Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Back in a Second

I've had no access to Blogger for a week now, and limited access to other things internet. Needless to say, it's been a rough week! I'll be back tomorrow to post an update but for now am reveling in my renewed access.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

First Fire

One of the things we loved about our house when we were deciding whether to buy it or not was that it had a fireplace in the living room. I think we envisioned cozy nights curled up reading books by the fire or having Christmas Eve lit by firelight or something. It really is a beautiful fireplace even without a fire burning, which is lucky for us because tonight is officially the First Fire Night, nearly two years after we bought this place.

I'm thinking of it as a celebration of sorts after the long struggle we went through with the chimney cleaning/relining company. We had a terrible time with them rescheduling and misscheduling the job, the job failing inspection, and a lot of hassle getting them to finish up the stupid job already with some professionalism and grace. I was ready to pull my hair out over them yesterday. Happily, we are now through with that outfit. This was the best picture I could manage of our little fire burning away -- it turns out it's hard (for me, anyway) to take a good photograph of the flames.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Geranium Sisterhood

This is a closeup of one of the more attractive parts of the geranium hanging in our dining room. We didn't buy it or choose it, it just came with the house when we bought it. And without ample watering over the past year or so (houseplants really get ignored when you bring a new baby home), giant chunks of it have died. It is now a straggly looking thing, with a few tremendous ropes of lush growth and optimistic blossoms like the one shown above. If you could get a look at the plant as a whole, though, you'd probably wonder why we just don't throw it away and start over.

I can't throw it away, though. I've never been able to toss anything other than a completely dead plant out with the trash. Somehow it just feels like unfairly giving up on life. Obviously one exception had to be when our Christmas tree tried to generate new life three weeks after Christmas... but a houseplant has a longer lease on life here. Even after ignoring it and only sporadically giving it the lucky watering it so needed, I feel committed to it. And with some of the growth so beautiful as what you see above, can you blame me?

One of my sisters and I are going through a particularly rough patch right now. Over the summer she suffered a miscarriage and it's very hard for her to hear about life for me with Gretel. There are many other issues that have cropped up over time that have led to us not having a very genuine relationship and the baby/no baby divide has only made things more difficult. It's hard for me, because she used to be my very closest sister and it is undeniable that is not the case anymore. Our relationship is really a lot like that geranium -- some parts of it that were beautiful are simply not there any longer, it will wilt and fall further into ruin if we ignore it, but there are parts that are still wonderful and worth holding onto. It's tough to see how we'll move forward but with 29 years of sisterhood behind us, it is impossible to see how it would fade altogether, let alone tossing it out and never looking back.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Remedy

Joe and have both been ill this weekend. It's such a strange thing, where we have bone and muscle aches, headaches, and extreme fatigue but no fever or cold symptoms. I've never had anything like it -- it hit me hard yesterday and thank god it was Saturday because Joe could take care of Gretel. Today was his turn and he's been in bed just about all day. Extra strength Tylenol barely touches these aches and even turning over in bed feels like a real effort. Pitiful, I'll tell you.

One thing that helped Joe today was this ginger honey lemon tea that I made. I based it on a recipe in February's issue of Living that I'd finished earlier in the week. Put six cups of water in a saucepan. Peel one large piece of ginger, cut it into thin slices and add it to the water. Add 4-5 tablespoons of lemon juice and a sprinkling of ground cloves. Bring it all to a boil and then let it simmer for three minutes. Strain it into a teapot and add some honey. Put the pot on your sad husband's night table and hope that tomorrow looks a little healthier.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Crafting Ideas

Feeling crafty but not sure where to start or how to start it? This site has a tremendous amount of information on all different kinds of crafts, from beginning to advanced levels. There are basics for everything from paper, photography, sewing, ceramics, jewelry and more miscellaneous projects than you can imagine. It's a great site for inspiration and instruction. If you're thinking of making a gift or something for yourself, this is a wonderful place to begin.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Photo Friday: Pink

The theme of this Photo Friday is Pink. I originally shot this seashell in a much more traditional way, all white and pale pink in the sunlight. When I played around with it in Picasa, though, I found I liked this darkened image better. It reminds me of the chambers of the heart, the pink inside still glowing as if in remembrance of the life it once held. Taken on my Fujifilm FinePix A330, focal length 5.7 mm, exposure time 1/3, aperture f/2.8. Hope you like it! Click the image for a larger view.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sex and Television

This article reveals that having a television in your bedroom reduces the likelihood that you will have sex by 50%. I have to say, this did not exactly come as a huge surprise to me -- before I met Joe, if I shared a bedroom with someone who did have a television there it always felt like it threw the energy off somehow. I don't have any data on whether it reduced the chances that sex was going to happen or not, but either we were watching something on tv or there was this potential for distraction.

