Monday, August 28, 2006

Planes, trains and automobiles

That movie was kind of funny, wasn't it? Even though it made Wichita look like podunk rural redneck-ville, which it's not, really.

So far we've learned that Daniel does well in cars and airplanes, and tomorrow we'll find out how he likes train-travel. He seems optimistic:

What's in Glasgow, you ask? Well, not much, I'm afraid. Stuart's grandparents live there, which is the reason for the trip. As his grandpa says, Glasgow isn't the end of the earth, but you can see it from there. We'll be spending our time visiting with Stuart's parents, who have driven there from Kansas, Stuart's brother and sister-in-law, who are flying from North Carolina, his grandparents, who live in a retirement home and are both over ninety years old, and his uncle, who lives on the family farm and drives a mail truck for a living. The grandparents are meeting a couple members of the family for the first time: Daniel, and my sister-in-law, who has been married to Stuart's brother for about a year.

We made this trip three years ago, and stayed for a week. Therefore, I'm the expert on Things To Do For Fun In Glasgow, right? So next time you take a vacation to northeastern Montana, you can thank me for these tips:

1. See how many people we can cram into a small one-bedroom retirement apartment. Last time the most we had in there was eight. This time we could have as many as nine adults and a baby. Some of us might be sitting on each other's laps, and I'm not just talking about Daniel. (Don't worry. We're not sleeping there.)

2. Drink authentic Italian espresso at Glasgow's one and only coffee shop. Last time, Stuart and I asked for cappuccinos, and the guy said "You mean the real Italian kind, or the kind like you get in the gas station?" Evidently, there are people who prefer the latter. This shop knows the difference and brews a pretty good cup, as I recall.

3. Get blitzed for five bucks. Seriously. We went to a bar where the three of us (Stu, me, his brother) each had a couple beers and maybe even a weak mixed drink like rum-and-coke, and with the tip it was still less than twenty dollars.

4. Watch Daniel eat/smear/spit/squish-between-his-fingers his supper. Always messy. Always entertaining.

5. Drive around the countryside checking out the farm land, and, more notably, a variety of small, old buildings in disrepair. Broken-down shacks, if you will. They are of historical significance, though, as each of these buildings was once the farmhouse of a homesteader or a one-room schoolhouse serving whole communities of children K-8 (or was is K-12?). If you plan to step foot outside, even for a moment, cover yourself with mosquito repellent. In fact, you might be better off bathing in it.

6. Visit the Fort Peck Dam. It's a dam (yuk yuk) lot of concrete. Quite an impressive structure. Stu's grandpa helped build it in the 1930s.

7. Go shopping downtown! There's a Pamida and a decent quilt shop. If neither of those is to your taste...well, too bad.

8. Walk around the snow-mobiling trail and hope nobody picked that day to try out their new 4-wheeler.

9. Go to a park with a few frisbees and pretend it's a disc golf course.

10. Eat at the supper club and put some quarters into the electronic poker machine. Keep trying long enough, and eventually you'll win something, right?

Rest assured, there is internet in Glasgow, so I'll probably try and post once or twice while we're gone. Too bad we're leaving while my garden is so productive:

Bon voyage, us!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I've got a Saturday night case of the crazies

I don't remember when was the last time I had an evening alone in the house. It was probably last October, when Stuart was in New Jersey for work. At that time I was swamped with school work and in that blissful second trimester of pregnancy when you have lots of energy and your ankles still resemble their original shape and people compliment you by saying "You look great!" instead of "You're huge! Are you sure it's not twins?" In any case, I had plenty to do to keep myself occupied, and I had the freedom to leave and spend time with my friends if I wanted.

Tonight Stu is out at a sending-off party for a friend at work who is moving out of the country next week. I decided not to go quite literally at the last minute because I was nervous about leaving Daniel with a babysitter after he'd gone to bed. Imagine being a little baby and waking up hungry and in the dark and who comes to comfort you? Not your mama like you're used to, but this complete stranger who smells different and looks different and can't nurse you. He would have survived, but I would have spent the entire evening miserable and worrying about it, so I bid Adieu to my husband and stayed here.

I thought it might be kind of nice to have an evening to myself. I can watch whatever stupid TV shows I want! I can knit to my heart's content! I could get some reading done!

