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Friday, February 23, 2007

Spending Money to Save Money

Do you ever find yourself doing that? Like the time I had a leftover (stale) loaf of artisan bread that I paid $2 for in the first place, so in order to avoid letting it go to waste I spent $5 on cream and eggs to make the most delicious bread pudding ever?

In this case, Number One Son got stains on a couple of his favorite $5 t-shirts when they were still quite new. I had read about freezer paper stencils on Angry Chicken (thanks Adriana!), so I was eager to try that method and salvage the t-shirts from the Goodwill pile. Of course, I didn't have any fabric paint on hand, so I had to go out and buy some. And of course, there wasn't a single color that would "go" with both t-shirts, so I had to buy two containers of paint at $5/pop. Plus freezer paper. BUT, I figure I can use the paint on other projects, right? And the freezer paper (which was really cheap per use), too?




To make my stencils, I found images on the Internet and printed them out in the size I wanted for the t-shirts. Then I used transfer paper and a ballpoint pen to get the outline onto the matte side of the freezer paper. Then I cut out the design with an exacto knife, and ironed it onto the shirt. I also put an uncut piece of freezer paper on the other side of the area to be painted, to keep it from bleeding through. Then I put on a couple of coats of the paint, letting it dry in between, and carefully peeled off the freezer paper. Then (and this is very important) I heat-set the designs with a hot iron. Do not skimp on this part--one of the designs wasn't as set as it could have been, so it left a ghost image on the back of the t-shirt the first time it was laundered.

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Yummy Baby

The other day as I was cooking, I put Number Two in his high chair and gave him a bowl of leftover brown rice to keep him occupied and assuage his hunger. Apparently he decided it would be better to wear it than to eat it.

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Flavorama

Okay, so I ran out of homemade chicken stock several days ago, and I needed to make a batch to restock the freezer. There aren't very many ingredients, and it's very easy--I don't know why anyone would ever buy canned chicken broth. So, here's how I did it this time (it turned out perfectly!):
3 carcasses (no meat, skin or limbs) from 3 supermarket roast chickens
mirepoix of chopped carrots (3 lg), onion (3 med) and celery (middle of one bunch)
herbs and spices (bay leaves, fresh thyme, whole black peppercorns)
Secret Ingredient (optional)

Heat a very small amount of vegetable oil (a teaspoon or two) in a large pot (I use an 8-qt "everything pot" I got at Williams-Sonoma a million years ago for making a stock from 3 carcasses; I've used my 16-qt stockpot for five or six carcasses). Brown carcasses on all sides, adjusting temperature so fond (that brown stuff building up on the bottom of the pan) doesn't burn. When carcasses are browned, set them aside.

Add chopped onions to pan, and saute until they are starting to wilt, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove fond (the moisture from the onions should ease this process along nicely). Add carrots and celery and continue to cook until they are softening and the fond is once again building up on the bottom of the pan.

Add the herbs and spices to the sweated veggies and cook, stirring, until they start to smell good.

Then add the Secret Ingredient, and scrape up all the brown bits of fond that have collected on the bottom.

Put carcasses back in the pot, barely cover with water, and bring to a very slow simmer. It's very important to keep it at a very low simmer, because if it boils hard the bones will start to break down and the stock will be cloudy and taste not as good. Simmer for several hours, then remove from heat and let cool until just warm.

When the stock has cooled enough that you won't get a terrible burn if it sloshes on you, strain out all solids and put in the refrigerator for a day or two (I put it in a 1-gallon Rubbermaid pitcher, for ease in later grease removal and in pouring the stock into individual freezing containers).

After a day or two, remove the congealed yellow chicken fat from the top of the chilled stock with a slotted spoon. Then divide and freeze (I reuse old sour cream containers, and fill them up half-full, for individual frozen portions of 1 C stock--this is flavorful and quite concentrated, so for recipe purposes that 1 C will make 1 qt of broth).

Et voilà! Risotto away, dear readers.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Argh.

In the latest issue of Time Magazine (February 26, 2007), an article about people overnighting on New Hampshire's Mt. Washington talks about them as being "hearty," when it should be "hardy." (I've seen this error elsewhere in the past several months, though of course I can't remember now where.) Can people (as opposed to slaps on the back, or cheers, or toasts, etc.) even be hearty?

