Monday, October 31, 2005

Trick or Treat

Gretel and I had a day chock full of trick or treating. I'd never heard of going to a mall for trick or treating before, but my friend Gina and her son Joseph (he was born a day after Gretel) invited us to go. I couldn't believe how many costumed children were there, so apparently this wasn't such a new idea to many of the parents in our area. Stores had signs indicating whether they offered candy, stickers or nothing at all so that you didn't waste your time poking around Fredericks of Hollywood to no avail. I was surprised some maternity clothing stores didn't offer anything -- it seems to me that appealing to women who are about to have more children would work for them. But most of the stores were offering something and it was so sweet to take Gretel around. She loved looking around at all of the lights and interacting with all of the people and they just ate her up. She's is an adorable baby and was dressed as a flower, her chubby cheeks pushing out from the sides of the petaled bonnet she wore. It was a wonderful time.

We came home and after a nap for both of us we headed out into the neighborhood. We haven't met any of our neighbors beside the amazing people next door and I thought this would be a good way to do it. Who could resist Gretel in any state, let alone in her costume? Some of the people in the houses around us weren't home when we headed out at 4:30, but we had some great conversations with the folks that were. We even found a set of twins who are potential babysitters and their brother who offered his services mowing our lawn. She was exhausted by the time we came home but now she's fast asleep and I'm so glad we had the opportunities we had today.

We've been giving out candy by the handful to the children who come to our house in the hopes that it will be gone by the end of the night. We know that we'll just eat it up in some candy bonanza if we don't, but it's 9:30 now and who knows how many more trick or treaters will come by? If we've got some left, though, we'll probably just consider it needed sustenance after this demanding day.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Adventures of a Pockmarked Pumpkin

I always enjoy Cockeyed.com, especially their How Much Is Inside? feature. Here's one that is timely for this time of year -- How Much Is Inside A Pumpkin? It's the story of the ultimate jack o'lantern, the search for astonishing quantities of pie filling, and the demise and new life of a a flawed but impressive pumpkin. The results surprised me and the story is hilarious. I think the photos may be the best part. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Thrills and Chills

When I was young I would stay up late into the night reading by whatever light was available (lamp, flashlight, even by the dim glow of my Snugglebum). I could never get enough reading done and then, as now, I would read until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. Mind you, with Gretel on my hands this happens a bit earlier these days, but that is neither here nor there. Back in the day some of my favorite books were ghost stories. I lie there absolutely terrified but I couldn't stop reading -- and once that story was done I couldn't resist jumping into another one.

Today I felt that same kind of thrilling push, and this time it was due to adventure taking me over in real time. Yes, it was another day of practice driving excitement for me. I know this is old hat to you long time drivers but driving is a horrifying experience for a reluctant first timer. Yes, I've had some professional lessons and Joe is very sweet and patient and a great teacher himself, but the roads near our house require speeds from 15 mph (a perfectly reasonable pace for anyone, I say) to 50 mph. Beyond the rate of travel, my terror is threefold:
  • Curve after curve after curve. Do you remember what it's like trying to learn how to curve to the right? I always feel like I'm going to careen into oncoming traffic. And I swear to god, there are twice as many right curves than there are left no matter which direction I'm heading in.
  • Crazy drivers who are very familiar with the route. They do not hesitate to let me know that following me is no picnic. Sometimes (good grief) they even pass me. Freaks me right out.
  • On top of all this, we're driving up and down large hills/small mountains. Help me rhonda, the variations in my speed, but alas I have a terrible tendency to gaze lovingly at my spedometer. And also a tendency to veer while doing so. Joe has forbidden me to check my speed on a curve and discourages it on hillsides, such is my tendency to leave my lane altogether while examining just how quickly I'm accelerating as the car barrels down a slope.
Did I mention Gretel is hanging out in the backseat during these fun filled endeavors? She falls asleep no matter what the state of her parents in the front or the quality of the driving. Talk about adding chills to the whole experience. I tell you this, I have no more need of ghost stories in the dark -- these practice sessions provide as much thrilling, chilling excitement as I can handle. T-20 days until my test. Keep your fingers crossed and please be patient with the terrible driver in front of you the next time you're out driving. She may be doing the (terrible) best she knows how -- she might be me.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Photo Friday: Delicate

