Thursday, April 29, 2010

No, Chest Press Lady...YOU saved ME

Long ago, I used to work as an admin for a community newspaper mostly owned by a longtime alderman. This was pretty much my first job (not counting a two-week stint at a retirement home when I was 17 that mostly just served to instill a deep fear of aging in me.) When I started, there was a staff of three others: the managing editor, Jim; Karen, the office manager/bookkeeper; and Sharon, a salesperson.

At the risk of sounding mean, Sharon was not what one would call attractive in any respect. She was short, stubby, and reminded me a lot of those troll dolls, albeit an albino one. Her appearance was an unfortunate combination with her personality, which was sort of cheerfully aggressive, manifesting in non-recognition of personal space, painful side-hugging, literal cornering to talk, but she seemed to have no understanding that she was so grating. Basically she was a short female version of Mongo crossed with a used car salesman. Worst of all was her laugh. It was a lot like Beavis', but more of a rat-a-tat-tat, and I heard a lot of it because her long, boring stories were frequently punctuated with her laugh, and always began with "you won't believe this." As in: "You won't believe this. I went to go see Orv's Pizza. snort. heh heh. heh. And, get this, he pretended he didn't see me. heh. heh heh. snort. He locked the door while I was standing right there. heh." Anyway, one day her you-won't-believe-this story was eminently believeable. She regaled me with the tale of lonely weightlifting at the Y. "Erica. You won't believe this. I went to the gym at the Y over lunch. heh. And I went over to the free weights. heh heh. snort. But. snort. No one would spot me. heh heh. heh. snort. No one ever spots me. Not even if I ask. snort. They all spot each other. heh heh. But I try to talk to them. heh. And they just walk away." I was 18, 19. I didn't need to go to the gym then, so I didn't completely comprehend then how difficult it would be in a gym environment to not notice someone needing a spot, much less ignoring someone asking you to spot them. But I did get that the story, no matter how cheerfully-in-a-sad-clown-way it was told, was profoundly depressing.  Let's face it: if Sharon had had the same personality in a prettier package, the situation would have been very different.

Today, I saw an average-looking lady at the gym. Mid-30s, frumpy gym clothes, stringy ponytail. Me, more or less. And as I was on the back extension machine and watching the Cubs game, I saw her look forlornly at the free weights, touch them, walk around them. She sat down, leaned back, looked around, sat up, looked around, stood up. So I asked, "Need a spot?" She smiled and said, "Ohgodyes...thanks. I was afraid I would crush my own throat." She did a few chest presses, we shared a laugh and rolleyes at a meathead grunting/farting his way through a set of squats, and we went our separate sweaty ways.

I do not want any social interaction at the gym. Really, I don't. I'm just there to hate my way through a lunch hour, you know? All the fucking spiky-haired dbags who bob their empty heads like chickens at the oonst oonst oonst music that's playing, all the impossibly tiny post-teens in full makeup and coiffed hair daintily traipsing on the treadmill, all the hypertanned Lincolnwood moms aspiring to be Lake Forest moms who yak on their cells as they perch on whatever machine it is I would like to be loathing for them fuels me through 40 minutes of hateful exercise. I hadn't even noticed all the normal, average people that are there hating them alongside me until today. It makes me feel good to know that I am not alone in my impotent dislike, and I have Chest Press Lady to thank for that. Thank you, Chest Press Lady.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Went past the Home Depot, and the kid selling candy was there again. It just now occurs to me that yesterday, around the same time, he probably should have been in school, if he is in fact a kid. I wonder if I am stupid.

It satisfies.

I kept an eye out yesterday, I really did. I was hoping, I suppose, that a little old lady would fall down and I could help her up, or maybe the woman at the gym who always seems drunk might choke on her own vomit in the locker room and I could swoop in with the Heimlich. I considered whether thinking charitable thoughts would qualify, but with all the road construction going on let's just say my thoughts weren't exactly of the Mother Theresa variety. I knew I wouldn't be going anywhere for the evening once I got home, so that left me with the relatively lame possibilities of donating money online to this or that charity or giving something away somehow. Actually, now that I think about it I did finally drop a big bag of clothes Hannah had outgrown into a donation bin. But really, I was doing myself a favor then, getting that damned bag out of my car -- it'd been in the backseat for about a month.

