Thursday, September 27, 2007

pop quiz! (mini-version)

The fact that I started out "just" washing the dishes after dinner, found myself an hour later taking out the trash and recycling, cleaning the sink, re-arranging the counter-tops, and scrubbing the lid to the trash can for-pete's-sake, and am now sharing this minutiae of my life with the rest of you is evidence that:

a) I am neurotic.
b) I am experiencing those "nesting instincts" a touch early.
c) I am seriously procrastinating dissertation work.
d) All of the above. It's going to be a long semester.
e) None of the above. The kitchen was just really gross.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Thanks for all the thoughts regarding the recent screw-up by a certain local landscaping company. There were some interesting discussions in the comments, if you're inclined to go read them. I, for one, am done with the issue, seeing as I have a dissertation deadline that is looming larger as each day passes. We even had a heavy rain the other night, so probably most of what got sprayed is now in the groundwater for everyone to enjoy.

Before I open that dissertation file and write some more un-usable crap (I am really starting to doubt my intellectual capabilities, alas), I am posting a couple pictures of the salsa I made for dinner tonight.

First, I quartered a bunch of little heirloom zebra tomatoes:

There's no picture, but I also threw in some peeled shallots, garlic cloves, and a couple jalapeƱo peppers, all sprinkled with kosher salt. Using that coarse kosher salt makes me feel all sophisticated and gourmet-like. This all went in the oven for a little over an hour at 325 degrees. When everything was cooled off, I stripped the peels off the tomatoes, chopped and mashed everything together, added some cilantro, and got this:

There was a lot more than what's in this little bowl, actually. But we ate it up before I got a picture taken. And it was gooooood, except that Stuart got a particularly big chunk of hot pepper in one bite and had to guzzle some milk.

All right, time to bestow some more of my brilliance/BS (take your pick) onto a certain Word file that's gotten a lot of my attention of late.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Yesterday, I returned home from teaching piano lessons to find that there were several little white signs all over our yard that read: "Pesticide application, keep off!"

Now. You probably know by now that I feel very strongly about the practice of dumping chemicals on the ground, especially on lawns. It's unnatural, it's wasteful, it's unhealthy, it's unsafe, and it's all for the sake of a really stupid idea based on solely suburban vanity that it's okay to cram your yard full of toxic chemicals as long as it's uniformly green and devoid of anything natural, like weeds and bugs.

Obviously, the fact that our lawn got sprayed with God-knows-what was a mistake. Somebody somewhere screwed up. Royally. And they had to deal with the wrath of ME. I immediately called the company who had placed the signs in the yard and left a vehemently angry, explosive message on their answering service. I actually managed not to swear, though the phrase "How could you stupid fuckwits put that shit on my yard?" damn near made it through the language filter. Within minutes, someone called back, apologizing profusely, explaining that the "applicator" (the dude spraying the poison) had misread the address number on the order; the lady two houses down had ordered the chemicals.

I was still livid. "Do you realize I'm pregnant? And that I have a toddler who loves to play in the yard? And that we grow edible plants, like herbs and tomatoes? And now thanks to the toxic junk you put on my yard, we can't eat that stuff, much less walk on the grass!" And so on. Believe me, he got an earful.

I will give the service manager credit for being calm and polite, apologetic, and thorough as possible in his explanations. The dude who screwed up is getting his pay docked for 30 days.* (I considered suggesting that the people they hire to spread poisons on personal property should at least be literate enough to read numbers correctly, but I had cooled off a little by then. I wanted him to know I was angry, not crazy.) Our yard was sprayed with a "mild herbicide" for Creeping Charlie and some fertilizer pellets were put down as well. These things were only applied to the grass, not the wooded or garden areas, and it would be safe to tread on our turf in a few hours, as soon as everything was dry.