But instead I'm feeling a little neurotic. I drank a glass of wine. I watched an old episode of Law and Order, even though that show gives me the heebie-jeebies. I almost picked up the phone about a hundred times to call Stu ostensibly to see how the party's going, but really to find out when he's coming home. He's later than he said he would be, and I'm sure the reason he hasn't called is that he figures I might be in bed. Daniel discovered how to flip onto his stomach to soothe himself to sleep and I've checked on him every three minutes to make sure he's still breathing. I've turned him on his back, but every time he's woken up and flipped over again.

If this were any other night I would have been in bed an hour ago, but I feel nervous and on edge for absolutely no good reason. I should have treated myself to a bubble bath and a viewing of my favorite Buffy episodes, but instead I'm blogging to pass the time, looking in obsessively on my sleeping son, and fidgeting and pacing and fidgeting and pacing some more.

I don't get it. I'm almost always a calm, rational person. But for some reason I have a hard time being alone at night. I think I'm afraid of the dark.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Yes, I'm still here. I've been in a bit of a funk this week, feeling a little stressed about school starting and finding a babysitter and jumping through some beaurocratic hoops to re-enter the university this semester. Plus I'm tired from staying up until midnight last night watching weather updates on TV to make sure we didn't have to go to the basement for a tornado warning. Thankfully, we didn't.

I'm having some trouble finding focus and motivation in my life. It's the classic conflict between wanting to spend time at home as a mother and not wanting to abandon my career plans altogether. Right now thinking about both of those things just sucks the energy right out of me.

So that's what I'm thinking about lately. I'm not so good at writing about it without getting whiny and pathetic, so I'll leave that topic for now.

I don't want to end this lame post on a negative tone, so I'll wrap up with something I should do much more often: practicing gratefulness.

1. I'm grateful to have a big, healthy baby who loves to smile.

2. I'm grateful that I have a husband like Stu.

3. I'm grateful for espresso.

4. I'm grateful for the storms last night. Even though the thunder and lightning and hail kept me awake for several hours, I was reminded of the importance of respecting the power of nature.

5. I'm grateful for my brother Joe, who will always be cooler than I am and who is just generally awesome.

6. Hell, I'm grateful for family in general.

7. I'm grateful for the cleansing, nourishing rain today, and the fact that it stopped in time for me to go out and teach my piano students.

8. I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had as a musician.

And now I feel better. Peace out.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

He's getting the hang of it

Thanks to all of you for your helpful comments on that last post. Katie, your suggestion of mixing everything with breastmilk really did the trick. Yesterday I cooked a sweet potato and stuck it in the blender with the water it was cooked in. Then I made a mixture of half sweet potato mush, half breastmilk. Daniel took to it without even gagging (we were agog) and ate it all up.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Super Baby Food

Since Daniel turned six months old last week, we've entered the world of Solid Foods. When he was four months old, the doc recommended we give him rice cereal, more for the iron than the calories, but that's always been mixed with breastmilk, so until last week he'd never had anything that didn't include something that came out of my boobs. I understand that mashed bananas or avocados are good foods to start out with. Organic avocados are quite a bit more expensive than bananas, so we went for bananas. Last week, my attempts went like this:

I take a small piece of banana and pulverize it with my fork until it's very soft and mushy.

I offer a tiny amount to Daniel. We're talking maybe two cubic milimeters.

He responds with look of disgust.




I try one more time with similar results.

And that's how it went for three or four days. We took a break from banans when we went to Boston; hauling a baby around on that trip was complicated enough. But Wednesday, I tried again, and this time, while he looked skeptical about this new flavor, he seemed to like it and opened his mouth for more. Same on Thursday. Today, though-

He eagerly takes a bite of mushy, gooey banana.






I'm not sure what went wrong there. Maybe he swallowed it too fast, or thought it was going to be rice cereal (which I've never fed him in the morning) and realized his error too late. Or maybe it's just plain old baby fickleness. So I cleaned him up and tried again, all the while smiling and saying "Yummy!" and generally acting like a clown, but every time that spoon got within six inches of his face, he started crying. I guess I'm back to square one, at least for today.

