Monday, January 30, 2006

Introducing... our daughter

Updated: Carter asked if we can tell whose nose she has. Upon seeing the ultrasound, my dad sent me the photo below, of me when I was about two. (It's in a frame my mom's mom made out of an old clock; he didn't want to dismantle it to scan it.) So I think it's safe to say she's got my nose.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Not Siskel or Ebert or even the new guy, Roper

Twice in the last three weeks, we've had a two-movie weekend. By which I mean, we saw two movies in the theater. It's not unusual for us to watch two at home in the course of a weekend, but I have high standards for movies I'm going to pay $6 to see (gotta love those low Maine prices...). So here's the recap on what we've seen, in chronological order.

Syriana. We saw this the weekend Brokeback Mountain opened in Portland (all of two weeks ago); we intended to see Brokeback, but it was sold out, so we saw Syriana instead. It's a sprawling, complex look at the tentacles of the global oil business and its geopolitical ripple effect. Written and directed by the same guy who wrote Traffic, which I loved. But I did not love this movie. It's got several overlapping plotlines, and while each was interesting, I didn't feel like they added up to a successful movie. I don't need everything tied up neatly at the end (I really liked Broken Flowers, for example, which has an incredibly ambiguous ending) but I do appreciate a coherent story -- and Syriana lacked that.

I will say that Syriana is full of great acting, especially by George Clooney and Jeffrey Wright, but women are almost entirely absent from the movie. There's Matt Damon's wife and Clooney's boss -- and that's it. That's more a factor of the oil business than it is any particular ideology on the filmmakers' part, but I thought it was worth noting. In the end, the movie makes sense as a political statement, but as a film? Not so much.

The next day, Darren went to the theater early to buy tickets for Brokeback Mountain, which we saw with friends in a sold-out show. I have trouble articulating why I loved this movie so much; like the rest of Ang Lee's work, it's beautifully shot and the acting is amazing. I will admit to a huge bias in favor of Jake Gyllenhall to begin with, but I was totally blown away by Heath Ledger's performance as well. Talk about a movie that's as different from Syriana as can be -- it tells a simple, clear story of love, intimacy and family struggles; it's as interested in human emotion as Syriana is distanced from it.

What the two movies have in common, though, is trust in their audience. Neither one spells everything out -- sometimes to the detriment of Syriana. For all the hoopla about Brokeback Mountain's subject matter, this is not a message movie. Sure, you can't help spending a lot of time thinking about the strictures our society continues to place on its gay and lesbian members -- but that's not the point of the movie. Brokeback Mountain is about love against the odds, a story that's as timeless as it is relevant.

Now, on to this weekend. Friday night we saw Capote. I luuurve Philip Seymour Hoffman (though not in quite the same way as I do Jake G.) but did not expect to be as transfixed by this movie as I was. Capote absolutely sucked me in; I didn't look at my watch once, despite the horribly uncomfortable seats at Portland's beloved but threadbare art house. Capote himself is such a compelling, conflicted character, and given my journalism background it was absolutely captivating to watch the way he cozied up to sources, including one of the killers. Capote did what he felt necessary to get this story, but the implication of the film is that the experience cast a long, dark shadow over the rest of his life. I highly recommend this movie.

Last night, we finally saw Match Point, which, as usual, took more than a month after being in wide release to get to Maine. You should know that Darren and I are huge Woody Allen fans; several years ago, we watched all of his movies in the order in which he made them, an exercise I recommend highly if you're anything of a film buff. It's a really fascinating way to watch the development of a director's technique. (We did the same thing with Spike Lee; that project took much less time, but was equally as interesting. And it gave us a good excuse to watch Do the Right Thing for the 93rd time.)

Like most of Allen's fans, we've been disappointed by his recent work. Sweet & Lowdown was the last movie he made that I thought was any good. Though we used to be sure to see each new movie of his in the theater, we haven't even bothered to rent the last few. So when Match Point started getting good reviews, we were very excited.

And I guess that's part of the problem: I really, really wanted to like this movie. But I was bored. B-O-R-E-D. The movie stars Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a former tennis star who pulled himself up from an impoverished Irish background only to find himself dating the daughter of a wealthy and powerful British family. Scarlett Johansson is an aspiring American actress who's dating the family's son. Complications ensue. But they're just not that complicated. Though the film starts promisingly, it soon loses dramatic tension; that, combined with the fact that I didn't really care what happened to Rhys-Meyers' character, made the movie fizzle out.

We saw this movie with another couple and were evenly split on it; Darren and J liked it, while H and I were unimpressed. At dinner afterwards, Darren and I realized that we essentially agreed about its flaws, but that he liked the movie despite them and I didn't. While it's definitely far better than Small Time Crooks or Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Match Point is missing Allen's spark. I miss the overwritten, overly intellectual dialogue, and the nebbishy, neurotic character Allen usually plays. Is that fair to the filmmaker? I don't know. But in the end, Match Point made me want to come home and watch Crimes and Misdemeanors, which handles many of the same themes much more deftly.

Thus endeth my movie recap.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Not barefoot, but pregnant and in the kitchen

It's been a pretty remarkable week around here (which I desperately hope I am not jinxing as I type...). First, I did not throw up Tuesday morning as I got ready for my long day of driving and working. Second, on Wednesday night we actually went out to dinner, to our favorite barbecue spot (which unfortunately has a very smoky kitchen, so you leave smelling like grease and BBQ... not a pretty smell when it's on your clothes instead of a pulled pork quesadilla). Third, last night I not only went to the grocery store but cooked dinner. And ate it. How's that for progress?

