Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On my way

I'm off to a conference this afternoon. I'm having the usual pre-travel jitters: how early do I need to be there? Is the conference really this weekend? Really in Nashville? (Somehow I keep thinking maybe it's in Memphis and I've bought the wrong tickets. I haven't.) Will my paper go all right? Will anyone be there to hear it?

Am I really this needy a traveler? I look at my ziploc bag full of liquids and gels. Is mascara a gel? And why is my little bag so full? How many hair products do I need for four days, anyway? (Don't answer that, especially if you see me every day...)

I try to relax. I remember that I like to travel alone.

I like to travel alone. And I like coming home, too.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring (ish)

Last year I started talking about the cherry tree outside my window on March 22nd. It had bloomed the day before, and then snow had fallen. I got pictures on the 28th. More importantly, I posted Dad's cherry tree sonnet on the 25th.

Last Friday the tree outside my window was black and stark against the sky, though it was a lovely warm day. This morning it's chillier, but the tree is blooming.

Here's one of last year's pictures. The camera batteries are (surprise!) dead again.

Friday, March 23, 2007

a forgiving cake

I made the chocolate-banana cake the other night. Or, I meant to. I started making it, and then realized I didn't have enough sour cream. Ah, well, no worries--I had buttermilk. So about 1/3 of a cup of each seemed to do the trick.

Then I was out of cream before I got the icing made. So I stretched that too, with some milk. I ran out of vanilla (didn't I just buy vanilla?), but I had almost enough, so I just let that one go.

Then I was somehow just, well, stupid, and I had the oven 100 degrees higher than I was supposed to. 425 instead of 325. I figured that one out when I smelled burning instead of bananas after about 25 minutes.

Guess what? The cake was fine. A little crispy on top, but perfectly fine, and done 20 minutes earlier than expected.

Gotta love a forgiving cake recipe. But, hmm, why am I not baking all my cakes this fast? There must be a catch...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

49% Yankee

My parents will be disappointed, but at least I haven't gone completely over to the other side.

Take the Yankee or Dixie quiz here

[link fixed 3/21/07--sorry about that!]

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick's Day baking

I guess most people drink (green beer?) for St. Patrick's Day, but I bake. On top, Nigella's chocolate guinness cake; below, easy Irish soda bread (no caraway seeds).

Our neighbors have a St. Patrick's Day party every year, which gives me an excuse to bake. (We won't discuss how most weekends I have no such excuse, but bake anyway. I have started to notice how much butter I've been buying and I've decided...not to notice any more.)

A few notes from the weekend:
  • the cooking class Nick took is paying off. He made chocolate chip-banana muffins this morning. Now if he could only do so without waking me up first!
  • it is actually possible to watch basketball for over eight hours straight. I'm not sure it's a good idea, but it's possible.
  • knitting while watching basketball improves both activities.
  • I am working on a sweater. I last made a sweater with sleeves about twenty years ago, for Mark, before I had heard of the sweater curse. (I'm not the Libby cited in the article, but my story is similar.) Mark's sweater was too short and too wide, and the sleeves were too long--it might have been a nice fit on an orangutan, but it really didn't work for him. Still, he wore it once or twice and only recently asked if he could give it to Goodwill. So anyway this sweater is for me, it will have sleeves, and I am just a little nervous about it.
  • we got to watch the VCU game at the party. The hometown crowd got very excited as regulation ended and we had tied it. You haven't lived until you've watched a hometown basketball game on TV with about a dozen ten-year-old boys. I think my hearing will come back eventually.
  • having baked the cake there are still five bottles of Guinness left in the fridge. Somehow I don't think they'll go to waste.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


In a rare all-family outing, we went to see/hear/feel the Kodo drummers last night. Everyone loved it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

by the way

If you haven't read the comments on this post yet, you probably should. (I read blogs using google-reader, which I love, but I do miss out on comments unless I'm reminded. So this is for other feed-readers, mostly.)

quick spring supper

Remember this? Of course you do. You read, thought "ick," and moved on. Fine, then. (Actually, apparently some people didn't, including a recent commenter. Thanks, Misti! )

The other night I did something a little different, only a little, and somehow I know it doesn't sound quite as weird. So maybe you'll try it.

Really it's almost the same as the first one. Whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, juice and zest of a lemon, and a lot of garlic (I think I used about a tablespoon) in the bottom of a large pasta bowl. Boil up a pound of long skinny pasta--linguine works well. Fry up some bacon (or, in my case, microwave some turkey bacon--I used six slices). Finely grate 1/2 cup to a cup of parmesan.

Toss a clamshell package full of baby spinach leaves in the pasta bowl with the dressing. Break the bacon up into bite-size pieces and toss that in, too. When the pasta is done, drain it and toss it with the salad. Sprinkle parmesan over, toss again, and serve.