The theme of this Photo Friday is Delicate. These figurines were my grandmother's. At her house, they were kept on a curio shelf out of reach of grabby little grandchildren. We admired them at every visit, and when she died they eventually came to me. They are very old, very delicate, and very precious to me. Taken on my Fujifilm FinePix A330, focal length 5.7 mm, exposure time 1/25, aperture f/2.8. Hope you like it! Click the image for a larger view.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Can't Hold Back The Current

Gretel stays home with me every day, and every day I am dedicated to her safety, happiness, and development -- in that order. We have my mother/baby group come over every Thursday, we go out shopping every once in a while, but for the most part it is the two of us here on our own day in and day out. There is so much I can control about her environment that sometimes it becomes too easy to believe that I'm completely in control. Well, today certainly threw that idea out the window.

I made an appointment yesterday for Gretel to get her flu shot near the middle of November. I made sure Joe and I had appointments set up so that we could protect her from developing the illness this winter. I think I'm particularly careful about this because my nephew has had such difficulties with his lungs just about from birth ten months ago. It's an extreme situation with him, where he has stopped breathing altogether in my brother's arms. Luckily they were in a hospital at the time and he's been doing much better in the past few months. Anyway -- any kind of lung related illness causes me concern, and I felt confident I was doing the right thing when "arrange flu shots" was checked off my list yesterday.

Parenting being the wild ride that it is, naturally Gretel woke up with raspy, hoarse voice, a cranky attitude, and various other symptoms that caused me worry. I took her to the doctor and she's got... yep, para-influenza (with bonus laryngitis!). I cannot see how this is possible, as we do a lot of hand washing, she hardly goes anywhere, no one in her playgroup has had it... and I feel helpless that I couldn't keep this from her. She's miserable. And I'm a little miserable too, realizing that the current of life and the things that can go wrong is just too strong for me to keep tough times like this away from her. And heaven help me, but she's just a baby -- there's only so much she can get into. How do parents of older children ever cope?

Edited to add: Are you reading Mir's blog? The first sentences of her most recent post seemed so perfect.

There are certain changes that happen to a woman when she becomes a mother. If she gives birth, her body changes; it will likely never be the same again, whether from stretch marks or breast changes or surgical traces. Whether the child comes from her body or not, the mother is transformed. She now has eyes in the back of her head. She has bionic hearing. She has an innate lie detector and an Achilles heel.

And of course, every mother has the highly developed ability to become a martyr at a moment's notice.

She's a fantastic writer who manages to capture the nuances and details of everyday life in a way that amazes me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Calling Craft Lovers

Maybe you're looking to buy beautiful and unique handmade items. Or maybe you're a crafty type who's not sure how to sell your stuff. Either way, Etsy is the site for you. The site design is simultaneously cool and helpful, allowing you to search by color, material, time listed, etc. There are very easily affordable things along with more expensive splurges. And they make it so easy for you to set up your own little shop and see if you can move your wares. I'm already thinking about what I could make for this site to sell but I keep getting distracted by the wonderful things they have to purchase. I think that any profits I might make would be quickly plowed back into other crafts on the site. It's incredible to look at the different things that people make that can all be grouped under the umbrella of craft. Honestly, a person could spend hours browsing through this site -- every time I think I'm going to post this, I get lured back!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What Would You Pay For This Site?

I know most of the people who read this site have blogs of their own. If you're here from Michele's, this won't be news to you. But if you're coming from somewhere else, you may be interested in visiting this Business Opportunities site. They say they will tell you what your blog is worth. The results, needless to say, are a hoot:


My blog is worth $3,951.78.

How much is your blog worth?


I find these results a little hard to believe, but who am I to judge? Michele's site is worth 100 times mine -- and this I don't find so hard to believe. Have some fun putting in your URL and see what value this fine application deems that you have.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Planning to Plan

Joe and I are in the midst of some extensive estate planning. Luckily, we've got a great lawyer who's helping us consider all aspects of handling our affairs in the event of our death. Our affairs -- it sounds like we're brokering peace with Uzbekistan rather than paying the light bill. Naturally, this involves tons of paperwork and tallying up of what we have and where it will go. And right now we're not completely sure exactly what we want in some areas, so we have to plan a time to plan it all out. It is exhausting though necessary and it will ultimately help those who survive us to assemble all of the pieces of the things for which we're responsible and the things to which they are entitled to. But I am about to fall over from the tiredness of pulling all of our information together. Off to bed now.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Driver In Progress

As you may have read before, I've never had a driver's license. At thirty years old, this puts me in the minority in this country -- and living in the suburbs it also puts me at quite a disadvantage. I've always been independent and determined, but until recently we lived in an urban setting so it was no big deal that I didn't know how to drive. Not so much anymore.

