Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I will seriously lose my entire mind


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

and now, googol, I've really got your number

Today I am doing a very exciting thing, which is making bread completely from sourdough starter, no yeast. No yeast! This has never gone well in the past. Always it is a squat, dry brick. I'm trying to manage my expectations. I am using a recipe from the incredibly smurfily-named "Forgotten Secrets of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers" (review coming). So far the dough is smooth and pillowy and fragrant. But it could still turn against me.

I finally found some good bread flour so I can make Tipsy's bagels and do my real review of her book as well. I want all interested parties to put it on their Christmas lists, so I will try to hurry.

Last night my sisters and I dipped chocolates for the first time. It was a mess, and that was with ready-made fondant mix. They are the ugliest chocolates known to man. But in tasting one just now, purely for research purposes, I realize that I now have the tools and technology to produce my very own Cadbury eggs, with decent chocolate. Let me describe for you my anger when Hershey began making the famed, once-sublime U.S. version of the Cadbury egg: imagine a galaxy consisting entirely of suns, and all of those suns going supernova at the same time. That was my anger. Of course I am exaggerating, but only a little. I hate hate hate Hershey's chocolate. But according to my sister Troy, who is in high school and read something about him, Milton Hershey was supposedly a really nice guy instead of a robber baron like some I could mention, so I'll give them a pass. I won't buy the eggs anymore, though, because the Hershey formulation makes my teeth hurt. CADBURY! RETURN TO ME!

Monday, November 28, 2011

reflections on the monday after thanksgiving, 2011

I'm not saying that shopping on Black Friday means you're a dumb dummy, I'm just saying that of the people we know, the family who most feverishly pores through the ads--highlighting and circling and dog-earing pages, assigning different stores to each family member to maximize their manpower, slavering that "you can't afford NOT to go! they're giving stuff away!"--is the same family that declared bankruptcy a few years ago. That's all. I like a good bargain myself, and sometime during the weekend we always end up at Al's Sporting Goods to buy some shoes. But so far the Friday morning after Thanksgiving finds me doing the crossword and drinking hot chocolate with my kids at Grandma Maxine's kitchen table while John and Grandma do the sudoku, and I intend to keep it that way.

My grandma scoops the last shreds of the egg whites out of the shells with her fingers, because she once heard someone say that you get the equivalent of another egg's worth of whites for every dozen eggs when you do that. I know what you're thinking: She's nuts. That's what I thought at first, too; that she was wasting her time on something so dumb with so little return, but this is a woman who managed, as a divorced mother of seven children and full-time teacher, to not only hold on to a working cattle ranch, but to pay off the many tens of thousands of dollars of debt her former husband had gotten them into. So maybe she's not nuts. Maybe she's disciplined. Maybe she knows that the little things matter.

Probably the first step in an effective defense against child pornography charges is to shave off your mustache.

I support your right to not vaccinate your kids. I agree that there is some weird stuff in there, and it bugs me. I think there should be scrutiny and perhaps revision of the vaccine schedule, but I'm still going to be super pissed at you if one of my infant family members gets polio or measles.

I think a senior dog is the way to go for us.

They didn't come out and say it in words, but before my parents got a Wii my kids used to greatly prefer going to John's parents' house. Also there are cousins their age on John's side, cousins with whom they can fight with about whose turn it is to use the Wii and GameCube.

The basement is not as horrid as I thought, now that the shelves are out. I think we might be able to salvage it, if someone can come and replace the ducting.

Monday, November 21, 2011

what I thought about "the botany of desire"


Pardon. That is an overly simplistic summation of my feelings. I began this book with excitement to learn more about how humans and plants have co-evolved over the centuries, but my excitement was squelched almost instantly. I don't know why this is. I think I'm safe saying that I'm a big Michael Pollan fan, since I loved The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, but this one left me cold.

Here are some interesting things I learned:

Apples don't come true from seed, so a tree you grow from a seed will most likely be nothing like the tree the apple came from.

The bi-colored tulips that fueled the Dutch tulip craze were that way because of a virus, and as soon as the Dutch growers figured that out, they pulled any infected tulip they found.

