What I Am: Reading this Week

The very funny blokette at Angliophile Football Fanatic made a shocking discovery earlier this year, and set out to remedy the situation in true AFF style. She started a book club, but not just any book club. An online book club that would meet once a month and hereby be known as PMS: People Masquerading as Scholars.

The first book was About the Author by John Colapinto. I read it — and liked it, quite a lot — but I did not get to join the discussion due to the fact that it took place around the same time as my (pathetically early) bedtime. I hope to do better next month. (I’m still figuring out if you can view the chat.)

I love to read. I come from a family that loves to read. I hope to instill my love of reading in my girls.

Growing up, I read all the time, and I mean ALL THE TIME. My parents had to forbid me from bringing a book to the dinner table. In family movies, you can always find me: I’m the girl sitting at the picnic table reading a book while all my cousins are running around like nutters. My parents didn’t ground me by sending me to my room — where I just would have curled up with a good book — they made me go out and play with other kids.

I was a strange and solitary child.

Anyhoo, the point being: I like to read.

So in addition to all the other themes poking their heads up around here (hadn’t you noticed? No, I guess not. This is my third theme, with Meatless Monday and Lost Day) I am going to make Wednesday What I Am day. It will pertain to books and music, including kids’ music and/or books.

This week, I am reading two books. This happens very infrequently, for obvious reasons. And one of the reasons that I am reading two is that one of them I have read before.

I am on my third or fifth (probably the latter) time through Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkein. I got turned onto them by (surprise) DearDR when we were dating. He reads these books religiously. No, seriously: religiously. He quotes from them. He can tell you all of the differences between the movies and the books (we own several copies of the books, and all of the Peter Jackson-directed LOTR DVDs.) He knows all the themes and all kinds of stuff. In his other life, he is DearDR, Tolkein scholar.

I think it’s a problem, actually. I’m trying to get him to read the Harry Potter books for a change of pace. Or even the Narnia saga.

The other book I am tackling is The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I have heard lots and lots (and lots) about this book, and I finally had to read it for myself. I am very interested in it; I think I would actually be enjoying it a lot more if I got to read it in more than 5-minute stretches. So far, no go. I persevere, though, because, truly, I am interested in the subject. And the writing is pretty decent.

What are you reading this week?

Doing Our Part

After two rounds with two banks, we got a car loan. Economic stimulus, here we come.

DearDR officially bought the car yesterday: a 2003 Pontiac Bonneville — our little part to help keep GM afloat. It’s a very nice car, big and powerful and roomy.

DearDR and I are now driving cars from this century.

Someone please check the temperature in hell.

********
Also official: I went 47 days without a cigarette. Now I just have to start all over again from day 1. I kind of suck.

Meatless Monday: Good Winter Chowder

Cold weather is perfect for soups and chowders. It’s hard to find good vegetarian chowder recipes, but I managed.

I adapted this from a recipe from Tyler Florence of the Food Network. I didn’t have fresh corn, so I used three cups frozen kernels. The recipe was still delicious!

Corn Chowder

2 tablespoons butter
Olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups canned vegetable stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups frozen corn kernels, slightly thawed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the butter and 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme, and cook until the vegetables are good and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Dust the vegetables with flour and stir to coat everything well. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the cream and the potatoes; bring to a boil and boil hard for about 7 minutes, until the potatoes break down.

2. Add the corn to the soup. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer 10 to 12 minutes.

3. Process two cups of the soup in a food processor and add back to the pot for extra creaminess. Serve. Parsley garnish is optional.

This soup is a great lunch with some crusty bread and a salad.

It’s Official

I hate The Littlest Pet Shop.

It all started very innocently. Monkey got a LPS dollar-store knock-off doggie from “Santa” at dayschool. She adored it. We named him Bobble, and she carried him around every where with her for days. He came with this yellow hat-box shaped hutch, and a little teddy bear, and she just loved playing with him.

Since she liked Bobble so much, I decided that “Santa” at preschool would bring her another little pet. I picked out a bunny that also came with a teddy bear, and a pink slipper in which to sleep. The bunny was dubbed Clementine, and she and Bobble got along well.

For Christmas, I got Monkey the LPS Club House, which came with a squirrel (whose name I can’t recall) and a monkey (Salami), and a hammock, a skateboard, and some nuts and sardines. (I didn’t know monkeys ate sardines, but whatever.) Monkey — my Monkey — was in heaven.

