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An auspicious find

aus pi cious [aw-spish-us]
1590′s “of good omen,” from L. auspicium, divination by observing the flight of birds, from auspex, “augur,” lit. “one who takes signs from the flight of birds
1. promising success; opportune; favorable: an auspicious occasion
2. favored by fortune; prosperous; fortunate
3. a pair of brand new snow boots bought on the very same day the decision to move to Chicago was made; preparedness for real winter; thrifted on the cheap from His House on River Dr.: These auspicious boots will keep my feet warm this winter in Chicago.

Posted 12 years ago at 3:46 pm. 3 comments

Winter? Your line is….

I finally gave up waiting for winter about a month ago. Having been spoiled by the past two snowy winters and thus forgotten the true meaning of a southern winter, I almost overlooked it. That’s how winters are here: ignorable. Like a school girl with stage fright, she barely makes it out of the shadows to rush through her lines before running off stage left. But looking through my pictures, I see her there, in the background.

We tugged the sleeves of our sweaters down and pulled our hoods up.
Only the husks of flowers remained.
We cuddled steaming mugs close to our hearts.
Blooming citrus trees made the greenhouse air thick and sweet as syrup.
Christmas cookies were made and eaten.
Frost left her red lip prints on the arugula field.
Scarves dangled from our necks.
Bare branches laced across the sky.
Lost mittens grew soggy in the cold rain.
A recipe that used the oven was an advantage, not a liability.
Pots were stacked empty against the greenhouse.
Blankets littered every comfy surface.

So perhaps it is not so much that winter forgot her lines as I forgot to listen to them.

Posted 12 years ago at 7:41 pm. Add a comment

learning to read

(Calm down grandmas. It’s not Baby-tidian that’s learning to read.)

I was one of those kids who stayed up till 2 in the morning. I wasn’t talking on the phone or sneaking into places I shouldn’t be, but ever the nerd, I was reading. I read anything and everything that would fit between two covers. Through all of middle school and most of high school, I could lose whole weekends to a book. I’d start a new book on the Friday bus ride home and the next time I looked up it was the wee hours of Monday morning. Since my wise parents pretended not to notice the slit of light coming from under my door at all hours, I never had to resort to the flashlight under a blanket cover.

The only thing I (mildly) regret about all that time spent turning pages is that I consumed mostly pop culture lit. You know the type: multi-book family sagas that begin on the Mayflower and end in the California gold rush, or books detailing the myriad trials of teenagers, be they twins, babysitters, or orphans. I haven’t read as many  classic literature books as I often pretend to. So instead of those late night reading sessions contributing to a rhythmically beating literary heart, I’m left with vague palpatations of plot twists and character descriptions. For example, on a shelf somewhere is a book about a girl trapped in a basement. Whether by friend or foe, for what reason, for how long, I’ll never remember. She types out her memories of adolescent angst on the random typewriter locked in with her. There is also a book about a boy who is able to time travel to the past where he meets his doppelganger who has typhoid, or perhaps tuberculosis. It may or may not involve being stuck in a library.

Anyway, the point I was wanting to make is that in the past I spent hours and hours reading. I read like I napped; if it didn’t last at least 2 hours, it wasn’t worth it. While I still routinely take hours long naps with Babytidian, I’ve had to give up such lingering over pages. As part of my preparation for giving birth, I compiled a rather ambitious list of books I’d like to read. The first few weeks I had a stack teetering next to the bed (right next to the midnight nursing snacks and water). Now I’m lucky if I get all my email read each day. For longer than I ‘d care to admit, I gave up book reading altogether. I subsisted on blogs, Netflix, and Hulu. It was just easier. I could still listen to the dialogue even if Babytidian took my attention away from the screen. (Try as I might, I just couldn’t keep reading if I wasn’t looking at the page.) But I felt mentally bloated and weak.

Slowly, I’ve been relearning how to read. In small bits.

And pieces.


And there.

