rivka: (Default)
In a fit of madness - it did make sense at the time, I swear - I told Alex a while back that she could throw a Halloween party in the new house. I thought I was being clever, because it would force us to unpack.

Now, tomorrow, we have sixteen (!!!) of Alex's closest friends showing up for some Halloween fun. Or possibly eighteen. Holy cow, guys.

I am freaking out about whether we'll have enough food. I'm serving cupcakes, pumpkin spice cookies (mostly intended for the parents; they're flavored for adult palates), white chocolate-covered frozen bananas made up to look like ghosts, "goblin fingers" (baby carrots with sliced almond "fingernails") and dip, green slime punch, and hot cider. I guess I can put out pretzels and a big bowl of apples, too? I didn't want to get the kids maxed out on sugary junk right before Halloween.

IMAG0972

SIXTEEN KIDS NOT COUNTING MINE IN MY HOUSE OMG.

I have some party games, but I've never tried to run party games with SIXTEEN KIDS. And did I mention that thirteen of them are little boys? Not to be sexist.

I guess I don't need to worry anymore about homeschooling destroying all of Alex's opportunities for a social life, huh?
rivka: (Alex the queen)
I have my flaws, but sometimes I think I get the mom thing right.

castle_cake

Alex is having a Fairy Tale Princess birthday party this afternoon.

Five or six friends will be coming over dressed in their finest princess gear. Michael and I are also dressing up in costume as the King and Queen.

I got plastic wine glasses at the party store, which the children will decorate with stick-on jewels (I decided to go for "easy" rather than "permanent") to make themselves royal goblets. We're also planning to play three games: The Cinderella Relay, in which one shoe from each kid is piled in the center of the floor and in relay teams the kids run to the middle, find their shoe, put it on, and race back to their team; Musical Sleeping Beauty, which is just like musical chairs except that instead of chairs there are beds made from baby blankets, and when the music stops the kids need to find a spot to fall asleep for a hundred years; and The Queen Says, which is a royal version of Simon Says.

Alex has been watching out the front window for her friends since right after breakfast.
rivka: (Christmas hat me)
We got home from Memphis last night. I'm in the office - the only day I'm coming in this week - and I must admit I'm kind of enjoying the peace and quiet.

I finally snapped at Michael's stepmother. As we were packing up to go she kept very persistently trying to get me to take Michael's bronzed baby shoes. I smiled and said nice things the first several times. "Oh, we'll definitely want them eventually, but I don't want to take them away from Bill." "Yes, but I really think Bill likes to have a reminder of Michael's babyhood around." She kept insisting: "Oh, don't worry about that. We've got plenty of reminders of Michael around." (Like the picture she hung back behind a cabinet, I guess.)

So finally I just looked at her without smiling and said flatly: "Betty, if you want them out of the house, then yes, we will take them."

So of course she backpedalled. And had the nerve to try this one out: "You just insulted me, saying that I want them out of the house." Uh huh.

Michael's father came in to talk with us about it. He said that he wouldn't take any amount of money for those baby shoes, but that we could have them if we wanted them. Although he would worry about them getting broken in transit. Anyway, he just wanted to make sure that we understood that they weren't trying to get rid of them. I felt bad because I really try not to put him in the middle, but.

Our flights home were beautifully uneventful. There didn't seem to be any increase in security at the main screening lines, and when I got pulled for secondary screening (I always do, because my artificial hip sets of the metal detector) the TSA who screened me seemed perfectly relaxed and easygoing. They had a TSA at the gate pulling some people aside for random pat-downs, but it was the most ludicrous security theater imaginable: he only stopped men, didn't stop anyone who had a ton of stuff to carry (presumably so he wouldn't inconvenience them too much), and only patted them down above the waist. He would've found someone carrying a gun in a shoulder holster, but that's about it.

Our kids are beautiful travelers. When I see other people dealing with screaming tantrums on a plane, I feel very lucky.

I did learn an important lesson about Colin and traveling, though. (Did I know this when Alex was his age and then I forgot it? Maybe so.) Yesterday I gave him solid food for breakfast at my in-laws' house, and then I nursed him throughout the day as we traveled home. He got frantically unhappy in the car on the way home from the airport; I nursed him again and he cheered up, so I decided to give him some solids even though it was already 8pm. And that boy ate: a full slice of deli cheese, three handfuls of Cheerios, a jar of baby food (chicken-apple compote, one of the higher-calorie options), and at least a quarter-cup of mango bits. He was starving. I think of solids as being kind of optional to his diet, replaceable by nursing, but it's now obvious to me that at this point they really aren't.

