Saturday, April 30, 2011
I may not be triathlon-ready.
Plus, my bike needs accessories! I attached a water bottle to the handlebars without a water bottle holder, so yay thriftiness! But I also needed, in order of importance: a lock, a cushiony gel seat cover, and some kind of little bag to go on the handlebars or behind the seat.
Feeling guilty that I had purchased the actual bike at Target instead of our local mom 'n pop bike store that sponsored the indoor triathlon, I popped over to see Mom 'n Pop for accessories. First of all, thank God I didn't shop for a bike there. They had some neat ones, but the $150 I paid for the bike at Target wouldn't even get me one wheel with Mom 'n Pop. And then it's like I'm cornered by a salesperson right in the door, and I'm like, "Umm, I need a lock," and then it's not like I can be all, "Thanks for your help, I'm going to Target." Well, I'm sure there are some gutsier people who can do that, but I'm not one of them. So, I ended up with a $35 U-lock/chain combo, so I can use the U-lock for my bike and then attach Nathan's bike to mine with the chain. Then I briefly inquired about bike bags, but they were so fancy and expensive I decided I'd just check out Target or Amazon later. I did my duty and shopped local for the lock.
Besides the bike, I'm also very excited about my recently-improved Technorati authority. I'm now back to an authority of 385 (the scale is 1 to 1,000), up from last week's all-time low of 87. My blog is now number 8,474 out of all the blogs on the Internet, or at least the blogs that Technorati knows about.
However, only five people have entered my contest to win a free cookbook! And while I'm sure those five people are pleased to have a 20% chance of winning, I want some more entries. So go here and enter, people! Makes a great wedding gift? Hostess gift?
Oh and also, influential and knowledgeable user of social media that I am, I just now found out about Google Page Ranks. And I entered in my site, and my page rank, on a scale of 1 to 10, was ... zero. Yay.
Oh well, to the world you may just be one person, but to one person you may be the world. And that one person is Leia. That's why I put a picture of her in this post. That and I was listening to Florence and the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over" when I started typing, and so I decided to make that the title of the post, and so the logical picture when the dog days are over is a cat.
The story of the bike's purchase is mildly comical and possibly worthy of one of those heartwarming commercials shown during Hallmark Hall of Fame movies.
Now, you might be able to relate to this if you are married to a man, dating a man, know a man, are the daughter of a man, or are a man yourself. Sometimes, and I'm just saying occasionally, there is a task you want a man to complete and you just can't quite get him to ever do it.
So, in this story my husband has a pickup truck, and it is a stick-shift, and I don't know how to drive a stick-shift. (I realize I'm going to come out sounding a little bit pathetic and helpless, because why couldn't I just learn to drive a stick-shift, but as you'll see from my bicycle story, powering heavy vehicles is not my strong suit, and everybody on the road is better off if I never learn to drive a stick.)
Anyway, I kept asking my husband to go to Target with me to by a bike, because I needed to buy it before May 1 when my 10% certificate expired. Eventually I just gave up on him and decided to just get the bike myself. I was going to put a fully-assembled bicycle in my Toyota Corolla.
And then I got the bike, and I was standing out in the parking lot like a dumbass, trying to find some configuration that would work so I wouldn't have to drive home with the backseat door open, when some random stranger with an SUV offered to throw the bike in the back of her car and follow me home.
I was beyond embarrassed. And grateful. And thinking this woman was the best human ever, except on the way home I saw in my rearview mirror that she was lighting up a cigarette, and that tarnished my image of her just a little. Don't smoke, people. It's gross.
But the woman didn't steal the bike, and made it to my house and unloaded it for me, and like a pathetic fool I just gave her one of the three containers of strawberries that I had just bought at Target.
So, now I had a bike! And it was the perfect weather day to go out for a ride! My mom took this picture of Nathan and me:
Friday, April 29, 2011
If not ... I'm giving away a cookbook!
Anyway, I mention this because some people have said that Blogger isn't letting them leave comments. And I also had trouble leaving comments on somebody else's Blogger blog. Dammit, I'm trying to have a contest here!
But I think (think) that the problem is solved, so go enter my contest!
