Saturday, January 26, 2008

i have a little neti pot, short and stout

My sinuses have always been my Achilles heel. Stress, exhaustion, a cold, dogsitting... it all ends in sinusitis. I had been battling a low-grade case for weeks before the three-dog weekend, and in the ensuing allergic aftermath I guess it got the best of me. For the past three days I have been slammed by migraine-grade sinus headaches that I cannot cope with except by going to bed.

In desperation, I broke down and got a neti pot. J has been trying to sell me on the idea for years (not that he has ever used one. He would not know a sinus if it bit him), but, like any sane person, I am afraid of drowning, and I figured that's what it would feel like to pour salt water through my nasal passages.

So? I won't go so far as to say it's "pleasant and soothing" as the package literature attests, but I could breathe through my mouth while I was doing it, so I didn't get too panicky. Too soon to say if it's helping. "Persistence," counseled my neighbor, a veteran neti potter. My other neighbor, who grew up in LA, said he never had sinus problems until he stopped swimming in the ocean every day, so there must be something to it. Or maybe, like a 19th century woman of delicate constitution, the answer is to move to a seaside town for its "restorative atmosphere." You never saw a Henry James character hanging over the sink with with a neti pot, am I right?

It's probably my overall mood more than anything – the pain and the wasted days are getting me down – but I was looking in the mirror the other day and thinking, I have no business having a baby. I am anything but the picture of a radiant young mother-to-be, me with my gray hair and tired face and a neti pot up my nose.

Iris, doubtfully observing my neti ritual: "Mama, are little kids allowed to watch this?"

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

three dog weekend

I know that everyone else has long since moved on and left Christmas behind in the old year where it belongs, but in our house, Christmas did not officially end until yesterday. That's when the last of my in-laws dispersed and left our house feeling strangely, sadly, but also gladly empty again. We were host to my sisters-in-law, father-in-law, his girlfriend, and her little dog too. Oh and did I mention we were also dogsitting for friends who'd jetted merrily off to Panama?

The hair of the dog indeed. I don't even know what that expression really means. I think it's some sort of British hangover remedy which sounds worse than the affliction itself. All I'm trying to say is that the weekend was as much fun as it is possible to have with your allergies in an uproar.

My sister-in-law Amy is a very non-materialistic person, which is one of her many admirable qualities, but makes gift-giving a challenge. Fortunately, the stockings were still hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that the aunties (as we collectively call my sisters-in-law) soon would be there, and I was sitting staring at them absently when inspiration struck, as it so often does, at the eleventh hour. I noticed – not for the first time – that Amy's stocking was a pathetic contrast to everyone else's: one of those cheap red polyester fuzzy-felt numbers with her name written on in glitter glue – you know the kind I mean – that I think was procured at the last minute before the first Christmas Amy spent with our family (she is Jewish, so she did not have an ancestral stocking of her own). So I decided to make her a nice new stocking that would not be embarrassed to hang with the rest. Here it is, entirely from felted sweaters, wool felt, and buttons already in my stash:

Now, I have a bad habit of deciding to prototype a new project when I need to make a gift for somebody, then giving it, warts and all. That is what I did for my sister-in-law Ronica, but in this case, fortunately, the result was not too wart-ridden. I made her a blank journal from this handy tutorial:

I printed pictures I've taken and glued them back-to-back for both covers, so there was an inner and an outer face to each, a little deviation from the tutorial which worked out nicely. For the pages, I used a combination of plain paper and graph paper and embellished with a few stamps (of the ink variety) on random pages. I was glad I invested in a paper cutter for this stage. The spine is Italian gift-wrapping paper which I saved from a present Iris received back at regular Christmastime. I did make a few mistakes along the way, but I was still uncharacteristically happy with the final result.

One great thing about this project is that it consists of several short steps, ideal for when you are rushing around trying to get a million other things done and do not have a half-day stretch to devote to crafting.

Finally, at the risk of repeating myself, I'll share the present I made my father-in-law even though it already debuted on Flickr. When he finally became convinced that his kids were not returning home to roost and converted their old bedrooms into guest rooms, he jokingly gave them B&B-style names: Windchimes and Whispering Pines, after the sounds that drifted in through the open windows in summer. I've long wanted to make him little door signs for those rooms, but I never knew how to do it until one insomniac night last fall, when it hit me. Little wood rectangles + rubber stamps + ink + twigs gathered in the park + hemp twine + hot glue =


Friday, January 18, 2008

in which food and my placenta are unfortunately mentioned in the same post

Today I did something I haven't done since college: inspired by this photograph of Sarah's, I made my own yogurt. I made some other things too, but ssh! They are top secret until a belated Christmas gift exchange with my sisters-in-law on Saturday. (Just in case you have been waiting by your mailbox for a vintage linen tea towel that never comes, now you know what I have been doing – lollygagging about with a candy thermometer and other indolent devices. I will make it to the post office next week, I promise!)

In other news, my doctor phoned today - you know she didn't just call to say hello - to say she had figured out what probably caused some of my more worrying first-trimester symptoms. If you don't mind just a little bit too much information, read on. Apparently I've got a case of placenta previa, or, more colloquially, "Hey, you, get your placenta off of my cervix." It's not a big worry right now, but if my placenta doesn't "migrate" to higher ground, it's bed rest and an express route to C-section City. So go, placenta, go!