The guy on the phone also reassured me that their company does business with so many homes close to the Arboretum, they're not allowed to use anything that's in Agent Orange, so not to worry about that. My jaw dropped. I was over my fire-hot anger and shocked enough by this statement, I just squeaked out "Oh, that's good," but internally I wondered, "YOU MEAN YOU WOULD USE THAT SHIT NORMALLY? IT WIPED OUT HALF OF VIETNAM FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!"

They called again this morning to apologize profusely. I think they get that I was pissed, and it won't happen again. It damn well better not.

*Just to clarify, after Mrs. Ann's comment: the fellow who made the mistake is not getting his pay completely eliminated for 30 days. Rather, his hourly wage is reduced by $1/hr for 30 days. For the record, I think that's fair.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stuart the chef, Susan the fish

Stuart the chef

When Stuart read my last entry, he chuckled. Feigning a hurt expression, he said, "'frankly, I'm better at it?,'" quoting my assertion that I'm a better cook than he is. He actually doesn't dispute that point, and neither do I, but I want to clarify that my husband is more than competent in the kitchen. I did have to teach him how to separate eggs the first time he made dough for noodles, but that's a minor thing. He is confident doing a few things without a recipe, but when he's given proper instructions, he can handle anything. The big differences between us when it comes to the culinary arts are:

1) Since I do most of the cooking, I'm more efficient and I generally take charge of meal planning. I often ask his opinion, though. "I can't decide between making couscous with curry or fried rice. What would you rather eat tonight?"; "Are you more in the mood for cucumber-yogurt salad or some other vegetable?" Our growing consciousness about the food we eat and where it comes from, decisions that we most definitely make together, means that he takes a real interest in the meals we eat together every day, even if I'm the one fixing them.

2) I'm simply more interested in the creative aspect of cooking than he is, generally speaking. It's not fair to say that he's completely uninterested, of course. It takes some initiative to make noodles from scratch, and he's done hours of research and practice to perfect his techniques using the espresso machine, and I barely know how to turn the thing on.

All right, enough of that.

Susan the fish

I finally got signed up to go swimming. I owe thanks to my friend Rachel for goading me on. She told me about the program at a clinic/health center very near my house where you can sign up just to swim however many times a week you want to, hence reasonable fees (it's far less than joining a gym, for example), and she goes regularly. Anyway, I went for the first time last night and it felt amazing. As soon as I got in the water, I couldn't feel the extra 22+ pounds I've gained since May; I felt buoyant, weightless, full of energy--things I don't usually feel being nearly 6 months pregnant. I didn't want to overdo it, but I swam for twenty solid minutes before getting out. I just wish I had signed up for this two months ago when I was just getting to the second trimester.

Swimming was the only sport I did regularly as a kid. Every summer my mom signed my brother and me up for lessons with a friend of hers who had been a lifeguard. We learned good techniques, like kicking from your knees instead of thrashing your whole leg, don't twist your torso when you reach forward during the crawl, turn your head instead of lifting when you take a breath...after many summers of this, I even joined a swim team, though I only lasted a few weeks because I didn't have the speed or endurance for it. Still, I'm a good swimmer (if not a good competitive swimmer), and I have found that if you can find the time for it, swimming is the best kind of exercise there is. Especially if you're pregnant. I can't wait to go again.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

new toy

Not a new toy for Daniel!

No, this one's for us grown-ups, Stuart in particular. After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Stuart decided to take a more active role in meal preparation here. Good news all around! (Yes, I do almost all the cooking for our household because I'm the one who is home most of the time, and frankly, I'm better at it. In fact, I really enjoy cooking; since we have to eat every day, and since I'm one of those wholesome make-it-all-from-scratch types, making all our meals does not feel like a chore to me. It's satisfying, it helps me unwind at the end of the day, and as hobbies go, it's pretty useful. That said, if I need Stuart to help, or if I'm too busy or tired and want to get take-out instead, he always steps up and never complains about know, just in case you think he takes me for granted. He really, really doesn't. Plus, he scrubs the bathroom every week and takes care of bike maintenance and that counts for a lot in my book.)

