Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pie

Today's recurring theme seems to be pie.

I have a small rhubarb patch, which the previous homeowner planted in the side-yard, and I've decided I'm going to do something with it at the weekend. If any of you listen to "Prairie Home Companion" on NPR, you can sing along:

One little thing can revive a guy / and that is a slice of rhubarb pie.
Serve it up, nice and hot/ Maybe things aren't as bad as you thought.
Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Bee-Bop-A-Ree-Bop Rhubarb Pie.

(Nothing gets the taste of pain and humiliation out of your mouth like Bee-Bop-A-Ree-Bop Rhubarb Pie.)

So I went out to harvest the rhubarb this morning. It doesn't look like my mom's rhubarb, which grows lushly in Wisconsin, with perfect stalks as thick as my thumb. This worries me. All my stalks are pencil thin, and when I have picked all the full-grown stalks (leaving the little ones to grow. A lot. Before Sunday.), I see that I have maybe a cup and a half; I need four cups, according to my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. After looking at the rhubarb patch with some concern, I headed for the Rec Center.

I'm tired of running 'round and 'round on the indoor track, and I'm getting diminishing returns from it, anyway. I need to add an element of challenge, so I decided to try the treadmill. I have never liked the idea of treadmills, and I've only used one once before. It was in a hotel during a business trip and I was managing pretty well until I tried to peel off my shirt while running, got it tangled around my head and fell off . A story to relate in more detail another day. So, I approached the treadmills with some trepidation. I stood there for a while, reading the control panel, which rivals that of a 747. Hmmm...it does inclines! I can program it to give me hills! Well, that's pretty exciting. If you read my blog often, you'll know that I'm planning to climb King's Peak in August, and running on an incline would be...training. I imagined myself (delusions of grandeur) running on the treadmill like the Six Million Dollar Man, [cue theme music] up jaw-dropping inclines. For the sake of fantasy, let's have me doing that in my big hiking boots. Oh, let's add a loaded pack. OK, the rec center probably wouldn't let me do that anyway. There must be rules about that. In reality, I spent about 25 minutes pressing random buttons on the machine, trying to figure out how it works. There was considerable lurching and stumbling. I was also distracted by the presence of a TV. I don't see TV very often, as we don't have one at home, so when I see one, I'm entranced. This took my attention away from the task at hand, resulting in my coming off the back of the treadmill. I tried to look casual, as if I'd meant to do that. The control panel also had a "calories burned" indicator. This is very discouraging. I'd run for a while and think, "One Girl Scout Cookie." Theeeeeen, "Two Girl Scout cookies." That got me wondering about how long it would take to burn off a slice of rhubarb pie. Aha! Were you wondering how I was going to segue back to pie?

Finally, I went to Marie Callender's (do they have these all over the country, or just in Utah?). The food at Marie Callenders is of about the same calibre as Dee's, Denny's, Big Boy, etc... But the PIES! Oh, boy. I was after a pie for Father Bittmenn, the priest at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. Father has allowed me to use a couple of his Sunday School rooms on weekdays, to house a new Family Literacy program I was piloting. Guadalupe Schools is filled to the gills with little kids during the day (the adult English classes are at night), but St. Patrick's is right next door to Guadalupe Schools. The class was a big success, I got it funded for next year, and so I wanted to get Father a really superlative pie. Cherry sounded good. I was standing at the counter while the cashier boxed it for me, and I was idly staring at the pie cooler. I looked at the strawberry pie and all my rhubarb anxiety fell away. My path is clear now. I will make strawberry-rhubarb, and then it won't matter if my rhubarb is dysfunctional.

I'd better sign off and take this pie over to the church. It's tempting me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In-Law Watch: Day 5

So far, so good.

They even waited up last night to greet me upon my return from work at 10 PM. They say, "How was work?" I say, "Fine." I used to tell then funny stories about things that happened at work, but that is too much information for them. I see now, that telling them how my colleague Rebecca picked me up in a move straight out of a Lucha Libre match would not amuse them. Then, it's time for the Good-Night Ceremony. Major pomp and circumstance which (for benefit of anthropologists everywhere), I will here describe.