Anyway, knowing that I wouldn't have much overt opportunity for charity once I got home, after lunch I drove past Home Depot where a kid was selling candy for his baseball team. I bought two Snickers bars from him and then bought him a Coke from the hot dog stand. He was a little confused by the whole thing, truth be told, but when it was clear I wasn't trying to rob or kidnap him he thanked me quite sweetly. If every time I try to open my heart to the world, a Snickers bar finds its way into my belly, I might be more encouraged to...well, what? Buy more candy, I suppose.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Week 17: It starts at home. And ends, sometimes, on the corner of Peterson and Kimball.

A little housecleaning before moving onto Week 17 -- there are two recipes unaccounted for from last week.

Friday night was pizza night, as is our family convention. My plan was to use a couple of bags of whole-wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's that I had, but I guess I had them longer than I thought, because they were...kinda gross. Unless pizza dough is supposed to be speckled with what looks like barnacles. So I tossed them and sought out a quick recipe for pizza dough -- no time for a leisurely rise, know what I'm saying? Eating was necessary within the hour or heads were going to roll. I found this quick dough recipe on, but was skeptical that you can just knock all that stuff together and come up with a nice crust. After reading some of the reviews -- occasionally, the people who review a recipe online actually make it the way the recipe prescribes, instead of completely changing/ignoring the recipe and reviewing it based on their totally different dish, and then suggest useful adjustments or improvements -- I let the yeast mixture proof for a bit while I prepped the toppings for the pizza. I wound up having time to let the bread go with the dough hook and then even rise a bit while I finished caramelizing some onions. So, it was more of a half-ass job with the dough than a no-ass job, but it felt good and smelled good, so I went with it.
I made four different types of pizza. There a whole pepperoni for AJ, who can be a real bite in the ass when it comes to pizza. There was a whole fig, caramelized onion, and goat cheese, which I'd had a version of at a girls' night not long ago and knew Peter would love. And, one more pizza that was half potatoes, leeks, bacon, and goat and mozzarella cheese -- the other half was artichoke, tomato, olive, roasted garlic, mozzarella and parmesan. The only one of the three "new" pizzas was anything I'd truly never tried was the potato-leek one, but I'd never made the other two types either. (Mark, I'd bought the ingredients for a queso fundido pizza, but then decided that I would rather just have queso fundido, because why mess with perfection?) Peter and I were the only ones who ate the non-pepperoni ones, but we both liked them quite a bit -- I was surprised at how tasty the potato leek number was. Pizza, to me, is tomato sauce and cheese, so it was difficult to think of it as a pizza, but whatever it is in my head it is also very tasty, and came together fast. I think it'd be a nice option for an evening when Peter and I are spending date night at home. All of them would be, in fact.
And then Saturday night. I decided to stay in with the kids since I had a full day of fundraising ahead of me on Sunday, while Peter headed out to a poker tournament and later a party. I'd kind of forgotten about my challenge -- I had initially planned on trying a new sandwich recipe for lunch, and then that got away from me. I started getting bellyrumbles late in the afternoon and, having no desire to go the grocery store, I rooted around in the fridge to find a small amount of ground beef, some egg buns, and the chorizo I had just bought the day before. So, I gave chorizo burgers a throw, topped caramelized onions and goat cheese. The beef and chorizo didn't really want to stick together (hmm, is that analagous to anything?) and kind of fell apart in chunks on the grill, so if I did it again I'd probably run the two meats through a food processor first before forming the patties. I wish I'd put more onions and cheese on mine, too. But they were good, if a little unexciting.
Sunday was a long, long day. Peter is the titular fundraising chair of the baseball league AJ used to play in (but hasn't for two years) with the understanding that he would go to the meetings and I would do most of the actual work. (He'd always wanted to be a figurehead.) This works fine for me, as the meetings were really the toughest part of the job for me when I was fundraising chair -- the actual work can be done more or less on my schedule, where the meetings can't. Anyway, yesterday was the second annual mixer/auction fundraiser -- we piloted the event last year to great success and thus decided to do it a second time. The event was just as successful this year as last, I'm happy to report, and as both a baseball nerd and a parent who strongly advocates for youth sports, I feel good that I can play a role in funding a worthwhile enterprise.
In general, I will help out when asked. I figure I'm pretty shitty at managing my time anyway, so why not add more to the mix? We were sort of recruited for this board, in fact, by someone who will remain nameless but whose name may or may not be used as a curse word in our home as a result. But working for fundraising at work, although tangentially, and at home, has gotten me thinking about how many small charitable entreaties I pass up in my day-to-day life. I ignore most panhandlers -- including those horrible eco-panhandlers, as a friend smartly put it, that used to stalk in front of my building when I worked downtown. (The Save the Children guy shouted after me one day, "A child is dying right now of hunger, and you won't help because you have to talk to your husband?!" Fuck off, dreadlocks, and shove your sanctimony up your scrawny vegan ass.) I don't generally buy candy or Streetwise or whatever from guys on the street, not out of any enmity but because I'm just not interested in what they're selling. Like the guys who sell water bottles on street corners -- they might be enterprising but they're not getting my cash because I try not to drink bottled water.
I admit that there's also an element of discomfort when it comes to panhandlers in particular. They're, well, disturbing and sad. I don't know what's worse -- when panhandler scoffs at the offer of the 75 cents I have in my pocket (I really don't carry much cash at all), or when they ogle my boobs, or rant and froth about crazy shit, or when they're terrifyingly grateful for my pocket change. It's all very sad, and it's mentally much easier to walk on by.
Fortunately, panhandlers are not the only people you can do charitable things for, and charity isn't only about money. (Discussing this with Peter last night, he suggested what I had already been considering -- doing a charitable thing every day. I asked if he meant, like, fucking an ugly guy. He didn't. THANK GOD. I don't have that kind of time.) And it takes a certain open frame of mind, I'm finding, to look around for opportunities to help people, even in small ways. I know that the times strangers have helped me out, even when it's just holding a door when I'm loaded down with bags and babies, have honestly and instantly made me feel better about life. I think I'm a pretty nice person, all things considered, and am as kind and polite to strangers as I can be most days. But I don't go around actively seeking ways to help strangers. So, what happens if I do?
Well, I don't know yet, but Sunday, I goaded upper-middle-class families into buying gift cards and signed baseballs. I felt pretty accomplished, I'll be honest, at the end of the event. Today, I bought five lollipops from a guy who sells them on a street corner near work and he was absurdly grateful. And, I helped an elderly lady load her grocery bags full of bran cereal and prunes into her into her ancient Chevy today at Dominick's. Small things to be sure. But, I felt good about it. I even feel good thinking about it now. Is that selfish?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Stuff it...with sausage

