Posted by: knitapeace | February 18, 2009

She’s aliiiiive!

Yeah. No untimely deaths in our house thank goodness. In fact, Dan and the kids broke in the new oven by making a wonderful chocolate chip Bundt cake. Yum!

Pam, you asked about the job. It’s okay. It’s not very challenging, and while most of the people (including my boss) are incredibly nice, there are some that are just plain wacko. And there are the typical petty backbiting issues…I guess there are some things I didn’t miss about regular interaction with adults. Sometimes, they don’t act like adults. The schedule is working out better, but that is due in major part to Dan being home. And we’re hoping that won’t last too long of course. He’s doing ALL the cooking, but we’ve instituted a regular shared housecleaning routine on Sunday mornings that allow us to have a clean home without one person being the sole cleaner. Thank you for asking. I hope your knee is feeling better. 😀

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Posted by: knitapeace | February 18, 2009

Kinda scared to go to bed

This past weekend, my very sweet and responsible husband decided to clean the oven. He spent hours with an oven cleaner and lots of elbow grease, then decided to “top it off” by using the self-cleaning function to get the final bits. (Honestly, I didn’t think it was that dirty…I HAVE cleaned it in the not-too-distant past!) Sadly, he decided to open the oven before the oven was really interested in being opened, and I think he sort of tried to force the lock, and the end result was an oven door that was irrevocably stuck. With heavy hearts we went in search of a nice but not too expensive replacement. We found a Hotpoint that fit the bill, and it was delivered today.

Why would that make me afraid to go to bed? Well, it’s a gas stove. And while I feel fairly certain that the gas isn’t leaking, the stove still has this nasty burning-oil smell that we’re trying to burn off by using the (gulp!) self-cleaning function as recommended in the manual. The manual says right there in black and white that a new oven has a coating on the inside that smells to high heaven and all you have to do is burn it off by running the self-cleaning cycle. But I’m so paranoid I can’t bring myself to go to sleep for fear I won’t wake up again.

Posted by: knitapeace | February 7, 2009

Phew!

One of the things Dan has been doing is cleaning up the hidden piles of paper that I stash away when someone’s coming over, then promptly forget about. He’s found a couple of undeposited checks. Sheesh. Anyway, I think in the process he may have disposed of a loose sheet of paper containing the culinary equivalent of a box of gold: the world’s best banana bread recipe. Originally published by kickpleat at the blog Everybody Likes Sandwiches, but discovered by me via a blog post by Orangette, it’s my family’s absolute favorite. It took me a while to hunt it down again online, so I’m doubling my security to make sure it doesn’t disappear again. In addition to printing it out, bookmarking the site, and saving it to a text file, I’m reprinting it here. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

********************

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Cinnamon Sugar

This lovely stuff comes together in less than an hour, including baking time. And unlike more conventional quick breads, which are best when allowed to cool fully before slicing, this one doesn’t suffer when it’s eaten warm. That makes it, in my book, a perfect last-minute dessert or afternoon treat. It’s a good one to have in the old repertoire.

Oh, and while we’re here, let’s talk about frozen bananas. I always keep a stash of them in the freezer, and I highly recommend it. I chuck them in there, peel and all, and when I want to use a few, I just pull them out, sit them in a bowl, and let them defrost at room temperature for a few hours. It doesn’t take long. You can then use them in place of fresh ripe bananas in any baked good, and they’re easier to mash, to boot. The only bad thing is that they look pretty nasty. Think wet, slippery, and slug-like, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

3 very ripe bananas (the size doesn’t much matter; medium to large works)
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For topping:
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter or spray an 8-inch square pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, mash the bananas well with a fork or potato masher. Add the eggs, and stir well to combine. Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and vanilla, and stir to mix. Add ¾ cup of the chocolate chips, and stir briefly. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the topping ingredients. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the batter in the pan, and top with the remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Note: This bread, like many banana sweets, freezes beautifully. Sometimes I even like to eat frozen, cut into thick, cold, chewy slices. It’s the perfect snack for a hot summer afternoon.

