I was listless tonight– lost in the tragic news. At a loss for what to do, I did the only thing I could think of.
My husband turned me on to this Tumblr blog yesterday. It’s now my go-to when I need a laugh– not just because the kid is someone else’s, but because any parent of a toddler can relate.
The idea? Father notices that his son seems to cry over everything–even the most nonsensical things–all the time. As a means of coping, he decides to document each crying jag with a simple photograph captioned with the reason for the tears (“The sippy cup was filled with milk, not juice”). Moral: kids are kind of ridiculous.
For the past seven or eight years, I’ve been a runner. I’ve taken vacations from running (often lengthy ones), but I always end up coming back. It’s the only kind of exercise that can instantly erase a weekend of decadent eating, and it’s the only kind of exercise that can make my body look the way I want it to: slim, strong, and healthy. I ran into my second trimester of pregnancy, but shooting pains in my back brought me back to a walk (and back to the kitchen, snacking) by my fifth month. Now, I have a one-year-old, and my only excuse not to run is being too lazy to work it into my schedule (nighttime after Henry’s in bed doesn’t work for me– I’m too darn tired).
This week, I got back on the horse with some easy interval training on the treadmills at school. We have a beautiful new treadmill here at home, but it’s sometimes easier just to stay an hour later at school and knock out the work out before I get home to the sofa. When it comes to running, I need targets to stay motivated. The targets I choose come in the form of races, but I don’t run them to beat anyone else or even to establish new personal bests. The only reason I run races is to give myself a reason not to blow off workouts. If there’s something I’m training for, it makes the treadmill a little bit harder to ignore.
I’m probably going to blog about getting back to running shape quite a bit. I figure that committing to a couple of running goals on my blog is just another way to keep myself accountable. I don’t intend to bore anyone with the details of my training, but my thought is that if I tell you what I’m trying to do, maybe the fact that you’re aware of my plan will help me stick to it?
Yesterday, I registered for the Chicago Half Marathon on September 8. I’ve run the Chicago (full) Marathon before, too, but I ran it very poorly after blowing off much my late summer training. I (and thousands of other runners) were prevented from running past mile 22, anyway; unseasonable 80-degree temperatures during the October race cause organizers to close the course mid-race that year (here’s an article on the grand debacle from TIME). I’ve run bunches of 5Ks since, but it’s been a long time since I committed to a race that required diligent, disciplined training. The half seems like enough distance to be truly challenging but not so much that I can’t fit training runs into my life. Along the way, I’ll run four training runs each week plus a 5K and two 10K races (one is the Big Ten Network’s Big 10K in July).
When I’m really fit–when pounding out five or six miles on the treadmill is easy as pie–I think back to the lazy version of myself and think, “I’m never going to stop running again. It sucks to get started. When it’s tough to run for five minutes straight, it’s tough to want to run at all.” Yet here I am, back at the beginning, running intervals and remembering what it felt like when six miles was easy. In September, I hope to look back on these early, slog-it-out runs and say again, “I’m never going to stop running.”
Actually, he’s thirteen months old now, but who’s counting? My little baby of 7 lbs., 14 oz. is now a toddler, walking and chatting and eating big person food. He is tall and lean, sporting ten teeth (including newly sprouted top molars) and a head of ever-growing blond locks (we’re now veterans of two haircuts).
Henry is a talented mimic, but does have several words he associates correctly with objects, people, and actions (“ball” and “up” are two of his more recent favorites). We finally broke down and added cabinet locks to our kitchen last week along with a lock for the oven door. We’re still working on a better solution for our kitchen drawers (the locks we purchased don’t work because of our counter overhang), but fortunately, Henry doesn’t seem all that interested in them yet. We’ve taken down the larger gate that spanned the gap between our living room and eat-in area and moved our other gate that hemmed in our living room so that it blocks the staircase instead. Now, Henry has the run of the downstairs. On the weekends, he will now happily play for long spans of time having been freed from his erstwhile living room cage.
