Sunday, February 28, 2010

My baby turned 2!

Saturday, amidst listening to news about the earthquake in Chile, we celebrated Nico's 2nd birthday.

Actually, the celebrations began the evening before with the licking of the cake-batter beaters. Can you tell we went with the chocolate cake? (funny story on that decision later)

Can you tell there was whisky in the batter?

Just kidding, there wasn't, but it looks like it.

This is what we had for dinner (pot roast) courtesy of P-dub. It was very good, but my hubs says the one I made a few months ago from America's Test Kitchen was better. We should have a duel, so we know for sure.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my Le Creuset dutch oven?

I made the chocolate cake (which I should mention was more brownie like in consistency than I was expecting/wanting... I mean, it was very good, very rich, very chocolaty, but it was dense and heavy and had that kind of crust you get on brownies that I had to cut off. I will also add that I learned a very valuable lesson: when a recipe says that it makes 2 10-inch cake rounds, DO NOT fill two 9-inch cake pans--it does not bode well for the oven.)

I made the raspberry filling, which went very well with the intense chocolate of the cake. But I decided that the chocolate ganache frosting was probably an overkill on the chocolate-ness (gasp--but true) and decided instead to go with a simple cream cheese frosting.

Naturally, I did not have any cream cheese. I called my friend down the street who was coming over later for cake and asked if she had any (don't you love neighbors like that?) She didn't have cream cheese, but said she had cream cheese frosting. I said: "Like a can of already-made frosting?" Yes. "Hmm, I'll let you know if I need it."

If I make a box cake (which I rarely do) I can do canned frosting (is it called a can? it doesn't sound right.) If I am making a cake from scratch, it has to be ALL home-made. That is just the way it goes. (This is the friend who thinks I am a cake-snob. I am not, but I do take cake very seriously if I am making it.)

So I sent hubs to the store (isn't he sweet to do my bidding even though we are at each other's throats lately?--THAT is love folks!)

The cream cheese frosting was a good choice and mixed well with the other ingredients. I sparsely decorated it with a few fresh raspberries... I would have put more on there, but half of my berries disappeared mysteriously as they dried innocently on the counter.

This is what the cake looked like.

Here is my birthday boy!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The downside

Almost anywhere you live, you have to learn to cope with the hand that mother nature deals. Here in Texas, it is hostile heat, hurricanes and tornadoes, potential flooding, and every poisonous creepy-crawly imaginable.

Today, the world has seen the downside of sorts of living in Chile, where we will be living in a few short months, if all goes according to our lack-of-plan: they have earthquakes.

Chile is a land of quakes, located in what is called the "ring of fire." While I was living there a decade ago, I experienced several tremors, but nothing big enough to be very frightening. The biggest earthquake mechanically registered, a 9.5, ocurred in Chile in 1960, a little south of today's epicenter. The last big quake was back in '85 and there has long been talk of "the big one" that was overdue. After the Haiti quake, I had actually been thinking of Chile and a big quake and wondering if there was something seismic was going on that might, in some way, trigger an event in Chile soon (I don't know if seismic activity works that way).

We got a phone call this morning as we were just starting to putter about. I thought it was a birthday greeting for Nico, who turned two today. It was my father-in-law calling to let us know, before we had even heard the news, that they were all fine (and to wish Nico a happy birthday).

As we started watching footage, the magnitude of the quake hit us. An 8.8 at the epicenter, an 8.2 in Santiago, almost 200 miles to the northreports indicate that it is about 500 times (one report said 900 times) the force of the Haiti earthquake. However, in many regards it will not be nearly as bad as the Haiti quake. The quake in Haiti hit a densely populated but very poor area in a country that has not had to deal with quakes on a regular basis for decades. Chile, accustomed to the seismic activity, has put strict building codes into practice in the past few decades. Chile is also a fairly developed country, with a solid infrastructure and a seemingly adecuate response to disaster.

With that said, it was an 8.8! Which is huge, so there is a lot of damage. I have heard some reports of smaller towns, mainly constructed with adobe, have been almost leveled. I have been most impacted by some the photos of freeway overpasses and bridges that have collapsed and some of the buildings split in two.

I am relieved that family and friends (as far as I have heard) have fared pretty well. I am sad for the loss of life, already over 200; it will climb some, but it will not even come close to the overwhelming 200,000 lost in Haiti.

Watching the news and hearing the commentary on Chile and its capacity to handle something of this magnitude makes me proud for my second country. With that said, this is one of those times when the sensationalism of the news irks me a little. There is destruction, to be sure, but I like the perspective offered here.

There are some photos here that give a sense of some of the damage done.

So, send a little prayer out to Chile tonight, for the people who have lost loved ones and homes and hope for a speedy recovery.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Doldrums... and cake!

