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I have to wonder: what are people thinking when they design maternity clothes? At Target, several of the dresses have spaghetti straps. I did not have a spaghetti-strap body before pregnancy (though slender, I am busty); the thought of any pregnant woman not needing a bra at the point these clothes are professedly designed for (second and third trimesters) is hilarious. Other dresses have criss-cross backs. Tell me, when you are changing bra size every month, are you really going to buy a special racerback bra for one dress? Similarly, all of their maternity capri pants are made of thick material and have uncomfortable waistbands; perfect for my third trimester during brutal June, July, and August, of course. And short shorts for pregnant women? I had decent legs before pregnancy as a runner, and yet I assure you that even having only gained 12 pounds, these are really not something you want the public to have to suffer right now. What are these designers thinking?

Even worse, although the selection is terrible, it's hard to even get. Apparently you can get married with Dillard's and Macy's, but don't expect to be clothed when pregnant there. (There are so many social commentaries waiting to be said there, but I haven't the energy.) JCPenny's was the only store I could find besides Old Navy with any selection at all; even Gap's maternity clothing was disappointing, not to mention hilariously overpriced. And half of what they have is only available online, which I never seem to have luck with.

It's particularly frustrating as I am quite content to wear five or six items into the ground - why waste money on clothes you'll wear for perhaps six months? - and I can't even find those five or six items (capri pants; perhaps a medium-length skirt; two more tops; possibly one more dress). Much of the clothing I had expected to last out my pregnancy with I am already uncomfortable in. My skin has become ultrasensitive and severely dry, and even a light elastic band above or below my belly, once it has any tension at all in it, has become unbearable.

On the upside, we are closing to getting C set up with a craft table. If I can just find a decent pattern for something loose and flowy like this dress, he can make two of them and I'll just live in them.
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The past two weeks have been a delight and a shock. I could with very little prompting enumerate a dozen miserable pregnancy symptoms, but without the crippling nausea, which has almost entirely disappeared, I feel comparatively great. The only part I can't quite adjust to is the pain; it's minor, but is pretty constant. Since focusing on it would just be depressing, I've simply ignored it as best I can.

That sounds depressing, but I realize in fact that I may be the happiest I've ever been. There's a fair dollop of frustration in there because of the pregnancy challenges, but there are so many good things right now that I can mostly ignore it it. C & I have never been happier as a couple, and we are deliriously happy to have made it this far in the pregnancy without "real" problems (my blood pressure, heart, kidneys, and blood sugar look shockingly good). To our surprise, we have also found ourselves increasingly unworried and relaxed about the whirlwind a child is expected to bring; being older first-time parents, we've weathered enough storms to figure this is just one more exciting time that we'll get through and adjust to.

In fact, we find ourselves oddly more confident the further we get in the pregnancy about every decision we make. Even silly things, like shelves, which have lingered for two years in the decision-making, we solved in a two-minute discussion the other day. Everything is simultaneously less important and more important; I worry less about things that used to bother me tremendously, and feel incredibly grateful for the real important things, those Thanksgiving-table things of family, food on the table, a dog, a home.

The only part I really worry about is that everything is so us-centric right now. I am just now reaching the point where I can get more than the essentials done; I do tire easily, but it's a far more normal kind of tiredness, not that forced-march haze of exhaustion that lasted for months. The problem is, I'm still catching up. I've gotten the house mostly in order, but the yard is bordering on the city getting called, and the list of to-do's - the urgent ones alone - is intimidating. As a result, my personal work and friends are rather neglected. I don't like this, but I find I haven't yet the energy to change it. I'm hoping that once we get just a few more things knocked out, I'll be able to spare a little more mental space.

Health

Apr. 19th, 2012 11:14 am
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C has cut his blood sugar level almost in half and his liver is COMPLETELY NORMAL!!!!!!

Tremors

Apr. 12th, 2012 08:55 am
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I recently caught Tremors on TV and I was astonished by how much I enjoyed it. I stayed to watch it because I knew I was fond of it, but even still. (This would be especially amusing to my family, who recall it as the first movie that absolutely terrified me. I think I was 9.)

It's imperfect, of course; kills off the non-white guy, white guys prevail, questionable "Texas" accents, etc. But it's also purely good popcorn fun, the perfect guilty pleasure, with the added bonus of characters who are tough, smart, and work together to defeat the monster. (Have you ever had such fun as when gun enthusiasts Reba McEntire & hubby empty their entire arsenal into the evil worm monster? I always rewind that scene.) It's that rare horror (well, comedy/horror) film where the characters are rewarded for thinking things through, being smart, preparing appropriately, and working together.

