Saturday, July 31, 2010

Umm... this is a "cook" book?

1983 must have been a difficult year for cookbook publishers. There appears to have been a dearth of actual recipes, hence the publishing of this cookbook.

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I love the charming, eclectic collection of cookbooks that I've received over the years. I adore the cover of this one. I've had it for a while, and only just yesterday sat down to see what hidden gems it might hold.

That's when I came across this entry for fried chicken.

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Preparation time: ZERO!

Clearly, this writer doesn't live 15 minutes, one way, away from KFC. I'm surprised she didn't also include instructions for opening the containers and placing the chicken on plates, as she did for this orange sherbet and fortune cookie recipe:

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Or, there's this "recipe" for rice, in the section for preparing dinner for VIP's, no less.

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Truthfully, this book more accurately portrays dinner at my house than most cookbooks (minus the fried chicken and minute rice — I can't stand minute rice when the real thing is so easy), and it is kind of validating to have an actual published cookbook tell me to go through the drive-thru and crack open a pint of ice cream!

In closing, I'd like to leave you with detailed instructions for the preparation of breadsticks, only two ingredients needed! Bet you can't guess what they are...

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(Here's my personal favorite quick and easy bread stick recipe.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The ecstasy and the agony.

One year while we were visiting my family in Utah, I told my husband that I was taking him to the best fireworks show. I told him that we would be sitting so close to the explosions that we would be dodging embers. I don't think he believed me. He's from California, and you just don't put the public (and the hillside) at risk like that. Usually. And "the best" is a pretty strong claim to make. He was intrigued, agreed to go, but prepared himself to be disappointed.

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That was nearly ten years ago. He STILL talks about how great that show was. When we had the opportunity to schedule our trip to visit my family on the right weekend, he jumped at the chance to see the fireworks again.

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I heard my husband chuckling with glee as embers ricocheted off the metal of the fence in front of us and bounced down the hill. I sat on the steep grass embankment trying to keep my three year old, who was hiding in my arms, from rolling us both down the 45° slope. He held the fetal position with vigor, refusing to straighten his legs, and shoving his "lots of stuff" into any open spaces near his face. My daughter and the baby loved the loud display.

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After the show, we searched the hillside for all of our things, carefully made our way down to the street, retrieved our blanket that had the unfortunate fate of being with our friends down in the section of grass where the sprinklers turned on, and made our way further down the hill to the car.

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I was just happy that no one stepped on an ember or fell down the hill. The incline did claim one victim before all was said and done, however. Right at the very end, as I was stepping off of the curb to get in the car, I managed to fall into the gutter. In my defense, it was a spectacular gutter with steep angles, to accommodate the storm drain. And it was really dark. Here's how it went down:

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Not depicted here is the laughing and pointing from the steady stream of people and cars heading home from the show.

Yeah. It was awesome.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

It would appear that they're working on a synchronized slip 'n slide routine.

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You should see the swath of destruction the slide left behind. My poor lawn. (Not that it was doing that well to begin with in that spot.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Waking up from a nap

I heard the door open, followed by the muffled sounds of hugs and kisses being distributed to the kids downstairs. "How was your night?" I called out.

"It was horrible." It was a rhetorical question; the droop in his stature as he walked up the stairs said enough. "I got run all night, and the stupid speaker system was malfunctioning. Every hour it would make a static noise, just like we were going to get a call. I sat up and put my socks on three times unnecessarily, on top of everything else."

I walked over to him, gave him a big hug, and sent him to his room. I tried to keep the children quiet, but I knew that it wouldn't matter much. The odds of him actually taking a nap were slim to none. I heard him turn the water on and knew that he was opting for a long soak in scalding hot water instead.

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Apparently, for some people, sleeping during the day is even worse than being exhausted. It's hard for me to understand that; I feel like stretching and smiling when I wake up from a nap. For my husband, he feels even worse than he did before he fell asleep, or so I'm told. On the days when he does succumb to sleeping, it takes him a good hour to reboot after he wakes up.

Our son takes after his dad. He just doesn't handle getting up from a nap well. The other day, I found him curled up asleep on the floor with his comfort items. (He used to ask for his lovey and his blankie and his kitty and his puppy individually when he needed them. Then one morning he came into my room and asked me to hold his "lots of stuff," or, as he says it, his "wots of stuff." That's what he has called his things ever since.)

The items help him to transition from waking to sleeping, and vice versa. But even his lots of stuff couldn't stem the sadness that came when he woke up the other day from a rare nap. I could not figure out how to comfort him; he didn't seem to want anything I offered. I was at a loss, not knowing, really, how he felt. I sat on the floor next to him and rubbed his back, but it didn't help.

