Monday, November 30, 2009

Gym Jam

I finally made a decision: I'm going back to the gym. It's not really a difficult decision to make; I actually enjoy going to the gym, working out, and getting fit. So it isn't really that I have to convince myself to get up and go-- it's the childcare issue. About six months ago, before getting my layoff notice (perfect timing!), we signed contracts to join In-Shape. Unfortunately, we joined the only In-Shape in Modesto that doesn't have childcare facilities. And we're now locked in to a contract that can't be broken. So for the past few months, I haven't been able to go at all, merely because I can't seem to find a sitter for Ethan. Joel's busy with work or studying all the time, and I don't want to ask my parents or friends to start a scheduled babysitting job.

I was at the point of considering hiring a sitter so that I could go the gym three times a week, when it finally hit me: It would cost less to just increase my membership to the level where I can attend any of the In-Shape clubs in the city, so that I can use the childcare services there while I work out. Not only does it make it easier because I can just bring him with me and be able to check in on him if I need to, but it also means that I don't have to impose on friends or family for this fairly big responsibility. So I went ahead and did it this morning. Later today we'll be hitting the nearest In-Shape to check out their kids' area, and start getting Ethan used to the childcare system. Personally, I think he'll love it. He is so interested in kids right now, and fearless when it comes to meeting new people. I am really looking forward to this. While I get some "me" time and can start getting to where I want to be physically, he gets play dates with other kids. How cool is that? It's a win-win!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Things I'm thankful for...
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* my son, born healthy and happy despite the emergency room scares and the placental abruption-- he is now almost one year old and going strong; thank you for being such a beacon of joy and hope and for giving me a reason to stand up and stay strong
* my husband, still with me through thick and thin, and it's been mighty thin of late; thank you for staying by my side even when I'm crabby (or worse) and for keeping up your positive spirits-- one of us needs to, in order to keep this ship sailing forward instead of sinking in the pits of despair
* my mother, who is becoming an even dearer friend than I could have imagined, and who is (of course) an excellent grandmother; thank you for your unconditional love
* my father and sisters, for their loving devotion to their grandson/nephew; thank you for surrounding us with support and for always being there when we need you
* my best friend JS, and the way she has stepped with every fiber of her self into being an amazing auntie; thank you for ten years and counting of a friendship that I just couldn't imagine living without
* my new friends T & T, and the way they are showing me how to become a woman I can be proud of
* a great circle of "adopted" relatives, including a very dear "nana" and "papa," several aunties & uncles, and other assorted friends who have invited us to share their lives and join their extended families
* my healthy body and sound mind, at least for the moment; for recovering so well from my accident a few years ago that I can move my hips enough to dance to Lady Gaga, not even think about using my walker to chase a toddler around the house, and watch the leaves change color without worrying about my neck brace
* Beringer Chenin Blanc, for being a lovely little cheap white wine I can sip on a regular basis, and Castello di Amore Cabernet Sauvignon for being one of the best wines I've ever had
* Hulu, for providing me with instant access to SNL and other TV shows that I otherwise wouldn't be able to access because we don't have cable
* speaking of Hulu, I'm thankful for the internet!
* Cotswold Double Gloucester Cheese with Chives & Onion
* Autumn

The list could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Thank you for everything I've been given. Even the yucky stuff. I may not understand why right now, but I'm sure there's a point to it. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Birthday Blues

Just hit the big 3-7, and boy, let me tell ya-- it just doesn't seem right that I'm already this old. I certainly don't *feel* old, so how can I actually be this close to middle-aged? Some days, it feels like I'm the same person I was back in high school. Other days, when my hip is creaking or my knees are popping or my shoulder starts to hurt, I wonder if I'm closer to 70 than 40. I know that part of it is that I feel a mounting sense of frustration that we are stuck in this rut of joblessness and constantly being on the edge of being homeless because of our ever-dwindling incomes. It's funny what having very little cash flow does to your lifestyle. It's funny because we are actually surviving on less than half of what we had coming in before, but it really changes your definition of "survival" and your wants versus needs list. For instance: I *want* a new pair of underwear for the first time in over a year, but I *need* to buy baby food. I *want* to fix the car heater/AC, but I *need* to pay rent. And so on, and so forth. You just start doing without so many things that it becomes second nature.

And this is not because I'm frugal-- which I am-- but because we have no other choice. Frugality doesn't mean that you neglect your car maintenance in order to save a few bucks, because you know that it'll end up costing you more down the line. Frugality doesn't mean that you wait until the day you run out of baby formula to buy more because you're too broke to stock up, because really planning ahead can save you a lot more money (by doing things like buying in bulk on eBay). I think that even if we were someday independently wealthy, I would still be frugal-- I just wouldn't have to be cheap anymore.

