Archive for the ‘home’ Category

It Should Have Been Obvious

February 7, 2011

I was upstairs this morning, trying to put away some laundry, when I head blood-curdling screams coming from downstairs where the kids were playing. Fearing some horrible scene awaiting my discovery, I bolted down to the living room.

Edvard Munch's "The Scream"

From Wikipedia.

To my surprise, the kids both had huge grins on their faces as they ran back and forth across the living room, shrieking at the top of their lungs all the while.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked.

“Playing screaming,” our three year-old answered matter-of-factly, as though this should have been completely obvious.

The kids promptly resumed their “game,” apparently commencing the lightning round.

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Einstürzende Cosgrove

January 4, 2011

The kids had dueling stereos playing in the living room this morning. In the one corner was Sparks Fly by Miranda Cosgrove, and in the other corner was Halber Mensch by Einstürzende Neubauten.

I swear I am not making that up. They were also perfectly content to have both playing on repeat mode for several hours.

The overall effect of the aural clash was the impression that Dieter from Sprockets had been tapped to run Nickelodeon (which, now that I think about it, would do a lot to explain how much of the humor in shows like iCarly and SpongeBob SquarePants somehow makes it in there).

Dieter from Sprockets, from Wikipedia.

We all know who SpongeBob's real creator is.

The Cosgrove CD was a Christmas present from the grandparents to our three year-old son, while the Neubauten album is something I’ve had in one format or another for many years.

That a couple of preschoolers would enjoy listening to treacly tween pop isn’t the least bit surprising, but their enjoyment of Einstürzende Neubauten is only surprising until you stop and think about it for a moment:

  • What do toddlers and early preschoolers enjoy doing? Banging and scraping stuff together loudly, especially if they’re metal pots and pans, with occasional random screaming.
  • What has Einstürzende Neubauten made a career out of doing? Banging and scraping stuff together loudly, with occasional screaming.

Add the two together, and of course little kids are going to like avant-garde German industrial music from the mid 1980s. They haven’t had the chance to form a preconceived opinion that it’s strange yet; all they know is that it sounds kind of like what they like doing anyway.

Add processed pop music targeted at kids to the mix, and they’re all over it — which is how we ended up with Einstürzende Cosgrove playing in the living room, over and over again, all morning. To them, that isn’t weird at all. I, on the other hand, was ready to curl up into a little ball muttering, “Can’t sleep – clowns will eat me,” by lunchtime.

I can’t help but wonder what a DJ mashup of the two albums would sound like, if only for the entertainment value provided by potential track titles like “Kissin’ Yü-Gung” or “Shakespeare Brennt.”

Anyway, now is the time on Sprockets when we dance.

GOOD GOD, DON’T EAT THAT! – Thanksgiving Leftover Edition

November 29, 2010

Since I’ve occasionally used this space to write about Frankenstein-like food concoctions I’ve created that would frighten Rachel Ray, I’ve been thinking it might be time to start a catchily-titled series of on-again, off-again posts about off-kilter, improvised recipes I’ve come up with — maybe something like, GOOD GOD, DON’T EAT THAT!

This installment of GOOD GOD, DON’T EAT THAT! revolves around a typical Thanksgiving dinner leftover: herbed potatoes. You know the kind; potatoes are cut up into small pieces, mixed with a blend of oil and herbs, and baked in the oven. Normal people will typically use red potatoes to do this.

However, we had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house this year, and my parents don’t qualify as “normal people.” They know less about cooking than I do. My mom’s favorite food is boiled chicken. That’s right, plain boiled chicken. For seasoning, there might or might not be a stray bullion cube casually tossed into the water. One year for my birthday, I got to feast upon an unrisen orange cake. Then there was the Christmas my mom made sugar cookies and forgot to add the sugar. That one worked out okay, though, because my sister had a very bad cold at the time, so we just fed all of them to her since she couldn’t taste anything. She didn’t know their flavor was practically inedible until after she’d eaten all of them. I won’t go into details about The Great Scone Incident of 1981, other than to say that it explains the origin of the mysterious dent in the kitchen floor of their old house. My dad used to try to make something he called “snowballs” during the holidays, except they ended up looking like underwater mines and managed to suck all the moisture out of your mouth in addition to being totally devoid of flavor.

