Friday, October 26, 2007

Confession #1.

I am a cheater.

No, not that kind of cheater. Get your mind out of the gutter.

CPT Dick and I play a lot of board games. One of our favorite games to play is Trivial Pursuit, as whomever wins usually spends the rest of the day lording how smart he or she is over the other one. It is verbal foreplay at its best.

Neither of us is very crazy about the later versions of the game. The questions are a bit too pop culture for our taste. But we just got the newest version as a gift and decided to give it a go.

We were neck and neck in the game. And for whatever reason, CPT Dick kept getting these serious meatball questions. For instance:
  • What 1995 Alicia Silverstone movie is credited with helping popularize the phrase, "As if?"
  • What "soldier's newspaper" did Ulysses Grant's troops launch in 1861, after finding the offices of the Bloomfield Herald abandoned?
  • What Star Trek collective warns: "Prepare to be assimilated...resistance is futile?"
  • Who made his bride jump on 10 foot crocodiles, on their 1992 honeymoon in North Queensland?

The answers, of course, are Clueless, Stars and Stripes, the Borg and Steve Irwin, respectively. And take special note of the last question because my husband answered it as "The Crocodile Hunter." And even though it was a piece of the pie, I gave it to him.

And me? I got questions like:

  • What national has the highest incidence of kuru, a disease spread by eating human brains? (Papua New Guinea)
  • Who moved across the bay to Oakland in 2001, to keep catching footballs? (Jerry Rice)
  • What rodent flavors Phillippe Parola's award winning recipe for Ragondin Salid? (Nutria)
  • What U.S. painter famously mistook Peggy Guggenheim's fireplace for a urinal during a cocktail party? (Jackson Pollack)

Flash forward a few turns and I get the following question, also for a piece of pie:

  • What uniquely titled magazine did Gene Simmons unfurl in 2002?

I replied, "Tongue." But since the back of the card said, "Gene Simmons Tongue," he wouldn't give it to me. And then he went on to mock me for other questions he knew and I didn't. I started to get really annoyed.

So when he was up for his final piece of the pie, the question was "What talk show host reveals what famous folks' offspring might look like in segments called "If They Mated?"

There was no way I was giving that one to him. He loves Conan O'Brien and would have gotten it in a second. So I cheated. I read the next question down instead: "What gubernatorial candidate canvassed Florida in a trademark red Ford pickup?"

He didn't get Janet Reno. I went on to win the game.

So I confess, for the first time ever, I cheated. But it was a hollow victory and I don't imagine I'll do it again. After all, I'm sure I would have kicked his ass anyway.

So like...

If you made a cake for a bake sale and you had to slice the cake to put it into individually wrapped portions to sell, having a piece -- just to taste and make sure it came out all right -- is totally fine, right? And like, if not all of it fit into your Tupperware container to take to the bake sale, eating another piece is really just common sense. Right?!

As requested, the brown sugar maple pound cake recipe:

3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 pound brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp maple flavoring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan. Set aside.
2. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
3. Using another very large mixing bowl, cream vegetable shortening, butter and sugars together.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until mixture is fluffy and pale in color.
5. Add maple and vanilla.
6. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and half of the milk to creamed ingredients. Mix just to combine. Turn mixer off and scrape sides. Add another 1/3 and the rest of the milk. Again mix just to combine. Add remaining dry ingredients, mixing just to combine. Do not overmix.
7. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 325 for one hour twenty minutes or until center of cake tests done.
8. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in pan and then remove from pan and place on rack to cool completely.

Serve with fresh strawberries and whipped cream or, alternatively, with a rich vanilla or chocolate sauce. Prepare to eat at least three pieces.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The countdown...

My friend, Proper Prophet, is just a scant two days away from her dissertation deadline. She's managed to survive revisions, gray skies and her Macbook wanting to join the big Apple in the sky. She is getting it done and is still managing to be thoughtful, fun and a great e-friend.

Go visit her blog and cheer her on! It's not every day someone gets up enough gumption to finish up a whole dissertation.


With CPT Dick away playing Army, Munchkin and I have decided to go away for the weekend. We're heading to Provence to meet a few friends and I think it will be just lovely.