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Thankfully, my husband was home that day. He saw what was going on, picked his son and all of his things up, put him on the bed in the guest bedroom, and turned on Caillou. I heard my groggy little guy protesting every step of the process. But when he was all set up, he calmed right down. Half an hour later, he came out happy and told me that Daddy made him all better. Now I know what to do.

I wish I could do that for my firefighter; I wish it were as simple as giving him his lots of stuff and putting on a show when he wakes up from a nap. I'd feel a lot better about the sleepless nights at work, if he could actually nap peacefully at home the next day!

Friday, July 16, 2010

I'm such a wuss.

Did you know that one time in college I popped open the hood of my car and figured out what hose was leaking, bought a new one, and installed it myself with nothing but the little flat head screwdriver on my key chain? (Granted, it was just a hose, but I was pretty proud of myself for figuring it all out.)

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I've also installed a water pump single-handedly. Literally. My husband's hand was too big to fit into the tight space without tearing the engine apart, so while he cooled his frustrations in the house, I went out and finished putting it in myself. Again, not a major accomplishment since all it took was the ability to read instructions, but still.

I used to work as a packer for a moving company. I lifted heavy boxes all day — I was buff. I could do just about anything the job required on my own, including hefting and maneuvering a queen-sized mattress into a box in a confined space.

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Something seems to have happened between now and then. I've grown soft. Now, on the days when I'm on my own and I have to mow the lawn myself, I feel awkward and intimidated. I don't know why. I used to mow the lawn all the time growing up.

Or, there's those trees in the back that need trimming. I can't bring myself to break out the chain saw and do it myself. We're not talking about huge branches here either — I could probably prune them with a large lopper. And it's not like I've never used power tools before; I handled them all the time when I would build stuff for my art classes in college. Where has my desire to use tools and tackle "guy" stuff gone?

The surest sign of my wussiness is at the gas station. I hate pumping gas myself. I sigh and curse the empty tank when I have to alter my plans to include the gas station. I put it off as long as possible and hope that somehow I can avoid having to get out of the car and get up close and personal with that horrid smell. My firefighter's request for me to document each gas of tank the way he does doesn't help, either. (Admittedly, I kind of like knowing how much gas mileage I REALLY get. I just don't like to write it down.)

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And I never wash the windshield myself anymore. Well, almost never.

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This splat that I got last week couldn't be ignored. I resigned myself to my fate, pulled over, and did it myself. It was then that I realized just how soft I had become. Too many years of "don't worry, I'll take care of it when I get home" have rendered me useless. This past year of virtually no overtime didn't help my cause, either. My husband was there more often than not when needed. And if he wasn't there, he would be home soon.

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But the times are changing, overtime is back, it's fire season, and in addition to my regular routines, I have to do the man chores again. The trash isn't going to magically appear at the curb on the right day. The lawn is pretty much up to me. I will have to do the de-bugging of the car on my own. I'm even seriously thinking of breaking out the chain saw and attacking the trees.

Now, if I could just get the kids to take a group nap during daylight hours so that I can accomplish all of this uninterrupted...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Easter Candy Effect

Here's the theory. The kids pig out on their holiday candy stash, feel yucky, and within a day or two, want nothing to do with sugar for the next ten years. (That's when I swoop in and "dispose" of the offending chocolate for them.)

The new poster paints had a similar fate.

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My daughter was so excited to show me her painted hands, but in the short time it took me to grab the camera and snap a few pictures, she grew tired of the immoderate indulgence. She couldn't wait to wash her hands and was begging me to hurry up. Now she is very reasonable with her paints.

Recently, the theory was proved again. After restraining the desire of my children to smother the cakes we make with every topping available, I decided to let my daughter have at it for this one. I did some basic decorations and then left her alone with the frosting and the toppings. This is what she presented to me:

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She was so excited about this cake. However, after just one piece, she decided it was too sugary and crunchy and has not even mentioned cake ever since. This experience also appears to have curbed her desire for chocolate milk. In its place she asks for freezing cold water, with five ice cubes.

Be forewarned, however, that the Easter candy effect does not seem to apply to frozen goods, or adults. I've personally tried and tried to debunk this "ice cream excluded" portion of the theory, but so far, no luck. Don't worry; I'll keep trying — I will get to the bottom of this. In the name of science, of course.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Arch Nemesis

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Do you know why I bought the Dyson? I bought it because I was enamored with the idea of the whole thing coming apart by simply pushing a few cool little yellow tabs. That meant I should be able to get to any problem areas and fix them myself. Combined with the whole never having to buy another vacuum belt again, I figured I'd be able to solve any issues that came my way.

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Okay, I bought it for those reasons, and the fact that it just looks cool. My husband viewed it as cool. In fact, the vacuum was more his idea than mine. I think it reminds him of a transformer. Ever since we got the Dyson, he's done 75% of the vacuuming. They should use the man factor in their advertising campaign. (They should also include a warning to my husband that contrary to popular belief, this is NOT a shop vac. Or a wet vac.)

