Sunday, November 27, 2011

She's crafty

I've often said I'm not crafty.  And it's true.  I don't knit, crochet, or sew, nor do I want to.  I tried to learn to embroider and abandoned it after nine minutes.  I can't paint or draw, and I frankly don't have time to think up these kinds of projects let alone execute them.

But you know what? I found a craft I can do.  I can do it with my brain tied behind my back.  It requires no skill or prior knowledge, and it can be done for almost zero dollars.  This is my kind of thing.

Start with a long string or piece of twine.  How long, you ask? However long you want.  We're making a garland.  I made one for our little tree in the basement and one to drape on the china cabinet, so neither were too long - about 5 feet each.

So anyway, you get your ____ ft long piece of string.  And you pull out all your fabric remnants, or you go to Hobby Lobby and buy a bunch of remnants or bits of sale fabric, and you're ready to go.  I had some remnants and I happened to be at Hobby Lobby so I picked up some sale Christmas fabric to add to the mix.  Total cost: $6.

Rip your fabric (or cut) into strips about an inch or two wide, and then cut them into pieces about 5 or 6 inches long.  I didn't get mine all the same size on purpose because it adds to the fullness of the garland.

Then just start tying it around the string, piece by piece, and shove them close together.  No need to knot - just one tie is good - like the first step to tying your shoes.

It takes awhile - so sit down with a couple of good movies and get busy.  I probably used three whole yards of fabric, total combined for 10 ft of garland.

That's it.  Tie fabric around a string.  Go.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

KISS Stuffing

A few people asked me about my World's Best Thanksgiving Stuffing recipe.  Of course, that title is totally subjective.  Except, it is.  Because if you like stuffing that is thick and dense and heavy and blobish, you are wrong.  Stuffing should be sort of fluffy.  I should not land with a *thud* on your plate. It should be savory, but not overly dolled up.  Usually I am the first to want to put a twist on a traditional dish, but over time I've realized that this is one area where I like to just Keep It Simple, Stupid.  Hence, KISS Stuffing.  Less is more, I have decided, when it comes to stuffing.  Don't muck it up with oysters or sausage or cheese or random ingredients.

I start with some bread.  Usually some dried up french bread or whatever you got, and I usually add to it a bag of Pepperidge Farm Seasoned cubes.

This year I had half a loaf of dried up French bread which I chopped into large hunks (this is important - I like the element of surprise when it's not all uniform).  I also chopped up some dried up artisan wheat bread, about four large slices, and then I had the bag of Pepperidge Farm cubes.

So dump all that into a large mixing bowl.  BTW, it makes a lot, but that's important.

Next, chop up a medium sized onion and most of a whole bundle of celery, and a couple of large cloves of fresh garlic (more if they are smaller).

In a large skillet, melt a whole stick of butter, and add the vegetables to it.  Saute over medium heat.

At the end, add in a bunch of herbs to the vegetable mix.  If you are using fresh herbs, use less.  I used a mix of both - it just depends on what you have around.  These are grossly loose measurements.  Basically I just dump it all in. I dump in a lot.

2 T basil
1 T parsley
1 T rosemary
2 T sage
2 T thyme
1 T marjoram
1 T tarragon
2 tsp garlic powder
1 T salt
2 tsp black pepper (I just crack a bunch of black pepper into the bowl)

Next, add in a box of chicken stock, low sodium if you got it.

Simmer until it's all warm, and then slowly pour it over the bread mixture, a little at a time.  Gently fluff and turn everything, then pour a little more.  Do not mash.  Do not let it get soggy.  Add more herbs, salt, pepper as needed, or more chicken stock as needed.  Everything should be delicately (oh, I hate this word) moist but not soggy.

Then just plop it into a large casserole dish.  If you want to use some to stuff your bird (I do not like this and do not do it), that's fine, just reserve a little. You'll have plenty for both.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes until it's toasted on top and warm through.

Remember, this is going to get all soaky with gravy, so if it doesn't seem wet enough, that's why. I like it sort of dry and piece-y and ready to absorb gravy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sleep Training

A few weeks ago we transitioned Johnny to a toddler bed.  This was against my wishes, as I had hoped to keep him confined to the crib at night for possibly the first five, er, seven, er, nine-odd years of his life.  It seemed like a safe and happy place for him to be.  Until it stopped being happy for him.  A couple of months ago, he stopped liking the crib.  And when I say "stopped liking," I mean "began to view the crib as his mortal enemy."  Short of punting him into it from across the room, we really couldn't get the spider monkey into the thing.  And if we did, the screaming ensued.  And not that kind of "Oh, just let him cry for five minutes and he'll stop," kind of screaming.  We'd had that before.  This took screaming to a whole new level.  Like, if he were a rock band, he'd be KISS and Manowar in the same small room.