Modern marijuana is a hybrid of two different Cannabis strains, supposed to give you a better buzz with fewer side effects.

The potato that all the Irish were growing before the blight was called the Lumper.

Here are some things that irritated me:

I didn't like the way he interpreted John Chapman's motives as though he had any idea what he was thinking. That makes him just as bad as the effusive John Chapman fanboy he meets and superciliously dismisses in the book.

I didn't like that he didn't tell me if modern bi-colored tulips are also infected with the tulip breaking virus. I had to go to Wikipedia to find out that that is not necessarily the case. This feels like lazy research.

The marijuana section was not nearly as interesting as I thought it would be. I got sort of bored when he started being all navel-gazey about the effect of hallucinogens on the great thinkers of the past, and on himself.

The potato section was fascinating and I have no complaints about it. Excepting the potato section, the book was boring and felt sort of amateurish and cursorily researched. The apple section was hard to get through; I had to stop reading the tulip section for a while and go straight to the potatoes; I forced myself to finish the tulips with great difficulty; I couldn't be bothered to finish the marijuana section.

Not a fan of this book. But since it was one of his earlier works, I think it shows that he has improved with age.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

why doesn't batman dance anymore?

I've been helping with the assembly of the new playground at the unpark. I never know in situations like that if the guys are wishing I would just go home and stop getting in the way. I think I've been helpful, but who can say? I know it took me twice as long as anybody else to dig a hole for one of the support poles. Thirty inches deep, they are! Curse my inferior upper body strength. Our former mayor, who is a reporter for the two newspapers in the area, came to take pictures of the process yesterday, and my pants were falling off in all of the pictures she took. When in Rome, you know. Hopefully she'll get a marker and color over my underwear.

Last night I had a nightmare that I had lice. It woke me up at 4:30 and the rest of my sleep was fitful at best. It's probably my worst fear, next to kidnapping and assault. I googled "lice" on my phone as soon as my alarm went off, and from what I read I don't think I actually have lice.

Monday, November 14, 2011

you can lead the way

Have I shared with you yet my testimony of down bedding? I have one. Down bedding elevates a regular bed to a bed of supreme comfort and warmth. It helps even a so-so mattress seem more inviting. It is the only true way to sleep. A secret: much of my down bedding is more correctly described as feather bedding, because I got it from Ikea on purpose. Feathers are cheaper than down, and plenty warm for me. Feathers and wool make the best comforters and blankets, in my experience.

I am making pies for a Fakesgiving dinner this Saturday--do any of you have a splendid traditional family recipe that you love beyond compare and would like to share with me? I've got my heart set on grape or gooseberry. My sister Aleece and I made pumpkin and chess pies on Friday. We were doing a taste and texture test of conventional pumpkin pie to see if the Herd Family Way is truly the best. Short answer: it is. For the chess pie we used Tipsy's recipe that she was kind enough to share with us, and I much preferred it to the conventional pumpkin. Those Southerners do not screw around with their pies (Tipsy is not Southern, but chess pie is). It is eggy and rich and sweet--sort of like those dim sum custard pies that are usually disgusting, but were incredible at the dim sum place Tipsy took me to in Chinatown--and I loved it immensely. I also made a discovery: I think what kills restaurant pie is keeping it cold. I put the uneaten portion of the pumpkin pie in the fridge, and when I sampled it a few hours later the crust, which had previously been delicious and flaky (aside from the hated soggy bottom), was super, super gross. Dry, chalky, bland. Truly terrible. Actually inedible--I threw it away. So now you know: don't refrigerate your pie.

We got an American Girl doll catalog in the mail last weekend, which seems very Big Brother to me. It feels like an invasion of my privacy--do they buy hospital records? Old Navy receipts? They should know that I think their dolls are a wicked, homogenized extravagance. Who do they think they are, the Frye Company? Pshaw.

Friday, November 11, 2011

why don't you ask mr. owl, for he is the wisest of us all

I'm not positive--but I'm close to positive--that my sister Claire's friend Melany was on the bleeding edge of the owl craze. She may even have been the instigator. We may never know. But what we do know is that I bought some hair clips from her for my niece Eliza three years ago, and I swear she had in her inventory an owl clip. Maybe I bought the clip. Sarah would know. If I did, it was the cutest thing in the world of baby hair accessories, because that's how Melany does it. Here is her Etsy shop, if you're curious. She is truly gifted.

