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Breakfast Championship

Apologies to Maggie Mason and “Nobody Cares What You Had For Lunch.”

I’ve long held that cold pizza is the ideal breakfast. Couple of slices of leftover pizza, fresh from the fridge, and a big, hot cup of coffee. Dunno if there’s a finer meal to start the day.

Oh, sure, a fresh bagel spread with guacamole, with slices of tomato straight out the the garden, paper-thin slices of red onion, and Swiss cheese is a fine first meal of the day, now that I think about it.

But I have found yet another unconventional breakfast to savor, and it is leftover chili eaten with corn chips. You know how chili is always better as leftovers. The beans soak up most of the sauce and all the spices mellow. It turns out to be absolutely perfect to scoop up with tortilla chips.

My opinions on leftover saag paneer are consistent with my take on pizza and/or chili, by the way. Perfectly acceptable breakfast. Ideal, in fact. Cereal’s for chumps.

I’m doing a remarkably poor job of this Holidailies thing. I can and will cash in the excuse that I’ve got a teething baby in the house and most of our waking hours are filled with a peculiar fractious grunting noise which is slowly grating my nerves into coleslaw. I will be beyond pleased when this particular phase of things resolves itself. In the meantime, there is baby acetaminophen and freezy toys. My hat is entirely off to the generations past who had to go through this all without such technologies.

So, excuses made, I’d like to rave a bit about one of my favorite things to do these days: nap in the bathtub. Seriously, it is one of the great sensual pleasures of our age to run a hot bath, climb in, lean back, and zonk out.

It is faintly embarrassing to fall asleep in the bath so often, but on the other hand, it is so comprehensively delightful to have a nap all enveloped in hot water that I’ve shaken off the shame and fully embraced the pleasure in bathtub-napping. And why not? It’s low cost, hygienic, fat-free, and doesn’t contravene any of the laws of Leviticus. Unless you’ve got mildew in your bath. In which case, there are Leviticussy problems. As there are in so many aspects of our poly-cotton modern times.

And I suppose if you were ambitious enough to eke out a crafty wank whilst soaking in the bath, that would be a Leviticus problem, too. What a bugger. Oh yes, another freakin’ law broken.

Look, just run a hot damn bath, boil your bottom, have a nice little snooze, don’t get up to no funny business, and wipe down the tub when you’re done. It’s all good then. All very, very, very good indeed.


With a little scrounging, a little thrift-shopping, and a little swearing, I got the tree all festive today. Didn’t get to shoot anything at it via compressed air, however. Maybe next year.

I started ratting around in my craft-crap bins and realized that I had a crapton of tinsel garland that I’d pulled out of a dumpster years and years ago. So of course that went on the tree. It was, for the record, brand new tinsel garland, still in the original plastic zipper bags. I forgot how much I like the scent of tinsel garland. It has a particular plasticky, tinny aroma that nothing else does.

Despite not being very decorate-y people, Joel and I have a positively ludicrous number of strings of lights between the two of us, so the tree is now festooned with four of them:


Seeing as this sucker is 7′ tall, four strings of lights is just the right number.

I had a bunch of stuff I needed to take to the thrift shop this morning: clothing Joseph had outgrown and stuff of mine that I hadn’t worn in even distant memory and would probably never wear again, honestly. Things that were either too juvenile, or else just too ugly, even for my own questionable tastes. Anyway, while we were at the thrift shop, I picked up a couple of random bags of colored baubles for the tree, since I had none. I had some other ornaments: wooden soldiers, a pretty brass carousel, snowflakes of stamped stainless steel, and other family keepsakes, but I didn’t have the basic colored-balls-on-a-hook that one typically associates with tree decorating. Fortunately, you can get a good-sized sack of them for all of a dollar.

While I was at it, I also acquired a decent winter hat for Joseph:


I’ve been looking for a good, warm hat for the little chap since well before the weather turned cold, and haven’t been able to find anything good. Most of the baby hats on offer are just flimsy little cotton jersey beanies. They’re okay for around the house if you don’t keep your house very warm (we don’t) but simply won’t cut it outdoors in Kansas winter. This one, however, is quite acceptable. It’s an acrylic/wool/angora blend and is double-layered and fairly tightly knit. This ought to keep his little ears from freezing off the sides of his head!