We're not perfect about it, but Joe and I both feel strongly about trying to keep our bedroom as relaxed and clear of clutter as possible. We try not to talk about stressful topics there and we've painted and decorated so it's as soothing an environment as possible. And neither of us wants a television in there because we're much more likely to be reading or fooling around than wanting to watch Letterman. Still, there's something about reading this article that makes me wonder why someone would want a tv in the bedroom. Is it to help fall asleep at night? Is it a comfort? A welcome distraction?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


The key to my mother's apartment is nearly identical to the key to my house. The same shape, size and base, and it's only the placement on my key ring that keeps me from putting her key into my lock. There are certain things in my life that remind me of how similar my mother and I can be, even though I wish it wasn't so. As I've written before, I fight some of these similarities: procrastination, fear, disorganization, etc. There are other traits that I embrace a bit more: her favoring of oldies music, crafting gifts, and her devotion to babies. Every once in a while there is an expression on my face that will remind Joe of my mother or a phrase I will use that just makes him laugh at the similarity. Even though we are so different now in so many ways there are all of these little things that tie us together.

It makes me wonder how it will be with Gretel. She is already such a fierce, independent girl and I don't anticipate her growing to be a clinging type who will turn to me often for advice. But how much of me will imprint onto her? We spend so much of every day together and there are countless hours that we'll have together before she's off on her own. How much time does it take before someone is inextricably a part of you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Looking For A Good Time?

Or maybe just a good meal? I love the FoodieView recipe search engine. You can type in a specific dish or search by ingredients you have on hand that you want to use. Or you can browse by type of dish, cuisine, special considerations, famous chefs, or sources. There is an incredible range of recipes here and it includes my must have feature for any recipe site: ratings.

It's so important to read feedback for recipes from people who've actually made them. In all of my time looking for recipes online, there has been only one time when I've gone astray making a well rated and reviewed recipe. My now-infamous diet chicken was supposed to be lovely chicken breasts browned briefly in a pan and then cooked in the oven while I made a sauce on the stove. Unfortunately, when combined on the plate the dish's effects were two-fold -- first, the chicken was inedibly tough and second, the sauce was actually more of a glue that served to lock our jaws into a closed position. Hence the name diet chicken. You could take one bite, but more than that was impossible. Once we could pry our mouths open, Joe and I agreed that we had to toss the remaining dinner and head out for McDonald's. So perhaps not so much a diet chicken as an advertisement for fast food... in any case, you are very unlikely to have an experience like this one using the FoodieView website. Good luck! I think you'll have a great time looking through the recipes here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sushi Sushi

A quick photo of last night's dinner. There are few things that I like to eat better than sushi -- there are two problems with this. First, while we are lucky to have a restaurant here that delivers delicious sushi, we are not in a very populous area and it's unfortunately expensive. Second, since I spent ten of the last twenty months pregnant that means that fully 50% of the time I wasn't even able to consider sushi -- I've been making up for lost time. Let's no one pretend this is a terribly interesting post -- but I'm tired and it's all that I've got tonight.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Fresh Start

This is a sure sign that your Christmas tree has been around for a while. We got ours at the beginning of December and now these little green shoots are beginning to appear on some of the branches. I think this is a sign that it is resigned to its life in our living room and is adjusting to its new circumstanstances and all-water diet. While I admire the tenacity of our little tennenbaum, the time has come for it to return to nature via the compost pile in the backyard. I must admit that seeing this new life in our tree will make that bittersweet. I would have liked to see just what would have happened if we left it up another month or two.

On a semi-related note (new life, fresh starts, etc.), here is another happy birthday greeting to Joe. May the year ahead be wonderful and filled with beautiful and memorable moments. I love you.

On another semi-related note, this is the 100th entry for Milk and Honey. Happy cent-entry to this little space. And thank you to all of you who have commented here -- it's so encouraging to me.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pigs and Rabbits

I read two articles today that astonished me.

The first item detailed how scientists are planning to create rabbit/human hybrid embryos. Stem cells would be harvested to pursue treatments for motor neuron diseases, such as Lou Gehrig's disease, progressive muscular atrophy, primary lateral sclerosis. According to this site:
The motor neuron diseases (MND) are a group of progressive neurological disorders that destroy motor neurons, the cells that control voluntary muscle activity such as speaking, walking, breathing, and swallowing.
Research so far has been hindered due to the lack of availability of human eggs, but these hybrids would get around that obstacle. By injecting human DNA (from patients with MND) into eggs from rabbits, a workable representation of this devastating condition could be created, showing its progress and potential treatment could be developed. I think that this creative solution to a very difficult problem shows a tremendous amount of promise. Even if the effort is only moderately successful, hopefully it will lead to broader, deeper research into cures for other diseases than is possible now.

