Thursday, August 30, 2007

Vaccinations for all

I've had a mildly sore throat--tickly, feels better when I drink a lot--for thirty-six hours now. I had a slight bout of sneezing yesterday morning, and a slight attack of body aches yesterday afternoon. Did I mention that Eric is sick? From his fourth day of teaching? I've clearly caught it from him, but the onset is so slow that I'm hopeful that either I'm merely being inoculated and showing some vaccination reactions, as it were, or that the cold itself will be very mild because my body's evidently had time to marshall its defenses. Eric is very bitter about this.

I have also already failed as a housewife. He has no more clean underwear. It's laundry night for me.

We went to dinner last night at a relatively new Italian place for Edith's birthday and Eric's sister's, and it was fantastic. The gelato and the cappuccino were the only things that weren't delicious, and since I don't drink cappuccino and there was birthday ice cream waiting at home, that wasn't a big deal.

The ice cream went over very well. I made it Tuesday night, since Eric was still sick. We had chocolate mint, chocolate orange, and peanut butter chocolate with Reese's cups. The chocolates were a little soft and the peanut butter a little hard (probably because I put in twice as much peanut butter as the Ben & Jerry's recipe recommended--the flavor wasn't too strong either), but they were a hit. Eric's brother-in-law--well, I guess he's mine too--suggested we sell our ice cream at the farmer's market and Eric was sorely tempted. We'd have to work on scoopability, but I could see it being a fun day if we did it. I've been wanting to get to that farmer's market.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


This is my entry for A Year in Bread's contest. Also nice to think about as I need to eat the last of our most recent tabbouleh tonight.

Eric loves tabbouleh. Middle Eastern food is the only ethnic food (other than Olive Garden-style Italian) he really likes, and tabbouleh is his favorite. I'm fond of it too. And when I pointed out how cheap parsley is at the grocery store, the natural next step was to make our own.

"We need pita bread," he said when we were buying some parsley, onions, and tomatoes several months ago to do just that. "You can't have tabbouleh without pita bread. Let's get some."

"Or I could make some," I suggested, and his eyes got wide.

I had a book, Rose Levy Berenbaum's Bread Bible, and a small amount of experience with baking bread. I've made cinnamon rolls and egg bread and No-Knead bread and pizza dough; I couldn't see how pita bread would be all that difficult.

So I found the recipe and made some pita dough. The book gave two options, cooking on a skillet or an oven, and since I understood the book to say both were equivalent, I chose the skillet. The resulting bread was fairly tasty--but too thick and too flat, nothing like the thin, dry, hollow rounds we got at the restaurants. "It didn't poof," I complained, bringing the plate of pancake-like pitas to the table. They were lousy for scooping.

"Maybe it'll be better next time," Eric said.

Time passed. I grew a garden, with a big parsley patch and a tomato plant (okay, twelve), and one day we decided the time had come to make tabbouleh fresh from the garden. "And you'll make your pita bread?" Eric said to me. "Maybe this time it will poof."

So I mixed the dough, let it rise, divided it, rolled it, let it rest--with difficulty, for the correct time--rolled it again, and baked it. In the oven. I placed the first round with trepidation on a preheated baking sheet, closed the door, and waited the prescribed three minutes.

I opened the door to a puffy, ballooning pita. "It poofed!" I squealed. Dinner that night was the best ever.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

If not the world, at least our heads are going round

This household is embarking on a new chapter in our financial life: actual investing. We've done CDs, but that's the most I've done before. Eric's owned stocks, so it's not new to him--but our general financial situation is. Items:

-The driveway is going to cost us around $6000 to fix. We've accepted this. What's more, we have the money to pay for it. (Partly because of my mom's gift around last Thanksgiving.)

-Eric's tuition is going to cost us $1000 this semester and $2000 next semester above financial aid, because we've decided (read: I urged and he agreed) we will decline all but the subsidized loans so that we pay less interest.

-Our only debts are student loans, Eric's car loan, and the mortgage.

-We're putting away a nice amount every month in savings.

-We've decided we want to keep $8000 liquid as emergency money, and we have that and more.

So, we're putting $5000 into an investing account and buying some mutual funds, some high-risk, some moderate-risk. We'll put in more as we can (though we'll keep some in CDs too), and Eric wanted to apply for margin, which is basically a loan from Ameritrade (or whatever), but the interest rate is 10% or so, so we might consider getting a low-interest credit card and using the cash advance for extra investing money. Maybe not. I'm a little leery of this--we had to discuss it for a while before I would agree that investing makes more sense than paying off the student loan first--but it does make numerical sense, assuming terrible things don't happen to the stock market in the next few years, and we're in a position where we can stand some loss.

