Monday, November 28, 2011

where have all the children (and leftovers) gone?

I'm having Thanksgiving withdrawal. The leftovers have pretty much all been eaten; there's one slice of pie left and some homemade cranberry sauce, but nothing else. I'm craving lantulaatikko, the Scandinavian rutabaga Christmas dish, and drunken beans (the way we do it, the green beans are cooked in Ketel One with lots of salt and pepper and an onion). These are things we eat only on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I want them NOW. Would it destroy their specialness if I made them for dinner tonight?

The children are back at their respective schools. Lola was shocked last night to hear of her imminent return to school; evidently she imagined she was off until Christmas. It's lonely with only my weird little African grey parrot, who mixed up her normal cawing like crows, meowing like cats, and constant shouting of "Step up!" (her one tried-and-true English phrase) with a perfectly-enunciated "Whatever!" this morning. Her "whatever!" was delightfully dismissive, obviously modeled after cynical tween Iris uber Alles, and I wished Iris and Lola had been here to hear it.

This fall I've been on a health kick, eating lightly and exercising heavily. The heavy exercise fell by the wayside the week before Thanksgiving, which was the second week I had the flu. The first week of the flu, I insisted on working out every single time I felt halfway decent, but I noticed that the next day I'd be feverish and miserable again. The second week, I decided to try rest. It's not clear whether either of those strategies helped, keeping fit or resting, but eventually the flu faded away, leaving me free to return to my rigorous exercise schedule, but my healthy eating regime was felled by the Thanksgiving fabulosity and a round of parties.

So how healthy was my Thanksgiving?

Slices of pie eaten: only 2, but each with lots of fresh whipped cream

Exercise over Thanksgiving weekend: strong, hard workouts on 3 days; milder exercise one other day (we took the children on a hike up Mt. Davidson. Iris complained strenuously all the way. "This is unfair!" she shouted, while I thought to myself, "What is unfair is that I am trying to drag my hangover up this steep hill and I have to listen to yer friggin' whining all the way"). One day of absolutely no exercise (Thanksgiving itself).

Cocktail parties attended: two

Hangovers: two (but one was so mild as to be barely noticeable)

Black Friday shopping done: NONE! YES! I hate crowds and crazed commercialism!

Number of pomegranate margaritas drunk on Thanksgiving Day itself: unclear, but definitely more than my share of the pitcher.

Days of overeating: two, but it could have been a lot worse.

I'm afraid to weigh myself. I lost thirty pounds this fall, and it's going to devastate me if much of it sneaked back on. Sigh. It's good for my healthy regime to have Thanksgiving over, but there's no denying that it was delightful and no one really wanted it to end. Even the children got along for the most part, except for one terrible evening when a convenience store owner gave Lola a free Toblerone because she is so damn cute. Sibling rivalry caused horrible, heartfelt tears to flow as some children never get Toblerones from strangers due to cuteness, and the tears weren't even eased by the kindness of the cute child generously turning over a full half of the Toblerone to the unchocolated sibling.

Onward, towards Christmas.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

our Thanksgiving

This was the best Thanksgiving meal I've ever cooked. It wasn't the most elaborate. That will probably always be the year I made curried risotto in little pumpkins. That required using a power drill to hack open the stubborn little pumpkins (thus I learned that jack-o'lantern pumpkins are very different from pumpkins sold for eating), which we cleaned and rubbed with butter and garlic and then baked in stages, as we couldn't fit many in our oven at once. That same Thanksgiving I made celebrity chef Hubert Keller's vegetarian faux caviar, served in eggshells, which meant, before even starting to make the faux caviar, painstakingly blowing out and cleaning eggs. I served those caviar eggs in an egg carton I'd spray-painted chrome. There were also multiple desserts and side dishes, but primarily what I remember is those damn pumpkins.

So why was this one the best? Because it was a wonderful festive meal, but it was effortless to make. Of course, my darling Aga was a big part of it: I used all three ovens. The Aga was the key to the success of the one fussy thing I made, a mustard-onion monkey bread which tends to burn on the top before the bottom is done even if you put tinfoil over the top. Now that I have a fancy European range, I can cook monkey bread in an oven heated only from below, and the result is perfection.