I might be a little hosed for tomorrow, it just now occurs to me. Friday is traditionally pizza (or takeout) night in our household, and AJ would certainly protest if we didn't have pizza. Sometimes I make pan pizza at home on Fridays, though; maybe I'll make one experimental pan to fulfill the challenge and one of pepperoni to fulfill the AJ.

Anyway. Like I said, last night I noted that for the second day in a row that AJ didn't seem to eat much, so I wanted to make sure that today's dinner was something he would eat. Not that he's at risk of wasting away or anything, but I just hate seeing food thrown away. I really didn't want to go to the grocery store today, so I did a little scavenging in my freezer. Turns out I had two links of Italian sausage, so I searched on for something that used chicken breasts and Italian sausage, and came up with this fancily-named sausage-and-cheese stuffed chicken, Poulet a la Saucisse. I mean, it's not like, revolutionary or anything, but it was something I hadn't tried before.

And it was pretty good. AJ ate it all, as did Peter and my mom. It was awfully rich -- two kinds of cheese will do that, I guess -- so I feel like it could have used a little acid, maybe a little lemon zest or something. The side of whole-wheat rotini with roasted tomatoes helped offset the richness some -- the tomatoes might have worked better as a topping for the chicken, actually. A little tweaking and it'll make it onto my permanent roster, I think, which is all a chicken breast could hope for, really.

So now back to the issue of pizza. I have tried pretty much every kind of pizza topping combination there is, I would think, at this point. I have eaten a lot of pizza. The only thing I haven't tried is anchovies, and as a person who doesn't really care for fishy fish (I've tried gefilte fish, so I know) that's not a path I'm interested in treading. Any thoughts for imaginative toppings I can try?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

But of course

I had this flank steak burning a hole in my fridge today, and beef sounded like a good bet, so I decided to give steak au poivre a shot. I know that it's traditionally made with beef tenderloin, but I'll be damned if I'm going to ruin $10/lb meat with a first pass at a recipe. Besides, I like flank steak, and I didn't want Asian or Mexican, which is the direction I usually go with a flank steak.