Getting back into the kitchen felt fantastic, but it felt like I'd been gone for ages. And, when you think about it, I guess I had. Things weren't where I expected them to be; the cruet in which we store the olive oil was empty, although there was a giant tin of oil in the pantry; the oregano jar was empty, although there were not one but two packets of backup oregano from the fantastic spice stand at the public market in the spice cupboard. The onions had sprouted, and the island was covered with mail. So it felt a bit like I was cooking with one hand tied behind my back. (None of which is meant as a complaint about my esteemed husband's habits in the kitchen; he's carried the vast majority of the food burden in this house since late October, for which I am eternally grateful.)

So, what'd I make? Whole wheat pasta with a fennel and pork ragu. It's not as fancy as it sounds, just a Cooking Light recipe I've fiddled with a bit. You saute chopped fennel, onion and garlic in a little olive oil, add half a pound (or more) of ground pork, saute it and the fennel/onion/garlic along with oregano, fennel seed, crushed red pepper, a smidge of sugar, salt and pepper, then add a couple cans of diced tomatoes and their juices. Bring it to a boil, simmer for 15 or 20 minutes, and you're done. Easy and tasty, and it gets us out of the pasta-and-red-sauce rut we love so much.

On the agenda for the weekend... is not much. We're planning to finally move into the redecorated bedroom, so we can eventually start getting the bambino/a's room ready, and to hang the art we received for Christmas, which has been leaning against various walls ever since. Oh, and we're hoping to see Capote and Match Point. (At some point I've got to catch up on my movie blogging; we saw Brokeback Mountain weeks ago, and it's still reverberating in my head. Syriana, not so much.) I'm also hopeful that I can do some more cooking; at the very least, I want to make some crystallized ginger cookies, to use up the ginger I bought before Christmas in hopes of making lemon-ginger biscotti. That plan fell by the wayside as I lay on the couch and whimpered for most of the holiday season. I think late-January cookies are a fine substitute.

Oh, and good news today from my oh-so-mellow doctor: I have gained a grand total of one pound over my pre-pregnancy weight. She didn't make a peep about wanting me to gain faster, just said she figures now that I'm feeling better (knock wood) I'll keep gaining. I heart her.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Still here...

... Just insanely busy between my job and the freelancing.

Had the big, fancy ultrasound yesterday -- everything is fine with the little one, who weighs in at a whopping 10 ounces. We also found out the gender, which I promise to disclose as soon as I get a chance to call another couple friends who read this (Whistlepig, that means you.).

And, with that, I must toddle off to do some editing before my grand reward: An hour on the couch with D., the pooches and The O.C.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Top three reasons I am not a member of Mensa

1. Our house has a detached one-car garage. The fact that it's located too close to the property line almost derailed our closing more than four years ago, but that's beside the point. The point is that until a few weeks ago, the garage was full of junk -- some of it ours, some of it other people's. Like the motorcycle and the futon and, oh yeah, the pinball machine. No car of ours had ever seen the inside of this garage.

We finally whined enough that our friends removed the motorcycle and the pinball machine, and we pushed the futon (along with all our crap) to the back, to make just enough room for the Prius to sit inside. Last week, I put batteries in the garage door opener, we reconfigured our driveway parking arrangement and the Prius gained a new home.

It is snowing outside, and has been since I got up this morning. Where is the Prius?

In the driveway. Covered with snow.

2. Smart Wool socks. They've been the talk of the blogosphere recently and I, too, love 'em, as does Darren. The only problem? I can not sort and match them to Save. My. Life -- despite the fact that my husband's feet are several sizes larger than mine. Just did two loads of laundry, containing what looks to be our entire navy, grayish and greenish SW sock collection. Whose socks are which? I have not the foggiest idea. Do these two even go together? Can't tell.

3. I haven't taken the test. And given items #1 and #2, I don't plan on doing so anytime soon.

PS: Multiple posts on one weekday? A sure sign that I have a writing deadline.

Again with the puking

Except this time it was stomach bug instead of morning sickness. Can I tell you how tired I am of throwing up? Luckily the bug didn't last long -- I threw up yesterday around 8:30, slept until 1 pm (key indicator that it was more than morning sickness), threw up again then spent the afternoon and evening slowly recovering. Sounds like Darren is getting it today -- joy.

So I am spending today gazing out the window at the soft, fluffy snow and trying to write an uninspiring freelance piece. And delaying editing the piece that just showed up in my inbox. And grumbling about the stupid IRS, whose website crashed just after I submitted my online application for an EIN -- a new requirement of one of the publications for which I write. When I called this morning and, to their credit, spoke with an actual human being after only a couple phone trees, I learned that they can't tell me until THURSDAY whether my application was processed or whether I need to do the whole damn thing again. So apparently the computer just stores that information away in its dark recesses somewhere for a week, until it feels like sharing it?? Aargh.

I think there is a nap in my future, along with a trip to the basement to get laundry started and a jaunt upstairs to get another pair of socks. And if that doesn't cure my crankiness, I may have to go to extreme measures: Hot chocolate. I'll do it, too.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


As seen at Rude Cactus.