I have a big important meeting in an hour and a half, and I am nervous. To give you an idea of how important a meeting it is, I am wearing a blazer to work - something I do about twice a year. Some of you will be coming along in the form of a silver otter pin which you chipped in to give me at alt.polycon 12, so, thanks. It's nice to feel like my friends will be with me.

Now that I have a webcam on my work computer, I can show you what I look like when I'm trying to appear professional! Here I am:

me@work
rivka: (Christmas hat me)
So the church Christmas pageant has three Sunday morning rehearsals followed by an evening dress rehearsal the night before Christmas Eve. Only this year we got about 20 inches of snow the day before the last Sunday morning rehearsal, which meant that it didn't happen. Instead, on Wednesday night a bunch of excited hyper pre-Christmas kids showed up for the first rehearsal with costumes (which weren't done, incidentally), the first rehearsal in the sanctuary (which always leads to insane aisle-running), and the first rehearsal without scripts (which was supposed to have happened that missed Sunday).

They had done a surprisingly good job of learning their lines, but everything else about the rehearsal was pretty awful. It's hard to nail down a lot of the blocking before you have the sanctuary to work with. The kids were pretty crazy. I honestly left the rehearsal expecting the performance to be a disaster.

Christmas Eve I was so flustered that we were parking outside the church when I realized that I was still wearing a pair of jeans and a grungy brown wool hoodie over a faded red T-shirt. "I forgot to get dressed!" I wailed to Michael. He looked down at his own jeans and sweater. "...So did I." It was 5pm. I had told the kids to arrive no later than 5:10. I was planning to be onstage for much of the pageant.

We dashed in carrying the last few props and an eleven pound ham. Threw the ham in the oven in the church kitchen and asked someone who happened to be in the kitchen to put the brown sugar glaze on it at 6:30. I took both kids with me to the sanctuary while Michael ran home to change and bring my clothes. The majority of the kids didn't show up until sometime after 5:30. We had no chance to rehearse, but we did go over my list of Important Last-Minute Reminders: Everyone speak LOUDLY and SLOWLY. Face the audience when you speak. When the Herdmans are being bad kids, they shouldn't actually make any physical contact. When the Herdmans are in the pageant-within-a-pageant, they stop goofing off and take it seriously. Angels and shepherds need to be quiet when they're onstage.

Also in this time period, one of the mothers went to town on the Herdmans' faces with a mascara wand to make them appropriately grimy and smudgy. They were all thrilled to be at church in their oldest and most awful clothes. I did not tell them how adorable they were, because they would've taken it the wrong way.

Ten minutes before the service was supposed to start I herded all the kids out of the chancel to the robing room. No, they were too loud to be there. To the little entryway behind the robing room. Still too loud. To the upstairs hall. I tried to engage them in conversation about Christmas to stop them from shouting and chasing each other. Michael brought me Colin to nurse at the last minute before church. I kept on chatting with the kids on my end of the hall until I looked over and saw a few of them at the other end of the hall looking at me like this: O.O O.O O.O "It's just how babies eat, guys," I said and hoped that I wouldn't be hearing from their mothers later on.

6:05. I marched the kids down the stairs, through the entry, through the robing room, into the chancel, and down the steps to the front pew. There was a welcome and a chalice lighting and then we were on.

And the pageant went beautifully.

We had some luck with the play-within-a-play format, because I could stay on stage the whole time (as a parent helping out the pageant director, very realistic) and move people into place if necessary. But the kids needed very little help. They said their lines beautifully and with feeling. They were mostly in the right place at the right time. They did not burn down the church when I let some of them hold candles. They looked fantastic, even the ones who were in totally makeshift last-minute costumes. And they had the pageant spirit, just beautifully.

Afterward during their shaky and confused bows [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb swooped down on me with a bouquet of white roses and, um, something else pretty. I don't know flowers.

