Thursday, October 30, 2014

A study abroad Halloween

Guys.  I kind of hate everything at the moment.

I have no reason, really, other than just a general, unexplainable discontent.

I hate that I have to cook everyday.  I hate that I have to clean up everyday.  I hate being responsible.  I hate that I have to go to the grocery this afternoon.  I hate that I'm 90 percent sure I was supposed to send in candy with Adele for a school Halloween party but didn't.  I hate that I haven't been sleeping.  And I especially hate that I'm not at home on the couch reading right now.

To make me feel better, please tell me in the comments everything that you currently hate.

Now let's try to emerge from the muck and gloom a bit, shall we?  When I was in Austria (12 years ago, holy hell) the people living in my dorm decided to have a Halloween party.  It was probably the best one I've ever attended, and also the one and only time I fell asleep with my head hanging over the toilet.

The thing about Halloween in Europe was that there wasn't nearly as much candy as now.  It was odd, honestly.  I kept expecting to see bowls of Reese cup ghosts, but instead there were only pretzels.  Sad face.

This entry is probably the longest in the history of ever, if only because I was determined to document everything that I did over there.  For posterity's sake.  And I have added new paragraph spacing that wasn't there before because, well, paragraphs are important.

(Also - these are totally pictures of pictures so excuse the quality...)


Gloria, me, Mette, Henrik

10/27/02 9:59 p.m.

I drank too much at the party last night & ended up falling asleep with my head over the toilet.  What an interesting story!  It was a Halloween party on the 4th floor & everyone had to dress up.  I was a gypsy.  I actually think I did a pretty good job w/it.  But of course once again I drank too much.  I had 2 glasses of wine, 2 beers, one glass of gin & sprite, one baby tequila shot, and I think that's all.  Oh, I did have a tiny bit of generic baileys.  I shouldn't have mixed everything like that.  But I danced a lot but not as much as before at past parties.  One time I decided to have a glass of wine & a glass of gin to take upstairs with me, but I couldn't walk up the stairs.  My skirt was too long & my hands were full so I couldn't hold it up so I tripped on it & stepped on it & I lost my gin.  But I think that was best.  I didn't need both drinks then.  I ended up putting pants on so that was better.  

Me, Lise

After awhile I got a little bored & decided to go to bed.  I just came down here & talked to Riitta about how crappy we felt.  This was about 4 in the morning I think.  But then all the sudden she leaves & goes to the bathroom in Lisa & Ingrid's kitchen & I decide that I should also go.  I think I was really drunk, but I think I could tell that I was going to be sick.  So I go & kneel in front of the toilet.  After a few minutes I puke a couple times.  I thought I should stay there because I might need to do it again.  So I put the lid down & flush & just lay my head on top.  And I passed out.  I woke up after maybe 30 minutes & peed & went out.  Mark & Denise were sitting there talking & just looked at me like where the fuck did you come from?  I just laughed & waved & said I think I fell asleep.  And then I went to bed.  I took a plastic bag with me just in case.  

Gloria, me, Lise

I woke up this morning around 9:30 or 10 & I had a horrible headache & I couldn't move very well at all.  I was so afraid I would puke.  I kept praying that I would just go back to sleep.  I finally did & woke up around 1 & went to the bathroom & took some aspirin & came & laid back down.  I felt okay after that.  I got back up around 2:30, well really 1:30 because the time changed.  Oh, I also hit my head on my shelf last night & I have a red mark on my forehead.  But today I didn't do much at all.  I did call Chris.  I miss him so very much.  But it won't be very much longer until I go back..  I didn't call my parents because I don't have the money.  My loan hasn't gotten here yet.  But I figured they would call but they didn't.  I wish they would have.  Maybe I'll call them later in the week.  Oh, everyone teased me today about sleeping in the bathroom.  It was funny.  