Posted by: knitapeace | February 7, 2009

Quick update

Just in case there is anyone still out there reading my blog! Work is going well; it’s hard to leave in the morning, especially when one or both of the kids are still in bed. Kissing their warm little heads as they snuggle under the blankets, hearing “Bye Mommy” in their sweet little voices…I don’t wish I was still a stay-home mom, but I do wish I could see them off to school before having to leave the house.

We went through a bout of stomach flu last week, with Ben starting us off and the rest of us catching up about a day and a half later. Poor Ben was wandering around the house, feeling better, while the other three of us were holed up in bed…or in the bathroom. Thank goodness he knows how to work the TV and where we keep the granola bars. We’re all much better now.

We’re making it okay with Dan being laid off. He’s getting things done around the house and doing most of the cooking. I think he’s going to start his job search in earnest this week. It sure would be nice if his severance was “gravy” instead of what we live on, but I sure don’t want him taking the first job that comes along out of fear, assuming of course that one does come along. Unemployment is getting very, very bad on the island. I’m hoping his industry contacts will help him along. But if he wants out of the industry, I’m not sure who he’ll be able to turn to. Deep breath: trying not to stress quite yet.

Not getting too much knitting done; too tired at night! But little by little Dan’s sweater is coming along. I hope I get it done in time for him to wear it once this year.

Posted by: knitapeace | January 24, 2009

Settling in

Seems like one of the best ways to deal with financial crisis is to hunker down in your house with your family.

Cooking meals at home is much more cost-efficient than eating out, and making everyone pitch in for the set-up and cleanup is good for discipline and teambuilding. Also important, home-cooked food is much healthier (unless you cook like my Southern momma).

Movies can be checked out from the library for free, rather than spending a fortune at the theater only to have the experience ruined by sticky floors and loud, obnoxious patrons. So what if you have to wait a little while before you see the blockbusters? You’ll be too busy watching the blockbusters from six months ago to worry about it.

The weather is so crummy this time of year anyway, who wants to leave the house?

You can take the time to reconnect with old hobbies that may have fallen by the wayside during times of more disposable cash. Unless of course you are a knitter, in which case the words “disposable cash” are interchangeable with “yarn money.” On the other hand, times of want lead to “stash shopping,” an activity in which you pretend your yarn collection is a store and go shopping for the perfect yarn for your next project. If you can’t find a yarn to match the project, choose a different project. Or, if you’re like me, you should try knitting some socks with the 30+ balls of sock yarn you have in the cabinet. Using the five different sock pattern books on the shelf above the sock yarn.

What are your favorite ways of economizing while not making yourself feel completely deprived of fun?

Posted by: knitapeace | January 21, 2009

Some quick bad news

Despite what I’m about to tell you, my mood is bright because LOST IS BACK! So I need to go make popcorn and watch it. But I did want to let my friends who aren’t on Facebook know that we had a bad situation yesterday…Dan was laid off from Motorola. His entire division was. We were expecting it on Friday, and when it didn’t happen we were feeling pretty relieved. Sadly, he heard Monday that there were more layoffs coming Tuesday, and when he got the call he wasn’t particularly shocked. We were braced, but the bad part was that we were starting to relax again when the news came.

He has no immediate prospects, because he was always so busy doing work that he never had time to job-hunt. (Why do they lay off their best employees? I simply don’t get it.) He does, however, have about 3 months of severance, and when his health insurance cuts off mine will begin. I am encouraging him to take his time and find a job that he can feel good about, not just one that will bring in cash. Now that I have a (small) salary he can afford to take a job that pays less, as most of the truly satisfying jobs seem to do. He intends to look into what it would take to get his teaching certification back in NY State, something he has talked about in the past. I can tell it’s a dream of his, to teach again. He gets that sparkle in his eye when he thinks about it. And I like the idea of him being home with the kids in the summer. I got that amazing opportunity for almost 10 years; I would love for him to have it now. I’m sure the kids would love it…Daddy is way more fun than Mommy.

Anyway, I wanted to let you all know what was going on and why I’ve been so absent. But please don’t worry. I’m anxious but not scared. Everything is going to be fine for us; I truly believe that. We would still appreciate your good thoughts though.