I loosely followed this Epicurious recipe except I grilled the steaks instead of pan-frying them. I had a ton of dishes from the night before to deal with, and I didn't want to dirty up another pan. Seriously -- I don't remember those dishes all being there last night, so I'm forced to believe that either the dishes are somehow reproducing or AJ is taking Ambien and engaging in very couth, flatware-intensive sleep-eating, and also maybe some sleep-souffle-making. Also, I wanted to try roasting some potato wedges in garlic and olive oil on the grill rather than in the oven -- I try to forget the oven exists in the spring and summer.

Anyway. I was mixing up the ingredients for the sauce when I realized we're out of dijon mustard, so I had to sub in spicy brown. (Ever try asking a dude in a limo for spicy brown? Very different from the commercials, let me just say that.) Then, Hannah asked me to help her read Are You My Mother? so I decided to dump the sauce on the steaks to let them soak a bit while we read. There's a word for that, isn't there? Soaking food in a flavored liquid? Whatever, I'm not a brainiac chef. I threw the prepped potatoes on the grill for a nice slow roast and we read about the adventures of a lost baby bird and his borderline negligent mother. We finished up (spoiler: he finds his mother) and I tossed the steaks on the grill and put the salads together.

A word about making salads in my household: it gets a little stupid. Peter doesn't like cucumbers or hardboiled eggs; AJ doesn't like tomatoes, olives, or mushrooms. Neither likes onions. I will eat whatever. Isn't that what salads are about? Throw all that shit in there, it's all good. There's no point to this; I just wanted to make a stand for the garbage salad lovers out there.

When Peter walked in the door, the steaks were resting comfortably and I was working on the sauce -- boiled up what became the marinade and added the cream. While it thickened I sliced up the steaks. Mine: nice and rare. Theirs: medium. The sauce was a little funky tasting in the pan, so I served it on the side rather than risk it on the meat. But when I tried it with the potatoes and the meat, it was much, much better -- especially on the potatoes. Peppery and beefy and yum. I imagine it'd be even better with, you know, good meat. And real dijon mustard.

A note: I have no idea why the photo keeps rotating 90 degrees, but you get the gist.

I don't know how Peter felt about it -- he ate it, so I guess he liked it -- but AJ wasn't a fan. I'm thinking he's not enjoying this week much because he was far from a member of the clean plate club with yesterday's chicken, too. I guess I'll try to find something he might like for tomorrow's dinner, lest he waste away. Or lest he sneak-eat a frozen pizza.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Baby, don't be sad

The human breast causes great joy for so many. Nursing infants, Girls Gone Wild viewers, bra manufacturers, plastic surgeons. So, too, is the chicken breast. A lean source of protein, yes, but also a nearly-blank canvas for your culinary desires. You can pound it into a paillette; you can cut a pocket it in it and stuff it with other meats and/or cheese (or vegetables, if you must); you can poach it, broil it, grill it, bread and fry it; you can use it as a handy stand-in for push-up pads as long as you're not going anywhere terribly warm or buggy. And most of all, you can marinate the shit out of it.

That was the advised method for making Grilled Fusion Chicken here. The ingredient list for the marinade/sauce base was intriguing -- what with the Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, chipotle, and ginger, it sounded vaguely Asian, vaguely Mexican. Asican, I guess. I figured it'd be great or it'd be a disaster, but the peppy reviews on the website made me think it'd be great. So, I whipped up the marinade, pounded the breasts (heh) and let them soak while...

Actually that sounded way simpler than it was. I am as distractable as a toddler on meth and once I got past the first three ingredients I was halfway to dumping it in the dish when I spotted the limes on the counter. Oh right, limes. Mixed it up, dumped it on the breasts, and then thought, oh right, ginger. Oh right, fucking CHIPOTLE. I must have drained the dish and refilled it four goddamned times. I guess I was in a hurry to get to putting climbing roses up on the trellis Peter just installed.

45 thorny minutes later I headed back in to cook. Chopped up the broccoli and got it started roasting in the oven, and started water boiling to cook the pasta. Once all that was going, I cranked up the grill, slapped on the chicken, cooked the sauce, and we were ready to go.

The result was decidedly meh. The ginger and lime didn't really come through; they were way overpowered by the chipotle. But roasted broccoli and Trader Joe's lemon-pepper pappardelle dressed in a little olive oil are always welcome in my belly, so they made up for the chicken's meh-ness. Oh well, two out of three ain't bad.

Monday, April 19, 2010

How in the hell is it already after 8?