She and Bun squabbled over them, of course. So the Binky Fairy brought Bun a turtle, which came with a wagon (to which he sticks by means of a magnet in his butt) and sunglasses — which don’t stay on his bugged out eyes. We call him Shades. Or, usually, just “tuttle”.

In terms of playing for hours, the LPS animals are wonderful. Monkey will arrange them, feed them, brush them, talk to them, endlessly. Bun just tends to grab and run, which sends Monkey screaming in pursuit, but most of the time, there are peaceful negotiations, and Monkey ends up with most of the animals. She has even begun incorporating other animals into the fold — not official LPS animals, per se, but any toy that fits into Monkey’s palm is fair game.

The problem is that the LPS club house came with what Monkey refers to as her “blue paper”. This is an 11″ x 17″ piece of LPS marketing collateral (it scares me that I know what it’s called) with all the permutations of LPS products on one side, and all the pets on the other. Monkey spends hours pouring over it. She brings it every where with her. The other day at church she had it with her, and she showed it to her preschool teacher, next to whom we ended up sitting.

She’s obsessed. She asks almost every day if we can buy something on that piece of paper. One product is the LPS Day Care, a three-story blue ‘house’ for all the LPS pets. This is the one for which she lobbies hardest. I have told her that she may get it for her birthday or Christmas. So now she checks every day how far away her birthday and Christmas are (nine and ten months, respectively — I’m going to start telling her how many days away; maybe it’ll discourage her). She tells me what pets she wants and in what order.

I made the tactical error of getting each of the girls LPS pets that came in plastic backpacks for Valentine’s Day yesterday. I thought it would scratch the itch for awhile, if you know what I mean. Monkey got a horse and Bun got a kitty — or maybe vice versa, I’ve already lost track. They both preferred playing with their pets to actually eating breakfast, which made signing loan paperwork at the bank later that morning very difficult. The backpack contained another ‘blue paper’, which is good only because Monkey’s old blue paper was much the worse for wear. It had been taped and re-taped and was still falling apart. She slept with the blue paper.

Now she wants the bird that comes in a backpack, too. She asked for it about five minutes after Bun opened her kitty (or horse). I nearly lost it.

So how do I co-exist in peace with toys that I bought for Monkey (and Bun, but she doesn’t ask to buy a new one every day — yet) but secretly want to throw out now? Toys that she clearly loves, and plays with, and cares for (mostly; those little pieces that come with them are very small and easily lost), but she only wants more of them? How do I help her be satisfied with what she has and stop asking me when she is getting more? How?

The Valentine’s Day Saga: Part III

Wherein I make DearDR prove his love for me. Or he proves that he is a patient, patient man.

So we’ve established why, exactly, I am not crazy about Valentine’s Day.

Fast forward to February 2000. DearDR and I have been dating for about four months. DearDR (and he will tell you this himself) is head over heels for me.

He wants to do something for Valentine’s Day. I go through my whole song-and-dance about why I don’t do Valentine’s Day, and it’s just a Hallmark holiday, and we shouldn’t pay any mind.

DearDR completely ignores me. “We’re going out,” he says.

“Fine,” I huff. “But we’re going to do what I want to do.”

So I took him to see the Pittsburgh premiere of the Vagina Monologues at CMU.

Now, if you’re not familiar with the Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, it is exactly what it sounds like: a number of monologues about the vagina, all performed by women.

Yes, I made my boyfriend sit through a play about bajingos, va-jay-jays, lady business — because Dave Boore broke up with me on Valentine’s Day in 1983.

We weren’t even having green beans at the time.

And he still asked me to marry him.

Later that evening we shared some wine at Casbah and just talked. After that, he twirled me into his arms on the sidewalk outside and gave me a kiss I felt all the way to my toes.

Is it any wonder I said yes?

Happy Valentine’s Day, DearDR. I love you.

Punt

I was going to write Part II of the Valentine’s Day Saga, but too much is going on. Some of it is good, and some of it really really sucks. All of it is stressful in various and sundry ways.

So instead, enjoy a few photos from Monkey and of Monkey and Bun.


Silly Faces (I think the latest babysitter took this. She’s a keeper.)


Mama in the Morning. This photo looks how I feel before coffee.
Good work, Monkey. Conceptual digital pictures!


Bun in the Morning. Monkey is holding the camera very steady here.


Meet Some of Monkey’s Little Friends


Bun’s Devil Ducky


Perspective

Lost Day: This Place is Death

Woah.

Wow.

I’m a little short on the theories today, I must admit.