Total number of tracks in iTunes

Sort by song title
First song: 'Cept You and Me Babe, Greg Brown (Interesting the way iTunes uses punctuation when alphabetizing...)
Last song: Zoo Station, U2

Sort by time
Shortest song: 0:09, Horn Intro, Modest Mouse (Good News for People Who Love Bad News)
Longest song: 33:40(!), Mountain Jam, The Allman Brothers Band (Eat a Peach)

Sory by artist
First: Adam Richman (I have one song of his, from a Paste Magazine sampler. No idea if it's any good.)
Last: Zero 7, from the Garden State soundtrack

Sort by album
First: 10 Cent Wings, Jonatha Brooke
Last: Yeah, It's That Easy, G. Love and Special Sauce

10 most played songs
1. Lose Yourself, Eminem
2. Afternoon Delight, Starland Vocal Band
3. Kyrie, Mr. Mister (disclaimer: The first three songs on this list are the responsibility of my esteemed husband, who has been adding songs to his new nano like crazy. I particularly protest Afternoon Delight, just so you know...)
4. I Can't Get My Head Around It, Aimee Mann
5. Postcards from Mexico, Girlyman
6. American Idiot, Green Day
7. Six O'Clock News, Kathleen Edwards
8. This Charming Man, The Smiths
9. Dear John, Aimee Mann
10. Baby Britain, Elliott Smith

First five songs that come up on Party Shuffle
1. With or Without You, U2
2. Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands, Elliott Smith
3. Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk (Reprise), Rufus Wainwright
4. Good Year for the Roses, Elvis Costello and the Attractions
5. Better Man Than Me, Kevin So

Number of search returns for:
sex: 3
love: 161
you: 267
death: 16
hate: 25
wish: 3

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday morning roundup

Do you ever open a window of the blogging software of your choice having No Earthly Idea what you are going to write about? Typically, I don't; I usually have some hot topic -- such as pants, or where I should go on vacation -- that's sent me toddling off to the computer. (As if I weren't sitting here already...)

Today, I got nothin', except a guilty feeling about not posting -- or even reading many blogs -- since Tuesday and a morning of assorted freelance duties (and, presumably, a shower) ahead of me. I don't even have enough material for the Random Bullets of Assorted Crap that have been seen here and there.

Aha! But what I do have is a compendium of links, since I finally caught up on my blog reading this morning. So perhaps you'll find something here you like; I certainly did.

If you love food writing (or just good writing), you really ought to check out Gluten-Free Girl. Shauna has celiac disease -- long-time readers may recall that my doctors thought I did, as well, early last year -- and her blog is a chronicle of the amazing foods she's discovered since her diagnosis. She's a beautiful writer and a talented cook; more than that, she is a lovely human being, someone you'd love to have as a friend.

Also in the food category, Scrivener had a few posts this week about his long-awaited drop-in dinners, the first of which featured mushroom risotto, one of my all-time favorite foods. These posts reminded how much, in the pre-pregnancy days, I enjoyed cooking and hosting little gatherings. Though I've done a bit more cooking recently, I really miss the passion I used to have for it. Scrivener's posts reminded me that, even if cooking takes a back seat for a while, it can regain some prominence once the bambino/a is a little older.

In case you missed it a couple weeks back, Anita and her family were featured in the New York Times business section in a story about new parents fighting the urge to buy too much stuff for their kidlets. (Unfortunately, the story itself is now behind a pay wall.)

I think most of you already read Phantom -- if you don't, what the heck are you waiting for?? -- but it's worth pointing out her beautiful post about the tension between wanting her kids to seek their independence and wanting to keep them close and warm. As a parent-to-be, I am entranced by the sheer force of love behind this post.

Melissa in the next county south has a great post about the specious arguments against gay marriage.

Julie at A Little Pregnant started a fascinating discussion about how many kids are enough -- emotionally, physically, etc. If you don't have time to read through all 300+ comments, check out the Cliffs Notes version she helpfully provided.

My newest blog pal, Kate, recently started her own blog. Say hello at One Tired Ema.

Lastly, I am a huge fan of Susan Orlean. She's a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of The Orchid Thief; she's got an incredible way of characterizing people and places; her profiles are works of art. (In fact, I won an award for a profile I wrote that blantantly copied her style.) Oh, and she's beautiful. I'm not sure why I don't hate her. In any case, she was in town last night reading from her latest book. We didn't make it over for the reading, unfortunately -- perhaps because I was sound asleep on the couch at 7:30 -- but I did get to catch up on another aspect of her life with this piece in the New York Times about the home she and her husband built in Columbia County, New York (Meg, maybe you're neighbors?!?). Read it and weep. And then if you haven't wept enough, check out the audio slide show.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Another Tuesday night in the hotel

I think this is the last hotel night for the time being. I'm mostly glad about that -- it's a lot of work to pack for several days and bring all the food a pregnant lady requires and remember all the work stuff you need to bring along -- but I have to admit that it's sort of nice to come "home" from work in the evening and not have to talk to anyone.

I'd thought about going to see Capote tonight, but my dinner out took too long, so I'm back here with some magazines, the laptop and a few quiet hours. The new job continues to go very well; I've realized that my co-workers see me as a colleague, rather than a newbie whose contributions will be useless for several months, which is quite reassuring... especially since I realized that they are, in fact, correct. and that I do actually know what I'm talking about. (Astonishing, right?)

