A Really Happy Thanksgiving

Things I Learned This Thanksgiving:

1. As I had mostly expected, and sincerely hoped, my family and my husband’s family are able to eat, chat and laugh together companionably for 5 hours. Lovely!

2. I need more serving forks.

3. I didn’t need to start the ham two days ahead. Next time I make it, I can marinate it in the fridge the day before Thanksgiving, make the glaze the night before, prep it to go in the morning, and leave my extremely early-rising husband directions on preheating the stove and sticking in to cook the morning of. The ham was tasty this year, but I think it would be even better this way. . . not to mention easier.

Getting the marinade ready, Tuesday night

4. Next year, the skins will stay on the potatoes. It’s more nutritious anyway.  Or I am buying a fabulous new paring knife.

5. Real whipped cream is always better than Cool Whip. I knew this, actually, but it was really brought home when real whipped cream with a touch of cinnamon elevated my every-day apple crisp to warm, melting delectability.

6. Put the most adventurous cat upstairs before I start taking food out to the sideboard.Not as she starts investigating the turkey.

7. A sideboard and proper dining room table makes my dining room look so much better, and make entertaining comfortable. And now I can store my silver, china and specialty stemware in it, to free up needed kitchen cabinet space. Ease of access = happier, less frazzles hostess.

This year's table.

8. Don’t open up your grandmother’s silver box the morning of a holiday and expect to find the silverware ready to go. . .  even in a supposedly tarnish-proof box. More


The Mint — Could This Be My New Best Friend?

My house is two stories of wood floors, and I have four cats and currently, a Corgi who sheds like a Yeti in Hawaii.  So I use the Swiffer Sweeper ($25, everywhere) to suck up the hair and dirt and bits every time the floor starts to look too shaggy.

Then I see this new gadget, Mint, and I get all excited. I send an e-mail to my husband: “I want this for our 2nd anniversary!” (Second, because maybe we would be able to afford it by then.)

Mint: time-saver or Catmobile?

Then I watch the little video on the webpage, and although it looks cool, with its “NorthStar tracking and mapping system,” I start to think. I remember how many times I have to change the pads on my Swiffer sweeper when cleaning just one room, and how many times I have to empty the Swiffer’s admittedly small vacuum canister. It doesn’t look like the Mint would have a large capacity.

And as far as mopping goes, it says you put a pre-moistened pad on and away it goes. I…just don’t think that one pad would get one room very clean. Maybe NYC studio apartment-sized rooms, but not a normal Midwestern dining room, say.  It seems like to really keep your house clean, you would have to program it to sweep and mop all the time. You’d be replacing the pad and trotting it and the fancy tracker box to a different room and waiting for it to bump its way to clean.

I don’t know. I could be wrong. Maybe it would be worth it if you used it to keep the floors dusted, and mopped by hand. I can see setting it up to do the living room before work or going to the grocery store.

Has anyone used one of these, or know anyone who has? What’s the word? For $200, are they worth it?

Seduce Your New In-Laws With Delicious Ham! My Nefarious Thanksgiving Plan.

Last year, I had Thanksgiving dinner. I had hosted it once before for my family, when I lived in a crappy little apartment in Lawrence, KS.  I had a tiny rickety table that used to be my grandmother’s, and I served dinner on it in my carpeted kitchen. Carpet in a kitchen — not the 1970’s best idea. And this carpet was a particularly egregious example of the ’70’s breed:  mottled brown, mustard and avocado dabs and swirls, which made the floor look like years and years of cooking spills had accumulated on it and produced a moldy fuzz. Despite the surroundings, dinner was good, and I felt accomplished.

I’d attained a milestone of adulthood; I’d hosted a Family Holiday. Nothing burnt, I almost had enough gravy, no one was poisoned and all family members were speaking to each other at the end of the dinner.(Granted, my immediate family consists of my parents, still married to each other — we don’t count the two years they were divorced in the 1980’s — and my younger sister. Not a large or especially contentious crew.)

Last October, I’d just moved in with my boyfriend. My family wasn’t used to the idea of me having a boyfriend  (they would have been less surprised if I had announced I was taking up graduate studies in mathematics, and math and I are enemies of long-standing ) and me actually living with a man…well, they were bewildered. Not from any outraged moral sensibilities, but rather as if the family dog had woken up purple, say, and with tiny horns. “Well, what the hell? Never would have expected that,” they might say. Same with me setting up house with a guy.

