Jan 26, 2009

Warm Thoughts...

My thoughts are warm because I am in sunny Phoenix and it's, like, 70 degrees outside. The rest of me is a little tired & grumpy because I am getting into the uncomfortable phase where sleep is sometimes elusive. And furthermore, even when I can sleep well, turning over requires actual thought & planning, and who wants to make an effort at anything having to do with sleep? Yes, I have come full-force into the third trimester.

Some comfort themselves with the idea that the discomfort and sleeplessness of the last bit of pregnancy prepares one for the crazy unpredictability of the early months. I might agree with that--it certainly comes with less of a shock than if one had been sleeping like a rock for 9 months and suddenly had to be up every few hours around the clock. I'm not a stomach sleeper, but just the thought that I could sleep on my stomach if I wanted to makes me feel better. And turn over without having to wake up and adjust my pillow nest. That's a big one.

Pregnancy woes aside, we are quite enjoying the warm sunshine and lack of 50 mph wind gusts. Lotsa family time. Did I mention I have a crazy family? Some time with friends too, which is always fun. Today we're off to capture His Highness in all his photographic splendor. "We" being myself, the Cat Daddy, His Highness of course, and all the grandmas in residence in the state. It will be grandma-tastic...

Jan 13, 2009

Vacuum Driving...

His Highness had his 2-year checkup with the doctor yesterday. He is healthy, and brilliant, and meeting all his milestones, and somehow he's really, really big. We have no idea where this came from, as both the Cat Daddy and I have always been on the small side. But no, our little beefcake is the size of many 3-year-olds, and has quite the melon to boot. We all know how important size statistics are at this age (in general, not at all), so it's really no big deal. Just kind of a funny thing to us. And awesome for maintaining upper body strength. If anyone needs to work on biceps come on over and we'll let you babysit for free.

One of the wonderful things about being two is that His Highness loves to help clean up. He has gone from terrified of the vacuum to asking every day to "keen-up." He's even getting big enough that he can "drive" the vacuum. Mostly though, he likes to sit while it's running and put the hose up to his mouth to feel it suck out his spit. Makes a mommy proud.

Don't tell the Cat Daddy, but this is a good reminder to me to at least attempt to keep tabs on the extent of the domestic disarray. I figure I might as well take advantage of this narrow window of time where His Highness will gladly help out with the chores. The house is far from spotless, but it does get picked up every few days or so, and vacuumed more than once a month. Oh yes, I'm awesome.

Anyhoo, it's also good motivation to keep the vacuum put away in its closet, so as not to arouse the keen-up monster unintentionally. Turns out, however, that I'm not really fooling him all that much. We were watching Sprout while I checked my work email, and I glanced up to see him wheeling the vacuum right over. I looked over and the closet where it lives was closed. This led me to deduce that he had opened the closet door (he can work knobs now--eek), pulled out the vacuum, shut the closet door (kudos to him--I forget that half the time), and wheeled the vacuum over in front of the couch where I was sitting.

HH, quite proudly: "Vonnie!" (this means vacuum)

Me: "Yes, that's the vacuum. Whatcha doing with it out here?"

HH: "Vonnie dwive!"

Me: "You're driving the vacuum?"

HH: "Yeah."

There you have it...

Jan 6, 2009

Church Hunting--Feelers...

Too long a story to tell tonight. Haven't left the church we've been going to, but aren't feeling as settled as we had previously, either. The membership-class-thingy is coming up, so we'll get some good info and have the chance to ask some good questions. Good.

In the meantime though, we're putting some feelers out. There's another church we had looked at online but haven't visited yet, so I thought I'd contact them for more info. I'm also dangerously close to calling the friends of Linda to see what kind of info they can give me--just have to wait for a brave day on that one.