I tried learning how to drive a car when I was twenty. Things were going okay until I made a right turn that was first too shallow (and therefore sending me like a missile toward the line of cars waiting at the light) and then too sharp, sending me, the car, and my teacher right into a tremendous tree. There were minor injuries and the car was nearly totaled, but the greatest damage may have been to my nerves and my confidence. I haven't really attempted to get behind the wheel again in the intervening ten years.

Today, however, I went out with Joe and Gretel to practice with my new permit. I've taken lessons with a professional and now need to get some time behind the wheel on my own time before my test on November 18. If I can nail the parallel parking, I think I'll be fine -- today I managed to make turns without too much hesitation, drove through my first drive through, and even exceeded 50 mph on some stretches of road. Unfortunately, I still spend too long looking down at the spedometer, causing the car to cross the yellow line. Oh, and I also have a tendency to turn the wheel in whatever direction I'm looking, giving Joe several little heart attacks today. Other than that, I am on track and surely I will be able to exit 2005 with a license in hand, right? It would be a huge accomplishment. Lord help the other drivers out there, though -- Joe found this sign for me to put on the bumper of our car and I am not ashamed to use it.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

New Sweater and a Hat

A little while ago I wrote about starting a sweater for Gretel. Let's no one look at the date on that post, okay? I've been working on it sporadically, I'll admit, but somehow the sweater that is supposed to take three hours to complete has taken me three weeks. I can't believe it's taken me this long, but I am busier than I thought I guess. Or procrastinating and lazy -- it's hard to tell.

I had yarn left over and since I originally wanted a hooded sweater I decided to make a little hat for her too. This was pretty simple, just a rectangle with a seam and then I added the contrasting strip and string to tie it. The back comes back over the neck of the sweater, so it functions as a hooded sweater really, but gives more versatility to the sweater itself. Joe thought of putting the little balls at the end of the ties -- I think it's adorable.

So they might have taken me a while to complete, but I'm happy with how they turned out. And they really didn't need to take quite so long. Gretel loves playing with them and I'm already looking forward to dressing them in them for our next cold outing.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Photo Friday: Retro

The theme of this Photo Friday is Retro. Here's a picture taken at the Wayside Inn in May 2002. We absolutely love walking around the grounds, located in Sudbury, MA. The Grist Mill was built in 1929 and still produces the flour used to prepare the delicious rolls served in the main dining room at the Inn (the inn itself was originally built in 1716). This is another one taken on our old camera, so none of my usual information on the picture is available. Hope you like it! Click the image for a larger view.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

LGF Needs

I'm not usually a fan of the meme, but tonight I'm feeling lazy and this one cracked me up. Without further ado, the Need Meme (seen at SBFH), from Googling "LGF needs"...

LGF needs to get on FOX's payroll. (this can only help things)
LGF needs to get back to basics. (possibly true, but with a seven month old I think I'm pretty much at the basics)
LGF needs this, Tremors already has a following, its just Universal is jack'n it around. (this seems serious, though I'm not sure exactly why)
LGF needs to be translated to all languages so that the world knows just how dangerous and fascist these neo-cons are. (true, though I'm not sure how helpful a Portuguese M&H would be)
LGF needs to give us a padlock (indeed)
LGF needs some help over there at the 2004 Weblog Awards for Best Overall Blog, where we are currently in third place (clearly not this LGF, since her readership consists of ten people at the most)
LGF needs a chatroom. (lord help me if I find one more thing to occupy my day)
LGF needs to get off the danger drum for a while? (again, sounds serious but what can I do about it?)
LGF needs to let people know. (if people had any idea...)
LGF NEEDS to publish inflammatory pics (this is unlikely to happen, unless it's a picture of too-spicy enchiladas or something)

