Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Balance

It's been busy at the abode. Spousal Unit turned 30; he threw me a surprise party; I turned 30.


We gained a furnace and a fetus. Oberon had bladder and jealousy issues (he apparently doesn't like my new hormones). We discovered a wasp nest the size of a volleyball (abandoned) and the neighborhood trick-or-treating status (decent). Work has been insane for both of us, to the point where it's a perpetual madhouse.

But we manage. The anxiety of having a room dedicated to the new stroller and baby clothes is balanced by the excitement of having finished the Tickle's first sweater (Spousal Unit named it; don't worry, that will change).

Child's Placket-Neck Pullover by Joelle Hoverson

The worry of whether I'm eating enough omega 3s is balanced by the joy of steak. (I promised myself I'd pay attention to my cravings in case they're saying something important. To quote Spousal Unit, the Tickle doesn't know I'm vegetarian and doesn't care.)

Steak AND lobster!

The stress of whether there will be enough money for three months of maternity leave is balanced by the quiet daydreams of imagining myself out in the garden come springtime, little one in its carrier as we enjoy the sun, however briefly.

The fear of slipping on our now-icy driveway is soothed by a big bag of salt and imagining this time a year from now, when the Tickle is more than just a light flutter, old enough for its attention to be captured by snow.

And exhaustion is eased by Spousal Unit's excitement. That's one of the best things about all of this so far: he's so clearly thrilled and devoted and full of love for this little person who's barely half a pound right now. He tells it bedtime stories, calls me his "pregnant Norwegian queen," and jumps to help with anything at all when I so much as sigh (and he helps with visible joy).


With that in our lives, we will be more than okay.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Letter to OreIda: A Modest Proposal

I'm a fan of potating.


Dear OreIda,

I write to you with joy in my heart after having consumed half a bag of tater tots. These crispy, chewy, lightly salted pinnacles of starchy excellence are often the highlight of my weary days, when I make it to dinner time only by keeping thoughts of their golden perfection in mind (often accompanied by a heavenly choir).

It can come as little surprise to you then that I write not only to praise tater tots, but also to request a nationwide french fry ban.

No, I am not one of those obsessed with calling them "Freedom Fries" instead. I do not stand before you with a flag as my Cape of Justice and a trusty eagle sidekick on my shoulder. I merely wish tater tots to have the rightful respect that is due to them. They deserve a place beside every hamburger, every sandwich, everywhere. For what are french fries but an inferior, long-legged imposter?

I also request this ban of the inferior potato so that the infamous Spud War of 2014 can at long last come to an end. My Spousal Unit has fallen on the side of evil and is a championer of all things french fry. I narrow my eyes and eat with relish every baked tot in an effort to show him that he's missing the best part of life on this earth. However, he continues about his misinformed lifestyle, and we have not known a peaceful night's rest since this war began yesterday evening. I do not wish to see him succumb to the ways of shepherd's pie and potato soup.

Should I have the wherewithal and the necessary sticking power, I will one day seek to ban all other forms of potato as well. For who would want the sad squish of mashed potatoes when there could be a crispy, golden tower to illuminate a steak? Who would seek the excessive crunch of hash browns over this starchy idol of all spuds everywhere?

I begin, however, by eliminating my enemies one at a time. Hear my plea: Stand up for all that is right in the world. Stand up for that which is good and right and perfectly textured.

Stand up for the tater tot.

Sincerely,
A proper starch aficionado,
Allison

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hiatus of Unusual Size, Part I: The Garden

Hi all - been a while. Distractions abound. I'm trying to get back into the swing of it - I haven't had a blogging hiatus like this since I started this up in 2011. Time to regroup, which may happen in fits and starts, but I'll do my best.

What's been distracting me? Well, you know. Life. My next couple of posts will feature a lot of backlog, and mostly pictures, as I find it easier to get a post going when there's an image to go with it.

First: the great outdoors. Earlier this summer, Spousal Unit and I decided to make good use of our fire pit. We proceeded to buy a ton of logs from the grocery store. You know, the paper-wrapped ones they sell next to the coolant and motor oil. (That should have been a clue.)