Don’t know why it’s so hard to get a decent baby hat around here. Apparently people either don’t relinquish them to the thrift shops, or else nobody buys them in the first place. I’d be less surprised if we lived someplace with really mild winters, but it gets capital-c Cold here. I guess maybe there’s the assumption that you’re only taking your kid from the house to the car, from the car to the house or something, but we’re out on foot pretty much daily (though to be honest on the really cold days, our walks are pretty brief). For that, you want a good warm hat, along with a fleecy snowsuit. I bundle the little fellow up quite snugly, then I bungie him to me with the Moby Wrap, so he gets the benefit of my body heat and my coat, too. Occasionally old ladies will tut me for taking him out in the weather, but honestly, he’s so layered up and snuggled down that he’s not the slightest bit bothered by the cold.

Joel either read my blog or my mind, and came home last night with quite a nice fake tree, so we’re now ready to get Festive.

I draped it in lights today, then failed to find the extension cord, so right now, the tree project is stalled out slightly. I’m actually going to re-arrange things in the living room a bit tomorrow and get it all set up properly, so photos may ensue.

In the meantime, here are a couple of clips of my favorite Top Gear presenter, the gloriously dorky James May, from one of his side projects, Man Lab. In the Man Lab Christmas Special, they Rube Goldberg-ed their way through “modernising” holiday traditions, including this extremely dramatic way of felling a tree:

Once acquired, they then contrived to decorate it via air-cannon:

I particularly approve of the bauble-mortar. My brother-in-law constructed a similar contraption for firing the wedding bouquet and garter when he and my sister got married. It was the highlight of quite frankly the absolute most fun wedding reception I’ve ever attended. I’m firmly of the opinion that festive occasions in general could all be improved by the introduction of some sort of air-cannon.

I guess I’m going to try to find us a Christmas tree tomorrow.

They’re usually pretty much going begging in the thrift shops. I wasn’t going to bother this year; I have never done holiday decorations in my whole adult life and I figured Joseph is too little to really know any difference, but I was thinking, “how crap would it be for Joseph to look back through the family photos someday and see positively no festive-ness taking place during his first Christmas?” So, even though I’m not a big celebrater and I’m sure we’ll be batting Cats out of the tree every five minutes by the clock, even though we have feck all for baubles and gizzies, and I have the aesthetic sense of a concussed gopher, by golly, we’re decorating a (fake) tree.

For example, I’m quite glad that these photographs exists:



I think, eventually, I may seek to do something like my Mom does nowadays. She has a couple of sizeable Norfolk Island Pine trees that she festoons with very lightweight ornaments. She has some darling crocheted snowflakes, and some little birds made out of feathers and styrofoam and a few other delicate little baubles which look really cute nestled amongst her oversized houseplants.

But for now, a secondhand fake tree with a generous number of strings of lights and a handful of baubles will have to do.

I dasn’t Google it.

Oh, so many years ago, before I moved to Kansas City, I made a road-trip here with some college friends to visit a couple of other college friends who were already living here. On the trip back home, we pulled off the Interstate somewhere in the back of beyond in central Nebraska to re-fuel the car.

Across the on-off ramp, there was an “adult entertainment warehouse,” and I swear to you, hand-on-heart, the damn place was called The Porn Barn.

Sadly, however, we encountered The Porn Barn in like 1997 or 1998, back before digital cameras were affordable or broadly available, and cell phones were barely capable of taking and making calls, let alone being also cameras, videorecorders, game systems, and The Internet. And regular photography was kind of a hobby for the not-impoverished, a class into which I definitely failed to fall. Getting film developed always involved diverting funds from something actually critical, so I took very few photos. Plus there was always that letdown of getting your prints back, and like two thirds of them were shit, anyway.