Our menu:

Lantulaatikko (rutabaga pudding)
Tofurky (haters gotta hate, but we love it) with roasted vegetables
Garlic mashed potatoes
Green beans cooked in Ketel One
Monkey bread
Homemade cranberry sauce

Pomegranate margaritas and Martinelli sparkling cider

Cranberry-raisin pie with fresh whipped cream

My only regret? I went to the trouble last year of saving my Tofurky feast box all damn year long and taking it to Burning Man and having it photographed by the Man in all his neon-lit glory. Why did I do that? Because the Tofurky box always has pictures of people who took the box on their vacation, and those pictures are always lame. I thought a Burning Man photo would be sure to make it on the box. AND MY FRIENDS WHO TOOK THE PICTURE NEVER SENT IT TO ME. I love all my Burning Man friends with a passion, adore them, but you cannot rely upon them to send you yer photo of the Tofurky box in front of the Man. And thus we had a bitter moment, the children and I, looking at the dull and annoying pictures of other people taking their Tofurky boxes on their vacations when it should have displayed OUR tofurky box which went to Burning Man. I bitterly drank my pomegranate margarita and turned back to tend the monkey bread as the children ridiculed the pictures which did get on the box.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

well, we got that over

I hate my birthday, and this year I had a new, proactive approach to my annual funk: hold a cocktail party which would force me to spend days preparing, rather than lying around sobbing in the throes of a deep depression. Out of my birthday phobia, I didn't tell anyone I invited it was my birthday.

This actually worked, for the most part. I slaved over my beloved Aga and made a huge mountain of food, expecting to have days of leftovers, but a swarm of friends and neighbors descended upon us and ate everything, except for the last of the homemade caramelized onion dip and homemade salsa, only because both the potato chips and tortilla chips ran out. The children joined in very kindly, calling themselves "Chubby's Catering Service" and making two kinds of cookies. I objected to the name, saying everyone would assume that it was a slam on my weight, but the children asserted that it referred only to the generous size of their cookies and gratuitously flattered me with compliments to my size and shape.

The poor Sober Husband, still recovering from the debacle of giving me soup bowls for our anniversary, gave me an AC/DC cd (win!), necklace shaped like a caffeine molecule (also a win! but I still want the LSD molecule necklace), and ... a pair of slippers which turned out to be lined with real fur. From real dead lambs. This was a difficult moment, as I truly did not want to return to the awkwardness of us fighting over a well-intentioned gift. I tried to make nice facial expressions while the poor mortified Sober Husband swept the slippers away and vowed to return them.

At our cocktail party, I had so much fun I did that horribly obnoxious thing I haven't done since I was in college, making people prod my gym-toned muscles. "Look! Feel my quads!" I commanded. "What is a 'quad'?" asked an old Burning Man friend.

Finally the birthday was over. Next year I may need to deploy this same strategy again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

annual funk

I really, really hate my birthday. It triggers an annual depression, stemming from a lot of things in my early life.

This year I've been largely successful at minimizing the depression by distracting myself as much as possible, but here the day is, and all I want to do is curl up in a dark corner and cry. Can't wait until the day is over.

Friday, November 11, 2011

the anniversary debacle

This week the Sober Husband and I reached another milestone, our 13th wedding anniversary. I like the number 13 and it felt auspicious. Additionally, we've been getting along like gangbusters lately. My solo trip to Burning Man really sparked up our already-lively marriage, and overall the fall has been well-nigh unbearable for nearby onlookers, with the two of us likely to break out in a display of public affection at any moment. So you would expect this anniversary to have been pretty damn delightful.

The first problem came when I took Iris for a flu shot at the flu clinic so conveniently held at her school. I needed to drive down the peninsula and pick her up early that same day to take her to the upscale girl-boy dance classes she wanted to take and now bitches bitterly about, so nipping in for a flu shot was a no-brainer since I'd be on campus already. By bedtime, I was feverish, with an aching head and aching joints. By the next morning, I was miserably ill. A week later, I'm still feverish and achy and miserable.

The Sober Husband is handsome, brilliant, funny, brave, resourceful, industrious, and generous. However, he completely sucks as a caretaker for a grown-up (or at least for me). If I'm sick, he'll dote on the children, making them dinner every night (their choice: Ramen or spaghetti with Ragu sauce), but it does not occur to him that I might want a meal as well. Similarly it does not occur to him to buy anything for me to eat, although he will nip out to the store to get supplies for chocolate milk, Ramen, and spaghetti for the children. While I've had this miserable flu, I've survived off popcorn and lost five pounds.

As one can imagine, being hungry and tired of eating popcorn makes a sick person crabby. By the time our anniversary rolled around, I was in a foul mood. Meanwhile the Sober Husband had a crisis: he keeps a folder of gift ideas for me, and he left it on Caltrain. So, at the very last minute, without any ideas (and without asking me for any), he picked up some beige soup bowls at Pottery Barn as my anniversary present. Meanwhile I'd gotten him something way back in September, which I'd kept hidden.