I struggle with most horror movies - not only because I'm a wimp with visual horror (horror I can read, but watching is tough), but also because I get so frustrated. I'll never forgot watching The Grudge with my mother - in the theater, no less - and at the end, when the heroine watches her beloved boyfriend/fiance/whatever he was being murdered by the most pathetic looking monster you have ever seen while standing about five feet from her, my mother - who never speaks during movies - spoke out, "Do something! I'm nearly 70 years old and *I* could take that thing out!" Gotta say, really broke the tension. (For the record, we almost had the theater to ourselves.)

And Tremors doesn't do that. In fact, they come up not with one or two team plans, but plan after plan after plan as they adjust to contingincies. Monsters are underground? Go somewhere that dulls the vibrations and be quiet while we plan. Monsters figure out we're here? Get up on the roof. Monsters starting to tear down the building? Distract it with a tractor while you get a giant piece of construction equipment too big for even the monsters to eat and get everyone on it. Monster builds a trap to stop their progress? Ok, time to go fishing with dynamite...and on and on.

At the end, it's Kevin Bacon (gotta love him) and his plan of running to the edge of a cliff so the monster blindly tunnels off it to careen to its death that wins the day; not self-sacrifice or stupidity or sheer dumb luck. When do we get to see that anymore? I did see Chronicle this weekend and absolutely loved it. Not perfect, but some really gorgeous interaction, great dialogue, and superb performances by all the young stars. (And such a pleasure to see FNL's Michael B. Jordan again.) Come to think of it, it may be the best superhero movie I've seen; one of the most thoughtful, certainly. But even that movie focused on mostly bad decisions - albeit ones I could completely see the characters making. I sometimes feel I'd be willing to trade a little quality for a little teamwork.

Fish Stock

Apr. 1st, 2012 02:55 pm
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Overlooked minor sentence in recipe mentioning you make the stock yourself. Had already bought all ingredients to treat the husband to a fancy dinner since he can't eat out.

Oh, heavenly father. May I never make Thai stock from scratch EVER AGAIN.

Stuffed

Mar. 31st, 2012 09:58 pm
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I realized this week, to my amusement, that though I have no memory for lyrics, no head for direction, and hardly any recollection of poetry past original reading, food sticks with me. If you say eggs, I think of The Hours (raw), The Runaway Bride (various) or Angela's Ashes (boiled). Bread is A Wedding for Bella; baked potatoes, The Secret Garden. (I always feel so lucky to have butter and salt and pepper for my baked potatoes.) Lobster is L'Engle's Ring of Endless Light, goat cheese Heidi...the list goes on and on. My refrigerator is a cornucopia of references.

I suppose I shouldnt be surprised; cooking is a pretty fundamental part of who I am. But I am still wonderfully amused.
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C & I have been, due to various ailments, quite limited in our choices of Wild Excess. Today, he gave me a quick call to ask if I needed anything from the grocery store, and he confessed he'd broken down and gotten an Orange Julius, sugar be darned. I confessed I'd had a Dr. Pepper.

We are so hard core.
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The past few days have been challenging, to be sure, as we've tried to find food and snacks that do not include anything the husband is definitively or potentially allergic to during this elimination diet time - gluten (celiac disease: no messing around), corn, rice, soy, almost all nuts, white beans, eggs (unless baked in in small amounts), and peas. Plus, he's not allowed processed sugar or alcohol due to his liver right now. Throw in the fact that he doesn't like mussels, celery, or black-eyed peas, doesn't like eating the same thing repeatedly (except smoothies), and the fact that he has to lose another 20 pounds, and good heavens, it is tough.

Thus, we are our library's most faithful cookbook borrowers. In our latest venture, I was looking through all the many, many forgotten cookbooks (such a curious time machine, that aisle) and discovered, to my delight, the Irish Heritage Cookbook. About a quarter-second after I remembered that the Irish have one of the highest rates of celiac disease in the world, I grabbed it with glee.

The book is a delight. It is filled with many unusual ingredients (well, unusual to me), but I'm trying to be flexible, and there are so many recipes to choose from that are naturally gluten, corn, rice, and soy-free. They cleverly use oatmeal (which I can buy gluten-free) to "bread" many of their items; "pies" made with potato toppings are naturally perfect. The heavy use of milk (which he is NOT allergic to), game, and fish are all perfect fits, even if I will have to drive across town to the only place that sells duck, kidneys, liver, etc. The salads are also unusual and rely on leeks, cabbage, chard, and other not-just-lettuce bases, and the roasted zucchini with parmesan and butter on top is such pure, simple magic I could cry with relief. There are even several desserts he can eat, like Apple Snow, once his blood sugar is doing better.

