Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Cooking Personality: Apparently Also My Real Personality

Did you guys see this quiz in the New York Times a few weeks back? I'm a sucker for quizzes (don't tell me you're not!), so of course I took it. It turns out I'm an innovative cook, which sounds cool, does it not? Until you actually sit down to one of my dinners and realize that means I just figured out how to use the dusty can of garbanzo beans in the cupboard. And the leftover ricotta cheese. In one dish. ("MOOOOOOM! Do I HAVE to eat this?!")

Plus I waffled, so on two answers I'm a c/e.

Okay, let me just give you my answers. I believe there is some plagiarism involved in this exercise, so if you see me sweating, that's why. Also, I'm not going to replicate the entire quiz; I'm just going to give essay answers to multiple choice questions (which is something I ALWAYS want to do).

Question one: when I prepare a meal, I typically:

Start with five cookbooks, a very tiny budget, a conflicting welter of input ("I want mac and cheese from the box!" "I want something spicy!" "I want soup!" "I want something satisfying, yummy, cheap, and healthy!"). Sometimes I go for the tried and true staples--something I've made in the past that the kids will generally eat and which satisfies my criteria for a healthy meal: i.e., at least two colors of vegetable, some protein, and lowish in salt and fat. Sometimes I shape my meal around an ingredient (such as that impulse-purchased purple cauliflower sitting accusingly on the top shelf. Ugh.)

This process worked out to "c" in the quiz.

Question two: some of my favorite ingredients are:

Spinach, shrimp, cheese, zucchini, basil, fresh tomatoes (in season), yams, corn, leek, chicken, lovage, broccoli. I'm also an impulse buyer of weird fruits and vegetables, some of which actually get eaten. Some don't. See above: purple cauliflower.

Best fit: "e". Or maybe "c," if you exclude fish, since the only fish we can afford to eat on a regular basis is catfish. And just because we can AFFORD it doesn't mean we WANT it.

Question three: in my free time, I like to:

Blog, write, plan my garden, read, run, hike.

Best fit: "e." ("take part in creative or artistic pursuits"--sounds classy, no?)

Question four: my favorite things to cook are:

Bread, stir-fry, cool new recipes. Sometimes.

Best fit: "e" or "c". I like fresh ingredients and herbs ("c") just fine, but I like them better when they're from my own garden, which means I can cook this way for approximately one month out of the year. The rest of the year: "e" ("Ethnic foods and wok dishes"). Only having kids to feed is gradually kicking my desire for "ethnic foods and wok dishes" out of me.

Question five: other people describe me as:

Ha ha ha HA. Depends on the person (Guess who said this? "You're the meanest mom in the WHOLE WORLD!"). My MIL, who thinks sugar is the base of the food pyramid, would probably describe me as "health conscious." Somebody who was actually health-conscious probably wouldn't ( I eat hot dogs! And ice cream! And see my inappropriate love of cereal.) I guess I'd like people to describe me as "curious" (e), but that might be wishful thinking. "Health-conscious" (c) sounds boring, so it's probably the most accurate.

So I guess that really my cooking personality is "healthy" (optimistic, book-loving, nature enthusiast--sounds pretty accurate, if a little, er, sweat stained [also accurate]). I'm definitely not a "giving" personality, either in the kitchen or out of it. I often start my days methodical, but by the time I've drunk my coffee I've usually begun to fudge the details. I'm not competitive, either (GOD. As if.) So: healthy, unless the kids are out, and then I can revert to my "creative and trend-setting" self. Ha ha.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cereal: dogfood for people

Man, I love me a bowl of cereal. For years and years, I've had the same formula: cheerios, raisin bran (store brand), rolled oats, almonds, and raisins (more of em). Sometimes I mix it up a little: bananas! Strawberries! Blueberries! I loved Grape Nuts Flakes there for a while, and then we moved to a part of the state that apparently doesn't sell them (whazzup with that, Post Cereals?). Now I'm doing Kix in the mix, although I've gotten to that point in my love affair with a new cereal brand in which I can taste the component parts (Corn meal. Air. Oat flour. Aaand, some sort of synthetic food grade lacquer that makes me think of all the articles I've read on the evils of polydextrose.) I'm guessing the day will come soon when I stand in front of that supermarket display, weigh it, and decide to pass.