While I do sorely miss the days when I would only budge from my comfy chair to make trips to the kitchen and the bathroom, I’m beginning to enjoy reading this way. Instead of sprinting through a book and barely catching my breath before opening the next, I am forced to mosey through the pages, letting each paragraph dissolve on my mind like a lozenge. Perhaps I should take up poetry reading…

Posted 12 years ago at 5:59 pm. 2 comments

Milestones: First Wind Blown Hair

Posted 12 years, 1 month ago at 9:19 am. Add a comment

Cupboard Gardening

Spring seems to be springing a little early this year. Or maybe I’m just feeling the lack of an all out winter. Even though the seed catalogs have been circulating since January, the weather just never got blustery enough to thumb through them. So I’m doing it now.

Because I don’t have a proper garden of my own, most of my looking really ought to be called dreaming. I read seed catalogs the way other women window shop– imagining the possibilities “if only.” Instead of scrutinizing my figure or assessing the practicality of a certain pair of shoes, I gauge the amount of sunlight I have and whether or not I really need another variety of sage. Just like window shoppers, sometimes I fall prey to the “if only” thinking and buy a few packets of seeds that I know I won’t be able to grow given my space and sunlight. These packets sit there on the counter for weeks, looking hopeful in their pretty paper packages. Achingly, I come to the decision that it is waste of the highest form to let perfectly viable seeds just sit. So I give them to a friend with a garden and return to my dreaming. Please tell me I’m not the only one that does this?

This year, however, I’ve decided to take a different approach: cupboard gardening. Trust me, it’s not as trendy as it sounds. I haven’t installed a fancy hydroponic  Window Farm or even old fashioned window boxes. You’ll laugh when you see….

See? I told you.


Posted 12 years, 1 month ago at 8:45 pm. 2 comments

unexpected advertising

“The condemned man showers, shaves, puts on most of a suit, and realizes that he is ahead of schedule. He turns on the television, gets a San Miguel out of the fridge to steady his nerves, and then goes to the closet to get the stuff of his last meal. The apartment only has one closet and when its door is open it appears to have been bricked shut, Cask of Amontillado-style, with very large flat red oblongs, each imprinted with the image of a venerable and yet oddly cheerful and yet somehow kind of hauntingly sad naval officer. The whole pallet load was shipped here several weeks ago by Avi, in an attempt to lift Randy’s spirits. For all Randy knows more are still sitting on a Manila dockside ringed with armed guards and dictionary-sized rat traps straining against their triggers, each baited with a single golden nugget.

Randy selects one of the bricks from this wall, creating a gap in the formation, but there is another, identical one right behind it, another picture of that same naval officer. They seem to be marching from his closet in a peppy phalanx. “Part of this complete balanced breakfast,” Randy says. Then he slams the door on them and walks with a measured, forcibly calm step to the living room where he does most of his dining, usually while facing his thirty-six-inch television. He sets up his San Miguel, an empty bowl, an exceptionally large soup spoon—so large that most European cultures would identify it as a serving spoon and most Asian ones as a horticultural implement. He obtains a stack of paper napkins, not the brown recycled ones that can’t be moistened even by immersion in water, but the flagrantly environmentally unsound type, brilliant white and cotton-fluffy and desperately hygroscopic. He goes to the kitchen, opens the fridge, reaches deep into the back, and finds an unopened box-bag-pod-unit of UHT milk. UHT milk need not, technically, be refrigerated, but it is pivotal, in what is to follow, that the milk be only a few microdegrees above the point of freezing. The fridge in Randy’s apartment has louvers in the back where the cold air is blown in, straight from the freon coils. Randy always stores his milk-pods directly in front of those louvers. Not too close, or else the pods will block the flow of air, and not too far away either. The cold air becomes visible as it rushes in and condenses moisture, so it is a simple matter to sit there with the fridge door open and observe its flow characteristics, like an engineer testing an experimental minivan in a River Rouge wind tunnel. What Randy would like to see, ideally, is the whole milk-pod enveloped in an even, jacketlike flow to produce better heat exchange through the multilayered plastic-and-foil skin of the milk-pod. He would like the milk to be so cold that when he reaches in and grabs it, he feels the flexible, squishy pod stiffen between his fingers as ice crystals spring into existence, summoned out of nowhere simply by the disturbance of being squished.

