Sunday, February 21, 2010

Please excuse Shannon's absence

Here's where I have been since I last posted: Kohl Children's Museum, downtown for dinner at Elephant & Castle, the gym (more than once, thankyouverymuch), my driveway shoveling snow, the library, Midway airport, the Walnut Room at Macy's, Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Signature Room on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building, Brookfield Zoo, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Nielson's Bakery for Pączki Day, Oak Lawn Children's Museum, McDonald's playland, FunFlatables, and the mall in Hobart, IN.

Now, my last post was February 3. So, I think I've done a lot in 18 days. And that's in addition to my regular misadventures in laundry, cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing.

I also read the book Roses, which was awesome. It's the saga of a family on a Texas plantation from 1915 to 1985. Although it's still early in the year, it's my current favorite book of 2010. Now I'm reading the book Deeper Than the Dead, which is a mystery and therefore a departure from my usual genres. I have to admit I'm sort of plodding through it, but I think it will pick up in the second half. (Thanks to my Kindle, I can tell you that I'm 30% of the way through it.)

I saw the movie Public Enemies with Johnny Depp, which had way too much shooting and not enough scenes of old Chicago.

The winter Olympics: meh. I have watched snippets here and there, but I just can't settle in to watch hours on end. Part of it is that with Olympic coverage, you have to sit through a lot of sports you aren't interested in (along with interviews, commercials, fluff pieces, etc.), just to see a few minutes of the sport you care about. They should set it up so that each half-hour is a specific sport, and you know that based on the TV listings. So then you could tune in or set your DVR for figure skating at 8:30, without having to sit through coverage of curling at 8:00. But of course, that would not be in NBC's best interest, because they want you to sit there and watch the coverage for hours and hours, not turn it off at half-hour intervals.

Another thing about the winter Olympics is that I just don't care as much about the sports. I think this is partially because I don't have a lot of personal experience with most winter sports. Like, in the summer Olympics, I love swimming, because I used to swim competitively and I still swim recreationally. So, I have some frame of reference as to how fast these people can go. Ditto with running. I mean, I have never been much of a runner, but almost everybody has run and can appreciate how much faster these Olympians are. And the summer has sports we're all pretty familiar with, like volleyball, basketball, and soccer. Or weight-lifting. And really, we've all done most of those Olympic sports, just not nearly as well as the Olympians. But with the winter sports, most of us have not luged, curled, or slalomed. I guess there are people who are avid skiiers or snowboarders, so they have a little more appreciation for these sports, but I, personally, have never been much of a skiier. I have ice skated, so maybe that's why I like that sport. But I think it's really because it's pretty and fun with fancy costumes and music, and because everybody likes ice skating the best. That's why they show it in prime time on a Sunday night, probably interspersed with coverage of the sport where you ski and then shoot a gun.

So I'm looking forward to the end of the Olympics and the return to my regularly-scheduled programming. And now I will return you to your regularly-scheduled day. Goodbye.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Lately I have realized that if I want to get anything done, I have to do it in the morning. By the evening, I'm just completely unmotivated.

I think the main problem is that it gets dark so early in the winter. While it's light out, I feel very ambitious and motivated, and I make all these plans for the day. But as soon as the sun goes down, all those plans get shot to hell.

Like, for example, the plan known as "go to the gym." Prior to the holidays, I had a jam-packed schedule of gym classes I went to, many of which were in the evenings. It seemed like a rare treat to actually be home in the evenings, although when I think back I guess I only had 3 evening classes a week. But the point is, I was capable of going to the gym in the evenings.

In January and now February, I flake on all evening gym activities because it's just so dark and cold and, often, snowy. (Why does every snowstorm begin at night?) So, like, Nathan goes down for his nap after lunch, which burns a big chunk of the daylight hours, and I say, "Okay, when you wake up we're going to the gym." And then he wakes up and it's !@#% dark, and I just sit on my couch and eat dry Cheerios right out of the box while I surf the Internet.

