Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cooking 101

Warning- This Blog rated PG-13 (brief verbal nudity and a tiny bit of crass humor.)

I really enjoy cooking and baking. On my own terms of course—that is, if no one is hungry or expects it or needs food right now—and watching Food Network is one place where I find some inspiration. However, I’ve noticed lately (as in the past few months) an increasing preponderance of boob-age on the shows. You’re feeling a tad uncomfortable. Yeah, me too. I thought at first it was only Semi-homemade, with Sandra Lee. My husband and I always referred to that show, as “Semi-homemade with Double-D” because every episode commands attention to not only semi-homemade food items, but also the fact that her boob-age is smashed beneath a tight fitting top, or blatantly swinging around in a tank (summer shows of course). In fact, now that I think about it, it’s probably good that so much of the show uses ready-made ingredients because it gives you extra time to stare at her rack instead of focusing on those pesky, time consuming recipes.

But it’s not simply Sandra D—excuse me, Lee. The boob-age continues with the new show Simply Delicioso with Ingrid Hoffman (I thought Ingrid was a German name, but apparently it can also be very Latin). My husband and I actually had to keep watching the trailer for the show because the space between her girls was so deep and dark, we thought we actually spotted a pitcher of margaritas, four glasses and a salt shaker in there. Delicioso indeed. (And an incredibly brilliant use of space.)

So, whatever. I passed off those examples as poor clothing choice made by two women who probably have a very difficult time finding shirts that don’t pull on their very large bosoms. It is difficult being buxom I’ve been told. So imagine my shock, when I tuned into 30 minute Meals and saw my sweet, innocent, very-very-smiley-girl-next-door Rachel Ray, and there she was. Black shirt cut down to there, her microphone clipped to the V (somewhere around her navel) and I was staring at breast tissue. No, not chicken breast tissue, which I expect, but Rachel Ray breast tissue which feels very, very wrong. Since Rachel is a bit less-well-endowed, every time she bends over to get a fresh bunch of celery from the fridge or stir her 5 minute roux, I get a big flash of breast, microphone and bra. Yes, even bra, which I’m a little shocked about because so much of her breast tissue is showing I’m not sure what is left to hold up.

So I flip from show to show. And yep, there’s Giada creating Everyday Italian boob recipes, and Nigella…her shows aren’t on very much but her chest is just as large. At this point it is clear to me that Network Exec’s are in charge of wardrobe and that these Execs are in fact men. (I could be wrong, perhaps they are women who are of the “women’s bodies are really art” opinion, in which case Food Network is cutting-edge artistic.) I suppose that I’m way off on the demographics, assuming that only women watch these shows. Because not too many women I know want to tune in for a great new way to make tuna casserole and also ogle at the chest we would like to have. Or used to have. Or can’t afford to have. (Let’s face it; good boobs are just not in the budget for most of us.) Perhaps the stay-at-home dad population is much larger than I imagined, or maybe on Saturday when the men of this nation are watching “sports,” it’s the sporting event of hoping that one of these women’s girls will suddenly fall out of the blouse and actually start stirring the stew.

But let’s be fair. If the Boob Network—excuse me, Food Network—is going to pimp-out their chefs for ratings and sexualize the cooking genre, then they really need to do it right. Poor Ina and Mama Dean got left out of the sexy shirt club, (presumably) because they are larger women. But I’d like to see Mama Dean in a spaghetti strap tank, or Ina in a tight-fitting deep-cut V neck, because dammit, those women have earned it. And don’t think that I have overlooked the fact that all of the male chefs on the show are fully-clothed. The network needs to even the playing field here. I’ve come up with some show ideas in case Food Network is experiencing “blank page syndrome.” How about, I’m Easy with Michael Chiarello, in which he prepares his meals sans shirt. Or having Alton Brown explain the chemical reactions in bread dough while prancing around the set in a Speedo. I'm sure Bobby Flay would be even better at the grill if he did it wearing nothing but a fireman’s jacket. I’m not trying to be opportunistic, just suggesting a little equality here. I mean, only using female bodies to inflate the bottom line sets us way back—we should be exploiting both sexes equally; roast leg of lamb isn't the same without it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Birds and Bees- Part 1