Today the milk is almost, but not quite, that cold. Randy goes into his living room with it. He has to wrap it in a towel because it is so cold it hurts his fingers. He launches a videotape and then sits down. All is in readiness….

Randy takes the red box and holds it securely between his knees with the handy stay-closed tab pointing away from him. Using both hands in unison he carefully works his fingertips underneath the flap, trying to achieve equal pressure on each side, paying special attention to places where too much glue was laid down by the gluing-machine. For a few long, tense moments, nothing at all happens, and an ignorant or impatient observer might suppose that Randy is getting nowhere. But then the entire flap pops open in an instant as the entire glue-front gives way. Randy hates it when the box-top gets bent or, worst of all possible worlds, torn. The lower flap is merely tacked down with a couple of small glue-spots and Randy pulls it back to reveal a translucent, inflated sac. The halogen down-light recessed in the ceiling shines through the cloudy material of the sac to reveal gold—everywhere the glint of gold. Randy rotates the box ninety degrees and holds it between his knees so its long axis is pointed at the television set, then grips the top of the sac and carefully parts its heat-sealed seam, which purrs as it gives way. Removal of the somewhat milky plastic barrier causes the individual nuggets of Cap’n Crunch to resolve, under the halogen light, with a kind of preternatural crispness and definition that makes the roof of Randy’s mouth glow and throb in trepidation…

The gold nuggets of Cap’n Crunch pelt the bottom of the bowl with a sound like glass rods being snapped in half Tiny fragments spall away from their corners and ricochet around on the white porcelain surface. World-class cereal-eating is a dance of fine compromises. The giant heaping bowl of sodden cereal, awash in milk, is the mark of the novice. Ideally one wants the bone-dry cereal nuggets and the cryogenic milk to enter the mouth with minimal contact and for the entire reaction between them to take place in the mouth. Randy has worked out a set of mental blueprints for a special cereal-eating spoon that will have a tube running down the handle and a little pump for the milk, so that you can spoon dry cereal up out of a bowl, hit a button with your thumb, and squirt milk into the bowl of the spoon even as you are introducing it into your mouth. The next best thing is to work in small increments, putting only a small amount of Cap’n Crunch in your bowl at a time and eating it all up before it becomes a pit of loathsome slime, which, in the case of Cap’n Crunch, takes about thirty seconds…

He pours the milk with one hand while jamming the spoon in with the other, not wanting to waste a single moment of the magical, golden time when cold milk and Cap’n Crunch are together but have not yet begun to pollute each other’s essential natures: two Platonic ideals separated by a boundary a molecule wide. Where the flume of milk splashes over the spoon-handle, the polished stainless steel fogs with condensation. Randy of course uses whole milk, because otherwise why bother? Anything less is indistinguishable from water, and besides he thinks that the fat in whole milk acts as some kind of a buffer that retards the dissolution-into-slime process. The giant spoon goes into his mouth before the milk in the bowl has even had time to seek its own level. A few drips come off the bottom and are caught by his freshly washed goatee (still trying to find the right balance between beardedness and vulnerability, Randy has allowed one of these to grow). Randy sets the milk-pod down, grabs a fluffy napkin, lifts it to his chin, and uses a pinching motion to sort of lift the drops of milk from his whiskers rather than smashing and smearing them down into the beard. Meanwhile all his concentration is fixed on the interior of his mouth, which naturally he cannot see, but which he can imagine in three dimensions as if zooming through it in a virtual reality display. Here is where a novice would lose his cool and simply chomp down. A few of the nuggets would explode between his molars, but then his jaw would snap shut and drive all of the unshattered nuggets straight up into his palate where their armor of razor-sharp dextrose crystals would inflict massive collateral damage, turning the rest of the meal into a sort of pain-hazed death march and rendering him Novocain mute for three days. But Randy has, over time, worked out a really fiendish Cap’n Crunch eating strategy that revolves around playing the nuggets’ most deadly features against each other. The nuggets themselves are pillow-shaped and vaguely striated to echo piratical treasure chests. Now, with a flake-type of cereal, Randy’s strategy would never work. But then, Cap’n Crunch in a flake form would be suicidal madness; it would last about as long, when immersed in milk, as snowflakes sifting down into a deep fryer. No, the cereal engineers at General Mills had to find a shape that would minimize surface area, and, as some sort of compromise between the sphere that is dictated by Euclidean geometry and whatever sunken-treasure-related shapes that the cereal-aestheticians were probably clamoring for, they came up with this hard-to-pin-down striated pillow formation. The important thing, for Randy’s purposes, is that the individual pieces of Cap’n Crunch are, to a very rough approximation, shaped kind of like molars. The strategy, then, is to make the Cap’n Crunch chew itself by grinding the nuggets together in the center of the oral cavity, like stones in a lapidary tumbler. Like advanced ballroom dancing, verbal explanations (or for that matter watching videotapes) only goes so far and then your body just has to learn the moves.”