Since I had two post-Hannah-pickup errands to run -- one to Supercuts to get her self-barbering from last night fixed, and one to the grocery store -- we didn't get home until almost 7 pm, and everyone was starving. I had a lineup of a few new recipes I wanted to try, but all but two called for marinating. (Note to self: might want to rethink the lineup.) Bitch, I ain't got time for that shit! Marinating, while lovely and amazing, requires night-before or morning-before planning that most days I just don't have in me.

Anyway, one of the two recipes was this sort-of pork kefte, which I simplified even further by replacing the spices with a hefty dose of ras al hanout instead. Then for the starch, this Moroccan pilaf came together very quickly -- I didn't have the currants, sadly, but everything else made it in there. I added a quick spinach salad with supremed oranges, red onion, and bacon dressed with rice vinegar and oil, and that was that. It all got done inside of half an hour -- while the rice cooked, I formed the kefte and grilled them, and while those cooked I got the salad together.

The rice was so-so -- good, not great; I imagine the currants would have made a big difference. But the kefte were YUM -- the ras al hanout worked really well with the sweetness of the pork. I got 11 skewers out of 1 1/4 pounds of ground pork, and I wish I had made more because they would make kickass sandwiches on pita for lunch with some harissa and red onions. This one's definitely making a comeback.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week 16: What's cookin'?

Well, turns out weeding and swearing, while the makings of an excellent party, are not much for blog fodder. Or maybe I just needed a bit of a break from the keyboard. Either way, I need to get back in the swing of things.

There's really not much to tell about weeding. I weeded. There are still a lot left. And more keep coming. The dandelions are all over the lawn, which I don't really mind, but in a couple of weeks when they set seed, I'ma be hosed. I keep putting off putting newspaper over the veg beds but since they're full of loamy fertile soil, I better get on it or it's going to be all dandelion seedlings come May. I know dandelion leaves are edible and all, but I'm just not that far down the patchouli path of hippiness yet. I did take a bunch of garden photos on my phone, but my phone is dead tonight so they'll have to wait.

I decided today while watching the Cubs snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at Wrigley that this week is going to have to be something fun. Weeding, as rewarding and productive as it is, is not fun. Especially when it's only 50 degrees out. But eating is. And I really like to cook.

My mom used to complain that she made the same dozen things for dinner over and over, and I used to think, so? As long as one of those dozen wasn't that heinous hamburger "stew" she inflicted on us every so often, it was cool. My mom was, and is, a really good cook. In fact, it was when she'd try something new that things would go poorly. But I still can't make a roast beef and gravy that's anywhere near as good as hers is.

Still, I understand where she was coming from now that I'm doing the cooking. I'm a fair cook with a mildly adventurous palate, but I have a standard repertoire of thirty or so dishes that I go back to frequently. Most of these things I cook without referring to a recipe because I've made them so many times. And while all those things are good to eat, you do begin to get a little bored. Most times when I consider branching out a bit and trying something new, though, I talk myself out of it because if it turns out poorly it's a big ol' waste of food. It doesn't happen often, but the lemon-artichoke chicken debacle of '06 is still a subject of discussion in this household. SHOULD have been good. I'm still bitter about that.

Anyway. Rather than continue to wallow in a sea of bi-weekly steak taco nights (not that I'm complaining...I never get tired of Mexican food) I'm going to venture boldly into the culinary world and try some new shit. And when it crashes and burns, I'll make another batch of macaroni and cheese with ham and the kids will love me again. And we always have bologna if things go really wrong.

Tonight's new recipe: Korean Barbecue Burgers. My version is pictured here. Y'all, I love me some Korean barbecue, and I also love me some burgers, so this was like the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of recipes. Plus, I didn't actually drag my carcass out to the grocery store until like an hour before dinner time so I needed something quick to throw together, and this fit the bill. Simple, fast, and really tasty, and most of the stuff I had on hand. On the side is soy carrots with almonds, which made a nice side dish (not one that I made as much as heated; it's a Trader Joe's purchase.) I wish I had radishes on hand though; the crunch and mild spice would have been a nice addition. It's not the big schmancy Sunday dinner I like to make, but on a night when nothing was getting done fast enough, it was great. Yay! Food! It's my favorite.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

You can put your weed in it

We don't have a lot of yard by suburban or country standards, but by city standards, our double lot is big. It's sort of u-shaped, wrapping around the house. On the north side is a driveway with a narrow planting strip; on the south is a side yard. And in the space that's there, lots of weed seeds have found purchase.