It has been one of those weeks... you know? Those weeks. Where everything is just off.

I have had headaches and the beginnings of a UTI which I am (bravely? stupidly?) trying to stave off without having to take a round of antibiotics. It requires imbibing insane amounts of water and cranberry extract and other herbs and such. I think it has been mostly successful (the other possibility, of course, is that it turns into a kidney infection) but it has left me feeling just blah...

The kids, for part of the first part of the day (when I have had headaches), watch too many movies. I would totally feel guilty... if I had one extra ounce of energy. The rest of the day they spend fighting, bickering, arguing, and whining alternating with crying. Most of the time they get a long fine, play nicely, share... apparently it is just the week I don't feel good where they fight like cats and dogs and whine like... I don't know... something that whines a lot. Even with movies, now they fight. Nico, who has never paid any attention to the television, is suddenly enraptured by the movie "Cars" (typical, eh?). That is the only movie he wants on. G likes variety (which sadly enough includes "Happy Feet" which is the creepiest movie of all time). Nico puts on Cars and then G exchanges it for a movie she wants and the battle ensues. They even fight over who is going to turn it off: "I do it." "No, I wanna do it." So I grit my teeth and make sure everybody gets a turn.

The weather has been just weird: Sunday was sunny and close to 75 degrees, Tuesday it snowed and didn't get out of the 30s... just another typical bipolar winter in Texas, but it is just so confusing.

The hubs and I are spending all of our free time doing random odds and ends around the house that we should have done years ago: towel hooks for the bathroom, a new coat of paint on the trim (crappily painted), exchanging electical plates that were shoddily painted over to save the extra two minutes it takes to remove. All of these little things, that we now find don't take all that much effort to remedy and that we could have enjoyed for us. Now it is just to sell the house. I hope we have learned a lesson in that.

I have had zero patience with the hubs. I have had to bite my tongue and say sorry on numerous occasions. As we are saying good night, I tell him he still has to love me and he says, "Yep, it's in the contract." That's right, it's part of the deal. I am sure he wishes he had read the fine print.

The icing on the cake comes tomorrow, where the kids both have check-ups that involve shots. I posted a while back about the horror of getting G shots. I thought it would get better as they get older, but it has gotten worse. I normally go alone, but have informed hubs that his attendence and help will be required. I told G today that we had to go to the Dr. tomorrow (I couldn't decide if knowing in advance or a surprise ambush was better). "For me?" She asked. "Both you and Nico." "For shots?" "Yes, honey." ...commence flailing, wailing and gnashing of teeth. I even borrowed a friend's advice of offering up a stuffed animal first to get shots to ease the anxiety. "Maybe we can take puppy, and he can get shots first." "NOOOOOOO, I don't want puppy to get a shot, it hurts." Well, at least she is empathetic, right? I fully expect an outright rebellion tomorrow. I have promised a sucker, which G calls "ladypops" instead of lollipops, which is so cute.

But, things are looking up...this weekend there will be real cake, because someone is having a birthday (more to come). I am thinking of making a lemon layer cake from America's Test Kitchen (pictured below)--I love lemon, so fresh. I have wanted to make it for a long time, but then last minute I found a recipe over on Smitten Kitchen for a chocolate cake with raspberry filling covered with a chocolate ganache... sounds so good!

Decisions, decisions...I find when I can focus my energies on planning something delicious, everything seems rosier.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mini-Rorschach Test

Do you know the Rorschach test, that test used by psychologists to determine how your mind works by showing you abstract inkblots?

Mosey, posted a picture-post yesterday that is supposed to be the head of a T-Rex.

I am working on visualizing the T-Rex, but what I really see is a dog smoking a pipe and dancing. At first I thought he was dancing ballet, but today, I see that he is clearly dancing flamenco.

Go look and tell me what you see...

It's a dancing dog isn't it? Don't you see the dramatic flair of the arm over his head, his eyes closed in concentration...?

Thinking of Flamenco reminded me of Joaquin Cortes, a widely-acclaimed Flamenco dancer from Spain, who I first saw in a Pedro Almodovar movie (Is it All About My Mother?)

If you have never seen him, the first few minutes of this video capture him pretty well.

He is obviously showcasing his chest...

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A classic whodunnit

Yesterday, after stepping out of the shower, it sounded awfully quiet.

I walked into the kitchen...

The fridge was open and my husband's jello concoction (which took him 2 days to make... all that boiling water and such...) had been poked and prodded.

There were also half-eaten fig newtons all over the floor

The usual suspects had very red fingers, red blotches on their pjs and cookie crumbs sticking everywhere. If there were any doubt as to the guilty party, there is a perfect, tiny hand print in the jello.