Back: Anne-Kristina, Ritta, Nicole
Front: me, Mette

Yesterday afternoon, me, Henrik, Riitta, Mark & Farag went to a military show thing.  It was Austria's national day & so lots of military equipment was set up at the Hofburg, I think & we just waked through.  It was actually a little boring, though.  After that we went to the Natural Historical Museum where I saw a bunch of rocks & dead animals.  After that we went to the Kunst historical Museum but I've already been there.  That's where the Ruben paintings are.  Then after that Farag met up with friends & the rest of us went to eat at the place where I ate calf brains a few months ago.  That's not what I had this time, though.  I had rindsrouladen.  It was really good.  We came back & I laid down for a little bit then got ready for the party.  

Ritta, Henrik, me, Vlad

But I guess I should catch up everything.  On Thursday the 24th I had children's lit class.  It was okay.  That night I went to the opera with Riitta & Noora.  Lise, Espen, Ingrid & her boyfriend also went but we didn't go together.  We saw Sparticus the ballet.  It was actually really good.  I didn't even get that tired of standing because we had breaks every 45 min.  But there was a big blue guy with a big blue penis.  It was huge!  But he was only on stage for a few minutes.  But it stood out!  I had a horrible coughing fit during it.  I think it was because there was an old man in front of me who actually smelled like death.  That's all I could think about.  

But there are so many rules there.  We had to check our jackets, which isn't really a problem, but we had to pay for it.  We tried to sneak & not do it but some lady behind us told on us.  Then Ingrid took a picture in the lobby & got into trouble - well just told not to do it anymore.  But it was only in the lobby & not during the performance so I don't understand.  Lise sat on the floor & she had to get up.  The rules didn't make any sense at all.  Oh well.  

On Friday I went to school to check my email then met everyone at the Secession for an exkursion.  It was really boring.  It was interesting to learn about the Klimt fresco but learning about the building was really boring.  I just didn't care too much.  I don't understand the art that's inside it.  It's too abstract for me.  

After that I came back here.  I ended up going to Zielpumkt 3 times.  First I went w/Mark to take back some empty beer bottles & do some shopping.  Well I was going to buy gin but I thought they took credit cards but they didn't so I had to put it back.  But I really want it so Mark & I found some more bottles & went back to Zielpunkt to get the money for the bottles.  It wasn't very much, though.  So we went to the ATM, then cam back & bought the gin.  So 3 times in about 1 hour.  That was funny.  The people must have thought we were crazy.  

Later Henrik, Mark, Riitta & I went to the movies & saw XXX with Vin Diesel.  It was so very bad.  The acting was terrible & it was filled w/one-liners.  But it was so corny that it was funny so we got some enjoyment!  And I think that's about all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Motherhood and More: It's been a long time since my time was me time*

I am having trouble coming up with a topic to write about.  I mean, it’s not like my wild children don’t give me excellent material, what with all the jumping off the couches and standing on tables and general exuberance that out-exuberances anything I’ve ever seen.

Maybe I could write about the weekend where it truly, wonderfully, finally felt like fall.  We built fires and roasted marshmallows and had soup and apple pie and wool socks and soccer.  We worked outside and inside and I spent 90 percent of my time in the kitchen and the kids even played together a bit. 

Or maybe I could write about soccer itself, how addictive it has become to watch my son grow as a player, and how my little guy has got skills and I’m not just saying that because I’m his proud mama.  (No, really.)

Or my daughter, and how I see her growing and maturing a little bit every day, with far, far less tantrums and meltdowns.  It’s a relief, really.  Conflict is not my jam and that little girl would thrive on it.  And now she’s almost reasonable, going whole days without calling her brother a poopy head.

But it’s all life, yeah?  This is my every day.  I’m a parent and wife and employee.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember who I was before all of that.  We all change as we grow older, that’s just how it is.  We mature and learn and the things that were so very important to us at 17 now seem inconsequential at 33.