The bowls irked me. They seemed to be sending me a message: "get in the kitchen and make me some soup." That wasn't a stretch, because I'd made a big pot of a very fussy, pain-in-the-ass-to-make soup a couple of times recently, and the Sober Husband wasn't shy about complaining that there hadn't been enough of it. The first batch I made for a friend who was conducting a deathbed vigil for a dying parent, and I kept out just a bowl's worth for my husband. He complained plentifully about not getting enough of this magical soup, and my response was, "You want me to go down there and take it back from the death vigil house? No way!" The second batch I made after hearing plenty of complaining that there hadn't been enough of the first batch. When I looked at the gift bowls, they seemed to be screaming, "Get outta yer sickbed and start roasting those four different kinds of peppers", and they annoyed me.

My reaction, which I tried to mute, pissed even me off. It led me into a spiral of shame and guilt. "What kind of a horrible person can't accept a gift gracefully?" I pondered. "God, I suck." I apologized to the Sober Husband for not being a more gracious recipient, but he was still upset that I hadn't liked his gift.

He ran out and got me a small bouquet of flowers as an afterthought, to compensate for those bowls, but the drama wasn't over. We scheduled a date night to celebrate, a couple's massage at the Nob Hill Spa, and I cancelled. I was running a fever, and I felt really horrible. On top of feeling awful, I felt it was inappropriate to expose a massage therapist to my germs. The Sober Husband was disappointed and leaned on me to go anyway, which made me feel guilty. We had to pay even though we didn't go due to the Nob Hill Spa's strict cancellation policy. This waste of money made me feel extra terrible.

Then, on top of that, a new level of hell broke out: I asked the Sober Husband if he had another gift for me, because I wanted to know whether to give him the second gift I had for him or not. He got quite angry, because of course he didn't have a damn thing and was still secretly pissed I hadn't liked the bowls. At this point, he said I'd done "emotional violence" to him over the bowls (I really tried to accept them nicely, and I apologized for being unenthusiastic). To make a point to me, he left work early, returned the bowls, and gave me a $600 handcrafted necklace I'd admired before, even though I'd said on the phone, "Don't spend that much. We can't afford it right now."

Of course I can't keep the $600 necklace; it's not in our budget this month (especially since we're paying for those expensive massages we didn't get), and I would never enjoy wearing it. It would forever remind me of my selfishness, inability to accept those stupid soup bowls, and profligacy. And, as Lola and Iris said, "It looks a lot like that other necklace you have." It's not that different from other pieces I already own. So it's turned into a pesky, unpleasant errand, returning the duplicative necklace.

Meanwhile the Sober Husband LOVED one of the presents I gave him (although he rejected the other one as "too scary"). "It's perfect!" he exclaimed, and he wasn't exaggerating. I knew months ago what to get him. "But you ended up without a gift," he said, "and your birthday is coming up. I can't get you a gift for your birthday. I can't." My displeasure with the damn bowls (which I explained weren't a present for me, they were a present for the people who'd be using them to eat soup they wanted me to make them) has given him a present-giving block.

It's a wonder two people, who are still very much in love after thirteen years of marriage, two children, and several mortgages can have such a horrible anniversary. Given that my birthday is traditionally a day of great unhappiness and depression, I can hardly wait for it, especially now I know that my husband plans on getting nothing for me.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

you may find this hard to believe

I quit playing Warcraft, and I've been exercising like a fiend.

No, really. Not joking. I may even change the ancient description at the top of this blog, where it says I don't get enough exercise.

What happened? First, my raid team, which had seemed like a solid group of mature players with good sense of humor, fell apart in a sudden onset of drama. Without a raid team, there didn't seem much point in grinding away on my main character, making money and running the daily dungeons. After all, I'd been playing Warcraft for something like four years, usually for several hours a day. At some point, it's time to take a break.

Sadly I miss it. I've come close to logging back in many times. And I don't have a replacement hobby or game. So what have I been doing to fill my time? Working out and talking to my husband, who says, "You're much more interactive as a wife now that you don't play Warcraft."

Iris, nosily reading over my shoulder as I write, says "Put in there that EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED. Because I have a new school, and I'm learning the trombone." She's also learning Japanese now and has taken a very superior attitude to her little sister, once shaming her by saying, "You don't even know how to label the axes on a linear graph! You can't graph!"

Meanwhile the Sober Husband and little Lola continue the same as ever, except that Lola's school has adopted a new practice of "mindfulness." The children must meditate and write in a "mindfulness journal", drawing pictures of themselves "being mindful", and Iris views it all with suspicion. "She's being taken into a cult!" Lola hates mindfulness, hates it with a passion, but Iris still worries.