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Childbirth Nazis?

So, the Oregonian recently had an article about how Oregon has rates of natural childbirth that are double the national average (about 20% attended by midwives, vs. about 10% nationally, and about 2% in birthing centers vs. about 1% nationally), and that many women here feel judged for their childbirth choices if they are not able to live up to the ideal of a completely natural birth. It probably won't surprise you that I had a pretty strong reaction to this article.

First, I don't think it's very good journalism. Like the "opt out" series of articles from a couple of years ago (about Ivy-League-educated mothers who chose to stay at home with their children), it seems overly colored by the author's own experience. Just as the "opt out" group of women were overwhelmingly white and wealthy, and a tiny minority of all mothers, the women who have angst over their birthing choices are also overwhelmingly white and educated, and urban. The article mentions the national rates of delivery by Caesarian section (up to almost 30% of all deliveries, with almost a 50% increase in the last 10 years), but doesn't reveal the rates in Oregon. Even if it is significantly lower than the national rate, I feel fairly certain that it is still greater than the rate of natural childbirth. The vast majority of birthing women are perfectly happy to go along with whatever their doctor suggests, and generally don't have misgivings about those choices unless something goes wrong.

The author also doesn't look at the underlying statistics. She mentions the increasing national rate of Caesarian sections, but doesn't compare it to the rate in Oregon or in other developed countries (Canada's rates of Caesarian sections and infant mortality are both lower than in the US), nor does she look into the possible reasons for the increase (higher malpractice insurance rates, larger numbers of multiples, women seeking to avoid pain and exercise greater control over the process, I think all play a role), or whether it is a good or bad thing. There are also statistics (somewhere . . . ) about the effects of various childbirth interventions (epidural or other anesthesia, episiotomy, hormonal induction or augmentation of labor, etc.) on fetal and maternal outcomes, but she doesn't mention these at all. It seems she's so concerned about women passing judgment on each other that she's unwilling to entertain the possibility that they might be right.

So, here is where I tell you about my own experience on the matter. Both my boys were born in a hospital, attended by a midwife, and both arrived vaginally, full-term, and healthy. That's about the extent of the similarities. Number One was conceived in the course of regular marital relations, but when it came time to be born, he stubbornly had his face turned to the side (the baby's head has to be turned the right way in the mother's pelvis to be able to come out). So, progress was slow, and, desperate, exhausted and nauseated, I opted for epidural anesthesia. It offered relief from the pain, but lessened the strength and effectiveness of my contractions. So right away, one intervention led to another, as I was put on a Pitocin drip. Progress continued, albeit slowly, and my midwife eventually decided she should break my bag of waters to help things move along (yet another intervention). Of course, his head was still turned sideways, so he couldn't come out in any case. I pushed and pushed and pushed, to very little effect (other than to wear me out), until after 2.5 hours I threw up, he turned, and emerged with his arm wrapped around his neck (as if to give himself a pat on the back).



Good final outcome, but I felt like I had been not so much in control of the process. I resolved right away that for my next child, I would a) get a doula (I thought that with the right kind of support, I could have gone without the epidural, and the resultant other interventions), b) let myself throw up instead of fighting it so hard (since so much progress happened when I did). I later learned about Hypnobirthing®, and resolved to use its techniques in my next labor experience.

So, Number Two was a lot harder to come by. After trying lots of different, lesser interventions, we ended up conceiving him through in vitro fertilization. As his due date approached, I practiced with the Hypnobirthing materials I had borrowed from my sister-in-law. One evening a week before my due date, my water broke as we were moving Number One towards bed. I called my midwife, and she told me to call her back if I decided to go to the hospital. Water broke at 8, contractions started at 10, went to the hospital at 11:30. Called my sister-in-law (veteran of 4 natural childbirths, at the last two of which I served as labor support) to come to the hospital to support me in labor. Walked the halls for a while, sat on a birthing ball with my upper body resting on the bed, listening to the Hypnobirthing relaxation CD for a while (actually falling asleep between contractions once or twice), sat in the Jacuzzi tub for a while, as my contractions grew more intense. At about 4:30, my body started doing a weird pushing thing, completely out of my control. At my sil's suggestion, my midwife came into the bathroom, saw what was happening, and said, "Time to get out!" I got out, made my way to the bed, and Number Two was born at 4:47 after just a few minutes of pushing.



