#MicroblogMondays: The Oven

Sunday night, we were doing a million things since Monday marked our household’s return to work and school. We were prepping ingredients for beef stew, a hearty multi-day meal that would relieve us from cooking and be perfect for the polar vortex due later this week.

I slipped the beef into the oven and was surprised and aghast to smell something charred and smoky coming from the oven an hour into the stew’s first cook. All the liquid had evaporated and was charring on the bottom of the pan. Baffled, I separated the meat, scrubbed the pan and added triple the liquid I normally did. The beef and its veggies seemed to perform as expected the next hour.

An hour later, I put a pan of 4 burritos into the oven for 20 minutes at 350. Twenty minutes later I start to smell the charred, smoky smell again. When I took out the burritos, I saw some of the cheese had blackened. Technically the dish still had another 10 minutes, but there was no way I was risking that.

I was confused. Neither recipe was a new recipe. I make beef stew every few months and hadn’t deviated. Same thing for the burritos. Plus, I’m a good cook. I’m no Food Network Star, but I can follow & tweak a recipe into something pretty good. I take pride in my cooking, so the oven trouble inexperienced was disconcerting. I chalked it up to chance and the weather. It had been an odd winter day with temperatures in the 70s and rain & severe storms. Maybe cooking on this day was like making fudge, in which the temperature and humidity mattered?

Tonight I turned on the oven to bake mini pizzas for Daniel’s lunch and the oven flashed “Failure!” That was odd. Jimmy reset it and we were able to finish the pizzas. A pan of rolls did not fare as well and soon, the oven had that familiar charred, smoky smell. And it was beeping “failure” messages again. Clearly, something was wrong with the oven. I felt vindicated because I now knew that it wasn’t my fault we had the cooking issues the night before. The bad news was that our oven was obviously on the fritz.

We bought that oven over Thanksgiving weekend in 2008. I remember it because we were just out of the first trimester with Daniel and had blood drawn a few days earlier for the quad screen. I was a panicky mess. Our microwave had broken that week, so we needed to get a new one. Thanks to Thanksgiving sales, Jimmy wanted to get a new, matching stove too. I vividly remember sitting in the rocking chairs outside of Lowes as we debated the pros and cons. I was at the point of our pregnancy in which I wanted to bury my head in the sand until someone told me everything would be OK. Maybe I thought I would hate the stove if bad things came to pass; it would be the Stove of Doom (I wasn’t very rational at that time). I agreed to buy the microwave and stove. I also decided to resume my anti-anxiety medication.

There isn’t any real point to that story except I have vivid memories of buying it thanks to the time in our life it was. But I need a stove/oven that works. And I’m glad my cooking doesn’t suck suddenly. Damn it.

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2014: Kilroy Was Here

In prior years, I felt very sentimental on New Year’s Eve and spent time plumbing the depths of the year to acknowledge the good and bad, come to terms with my feelings and (often tearily) say, “godspeed” to the year, recognizing this year would never occur again.  More recently, I can barely be bothered to shrug and raise a glass. Heaven knows I don’t see midnight very often any longer.  The shrug isn’t meant to denote antipathy; it is more of a “holy shit. The year is ending already?  How is that possible? It feels like it just started!” Life has become a blur, and I’m not sure I could sift through it comprehensively if I wanted to.

But our year deserves something on its way out, doesn’t it? A virtual “Kilroy was Here.”

I don’t think I’d describe 2014 as a great year, but it wasn’t bad.  It was stressful and full of worry and anxiety, especially about Daniel’s school situation.  Full of change. I went through another re-org at work, got yet another new boss (who is amazing by the way) and moved offices twice but packed three times. When I return to work on January 5, I will be in a(nother) new space in a new building.  We’re up-ending systems and technology, and there are so many new faces at work that I have trouble keeping them straight. Jimmy went through a lot of the same although he is now able to work from home, which brings its own highs and lows.

2014 brought lots of snow; snow is different as an adult with school-age children, especially living in an area which still shuts down at the threat of snow.  We had two months of sickness, and I wore glasses for 6 weeks thanks to episcleritis.  No, I don’t think I would classify the first half, definitely the first third, of the year as good.

Our second year of Listen to Your Mother was a success with two nearly sold-out shows, and I can add another dozen wonderful women to those I met in 2013 during our first production year.

Daniel is thriving at his school, and his kindergarten year is going well. He is reading and doing simple math. He is sassy, funny, bossy and sweet.

It sounds so positive, yet why do I feel so down? Part of it may be my own over-sentimentality when it comes to change and endings. Part of it may be due to the holidays.  They were stressful, as they tend to be when you the adult in charge of making magic.  It didn’t help that it rained on Christmas Eve, as well as several days before and several days after.  The back yard is soggy, and little boys need to expend energy they haven’t been able to.  I think we all have a touch of cabin fever, and I feel precious vacation time seeping away faster and faster, making me fret: “have we made memories? Have we done good stuff this year? Can we point to any accomplishments or successes? Are we happy???”