And then we went to the Christmas Eve potluck. Last year there wasn't enough food and Michael didn't get any dinner. (That's partly why we brought a ham this year.) This year there was plenty, and we feasted on turkey and ham and smoked gouda mac and cheese and horseradish scalloped potatoes and tzimmes and all kinds of miscellaneous side dishes and desserts. And Alex actually ate food instead of just running around being hysterically excited. (Colin had a jar of pureed turkey-apple-cranberry holiday dinner, because I fall for marketing tricks like that.)

And we went home and put the kids to bed and hauled presents out of hiding places and wrapped a few things and hung candy canes on the tree from Santa and I lost one of Colin's stocking presents. And poured ourselves glasses of red wine and curled up on the couch to watch the first-season West Wing Christmas episode, "In Excelsis Deo," except that Colin kept waking up and finally we went to bed without finishing it.

Christmas Eve was good. The pageant was wonderful. We have amazing, amazing kids at our church. Is it too early to start worrying about what story we'll do next year?
rivka: (travel)
We're spending Thanksgiving at Colonial Williamsburg again this year, because last year was so great. This time [livejournal.com profile] bosssio and her family (but alas, not [livejournal.com profile] chargirlgenius and hers) came along.

Lessons we learned: it doesn't matter how tired you are Wednesday night. Pack then, and leave early Thursday morning. We didn't leave until a little after ten, and we had horrible traffic from just after we crossed the Wilson bridge until we were almost in Richmond. Also, we put Colin into the car sleepy, thinking that he'd drop off once we hit the highway, and it didn't really work out that way. It was a looooong drive. We stopped to nurse and stopped for lunch and all told it took five hours to get to Williamsburg.

We're in a different hotel this year, the Quality Suites. It's an older hotel and kind of basic in its decor, but the rooms are awesome. We've got two full rooms - a living room with a fridge, sink, microwave, table and chairs, couch, and armchair, and a bedroom fully separated by a door that shuts. And we are paying the princely sum of $79.99 a night. [livejournal.com profile] bosssio and family are right across the hall.

We got in around three this afternoon, took a dip in the pool, and watched the kids run around being excited about each other until our 5pm Thanksgiving dinner. Once again we went to the Williamsburg Hospitality House. I can see signs of the economic downturn in the lavishness of the buffet - the cold seafood platter, in particular, was much reduced - but we had a fabulous meal all the same. Steamed shrimp, smoked salmon, salads, potatoes au gratin with smoked gouda, roast turkey, prime rib, penne pasta with cheese and bits of bacon (labeled "grown up mac and cheese), fruits, cheeses, breads, pumpkin pie, gingerbread pudding... even Colin made a great meal: canteloupe, provolone cheese, and sweet potatoes, with a nibble of pumpkin pie for dessert.

I could really get used to this thing where holiday meals require no cooking and no cleanup.

Came back to the hotel, settled the kids to watch a movie, got Colin to sleep, chatted. Now I'm waiting for Alex to settle down in the bedroom and be quiet so that I can actually put Colin to bed, and we can invite [livejournal.com profile] bosssio and Andy in to our living room to hang out.

Tomorrow, of course, the historic area. On our short list: the hedge maze at the governor's palace, the dressmaker's, the plantation. Yay.
rivka: (foodie)
Do you have a bread machine? If so, what do you think of it?

It's that time of year again: my parents want to know what we would like for Christmas. I was thinking that a bread machine might be a good thing to have. We frequently buy artisanal-type bread from the grocery store, but (a) it's expensive, and (b) it goes stale so quickly. [livejournal.com profile] bosssio brought us a loaf of homemade bread after Colin was born, I think made in a bread machine, and it was delicious and stayed fresh for several days.

So is good bread-machine bread easy to make? Are there lots of different kinds? I've seen bread-machine mixes, but presumably you can also make bread in a machine from scratch, right? Any brand recommendations?
rivka: (foodie)
I made an apple pie this afternoon. At dessert time? Nobody wanted any.

WTF, family?
rivka: (I love the world)
We went to the fair yesterday and had a great time.