In the end we called it "breakfast" since they were mysteriously lacking in appetite.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Buns of steel and scrap gold

Do you ever just get inexplicably furious at inanimate objects? I do. I hate to admit it, but I have a zero-tolerance policy for things that don’t function as they should. Like car-doors that don’t open.

G’s door in the car gets jammed… just to annoy me, I am convinced. First, it doesn’t properly unlock. Then, it opens, but gets caught. I have to shut it again, then it is locked, I unlock it and open it and it gets caught… Repeat… repeat. Usually after a couple times, I reach in and manually push the lock and it opens. But it is so irritating! I always have my hands and arms full with toys and papers, and kids, and bags. And I just want it to OPEN... you know, like doors are built to do.

So, yesterday, I was on my way to do a favor for someone. I was feeling a little ungracious about it since it meant lots of driving and sitting in the car with the kids (after rushing them through breakfast and getting dressed and bathroom check, and coats on and, and, and...). I was getting ready to load the kids in the car, and G’s door started acting up. In a moment of rage, I shrieked and slammed it shut with my hip (twice… at least). G is looking at me, puzzled by such an outburst: a look that I will remember in horror, later, when I am more composed.

Last night, the hubs runs to the store. He calls to check on the list and adds: “Did you know there was a dent in the car?”

No, where?

In the driver’s side, rear door

Hmm, I don’t know (I hadn’t put it together yet)

After we hung up it hit me…

When he got home, I went outside to verify… and sure enough, an imprint of my hip in the side of the car…… plop… (heart sinks to pit of stomach recalling episode)

“Oh,er, uhm... that may have been me… (whispered very, very sheepishly)

Ahhhhh, it just makes me sick to my stomach, especially since we are going to be selling it soon. How do I explain the butt-impression on the door? Maybe if I can get famous really fast, it’ll increase the value.

And hey, I could have lied about it… and didn’t, that counts for something, right?

I guess I just didn’t know my own strength…. (loud guffaw)

My hubs said it changed how he thought of me. I asked if it was because I had a fit of rage or because I told him the truth. I asked him if he could forgive me. He said for a price… and snatched a piece of my quesadilla. Weasel.


In other news…

We had our first garage sale today in preparation for our move. This is the one where we sell all the clutter we don’t really use or need right now: the little bookshelves I bought in college, the high chair, unused strollers, the massage contraption that my husband bought me one year in hopes he would be saved from further massage-requests: “Here, now you can do it yourself!” The only problem is that it hurts. We also got rid of some kids toys that they kept trying to play with now after weeks and months of not touching them (sorry kids!… and G is getting less and less enthused about the move every time I tell her we have to sell something so we can move to Chile).

Garage sales are funny events. Our signs said 8am. People start driving by slooooooowly around 7:20. There is a knock on the door at 7:40 “Are you having a sale today?” … Uh…Yes, at 8!

I tried to be more than fair on pricing, but then, you want to price it a little higher because garage sale psychology says that most buyers will offer half. There are the people who will buy it for whatever price you say. Then there are others who, looking at an item that is brand new, with tags, marked for $2, look at you like you are out of your mind. Really, if I just wanted to give it away, I wouldn’t have gone through all the trouble of a garage sale, you know?

Then there is the man asking if we have any scrap-gold… scrap gold? I don’t even have non-scrap gold. Isn’t the term “scrap-gold” an oxymoron anyway? So he gives me his card and says if I know of anybody to give them his number, he’ll come and haul it away…. Because, it’ll be so heavy…

Then there is the guy looking for old laptops. Nope.

Then a guy asks we have any hunting and fishing gear for sale. No? and then jokes…What kind of garage sale is this anyway?

Then there is the Nigerian Taxi-man who wants to barter to the death… which is really uncomfortable. .. and then asks if he can pay with a check… uh, no… (and not because he is Nigerian, he just happens to be the only one who asked).

Friday, February 5, 2010

On Virtual Voyeurism

I used to love taking long walks at night through quiet neighborhoods. From the darkness of the sidewalk I often got glances of life inside those houses. I am not a voyeur of the peeping-Tom variety, but there is something so intimate in catching glimpses of a family sitting down to dinner; a man washing dishes staring out into the darkness; a woman watering her plants in the living room while listening to music. There is something comforting about seeing some people live lives like yours and something so exhilarating about seeing others live ones quite different.

That is one of the things I love most about reading blogs: getting little glimpses inside distant lives. I know they are only glimpses. I know all writing, even auto-biographies and memoirs, are limited to what the author wants to exhibit—there is no tell-all. We choose what stories to tell and how to tell them: we edit details; we add flair; we tone down; we exaggerate. Even when we think we have been as honest as possible, it is still, at best, one side of the story. Yet, there is always a grain of truth, a moment of authenticity that gives you a sense of a real life being lived.

