Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pegging the irony meter this week:

Most people are probably already familiar with the whole American Girl phenomenon. Briefly, American Girl makes pretty dolls with names and detailed stories that go with them. They're from all different times and places in American history, and you can get clothes and accessories and furniture and story books and all kinds of other stuff to go with each one. There is clothing for real girls to match their dolls' outfits -- really, it never ends.

A while back I read about an American Girl doll beauty salon (yes), which a girl with another brand of doll, maybe even - gasp - an imitation, was asked to leave, even though she was part of a birthday party there. This made me sad, but not surprised. One more way for mean, snobbish grownups to pass their meanness and snobbery down to the next generation. I hadn't given American Girl another thought since that story. Hard as it is to believe, I have gone lo these many months without American Girl dolls crossing my mind at all.

Then one day last week, an unsolicited American Girl catalog arrived in the mail. Now, I prefer not to be on snail mail lists in general. Catalogs in particular represent a huge waste of resources. It's not just paper. There's ink, bleach, solvents, fuel, electricity, etc., and the total pointless waste of all these things makes me cranky. So there are just a couple of catalogs that I get, and needless to say American Girl isn't one of 'em.

First thing I did after bringing the mail in was call them to get off their mailing list. If they know how they got my name, they aren't telling, but they are agreeable about not sending me more catalogs, so, good. That done, I put down the phone, and flipped through the big glossy pages of the one I'd received. Its featured doll is Kit Kittredge, growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1934. I guess there's a movie of this story that came out this past summer, with Abigail Breslin as Kit? Anyway, from the catalog:
Growing up during the Great Depression means a lot of change for Kit Kittredge. When her family turns their home into a boarding house, she must move into a drafty attic bedroom. She has to start wearing dresses made from feed sacks to save money. And when her dad loses his business, she worries that he may have to move away to find another job. But Kit is clever and resourceful, and she works hard to help her family make ends meet. Life is not all hard work, though. Kit learns how to have lots of fun with little money and, most important, to treasure the things that money can't buy -- family and friends.
Well that's nice, I think as I read, though the feed sack thing is perhaps a tad incongruous, since the Kit doll comes wearing a pretty twinset and skirt, and I notice that oddly enough, none of the other outfits you can buy for her are made from feed sacks.

So how much do you figure it costs, this pretty dolly with her Depression story and heartwarming message about things in life more precious than money? I look to the bottom of the page to find out...

...$90.00. Yes indeed. That's for one doll, and one paperback book.

I laughed out loud.

Good thing my girls already manage to have lots of fun with little money -- saves me buying them a $90 doll to explain how it's done.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Um... they're resting?

We had our first freeze last night, and the impatiens have given up the ghost. We had pots and hangers, boxes and beds of 'em; there was no point bringing them into the garage (or the shed! Mr. S. finished the shed!) to save them for the sake of another week. Annuals come, and eventually, annuals go. These are gone.

Backyard carnage. Sad, but wachagonnado.

Out of nowhere, the Peanut had a complete meltdown about it. She cried, and cried, and cried. "I don't WANT them to be dead!" she wailed, and "I wish flowers lived until PEOPLE were dead!" and "now every time Bean wears her doggie pajamas I'm going to think that the flowers are DEAD!" This last made me laugh, but it makes childlike sense because Bean's doggie pjs (pink fleece with a white scottie dog on the front) are for cold, cold nights - flower killing nights.

Holy cow, the kid was inconsolable. Neither sympathy, nor reasoned explanation, nor pointing out that the pretty purple asters are doing fine, had any effect. "I don't want to see them drooping!" she cried, surveying the carnage.

This from the child who last weekend single handedly pulled all the tomato and basil and pepper plants out of the garden by the roots - and boy was she proud of all that hard work! The tomatoes gave us all they had; we ate the last of them yesterday, and I was kind of sad. Flowers strike a different nerve, I guess.

Now it's 60 F and sunny, but she refuses to play outside. Too horrific.

I have parked her in front of a movie: Charlotte's Web, which is all about life and death and the natural way of things, more gently told than I can manage when she's wailing in my ear and getting snot all over my shoulder.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

foodstuff and food stuff

Tonight's dinner, which the girls either outright loved (Bean) or at least ate without too much complaining or actual tears (Peanut), was tasty for the grown-ups as well, and very, very quick and easy to make.