Although I was correct (too bad I didn’t actually write this theory down already!): John moves the donkey wheel. So… He’s not supposed to go back. Neither is Ben, as we know. Now John’s dead, and Ben sure seems determined to head back to the Island — with John’s body to boot. At the end of the episode, Mrs. Hawking (I think I’ve been spelling her name wrong) seems inclined to send him, too.

Okay, so who was Charlotte’s fit about? Sun? Did she actually say “Don’t bring Sun back” or “Don’t bring your wife back”? She may have been referring to Ji Yeon. The likelihood of Sun bringing Ji Yeon to the Island seems pretty slim anyway. And: was that Charlotte having that fit? Was it the voice of the Island or some other entity from the Island?

And what is up with Rousseau? What is the smoke monster? A possessor? “You’re not Robert,” Rousseau raves. “That thing changed you.”

I was really touched when Sawyer and Jin found each other and hugged. I’m clearly turning into a Lost sap.

Lost brings back the humor! I am loving this season just for that. Locke to Christian Shepherd: “Can you help me up?” Beat. Christian to Locke, “No.”

I also liked how Sayid just walks away from the Oceanic 6 “reunion”. He clearly wants no part of this scene. Ben, for once, was clearly at a loss. He was so close to having everyone together, but now he’s down four: Kate, Aaron, Hurley, and Sayid. Also, I think his tantrum in the car was staged.

Incidentally, Sawyer without a shirt is all well and good, but I would like a little more of Sayid without a shirt. If that can be arranged, please. I mean, the man looks fine in a suit and all, but bring back the black tank top!

Sorry about the lack of theories and only having more questions. I will try to get myself together better for next week.

Oh, and RIP, Charlotte Staples Lewis.

Well, you know, she’ll probably be back, one way or another.

Edited to add: Doc Jensen tells me something I missed about Charlotte’s dad. He says it was revealed in Season 4 that her dad is Dave Lewis from Dharma. So, shoot down my Widmore theory. Although someone somewhere said Widmore may be Daniel’s dad. He’s so very protective of Penny, though, I somewhat doubt this. But, you know, it’s Lost. Anything is possible.

The Valentine’s Day Saga: Part I

I do not know one person who really likes Valentine’s Day (well, except for one — the guy I’m married to; more on that in Part III). The most common comment — and you’ve heard it/said it, too, with varying tones of bitterness: “It’s such a Hallmark holiday.”

When I was in grade school, I was the tallest person in my class in grades one through six. Well, except for Rick Hidd*. He was both taller and thinner than I, and he was a redhead to boot (I was a redhead as a child — well, auburn-head. Now I have to get my color out of a box).

About the time that the idea boys had cooties was starting to phase out in my peer group (between grades four and six), I started getting teased about being Rich’s ‘girlfriend’. Because we looked so much alike, natch. (Grade schoolers are not known for their discerning intellects.) Quite to the contrary, I harbored a crush on Rich’s best friend, Dave Boore, who, fortunately for me, had had a growth spurt in 5th grade, so was now taller than I was.

Let me also add here: I was not a looker in grade school. I know that everyone talks about how awkward the teen years are, but for me? Grade school was the pits. I got glasses in second grade and braces in fifth. I was tall and skinny to the point of emaciation. To this day I look at pictures of me as a 12-year-old and wonder how Social Services was not called to my home. Because it truly looked like I was being starved.

In sixth grade, it finally happened: Rick walked up to me after class. If memory serves (and, admittedly in my case, it may not — N, feel free to correct any details in the comments), it was after Social Studies (dear Lord, remember Social Studies?). He was blushing like crazy, and on a tall pale redhead, this is not an enhancement. He looked like a sunburned stork.

“I have a question,” I think he said. I stood there with my glasses and my braces and I could not breathe.

“Yeah?”

“Uh, Dave wants to know if you’ll go with him.”

What? Who? Go with?

Was I about to have a boyfriend?

“Okay,” I’m sure I stammered. Out of the corner of my eye, I realized that Dave was actually standing there, behind and to the side of Rick. “I mean, sure. I’ll go with him.”

Who knows what actually transpired? (N probably does.) ‘Going with’ seemed to mean a lot of sweaty hand holding and note passing and stupid grins across classrooms. Remember when ‘copping a feel’ meant squeezing your boyfriend’s hand? Was I naive or what? Innocent, I guess you would say. Or I would. I don’t even recall if Dave and I ate lunch together. I know we did not kiss, because I recall my first kiss. It was not with Dave, and it was not in grade school. It was exceedingly sloppy with a lot more tongue than I thought should be involved.

Anyhoo.