Still, though, it would be nice to be that person again, just for a bit.  To have the freedom to spend all day in my room writing songs and playing my guitar.  Or reading a whole book in two days because there wasn’t anything else keeping me from it. 

Now, when there’s free time, there isn’t really free time.  The time that is my own is small, and it’s usually filled with responsibilities.  As in, I may have a day off at home by myself, but the chores don’t stop.  Or if I do have a bit of time, it’s such a small chunk that I try to fit in all of the ‘me-time’ activities but instead still feel rushed.  That’s not to say I don’t appreciate that time, I surely do.  But I never truly stop being Mom or Wife. 

I don’t want to, though.  It’s who I am now, and who I will be.  I love those titles.  I love taking care of the ones I love.  It can be hard.  In fact most of the time it is.  But that doesn’t stop it from being the most important thing in my life. 

So really, there is no need to be 17 again because I like where I am now.  Everything was so tragic then, and there were far too many unknowns up in the air, far too much drama because I was still trying to figure out who I was.

I do miss the freedom, yes.  But I don’t miss the ambiguity or the angst.  Or the bad poetry.

I know I've used this photo before but LOOK HOW AWESOME MY ROOM WAS!

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on October 22, 2014.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In which I unexpectedly work through my feelings on Lena Dunham's book

I went to a work function last night, one where I got to put on nice clothes (even nicer than the business-casual I usually wear) and listen to speeches and eat fancy chicken on a stick.  And desserts on a stick.  And an endless amount of other tiny delicious pieces of food that I had to pick up with my hands because there were no forks to be seen anywhere.  The food was amazing.  I work at a community college and the event was catered by the culinary department and I had to resist eating two of everything.  I settled for one.

Related: I still don't like chicken liver even if it's wrapped in bacon and speared with a toothpick.  But I TRIED.

I thought the post needed a picture
and this was all I could come up with.
I came home to my husband already in bed and asleep (it was 9:15) so I had to rummage around in the dark for pajamas.  I stayed up reading Lena Dunham's book (Not That Kind of Girl) because I needed a bit of winding down off the fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I want to like this book, I really, really do.  And that's not to say that I don't, per se.

I'm not making any sense.

What I want to say is that I like the book, but there are parts that leave a bad taste in my mouth.  She's open, yes, which I appreciate.  And there are certain passages of her stories that leave me nodding in agreement and relief that finally someone gets how I feel about something.

But my overall feeling is that she is so very young.  Maybe that's the point of the book, though.  She captures a part of her life, her childhood and early-adulthood, and how full of self-knowledge were any of us at those times in our life?

I think I've written before about how, at least in the writing community that I've encountered, there seems to be an overall belief that in order to write well you have to be messed up in some way.  I don't subscribe to that belief.  I mean, I think we're all at least a bit messed up but it's the wallowing in it that bothers me.  The feeling that you are somehow 'special' because you had a bad experience.  Or weird experience.  Or experience that didn't sit well.  We've all had them.  No one is without their own story.  Everyone you meet is dealing with something.  And so maybe, for some, writing an experience is a way to climb out of the story.  I do feel it's hard to be truly honest when writing your own story.  And I appreciate Lena Dunham's ability to share things that many wouldn't.

I do not know her true story, her whole story.  All I know is what I've read in this book where she admits to being an unreliable narrator.  We all are in our own stories, though, aren't we?  The very nature of them is that it's how we perceive an experience.

So maybe she's captured that.  Maybe that's the point.

(I started this post thinking I would talk about how Chris had a rough bedtime routine with the kids and that apparently Adele was so pissed that, unbeknownst to anyone she took off all her clothes out of spite.  We realized it when she crawled into our bed at 4:30 naked and smelling of pee.

Instead I talked about Lena Dunham.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Homemade Friday: Handknit Sock Weather

It's normal for me in October to spout prose on the changing seasons, the ebb and flow of life, the immense relief that the cooler temperatures bring, with their need for layers and wool.  

