Friday, September 16, 2005

La maison de l'urine

Yep, that's right, I don't live in Urinetown, but I do inhabit the house of pee.

It has been a trying couple of days here on Summit Street--Ian spiked a fever on Tuesday night and so has been home from school for the past two days. Day 1 wasn't so bad--lots of juice, naps and any video he wanted (Wallace and Gromit 5 times in a row--yes, we know there is a Wallace and Gromit movie coming out soon) kept him pretty content and meant I had a little time to give Fiona the attention she demands these days.

Day 2 was a different story. Ian was still a little sick so I couldn't send him to school, but he was well enough to raise hell and demand a lot of attention. And Fiona was feeling about as stir crazy as I was and frustrated that her needs kept being put aside. So what did she do? Pee of course!

This kid has been completely potty trained for at least a month now, with hardly an accident. But yesterday she decided to pee on the floor and each time very near the urine receptacle. Intentional? You betcha! In the morning she stood and peed right next to her potty downstairs with a look of defiance firmly plastered on her face, and in the afternoon she went in the bathroom and purposely peed right next to the toilet. I know, I should have picked up that she wanted some more attention after the first incident so in a way it is my own damn fault that I live in La maison de l'urine.

But wait! That isn't all the pee! Our aging dog Sylvie (the dog with 9 lives since every month or so we think she will have to be put down and then she makes a miraculous recovery) decided that yesterday would be the day to try incontinence. Moments after cleaning up Fiona's second gusher, I went in our bedroom and there was Sylvie lying down quite unperturbed in a big puddle of her own urine. I think the most disturbing thing for me was how she didn't seem to mind it--she has been a dog with almost human emotions and in the past you could see her embarrassment and shame at any accident. This time it hardly seemed to register. I got her downstairs (which meant her sodden fur dripped pee all the way down the stairs, through the hall and dining room to the back door) and outside. Then I spent the next hour or so with lots of paper towels and Murphy's Oil Soap.

To say I was in a lousy mood by this time would be an understatement. I plopped the kids on the couch with a large supply of kiddy-cocaine (a.k.a. Goldfish crackers) and juice, turned on a Thomas video and retreated to my now urine-free bedroom.

And then I realized how good it would feel to rip out some knitting. (You were wondering how this would get back to one of my 4 obsessions, yes?) Remember how yesterday I said "no way in hell" would I rip out the long rows of the Ribby cardigan even though I was pretty sure I had messed up the decreases? Well, there I was in hell (which, by the way, has the acrid smell of pee) and rip away I did.

It took the length of one Thomas video to rip out what I had done and get it all back on the needles. The Denise interchangeable needles proved to be a boon in this exercise because I could detach portions of the needle and rip out sections separately without having the whole damn thing unraveling at once. I'm not entirely sure that I got everything back on the correct row (I may have ripped a row or two lower on one side than the other) but by then I really didn't give a damn. I went downstairs and put in another Thomas video (and appreciated the glazed, dull look my children get when they watch way too much TV in a day. Glazed and dull was just the state I striving for.) and then went back up and tried re-knitting the decreases. When the second-shift child-care worker (a.k.a. Brian) came home, I wasn't far enough along to tell whether the new decreases looked any better than the old ones or if I had messed up the sweater in a new and different way. But at least I had had a little ripping therapy.

It may be raining outside today, but here is to hoping that it is dry inside my house.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

a lack of photographic evidence....

I made chocolate peanut butter ice cream the other day and for some strange reason, I have no photographic evidence of the stuff! It really is so damn good that I keep forgetting to photograph it--I'm far too intent on getting it in my mouth.

I used the chocolate ice cream recipe from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book (which I really like. I have the library copy but I need to buy my own copy.) This time I had organic heavy cream and organic milk in the house and I think it made a difference--the creaminess factor is even more apparent. Once the ice cream was finished in the machine (soft serve consistency) I layered it in the tupperware storage container with some natural peanut butter. This peanut butter happened to be too liquidy for good sandwich making (it was Trader Joe's basic stuff which usually is a bit firmer but must have been made from a particularly oily batch of peanuts) but it was the perfect pouring consistency for layering with the ice cream. After a few hours it was ready for scooping and man is it ever good.

I do have some photos of other things I've been up to. First, to stay on the food subject, here are some shrimp I made the other night:
They were really easy, which is always a plus. The only time consuming part was threading them on the skewers and that could be made less onerous (though more expensive) by buying bigger shrimp. I bought frozen shrimp that had already been shelled and deveined so the prep was particularly fast. Here's a basic recipe taken from a Cook's Illustrated e-mail newsletter:

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Serves: 4 to 6
Start to finish: 30 Minutes

Shrimp can be grilled with the shell on or off and can be served hot or at room temperature.

Vegetable Oil
2 pounds large shrimp, deveined
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges (for serving)

1. Turn all the burners to high, close the lid, and heat the grill until very hot, about 15 minutes. Clean and oil the grill. Leave all the burners on high.

2. Meanwhile, pat the shrimp dry with paper towels (if using frozen shrimp, the fastest way to thaw them safely is by putting them in a colander and running cold water over them), then rub with 2 tablespoons oil and season with thyme, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne and with salt and pepper to taste. Thread the shrimp onto metal skewers facing all in the same direction so that all will lie flat on the grate (if they seem too loose and spin on the skewer, thread them with a second skewer to secure).

3. Grill the shrimp, covered, until barely charred and bright pink, about 6 minutes. Serve with the lemon wedges.

I also have some photos of the Ribby cardigan I'm working on:
Here you see the fronts, sleeves and back all joined together on a really loooooong needle. And yes, that is a big tangle of the 5 balls of yarn that are attached. They remain in that tangled state until the snarl stops my progress and then I try to untangle them which lasts about 5 minutes and then they are all glommed together again.
And here is a close up of the most nerve-wracking part, the join between the sleeves and the body, where all the decreases for the raglan shaping are taking place. I'm pretty sure that I'm doing K2tog and SSK in the opposite place from where they really should be, but I figure as long as I'm consistent, it won't matter that much. I am a complete idiot when it comes to left and right so the logic of left slanting vs right slanting decreases is beyond me. I'm sure this would drive a perfectionist knitter crazy, but thankfully I am a member of the "good enough" knitters. Also, there is no way in hell I'm going to rip out a row that long.

On the reading and writing front, I finished Donna Tartt's The Little Friend. I really liked it with the exception of the ending which struck me as too abrupt, as though the author couldn't really figure out how to let go of the characters or the story.

Right now I am finishing up Madeline is Sleeping, which is still interesting, but not involving. A shallow confession, sometimes I think I continue to read it because I like the cover photo so much. It is a photograph by Lewis Carroll (yes, the Alice author) and it perfectly captures the weird dreamy, fantastical nature of the story. I'm always amazed at how much cover art influences me, especially since I'm not a very visual person. As I mentioned before, the horrible cover art of Carol Shields' The Stone Diaries kept me from such a fantastic book for way too long.

And yes, there is actually some news on the writing front--that is to say, there is the possibility of writing in my near future. Sarah, Ami and I are doing a weekend writing retreat from October 28-30 at the Bluebird Trails B&B in Hillsdale that Lynne highly recommended. We'll leave on a Friday afternoon and have all day Saturday and Sunday sans kids and spouses and pets and phones and other distractions to write. That may not sound like much time to some of you, but in the past 5.5 years, I have only had that much time to myself once. To say I am excited at the prospect of time to think and write is a big understatement.