Unlike last year, we weren't lucky enough to see a birth in the birthing center. We did get to see chicks hatching and day-old piglets nursing, and we got to pet a piglet and a chick. Once again, they had a milking booth set up and Alex got to milk a cow for a minute or so. They had a sandbox filled with soybeans and dried corn, and Alex had a lot of fun playing there. While she did that, I browsed the agricultural displays nearby, which included a glossy free book explaining that organic food is worthless and that agribusiness makes our food ever so much cleaner.

milking/

baby_chick

Michael's company offered discount fair tickets this year, including an all day ride wristband for $15. That turned out to be a fantastic deal. It was great to be able to tell Alex she could ride any ride she wanted, as often as she wanted. They had about ten different little-kid rides that she went on, plus she and Michael rode the 100-foot Ferris wheel.

speedway_ride

I had a really delicious softshell crab sandwich for lunch, with a pile of homegrown tomatoes on the side. Alex insisted that for lunch she wanted "chicken on the bone." By which she meant the giant smoked turkey legs. We told her that she wouldn't really eat one. She swore that she would. So finally we bought it for her... and damned if she didn't make an impressive dent in it. She couldn't eat the whole thing, of course - she split it with Michael, and even he couldn't finish it - but she ate a lot for a four-year-old.

turkey_leg2

This year I got to spend a lot more time in the Home Arts building. I have to say that I wasn't very impressed with most of the baked goods on display. Most of the cookies looked dry, drab, colorless. I'm thinking that next year I may enter my oatmeal raisin cookies. I had thought that you could only enter recipes you developed yourself, but it turns out that as long as you bake from scratch it doesn't matter if you use an established recipe. (And my oatmeal raisin cookies are from a recipe I modified, anyway.)

The fabric arts sections were just beautiful. And I had a nice conversation with a woman in the preserved food section, who told me all about the jelly she made from violet petals.

It was a lovely day. Tiring, but lovely.
rivka: (travel)
We got back from Montreal Sunday night, dirty and exhausted but reasonably pleased. It was a good trip.

As far as the ostensible reason for our trip, the Society of Behavioral Medicine conference, the thing that will pay for my plane ticket and the hotel room and a fair bit of the food: it went surprisingly well. My talk was well-attended and well-received; there were more questions during the question period than I had time to answer, and some people stayed to ask me questions afterward or even approached me later in the exhibit hall. I think I did a good job writing the talk and delivering it, especially considering the circumstances.

Last year I didn't enjoy the SBM program very much. This year, I managed to make it to several great program items. It seemed like there were more interesting options and better HIV representation. I particularly enjoyed a symposium on novel strategies for accessing populations of ethnic-minority men ("So it turns out, in our part of North Carolina, you reach African-American men through the churches, but Latino men, no. And then we found out about the soccer league!"), and a keynote address on using marketing and mass communications to disseminate valid scientific information.

The only thing that's bugging me about SBM right now is that it seems like every year there is more and more of an "obesity epidemic" focus. I was never interested in that topic era to begin with, but now that I've read so much that debunks dieting and obesity panic, I find it irritating. I'm fine with the program items about increasing activity level and consumption of healthy foods, because I think those things have independent health benefits, but I kind of want to go to the weight loss intervention panels and ask politely what the follow-up data looks like five years out.

I managed to see three-quarters of most of the sessions I attended. They were mostly scheduled to be 90 minutes long, and somewhere around the 70-minute mark Colin would start to wake up or make sounds. I was hypersensitive to every noise he made, because at a professional conference Colin is not part of the community and has no independent right to be there. So at the second coo or gurgle we were out the door. We got nothing but friendly looks, though.

The non-conference portions of the trip were just excellent. [livejournal.com profile] papersky always provides visitors with quality entertainment. One major highlight was a free-flying butterflies exhibit at the botanical gardens. Picture a big plant-filled atrium with thousands and thousands of butterflies swarming about - not just common ones, either, but massive South American specimens. I mean, just walking along you'd find yourself flinching away from the most spectacular butterfly you'd ever seen, trying to keep it from flying right into your face. (Also at the Jardin Botanique, a really neat greenhouse filled with "economic" tropical plants - foods, dyes, etc. I never knew what a black pepper plant looked like. Or the source of the ubiquitous xanthan gum. Alex loved that room.)