My birthday wish is that soon we won't have to live paycheck to paycheck-- or in this case, unemployment check to unemployment check. Cross your fingers for me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Plans

So, I'm going to two different Thanksgiving celebrations, and I'm starting to get things organized so that I bring the right dishes to the right house. It helps to have a list, but I have two-- time to stop, collaborate and listen.

Thanksgiving #1: I'll be helping a friend prepare a Bacon-Cheddar Baguette, Sweet & Spicy Meatballs, and Spinach-Artichoke Stuffed Tomatoes for her family's celebration on Thursday. I'll also be helping her set up the house before everyone gets there, so that means some serious girl time on Wednesday. Meaning, of course, some cooking, some interior decorating, and some martinis while watching the hot-hot-hot Gerard Butler in "The Ugly Truth." Can't wait!

Thanksgiving #2: This is going to be the tougher one. I'm preparing the turkey, gravy, Sausage-Cranberry Stuffing, Cranbery Chutney, Checkerboard Rolls, and a dessert-- still haven't decided which one yet. Might be pumpkin cheesecake, might be mini-apple pies, might be both. Sounds like the whole meal, right? Well, one of my sisters is actually doing the potatoes, candied yams, and another side dish, while my mom is doing her own veggie dishes, a pumpkin pie, and (hopefully) drinks. I actually defrosted the turkey way too early, so I am going to have to cook it tomorrow and then probably defrost another one to cook for Saturday. Talk about doubling my work load! Oh, well. At least I'll have cooked turkey ready for the freezer, to use for a million other meals throughout the winter.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Poem: Home

This is a poem I wrote while working at the junior high school I had the privilege to be a part of for seven years. It even got published in our school district's poetry anthology, and I was asked to read it at the celebration event. Of course, I blushed and mumbled my way through it, and every picture shows me practically curled up into my paper, but hey-- at least I did it, right? I have this ongoing pledge to myself that one day, someday, eventually, I will stand up and read my poetry at one of those "open to the public" poetry slams they have here in town. So far, no dice. Maybe next year, at Burning Man, will be the right time... who knows? Til then, it'll have to stay on paper and on this blog.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


each day, as i cross campus,
the seagulls cry plaintively
and whirl overhead
they bring the scent of the ocean with them
and memories of water
glinting on the white-crested waves
from other, brighter times…

they are far from home
like me, like you
like so many of our students
yet they gather here for comfort,
circle and dive and float on the winter breeze
waiting for the absent tide to roll in...
       and who’s to say otherwise?
       who will break the news
       that we live in a cemented valley
       of sidewalks and malls
       with nary a coastline to
       delight the lonesome eye…

perhaps they have it right
to soar, and hear the rhythmic tide
to see the ocean in our football field
to dive for fish near the gopher holes
to chatter with friends about the mysterious sea
and dream of a place they’ve never even seen…
       perhaps they are the wise ones
       to see beyond the hole in the fence
       to a world of beaches and dunes
       to cry a song of longing and hope
       with an echo that cuts through
       this despair, so darkly familiar…

and so each day, as i cross campus
their cries overhead are a beckoning
to remember that we began
in a grand, amazing, ocean of dreams
and can find home again,
or for the first time
we, the lost children of atlantis

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

Yes, we've been invited to a Christmas party... except that we are supposed to wear the ugliest Christmas sweaters we can find, which adds that special something to the festivities. Joel and I went on a hunt of our local second-hand stores for the goods, and found these beauties.

Here's Joel's sweater; the "lights" on the tree are 3-D and sparkly:
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I'm also going to add these little bell things to the shoulders as epaulets...
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And this lovely cardigan is mine:
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The design continues around the back as well. And check out the buttons-- they're little Christmas lights.
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How awesome are those sweaters? I mean, *bad* awesome, of course. I hope they're giving out prizes at this party, because I think we have a couple of doozies here. At first, we weren't sure where to find the right kind of sweaters. When we looked online, we uncovered the strange truth: Ugly Christmas Sweater parties are a growing trend, it seems. You can google it for proof, or just start your wondrous journey through the phenomenon at this site.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eleven Months Old!

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I really can't believe how quickly time is flying this year... it seems only moments ago I was pregnant, and then holding a tiny newborn in my arms, and now... well, now he is almost a little boy, already. He's taking independent steps, walking up to five feet at a time without assistance and without falling over. He's not quite talking yet, but is babbling up a storm, and I can just tell that any minute he'll bust out into speech. We're starting to teach him baby signs, so hopefully that will help with the whole communication angle until he can get a better grasp of spoken language. I'm also starting to plan out what to do for his first birthday, in less than a month.