I love fall.  I love to be a bit chilly, to be able to wear cardigans and hats and scarves without oozing sweat while simultaneously assuring everyone that I am fine, JUST FINE and totally not hot at all but if you would please spritz me with water that would be much appreciated and maybe catch me if I pass out.

Wait, what?

Ahh, fall.  Autumn.  Pumpkin spice lattes*, soup, feather blankets, lots of orange, and red and yellow in the trees.  

And handknit socks.  Most definitely handknit socks. I spend a lot of time knitting socks throughout the year.  They are always on my needles, a sort of background project that I pick up when I don't want to think too hard or when I want a small project to take with me.  

These particular socks are close to being done.  All they lack is a bit of a foot and a toe.  It shouldn't take long, but as I only really work on them sporadically who's to say?

The pattern is one I made up myself, one I use for most of the socks I make.  I use size 0 needles and cast on 64 stitches.  I also like the short row heel.  I've attempted the other kind once and it didn't work out well.  Plus I wasn't all that fond of how it looked.

Short rows are awesome.

Also I would like you to notice how the stripes match up because it is very important to me.  So important that I took out and redid the heel on the second sock because it didn't match the first one.

I am lucky enough to have at my disposal more sock yarn than I can ever knit up, thanks to especially generous mother- and grand-mother-in-laws.  They're German and so have easy access to all the amazing German sock wool and have no problem being my suppliers.  So whenever I finish a pair, I go to the bin and dig out whatever yarn catches my eye and cast on for the next socks.

I have unrealistic hopes to knit family members socks for Christmas, but I am self-aware enough to know that there is no way that I could possibly get that done.  But in the very back of my mind, way deep, I kind of still want to try.  Because socks.  Socks are the most functional and useful thing I can knit.  They always are used.  Everyone has cold toes in the winter so wool socks that you knit yourself are perfect.

So who knows.  For now I'll keep working on these.  And then when I finish them I'll start another pair.  And then another.  

*I've never actually had a pumpkin spice latte but I'm sure they are fantastic.

She dressed herself like this.
(I am currently selling handknits and handmade jewelry.  You can find it here: Handmade by Jaimalaya.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wanted: One padded room

I almost went to the gym this morning.


My gym bag was packed, my alarm was set, I was all for it.

Last night.

But then I woke up this morning with the same headache that I went to bed with and so I pulled up the feather blanket and rolled over and closed my eyes.  I'll try again tomorrow.

It's kind of a pain in the butt to be healthy, you know?  It's not that I don't like it, or that I don't love how I feel when I'm working out regularly and eating properly.  But sometimes it's just exhausting mentally.  I'm tired of putting so much thought into everything and not getting the results I want.  Or really any results at all.  So I give up.  At least for today.

And also all last week because it was fall break and I had a lot of apples to bake into desserts.

Speaking of fall break, I don't like it.  We are not the 'go on vacation for fall break' type of people, mainly because we prefer to spend what extra money we have on things like 'fixing the car' and 'food.'

My children are incredibly deprived.

I do not actually believe that.  I think it's a bit ridiculous to be expected to go somewhere and do things for every time the kids are off of school for more than one day.  Of course, that means the kids were home all week and bored.  My husband was off for most of the week and I was off Monday and Friday and part of Thursday and we all were ready to separate by the end of it.  My mom did take the kids to the movies and the park on Wednesday, so at least they got out of the house.  And Chris took Sebastian fishing on Thursday while Adele and I stayed home and she got pissed because her Duplo tower fell down so she threw a block at me and bruised my hand that I held up in self defense.

Girl's got a temper.

And then on Sunday night I realized that Sebastian didn't have school on Monday either because of teacher in service or something so basically I cried myself to sleep thinking about all the peace and alone time I wasn't going to have.

I am in a funk.  Can you tell?  Also I maybe need to go get some more coffee.