Except for one teeny, tiny thing. We're driving.

Now, I don't know if you are schooled in the fine art of motoring with a toddler. If you are, then I don't have to say another word, your stomach has already started to cramp up with anxiety for me. But if you aren't, let's just say that I'm going to be spending 6 hours in a car with a person who thinks that the world revolves around him. While driving that car, I'm somehow going to have to anticipate his every need and reach around to the backseat to fulfill those needs without killing us. If a peanut butter cracker gets bitten into the wrong way and falls on to his shirt on a way that is displeasing, I will have to find a way, in between the screams, to explain why it's not the end of the world. I will have to change his diaper on the floor of truckstops.

And I will do it all while listening to the Sesame Street soundtrack. Over and over again. And with no wingman to help out.

Whomever said it's not the destination, but the journey, obviously never traveled with small children. But somehow we'll persevere. And at the very least, there will be lots of wine and yummy, yummy cheese once we get there.

I'd like to think...

...that the community spirit and volunteerism displayed in California are due to the fact that we actually learned something from New Orleans, not the average cost of homes in the area.

Don't burst my bubble just yet. With so much in California burning, I need a little dose of Pollyanna.

The way grandparents scare their grandchildren.


"What? What's wrong?"

"I can't find the tweezers."

"Why do you need tweezers?"

"Oh, I have a chin hair."

"How old are you now, honey?"

"Not that old. It's just one hair and it's blonde. But as soon as I notice that it's growing, I take great pleasure in plucking it out."

"Maybe you should get yourself some bleach. Or a razor. Make sure you get it completely."

"It's only one hair, Grandmother. And it's blonde already. It's not that it's that unsightly. No one else really notices it. But it bothers me and it's quick enough to remedy."

"Just wait, honey. It's a sign of things to come. I've been shaving my face like a man since I was 45 years old."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

10 Books.

On a social networking site, I was pinged to list my top 10 books. *The* 10 books that I believe everyone should read. Here they are, in no particular order:

Ali and Nino - Kurban Said
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
The End of Alice - A.M. Homes
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Where I'm Calling From - Raymond Carver

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
At Play in the Fields of the Lord - Peter Mathiessen
The Accidental Tourist - Anne Tyler
A Fine Balance - Rohan Mistry
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle

What are your 10?

Things I've done since CPT Dick left.

  1. Made a brown sugar maple pound cake and ate it over the course of 72 hours.
  2. Put white sheets on my bed, reveling in the fact that there is and will not be any mud or any other random dirt put there over the next few weeks.
  3. Removed all Phish songs from my iPod.
  4. Realized that laundry can wait a few days because my husband is not here to throw anything he wears for longer than two minutes (plus nasty, dirty PTs) into the hamper.
  5. Watched "Terms of Endearment" - TWICE - without any comments or imitation of Oscar-worthy scenes from the peanut gallery.
  6. Missed him. Just a little.

We have new words.

Just this week, my son can be heard muttering the following on top of his animal sounds:

Big Bird

But still no Mommy. I hope he manages to say "Mama" at least once before he hits adolescence and I'm automatically referred to as an expletive.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I still got it.

Yesterday, I did my weekly grocery shopping.

As I went to pull out a cart from the stack of carts in the front of the commissary, the cart was sticking. In finally jarring it loose, I bumped into a little boy next to me who was also trying to wrestle a cart out from the pack. I said, "Excuse me, sorry about that! They are really wedged in there."

He looked about 7 and was shopping with his Dad. He replied, "No problem, pretty lady."

His Dad tried not to laugh.

A few minutes later, as I was picking out some apples, he and his father roll up behind me to get some of their own. The little boy looks at me, winks and says, "And so we meet again."

It's at this point that I realized that the boy's Dad is not wearing a wedding ring. Monkey see, monkey do, I guess.

So, yeah, I still got it. Sure, only 7-year-olds who have learned cheesy pick-up lines from their single Dads notice it but that don't mean I'm lacking. Watch out, world!

Who knew that I'm such a big wuss?

Since I can't get a regular speech therapist for my son right now, I've been reading up all I can on methods and strategies for speech production and incorporating them into our every day use.