So, what I’m getting at was that none of us was prepared or equipped to take a photo of The Porn Barn so as to substantiate our reports of having encountered a Porn Barn. And on subsequent trips between Kansas City and northwestern Nebraska I have failed to re-discover The Porn Barn so that I can once and for all capture it photographically.

I have lasting woe that I never got a picture of The Porn Barn, and I am positively terrified to try to do a Google Image Search for said ‘Barn. I fear The Porn Barn will have to remain a mystery, a legend, a grotty blip in my dodgy memories.

Black blue jeans

I climbed up to the shelf above the closet in my sewing room today to get some crap down from “the archives” (or rather the boxes of accumulated crap that represents the criminal evidence of my youth). I needed my old cassette tape collection for reasons.

Okay, by reasons, I mean that I felt like listening to poor quality recordings of shitty rock bands that engendered in me the first fizzings of adolescent hormonal nuttiness and a burning need to curl, fry, spray, and tease my hair into a tormented thatch which could easily have housed a moderate flock of guinea fowl. Don’t be fooled by this outer crust of “cool” bands ranked across the top of the box. Just below the surface lurks all of the Mötley Crüe, Poison, and AC/DC required to seriously dent a young girl’s understanding of romance, sex, and the place of leather bodices in fashion.

For my birthday this past year, my parents gave me this wonderful all-in-one stereo affair that contains a radio, record player, CD player, cassette player, and a jack for USB music devices. It’s a delightful little thing, about the size of a small microwave oven, and has been in regular use since Joseph was born. I regularly put on some old doo-whop music or Big Band and two-step the little chap around the front room. He seems to find it soothing. But today, I thought that it would be amusing to dig into the archives.

If you were to make a guess as to my schoolgirl appearance based on the contents of this box of cassettes, you’d be forgiven for assuming that I’d worn a whole lot of black mascara, skintight acid wash jeans, band tee-shirts, and my boyfriend’s motorcycle jacket. There’s an awful lot of cheesy, sexual-innuendo-laden buttrock in that box, is what I’m saying. I never was that cool, though. And I certainly lacked the levels of commitment necessary to transform myself into a badass rocker chick. I was vaguely aware that deep down, my musical tastes were substandard, even by early 1990s benchmarks, and that when pressed I’d be unable to stand up to the usual type of record-store-clerk musical obscurity pissing match. So, I didn’t wear my musical heart on my sleeve and looked like a generically dorky Midwestern schoolgirl.

All the same, the music that spoke to me mostly talked dirty:

I’ve lived a life largely unfettered by good taste and now that I’m well into my 30s, I am thoroughly unabashed about enjoying the dumb crap I enjoy. Buttrock, JPop, Sousa marches, noise, basically whatever foolishness crosses my ears and and sparks a little flurry in my depraved hippocampus. A lot of the music I love best certainly pre-dates the heyday of my own youth; hell, some of it outright pre-dates me. The bulk of Led Zeppelin’s back catalogue was wailed out well before 1977. AC/DC was well on their way to rock-n-roll world domination by the time I got a look-in. I just plain love big, noisy, simple rock. Slade, Nazareth, Black Sabbath, pretty much anything that caused parents distress in the 1970s has been causing me great joy since ever I was aware that I liked certain types of music better than others.

All this should be considered a guilty pleasure, I suppose, but I simply cannot muster up a whit of guilt over my sketchy but enthusiastic enjoyment of naff old guitar-driven party music. Soz, not sorry.

I finally heard the clue phone ringing and picked it up. Little chap is teething, of course.

Drooling? Check. Gnawing fingers? Check. Biting whilst nursing? Check. Slight rash around mouth? Check. Shitty mood? CHECK.

So, I’ve bought him some baby acetaminophen and a tube of baby Orajel, and we shall hope for the best.

When the light finally came on for me last night, I at least had a couple of those freezy teething rings to hand. I gave him one of them and he glommed on to it like it was the treasure of his heart for which he’d been waiting all of his life (five months). So, at least I know that freezy teething rings are on the Good list at the moment.