I also leaped a hurdle this evening and told one of the new coworkers about the bambino/a. I was starting to feel dishonest by not mentioning it -- I'm practically 18 weeks along, for crying out loud, so it's not like there's any need for discretion at this point -- so I just blurted it out. My coworker, the one with whom I chat the most, was very pleasant and happy -- he has two kids himself -- and said he didn't understand why our boss would have wanted me to wait to spring the news on people. (Last week, my boss said I should wait another week or two before letting the cat out of the bag; he didn't want to do the equivalent of giving the staff a new toy, he said, and then yanking it away from them. And, yes, in this metaphor, I am the toy.)

The blurting was somewhat tactical: I brought with me the new maternity jeans I bought on Saturday, the ones which are very low-rise and thus totally accentuate the little bump I've got going on. Darren and I determined last night that, when I'm wearing them, from the front and the back you can't really tell I'm pregnant -- but that from the side it's obvious. Not wearing them wasn't an option; my regular pants just don't fit anymore.

So I'm guessing that the cat will emerge from the bag further tomorrow, which is fine by me. The sooner people know -- and the sooner they realize that there is no other option for me except returning to work after maternity leave -- the sooner they'll get over it. I hope.


For those of you following the mc morning sickness circus, now this update: Yes, as usual, I threw up this morning. First time since last Tuesday. It's gotta be either lack of sleep -- I get up an hour or two earlier than usual on these Tuesdays -- or anxiety, or both. I'm hoping that next week, when I'll just be coming up for the day, this problem will lessen. Either that or I will simply get used to puking every time I need to leave the house at 7 am to be up here on time. Ugh.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Another shopping success

I think I'm starting to get this pregnancy/baby goods thing under control. A friend called this morning to invite me on a jaunt with her and her two-year-old to Outletville, where she'd heard the Gap outlet was having a big sale on maternity clothes (she's expecting in April). Since my freelance work was so slow as to be nonexistent today, I took off with them.

My reward? One pair of lined black flannel pants for work. Two long-sleeved V-neck sweaters. A T-shirt. And a long-sleeved T-shirt.

All for $15.

So far, I am liking this maternity shopping.

In the last couple days, we've also started to hear from friends who are wondering if we'd like to borrow any of their baby stuff. So far, we've got a line on a co-sleeper, a Pack & Play, a jogging stroller, a breast pump and an assortment of clothes. This is very exciting. We can spend our hard-earned cash on outfitting the bambino/a's room while utilizing hand-me-downs from our pals for some of the less flashy but still handy stuff. And I loooove the idea of using hand-me-down clothes, especially for the early stages in which the kid grows fast and doesn't care at all what he or she looks like. (Once he/she gets a little older, though, we might ease up on the hand-me-downs; I remember feeling terribly self-conscious in elementary school when for whatever reason the provenance of our outfits was up for discussion, and I admitted that mine had previously belonged to my cousin.)


Tomorrow morning I head north-ish again, for just one night this time. I am hoping this will be my last regular overnight for work; I really need to start getting into a regular routine at the new job. I still don't have any ongoing work of my own, just lots of day-to-day tasks. That is all well and good, but it makes it a little difficult to imagine how this is going to go once I'm not in the office three days a week. Other than that, though, the job is going very well, and I'm thrilled about the change.

Freelancing is going a bit more slowly, partly by design. I've gotten a few queries out, and in the meantime am doing some subcontracting for a guy I know locally, who is paying me pretty well. So although I'm not making up the income I've lost by cutting back to part-time, I do have some good prospects; it will just take time to get that rolling.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Puerto Rico, here we come!

Done. We are going to Puerto Rico for five nights in mid-March. I love the fact that we have nonstop flights (from Boston, which means a bit of driving on our part), as well as the fact that Kate has seen the resort we're going to with her own eyes and pronounced it good. I do not love the fact that I just charged a couple thousand dollars on my credit card, but as all and sundry have said, this will be our last chance for a vacation like this for many years to come. (I also bought trip insurance, just to be safe... it's $100 we won't get back, but if anything crummy happens, at least we'll get the money back for the trip.)

And since it's 23 here this morning -- back to your regularly scheduled winter in Maine -- the prospect of five days in sunny, 80-degree weather sounds just heavenly. Although this does mean that at some point I am going to have to purchase a maternity bathing suit... a torture best pondered another time.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Vacation, got to get away

Copious amounts of Internet searching over the last 36 hours have led us to this resort, in Puerto Rico. I desperately wanted to go to Puerto Rico last year, but we never made it, due to finances. The current round of searching has led us through Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean (why can I never spell that word correctly on the first try?). We found some lovely spots in St. Lucia, on a friend's recommendation, but they were horrifically expensive. For almost $1,000 less, we're going to be able to spend four nights in Puerto Rico at an all-inclusive resort, with nonstop flights from Boston and an extra day at home afterwards to recuperate from the travel.

The only obstacle: Darren still needs to clear the dates with his work, which he had planned to do on Friday. But there is a rather large personnel issue going on there these days and he never had a chance to take care of it. So either tomorrow or Monday we'll find out for sure whether we can make the reservation.

This makes me nervous.