We currently have a lot of projects in the works with regards to the yard -- we're putting in a small stone patio in the side yard, lattice on one side of the house plus skirting around the deck Peter built a couple of summers back, reshaping and edging the borders, and lots of containment of various plants I hastily put in the ground (like the raspberry brambles.) I guess home ownership made me ambitious. So, when I head out to the back forty, there are a lot of directions for me to go in.

But I learned the hard way that weeds can get out of control in a hurry. There are these giant colocasia-like (but ugly) leaves in the south border that are, as best as I can tell, unkillable. I tried digging them up last year but apparently the smallest bit of taproot will grow a new plant. I thought I had hit the mother taproot, but since it was seriously like nine inches across and punched down straight to the bowels of hell there was no way I got it all. And did that bastard ever come back with a vengeance. All these baby hell-plants are currently threatening my cherry bushes, like those little skittery parasite things in Cloverfield. And I have no idea how to get rid of them without scorching the earth. A couple of weeks ago I tried spraying them with vinegar and covering them with black plastic to solarize them, but between you and me I think I just pissed them off. So I'm hoping that this early attack on the rest of the weedy garden will avoid problems like that in the future.

The last couple of days of quick-hit weeding have been interesting (to me, at least) in that while I'm only clearing out small areas, I'm looking ahead to decisions I will have to make. Dandelions are a no-brainer in the beds, of course, but do I bother with them in the lawn? Up to this point I had claimed to subscribe to the "freedom lawn" concept, that being the one that allowed me to pretend to not care about the lawn. I don't want to use chemicals if I can avoid it (thus my feeble handwaving at south bed devilweeds) so the ol' weed-n-feed approach isn't one I'd like to take for the time being. But...there are a lot of dandelions in the lawn. Like...a LOT. And hand-pulling them would require setting aside a decade to do. Still, leaving them means that some of them will, inevitably, set seed, and that seed will spread as far and wide as Wilt Chamberlain's. Maybe it's time for some protection. For all of us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Make that Wednesday

I totally hosed the day on the not-swearing makeup when a turquoise car pulled out in front of me at like a 45-degree angle from her parking space completely without warning as I was toodling along Kimball Avenue at a brisk, but legal, 30 miles per hour. I had to swerve to within a foot of the car parked on the opposite side of the street to avoid her because she was headed out at this crazy angle, and I would have been nailed if oncoming traffic in the opposite lane had been fifty feet closer. Because I am a person who relishes a bout of righteous anger, I stopped at the red light just past where I swerved and yelled out the window, "What the FUCK is wrong with you!?" I mean, do we not look behind us before we pull out of a parking space? Are we not a society, with rules? Goddamned dumbass shithumping fuckwit!

Aaanyway. As I suspected, last night I got started weeding in the driveway and wound up spending 45 minutes out there digging around. Not what I meant to do, and not what I'm going to do tonight, but man...there are a lot of weeds out there. Still, the tulips and bleeding hearts are blooming and my planting from last year and the year before is starting to pay off...things are filling in a bit more each spring and it's starting to look a little more cohesive. All good things.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Week 15: The Seeds of Discontent

Listen, I'll be honest: I didn't write here for a week for two reasons. One, I was just lights-out exhausted all week, though I don't really know why. And two, to no one's surprise, I suck at not swearing. I blame my boss.

Early last week he asked me what my challenge for the week was. This conversation, when it happens, is usually started by his offering me something and then saying, "Wait, is it No Candy From Your Boss week?" And then we discuss what week it actually is. When I explained that it was no-swearing week, this sort of dismayed/bemused look crossed his face and he launched into an avuncular "why are you doing this to yourself?!" speech -- saying, you're a good person who happens to like Coke and swearing -- what's the problem? And while I certainly appreciate the compliment, I had to explain this whole project, both to him and myself. Which was weird. Really, the first rule of 52 Changes for me has been "don't talk about 52 Changes." I don't like introspection much, and even asking myself why I am doing this is more than I'm comfortable with. Still, I did think about it, and what it comes to is this: why not? I like myself. I would hang out with myself. But there are some things I haven't really tried for good reasons or bad, and this project a good excuse to do some of those things, or at least a good excuse to stop making excuses for just a week. It makes me focus on one thing about my own behavior that might be a positive addition or subtraction to make. And it's been fun so far, for the most part.