Peggy and Terry sit on the sofa, staring straight ahead. Terry says, "Well, I think I'll make a move, now." Peggy says, "Yes, I was just thinking...". Both stand together. They always ask if they could just "nip a glass of water", to which I respond in the affirmative. They exit the family room and each say, "Good night. Well, I'll just have a wash and get ready for bed, and then I'll wish you a proper good night." One at a time, in robe and slippers, despite the heat, they perform their ablutions, then appear once more in the family room to say, "Well, then. I'll bid you good night. Good night." By this time, I feel like a complete moron, having said two informal "good nights" and four formal "good nights". Strange as it is, this is what is required.

I really don't think this is because they're British, although the fact that they do these stodgy things with heavy Suffolk accents (and, in my mother-in-law's case, a wet lateral lisp) makes it so....Monty Python. I know lots of British people who can go to bed at night without a presentation equivalent to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

While Simon and I are at work during the day, they still seem happy to sit at home and "potter" (search through our stuff). As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I removed and hid any objects which might cause parental consternation. I do wonder what they will think when they encounter my entirely EMPTY nightstand drawer.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Geeze! Not So Loud!

We all went to the Utah Arts Festival yesterday afternoon.

Peggy and Terry had a great time, looking blank and holding my purse while I did projects with the kids.

Thanks SO MUCH to Knickerbockers for the hard work you put into this event every year. I would like to request, though, that security volunteers that are a little more discreet in the future. The guy who looked through my tote bag said, loudly, "No problem! Water, water, water, and an ABBA CD!" Whoa! I have no idea how that got in there!

8 Random Facts

David, also knows as Foul B**tard "tagged" me for one of these goof-ball random facts games. OK, I was dutiful and wrote them. I just can't figure out where. I'll prove to F.B. that I'm not a spoiler. I don't want to mess up his Karma. I have to try to remember what I wrote, though.

Ummm...

1. It has to be mint chocolate chip. Mint chocolate anything.

2. I have MAJOR body image issues. I hate every part of my body except my wrists. They're great.

3. I brush my teeth in the shower, so I can at least perform this boring, mundane task in muscle-relaxing comfort.

4. I hate air conditioning and will resist using it, no matter how hot it is. A thin sheen of sweat makes my wrists look even better.

5. Lately, I've started making bizarre cocktails using rum and the juice I drain off canned fruit.

(I give up on re-creating the facts I originally wrote and lost. I'm punting at this point.)

6. I have Vitaligo (so I DO have something in common with Michael Jackson), which makes my skin look blotchy and weird. No, Im not peeling; no, it isn't contagious; no, it doesn't hurt (in response to the questions I've heard a thousand times). So much for my career as a super model.

7. I roll my eyes at sports cars, but secretly dream of a vintage Mustang, deep blue, with shiny chrome.

8. I was once an "undocumated worker", washing dishes and peeling potatoes in a pub in Engliand without proper authorization.

There! OK, since David only tagged three people and lightning hasn't struck him yet, I will do the same.

1. Diane, are you out there? You haven't posted on your blog lately, so "8 Random Facts" is your homework assignment.

2. Amrita! I'm especially hoping for any facts about you that include scary bugs, having loved your toilet-seat story...

3. Jyankee, has anyone made you so this, yet? If not, now's your big chance. Have fun, ladies. It's not that easy.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Instruments of Torture

