Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Case of the Disappearing Bug (2.29.2012)

It is the last (extra) day of February in Minnesota. Traditionally, February is the month that it occurs to one of me (I am a Gemini) to dye my hair blond, cut my hair if it's long, or grow it if it's short -- just to defy the monotony of February.

My hair is already blond so I had to think of something else. As a substitute for my February hair obsession, I am taking pictures of my favorite Bug.
Eight Days Ago Bug: 2.21.2012
Twenty-five Days Ago Bug: 2.4.2012


Today's Bug: 2.29.2012

And here are a few other photos from around the nabe*...
Snow-covered trees outside my house...
Snow-covered trees outside of my doctor's office...
What else -- a snowplow...
And snow, snow, snow while people wait for the bus.


Did I mention that we got a few inches of snow last night?
 *I totally borrowed this word from my pal, Hadley, in a desperate effort to keep up.




Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Netflix. Pizza. Motherhood Awards (2.28.2012)

Yes, I even made the pizza dough.
Last Friday I took the day off. I didn't do much except relax and bake. Funny to say it but those two things are starting to become synonyms. Part of my new weekend tradition is to cook or bake at least one thing. This weekend it was a double header: chocolate torte and homemade pizza. Sam came home, saw the torte, and just said, "Wow". He didn't say much about the pizza, but he did finish it all.

Then he went upstairs and asked me to write down the word "Netflix" so he could Google it to watch movies. It was one of those funny things that happens with Sam -- or maybe with any 21 year old. I told him last week about signing up for Netflix and he sounded excited but sometimes it's hard to tell what's making an impression on him. He's polite and loving enough to humor me sometimes. But when he came in the house and said, "Write down Netflix for me..." I could tell I had made an impression on him.

I gave him a quick 411 on navigating the site and within seconds he was watching Morning Glory. "Diane Keeton", he said. Then the biggest moment of all. "You a good Mommy," he said. I laughed and gave him a hug. Movie stars have the Oscars. I have Sam. And I wouldn't change that for anything. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Forgiving Yourself Sideways (2.27.2012)

I am taking a writing course at The Loft (https://www.loft.org/). The course, Going in Sideways: Practical Strategies for Writing Memoirs, is my first wobbly step in the direction of the memoir I've always wanted to write about raising my son, Sam. I have wanted to do this for years. Now that I am actually trying to put words on paper, I understand why I have put this off for so long. Remembering has been very emotional. The teaching artist who is guiding our class tells us that this is not unusual and that the act of capturing such memories, any memories, can send a tsunami of unexpected emotion flooding your way. And that has certainly happened.

Like today, I was thinking about the time before Sam's diagnosis of autism (when he was still a toddler) and he actually had an admissions interview at a well-respected Montessori school in Wilton, CT. We arrived early on the morning of the interview and accompanied Sam into a large classroom learning area along with two of the Montessori teachers. They watched as he ricocheted from one learning activity to another, never standing still. Blocks. Books. Sand. Crayons. Back to books. Balls. Pegboard. Blocks. During the 20-minute session, the two teachers exchanged glances. Once. Twice. Ben and I just watched. We didn't understand. We were new parents and barely understood what was expected of a Montessori toddler much less what the glances meant.

As I was sitting at my desk today thinking of all this, I suddenly became aware of a very sick feeling in my stomach. I had to take a moment to catch my breath. Recalling a memory from 20 years ago which still held this much power made me feel a little sorry for myself. For all of us. That's the truth. There was so much we didn't know. So much we didn't even suspect. So many dumb things I did as a parent that I should've forgiven myself for, but never have.

Remembering how this all unfolded in the classroom that day reminded me: at the time I was doing the best I could. I had to recognize that at the time I didn't have the luxury of a leisurely stroll through what my emotions were or weren't, or what it might mean or not mean, because when I left the Montessori classroom that day, I went back to the urgent and all-consuming, full time, real-time job of being Sam's mom. I had to keep going.
I am finally starting what I've put off for so long. And I feel like I now have the tools I need to push through some of these memories, tackle them to the ground and experience them -- front, back or sideways -- with my critical side on mute and my heart engaged in telling the real story.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

American Angst and Ardor (2.26.2012)