Not my cereal habit, though. I'm currently in a phase (known as "having no job to take me away from the pantry") in which I am trying to limit myself to one bowl of cereal a day. Okay, two. But THAT'S IT. It's not really a health thing--processedness aside, cereal isn't the worst thing I could be eating. Yes, it would be nice if I were to substitute produce items for vitamin-enriched wheat products that have been variously mashed, powdered, sprayed, puffed, and packaged, but that's not my main concern. It's more the, um, dog food aspect.

The problem with the dog food aspect? That's also what I like. Complete(ish) nutrition in a bowl! With no more effort than it takes to lift a box! And it's satisfying. When I get in one of my wouldn't-it-be-great-if-we-were-all-Kalahari-Bushmen moods, the one thing that stops me is breakfast. What do hunter-gatherers put in their food hole when they wake up with that low-blood-sugar craving for immediate carbohydrates? Gathered greens? Pine bark? Dried roots? Basically, without the cereal, my own personal food pyramid collapses. I might as well start living on cheetos and beer.

What about you? What's your food staple?

Monday, March 23, 2009


This just in: insomnia is COOL. Sometimes. When it doesn't last for days on end, obv. But man. I woke up at 3 am last night, couldn't get back to sleep, and by the time the rest of the house woke up I was seventy-five percent done with my day. I'd even gone for a run!

Now all that's left is to gradually sink into torpor and decline as the frenetic high of the coffee wears off. However, since that's what I do pretty much every day, I have the gradual decline plus hours of bustling productivity behind me.

My morning run was awesome, too. Last night it "rained," so that there was a fresh coolness over everything and it felt almost like another place. A place where it rains. The sky was heavy but pink, and running up through the hilly neighborhood to the north I could kind of feel everyone waking up around me, with the day just starting to get busy and me right in the middle. I passed the house where a couple of months ago there was a coyote standing in the driveway, as straight and proud as if she owned the place; her mate came by a few minutes later with a rabbit in his mouth. No coyote today.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Snarky shorthand

Confession: me and hubs, we have a little snarky shorthand way of describing certain undesirable states of being. For example, on the day Helen was born, as we were rushing from my work Christmas party to Silas's preschool music program to the hospital, he snapped, "I feel like the Fosters*!" (=too busy) Or, if I am trying (VAINLY) to make an argument for holding onto some piece of furniture/ wood/ promising raw material, he says, "I don't want to live like the Macks*!"
(=in a total junk heap)

To be fair (to US), this is judgment with some justification. The Fosters are not merely busy; they're the kind of busy that leads them to flake out on people who need them most (Mr Foster has been a total train wreck of a PhD advisor to a friend of ours, the kind of advisor who ignores, then micromanages, then drops the ball on submitting a grant request so that our friend has no funding). The Macks are the kind of people whose house is surrounded by piles of old broken bikes, scooters, cars, etc. The kind of people who took the deck off their second-floor kitchen to decrease the fuel load as a forest fire swept down on their house--ten YEARS ago. And still haven't replaced it. They just keep the sliding doors locked. All of which, actually, would be totally their own business and even charming if they weren't ALSO the kind of people who get pissy/ verbally ABUSIVE when their WIDOWED daughter-in-law refuses a request for money from their drug-addicted daughter (GOD. I could go ON). Anyway. We judge, but for a reason!

I kind of regret this habit of ours...although not enough to really CHANGE it, if you know what I mean. It's very effective at cementing the pair bond (we may be lazy loaf-abouts who prefer to spend a weekend drowsing in the sun and playing reluctantly with the kids instead of finally finishing the damn tiling in the bathroom--but at least we're not the Macks!) It also kind of serves to usefully categorize ourselves, and helps ward off useless envy: the Fosters may be a highly paid doctor and professor who vacation in France and have a humungous house--but GOD! Their life! It sucks! All that RUSHING AROUND!