One night, Spousal Unit didn't just put out the fire: he hosed it out, dumping the ashy water onto our yard. We ended up with dead grass and weird mushrooms.

(Not quite a fairy ring.)


So that's gross and disturbing, and we're never buying chemically treated logs again. Turns out they sell regular firewood at the grocer's too. Thank goodness.

That's the less-than-pleasant stuff out of the way. (Aside from the hornets in the shed, but everyone has hornets in the shed, don't they?) Our backyard flower bed continues to amaze us with its beauty and ever-changing hues. I didn't know sedum did more than turn green, but apparently, it does.

(The bees love it.)

There are mums and hostas and something that is probably a weed, but it's pretty so I don't care.

My garden has turned out really well for being the first year. The basil was amazing, and we even got lots of good carrots. Next year, the tomatoes need some breathing room, though.


The last task of the season (aside from herb drying and pesto/sauce making) is to Trim All the Things. The backyard bushes are unwieldy, and there's some kind of fake rose bush out front (meaning it produces thorns, but no roses), so that has to go. Apparently I have to wrap it in plastic wrap in order to avoid a lashing. (I don't remember where I heard that from, so if anyone has better suggestions, I'm all ears.)

After this season, zinnias are my new favorite flowers. After lilacs and alstroemeria, of course.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Greens and Wild Things

I've been romping around the garden a lot lately. This might look like a forest to you, and it is. But what is this, a forest for ants? Yes actually. These are my carrots. (Dear ants, kindly ignore my previous invitation and leave my carrots alone. You're far too bitey for my liking.)


My tomatoes are making huge strides. I was kind of terrified that they would all make it and I'd have to make enough sauce for a small Italian village, but the first two have rotted before ripening already. So we're good.


(I might be the only gardener who roots for tomato death.)


This corner is my whole edible garden, but the plot is five times this size. Maybe I'll fill it with more than weeds next year. My three basil plants are enormous, the oregano's coming along nicely, and the parsley is still piddly. Please note the tiny pink statue, which is awkward and terrifying and really good at keeping the rabbits from eating all my noms.

She's the female version of St. Fiacre. Except she's not also the patron saint of Parisan cab drivers.

My snapdragons in the front yard are ginormophone and super sassy, the way snapdragons should be.


Then there's this guy.

Cindy the ostrich!

After romping around the garden, I went to the zoo last weekend, where lots of critters stared us down.

Gibbon!

I allowed them to stare right back. It was only fair.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Joys of a Kitchen Bigger Than a Breadbox

Our CSA through Circle M Farm has started up again, and it's been amazing. Every other Thursday when we pick up our box is like a delicious, strange Christmas - after three years, Spousal Unit and I are still surprised at some of the stuff that graces our kitchen.

This year, we finally have a fridge big enough to house the fresh greens and produce. In past years, our tiny apartment fridges barely fit everything, and the tails of greenery would spill out of the sensitive crisper drawer and even hang out of the fridge door. Cramming everything in like that sometimes meant things went bad more quickly - there was no room to set a glassful of fresh herbs. 

The benefits of our house keep surprising me. I've never needed more than a stove and a sink and a handful of fresh ingredients to cook great food and enjoy doing it. But it's a little more fun when you can move the teapot to a different counter instead of a different room to avoid oil splatters. I have more room to dance while listening to music as I cook, so it feels like my joy is bigger. (I have more counters to clean too, but I'll take it.)

And who wouldn't be happy to clean counters that held such an amazing spread?

Some of the more interesting things here: new beets, horseradish root,
milkweed pods, nasturtium salad, lemon balm ... Okay, it's all interesting.

The white flowers are elderberry blossoms - wonderfully fragrant and edible! Edible flowers are so much fun. Circle M provided a recipe for elderberry blossom fritters on their website, and I couldn't wait to try them. I've had an aversion to frying things in oil ever since I burned my armpit while making tempura (I've sucked it up in the past to make egg rolls), but I was too excited about this to worry much. Medium heat proved perfect on my electric stove.