Well, we'll start with these. These are my new hiking boots. After waiting 15 years for my Vasques to get comfortable, I finally gave up and bought these Asolos. We'll see how it goes. The big test will be when Simon and I, along with one of his friends and her husband, climb King's Peak in August. That's the highest point in Utah, an ascent that has been long delayed by the fact that it requires finding someone crazy enough to take the kids for a long weekend. Thanks, Moira and Robert, if you're out there. I will probably blog more about this little adventure as the time gets closer. I tested my boots yesterday on "hike-date" day. My husband and I do this every year. Way back in March or something, we sat down and bullet-proofed one Friday a month during the summer to go hiking together. As this day comes closer each month, it turns into a minor game of marital Chicken. We are both secretly thinking, "Oh, geeze, I have way too much to do at work. What about that deadline?" But niether of us is going to be the workaholic killjoy jerk to corrupt the sanctity of the "hike-date". (Which is a good thing, really.) This time, due to the imminent arrival of the in-laws from England, we just did a quick out-and-back in Little Cottonwood Canyon, close to home.

You can just about see me curled up on a boulder a the base of the Pfeiferhorn.

To those blog-buddies who aren't from Salt Lake City, there are a lot of weird thing about living in Utah, (another blog topic) and the awesome outside play opportunities just about makes up for them. To those blog buddies that are from Utah, this is the Red Pine drainage when it veers off to the Maybird Lakes.
This was a good way to charge up for the coming onslaught of the OTHER instruments of torture, Peggy and Terry, who will be staying with us for three weeks.
Now, Im not the kind of person who would dislike someone just because hundreds of years of tradition back me up. I like almost everybody. In fact, I used to like them a lot... until I figured out that they REALLY couldn't stand me.
A selection of reasons (by no means exhaustive) that they drive me nuts:
1. They snoop through our stuff when we're not at home. She does this to Simon's brother, too. When she finds something interesting that she wants to tell people about, she claims she found it while "dusting inside the drawer".
2. They don't like to do anything. If we plan things, they go along ("Whatever you like. We're easy.), but don't participate. "We'll just watch." If we don't plan things, they just sit. We don't have TV (except a video/DVD player), so they look out the window.
3. They are fairly open about how these visits are a tour of inspection: of the house, the kids and us. If they find something they don't like (the expression on my face three days earlier, the revealing outfit one of my friends wore when she dropped by to see me, etc....) they wait for a little while (usually until the day before they're supposed to go home) (hotels being expensive and all), getting quieter and quieter...then BOOM, they let me have it.
They have even recommended that Simon divorce me, and advised him to start putting money in"secret bank accounts".
There was a big explosion when they came to visit in 2003, and they didn't come again until 2006. That was the year after we moved out of our cabin in Brighton and bought a "normal" house in the suburbs. They were much happier, since we had giving up our "strange" lifestyle and were living somewhere more appropriate. We also kept them sedated last year. Since it was the Soccer World Cup, we got Dish Network; they watched 2 or 3 soccer matches every day. Perfect. We cancelled Dish Network after the World Cup was over and they had gone home. If you've ever tried to cancel Dish Network, you'll know why we didn't opt for this again this summer. We're going to try to make a go of it without TV.
I will try to be good. Tempted as I am to rustle up sufficient sex toys so I could put one in every drawer, I won't. Simon asked me not to. I won't talk about my work. They don't like immigrants and don't like to hear about them (Those Paki chappies...those Chinkie chappies...those blackie chappies...they're taking over!). My modus operandi is...vacuousness. I answer questions...neutrally. I gaze at Simon...adoringly, perhaps with a wifely hand on his shoulder. And if I'm lucky, we'll all make it through alive.





Thursday, June 21, 2007

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

I work at the sort of non-profit where stuff gets donated when people clean house. You just never know what may turn up. Christmas ornaments shaped like flying fruit; a game of Chicken Limbo (Which plays a clucking calypso tune until it gets bunped, after which it squawks wildly); 70 Scrabble games (we still have a few); a giant plastic iguana as long as my arm; headless Barbies... This darling clown figurine was, in my opinion, much improved by shining a flashlight on it for terrifying effect.

Favorite Photos

I have been silent for a few days, preparing myself mentally for the arrival of my in-laws on Friday. All I will say at this point is that they will be ...inspirational...from a blogging point of view.

