Sunday, March 30, 2008
WTF? Where did that come from? It doesn't sound remotely like any real names in any of the books we read, so she must have picked it up at school ... but still ... Falconer? WTF? We've got to stop leaving Jason's D&D books laying around now that she's getting better at recognizing letters and words, I guess.
Falconer. Did I mention, WTF?
"Okay, Liza, are you ready to go stand under the waterfall for a while?"
(bathtub starts running)
"Time to come get in the bathtub and take a shower, Liza."
"I don't wanna take a bath! I don't wanna take my band-aid off! Aaaaaaaaahhhhhh!"
"Who said anything about band-aids? You can leave it on, I don't care."
(two minutes later)
"I wanna watch a video."
"You want to watch a video? You can watch this one on the camera of you screaming."
(watches video, giggling occasionally)
"Was that fun to watch? Or did it hurt your ears?"
"That was funny! Now I wanna watch Barney."
(Liza turns on DVD player and settles in)
"It's not time to watch a video, it's time to take a bath. Turn off the DVD player and come to the bathroom."
(Jason turns off DVD player)
"I wanna watch a video! Aaaaahhhhhhhh!"
(two minutes later)
"I think I know what this is about. You think we're going to take off your band-aid, and it's going to hurt. Is that right?"
"You can leave the band-aid on if you want to. How about we make a deal - you go take a bath, and we won't touch your band-aid. Deal?"
(Liza and Gretchen shake hands solemnly; Jason fetches swimsuit and grass skirt)
(Liza giggles maniacally and strips naked as fast as Superman)
Back with the salesman, we do the usual car dealership tapdance, arrange to have a test drive, and pull out with him waving to us from the parking lot. During the test drive we discuss the merits of the car, and I mention that he looked familiar, like one of the people who used to work at the company we worked for when we first moved to Cleveland. Jason isn't so sure, and we drop the topic in favor of a spirited discussion of wind noise and cup holder convenience. I notice as we drive by that the sign in front of a local church says that coincidence is when God wishes to remain anonymous.
Back in the dealership we wind things up with the salesman, who gives us his card ... and it is, indeed, the guy from work. Yup, it's a very small world sometimes, 50,000 people or not.
(and I didn't make a mistake in framing the shot this way - if you think I'm going to take a picture of my face at 1am sans makeup, you're out of your mind)
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
The meal was saved by the green beans below, which were so good we actually used extra noodles to dip up the sauce after all the beans were gone. Lacking the fancy All-Clad saute pan recommended in the article, I used my straight-sided cast iron skillet, which worked wonderfully. It's finally achieved the state of seasoned nirvana where even messy fried gloppy stuff like this sauce wiped out with hot water ... which means I'll probably catch something on fire in it next time I cook, warping the skillet past the point of salvaging. Or something.
Anyway, the beans kicked ass. Try them soon.
Fast and Flavorful Vegetable Sautes - Chinese Restaurant-Style Sauteed Green Beans
From Fine Cooking March 2008 issue, page 45
1 Tbs less-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
12 oz green beans, trimmed
1 Tbs minced garlic
Combine the soy sauce, honey, and 1 Tbs water in a small dish and set near the stove. Set a shallow serving dish near the stove, too.
In a 10-inch straight-sided saute pan, heat the butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the green beans and 1/2 tsp salt and toss with tongs to coat well. Cook, turning the beans occasionally, until most are well browned, shrunken, and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. The butter in the pan will have turned dark brown.
Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the garlic is softened and fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds. Carefully add the soy mixture, scraping the honey out into the pan. Cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces to a glazy consistency that coats the beans, 30 to 45 seconds.
Immediately transfer the beans to the serving dish, scraping the pan with the spatula to get all of the garlicky sauce. Let sit for a few minutes and then serve warm.
Serves two to three as a side dish.
You can find a link to the original pay-to-read-it article here, along with a photo of the finished dish. If you've never read Fine Cooking, I can highly recommend it. I don't subscribe anymore, but I'm thinking it's time to sign up again. Note to self: Ask for subscription for birthday or Mother's Day.
On a related note, after dinner I finally pulled the grease screens out of the vent fan and washed them for the first time since we moved to this house, and possibly for the first time since the microwave was initially installed. I can think of a whole lot of interjections and descriptions, but let's just say ... ewwwwwwwwwww. Really ewwwwwwwww. Like, "I had to scrub out the sink after washing them in it, since there was a ring left when I drained the water" ewwwwwwww. Do yourself a favor and go clean your vent fan screens now, and try to remember to do it more than once a year, okay? Because ... ew. Just ew.