So, it just occurred to me that I need to make a bigger effort to go to the gym in the mornings. At this point, I have accepted that it's either morning or nothing at all.

But, just to be a big fat whiner, let me note that it's hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym in the morning, too. First of all, do I do the extreme early morning workout, like the class I made it to this morning at 6 a.m.? (BTW, I am batting about 500 in my ability to get up for this class.) While this makes me feel like a superhero (albeit a very tired one) and gives me a certain smugness the rest of the day as I think about how my workout is already done, it also presents the obvious problems of holy crap, I'm getting up at 5:15 a.m. And then I have to try to have the energy to chase Nathan around the rest of the day, which is becoming a problem because naps are getting fewer and farther between these days.

The other option is to go at a slightly later a.m. hour when the daycare is open, so Nathan is at least burning off some energy while I am. But that requires a "get up and get out" situation, and I'm sort of bad at that. Actually, it's more that Nathan is sort of bad at that, because he wants to get up and have a slow start to the day (like his father), which involves a leisurely session of TV and an eventual breakfast. Then I figure if he's quiet and contained, I might as well get some stuff done ("some stuff" usually being pointless Internet activities). But then time gets away from me, and it's 10:30 and I'm thinking that a gym visit will now interfere with lunchtime and/or naptime. But I'd better go then, or it's just not happening for that day.

Which, at this point, is not the end of the world. I am trying to accept the fact that I just won't be able to keep up an extremely rigorous workout schedule all the time. Whatever you do is better than nothing is my new mantra. (Clever, huh?) But I get so caught up in the "go big or go home" mentality, that I'm mad at myself no matter what I accomplish at the gym.

But I digress. I was talking about mornings and my productivity during them. I have found that the lack of productivity in the evenings extends to cooking dinner as well. Enter ... the Crock Pot! People love the Crock Pot. Whenever I write about it in my Facebook status, I get more comments than I get on any other topic. My friend Sarah says that the use of the Crock Pot suggests that you are completely on top of your life, whether or not that is actually true. It's like, It's 10:30 a.m. and I already have my dinner made, what's up with you? Also, I think the Crock Pot is a lazy person's appliance. Even for those slow-cooker recipes where you have to do some major prep, you still have the luxury of ignoring the thing for most of the day. Plus the clean-up is fairly minimal. By the time dinner rolls around you've probably washed all your preparation dishes, so the only after-dinner dishes are the plates and a big fat pot.

Now, like everybody, I get a lot of recipes off the Internet, mostly off of But, I don't know about you guys, but sometimes I find an actual cookbook more inspirational when it comes to thinking up new things to make. I think the Internet is probably better when you think, "Hmm, I'd like to make such-and-such a specific dish, let me find a recipe for it." Just saying, "What should we have for dinner" is often a question that is better answered by a cookbook.

So, this weekend I went to Costco to look at their slow-cooker cookbook selection. I ended up with Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever. Well, based on the two recipes I have made from it, I am kind of thinking the title is a bit of a misnomer. I made Mediterranean Shrimp and Rice Soup the first night, and then Egg Strata the next night, and both were edible, but not clear stand-out winners.

And in case you're wondering, this is my favorite Crock Pot recipe.

So, thanks to slow cookers, we are still eating at my house, in spite of my evening laziness. I should probably say, "We are still eating dinners that aren't usually take-out or frozen taquitos," because it's not like we starve on the nights I don't want to cook.

Surprisingly, we are still somehow wearing clean clothing as well. I honestly don't know how. I often vow to do the laundry after I get Nathan in bed, and I seriously don't have the motivation to even go downstairs and do something as simple as folding one load. Honestly, a lot of nights I don't even have the motivation to go downstairs, period. I just want to lie in my bed and read, and drink water from the bathroom faucet because I'm too lazy to go downstairs and get a glass of water from the kitchen. It really is pathetic, especially considering the boy goes to bed at like 7:30.

But no matter how lazy I am at night, I know the next morning is coming soon, and I'll just do it all then.