Even though this is decidedly a personal blog, there are personal things that I don’t write about, that I choose not to write about. Some stories are not mine to tell. Others involve people I don’t want to hurt or expose.

Limiting the personal is especially an issue when it comes to my husband. I am not perfect; he is not perfect; we have struggles like every couple. I share some of my annoyances with him. I try to be honest about my defects and failures. I even mention arguments we have had. But just as I would not want to leave anyone with the idea that it is much rosier than it is, I also don’t want anyone to think it is bleaker than it is.

The writer of a lovely blog I read recently came under attack for something very personal she wrote. She was writing about the ups and downs of marriage, particularly, a current low point—no details, just that she was struggling. But she opened her heart, made herself vulnerable, and someone said something insensitive, as is bound to happen eventually in the blogosphere. It made me want to say something, to come to her defense.

What I have come to understand about human relations, is that even with those who are closest to us, who spend years by our side, we can never truly comprehend their depths: the motives, the desires, the intentions, the pain and suffering, the reactions, the losses, the bitter disappointments, the dreams, the joys of another human being. So, why judge so harshly someone you don’t even know?

Anyone who has been married past the initial “honeymoon” phase, and perhaps even sooner, will tell you that marriage is hard work; it is both bliss and agony; it is a haphazard assortment of shared joys and individual resentments. There are complications: children, jobs, financial strain, natural disasters, car problems, stress, gloom, loneliness, sickness, disagreements, insensitivities, egos. Fortunately, there is also joy, beauty, security, companionship, laughter, and intimacy to balance the scale.

It reminds me of a poem I have loved forever by a poet I adore; a poem I translated into Spanish for my husband back when we were dating and going through a rough patch; a poem that, for me, gets to the very essence of human relations, how complicated and vulnerable we are as individuals and how both sweet and bitter it can get when we come together.

Simple Song

by Marge Piercy

When we are going toward someone we say
you are just like me
your thoughts are my brothers
word matches word
how easy to be together.

When we are leaving someone we say
how strange you are
we cannot communicate
we can never agree
how hard, hard and weary to be together.

We are not different nor alike
but each strange in his leather body
sealed in skin and reaching out clumsy hands
and loving is an act
that cannot outlive
the open hand
the open eye
the door in the chest standing open.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Where does all the stuff go?

I have been thinking about stuff all week. Not just because of my recent post where I define myself as an experience person, mildly persuaded to the stuff side on occasion, but mainly because we have to go through all of our stuff as we get ready to make our trans-continental (if you go by the 7 continent rule) move.

We decided, based on the quality (or lack thereof) of our stuff, that we are going to sell or get rid of most of it. I am not sure if this means we are lucky not to be stuff people, where we have stuff that is so nice we can’t bear not to send it, no matter the cost, or if we are unlucky, because though most of our stuff is hand-me-down crap, we have stuff and it is ours, and in a few months we won’t much stuff at all.

I am starting to go through boxes and files. I have piles like this, waiting to be shredded, recycled, given away.

We are taking some stuff, but mostly, it is useless. You can’t sleep on it and you can’t eat off of it. What we will take with us: books, cds, some toys, clothes, my bike, some tools, some kitchen items. Our friends down the street asked if we are taking our ladder. Honestly, we might, and not out of spite, my hubs is quite fond of it.

I talked to my little sister this morning. She said she was going through her memory box. We all have one, ironically they are all boxes that formerly held the likes of Johnny Walker and other distilled spirits; of course, this is only ironic if you know my mother. She can’t stand alcohol, yet she stored all of our childhood mementos in booze boxes. I think there is a message there.

My sister said that she felt like the box was kind of a burden, because she has to take it with her everywhere she goes. It is true; it is kind of a burden.

I have several boxes of photos and memories that must be hauled from house to house, city to city, and even country to country, if need be. It is the stuff your parents collected for you and then that you collect. It can’t be thrown away and can’t be kept at your parents because you are too old and because your parents don’t want to store it for you anyway.

They are boxes filled with things like this:

The sock monkey my mom made me when I was 4

The apron my mom made to hold my crayons while coloring

A very important manual on hibernation and migration

A stack of punishment papers, proof of the dreaded sentence-writing.
This one is 26-50 of 100: I will be respectful in family meetings.
I guess you can deduce that I wasn't.

…. These are things that I can’t bear to throw away.

I am also going through all of my academic stuff—boxes and boxes of articles. Some of them I will keep, but a lot of them I will get rid of.

If you want any articles on the Baroque, Neo-Baroque, Modernism, Post-Modernism, Colonial, or Post-Colonial… It is your moment! Speak now or forever hold your peace.

What? No takers.....?