Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ahhhh...winter.

Today, along my errands' trail, there was a detour for some of the interminable road construction. This is the sight that greeted me.

For those of you who made fun of me during the 821 hurricanes I had to undergo...today's high is 71F/22C. Brrr! Winter!

-J.

P.S. Not to give away the surprise, but the place where we'll go for our weekend getaway while TFBIM teaches the lepers how to sing had an overnight low temperature of 23F/-5C13F/-10C (and 6F/-14C forecast the day after we return!)

Posted by Joke at 1:35 PM 12 comments

Monday, January 29, 2007

The tedium is the message.

This is what a typical day looks like:

6:30am - Rise and shine. Well, rise anyway.
6:45am - Prepare what passes for breakfast and pack lunch.
7:00am - Begin issuing threats to the offspring.
7:15am - Assist in the frantic search for the missing article of clothing du jour.
7:20am - Issue sterner warnings, specifically to the effect that, since Mom isn't around, if breakfast is not fully consumed by the designated departure time, we will neither allot extra time nor allow consumables to go along for the ride.
7:30am - Depart for school.
7:47am - Walk back from school's main gate, greet assorted parents and teachers and nuns and others.
8:15am - Return home. Have a breakfast of espresso, orange juice and ____. Exhale.
8:35am - Sprint back to school to drop off forgotten assignment.
9:00am - Check eBay
9:30am - Check my fave blogs
10:00am - Check eBay some more
10:30am - Go work out.
11:30am - Get detained chatting with some of the school moms who also work out at the same place.
Noon - Determine appropriate leftovers to have for lunch
1:00pm - Field calls from clients, answer messages, etc.
2:00pm - Double espresso and a biscotti
2:30pm - Effect pickup. Chat with more moms.
3:00pm - Return to school to pick up missing item crucial to homework.
3:45pm - Issue homework related threats.
4:15pm - Remove some sort of privilege as a consequence of watching TV in lieu of doing homework.
5:00pm - Go biking around the block a few times. Chat with no moms.
6:00pm - Start issuing bath related threats.
6:15pm - Issue reminders of privileges lost and privileges in peril
6:30pm - Begin dinner. This starts with a large glass of wine.
7:00pm - Dinner
7:03pm - Remind offspring that as a Part Time Single Dad, if they don't have dinner, I do not feel guilty if they go to sleep famished and the kitchen gets locked at bedtime.
7:45pm - Clear table
8:00pm - Book time!
9:00pm - Bed time for lads.
9:02pm - Check eBay.
9:45pm - Shower.
10:00pm - Flop in bed to read/blog
10:15pm - Yell hello to TFBIM, explain the various options available for her dinner (reheat tonight's or what leftovers are available)
11pm - Be forced to evacuate the room as TFBIM demands slumber. Read blogs.
11:30pm - Answer emails.
1am - Force myself to sleep.
6:30am - Repeat.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:13 PM 13 comments

Friday, January 26, 2007

All you need to know for today.

1- This is Joke's Book Club suggestion du jour: Hell and Other Destinations by Piers Paul Read. Not quite done with it, but it's a pretty intriguing collection of essays (and I'm not much of a collection-of-essays kinda guy).

2- A mosquito bit me on the edge of my right nostril.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:12 PM 5 comments

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Random weirdnesses

Like all sentient beings, I hate getting spammed. What is really weird is that now that I correspond with some of you lovely people via e-mail (and therefore know your 1st names) and I get a spam message that at first appears from one of you and turns out to be, well:

1- Not, and
2- Naughty

This just happened not 45 seconds ago. Partly because the message was disguised as Something Perfectly Harmless And Not Naughty, and partly because of the acute caffeine deficit in my bloodstream. Anyway, I see I have a message from "Mildred"* (no, it doesn't show email addresses in the mail message list, only the name of the putative sender) with the subject line being something like "What we had been discussing last night" because Mildred and self had exchanged a couple of emails last night. So, groggy fool that I am, I clicked to open it.

It was very naughty. A very flattering offer, no doubt.

The good news was that it wasn't "our" Mildred partially attired like a cheerleader. In sum, I have ratcheted up my Spam filtration thing on my email.

=====

I have tallied up your suggestions for the quick weekend travel. It is now in the hands of the people who run the "fly at the last minute" offers for Delta & American Airlines. Out of sheer curiosity (and courtesy to our Australian cousins) I looked into flying to Australia and cost aside, discovered that, if we were to remain true to the timetable, we LITERALLY had 42 minutes to spend in Australia before boarding the return flight.