The birth experience with Number Two was better than with Number One, and not just because it was shorter. I felt calmer and more in control of the whole process, and fewer interventions meant a shorter recovery (as well as a more alert baby, who latched on right away, yada yada yada).

So, my own personal experience tells me that natural childbirth is better than childbirth with even relatively few medical interventions. I believe the statistics for maternal and fetal outcomes are also better. Given this, what can I do to encourage women to make this choice without coming across as being judgmental? What can I do to help them have confidence in their ability to do it on their own? How can I convince them that they shouldn't be afraid of the pain (which, after all, can't kill them) or of not being in (conscious) control of what is happening with their bodies? Am I limited to saying, "Try it, you'll like it"?

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day Part Deux

Look what was waiting for me upstairs when I came up to watch Beauty and the Geek after putting Number Two to bed:


My husband REALLY rocks!

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Happy Valentine's Day!

I wanted Valentine's cookies, but didn't feel like rolling and cutting sugar cookies. So, pink heart spritz were in order. I recommend baking until starting to brown around the edges for better flavor and crispier/sandier texture.



And look what was waiting for me when I came downstairs today:


My husband rocks!

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Great New Year's Day recipe

As you might have already guessed, I love the idea of themed and holiday food, so I was thrilled when my experiment this year with a black-eyed peas recipe turned out to be something I could feed my family for more than just New Year's Day. Assuming I'm still blogging come the end of the year, I'll try to repost this for your own New Year's 2008 celebrations.

The original idea was Hoppin' John, but I've never seen or eaten what I take to be traditional recipes, so I think it wouldn't be fair to call it that. Let's just call it
Hoppin' JaneAnne

1/2 lb good bacon
1 T olive oil

Cut the bacon crosswise into 3/8-inch pieces. Saute over medium heat until the fat is rendered and it's starting to crisp. Pour through a strainer over a Pyrex measuring cup and set aside.

1 med onion, chopped (I used the Cuisinart)
2 C loosely packed, coarsely chopped (1-in pieces at smallest) greens (I used 5 leaves, with stems, of rainbow chard, but just about anything would work)
salt and pepper

Add 1 T or so of reserved bacon grease back into pan (I used a 12-inch nonstick frying pan, but I think I would have used a risotto pan if I had one). When it is hot, add the onion. When it is just becoming translucent (longer if you are using a more delicate green), add greens and a little salt and pepper. Saute until greens are wilted and tender, then set aside (I pulled out the stems so I could cook them with the other ingredients since they were still crunchy).

1-1 1/2 C arborio rice
salt and pepper
1/2 C white wine
4-6 C chicken broth, preferably unsalted
2 C butternut squash, cut into 3/4-in cubes (about 1/2 of a medium-large squash)
1 can plain black-eyed peas, drained

Add a little bacon grease to the pan, then add the rice and a little more salt and pepper. Saute until the rice is starting to toast and become translucent, then add the wine. After the wine has been absorbed, add the reserved bacon, the squash, (reserved chard stems) and broth to cover (about a quart in my pan--lots more than I would normally add at a time when cooking a risotto, but I needed to cover the squash so it would cook at the same pace as the rice). Adjust heat so mixture cooks at a gentle simmer (so more of the liquid is absorbed than boils away), stirring occasionally and adding broth as necessary until rice and squash are tender.

Stir in reserved greens and onion mixture and black eyed peas, adjust seasonings and serve.

One thing I had planned to include in this recipe was a little chopped celery, which I would have sauteed with the onions and greens at the beginning. It was great without it, however. Kind of like a risotto (which Number One loves), but without the cheese (Number Two is allergic to cow's milk). Sorry there aren't any pictures!

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Monday, February 12, 2007

They just don't make them like they used to.