The deal I found is a flight/hotel package on one of the travel sites (Travelocity, if you must know, which was several hundred dollars cheaper than every other site)... and I wonder if this deal, and/or the seats on these flights, are going to disappear between now and then. If so, we'll deal with it... but I really wish we could have booked it tonight. The whole thing is a ridiculous extravagance, but I think that if we don't do it, we're really going to regret it. And if that's not justification for pulling out the credit card (which we proudly paid off in August), I don't know what is.

Saturday at the strip mall

Two momentous events today at Casa RunCookWrite:

1. I bought my first maternity clothes. On our way home from a birthday party for a two-year-old, we stopped at Aged Indigo, where I hesitantly waded into the maternity corner (which, of course, is not located by the women's clothes, but by the baby clothes. Ick.). I couldn't deal with any of the pants with panels -- and, honestly, I don't need them yet anyway -- but on the 50% off rack I found not one but TWO pairs of low-rise jeans that fit well and are actually flattering.

I don't know about you, but I find shopping for pants to be one of the most irritating tasks on the face of the earth, perhaps because my height (5'4") is the dividing line between regular and petite sizes, which is complicated by the fact that I have a short torso. You'd think that would mean that I have long legs, but most pants are way too long for me. Thus the angst. So to find two pairs of jeans that fit me -- and my belly -- well in only 20 minutes of shopping was damn near orgasmic.

The third find was a nice button-down shirt that has a bit too much cloth in the belly region for me now, but should be great in a couple weeks... or whenever it is that I start gaining weight. (I stepped on the scale again yesterday and was startled to find that I *still* have not exceeded my pre-vomiting weight.)

Best part about the whole thing? Total bill: $30.96. Yeehaw.

2. The first assault on the evil baby superstore, which just happens to be located right next to Aged Indigo. It was 3 pm on a Saturday, which meant the place was mobbed, mostly by women. We decided to take a quick stroll through the furniture section -- no intention to buy anything, but just to get an idea about prices on cribs and gliders. We're not necessarily going to buy either of those items at EBS, but it helped to get an idea about price ranges and styles -- and then to come home and cross-reference the Baby Bargains book about what we saw.

Darren seemed untraumatised by the whole excursion, despite the fact that he'd never had cause to enter EBS before. I think the fact that we kept our time there to less than 15 minutes helped, as did a few minutes test driving the gliders (and, boy, the book is right -- you can tell the difference in the ones made by Dutailier as soon as you sit in them).

Now, D is settled on the couch watching football with Rocky. I'm sipping a tasty shake I made (frozen berries, a banana, yogurt, ice and a little honey) and pondering a trip to the couch myself. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Warm weather getaway

So despite the funds crunch around here -- got my first paycheck from the new job yesterday, which is fantastic, yet still small -- Darren and I are planning to head off for a warm-weather vacation at the end of March, while I am still allowed to fly. We are determined not to visit anyone, which means staying in hotels for several nights.

Here's our criteria:
1. Warm weather
2. Sand
3. Water (to look at and/or swim in, as well as to drink)
4. Decent food
5. Doesn't take a horrifically long time to get there (ie, we don't want to spend a whole day flying if we can avoid it)

We're pondering the Florida Keys, although I really, really hate Florida (sorry, Ginga!), as well as the Caribbean, if we could get a decent package. I am generally opposed to those all-inclusive resorts, but what we are looking for here is an easy vacation where we don't have to do much other than relax, so I'm willing to consider it. We're trying to get this figured out soon, and would love any suggestions y'all have.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Finally, four things

I've been meaning to do this one for a while, so when Phantom sent out an open invitation, I took her up on it. Also, since commenters everywhere seem to be coming out of the woodwork this week, please consider this your invitation to de-lurk.

Four Jobs I've Had
1. Grocery store cashier
2. Sub maker (as in submarine sandwiches, not the underwater defense craft)
3. Market researcher (one of the ones who accosts you in the mall with a clipboard; only did it for a summer, but it was strangely fascinating)
4. Front-desk clerk at a ritzy resort

Four Things I Hope to Do Defore I Die
1. Deliver this child without any more vomiting
2. Publish a piece in the New Yorker
3. Somehow acquire enough money to travel at length and luxuriously, all around the world
4. Gain a new hairstyle that I actually like

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over
1. Annie Hall
2. Say Anything
3. The Godfather
When Harry Met Sally

Four Things I Cannot Do
1. Be patient
2. Keep my car clean (inside or out)
3. Beat Darren at most any game or sport
4. Keep my mouth shut about whatever happens to be on my mind at the moment (although my new job is causing me to gain skills in this department rather rapidly)

Four Places I've Lived
1. Rural western Tennessee, on the Mississippi border (Blech. I did not like living in the middle.)
2. Santa Fe, New Mexico
3. Eugene, Oregon
4. Allston, Massachusetts

Four Things That Attract Me To My Spouse
1. Integrity
2. Intelligence
3. Sense of humor (including his puns, which I normally detest)
4. Competitiveness

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch (otherwise known as horribly guilty pleasures, each and every one)
1. The O.C.
2. Project Runway
3. What Not to Wear
4. My Super Sweet Sixteen (if you are not convinced that American society is going to hell in a handbasket, 30 minutes with this show will do it for you)

Four Things I Say Often
1. What the fuck?
2. Hey...
3. Do you have to go out?
4. I'm just going to sit on the couch for a little while.

