Sunday, December 31, 2006

Quick cute kid video

Right before Christmas, Liza finally admitted that the cow says "moo," the sheep says "baa," etc. We've gotten her to say something that sounds vaguely right for cows, sheep, pigs, cats, dogs, snakes, bears, lions, tigers, and probably a few others I've forgotten. As you can see from this video, cats don't say "meow," they wail like they're being run over by a steamroller. And I've learned it's best not to quiz her on camera when she'd rather be rolling Fisher Price cars to their death off the two-foot drop at the end of the parking garage ramp.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas round-up

I won't even try to go through everything that's happened in the past week or so. It's sort of been a whirlwind of dollmaking, cooking, baking, woodworking, happy screaming kids, ticked off screaming kids, D&D miniatures games, Munchkin games, buying expensive new yarn, and that sort of thing.

Christmas day was pretty much what you'd expect from a not-quite-two-year-old ... she had the attention span of a small insect, wanted to play with the bows as much as with her toys, and it took us forever to open presents. Gifts that were supposed to be big hits were received with barely concealed contempt ("Oh, a wooden apple I can lace this fake worm through. How nice."), while small things bought on a whim stole the show ("A fairy wand that's like a tuning fork and goes "TING" when you hit things with it? Hot diggety! Look it dings on the coffee table, and mama's forehead, and the cat, and the glass storm door, and ...").

Here's me and Liza with our two favorite presents - the $5 fairy wand and a pair of $10 slipper socks (with pompoms on the ties!) that Jason bought me so he'd get free shipping on the rest of his order:
Liza has been moderately enthusiastic about her "big" present, an inflatable ride-on bouncy horse thing called a Rody.
I think we'll be returning the rocker base we bought separately, since it makes the horse too high for Liza to get onto by herself, and she doesn't seem to have the hang of rocking, anyway. She likes to sit on it and bounce up and down, though, and she was absolutely enthralled by how our friends' kids used it, bouncing laps around the house at the pace of a thoroughbred. Absolutely frightening how fast those kids could go on this thing, especially with two toddlers around who don't know enough to get out of the way.
Of course, Liza was just as enthralled with the air mattress we had set up for the boys to sleep on, and the bouncing and leaping and cracking-open-of-skulls opportunities it afforded. We've been halfheartedly trying to convince Liza not to jump on her bed, and I think that air mattress has set our effort back by at least a week or two, if not more. On the positive side, though, she can now jump off of a short thing (like an air mattress) and land on her feet on something lower (like the floor). Can't wait until I turn my back for a minute and she tries that off of her regular-height bed. Yep, we've got 911 on speed dial. How'd you know?

Comfort me with apples

Several weeks ago I was out doing yard work when I heard a rustling in the bushes nearby. Ever mindful of the local skunk and raccoon population, I edged closer, brandishing my plastic rake in an attempt to look menacing to whatever rabid animal I found. I'm sure I scared the bejeezus out of the squirrel that was commando-crawling out of the bushes and across the driveway separating our house from our neighbor's.

As far as I could tell, it had fallen off of the very large tree nearby and broken or otherwise hurt both of its back legs, which were dragging uselessly behind it as it scrabbled pitifully across the pavement. I felt sorry for it, especially since my back yard is a stop on the Underground Cat Railroad, judging by the number of strays and/or neighborhood cats who stalk things near our patio.

I went back to raking, but I couldn't put the poor little bugger out of my mind. Should I kill it? With what? I know you can chop the head off a snake with a sharp shovel, but this wasn't a snake, and my shovels aren't sharp. Maybe whacking it upside the head with a brick? Was that any less disturbing of a mental image than the current one of Rambo the squirrel heading for cover in the bushes?