For today, I want to say, "Good-bye" to my Durango vacation by posting a few pictures. I'm trying to link to Flickr to show off some more, but I have some stuff to figure out, first. At any rate, these are my favorites.

This is a petroglyph, from about the 13th century. Petroglyphs were pecked into rock faces by the ancient people, by means of another rock. Here's a nice bighorn sheep, and the panel had hand prints, warriors, a cougar, and "kissing" birds, which is an image I hadn't seen on a petroglyph before. Southern Utah and the Four Corners area have a lot of these, as well at pictographs, which involve painting on the rock faces with pigments. Do I sound school-teacher-ish? Dear me. How educational.

Daughter Sara, loving her moment of being in four states at the same time. "Gledwood", if you're out there, I put this one in so you could see what it's like.

The Prickly Pear cacti were blooming in pink, yellow, orange and this deep red.


Nathan was jealous that his older sister has a camera, and was using mine constantly (which means I had to supervise him constantly); we got him a disposable camera at the grocery store in Durango, and this is what he looked like for most of the rest of the trip. He adored it and can't wait for his pictures to get back from the developer. I don't want to hurt his feelings, but I'm expecting a lot of blurs. Every time he pressed the button, he moved the camera down about 4 inches. We'll call them "art shots".

This is an underground kiva (I feel another school-teacher-y fit coming on...). The prehistoric Puebloan people that lived in the region built them for religious and community activities. Mesa Verde National Park has reconstructed the roof on this one and placed a ladder so you can go down and see what it was like. Getting this picture was a major hassle, involving waiting obnoxiously until all the people who were in the kiva had come up, then clambering down in as fast as I could, before anyone's feet came down after me. Damn lucky shot.

Art shot. The stones in the bottom of the Animas River were so pretty.

This (Cliff Palace) is an example of what the ruins in Mesa Verde National Park are like. Four stories high in places. The Park didn't even need to do restoration of these - they've remained intact like this since the 1200s. This is just part of only one village. There are two other ruins that are at least this large, and loads of other smaller ones everywhere.






Monday, June 18, 2007

A Separate Reality

This is my third entry today, but ...

My little family has just returned from a classic Family Vacation in Durango, Colorado, where we stayed in a rental condo. This is definitely the way to go when traveling with kids, because I can cook, make coffee, put them to bed in another room, etc.. Nathan and Sara did have to share a bed, though, which made for a difficult half-hour at bed-time, with the usual "Quit kicking me!" "You're hogging!" "Ow! Nathan - stop pulling on - stop it! Mom!!" "I'm not Nathan. I am a Siberian tiger and I'm digging a den." Ad nauseum.

Aside from this minor problem, the place was perfect. Scary perfect. Everything matched. The granite in the counter tops was the same granite as in the coffee table. The table runner was perfectly coordinated with the sofa. Usually we stay in paces that have homey touches like a cuddly hot-pink afghan or a dusty plastic flower arrangement in the bathroom. In this condo, the times on the microwave, the DVD player and all the alarm clocks were exactly the same.

There were lots of coasters. They were all exactly the size of a CD case. I know this because we got home and found one mixed in with our CDs. I have to mail it back. Simon is worried that they know the precise number of coasters and that it will be missed.

The Bar D Chuckwagon

http://www.bardchuckwagon.com/

I did a lot of hokey things while on vacation in Colorado, because kid-friendly stuff can be that way,

The Bar D Chuckwagon was embarrassing in several ways.

The musicians were actually really good, if you like old-time Western music. I can hum along with "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds". They were funny, too. Eight-year-old Sara is still talking about her favorite song of the evening, sung to the tune of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". This had lyrics like "Uh-weem-a-way, uh-weem-a-way/ The possum fries tonight."