Chicken Thighs with Honey-Ginger Glaze

4 chicken thighs, boneless & skinless
1/4 c. honey
1 T lemon juice
1 T soy sauce
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 T bottled ground fresh ginger (not the dry spice)

Cook the chicken in a bit of canola oil about 5 minutes/side.

Mix the other ingredients with a whisk. I adore my little whisk. Here it is:
Ah, the perfect whisk.

Anyhow whisk all that stuff together. Add it to the skillet when the chicken's browned. Simmer 10 minutes.

In that 10 minutes, microwave some baby carrots and cook some egg noodles.

Voila, dinner.



In other food news, we have determined that the Peanut has a shellfish allergy. With a toddler or preschooler, it can be hard to tell if occasional throwing up is due to a virus or something they ate. When Peanut was 2 and 3, I had the vague sense that a couple of her stomach bugs followed our having had shrimp for dinner, but the association wasn't crystal clear. Then we had scallops one evening this summer, and although the doctors at both hospitals (!) later said it was probably a bad virus, I had a sneaking suspicion that what had the Peanut purging her digestive system to such a frightening extent all that night was the shellfish. Mr. S. and I agreed it wasn't worth testing the case - no more shellfish for her.

Two weeks later (!!) he forgot, and gave her a tiny piece of a clam cake, which arguably didn't even contain any actual clams. And: she threw up in the middle of the night. So really now, NO SHELLFISH for that Peanut. I'm typing it out loud, because I'm so used to writing "none known" on official forms that ask if the girls have any allergies, that it's easy to forget this one. It's odd - she doesn't break out in hives or have trouble breathing - but she distinctly rejects anything of that kind, and it appears that her reaction is becoming more pronounced with even less of the offending food. She only had a bite of that clam cake. Scary.

I really feel for parents whose kids have peanut allergies. Holy crap! Peanut butter is everywhere. Let alone dairy, eggs, wheat, even! If I got a letter home from school saying a child in one of the girls' classes had a peanut allergy, I'd be up a creek for what to make them for lunch, but I'd damn sure think of something. Who wants to be responsible for a kid having a true medical scare... that is, if they're lucky it'd be just a scare and nothing worse? I just can't imagine being unwilling to help try to avoid that. Disappointed, yeah, but to refuse to cooperate? To be the jackass parent who says it isn't my problem, you can't tell me what not to give my kid for lunch, blah blah blah? That takes selfish to new heights, no?

More of the genius that's xkcd.com.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I should still get to bed on time, though.

I've started reading in bed again lately, and I've noticed that when I stay up late reading a book, I never wake up feeling as horrible as when I stay up late on the computer. I think it's because the light from the monitor keeps my brain jumpy after I've gone to bed. Putting a book down seems a gentler transition to sleep.

Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs is this month's book group selection. It's pleasant enough, but I really hope I want to spend 528 pages with these characters. That I checked does not bode well. It's like looking at my watch during a movie...

... which I didn't do even once during Burn After Reading, the newish Coen brothers caper starring John Malkovitch, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt. Malkovitch plays a pompous ass washed up CIA analyst who loses his job... you can't fire me, I quit... and starts living in his bathrobe, drinking too much, and writing his memoirs, a cd of which is found on a locker room floor by two cash-and-brains-poor gym employees (Pitt and McDormand, both funny), who try to sell it to the Russians (of course! Wouldn't you?). Affairs are had, schemes are schemed, entanglements ensue. As happens with other Coen brothers films, I laughed out loud in places nobody else did, and sometimes didn't laugh when everyone else did. Weird. At any rate, engaging wackiness, good performances, go see it.

What's entertaining you these days, or keeping you up late?

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Prestige, and, Jackman or Bale?


So I haven't posted about movies in a while. Partly this is because we haven't been screening as many movies at the Sandy Shoes Home Theater since Mr. Sandy and I got into The Sopranos and have been sucking down those DVDs like milkshakes every chance we get. ("You wanna watch someone get whacked?" we say. "Sure, just let me finish this email...") I can't say enough good about the show. I was completely hooked from the first bars of opening music in the first episode of Season 1. The writing, the acting, the characters... ah, well, it's all been said before, and old news at that. You can't say it's a joy, exactly, what with the sociopaths and the whacking and the baseness of it all -- note I don't say the foul language, which I actively enjoy -- but it is definitely deeply satisfying on some level. So, we're into Season 5, and movie-watching has lagged accordingly.

