Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Totally Lame-Ass NYE

My parents are here, and staying with us, which means we have FREE babysitters for as far into the wee hours as we want to party.

And yet, we are so deeply, profoundly lame that we don't have anywhere to go.

There's a celebration in Charlotte's downtown (er, Uptown) district, but we don't really feel like going to that. It's cold outside, parking downtown is expensive, and I think it's alcohol-free anyway. Any decent bar is charging $20 cover tonight and we don't feel like shelling out $40 to stand around crammed in with a bunch of people we don't know and sip warm $3 Budweisers and a glass of watery champagne at midnight. There's not even a movie that we want to see bad enough to pay full price for. Some friends have invited us to hang out and watch movies at their house, but it's 40 minutes away and we are both pretty tired (we went to bed at 2:00 a.m., our visitors got here at 6:00, and I got a 2-hr nap but Ryan didn't).

So we are hanging around the house with our daughter and my family, snacking and watching movies. I have taken advantage of the baby-occupiers to do a little pretend/fantasy-shopping and indulge my bag obsession. It's nice to spend a couple of hours frittering away time on the Internet without anyone whacking me in the face with a copy of Goodnight Moon.

Monday, December 22, 2008


It is supposed to be 18 degrees here overnight tonight, and while that is not cold for some places it's pretty cold for here, considering yesterday it was in the mid-50's and the day before the high was a warm, wet 68. I was outside in shirtsleeves this weekend, for crying out loud, and now I just want to put on 16 sweaters and crawl under my flannel sheets for about a week.

All this coldness has lit my knitting fire, however. I spent half of Piper's nap (which she actually took today, thank the Gods; I could not do another full day of Crabby Baby Whine Time) adding like 10 new knitting blogs to my Google Reader. I also spent some time browsing various online yarn shops and fantasizing about luscious skeins of handpainted yarn. And if I can keep slaughtering my to-do list, I might actually get to knit some time before Easter.

The Christmas cards are almost all out (email me if you want one, as long as you don't mind it being late), the checkbook is almost balanced, the presents are almost all wrapped. We still have to finish and ship my in-laws' gift (a series of photos in a frame), however. Since that was my husband's bright idea, I will let him take care of it. Okay, technically, the photos-in-frame was my idea first (and they are my photos, I took them this Spring), but I abandoned it due to impracticality (wrapping and shipping a huge picture frame did not sound like fun). He has clung to this as the perfect gift for them this year, despite my pleading to get them something that fits in a flat-rate shipping box, like maybe a book or a photo album. At what point am I absolved of responsibility for this? I know I started it, but I have tried very hard not to finish it. Does that mean I'm off the hook and he can take the heat for what is shaping up to be a VERY late present?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

O Christmas Tree

My husband's family does big things for Christmas. It is not just a major holiday in my in-laws' house; it is THE holiday. I tend to blow it off a bit, since most of the Christmases I spent with my family were miserable and stressful in one way or another. However, now that we have a child, my husband has put his foot down and basically demanded that we do Christmas, at least in some form, especially since we have our own house now . He wanted to get a huge tree this year, possibly of the U-Cut type. I pointed out that with eight cats and a curious, rambunctious toddler, a gigantic, ornament-laden tree would lead to at best the tree merely being toppled over and its ornaments scattered throughout the house. That was my best-case scenario.

So I convinced him that if he wanted a tree at all, a small one in a pot would be the way to go. And we happened to find such a tree at the plant nursery right up the road from our house. It came pre-potted and was the perfect size to sit on our counter. We got some miniature decorations at The Hellmouth Wal-Mart.

My mom had a tradition where she got each of us kids a new ornament for the tree every year. I have done the same thing with Piper. Last year was easy; some weird pink little "Baby's First Christmas" bell-ornament-thing someone gave us. I thought this year would prove a challenge, because she is so into monsters and I wanted to find her a monster ornament but didn't want it to be licensed characters (i.e. Elmo or Monsters, Inc.) since we're still avoiding those as much as possible.

