Saturday, March 31, 2012

They're still alive!

Look! Undead plants!













See how tall they are?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The fact that I find this hilarious probably makes me a bad person

My mom posted this on Facebook about six hours ago:

Teresa is supposed at the table tracing sentences like " I will use only gentle words" Right now she's trying to figure out how to add "not" to the sentences. I won't tell her how to spell it. It's going to be a long day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Meatloaf

I got this recipe from my mother. I have no idea where she got it; it's possible she made it up.

1 lb hamburger

2 eggs

1 envelope onion soup mix

1/2 cup ketchup

1 sleeve saltine crackers

Combine well. Shape into loaf in a greased baking dish and bake at 350ยบ for about 60 minutes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bacon

My family has a longstanding tradition of cooking green beans in bacon. If you are familiar with this, no explanation is necessary. If you aren't, no explanation is possible. Just trust me that it's awesome.

Well, this past weekend Scott and I were visiting my family and one of the things on the menu was green beans with bacon. Teresa was picking at her green beans (she never eats much when she's excited), leaving all of the bacon behind, and Scott was trying to convince her that she should eat the bacon because it's awesome.

So Teresa told him that she doesn't like that bacon because it's not crispy enough. She likes bacon when it's cooked by itself in long, crispy pieces.

That's a paraphrase, but her actual explanation was pretty close to that. (With hand gestures substituting for the adjective "long.") It probably shouldn't shock me that a 5-year-old is capable of making and articulating that kind of fine distinction, but it does. Maybe because I remember when she was a 19-month-old who didn't speak. (Seriously, she used MAYBE 1 or 2 words in a meaningful way at that point, and those rarely.)

I guess I'm sometimes surprised by how much she's grown after all.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

On being bothered

A while back I was at the library and couldn't find a few reserves. After I asked for help from the librarian, I finally remembered that when I first got my library card my name had been spelled wrong. I made some reserves before it got corrected, and behold. Reserves put under the "F" on the reserve shelf instead of the "S." (I have no idea how that happened. I can't even blame it on my awful handwriting because I had to show my driver's license as proof of address. Apparently they didn't use it as proof of surname spelling.)

Anyway, the librarian was EXTREMELY apologetic about it. (She was not the same librarian as the one who processed my application for a card.) It took several repetitions of her apologies before I managed to extricate myself from the conversation.

On the way home, I told Scott, "I really wasn't even upset. I mean, they spelled my name wrong. They didn't kill a puppy in front of me or something."

(Later I said it was even like a rite of passage, having my funny Italian name spelled wrong. That's the first time it's ever happened. :))

A few days later, I was getting gas at my usual gas station. The pumps there do not print receipts properly, so I nonchalantly went inside and asked for a receipt. The gas station attendant apologized several times while printing my receipt. Again, I was more bothered by the extended apology session than by having to walk an extra 20 steps and spend an extra 60 seconds getting gas.

Yet, I am not a universally chill sort of person. I can't think of any good examples right now (I'm sure Scott could think of some), but if you knew me long enough you'd probably get the impression that I'm a little high-strung.

I kind of wish my brain would just pick one and stick with it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Directive

Look! I made plants grow!

I planted these last Saturday. Please admire my collection of old milk jugs, an apple cider jug, and a crockpot that cracked. (Crock-Pot was very nice and sent us a new one for free.)

They are sugar snap peas. I think they are the best little plants ever and will probably update you on their progress every week.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: The Speed of Dark

Sometimes I wonder how normal normal people are, and I wonder that most in the grocery store. In our Daily Life Skills classes, we were taught to make a list and go directly from one aisle to another, checking off items on the list. Our teacher advised us to research prices ahead of time, in the newspaper, rather than compare prices while standing in the aisle. I thought--he told us--that he was teaching us how normal people shop.
But the man who is blocking the aisle ahead of me has not had that lecture. He seems normal, but he is looking at every single jar of spaghetti sauce, comparing prices, reading labels. Beyond him, a short gray-haired woman with thick glasses is trying to peer past him at the same shelves; I think she wants one of the sauces on my side, but he is in the way and she is not willing to bother him. Neither am I.