The other news item also deals with stem cell research. Scientists in Taiwan have created glow in the dark pigs by injecting embryos with fluorescent matter from jelly fish. While the green tinge is most easily seen around the eyes, mouth and feet, every part of the pigs is actually green from their internal organs to their hair. Wu Shinn-Chih, one of the researchers who developed the green pigs, said that:
fluorescent cells would show up during stem cell treatment of diseased organs, allowing physicians to monitor the healing progress.
Since pigs are often used in researching human diseases and the green tint would help observers more easily observe tissue changes over time, it seems to me that there is great potential in this idea as well.

Stem cell research sometimes frightens people -- some simply reject the idea of it without fully understanding the process or the benefits. Or they may jump to the wrong conclusions, perhaps thinking in the case of the first article that scientists are developing rabbit people who will one day walk among us, or in the case of the second article that pork chops will soon be glowing in their butcher's case. I believe that stem cell research is one of the most promising areas of medical research today. Given proper funding and a willingness to see what can be accomplished, amazing leaps in our understanding of the human body and the conditions it may suffer are possible. And even if you are staunchly opposed to the idea, I hope you find these two quirky news items interesting and thought provoking!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Photo Friday: Success

The theme of this Photo Friday is Success. This is another shot from within the Ecosphere pod, a feature which I promise will not be a regular one but that you may recall from this post. Sadly, two of the red shrimp died, leaving the two grey shrimp in control of the pod (and now are turning red -- how strange is that?). Luckily, Brookstone is sending a replacement now. I thought this photo of the grey shrimp perched triumphantly above his deceased red brother was an interesting take on success -- not necessarily how I would define it, but perhaps the way of the Ecosphere. Taken on my Fujifilm FinePix A330, focal length 5.7 mm, exposure time 1/3, aperture f/2.8. Hope you like it! Click the image for a larger view.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Graphics Generator

This site will generate buttons and graphics for you for free. There is a startling variety of options from which you may choose and the results appear almost immediately. There may be other ways to create images like this at home but none of them are familiar to me -- I loved this even without knowing exactly how I'd like to use it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Delayed Alarm

When I was pregnant with Gretel, I was alarmed at the rate at which I was gaining weight. The professionals at my OB/GYN's office assured me that it was no problem, not to worry about it. This went on from June until November, when I suppose someone took a look at my cumulative weight gain and called attention to it. Then, at the end of my second trimester, was when my 40 pound weight gain seemed somehow off. I went on to gain ten more pounds before the pregnancy, for 50 pounds total. Well out of the range where I should have been but I was so hungry at the beginning and had no idea what types of things I should have been eating.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I begged anyone I could find for a meal plan, a chart of what foods I should be eating, what nutrients I needed and in what quantities. All I found was the hideously restrictive What To Eat When You're Expecting, which I did not find very realistic. I followed my doctor's advice and ate what I pleased, however much I pleased and didn't worry about it. Then I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and was caught up in an alarming time of monitoring glucose levels, reporting all results to my doctor during the weekly nonstress tests that became necessary, worrying about Gretel and how she was handling it -- the baby's pancreas can sometimes kick into overdrive if the mom's isn't working properly.

The one good thing about the GD diagnosis was that I was finally given a meal plan. I was able to see a nutritionist and find out exactly what to eat, what amounts, when, and monitor the results within an hour or so. It was fantastic, and I'm so glad to have it for the next pregnancy. Because my risk of developing GD will be increased because I've already had it once, I'm going on the meal plan from the very beginning. And I think that doing it this way will help reduce that risk and also make me feel more in control about the weight gain.

The reason I'm bringing all of this up now is because at ten and a half months old, Gretel still will not sit up. She won't sit on her own and she will barely consent to sit with us sitting right behind her. She is certainly not trying to pull up on anything, cruise, stand, step on her own, etc. Joe brought up the GD story at the pediatrician's office yesterday, making the connection between no one but me seeing a problem for a long time with the weight gain and the scary results of not addressing that early on, and no one but me seeing a problem with her delayed gross motor skills and what may happen if they are not addressed. I was so surprised to hear this connection, which had not really crossed my mind before, that I just started crying right there in the office.

It's so hard not knowing the best thing to do for your child and not being able to anticipate the results of your action/inaction. I'm not sure what I can do for Gretel, her doctor isn't able to tell us anything, and so now we're waiting for a team of state specialists to give us their input. At least we're able to do something rather than just waiting for things to get really bad and then wonder why no one spotted it earlier and extended their help. Not a particularly fun entry today, but it's what's going on in my life and I figured I'd put the bad with the good on here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Birthday Present

I bought this as a birthday gift for Joe -- it arrived today and it's unbelievably cool.