- I don't remember dyed eggs being this bright when I was a kid. Have they improved the dye, or was I just too impatient as a kid to let the suckers sit in the dye for more than 2.5 seconds? These took a good two minutes a piece, I'd say, and I think they were worth it. And Little Miss Likes To Prod And Stir Things was fine with letting them sit in the dye, as long as I let her move them around once in a while.
- Dying raw eggs - totally better than dying hardboiled eggs, especially since nobody in our house eats boiled eggs on anything other than an occasional salad. I didn't even scrub them off, just threw them right from the box into the dye, and I didn't hover over the kid to make sure she didn't stir them too hard. The only one that cracked was the one she tried to use a crayon on, which I don't find surprising given her ability to punch a hole through our dining room table with those waxy little devils.
- When my daughter accidentally cracks an egg, and I decide to use it to make her an egg burrito for lunch, and she's all excited because the egg will be green, and then she's all disappointed because the egg isn't green on the inside, DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, use food coloring to dye the eggs green. At least not on a day when she's got a cold and REALLY wants an egg burrito. After 45 minutes of screaming and crying and rending of garments and hitting and snotting and did I mention the screaming? she finally allowed as how she would eat the rest of her meal if I got the hideous green-filled burrito off of her plate. And then she had trouble getting the peanut butter to stick to her apple slices, which led to another 25 minutes of screaming and crying and hitting and throwing and rending and snotting and screaming, did I mention the screaming? And then she came back and ate the remaining two slices of apple, which I had practically superglued peanut butter onto, and decided that the half of a TastyKake I offered her wasn't sufficient, she had to have the whole one (no matter how much I love her, I will NEVER give her the last TastyKake in the house - there are some lines I will not cross), leading to another 25 minutes of screaming and throwing and hitting and snotting and did I mention the screaming was so bad I called Jason at work so he could experience it firsthand? In case you're counting, I basically had two straight hours of tantrum, during which time I had to eat my lunch, blow the kid's nose 40 times, and attempt to retain both my hearing and my sanity. Apparently my daughter is attempting to cram her entire quotient of Terrible Two-ness into the month remaining in that age. Mom, feel free to send along that bottle of Jim Beam I left on the kitchen counter at your place when we left on Sunday - I think it's going to come in handy.
Well, I'm off to work on the taxes and stab myself in the eyeballs with lemon-pepper-encrusted sharp sticks because, you know, I need to do something fun after this morning.
On the positive side of things, I found some toys I hadn't seen since we moved, including Jason's old Fisher-Price Western town set . (Oh, and J - search for Fisher-Price Western on eBay and tell me we don't need the extra people (Indians! Gamblers! Bar floozy!) ... because I'm soooo tempted).
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
There's a teensy tiny chance this won't work either, but I can't tell because I'm logged into my account through my browser, and I can't separate the two to check that other people will be able to use the link properly, too. So let me know if it's broken, 'kay?
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I'm going to have to start a whole Flickr set for her on my account, given the number of photos she took that turned out half decent. Of course, we also have some where people have no heads, or the shot is focused on the floor, or the windows behind the people look like they're 20 feet tall, but still, it's not bad for a 2-year-old.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Don't let the storm door hit you on the ass on your way out. See ya next year, sucker!
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
- Cover the floor. We use an old plastic thing that was supposed to catch spills under a high chair, and we have a couple old vinyl tablecloths, too. An old shower curtain would work, too, as would actual painting tarps, if you have some in the basement.
- Cover the kid. At preschool they use old adult t-shirts, tied in the back at the hem into a big knot to make it slightly less voluminous on the kids. At home we usually use just an apron and rolled-up sleeves, but this morning we hit paydirt: DO THE PAINTING BEFORE YOU TAKE THE KID OUT OF PAJAMAS. Think about it - they're easily washed, and if the paint doesn't come out, pajamas don't have much resale or hand-me-down value, anyway. Plus, they're usually fairly close-fitting, so you don't have to worry so much about sleeves or hems dragging through the paint.
- Control the paint supply. Don't just hand the kid a bottle of paint, pour a little into a tray or bowl or paper plate and let them use that up before you give them more. Flat containers are easier to mix colors in, anyway, and let the kid use brushes or stamps or fingers or whatever applicator they want.