Since Henry’s big day actually fell midweek, we celebrated on the preceding weekend. Family, friends, gifts, and barbecue– what could be better? Here are a few shots from his grand fête.
For the longest time, Mark and I have been mulling Netflix. When I first met Mark, Netflix was still slinging discs exclusively, and I was a member. I dropped the membership sometime before I moved into the city, and, even though they’ve since offered thousands of TV shows and movies we’d love to watch, we just haven’t jumped back on the Netflix bandwagon.
It’s not that the $7.99/month price tag is, in itself, off-putting, it’s that we’re already paying an arm and a leg for communications in our house. Between a pair of smartphones, a VOIP landline, high-speed internet, and digital cable with a DVR, our bill is not small. Also, there’s a RedBox at the CVS just at the end of our street. Between our already significant communication and media bills and the close proximity of cheap, recently released movies to our home, adding Netflix has always seemed tough to justify. I’d gladly let the cable go (and wait for Game of Thrones to appear on Netflix), but Mark “needs” the Big 10 network. And various other live sporting events that don’t appear on network TV. For this reason, for ages, we just couldn’t pony up the $7.99.
But is was only $7.99.
I signed us up for Netflix this past Thursday. For a day, we didn’t do much with it. I have a mini-HDMI through which I can connect my Mac to the TV in our living room, but it seemed like an unwieldy hassle. I showed a clip from a film in one of my classes at school (it’s nice not to have to rely exclusively on YouTube), and I started to think a little bit more seriously about something my sister in-law Katie had mentioned at Henry’s birthday party last week: Apple TV.
Apple TV is similar to other streaming players (Roku, Slingbox, etc.), but it’s tailor-made for consumers who have liberally drank the Apple KoolAid. In addition to streaming content from Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo (to which I publish all of our family videos), the WSJ, and more, it will also stream music from our iTunes libraries, photos and videos from my Mac and our iPhones, and mirror the screen on my Mac. If I see some cool home reno project on Pinterest, I click a button, and it’s on the screen for Mark to see; neither of us even has to get off the couch!
I want to be clear: no one really “needs” Apple TV. In our basement, we have a rather large smart TV that offers nearly all of the same functions. Even if we didn’t, the words “need” and “Apple TV” shouldn’t really appear in the same sentence–ever. However, the baby-proof zone in our home is the living room. The living room also happens to be exceptionally comfortable for evening lounging, so having the ability to watch all of this streaming content where we spend most of our time is pretty great. Plus, it was $99 (plus 5% off with my Target Red Card debit).
All this brings me to the third thing I like: Downton Abbey. Seriously. A lot. I could watch it all day and all night. The lives of all the people in the house–servant and lord–are absolutely fascinating. Great characters, excellent writing, wonderful acting. The Netflix stream is a little bit jerky (we think this has something to do with the motion control feature on our Sony TV), but not enough so as to be distracting. The only real problem Downton is presenting right now is that only the first season–a measly seven episodes–is available on Netflix. Season 2 will cost us $20 on iTunes, but I have to say: I think it’ll be worth it.
I made a couple of adjustments to this recipe. Namely, I swapped out the eggplant for mushrooms; I like them much better, and they did a pretty good job of giving this vegetarian pasta recipe the meatiness it needed.
My worry about this recipe was that it would be dry. My husband and I, like many eaters, are pretty big fans of sauces, gravies, and other dressings, so the idea that this pasta didn’t really have a clingy sauce made be a little skeptical. As soon as I tasted it, though, I knew we’d underestimated the recipe. We ate it hot, but it would be equally delicious as a cold summer salad (think: leftovers). There was a nice balance of textures, and the red pepper gave it just the right bite. I substituted garlic salt for regular salt, and, when I make it again (because I will make it again), I’ll substitute fresh basil for the fresh mint the recipe calls for. The mint wasn’t bad, but, given the rest of the ingredients, its first cousin basil just seems to make more sense.
This recipe is quick, tasty, and idiot-proof– that’s an A+ in my book!
ETA: Sorry! Here’s the recipe!