Anyway, the potatoes they baked this Thanksgiving were a mix of red potatoes, white potatoes, yellow potatoes and sweet potatoes. None of these — especially not the sweet potatoes — cook at the same rate. So, some of the potato chunks were a little al dente while others had turned to paste. Also, the herb dressing the potatoes received was a little unorthodox. My parents had purchased some fresh tarragon to use for the potatoes, because that’s what they heard you’re supposed to use. They didn’t use the tarragon, however, because, according to my mom, “It smelled kind of funny, like it was going bad.” It turns out the smell my mom interpreted as rancid was actually the smell of fresh tarragon.

At any rate, at the end of the day we were given a vat of the oddly un-herbed “herbed” potato leftovers to take home. They sat in the fridge until this afternoon, when I decided I’d better use them up. Since they were a little weird to begin with, heating them up in the microwave didn’t seem like the best option. Plus, I had about half of a leftover onion in the fridge, as well as a few corn tortillas that were nearing their expiration date, so I decided to combine all of them.

The potatoes were already herbed and oiled, but I added more olive oil to the pan for the onion. Once it was hot, I added the potatoes and onion and let them sauté/fry for a while. When they were done, I put them into a bowl with some shredded cheddar cheese and let the cheese melt. Then I added the corn tortillas, one at a time to the still-greasy pan, and spooned the potato and onion mixture into them and let them cook some more (and absorb more oil in the process). To each of the “tacos,” I then added a little bit of Tabasco Sauce, quite a bit of ranch dressing, and a shred of romaine lettuce.

The result was like a mutant offering to the Gods of Taco Bell. I’ve convinced myself that these inbred tacos aren’t as horrifically unhealthy as they certainly are, because:

  1. I added olive oil to the already oiled potatoes. That’s healthy, right?
  2. Corn tortillas are whole grain, which everybody knows has fiber and crap.
  3. Romaine lettuce is supposed to have vitamins and shiznit.
  4. I used fat free ranch dressing, which we all know makes it totally okay. Actually, I purchased the fat free variety by accident, but that’s neither here nor there.
  5. The potato mixture contained sweet potatoes, which according to all the latest dietary research are supposed to be able to summon Jesus or something.

The result ended up tasting surprisingly good, although the kids refused to touch them. Unlike me, they know better.

Overheard, Unfortunately

September 30, 2010

I don’t know whether it’s a result of the routes I pick or if the town in which I live is really just that sad, but I end up overhearing the strangest things when I’m out on my nightly runs. Here’s the gem from last night:

Picture it! Sicily, 1922. One teenager (we’ll call him High School Tool) is on the front porch of a house, bellowing inside to another teenager so that the entire neighborhood can’t help but hear their conversation.

High School Tool: Hey Jed, remember what all the straight girls said!

Jed: Huh?

High School Tool: Remember what all the straight girls said, that I had sex with!

Jed: What?

High School Tool: [his voice beaming with pride] There’s sex with people, and there’s sex with you!

For an instant, I considered yelling, “Dude, they don’t even consider you people!” In the end, didn’t blurt out anything. It was likely a wise decision, since the kid looked like he might have been hitting the ‘roids pretty heavily.

Caption: Worst pick-up line ever. Image: A disgusting creature says to a woman, "I'm my own species, baby!"

Bring Me a Projection Screen!

September 29, 2010

From Hyperbole and a Half, here’s a public safety video my kids desperately need to watch now that they’re old enough to chase around and torment the cats:

An Open Letter to Our Baby Monitor

September 29, 2010

Dearest Moloch,

I fear it my soon be time for us to part ways. It isn’t just that our son recently turned three and I’m itching to get your base station out of his room so that I won’t feel like I’m slowly turning into my mother, who for some bizarre reason insisted upon keeping my sister’s baby monitor in her room until she was in middle school — the reasons are far more prosaic than whatever twisted familial psychodrama may be playing itself out in my head at the moment.

The reason I want you out really just has everything to do with the simple fact that things fall apart, the center cannot hold, blah, blah, blah. We all get old, start losing a step here and there and begin say “huh?!” in response to every other word shouted at us. The same is true for narrowband radio receivers such as yourself.

You’ve been getting increasingly erratic, and maybe a little senile, over the course of the last year. Perhaps you haven’t noticed it yourself, but almost every time we turn you on, we have to cover up your speaker with a hand to prevent an ear=splitting burst of static that’s guaranteed to wake the kid up, thereby defeating the whole purpose of having a baby monitor.

But it isn’t just that. You’ve also become increasingly less likely to broadcast sound from our child’s room than you are to pick up pieces of cordless and cellular phone conversations from around our neighborhood.