Four Places I've Been on Vacation
1. Southwestern Ireland
2. Quebec City
3. The Grand Canyon
4. Southwest Harbor, Maine

Four Books or Book Series That I Love
1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
2. Banana Rose, Natalie Goldberg
3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
4. The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

Four Blogs I Visit Daily (these are blogs that haven't made it onto my blogroll for reasons of sheer laziness, but that I check every day...)
1. This Woman's Work
2. The Rabbit Lived
3. So Close
4. Badgerings

Four of My Favorite Foods (pregnancy edition)
1. Macaroni and cheese
2. Toast with peanut butter
3. Luna bars
4. Fruit smoothies

Four Places I'd Rather Be
1. On the couch at home
2. With Darren
3. And Rocky
4. And Jelly

Four Albums I Can't Live Without
1. Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska
2. Ellis Paul, Translucent Soul
3. Richard Shindell, Somewhere Near Paterson
4. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme

(All) Four Vehicles I've Owned
1. 1980 Honda Civic wagon
2. 1986 Nissan Stanza Wagon
3. 1990 Honda Civic hatchback (Lil Blue!)
4. 2005 Toyota Prius

Four Folks Who Ought to Do This Meme
1. You
2. You
3. You
4. And you

Whew. This takes some effort, so consider yourself warned should you want in.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Two steps back

Fucking hell. That is about the only coherent thought I can form at the moment, since otherwise I am practically whimpering here in my king-sized hotel bed. I should have known that I spoke too soon yesterday about the feeling better and the goddamn tuna melt.

So, yes, today has not gone too well, although thankfully the work part was fine. But first thing this morning I threw up. Again. I suspected that little incident had something to do with the fact that I didn't get a ton of sleep last night after a long-awaited and very enjoyable, uh, bedtome story with my husband. I typically don't do terribly well on sleep deprivation -- check my sanity a year from now; it's sure to be shot -- and one of the symptoms is usually vague stomach unrest. So while I was bummed about the repeat of last week's pre-100-minute-drive episode, I wasn't overly concerned.

So I had a bagel on the drive up, followed by a mid-morning energy bar. For lunch, I had leftover Grandma's Casserole, a concoction from my mom's side of the family -- ground beef, egg noodles, tomatoes, creamed corn, all baked in a casserole dish. It's one of my ultimate comfort foods. We'd had it for dinner Sunday night, so it was plenty fresh. Later, I had a mid-afternoon yogurt.

I felt a little queasy on the drive from work to the hotel. Then, once I checked into my room, the most miserable vomiting episode of the last few weeks overtook me. While I will spare you the details, suffice it to say I will not be having Grandma's Casserole again anytime soon. I feel incredibly lousy right now. Darren's still at work, I think -- he's not answering his phone -- and I can feel myself getting all melodramatic and stupid. (It doesn't help that I am continuing to have a couple days of spotting each week; while my dr's office is unconcerned, it really stresses me out.) And then of course I start thinking about useless, unhelpful things like what I would have to do if I were this sick tomorrow, etc. etc.

Luckily, I cleaned myself up and headed over to the little market across the way before this fit of self-pity overtook me. I stocked up on ginger ale and cold water and, since my hotel room has gained a microwave since I stayed in this very room last week, a frozen Stouffer's macaroni and cheese. I have no idea if I'll be able to eat it, but it's here if I want it. My crackers are nearby, and fortuitously I brought DVDs of some of my favorite movies -- Annie Hall, Say Anything and Rear Window -- with me. So I think I will survive.

Still and all, this sucks.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Today's accomplishments, 1 pm edition

1. Finally dropped off the ancient pairs of eyeglasses -- huge and oh-so-round -- that have been sitting on my desk for a year at the Lions Club donation box. Also took empty ink jet cartridges to the recycling center at City Hall.

2. Took unwanted Christmas crap -- decorations, mostly -- to Goodwill, along with the pregnant bear I received this year.

3. Put on -- and continue to wear successfully -- a turtleneck sweater, something that has been banished from my wardrobe throughout the months of morning sickness, since even the thought of something touching my throat was enough to make me queasy.

4. Ate a tuna melt sandwich. Another red-letter achievement in the annals of morning sickness, since I have not eaten any seafood at all since October. I didn't eat enough this morning before I went errand-running, and while I was out I was dreaming of a tuna melt, but unsure whether my low blood sugar, which usually makes me quite ill, would allow me to mix up the tuna and open the dreaded bread bag (one of my worst nausea triggers). But all was well; I made the sandwich without any problems whatsoever, gobbled it down in about 12 seconds and am feeling just peachy now. I'm sure the nausea isn't gone completely, but it has gotten so much better in the last few weeks that life might actually be enjoyable again.

A new routine

I think I've mentioned that my new job is part-time; I'm working Tuesday-Thursday for the magazine. The plan is that I will use the other two days a week for freelancing and other assorted ways of bringing cash into the house. We're hoping to live off our new, lower salaries (a major adjustment that has not yet kicked in) and to bank all the freelance cash to compensate for my maternity leave, which will be unpaid. Of course, the crucial factor here is that I actually earn some money on Mondays and Fridays.