Yesterday was one of those days where I just felt like a failure on every front.
The day started with Nathan's parent-teacher conference. I had been nervous about it for weeks. On the drive over, I considered asking Bill if he was nervous, but I knew he'd say no. Nathan's performance at school was not going to make or break Bill; he has a job and all kinds of other arenas in which to judge his self-worth. I, on the other hand, have Nathan (and possibly a little-known blog). Nathan's parent-teacher conference was, in essence, my annual employee evaluation.
Let me pause and say that judging yourself based on the performance of your child is destined to be fraught with disappointment. There is no way to objectively say that you are a "good" or "bad" mother based on your child's performance. There are too many dimensions on which to evaluate a child, and no objective way to measure them. Every child has imperfections, and those imperfections vary by age and by day. And while the world generally shares a common set of core values we'd like to instill in our children -- don't steal, don't harm others -- as parents we vary on some of the finer points of what makes a "good" child. Plus, ultimately, the point of parenting, and of the parent-teacher conference, is to discuss ways in which we can work to raise the best possible human being, not to tell parents how awesome and perfect their children already are.
Anyway. At the conference, Nathan's teacher showed us his little preschool "report card," where various tasks and behaviors were rated with a G for good or a W for "working on." He mostly got Gs, and he got Ws in using scissors, gripping a pencil properly, singing, not interrupting, and sharing -- all of which are age-appropriate challenges, according to his teacher.
Except. What really made me sad was, he got a W in "I am happy and cheerful at school." I know my kid can kind of be a grouch, and often has a front of unhappiness or at least indifference. I'll say, "Did you have fun at such-and-such activity?" and he will say no. I know he is just putting up that front, though. But I am sad that he's unhappy. Having battled depression like I have, I know my child's unhappiness sets off all kinds of alarms in my head.
I know he isn't depressed. He has way too much energy to be depressed. He just likes to put up a silly exterior of grouchiness, much like he likes to make up false reports about some hideous school behavior that obviously didn't actually happen. Maybe it's some kind of comedic act, like Lewis Black.
Anyway, after the conference the day kind of went poorly. By the end of the day I was sobbing about how fat I am, how poorly I eat, how I don't exercise enough, how I need to get a job because I'm a waste of space, blah, blah, blah whatever. And then, as usual, we had a bedtime battle with Nathan, which just sent me into a spiral of No wonder he's so crabby at school, we can't get him to go to bed at a decent hour OMG I'm such a failure.
Let me say that the weather here has been beyond depressing. I read that it has rained a total of 20 out of 28 days in April, and even when it's not raining it's dark and gray. This lack of sunlight is bad enough in January, but by April it just becomes unacceptable. Nathan is stir-crazy. I have given up trying to find him some sort of indoor entertainment, so sick am I of all the places we went to all winter.
Bottom line, I spent the evening eating fruit snacks and peanut butter straight out of the jar.
But today? Today is a brand-new day. I got a good night's sleep, after having cried myself to sleep (a classic I haven't visited in a long time). I know my problems are minimal, and I can name people I know with legitimate problems right now.
Anyway, the sun is shining today. Today is a new day.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Don't get me wrong, it's a great cookbook. It's just that I have one small cabinet for cookbooks in my kitchen, and it is overflowing to the point that cookbooks are stacked on top of other cookbooks, and it's utter chaos. I promised myself I would not get any more cookbooks, and then I bought another one anyway, so now I have to put the kibosh on cookbooks for myself.
And my utter disorganization means you can WIN!
Here's a bad picture I took of the cookbook:
And here's a link to the Amazon page on this same cookbook, so you can read all about it.
It has over 400 recipes, divided into 20 tabbed categories.
And as a special bonus, I'm throwing in the teabag I took from the lunch. It's a really pretty teabag. It's a three-dimensional pyramid shape with with pretty herbs inside that look like flowers. Here's a picture of the box that the bags came from:
What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance/gadget and why?
(If you're like me and have more than one favorite, just pick one.)
Make sure your actual name or screen name is somewhere in the comment. If you use the "Anonymous" comment feature, make sure you sign your name at the bottom.