So anyway, in AVM, the author Barbara Kingsolver talks about how the whole family participates in dinner preparation and their food life in general. Thusly inspired, Stuart has recently taken charge of Saturday night dinner, and that doesn't mean he dials the pizza delivery place. A few weeks ago, he made curried chicken in yogurt sauce (it was quite delicious), and lately, he's been trying his hand at homemade pasta noodles. You can see he's committed; no cans of Spaghetti-Os for this guy.

Noodles are pretty easy, as it turns out, especially if you know anything about mixing dough for tortillas or bread, both of which we eat a lot of around here. You just throw together some eggs, flour, and a little salt. The part of noodle-making that is a royal pain in the ass is rolling it out and letting it dry for a couple hours before slicing it into strips to cook in boiling water. Keeping curious toddlers with grubby fingers away from dough drying on the counter is a particular challenge. Just sayin'.

Last weekend, when it became clear that homemade noodles made by my husband's capable hands will be a regular part of our weekly menu, we had a little outing to check out pasta makers. We found one for the right price, and tonight Stuart gave it a try:

How cool is that? Stick a hunk of dough in the machine, turn the crank, and out comes a sheet of pasta! Actually, you have to put it through several times to get the dough thin enough, and then once more through the cutter to get the fettucine or what-have-you, but that's the fun part anyway.

Daniel was pretty interested in what was going on:

What's Stu going to come up with next? We'll all just have to wait and see...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What is Daniel up to?

Helping me wash basil for a batch of pesto:

Playing outside with Stuart:

Playing with whatever he found in this abandoned flower pot (probably old leaves and mud):


Friday, September 14, 2007


I just learned this morning that a woman my family has known for years died last night. She was well into her seventies, and had lived with cancer for the last few years, so we knew this was coming. Still, it seemed to happen quickly. While she'd had her ups and downs, she had been doing quite well until a couple of weeks ago, when things just started going downhill fast. I suppose that's how it should be. We wouldn't want the final suffering to drag out for months and months, would we?

I regret that I didn't see Laverne very often the last few years of her life. That's just what happens when you live several states away. When I was growing up, though, she came to our house regularly for dinner and board games; I'm telling you, no one played Trivial Pursuit like this lady. She was, in some way, like a grandmother to my brother and me, since we lived hundreds of miles away from our own grandparents and only visited them a couple times a year.

So I'm a little sad today, thinking about our friend and how many people will miss her, her personality, and her entirely hilarious stories (she once drove onto an airport runway by mistake with a missionary in the car who hadn't ridden anything more high-tech than a donkey until she flew to the U.S.).

Good bye, Laverne. Rest in peace.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I need to learn how to count

Stuart's giving Daniel a bath, the dishes are washed, and I've already done three hours of dissertation work today, so this post is as guilt-free as it gets these days.

This afternoon, I sat down with the rough mix of the recording sessions Pam and I did last week. I got through almost everything, with the exception of one particularly tricky song that's going to need some significant editing because we did it so many times and no one take is mistake-free. One of the other songs, though, we did about five different times, and I noticed that we weren't lining up for about three measures near the end in every single take. What the heck? It turns out I learned it wrong, leaving out an eighth-note beat in one certain place every single time. Damn! At least I'm consistent. There's nothing I can do about it now, but it's niggling at me all the same. (I'd like to point out that this particular song is difficult enough that neither one of us noticed the mistake even after lots of practicing and rehearsing and even performing for the composer the day before we recorded.)

Of course, now that I'm over half-done with the recording component of my dissertation project, last night I finally got around to turning in a revision of my proposal to my committee. Only one gave me any feedback at all on the original I turned in two months ago, which is irksome, to say the least, but whatever. I really really REALLY need to get this done. I'm choosing to interpret their silence as a green light and I'm moving forward as planned. Let's hope no one springs any big surprises at the defense. Like "By the way, sorry I forgot to mention this earlier, but your project sucks. You fail. Just go home and have babies and forget all about the DMA. You won't use it anyway." (Can you tell I'm having a touch of anxiety about where my career is headed?)

