Friday, June 26, 2009

Not our finest hour.

The Bean is outside screaming her head off. It is raining outside, and she is in her socks. I'm sure that upsets her. However, moments ago, she was inside screaming her head off, and I have decided to drive home the point that I won't listen to it.

Is this perfect parenting? Probably not. But at least it's not wintertime. I have been known to plop her down in a snowbank and go back in the house rather than let her throw a tantrum. I just. Won't. Put up with it. And when she calls my bluff, she's got an outdoor experience coming.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Appalachia, Argentina... let's call the whole thing off.

If only the Republicans would quit being so gosh-darned preachy about [so-called] "family values," it wouldn't cause so many people to go "BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" every time another GOP leader cheats on his wife.

Who is it that the sanctity of marriage needs defending from, again?

Monday, June 22, 2009

What a difference a few years makes.

The other day, Mr. Sandyshoes and I stood together at the kitchen counter, opening our mail. His contained a decent check, which was payment for a consulting job he'd recently wrapped up. As I opened mine, out dropped a lone dollar bill and two coupons for goat cheese. Yes. That was to thank me for my time completing a survey about said goat cheese.

Now I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I have no regrets whatsoever about ditching my mediocre career to be with my babies as they've grown into girls. But I miss paychecks with my name on them. I really do.

I have realized during this hiatus from paid work (goat cheese surveys notwithstanding) that I truly don't want to go back into hazardous waste site cleanup (shocking, I know). However, I have no clue what's next for me professionally, and no idea how to figure it out. I have a Master's degree in Geology, but these days I can't remember a damn thing I learned in school. So what's going for me? Well, I'm reasonably intelligent. I can write clearly. I like to learn things and go places. I'm a good planner. I have common sense. I'm great at reading out loud. I'm an excellent driver. I can very quickly find a grammatical or spelling error in damn near any written work. I make really delicious banana bread.


Yeah, I'd better sign off. I've been invited to complete a survey on salad dressing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Movie Night: 88 Minutes

I don't have a lot to say about this movie, except:
  • It's been a long time since I willingly dozed off, without influence of wine or prescription muscle relaxant, during a film that calls itself a "thriller"
  • So that's what Leelee Sobieski looks like these days
  • Why does Al Pacino do stuff like this? I don't figure he needs the money, but
  • if he just said outright "yo, it's to show off my hair," then you couldn't blame the guy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Flag Day at The Bean's School

The Bean's school (which I should note, before I get ranting, that I really love) had a Flag Day ceremony this morning for grades K-4. Everyone was decked out in red, white and blue. There was an impressive performance by a local equestrian team (with horses in red, white and blue socks!), short addresses by our State Representative and one of our town Selectmen, children reading their essays and poems ("What The Flag Means To Me,") and singing songs.

So, a relatively big deal, as in-school events go. At least one newspaper photographer was there.

Oh, but parents? Weren't invited. The Bean had mentioned that there would be some Flag Day-related activity this week, but I only became aware of the date, time and scale (horses! elected officials! press!) of this specific event because I happened to be there yesterday helping with something else. I almost didn't go to see it this morning, but was driving by the school entrance at just the right moment, so figured what the hey. It makes the Bean really happy when I go to school stuff.

And: I love my country -- truly, I do. But if this proud American never hears Toby Keith singing that Lee Greenwood "Proud to be an American" tune again, it'll be too soon. Playing on the loudspeaker as the kids came out and got seated? Toby Keith singing "Proud to be an American!" Music to which the equestrian team performed their routine? Toby Keith singing "Proud to be an American!" Tune the music teacher chose to blare while the children supposedly sang along? "Proud to be an American!"

(Reading a close second on my vapid-country-music-annoy-o-meter (calibrated for patriotism) is "American Child" by Phil Vassar. Does nobody appreciate the irony of a heterosexual white male baby boomer crooning about how in America, "anyone's equal"? Really? No, really?)

Can't we do better than that? Think of the age-appropriate, relevant, reverent, beautiful, classic patriotic songs they didn't sing: America The Beautiful. My Country, 'Tis of Thee. This Land is Your Land. Maybe there aren't prefab CDs of other kids singing these songs already. Based on my (admittedly limited, possibly unfair) observation of our early music program, that seems to be a prerequisite. Canned music gets played, the kids sing along, or don't. Meh.

The highlight of the Selectman's speech was when he asked the kids how they thought the flag might have been different when he was in school. A child raised her hand: "Were the stars still all in a circle back then?" Heh.

Something in our State Representative's little address made me uneasy. He was talking about what the flag makes him think of, which is all well and good, if to my ear a bit heavy on the sacrifice-of-military-families theme for an elementary school audience. Evidently however, one of the things it makes him think of is how the children of today are going to (among other things) wear the military uniforms of tomorrow. Frankly, this gave me the creeps. My daughter is SIX. Leave her the hell alone.

But who am I to say. After all, I wasn't even invited to the thing in the first place.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

No, I hadn't been drinking.

