If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas 2009: A Photo Essay

I've been living up to my promise and taking time off this week. While this is good in many ways, it has put me way behind on blog posts. I figured I'd better complete the Christmas post before New Year's actually arrives.

No-Knead Bread

Christmas Eve Day at the House of Dirt and Rocks is all about the baking. I tried another loaf of the No-Knead Bread, this time on a pizza stone. There is still room for improvement but luckily Santa brought me The Book the next day.

I had to interrupt my normal baking schedule to go and meet Pumpkin in the middle of the day. Although she was coming over for Christmas dinner she wanted to give me my present early and privately. She told me it was something she had made by hand and that she was aiming to make me cry. She succeeded.

Activity Passport

Last year, when we did a community project for mothers and daughters, we had developed Activity Passports (coupons for activities mothers and daughters could do together) for our participants. Pumpkin designed the activity passports and made each one individually ('cause she's crafty that way). Each passport had approximately 10 coupon-sized activities and stickers for the participants to mark which ones they completed. Pumpkin's gift to me was a scrapbook-sized passport filled with activities we can do together even though she is moving 3 hours away. The passport needs to travel with me when I go and visit her.

The Rolling of The Cinnamon Buns

Note Delicious Shrimp Cocktail and Cheese Platter

More important than the bread is the baking of the cinnamon buns. This is an all day affair, as it takes a minimum of 8 hours. What you are seeing here is the end phase, which occurred at the same time b was serving appetizers.

Scallop Prep

Lobster Tail Prep

Seafood Grill

While I was busy baking, b was busy cooking up Christmas Eve dinner. We opted for surf & turf this year. Somehow we are sans pictures of the turf but the surf included grilled scallops and lobster tails. Quite yummy.

Mostly Empty Tree

Full Tree

In previous years I've been a stickler for not putting presents under the tree until right before bedtime. This rule was born of necessity since up until Angel turned 18, he had a difficult time containing himself in front of a tree full of presents. This year we let them pile up throughout the day.

Champagne Cocktail for b; Mimosas for Angel and I

Christmas morning starts with stockings in bed. No one was awake enough to think of photos. We quickly moved on to champagne and opening presents under the tree.

Angel's Lettered Chest

There were many fine presents this year. For Angel it was a bit of a Pi Kappa Phi Christmas, including two lettered shirts that I sewed myself. (Actually I must confess that Pumpkin came over to show me how and even sewed the tricky Phi). Angel got me this amazing book of dragon-related short stories. Not only is there one by Jane Yolen but I am discovering many new fantasy writers that I adore. I also got a new digital camera from b that will hopefully translate into more photos on the blog. b thought the hit of the day was a little laser cat toy. Much of the day was spent watching The Brute chase a red dot. b claims it is like having a remote-controlled cat.

After all the gifts were opened it was time for the unveiling of the cinnamon buns. They did not disappoint.
The Glory That Is Cinnamon Buns

The buns were just the beginning of the day's eating festivities. Pumpkin did come over to dinner, which was a huge hit, but unfortunately between the champagne and the wine and the general merriment, photos were once again forgotten.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Belated Blogiversary

It seems that as of yesterday, I've been blogging for two years. To celebrate I've posted the first line of the first post for each month in 2009. Where appropriate, I've included updates.

Fresh Start: I'm not a huge fan of New Year's Eve (although we had a lot of fun this year with Pumpkin and her friends) but I do enjoy New Year's Day.

Update: In this post I discuss my decision to delve further into vegetarianism. I made it almost the entire year and learned to cook many new dishes. However for the past week I've been experimenting with meats I haven't eaten in over a decade. I'm not sure where I'll ultimately end up but am enjoying the process.

Going Home: b and I went UpNorth this weekend to vist our HomeCity.

Update: The visit was made to continue a Superbowl tradition for b and his friends. It seems that was the last year for the tradition.

No Worries...: ...I'm not about to stop blogging just yet.

Update: It seems I didn't.

Twitter Attempts: I want to be able to twitter.

Update: I do have a twitter account but rarely update. Same with FB. I do follow a few of you but I'm just not good with brevity.