~The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

A blogger recommended this a few weeks back (I wish I could remember which blogger), so I reserved it at the library with my brand-new library card. It came in about a week ago and I went to get it Tuesday afternoon.

I got back from the library around 3 p.m. was finished with it by 9 p.m. the same day. That's a testament to how absorbing it is.

There were a couple of things that annoyed me at the beginning. First I was annoyed by the fact that Lou was constantly describing people's facial expressions and things like that. Then I realized that the whole point is that he has to think about this stuff, that interpreting body language requires conscious analysis rather than subconscious instinct. If I wrote a book that talked about my own thought processes in that much detail...well, there still wouldn't be much facial expression descriptions because I don't like looking directly at people's faces. But there are other things that work like that for me, and I love that the author SHOWS that.

I also didn't like that the book switched between Lou's perspective and other people's perspectives, because I wanted to hear what Lou thought. I didn't care what the other people thought. After a while this got less annoying simply because I was caught up in the story...and reading so fast I got through the other-people sections pretty quickly. :)

My favorite parts were the times Lou made observations about "normal" people in general, like the quote at the top of this post. They were hilarious and spot-on and made me want to be friends with Lou. In general that was the impression I got from Lou...he isn't exactly like anyone with autism that I know, but he feels totally realistic, like I could meet him walking down the street someday and we would be friends. We wouldn't talk to each other much, but who needs friends who talk? :)

However, I hesitate to recommend this book because the last couple of chapters are so very bad. Not just because they're upsetting or the plot didn't go the way I wanted it to (though both those things are true). As somebody who's been studying the art of writing a novel for a few years now, I can't say that I can craft a perfect ending, but I can say that there are right ways and wrong ways to do the resolution and that was the wrong way. It wasn't satisfying at all. It felt like being cheated, especially since the rest of the novel was so very promising. I'd go on, because seriously, SO disappointing, but I don't want to spoil things for anybody who still wants to read this book.

One-sentence version: Everybody who's human should read at least the first few chapters of this book just to enrich their lives, but if you read all the way to the end don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins

Shamelessly adapted from this recipe.

1 2/3 cups
all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon
baking soda
1 teaspoon
ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon
salt
1/2 teaspoon
baking powder
1/2 teaspoon
ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup
canned pumpkin
1/2 cup
water
1/2 cup canola oil

1. Throw together all of the dry ingredients. Stir them up.
2. Throw the wet ingredients on top. Stir again.
3. Put in greased muffin tins. Makes 18 good-sized muffins or 24 puny muffins. (I usually double the recipe and make 24 regular muffins and 24 mini muffins.)
4. Bake at 400 for maybe 15-20 minutes. (I have not yet refined this precisely. Also, watch them 'cause they burn fast.)
N.B. If you take a pumpkin and puree it up yourself rather than buying canned pumpkin, use 1 1/2 cups of this puree instead of the 1 cup canned pumpkin and 1/2 cup water.
N.B. Part Two: If you don't have nutmeg you can do a little more cinnamon, but I think nutmeg adds something essential. I do not think cloves add anything essential, which is why I don't use them.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fragments

On Friday, I made garlic cheddar biscuits (I might post the recipe for these someday). I made 10, so I told Scott that 5 were for me and 5 were for him. I ate my 5 within 24 hours. As of Sunday night, Scott had 2 left. I asked if I could eat one, and he said no. (It looked like it pained him to say it, but he did.)

How I know my husband really likes my cooking: He won't let me eat more than my fair share.

(Tuesday morning, and he still has one left. Now he's just teasing me.)