- Come up with a plan for what to do with the wet artwork BEFORE the kid starts producing it. If your toddler is like mine, they'll churn out a new page every five minutes (or less), and the flat surfaces fill up pretty fast. I've been using painter's tape to attach the art to the walls long enough to dry. It's cheap, and it doesn't mess up the walls when you peel it off.
- Have cleaning supplies on hand - nearby doesn't count. The paper towels don't help if they're 10 feet away and the kid has just sprayed your feet with blue paint. Have at least one wet wipe or paper towel with you at the easel, so you can grab it and wipe up messes immediately before they become either huge or permanent.
- Be prepared for the fact that it will probably take longer to get everything set up than it will for your little Picasso to tire of painting. Sometimes you can get a little more time out of the activity if you give them a new technique - make prints on other paper by pressing it onto wet art, or use stamps or a different kind of brush, or draw something for the kid to try to color in. But they'll probably still have a pretty short attention span. That's okay ... just remember to pack everything up in one location so it's easier to set up next time the kid wants to paint.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
G: "Don't bother. I need custard. Unless - oooooh, it's Girl Scout Cookie flavor time, isn't it? I needs me some Samoas!"
L: "DADDY! DON'T GO TO MARC'S! OKAY? BECAUSE .... BECAUSE .... BECAUSE THE POTTY AT MARC'S SMELLS NASTY! GO TO THE OTHER GROCERY STORE. THEIR POTTY SMELLS BETTER! OKAY?"
J: "Um, thanks for the tip. I'll keep that in mind."
G: "She's speaking from A LOT of experience on this one."
I find it funny that we spent the whole conversation purposely skating around the words "frozen custard" because that usually sets Liza off into an I-Want-Ice-Cream-Now fit, and what she actually latched onto was the phrase "grocery store." That brain of hers, it works in mysterious ways.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Saturday, March 08, 2008
The "window" in Liza's room
The iceberg hanging off our front porch roof
Cleveland Gothic (snowshovel is just out of frame)
Illustration for the dictionary entry for "futile"
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
We've tried more new recipes in the past two weeks than we have in the past six months, with varying results. Some were really good, some have been crossed out in Sharpie and labelled 'Bland' or 'Not worth the effort.' And then there's tonight's meal, which Jason and I both agreed was really, really good. We had the steaks with green beans and a can of Pillsbury Grands biscuits (yeah, I know - I can make better biscuits than those, but not when I've got to chip snow off the driveway for 45 minutes to help get Jason's car unstuck from where he lodged it when he got home). The whole meal was on the table in less than 30 minutes, including the time to prep the green beans.
Sauteed Sirloin and Mushrooms
from Better Homes and Gardens Big Book of 30-Minute Dinners (2000, Meredith Corporation)
1 to 1.5 pounds boneless beef sirloin steak, cut 1/2" thick
3/4 teaspoon herb pepper or 1/4 teaspoon garlic pepper
1 Tablespoon margarine or butter
3/4 cup beef broth
1 Tablespoon hoisin sauce, teriyaki sauce, or Worcestershire sauce
1 small onion, cut into very thing wedges
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
- Cut steak into 4 serving-size pieces. Sprinkle with herb pepper or garlic pepper. In a 10-inch skillet cook steak in hot margarine or butter over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or to desired doneness, turning once. Remove steak from skillet. Keep steak warm.
- For mushroom glaze, carefully add beef broth and hoisin (or teriyaki or Worcestershire sauce) to skillet. Cook and stir until bubbly, scraping brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in onion wedges and sliced mushrooms. Cook over medium-high heat about 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender and the glaze is reduced by half its volume (to 1 cup). Transfer warm steaks to dinner plates and spoon glaze over.
Makes 4 servings.
I used Penzey's Chicago Steak seasoning, a cast iron skillet, and hoisin sauce. This was the best steak I've had in a long time - the sauce totally rocked! You have to try this ... it doesn't taste Asian at all, just really, really good.
"Oh, get a load of this, Minion, you're going to love it. We're totally going to torture some poor mother into a homocidal maniac, using primarily the weather. Heehee! First, we're going to make it 68F and sunny in Cleveland on Monday."
"But Sire, won't that cause much rejoicing?"