I was wondering when he would start putting the pieces together. I knew we were just biding time. Here I was five months pregnant, and except for a brief conversation about how a sperm and an egg meet to form a baby-there were no questions. In fact, we made it through both of my sister’s pregnancies and births a year ago with no deep questions from my son. This coming from the boy who needs to know how the toaster works, what causes hurricanes, how you wire a light fixture, why God makes things die, and begs “please just explain it to me mom,” when I say that something is too complicated for a second grader to understand. Up until now I have managed to give him the facts of “the facts of life,” without really going into the details of those facts. My mother always said, “Answer their questions and nothing more. Most kids are looking for a specific answer and not the whole process of things.” She loves to remind me that in the middle of her explaining the birds and the bees to me, I looked up at her and asked for a peanut butter sandwich.

So, I have tried to answer the specific questions that my son has asked. It only takes one egg and one sperm to make a baby. There are thousands of other sperm that die off, but one lucky one gets in and fertilizes the egg and that starts the baby. He seemed content with this, especially since we also had 11x14 glossy colored pictures to look at of a sperm breaking through a little egg. It's almost like Star Wars, he said. Yep, I answered, pretty close.

I even mused with my husband the other night, “Aren’t you at all surprised that our son hasn’t asked us how this baby got inside me?” I’m not sure the thought really occurred to him...but after a moment he conceded that it was a bit shocking. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me, when after dinner one evening, my son hit me with the question while still chewing on the last of his last pierogies.

“So mom, after you have your first baby, what happens to all those little mechanical pieces if they die?”
“What mechanical pieces?” I ask, wondering if this has anything to do with Star Wars.
“You said that it only takes one of those little things…”
“Sperm?”
“Yeah, those, you said it only takes one to go into that ball..”
“Egg.”
“Yeah, well, if it only takes one what happens to all the other little sperm?”
“Well, they die off inside the mother’s body.”
“Well, then if they die off, how do women have other babies after they have the first one?”

Aha. Here it was. The pieces were starting to come together. Where was my husband? Why am I always alone when I’m hit with the sex questions?

“Well,” I answer, trying to traverse this ground carefully, not wanting to reveal too much too soon and yet still answer his question, “When those die off, then… mommies get more a little later, and then those die off and then we get more, kind of like that.” I turned around in the kitchen and continued to put away the dinner dishes, (cringing) hoping this explanation would stick without any further examination on his part. No luck.

“So, are you going to have a baby every year?”
“No,” I almost shout. Are you kidding?
“So, how do mommies get more in them? And why don’t they have babies every year? You’re confusing me,” he said tritely.

I was pretty sure that I was confusing him. In fact, I was trying to confuse him a little, because I’m not really sure that he’s ready to know all the finer details of how babies are made. In reality, I’m not ready for him to know the finer details. And now not only do I need to explain the birds and the bees, but also the finer points of how one controls how many pregnancies they have. It’s a lot to order, especially since there are some things I’m still figuring out at 34.

“Don’t you want a peanut butter sandwich or something?” I ask him. He looked at me like I had lost my mind; clearly we had just finished dinner. “Drink your milk and go find your father,” I told him.

Thankfully, he busied himself with homework, legos and reading about sharks for the rest of the evening—things a second grader is supposed to be concerned with—so the questions were put aside. I know they aren’t forgotten. Those questions will surface again, probably when my husband isn’t around and I’ll be faced with a new one this time; “Why didn’t you ever tell me the answer the last time I asked about how those mechanical things get inside the mommies?” Sigh.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stitching

In her rocker she sits
a welcomed break from her daily stitching
grasping her mug again and again she talks
a reservoir of tears
dammed by lower lashes

Against the heating pad she rests
steeping her pains as she steeps her tea
perhaps thinking of a younger time
days of cooking, farming, doll clothes making
before the accident, the war and all the heartbreak

In sandpaper tones she speaks
the ache in her back, the nation, the sadness of the future,
illegal immigration, our worlds obsession with oil
milk in her tea swirling white as Europe
Lecturing should have's, ought to's and next times

Her affections run parallel to the criticism in her plaid
blue always comes after red
and the sting that accompanies failure paralyzes
like the stitches of her fine sewing

With seam ripper I sit, breaking threads
unwilling to be coerced into a form that longs
to be something else
not a sleeve or an inseam or reinforced pocket corner

Tea and time consumed, she returns to her sewing
the familiar vibration of the presser foot
manipulating fabric and form
delighting her perfectionistic ache

