Thursday, September 19, 2013

Project Playroom

We have kind of a big house.

We bought way more house than we needed, because we wanted to skip the "starter" house steps, and yeah, we went seriously into debt with the help of Vor's mom and my parents, bought way more house than we needed or could have otherwise afforded. We banked on Vor's salary mostly, as well as some other things, and it's paid off. mostly through sheer dumb luck and Vor's prior engineering degree, but don't tell him I ever said that. I still insist that the real ENG major is English, not engineering.

Anywho, we have "five bedrooms," which is in quotes because one of those bedrooms is in the basement. It's a legit bedroom, with an access window to outside and a closet, etc, but the people who lived here before us used it as a playroom. It's painted with butterflies and caterpillars and trees and clouds, etc. It's kind of painful in its cuteness. You know, the sweetness that seems like a good idea at first until it makes your teeth ache. This room has basically been a storage room for us, which is sad, because before Lis was born, we loved the basement, but carrying a baby up and down and all around and diapers and bottles and OMG it is just not worth it to go into the basement.

Except--now we have a toddler who can toddle herself up and down the stairs under her own power THANK THE MERCIFUL LORD with supervision of course. We spend more time down there now. So, we are creating a Lis Space down there.

Project Playroom actually has two parts: (1) The Playroom, and (2) The Adult Room.

The Playroom has one window, one closet, and also has access to our main electrical box and our water valves. The ceiling is two levels, and some of the walls in the playroom are angles, and not all the corners are 90 degree angles. One of the playroom walls is adjacent to the landing of the steps leading into the basement. The closet actually is one of those under the stairs closets that starts full-sized and narrows down.

We are for sure doing the following: (1) building a 3-D tree that projects from the wall, with a removable top to cover the electrical box, but leaves us easy access to it; (2) building a secret, Narnia style door/cabinet/bookshelf that leads into the closet; (3) repainting and decorating the closet.

We are contemplating the following: (1) knocking out the top part of the wall between the adult part of the basement and the playroom to essentially create a half wall, letting in the light from the window and allowing adults to see into the playroom easily; (2) cutting a hole in the wall where the stairs landing is, the shared wall between the playroom and the staircase and INSTALLING A FREAKING SLIDE AHHHH I can't even type it without more excitement than you can imagine. WANT. For Lis, of course. Not for me, after a glass of wine, into a ball pit or anything.

There are decorating and movable objecting in play as well: bookshelves, bins, other toy storage, talk of a ball pit, talk of building a stage into one of the weird corners, complete with curtains, having hanging ivy and lanterns from the ceiling, and so on.

The "it depends" projects will depend on time, cost, feasibility of doing it ourselves versus hiring someone, and so on. Obviously, this project will be Lis's Christmas and birthday present to her from us, and we won't have it done until around then.

We have started work on the door first--we drew up plans, assembled bookshelves and cabinets, bought reinforcing boards, and just started making cuts last night. I've started taking before and after pictures of the whole thing, so the progress should be fun to watch.

The Adult Room has many and shifting goals. Our main goal is to make it a cross between a real living space for us and a place to do lots of entertaining, since almost everyone we know has kids. It has a bar with a sink and a mini fridge, and we bought a cart for a song to put behind the bar for storage (seriously, this gorgeous kitchen cart with a stainless steel top for 100 bucks, 75% off). We have a couch, and we have a TV, but that's only on loan, so we will eventually put one down there. We just rearranged the whole darn thing, so the set up looks nice.

What we don't have is any decoration on any of the walls. I am really terrible at wall decor. I just stare at things in the TJ Max Home Goods store, totally blank, and I always walk out empty handed. Too many targets. I get confused. I have to leave before I pass out from indecision. I want to put some stuff on the walls, stuff that matches or coordinates, rather than the hodge podge of stuff we usually do. I also want a freaking clock down there so I know what time it is.

We have a whole section of our basement that is finished and open--Vor wants to (someday) put in a pool table and a dart board. Right now, there is a TV from the 1970s (okay maybe the 80s) and our bike on a trainer, plus my weights, etc. tons of unused space, which quite frankly, Lis and Telly love, because she throws the ball for him over there.