The contest is open until Saturday, May 7 at midnight. At that time I will use random.org to generate a random number, and the person who left that comment number will win! I'll notify you of the winner on this blog, and ask that person to email me with his/her name and address.
This contest is open to everyone except people who live with me in the house with the overflowing cookbook cabinet. One entry per person, please.
Oh, and this is my first time doing a contest, so I apologize in advance if I screw it up.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Little Old Me was nervous coming in, because that initial moment where you just step in and don't know what to do is awkward. (No joke, I've also read that it's this sort of awkwardness that causes kids to sometimes cry, run away, or argue at the beginning of a playdate. Unfortunately I didn't feel any of those options was socially acceptable for me.)
Fortunately the Whirlpool people broke the ice by offering us tours of their clock tower. Which meant I could make a lame Back to the Future reference about a clock tower, and I'm sure that so dazzled the other bloggers that the ice had instantly been broken! Or something.
Anyway, I am not as interested in architecture as I am in kitchen appliances, but from what I could gather, the Whirlpool corporation had renovated the clock tower when they moved into the building (which is the Reid Murdoch Building, which also houses Encyclopedia Brittanica.) Whirlpool was founded in 1911 (hence their big 100th anniversary celebration), and the building was built shortly thereafter, so it was important for the company that the architecture reflect the style of the 1910s. So you can see in this picture, which is an employee lounge under the clock tower, that they left some of the original brick exposed:
And this is inside the clock tower:
The clock tower floor had an amazing view of the Chicago River:
But finally! Enough architecture, and onto the appliances. This here is the very first Kitchen Aid stand mixer, produced in 1919:
The appliances in this next picture reminded me of the ones we had growing up (avocado green!), so my guess is they were from the 1970s era.
And then we got a brief preview of some of their newer appliances. This is a really nice slow-cooker that I kind of want:
This next photo shows the newest color of the Kitchen Aid mixer, Raspberry Ice. (I really think it would make a nice fruit cocktail with my mixer, which is the Boysenberry color.) The Raspberry Ice color was designed to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the Cook for the Cure Program, Whirlpool's commitment to raising funds for breast cancer research.
The studio had multiple model kitchens, any of which I might like to have as my real kitchen:
There was another room that modeled the line of garage products. They make a special refrigerator that is specifically designed to handle the extreme temperatures of a garage, and is energy-efficient. Also it has a cool garage-style exterior:
I swore I would be a good Weight Watcher and not have any alcohol. But then they had a mimosa bar, and one of the options was a blue raspberry flavor. And you know my drink axiom: "blue is always better." (That must be why I shoved the drink in front of my meal, instead of to the back right as is customary.)
And because I know everybody loves multiple pictures of food, here are some close-ups. Featured here are the macaroni and cheese with brie and bacon (umm, yeah), the risotto, and some items from the cheese/cracker/vegetable plate.
I had to single out the Caesar salad, because the chef took a brush and painted the dressing on each plate, then on each separate leaf of lettuce:
This was a turkey panini and the most delicious artichoke bisque (drizzled with olive oil and dehydrated kalamata olives), and also that mimosa again:
As you can see, none of this stuff was Weight Watchers-friendly. But although the food was very rich, the portions were small, which I think is the principle behind that book French Women Don't Get Fat. (I didn't read it.) And also, since I know you were concerned, let me note that I took all 49 of my weekly bonus Weight Watcher points for this meal.
So, now that we were properly sated, we went for the cooking demonstrations. This first woman had a fancy computer hooked up to her oven, which showed us the rapid decrease in oven temperature when you open up your oven to put something in it.
Next we moved on to another demo kitchen, where we learned about induction cooking. Truthfully, whenever I hear the term induction, I think about inducing labor, so I assumed maybe we might be cooking with Pitocin ... ? No but really, although I had a vague recollection of my 8th grade science class lesson on different types of energy transfer, I couldn't remember what induction meant. So I nodded along and smiled, and then later looked it up on Wikipedia. From what I can gather, induction means that a coil below the surface of the burner generates a current which, while not heat-producing itself, induces heat production in a certain type of pot (a ferromagnetic pot, if you really wanted to know). You could read the whole Wikipedia entry on induction cooking here, but the upshot is that the surface of your burner will not be hot to the touch when you turn it on. (If you heat up a pot on an induction burner, the surface of the stove will be hot right after you remove the pot, because the pot will have transferred some heat to the surface. I know this is way more information than you wanted to know, but I felt the need to provide this warning so nobody gets burned.)