Coming downstairs after putting the girls to bed last night, my left foot slipped out from under me and I fell hard, I mean f'ing HARD, on my ass, and slid the rest of the way down the stairs. It hurt a lot.

I was wearing tennis socks on bare wood stairs, which is plain stupid, and that hurts too.

I spent the rest of the evening on the couch with an ice pack on my butt. Took off my shorts for fear I wouldn't be able to get them off later due to major swelling. The bruising is substantial. Alarming, even.

Still, I'm glad I didn't hurt my back or break any bones. I'm glad I have pants loose enough to get over my still significantly swollen left butt cheek today.

The first aid book says to apply an ice pack for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 48 hours after the injury. Obviously I wasn't setting a timer to get this done overnight, but I'd better get back on it now. Off to the couch with me.

Be careful folks. It's the ordinary things that get ya.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Last Thing I Cooked That A Guest Said They Really Liked

I had a lovely houseguest last week, and as part of dinner one night I made this salad, which I adore and actually crave sometimes, which, given its significant broccoli content, is highly unusual.

Curried Couscous with Broccoli and Feta

1 cup Israeli couscous
2.5 (?*) cups vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water

2 cups small broccoli florets
0.5 cup finely chopped red onion
0.5 cup finely cut carrot
0.5 cup chopped roasted cashews
3 T white wine vinegar
2 T olive oil
2 T sugar
2 t curry powder
2 t minced fresh ginger
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

The recipe (like virtually everything I make that's any good) is modified from one I cut out of a long-ago issue of Cooking Light.

The original recipe calls for regular couscous. I'm new to Israeli couscous, but very excited about it. The regular stuff is tasty but it gets everywhere, sticks on everything, and the girls don't like its texture. Most importantly, Mr. Sandyshoes has indicated it is a royal pain in the ass to clean up, and I want Mr. Sandyshoes kept happy, or at least not actively displeased, where cleaning up is concerned. Without his doing the dishes... well. Let's not even think about that. It is too upsetting.

Back to Israeli couscous. It is bigger than the regular kind, so you get all the things you like about couscous and none of the aggravations. I just haven't yet mastered the liquid to couscous ratio for it. The directions on the tub I bought said 4:1, which was way too much, so I'm going to try 2.5:1 next time, which is what I've recommended here, but with question mark and asterisk and no warranty, expressed or implied.

The other issue with Israeli couscous is where to find it. I bought the tub with the faulty directions at Atkins Farms while visiting western Massachusetts, but much as I'd love to, I can't haul myself back there every time I want to make curried couscous with broccoli and feta cheese. I am hoping Trader Joe's will have it.

ANYWAY. Cook whatever couscous you're using in whatever liquid you like. Fluff with fork (that phrase cracks me up for some reason. I am easily amused). Let it cool down.

Steam the broccoli for 3 minutes. Getting the pre-cut broccoli you can microwave in the bag speeds things along quite a bit, but I'm usually too cheap to splurge on it.

Combine everything in a BIG bowl. Voila.

My friend will doubtless make this much spicier, and so can you. I sometimes put in a big handful of raisins, too.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin: Must-Read Nonfiction

I recently finished this terrific book about the United States Supreme Court: The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin (2007). It's being widely read at the moment, which is a good thing.

Having studied rocks in school, I don't know much about judicial philosophy. I had a general idea that on one hand there are "strict constructionists" -- people who believe the Constitution should be interpreted according to its words, period -- and that on the other, there are those who believe that the Constitution embodies the venerable principles on which our country was founded and on which it continues, but also note (at the risk of stating the obvious) that everything changes over time, so it makes good sense to apply those principles with that in mind.

I learned that there's a wacky branch of strict constructionists called "originalists," who believe, basically, that we should have only laws that the Founding Fathers would have made, and no others. Never mind all the world experience, social change, and technological advances that have occurred since 1787 -- not to mention the impossibility of communing with the Founders to elucidate their precise opinions on matters before the Court. To oversimplify and editorialize: the originalists, substantially backed by religous wingnuts, are hoping to take over the Supreme Court -- and they might, in fact, do it.

The Nine sheds much light on this and other issues, through a mix of legal history and exposition of the character, values and personal stories of the Justices of the Rehnquist and Roberts courts. Some in my reading group found it too heavy on the case history . We all loved reading about the personalities involved, which are complex and fascinating, and not nearly as easy to like or dislike as you might hope. Tidbits: Did you know that Justices Scalia and Ginsburg have a close friendship born of a shared love of opera, and that their families celebrate New Year's together each year? That Clarence Thomas drives around to NASCAR races (a venue at which you may be unsurprised to learn he is rarely recognized) in his RV during the summer recesses? That Justice O'Connor did her best to get Justice Souter married off during their years on the bench?

The whole thing makes for fascinating reading.

The likelihood of Supreme Court appointments to be made by this administration had my 2008 vote for POTUS decided long before a single candidate had even formed an exploratory committee. If you have any doubt whatsoever about the importance of the current nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Court, this book will dispel it. Prepare, too, to do some thinking about what the phrase "activist judge" really means.