*** *** *** ***

I've told Scott a few times since we got married that I think I transferred all my perfectionism from schoolwork to cooking. Cleaning I obviously don't care about (Exhibit A: Our grungy bathtub) but if I do less than perfectly at cooking I feel like my entire life has no meaning. For example, on Saturday I kind of burned some pumpkin muffins (but only kinda. They're a little crunchy on the outside, but they're still moist on the inside) and I had to go curl up in the corner for a little while until I felt better. Then yesterday I was making Southwest Chicken and realized that I had forgotten the corn. Not just forgotten to cook it and put it in, but forgotten to buy it. Scott didn't care, but it really upset me.

The point: I'm still a raging perfectionist.

*** *** *** ***

I realized the other day just how much TOS has changed since I first met her. The very first time we met, she was, by her own admission, "eight and three quarters." It's been almost four years since then. I definitely like the 12-year-old version, but still it was a bit of a shock to look back and realize how huge the difference between 8 and 12 is.

It's especially strange because I don't think that way about Teresa, really, and I met her about a week after I met TOS. (Now that's strange to think about, that I met my sister-in-law before I met my sister.) I wonder why the difference between 1 and 5 doesn't strike me as much as the difference between 8 and 12. I mean, you could easily argue that that's an even huger developmental leap so it should be even more shocking.

This one doesn't have a point. I'm just musing.

*** *** *** ***

There was a fourth thing I was going to write about. I thought of it on the way to Schola last night but then forgot about it by the time we got home. I can't remember it now either. Since this isn't Quick Takes, I don't feel compelled to dig through my brain for something to write about just to make up a certain number of fragments.

Don't worry, though, I'll probably give up on this disjointed daily blogging after a week and go back to Quick Takes.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Driver's License and The Introvert Card

Yesterday before Mass, Scott asked me to considering arranging a visit with his family that afternoon. I said I didn't want to, because Sunday is my day of rest and socializing (while it can be pleasant) is never restful.

"I find visiting my family restful," Scott said.

"Then you can drive yourself over there," I said teasingly.

He laughed, but I felt bad. The fact that he doesn't drive* has been An Issue since we started dating, pretty much. While I grant that it's enabled me to grow as a person (I would never have driven 200 miles by myself if I'd had the option of making Scott do some or all of the driving) it's still a net negative in my mind and we are trying to work out a plan to remedy it. (Originally I was going to teach him how to drive. I'd stick with that plan if we lived in the country, but city driving just makes me too anxious. I can get by as a driver, but I definitely wouldn't be a good teacher. So we're exploring other options. And by "exploring other options" I mean "not thinking about it until Scott gets a job because we imagine that third-party lessons cost money.")

Anyway, next time I think I'll stick to threatening to take away his Introvert Card, like I did last week when we were at coffee and donuts after Mass at Liza Jane's church and Scott kept striking up conversations with random strangers. I'd have been even more justified in this case, since introverts can be friendly with strangers but introverts by definition do not find socialization relaxing.

I mean, really.

*I prefer saying "doesn't drive" vs. "can't drive." "Doesn't" in my mind carries a connotation of "could, but chooses not to," which could be seen in a negative light but is still preferable to "can't," which connotes "is fundamentally incapable of." Kind of like how I switched from saying I "can't" sing to saying I "don't" sing, because I like the implication that I could someday if I wanted to.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Writer's Block

Just wanted to pop in and say I probably won't post Quick Takes tomorrow, unless half a dozen interesting but not particularly involved things happen in the next 12 hours or so.

For that matter, I might start doing Quick Takes less altogether. I like blogging regularly and Quick Takes has helped me do that for a long time, but lately I've been feeling like I want to focus more time and energy on writing longer posts in which I attempt to share my deep thoughts, even if that means I don't get around to posting every week.

I have been posting semi-regularly over at my Sims blog, since my gameplay provides constant blog fodder without requiring deep thought.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Seven Quick Lenten Takes



--- 1 ---

When I married Scott, I acquired a 5-year-old nephew and an 8-month-old niece. They live far, far away, so I have never actually met them and they are not really on my radar on a daily basis.