So we tried a few things, mostly including the following: 1) fretting about it, 2) blaming each other, and 3) letting him sleep in our bed.

Finally, I suggested we take the rail off his bed and convert it to the toddler bed, even though I WAS NOT READY.  We didn't know what else to do, save someday letting a teenager sleep in our bed.  I saw no end to our situation.  Action was necessary.

And, miraculously, it worked.  He loved the "big boy bed" and immediately set to putting Elmo and Monkey to "night night" several times a day.  I determined that for a few nights one of us should stay in the room with him until he fell asleep, just to make sure he didn't get out of bed.  That worked just great, and after five minutes or so, we'd tiptoe out, and he'd be snoring.

We patted ourselves on the back, as we are wont to do.

Then I decided it was time for him to go to bed on his own, mostly because he went to my mom's for a weekend and she did it.  If she could do it, so could I.  And it worked for me several times.  More back patting.  It did not work for my husband, and I chalked it up to my superior parenting and crafty manipulation of his routine.

Last night, he did not want to go to bed for Daddy.  No amount of sitting in the chair and waiting for him to fall asleep would do the trick.  This is what I heard, at least.  I was sick as a dog on the couch in the basement, and was physically unable to go up there and intervene on my poor husband's behalf.  So, my husband caved, and put him in our bed, and I grunted a "Whatever," from my sick bed.  I was too exhausted from a day of meticulously expelling all fluids from my body to care.

Tonight, Daddy went out.  I took it as my cue to get things righted in the bed department.  I would show the both of them.  I'd show Daddy that it just takes a firm word and a kiss goodnight.  I'd show Johnny that Mama Means Business, but be loving and comforting all the while.  I AM GOOD AT THIS SHIT.

I started at 7:15 with three books.  Then I said "night night," and I patted him and kissed him and told him I loved him, and I headed out the door.  And he screamed.  I peeked my head in and said "night night" again - and he screamed and got out of bed.  So I tried the old chair routine.  For almost an hour.  More screaming.

I remembered the SuperNanny, and how she taught parents to wordlessly put their kids back in bed.  Hell, it was worth a shot.

I put him in bed, said goodnight with a kiss, and walked out the door.  He screamed and got out of bed.  Without a word, I went in, took his hand, and walked him back to bed.  Rinse and repeat at least seven times.

The last time, he stayed in bed.  And he cried.  But not just sobs.  He cried "Mama! MAMA!" for twenty five minutes.  I sat in the hall and wept.  But he went to sleep.

If this does not get easier tomorrow, I am resigning myself to the awkward scenario of having my teenage son in my bed, because I can't do it again.  He'll just get to sleep with me as long as he wants, and I will give up all semblance of rest, authority, and dignity.  IT WILL BE WORTH IT.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

UNITS. Remember?

I don't post about style here very often because, well, I don't really have any.  I like to think that I once did, but the world has conspired against my style.  When you lose your waist and you're quite broke, clothes and fashion stop being fun and starts being a major pain in the patoot.  I don't have time to shop.  It's not like I can just pop into any old store and find racks and racks of stuff that I can afford AND that will look good on me.  No, it's painful.  If I find something I like, which is like finding the hope diamond in a haystack, then I pick it up and realize I can't afford it.

It's sort of nightmarish.  Thank the Baby Jesus for Old Navy.

It finally reached max density a couple of weeks ago.  I realized that I had nothing to wear for fall and winter.  When we moved I got rid of the winter clothes that were really old, faded, stretched, and gross.  Which was all of them.  I haven't bought myself anything in years, and it shows.

So I went nuts. Or, for me, nuts. I spent some money on clothes. All from Old Navy, all purchased online, almost all on sale.  It was better than Christmas the day that big bag full of wardrobe arrived.  "Maybe, I thought, just MAYBE, I won't get in trouble for looking like a homeless person at work this winter after all!!"  I bought a green wrap dress, a pair of gray pants (worn twice this week already), a white t shirt, a black t shirt, two pairs of workout pants, a long burgandy skirt, a white blouse, a grey sweater, and a black thing.  I don't know what to call the black thing.  It's a top cardigan loungewear jacket Idunno.  It's this.

And I want to have it's babies.  I need it in every color.  It is soft, excellent for warming myself in our cold basement.  It is black and not bad looking, great to throw over a top and wear to work.  I can belt it.  I can wear it to shop, wear it over a pair of jeans and a t shirt and go play poker at the neighbors', I can wear it in a house, I can wear it with a mouse.