So! That's the start!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My True Love Gave To Me

In the last seven days, I've had:

(1) Four speaking engagements at conferences and CLEs
(2) Five hearings, two of which were all day hearings
(3) Weekend guests with bonus pug
(4) A toddler who has developed a suspicious cough that makes her kind of sound like a seal
(5) Three emergencies on three different cases
(6) Submitted four different documents (mostly findings of fact and conclusions of law) to the court that were at least 20 pages long

and I'm sure the partridge in a pear tree is in the basement somewhere.

SPEAKING OF THE BASEMENT, I have really awesome news that I am putting in a separate post that will totally become my next little (utterly irrelevant and boring to anyone to me, Vor, and Lis) series.

Things are going...well! around here. It's amazing what happens when you decide to unfreeze yourself and take the steps you need to take in order to stop living in survival mode, and start living.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Each One More Than The Last

I reposted this last year—I had written it the year before, on the 10th anniversary. I repost it again this year with a heavier heart.

Earlier in the day yesterday, my brother Facetimed everyone to say that he loved us, all was well, but he would be off the grid for a little while, time and location unannounced. Last night, Vor and I watched the president’s speech, and when he made a throw away mention of keeping military high on Syria right now, I dropped my head down. I have no way of knowing, but I fear. It seems that here we are, twelve years later, and we may be on the verge on doing it all over again.

As always, there are moments that time seems to slow down on September 11, and I use those moments of motionlessness and clarity to think of the people my family lost, and the people my friends lost, and the people that everyone in all our communities lost. I try to use sheer force of will to ask the universe to keep my family and friends who are active military members, many of whom are deployed right now, safe. It may seem like that is futility personified, but I cannot believe it to be so.

I will always remember, and I will always hope. Before, Then, Now, Therefore; Still, Always; Remember, Hope. I keep it all within me.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pickled Rabbit

On Sunday morning, I ventured off to to Target with Lis, solo.

Yes, I have taken Lis to Target before, both with and without Vor. However, I rarely take her solo when it is also a Sunday (very busy) and also my main day to do grocery shopping. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never made that tragic mistake. She loves loves loves Target--so many people to see and things to remove from their shelves and relocate to new shelves.

Such as, oh, let's say, jars of olives and pickles.

I can see you shaking your head. Grace, you say. Why not just hold her/put her in the cart/wear her in one of those hippy baby slings that she HATES/give her your phone to distract her/sacrifice your hypothetical second born child to the goddess of whatever in an effort to keep her happy? Believe me, I tried it all. Lis was only going to let me grocery shop if I let her walk around.

At one point, I was wrestling two jars of beans and a glass jar of olives away from her when the slippery little sucker managed to spin, grab pickles, and smash the pickle jar.

So, Sunday morning started with broken glass and pickle juice, and we were all very traumatized by the whole thing. I paid for the broken pickles, because I am not an asshole, and I felt terrible and like a terrible parent who had no control over her child.

Lis carried on for the rest of the day in this general fashion, somewhat crazed and mischievous and generally trying my patience and wearing me down fast. What started tragically, of course, ended just as tragically. We used this weekend to install Telly's new electric fence--he's taken off one too many times and earned himself an electric collar. Whilst putting on the finishing touches of the invisible fence, Telly took the opportunity to wander into our neighbor's yard while we were talking to her, locate a pile of rabbit turds, and roll in it. Lis, highly in tune with her puppy, decided to go help him roll in whatever it was he was rolling in, and hey! this looks like fun!

Sunday evening ended in a dog and baby with rabbit poop all over them.

This happened in the span of thirty seconds. I don't know how they manged to get to so poop covered in thirty seconds, but they did. and hey, it was a really big pile of rabbit poop.

We pulled out the hose and the baby pool and filled it with water and soap and hosed them both off and washed them outside, because hell no are you coming back in the house with rabbit poop on you.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: AT NO POINT when I signed up for this parenting gig did I also check the optional box for RABBIT POOP.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Oh Sh!t Stew and Other Kitchen (Mis)Adventures

I CANNOT be the only one who has a toddler wake up too early, be cranky all morning, and when we get to the naptime upon which I am so desperately depending, toddler refuses to nap and in fact SCREAMS at me for two and a half hours no matter what I do to comfort her. It’s days like this where any dinner prep goes out of the window because I have a TOOMAH attached to my hip, and I cannot work with knives or a hot stove with said TOOMAH.
 