I waited too long to try this outfit on Number Two Son, because the pants just looked too big around. They were, but now that they fit around the waist, they're way too short. The tag says "19-26 lbs", and Number Two is now 26 lbs, but I guess the patternmaker was assuming a shorter, squatter baby. So for this picture (right after his bath, with freshly-toweled hair) is the only time Number Two will wear this outfit, which originally belonged to my brother circa Christmas 1969.

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Another Recent Simple Dinner

We try to have fish at least a few times a month, depending on what's nice and fresh at the fish market. My favorite is salmon (of course), but we also like halibut. The halibut I've made both wrapped in pancetta and crusted in hazelnuts--guess which one Number One Son likes better?

On a recent trip to the fish market (Newman's, at City Market), they had only frozen salmon and halibut (yuk), but they did have nice fresh local (Oregon Coast) filets of petrale sole. Generally speaking, one white fish is pretty much interchangeable with another, so I figured I could adapt the pancetta-wrapped halibut recipe to use the sole.

And then they (Viande Meats at City Market) were out of the pancetta! So I got a few thin slices of house-smoked applewood bacon, and figured I'd punt.

At home, I sprinkled the filets with some fresh thyme leaves (everyone should grow this!), and I think a little salt and pepper (my memory is somewhat foggy--with the salty bacon I might have skipped the salt), then rolled them up and wrapped the bacon around them, and sprinkled the last few thyme leaves on top.



Then I roasted them on a pre-heated pan at 450 for 10-15 minutes (again, memory is somewhat foggy--bacon should be crisp-ish and fish opaque and flaky), and served with brown rice and steamed broccoli. Another hit with the kids AND the parents!

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Easy Sunday Mid-Day Dinner

Since the beginning of the year, we have been assigned the absolutely ungodly church time of 3-6 pm. Since school-night bedtime is 7:30 pm, we decided that we should have Sunday dinner at 1 pm, and a lighter meal before bedtime. So fancy Sunday dinners requiring all-day preparation are out for the year. This week we had a very typical dinner for us--simple, one cooking pot, liked by both children: pearl couscous. We've had this in many variations, but lately I've been fixing it with sage-flavored sausage from Northwest Heritage Pork, and a mix of vegetables including butternut squash. Here's the master recipe, and pictures of how I made it this time:

meat (for our small family of four, usually 2 sausage links, two pork chops or two chicken breasts)
1 T olive oil
1 med to lg onion sliced thinly (I use a cheap mandoline)
1/3 lb pearl couscous
vegetables, appropriately cut (this week was half a large butternut squash, in 3/4-in cubes, a large carrot, cut in half and then sliced on a bias, a zucchini, cut in half and then into 3/8-in slices, and 1 cup of frozen petite peas)
2.5-3 C water or stock (the sausage is very flavorful so water is fine)
salt and pepper


Heat oil in large saute pan over medium-high heat until just starting to smoke, then brown meat. Don't stir it right away--the idea is to develop some fond (brown) in the pan for flavor.



After meat is brown, add onions (and carrots, if using) to pan, along with a little salt and pepper (if I'm using pork chops or chicken breasts, I remove them before adding the vegetables and add them back in at the simmer stage). Stir just long enough to separate onion into rings, then add pearl couscous. Saute a little more, trying to get the maximum amount of fond in the bottom of the pan (without burning it).



Then add a quarter-inch or so of water or stock to the pan, and scrape up the brown (I think a square-ended wooden spoon is ideal for this task). Add water to just cover (and butternut squash, if using), and a little more salt and pepper, and stir (then put the meat you removed, if you did, back in on top). Cover pan, raise heat, then lower after it reaches a boil to maintain a steady, fast simmer.



Stir occasionally, and add other vegetables at appropriate times (zucchini a minute or two before removing from the heat; frozen peas as you take it off the heat), and additional water or stock if necessary. If you do everything right, the squash should be done, the couscous should be done, and most of the water should be absorbed. Adjust seasonings and serve.