It turned out to be easy. Piper fell in love with this little cutie as soon as I picked it up in Target:

It even has eyelashes!

Here's the finished tree, with presents underneath:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You're Like Fleas

A lot of my childless friends say to me "Oh, Piper so cute and fun! It makes me want one!" To those of you who think this sounds like fun: Here is a warning. Sometimes she is fun, but other times, like tonight, I want to run away with the circus. Tonight I was committing the cardinal sin of attempting to scan through my Google Reader, and she really wanted my attention. She’d already spent the previous couple of hours stomping all over the presents I was wrapping in the living room, unloading the box of Christmas ornaments and throwing them around, demanding food (bananas, peas, yogurt, cookies, crackers, and noodles, by turns) which I’d get for her, then she’d take one look at and scream “NOOOOOO!” before asking for something else. Even though Ryan took her out for an hour or two earlier, I was about at my limit for shenanigans.

However, 18-month-olds are not always the best judges of when Mommy has had enough, so instead of sitting with me and looking at LOLCats or playing in her room, she was climbing all over me, shrieking, pinching me, and hitting me in the face with a copy of Goodnight Moon, demanding that I read it to her RIGHT THIS SECOND. After the third time I deposited her on the floor and she started to climb back onto my lap, I was so exasperated I yelled “PIPER! Stop! For the love of God, you’re…YOU’RE LIKE FLEAS!”

I don’t even know what that means, but at least she got down. She’s unloading the DVD cabinet right now, taking all the discs out of their individual cases and either leaving them on the floor or attempting to put them back in other boxes. *sigh*

Next Year Everyone Is Getting a Lobstergram

1. We finished our holiday shopping last weekend, which was pretty good considering we didn't start until the weekend of Dec. 6th. It only took one episode of us screaming at each other in the mall parking lot, two online orders, one case of me speaking to Ryan through gritted teeth in the middle of the bookstore, eight eggnog lattes and twenty-six apologies to do it. I cannot count how many lessons we learned this year. They were not fun lessons, but valuable; we already have a plan of attack for next year's holiday gifting, one which thankfully does not rely on my speedy completion of handicrafts or Ryan's ability to refrain from cracking jokes when I am already pissed off.

2. Those same gifts that were nearly the cause of a divorce were supposed to be wrapped Saturday night/Sunday afternoon, packaged up, and taken to the post office on Monday. We bought The Golden Compass to watch while wrapping Saturday night. Not much in the way of actual wrapping and packaging got done. From the big pile of stuff, three things got wrapped, none of which are being mailed anywhere. His parents' present (a collection of photos in a frame) is not even half done and although Ryan assures me that he'll figure out some way to ship a picture frame with four glass panels in it, he has yet to come up with any useful ideas. Mostly what happened Saturday was we tried to wrap things together, then I got bossy and Ryan got mad, so he retired to the couch to play with his new deck of trick cards and I spent several hours saying "PIPER! GET DOWN NO! STOP TOUCHING THAT! GET OFF THE TABLE! PUT THE SCISSORS DOWN! BRING THAT BACK HERE! STOP EATING THAT! LEAVE IT ALONE! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP POKING THE CAT WITH THE SCISSORS! DON'T TOUCH THAT! DON'T TOUCH DON'T TOUCH DON'T TOUCH DON'T TOUCH PUT IT BAAAAAAAAAACK!"

3. It is now Thursday and not a single thing has been wrapped all week. Ryan keeps responding with his usual "chill out, wouldja?" attitude when I explain every day that I need some (expletive) time without the baby in the house so I can (expletive) wrap the (expletive) presents so I can take them to the (expletive) post office because they are already going to be (expletive) late. The holiday season has not been good for my resolve to curse less (so that our exceptionally observant parrot daughter doesn't start repeating the f-word in public).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fail: Handcrafted Holiday Cards

I may actually get around to doing Christmas/etc cards this year. They will not be handmade, however, as my ridiculously-optimistic plans for making handmade holiday cards were a big fat FAIL. Realistically, I knew it wasn't going to work out, since I had only the vaguest idea of what I wanted them to look like when they were done, but that didn't stop me from going to the craft store and spending $25 on materials. I promptly came home and found 3 boxes of cards tucked under some old ornaments in the battered, dusty cardboard carton marked "XMAS LIGHTS DON'T DROP." I took a long, hard look at the pile of random paper scraps, paints, stencils, and brushes awaiting me on the dining table and decided maybe I should cut my losses.