One plan is to make a slideshow-DVD chronicling the pregnancy and the past year of his life. The problem is, how do I find the time? Being a stay-at-home mom of a toddler means that you are almost constantly moving, or otherwise engaged with your child. There doesn't seem to be enough time to do the things I *need* to do around the house, like clean or cook or keep the yard from looking derelict. How am I supposed to squeeze in time for creative projects, even those that are so close to my heart, like poetry and scrapbooking? And blogging... this is such a rarety, to have a few moments to spare on my computer. I lunge at them and devour the time, because I know it will not last. Sort of like life, I guess... and there's the baby, calling out for me, so off I go!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chick Flicks

We just got finished watching Love Actually, a film I really enjoy, when I realized that we own very few chick flicks. I mean, our typical DVD purchase is something like Batman Begins, Tropic Thunder, or even the latest seasons of The Venture Brothers or Flight of the Conchords. We own very, very few romantic comedies, mostly because I'm not a huge fan. Looking through our cabinets, I can find certain "girl"-oriented films like Chocolat, which is of course brilliant and beautiful and a sweet fairy tale of a movie, and also The Royal Tenenbaums, one of my all-time favorites. There is Twelfth Night, a lovely update of Shakespeare's comedy, and A Couch in New York, also based on a play, and.... uh.... not much else in terms of movies marketed directly to females, and particularly as romantic comedies or romantic dramas.

Does that make me an atypical girl, this dearth of chick flicks? Does looking through my DVD collection reveal hidden truths about me? Do I have to give back my "woman" card now? Don't get me wrong-- I enjoyed watching movies like The Proposal and 27 Dresses, but it just isn't my first choice when we go to the theater. Or, um, rent DVDs. Or, well, borrow movies from friends and family.


Okay, fine, I admit it. I'm a dude.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Food: Calico Clams

One of my *favorite* things in the entire world is appetizers. Baked, cold, frozen, room temp, fried... pretty much anything that is bite-size and can be eaten without using utensils, if at all possible. I love hors d'eouvres, I thrill to tiny, kid-sized bites, I get ecstatic over finger food. Do you get the picture? It's my not-so-secret weakness. In fact, I recently told my husband that I'm going to be making appetizers for dinner for the rest of the month. There are two reasons: One, we're already planning on a huge, regular meal for Thanksgiving, so why not spice it up with some small meals before then? Two, I want to start trying out possibilities for parties and potlucks, and isn't it better to test it out at home *before* you have to bring the dish to a big group of people? Joel is now my guinea pig and assistant taste-tester. And our first big success this week was an adaptation of a recipe I found in a 2009 Taste of Home publication called "Appetizers for Every Occasion." (It's also my new favorite "cookbook" by the way.)

Here it is!

Calico Clams
- 3 cans (6.5 oz each) minced clams
- 1 cup (4 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella
>>> Note: I substituted creamy havarti for the mozzarella.
- 1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar
>>> Note: I substituted colby-jack for the cheddar.
- 4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
- 3 Tbsp seasoned bread crumbs
>>> Note: Being without bread crumbs, I instead crushed some seasoned croutons and also added about 2-3 tsp. of the garlic-lemon-rosemary "Crusting Blends" seasoning. Yum!
- 3 Tbsp butter, melted
- 2 Tbsp *each* diced onion, celery, and sweet bell peppers (red, yellow, orange, green-- any combo)
- 1 garlic clove, minced

1) Drain clams, reserving 2 Tbsp. juice. (You can freeze the rest of the juice and use for making clam chowder, later.) In large bowl, combine clams and remaining ingredients; stir in reserved clam juice.

Option 1: Spoon into small ramekins and place on baking sheets; bake at 350-F for 10-15 minutes or til heated through.

Option 2: Spoon into hollowed cremini (brown or small portabella) mushroom caps and place on baking sheet that has been covered with parchment paper; bake at 350-F for 10-15 minutes or til heated through.