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Thursday, February 8, 2007

My First Meme: Books

From MWR:

Hardback or trade paperback or mass-market paperback? New-looking used hardcover (hooray for Powell's) or trade paper.
Amazon or brick and mortar? Both. Amazon for things I'm having shipped elsewhere, or for the latest Harry Potter (I'd much rather pick it up from my doorstep at 8 am on the day of release than wait in line at midnight--but then I'm lazy that way). Powell's, with gift receipt, for things I'm giving in person (I give lots of books as gifts), or for my latest book group book.
Barnes & Noble or Borders? Usually neither, unless I'm traveling.
Bookmark or dog-ear? Bookmark.
Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random? This is assuming that my library is organized. It's pretty random right now, with a lot of the books in boxes in the closet until the attic bookshelves become liberated from toys. The shelves above my bed are my "to-be-read" space.
Keep, throw away, or sell? Keep, loan out, give away, sell to Powell's, donate to the library (hooray tax deduction--great for the books Powell's doesn't want), depending.
Keep dustjacket or toss it? Keep.
Read with dustjacket or remove it? Leave it and use it as a bookmark if another is not handy. Mavis leaves the dust jacket at home if he's carrying the book with him on his commute, so it doesn't get battered/torn.
Short story or novel? Novel, definitely. I very rarely read short stories, because they almost invariably leave me wanting more.
Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)? I don't really like short stories all that much, but if I find someone I do like (like Katherine Anne Porter), I want to read them all.
Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket? I've read all Harry Potters multiple times. I keep thinking I need to read the Lemony Snickets (Number One's about the right age to start), but haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe when I buy them for Number One. I also knew the illustrator of the series, Brett Helquist, when I lived in New York. I don't think there is such a thing as outgrowing a good book.
Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks? Stop reading? People do this?
"It was a dark and stormy night" or "Once upon a time"? I generally don't judge the quality of a book by its first sentence.
Buy or Borrow? Yes.
New or used? Yes (Powell's is great for new-looking used copies at a fraction of the cost of new, especially right after Christmas when people have had to sell back gift books for which they did not have a receipt).
Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse? Almost never browse. Reviews and awards, recommendations if they are from someone whose taste I trust.
Tidy ending or cliffhanger? Yes.
Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading? Yes. But usually at night after the kids are in bed.
Standalone or series? Yes.
Favorite book of which nobody else has heard? Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund. Not completely unknown, I must admit.
Favorite book(s) read last year: Daughter's Keeper by Ayelet Waldman.
Favorite books of all time? Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Middlemarch by George Eliot, anything by Jane Austen, The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. Lots more that don't come to mind at the moment.
Tag? The Scaries.

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As long as I'm being crabby . . .

I may as well note that I'm a bit dissatisfied with the new range I bought several months ago. Because I wasn't remodeling my entire kitchen, I was limited in my range of choices to something that would fit in the existing space and had a downdraft vent. I had also decided not to upgrade to gas until I do the down-to-the-studs remodel I have penciled in for when Number Two starts school. So, it had to be a Jenn-Air slide-in range, and it had to be electric. Then I had two options: one with removable burner cartridges, or one with a seamless Ceran top. All other Jenn-Air cooktops I had previously used, including the one I was getting rid of and the one I grew up with, had the removable burner cartridges, and I knew they would eventually have trouble with spotty connections that would lead to the burners occasionally losing power at inopportune moments. So, I opted for the seamless Ceran top.

Unfortunately, they didn't tell me that the burners aren't just on or off, with the level of "on" determined by how much juice they send through the coils, and a "high" setting resulting in the burner glowing a steady red. No, the burners on this fancy new, supposedly better range cycle between all the way on (red hot) and all the way off, controlling the level of heat much the same way a microwave oven does, by varying the length and period of the "on" cycle. Unlike a microwave, however, which at 100% power is always on, this stove still cycles even on "high." I'm guessing it must be because the Ceran cannot tolerate sustained high temperatures, but as a practical matter it means that water takes longer to boil, and that anything I'm trying to heat takes a three steps forward, one step back path up to the desired temperature.

I think I'm going to write a letter to the company, telling them that this is something I really would have liked to know before buying. Sheesh.

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Copy Editor to the World

Why don't these people call me first?

Seriously, I know I'm not the only one who is bothered by an apparent decline in literacy among the editors of the nation's periodicals. Hardly a day goes by that I don't read something that sets my teeth on edge. I generally like the Oregonian, but it's a frequent offender. National magazines err less often, but sometimes more egregiously. A couple of weeks ago, in an article called "The Democrats' New Western Stars," Time Magazine referred repeatedly to the "inner Mountain West." Urk. A simple Google search would have instantly revealed (250 vs. 408,000) that the preferred term is "Intermountain West." Way to go in gaining red-state credibility!