Have you ever heard the sound of your kid avoiding taking a nap by playing with his talking Sesame Street kitchen set, interrupted by what seems to be one end of a phone sex conversation, interspersed with the voice of grouchy old Mabel down the street haranguing some poor schmuck for getting the wrong size sack of onions? Of course you haven’t, because you were busy transmitting it! It’s like listening to a Psychic TV album, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, provided that’s what you actually want to be hearing at the time.

The only thing that could have made the whole scene weirder is if there’d been company over while it was going on:

OH, Me oven hot! / So hot! / That many onions?! How can I / Oh, yeah!! / Is it soup yet? / Keep doing it, and / Is THAT supposed to be soup? / Oughta knock you upside / Right there, yeah / In here, as far as you / Lick / Yum yum food, yeah!

[Sheepish grin] “So, anyway, welcome to the neighborhood, Reverend!”

As you can see, perhaps the time has come for us to explore other options. Please don’t take it personally. This hurts us more than it hurts you.

Bean Fueled Mayhem

September 28, 2010

Rocket Martin flies off into the sunset! What do you run on, Rocket Martin? [Pause. Whispered:] Say, ‘beans.’

[Pause] I run on beans!

— Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band, Trout Mask Replica

Album cover for Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.

From Wikipedia.

Since I began running regularly again a couple of months ago in an effort to get a little more fast and a little less bulbous, I’ve had to readjust to running in the late evening, usually shortly after sunset. I used to run first thing in the morning years ago, but that isn’t possible now with a three year-old and a one year-old who tend to wake up at unpredictable times in the morning.

One of the biggest challenges of nighttime running is that it’s basically impossible to go on a nearly empty stomach like one would first thing in the morning. It can present some, umm, rather unique challenges. Usually I try to avoid them by waiting to eat dinner until after I get back from my run.

Last night was a different story, though. It was a scheduled day off from running for me, but upon looking at the weather forecast for this evening, which called for severe thunderstorms, and the weather conditions last night, which consisted of on-and-off drizzle, I decided to get my run in last night and make today my day off instead.

The problem was I’d already eaten dinner: black beans and brown rice with peppers, onions, garlic, and lots of allspice. A lot of black beans with a lot of jerk-style seasonings were already bouncing around my digestive tract.

Luckily, the worst-case scenario triggered by such a combination of stomach contents and distance running didn’t materialize last night. It was, however, a highly — uhh — musical evening, and quite aromatic as well.

I really pity my wife sometimes.

We Have To Watch Out For That One

September 22, 2010

We’ve been able to tell for a very long time already that our daughter, now 20 months old, is going to be a handful when she gets older. Even when she was an otherwise totally helpless infant, she became surprisingly good at smacking her brother upside the head whenever he annoyed her a little too much. Now that she’s older, she enjoys tackling him, even though he’s three years old and much larger than she is.

Her first word, as far as I can gather, may very well have been “Ow” or “Ouch.” When she was a baby, she would say this and immediately follow it by yanking our hair as hard as she could and giggling. In other words, she knew exactly what she was doing whenever she said “Ouch,” and she thought it was funny.

The instant she was able to crawl, she began breaking into the place where we kept the alcohol, something her brother never bothered trying to do. Her favorite thing was to break in there and try to sneak away carrying the lone single-serving miniature bottle of Wild Turkey Rare Breed that we had. It was always the hard stuff she’d try to run off with, never the wine.

Now at 20 months old, it’s becoming obvious that she has some very clear tastes in music. She loves stuff like Raw Power by The Stooges, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols, and Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones. I’m also not sure how she mastered the heavy metal Cookie Monster vocal style, or where she even picked it up, but she did.

We’ve been working on getting her to identify facial features and body parts, but she never made any indication that she was aware of where any facial features were or what they were called — until last night. Then, out of the blue, she jammed a thumb in my eye and said, plain as day, “eye.” She then jammed her other thumb in my other eye and said “eye” again, indicating that it wasn’t a coincidence. She followed that by smacking my cheeks and saying, “cheek,” and then she punched me in the mouth and said, “wouf.”

This is pretty much true to form for her — she’ll demonstrate that she knows something or can do something strictly on her own terms, when and how she wants to do so (usually in the roughest form possible), not when one of us asks her to. Another thing she did completely out of the blue last night was look at the ceiling, say “ceewing,” look at the floor, say “fwoor,” and look at the walls and say, “wall.” We’ve never attempted to get her to identify those things and have no idea where she picked them up. All we can say for sure is that if we’d tried to get her to identify them, she wouldn’t have done it.