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (from chapter 56, “Crunch”)

I dearly hope this man got paid by the cereal industry for writing this. If his words can make me, a avowed cereal detractor, go out and buy a box after 36 hours of consciously attempting to overcome the craving, then he clearly should be on their marketing payroll. Granted, I bought Cheerios rather than Cap’n Crunch

but still.

Be honest, is there anything you’d like better than a bowl of cereal after reading that?

I ate three bowl’s full one day and two the next. One right after the other. (Which is kind of embarrassing to admit to the interwebs, but there it is.) This either says something about my porcine appetite or the nutritional content of said cereal. I’m still not sure which.



Posted 12 years, 1 month ago at 10:35 am. 2 comments

Gerund Pudding

::ambling through the rain to meet friends for Sunday brunch
::napping with the windows open
::adding another table to accommodate all the friends who came to Friday farm lunch
::watching my baby grow into his skin and just a few of his darling baby rolls melt away
::savoring paper and pen letters from friends
::attempting make a peanut butter and white sugar free no-bake cookie
::turning the failed experiment into no-bake cookie ice cream
::sipping a well crafted cappuccino with foam as thick as icing
::baby-proofing everything from the kitchen shelves to my hair
::wondering if Babytidian is indeed saying “mama” or if it’s just my imagination
::stretching out in the new king size bed without a sleeping baby curled in my armpit
::debating whether or not to plop Babytidian in the pond sized puddle that formed during a recent rain storm just because it would be a good picture
::deciding that wouldn’t be such a good idea due to all the wind
::finding out later there was a tornado warning in effect
::growing my own kombucha scoby
::leaving the top off the toy box accidentally
::pretending it was intentional when it turned out to be the best idea of the week
::bundling up through the last spotty days of winter
::learning how to live within a 9 month old’s sense of time, urgency, and joy

Posted 12 years, 1 month ago at 8:09 am. 1 comment

My mother warned me it would happen

“So have you fixed your bathroom door yet?” I remember my mom asking a few weeks ago. The old fashioned knob keeps falling off and the best  easiest solution we’ve come up with is taking the knob off and storing it on the window sill.  (Be ye warned: if you use the bathroom at our house, don’t shut the door too tightly or you will be stuck. And the bathroom is probably the most boring room in the house to be stuck in.)

“Nah. Not yet.”I blithely replied.

“You know you really should or someday Theodore is going to make his way in there and start unrolling the toilet paper.”

Quite so.

Several times a day, Babytidian goes to visit his friend, the bath tub. So whenever I see him tub bound, I usually try to give him a few minutes to exchange pleasantries with said tub before scooping him up to a more supervised area of the house.  Yesterday afternoon, I realized that not only had it been a bit more than a few minutes since I’d seen his tushie wriggling down the hallway, but there was a lack of the usual genial tub chatter.

In typical mama fashion, I feared the worst. It’s how every made-for-tv movie begins, right? A normal day slips and bleeds into tragedy. So, ironically, I was quite relieved when I bounded into the bathroom and found this sight:

I’ve never been so glad to see half a roll of toilet paper in my life. That includes the emergency situation on a bus in the Philippines when I’d been caught without my personal stash of it.

Posted 12 years, 1 month ago at 4:52 pm. 3 comments