But this little chat made me think to myself, hey, self, what IS so wrong about swearing? Like my boss said, I don't do it when it's not appropriate, and let's face it, I can't really be expected to talk about my baseball team and not swear. So I was less inclined to discipline myself in this respect, especially after many drinks and many dorky boys to make fun of at Smartbar, and now, I'm three days behind on the week, which is why I refrain from comment on the !$(#%#@! Cubs until Tuesday.

So I have half a week running over into this week, but I am encouraged because I finally allowed myself to see some fruits of Week Two's continuing challenge to hit the gym and Week -- I've lost eight pounds, per my mom's evil little scale. That's pretty sweet. Up to this point I didn't want to step on a scale until I felt I had lost at least a little bit of weight for fear of getting discouraged. And, I looked up the results of my recent spate of blood tests from the company-sponsored "wellness exam" a little while back and everything, including the infamous triglyceride level, is well into the green zone. I don't know if my blood pressure has dropped any since then, but 120/80 isn't the worst. I'll get there, just like I'll get to where I want to be weightwise. And I feel good about it because I'm doing this in a way that doesn't make me miserable.

Okay, back pat time is over now. We've been having really pleasant weather here in Chicago, which is pretty unusual for April, but has been great for getting a jump on gardening. Snow on opening day at Wrigley is not uncommon, although it never sticks, and it's not safe to plant most things out until May at the very earliest.  Saturday I was too tired from Friday's shenanigans to do much in the way of house or yardwork, so Sunday I spent the bulk of the day in the yard, weeding, replanting, standing and thinking, that sort of thing, while being Peter's assistant as he attached some lattice to the side of the house for roses to climb. It's been such a pleasure to get out and enjoy the outdoors, but while I'm out there enjoying I'm also seeing a to-do list. Basically, in garden season my housework load doubles; it's just that I happen to like a lot of the garden part, even when it's hard work.

That said, weeds are kind of the equivalent of mail clutter in the garden (which, I've not been quite as consistent with the mail clutter as I should be, either...sigh.) When they're there, it's all I see, but I get so overwhelmed that I put off dealing with them until I need like three hours to get through it all, when it would  obviously be more efficient to deal with them a little at a time consistently. I spent quite a bit of time weeding yesterday, but there's so much more to be done that I'm making this Weed Clutter week -- I'll spend just 15 minutes a day pulling weeds, and maybe by the end of the week I'll be at a point where I can get down to the bigger tasks. Shouldn't be too hard -- the weather's nice this week, and it's staying light outside until much later in the day -- but I guarantee there will be one evening by flashlight at the very least.

Plus it's an excuse to talk about my yard. And I like to do that. I would totally hang out with me and talk about gardening.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Without swear words, I guess I don't have that much to say.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Week 14: #$%*(^*!

Turns out, I'm pretty good with a bedtime on school nights, for a week at least. As was the case with other challenges, it was sort of nice to have an excuse to behave the way I normally should. There was definitely some adjustment -- I sometimes felt tired when I didn't think I should, and vice versa -- but it's hard to say after having done it for only a week. It's not enough time for my system to even itself out, really.

And I have to admit to some chicanery. Saturday night Peter and I planned to get dinner and see a late movie -- specificially Clash of the Titans. (What? It's practically a lesson in Classics!) But while we were eating lad nar, Peter remembered that I had to be in bed by 11, especially since I had botched it the night before. But -- but -- I didn't WANNA go to bed. Peter and I get one night a week without the kids, and it seemed a waste to squander it on something trivial like sleep. Before anyone feels compelled to say it, yes, there are other things you can do in bed without the kids around, but I'm so sick of waking up in a pile of Scrabble tiles, I can't even tell you. So, we gamed the system -- we went back home, moved a futon to the front of the TV and watched a movie. A futon is, after all, a bed, and I didn't say I had to be in MY bed by 11. (I tried to convince Peter that I had to remain supine for the challenge requirements to be completely satisfied, but he wasn't willing to carry me up two flights of stairs, the slacker.)

What it boils down to is that at 34, I'm not ready to hang up the late night dancin' shoes just yet. An 11 o'clock bedtime on a Saturday IS the worst thing in the world. It's our primary non-kid-having time, and let's face it, lots of fun social stuff is happening after 11 pm. I guess I'm willing to sacrifice the routine once or twice a week for now -- there'll be time for an extra couple of hours of sleep when we're in the rest home. So, I'm going to try to keep going on this one during the week -- but a late evening once, maybe twice a week is kind of a treat, and I can usually sleep late the next day so there's no sleep deficit (although it does present the problem of getting back into a sleep routine, which was the whole point of this challenge, but anyway...) The upside to this challenge is that it was super-easy to make up the day I missed last night. I was out like a light.