See what I mean? Pretty funny stuff there. At least I hope so -- that's all I've got for tonight :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month, where the people at NaNoWriMo set the incredible goal of writing a 175 page (500,000 word) novel beginning November 1, ending November 30. Last year, 42,000 people participated and nearly 6,000 reached the goal. The idea of writing at this pace is breathtaking and inspiring, and this year I am going to do it (I actually wrote "try to do it" and then the words of Yoda floated through my head and so enough of that -- I'm just going to do it). I am excited and nervous about this challenge and am thinking about how to approach my topic, whether I'll post sections here in place of blog entries, etc. Either way, I'll post about my progress here. Please send any good luck thoughts you can spare!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Vanilla Cake With Apples

To continue the fall theme from yesterday, here's a recipe that Joe and I love this time of year. It's so quick and easy to make but it's just perfect when you want a healthy recipe to capture some of the goodness of the season (okay, it's cake -- there are 200 calories per serving, but that's not so bad for a cake this delicious). I use this recipe from Allrecipes.com, one of my favorite recipe sites. It's great because you can search for something to make based on what you have, browse by the type of thing you'd like to make and best of all, read reviews from people who've actually made the recipes.

Anyway, the recipe for the white cake is very simple: cream together 1 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup butter. Beat in 2 eggs and stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Mix 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder. Finally, stir in 1/2 cup milk. Pour this into a greased and floured 9x9 pan and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until the center springs back when you touch it. For the topping I use the applesauce that I wrote about here, but you could put chocolate sauce, honey, frosting, just about anything on top and it would be wonderful. I like it warm, Joe likes it cold, either way you try it I think you'll find it's just right.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Autumn

As it is for so many people, fall is my favorite season. In the northeast, autumn has been literally dampened this year by all of the rain we've had, but this weekend was just about perfect. We were finally able to experience the beautifully cool temperatures, the vivid colors of the leaves, the palpable change in the air that comes as the seasons shift. Joe took this picture of leaves flying off one of the trees in our backyard on Saturday -- I love it because it captures both the beauty and the elusiveness of these incredible days.

Fall is a time for baked apples and pumpkin pie, fallen leaves crunching underfoot and burning leaves scenting the air. It's a time for turning lamps on early as the darkness surrounds your house, making your home feel like a solitary point of coziness and warmth in the world. I'd been missing that so far this fall, as the rain became my the focal point. Now I can feel myself experiencing fall the way it should be -- wrapped around me, with all five senses, feeling the sun on my face even while bundling up for the winter to come.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

My Sweet Pea

Just a brief post tonight as my sister in law is in town. This is the first time she's been able to come meet Gretel and it is amazing seeing the two of them together. This meeting is especially special, because there is so much that these two have in common and also because R. is Joe's only sibling. Gretel is absolutely R.'s clone -- while my daughter does look like her dad, I think she looks even more like her aunt. And the two of them get along so well. It amazes me and takes my breath away when I see family members respond to her the way that they do. It's just this absolute bond straight away and this complete devotion to a girl that they just met. The family members who've met her get on the floor, give her eskimo kisses, cuddle her up and it is one of the best things I think Gretel's got in her life -- people who just love her and show that love in such amazing ways. She is all smiles and loves all of the attention now, but as she grows older I know that it will be this incredible resource that she can draw from and depend on. I am so grateful that I've been able to bring my daughter into a world where she has so much of this wonderful love.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Photo Friday: Conspicuous

The theme of this Photo Friday is Conspicuous. Tabby is my nemesis, as I am very very allergic to cats and Joe's mother is very very much in love with this one. Taken on our old digital camera in December 2002, so no stats available for this one. I hope you like it! Click the image for a larger view.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Times They Are A-changin'

So remember last month when I wrote about the inevitability of Gretel getting hurt? We've accidentally knocked her ankles into bookcases or bumped her legs against a doorframe or hit heads when a swooping in for a kiss as she was moving her head. These things hardly warrant a mention, as they are so slight and she doesn't bat an eye when they happen.
Joe and I are feeling guilty tonight as Gretel fell off the bed for the first
time. I say first time because surely this is not her last fall. At the same
time, we are surely putting steps in place that should have really been
there earlier. In this case, one of us left the girl on the bed after changing
her diaper, turned around to put the diaper in the Diaper Genie, and
then came the thud. It was such a terrible sound. She's fine and was
back to giggling and playing very shortly afterward, her pediatrician's
office thinks there is no problem, and so all we're left with now is
that lingering feeling of guilt that she was scared/hurt because of
our foolishness.