I’m off. Time to return to the island!

Posted by: knitapeace | January 11, 2009

Some updating, some existential angst

So my first week as an employed person is over. The work is not hard, but the paperwork is a pain and the pressure is very real. This company needed proofreaders badly, because every print job seems to be stuck in the tiny little room that the three (sometimes four) of us share. I’m doing the proofing for things that are straight re-orders, no changes. I get to use a spiffy computer program that scans the original printing and the new printing, then points out any changes to me. Of course I still look it over carefully to make sure the computer doesn’t miss anything, but for the most part it does the hard work. The other two women in the room are doing the more complex stuff for now, but eventually I’ll be trained on that too. The fourth woman is part-time and also new, so she and I are doing the same work. We have to share one computer, which can be challenging when we’re both there. The room is small, and unfortunately everyone else seems to think it’s cold in our building. My co-workers even have a little heater they turn on once in a while. I don’t know if I’m warm-natured or hitting menopause, but I think the temperature is fine without the heater and darn near stifling with it. I just wear short sleeves and deal. Everyone else is in turtlenecks and sweaters, so it must be me. I’m coping better with the schedule, and I do enjoy getting home at 4:15.

So, as to the angst: I guess I’ve changed from the kind of person who enjoys sappy, sentimental stuff to the person who scoffs at it, and who gets sad head-shakes from people who think I’m jaded and cynical. I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts today, Cast Off by Brenda Dayne, and she was discussing the recent stepping-down of the editor of Interweave Crochet magazine. She played some excerpts from the editor’s blog, read by the editor herself, and a few snippets of interview with said editor. In these excerpts, the editor sadly declaims that she is a “starter”, a creative person who reeeeeally reeeeeally wishes she could be like other normal people and be happy in a job that she’s been in for a while. She says she can’t deal with the boredom, the staticness, and her creativity gets blocked and she gets depressed. She loves starting new things, but once they get to be old hat she can’t continue and has to move on. All I could think is, “I wonder if she’s married.”

This, to me, is the worst kind of self-important whining. “Oh, you are so happy being a regular person and you don’t need anything more than a stable job and a family and you’re just content. I wish I could be more like you, but I’m just….different.” Oh shut up. The longer I live in this world the more I understand the statement, “Everyone in the world is special. Just like you.” Everyone, EVERYONE knows that underneath that layer they present to the world is a special person, one that no one can ever really understand or appreciate. To come out and parade that around like you’re the ONLY one who feels that way is just stupid. I think everyone has a creative side that they either express or repress, depending on what works best for their life at that particular moment. And staying in a job doesn’t make you a robotic bore. Heck, if you have other people in your life that you’re responsible for, it makes you nothing less than heroic. Not many people have the luxury in this economy of quitting an income- and insurance-providing career just because it lost its “spark” for them.

So yeah, this podcast was filled with inspiring and uplifting stories and music, and by the end of it I basically wanted to vomit. I guess as a person who had to give up freedom of one ilk in order to bring more stability to her family, I’m losing my ability to appreciate people who can still fly off at a whim and do what brings their life the most meaning. But that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. (Just cynical.)

Posted by: knitapeace | January 7, 2009

Wow.

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how people on Facebook and Twitter will post updates about what they’re doing, and only post the positive. Or take a small thing and build it up to make it sound better, more exciting, more glamorous, just more. I’ve rarely been anything but myself online, and that includes the snarky side, the naive side, the just plain nasty side, but also the kind side, the generous side, the trusting side. I try not to overstate things, and I try not to lie. Certainly I withhold things for privacy, or so people won’t read what I think about them–although I don’t think my mother-in-law reads my blog, lol–or because I’m not ready to write about them yet.

So now I’ve started a job. And part of me wants to tell you that I have breezed through the past few days with nary a bobble. I want to tell you that I have this working mom thing down pat. And the reason that I want to tell you is because I really hate it when someone says, “I told you so.” I worry that someone might laugh and say, “Now you know how easy you had it as a stay-home mom!” I don’t want to hear that, because partly it’s true, which makes me resentful, and partly it’s not, which makes me defensive. So the easiest thing to do would be to say I’m handling it, and it’s no problem.