I confess to being a little overwhelmed by our foray into solid foods. I don't want to feed my baby food from a jar for a variety of reasons. Wanna hear 'em? OK:

1. Jarred baby food is over-processed. I can't believe fruits and vegetables in a jar have retained all their original nutrients.

2. Jarred baby food is expensive, especially the organic brands. We're committed to eating organic food, and when it comes to our child, who is small and vulnerable like all children, this point is not negotiable. I know a kid less than a year old who won't eat baby food that doesn't come from a jar, and he has three jars of food every meal. Do the math.

3. Mashing up fresh fruit or cooked vegetables really isn't all that time-consuming. Besides, we're a household that's used to doing things in a way that takes more work and more time, but is ultimately more energy-efficient and less expensive. Like hanging our clothes outside on a clothesline to dry. And washing dishes by hand because we don't have a dishwasher (I hope this isn't the case in our next house!). And washing cloth diapers every 2-3 days. And making fresh bread by hand. So mashing up sweet potato with a fork instead of opening a jar really isn't a big deal in terms of time or effort.

4. I've never tasted baby food from a jar, but I bet you ten bucks it's got way less flavor than anything prepared fresh. If my baby gets too used to really bland food, I'm betting it's more likely he'll be a picky eater later.

I asked for, and was given, the book Super Baby Food before Daniel was born. Even though it's long-winded and poorly organized, it's a good resource and I'm glad I have it. There is SO much information in there, though. I'm not sure I'm ready to prepare Super Baby meals of five whole grains mixed with brewer's yeast and broccoli and who knows what else. Gah.

Comments and suggestions welcome from all, especially experienced parents out there!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Boston, finale!

Sunday we had to get up early for the Duck Tour. A Duck is an actual WW II vehicle that can travel on land (top speed 40mph) and in water (top speed 6 knots) and was used to transport things like weapons. Now they are used to transport tour groups around the city. We learned a lot of interesting stuff about Boston, like how the Puritans started a huge landfill project that 1) did away with most of the major hills, 2) moved the Charles River and 3) made the Big Dig a huge engineering challenge that involved freezing layers of soil as they slipped slabs of concrete in to build the tunnels. Daniel was not really down with the Duck Tour, and he wriggled and fussed for most of the 80 minutes we were on it. But he did spend a few minutes in the captain's chair and got a little sticker on his onesie that sported the phrase "I drove a duck!" The tour guide said he was the youngest one ever to do so.

(Picture courtesy of another Duck Tour patron; we didn't have the camera along, and she was kind enough to email the pictures a couple days later.)

We ate lunch at Vox Populi, which was supposed to be fancy, but was slightly disappointing. Boston has this thing called "Restaurant Week" where upscale restaurants have prix fixe meals at reasonable prices - $20 for lunch and $40 for dinner. We had the lunch, and while it was good, it didn't knock my socks off (had I been wearing any. Keens, remember?)

We walked through the public garden, which is lovely, and has bronze statues of a mama duck and her ducklings. Thanks to the Caldecott Award-winning Make Way for Ducklings, the Boston public garden is a famous spot, so they put up those little bronze statues as a tribute to the author and illustrator. Unfortunately, we didn't get pictures because 1) we forgot to bring the camera, so all we had was the cell phone camera and 2) there were kids sitting on all the duck statues.

Later in the afternoon, we met up with my good friend Pam, who used to live in Boston and was happy to drive up for the weekend from Syracuse so we could meet up. We hung around, had coffee, went to a bookstore, and went to the top of the Prudential tower to get a look at Boston from the 50th floor. It's kind of like going to the Empire State Building in NYC. They charge eight bucks a person to walk around their skywalk, so we just peered from behind the ticket counter; as much as I'm willing to spring for good food, good espresso, and good Duck tours, no way am I paying eight dollars to walk around a building if it ain't already an art museum. Pam met Daniel for the first time, which was neat, because she moved away from Madison not long before he was born. As a matter of fact, she was the first person I told when I found out I was pregnant (other than Stuart and our parents and brothers, of course). Unfortunately, we didn't get pictures, even on the camera phone. D'oh!