They turned out perfectly - nothing burned, nothing undercooked. With a dash of powdered sugar, they looked like a fantastic reinvention of funnel cake. The stems were excellent temporary handles.


I set out a ramekin of mixed berries (also from the farm - blackcaps, strawberries, currants, gooseberries, and mulberries) and some syrup, unsure of how I might best like these. But I didn't even touch the syrup. The berries, slightly mashed with a dash of milk, were just the right accompaniment for the floral symphony.


Meals like this are why the futuristic dinner in pill form would be an awful invention.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ancient History


Lately, I've been going through boxes of stuff from my former life (a.k.a., pre-Spousal Unit). The nostalgia is like crack. Musty-smelling crack, but still addictive.

Starting on the left: My Poetic License, from high school English teacher Mr. Poss, famous for things such as throwing his keys at the PA system during class interruptions and reading us the "cease and desist" letter from a magazine sick of sifting through bad teen poetry. Definitely one of my formative teachers.

Star Wars Bedsheets. They're for a twin bed, though, so they're currently useless. Doesn't mean I'm getting rid of them, though!

My Softball Glove, from when I played catch as a kid. I can't remember if it was too small for me by the time I joined the middle school softball team.

Mission T-Shirt. In the '90s, there was this thing where a school bus was decked out as a space shuttle. Teachers interviewed for a crew, and kids were "hired" to visit schools decked out as imaginary planets. It was the best thing ever. I was a radio journalist and got to be on the radio for it (you'll be shocked to hear that the DJ kept making me get closer to the microphone because I was so quiet).

A Care Bear and a My Little Pony. I had a serious obsession with these things. The pony one lasted much longer; I still have all of mine. I also just sent Brave Heart Lion through the wash (his poor, poor mane ...).

On the Care Bear is a Packers Superbowl Hat from the '90s. The basement is too far away right now for me to go see which superbowl it's from, so you'll have to live with the mystery.

Dr. Friedeck's No Cavity Club T-Shirt. I found a lot of old shirts in these boxes, but this is one of few that doesn't fit me anymore. I can still wear shirts from fifth grade (and did yesterday, in fact), but this one must be from third or earlier, pre-growth spurt. Dr. Friedeck's office had a Big Bird that disguised a helium tank (I think it was at least five feet tall), and I often got balloons after the appointment.

And last, A Porcelain Tea Set. I was such a little shrimp when I played with this, but all the pieces are still there and in the original packaging. I don't think anything's even chipped. The packaging's a bit of a mess, though; I used to tear pieces of the styrofoam off and pretend they were food.

Monday, June 16, 2014

More Funk Than a '70s Prom

It's been a rough couple of weeks. There have been Reasons, certainly, but it all seems to have had a greater effect. Readers might have noted that I haven't blogged with any frequency lately, and I also haven't worked on the novel in ... two weeks, I think? That's unheard of for me. On top of that, I haven't been knitting. 

This too shall pass. So here are some pictures and a vague attempt at shaking some of this off.

Some good stuff has happened. The poppies in the backyard bloomed. 


I had fun with my hair.


Some friends got married in spectacular fashion.


(There was even chair dancing.)


We celebrated Avatar Day, this year by watching season one of The Legend of Korra in anticipation of season two.

"Happy Avatar Day Father Lord." Thought I was being clever, but apparently we did this last year too.

I got to see my nephew again for the first time in nearly two months. He has teeth! And the most expressive little soul-stare.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Things I Say to My Cats That I Shouldn't Say to a Kid

(At least, to one who understands language.)

I don't think I need to emphasize too heavily that there's swearing ahead ... .



If you weren't lying on the floor like an asshole, then maybe I wouldn't have stepped on you.

You JUST ate. You're not good enough to deserve more food yet.

If you keep whining, I will never feed you again.

No, I'm not letting you outside today. Or tomorrow. Or ever.

If you wake me again tonight, I'm going to lock you in the basement for the next six hours.