Last night, my son Sam and I went to see American Idiot at The Orpheum Theatre. It was an incredible show. Much like the reviews indicated, more like attending a concert than a play. The music was so terrific I could hardly keep from bouncing in my seat. Sam loved it. He especially liked the female dancers in the sequined dresses. They were all legs and cleavage and sparkle. On the way home he said, "I need to date someone." I said, "You and me both." I didn't mean to minimize his 21-year-old combination of angst and ardor, but when he says stuff like that, it breaks my heart. What do I do? What do I say? How do I find someone for my lovely, loving son who will always live in a group home? I don't discount it at all. I know it is possible. I believe that. I just don't know how to make it happen. To ensure that he gets what he wants in this life.
The thing is, I am so used to fixing things for him and making it better. I have always been his translator in the world - both literally and figuratively. And this is one of those things that I can't fix. Or translate. Maybe that's what every parent faces in some form or another. Granted, this one is a little more complicated, but it is still wanting something so much for your child -- something they want too -- that you just can't pull off. A skinned knee seems so much easier.

So after we got home, we got settled in. I let Sam stay up until midnight to play Nintendo and I went to bed. I fell asleep with the television on and around midnight, I woke up to find Sam looking for the remote to turn off the TV in my room. He is such a sweet and thoughtful young man -- so remarkably different than any diagnosis of "autistic spectrum" might indicate. He has heart and love enough to take care of me and his Dad, and curiosity large enough to care about everyone around him -- the people he works with and the people he lives with in his group home. If ever there was a young man who deserves to date someone, this is the guy. And I suppose, if ever there was a Mom crazy enough to figure out a way to mess with Cupid's arrow on Sam's behalf, that Mom is me.              

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Just-One-Disaster Truffle Cake (2.25.2012)

Sometimes people think I exaggerate when I say I don't cook. Or bake. But recently, I have really been enjoying it (see Candy Apple Red Love, 2.14.2012).  But let me tell you more about my experience making this easy-peasy truffle cake (out of a lovely box) and maybe you'll see why I have a complex. Or maybe, I just don't have much luck in the kitchen. Maybe I need to cook, bake, fry, broil while holding a rabbit's foot. So anyway, here's my story:

Step 1: Couldn't be simpler.


Step 2: Throw it in a bowl.
This is an action shot...
Step 3: Grab the Rabbit's Foot.
Random Bunny with Feet
In order to make this cake, I bought new cake pans. The kind that have the removeable sides (springform?) I poured the batter into the pan and then settled the pan on the center rack in the oven. I closed the door and a few minutes later...I heard a sizzley kind of noise. Sizzle? Did I just put bacon in the oven? There's that sound again. Hmmm. I open the door and see a puddle of batter forming on the bottom of the oven. I appear to be the new owner of a leaky cake pan.
Gooey mess from leaky pan.
Spatula is holding the fried batter from the bottom of the stove.

Step 4: Clean up hideous mess. Proceed.
I had to take the pan out of the oven, pour it into a new super-cheap aluminum cake pan, and scrape the batter off the bottom of the oven. Fun! Do I at least get a Girl Scout badge for this?

Random Cooking Story for Your Enjoyment:
The last time I used one of those removeable-sides-type pans was years ago. I was making a flourless chocolate torte. I poured the batter in the pan and opened the over door. My now ex-husband walked into the kitchen at the same moment that I picked up the cake pan -- and the entire bottom fell out. Flourless chocolate torte all over kitchen and creation. We laughed so hard. Now the legend continues. (So maybe this is an implement-specific type of bad luck?)

Step 5: Fun and Uneventful.
Cake comes out of the oven and cools. No sizzle sounds. I even get it situated on a plate, make the ganache, and feel like a total pro. It looks and tastes like something I would order in a restaurant and even Sam says, "Wow." Hoping this means my kitchen karma with the cake pan thing is all paid-up.
I know this looks a little like a hamburger because I lost some of the batter
when I had that leaky pan thing. But I swear it's chocolate and nummy-tasting.


Friday, February 24, 2012

How To Wear A Tux (2.24.2012)

There is no earthly reason why I would want to know
how to wear a tux and chances are, you feel the same way.

However, there is every reason in the world why I would want a full length photo of Jake Gyllenhaal in a tux, so here he is.