Thus far, though, it's been much easier to sleep late, read blogs for a while in my pajamas and feel guilty about not working. I'm exaggerating slightly -- I already have a steady gig lined up, doing research and reporting for a financial journalist, which has just started to get off the ground -- but I will admit that it is currently 9:38 a.m., I am in my pajamas and I have yet to do any work... or to write the not one but TWO grad school recommendations I've been asked to put together by people who used to freelance for me. I also have some errands to get done -- bank, library, etc. -- and need to get some laundry going in order to have clothes to wear to my job this week. (Incidentally, I am VERY close to needing to buy some maternity pants; the only pants I own that fit right now are stretchy and have elastic waistbands. Pretty.)

So, you ask, why are you blogging, mc? My answer: Because I can. I am really, really enjoying setting my own schedule -- despite the fact that this very same schedule, or lack thereof, makes me neurotic at times -- and am trying to strike a balance between enjoying the very things I was looking for when I quit my full-time job and, you know, earning enough cash to pay the mortgage. So I'm going to hop in the shower, get a load of laundry in and then head out to do my errands. Late morning and all afternoon are free for work and recommendation writing... and a walk in the neighborhood. I've got a meeting with the guy who's getting me this work late this afternoon, so I may as well plan to be in "home" mode for the morning and "work" mode for the afternoon. Then, hippie pizza with Darren's college roommate, who is visiting for a couple days. All in all, not such a bad plan.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Walking blues

Actually, that title's a little misleading. Yes, I was walking, but I didn't have the blues... and I wasn't even looking at anything blue. This afternoon, I headed out for a stroll around the neighborhood, just my (not-so) trusty iPod and me. Greg Brown was crooning in my ears, and I was tromping down the slushy streets.

As you may recall, I haven't gotten much exercise since I got pregnant. Since Sunday, I've managed to get out for a walk every day except Wednesday and Thursday. It's a trend I'm determined to continue, even when the depths of February arrive. Taking walks, in general, is not something I'm good at. I like to have a purpose -- a movie to return to the little video store up the street, a dog to walk or a friend who needs a tour of the neighborhood. Walking just for fun is not my forte, but I've been determined to change that. (This despite the advice of the Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy, a gift from a friend, which contains an entire chapter on reasons you should not bother exercising during pregnancy. I am not a fan of this book.)

So, after lunch with my dear friend (and former co-worker) Kendall Phrippen and a bit of work for a freelance project, I headed out into the 'hood. Which is not a 'hood at all, but a quiet neighborhood along the coast. I trudged up a hill, toward the nicer houses along the water, watching as the gray sky met the darker gray water. And I remembered how much I love this area.

My street is full of modest bungalows and Capes, most of which were built in the 1920s. A mile away from us, just over the border of Wealthy Town, are the mansions -- literally multi-million-dollar homes on rocky cliffs overlooking the bay. In between are charming little streets you'd never find if you weren't out wandering. Like the mansions, the houses that line these streets are perched above the water, but they're more modest (still expensive, but not ostentatious). There are Capes and split-level ranches and colonials and what I think are called saltboxes (I've never been good at identifying architectural styles...) -- all jumbled together, some on small lots, all of them facing the ocean.

Back toward my neighborhood, even along the beach the houses are smaller and closer together. It makes for a homey, cozy atmosphere. I smelled smoke from fireplaces and wood stoves, and I glimpsed a few dogs frolicking on the beach. I stopped in at the fabulous neighborhood bakery for a peanut butter cookie, and I headed home. The gray sky had turned purplish, and the dogs were squirmy with glee to see me. Very nice all around; I could do this again. And I will.

Whiny complaint that didn't seem to belong in the main post: My stupid iPod, which I charged fully a few days ago and did not use between then and now, claimed battery failure after about 25 minutes. Typically the battery lasts for four hours, though I noticed on my drive to New Jersey that it died after two hours. Anyone know if cold weather hurts the battery life? Seems logical -- if irritating -- that it would. Any suggestions for overcoming this problem, short of tossing the thing in the ocean, would be welcome.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Accomplished: Day one

I made it. Despite throwing up at 6:30 this morning, despite the realization on the drive up here that the skirt I wore three days ago to our New Year's Eve outing no longer fits, despite the fact that a stupid dump truck ahead of me on a two-lane road made me late -- despite all of that, I survived my first day at the new job.

About that job, I will say little, other than that the people are very nice and, most importantly, that I have an office. With a window. And a door. That I can close.

I haven't closed it yet, but I could if I wanted to. And the window? I could open it if I wanted. So there.

Needless to say, my new co-workers are a little befuddled by my gratitude for what they take for granted. But they were very nice about their befuddlement.

Now, I am exhausted and parched from the stupid overly dry hotel heat, and I keep stopping typing to look at the belly that, sometime in the last two days, sprouted. Instead, what I need to do is read my silly book and go to sleep in this giant king-sized bed. I have to be at work at 8 tomorrow, which means the alarm is set for 6:45 in order to allow time for any a.m. nausea to pass... and to allow time for two breakfasts and the packing of many, many snacks.

Good god, pregnancy makes a girl high maintenance.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Back in the saddle

Today, I finally completed a task that's been on my to-do list ever since my last day of work on Dec. 9: I cleaned and organized the previously very messy home office. Photographic proof:



I still have a box of stuff from my previous job taking up the seat of the recliner that's just out of view; to empty that, I need to empty a shelf on the bookcase to the right of the desk, and I ran out of gas before I got to it. But this is a MAJOR accomplishment, and it somehow makes me feel better about starting my new job tomorrow with it completed.