As tough as this is, we're grateful that we learned this lesson without
any serious harm coming to her. It's still hard to believe she is as
mobile as she is, and she is changing so quickly. It's hard to predict
what she might be up to even in a week's time. Of course we'll be as
vigilant as we can be, be as sure as we can to only put her down on
surfaces that are safe, etc. We're just reeling that our little baby,
who would always stay where we'd put her, is now able to move
around this much.
The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Corn Pone

Joe is from the south and therefore has many food memories that I don't share. His childhood was filled with chicken and dumplings, grits, red eye gravy and sweet tea. Living in the north, it is very hard to find to find these foods prepared the same way they are in Georgia and South Carolina. I'm devoted and sweet and so I try to make them myself, rarely to the effect hoped for, but not without a certain amount of enthusiasm that Joe finds endearing. In fact, we can now laugh heartily at the grits that rolled out of the pan in ball form and bounced out of the bowl, or the biscuits that resembled nothing so much as brittle hockey pucks.

Lately he's been craving what his people called cornbread. I made a recipe for it with chili a couple months ago, and while it was good it was not what he had in mind. It was too thick, cooked in the oven, and a different consistency than what his mother has always made. Naturally, she has no recipe for what she makes -- she just does it by feel and by memory. And then last week he realized that what he has in mind might actually be closer to a cornpone or johnny cake. Armed with this new information, I found this recipe from Emeril for Corn Pone. It was closer to what he wanted. Tonight I added more milk to the recipe to make the consistency of the batter more like pancake batter -- and voila:
Joe got his cornbread and I got another dish on my menu of edible southern fare. No fires, no bouncing, no broken teeth -- it's a minor miracle that it only took three tries to get it this way.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Stacking and Sacking

Today Joe officially fell ill with the same type of cold that Gretel has. Fortunately, she appears to be on the upswing but in the meantime we are all thrown out of our usual schedules and patterns and pretty much sacking out and doing whatever feels comfortable. Which sounds like fun, and it truly would be if there wasn't the sneezing and aching and whatnot. I am completely shocked at how quickly my house becomes a trash house when we slip into this way of living, though. It's as if the junk and dirty dishes replicate as soon as my back is turned so that when I walk through rooms I am stunned at the chaos we've created. I'm not used to picking up every little thing as soon as it's put down, though apparently that's what's required. Couch cushions are askew, pistachio shells are under the chair, plates from lunch are still lined up on the kitchen counter, joined now by the ones from dinner. And when we're all feeling out of it, there are only pinpoints of shock at the mess that pierce the overall feeling of ambivalence.

Tonight I've been thinking a little bit about messes and how I deal with them. For now, I'm sticking just to the actual physical messes in my life. I grew up in a stacks and sacks family. Photos, bills, important papers, lists, newspaper ads, etc., were all tossed into a pile somewhere. And then another pile, when the first threatened to topple. And finally, when the stacker was fed up with the stacks, the whole mess was thrown into a grocery sack and "put away" somewhere. My mother occasionally goes through these sacks from years ago, finding letters from her grandmother, newspaper clippings from when we were children, immunization records from when I was an infant (all of these have turned up just in the past month). I fight the stacking and sacking tendency nearly every day. I file old bills and important papers, know exactly where to find the deed to our house and all three of our birth certificates. Photos are in albums and I have no problem tossing the things that I truly don't think that I will need in the future.

But the tendency dies hard, especially with miscellaneous items. One of those "Sisters are Great" mugs that my brother gave me, a stone egg I've had for years, a ceramic rabbit I bought at a craft fair when I was nine. I've got boxes of these kinds of things stored under the eaves, which is just another version of throwing everything you don't want to deal with into a grocery sack. A piece of advice I've heard is to take a picture of the items and then get rid of the items -- and maybe I will do that someday. For now, I'll call it a kind of homage in cardboard to the method women in my family have been using for decades.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Rough Patch

Today's been a pretty rough day, and that's not helped by the fact that it started before 5 a.m. This morning Gretel woke up very early and when I went to see her she just seemed off. She was upset and I brought her back to bed with me to nurse. Right away I was sure there was something wrong with her and she was having such trouble breathing. So much trouble, in fact that she couldn't really nurse at all -- she would try and pull away gasping for air. And it happened over and over again -- I was trying to let Joe sleep in today, but he was sleeping in the room where the aspirator and all of our baby care books are kept. So I went in anyway and together we tried to figure out how to aspirate her tiny nose, tried to figure out what we could do to make her less miserable.

