Thursday, February 25, 2010

Resolutions, Month Two

February is almost over, which means the second month of my resolutions is also coming to a close and I’m going to give myself a big pat on the back for this month.

For the first time ever, I made bread. Me. Fresh, hot, right-out-of-the-oven bread. You probably don’t realize how this changes my life. If I were stuck on a deserted island, I would want to live off of bread. Bread and cheese. And wine. Or at least whiskey. But the bread is a must. And the cheese. Bread and cheese complete me.

I was a little worried in the beginning. I saw a couple of recipes online that looked easy enough, but I obviously didn’t read through them carefully. Mostly I ignored the part about needing a stand mixer. Like the pink Kitchenaid artisan model that I am coveting (that I registered for). I foolishly thought that a hand mixer on a low speed would be good enough. No. Not even close. I ended up covered in flour and threw the whole thing away in frustration. Seven cups of flour in the trash.

Then I discovered recipes that can be started in the bread machine, which has a handy little Dough setting. For an hour and a half the bread machine works while I sip wine, make another meal, do laundry, whatever. It’s pretty genius, actually.

The first recipe I tried was for ciabatta bread. I added roasted garlic to the ingredients I put in the bread machine and couldn’t have been more thrilled. I had fresh, hot bread with the perfect crust. Seriously perfect. My 13 year old fought me for the last piece. Until I threatened to cut her. Not really. But I kinda did mean it.

Last night I tried a focaccia. The dough came out of the bread machine as light as air and floaty as a cloud. (Spell check doesn’t seem to like floaty, but it’s a word. I know because I’m using it.) It baked down a bit and wasn’t as light as I expected, but I sliced some up today with the girls at work and it was wonderful. It went perfectly with some mortadella salami and Havarti. Lunch goodness.

Success #1. Check.

I hadn’t planned on attempting the barbecue until summer. However, I was craving a steak on Valentine’s Day and, not having a man around that evening, decided to try it myself. I was not disappointed. I was rewarded with a perfectly seasoned, perfectly juicy, tender piece of meat heaven. It was done exactly the way I like it. And I’m picky.

What was even better – combining the two! I had thin slices of leftover steak on my bread for lunch the next day. Along with some smoked gouda, tomatoes, pepperoncinis and mayonnaise. It was like having my own little deli, only better.

Success #2. Check check.

Marching on to March………

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ham and Hams

I love books. I love reading. I love book club. I love my book club peeps and I’ll share with you why they’re so great.

Tuesday was supposed to be book club night but JC was feeling under the weather, MG was looking at a possible sudden-out-of-town business trip and CP was dragging after getting home very late the night before from driving back after being out of town herself for the weekend. The suggestion was made to postpone to the following week and all parties seemed to be in agreement that this would be the best solution. All parties except for the unnamed ham that was to be our dinner that evening while discussing the merits (or lack thereof, in one reader’s opinion) of Madame Bovary. Said ham became the topic of conversation in several emails and my primary source of entertainment for the day.

What follows are the edited transcripts of the emails pertaining to Sir Ham.

JC 11:32 a.m.
Well, the gigantic ham M is working on votes for tonight, but to be honest, I don't think it read the book.

M and I will just eat a remarkable amount of ham this week. There are worse fates.

MC 1:25 p.m.
p.s. The gentle sound you hear in the background is my ham weeping.

p.p.s. It's a tender squeaking sound, barely audible, but heart-wrenching. Poor ham - if only we can convince it that the love of myself and Joel is enough for it.

p.p.s.s. I need to quit sending e-mails when I have just gotten off work.

KA 2:38 p.m.
Maybe if you consume the ham voraciously it will be properly assured of your love. Place it on a pedestal? Forgo side dishes?

MG 2:58 p.m.
p.s., We once had a turkey that seemed depressed and refused to turn golden brown, but he kept his reasons to himself. Your ham sounds much more communicative, which I think is a good sign. Maybe K is right -- a little special treatment may be just what he needs.

CP 4:25 p.m.
Soak it in whiskey. And it probably doesn't want to drink alone, so you'll have to shoulder that burden, too.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why Dogs Don't Make Good Valentines

1. Chocolate is toxic to them.
2. They’re sloppy kissers (with dog breath to boot).
3. They can’t snuggle without leaving a blanket of their hair on you.
4. They can’t handle their champagne (or beer, depending on which college party you’re attending).
5. They’re not allowed in restaurants, bars or movie theaters.
6. Constant farting. Bad manners in general.
7. They lack opposable thumbs with which to cook you dinner. Or the ability to read a recipe. Or the height needed to reach the stove.
8. They would rather eat flowers than give them to you.
9. Instead of whispering sweet nothings in your ear, they blast your eardrums with obnoxious barking.
10. When you tell them it’s time for night-night pee-pees, they refuse to go outside and then promptly pee on your bed. And then lay on your pillow.

Why dogs are good Valentines –

1. They love you unconditionally.
2. They would never make a list of your faults.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Registry. Where You Can Buy Me Stuff.

You know, I really didn't think anyone would take my registry idea seriously. As brilliant as the idea is, I could feel the eye rolls across the internets. People just have no faith in marriage anymore. Then I was talking to a friend who said she would totally purchase a gift for me and to let her know where I am registered. Seconded by another friend a few days later. Which just tells you how good and brilliant my friends are.

I whipped out my wish list and jumped onto Convenient for out-of-towners and in-towners. Do not judge my choices. I realize that a pink Kitchenaid stand mixer may be a little over the top, but it is my most coveted appliance and I will give it an appropriate name. Something like Priscilla. Or maybe Antoinette. Or even Julia. I'll let you know after you buy her for me.