The other big highlight was a picnic on an island, on the unexpectedly warm and lovely Saturday. We spread blankets under some pines for the shade and found ourselves in the center of an active flock of red-winged blackbirds. A woodchuck ambled back and forth, sometimes as little as twenty feet away. After a delicious lunch, we went into the Biosphere (not to be confused with the Biodome) - a small museum housed in the frame of a giant geodesic dome. The only great exhibit was a water activity room, but that one was really great, so that was just fine. Plus admission was free for Earth Day. Alex had a wonderful time making rivers and pools and channels and sailing boats and walking across water on pontoons and otherwise getting very damp indeed.

Of course, as is the case any time one visits [livejournal.com profile] papersky, we had excellent food. Highlights for me were a Chinese feast the first night, an incredible dim sum spread on Sunday morning, and - oddly enough - the shish kebob dinners we ordered delivered to our hotel room the night that [livejournal.com profile] papersky and [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel had a dinner party to attend. But really, there was only one meal I thought was just so-so, and that time it was clear that I had ordered the wrong thing.

So that was our trip. I think I'll probably write another post about traveling with both kids later.
rivka: (alex age 3.5)
Alex wanted a pirate party for her birthday.

I thought about planning a fancy birthday party with a two-month-old in the house. Then I thought about being a four-year-old who recently lost her only-child status, and I decided that Alex deserved to have a party in which we pulled out all the stops. My only sanity preserver: I told her she could invite eight friends, not the whole class.

pirate_cake

the party story and lots more pictures )
rivka: (foodie)
This time I'll tackle the food questions.

[livejournal.com profile] ailbhe and [livejournal.com profile] minnehaha K: Your dinner.

Tonight we had baked chicken thighs, Southern-style biscuits with butter, and carrot sticks, and ice cream for dessert. Dinner was cooked by Michael, who is getting to be a better cook every day. (Usually the cooking is my responsibility.) The chicken skin wasn't as crispy as I like it (my fault, not Michael's, because he was following my directions) - we probably should've upped the oven temperature. But overall, it was very good.

[livejournal.com profile] hobbitbabe: Do you have any kitchen appliances for mixing stuff up, and what do you make with them and should I buy one or more of them? (giant immovable mixer, food processor, immersion blender, old-style blender, etc).

I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, a generous gift from [livejournal.com profile] wcg a few years back. It is, as you say, giant and immovable. Unfortunately, it has to live in the pantry and be carried out every time I want to bake.

I use it to make cakes, cookies, and other desserts. It replaced an ancient underpowered hand mixer. The difference is most notable with stiff batters like cookie dough. I made pumpkin cranberry bars to give as Christmas gifts this year, another very thick-battered recipe, and found that my mixer could easily handle double batches. It's also excellent for things that need to be really, really, seriously, impressively well-beaten, like this gingerbread cake roll.

Oh, and the other difference I almost forgot about: because it has a paddle that is cleverly positioned in the bowl, rather than beaters, you almost never have to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl when you're mixing. Which is very nice. Should you have one? If you bake regularly, yeah, you probably should.

[livejournal.com profile] bcholmes: You seem to have a lot of things to say about food: different recipes, liking exotic vegetables, eschewing chef-boy-ar-dee. What kind of relationship did you have with food growing up?

It was uncomplicated, for which I am extremely grateful. My mother was a good cook in what I think of as the classic home-cooking style of the northern U.S.; her meals were simple (usually meat-starch-veg)
but well-prepared and tasty. Food was never in short supply, and we had free rein to help ourselves except for the hour before dinner, which was known as "starving time." I don't remember negative comments about people eating too much or too little or the wrong things, except in the context of taking more than your fair share of a scarce resource like leftover cake. We did have to accept on our plate at least a "no-thank-you helping" of everything served at dinner, and we were expected to at least taste some of everything on our plate. Oh, and we were required to have milk at dinner, but I loved milk so I didn't mind.

We had family dinner together every night. My mother would start watching out the kitchen window for my father's car at 5:55 every night, and the minute his car pulled into the garage she'd call us to the table. We rarely went out to dinner and almost never had fast food - not as a whole family, anyway. Just if we were traveling somewhere.

I ate a lot of junk food as a kid, and was really skinny anyway. I used to spend my school lunch money (65 cents a day, as I recall) on candy at the 7-11. I'd split it with [livejournal.com profile] kcobweb, and in turn she'd share the dessert from her packed lunch with me. That horrifies me today, but obviously I survived it and was reasonably healthy. My mother didn't buy tons of junk food - mostly for budgetary reasons, I think - but we always had cookies, chips, and ice cream in the house and it wasn't rationed. I remember being surprised to go to friends' houses and be told "you can have two cookies."