My feathers got a little ruffled at the very end, because of course they had to end with a Patriotic Medley - something they have been doing since 9/11, they said. This was interesting. So, they started with "America the Beautiful", which I can sing with gusto. I like that one. Then it was "God Bless America". So, this guy in front of me rises to his feet, and after a moment's hesitation, so does his wife. Then he turns around to those of us behind him and indignantly tries to wave us to our feet. Since when is "God Bless America" the national anthem? I stand for the "Star Spangled Banner". (Well, it's actually the flag we standing up for, not the song.) (And because you can't hit the high note sitting down, anyway.) They didn't sing the "Star Spangled Banner", though. The final tune in the medley was that "God Bless the USA" pop/country song. Who sings that? I want to say John Michael Montgomery. Ooooh. I absolutely hate it. It is so sappy that it makes my scalp prickle with embarrassment. Do you know the one? "Oh, I'm proud to be an American/Where at least I know I'm free..." And then, when it got to the part where they sang, "And I'll gladly STAND UP next to you...", everybody popped to their feet. I thought, "What is this? An action song, like 'Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes'?" I'm not standing up because John Michael Montgomery told me to.

A Special Blog For My Friend Diane

Thanks, Diane, for giving me Thin Mints. The ambrosia of Girl Scout Cookies. Excellent with a good Merlot.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

That Was Great! I Need A Vacation

Ahhh! My blog! I missed it.

Thanks for coming and making loads of fun comments while I was gone.

Vacation was good, although it took a while to unwind. I fell asleep every time I sat down for about three days - I guess I was tired...

Did it live up to my expectations? Let's see, what were they?

Sara did not find Rhode Island. I mean the license plate.

The hot springs were boringly commercial and clothed. This is good really - my poor British husband would have died on the spot otherwise.

I DID finish "Joy Luck Club". And I DID re-read "Death of a Salesman" (that's a blog in itself right there). I am amazed at the amount I was able to read.

No one was abusive to the ruins. You can't even visit three of them without a guide anymore.

More tomorrow. I went to all that trouble to catch up on my sleep, and it's already escaping me again.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

What, I Get Vacation Time?

Geeze, who knew?

Tomorrow, I'm going on vacation. We're headed to the Four Corners area so eight-year-old Sara can put her body parts in different states. Plenty of Native American ruins to visit, maybe some canoeing...I may even get sufficient sleep.

A recurring theme for me seems to be what I expect versus what actually happens, so I'll go on the record with my unrealistic expectations, and we'll see how far off I am after I get back.

1. Sara will finally spot the elusive Rhode Island licence plate she has been searching for, in a National Park parking lot somewhere.

2. Some enormous touron (that's tourist+moron) will walk up to a ruin at Mesa Verde and give it a swift kick while saying something like "Now THIS was built to LAST!"

3. The hot springs I have heard of will be clothing optional.

4. We will have to listen to Roald Dahl's "Matilda" at least twice on the journey. Sorry, Roald; I love your stuff, but I can spout solid minutes of "Mathilda", verbatim.

5. I will finish "Joy Luck Club", re-read "Death of A Salesman" and get at least part way into "Housekeeping". (This is probably the least likely expectation to be fulfilled.)

I have to admit that I have been blogging for about 6 weeks now, and I'm getting pretty attached to it. Thanks a bunch, Jess, for getting me hooked. You know, the real reason I even started blogging was that I wanted to comment on the fascinating stuff in "Skymall: the In-Flight Catalogue". I haven't even got around to that yet.

Another thing I need to ponder on my vacation, provided I get enough navel-gazing time, is the soundtrack I want to make. One of these days, when I get time, I'd love to put together a CD of songs that I listened to constantly (voluntarily or involuntarily) at different points in my life. I'll pose this questions to anyone who comes to visit while I'm gone, and I'll see what comes of it when I get back.

So, what song...

Was the first popular song you actually noticed and payed attention to, instead of listening to Disney tunes and, "When you hear the fairyland chimes, turn the page!"? For me that was (this is a little embarrassing) "Stayin' Alive" (Ah, ah, ah, ah...).

What was number one when/if you used to pay attention to "American Top 40"? "Funky Town", for me. (My kids think that originated on the Shrek soundtrack, and that it's actually "Monkeytown."). I still like that - it can go on the soundtrack.

