Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Moments in Parenting

Recently Peter was watching the children while I was out, and he found himself needing to go to the bathroom. No problem, right? (Ha.) Well, there he was taking care of business while Isla, who was a little fussy, pulled herself up on his leg. Her nails, shamefully unmanicured, digging into his flesh and pulling at his leg hair. Then John, who was engaged in a game of mailman- a game in which he crawls in the cabinet and then sticks his head out of the laundry chute- hit is head on said cabinet and began wailing while clinging to Peter's other leg and begging to be held. Amid the wailing, and clinging, the fussing and sting of pulled leg hair,  Peter saw that there was a mere wisp- nay, essence- of toilet paper left on the roll. He imagined me, the last time I was in the bathroom; He envisioned me gleefully taking the last squares of paper, happy that there had been just enough for me, and more than happy to let the problem of an empty toilet paper roll  fall to someone else. Peter being the only other independent toileter in the house, this problem would inevitably fall to him.

I won't deny that I'm not always the most scrupulous toilet paper replacer, but as anyone who has young children probably knows, that's not because I don't value a full roll of toilet paper. When Peter related this experience to me,  I was all, oh, nononononono. What probably prevented me from replacing the toilet paper was something like this: there I was, trying to take care of business, while Isla was pulling up on my leg, scratching me with her baby claws, while John- engaged in a game of mailman- hit his head on the cabinet, commenced wailing and clinging to me begging to be held...

So my big question is, when can I resume going to the bathroom alone?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Baking Vicissitudes

I really like to bake, at least the idea of baking. My desire to follow through seems inversely proportionate to the number of children I have. Nonetheless, I love the idea of being skilled enough to make something cute or pretty for a birthday party or shower, and I do believe that one can make very nice things without having much skill. And I, personally, love homemade things.

Around the holiday season I had the opportunity to practice some baking. One project was this rose cake from the blog I am Baker (I've said before that I'm fairly certain that the author of  this blog is a robot because as she's homeschooling several children she's able to create veritable cake universes- she's like the J.R.R  Tolkein of baked goods.)  I made this cake almost two years ago but I didn't have the right tip, so my roses were not as full and overall it wasn't as pretty ( in addition to the wrong tip, it also suffered some operator error.) But I tried again with the right tip (1M ) for a friend's baby shower with a better result:

This is a really easy and forgiving cake to make. I used this cake and icing recipe and followed I am Baker's instructions (the video is really helpful). Mine still didn't look as pretty as hers, but what can I say? I am only a human.The recipe seems to be a keeper. People said they loved it.

Following that success, I created a relative disaster that even my in laws would not eat, though they generally have undiscriminating culinary tastes. I was anxious to try my hand at cake balls. Cake balls! What will they think of next! (Probably an entire to-scale cake model of Middle Earth.) Anyways, I had some extra cake and icing from the rose cake. So I found some instructions on Pioneer Woman's blog and set out to make some oh-so-smooth, and delicious and perfectly round, of course, balls of cake.

You'll notice on Pioneer Woman's blog they make it look so easy. I believe they are in collusion with Martha Stewart. Pioneer Woman blithely says that the trade secret of cake balls is to, after you've drizzled the ball with candy coating, tap the spoon on the bowl to shake off excess icing and get a smooth look. "Tap the spoon on the bowl" I thought, "Well, I'm not the ace of cakes, but I think I can do that. Easy!"

Let me disabuse you of that notion: It takes a lot more than a spoon tap to get a smooth, round cake ball. Like, it might possibly take sorcery- of which I continue to maintain Martha is a practitioner. I don't really know what went wrong with mine. I used candy coating from both Hobby Lobby (I think it was Wilton brand) and H-E-B, but neither would melt into a smooth, drizzling consistency, though I followed the instructions exactly.

 I ended up with some cake blobs that were too sweet even for my in laws- people who eat icing straight out of the can! (I do the same thing, so I'm not judging.) I think all of the holiday sugar combined gave pause to even the most ravenous glucophiles (I just made that word up) among us. These might have been salvageable if I hadn't added so much frosting. I'm not one to waste food, but even I'll admit that discarding frosting does not carry the same pangs of conscience that accompanies the waste of more nutritious food. Yet, I went ahead and added all of my leftover icing to the cake balls anyways. Then I left the cake balls at my in laws for them to dispense with so I wouldn't have to throw food in the trashcan (it's debatable whether cake balls qualify as food...)