RV

Friday, October 26, 2007

Prized Possessions

For the past few nights now I have dreamt that I witness the formation of a huge tornado and have only seconds to find the kids and alert the people around me. I'm suddenly crawling down into a septic-system-esque tunnel, white subway tile walls and floors, waiting for my husband to pass me the baby, only to get to the bottom and realize there is nowhere to go and it is filling up with water. Not a surprising dream given the devastation happening in California and the 24-hour coverage on the news. As a general rule I try to avoid the news as much as possible because detailed information about the latest murders, rapings, school shootings, embezzlement's and wars does not lend itself to making me feel good about my world. However, having been to San Diego a fair bit and living in Arizona during similar circumstances, I have been watching the news stories about the California wildfires with much interest. And of course, cameras rolling, the whole world can watch a family return to the previous site of their old home, watch them break down as the parents and children sift through the holocaust of their former life.

I'm not one of those who has had long term memories of living in a house; bringing home all the children fresh from the hospital, the place where we got our first pet, or the memories of a multitude of anniversaries spent with my husband. We've lived in four houses in 9 years of marriage and each of my children has spent their first year and a half crawling and drooling on a different living room floor. Each house has held different types of memories, but certainly not all of them. That said, losing the place we live would still be devastating nonetheless. For me it would be more about losing the small corner of the world where I go; (the noun, not the verb)my place on the library shelf. The place my van heads after a shopping trip or dropping the kids off at school. The place where I return after visiting family where I can exhale, throw my clothes on the floor and not make the bed. The only place (really) where I make the rules outside the conventions of life.

Watching the news last night, people who were being evacuated from the area were being interviewed. They were given 10 minutes to take whatever was important to them and be ready to leave the house. Most people were done in less than five minutes. So I wondered, What would I take if in the same situation? What would you take? Lets assume for the sake of argument that your spouse, children, and the family pet(s) were already safe in the car with the engine running. Yes, we all know that those are the most important things in life and everything else is purely material. But if you could choose five things to save from destruction, what would they be and why? For myself:
1) My children's photo albums. For posterity if nothing else, and many memories are wrapped up in those anyway.
2) My Bible and My Book House books collection-because as far as I'm concerned you always need to have some spiritual direction in times like these, and the Book House Books have deep personal sentiment for me.
3) The engraved pocket watch I gave my husband for our wedding, and the opal ring he gave me after a particularly difficult patch-to give the children when they get older.
) My lap top, not because I'm attached to the technology or playing solitaire, but because it has photos and my writings on it, both of which are precious to me.
5) The framed collage of photos of my husband and me, as well as the journals we kept for each other when he lived in Russia. Again, these are for the kids later in life.

Could live without these? Certainly. Could they be replaced? Most of them, yes. But if I had 10 minutes these are the items I'd grab. With the spouse, the kids and our cat waiting in the car for me of course.

What would you take?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Germs

One of the first things I need to explain a bit, in order that you may understand later posts, is my issue with Germs. Not any Germs mind you; not mine, or my kids, not Germs that come from people I know (as in, I'm happy to share a straw with my sisters, or pick up that last bite of brownie from the floor using the ol' "five-second-rule,") but specifically Potty Germs, Stranger Germs, and Public Germs.

One of my successes as a parent stems from the fact that I have taught both my children how to use a public restroom without physically touching any surface at all. Much to the dismay of my husband, who, upon returning from a very long bathroom stop with my son, announced to me that the reason it took so long was because our son "was trying to flush the toilet with his foot, and wouldn't touch the handle."
"So?" I replied.
"So?" My husband said. "Then he grabbed the door with the sleeve of his sweatshirt."
At this point I'm sure my husband was looking for me to be aghast with horror, that our son has some kind of OCD issue at the age of 8, was looking for some type of affirmation that he was correct in being dismayed by this.
"I taught him that," I replied. (Smiling on the inside of course) At which point my husband shot me that I-can't-believe-you've-dragged-our-kids-into-your-phobic-world-and-this-is-really-not-healthy look, and I shot the Everyone-needs-counseling-anyway look right back at him and the conversation was over.

Maybe this stems from the time I walked in on my 17 month-old daughter sucking on the toilet seat and I actually thought, Would CPS frown on me swishing her mouth out with some 100 proof? If that's not vision enough to put a germ-phobic mom right into needing medication, I don't know what is.