Last night though, we watched The Prestige (2006- hey, not that long ago for us!), a very dark drama based on the 1995 Christopher Priest novel of the same name. It's about two turn-of-the-century London illusionists who become bitter, obsessed rivals. (Hugh Jackman and Christan Bale... ooh la la. Who's easier on your eyes? I lean toward Jackman, myself, despite evidence that Christian Bale is Kermit the Frog, whom I adore. Bale's looks make me think of a petulant teenage brat, especially when his hair's this short. However, I do prefer Batman to Wolverine.... hm? Oh, all right. Enough, already.)

It's a compelling story with twists and turns and flashbacks aplenty, and I recommend it if you haven't yet seen it. However, when it came down to asking ourselves "do we want to own this one?" both Mr. Sandy and I said um... no, because it's creepy to the point of horrid. But do see it once, because it's creepy to the point of horrid! if you know what I mean.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

You have to be 18 to vote, but evidently you don't have to be a grownup.

Massachusetts isn't exactly a swing state, but the occasional McCain/Palin lawn sign is popping up amid the Obama '08 ones round these parts. To me it seems weird, like a few people declaring "YES! TAX MY HEALTH BENEFITS! STAY AT WAR! DRILL BABY DRILL!" -- and they're not even joking.

Whatever. People have different views. I get my vote, you get yours. It'll be done soon, and whatever the outcome, it's a safe bet most people will be glad the whole thing's behind us. Live and let live, all that.

Today though, when I saw a "NOBAMA" sign in a yard across from the Peanut's preschool, it kind of bummed me out. I think it reflects badly on whoever placed it (as would a "McLame" or "McSame" sign, btw). I know I'm not the only one who reads it to mean "this particular McCain supporter also seems like kind of an asshole."

We don't have enough negative ads -- now we need negative lawn signs?

Great.

The states that could go either way must be political sign hell these days. Reports, anyone?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thomas, Henry and the Bean

Yesterday after dinner, the Bean made an announcement: "I am going to write my phone number on a piece of paper to give to Henry on the bus, and maybe he will call me some day!"

Henry and the Bean are six (6) years old. Their friendship, begun last year in kindergarten, is built on a firm foundation of mutual, abiding love for all things Thomas and Friends. They used to sit next to each other on the bus and discuss the engines in their respective toy collections. There was a lot to talk about. For a long time, engines were all the Bean ever wanted for Christmas and birthday presents. She wore a Thomas the Tank Engine costume for Halloween two years in a row. (The Peanut loves Thomas stuff too, though she's refusing to wear the costume a second time - dang.) We have accumulated a whole bin full of engines, each with a different name and personality. Henry groks this. He has a Thomas-themed playroom.

I see Henry's mother around town from time to time. When we first met, she said she hoped Henry wasn't bothering the Bean... evidently he used to come home from school and report "Bean smiled at me today!" or, sighing, "Bean didn't smile at me today," leading her to think maybe he had too much riding on the Bean's attentions and might make a nuisance of himself. I told her not to worry on Bean's account; they seemed to be having a great time.

One day soon after the Bean started taking karate, she got off the bus giggling like mad. "I karate chopped Henry," she said, "and we can't stop laughing."

How cool, to have a friend like that.

They're in different classes this year, but I've seen them smile at each other across the cafeteria at lunchtime. It is adorable.

It occurred to me that it's a little soon to get into the whole waiting-for-the-phone-to-ring dynamic, but it seems we don't have to worry about that just yet. After declaring her intention, Bean went off for a piece of paper and a pencil, but came back with the box of magnetic letters to play with on the side of the fridge with her sister. "What about writing your phone number, Bean?" I asked. "Oh, I forgot," she said, but didn't go back to it.

Still, we'll have Henry over to play trains, while they're still little enough to find pure joy in it. And Mr. Sandy's made a mental note to keep a veeeerrry close eye on that boy over the years...