All morning long she kept sneezing, her nose was running, she was so out of sorts that only glimpses of her ebullient personality shone through. In her seven and a half months of life, she has never been sick a day, and we watched her in disbelief. Somehow it felt like she just wouldn't get sick, which is crazy and I know it's crazy but it's just the only thing we've known from her. What struck me was how hard it was for me to watch her struggle, how helpless I felt seeing her unhappy -- and you know, she only has a cold. I cannot imagine what parents who have seriously ill children go through. I read up on RSV and researched how to relieve her symptoms and generally tried to coddle her. There's something about trying to help my ill child that made me feel more like a mother today than I have on perhaps any other day with her. Hopefully tomorrow will be better for her -- I love that girl so much and it is heartbreaking to see her have such a tough time.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Literature Page

Today I followed a link from the Quotations Page and found the Literature Page. From the description on the site:
The Literature Page is your place to read classic books, plays, stories, poems, essays, and speeches online... Our collection currently includes 233 works from 85 authors. We add new titles regularly.
This site is an incredible resource for complete works by amazing authors. I think it's a great format, because you can read these books anywhere you've got an internet connection. You can pick up and drop off reading through the chapter selections so you can quickly jump back to where you left off. One of the highlights for me was the selection of Grimm's fairy tales. I've read some and found it fascinating to compare these grislier stories to the versions passed down to me when I was a child. Browse through this site and you will be amazed at the variety and depth of this collection of fiction and nonfiction.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Photo Friday: Five

The theme of this Photo Friday is Five. This is another photo from our Japan trip last fall. Himeji Castle, originally built in 1346 and constructed in its current form in 1610. Himeji-jo is one of the few ancient castles in Japan that survived the bombings during World War II. The five story tenshu, the main tower, is massive. You can tour the inside and climb the steep, narrow steps through the five stories (which, coincidentally, I did when I was five months pregnant). Taken on my Fujifilm FinePix A330, focal length 5.7 mm, exposure time 1/350, aperture f/2.8. I hope you like it! Click the image for a larger view.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Happy Anniversary

Joe and I had our first date five years ago today. For a long time we had a fake story about how we met: in a coffee shop while I was on the way to a movie, we were both in line, got talking and exchanged numbers. It was a lie, and we were a little shy to explain how we actually did meet: through an online dating service. I received his first note on a Monday, we talked on the phone throughout the week, and had our first date on Friday. It was October 6, 2000. We had dinner at Giacomo's, walked through Christopher Columbus Park and talked for hours. It was an incredible first date in that we had so much to talk about, had so much in common and were fascinated by the things we didn't.

When I got home after this date it was close to midnight. It had been hard enough to tear myself away from this incredible man and I realized that I still wanted to talk to him. I'd been through all of the Rules advice, practicing what they preached about not actively pursuing people in which I was interested, waiting to draw them to me. But on this night, I threw it all out the window. I still wanted to talk to him, wanted to continue getting to know him. And so I picked up the phone and called. He was just coming through the door and picked up the phone. I made it clear that if he wanted to talk another time that was fine, but if he still wanted to talk I'd love it. And so we ended up talking for another four hours. This was a real turning point for me, realizing that I could act the way I really wanted to act and finding that there was someone else out there who would respond to that. I had to go on a trip out of town that Saturday, and we arranged our second date for Sunday when I returned. And essentially, on that second date, I moved in and we never looked back.