We walked around Newbury street for a bit, which is famous for shopping, and it is way out of my league. You can smell money there. In fact, a lot of Boston is like a big outdoor shopping mall. I imagine it's hard to live there for long without wanting really expensive stuff, like clothes and designer furniture. I used to enjoy shopping more, but now that everything I wear is pretty much guaranteed to get drooled, barfed or peed on, shopping has lost a great deal of its appeal.

Monday morning, Joe had to go into work for a couple hours, so Daniel and I spent some time walking around the park across the road from his apartment. I watched some kids splash around in a fountain, and I watched some soccer moms get snippy with the park ranger because he was enforcing a "no bikes" rule. "It's not like you ever enforced this rule before!" one of them hissed. I hope I'm never that bitchy around my kid; that poor old guy was just doing his job.

We had a couple of hours before I had to go to the airport, so we decided to spend it walking around Cambridge, a map of which looks like this:

We strolled around Harvard University. I should have been more impressed than I was. If you can smell the money in Boston, you can taste it on the Harvard campus. Some nice people took our picture in the Memorial Hall, though.

And that's really about it. We spent the weekend walking around and seeing a lot of stuff, taking cute pictures of my kid, and eating really good food. Good times were had by all. I leave you with the sweetest picture of all:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Boston, reprise!

All right, now where did I leave off? Ah, yes, Saturday afternoon.

The Freedom Trail took us to the North End/Little Italy, where we stopped by Maria's pastry shop for authentic Italian canolis.

I had espresso in one of Boston's oldest caf├ęs and snitched some of Joe's pistachio gelato. Yum. We stopped by this little corner store to buy a set of espresso cups for Stuart.

We went to the Boston outdoor market, a Saturday staple, where there are tons of vendors selling produce dirt-cheap outside. The vendors appeared to be 1) immigrants of hispanic or Asian origin and 2) burly Bostonians, like the one guy with tattoos all up and down his arms and "Meatball" embroidered onto his sleeveless shirt who barked at a passer-by "What're ya doin'?! Just looking? Dat's not lookin', dat's touchin'. Don' look, don' touch, buh-bye!" He was kind of like a rougher version of the Soup Nazi.

It was getting to be late afternoon, and we wanted to hang around to see a free Shakespeare play in Boston Commons, so we decided to kill some time by the Charles River. We saw the U.S.S. Constitution - "Old Ironsides" - but didn't go inside.

We rested on a bench by the Charles River, where Daniel and Joseph had some quality time together.

Then we took full advantage of this Kodak moment:

I was eating cherries purchased at the market. My lame attempt at spitting the pits into the Charles River is immortalized here:

Eventually, we made it to Boston Common to see a free production of "The Taming of the Shrew. Unfortunately, by the end of Act I, we were all tired, cold, and incapable of following the intricacies of the plot, so we called it a night.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I promised pictures, and pictures you shall have. I may need to do this in installments because of the many, many pictures we took, there are several worth posting and I don't want to overwhelm anyone's bandwidth (or dial-up.)

So here goes.

I arrived at Logan airport at about 1 in the afternoon on Friday. Joe and I played phone tag for about an hour and then he picked me up in front of the terminal. We drove into the city and had lunch on Charles Street, then walked around for a while. It wasn't long before I was ready to just head back to his apartment and lay low, since I'd been up since 5 a.m. Here we are heading out to dinner at the Thai place by Joe's apartment; notice Daniel's clashing stripes...did I mention getting up at 5 a.m.?

Saturday the weather was absolutely, beautifully perfect, which is a good thing, since we had a whole lot of walking planned. We walked along most of the Freedom Trail, which is about three miles long and follows a historic route through the city. We saw John Hancock's gravestone. Is it just me, or was that guy really trying to compensate for something? I mean, that big old signature just wasn't enough, was it?

We also saw King's Chapel, and I have to admit that I can't even remember why it's famous. Oldest something or other. Or maybe the first integrated church in Boston. Huh. If anyone knows, please enlighten me. In any case, Joseph and little Daniel had a pious moment together.

We saw a large, old meeting hall where lots of historic decisions were made concerning the American Revolution and Boston Tea Party. The building has been made into a museum with some nifty displays of historical artifacts and statues of Revolutionaries, with some Boston history thrown in there, too. There are places where you can just feel the history in the air. This was one of those places.