By the time I got back around to look for the squirrel, it had taken cover near the base of the tree, close enough to our other neighbor's frequently-barking-dog to probably be safe from cats for a while. Now I switched worries - instead of a quick death at the hands of Blackberry, the poor thing was going to starve to death. Should I try to find something to feed it? Would food attract cats? What do squirrels eat, anyway? Could it eat acorns now, or do they need to soften up over the winter to be palatable?

As I raked and kept mulling over the problem, it occurred to me that my instinctive response to almost any sort of crisis is to fix the problem with food. Death or illness in the family? Bring a casserole. Feeling sick to your stomach? Ginger ale and crackers will fix that. Baby cranky? Time to feed her. War in Somalia? Maybe if we all sent over some cookies, they'd stop fighting.

This point was driven home later that same day, when I took some of the cookie exchange party leftovers over to a friend who couldn't make it because her kids were sick that day. When I got there, I found a note on the door saying that they had left to take their child to the emergency room because it was the only thing open and she had gotten worse that afternoon. It was about 5pm, and my first thought was, I wonder if I should stop by McDonalds and pick up some food for them to eat while they wait in the hospital?

I guess cooking is safe for me. While I'm not that comfortable lending a shoulder to cry on, I'm perfectly willing to provide soup for you to cry into. Offering food makes me feel like I'm making a contribution, but it generally doesn't involve a whole lot of effort on my part. High positive karma points, low effort required.

I know I'm not the only one who responds to a stressful situation by firing up the oven. I recently read a series of autobiographies by Ruth Reichl, the former food critic of the New York Times (among other things). Many of her anecdotes involve how she used every stressful situation as an excuse to hide in the kitchen for days, making ever more complex meals and dishes. Her second book, Comfort Me with Apples, was easily the worst of the three. It really should have been called Comfort Me with Semi-Anonymous Adulterous Sex, but I guess that probably wouldn't have sold as well as a book titled after a line from the Song of Solomon. I found it difficult to read about her affairs while married to someone she admitted was a very nice man, and I find it difficult to believe that she can actually recall in perfect detail every course of the meals she ate with her lovers. I'm lucky if I can remember what I had for dinner yesterday, much less what I ate on my first date with Jason.

But aside from that volume, the Ruth Reichl books are entertaining and enlightening. She sprinkles them with a handful of recipes, none of which I've tried, but few of which seem beyond the scope of an average cook. I mean, how hard can it be to make scrambled eggs with matzoh?

So if you have a chance to check out Tender at the Bone or Garlic and Sapphires, I highly recommend them. They won't change the world or fix the problems in Somalia, but they did make me forget about Rambo for a few hours. Now THAT'S a review any author would be proud to receive :)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Baking central

My parents arrived early last week, and since then we've been sewing, baking, slapping wood filler on a cabinet I'm rehabbing, baking, and more sewing. Check out my other blog for details on the sewing ( ).
I thought I'd a scene from my kitchen this morning, where my mother was making caramel rolls for tomorrow morning and I was working on the red velvet cake for our big dinner tonight. My mother knows that I absolutely despise making pie crusts, even thought I much prefer pie to cake, so every time she comes to visit, she fills all my pie pans with crusts I can freeze and use later. It's a better present than anything I'm likely to get under the tree tomorrow.
Here's my mother in action:

I hope everyone out there has a great Winter Holiday Of Your Choice, and I hope everyone has someone out there to make pie crusts for them. Take care, and I'll see you in a few days!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Selective Blindness update

Well, I'm doing pretty good at actually stopping to enjoy the season (and my kid), although the stomach flu didn't really help much. Maybe it did, as I was so incapacitated that all I could do was lay on the couch and read to Liza, the same four library books over and over and over again. Oh, and kick a balloon across the room so she could hop down from the couch, go get the balloon, spend 10 minutes trying to get herself and the balloon back on the couch, and repeating the whole thing, to shrieks of laughter. Good times.