My registry at bedbathandbeyond is under my name; my event is listed as Birthday. You know, in case anyone was seriously offended by same-self marriage. Plus it was a convenient way of letting everyone know when my birthday is. August 11th. Be sure to mark it on your calendars, people. August 11th. I want everyone there. I want the Biggest Party Ever. Only not a surprise party because I want to make sure I look cute and wear the right shoes. August 11th.

In the meantime, happy shopping everyone!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

My Report Card

Being a mom is hard. Being the single mom of a teenage girl is unbelievably hard. I question myself on a daily basis whether I’m doing enough, doing it right, or if I’m failing her completely and wait for the evidence of my failure to show up in the form of a swollen pregnant belly, a mid-week hangover or bruises from the wrong kind of boy. Yes, these are extremes, but sometimes I feel that out of control, that my grasp on her is so loose, she’ll fall away at any second. As a parent, I don’t get report cards or performance reviews. I get eye rolls and door slams and arguments when I say no to almost anything.

However, I feel like I have been given a progress report over the last week in some ways and, by some miracle, it seems I’m doing okay. I think I’m getting a B. Maybe even a B+?

Since D started middle school it has been a constant battle with her grades. She’s far more interested in socializing with friends and going googly over boys than in spending a minute thinking about the reason she’s actually in school. So it surprised me when, out of the blue, last week she studied for a test. Really studied. She asked me to quiz her and everything. The next day she reported a score of 49 out of 50, which has been unheard of in the last three years. Plus on A on the essay portion. She was actually glowing for the rest of the week and repeating how proud she was of herself and how good it felt to work at something and be rewarded so positively.

Next we come to the bane of her existence, her choir teacher. This is not the teacher she had the previous two years and she expounds daily on how much she despises this new one for various reasons – they don’t sing enough anymore, she makes “rude” comments to the kids and, the most unforgivable offense of all to a teenage girl, she has a “big butt.”

Two days ago D called me in tears, saying Ms. Hated had given her a lunch detention for talking in class when she wasn’t talking. According to D, detentions were being handed out frequently and freely and not based on actual behavior. I was surprised, because of all her faults, D isn’t disrespectful to adults (well, besides me) and has never been a disruption in class. On the other hand, I’m aware how girls talk and giggle and whisper and that teenage girls especially are prone to dramatizing and over-exaggeration. So I questioned her, whether she really deserved it and was there a grain of truth in what Ms. Hated was accusing her of. She steadfastly denied it. Being at work and distracted, I suggested she just deal with it, it’s only one little detention after all, not that big of a deal, and wouldn’t really mean anything in the long run.

Except it did mean something. To her, it meant a lot. Through her tears she explained that she’s never gotten a detention, never in the three years of her middle school career, and this single, seemingly unimportant event would mar a record I didn’t even know she was keeping track of. And when I realized her moral compass is pointing exactly in the right direction, that she sees herself as a Good Girl and wants to be seen in the same light by others, I went to war for her.

Okay, not really war. I simply wrote a polite but firm email to her teacher, who wrote back with an apology and assurance that the detention was removed. Justice and vindication in just a few electronic sentences.

That same afternoon we had an appointment with the orthodontist. At her last appointment, D was given rubber bands to wear on her braces and the encouragement that it was her responsibility to wear them at all times, that wearing them could reduce the time she has to wear braces. She has faithfully worn them around the clock, removing them only to eat and replacing them immediately afterward. At the end of her appointment, the orthodontist’s assistant praised her highly for her vigilance, saying it made such a huge difference. I swear the woman was gushing like no other kid has ever accomplished such an impossible feat.

In the car later D said, “It’s cool that when you do the right things it’s like you get rewarded. Or praised.” I told her praise can be a reward also, to which she said, “Really? I guess that’s cool.”

What I didn’t tell her is that sometimes praise of others can be a reward for oneself.
Yeah, it is pretty cool.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhogs and Statues and Smoke Monsters. Oh my!

There is a surprisingly lot going on for a Tuesday in February. Probably none of it is truly significant to anyone but me but this is my blog and I get to do what I want here. So there.

1. It’s Remy’s birthday. Of course this is number one, my boy was my first Boston baby. He’s five today and, since I doubt I’ll have time to make him a cake, I set out some steak to thaw this morning. Oh, yes. Nothing is too good for my little terrors! I mean terriers. Terroriers?

2. Groundhog Day. Can someone please explain why a rodent was put in charge of my happiness? The length of my seasonal affective disorder? I suffer from serious vitamin D deficiency, people!. I think it’s time for the marmot to “retire”. Interpret that as you will.

3. Oscar nominees were announced! I love love love the Oscars. I love everything about them. The dresses, the speeches, the glamour, the dresses. It’s like my Superbowl. With the expansion of the Best Film category I have seen 7 out of the 10 nominees. That is much better than my usual 2 out of 5 so I feel like I have actual, educated opinions this year. Yay me.There are several that I really liked so there is less chance at being disappointed by the winner. I stopped having Oscar parties several years ago because I found that too many people talked over the show and I missed what was being said. Rudeness. Tivo kinda changes that; I can rewind/rewatch anything I miss. Maybe I’ll have a party this year. Maybe I’ll just invite a bottle of champagne over. I’m keeping my options open at this point, but the countdown has started.

4. D needs some vaccine updates. Is it bad that I take my dogs in to the vet for their shots more often than I take my daughter to the doctor? She’s not going to be pleased with me tonight.

5. Lost starts tonight! The. Final. Season. I love Lost and have been loyal since the beginning, but I feel like it’s time to end our relationship. It’s just too much work. There has always been unanswered questions, multiple stories (that might be related?), time travel and the addition of new characters that I sometimes just don’t care about. Add to that months-long breaks that make it hard to keep track of what’s going on or continue caring. I plan on making the most of the time we have left; Hurley and the gang best not disappoint.
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