We lunched at the Bell-in-Hand, the oldest tavern in the U.S. Joe enjoyed a refreshing malt beverage, and it was so tasty (some of the best beer I've had, and that includes Oberon!) I had one, too, only the 12oz version instead of the 22oz.

Here's Daniel trying to grab my water cup.

And here's the three of us standing by the window. There were no screens in there or anything; we could have petted the cars as they drove by in the narrow streets.

That's a lot of pictures already, and I haven't even made it through Saturday yet! Hope you guys aren't too bored. I'll post again tomorrow sometime.

Having a 6-month-old baby along meant that in addition to riding happily in the Kelty backpack, Daniel also nursed in most of these places. Most of the time I try to be somewhat discreet about breastfeeding in public, but when your baby is wriggly, you're going to expose yourself eventually. It's just a fact of life. I've long since gotten over feeling self-conscious about it. I didn't notice anyone throwing me dirty looks or acting uncomfortable, even though the entire trip I only saw one other breastfeeding mother.

Monday, August 14, 2006

My feet stink

I thought Keens were supposed to be the anti-funk shoes? I guess when you've spent four solid days hoofing it sockless around Boston, MA there's no preventing the stink.

I had a great time visiting my brother, exploring Boston for the weekend, and drinking very moderate quantities of Sam Adams summer ale. Daniel did beautifully and was in fact so exhausted by the end of this trip that he fell asleep on the connecting flight from Cincy to Madison and hasn't woken up yet. (He is now in his crib.)

More details and pictures coming later. I'm tired and in dire need of bathing.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Red alert

Daniel and I are flying to Boston this weekend to see his uncle Joe (my little bro'), who has an internship there for the summer. I have been to New England once before, but never to Boston, so I'm excited about visiting a new city. I'm looking forward to having little D visit his uncle, who's only met him once before, and I'm pumped about seeing my friend Pam, who will also be in Boston for the weekend.

Have the rest of you been listening to the news this morning, though? A major terrorist plot has been foiled in Britain, a plot that was to involve liquid explosives on international flights. Of course, I'm not flying internationally, but I will be flying into Logan airport, and I will have to deal with all the extra security measures and heightened anxiety surrounding this situation. I'm fine with the extra security, as long as they don't try to x-ray my kid. But I have to admit that even though I'm not taking any high-risk (re: trans-Atlantic) flights, I'm a little nervous.

I heard on NPR this morning that U.S. flights aren't allowing electronic devices or liquids of any kind in carry-on luggage. The exceptions are prescription medicine and infant formula (what if you're taking pumped breastmilk with you? I guess if you watch Michael Moore documentaries you know the answer to that one...) I guess I'll either leave my cell phone at home or pack it in the suitcase. Ditto Daniel's sunscreen, infant tylenol, bath soap and baby lotion. Thank goodness they're still allowing carry-ons here, unlike in Britain. I mean, what happens if you're stuck in Heathroe and your kid takes a big old crap in his pants and you weren't allowed to have a diaper bag with you and your next flight doesn't leave for 2 hours? I guess I'm as anxious about Daniel taking a poo in public as much as I'm anxious about anything else.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The shelves are painted!

I'm afraid this blog is turning into one of those obnoxious "Here, look at the stuff in my house" blogs, so this post is the last of those. But I wanted to share some pictures of the beautiful shelves that we finally finished painting last night! It took 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint, and even though a few spots could probably use yet another coat, I'm sick of painting, so I'm calling it.

The light in these pictures is coming straight in the window, so they came out a little grainy, but I wanted to get pictures taken so I could start putting things away. Right now my house looks like someone turned it upside down and gave it a good shake, and the mess is driving me a little bonkers.

My dad, in all his genius, cut out a little notch in the bottom shelf to accomodate this outlet:

Did I mention that my dad built these himself? We designed them together, but he did all the actual work. There was a lot of measuring and a hell of a lot of cutting and slicing and a wee bit of cursing when things didn't fit. It took some ingenuity on his part to cut 45-degree miters without a table saw for those mouldings on the very top. Plus, the heat made working conditions outside less than ideal. I hope he knows just how much I appreciate it. Thanks, dad!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Where I've been, and our latest love affair

I promise I haven't abandoned y'all, really! It's been a busy couple of weeks, though. My parents were here for 9 days while my dad built bookcases into one wall of the living room. Unfortunately, most of the work took place outside while we were having a nasty heatwave, but he braved the sweltering temperatures and wicked humidity and made some damn nice shelves. The second coat of primer is drying, but when the painting is done, I'll post pictures for everyone to admire.