Stop licking my hand, you horse's ass.

Maybe if you behave, I won't get rid of you.

Get off my pillow or I will throw you across the room.

Look! It's the neighbor's angry dog. You should go outside and play with it!

Stop peeing in your cage. We're only going to the doctor. (For some reason, I imagine this being said by Brock Samson of Venture Brothers.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mailbox Treasure

Last week, I ordered several books that are out of print on this glorious invention, the internet. This doesn't have nearly the same soothing effects of wandering about a used bookstore for several hours, though it does have better end results (if your goal is to actually get the books you want, which is not always my purpose in such heavenly realms).

The nice side effect of ordering books online is the excitement to greet the mailbox at end of day. Rather than flyers that might (but never do) have coupons for things you need, piles of bills, and bribes that would turn on you later if you were dense enough to take them, there might be a package with your name on it and, within, brilliantly arranged bits of tree pulp with just the right ink upon the pages. It's even more exciting when they're books you've wanted for years.

For example, the only one of five that I've received so far is Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Pictures From the Gone World. I love his unusual arrangement of words and the false cheer in his cynicism. My favorite poem in this book is "The world is a beautiful place," which, contrary to its first line, is not the kind of poem you should necessarily read first thing in the morning.

I also ordered Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind, mostly because I'm looking for a single poem of his - the one that piqued my interest in his work years ago. Unfortunately, all I remember about it is there's a tulip in it somewhere. That's not terribly helpful to me, especially when his works are so numerous and nearly every poet writes about flowers.

At some point in college, a friend introduced me to Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book by Shel Silverstein. I provided a dramatic reading on the spot for everyone in the room, and it was delightful fun to read aloud. But don't let Silverstein's typical nature and the colorful cover fool you: this is not a children's book. Unless you want your kids to throw eggs at the ceiling, cut your hair in your sleep, and have nightmares.

Source

On Saturday, I suddenly remembered that Monday (yesterday) was not a mail day here in the US. I got incredibly sad, and as Monday felt a lot like a Saturday to me, I kept eyeing the mailbox each time I walked in the front door. And then I remembered all over again that no post would be coming and my world crumbled around me.

But I can't wait to get home today. Hopefully another bit of well-arranged tree pulp will be waiting for me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Can Opener Dilemma

Our can opener has recently decided it's only going to work when it suits its purposes, and it will stop and throw a moody tantrum for no reason halfway through a task. I can't decide if it's acting like a hormonal teenager or a temperamental two-year old.

Truth is, it's closer to being a teenager. I don't remember how long we've had that thing. It was with us in New Mexico--might have been purchased there. Or it might be the same can opener I've had since the beginning of college, which would make it older than my relationship with Spousal Unit. A decidedly weird thought.

One way or another, we could use a new one. But I'm at that phase right now where a tiny, necessary purchase like that feels like over-the-top spending. (Never mind that we just went out for a fancy dinner on Saturday; that's from a separate vault in my mind, which has been drained.)

I get like this over the weirdest stuff. I sometimes suddenly reach a point at which any spending at all is a terrible idea (usually due to a large recent purchase--hello, homeownership) and then decide that buying anything other than food qualifies as frivolous spending. Even the food falls in that category sometimes. My internal monologue goes something like this.

Okay, we need honey. Which one should I get? Last time I bought the fancier Roundy's stuff and it tasted a lot better. But it's $1 more than this other jar; that's a whole dollar we could be saving, or put toward the water bill so we don't wake up some morning and discover we have to use the neighbor's hose to shower. But it's still a $6 jar. I guess we don't really need honey. I already put cranberries on my oatmeal, so I can live without honey.

I don't always end up talking myself out of a small purchase (It's always  the small ones that give me grief. Okay, the big ones too.), but I do often talk myself down to the cheapest version of something, after carefully studying the labels and ensuring that what I buy is the best deal on the shelf. And the thing about that magical $1 I would save for something else? I don't put it in my supermonkey bank or anything, so it just meanders about the bank account until I lift my spending embargo and finally buy the honey.