Two beach trips.  Lego Fest. A house over-run with Legos built by a little boy who has become an amazingly proficient Lego builder. Snow. Maybe too much snow. Good food. Lots of books. Lots of good shows watched on TV.  A $250,000 grant awarded at work. Rewatching The Office. Making friends. Defending loved ones and standing up to people when they need it. Laughter. Love.

Not too shabby.

I have stopped making resolutions, and I’ve realized that years are seldom good or bad but usually a mix, especially as we age. So I’ll say this:  goodbye, 2014.  Welcome, 2015. It’s a blank slate, and may it be kind to us all.

 

#MicroblogMondays: 52

52. That’s how many books I read in 2014! I like the symmetry of that number with the number of weeks in a year although it doesn’t match with how I actually read. I wanted to reach 50, so it is nice to meet and surpass a goal.

Now as the end of the year races towards us, I hope that wasn’t the only goal I met this year. Could be worse, right?

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#MicroblogMondays: Excitement

Last night, Daniel tried to put brown marker on our cat’s white fur. And that’s after he chased her up and down the stairs in an attempt to “race.” While the energy might have been the result of the sugar he consumed at the cookie decorating party we attended earlier that day, I think it is safe to say that someone is VERY excited about the holidays.

While the daily increase in excitement and energy can be exhausting for the adults (and cats), it’s sweet to see. Daniel really gets the holidays this year. And no, he doesn’t yet understand the history and meaning of the holidays but associates them with Santa Claus and presents; it is sweet and somehow satisfying to see him rip into a gift. It’s a purity of enthusiasm and delight that lasts only a short while.

And he had us in stitches over his answer to what the meaning of Christmas is: Hanukkah!

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#MicroblogMondays: Winding Down

I have only 3 work days left in 2014. It was supposed to be only 2, but I had so many conference calls being scheduled on Thursday that it made more sense to work and not waste a vacation day.

We have our first family Christmas celebration next weekend; then we will be in the holiday maelstrom without a chance to breathe until it is all over. I hope not. Truly. I find myself reaching for a pause button that doesn’t exist. We are the most prepared for Christmas we have ever been: tree up; lights on bushes outside (only one non-working strand); wrapped presents under the tree. Yet I can’t help feeling surprised that Christmas is almost here. Daniel is SO excited. He studies every gift under the tree and is jubilant when he spies a new one, especially if it is for him.

I feel wistful. I want to savor each moment of the holidays, especially the build up to them. I want them to be magical. I love being the maker of magic for that little boy who greets me every morning with the latest (and accurate) days left until Christmas. I don’t want to be harried and stressed.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends.

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#MicroblogMondays: the Gingerbread House

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A combination of cold rain canceling a much-anticipated holiday activity and subsequent, ever-present parental guilt led me to a snap decision in the grocery store over the weekend: we would build a gingerbread house with Daniel!  I selected a kit with what looked to be a simple house with a straightforward assembly.  It would be fun, right? A bonding moment! A holiday memory we would all cherish.

It took only 5 minutes for the doubt to creep in. I carefully removed the gingerbread pieces and the candy. I studied the instructions closely. It was cutting a hole in the bag of icing and treating it like a pastry bag that did me in. This was going to be messy. And take a lot of time and attention to detail. Could I and an excitable 5-year-old handle this project? And then I cut the slit too wide on the icing packet and had flashbacks to my ignominious cake decorating class. This type of activity is NOT a core competency for me! I am not crafty. Nope, not at all.

We managed. It was fun. And messy. Very messy.  Daniel consumed some of the decorations, but he took the craft very seriously and had a ton of enthusiasm. After an hour, we both looked at the house and declared it done. He wanted to draw. I wanted to do…something else.

I told Twitter that it would be my first and last gingerbread house, but now, a scant day removed, I’m thinking that maybe if we made a few modifications to the icing situation, it would be more feasible. And less messy. So maybe we can re-engineer this project for next year.

This is what memories are made of, right?

The kit and its potential

Our kit and its potential

 

 

Our gingerbread house

Our gingerbread house

 

 

 

#MicroblogMondays: Thirteen Years

 

Favor from our wedding

Today Jimmy and I celebrate our 13th anniversary. I joke that I was a child bride, but I was a decent 24 and Jimmy was 25.  We had been engaged for almost 2  years by the time we got married, but our wedding occurred three months after September 11 and I felt nervous about everything.  Jimmy jokes (it isn’t really a joke) that I almost broke his hand during the ceremony because I was gripping it so tightly. I was a much more anxious person overall at that time.

It has been a good 13 years, but it feels like 13 years. That sounds grim, but it isn’t. We’ve been through many ups and downs in that 13 years, but we’ve faced them together, inch by inch and mile by mile.  We’ve invested time and most importantly, ourselves, and I’m proud of that 13 years. I don’t think we had any inkling of what our lives would be like over the next 13 years when we plied our troth at half-past four on December 1, 2001, but there is no one I’d rather be on this journey with.  Here’s to many, many more anniversaries.

 

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