I am strongly in the "let the children learn to play by themselves" camp.  But my children don't seem to know how to do that unless it involves a screen.  I'm okay with television.  I happen to love television.  They will eventually go play when denied television, but not before spending an inordinate amount of time laying in the floor at my feet whining about how horrible I am for not letting them watch another hour of Pokemon or Barbie's Dreamhouse.  I am the worst, obviously.

(Have any of you actually seen Barbie's Dreamhouse?  It makes me sad and also want to punch the creators.)

So I have to use my mean voice, which is pretty much my all-the-time voice now, and banish them to their rooms because NOBODY LIKES A WHINER.  Does anybody have any tips for getting them to play by themselves?  Or maybe together?  Because "together" is a whole other issue.  My daughter thinks 'playing together' means she tears up whatever her brother is touching, then throws the toys at his head.  Understandably, whenever she gets close to his toys now he yells at her to leave him alone.  I've attempted to play with them and guide them, but as soon as I stand up to run to the bathroom or refill my coffee cup someone gets a Lego to the eye.

What am I supposed to do with that?  How do you foster good sibling relationships?  I'm thinking of locking them in a padded room for a day and see what happens.  They'd come out hating me, but at least they would hate me TOGETHER.

Before all the sibling rivalry started ...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Randomly on a rainy Tuesday

1. I'm wearing new eyeshadow today and can't decide if I like it or it makes me look like I have a sickness.

2. It's different shades of pink.

3. So if you see me today, don't assume I'm contagious.  I'm just experimenting.

4. In other news I was awoken this morning to the beautiful sounds of my children bickering.

5. Or rather, I wasn't awoken, but was interrupted from my attempt to return to the fitful sleep of the night.

6. There was actual groaning.

7. And everything only got better from there with all the complaining about their breakfast (oatmeal), complaining about the need to brush their hair and teeth, complaining about the need for socks and shoes, complaining about the need to ever do anything at all.

8. Okay, that last one was me.

9. And then I got soaked through on account of the torrential downpour that started right after I dropped Adele off at her classroom.

10. Some days the need to crawl back under the covers and hide is a physical ache.

11. No matter, though.

12. I have coffee and tea and tons of stuff to keep me busy.

13. Speaking of coffee - I made my own creamer yesterday.

14. It's freaking delicious.

15. 2 cups of cream, a bunch of honey, 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, then shake it until it's mixed.

16. I can't wait to make more coffee.

17. In knitting news, I have a lot of projects thrown about my living room.

18. I'm knitting a Harry Potter scarf for my son.  All that's left on it is the fringe.

19. I'm making a hulk hat for a friend's little boy.  This one is trickier than I thought and I've already had to start over two times.  Hopefully this is the last time ...

20.  I'm making Starbrook Pullover for myself in a dark blue green color.  All that's left of it is to finish a sleeve, knit a pocket, then sew everything together and put on a neckband.

21. It would be short work if I had time to do it.

22, Then there's a sweater I started last spring for Chris.

23.  It's called 'Fort.'

24. I haven't looked at it since it got warmer and I started sewing anything I could.

25. Also I have vest planned, socks going, I'd like a shawl, Adele needs a hat ...

26. I need more time.

27. I started a facebook page for jewelry and handknits:  Handmade by Jaimalaya

28. It makes me happy.

29. Let me know if you want anything!

30. And tell me really - is pink eyeshadow ever a good idea?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Anybody have any good apple preserving recipes?

I have a problem with apples.

Or rather, it's not so much a problem with apples themselves.  Apples are delicious, especially when covered in sugar and cinnamon.  (And also by themselves because nutritious and healthy and goodforyou and all that, blah, blah, blah.)

But apparently I overdid it with the apples at a recent trip to an orchard.

Adele and I went on a field trip with her school to Hinton's Orchard, a local orchard that is full of lovely people and delicious fruits and vegetables and baked goods and homemade peanut butter.

And pumpkin patches.