Induction cooking is also much faster than cooking on electric or gas stoves, like for example you can boil a pot of water 50% faster than on an electric stove. It is, therefore, much more energy-efficient. Apparently induction cooking has been all the rage in Europe for years, but it is just not becoming popular in America. Here's a picture of the demo of the induction stove:
Next we visited the laundry studio, where we met a guy whose job it is to study detergent effectiveness and stain removal. Also I think maybe he played the dad on Family Matters.
Bottom line on the laundry demo: I'm doing everything wrong. I use non-HE detergent with my HE washer, I use too much detergent, and I don't rub in my stain pre-treater before washing.
Following the laundry demo, it was time for that dessert I said I would not eat. Hahahaha! Behold, creme brulee, a chocolate-dipped strawberry, and a chocolate-chip cookie:
Before we left, we each got a gift bag containing a rubber spatula, a bottle of appliance cleaner, cleaning wipes for your washing machine (you have to clean a washing machine?), and a wine stopper. Unfortunately, they didn't give me that washer/dryer to give away on my blog. (Or, well, they did, but I couldn't carry them on the train.) But they did give me a cookbook that I'm going to give away! I'll announce that in a separate post so it stands out more.
Thanks, Whirlpool Corporation, for a really fun and interesting day!
Monday, April 25, 2011
I wish I could be that disciplined every week. But sometimes eating situations come up that are outside of my control. For example ...
Tomorrow the good people at the Whirlpool corporation have invited me to attend a free lunch in downtown Chicago. They'll probably give me a free washing machine to give away on my blog, right? Right? Anyway, I am excited to get another blog perk, but I'm nervous about my ability to be a good eater at the lunch. I have a huge problem with nervous eating in situations where I feel uncomfortable, and lunches where I don't know anybody qualify as big-time uncomfortable situations for me. I thought about taking a marker and straight-out writing "NO DESSERT" on the back of my hand, but that seems tacky. I don't want to ruin my beautiful hands with the super-cool "crackle polish" manicure I got today. Random Internet reference photo of somebody with nicer-looking nails wearing the polish:
Anyway, so I think maybe I'll wear my bracelet that says Hope in different languages, as a secret signal to myself that there is hope for my weight-loss if I skip dessert.
In completely different news, we finally got my kid's Little Tikes race car bed put together. The assembly only required 8 screws, and I couldn't get two of them in to save my life. I was beyond frustrated. Finally my stepdad figured out the problem and solved it, and then finally my husband went out and bought a mattress for it. And so with the shopping, the waiting for delivery, the removal from the big-ass box, the getting rid of the big-ass box, the pain-in-the-ass assembly, and the effort to find the perfect mattress ... about half the battle was complete. The other half involved getting Nathan to sleep in the dang thing. The first night, which was Saturday, he fell asleep right away, but came to sleep in our bed at 4 a.m. The second night, last night, it was a major production to get him to fall asleep, but then he was there all night. So if we could just get him to go to sleep quickly and stay asleep all night, we'd be golden.
And I'm loving not having him in my bed in the evenings. I can go in there and read or watch TV without freaking out that the lights and noise will wake him up. And, as I said awhile back, it's better for me to be hanging out upstairs at night, versus downstairs where all the food is kept.
That's the news from here. I'll be back at you guys tomorrow with that free washing machine giveaway, I'm sure.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Guess how many days I achieved that goal this week?
I mean, I guess I did finally sign up for Blogcritics, and I finally put my Google Adsense ID in Technorati. And speaking of Google Adsense, they did send me a postcard in the mail saying I had to give them my address so they could mail me the $6.50 I have earned in ad revenues since December. Which is kind of a sad amount, except, I kid you not, it's the most I've earned since quitting my full-time job in October 2008. Anyway, I spent 20 minutes getting my Adsense account straightened out, and I spent maybe another 20 on careerbuilder.com looking at job listings. So, figuring generously, I maybe spent an hour this entire week on professional-ish tasks, and many of those were just because the Adsense interface wasn't all that compatible with Firefox and it took me many minutes of frustration before I figured out I might as well switch over to Explorer.