It does make me wonder, of course, how we as a couple serve to define OTHER couples--like, MAN, we're lazy, but at least we're not the MELOSPIZAS. What weaknesses of ours would other people pick up on? Our general tendency to let the kids fend for themselves? Our (my) fanatical position on when exactly it is okay to use the car (which doesn't actually lead to the car being driven any less so much as it leads to lots of haranguing and grief when the car is being driven)? Our leaning, as a family, toward friendships that are easy (we aren't real go-getters in the friendship department, though we're totally happy when someone does want to hang out with us)?

In a totally unrelated update, I finished Anna Karenina! Spoiler alert: she dies. Also, you kind of want her to, by the end. Or at least I did, because I am a judgmental bitch. All that hysterical indecision of hers drove me nuts: if you're categorizing couples, and apparently we are, here, Hubs and I are definitely Levin and Kitty. Or I am Levin and Kitty. I'm not sure what Hubs is; I think he might be from a different book. Anyway, that was two and a half months of my life, very well spent.

*Not their real name. Duh.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How many posts can I write about spring?

Signs of spring:
  • Almost stepped on a snake during my run. This one actually sounds sort of Biblical curse-ish. But it made me happy.
  • Water-strider on the little creek we cross on the way home from school.
  • Ants!
  • Daffodils & pansies. And crocuses.
  • The sand cherries are flowering.
  • Pussy willows.
  • Singing birdies.
  • More ants! Everywhere! Swarming in our patio, our sidewalk, the wall behind the TV! Ack! I just keep sweeping them out of the house and reminding myself that they'll be done with this swarming thing in a few weeks (and until then, dear god, keep them away from the SUGAR).
Yesterday, all that seemed springlike were a few crocuses and the first sprouting leaves of weeds and tulips; today it seems like spring is EVERYWHERE. And I'm already getting weird hits of nostalgia for last summer, when everything around here was new (and sort of awful). I'm also, oddly, longing for it to be hot. Which, Self, enjoy that longing now. Because in two months you're going to be longing for COLD.

Hubs went into Si's class today to help with reading and to have lunch, and also to do a little reconnaissance scouting/ anthropological data-gathering: how's our little savage doing? Silas was very cool-cat about the whole thing except that he was pretty much glowing with excitement, like a little lightbulb.

Turns out the savage is doing fine, too. Hubs said the lunch line experience was a little too much like his own lunch line memories, though, complete with the lunch lady chewing everybody out for taking all the chef salads. "I overlook it in the kindies and the 1st graders, but you're in second grade! You should know better!"

Monday, March 16, 2009

St Patrick's Day's Volcano

Another lovely weekend.

I did this:

(attended the St. Patrick's Day parade, sans camera);


(some backyard archeology--I'm trying to resurrect the old sprinkler system);

and this:

a great hike up Waterton Canyon. Which Silas kept calling "cannon," as in "Helen, we're going into the cannon now! We're going to get blown up!" Which may have been why Helen kept screaming, "I want to go back to the car right now!" Brothers.

The hike was definitely the best part, though the parade was fun, too. Did you know that Denver has a club devoted solely to some form of antique military vehicle? Me neither. The kids' favorite float was the volcano, spouting real fire and also some sort of sour bile-type liquid that gave me the squeeves, put together by the large and extremely jovial Jimmy Buffet fan club.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Answer: harebell.

So, had that job interview today! *Siiigh.* It went okay, I guess, if you count replying, "ooh, this is a hard one," to the interview classic, "What drew you to this position?" as "okay." Grog. I need an interview coach, to videotape my interviews and give me point-by-point feedback. And then let me DO THE DAMN THING AGAIN.

Oh, well. It'll be nice if it works out; if not, unemployment has its benefits, too. Especially in the summer: vacations! gardening! home improvement projects! letting the kids have a real summer vacation, instead of endless "camp" that suspiciously mimics school.