Eric keeps shaking his head and saying he has to get used to this feeling of doing well. He'll get used to it. And with our plans (kids, moving) we may never be doing this well again, so he'd better enjoy it. I am.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Time to go

"Here's the plan," my coworker says to me and the other coworker in the department. "P's on vacation; D's leaving at 2:30. If either of you are on site after four o'clock I will slap you silly for making me look like a slacker." Looks like an early day for our department. Thank goodness--it's been a long, long week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jennifer Housewife

Yesterday Eric stood in the kitchen with tears in his eyes, saying, "I'll be eighty-three before these kids are learning what they ought to be learning." We'd been talking about the curriculum he's been handed for a new class he's teaching, and how he regards it as grossly human-centered and inappropriate for a beginner's class. He has a book, Benchmarks, that he would love to have implemented, but right now, where he is, there's nothing he can do, and he hates it. And I saw, again, how impassioned he can be about the things he cares about, and how much he cares about teaching.

He is now working full-time, including teaching a class he's never taught before, and which he learned yesterday is full of brighter students than he thought he was getting. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; it just means he has to redo a bunch of work he's done on his lesson plans. He's also taking four graduate-level classes in the evenings. He is going to have a very busy semester.

I am now going to be solely responsible for dinner on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and primarily responsible on Mondays. (Tuesdays he has pizza with his gaming friends, and Fridays he has no classes.) I'm a little nervous about this. I've never been responsible for someone else's meals; up until now we've shared in the planning and cooking, not least because Eric is a picky eater and won't eat something if he's not in the mood for it. But if he's to get any decent nutrition this semester, I'm going to have to have food ready and he's going to have to eat it.

I have also--without mentioning it to him, because he balked enough at the dinner thing--decided that this semester, I will attempt to become his housewife. I will cook, and clean, and do the dishes, and pay the bills, and do the laundry, and buy the groceries, and try not to complain that he's not helping. I'm also nervous about this. For one thing, I'm terrible at not complaining. This is actually nontrivial; I don't like not talking about things, and it's liable to make me even more irritable than usual. But I think it has to be done. My schedule is much freer than his, so I can take on the additional work without trouble; and if I draw attention to it he's going to feel bad about putting it all on me, and his stress level is high enough without making it worse.

And yes, if I don't say anything, he probably won't notice. This is the guy who leaves empty boxes all over our pantry because it simply doesn't occur to him that taking the last can/bar/bottle/package means that the box no longer has a purpose.

So we'll see how this goes. In a way I'm kind of looking forward to it. There are lots of projects around the house that aren't getting done because they're our projects and we often find better things to do than put up shelves or organize old files; but if it's just me who's responsible, these things are more likely to be done because I'm less tolerant of clutter than he is and the sense of ownership isn't diffused. So maybe by Christmas we'll have a cleaner, more functional house. Or maybe we'll have the same house and two more frazzled people in it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mildly down, and thinking about childhood and presents and genius and crusades and what it might take to get someone like me (or, more specifically, someone like Eric) to really devote one hundred percent to a single cause. While I spin and listen to music and think about writing and quilting. More later, maybe.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Chocolate, the sovereign specific

I mentioned to Eric in an e-mail that I was having a particularly bad bout of PMS (pre- and peri-) this time around. He said he was going to the grocery store for things we needed, like milk and toilet paper. When I got home, two Symphony bars were waiting for me by the door.

To be honest pure chocolate might have been better as a cure, but it was so sweet that he'd gotten my self-professed favorite--and not the stuff that we both like--that my mood was lifted anyhow. "One of the few ways in which you're a typical woman," he said, watching me break open a bar.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Let us treat you to four cell phones

Eric told me last night over dinner that he'd transferred money from his account to our shared one, and to remind him to switch his direct deposit, because we only had fifteen dollars in the shared account.

"Fifteen dollars??" I screeched.

He looked at me as if it was no big deal. "Yeah. I was checking for my FAFSA. But now there's more, because I transferred some."

"We need to go over our finances," I said.