The thing is, I just didn't feel like I had that much time this week for professional-ish activities. And I mean, it was a big week for time- and energy-consuming tasks. I went to the gym five times. Three of those days I swam, for a total of 5 miles swum this week! Twice I did a run/walk interval program on the treadmill, also for a total of 5 miles. Plus I did two good weight workouts with Trainer Jill.
And getting back into Weight Watchers for serious, that was time-consuming, too. I swear, I felt like I spent at least an hour per day cooking or measuring out portions.
Plus my parents came, which necessitated clean-up and a lot of extra time and effort to make sure people got fed.
And it was Easter, so there were eggs to dye, baskets to fill, and a big fat meal that seemed like a lot of extra work.
Then there's just all the usual stuff -- preschool and playdates and the library -- that all seems to add up to long days where I'm outside the house and/or otherwise occupied. In the end, I just don't find the time to do anything professional.
Or so I like to tell myself. In actuality, I'm scared and overwhelmed when it comes to the idea of dipping back into professional life, and when forced to confront some sort of foray-into-professional-activity, I find some other task to distract me. I just have no idea what I want to do or how in the hell to go about doing it. Like all moms, I'd like to find a part-time job that is flexible, fulfilling, and well-paying. You know, something that allows me to be creative, like perhaps taking artistic photographs of those pigs flying by outside the windows.
So, I have failed on the professional front this week. This failure, of course, makes me feel very guilty. I just have the one kid, I mean come on, I should be able to find time to make some extra money on the side, have a career, blah, blah, blah.
Except, lately when I get down about not doing more or not having it all, I have started to focus on all the stuff I am doing. I do all the laundry, cook homemade dinners most nights of the week (with separate items for each person to accommodate food preferences), clean my own house, care for my kid 24/7 (or, okay, when he isn't at preschool or his high school or whatever ... or sleeping), and work out at the gym most days.
The thing is, cleaning my own house and making from-scratch meals are not necessarily my top priorities, and I'm not typing this to be one of those holier-than-thou sanctimommy types who espouses traditional gender roles or brags about how much better she is than other moms. I used to have a cleaning person when I worked. I loved the cleaning person, and I love the idea of cleaning people. It's just that the cleaning person seemed like a logical expense to cut when I quit working, and of course no longer working meant that I now had time to clean more.
I make the from-scratch meals largely for health and dieting reasons. Otherwise we'd probably eat mac 'n cheese most nights.
Anyway, the point I'm trying to make here is that if I were to work more in a professional capacity, I would give up a lot in terms of cooking and housework. And I'd be fine with giving those things up in favor of working for money (as I said, they aren't my top priorities), but I just need to remind myself that I would have to give something(s) up, which means that even if I were working more I wouldn't be having it all or doing it all. I could either do all of this or all of that, or some of this and some of that, but I can't do all of this and all of that.
Did that make any sense?
But anyway, all alleged personal enlightenment aside, I have come out of this week with no clear direction or any answers on the career front. I don't know where to go from here in terms of this week's goals. So, once again, I'm not really going to set any. I think I'm just going to work on reflection and self-awareness and all those stupid Oprah-esque buzzwords. I'm going to try to become more comfortable with myself and my decisions. None of this reflection and acceptance stuff constitutes an actual goal, because there's nothing really measurable involved. But, you know, that's a summary of the general path I want my week to take when it comes to taking care of myself.
Don't forget to go over and visit the original Super Ima, Leigh Ann!
First up, the coloring of the eggs on Saturday. When my mom warned him that he might want to change his shirt so he didn't get his nice shirt stained with egg dye, he opted to just go shirtless instead. So we look a little white trash in these pictures.
Easter morning we all miraculously slept in until 10 a.m.! And the Easter Bunny had come!