Today is our fourth wedding anniversary. We were engaged within two months of that second date and married on the anniversary of our first date. We've had five wonderful years together and Joe has always been the kind of man that I can call for anything I need, can count on for help and support in whatever life throws my way. We've changed careers, moved to a different state, bought a house, had a baby and have worked hard and had the luck to have a marriage that has changed and grown stronger than ever in that time. Happy anniversary, baby. Thank you for five amazing years.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Magazine Cover

Only have time for a quick entry tonight, but here's something that looks like fun -- creating your own magazine cover using photos from Flickr (you can use photos hosted at other spots, too). I'm going to give it a try soon, but I really have no time at all tonight! Hope you enjoy it if you give it a try.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Lemon Bars

I had to come up with something quick and easy for a bake sale this weekend. I modified the recipe for Lemon Bars from Allrecipes and they turned out to be a hit. If you prefer sweeter bars to the more lemony ones I like, you'll definitely want to cut the lemon juice in half (or more!). Here's the recipe:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3 drops yellow food coloring
  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for decoration
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  1. Combine the flour, 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar, and butter. Pat dough into prepared pan.
  2. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until slightly golden. While the crust is baking, whisk together eggs, white sugar, flour, lemon juice and food coloring until frothy. Pour this lemon mixture over the hot crust.
  3. Return to the preheated oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Dust the top with confectioners' sugar. Cut into squares.
The only drawback to these is that you need to refrigerate them. If your bake sale is outside on a cool day, though, you should be fine. Good luck!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Blog Appeal

I use Bloglines to track updates for blogs that I enjoy and the total number that I now read has reached a stunning 104. I know, can't understand it myself. But really, of all the blogs that you visit in a day, how many update daily? Or even every other day? Bloglines gives me a great way to consolidate all of my blog checking to one click.

Having so many on my list makes me wonder, though -- what is the appeal of reading these stories and observations that this eclectic group of writers puts on the internet? I mean, I know what I'm hoping to find when I click on a new blog: wit, intelligence, humor, honesty, with something interesting to say. These are the same qualities I look for in friends, but here is the thing. I think another level of appeal is having a story or approach that intrigues me, so that I get a window on someone else's life without any real obligation. I can be very lazy about friendships (I sometimes think I have too many friends in real life as I'm often reluctant to actually do anything with them. It's like I want to keep them on standby just in case). But reading someone's blog can make you feel you know that person in real life, that you have a connection with them, and this kind of ersatz friendship appeals to the lazy friendmaker like me.

With Bloglines I'm able to click through my blogs that have been recently updated, check in on the blogfriends who've got something new to say, and when I'm feeling very good click through so that I can comment on their entry. I know that some people think that reading and not commenting on a blog is a kind of rudeness. I see it as enjoying someone's company without the obligation to fully participate. Unless bloggers obsessively track their stats they're not going to know the number of people who read but don't comment. It's a kind of guilt free laziness. I love it when people leave comments here, but hey -- if you come by, enjoy what I've written and then move on that's fine too. I'm happy to be a guilt free stop.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Pork Chops and Applesauce

Last night I wanted to make some kind of pork chops and applesauce combination. A lot of recipes for pork chops seem to have some kind of brown sugar or mustard sauce on top, but I knew that I wanted something with more zip and crunch to offset the sweetness and smoothness of the applesauce. These recipes turned out to be perfect. The mustard crust has some crunch on top (you can put it under the broiler for a couple of minutes if you want more) but there's enough of it on the meat to have some real body to it. Joe, in his constant pursuit of rice with every meal (apparently it's a southern thing) made a bid for that to be another side, but I was in no mood. I compromised by making these mustard greens from some that we'd frozen after our last visit to South Carolina (in my mind, it counts as a compromise because it's also from the south).

I modified a recipe for the pork chops with mustard crust from Epicurious as follows:

1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon dried parsley
3 tablespoons three peppercorn mustard (we love this kind, but dijon mustard would work here too)
1 cup plain breadcrumbs

2 bone in pork chops (each about 3/4 inch thick)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil 13x9x2-inch pan. Mix melted butter, parsley and the mustard in bowl. Mix in breadcrumbs. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper. Arrange in prepared pan. Press 1/2 of breadcrumb mixture atop each pork chop. Bake pork chops until cooked through, about 35 minutes. The internal temperature of the chops should reach 145° - 150°F.

The applesauce recipe I like is very basic. Take medium sized apples (peel them, slice them into chunks) and put them in a saucepan with a tablespoon of water for each apple. Simmer them for 15 minutes or so, until you can mash them with a slotted spoon. Add the sugar that you like (I used Gala apples and it really didn't need much) and sprinkle in some cinnamon. It's so easy and so delicious.

I love it when things come out of the kitchen like this -- easy to prepare, made with ingredients we had on hand anyway, and tasting really really good. Give these a try -- I think you'll love them.