Also, Stuart and I celebrated our 5th anniversary this weekend. A good friend took Daniel for the evening while we went out to eat at a moderately fancy-pants Spanish restaurant with a free wine-tasting bar. It was lovely, and we've decided we need to have these dates more often (this was only our second since Daniel was born, and our first was to see Narnia at the discount was almost worth the six bucks it cost for us both to see it. Almost.)


In our house, coffee is often referred to as "nectar of life" or simply, "life." Neither Stu nor I has been more than a 2-cup-per-day coffee drinker, but that morning java is not just a matter of pleasure, but necessity. Without it, I feel sluggish and headache-y by about noon.

From the beginning, we've been buying fair trade organic, not only for ethical reasons, but also because it tastes much better than the dirt Folgers tries to pass off as coffee. We grind it fresh with every brew. It must be light to medium roast, as dark roast tastes burnt.

For a time we were satisfied with using our 4-cup auto-drip machine that probably cost about $15 at Target, but it wasn't long before we started philandering with other coffee paraphernalia. We flirted with boiled Turkish coffee with sugar and cardamom. We had an awkward affair with a cheap cappuccino machine that I think was a Christmas present of yore. The French press lured us with her smooth glass and fitted plunger. But things got really serious when Stuart pulled out a 2-cup stovetop espresso maker he'd been given for being in a wedding. The thick, dark, syrupy coffee that came from this tiny Bialetti was intense, and we wanted more. So we bought the 4-cup version, then a Brikka, but after a few months it was clear none of these could satisfy our lust for the true dark, crema-laden Italian espresso like you can get in all the coffeeshops.

Is this post making anyone uncomfortable yet? Heh, heh. I thought so.

Finally, we had to do it. We had to break down and pay the big bucks and get a real espresso machine. You see, what makes espresso good is the crema - that sweet, light-colored froth that takes away the bitterness and makes the shot smooth and rich down to the last tiny drop. Stovetop espresso makers like the Brikka just might give you a bit of crema around the edge of your cup, but it is fleeting and disappears within a few seconds. Only the electric machines can produce enough steam pressure to create the crema.

So we got one. Isn't it handsome?

And it has a companion: a beautiful, sweet-tempered burr grinder from Williams-Sonoma with curves in all the right places and the ability to grind espresso beans just right:

It turns out that the grinder is almost more important than the espesso machine. Regular blade grinders heat up the beans, the blades don't grind as consistently, and they leave coffee "dust," all of which takes away from the crema. We tried having beans ground at a coffee shop down the road, but unless it's done seconds before the espresso is made, you get no crema. Without the crema, it's really not espresso.

, it's not just the fancy machine and fancy grinder. It's also the exact amount of beans, waiting for the water to heat for an exact amount of time, and tamping the beans with exactly 30 lbs of pressure. We almost bought a bathroom scale - one item I swore I would never have in my house - just so Stuart could determine how hard he had to press to tamp at 30 lbs. (He ended up just going to a department store and messing around with the scales there, but not buying one.)

It's taken Stuart a couple weeks, several curse words, multiple trips to Williams-Sonoma, and several dumped cups of botched espresso to get all of this right. (I have yet to learn all the tricks. I figured it would be more efficient for him to noodle around until he's got it and then show me.)

You're probably wondering if all this is worth it. When you're this in love with a caffinated goodness, the answer is yes, yes, and absolutely yes. Once you've had a perfect tiny little cup of espresso bursting with rich, crema-filled goodness, you know it's The One.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


The recent war in Lebanon has me alternatively sputtering profanities and fantasizing about dope-slapping Condi Rice, and fighting the sinking feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I think about the Draft and the fact that I have a son who will be 18 one day. Neither of these is particularly productive. So instead of trying to articulate my own feelings of anger and frustration on the matter, which is ultimately self-centered anyway, I am urging you to go read Steph's latest post about hope. Then read it again. And then say a little prayer for peace.