I feel like a total heel, because for the past three or four days, I’ve been wondering why Joseph has been in such a foul mood and has been so inconsolable, fussy, and shrieky. Poor little rat. I suppose he’s been feeling like hell for several days running and I was too clueless to figure it out. But he is five months old (just) and it’s not outside the average to be working on teething now.

It just started a bit earlier than I was expecting. I’ve been mentally adjusting my expectations to fit his six week prematurity, though in most things he’s been right where he would be expected to be chronologically anyway. So pretty regularly he’s been surprising me with perfectly normal developmental progress.


One of the features of the Holidailies project is that you can get daily writing prompts to keep your creative fires stoked throughout the month. This is quite an excellent service, but one of which I am unable to avail myself. Prompts tend to bring on heroic bouts of writer’s block for me. I trace it back to Fifth Grade and my general, ingrained stubborn-little-shit-ness.

Actually, scratch that. I trace it even further back, back to Second Grade, when I first learned the concept of “free time.” I’d got hold of the concept of reading in a big way at the tail end of my first grade year, and by second grade, it was second nature to me. In possession of this pivotal skill, I was able to read the instructions of my assignments and complete them at will, often finding myself at loose ends in the classroom. Being as I attended a one-room rural school, the teacher had her hands full teaching ALL of the grades, and informed me that when I had “free time,” I could quietly read a book from the library or write or draw until my classmate was ready to move on to the next task, too. Free time became my favorite thing very quickly. I could get stuck in to the newest Ramona book, could expand my paper dolls’ extensive wardrobes, or could write stories of my own. Free Time was the Best Time!

I regret to report that I of course became single minded in my pursuit of free time and was known to hustle carelessly through my schoolwork in order to eke out a bit more quality time with a library book or a packet of colored pencils. My handwriting was poor under the best of circumstances and positively shocking when I hurried. My long-suffering teacher would call me to her desk to translate my illegible scrawlings and take me to task for my sloppiness. I’d nod, apologise, swear to try harder, and then beetle back to my desk to get back to whatever I was doing.

And so, the stage is set. I was not a precocious child, nor was I especially motivated by grades, rewards, or accolade. I was frankly a lazy, stubborn little pill, and would get interested in one obsession or another and rarely would my interests and the interests of formal education cross. I loved stories and storytelling. My best friend Kerri and I would write scripts for plays for our Barbie dolls to “perform.” My sister and I would collaborate on comic strips. And on my own, I wrote what would now be called fanfiction. About the Pound Puppies cartoon show. I was eight. These things happen, right?

With that sort of focus, you’d think that Creative Writing would have been my favorite subject and as second nature as walking, but you’d fail to account for my basic bloody-mindedness. I just plain don’t like being told to be creative or instructed upon how to express my creativity. My fifth-grade teacher, a well-meaning but ineffectual woman called Mrs. Fish had this dreadful scheme for Creative Writing consisting of a recipe box full of index cards with dreary writing prompts on them. Each week on Monday, she’d pull a card and set us our Creative Writing assignment for the week, due on Friday. At a point during my blighted Fifth Grade year (the year in which I began to rebel at school, rather than just quietly fuck off) I simply quit doing my Creative Writing assignments. I couldn’t figure out anything useful to write about any of the prompts and I just couldn’t see the point. I already knew how to write; I always got good marks on my book reports and essays, and besides, I wrote plenty of stories and poems in my own time.

Of course, you can’t stop doing your schoolwork without it catching up to you, and oh, how spectacularly it did.

Those of you who have been little girls are very likely to have read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls-Wilder. In Little Town On The Prairie, there’s a subplot involving Almanzo Wilder’s sister Eliza Jane, who is working as the school teacher at Laura’s school. She’s a snotty woman who plays favorites and condescends to the children, and before long the student body begins to rebel with mischief, mockery, and rowdiness. The school superintendent ends up paying a visit and The Pigeons Come Home To Roost. Laura and her sisters end up getting a stern talking to by their parents, and they are given to understand that even if they don’t like their teacher, they have to behave and not cause a distraction so that everybody can get the full benefit of education.

