Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekend in a plastic, pastel-colored eggshell

Just finished watching Rachel Getting Married, an intense look at family relationships and addiction and am feeling a lot better about my issues. Thinking that I need to make friends with more crazy musicians, though, so they can provide a constant soundtrack for my maybe future, kinda eventual wedding day.

Am currently avoiding doing a character sketch after having a lot of fun running through details of this week's subject, an old neighbor, Louise.

I was amazed at how much I remembered and after filling 2 pages with descriptions, am now facing the task I hate most, organizing these thoughts and figuring how they fit into a cohesive piece.

Rejoice! I am finally getting over a cold that had me praying for the day some genius gets off his ass and invents a high-powered nasal vacuum.

Topping off the weekend were the inches of slushy snow dumped on my street, backyard and car today. March 29th. I'm not complaining (much) since I realize that won't help and nobody likes a whiner. Still, the dripping ice chunks falling from rooftops and branches made the walk to brunch around the corner a little more interesting in a trekking through slush in constant fear kind of way.

Ending with some good news, since the Sroufe's visit this weekend, I now have 12 10 8 7 chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs in the freezer. (I like my marshmallow crunchy, melty, or not at all! Suck it, Bri-Bri!) I also scored some Cadbury Mini Eggs, so now I only need a Reese's Egg for an Easter candy trifecta.

What's your favorite Easter candy?

*Post Script: Andy, thinking I'm deeply involved in my writing assignment, just asked with real concern if he was bothering me by paying bills/doing taxes/some-other-responsible-shit at the same table. I assured him that since I was currently doing a Google image search for chocolate covered marshmallow eggs, yes, could he please back the fuck off and let me work.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Dreams May Come (and scare the crap outta me)

Last night I had a dream that I woke up in the middle of my own open-heart surgery. Doctors with covered heads and faces were up to their elbows in my guts. Organs and fluids sloshing around, I remember feeling pain in my chest (a rarity in dreams) and wishing someone would notice my eyes were open and conscious. I woke up still remembering the aching from the stitched and stapled wound (because apparently one or the other would not be enough?).

Tonight in writing class we had to write a 10 minute poem from the prompt, "Ways of Making Love".

I wrote about sleep.

According to me, love means a front row seat to your own invasive medical procedure.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I need lines to color inside of

I remember the first picture I ever colored without breaking the black lines creating the image. It was a rollerskating girl with pigtails, short skirt and striped socks. The page was from one of those beginner coloring books with thick lines, large, simple shapes and as little detail as possible.

Pressing the colored wax into the paper with half my body weight, I outlined each shape. First the skirt which was a basic trapezoid.

Aside: My 7th grade algebra teacher, Mr. Smoot, between bouts of throwing erasers at chalkboards and chastising me for unfinished homework, used to repeat a trapezoid joke at every opportunity, which was unfortunately about twice a week.

What are trapezoids used for?
To trap a zoid!

Hardy har!

There was very little I took away from Mr. Smoot other than the assertion that 7th grade algebra would be my last advanced math course for the rest of my educational career, but that joke stuck.

Back to the coloring because I think I was going somewhere with that.

My crayon box was a mess of peaks, valleys and torn wrappers. I really liked how the colors looked when you smashed the tip of the crayon into the paper with incredible pressure. This made the colors bold and more vibrant, though the finished product had a tendency to flake and peel. My coloring books often left a rainbow trail of dandruff as I carried them though the house.

My sister was great at coloring. She taught me to trace the outline of the picture first, then evenly shade in each area. As much as I practiced, I could never get the even pressure thing down. Rather than have everything two-toned, I would press as hard as possible to get a more consistent result. This aggressive technique shortened the life-span of my favorite colors to about 4 pages.

Some creative color choices were made to extend the lives my favorites. Grass could be brown if it hadn't been watered, the sun could be burnt orange if it was rising or setting and the sky could be gray on an overcast day.

Mastering coloring inside the lines was a proud day for me. Since I still remember the pig-tailed, skirted girl who served as my subject, the ability to show off a page without an errant scribble obviously made an impression.

Once I graduated to free-form drawing is when more ugly obstacles crawled out of my Lisa Frank pencil box. A blank piece of paper is a wonderful thing--full of possibilities. I prefer mine in the form of a lined, crisp first page of a notebook, but understand the sentiment is the mostly same.