We are ordering our own copy immediately; I feel better just holding it. Wonderful Ireland!

Allergies

Mar. 1st, 2012 02:50 pm
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The husband has tested positive for a multitude of allergies including corn, rice, soy, peanuts, pecans, almonds, sesame, and peas. And of course, no gluten (celiac).

Perhaps he will learn to synthesize air?

(We're going to do food challenges to help us determine what he's really allergic to and what is a false positive, but it's hard not to read that list and wonder what's left, isn't it?)

Winds

Mar. 1st, 2012 02:46 pm
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Spring suddenly seems relentless. We're bewildered by its early, early arrival, and the winds are already getting started, but I confess I love the warmth in my feet. I hardly need socks, and Koko has taking to sleeping in the sunlight near the windows rather than huddling under blankets. The air feels bright.

Weeds

Feb. 23rd, 2012 07:54 am
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Weeds are threatening to eat the yard. I am confused where they came from; we get snow fairly regularly, and it is icy cold at night, and yet the yard is starting to look downright Irish despite the fact that it is supposed to be gravel. Fiddle. Did not sign up for weeding in the snow.
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While in Boston, I was introduced to the marvelous Wise and Otherwise, a game where you are provided the first half of a unique saying, and then must write down a clever ending. After each person takes a stab at it, the answers are read aloud, and you guess which is the actual correct one.

If it sounds easy, it's not; the sayings are remarkably obscure and frequently bewildering out of their culture context, certainly as odd as anything you could pull out of a hat yourself. As a result, it's reall a contest of cleverness where everyone tries to create deep, meaningful, or simply funny sayings.

On that introductory day, we had a particularly excellent group and really marvelous sayings developed. Some it's hard to explain - funny due to family in-jokes - but others are just generally fabulous. A few of my favorites that we created (not the actual sayings), for posterity.



Abstain from abstinence.
Don't open your mouth until you've thought three times.
Dry bread, go home.
Dry bread softens in a pig.
It is easy to mount the tiger's head, but less so the tiger.
Moscow has seen her share of spice peddlars.

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In the past two years, everything has broken. We have lost the water heater, garage, air conditioner, fixed electricity, and then the pipes (months of construction after the flood). Right at Christmas, the furnace went out. We had decided, handily, that this was all over with 2011.

This morning, the kitchen sink stopped up.

Not baking soda and vinger, not augering (think kitchen snake thingy), not taking apart the pipes, not ANYTHING has worked to fix it. In a home where celiac disease is a defining aspect of our lives and the kitchen is the be-all and end-all of basically everything, a nonfunctioning kitchen is somewhat akin to nuclear disaster. There is almost nothing we can eat at restaurants, and we had already splurged on eating out this week. I am currently Iron Chefing a meal composed solely of ingredients that can be thrown into the oven. (All our dishes in the dishwasher were contaminated by the backup as well, barring a pie plate and a few other things, which we'll be eating off. Like I said: totally Iron Chef.

On the upside, this has reminded me to my yearly 2011 in review, a touch late, admittedly.

On to the (abbreviated) year-in-review quiz!

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?

Had my Read more... )

EDITED TO ADD: HAH! Victory! Heroic husband has fixed the pipes!
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The other day, C and I stopped at our favorite taco place and grabbed a few tacos to go. It was New Year's eve, so they were closing early, and we loaded up the condiments (really fabulous stuff, every kind of sauce or salsa and pickled carrots and onions and peppers...) and popped into the car. He remembered we were near some kind of park or nature walk, and unsurprisingly, he found it quickly through a dizzying array of little back roads. We parked in front of a blank field and, it being quite chilly outside, began to eat.

Occasionally we'd see someone walking their dog or out with their family, and a few of the dogs (a beautiful Samoyed in particular) caught our attention. But on the whole, we were entranced by the field. In our twenty-some minutes there, we saw a kestrel (very close), a flock of geese, a glorious flocks of sand cranes, and all the usual little birds whose names escape us dance about and eat and honk and hunt and silently glide. Stunning. What a perfect way to start off the new year.

Strange

Oct. 31st, 2011 11:15 am
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I am noting this mostly for Treehavn, because this is very possibly my only real interaction with something I can't readily explain.