Nathan wanted to have a basket for his two Pooh bears (Squishy-Nose Pooh and Bangy-Nose Pooh). He made cards for both Poohs, which I stuck in the basket. Also the Easter Bunny brought them each a small container of honey, as shown:
Nathan was excited about everything in his basket, including these "marshmallow cheeps."
My stepdad, who I call Uncle Dan (even though he is not my uncle) loves the chocolate/peanut butter combo. Here he is with his Reese's eggs.
After baskets, Nathan hunted for Easter eggs:
When all the eggs were found, my mom and I cooked while the boys played Pitch Car in the living room.
And also Penguin Pile-Up:
The last time my mom and stepdad came for Easter, Nathan was 6 weeks old. My mom got him the most adorable bunny outfit to wear for Easter. This year I dug up the outfit and dressed a teddy bear in it, holding the picture of Nathan wearing it.
Before dinner, I researched the Weight Watchers points values for the items on the table, and wrote up a plan for what to eat. Then I brought my annoying measuring cups to the table. Here's a picture of my place at the table, before we ate:
My family's Easter tradition is to make jello eggs. My mom's aunt used to start collecting real egg shells (with the innards blown out) right after Christmas, then filling them up with jello for Easter. Right before Easter dinner, all the women in the family would shell the eggs and make a pretty garden of jello eggs with cubes of lime jello as the grass. It felt like a special rite of passage the year I got to join in, even though in actuality shelling all those jello eggs was a big pain. Now that the jello egg aunt is no longer with us, we carry on the tradition, but we have plastic egg molds instead.
The jello eggs always look really pretty:
Oh and also, Nathan was thrilled to come to the table for Easter dinner:
Everybody else was a little bit happier:
The meal was turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, fruit, pasta salad, jello eggs, asparagus, and crescent rolls. Here's a picture of my plate after I measured everything out. That's a 20-point Weight Watchers meal. Fortunately I had been ridiculously disciplined this entire week, so I had my 49 bonus weekly points left to spend.
I also like how the crescent roll is like a sombrero for my plate.
For dessert I made two pies, strawberry pie and margarita pie. I got both pie recipes off the Weight Watchers website, so they were diet-friendly. The margarita one had actual tequila and triple sec in it (plus lime juice and ice cream), so it tasted just like a margarita.
I hope you all had a meaningful Easter, Passover, or Sunday!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
The kid was obsessed with this map. While all the other kids were up doing some sort of lively pirate dance, he was sitting there on the floor studying the map. (I might remind you that he made this map himself, and that it had absolutely no resemblance to any real place, unless there's a place somewhere that consists of water, red scribbles, and a "T" to mark the spot for the treasure.) Anyway, as he sat there in silence studying a map while the others danced, all I could think was, OMG, he is his father, a fact that was confirmed later when Bill told me a story about he spent hours poring over a treasure map that he was given on a family vacation once, presumably while his two brothers beat up on him.
Finally the egg hunt commenced, and the entire museum was just littered with colorful plastic eggs containing wholesome, non-edible prizes like necklaces, 80s-style plastic bracelets, pirate-themed Silly Bandz, and stickers. You were supposed to put the stickers on your treasure map:
Next we went to the cooking area, where the recipe that day was "eggels," which were bagels decorated like Easter eggs using colorful cream cheese.
At the end, the Sea Witch had a magical surprise: She had transformed all the egg shells into beach balls for a special beach ball dance party!
What stood out to me from this whole experience was how I genuinely had fun with Nathan. I mean, yes, I have had fun with him before. But so often I have taken him to kids' events where he just isn't quite old enough, and he gets overwhelmed and frazzled and I'm disappointed. Or else I'm so excited about The Big Exciting Thing That is the Point of the Activity, and then Nathan's favorite thing is the drinking fountain on the side next to the restroom. (Which, I know, all of these disappointments are related to my unrealistic expectations, but they're disappointing nonetheless.) But finally with the egg hunt, it seemed like he understood the purpose of the event, and did what he was supposed to, and got excited about it. It truly somehow felt like a turning point to me, one that I'm really happy about. It's like maybe, sort of, somehow, he is taking the first step to becoming an actual person.