"Yes, but only temporarily. The victim will revel in the sunshine and good weather, totally unaware that she is giving up her one opportunity to buy groceries without a cranky toddler for the week. Her daughter will revel, too, leading to over-exhaustion and lack of nap that afternoon."
"Sounds bad, but not too bad..."
"Silence! I'm just getting started! I've timed all this so that the lack of nap will coincide with the daughter's final molar coming in, leading her to turn into Evil Toddler for much of Tuesday. She will refuse to agree to anything, no matter how much she wants it, and will remain velcroed to her mother for the entire day. Her mother, meanwhile, will have an order she needs to work on for her business, but will be prevented from doing so by Evil Toddler. Evil Toddler will fight going down for a nap until bribed with inappropriate toys, then will go to sleep... for 45 minutes. Just about the time when the mother gets going on her work, the child will wake up, in a great mood and ready to play."
"But Sire, I thought she was in a bad mood because of her teeth?"
"So will the mother, who will be stunned into submission by the whipsawing of the toddler's emotions throughout the day. The toddler will spend the remaining 3 1/2 hours of the day talking nonstop while not permitting her mother to do even one thing she needs to do for the day. I'm thinking of having the child pee on the new living room floor, but that's still up in the air right now. Anyway, the mother will be planning to leave the house to go buy groceries as soon as the father returns from work ..."
"And you'll crash his car in a ditch, right, Your Evilness?"
"No, too obvious! We'll let him come home on time - no, a little early even! - but the weather will have gone to shit and be sleeting and freezing rain. The mother will be over a barrel by then - go out and risk her life to get groceries and a little peace, or stay home and risk her sanity listening to the kid for another hour. I'm guessing she'll go with the staying home option, as I plan to make the weather really foul. She'll be holding out hope that her daughter's preschool class won't be cancelled for the second week in a row ..."
"... but of course it will, due to the weather!"
"Now you're getting it! So the mother will have to drag the still cranky toddler to the bank and grocery store - but not until she spends 30 minutes chipping off the 1/2" of ice the storm deposited on her car. And when she gets to the grocery store, they won't have half of the vegetables she needs for her recipes, so she'll have to substitute, so her meals this week will be awful. I'm contemplating adding a bit of food poisoning later in the week, but I think we'll hold that in reserve until we see how far she goes around the bend with just the weather and the kid."
"Smart thinking, Sire. Shall I order the sunny day, then, Your Evilness?"
"Shine away, boy. Shine away."
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Monday, March 03, 2008
After a package had sat on their doorstep at Christmastime for more than a week and their garage door had been ajar for a few days, I finally went over and peeked in the window. The place was empty, save for some empty beer cans and miscellaneous stuff in the garage. A week later there was a guy from the bank changing the locks on their front door.
We don't live in a fancy development full of McMansions and BMWs bought on credit. We don't live in a downtrodden neighborhood full of people who can barely scrape by. We live in what for most people would be one step up from a starter house, and our neighbors had been here for three years. I guess they had an ARM that came due, or one of the balloon payment mortgages where you don't have to pay much until you have to pay the whole mess off at once. I mean, they were both working, they were sending their kids to public school, they only had one car (the husband drove a delivery truck), and they didn't have any overtly expensive habits like fancy vacations or a boat or anything. So how does this family end up getting kicked out of their house right before Christmas?
That was bad enough, but today the bank truck is back with an empty trailer that they're slowly filling with all the stuff the neighbors left behind. You know, little unimportant stuff, like a whole lot extra co-ax cables and stuff that we keep moving from house to house in hopes that someday we'll need it again, and some kid toys, and all their family room furniture. Like I said, it was a small moving truck out there back in November, and I guess if you're moving in with your parents you don't have room to take the sofa and loveseat. But it just tears me up to see the little guy - who is two months older than Liza - get his toys thrown in the junk truck.
The foreclosure crisis is a big, abstract problem ... until it happens to the kid you were planning being your kid's best friend in preschool next year. Then it gets personal.
Jason: "Look on the bright side. Maybe they're not in foreclosure, maybe they're in witness protection. That guy always struck me as the kind who might be informing on the mob."
Me: "Yeah, because I'd rather they were on the run for their lives instead of just destitute."
Jason: "At least then the kid would be getting some new toys when they got their new identities."
Me: "Good point. 'Mafia informers' it is."
Oh, god, they just loaded his sandbox.