However, it occurred to me that the baby is turning 1 later on this month, and birthdays are the sort of things aunts are supposed to acknowledge. Especially if they are aunts who have a freakish ability to remember birthdays and therefore always know when one is coming up.

However, beyond that I am stumped. What do 1-year-olds like?

--- 2 ---

To actually go with the "Lenten" theme: Hot chocolate without marshmallows isn't very good.

See, I gave up "sweets" for Lent, but I don't like tea or coffee and sometimes one just needs a hot drink. So I made concessions for human weakness and allowed myself to drink cocoa but NOT to toss a fistful of marshmallows in the cup (and eat a few while it's heating up, and...anyway).

It's a sacrifice.

--- 3 ---

Scott has two job interviews today (Friday). Prayers would be appreciated. Even if you read this Saturday or Sunday or whenever, pray retroactively. God is outside of time and all that.

--- 4 ---

My family came to visit on Saturday. We had lunch here at the apartment and then went to the museum and then came back and had dinner here at the apartment.

At one point, my oven looked like this:


That's 3 pans of homemade chicken nuggets and a pan of home fries. That's actually only the first of two batches. It took me until Wednesday to get caught up on the dishes.

While I'm posting pictures, here's one of my whole family in which we all look fairly happy (no easy feat with a 5-year-old and a baby):

--- 5 ---

I'm part of an online writer's group with Scott and Mari and another 8 or 9 people. This week, I posted my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel in all its unedited glory. (The punctuation errors KILL me, but Lent is about growing in humility, right?) Mari was reading part of it last night and flagged this sentence: "Unfortunately, Bob was like most people in that he did not distinctly remember things that happened before he was even 7 years old." This is why it's good to have beta readers, people; I would never have thought that that sentence might not be true. However, my informal Facebook poll indicates that while it's realistic to have someone who doesn't remember that far back, it's not at all a universal experience. (Responses range from people who have clear and distinct memories going back to when they were 2 to people who pretty much weren't aware they were alive until 8, and most respondents are in their early to mid-twenties, same as my character.)

--- 6 ---

Another thing I'm doing for Lent is cutting back on recreational computer use. The first few days of Lent, I managed to get a TON of organizing done...went through the last of my boxes that needed to be unpacked, reorganized my desk (i.e. the Dumping Ground for Everything), etc. I felt pretty awesome.

Then with the retreat the weekend before last and my family visiting this past weekend, my chore time got eaten up doing the daily minimum. Or sleeping, to recover from the overwhelming, exhausting socialization. Now I'm realizing that my bathroom needs to be cleaned AGAIN (really, wasn't cleaning it that one time enough?), the toaster oven smells smoky every time we use it because of all the baked-on food detritus, and the thank-you notes for wedding gifts STILL aren't quite done.

It's kind of depressing.

--- 7 ---

Talking about the weather during Quick Takes always feels like a cop-out, but it has been CRAZY here lately. One day it's sunny and mild; a couple of days later we have a tornado watch (they just missed us, but we got some serious thunderstorms); a couple of days later it's mostly clear with a few snow flurries.

The Midwest in March: Where you can get all four seasons in one week!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Leap Day 2012

Since I did this four years ago, I thought I'd do it again. Plus I haven't done a day in the life post in a while.

7:50 a.m.: Get up. Decide that being conscious and upright is too much work.

7:51-8:06 a.m.: Lie in bed WIDE AWAKE. Think grumpy thoughts about dairy farmer genes.

8:07: Check email and Facebook. Read a Right to Life group's profiles of various candidates. (Did you know you had to vote for more than presidential candidates in a primary election? Me neither!) Despair for a while. Fall in love with one of the candidates for state representative. Be slightly more optimistic.

8:33: Think about how liveblogging politics even in such an oblique way is going to cause everyone I know to hate me for the next 8 months.

8:34: Go eat breakfast. (Strawberry oatmeal and a couple boiled eggs.) Read a few pages of my current book while eating. (I'm working through my contemporary Christian fiction collection and sometimes it's...slow going.)