This concoction was a huge hit at our house, but we prefer the idea of Option 2 above; scooping the clam mixture out of the ramekins was just extra work (and made for extra clean-up, too!). Can't wait to have this one again!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Blogs of Change

I'm thinking of trying out a new format to keep things interesting. Once a week, I'd like to have a "foodie day" where I discuss recipes, restaurants, cooking tips, and so on. I love food, and I love cooking, so I thought it would be nice to include this side of myself on here. I'm also thinking of having one day a week for "entertainment" related topics: reviews of movies, books, music, websites, etc. Originally I had planned a much more rigid schedule, with Mondays for this topic and Tuesdays for that topic, but I figured that would be a little too restrictive for now. Maybe later I'll change things up again, and designate certain days for specific items, but for now I just want to make sure I include other interests of mine and keep this blog from turning into an Ethan-only blog. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Halloween at Farmer's Market

We took Ethan down to the Modesto Certified Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, and had a great time parading him around with all of the other dressed up kids. Joel and I were two of maybe five parents who dressed up with their kids, which I think is very sad-- pathetic, even. What are we teaching our kids when we can't get creative and brave and imaginative with them? We should be able to dress up, act weird, be silly, play games, and have fun with our kids; how else are they going to learn how to be a fully rounded person as they grow up? I mean, that is one of the things I loved about Burning Man-- the chance to play dress up, play pretend, put on a character or personality trait along with my costume, and try on a different persona for a day or an hour. It's really quite liberating.

Anyway, back to Ethan: His costume was, of course, adorable. I wish they'd had the costume parade a little earlier, though, because by the time 10:00 rolled around he was so tired from missing his nap (usually around 9:00/9:30) that he was not having fun at all. Oh well; at least we got some great pictures of him as a little monster. I mean, *dressed up* as a little monster. ;)

Our little monster, with his cowboy dad
We met a dog, and Ethan wanted to make friends. Quickly.
I'm the pirate wench, feeding Ethan some spinach bolani. The Afghani cooks who bring their amazing sauces (creamy garlic, sweet jalapeno) and delicious bolani (pumpkin, potato, or spinach-stuffed lavash) are probably my second-favorite vendors. Next to our bakery friends, who have the most mouth-watering chocolate-zucchini bread and pumpkin bread in the world. No, really. It's true.
Who can resist this little monster? He's my favorite!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


This kid is cute, no question. But it's tough to get him to focus on the camera when there are other kids around. We took him to a pumpkin patch on Friday and had a mini photo shoot. It was almost impossible to get a shot of him looking at us, because there were so many other little ones running around that he was completely distracted the whole time. There was one little girl in particular who was entranced with Ethan, and kept coming over to stand right in front of him, just staring and reaching out but never quite touching him. Is this how early it starts? I can see we'll have our hands full. But as long as he sticks with kissing pumpkins, we'll be fine.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Outside... does it get any better?

This kid *loves* being outside. If he is ever upset, we just take him outside and boom! Crying fit ends, immediately. He'd play out there for hours, if his parents (ahem) would let him. As it is, it's more tiring than you'd think to be out there with him, because it's amazing how many things in our yard he can find to shove down his gullet. And because we're renting, we can't really do too much about getting rid of the cactus garden (ack!) or other major kid hazards out there. Until he gets over the oral-fixation stage and stops sticking everything he can get his hands on into his mouth, we just have to keep extra close when he plays outside.

Okay, maybe not *that* close. The good thing about his love for the outdoors is that it gets me out of the house. It's very easy to get caught up in just sitting here in the house. I've got my computer, my job search, my laundry and dishes and cooking and other household chores, and it all adds up to a lot of time indoors. Having him helps bring me out into the daylight, which I guess is good for you. Last week we took him out and were watching him stand and toddle around the yard.

Sounds boring, right? Well, color me lame, then, because I actually found it quite enjoyable. But then I've been slowing down a little lately, trying to savor every moment with him because I know how quickly they pass. It seems like only yesterday that I was tucking him into my shirt to keep him close to my skin, and now he is practically running around the house. He hardly seems like a baby anymore, but is looking more and more like a little boy. I think I'll cry when he starts talking... is it going to be like this for the rest of our lives? This joy mixed with melancholy, this attempt to record the present while memories run constantly in the background? It's like having a radio on in the kitchen and trying to watch a movie in the living room; how can I separate out the past I love, so that I can enjoy the present without feeling a sense of loss for what has been?


Monday, November 2, 2009

Slideshow Time!

So, in case you hadn't noticed, I decided to add a slideshow to the blog. If you click on the picture (the "play" button), you can check out the pictures I loaded onto You can also click on the little button on the bottom-right of the slideshow box to enlarge the photos-- it'll expand to fill your computer screen. To keep things current, I'll be putting the most recent pictures in first, in reverse order, so that you'll start off with "now" and then go backwards in time to the pregnancy. Eventually, I'll figure out how to load video onto the blog, and that's when things are really going to kick off. Heh, heh... yeah.

Anyway, remember that you can sign in as a "friends and family" member and then get updates sent to your email, for those of you who just can't wait for the latest and greatest updates from yours truly. You can also leave comments on the blog if you wish (hint hint), beg for pictures, suggest specific topics, request recipes, or whatever you wish. Interact! Get involved! Participation is the name of the blogging game. (Or something.)