The last few days have been pretty productive, mostly because (knocking on wood feverishly) I've been feeling pretty good. I made dinner -- homemade mac and cheese -- last night, and have beef stew bubbling away on the stove now while Darren watches the Notre Dame game. D and I went for a walk in the neighborhood both days -- something I've been trying, with absolutely no success, to do ever since I left my job. And I've gotten a fair bit accomplished, too -- the cleaning, dinner preparations and three loads of laundry today, as well as assorted e-mailing and de-cluttering. I still need to go through the Christmas stuff before we box it up for the year; I've sworn that anything that hasn't been used for the last two years is being donated to Goodwill, along with the pregnancy tchotchkes I received as gifts.

Tonight, I still need to get my things together for my trip north; I will be staying in a hotel Tuesday and Wednesday nights, so on top of the new-job stress I have to also consider exactly how much food a pregnant woman needs to get through three workdays, as well what types of diversions I might desire in the evenings. I can already sense that I will bring way too much stuff; it's a family curse. I've got snacks and breakfast foods figured out, and I'll bring some leftover stew for a lunch, but I'm just going to have to wing dinners as well as replenishments for my supplies.

Luckily, however, I'm not going to the North Pole, just midcoast Maine, to a town where good food is ubiquitous and the hotel has free WiFi. I've got a pattern and wool for a shawl I want to crochet, inspired by one I spent a few evenings wrapped in at my grandparents' house over the holidays. That one -- which was likely designed by my grandmother -- is much more elegant than the simple triangle shawl I'm going to make, but I've got some nice wool that I hope will dress it up a bit. And I'm also bringing along a very funny book, a sequel to Pride & Prejudice that is very overwritten and jam-packed with sex scenes that would make authors more modern than Jane Austen blush. It ain't great literature, but it's lots of fun.

And on top of all that, I hope to do some blogging as well. And, yes, I know that I will likely be exhausted from the drive and the return to work, and I won't touch half of this stuff. But it'll be there if I want it... as long as I get up from the computer Right. Now. and start pulling it together.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Ringing in the new year

Last night turned out to be quite a success. The restaurant was serving a six-course prix fixe menu; I was a little daunted at the thought of all that food -- and so few choices; three or four for most courses, and the amuse bouche and cheese course had no choices whatsoever -- but all went well. Getting dressed up for the first time in weeks certainly helped; I even put on lipstick, something I've been unable to tolerate ever since the morning sickness kicked in.

It was a cold, windy evening. We found a parking spot a few blocks away, and made our way into the cozy restaurant. Darren and my sister and brother-in-law all ordered the chef's wine pairing, which for $20 a person for four glasses seemed like a great deal (especially since they raved about the wines). I had ginger ale... and a microscopic sip of my sister's fruity dessert wine, which was incredible.

So, the food:
We each had an amuse bouche -- which had an Italian name, obviously, rather than the French, but I can't remember it -- of prosciutto-wrapped pear with candied walnuts. I couldn't remember whether prosciutto counts as a deli meat, to be avoided for fear of listeria, but I went ahead and ate it, and it was good.

For an appetizer, I had parsnip soup, which was creamy and rich and very parsnip-y. Darren had what he said was an incredible arugula, lobster and mango salad, and my sister had beef carpaccio, which I would have loved to try. But that one I couldn't pretend was allowed.

Pasta course: My brother-in-law and I had gnocchi in a cheese sauce. If I'd been thinking more clearly, I would have ordered Darren's mushroom risotto -- the cheesey gnocchi after the creamy soup was a bit much. But the gnocchi were light and tasty, and I ate almost all of it anyway.

For the meat course, I had braised short ribs over some sort of greens (which I did not eat, deciding against pushing my luck with too many vegetables) and mashed potatoes. The meat was falling-apart tender, and the sauce, a dark, dense creation, was rich and intense. Darren declared it the winner for the evening. I didn't taste the branzino (Mediterranean sea bass) that he and bro-in-law ordered, nor did I try my sister's quail, but everyone seemed happy with what they got.

Next was a cheese course, with three different kinds of aged pecorino. I gave up at this point and abandoned my plate to the table, trying desperately to save room -- and good belly karma -- for dessert.

And it's a good thing I did: I had an excellent white chocolate mousse cake, with some kind of preserved apricots on the side.

The whole meal took us a bit more than two hours. As we ate, the restaurant slowly filled, and by the time we left at 8:30 it felt festive and full, as were we. Although the food was amazing (and expensive -- we never would have spent this much on Christmas presents for each other!), the company was the best part. We laughed a lot while we ate, and passed our plates around the table, and toasted more than once. I love the fact that my sister lives so close by, and that she and P invited us to join them for their New Year's tradition. We have a really great time together, and I treasure it.

We capped off the evening with a few hours at their house. We tried to play Set, a card game we got for Christmas last year that requires a certain amount of concentration that proved difficult for those in the party who'd tried all the wine (though Darren actually seemed to improve his already considerable Set skills somehow -- typical). So we switched to Taboo, the sisters against the brothers-in-law. Naturally, E and I won, though the boys claimed it was the sibling connection that gave us the victory. I think the fact that I was the only sober one in the room might have had something to do with it...

We were home and tucked in bed by midnight. It was a wonderful evening. I hope all of you were similarly happy with whatever you did!