From the website:
EcoSphere is a calming balance of earth, water, air and life—all parts of a working self-sufficient ecosystem that’s much more than science; it’s an original work of art. Makes a unique gift for those who contemplate the mystery of life on our planet and enjoy the serenity of nature.

The delicate coexistence of animal and plant life (red shrimp, algae and microbes) thrives in the handblown glass sphere of seawater. It’s easy to care for—just provide sufficient light and enjoy the aesthetic blend of science and art, beauty and balance. This technology was developed by NASA scientists as part of a growing initiative to study our planet’s biosphere.

It is all sealed in this hollow 5 inch glass egg and it stays sealed forever. Meanwhile, plants and animals, living and growing before your very eyes. I can't believe you can get a present this cool for less than $100, though there are nine inch ones for $500. What's even more amazing is that they will last from 2-10 years. I never would have imagined such a thing could exist.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Aspiring Writers, Look Here

I bet you'll love Miss Snark, a literary agent with a fantastic blog. I admire her very much and am also just a little daunted by her what with her clever snarkiness and worldly wisdom. I am generally in awe of pulled together sophisticated ladies. Anyway, Miss Snark analyzes synopses, gives good advice on appearing professional when you're trying to pitch an idea, comments on publishing news, etc. If you're interested in writing, publishing, or snarkiness I absolutely recommend her. After my false start at a book with NaNoWriMo, I am inspired by her helpful suggestions. I know that one day I will finish it but in the meantime I love picking up hints from such a great blog.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Milk and Honey

I want to share this delicious new breakfast we had today. This morning we topped a baguette slices with softened goat cheese and a piece of honeycomb -- I'd never eaten honeycomb before and the flavors of this combination were unbelievable. It may sound unusual (it did to me) but it's really incredible and makes a wonderful way to start the day.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Scallops and Pears with Fettucine in a Garlic-Ginger Cream Sauce

Joe and I have a birthday weekend where you get to choose what to eat, what movies to watch, and generally what fun to have. Tonight he chose this scallops and pasta dish and it was delicious. The recipe comes from this site and is as follows:

Scallops and Pears with Fettucine in a Garlic-Ginger Cream Sauce

Yield: 4 Servings (or two if you're as hungry as we were)

1/2 lb Lemon-pepper pasta, cooked

6 Cloves garlic, sliced
4 tb Unsalted butter
1 tb Sesame oil
1 lb Sea scallops, halved
1/2 c Dry white wine
1 tb Lemon juice
1 Whole pear, cored & sliced
1/4 c Heavy cream
4 Sprigs lemon verbena
2 tb Fresh ginger juice
Pepper, to individual taste


Lemon wedges
Lemon verbena sprigs

Saute garlic in butter and sesame oil over medium heat until it just starts to become translucent, about 2 minutes. Add scallop slices and saute, stirring or shaking pan frequently until scallops become white and opaque - about 2-3 minutes. Remove scallops and set aside.

Cook fettucine about 2 minutes. (I used spaghetti, and that took ten minutes. I'm not sure how fettucini is supposed to cook in two minutes).

Meanwhile, using the same pan as for scallops, turn heat to high and add wine and lemon juice. Cook until liquid reduces by about half. Stir in pear, cream, lemon verbena and ginger juice. Cook briefly to thicken sauce slightly and blend flavors. Stir in scallops and heat through. Remove lemon verbena and adjust seasonings.

Pour sauce over fettucine and toss gently, coating pasta evenly and keeping scallops and pears on top. Serve hot.

Garlic: I used the chopped ones from a jar and they were fantastic.
Ginger Root: As the recipe suggested, I peeled ginger root, chopped it in the food processor, and then juiced it with a garlic press.
Lemon Verbena: What? All I remember about LV is that Miss Beadle wore it in Little House on the Prarie. I skipped this.
Pasta: I used plain spaghetti -- the flavor of the sauce was plenty without flavored pasta.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Photo Friday: Panorama

The theme of this Photo Friday is Panorama. This is a view from inside our car as we travelled north on the New York State Thruway in November. I love the feeling of moving through the hills and mountains in upstate New York -- there is nowhere else that feels more like home. Taken on my Fujifilm FinePix A330, focal length 5.7 mm, exposure time 1/240, aperture f/5.6. Hope you like it! Click the image for a larger view.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Back Again

There are a whole host of reasons why I stopped posting in November -- I'm hoping that they won't come up again this time around. I've missed writing here, coming up with new ideas about what to post every day. I'm not making this into a resolution, but I will try to be back and be interesting. Thanks for those of you who have stuck around and encouraged me with this -- it really has meant a lot and I'm sorry to have been so out of touch.