But back to my point: what is the deal with owls? Yes, they're cute, but people are ruining it! There are too many now, everywhere I turn! So many owls that I'm sick of them! This needs to stop. Everybody, just settle down about the owls. Stop cupcaking them for those of us who already liked owls before the madness started. Some of us like owls for their nocturnal predation of vermin and Tootsie Pops, as well as their beady eyes and swivel heads. We haven't forgotten the True Meaning of Owls.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

high/low, or mundane/horrifying

Probably one of John's most favorite things is when he comes home and finds that I've made some irreversible change to the house--carpet and linoleum torn up, shelves demolished, furniture thrown away. I know this about him, how much he loves sudden, uncomfortable change, and that's why I'm downstairs taking out a weird set of shelves built along one wall of what we call the toy room. A 1923 house is what it is, and the basement can only be improved so much, because there are so many pipes and ducts and electrical conduit running along the ceiling, but I must remove the shabby, holey carpet and wallpaper, and at least paint the walls.

The Penn State thing is killing me, and the riots opposing Paterno's firing are bizarre. What should have happened when Mike McQueary walked into the locker room is this: he should have opened Sandusky's head with a ball bat and called the police while he was taking the kid to the hospital. And here's what should happen now: Sandusky should be executed. McQueary should be charged as an accessory after the fact, and Paterno, along with the rest of Sandusky's associates, should be investigated as well and charged if necessary. The idiot college students who are rioting in support of a man who colluded in the rape of children should be sentenced to community service volunteering at a safe house for victims of sexual violence.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

so crazy it just might work

This post of Tori's is one that I really needed to read.

In other news, I dreamed last night that I went to an Aerosmith concert with my parents. They opened with "Livin' on the Edge," and Steven Tyler was shuffling around onstage in a mangy-looking brown duster, a ratty fedora, and aviator sunglasses. He was not nearly as charismatic as I assumed he would be. It was weird. I didn't dream long enough to find out if my parents liked the show.

A few of the things that are giving me grief today:
1. The mess at Penn State--what in the world is happening there? Why did the eyewitness wait a day to tell Joe Paterno about it? Why did he tell Joe Paterno instead of the police? And I mean, innocent until proven guilty and all that, but of course Sandusky worked with at-risk youth--because they lack a strong family support system and are much easier to victimize.
2. It was an incumbent sweep in our city council elections yesterday. John won the 2-year term, which is a mixed victory, but I hoped for more backlash against the good-ol'-boys who wanted to bless our community (the part of the community not near them, naturally) with a smelly biodiesel plant run by a porcine charlatan.
3. Long, sparkly, square-tipped acrylic nails on a little girl in Ike's first grade class. The child cannot use her scissors or color or write her name because of them, and I'm like, "Really, mom?"

Last night John texted me that he'd lost his phone, and I said, "Find it." He texted back, "Don't you mean, 'Find it, councilman?" That's how he told me he won the election. Maybe he is already drunk with power. He'll be putting in gravel pits and biodiesel plants before we know it!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I like voting

Go vote, everybody! It's fun. You get a sticker and usually a piece of candy, plus you get to have a say in local politics, which is where your voice counts the most.

If you live in Honeyville, you can vote for John, who is fair and kind.

Friday, November 4, 2011

who buys guacamole, anyway?

By the way, here is Tipsy:

She's quite famous, don't you know?

then I hold my nose, thusly

This is the dog I went and played with last Friday, and almost she persuadest me to become a dog owner again. She is so sweet and loving, with a pleading face and very soft fur. She has scarring on her head, and her ears have been cropped incredibly short--probably a bait dog. I just loved her to pieces.

Poop. Shedding. Walks every day no matter what. Dog smell.

Okay, I'm better now.