This is why I haven't bought a new can opener yet. Also, the handles are so sturdy that I often forget the wheels on that particular bus may still go 'round, but they're not getting anywhere. It still works on occasion, though, and for now, that's what I'm banking on. I'll probably only buy a new one when, some night before dinner, it completely gives out and I have to run to the store as part of a search-and-rescue mission to free the black beans from their tin prison.

Edit, 12:23 pm: Wow, that was a stupid topic for a blog post. But still, it was writing. I refuse to apologize for writing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How to Annoy Your Neighbors Through Yard Use

As the weather gets nicer, the weekends get better and better.

Kale egg bake

The cats get full use out of all the windows (though Titania is still getting a bit too much use out of the basement ceiling, which leads to her getting stuck above the furnace and in the walls). Oberon gets terribly jealous that we're allowed outside and he isn't - he meows plaintively at the windows and follows us as we roam. I think he's loud enough for the neighbors to hear.


So much bloomed this weekend. I now have tulips and poppies to go with my daffodils, hyacinths, and bleeding hearts.



We mowed the lawn for the first time this weekend with our new electric mower - I'm quite fond of it, despite the cord. It's just like vacuuming, but more detrimental if you run over it.

I mowed a lopsided half of the yard on Saturday, as we discovered that the 50-foot extension cord wasn't long enough. Rather than run back out immediately, we decided to finish the rest on Sunday. I mowed as far as the cord would let me, resulting in a haphazard semicircle where mown lawn met unmown in the front yard. If it's possible to look sketch due to poor grass grooming, we did. Though I felt more normal when I saw the neighbor down the street using a rider mower to hack down foot-long grass in his average-sized suburban yard.

While I mowed, Spousal Unit cleaned the gutters. We were quite pleased with our skills, and it was even fun to do some yard work. I'm sure that won't last terribly long, but it was enjoyable in the meantime.

On Sunday, I read, played mandolin, and did yoga in the backyard while bees buzzed over the sweet spring grass. The mandolin thing was kind of a BFD, as I'm not terribly good yet but felt sequestered enough by the fence and trees not to be shy. (I hope the neighbors were at least amused by my terrible strumming.) I like not being in an apartment anymore.

Below is my latest outdoor dilemma, however. This overgrown corner is full of so many strange things (strange to me, at least) and I don't know what they are or how to organize it a bit more. (Click to enlarge and please share your findings with me!)


Close-up of one of the above plants

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Taking Credit Where None Is Due (Because I Didn't Plant These)

I know almost nothing about plants. I know they need water and some require more shade or sun than others, but as far as remembering which is which and what ones to plant next to tomatoes, I don't have a clue. So when I went to see my mom last weekend, I brought pictures of my yard so she could inform me.

I've already forgotten half of it. But here's some of what I remember.

Raspberries. Spousal Unit is going to be very happy later in the season.

Daffodils and grape hyacinths. There might be some tulips sprouting around them.

Bleeding hearts! After the rain last night, they've unfurled a lot more.
Possibly oriental poppies. I don't know what any of this other crap is. Probably weeds.

Hostas, I think. They're probably not hydras.

All I can remember about this one is the general prefix. I want to say septum,
but that seems like an inappropriate plant name.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day Means ... Drinking?

Spousal Unit has wanted to make pancakes out on the patio since we moved in. Perhaps a bit strange, yes, but it sounded fun, too, and his unusual creativity is wonderful. So I mixed up the batter and told him to be careful of bird flyovers.


And he made pancakes, which we ate on our patio in the warm sun, surrounded by encroaching greenery that I haven't yet bothered to prune.


After, I went to my cousin's baby shower. It was fun to see lots of family in a more unusual context (a bowling alley).


Brooke and I with our spicy, decadent bloody marys.

The next morning for Mother's Day, we started out with mimosas. Brooke's was a little pale. Neal was disapproving, as usual.


We finished it off with a trip to River Bend Winery. It was good to see Mom so happy.


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