I think the best part of the whole last two weeks was yesterday afternoon, when I was driving home from Lowe's and realized that it was 67 degrees and sunny ... in December. I immediately declared a new holiday - National "It's 67 Degrees Outside in December and God Will Strike You Down If You Don't Go To The Park" Day. I packed some sandwiches and snacky bits for Liza, stuffed my family in the car, and joined the flocks of people over at our town's big playground. We chased Liza around (mostly to keep her from going on the big kid equipment, which was teeming with, well, big kids), managed to get her to eat most of her dinner, and figured out exactly how far Jason could kick a miniature basketball. Nothing special, but definitely a nice change of pace from the non-stop cleaning that was the rest of Sunday. In the past I would have spent the whole day cleaning - the house DID need it - while looking resentfully at the nice weather outside. But I managed to stop that impulse before it took hold too far, and we had a nice afternoon instead of clean kitchen floors.

So, mom and dad, when you get here tonight, feel free to blame the sticky spots in the hallway on your granddaughter and global warming, not on me :)

THE little red dress

If you've spoken to me in the last, oh, 3 years or so, you've probably heard about THE little red dress from Hanna Andersson. I've been obsessing about this dress almost as much as I did the crab-butt pants and monkey-butt tights you heard about a while ago. I swear I think if I had given birth to a boy, I STILL would have dressed him up in this dress and pretended he was a girl, it's that cute.

So of course, Liza had to have one for this year, but I wasn't about to pay retail prices for the set. Enter eBay, where I managed to find the dress and tights (gently used) for about $40. In August. I wasn't sure whether her size would come up again closer to the actual holiday season, so I went ahead and bought it. Since I wasn't sure how much Liza would grow between then and now, I erred on the size of caution and bought two sets - a size 80 and a size 90, just in case she turned into an Amazon before Christmas. I'm sure you can imagine how I justified this to myself - including, but not limited to, next year I can resell the one that doesn't fit; now I'll have a dress ready for next year, too; maybe one of our friends will want the extra one; what if she outgrows the 80 in September?

Of course, we had two Christmas parties to attend, both of which were going to include the same people. I couldn't have my daughter looking all ghetto and wear the same dress to both parties, so we needed a second dress for the second party. And shoes to go with both. It's a sickness, really, it is.
Anyway, Liza looked adorable in THE dress, and I managed to take some photos despite the raging stomach flu I had the day she and Jason went to the first party. Check out the precious pumpkin:
"Hi, I'm going on two. You won't see a picture of me for the next year that doesn't involve either a snotty nose or a sippy cup stuck to my face."

I love the hairdo, which one of the other preschool moms calls "The Cindy Lu Hoo Do," as in the cute little girl from the Grinch movie. Personally, I just call it adorable, and since we're trying to grow out her hair, you're going to be seeing this a lot over the coming months. Must ... not ... buy ... more than ... 10 ... cute ... hairbows ...

No photos yet of the second dress, although I'll probably have to shove her in it one more time so we can take at least one picture. Then it's getting wrapped in plastic and stored in the back of the closet until it's time to sell it on eBay next year (so I can buy her another cute dress, like the Twilight Taffeta dress, maybe?).

Oh, and one more photo, this time of Liza posing in front of her Christmas tree wearing her favorite hat (the sock monkey hat our friend Sybil made for her this summer, which she now has to wear at least once a day, every day, preferably putting it on and taking it off a dozen times or more):

I am especially fond of her signature "one fleecy slipper, one bare foot" look, which I think is going to take off like the bustier did when Madonna wore one in her concerts a few years ago.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Cute video I found on Youtube

I think Jason's sister's cat Casey needs one of these. When Susan weighed her recently, Casey was 19 pounds. My daughter weighs 24 pounds. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Now that's a good Santa

You can barely tell she's sitting on my lap, not his. If only I'd moved my hand out of the way ...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Phrases you don't really want to hear ...

"Hold still while daddy cleans the cat litter out of your hoo-hoo."