I always wonder how much info to give in an introductory, information-seeking email. Do I go into my neuroses and test the true extent of their understanding, or keep it strictly to "Hi I'm looking for a good church, do you fit the bill?" I kind of like how this one turned out though, so I thought I'd share--
Hello Local Area Church,

We are new to the area, looking to connect locally. I've looked over the church website and the fellowship's website [sort of like a denomination but not exactly], and so far am encouraged by what I'm finding, but I was wondering if you could give me an idea for the feel of your church. We've been attending Another Local Church for a couple of months, and enjoy their music & casual atmosphere, but aren't sure if it's the right match for us theologically. We're both musicians (bass & drums) and eventually would probably have an interest in contributing musically, so that's an area of special interest for us. Personality-wise, we're casual & laid-back. We're not looking for everyone to look & act like we do (but wouldn't that be fun!), just hoping to find a place where we are free to be ourselves.

As far as theological beliefs, mostly we're very much into grace as a way of life. We love Jesus and want to follow him in a real & authentic way, without being superficial or "churchy." We are a military family and will be in the area for approximately four years so we have all the "stuff" that comes with being military--knowing we're here only a short time, yet wanting to connect and have meaningful relationships, etc. We fit into the young-families area, in our early 30's with a 2 year old, along with our second kiddo coming in the spring.

We will be out of town in the next few weeks but would like to come visit, probably in February sometime. In the meantime, any info you can provide would be great, or if there's any particular person I should contact I would be glad to do that as well. Thanks!
I always think I use too many exclamation points, but I chalk that up to wanting to convey a certain amount of cheer. Not that I feel particularly perky most of the time, but not knowing who is on the other end it always seems a better policy than displaying the full extent of my snark that you all get to see here. I've been known to scare people away with the snark.

Anyway, I do have more details to share on the church-thing, but that may or may not wait until after we've made a decision on the current church. And I have some photos from the autopsy I did on my hand mixer, so hopefully I'll get those up soon too. Til then...

Jan 1, 2009

In Loving Memory...

My electric hand mixer died yesterday.

It was quite possibly the greatest hand-held mixer in history. My mom bought it for me about 12 years ago, shortly before I moved into a campus apartment my sophomore year of college. She found it at a kitchen store at an outlet mall. It was some random off-brand and I think it cost, like, 10 bucks.

As a couple we were always rather unassuming, until a few years ago when I realized how very special it was. Mom and I were talking about cookie dough, I believe, and she lamented that even her newer mixer couldn't keep up with it very well. I felt rather confused because mine had no trouble with cookie dough, even on the lower settings. Well, the next time I was cooking at Mom's I used her mixer. It seemed anemic compared to what I was used to. And then it hit me. It's not that Mom's mixer was bad...it was simply that my mixer was the hidden, kick-a$$ mixer of mixers. It had secret powers that most mixers did not. My eyes grew wide with the realization. I told very few people, since I didn't want the world beating my door down, wanting to borrow my hand mixer. Because that happens all the time with this sort of thing.

The years passed, and before too terribly long the KitchenAid Artisan became the everyman's stand mixer. Hardcore bakers still go for the more industrial-strength ones, but the Artisan works well for most home baking; that is, cakes, cookies, and the occasional loaf of bread. And it comes in, like, 30 colors. The Cat Daddy knows that I do enjoy the baking (when I have time), and he really likes having cool gadgets, so for him it was a no-brainer that we should acquire one at the earliest opportunity. I like cool gadgets, but I also like a non-cluttered kitchen. I loved the idea of a stand mixer, but didn't want to rush into such a long-term commitment, so I was sort of dragging my feet. And then one day I realized: Other than freeing up my mixing hand, there was no reason for me to upgrade to the stand. My mixer could handle whatever I threw at it with ease, almost tauntingly so.

Only a month ago in fact, it actually frightened Mom-in-Law when she was baking a cake during her visit with us. She flipped the on-switch, splattering batter all over the place. She let out a yelp and turned it off with the speed of someone putting out a fire.

"Skerrib, I only turned it on to 1. What did I do?"