I have a lot of happy childhood memories about food. Holiday dinners, church potlucks, cookouts and picnics at the lake, standing on a chair to help my mother bake.

Grandma Susan: Given that there is so much conflicting information about nutrition and health, how do you decide what to believe and/or what to feed your family?

Honestly? I spend very little time thinking about nutrition and health. My impression is that this is an area where a lot of people, including health professionals, have very strong opinions - yet the data backing up those opinions is often weak. I think the whole food-as-medicine thing is hugely oversold in American culture. So I decide what to feed my family based primarily on considerations of taste. I try to avoid language about "good" and "bad" foods. I strive vaguely for balanced inclusion of a broad range of foods - proteins, carbs, veggies and fruits - but I don't worry about fat, carbs, sugar, etc. I wouldn't eat pork rinds 24/7 because it would make me feel like crap, but I'm not going to worry about the components of my reasonably balanced and varied diet.

I do try to feed organic foods to babies (Ack! We've veered into parenting territory!) based on the vague idea that pesticides may be more of an issue when concentrated into a very small form, but it's even more heavily based on the fact that Earth's Best organic baby foods taste so much better than Gerber. Oh, and I was careful about introducing potential food allergens into Alex's diet because of our strong family history of food allergies, and I'll probably do the same with Colin.
rivka: (foodie)
...I am ZOMG SO HUNGRY. Pretty much all the time.

For lunch I had a good-sized portion of spinach lasagna, two pieces of homemade bread, and three Ghirardelli chocolate squares. And then I was still hungry, so I had a cherry-pomegranate organic poptart. Now I am hungry again.

I am considering eating the whole damn world and getting it over with.
rivka: (ice cream)
1. [livejournal.com profile] hazelchaz sent Alex a giant box of Big Sistery goodness. Key features of its excitingness:

  • The box was super-huge, big enough to climb in and play. A smaller box inside held the actual goods, but the mindblowing size of the delivery box was very much appreciated.

  • Both boxes were liberally packed with bubble wrap (yay!) and these cellulose (I think) packing peanuts that double as bath toys because they dissolve in water.

  • Books! Including a replacement of a long-lost favorite, Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever, and Alex's first introduction to Calvin and Hobbes, and some chapter books - one suitable to read now and two to grow on. Very much Big Kid material.

  • The book was addressed to Alex care of "CDA," her imaginary workplace. Which shows that [livejournal.com profile] hazelchaz has an unbelievable memory for detail. She was thrilled. Waiting to open it, she speculated, "Maybe my boss is being very very kind to me." The fact that the package was signed inside "from Mama's computer friends" did not diminish her belief that it actually came from her job, which she apparently believes is just real enough for this.


2. Our lovely and charming next-door neighbors celebrated Colin's arrival by going on a shopping spree at Whole Foods for us. They arrived at our door with the perfect baby gift: a big bag of tasty and healthy treats that can almost all be eaten one-handed by someone who is holding a baby with the other hand. Including, if you can believe it, organic cherry-pomegranate Pop Tarts.

Is it condescending of me to be charmed by picturing this hip urban gay male couple picking out a box of organic "mother's milk tea" to add to the bag? "Look, Scott, it has fenugreek to boost her supply."

3. Grocery delivery service. I know it's been around for years and years, but we had never done it before. Then, a couple of weeks ago, we saw a Safeway delivery truck parked down the block and decided to investigate. Dude, it's cheap. I had no idea. The prices are the same as at the store, and the delivery charge ranges from $7-13 depending on how much you spend and when you want them to drop it off. I really like the web interface - you can shop by category/store aisle, or you can type in a list and they'll pull up all the things they have that match items on your list. It saves your old shopping history, so you can easily rebuy the things you've bought before. And you can go back and add things to the list right up until the night before delivery.

We've done a full shopping by delivery service once. They don't have everything the store stocks on its shelves, which is unfortunate but I suppose understandable. I was very pleased with the quality of the produce and meat they picked out for us. (That's always been my sticking point for grocery delivery - wanting to select produce and meat myself.) The delivery driver showed up one minute after the start of our two-hour delivery window.