Even The New Yorker, which regularly gets even the really hard things right, slipped recently. In a Profile of Jalal Talabani, it mentioned him paying a visit to Mme Mitterrand in her home in "Sainte-Germaine." Um, maybe someone who's spent more time in Paris than I have will correct me, but I'm pretty sure that should be "Saint-Germain," the famous neighborhood in the 6th arrondissement/Rive Gauche.

Sigh.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Bane or Boon?

So Number One and I had a big argument the other day, when we got home after I picked him up from his after-school indoor soccer class. The issue was that he wanted to play basketball, and I wanted to use the brief window of available time before I had to make dinner to help him with his homework (yes, he has homework; yes, he needs help with some of it; yes, it needs to be worked on every day so he doesn't fall behind). So he was doing the things that usually make me feel like I want to, you know, strangle him or sell him on eBay (ignoring me, turning his back on me, refusing to answer my questions, no matter how simple, continuing to shoot his basketball), and at one point he said, "You don't do anything for me." You can imagine my reaction. Hello, HE'S SIX! Sure, he can get himself an after-school snack, can work some of the controls on the DVR, and can (finally!) tie his own shoes, but seriously? I think he realized the sheer ridiculosity of his statement as soon as it had exited his mouth. At least I hope so. He ended up losing one day of TV (for wasting my time) and getting sent to his room, and we did manage to get some homework done right after dinner, and I somehow managed to avoid inflicting any permanent damage on his person or on the little green ball he uses when shooting hoop indoors.

Number Two, on the other hand, is delightful 99% of the time. He rarely gets upset, and when he does he'll throw a ten-second tantrum and be done. This morning as naptime was upon us, he came over to where I was sitting on the couch, looked like he wanted to be picked up, and when I did so just laid his head down on my shoulder. Sweet, sweet boy.

I think a huge part of the differences in my relationships with my two boys is the difference in their ages. I'm pretty sure when Number One was 18 months old, he was delightful at least 95% of the time (if not 99%). And when Number Two gets to be six, I'm also pretty sure that he'll give me grief as he tries to establish his individuality. But I think there's also a big difference in their innate personalities, which resemble their parents' as much as their looks do--only reversed. Number One looks much more like me, but has a personality much more like Mavis's. And Number Two looks amazingly like his father, but has a personality much more like mine. I don't get where Number One is coming from a lot of time, and this leads to situations that threaten to drive me batty. I am only very slightly comforted by my inlaws' repeated assertions that my husband was much, much worse (they are much nicer people than I am--if Number One were as bad as his father reportedly was, well, I shudder to think). Number Two reacts to situations in ways that I find much easier to understand.

So, I'll continue to muddle on through. Parenting can sure be a bitch sometimes.

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Monday, February 5, 2007

How can I top this next year?

Or even next week--it's time for a new table setting. A red theme for Valentine's Day? Early spring, with forsythia? Hmmm.

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Gratuitous kid pics

Snow Days

The day after Martin Luther King Day, we had a big (for us) snowstorm that deposited 3 inches of powder and resulted in two days of cancelled school. The first day we sledded down the street in front of our house; the second day we played in the back yard.

Our sledding hill (aka our street; taken from in front of our garage--Number One Son is visible in the light blue jacket at right):



Number One and me getting ready to make a run:



Number One heading down on his own:



And crashing (this snow required a sled with real runners):



Mavis at the bottom of the hill:



Mavis and the boys with Day One's aborted snowman-making attempt:



Number Two Son's first snow!





Day Two; the boys and me with our snow counterparts:



Day Three--the weather warms and the snow family starts to lean:



Before long, only the baby was left upright (and eyeless!):

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In Other Musical News . . .

I am singing with the Portland Mormon Choir in a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony next Saturday. It has been clear from the moment I first looked at the music that Beethoven was not himself a singer, nor friends with any, because this music is insane, especially for the sopranos. Pages and pages of high A, and probably 90% of the notes in the whole thing above a high F#. The only redeeming thing about it is that the choir only sings in the last movement, and there are sizeable breaks where the orchestra is playing alone or with the soloists. I expect and hope that the performance (sung only once) will be less wearing than this week's final rehearsals. But after Saturday I'll be due for a good long stretch of vocal rest.