Thank you, New York Times.

If you want to do more than just look at the pretty pictures, here's the link to The New York Times story on mens style:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/23/fashion/formal-wear-tips-from-mens-fashion-experts.html?src=me&ref=style

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Another Glorious WFH Day (2.23.2012)

I love working from home (WFH). It appeals to my creative nature. I am lucky enough to have the flexibility of WFH one to two days a week.

When I WFH, there are a couple of things I need to be productive. Part of my routine I guess you could say. At least it's my routine in the winter time and it rules. 
1. Laptop  
NEED my laptop. And a back-up laptop
just in case.

2. Coffee
Need my coffee and or
Peach Diet Snapple.

3. Silly Hair
Must have the silliest hair possible
for a solid WHF day.

4. Fireplace with Silly Cat Attachment
My WFH days would not be complete without the fireplace on and Ginger doing her impersonation of Garfield (sans the pan of lasagna on her tummy).

5. My Fuzzy Pink Kashwere Robe
Yes, I know how to spell cashmere. This is different. It's a brand name for the softest, fuzziest material going*. I don't care whether Oprah liked it or not -- it's one of my favorite things.


*(http://www.kashwereathome.com/)


----------------------------------------------------------------

Do you WFH?
What are your
favorite things? 

(Leave me a comment and let me know!)

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Geek Love (2.22.2012)

My poor little laptop had to go to the Geek Squad last week. It was very scary.
When I took it in and explained what was wrong, the Geek Squad guy said, "Hmm." Then he started using really scary words like "motherboard" and "busted hard drive" and "two to three weeks" which made me see cash flying out of my wallet despite the fact that I had purchased Geek Squad Tech Support when I bought the laptop.

My poor little laptop was gone for three days.
If it hadn't been for borrowing Sam's laptop, it would have been a trip to Hazelden for me.


When I admitted to Sam that I was using his laptop, he asked me, "Where is my laptop now?" "It is on my lap," I replied. He wasn't too happy that I had touched his stuff but he is a generous child. He said, "No problem."

It also made him happy when he learned that he could now use Netflix on his laptop to see movies. "Cool", he said. Who said bribes don't work?

When the Geek Squad called me to tell me my laptop was fixed, I was surprised. I asked them what was wrong with it. They said they found 179 viruses on my laptop -- gulp -- and they managed to eliminate them all. I was even more surprised that it didn't cost me a penny.

I am glad that my laptop is no longer sick. I like my little laptop, and even though I doubted it for a while (and regretted having bought it just because it was white), it has come through for me. And as geeky as this sounds, so has the Geek Squad. Yea!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Snowy White and Icy Blue (2.21.2012)

When I talked to Sam
on the phone last night,
I told him to dress warmly
because it was supposed to snow*.

Then I went upstairs, looked out
the big picture window, and saw that
a blanket of the white stuff
was already decending.
Snowy White (today)
 This morning, once again,
I saw my neighbor's little bug
covered in the stuff.
Icy Blue (2.04.2012)



I like the little bug.
I wonder if it knows how photogenic it is?



*(It's a Mom thing. I always say that kind of stuff.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Poison & Candy or Why I Went to the Walker (2.20.2012)

This was my free weekend. No responsibilities except for making sure I put clothes on when I go out the door and putting gas in the car. I can have popcorn for dinner if I want to and can make popovers with impunity. Since I had all this free time and was sick and tired of saying "I've never been to the Walker..." when the subject came up, and equally sick and tired of watching re-runs of Real Housewives, I decided this was the weekend to expand my cultural horizons. 

The Walker is the Walker Art Center, a super-cool destination for soaking up contemporary visual arts, dance, theatre and music in the Twin Cities. It seems amazing to me that I waited something like 17 years to go, but I was busy.

Birth of Venus

Going to museums used to be one of my favorite things to do in all the world. When I lived in New York, it was The Met and MOMA; when I was in college I spent half-a-year in Florence, and I used to regularly hang at the Uffizi Gallery on Saturday mornings. I would stand for hours in front of Botticelli's Birth of Venus, thinking that maybe if I stood there long enough it would somehow be infused into my being, so I could take it back home with me. Now that it's been 35 years since I've been to Italy, I understand why I stood there for so long.