Maybe next year I'll start early and make the beautiful embossed holiday greetings I had envisioned, each one a little different and all of them carefully hand-crafted by me.

But probably not.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Super-Easy 15-Minute Chili

We have been eating this about once a week. My husband refused to eat chili until about a year ago; he claimed he "had just never liked it." I don't know what happened, but after I coaxed him into eating a bowl of it last winter, he now loves it. Which is fine with me. This is the easiest way I know to make chili. It tastes great - even better the second day - and it is super-fast.


1 lb. hamburger, ground turkey, deer burger, etc., or meat subsitute of your choice
1 can Bush's (or whoever's) chili beans, mild, medium, or hot according to your preference
1 large jar "thick & chunky" salsa, hotness level also to your preference
Garlic (fresh finely-chopped or powder, it doesn't matter)
Onion (freshly-chopped or dried, it doesn't matter)
Chili powder
Black pepper
Whatever else you like to put in chili


1. Brown hamburger/meat substitute with onion and garlic in a dutch oven (if you have one). If you don't have one, you can use a large, deep skillet, or brown it in a skillet and then dump it in a stock pot. It doesn't much matter, as long as the meat gets cooked. I only drain my hamburger if it's really, really greasy, but usually it's fine.

2. Leave the burner on. Dump in salsa and chili beans. Re-fill salsa jar halfway with water, replace cap, shake, and add salsa-water to pot. You can also skip this step if you started with really watery salsa or if you're short on time.

3. Add spices, to your taste. I'd give amounts, but I never measure. I use a lot of everything, and add some cayenne pepper too. Then we dice some fresh jalapenos and put them right in our individual bowls. We love spicy food around here. Really, I'm only satisfied when the food can actually burn its way through my gut to the outside.

4. Cook on medium heat until it's warm all the way through. If you have time, simmer it a bit so it thickens and the spices mix. If you don't, it's still delicious. And the leftovers? Fabulous.

We usually have cornbread with this - I just use a mix and bake it in a shallow pan so it cooks fast. If I mix it up and put it in while the meat is browning, it's done and ready by the time the chili is.

If I have the time, I spread some frozen corn kernels on a baking sheet and cook them alongside the cornbread. A few minutes in the oven and they're roasted crisp. I love the taste of roasted corn. I sprinkle some into my chili along with the fresh jalapenos and then I crumble my cornbread into it. MMMMM.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Why I Would Never Be a Good Consultant on Anything

I was listening to a radio show about getting kids to read at an early age, and the guest kept going on about how reading to your kids was the best way to help them learn how to read.

Some guy called in. "Yeah, we have a two-year-old, and we want to get him started reading and stuff at an early age, and my wife saw this system - it's called Baby Can Read - and it has a DVD and flash cards. We saw this, and it shows kids as young as two or three spelling out words and identifying words, like they can pick out the card with the word "feet" and the picture of feet. But, um, it is quite expensive, and I was wondering if something like this was a good way to get our child reading, if this was a good investement."

The lady politely said that while she's not denigrating reading systems like that, their kid would probably get just as much or more out of he and his wife reading to and teaching the kid than, say, watching a DVD, and that if you want your kid to read, books are the best way to do that rather than television and other media. She's much nicer than me. I would've said:

"No. That is not a good way to get your kid to read. You are a moron. Have you even been listening to this show for the past forty minutes? If you don't know that reading to your child is the best way to develop their language skills and get them into reading at an early age, if you'd rather plop them down in front of a DVD and wave some flash cards around...well, then there's not much you can actually do for your kid. Stupidity is hereditary. Instead of dropping cash on some idiotic "learning system," try putting it in a savings account for college and instead pick up a book and read to your kid."