I need direction. A prompt or specific areas to outline and shade. When I go to a restaurant with paper table cloths and crayons to pass the time until food hits the table, my first inclination is to write something, not draw.

With so many options at the age of 4, I often settled on the same picture, with the same components and characters every time.

Yep, I still got it.

Amazing how MS Paint is able to realistically recreate my 4-year-old artistic skills.

Sometimes the leprechaun would be sliding down the rainbow, but that was pretty much the extent of variation. (And by sliding down the rainbow, I mean drawn exactly as pictured above, but positioned on top of the rainbow rather than standing awkwardly beside his pot o' yellow circles.)

My preschool and kindergarten teachers must have worried about my unhealthy obsession with rainbows, leprechauns and pots of gold. I didn't especially love rainbows or leprechauns, but they were one of the first things I ever wanted to draw. It included all the colors, was easy, and allowed me to show off the fact that I knew all the colors of the rainbow AND what order they went in--something I'd memorized the first day of preschool by staring at the rainbow-painted wall all day in shyness. Every now and then I'd try a unicorn or another unrecognizable animal from my unskilled hands. After having to explain that my elegant unicorn was definitely NOT a rhinoceros, I learned to not stray too far from what I knew.

My writing equivalent of this artistic repetition has changed over the years, but is mostly centered around tales from my life. I'll tell different stories, illustrated with silly pictures of Milo, but whenever I'm given instructions to write about anything, anything I can possibly dream up, I slip back into what I know.

My assignment this week was to write every day. Come up with a schedule and stick to it. Simple. Easy. Limitless.


While I love making schedules and sticking to them, I cannot be the only one accountable for both ends of the equation--especially when there aren't clearly defined consequences or goals involved. Given the simple task of writing, just sitting down and taking the time to do it has caused me to avoid the laptop and my notebook more than the overflowing laundry basket. You know it's there and you should really just get to it, but it'll eventually get done, so why not take the dog for another walk in the sun or try a second attempt at that no-knead bread recipe?

Several times this weekend I'd sit with the laptop and stare at the screen, write a sentence or two and then realize I should really be riding the bike or downloading the pictures and video I took of Milo at playgroup.

So today I sat down to blog, hoping it might hammer a tiny crack into my shield of avoidance. I made up my mind to at least write about how I'm not writing and look what happened? Words! Hundreds of them pecked out one at a time. Bird by bird.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Parking Ticket Update

Just checked the Chicago online parking ticket search and my ill-given ticket is nowhere to be found. Nightmares of waking up with a giant, yellow boot on my car can finally end.

System? Consider yourself beaten.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Still writing, just not for you

My silence has been deafening, I know.

While I have been writing and living up a storm, I haven't been recording any of it for you.

My writing class at StoryStudio Chicago started last week and since then, I've been sitting down to write quite a bit, but character sketches, essays about mustaches and quick writing prompt responses to Big Lebowski quotes are things I'd like to keep to myself, my instructor and the entire class of Creative Writing on Tuesday from 7:00pm-9:30pm (Shout out!) for now. Oh, and Andy, who got to read the mustache thing. (Is it wrong that I kind of love "moustache" more? Does that make me British? I hope not. Perhaps a poser. Or poseur, if you will.)

As the entire city rushes outdoors to breathe in the first bits of unfrosted air with great, gasping gulps, I'm hunkering down, reading my Anne Lamott (thanks, Judy!) and trying to find inspiration in Pet Milk, which happened to be one of our first reading assignments; successfully flaunting how woefully inept I find myself--out of practice and flabby with preoccupation.

So please excuse while I tighten and tone. The end result will be mutually beneficial, I assure you.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New favoritest dinner

Five years ago, if you asked me what my favorite vegetable was, I would answer broccoli without hesitation. I started eating it dipped in A1 steak sauce around the age of 6. Since then, I progressed to steaming, covering in cheese, throwing in a stir fry and eventually... roasting. The perfect method for cooking broccoli.

That's why when I saw this recipe, even though I'm not usually super excited about shrimp recipes, I thought this one would be worth a shot.

Ooh, so happy I did.

Only 20 minutes of cook time with almost no prep and only one dirty pan unless you make a little curry rice on the side like we did.

Still so worth it and this has jumped to the top of my list of favorite weeknight dinners. Make it now, thank me later.