Always contrarian, physical, and rough — that’s our little girl . . .

Ye Olde Scotland Ho, Scurvy Dogs!

September 18, 2010
Two crudely drawn stick figures in ninja costumes at "Ye Olden Ren Faire" saying, "Yarr Matey! We be Klingons!"

When Nerds Go Senile.

Speaking of dorks, my wife has our three year-old son at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire for the second time this month. The theme this time is “Scottish Weekend,” which makes no sense at all to me since International Talk Like a Pirate Day is tomorrow. “Pyrate Weekend” (yes, that’s how they deliberately misspell it) was in August for some reason.

Does knowing when Talk Like a Pirate Day falls every year and criticizing the PA Ren Faire on a blog for not synching up with it make me a dork, too?

Anyway, for now I’m at home with our one year-old daughter and focusing on activities that hopefully won’t result in her getting beaten up on a regular basis in school, like learning to shout, “Hab SoslI’ Quch!” to random passers-by, especially if they’re Scottish.

Don’t Assume I Fix Things

September 15, 2010
An excruciatingly crude drawing of myself wielding a hammer with the words, "Please Hammer, don't hurt me."

I am man, hear me roar.

It’s a well-known fact around our household that I’m not the least bit inclined toward handymanliness, or, for that matter, rudimentary dexterity (as evidence, see the “drawing” to your right). I can’t even use duct tape properly; when I try to do anything with it, I end up with a tape wad torn at multiple weird angles.

For many years, this wasn’t a problem. When it came time for me to move out on my own after college, I made sure that the first apartment I rented was in a house owned by a retired guy who constantly tinkered with stuff as a hobby. Even though he and his wife lived across town from their rental property, he kept his workshop in a detached garage behind the apartment house. His wife banished him there whenever he was either making too much noise with power tools, or whenever it appeared he was about to accidentally blow something up. Since either of these two situations were occurring nearly all of the time, he was always around whenever something went haywire, and the result was that I never had to fix anything.

But all things must come to an end, and about six years ago my wife and I decided it was time to settle down and buy a house together, therefore magically transforming us into Responsible People. Maybe not quite Responsible People in the Middle America sense of the term, since we actually bought the house first and then got married a little later, but we were Homeowners, dag nabbit, at any rate.

We quickly realized we were in over our heads. For starters, neither of us enjoy anything to do with maintaining green-colored things that grow, yet we had a flower garden area in front of and alongside our new home. Since we moved in during November, we didn’t know what flowers would come up during the spring and summer, so we just decided to wait and see.

The flaw in this reasoning was readily apparent the following spring as soon as plants began sprouting. We didn’t see hydrangeas and tulips and nettles and dandelions. We simply saw green stuff, and we had absolutely no idea what was supposed to be there and what was a weed. So, after one year of botanical chaos, we had a landscaper come in, rip out the flower garden, and replace it with a collection of a few shrubs poking up from ground that is otherwise now covered in stones. Yeah, we’re classy people. But at least we’re Responsible Homeowner-type classy people, even if we don’t know chrysanthemums from kudzu.

Don't Assume I Fix ThingsThat’s nothing compared to the inside of the house. In our upstairs bathroom is a vanity cabinet that has three mirrored doors on it. At least, it’s supposed to have three mirrored doors on it. It actually has two. About a year and a half after we moved in, one of the doors fell off. We’ve never gotten around to replacing either the door or the entire vanity cabinet. We figure that it still works fine as it is right now, it doesn’t bother us, and we can always get around to replacing it if and when the time comes to move.

That, however, pales in comparison to the time we actually had to call my wife’s father to come over and change a light bulb. I kid you not. The bulb in our bathroom ceiling fan burned out several years ago, and after nearly an hour of trying, neither of us could figure out how to open it up so that we could get to the bulb and change it. So, it was Father-In-Law to the rescue. I don’t feel terribly emasculated about that one, though, since it also took him about 20 minutes to figure out how to get the cover off the light fixture.

There was also the time that I was on the verge of calling a plumber to fix our bathtub because, after 45 minutes of hard plunging and pouring in two economy-sized bottles of Drano, I could not get the water to go down. Little did I know through that whole ordeal that I had the drain closed the entire time.

So why would I mention all of this now? Because it just took me 15 minutes to open the battery compartment on one of the kids’ toys, that’s why.


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