See, doesn't that sound good? Now go and try the sausage one another day. It's really pretty much the same thing.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Here's what I saw...

..on the way to work at 7:30 this morning:
  • a half moon, hanging brightly halfway up the sky
  • daffodils in the across-the-street neighbor's front yard
  • a jogger vaulting over the next-door neighbor's recycling, awaiting pickup on the curb
  • more daffodils
  • a well-trimmed bush, lit up red, green, and gold with Christmas lights
  • even more daffodils
  • my toes, peeking out from my sandals, hoping the weather-guessers are right and it will warm up today

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

parenting boys, parenting girls

I read another one of those posts, recently, about how easy it is to parent boys, about how they're just puppies and you just throw them outside periodically and that's all there is to it. (To be fair, I think the post went on to talk about how the writer had re-thought some of that.) I'm not linking to it because 1) I don't really remember where I read it and 2) there are so many of them and 3) I'm about to get nasty about it so I don't want to link to any specific person. There.

Even when I read it, I had to disagree. But I know so many people who say the same thing, or something similar! So many women who, secretly or not-so-secretly, yearned for sons during their pregnancies, or when they dreamed of children. They said it was because boys were easier, or because boys are less complicated, or (my favorite, really) because there's no love like a son's for his mother. I remember hearing this one from a colleague when our kids (her boy, my girl) were both three or four, and her son jumped in her lap at a party and told her he loved her. The fact that my daughter did the same thing routinely was somehow not considered evidence of her superior love for me.

Forgive me if this all sounds like internalized misogyny. Why are girls the "difficult" and "complicated" ones? Tell me, for example, who gets in most of the fights in the world. Who wrecks the most cars, starts the most wars, rapes the most women? Still thinking boys are uncomplicated and easy?

Now, before you jump up and down on me: I don't hate men. I'm married to one, sister to two, daughter to one, and mother to a son. I love them all, and I have great colleagues and friends who are men, too. (They may stop speaking to me soon, but I still like them.) Most men, like most women, are neither violent nor cruel; nonetheless, patriarchal privilege still (mostly) exists, and still (mostly) tells boys/men they can do things girls/women can't or won't do. This can, of course, make parenting girls hard: it's hard to deal with institutionalized oppression, even if we don't call it that, even if it doesn't always seem like that's what it is. It's hard to deal with airbrushed pictures in magazines, eating disorders, manipulative clique-ishness, and all those aisles of pink toys in the toy store. But not harder, I'd submit, than dealing with a culture of violence, with airbrushed pictures in magazines, bullying, and all those aisles of guns in the toy store.

I have a son and two nephews who hardly fit the "puppy" model of parenting I outlined above. They are sweet, sensitive, weird (in a good way) little kids who can be both rambunctious and kind, who are fascinated by both cooking and firetrucks. In this they are not all that different from my daughter as a younger child: they are complex and interesting, and I look forward to seeing them grow up. They're certainly not the same as the girls they know, but easier? Harder? I just don't see how the terms apply.

Monday, March 05, 2007

well trained

I was awakened at 5:30 this morning by an absence: Anna the cat, who usually wakes me up at 5:30, was not yowling by my pillow or jumping on my feet. I lay there for a few minutes wondering whether I should worry, then I got up and looked around for her. No sign. Back in bed, I lay there imagining all the places she might be. Finally at around 6:00 I got up and made coffee, and by the time it was brewing Anna was twining herself around my legs looking for breakfast.

Because, you know, why not get that extra half hour of shut-eye while your well-trained human gets herself moving in the morning?


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Before the memory fades

I made the onion soup from a recent NYTimes Sunday Magazine last weekend. (edited to fix the link: thanks, Lilian!) I knew I wanted to make it as soon as I saw it; we had really great French onion soup while in England--the kids surprised themselves by loving it despite the onions--and I had wanted to make it ever since. Usually in restaurants it's too salty, as Mariah and I have discovered to our disappointment, so I looked with favor on a recipe that wasn't based on (salty, salty) beef stock. And then Becca said S. made it, and I knew I had to do it, too.

It did not disappoint. Well, Nick didn't eat it. He objected to the consistency, which is much, much closer to pudding than soup, it's true. But the rest of us just loved it, and I ate it for lunch twice this week, and it was still good. And it's really, really easy. (Though I may just need these goggles. In the old days, when I wore contacts, chopping onions never made me cry. Then I had lasik surgery, and I can see when I wake up in the night, or in the morning, or under water, but not when I chop or even cook onions. I sliced these in the food processor and had no problems, but the 15-20 minutes while they were cooking all by themselves was worse than reading Bridge to Terabithia.)