Well, my school had a similar Come To Jesus moment. Our teacher, as I mentioned, was ineffectual, to say the least. She was fresh out of college; we were her first (and possibly last) school. She was seriously not cut out for teaching middle-schoolers, and that’s the group she was stuck with. It was not long before we all found ways to pester and try her, and in the horrible way it goes with children, the pranks and misbehavior steadily escalated. It all came to a head during one of the county superintendent’s periodic inspections wherein we were all essentially running riot under Mrs. Fish’s watch. I’d been sent to the board to copy over some spelling words I’d missed, and was deliberately mis-spelling them worse. Two of the boys were having a covert spitball war. The two Eighth Grade girls were openly poring over a Seventeen magazine. Mrs. Holt, he county superintendent, whipped out her clipboard and assuming a prunish expression, began taking notes, tutting, scowling, and looking every inch the ascended teacher herself. We knew there’d be trouble, and so tacitly decided to be hung for sheep as lambs and continued on as we’d begun.

When the Superintendent’s report got back to our parents, emergency Parent-Teacher meetings were arranged. During my parents’ meeting with the teacher, it came out that I had a significant backlog of uncompleted Creative Writing assignments. This meeting, I hasten to add, took place just before our Christmas break. Guess what 10-year-old Michelle got to do for her Christmas holidays in 1987? Yes, something on the order of half a dozen stinky old stale Creative Writing assignments, as well as a choke-a-goat wad of remedial arithmetic problems, fragrantly printed in purple mimeograph ink.

Now, I’ve said today, and I’ve said in the past that I was not an exceptional child. I wasn’t. But I did have a stroke of some sort of diabolical genius while writing my catch-up assignments. It occurred to me that I didn’t have to take the work especially seriously; all I needed to do was turn in one page, front-and-back on the assigned topic. In essence, I realized I could take the piss out of the assignments, and a wee parodist was born. I can’t recall the bulk of what my essays contained. Only one stands out in my memory.

Another back-story digression is required. It’s generally understood that many little girls go through a “horsy” stage. Even if they never own a horse, never ride a horse, never meet a horse in the flesh, they get ideas about horses being rather fantastic. I was never an especially horsy girl, myself, but being a catholic reader, had read my fair share of horse stories. Being, as I said, a catholic reader, I’d read anything with printed words, up to and including some slightly-trashy romance novels one of my Mom’s friends had dropped off for Mom’s benefit. At some point, my loosely-hinged young brain drew a parallel between the glistening-coat-and-rippling-muscles purple prose of schoolgirl horse novels and the smouldering-eyes-and-rippling-muscles purple prose of the romance novels, and that twist of devilishness brought it out in me to write a two page horse story in the most turgid prose possible. Hooves pounded, manes tossed, eyes glinted, and muscles verily did ripple. It was as close to pornographic as could be written by a very backwards ten-year-old, but it would serve.

Didn’t I get an “A” on that stupid essay?! Least deserved grade I’ve ever earned, I’ll tell you that.

Mama said…

Today was a FFS day. A serious, no joking, double-barreled “Oh, for fuck’s sake” sort of day. Mostly because young Joseph has firmly and loudly refused to sleep. At. All. No naps, and now, here it is nearly 9:30 p.m. and he’s still grizzling away.

If someone offered to shoot me, right now, I’d be tempted to consider it.

I knew we’d have a few days like this when I went into this venture. I accept that once in a while, things are going to just plain be shrieky and sucky. It’s just the way these things go.

I suspect a low pressure cell is coming through. It’s been super nice lately, and it’s supposed to switch and get cold soon, and Joseph appears to have an internal barometer, though instead of mercury falling, it’s his good humor which takes a dive. He’s regularly a right little rip when the weather’s about to change, and if today is anything to go by, it’s about to get seriously unpleasant outside right soon.

Anyway, I need to put my hands to better use than typing and see if I can’t rock him down.

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