Part of Poison & Candy Installation
So it was in search of a similar feeling but different experience that I went to see Frank Gaard's retrospective show, Poison & Candy, at the Walker. His work is just totally crazy and bright and personal.
And to quote the Walker: "iconographic". Whatever you call it, it made me smile and made me feel happy to be there. And because of the nature of his work, I couldn't help but make a connection between his idiosyncratic work, his list of things he likes ("Eight Famous Female Artist's Panties") and writing a blog.
The Time Painting
Blogging (and writing in general) is such a private expression of things that come out of your brain that you choose to make public. And it's easy to look at this work and see that it is connected very specifically to a person. When I dialed into the audio tour, it was interesting to hear the artist tell you that if you see a sliding board in one of his paintings -- that's about going to the park with his son. No big symbolism here. He paints portraits of himself, his friends and of other artists. In some ways, it's like a highly evolved visual blog. Totally charming, totally memorable. A great way to spend a Saturday if you have the time (http://www.walkerart.org/calendar/2012/frank-gaard-poison-candy).

Here is a recent story by Minnesota Public Radio on Frank Gaard:
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/01/26/frank-gaard-walker-retrospective-poison-and-candy/

[Author's Note: Photography is not allowed in the Poison & Candy gallery (although it is allowed in some of the other exhibits). These photos are from the Walker blog and other web sources.]

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Popovers, Movies, Motherhood (2.19.2012)

So this was the weekend of finally using The Baby. And what better test (for me at least) than a Baking 101 session: Popovers! I have never even eaten a popover much less made one. But I can do this. And if I can do this, I can do anything. So here's how I did it:

Recipe: First, I dumped a bundle on a beautiful KitchenAid stand mixer, otherwise known as The Baby (see Candy Apple Red Love, 2/14/2012). It came with a little instruction booklet ("Stand Mixers for Dummies") and recipes. Don't tell KitchenAid, but I will share the recipe here to save you countless sums of cash. (That is, unless you really NEED a gorgeous stand mixer):


Stuff You'll Need: Next, I assembled the critical ingredients. This included setting up my laptop in the kitchen so I could stream Final Destination 2 from Netflix while I was baking. I LOVE the Final Destination series. It's a total guilty pleasure.
Funny Story That Has Nothing to do with Baking: During the Christmas holidays when my son Sam was hanging out with me for a week, I asked him if he wanted to watch Final Destination 5 with me. He was lukewarm about it, but finally agreed. As we sat there together watching the first big accident scene, he clapped his hands over his mouth and was silent. Finally, he said: "SWEET MOTHER OF GOD. WHAA IS THIS?" When we finally stopped laughing about this, we talked about what a great Mom I was for suggesting that he watch such a movie. We laughed so hard about that, it became one of those unforgettable moments that you have with your kids if you are lucky. One of those moments when they get to look behind the curtain and see you as a person, not necessarily their Mom. I'll never forget it.

Thank you for humoring me, while I digress. Back to popovers!

Mixing Stuff: Here is The Baby, and proof that I have used it at least once. Honestly, it was such a breeze.


Pouring Stuff: As I disengaged the 5 quart glass bowl from the mixer stand, I noticed that it was literally bigger than my head. So, I kind of dripped on the counter. Please make sure you do this too so I don't get mad at you, thinking that you are doing it better than me.

Viola! They turned out great! Just for giggles, I had one for breakfast this morning with a little butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese*. It was really terrific. Highly recommend!

*[Author's Note: Ever since I've stopped using Kraft Parmesan Cheese out of a little plastic container and started spending $12 a pound on the real thing, I think I invented Parmesan cheese. And I'm sure that my poor little Italian Grandmother, Lillian, is now resting more peacefully in her grave just knowing that.]

Reading the Comics: Health Care Reform (2.18.2012)

Great book review in The New York Times this week. Since I work in the health care industry and wrestle questions about health care reform to the ground on a daily basis, I was attracted to the idea of this comic book approach to explaining the basics. What a great idea!

But before you pass over this as merely a clever idea, you should know that its' author, Dr. Jonathan Gruber, is an economist at MIT as well as a consultant to the Obama administration and Congress, and architect of one of the plans on which health reform legislation is based (Massachusetts health care law).

Everyone still awake???