The house was still very much in a his-and-hers state, rather than a cohesive whole, but I now had a real dining room and a real kitchen. I broke out my grandmother’s lace tablecloth (her table had been relegated to the back porch) and her silverware, and made a ham and all the trimmings. I decorated to the best of my abilities and strained budget (I’d just lost my job a few weeks ago, which had precipitated the move — we were going to move in together in November, but the lay-off moved the schedule forward a bit.) My family brought side dishes, and they had the chance to sit down and get to know D., who I think is a stellar fellow. I got my parents to play Wii bowling, which they quite liked, and D, my sister and I got a little drunk, and then they went home. It was nice.  Adult Milestone added: Hosted Family Holiday with Significant Other With Whom One is Cohabitating in a Real House.

This year, will be another Adult Milestone, and one that’s a little more fraught with nerves for me than last year: Hosting First Blended Family Holiday As Wife, with In-Law’s Meeting My Family For The First Time, In a Home One Owns. Whew. That’s a lot of firsts. More

Gift Guide 2010

I’ve added some new stuff to the gift guide.

Here’s one:

Isn't it pretty? Now go look at the rest!

Enjoy! More gift suggestions are added every day till 12/20.

Episode 4 of “The Walking Dead”

Highlights of Episode 4 of \”The Walking Dead\” from AMC website

Lil' Redneck Emotes!!

Tonight’s episode is named “Vatos.” In case you don’t know, it’s like calling the episode “Dude” in Spanish. It suggests that there will be some Latino gangsta zombie action, which is awesome.

“Que paso, vato?” “CHOMP.”

Sidenote: while using Babelfish to try to get the right accent marks and punctuation for the Spanish (sue me, I’m lazy), it told me that the English translation for “Que pasa, vato?” is “That it happens, I beat?” It actually means “What’s up, dude?” roughly. DO NOT TRUST BABELFISH, especially when it comes to colloquialisms.

The episode starts in a gorgeous quarry and the two blonde sisters are in a boat, fishing. There’s some babble about what kind of knots their dad taught each respective sister. Apparently, they’re about 12 years apart in age, so the older sister, Andrea, was taught Very Serious Fishing, because when she and dad were fishing, it was to put food on the table (much like the sisters are doing now), whereas Amy was taught some other fishing. I don’t know fishing; it didn’t mean much to me, except there’s sisterly bonding, and some quiet weepiness about Mom and Dad, who are elsewhere and presumably zombie chum. “No crying in th boat.”  “Dad always said it scares the fish.” Sniff.

Cut to Old dude on Winnebago, whose name apparently is Dale. He’s watching some male member of the camp up on the ridge, chopping the hell out of the ground. He’s digging the hell out of some graves. Did someone die, I wonder? Ed, the archetypical woman-hating he-man that Shane beat the hell out of last episode? You can see what’s supposed to be Atlanta in the background. Huh. They’re a lot closer to the city than I thought they were.

Aaaand, we’re back in ATL, on the roof of the building Merle was chained to. Mmm. Handsaw blood. I mean, hacksaw and blood. And a hand. Merle’s hand. More

Gift Guide Holidays 2010

Rather than spend hours and hours putting together gifts guides for men and women and kids and pets, and on and on, I’ve started Pharaby’s Gift Guide over ar Tumblr. I’ll be adding at least 4 suggestions a day up to the 20th of December, and will also accept submissions for gift suggestions! (I may not accept them all; it’s not a giftocracy; I’m a giftator!)

Choices are swayed VERY much by my tastes and if I include something, it’s based on the following factors:

  • Someone I know would love it
  • I think it’s awesome
  • It’s geeky, pretty, delicious, techy, funny, beautiful, fun, intelligent, quirky.
  • I would like to own it, so therefore someone else out there might love it.
  • It’s not super expensive
  • Someone out there in the world should buy this for someone this holiday season!
  • And to amuse myself, some gifts will be titles by the names of people I would love to buy gifts for, if I, you know, HAD MONEY. (If your names not here, don’t be hurt! Maybe I bought it for you!! But it’s more likely I just got tired.)

Obviously, this isn’t inclusive; I’ll highlight certain items, and also point out links to great sites where you should go look for something special for the people in your life, including maybe yourself.(You deserve it, you selfish bastard.)

Time To Get Out Of The Pajama Pants…

I AM a happy owl today!

Today was a busy day, and some good things happened. I feel like all the frantic job hunting is starting to — maybe — pay off a little bit. I don’t want to jinx myself though, so I’m not going to get too specific, yet.