Some time ago, during a visit, my mom brought with her from our Massachusetts home all kinds of treasures for Henry. Among the many gender-neutral, Grandma-knit sweaters and blankets of mine she brought with her was a particularly big little treasure that makes me smile every time I look at it (or even think about it, really). I’ll set the stage:
When I was born in March of 1979, I was the youngest of ten grandchildren on my Dad’s side (he has four sisters) and the second of an eventual four grandchildren on my Mom’s side (she has one older brother). In anticipation of my arrival, all of my cousins (and their respective moms) collaborated on a quilt for me that would eventually help me learn my great big family. Each cousin who was old enough designed a square in his or her own image, and those who were too young received a little help from their moms. Once everyone had finished their squares, the squares were sewn together, trimmed with pale blue ricrac, and backed with soft batting and pink cotton. The whole quilt was then framed in lace.
Now, for your viewing pleasure, here is a visual tour of my family, circa 1979:
Here’s the widest shot I was able to get without help. In it, you can see three families represented. My Aunt Jackie’s three kids grace the top row and my Aunt Michele’s three the next. I’ll introduce you to some of my cousins in more detail in “Quilt’s Greatest Hits” below. For now, know that my cousin Kelly–who is possibly the most glamorous of the fabric-painted lot (at least the most glamorous girl)–has always had a flair for style. She’s the blonde in the top row, and she now works as an esthetician at a high-end salon on Boston’s South Shore. I would bet she makes other ladies look as stunning as she does in her quilt square–just in three-dimensional reality. Down below on the left, my cousin Ryan is the youngest of his three siblings. I do seem to remember him having freckles as a kid, but I can’t place the little blue sailor-man cap. He looks like he might have been working the docks.
This is my cousin Jon. As a boy (and maybe still, depending on which family member you’re talking to) he was “Jon Jon.” To my memory, the bowl haircut is accurate. I’m pretty sure that bowl haircut cycled through almost every cousin in our family tree, though, so Jon had plenty of company. What I really like here is the big ol’ pink collar; if the haircut doesn’t situate this quilt tidily in the seventies, the collar sure does. Jon’s now a police officer very near where we all grew up.
These are my cousins Niki and Courtney. They’re sisters, and, as is suggested by the hand holding here, each is the other’s best friend, even now. Because they are close to my age, I probably spent the most time with them when I was little. I always thought that they were infinitely cooler than I. Their mom, my Aunt Lynn, had a little lazy susan in her hall closet that held what seemed like a million bottles of nail polish. To me, this seemed like something you’d find in little girl fantasyland. They had a cat named Mama, Mama’s kitten, Muffin, and a Cocker Spaniel named Barnaby. I loved going over to their house, but I was always stymied by the childproof hooks on the tops of the lower cabinet doors. Maybe this is why I haven’t managed to install them in my own house yet.
“Big Mike,” as he calls himself in his quilt square, wasn’t just being self-important here. I do have another cousin named Mike; he’s a little over a year older than I, but “Big Mike” is several years older than “Little Mike.” Notice, though, that Big Mike has apparently just finished a clean and jerk with the biggest freaking barbell man has ever known. Just to show he’s none the worse for wear, Big Mike is now flexing his well-developed guns. Big Mike would later go on to fly fighter jets and is now a Commander in the United States Navy. True story.
This is my cousin Rich. Rich is apparently an erstwhile left winger (Was this foreshadowing?) who also dabbled in tennis. He’s seen here in a striped shirt with a white nehru collar. The kid has a great smile here, right? A great smile, and a beautiful head of hair. Rich’s coiffure here is every bit as period-appropriate as Jon’s– the Farrah Fawcett to Jon’s bowl cut. Though it might at first glance seem an inauspicious beginning, the seeds of a successful career in art are sown in this early, fabric paint self-portrait. Rich now owns his own graphic design firm in Boston. He no longer has Farrah Fawcett hair.
Reflect upon what makes your family special. Very likely, what makes them special has, in no small way, informed the person you have chosen to become. The person you would most love to be is often a composite construction of the people you love most.