Aside from the whole being able to take it apart manually thing, I love that the Dyson can conquer the Cheerios. At least, it used to be able to tackle them. Lately, my vacuum that "never loses suction" has lost suction. I've taken everything apart on that machine at least five times in search of the elusive clog. It's been frustrating, knowing that there is something wrong with my machine that I can't fix myself.

The vacuum has been acting poorly ever since this winter, when we used it to clean out the fireplace. The Dyson has become so bad that sweeping the Cheerios off the carpet with a broom is more effective than using the vacuum. And we've got a lot of cereal on our floors; at least 30% of every box. The Cheerios would go in the front and get spit out the back in broken pieces, making the floors worse than they were to begin with.

In frustration, I took the whole thing apart again and uttered things about my vacuum that I never thought I'd say. Our relationship was going through a rough spell. I didn't know if we would survive. As usual, all the tubing was clear. I could not figure out what the problem was. The hose attachment worked okay. It appeared that the problem was around the brush bar on the bottom. I cleaned/cut away all the debris around the brushes and checked to make sure it was still spinning. When that didn't help, I cleaned out the canister and all the little holes with a toothbrush.

I'll spare you the gruesome details.

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Still, the vacuum wouldn't work properly. I cursed the soot that I imagined to be clogging some inner workings that I couldn't get to. I came to accept that the machine would have to go to a repair shop.

As I was sitting there with disgusting piles of vacuum debris scattered around me, taunting me with the fact that I would have to use the broom to get it up off the floor, something dawned on me. I thought about the fact that when the vacuum is upright, in the position that transfers the suction to the hose attachment, it worked fine. It was only while the vacuum was in the tilted position that there was a problem.

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I hinged the dismantled vacuum toward me,

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and there it was,

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the secret compartment.

As the machine tilted, a second, hidden hole was revealed. Two inches of tubing appeared that I had not inspected. There, held firmly in place over the months by a wedged puzzle piece, was the clog. Within sixty seconds, the machine was back up and running.

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I'm sorry, Baby! I hope you can forgive me for the mean things I said!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sparklers

They're just not as intimidating as they used to be, these new wooden sparklers. Part of the appeal of the old school metal ones was their potential for serious harm. The scent alone triggered a primal warning response, signaling to children everywhere that those puppies could hurt. Bad.

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Loud overhead fireworks? Bring 'em on. Pagoda driveway explosion? Sign me up. Uncontrollable spinning "flowers?" Okay, now we're beginning to talk danger. But none of those pyrotechnics posed anywhere near the corporeal threat that came with the annual attempt to run a complete circuit around the house with a lit sparkler.

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The trip around the exterior of the house involved many dangers, holding on to those poorly designed, precariously short metal handles. This new wood style has a good ten inches to grasp. Where's the peril in that? And the sparks on the new ones all shoot out the front; no little flames darting back toward the hand that holds it.

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I'll tell you what's perilous — trying to keep my fingers and hair from catching on fire while simultaneously trying to avoid running on the sizzling hot discarded metal rods, blending dangerously into the grass and dirt. As kids, we didn't get these nice red wooden sticks that are clearly visible and leave nothing behind but a few tiny embers. (Which, we learned the hard way, still do hurt when stepped on. Still — it beats a searing two inch long burn!)

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No, perhaps the real danger in these new sparklers is that they are a little too comforting; a little too safe. I saw the kids handling these in a way that no right-minded child would have done with one of the scary old metal sparklers. I guess children will always find a way to scare themselves (and their parents) on the fourth of July, no matter what the medium.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Reading Time

Jen over at Cabin Fever asked me a serious question, which I feel I must address with respect and clarity. It's not every day that a question is posed that causes me to pause — a question so revealing that it forces me to evaluate what may be lacking in my life. This is a topic that exposes the minimalist nature of my household; of my very identity.

"What do you read while in the bathroom?"

The answer:

Nothing. My bathroom is a barren zone. The half-used bottles of shampoo and body wash provide precious little text to occupy a soul in solitude; an ominous metal sign, the other source of reading material, tells me that I am not where I am supposed to be.

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Jen, I stare down at my empty palms and am left with nothing to read but the disjointed thoughts floating at odd intervals through my mind. In a desperate attempt to pass the time, I ponder the events of the past and wonder what the future holds. I trace the lines on my hands, longing for the lines of a magazine that isn't there, to tell me what I should think. Perhaps this is how the very first palm reader learned her art.

I can tell you that I have been there; I have read my palms. I have analyzed the future, and I know what it holds.

Toilet paper.

(Hopefully.)
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