Accordingly, after dinner, we did. There were several last-minute charges that we'd made for the trip--I'm still not used to the idea of Eric using his bank card as a credit card and therefore rendering me unable to track the account in the checkbook--and there were also four charges made on the Tuesday we were in the Dominican Republic. Three to one cell phone company, and one to another. "Our account is compromised," Eric said, and called up the Visa number on the card and cancelled both our bank cards. (Later we realized that since I don't use mine except to get cash, and I can't remember my PIN so I don't even do that, it was almost certainly his card that was compromised.) Then, for good measure, we checked our credit cards, but there's been no untoward activity on those.

We kept our credit cards in the room safe while we were in the DR, and the only times we used money since that shopping trip last Saturday was to buy tourist cards to get into the DR, tip the maid, and buy dinner on Sunday, all with cash. My conjecture is that we ran into an unscrupulous cashier sometime on Saturday, maybe even one who overheard us talking about being out of the country. But I guess that's not the point. We're lucky that it was a bank card, and therefore the charges stopped once they used up the money in the account, and also lucky that we didn't have as much in there as we normally do. Eric transferred the money he'd put in the account, plus that fifteen dollars, right back out again, and he's going to the bank today to dispute the charges.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hello from the me with brown-lightbrown-darkbrown-red-darkbrown-brown shoulders

We're back. We're glad to be back. The vacation was too long, which means it was a failure, but we do know that we can be together continually for a week with not enough to do and not turn on each other, so I think the marriage continues to be a success (she says from the vantage of two and a half months).

There are bad doings related to the mothers. My garden is a mess. We have bills and the threat of gas being shut off (because they haven't taken a physical reading in a year, though if they'd, you know, knocked sometime in the past two months Eric would have let them in). We have a lot of work to do.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Honeymoon tomorrow. Shopping and lots of tomato processing today. Fiber and The Sims with Michelle yesterday, as well as the discovery my sunflowers are peeking out from behind the garage. Sheesh. Eric is panicked about the traveling, we're packing half our pantry, and I'm positive I'm going to forget the toothpaste. Bah. Tomorrow we will be in the Caribbean, and that's all that really matters.

Friday, August 03, 2007

It burns.

I saw this on a site just now: "Bees, mosquito's and ants, oh my!"

It's an article title. The mind boggles. I tried to comment, to say "How could you possibly, in any way, in any sense on this good green world we call home, think that that apostrophe belonged there? How?" but it didn't let me without registering, so I shall nurse my pain in quiet. I mean, after I hit "Publish Post."

I bet they have face painting

We went to the mall last night to buy me a bathing suit. (Another bathing suit, that is. I feel that being on a beach for a week warrants more than one, and maybe even a bathing suit that--oh shock--my mother didn't pick out. I have never bought a bathing suit for myself before because Mom sends me one every once in a while and they fit, so I keep them.) As pulled up, we noticed a security cart behind us. Then, ahead of us, a group of fifteen or twenty men, black, in their twenties or late teens, mostly wearing blue or white shirts. Trailing them were two more security people. "This doesn't look good," I observed as we stopped at a stop sign.

"No," Eric agreed as the group of men flowed into the street. "And they know they're being tailed."

"Still messing up traffic, though," I said.

"Yeah." Several seconds later enough of them had moved out of the street that we could go. "Part of me wants to stay and see what happens, and another part wants to stay away."

We drove on, speculating about why the men were there. "They probably were a gang," Eric said. "Men that age don't congregate in groups that big."

"But what were they doing at the mall?" I said. "Shopping for their mommas' birthdays? What do gangs do, anyway? Maybe they have ice cream socials. Or chicken bakes."

"Yeah, and they're bring-your-own-gun."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cooking and traveling and credit, oh my

Hello, August. I can't say I didn't see you coming; in fact, you've been awfully slow. Is it because you contain my honeymoon? That might be it. Just three days left, since today's mainly over and we leave at o-dark-thirty on Sunday. And then we get there at 10:15 and the room won't be ready until 3. The brochure advises bringing a bathing suit in carryon luggage.

I have tried two of M's cucumber recipes, and they were delicious. I fully expect the cucumber-carrot coleslaw to be equally so but I may or may not have time to make it before we leave. Since we'll be gone a week, a lot of stuff is with an eye to that week--cooking, laundry, bills. Tomorrow we go for haircuts (or Eric does; now I'm ambivalent) and my bathing suit, and maybe some snacks since I'm a little afraid there won't be enough to suit either of our palates.

I'm currently on the phone with my customer service for my main card. (What time is it in India?) He keeps saying, "Allow me a moment, ma'am." I find that charming. The trying to sell me a credit monitoring system three times, not so much so. But at least I know this is really my credit card company I'm dealing with.