Coherent Blog Post: I haven't had a coherent blog post in a while.

Update: Being coherent is over-rated.

In The Interlude: Probably the most helpful lesson I've learned since coming to SouthLite is how to write in the interludes.

Update: I continue to write in the interludes but in the post I was trying to exercise there as well. That has not happened.

Great Pacific Northwest Vacation: Part I: We are back from the Great Pacific Northwest Vacation (GPNV) and I am very slowly immersing myself back into the regular world.

Update: I became completely immersed. This year we hope to go to Alaska.

Pumpkin Turns 21: Today is Pumpkin's birthday.

Update: Pumpkin is moving away next week. She gave me the most amazing Christmas gift to ensure that we stay close.

Random Observations....: ....from the second week into the semester.

Update: The semester ended. Nothing changed.

Survived Another Thursday: Thursdays are my killer days this semester.

Update: I live.

InaDWriMo 2009 Begins: InaDWriMo 2009 begins today and I haven't written a single word.

Update: I eventually managed to write but did not reach my word count goal. I did, however, finish my chapter on time.

The Bloggy-Blahs: I have momentarily lost my will to blog.

Update: Have recovered my will but am blogging very slowly.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Making Space

I wrote earlier that I was trying to slow down--from work and internet distractions--during this break. I want to give that other side of my brain a chance to emerge. Tapping into my creative mind takes a lot of mental space for me, space I don't normally allow myself. I am, by nature, pro-active and list-driven. I like to accomplish things simply for the sake of having accomplished them. It takes a fairly odious task to make me procrastinate. This trait has made me successful in any job I've had but, alas, creativity doesn't work on a timeline.

My more creative thoughts have come in the off moments and most of my creative writing has emerged either (a) on vacation or (b) under emotional duress (when I'm literally too upset to accomplish tasks). Once I spent several months waking up an hour early to write fiction. This worked well except it made it harder for me to accomplish my academic writing later in the day. I've always found it difficult reconciling what feels like my two writing brains.

So far I've managed to avoid most work-related tasks but find myself filling my days checking off lists of holiday preparation items. Today is devoted to baking, cleaning and wrapping presents. Tomorrow there will be more baking but also enjoying Angel and b's company. My daily lists are growing smaller and smaller as the week progresses and I'm trying to insert large blocks of unscheduled time.

I feel it shouldn't be this hard but for me it is. It seems I'm a doer who wants to be a dreamer.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's A Wonderful Date

b and I have an annual Christmas date. It involves pizza, red wine and one of our favorite holiday movies. In our early dating days, when we were still living in the City of Bagels and Pizza, we would order from our favorite corner pizzeria and eat in b's living room in front of his teeny tiny tv. Back in those days the date had to be carefully coordinated to coincide with the one or two times the movie was being shown on network tv. Back in those days I was still able to drink red wine.

Yesterday b got the brilliant idea of coordinating the date with an actual snowstorm that was threatening to hit SouthLite. Luckily I had already procured the movie through NetFlix and we were simply waiting for the right opportunity. b had to work, so I stayed home and made the pizza while watching the snow fall. b brought home his favorite red and my favorite white and we broke out the new wineglasses I had conveniently purchased last week (we are a little particular about our glassware).

It was a perfectly wonderful date.

One of my favorite scenes:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trying It Slow(er)

I'm trying to slow down for the holidays. I worked at such breakneck speed all semester that I'm ending it in pretty good shape. Classes are done and graded with nary a complaint from a student. I have 1 formal meeting tomorrow and then 2 informal meetings (with students over coffee) left for this week. I also have 2 article reviews to complete. However there is nothing but a doula-related meeting on the agenda for next week.

Holiday shopping is also just about done except for last minute stocking stuffers. b and I will, of course, have some extensive food shopping next week. The house is even relatively clean and the tree is up and decorated.

[Pupzilla did not appreciate her new Santa hat and tried to eat it several times throughout the tree-trimming].

My normal inclination would be to pick up a new research project or a paper that's been sitting on the back burner but I'm trying not to do that. I have picked back up a crocheting project that has been sitting undisturbed for over a year and doing a little bit each night before I go to sleep.