But I’ll be honest. The past two days have been really hard. I admit that things would be easier if I wasn’t still in pain from my back. Pain makes me grumpy. And it would help if we didn’t have a potential layoff hanging over our heads. That makes me grumpy *and* scared. But there’s a lot to learn and remember at my new job, even though the work itself isn’t very hard. And when I get home from work there are still all the same old things I need to do, only I have less time to do them and kids around while I’m trying to do them. I’d much rather sit and help Rebecca with her math than start dinner or put in a load of laundry. Yesterday was a nightmare because we had to be out of the house at 5:45 for karate, and I had to wash Ben’s gi top before we went. And Rebecca seems to have more homework every day…she’s a smart kid and a quick worker, but she averages an hour and a half of homework every day. In fourth grade! This is cutting into our after-work time too. Just trying to get a phone call to the optometrist to find out when Ben’s new glasses will be ready is an exercise in futility. (Some of this has to do with the nature of my work and the complete lack of privacy–or time–for making personal phone calls.)

I’m reading back over what I’ve written, and I realize this is a LOT of whining. And your ability to hold back your knowing smiles is wearing thin, I’m sure. So I’ll stop here before someone throws a shoe at me. It’s tough. I’m not doing well. I’m sniping at my kids and slamming doors. I know it will be easier as a schedule develops. I just have to hang in there and figure it out, and try to hold on to what little patience I was born with as I learn.

Posted by: knitapeace | January 4, 2009

The end of an era

I’m so grateful to my husband, Dan, for making it possible for me to stay home with our children while they were little. It was a privilege that I know many moms and dads would love to have, but can’t. It was 10 years ago next month that our first child was born, and I was thrust into a world for which I was eager but unprepared. Now the time has come for me to enter the workforce again, and I feel just as eager but, unfortunately, almost as unprepared. I’m nervous about how the family will adjust. I’m excited to see how my children will adapt to new responsibilities and expectations. I’m worried that the level of care I give them as a working mom will be inadequate. I’m glad that they will have less of a fallback for when they make mistakes (like leaving their math books at home) so they can start taking responsibility for those mistakes, rather than having Mom rescue them every time. Overall I’m happy, but little niggling doubts won’t leave me alone. I guess I know now how so many of you working moms have felt all along. We’ll get through it. We’ll be fine. I definitely won’t be able to knit as much, and I’m guessing I won’t be blogging as much either. But do check in from time to time, if you can. I’ll need the encouragement. 🙂

Posted by: knitapeace | December 31, 2008

Well now. THIS is rather depressing.

So to begin with, I have to tell you the story of my back. No wait!  Please don’t run away. It’s short.

On our way home from North Carolina, we stopped about 5 hours into the drive at a little park to let the dog run around and to eat our lunch. (Nothing better than cold Christmas ham sandwiches, yum!) Everyone was required to use the facilities at every stop, no exceptions. I, of course, was using the time-honored technique that all women use to avoid putting their pristine posteriors on the cold metal rim of nasty park toilets. As I stood up, I thought, “Hm. That twinge in my back is rather uncomfortable.” Within 15 minutes I was in agony, barely able to walk and unable to stand from a sitting position without yelling and scaring the squirrels. I’m still not sure what happened, or how I managed to get through the further 9 hours of driving we did, but I made it.

The upshot is that I have spent the past three days either walking or lying down–sitting is extremely uncomfortable for more than a few minutes at a time–and taking drugs. Prescribed. By a real doctor who is not called Dr. Specimen. (That’s pronounced spuh-CHIM-in, for those of you who don’t watch “30 Rock” [but should].) Which brings us to today: New Year’s Eve. Ever since we moved to New York we’ve spent New Year’s Eve with old friends from Dan’s college days. Guess who can’t make it this year? and guess who told her family that she insists they go without her? and guess whose family is going to spend the night this year, leaving her entirely alone except for the dog? You’ll never guess.

I think I’m going to scout out an impressive New Year’s Day yarn sale somewhere online and see how much it takes to make my credit card squeal.

It’s only fair.

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