O.K., so enough about that. Just thought this book approach was a brilliant way to let civilians -- you, me, them -- know what the massive science project known as health care reform may or may not mean in the near future.

There will be no test on this material.
-----------------------------------------------
Here is a link to The New York Times review: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/health/views/health-care-reform-book-review-a-cartoon-to-cut-through-red-tape.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

Here is a link to a very entertaining video, animated by Nathan Schreiber (http://nathanschreiber.com/) on The Affordable Care Act (ACA): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF8SiN8Bbh0&feature=player_embedded

Friday, February 17, 2012

Best of Broomball (2.17.2012)

I had an interesting lunch hour at work today. Instead of downloading a salad at my desk, I walked across the street to photograph the company Broomball tournament which has been going on for the past week.


Ball is absolutely far right...

  I work for a large health care company that is headquartered here in Minneapolis. The main campus is spread out over two buildings --soon to be three buildings --- on a rather pretty patch of ground that does a good job of merging commerce with walking paths, woods and a pond separating the two buildings. 

One of the BB teams with my building in the background.

Broomball was such a hit last year, that our facilities people constructed three separate Broomball rinks, complete with benches and bleachers,
so colleagues from all over could get together to face-off and have some fun sliding around on the ice...

Score or ...???
...and channeling a night at Madison Square Garden
(without the high sticks).
There was even a lone security guard on the ice
in case a hockey game broke out. 
       
Shift change...
(This is actually my favorite type of photo--portrait style)
  I haven't done any sports photography
in a long time.
         
"The Goalie Is In"...

All I really know about sports photography is
that if your photos are going to be worth anything,
you need a super-fast shutter speed (1/2500 second).

It's a breakaway...
   Oh, and patience and luck
unless you have a camera that will take
multiple frames per second
(I'll have to look into that for next season.) 

Real Broomball Action!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Do Over! My Hair is Running My Life (2.16.2012)

My hair is driving me nuts. Ever since having breast cancer, shaving off my unnaturally brown locks and having to wear a wig for 11 months, I've been dying -- no pun intended -- for my hair to grow back. Now it has and it's making me miserable. When I think of the time when I finally lost the wig, I know I was the happiest. My hair was a mere buzz cut and natural gray (don't tell anyone: I am not a natural blonde). I could wash it every day and since it was about a 1/8" long, drying it was a snap. Since it was super-short, I wore really fun earrings so I would look like I had it going on. Of course, men of every age treated me like I was The Invisible Woman, but other than that, it was cool. One person told me I looked like a super-chic art gallery owner in New York. BINGO! Remind me to write that woman a check because that was exactly the vibe I was trying for. But now it's longer. And blonde. And washing and drying it is a pain. Some days I actually choose to not work out because I just don't want to deal with The Hair. And Jesus knows that any day that my brain says "let's go work out", is a good day -- not one to be ignored because of a few flippy, blonde curls.

So in honor of letting my hair grow, dying it blonde and buckling under to The Man, I want a "do-over". I want to cut it short again (well, maybe not buzz-cut short because I would like to actually date a man again before I die...) and I might think about letting it go to my natural color again. Well, maybe. Perhaps I'm not fully committed to this. But just watch out because I'm thinking about it and when I think about things, anything can happen. Just you wait and see. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Broke My Mood Elevator (2.15.2012)

It must have been a really rough week because I broke my mood elevator. Yikes. I am now forced into the upper reaches of  The Red Zone (frustrated, irritated, anxious, defensive) and can no longer access two of my go to moods: "judgmental" and "depressed". However, I am grateful that my mood elevator didn't break in half. And curious how I will make it through a typical Monday. :-) 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Candy Apple Red Love (2.14.2012)

This is my Valentine's Day gift to myself. It's candy apple red and I just had to have it. I was even willing to start baking just to own it. A couple of weeks ago, I entered a contest to win this. It was stand mixer love at first sight*. I didn't win, but the thought was still planted in my head that this would be a wonderful addition to my kitchen. Especially if I actually use it. I have many plans for things I will make. But even if I never use it, it honestly just makes me happy, sitting on my kitchen counter being candy apple red and shining just for me. Happy Valentine's Day!

*Thanks for matching us up, Ree! (http://thepioneerwoman.com)