In other news, completely unrelated, Daniel is up to some funny/cute stuff these days. He recently figured out how to kiss, and he'll plant about five sloppy little smooches on me in a row. He's also trying to jump; he can't quite do it, so that means he'll stand in one place and bounce up and down several times before stumbling forward. Things are improving on the eating front, too, slowly but surely. Tonight he ate a handful of granola, crunchy, probably-a-choking-hazard-because-it-requires-molars-and-he-only-has-8-front-teeth granola, and did totally fine. Now, if he would only show this kind of interest in vegetables so I didn't have to hide them in a fresh batch of muffins every three days, I would call that real progress.

Happy Monday, everybody.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Is it Thursday already?

It's been a busy week, but busy in a good way: Pam was here for two days! She's on a cross-country trip to move from Boston to Palo Alto, and in between finding a new job and a place to live and packing and driving hundreds and hundreds of miles, she managed to find time to learn five songs to record with me for my dissertation project. Two of them were written by a composer on faculty here and they are quite difficult in every way; pitches, rhythm, ensemble, musical direction are all serious challenges in these pieces. The songs are beautiful, though, and worth every minute of effort.

The great thing about working with a singer like Pam is that she can learn really complicated music, and learn it well, and sound amazing singing it. Then she can rehearse, coach, and record said music with you in a 48-hour time span, even after she's driven over 1000 miles in the previous four days. And you can feel absolutely confident the whole time that everything will turn out sounding really good. (Pam, are you blushing?)

Seriously, it's like we have musical ESP or something! I just wish we lived closer together so we could work together more often.

Daniel really enjoyed her company, too:

Now I just have to record one more batch of songs and write something brilliant about all of them. By October 15. I can do it...I think. (I'm kidding about "brilliant" by the way. I appreciate Andre's and Jenn's and Animal's advice to just get the thing done. I basically agree, though for the sake of my pride and the sake of actually passing, it can't suck, either.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

belly pictures

Stuart told me that a couple weeks ago, one of our neighbors asked him, "Your wife's due pretty soon, right?"

I'm not offended. My front seems to be expanding every day. I've got four months to go, and I look further along than that. I'm a bit apprehensive about how big and uncomfortable I'll be before it's over, but there's nothing I can do about it. When I was pregnant with Daniel I was huge, but the weight dropped off in four or five months, so I'm not really worried about that in the long term.

When I was pregnant with Daniel, though, I got more regular exercise because I was biking eight miles per day (4-mile commute to campus) until two months before he was born, and after that I did a lot of walking. Now, biking is much more difficult for various reasons. While I keep myself in acceptable - if not great - shape running up and down the stairs to do laundry (endless, endless laundry), and chasing Daniel around the park, I'd like to do something more substantial to keep the sloth-like tendencies of the fast-approaching third trimester at bay. Plus, I'm already having some trouble sleeping, and I think if I was getting a halfway decent workout a few times a week, it might help.

So yesterday I bought a maternity swimsuit. I figure that owning a suit might provide enough impetus to sign up for a couple pool sessions per week at the nearby health clinic/fitness center. I keep telling myself I don't have time, particularly with this crazy semester ahead of me, but if anything, a regular swimming routine will help with managing that stress, too.

Have I mentioned how I kind of hate trying on clothes? Especially maternity clothes? Add swimsuits to the equation, and you're asking for some truly unhappy moments in the dressing room. Do you realize just how ridiculous maternity swimsuits look? I mean, there's no way to hide it when you're basically just a b*ooby-licious beach ball with legs...but still. I managed to find a simple black one in my size, but not before trying on, among others, a checkered blue tankini that flared out at the hips and had a little bow at the top. I looked like a freaking picnic table when I tried that one on. Yeesh. What were they thinking?