9:00: Start doing dishes.

9:51-9:53: Take a bathroom break. Use the last of the toilet paper. Get a spare roll out from under the sink and change out the empty roll for the full one. Notice that now there aren't any spares under the sink. Get 3 more out of the hall closet and put them under the sink. Feel very smug about my selfless dedication to the cause of nobody getting stuck in the bathroom without toilet paper.

(And by selfless I mean about 60% for my own benefit and about 40% for someone else's benefit.)

9:53-10:00: Finish the dishes.

10:00-10:35: Surf the internet, work on a post for my Sims blog.

10:35-11:45: Take a nap.

11:45-11:55: Get ready for the day. (Yes, I routinely stay in my pajamas till around noon. Be jealous of the unemployed.)

11:55-12:25: Surf the internet and work on the blog post some more, since nobody wants to eat lunch right after getting ready for the day. Then your chicken soup tastes like Listerine.

12:25-12:45: Eat lunch (leftover homemade chicken noodle soup and a glass of milk).

12:45-1:15: More internet.

1:15-3:45: Sims. In my defense, a bit of that was load time during which I read a few more pages of my Really Annoying Book.

3:45-4:00: INTERNET FOREVER!

4:00-4:30: Halfheartedly work on some wedding thank-you notes. (YES, WE STILL HAVE SOME. *dies*)

4:30-5:30: Start dinner (chicken parmesan). Be thankful to my Tuesday-morning self for getting the chicken out to thaw. Cook dinner while taking occasional breaks for internet.

(Note to self: Putting the water on to boil and then starting the chicken works about right, timing-wise.)

5:30-6:00: Eat dinner

6:00-6:30: Get ready to go out the door, which takes a surprisingly long time

6:30-9:30: Go to the meeting of the local Chesterton Society with Scott. Have a surprising amount of fun.

9:30: Whine "Come pray with me so I can sleeeeeep."

9:30-10:00: Pray a rosary with Scott, because that is our Lenten resolution (one of them, anyway) and we can't fail one week into Lent.

10:00-10:30: Get ready for bed.

10:30: SLEEEEEEP.

Can you believe this is what it looks like when I try to cut down on recreational internet use? Yeah, I'm pitiful. In my defense, I tend to alternate "productive days" and "lazy days" and Tuesday was pretty productive. I cleaned stuff.

Things that have changed since last Leap Day:

I know how to spell privileged.

I know 2001: A Space Odyssey is not actually worth reading. (I can't remember when I read it but I did read it all the way through at one point. And then I saw the movie, which is even more pointless.)

I also know how to spell psychologically. (From the comments.) Man, I was a bad speller back then.

My relationship with Scott is also very different. Obviously. On March 1, 2008, I realized that I wanted to marry him. (Which was kind of awkward given that he was all, "Yeah, we're NEVER getting married. That would be a bad idea.") On April 6, 2008, we started dating. (He changed his mind. Or God changed his mind for him.) Sometime in September of 2008 we started seriously talking about getting married. (We talked about getting married even before we were dating, but not in terms of specifics. I believe in September 2008 we thought summer of 2011 seemed like a good time.) On June 12, 2011 we got officially engaged. On November 26, 2011 we got married, missing our initial ideal timeframe by a few months. (Which isn't bad considering how many unexpected obstacles got in our way in the intervening 3 years.)

(Something that has not changed since 2008: I still use way too many parentheses.)

In February of 2008 I did not know Teresa existed; now I can't imagine my life without her. I can't even imagine life without Matthew, and he's only been around for 3 months.

I intented to the Servants less than 3 weeks after Leap Day. Some of them were indescribably amazing friends to me during my college years; one of them was a bridesmaid in my wedding.

I'm still best friends with Emily. Yay us!

I wish I could write some kind of deep philosophical reflection here, but I haven't gotten much better at pulling together philosophical thoughts on short notice. So I'll just leave this messy post right here. Maybe the philosophical thoughts will come in a week or so.