Monday, January 14, 2008

it was your ancestors, the germans

You would think that a person who just got a spiffy new camera for Christmas would have more pictures to post, but (a) I'm still getting the hang if it, (b) I have been whirling around dervish-like with the snafu-filled start of the new university semester, and (c) what passes for daylight around here lately has been particularly grim.

I promise to strut my new camera's stuff soon, but in the meantime, I present: Theatre of the Overheard From the Backseat... only not exactly, because this was more of a direct question:

"Who came up with this Christmas tree concept, anyway?"

The lights may be down, the ornaments packed away, and the presents more or less integrated into the everydayness of it all, but yes, Virginia, we are still unpacking the pagan/Christmas rituals around here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

kitchen corner

Leila, Meg, Erin, and Beki, come on down! Send me an email (chartreusebag [at] mac [dot] com) with your address in it, and I will send you a gen-you-wine 1970s Czechoslovakian/Canadian linen tea towel.

While I'm in the kitchen, mentally at least, sometimes I think it's a little surprising that I don't post more about food, because food is a big part of my life, and I don't just mean eating for two. Maybe I don't write about it much because it's not really my creative arena: my husband is the main shopper and chef in our household (lucky me!), so my roles are mainly as assistant menu planner and appreciative audience for his cooking.

I'm breaking out, though, because I can't contain my excitement that a local magazine ran the recipe for one of my favorite local restaurant dishes: Mad Mex's chick pea chili. If you live in or around Pittsburgh, you know what I mean. If you don't, trust me. This stuff is from heaven. Eat it as soup or stuff burritos with it plus some rice and veggies and/or chicken. You'll be glad that the recipe makes about a gallon.

2 pounds peeled, washed tomatillos
2 whole jalapenos, de-stemmed
1 small Spanish onion, sliced thinly to julienne
1/2 cup rough chopped white onion
1 32-oz. can garbanzo beans/chick peas, drained and rinsed
4 cloves whole garlic
2 t salt
1 T black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T chopped cilantro

Clean tomatillos by immersing in water and removing skins. Place tomatillos in heavy duty ovenproof pot with whole jalapenos, onion, whole garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Place pot in 500 degree oven and roast vegetables until soft and lightly browned.

Pour roasted mixture into blender. Puree thoroughly. You may need to do this in two batches.

Return mixture to pot. Bring to a simmer

Stir in cilantro and serve. Enjoy!

Ed.: Oh yeah, and don't forget to throw in the chick peas! They don't go in the blender.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

show and tell and a giveaway

Thanks, all, for your warm response to the big new year's news! The first trimester was kind of touch-and-go, but I'm fourteen weeks now and going strong. Behold the belly! A Christmas Eve ultrasound which showed all was, in fact, well gave us the confidence to tell Iris, and she is excited to be a big sister. Our baby is apparently up to the size of a lemon (does anyone else find it amusing that the unit of fetal measurement seems always to be a fruit?) and is due in early July. If there is any baby karma coming my way, it should really be born in June, since I was pregnant for a full ten months with Iris before finally submitting to an induction. Given that, I realize another late delivery is more likely than an early one the second time around, but a girl can hope.

I've got a little show and tell today. I saw this scarf

in one of my favorite vintage stores on the same day I had just splurged on new shoes, so I regretfully let it be. Then I went back there with my mom, and they still had it, and she bought it for me for Christmas. Isn't she sweet? (They also had the exact same hot-pink-and-orange striped Ives St. Laurent sheets my parents had on their bed when I was little. So very 70s. Somehow my mom resisted a repeat purchase of those.)

I've been looking for a set of these Pyrex food storage containers for a long time to replace some of the plastic ones in our kitchen. Found this set at one of those antique stores that looks like a single storefront from the street, but is actually an infinite warren of interconnected, overfilled rooms inside. The price was more than I wanted to pay, but the guy was so nice - he kept slipping trinkets into Iris' purse – and in the end, he made me a deal that I was happy with. Goodbye, plastic! Hello, chickens. (Has anyone had experience with the design holding up or wearing off in the dishwasher?)

Finally, I guess in every family there is someone to whom you can give old junk from your attic and call it a Christmas gift, and I am happy to be that person in mine.

These vintage linen tea towels from my father-in-law's girlfriend's mother's attic (follow?) were such a gift this year. As you can see, I have a whole stack of them and I like you all so much that I'm going to share the love. Just leave me a comment if you're interested, and if I get more than four I'll do a little drawing. Oh, and speaking of 70s, (which I briefly was above), doesn't this label say it all?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

this should explain a lot

The crushing exhaustion and the siren song of the couch. The inability to get much of anything done (like, say, Christmas crafting or updating this blog). The dependence on ginger beer while longing for red wine. The crankiness, especially if hunger strikes and I don't get to eat this minute. And, of course, the belly. Holiday indulgence, and let me tell you there has been plenty, cannot account for it all. Some of it, yes. But the rest?

Yes sir, that's my baby!