I can't believe I kept dragging myself to the store when I was nine months pregnant. I just had no idea.

4. I've discovered a fascinating new-to-me TV show, a Canadian production called Survivorman that runs on the Discovery Channel here. This show probably isn't new to anyone else, given that it's had three prior seasons and is now in reruns only, but I find it utterly fascinating. The premise is that the host, Les Stroud, gets dropped off in various remote and mostly inhospitable locations and picked up a week later. Survival in the interim is up to him. Unlike similar shows, he doesn't have a camera crew with him - he films himself. So there isn't a hidden infrastructure and connection to civilization - it's just him and a stack of cameras, on a rock or a barren beach or a raft floating in the ocean or whatever.

He has varying small amounts of gear - in most of the episodes I've seen, they've tried to simulate a particular kind of accident that might've led to him being stranded, and he has appropriate gear that one might retain after that kind of accident. For example, when they dropped him off on a South Seas island, they simulated a scuba diving accident. He had his dive gear, and a wreck of a boat with a few miscellaneous things in it like a tangle of fishing line and a rusty gas can with a little gas mixed with seawater. He always gets a Leatherman-type multitool and a harmonica, but he doesn't usually get matches or a tent or food or fresh water or medical supplies. It's pretty brutal. Which makes it fascinating.

5. Five things make a post, right, but I can only think of four that fit this category. No, wait! My friends Daria and Lo are coming up to Baltimore with their kids for a day of sightseeing next week, and they have promised to come by and do housework for me. My friends are awesome.
rivka: (baby otter)
Making a lasagna for friends who have just had a baby is very thoughtful indeed.

Making a lasagna for friends who have just had a baby, dividing it into one- or two-serving portions, and putting the portions in individual freezer- and microwave-safe containers so that some can be eaten now and some saved for later, and so that no extra dishes will be needed for storing or heating the lasagna? Is so unbelievably thoughtful that it elevates you to a whole new, previously unconsidered, category of thoughtfulness.

(And our friends get extra extra points because the lasagna was also incredibly tasty, one of the top three lasagnas I've ever had. We have good friends)
rivka: (foodie)
I made Jello tonight. For the first time in my life.

It's not the Jello of my youth, because it's lacking in canned "fruit cocktail." (My mother was a serious cook, and therefore never employed mini marshmallows.) It does have canned pears and banana slices, though.

It would never have occurred to me to make Jello, except that Alex suggested that she could bring some to school to share with the friends on her birthday. When I expressed surprise, she and Michael both informed me that they like Jello. I never knew. So we bought some, and then Michael got sick and it seemed that it would be a kindness to make something that would slip easily down his sore throat.

So, Jello. In our fridge. But I swear I draw the line well before Chef Boy-Ar-Dee canned ravioli.
rivka: (family)
This afternoon we went to visit some good friends who just had a baby two weeks ago. And... whoa. I had honestly forgotten that they start out so small. I really had. He's not a shrimp of a baby, comparatively - he's up to eight pounds now - but holy cow, he is tiny. Was Alex really ever that small? Is Niblet really going to be that small? I just... I just forgot.

(I was putting away baby clothes the other day and found myself wondering whether the 3-6mo onesies had shrunk in the wash. Because surely he won't be that small after actual months have passed, right? Right? ...Needless to say, they hadn't shrunk.)

It was wonderful to see and hold the baby. I got to snuggle him for a long time while he was sleeping. Alex got to pet him and hold him and help burp him. But it was when Michael took him and soothed him after a feed, cradling and rocking and bouncing and murmuring to him - that's when my overloaded pregnancy hormones hit hard and I got a bit teary. For me, especially now, I think there is very little that's as attractive as a man who is a good father.

After visiting our friends, we had a wonderful late lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant we'd never been to before. Alex proved that it is actually possible to make a meal of plain unseasoned rice noodles in a rice-paper wrapper; Michael and I ate things that had actual flavor. Among other things, we ordered a dish that came as a platter of separate items: the aforementioned rice noodles, crispy seasoned strips of pork, pickled vegetables, plain raw vegetables, lemongrass sauce, and rice paper wrappers. You wrapped your choice of ingredients into a sort of a burrito. It was YUM. I haven't had Vietnamese food in too long.