What played over and over on the radio while you were lying flat on your back in your room staring at the ceiling, being self-absorbed? (Oh, God... "Ebony and Ivory". Maybe I'll leave that one off.)

Embarrassing dances in Junior High? "Does Your Mother Know?", by ABBA. (Sorry, I don't know how to make that "B" go backwards. Forgive me.)

Finally for today, what about the song that was playing the first time you made out with someone in a back seat? "Jenny, I got your number! 867-5309!" I don't even know who sang that any more.

OK, enough. I'm still at the office and it's getting on toward midnight. Of course, I can sleep in the truck tomorrow, as long as no little people put Legos down the back of my shirt. The problem with an extended cab - it's just kind of up close and personal.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Pleading the Fifth

OK, if there are married man out there reading this, I have a little advice for you:

The whole "pleading the fifth" thing is annoying.

You know, when the wife asks the husband, "Does this skirt make my butt look big?" and the husband says, "Uhhhh, I plead the fifth."

My husband says that most men see the whole "big-looking butt" genre of wifely questioning to be a trap from which they will never escape alive. Maybe it is true that some people just want the partner to say, "You've got a super-attractive butt that looks good in anything!" (Actually, I wouldn't mind that, but I would probably raise a skeptical eyebrow.) Personally, I really ask this question because I've been craning my neck trying to see, and I want to know. For heaven's sake, just tell the truth.

"I plead the fifth" is not the path to freedom.

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Wise Woman Pees When She Can...

...not when she has to.

My daughter learned this the hard way at the theater on Saturday night. Upon consideration sometime during the first act, she decided that just wetting her pants was preferable to disrupting the audience by climbing over knees to go to the restroom. I had no idea until the intermission when an usher appeared with a roll of paper towels to mop it up.

[Insert mortified groan here.]

I don't know about the rest of you out there in Blogsville, but this brought back a number of uncomfortable memories - I was a habitual pants-wetter as a small child. Always too busy to remember to go or too embarrassed to ask a strange grown-up where the bathroom was.

My horrible, much-older brother would call me "Urine Crotch". (Good heavens, a repressed memory. I'll need a shrink, now.) I remember that I didn't know what "urine" meant; it sounds like "you're in" to me. I spent sometime thinking, "I'm where? I'm in Crotch? I thought this was called Wisconsin!"

Who would ever guess that this would be my legacy?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Time Alone

In keeping with the Blue Moon we experienced on May 31, another bizarre phenomenon occurred at my house last night: both children were gone at the same time. Nathan was invited to a birthday party, and the sister of the birthday boy, concerned about the sudden outbreak of boys, asked Sara to come over, too, as an antidote.

This meant that, from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM, Simon and I would be home alone, together. My mind raced. Hmmm... a romantic dinner out on the patio with lots of one kind of "wine" and none of the other sort of "whine". Then, perhaps...sex. Not the usual bedroom-with-door-closed-late-at-night-need-to-be-quiet kind. I was imagining something a little noisier.

However, expectations being what they are...I zipped out of downtown after work; I dropped the kids off at 5:30, but of course, I needed to make some polite conversation with the mother of the birthday boy; then I rushed home to find that the dishwasher needed to be unloaded and of course the romantic dinner needed to be cooked. I don't know how I managed to delude myself to quite the extent I did. And my poor, oblivious living room romp partner had arrived home early, but was engrossed in the mural he's painting in Nathan's room and was making the most of the 2 child-free hours to work on it.

I did manage to get a meal together out on the patio, with a half-hour to spare for eating it before I had to go and get Sara and Nathan. And there was an abundance of one sort of wine. I tried not to indulge too much in the other kind.

I arrived back at the birthday boy's house, and the hostess asked me, "So, did you enjoy a little child-free time?" "Yes," I thought. "Can you keep them for about ten more hours?" "Yes," I said. "For two hours, I was able to finish every sentence I started." Better than nothing.

Friday, June 1, 2007