When I was little, I used to play with my grandmother's wind-up toy music box, which was in the shape of a piano, every time I came over. I was so attached to it that it was one of only two things I requested when she passed away, the other being her watch, which I always thought was tremendously elegant and which she also let me play with. (She really was amazingly tolerant.)

The other day, out of nowhere, the little toy piano music box began playing. It was locked in the "off" position, not wound. I was in the other room when I heard it begin playing. I was home alone.

I miss her.
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In an amazingly domestic attempt to bulk up our (my) recipe repertoire, I've been spending hours each week digging through cookbooks, magazines, and online catalogues trying to find new dinners - preferably fast ones. Easy as it sounds, recipe bowling has become kind of an extreme sport in our house. No gluten, no mammals (he's trying to change that), no peanuts, no eggs, no cannellini or lima beans, no adventurous seafood (I'm trying to change that), getting tired of chicken and turkey, under an hour...it's paragliding, with measuring cups.

As a result, I've tried some strange things in attempting to get us out of our spaghetti-caldo-Tejas salad rut, notably a Norwegian fish stew that was the cuisine equivalent of swimming with sharks, but last night I may have hit a new level of weird. I don't know what I was thinking with a recipe composed mostly of broccoli rabe, chickpeas, and ricotta, but hey, it was sauteed, it was fast, and it didn't have one of our official No foods.

"This is tasteless," I said, about three bites in. "More red pepper? Lemon? Salt? No. It's just...this doesn't...work."

"So I can not like it?" my husband said, hopefully. Poor guy. He looked like he was being tortured. We both tried a few more half-hearted bites, but finally I removed the crime and made a steak for him in restitution.

On the upside, he's decided to cook tonight. And I do love spaghetti.

Decor

Oct. 2nd, 2011 07:32 pm
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In a bit of a sudden fit, I'm focused on decorating the house, working on the garden. It's not that I haven't been working on both the past couple of years; but I have somehow reached an absolute point where I refuse to put up with less than good anymore. We put in quite a bit of work on the garden on the weekend, and though it hardly shows I know we're a good step closer to the garden I want. We moved the horrible stand-in-coffee-table and replaced it with the guest room chest, which never quite fit anyway, and looks quite nice in the living room. I have already sandpapered the back (which was unfinished and mottled and messy, lots of little stickers some 20 years old that had practically grown into the wood), and plan to stain it later this week. I'm also eyeing some carved Buddhas for the house; C already has a couple, but we need some bigger artwork and I know he'd love to have more religious representations. Maybe I can find a green Tara?

In utterly unrelated news, C took me to the State Fair here in New Mexico, which, while it can't compare on the grand scale with the Texas state fair, is still very dear. The highlights of the day were lions and Chinese acrobats, neither of which we expected to see; apparently a lion sanctuary does tours to help support the care for the animals, most of which lost their homes (failed zoos? I think was what they said) or were "pets" that the owners realized they couldn't really take care of (shocker). So it was lovely to enjoy seeing them - my God, the male lion acted like a kitten, loving on his trainer, but the lionesses genuinely frightened me; you could tell they were just, just barely, putting up with everything - knowing it was a rescue situation. And the Chinese acrobats were magical; if they had begun to fly mid-performance, I would hardly have been more surprised. Everything seemed very new, and I was so happy it was fall I nearly did a dance. Oddly, the native arts section, which is what we enjoyed most last year, we bought nothing at. The walls seem very bare in the house.

Next week, a friend is visiting us from Texas, and we will take her to the balloon fiesta. I wish I could get the bathroom painted before then, but I think C will not permit it. It is probably chaotic enough, although I am tempted to stencil golden lions on the doors in a fit of magical pique.

Fall

Sep. 13th, 2011 01:15 pm
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After our success last year, we were certain our garden this year would be tremendous. Doubled in size! Extra fertilizer! More green!

Alas. With fall here, I've had to come to terms with the fact that our poor wee garden won't be producing much. Eggplant production has been virtually nill, ditto with the squash, and while not all our tomatoes died, the remaining survivors are dying a slow death from verticillium. Despite all that, it's a cheery sight; the flowers and herbs we tossed in as why-not are really quite pretty, and the green bean vines are darling, even though I don't think they will ever, ever produce a dratted bean.

(Though, of course, if you were judging our garden by greenness, if the weeds counted, I think we might win a city-wide prize. This weekend I pulled five giant garbage bags' worth, and I've the battle wounds to prove it.)