Melissa Clark's Roasted Broccoli With Shrimp

2 pounds broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
4 tablespoons ( 1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (or 1/2 tsp ground, though the seeds add great texture)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp ground)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I'd cut this to 1 tsp next time)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined (we used Jumbo since that's what Trader Joe's had, and it worked just fine)
1 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
Lemon wedges, for serving.

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

2. Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Add shrimp to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around edges, about 7-10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and broccoli just before serving.

Yield: 4 servings. But really 2 because I couldn't stop picking at the broccoli and Andy couldn't lay off the shrimp.

I Object

Below are photos I sent in with my signed letter of complaint to contest the parking ticket I received for "Parking/Blocking a Crosswalk".

I rest my case.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mistaken Identity

What I Thought Happened

Scuzzy, bundled up homeless man shuffling down the street toward me and Milo on our afternoon walk: (slurring) You go' some money?

Me: (uncomfortably) Uh, no.

Scuzzy Homeless Guy: (stopping to bug me more) No?

Me: (brusquely, eyes rolling as I hurry us past) No.

What Actually Happened

Perfectly normal guy from my neighborhood, bundled up because it's Chicago in March and therefore below freezing, walking down the street toward me and Milo on our afternoon walk: (cheerily looking down at Milo, though mumbling a bit because of his scarf) Is that a Lhasa Apso?

Me: (uncomfortably) Uh, no.

Normal Guy:
(confused and stopping to have a neighborly chat) No?

(unreasonably and rudely brushing past) No.

Number of seconds before I realize why he looks so confused, turn and scream after him, "Shih-tzu! He's a SHIH-TZU!"?

Approximately 15.

Damn doppelganger dog.

Long overdue

Ladies and Gents, Andy's Guitar Recital a mere three weeks after the actual event.

He's even got a solo!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Frankie says it, Milo does it

In every life we have some trouble,
When you worry you make it double.

Don't worry, be happy.

Yes, I will now be whistling that little ditty for the rest of the afternoon along with you all.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Humpy Birthday

Saturday was Milo's 2nd birthday, and I'm proud to announce that Andy and I did NOT totally forget about it this year.

In fact, we even took him to check out a doggie daycare where he spent approximately 75% of his time being humped by a 7lb dog that looked like this:

I'd call any day you're made a bitch by someone half your size a good day.

Happy Birthday Buddy!

(Don't worry, we also gave him 3 walks, organic doggie ice cream and fed him treats 'til he puked.)


When Andy and I first moved in together, I knew it wasn't going to work.

One of us was a snorer (and I won't say who), while the other was an apparently very light sleeper. We tried adding white noise to keep on in the background, but didn't want to waste electricity by keeping a fan pointed at the wall during winter. Earplugs, no matter what the make, were far too uncomfortable for nightly use and made hearing the alarm a little difficult.

One day, magically, the problem stopped. Not the snoring, but the snoring as an issue. I'm not sure if the snoring got softer, the light sleeper more resilient or what, but somehow we were both sleeping peacefully through the night.

Then came Milo.

Our first night with a pet, we tried to keep Milo in his "home" (read: "cage" because apparently dogs have learned the English language with all its subtle nuances and might be able to associate the word cage with being confined for punishment?) in the dining room. After an hour of barking and whining, we moved Milo and his home to the living room at the opposite end of the apartment, hoping sheer distance might muffle the noise.

When the barking wouldn't stop, I was wondering what the breeder's return policy was.

"What have we DONE?" I whined to Andy. We were so obviously inept at being pet owners. After one night of troubled sleep, I was convinced it wasn't meant to be.

Luckily, morning brought with it a fresh dose of sanity and I figured since we'd mastered the snoring issue, we might be able to conquer this. One step at a time, our routine evolved and we figured out how to stop the barking by moving the cage inside the bedroom. Small victories lead to bigger victories and before we knew it, Milo was an irreplaceable part of our lives.

After a bath or on special occasions (like when we actually remember his birthday), we'll even let him sleep on the bed with us.

He'll still wake us up with a couple muffled barks and twitching paws when he's having dreams of chasing down a squirrel (or maybe chasing down me and Andy, who can be sure?), but these episodes are so rare that Andy and I still find them unbelievably cute and hilarious.

That's why when I saw the following video clip on Dooce today, I knew I'd be sharing it. Milo's not quite as energetic as Bizkit, but he has rolled himself off the bed before.