Port-a-potty's are another source of incredible discomfort for me. First, there is no running water and/or soap. Second, if it is one lucky enough to be equipped with hand sanitizer, it is usually empty. Third, it smells, there are flies everywhere (the very same flies I might add that land on your picnic-potato-salad) and most people don't respect them and well, waste is everywhere.

How many of you grew up being told to "line the seat with toilet paper?" That was one of my mother's mantras, right after, "Buckle up," and "Are their parents home?" I have happily lined toilet seats for over thirty years and have passed this beautiful tradition on to my children. I don't care how many experts tell me that no communicable diseases can be caught from bum-germs on a toilet seat, I am not going to believe them.

Did you know that over 1/3 of people who use public restrooms DON'T WASH THEIR HANDS? Think about that the next time you grab for that door handle. Or use the port-a-potty.

Which brings me to Stranger Germs/Public Germs. Door handles (again), elevator buttons, escalator hand railings (do you know what they have found on those things?), public indoor play spaces (at the mall, fast food restaurants-Anything containing a ball pit-never, never, never let them in a ball pit) cigarette ashtrays and trash cans. There is nothing quite like seeing your child go to throw something away and holding the snap-back-at-you trash can lid open with the palm of their hand. All that black sticky goo, smudges of what can only be described as sickly brown and yellow, not to mention people that haven't washed their hands who have thrown something away...I have tried to show my children how to hold open the lid with a napkin and quickly throw away their trash before the lid snaps back at them sending filth and Germs flying, but let's face it. I'm lucky if the trash lands in the trash while they hold it open for longs periods of time with their pudgy palm. Sigh.

Now, having boldly announced to the world (some of ) my phobias, let me tell you that the things my children love most in this world are:
1. Public Restrooms
2. Port-A-Potty's
3. Public Play Spaces
4. Escalators and Trash Cans

In fact, on a recent raspberry-picking trip (happy New England memories here) my children and their friends found the Port-a-potty to be significantly more fascinating than the berry picking. Suddenly the children who never have to go to the bathroom before we leave the house, have to "really, really, go" as soon as we get there and it's discovered there is a hairy, nasty, black-cloud-hanging-over-it, Germ-infested Port-a-potty by the berry bushes. It's suddenly laughter and chasing, and doors opening/shutting/opening/shutting, yelling ("Get out of here, it's my turn!") and general happy kid melee, and then they are running over to announce to me, "Mom, it's all wet in there, and now the bottom of my pants are wet..." and I'm trying not to overreact (because what kind of parent overreacts at this type of behavior) all-the-while I'm gagging silently to myself and now the kids are picking raspberries, with their grubby, dirty, filthy, bathroom, Port-a-potty germy hands, and I smile and say,
"Boy won't these berries make a good pie."

In fact, for their next birthday parties, I have decided instead of spending money on inflatable bouncy castles or cheap fast food burgers, I'm going to rent an arsenal of Port-a-potty's and filthy trash cans. Once they are finished playing with these, we'll go the mall and finish up with a romp in the public play space and a few rides on the escalator. I figure this way they will be happy as pigs-in-mud (not a far off analogy) and I'll save a lot of money.

I may need to be medicated first.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

First blog

So. My first blog. I walk the streets everyday thinking about the million things I'd say if given forum. Now I have one and my mind is a dry, empty mop bucket. (I need to do my floors.)

It's windy today. The leaves falling like confetti from the sky. Confetti on the ground. Confetti that will inevitably take me hours and hours to rake. By the end of this season I will need a God-sized vacuum for my yard.

The baby is sleeping. Finally. You'd think that by #3 I'd have figured out how to get a baby to sleep. This one--we affectionately refer to her as "Iron Lung"--only sleeps on her tummy, but refuses to roll there herself. So, she cries, I wait, then go in and flip her over, pat-pat, and try to slither my way to the door without the floor boards creaking. There she goes again; and we dance to the cry-wait-flip-pat-pat cycle only about four or five times before she finally stays asleep. That's what I call success.

I hope you'll tune-in here often. Hopefully this blog will be a smattering of many things; family, parenting, literary, excerpts from my writings, and lots and lots of humor.

You see....
I'm rally, rally, funny.