Fall, at least, has brought consolation prizes. While I'm nervous back in choir (surrounded by far superior singers), I enjoy it, and the church ESL classes are a real joy. One of our students is testing for citizenship this year, and we are so excited we can hardly stand it.
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I have a tremendously dull habit of liking things in one way. I don't know if it's watching too many Hitchcock films too many times (Edith Head, you genius) or my mother's severe asceticism, but somewhere along the way my preference for simple became a bit of an obsession with the basic, the original, the classic.

Let's take a pitcher. I need a pitcher, for all things lemonade-y, and I thought it would be easy to find one. Simple; white porcelain (though I might accept clear glass); large enough to where I could genuinely fill four or five beverages from it, but not so big I couldn't pick it up. Easy, right?

Insert laughter here. It is absurd the number of ugly, even downright unusable pitchers that exist out there. At first I thought, well, so it goes; I'll just have to buy something a little more expensive. But even le Creuset's pitchers are too small (probably due to their weightiness), and Wedgwood pitchers I find a touch too country, too Grecian, or too expensive AND faux-Grecian (the three varieties I saw). Feeling there is only One True Form for anything is a terrible approach to things, and yet, I can't help but be sad that the Perfect Pitcher Picture in my head can't be matched anywhere - not even in a museum piece, apparently.

In other news, I am exercising most days again now. I went through a brief patch of a few months when I struggled to exercise simply because of my new schedule, which makes morning exercise impossible. (I like mornings, but I consider morning what happens after dawn. I refuse to get up at 5am to work out.) Unfortunately, this now means I have approximately 20 minutes to myself per day, M-F. Add in to this desperately trying to knock things off my to-do list on the weekend (gardeningauctionbrowsingforfurniturepaintingreorganizationrehanging) and entertaining (the next two months I don't know if we have a weekend without visitors), and it'll be hard to stick with my determination to stay in shape.
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I'm a skinflint. I admit it. Truth is, I'm not even as strict as I'd like to be; my natural inclination is to starve and save every dime (or at least pay off my college loans), as I did my first year after college. (Though looking back I should have at least bought some better food, for heaven's sake.) So it's a surprise to no one that I live for magazines like Real Simple, read blogs like Home Ec 101, and search the internet for cheap recipes regularly.

So I was charmed at first when I came across the food blog posted on Gourmet's website, Extreme Frugality by W. Harding Carter. Ah, supermiling, a little vegetable garden, no more expensive goodies. I nodded rather amused at each of his discoveries, nodding along with each wise decision he made to cut back on expenses and live within his means.

Then he went nuts.

Okay, so that's a little harsh. But seriously: I love my little vegetable garden - but I am aware it is elitist. I can afford a house with a garden where I can grow expensive vegetables like Black Krim tomatoes and Shishito peppers because I find it fun and these are otherwise almost impossible to find vegetables. I think it was when he described his wife's daily efforts - "backbreaking" is how he described it - I began to cringe. Then there was the cut-rate 90% off supermarket; sure, glad you have one, but how many of us do? Same goes with his maple syrup-gathering efforts. Then he decided he had to get a cow. And as he began to describe more and more the excruciating labor he demanded from himself, his children, and his wife, all I could think was: are you kidding me?

Farming is a serious, great, and difficult profession. It requires an understanding of complex agricultural science. If you want to be a farmer, that's fine. But to tell me in one sentence you're a writer and your wife is a lawyer, and the next to be talking about the hours wasted on beetles on your plants, without which you won't be eating tomatoes, and baking bread and selling eggs and never turning on the dryer for your poor overworked wife - this is a serious waste of resources. And completely unrealistic for 99% of the population.

[Edit: [personal profile] rinue notes I'm thinking of comparative advantage. And she's right, but I also think it's something else. On thinking on it, I think it may be a certain amount of sexism or ageism here. He decided this was the course for the family, and suddenly they all suffer. At times it seemed downright cruel.]

Maybe I'm foolish to think the author in any way means to say this is a workable solution for most people. But I find on reading this for the first time I'm leaning towards [personal profile] rinue's side. Division of labor is a good thing, people. Mass farming is a good thing (though I still think they could do a better job of crop rotation/integration/variation). Realism, i.e., not everyone lives in a farmable area with plenty of land available is also good. And frankly, not everyone wants to BE a farmer.

So Carter, I wish you the best. But I hope you take it a little easier on your family soon. And go buy your kids some mozzarella, okay? They deserve it.