne chairs into the garage a few weeks ago--we bought them from a consignment shop about 9 years ago, and although they are shredded from the cats, I've been vacillating on whether to toss them or pay the money to upholster them. A full reupholstry job might cost as much as simply buying a new chair, but I really like the style--they're open arm with lovely carved wood and simply clawed feet. I'm still not sure what to do with them, or even where to put them once I get them done, but I'm reluctant to get rid of them in case I need them.

The previous cat food and water bowls were the plastic ones that came with the carriers we used to move them into the house over 4 years ago. They were never supposed to be permanent, but they worked--I recently decided I needed real, nonskid bowls after I kicked one of the water bowls three feet across the floor for the hundredth time as I went to the pantry. The trash can serves two purposes--one, it has a lid which may help CJ stay out of the trash (although he loves to throw things away). Second, our garbage program is changing to one day a week with recycling very soon, and I'll need a second can for recyclables.

The office chair is the replace the one I currently have that kills my back. The new one, which I put together earlier and am sitting in now, has lumbar support and adjustable height. I have the laptop on a little table in the living room and am currently typing while Tom and CJ sit on the couch snacking and watching football.

I'm trying not to think of the work I have to do when I go in tomorrow. It will be a very busy month, but hopefully I'll have some time to post during football games since the new season just began.

Still left to do in the house--I have my heart set on this sectional sofa I saw with a recliner and a chaise built in. It's at a very good price, too. Still need to order CJ's big boy furniture, although I now know exactly which set I want to get. I need to move my desk from the den into the living room, get a new computer to replace my aging beast running Windows ME with its 800MHz processor and staggering 128MB of memory, and get some sort of wireless hub that will let me plug in my work laptop at my new living room work area and work there. Then the couch, chair, and ottoman go into the den for a nice, comfy, hanging out type room, and a few bookcases to go here and there. One nice thing about Arizona construction--the tend to resolve around the "Great Room" concept (living room, dining area, entry area, and kitchen in one open space). The challenge is figuring out how to effectively use the space since traditional rules don't apply.

Alright, enough about my boring plans to accumulate some consumer debt--CJ can count to three! I was playing with this puppet--it's basically a glove with a monkey head at each finger tip--and I was counting off the monkeys. Anyway, I said, "One...," and CJ said, "Doo."

I was shocked, but told him that's right, Two! So I said, "Two...," and CJ said, "Bee."

I was really surprised! He did it consistently, though, adding four ("doh") only twice. "One, doo, bee, doh." Mostly he just goes to three--but still, I bet not many 20 month olds can do that!

He's also decided that he will no longer use his highchair--he climbs up into one of the dining chairs and sits rather nicely in it. We have to tell him to sit down occasionally, but he behaves. He still tells us when it's bedtime, and potty training is going well--he tells us he wants to use the potty, but I don't think he has the ability yet to make himself go. We let him sit on the potty till he wants to get down, then we put his diaper back on. Usually he goes a little while later, then he comes to tell us he needs a diaper change.

We've also begun the battle for "nakedtime". He's figured out how to take off his shirt and shorts, and shows a clear preference for bare skin on the weekends. He takes off whatever clothes we put him in, and sometimes takes the diaper off too (a little easier since we're using pullups now). It's taken as much as ten minutes to chase him around to get a new diaper on him. I didn't know it started this early, but I know it will last for a while. I'm waiting for the call from daycare to come and pick up my streaking son.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Want to be ElastiGirl!

Tom's watching The Incredibles, and ElastiGirl just went somersaulting over buildings, and that looked really cool! I wanna do that!

I have recovered from my temporary hypothetical finger paralysis and found a bit of time, so I thought I'd post on what's been going on for the past couple weeks.

Sorry, got wrapped up in the movie.

We had intended to settle down to a nice long weekend over the Labor Day holiday. Didn't quite happene. Friday night the air conditioner broke down. It was blowing, but it wasn't cooling anything down. We made it through the night despite the rising temperature, then I called the A/C company our neighborhood is contracted with early Saturday morning. They weren't able to send a tech until after noon, so we went out to breakfast and then bummed around Linens and Things until it was time to meet the tech at our house.

It was actually very nice to get out, but the lack of sleep from our hot night slowed us down for the rest of the weekend. Sunday, we were supposed to go out for cow in celebration of Jay's new job (she starts in my department on 9/18), but CJ was just being a big handful and we were so worn out by 5pm I had to call and cancel.

The good news is the A/C repair was a relatively quick and cheap one--just a blown capacitor.

I wish I had something more exciting to report. Still working on getting my work published next week, still ensconced in conference rooms for marathon analysis sessions, and still trying to balance time needed at work with time needed at home. But my project team still likes each other despite 7 hours together a day and my boss is very appreciative of my efforts. In fact, thanks to an approach I suggested, we've already saved almost $200K and might save close to a million by the time we're done. That's gonna look good on my review this year.