Then we went to Daedalus Books & Music, a discount bookstore, and spent a fair amount of time and money. After we'd already checked out, I noticed that they had big laminated maps packaged at 3/$10: a U.S. map, a world map, and what turned out to be sort of a lame third map that shows flags of the world on one side and flags of the U.S. on the other. We couldn't resist them.

So this evening I've been collecting pictures of our various family members, and book covers of books we've read that have definite settings (most children's books don't, of course), and pictures of places we've been together like SUUSI and Montreal and Williamsburg, and a few extra pictures like our house and the sphinx (Alex is fascinated for some reason) and the Obama family. I'm going to print them all out as small images and cut them out, and then we'll fasten them to the maps.

Alex has started to show some interest in geography lately, but of course concepts like the vast size of the world and where places are in relation to each other are pretty hard to understand when you're three. I think this will help start to sort it out in her mind. And I like that this is a project we can keep adding on to when the spirit moves us, but it's not something where we would feel bad if it never progressed any further. However far it goes, it will be fun.
rivka: (Christmas hat me)
Alex is fast asleep, hopefully to stay that way until morning. At the NP's advice, we added some Vicks medicated stuff (camphor, I guess) to her hot-steam vaporizer in hopes of suppressing her cough. I wedged her door almost-closed with her sweater, to try to keep in more of the steam. Also at the NP's advice, we sprayed saline mist into her nose in large quantities. Poor kid. Although, man, do I ever appreciate the difference between a three-and-a-half-year-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old. She hated the saline spray, but she submitted.

Today I made three more pans of pumpkin-cranberry-pecan bars and also two pans of cornbread for Michael's work lunch tomorrow. (He's cleaning up my baking mess in return, so I consider it an equitable trade.) Tomorrow I don't have to bake anything. On Christmas Eve I am planning to make two pecan pies for the church potluck. I tried to convince myself that no one would expect me to bring anything to the potluck because I was directing the pageant, but I didn't believe me, so: pies. My compromise is using storebought crust. I can't believe how far I've fallen, except that this is the same kind of crust that I used for the baby shower quiches and they were tasty, so it's hard to bring myself to feel the proper amount of shame.

This evening was the dress rehearsal for the Christmas pageant. Read more... )
rivka: (christmas squirrel)
Dear Rivka,

"You know those people I should probably get token Christmas presents for? Why don't I bake them all something yummy?"

Great idea. Marvelous idea. FOR SOMEONE WHO ISN'T 33 WEEKS PREGNANT.

(And who isn't directing a Christmas pageant. And who will be able to start baking before Alex goes to bed. But the "33 weeks pregnant" item is the one you should've been paying attention to.)

Love,
Rivka,
who is going to go to bed as soon as the third and fourth pans of pumpkin-cranberry-pecan bars are out of the oven. Third and fourth of seven.
rivka: (Christmas hat me)
We put up our Christmas tree today, and made our first Christmas cookies. (Probably our only Christmas cookies, unless I become strangely inspired.) This made for a very busy day, but it was helpful to have something exciting and fun for Alex to do while waiting for the tree branches to descend enough to decorate.

I didn't realize until just before we started baking that she was hoping to make the kind of cookies that you roll out and cut with cookie cutters. They aren't a usual part of my holiday baking repertoire - in fact, I don't think I've made rolled sugar cookies since I was a kid. Fortunately, my mother was home when I called her and had a good recipe. Also fortunately, it turns out that things that seem like complicated baking techniques when you are twelve are not so complicated when you're thirty-five.

We were extremely pleased to have [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb and [livejournal.com profile] lynsaurus come over to help decorate the tree and - in an unplanned but fun side effort - the cookies as well. I am always surprised when I stop and consider just how short a time it's been that we've known them, and how rarely we see each other except in passing, because when we do spend time with them they feel like old friends. I don't know why - it's just very, very comfortable to be with them. So yay.

The tree is beautiful. It's a Douglas fir, about 6 feet tall, very full, and beautifully shaped. It was big enough to take all our ornaments, even though it's standing in a corner and no one will be able to see the back. And it smells amazing. Our whole downstairs has a lovely fresh winter smell to it.

Lots of pictures under the cut, including a rare picture in which I love how I look. Read more... )

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