I haven't felt like reading much lately, which is very strange for me. I'm hoping that passes quickly. Part of trying to slow down has meant not having the computer open in front of me every waking moment. I'd like the slow down to results in my brain shifting gears and allowing more creative thoughts back in.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

RBOC: Update Edition

  • Work for the next two weeks will consist of nothing but meetings, reviews and grading. Ugh!
  • My department is beginning an assessment of our doctoral program. We have not yet reached the 5-year mark with the program but have noticed several ideas from our initial proposal have not panned out the way we expected. Mid-course corrections are important and good but it's getting hard to stay committed to the process as the semester rolls to a close.
  • The potential third piece of family bad news did not come to fruition. We are all relieved.
  • Unfortunately that doesn't take away from the crapification of the other pieces of news.
  • Most of the trouble has resolved around finances and employment. The majority of my family can be classified as the "hidden unemployed."
  • Hidden unemployment has been discussed as a indicator of the nation's financial health but I haven't found as much discussion on the lack of resources available to the individuals themselves. When an entire family is hit social capital is destroyed.
  • We had a wonderful time with Angel on his birthday.
  • Last night we bought our Christmas tree. It is a particularly lovely one this year. I'm hoping Angel can come up next week to help decorate.
  • Pumpkin has been accepted to graduate school for the spring semester. She'll be moving to a neighboring state on January 2nd. We are very excited for her.
  • While cleaning up some files I realized I have 12 manuscripts under review. This may be some kind of record for me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Twenty Years Later

Today is Angel's birthday. b and I are driving down to his school to take him out to dinner. I know at his age it is next year--the coveted 21--that matters, but for me there is something poignant about reaching the two decade mark.

Here's a poem I wrote a very long time ago, when I was already feeling he was getting so grown and wanted to capture some of the moments of his earliest years.


I remember your first practical joke.
You told me to get up and then
you took my seat

and laughed.

I remember you fell out of your chair
I didn't strap you in.
You only fell a few inches
you hit your head and
the floor was wood and
you cried and
I felt so bad
I knew it was a bad idea.

But I did it anyway.

I remember the time
I told you to bring me the toy and you
went to the other room
and got it.

I remember the first time I took you on
the subway and you fell asleep and
the train felt
too loud and
too dirty and
too dangerous and
you were so small
and I was afraid.

I remember bringing you into bed and
you would curl up with your head
under my chin and
the rest of you
between my arms,
your feet tucked tight into my chest.

I'd smell your little bald head and
drift into sleep.
But I'd wake up with
the bed and
my shirt and
soaked through
with pee and
milk and
needed to be changed.

And then I'd do it again.

I remember walking into the living room
and seeing you sitting on the couch
by yourself
like it was your house and
your couch

and it was.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Year

I don't usually like to blame an entire year. I'm normally a fairly positive person and I'm not at all superstitious. My philosophical stance leans more to chaos than fate. However 2009 has NOT been a good year for my family and even I must admit there is something very suspicious going on in the karma department.

We are only a few days into the final month of this horrific year and I've just learned of 2 (potentially 3) additional pieces of bad news that affects my loved ones. By bad news I mean the difficult-to-breathe, keep-you-up-late-at-night-worrying kind of trouble as well as the kind of news that vaporizes all your dreams and aspirations and makes you realize everything you've worked so hard and so long for is nil.

Dare we dream for 2010?

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Bloggy-Blahs

I have momentarily lost my will to blog. I'm hoping the act of writing this post will get my bloggy juices flowing (yeah--that just doesn't sound right, does it?) again.

Its not that I don't have a ton of things to write. Quite the contrary, I have a back-log of blog posts on the usual topics: doula-training, end-of-semester shenanigans, InaDWriMo wrap-up, Angel, Pumpkin, and even one about a cool international food market we recently found.

I also can't claim that it is a lack of time that keeps me from posting. Although it is the end of the semester and everyone else is running around like a headless chicken, I'm actually sitting pretty.

No, unfortunately it is just a case of the old-fashioned bloggy-blahs. Like any other malady, it may just need to work it's way through my system.