It can't be too long, though, because I'm scheduled to sing two arias from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro as part of an opera presentation at the Portland Regional Music Workshop on February 24. I'm not really a mezzo-soprano, but I'll be singing the two arias of Cherubino: "Non so più cosa son" and "Voi che sapete." My first trouser role!

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Divarama

My sister sang in the Utah District Finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions last weekend, and was selected to advance to the Rocky Mountain Region finals on February 24.

She sang "Non, monsieur mon mari," from Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tiresias, and "Regnava nel silenzio" from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, one of those powerhouse coloratura jobbies. Way to go kiddo!

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Sunday, February 4, 2007

Mean Girls

So, a couple of months ago one of my friends was asked to substitute-teach in Relief Society. She was 8.5 months pregnant and bloated, so none of her clothes, even her maternity clothes, were fitting very well. But she tried her best to look nice, and she felt good about how her lesson went.

So, she was somewhat surprised to see in her mailbox, later that week, a letter from the Young Women's president. It was not a thank-you note. Instead, she called my friend on the carpet for her inappropriate dress on the day of her lesson, specifically the way her cleavage had been visible when she bent over, and the way the hem of her garment bottom was visible through the front slit of her skirt when she sat down without her knees firmly together. She excoriated my friend for setting a bad example for the Young Women in the ward.

When my friend related this story to me, I was livid (even called the YW pres, whom I have not met, a "self-righteous sanctimonious bitch"). Where do people like this get off? What made her think sending that letter was a good idea? What made her think that it would accomplish anything other than making my friend feel bad? My guess is she is so caught up in her rigid set of ideas about what is and what's not appropriate that she has completely lost her grasp on common sense.

So I know this kind of thing happens a lot with Mormons, particularly Mormon women. And while this woman's mailed letter was an extreme example, I'm sure those of you of Mormon-ish background can think of other, more passive-aggressive ways she might have accomplished the same end, even doing it in front of others for the added Rameumptom ("look how righteous I am") benefit. You all are clever--put them in the comments field. Here's one: "When my daughter was pregnant, she found these great little camisoles to wear under low-necked shirts. I'll ask her where she got them for you." Are other (conservative) religions equally prone to sanctimony?

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Saturday, February 3, 2007

Chewy Nutty Goodness

So, the pastry cream I made for the Burns trifle called for a dozen egg yolks. It seemed wasteful not to do something with the uncalled-for whites, and I remembered recently having had some delightfully different macaroons. So I looked through my books, and then in my freezer, and found that I had a recipe and just the right amount of blanched almonds for one batch of Chewy Almond Macaroons from The Dessert Bible.



I was using insulated cookie sheets, so I lengthened the prescribed cooking time, and found that the best cookies were those that were in the oven the longest: 30 minutes at 300 degrees. When the cookies were cool, I sandwiched them with a little ganache. This ganache (6 oz of chocolate and 2/3 C cream) was too soft at room temperature to really work (it gooshed out the sides when I bit into the cookie)--a later attempt (for a batch of hazelnut macaroons that didn't turn out nearly as well) with 3 oz chocolate and about 2 tablespoons of cream was just right.

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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Hallelujah!

Leonidas is FINALLY opening a store in the PRP. I hope David manages to put 2 and 2 together and get me some for Valentine's Day--if me chirping about the blurb in the paper today wasn't enough, he surely will if he reads this, now, won't he?

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Why?

Why, if you are an otherwise-normal-seeming, pregnant young mother, would you let your facial hair sprout apparently completely unmolested? Just to see how thick it will get? I'm not a big deforestation practitioner (I'm coming up on my 20-year anniversary of not shaving my legs), but I do believe in occasionally shaving my armpits, regularly grooming my eyebrows, and immediately uprooting the smallest hairs that dare sprout from the moles on my chin. The woman I saw at the library today was sporting a small tuft on each of her chins (clearly visible from six feet away) and they kind of looked like pubes. Ew.

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