I got called in for an interview at a place I interviewed at before, about a month ago. Not a second interview, but they had two other positions open up that I am qualified for, so I sent an email off. I don’t know which position they are interviewing me for, and honestly, it’s all of a kind to me. I’d be fine being offered either position.

I was also referred to an editor at a freelance company (yeah, that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but that’s what part of the company is, anyway) by a friend. The editor liked my resume and started the process of signing me up, so I should have some pretty decent freelance writing and editing gigs coming down the pike shortly, which is wonderful. More

Turkey of Terror? Thanksgiving Horror Stories

The moral of the story...don't invite Wolverine to your family Thanksgiving?


I am hosting my third Thanksgiving dinner, but my first as a married woman…you know, with in-law’s and husband’s relatives all peering at the New Wife.

(I am not only the New Wife, but I am the NEW New Wife, as my husband has an Ex-Wife.)

I am fairly confident all will be pleasant, and I certainly know all of my family’s foibles (as most of my extended family is Away or Dead — which is just sort of a hyperextended version of Away — they are mostly just perplexed and vaguely terrified at the idea of a holiday spent socializing with people they have not ever met before), I am still a bit nervy.

So. Please tell me some of your utterly horrifying (or just slightly amusing) holiday stories, so I can laugh and laugh and be certain that awkward silences will be the worst I have to contend with.

Qualified Professional Midwestern Woman Discovers Startling News: “The economy is terrible for job-seekers”

This will be my Christmas card picture...

I’ve been meaning to update every day, and I almost did it yesterday…but I am glad that I didn’t.

You see, I was having an awful time trying to get to sleep last night. I dutifully stepped away from the glowing screen at 1:15 am (although there were about a thousand “just1morething’s” I wanted to do — among them, writing a post) and crawled into bed, next to my blissfully sleeping husband and opened a book. I read for a while, and turned on the humidifier, trying to battle the persistent cough that’s been plaguing my sleep for the last week or two since my awful cold, and turned off the light.

D. is a human furnace. My toes and fingers were warm within five minutes. But my brain was, as usual, doing its nightly rat-in-a-cage routine, and I proceeded to flip and flop, and fulminate.

The day began not as I planned, and that threw me off for the rest of the day. I’d planned on waking at 10:30 so I could send out a few resumes before I went to babysit for a few hours for a friend. (Listen, waking up at 10:30 sounds blissful, but I would trade it in a hot second for a steady paycheck. I have chronic insomnia and it’s deeply exacerbated by not having had a teaching gig since June, or a full-time job since October 2009. And no, I don’t collect unemployment. I bloody wish. I force myself into bed most nights at 2 pm, when I am without my prescribed sleep medications, where, if Thanatos is happy, I fall into a weedy, interrupted sleep at about 4 or 5 am.) I must have slapped the alarm into submission, because I stretched and looked at the clock.

“Oh, good,” thinks me. “It’s 10:07!” Then I rub my eyes and focus, and it’s 12:37 and my friend is supposed to pick me up at 1. FUCK.  Coffee is clearly the first priority; I make a cup and hope I have time to slurp it down. I allow myself  ONE precious cup of strong cappuccino per day (D. thinks the flat-screen we got for our wedding the coolest by-product of our nuptials; while it is clearly awesome, I vote for the cappuccino machine. More

English Adjunct Jobs are an Exercise in Frustration

Not the jobs themselves, per se;  just the acquisition of them.

I know, I know — the number of seekers versus the number of open adjunct positions is something like 200:1.  This is quite daunting, and a little depressing. I have been trolling the websites of all the institutions of higher leaning in the Kansas City area (luckily, I live in a metro area that, while not HUGE, does have about 20 institutions for me to examine) and then cold-calling the department heads.

Mainly, I’ve been leaving polite messages, but I did manage to score a call back from a lovely gentleman who’s the department head for the English department at JCCC; he told me that their slots are filled for spring already, and mostly for fall, unless some of his staff go on sabbatical. He also said that he gets about 90 resumes for an adjunct position, and that he heard from former adjuncts that KU has been laying adjuncts off. “It’s this awful economy,” he sighed. I agreed, and thanked him.

I’ve made about 10 calls today, managed to speak with one person. The balance of my evening will be spent in tweaking my C.V. and cover letter to send out resumes to the two places who have adjunct positions advertised. Now I just have to hope that they stand out somehow from the other eleventy bajillion candidates.

Regardless of this rather gloomy forecast, I will persevere. My goal: before I die, to have taught that rarest of creatures — a college level lit class, as an adjunct.

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