Shoot ahead a few … months? I don’t remember exchanging Christmas gifts or birthday gifts with Dave, so it may have been mere weeks. Although in the horror I am about to reveal, any other gift giving would have been burned out of my memory.

On February 14, 1983? 1984? (You would think the date of this final humiliation would be seared into my brain. It may be, but I can’t see my brain.), I was scheduled to get my braces off. After a year, I would finally be free! And I had a boyfriend! It was going to be perfect. I would turn into the beautiful swan (with really, really smooth teeth).

I know I bought Dave a card — my first Valentine’s Day card for a male not related to me! And I would be getting a card, too. I agonized over a gift, and settled on a little heart-shaped box of chocolates. Everyone likes chocolate.

My orthodontist appointment was early in the day. I was looking forward to math class, because that would be the first time I would see Dave. (Hmm, Dave Boore may also be the reason I am so bad at math… mmmm, probably not.)

I walked up to him and gave him the card. “H—” I started.

He looked uncomfortable. “Oh, listen, I wanted to talk to you.”

This is probably not how this was supposed to go.

“I just think we shouldn’t go with each other any more.”

What? Who? Who the heck breaks up with someone on Valentine’s Day? Especially a girl who just got her braces off?

“Oh, well,” I stuttered. “Okay. Well, that’s a card. You can keep it.”

I probably gave the chocolates to N.

* Names have been changed to protect the innocent — and the guilty.

Best Intentions

I was going to throw up a post later this morning. It was going to be quick and short and random, mostly about how having to do laundry next door is putting a drag on my evening computer activities (blogging, plurking).

But now, Monkey is crying about how much her ear hurts, and she just threw up a lot of spit — not vomit — on my rug. So I’ll just throw this up now — no pun intended — to still be in compliance with Blog365. And then take her to the doctor.

Incidentally, took Bun to the ENT yesterday. She has fluid in her ears, but no infection. The doctor advised waiting at least three months, and rechecking her ears at that time. Barring infection of course.

More later.

Update: Indeed, Monkey has a raging ear infection in her left ear. No fever, no cold symptoms, and no more volumes of spit on the floor. I got the prescription filled and took her to daycare.

Today’s doctor suggested maybe removing her tonsils and/or adenoids may help with the infections. She said that the effectiveness of tubes is under review — Children’s wants to do another study. She asked if Monkey snores at night, and I said yes, she does. Monkey snores very loudly at night; she gives her daddy a run for his money in the sawing logs department. So it’s something else to look into.

The Internet, of course, has a variety of information and opinions, for and against. I’ll have to do more research, and probably see another specialist. And I wonder what impact this will have on Bun.

I just want the ear infections to end, and I get queasy when I consider all the antibiotics my girls get. I thought that Monkey would have outgrown them by now, but she hasn’t. The only year she missed having infections was from 2 to 3 years old.

Coincidentally, the same year that I was a SAHM. Bring on the mommy guilt!

I am very tired of doing this year after year. And even if Monkey were to outgrow them this year, I would still have another two years to go with Bun. What to do?

Some days, being a mommy is harder than others.

Meatless Monday: A New Recipe (Finally!)

I have served this dish twice, and it’s been extremely well-received both times. It is quick, it is easy, and it is delicious.

I will add: Monkey doesn’t like it — too many different foods. However, Bun liked it.

Adapted from Vegetarian Times:

1 15-oz. container ricotta cheese
1 8-oz. bag (2 cups) shredded 6-cheese Italian blend, divided
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 6-oz. bag baby spinach
2 1-lb. pkgs. gnocchi
1 16-oz. jar garden-style tomato sauce, warmed*

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine ricotta, 3/4 cup shredded cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, and red pepper flakes in large bowl. Sprinkle spinach over cheese mixture.**

2. Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Spoon cooked gnocchi over spinach and cheese with slotted spoon. Cover bowl, and let stand 2 minutes, or until spinach is wilted. Stir to combine spinach, ricotta mixture, and hot gnocchi.

3. Meanwhile, spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce in bottom of 11- x 7-inch glass baking dish. Spoon half of gnocchi-cheese mixture over tomato sauce. Top with 3/4 cup tomato sauce and 3/4 cup shredded cheese. Spread remaining gnocchi over tomato sauce. Top with remaining 3/4 cup tomato sauce, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake 15 minutes, or until heated through.

*The second time, I used homemade marinara, and I think it turned out better than when I used a jarred sauce. If I’m not tooting my own horn, there.

** The second time, I also steamed the spinach before-hand for a couple of minutes in the microwave, and it was easier to mix.