Why, oh why, is it inevitable that my daughter discovers the joys of flinging cat litter everywhere at 8:15 at night, when she is freshly washed and ready for bed, and her hair is wet so the litter sticks to it and turns into little mud balls in her hair? I had to sweep up several cups of litter while Jason tried to get her clean, which ended up requiring a high-powered shower setting and a lot of scrubbing. And how on earth did she manage to get that much litter in her diaper?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wasted week

Too sick to ...
... write
... cook
... quilt

That last one's the tip off that I was firmly parked on death's doorstep. If I've got baby-free time and decide to sleep instead of work on a craft, something is seriously wrong.

I'll spare you most of the gory details ... basically I've had some sort of non-puking stomach flu since Sunday. Last Sunday. 24-hour bug, my foot. I gave in on Friday and went to the doctor, who basically said what the online research I'd done said she would say ... 'not much we can do until we know what it is, so let's have five samples to culture over the weekend, and here's some industrial-strength anti-diarrhea medicine. Oh, and drink something, for god's sake, you're peeing BROWN, you're so dehydrated.'

The prescription was a disaster, doing nothing to stop the symptoms and giving me a world-class case of gas to boot. Imagine all the worst toilet humor you've ever seen or heard; that's what it was like around here on Friday night.

The regimen of drinking water, then Gatorade, then water, then sugar-filled soda seems to be working pretty well ... I wouldn't say I'm properly hydrated, but at least it no longer looks like I've poured my mother's iced tea in the pot when I pee (you know, the tea that isn't properly steeped unless it sat on the counter with the teabags in it for most of a weekend?).

Still don't know what the hell this is or why it's hit me worse than the others I know who have gotten it. And pretty much everyone has gotten it ... Liza got it a day ahead of me but was cured by Thursday, and my playgroup friends and their families have been succumbing every couple of days like clockwork. And as if the actual illness itself wasn't enough, my intestinal symptoms have meant that my body hasn't had the chance to absorb either my birth control pills or my antidepressants, so I got to spend the weekend sick, depressed, and spotting two weeks early. Grrr.

I'm feeling mostly better now, as evidenced by my debilitating desire to clean up a week's worth of household clutter and crap on the kitchen floor (no, not actual crap, although I make no claims about the cleanliness of my bathroom at this moment). I promised myself that I would use Monday mornings (when Liza's at preschool) ONLY to work on freelance stuff, developing patterns or writing or sending out query letters. So far I've been good, only taking one week to do mundane household stuff because we were flying out for Thanksgiving the next day. But I think I'm going to devote this morning (or what's left of it) to getting the house back in shape and relatively sanitary, lest Jason come down with this, too. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Must-see tv

Well, not actually tv, more of a kick-ass home video made by someone with wicked editing skills and access to a green screen. And a cute kid. And a Queen song. Yes, I plan to marry my daughter off to this kid as soon as she's legal in whichever state he comes from.

I seriously laughed so hard I have to go change my undies, but since I'm on day 3 of a wicked case of what I suspect to be that mysterious "Norwalk-like virus" that people keep catching on cruise ships, needing fresh undies is really nothing new for me. Trust me, when I'm reduced to eating Jell-O and plain rice, and I am drinking the Pedialyte left over from my daughter's last illness, you do NOT want the details. If only I had caught this on a cruise ship, at least I could have spent the last few days visiting toilets in tropical locations, rather than cooped up in my house. Oh, well. At least we didn't have to pay cruise ship prices for an illness this fun!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Party on!

Pictures from after our Christmas Cookie Exchange on Saturday.

She wore the Santa hat for like half an hour, and cried when one of the other girls took it away.

Here she is in her sparkly red overalls and fake-Mary-Jane Robeez.

Yep, time to start toddler-proofing the place. Soon.

"What do you mean, 'Put it back'? It's got a Muppet on the cover, so I must watch it NOW.

Peekaboo! (or, in Kentucky-speak, Pea-Pah! Don't ask ...)