This week, we've been working on environmental sounds -- the noises that animals make, cars and trucks make, etc. What that means is that I make those sounds, a lot and often in public while people look at me strangely, in hopes that Munchkin will mimic me. He usually doesn't but at least he's amused at the lengths I go to in trying to engage him.

But we've had a breakthrough.

Yesterday, when I asked Munchkin, "How does a cow go?" I took a breath and fully expected to be the one to answer with "Moo." After all, that's how it usually works. But this time, he answered. He looked at me, smiled and gave me a big ol' "Moooooooooo." And then, I went on to ask about ducks, cats, dogs, sheep, and horses and he could tell me all of the noises they make. Just like that.

I don't know what I did this time or didn't do before but finally he's gotten it. And we've been working so hard for so long that I'll be honest -- I started to cry while I continued to drill him on animal sounds.

I can only imagine what I'll be like when he starts using real words.

NEE 37, Moths ?

Thanks to CaliValleyGirl, I learned that when my English-challenged exterminator said "flying insect," he meant kitchen or pantry moth and that I can find pheromone traps at the local drug store to help me rid myself of them.

Since our unfortunate bedbug infestation (always, always check your husband's battle rattle after field training!), I don't do bugs. Not even non-bloodsucking moths. As far as I'm concerned, even though they aren't eating on me, they are still mooching and therefore subject to punishment. So I am on a mission. I will eradicate these fuckers if it's the last thing I do.

I cleaned out the pantry, tossing any food that could have possibly been contaminated and then cleaned it out with Lysol disinfectant. I found larvae in my stack of dish towels and washed them in super-hot water. I found a few more in the tiny crevices that are in a wheeled plastic storage container that sits next to the pantry and killed and cleaned some more.

And then I set up the traps.

Holy crap! These things work. I mean, I set out two to start and by the next morning both of them had several moths on it. I figure where two are good, six will be even better. So I bought more.

It wasn't until evening that I got a chance to set them up. But I turned on the light, went into the kitchen, and ripped off the backing of the trap to release the pheromones. All of a sudden, 8 months appeared just in my general vicinity. More appeared as I put them up in moth-frequented areas.

I thought they might eat me. Pantry moths don't fly particularly well and, as they looped and lurched towards me and the trap, I couldn't help but think of kamikaze pilots. I'm pretty sure these guys are totally out to get me in hopes of living happily on my foodstuffs forever.

Over the past few days, I've killed 37 moths by hand and at least 15 have been stuck to the traps. I've seen no more evidence of larvae but the moths keep coming. Unfortunately, I don't know if this means that (a) I am killing them faster than they can reproduce and I'll be moth-free in a few weeks time or (b) they are coming in from outside somehow and I am only enticing more into the kitchen by putting out those irresistible pheromones.

Only time will tell. But man, am I getting adept at moth killing. I'm considering a second career.

Why I hate AAFES.

"Hi, I need to return this 'Barrel Full of Monkeys' toy. The Monkey #4 is missing."

"You opened the packaging."

"Well, yes, that's how I learned that the monkey was missing."

"You still have 9 of them."

"Yes, but since 'Barrel Full of Monkeys' now wants to be a learning toy promoting numbers and colors, it's kind of difficult to help my son count when 4 is missing."

"But ma'am, you opened the packaging."

"Yes, I did. But I bought it yesterday. Here's the receipt."

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but I can't take it back if you opened the packaging. For all I know, you or your child lost that monkey."

"I only bought it yesterday. We didn't have time to lose it."

"I'm sorry, ma'am. When the packaging is opened, I cannot take toys back."

"So you're telling me if I wish to remedy this problem, my only option is to buy a new 'Barrel'?"

"I'm afraid so, ma'am. It's AAFES policy to not take back toys once the packaging has been opened."

"Well, how do I know that all of that shipment of Monkeys aren't missing numbers?"

"Excuse me, ma'am?"

"Can I open a new one and make sure it's complete before I buy it?"

"I'm sorry, ma'am? What?"

"Well, I'll buy a new one. I don't really have an issue with that. But I want to make sure it has all of its parts. Can I open it here in front of you to make sure before I buy it?"

"You crazy or something?"