In fact, as I lay last night fretting over the day to come (not so much the interview as the fact that I had to DRIVE, and then PARK IN THE CITY), what I was thinking about was where in the yard is the best place to put daylilies. Also: what about those half-pots that bolt into the wall for our slightly barren-seeming courtyard? Or clematis? Does the courtyard get enough sun for clematis?

I spent hours thinking about this. HOURS. I wish THAT had been a question in the interview--So, you're going to plant daylilies bordering the aspen trees out front. What's a good companion plant?

Answer: harebell. Licked that one.

Enjoy your week, homeys.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Uhh, Weekend AGAIN

Huh. It seems to be the weekend again. As in, TGIF, which, since I don't actually have a job that cuts out on weekends, I don't really feel the way I used to, you know?

I spent the day taking care of a sick Helen: lots of forehead-stroking, etc. And carrying her from one lying place to another. First the couch. Then the car, to take Brother to school. Then home and the couch. Then my bed (I am just REALLY BANKING on this illness being something I've ALREADY HAD. Because Damn. I DO NOT want to get sick again). Then car, then home, then bed, and back to couch. Now she's watching Garfield while Silas gets his computer time and I get MY computer time.

Speaking of jobs, I have an interview next week--face-to-face, no less. For a job that pays a whopping $13 bucks an hour, but hey: the job description includes hiking. And camping. And plant identification. This might just be a job I'd actually enjoy, in other words. Those tend to pay less. Not that there isn't the Kfucked playing in my ear, quiet but definitely audible: you can't afford a job that only pays $13 an hour. It's just another flunkey job, no advancement possibilities, no benefits, no nothing. How are you going to be able to do this over the summer with one kid out of school and one kid in part-time daycare? And finally, the biggest of all: you've never taken a field job with kids. How is this going to be possible?

And to all that, I can only say, well, let's wait and see. Maybe I won't get offered the job! Wouldn't THAT be lucky!?

Um. Yeah. So: happy weekend!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


It was an awesome weekend here in the Centennial State. I mean, it was for us. Si had Friday and Monday off, which to me usually means EEK. So I Took Steps and planned Activities.

The Schedule:

1. Friday: zoo. The weather was PERFECT, meaning slightly chilly. The animals were frisky, the crowds were light, AND we got to see the lions being fed, huge old chunks of cow thigh. So they told us, anyway. It seems to me if you were a serial killer, working for the large cat section of the zoo would provide a tremendous opportunity for getting rid of evidence. Just saying. I took the two kids AND a kid friend, which almost did me in by the end, there, but was nice overall for the under-tens.

2. Friday night: sleepover at grandma's house in Fort Collins. This was not, strictly speaking, an Activity. I mean, it was, but it didn't really have anything to do with the kids. She just needed us to haul a bunch of stuff to the dump.

3. Saturday: took advantage of being in our old town to invite Si's best friend over for a playdate, AND we looked up Helen's old preschool posse. These are the three girls she's been friends with since before she knew the word friend. They haven't seen each other since July, but when we all converged on the playground, it was like nothing had ever changed. At least to my hazy grownup eyes, standing in a corner chatting with the other grownups.

3. Saturday night: sleepover at cousin's house, sans US. Is this sounding like the best weekend ever or what? Best BEST thing: Hubs and I went out to dinner, with grownups, no kids, and then came home and had the house to ourselves for like, twelve whole hours. During which we slept, of course. Duh.

4. Sunday: Before being delivered to our house (I LOVE my SIL. She is the BEST), the kids went swimming. Then we had new/old friends over for dinner--the woman is an old friend-of-a-friend and colleague from our western Colorado days, but we'd never met her husband or her three kids. Two of these kids are matched in age and gender with ours, which is like COUPLE-FRIEND LOTTERY, as those of you with kids will know.

5. Took the kids to the cool park, the one with the two-story slide and the giant climbable hand sculpture, for like the sixth playdate of the weekend. After this we came home and essentially hibernated for the rest of the day. Except for requisite some time outside with the hose and the garden tools. I mean, it was 71 degrees. SPRING.