So, here is what I refer to as my recipe for “Oh Sh!t I Have No Time and My Husband Is Allergic to Tomatoes, Which Of Course Would Make Making Stew Easier” Chicken Stew. You can call it chicken stew for short if you want, but I think that leaves out of some of the flavor, n’est—ce pas?

Ingredients:
(1) Chicken, thawed or even frozen and you’re like me and completely incapable of remembering to take the chicken out of the freezer.
(2) Can of beans (I like cannellini, but whatever kind you have is fine but for the love of all that is holy don’t use chili beans that are already seasoned)
(3) What I call “flavor” vegetables—that is, vegetables that give a flavor. I use onion, carrot, and garlic, but you could use celery or potatoes or mushrooms or whatever or even tomatoes if you are lucky and don’t have a husband who is allergic to tomatoes.
(4) What I call “pretty” veggies—that is, spinach or kale or something else with a pretty bright color, cut up to add color and probably more nutritional value that my daughter will send hurtling at top speed to the floor or the dog.
(5) White wine or chicken stock
(6) Spices you like—I use oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Oh, and paprika, because I put that on everything.
(7) Olive Oil
 
Coat bottom of stockpot with olive oil and begin sautéing onions and flavor veggies. When you get bored or they look done enough, whatever comes first, pour in some wine. No, I don’t know how much, because it depends on how much I think I might need in my stew depending on the kind of day I had. Yes, I know alcohol cooks off, why don’t you be quiet and go away KILL JOY.

Toss in can of beans, liquid and all, and then add chicken breasts. Yes! This is the glory of this recipe! It will cook fine even if they were frozen! Make sure there is just enough liquid to almost cover the chicken breasts. If not, add MORE WINE or chicken broth if you are lame. Or not out of it, like I always am. Don’t totally cover the chicken breasts, or you will have soup, not stew, but whatever. It’ll taste fine.

Add your spices.

When the chicken is done (seriously? I don’t know when its done. Cut it open and check yourself!), you can either leave the chicken whole or stab it into smaller pieces with a spatula, like I do. Yes. I stab it. It’s good stress relief.

Now add your pretty pop of color veggies. You need to save these for last, because the longer you cook them, the more color they lose. Also, if its spinach, it gets slimy when its cooked too long. Just stir them in at the end! Unless it’s cubed sweet potatoes. You should probably cook those longer, lest you lose a tooth.

VOILA chicken stew.

Bonus step: If you happen to have pasta or orzo or Amish Noodles (love those) or egg noodles, they help thicken the stew. Add them in when you add the chicken breasts, and just keep an eye on the liquid level to make sure the pasta hasn’t absorbed too much liquid. Too much liquid absorbed by the pasta? Add MORE WINE.

Seriously though, it turned out great, and it is really easy. From start (Vor: “Um, what are we having for dinner?” Me: Blank stare) to finish (food in mouth, silence from adults, screeching from toddler), it took 25 minutes.  It was very filling and made great leftovers.

That is honestly how I cook—very fly by the seat of the pants, rarely any planning ahead, almost never following a recipe. I don’t measure, I just eye ball it. I’ve tried following meal plans—it ends in disaster and tears. I’ve tried precisely following recipes, but I always end up picking it apart, questioning why they didn’t do it a different way, and then I end up doing it my way instead. This is not to say that I am a stellar cook, but I am pretty good.

What I am stellar at is baking. It’s dangerous. I make pies, pastry, croissants, and other desserts from scratch, and oh sweet Jesus hold me, but they are good. I bake mostly in the fall, because (1) pumpkin, (2) holidays, (3) cooler weather, (4) less crazy season in my job.
 
Some of my favorites are:
Pie (apple, peach, pumpkin, mixed fruit, chocolate bourbon pecan)
Croissants (almond, pecan, or chocolate)
Roll up cookies
Shortbread (plain, espresso chocolate, cranberry orange)
Scones

All of these can be ridiculously easy and in your kitchen in a short time, I promise. Be not afraid of flour.

So, brace yourselves for my upcoming baking adventures. There shall be apples and pumpkin and cinnamon OH MY.