This is the kind of thing i'm talking about, friends.  It's not thick and bulky like most sweaters, which generally bug me.  It's not boxy, also like most sweaters and cardigans.  It's not itchy, it goes with everything.  I've been wearing the hell out of it.  But then, this morning, as I threw it on my with my new grey pants and a belt over the top, I had to ask myself, "Is this just the UNITS of 2011?"  Say it ain't so.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I'm starting to feel it.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are nipping at my heels.  I get very mixed feelings around this time.

Like, one minute I'm perusing craft ideas on Pinterest and planning gift baskets of my homemade foods, and the next I'm agonizing over money and time constraints, and then I just go to bed with my Kindle and cry.

It's an exciting and terrifying time of year.

This year, I've decided to do as much hand-made as possible, which is great for the creative juices and for thoughtful, well-planned gifts.  But man, is it time consuming.  And, you know, I work extra in the Christmas season.  Anyway, the point is, "WHEE! HERE WE GO!"

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the holidays?


ARGUMENTS ABOUT JESUS BEING THE REASON FOR THE SEASON  (People, Christmas is not a time for fighting.)



Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Meds

So it's no secret that I have raging ADD.  Honestly, I don't know how I've made it thus far.  I'm kind of a raging mess.

In grade school, my second grade teacher told my mother she truly believed I'd never learn to write.  Along with ADD also often comes Dysgraphia, and I have a touch of that as well.  My mom always said I just hurried too much, and that may be true, but I call that a symptom of my larger ADD problem.

I could never sit still at a dinner table, I always lost my papers.  My desk at school (and later, my locker) was always a terrifying mess of papers, lost assignments, gum wrappers, month-old lunches, that missing shoelace, a q-tip (I had quite an ear-cleaning fetish), a jumble of change, paperclips, and bits of tinfoil (much like you'd find in a rat's nest) and an empty red notebook with MATH printed on the outside that had been purchased in a vain effort to get me to organize my shit.  Among many, many other things.  None of which were filed nor organized, nor ever should have been there in the first place.

I managed to get through college by the skin of my teeth, which I often forgot to brush.  My work area in my apartment was akin to a recycling center's "we can't do anything with that" bin.  I attribute my success in college to sheer will on the part of my classmates, ("MEGAN, ARE YOU AWAKE? WE HAVE AN EXAM TODAY.  REMEMBER? THIS CLASS?  IT'S CALLED RHETORIC") and my charming nature which won me lots of extended deadlines.

I'm not proud of it.  I'm just sayin'.  This is full disclosure.

I struggled professionally because the time for extended deadlines and "Please, Professor So-And-So, you don't understand.  My cat died," was over.  I had to shape up.

And I did.  Sort of.  I got a little better, and I think part of it was just maturity.  My ability to focus was helped by the fact that I only had to focus basically on one thing: my job, instead of the bajillion things students have to focus on.  Students take six, seven, eight classes at a time, work, and have a social life (a very good one, in my experience).  They have money problems, time problems, are expected to volunteer, do extra curriculars, be in plays or on sports teams, and run for Stuco all at the same time.  No wonder they're not all insane.

So working helped a little but I still struggled to keep my attention where it needed to be.  I had to resort to all sorts of tricks to keep my eye on the ball.

I still struggle, and today I'm back to that "student" life, wherein I have a lot of balls in the air at once, and I worry constantly about dropping one.  Further brain maturity has helped, and I can only thank the Baby Jesus that I didn't have a kid earlier, or I'd have left him on top of the car with my coffee cup one day and driven to work.

It's a constant inner battle.  "Check the weather!" "No, file these papers." "Call your mom!" "No, work on this Power Point Presentation."  "Look for fall clothes on the internet!" "No, make a database for the work orders."  And I know, most people struggle with these urges, and I urge you, you Normals, to back off, because my urges and your urges?  NOT THE SAME THING.

"Why can't you just mind-over-matter?" people ask.  "Why not just tell yourself to stop obsessing over that eyebrow hair and go do the laundry?"  And to that I say, "Why don't you just tell yourself to stop needing to go pee."  It's the same kind of urgency.

Why am I going on like this, you ask? Oh, I'm happy to tell you.  Because, well, I feel stupid.  There is a cure for this.  "There is a pill for that," as my sister likes to say.  And the funny thing is, I am the first person in the world to encourage everyone to take advantage of the pharmaceuticals they need to be well.  Take your anti-anxiety med/depression med/anti psychotic/sleep aid/whathaveyou.  THEY HELP!  And they make you a happier, better, more YOU kind of you.  And I applaud that.

But me?  No.  No, thanks. I won't be taking any Ritalin.  And not because I think Ritalin is bad.  Not because I judge anyone in my shoes who takes it.  Why won't I take it?  Because I DON'T WANT TO TELL MY DOCTOR I HAVE ADD.

Have you ever heard anything stupider?