We go there every fall, and also bug the owners at random farmers markets throughout the year because my husband loves to talk apple trees and I love to buy herb plants.  Super nice, amazing people.  Go there if you get the chance.

Usually Chris is with me during our annual fall apple buying extravaganza and he reigns in my crazy a bit.  But this year it was just me and my girl so I came home with two bushels of Mutsu seconds.  (Two bushels for $28.  A ridiculously good price.)

I don't think it's a secret here that I like to make things from scratch and to preserve food when I can.  So the apples were destined for applesauce and apple butter at least.  I started out well last Friday - peeling, coring and chopping a ton of apples while I watched last year's The New Girl on my kindle.  But I didn't even get through half a bushel.  I did get about 5 or 6 quarts of applesauce though.  (Not nearly enough.)

My applesauce recipe isn't really a recipe at all.  I prefer the apples without any added sweetener or spice.  I put the peeled and chopped pieces in a large pot with little bit of water, maybe a half a cup, to keep everything from sticking, then cook over medium heat until mushy.  Maybe an hour or so.  (It's a really big pot so it takes awhile.)  Then once it's done I let it cool, put in jars and put the jars in the freezer.  I could can them but it's much easier to freeze.  I don't puree the applesauce because I like it chunky.  The texture of pureed applesauce is too much like baby food for me.

I used the apple peelings from the applesauce to make apple peel jelly using this recipe.  It was a giant failure.  Or rather, maybe it became more an apple syrup than jelly.  I tried to use the natural pectin from the peels, but something went wrong.  I think maybe I cooked the juice too long?  And now that I'm looking at the recipe again, I'm not entirely sure I used lemon juice.  Woops.  So I have a thick, sticky substance in my refrigerator that tastes apple-y.  We put it on pancakes and it worked fine as long as you ate it before it cooled.  Once cooled it was a bit too thick, almost caramel.  So maybe it's apple caramel?  I should probably dip apples in it.

After the applesauce I made apple fritters.  Make this recipe.  You will not be sorry.  Easy, delicious fried dough.  The kids wouldn't eat them (WEIRDOS) so Chris and I ate them all.

Then there was apple butter.  I doubled this recipe.  It worked fine - hours and hours in the crock pot, then I pureed the result and put it in jars then in the freezer.

Once again I couldn't bring myself to throw out the peels.  It just seems so wasteful, you know?  We do compost, but there's so much stuff left on the peels!  So this time I attempted apple peel cider using this recipe/guideline.   Not much has happened yet but I have hopes.  I am trying to use the wild yeast that's on the peels, but it may be that I have to use some yeast that my husband has from his own beer/cider making.  We'll see.

I've also made apple dumplings using this recipe.  Do you know how difficult it was to find just an apple and dumpling recipe that didn't include soda or canned bread?  I just wanted cooked apples with dumplings on top - like chicken and dumplings.  In hindsight I should have called my parents.  My dad makes awesome blackberry dumplings.  I wasn't too keen on the one recipe I did find.  Or rather - I wasn't too keen on how it turned out.  I think I may have overcooked the dumplings, which was entirely my fault.  The kids refused to try them because they are insane.

Last night I made an apple crisp which was delicious and just what I wanted it to be.  I used this recipe, which was simple, thank goodness.  I did add a quarter teaspoon of salt to the topping because otherwise it would have been too bland.  The salt balances out the sweetness.  Apple crisp is one of my favorite desserts, and this didn't disappoint.

That finished off the first bushel of apples.  Keep in mind we are all eating them fresh, too.  And I still have a whole bushel to go.

My future apple plans include apple pie, of course.  And maybe canned apple pie filling.  Definitely more applesauce.  Maybe a couple of whole pies to freeze.  More apple crisp.  Another attempt at apple jelly.  Possible more hard cider.  And dried apples.  We also like to put apples in salads, lest you think that we are all subsisting on apples, sugar and cinnamon at the moment.

Guys.  I love apple season.