I had a few ideas for Week 14, but my lack of planning kind of did me in this week and I don't know what I did or didn't do yesterday that was awesome and that I could do for a week. Hide eggs? Hang out with superkeen friends? Eat ham? Okay, ham-eating is awesome and I could do it for a week, but is that advisable? Hmm...maybe.

Wait, seriously, I could eat ham every day for a week. Lord knows we have lots of it leftover from Easter, and that would be much easier than my other plan, which is to give up swearing for a week. Anyone who has spoken to me in a less-than-formal situation or read anything that I've written knows that I tend to drop a lot of four-letter words. I think of them as salt and pepper in the dinner of life. Funny are funnier, anger is angrier, happy is happier with an f-word or a b-word in it. They're color when you need it, you know? Plus, I have kids. I probably let more slip with AJ now that he's older, but when he was younger I had lots of haughty discussions about language and how constant use of obscenities belies a lack not just of vocabulary, but imagination. (And then I'd meet friends at the bar and proceed to swear like a sailor.) I still am careful about swearing in front of Hannah, a.k.a. The Shame Mirror. The other day, while driving to school, I must have made some sort of irritated interjection because Hannah said, "When you are driving and someone lets you in, you say thank you, and when they don't, you say, 'DUDE!' Right? Right Mommy?" What she doesn't yet know is that when I say DUDE! I'm thinking...something very different. And it takes a lot of restraint to stop at "dude".

Naturally, yesterday I was swearing all up in the place when the kids weren't around, since I didn't have a no-swearing plan in place yet. Well, it's Monday and while I've thought all kinds of f's and b's and s's and s-c-s-m-fer's, I have neither spoken nor written one, and we'll see if I can make it for seven days straight.  If you're smart, you'll bet against it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

12:57 am


Plumb tuckered

As Hannah now likes to say, LORDAMIGHTY. I am the tiredest of tired ladies in the known tired world, and for no good reason. I wound up staying home today due to a closed daycare center. At 10 am we took Hannah to a park district egg hunt. Pretty low key, not particularly early. Then we went home and I puttered around the yard and repotted half of my seedlings. Then, we drove through throngs of people who seem to have forgotten how to cross a street over the winter to pick up a couple of food-grade plastic barrels to make into rainbarrels (whoop whoop!) And that's it. Other than it being really gorgeously warm outside, nothing crazy strenuous or out of the ordinary.

B ut now it's a little after five and I am just zonked. I went to bed on time last night and woke up around 8, just like I'm supposed to do. I could have stayed up and watched the Thursday shows, but I didn't. I could have stayed up and picked up the house, but I didn't. I could have stayed up and taken the shower to end all showers but I didn't. And what do I have to show for it? A messy house, a full Tivo, and a tired Erica at 5 fucking 19. No makey sense. We're going to do a little mini-golfing and a little pizza-eating and hopefully that kicks some life back into me.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Last night

My original plan was to post from bed last night using my phone, and laboriously type out all the things I could have done that evening instead of going to bed.  It would probably have been possible from Peter's iPhone, but my little Samsung Mythic wasn't up to the challenge, sadly, and since Peter's not hitting the pillow at 11 with me, I just turned off the light and tried to sleep. "Tried" being the operative word. I was really sleepy at 10, but showering and brushing my teeth and idly flipping through catalogs was enough to keep me up until Peter came in about 11:30 -- and then he talked to me just enough to knock all the sleepiness out of me. So I lay there in bed while Peter slept, thinking of all the things I could have accomplished in that time, regretting not folding the clean laundry or running out to the store to pick up yogurt for Hannah's school party or waxing my moustache or making my lunch...yeah.  By 1 am, I'd had enough tossing and turning and took a couple of Tylenol PM. So instead of waking up early to accomplish those things, I woke up at 7:30 and did what I could.

This is all to explain why I still have a moustache this morning. Hola, Senor Erica! I'll get it ripped out along with the Bert-brows later today, after Hannah's and my haircuts. By 8 pm, I might even look passably female. And I won't have as many food crumbs getting caught on my upper lip, which is always nice.