All that to say, I've decided not to open up a bakery. I'm going to keep my day job. Which is also my night job. And weekend job. And holiday job. There's no monetary compensation but there is the unlimited nibbling of baby thighs which is so much better than money!  

Saturday, February 09, 2013

November/December/January Books

My reading rate has dropped precipitously over the past few months. The reasons being that I've undertaken to read a lengthy tome, and Isla has become the Usain Bolt of breastfeeding. Since I do a lot of my reading while I'm nursing- and now I'm only getting through a few pages per session- I'm getting through a lot fewer books. Within the next few months I'm going to start dropping feedings and then I don't know if I'll read ever again. But for now, onward!

In November I read: 

The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds
This is a compilation of the latest exercise research, which means that as I'm typing this, probably two thirds of the book is no longer relevant. Trying to grasp the gist of  the latest research in any field is akin to trying to nail jello to the wall: new things are discovered and old ideas are rendered obsolete at a dizzying pace. In exercise science, one day stretching is considered essential, the next day it is unnecessary. One day you should drink 64 ounces of water per day, then, after all that peeing, you are told that you should just drink when you're thirsty. (Thanks! I could've saved myself a few trips to the bathroom.)

Aparantly the new big idea in exercise science is: use your common sense. For example: Just exercise. For how long? It really doesn't matter, any amount is better than none. What should you do? It really doesn't matter, anything is better than nothing. (But you should do resistance training.) Also, you are the best judge of what is healthy for you: if something hurts, rest it; if you're tired, take a break; if you're thirsty, drink, etc.

I rather like this common sense approach because it's overwhelming to try to keep up with all the new recommendations that constantly come out. I liked this book. It was sometimes tedious because she cited So. Many. Studies. but it reassured me that I don't have to try to maintain a herculean exercise program to reap the benefits of exercise.

Finding Emilie by Laurel Corona.
This was historical fiction set in pre- revolutionary France. It was thoroughly meh. I usually like books about France- especially the time period around the revolution. Actually, now that I typed that, I can only recall reading three that fit that description. Of those, I only really loved one. So, if you're going to read a book that takes place in or around the time of the French Revolution, read A Tale of Two Cities, not this one.


The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
I saw this book on a friend's blog. She linked to this article by the same author. After reading the article, I immediately requested the book from the library. It was a  fascinating and quick read. The article only covers one aspect of habit- how corporations use our habits to get us to buy more stuff from them. He discuses several aspects in the book from individual habits to societal habits. I haven't intentionally applied these theories to my life, but I've found that I've unconsciously used them in the past when trying to adopt new habits. I would recommend this book.

Also, late into December I undertook to read The Brothers Karamazov, which being a behemoth of a novel, I will post about sometime in March.


The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
I listened to this. I loved it. The further I got into it, the more I liked it. I wasn't that interested in the beginning but by the end I was intrigued.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
I had to take a short break from the Brothers K to read this for a book club. I have not read a book by Malcolm Gladwell that I wanted to put down. It's like brain candy. This one is about small, sometimes obvious, sometimes obscure factors that transform ideas into movements.

Incidentally, John often asks me what book I'm reading so, I told him: The Brothers Karamazov. He asked me what it's about, so I told him: patricide. (Who am I to sanitize the themes of classic literature?) So, now when he sees me reading it, he asks: "Is that the Brothers Karamazov? It's about patricide?" It's pretty funny. Not patricide, of course, but that my 2 year old can repeat what the Brothers K is about. I'm going to do this with all the classics. I want him walking into kindergarten able to summarize a wide range of novels, each in 5 words or less. I don't care if he knows how to read or tie his shoes, he'll learn that eventually, but this, this is a priority. So far I've got:

Crime and Punishment: The crushing weight of guilt

I need to start working on the Jane Austens:

Pride and Prejudice: Five Saucy Sisters? A Plucky Heroin and a Curmudgeonly Suitor? The injustice of primogeniture?