I figure this is like a 12 step program for me.  Instead of quitting something, I need to start it.  But it's the same process.  Today, I admit I have a problem.  Maybe tomorrow, I'll admit it to my doctor.  Is there anyone, besides possibly my former bosses and teachers, to whom I need to apologize?  Because I'm sure that's one of the steps, but I'm too ADD to go find out the order.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Bad Table

I started a new workout class on Monday.  Thankfully, I'm joined in this exercise in pain by my good friend Lydia and my neighbor Nikki.  It makes it bearable, just knowing I get to go see them, instead of just going to be judged by a bunch of more fit, more agile, better people than me in a gym above the Senior Center twice a week.

So we had our first class on Monday, like I said.  I didn't check the location because Lydia did.  We had a good laugh over it being at the Senior Center.  I checked the address to be sure I knew where it was, and we happily agreed that we hoped it was us and a bunch of old ladies.  We'd look SO GOOD next to them.

On my way there, I passed a big wreck.  It was raining, and I saw raincoat-clad fire and ambulance types pulling people from cars onto stretchers.  It was not a good omen.  I called Lydia to tell her I might be late because the wreck held me up, and she said she was at the place and couldn't find her way in.  All the doors were locked.  Rut-roh.

So I popped into problem solving mode and popped over to the closest community center and asked them WHAT THE HELL.  Lydia and I agreed that IT IS HARD ENOUGH to drag our asses out to work out, let alone in the rain, and a wreck, and now we can't even get the F in the door?

They sent me back to the senior center with instructions to look for a stairway.  Lydia and I rounded the building three times in the rain.  Me dressed like a lesbian at gym class and her drenched and both of us on the verge of giving up.  This is why we're hot.

But finally I spied the secret stairway and we schlepped up the slick stairs in the rain, sure that one or both of us was going to break a hip on the way in, and this is the freaking Senior Center?

We were 20 minutes late.  Not that it mattered - we still got our butts kicked.

It was all women in the group, although nowhere in the materials did it say "Women Only."  The teacher, a middle-aged African woman with a thick accent, was shouting instructions to the women in the room, who were RUNNING.  Seriously, they were doing line drills a la basketball camp.

Our feet were wet, and we feared for our lives on the gym floor.  So we spent ten minutes drying the bottom of our shoes, and then we were instructed to get in there and RUN WITH THEM.  Oookay!  So much for warming up!

By this time I was laughing so hard at our many foibles and how INEPT we are, I got myself a nice side-ache to go along with everything.  The women in the class ranged, I'm guessing, from upper twenties to mid-sixties, and every one of them, EVERY. LAST. ONE. was in far better shape than me.

Lydia and Nikki and I tried our best to keep up, but mostly we stayed in the back and complained about our boobs hurting.  Apparently, I need a better bra if I'm going to keep this up.

We were the group that went left when everyone else went right.  We are the ones who tried to pretend we didn't know how to jump rope so we could get out of that portion of the show.  We laid on the floor like beached whales while the rest of the women planked their little hearts out.

And this is the story of my life.  Remember my birth team, and how it went in my birthing classes?  And if you know Lindsey, ask her about the cookie decorating class last week.  We were the table that hit the wine the second we walked in the door.  Everyone else eased into it about halfway through, but not us.  And my cookies looked like a nervous ferret decorated them.

I am always at The Bad Table.  I am always the one in the back making fart jokes, being irreverant, and generally screwing things up.  I am not sure why I am this way. I can't blame my mother.  She's reverent about most everything.  And I can't blame my husband because this all seems to happen when he's not around.

It's just me.  And I attract birds of a feather.

Tonight is our second circuit training class.  I still don't have a better bra.  But this time at least I know how to get in the door.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fancy meeting you here

Oh ma gawd! This blog! It is a place where for years I painstakingly recounted the events of my life so as not to forget them.  Also, it's a baby book.  And a wedding album.  And my newsletter to my family.  And my Christmas card.  It's been faithful and true, better than a dog in many ways.  I mean, it doesn't track mud on my freshly cleaned floors, or leave its turds just any old place.

And look! I have abandoned it!

I sowwy, blog.

I did sort of space out on Nablopomo which makes me a little bit sad, but here's the thing.  (I have many excuses.  Thankfully, I don't have many assholes.  Just the one.)  Every month is pretty much Nablopomo for me.  Between blogging for and for Wellcommons and the occasional post here, I'm blogging *almost* every day anyway.

But still, I did really enjoy the exercise of forcing myself to blog EVERY. DAY.  I daresay, it is the only thing in my entire life for which I have been able to muster such discipline for a period of more than three days.

So, while I'm not nanning or blowing (gitcher mind outta the gutter) or po'ing or mo'ing my way through November, I am going to make an effort to visit this space more often.