Magic Wendy and I took a pie-making class this morning. It was interesting--the guy made the crust in a stand mixer, which I would never dare do. But I used to think I would never make pie crust in a food processor, either, and I've long since crossed that bridge. He used shortening, which made me all boo-hiss at first, but said he prefers lard and thus won himself back into my good graces. He used a French rolling pin, which I have never gotten the hang of using, but I practiced with his and finally figured it out. My mom's is about three times the diameter as the one he used, and I could just as well use a log. Here is a Hyperbole and a Half-esque picture, except not as funny or good: Stupid fat rolling pin.

I'm thinking of moving the dressers out of my room and putting in a floor-to-ceiling wall closet thing. I think it would be an improvement, if only to remove the temptation of stacking clutter on top of the dresser.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

there won't be a hook in sight at the codfish ball

When my kids ask me to buy stupid junk for them I need to stop saying, "We can't afford that," which is not technically true, and start saying, "We don't want to spend our money on that." Saying we can't afford it implies that we would buy it if we only had the money. This is misrepresentation. I don't like buying stuff for my kids because they just break and ruin it. I much prefer taking them on vacation, because the likelihood that the four of them will ruin Oregon or Florida any way other than metaphorically is slim.

I took the slavery footprint quiz yesterday, and it says I have 61 slaves working for me, which I don't think is correct. Don't misunderstand me, I'm pretty sure my purchases are financing enslavement, I just don't think I have more than twice the national average of slaves (which is 25), because most of the places where I got dinged were places where I do most of the work myself--hey, wait a minute. What does that mean?

I hear from the Facebook that Tipsy is going to be on Good Morning America tomorrow morning at 8:30. I encourage you to watch, because then you will see how delightful she is.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

eyes burning like coals

Wow! Thanks for this!

I have watched—generally with a mix of disapproval and concern, on a few rare occasions with approbation—as, one-by-one, my high school girlfriends jumped into marriages at the super-mature ages of 22, 23, and so on. Women who had seemed so driven and talented, so capable of achieving things beyond a comfortable small-town, nuclear family existence, are settling into and, in my not-so-humble opinion, for, just that.

--J. Bryan Lowder
in an article on Slate today

It is gratifying to see the "just a housewife" bigotry raise its ugly head again. How foolish of these women to waste their lives on merely raising children! I know the reason I got married and had children is that I'm just too darned stupid and shiftless to achieve "things beyond."

Neat guy, this Lowder fellow.

He's got a point, of course--girls who marry young before getting a good education are selling themselves short. But the patronizing tone really grates--I was graduated from college and had been working as a tech writer for a year when I got married at the "super-mature age of 22," and it was after I married John that I did my best growing and learning.

What does he really know about these women and what their drives and talents are, anyway? He is a pious nag with his "disapproval and concern." He should shut up.

just really mad about chocolate today

Here's the thing: brownies and hot fudge pudding cake and all other chocolate desserts need to taste like CHOCOLATE. I'm so sick and tired of people making this crap that only indicates its intended flavor by being sort of brown. One time about five years ago I had some hot fudge pudding cake at a relative's house and it was dark brown but totally flavorless. Such is my first world entitlement that I actually became angry about it. I still get angry when I remember it. Ask my family how I get about store-bought pumpkin pie. Look, either bring a dessert or don't. Bring a pie or don't. If you can't make it well, don't make it, and don't buy it. Have someone else do it who will do it correctly.

Authors of children's books need to stop rhyming. Unless your pen name is Dr. Seuss, which it isn't because he's dead, it's gimmicky and I am not impressed. I look through the books my children ask to check out, and if they rhyme I immediately reject them. If one accidentally gets through my filter and I end up reading it at storytime, I will change the words so they don't rhyme, or purposely read in the wrong meter to mess it up.

When my children grow up I'm going to have to either move to California or get rid of my chickens and goats so I don't have to carry water buckets through the snow. When they read this they'll say, "You only had kids so you'd have someone to do all your work for you!" And I will say, "You're right. It is how I am teaching you to be good people."

I think Willa has pica. Yesterday at Costco she ate her sample cup, and then last night she ate her Nerds box. How could a child who refuses to eat anything but the Doritos she steals from the neighbors be suffering from a mineral deficiency? Search me!