"Don't worry, it's just an awesome mixer. I splatter stuff all the time."

She opted to hand-stir the rest of the way.

My mom on the other hand, given the opportunity, would have stolen the mixer from under my nose without a second thought. I tried several times to track down the same mixer for her, but since it was an off-brand I never did find an equivalent. Bummer for her. Bummer for me, too, because in the back of my mind I knew that even the best kitchen electrics cannot last forever. Sure, you've got the decades-old GE's that have become treasured antiques for heirs to fight over, but even they succumb sooner or later (the mixers and the heirs, it turns out). So I made a deal with the Cat Daddy that when my hand mixer finally bit it, we could get a stand. And maybe even some flame decals, because we're both just a little nuts for Alton Brown and his food science.

It's true that the end often comes suddenly, and my super-power mixer went out in particularly insulting fashion. I enjoy the baking, but recently I got up the courage to venture into candymaking, and I was attempting my first-ever batch of divinity. Divinity is tricky because it involves a candy thermometer, and you have to make sure the weather isn't too humid. Plus, it's a continuous process that really can't be stopped in the middle and started again because you're dealing with boiling sugar and whipped-egg whites, both of which are quite time-sensitive. Once you begin you're committed to the end result. And the whole thing could still go wrong at any moment because candymaking is just that finicky.

Cheyenne has approximately zero percent water content in the air most of the time, so all I had to worry about was watching the candy thermometer and recalculating the cooking temperature based on the altitude. I had all my goods and gear lined up, more or less in the order I would need them. I did the cooking, whipping, and combining, and was down to the final three minutes of the beating. The candy goes through a series of goo-phases, and it had achieved what looked to me like a marshmallow cream status. All I had to do was watch for when it started to lose its glossy finish.

Suddenly, the mixer gave a funky whine, and I looked down to see one beater turning as it should and the other one sitting there like a bump on a log. I thought maybe the goo had become too thick, so I turned the power up a notch...with no response from the gimpy beater. After a series of checks and a couple of false-hope bangs on the counter, I resigned myself to attempting to finish up with one beater. But oh no. Shortly thereafter the other one went out too. The motor was running but the beaters were still. With only three minutes remaining it was dead. Three minutes. Dead.

I say it was insulting because if I had been making cookies or cake I could have confidently finished up with my other hand mixer; that is, my wooden spoon. But no, it was candy, and it was my first attempt, and with my lack of experience I was at a loss. It did occur to me that people have been whipping up divinity long before the advent of electric mixers, but in the end I decided to let the batch go, quietly, into that dark night, right along with the mixer.

During this time the Cat Daddy was looking over my shoulder, watching the resuscitation attempts, growing ever-hopeful at my lack of success. Finally he said, with the slightest glee-filled giggle, "Is it dead?" and I said, "Yes, I believe it is dead," and he said, with more obvious excitement, "Can we get a stand mixer now?" and I said, "Yeah. That was the agreement. I guess we get a stand mixer now."

No time to mourn in this house. Within minutes he was off to do the market research, and by evening we were visiting retailers, observing planetary motion mechanisms and weighing the merits of tilt-versus-lift. I was still in a mild state of shock, thinking "I can't believe it's gone." Somehow I think my recovery will be quick, though. I really am more disappointed with the botched candy than I am at the prospect of a shiny new appliance.

So here's to my generic, off-brand, super-powered electric hand mixer. You went with me through college, ten years of marriage, and five states of residence. In the end you went down boldly, thumbing your nose at the world in a bowl of shiny white goo (three minutes!). You will be spoken of with great fondness, much like my 1990 Honda Accord and reversible green canvas coat. Not my mini-slinky though, because I found it (but that's another post).

And here's to 2009, the year of the stand mixer and planetary motion in the Skerrib household...

PS--I'm leaning toward the lift option, but still debating it versus the tilt (and if you know your stand mixers, you will know what I mean). If anyone has thoughts on this, please let me know.