======

Since this was my first week back from FT to SAHD, I am just now getting to send off the packages as promised. I know, I'm all derelict and I suck.

======

I am a very tolerant man. Patient, kind, all that. I stumble on posts which decry the things in which I believe...and I let them pass without comment.

However.

There is one thing that is going on that simply cannot be ignored. It has been going on in the USA (cannot speak about the rest of the world) for over thirty years now, and it's an outrage and I cannot hold my peace any longer. I know some of you feel differently -- maybe even ardently so -- but you should consider opposing points of view. Look at things from a different perspective, realize that whomever disagrees with you isn't evil or morally stunted. Imagine that holding fast to a more, say, traditional, viewpoint isn't necessarily exhibiting some atavistic fetish. Be open minded to the possibility your opinion might be changed.

I speak, of course, of improperly shortening the names of things out of convenience.

Not saying "burger" instead of "hamburger" but saying "latte" instead of "caffé latte" or referring to a vodka martini as a "martini." It's been driving me mental. Latte is Italian for milk, and not espresso with milk added thereto. Martini is a cocktail made with @#$%ing gin, not vodka. (There is nothing wrong with a vodka martini, just call it what it is, dammit.)

Please check the impulse to speak such barbarities or, worse, commit them to print.
======
I need espresso. More later.

-J.

* Names changed to protect the innocent and all that.

Posted by Joke at 8:13 AM 14 comments

Monday, January 22, 2007

Not that anyone has asked, but...

The lovely and gracious blackbird posted the following picture in an entry of things she was considering and I chimed in, commenting approvingly thereon, but I feel a compulsion to add to my approval.

I LOVE subway tile.

LOVEITLOVEITLOVEITLOVEITLOVEITLOVEITLOVEITLOVEITLOVEITLOVEIT.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:39 PM 6 comments

"It's you, dude."

For the last two years, people have insisted -- insisted, I tell you -- that I ought watch the film Sideways. At some point, the DVD thereof landed in my life and was filed away with all the other films to watch.

This film was presented to me as charming and clever and sophisticated and oh-so-funny. In a certain way, these descriptions were slightly inaccurate in that this film was dull and depressing, instead.

OMG.

Was this ever dull and depressing. I don't want to say it's singularly unfunny, because it had two scenes which made me smirk approvingly, but these were hardly worth the two-hour hole it cut in my life. For those of you who've been spared a viewing of this film, Paul Giamatti is the schlubby writer who is taking his semi-famous actor friend, Thomas Haden Church, for a One Last Trip up in the wine country, before this friend (THC) gets married. The plan is to go to assorted wineries and sample the various varietals and vintages, etc.

Only THC has other plans. He just wants to, er, get things out of his system. This means we wind up getting a lot more coverage of THC than we bargained for, and just try getting that out of your system. PG's character is unattractive and grating, a neurotic loser who can't get his novel published and cannot get over the fact his wife left him. Somehow these Hardy Boys manage to meet up with Virginia Madsen -- who is trying extra hard to not look ridiculously attractive -- and Sandra Oh, respectively. They go out on a few double dates and while PG is trying to sort out how he feels about VM (who is obviously, if inexplicably, interested in PG's character), THC and SO start having sex at every imaginable opportunity.

Other than being treated to a view of THC's bare buttocks while in flagrante delicto, nothing funny happens here.

Then VM finds out that THC is getting married and tells SO who takes her motorcycle helmet and bashes up THC, who winds up in the hospital. VM is mad at PG for being an accomplice and tells him to buzz off. PG, who is on the edge to begin with, gets all depressed and starts drinking those fancy-ass bottles of wine they discussed. Then VM changes her mind and calls PG, who drives back up to her place. The End.

Nice, huh?

I wouldn't have minded all the emotional baggage weighing down the film, if it had been actually funny. Which, I hasten to add, it was not. The problem is that the acting is actually pretty good, so you get to really revel in the loser-ishness and the aforementioned emotional baggage of the moribund screenplay.

So, um, don't watch this film. Have some wine, instead.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:13 AM 12 comments

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Coincidence? I think not.

How to pursue SAHDness without sadness.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:50 PM 9 comments

I'm a rocket man.

It's a weird green. The proper name in English is "rocket" and the French call it roquette, the Italians -- being Italian -- call it ruggetta, rucola or (as we do here) arugula.

I love it.

The lovely and gracious Stomper Girl has a garden seemingly overrun with it. So, in the spirit of hands across the water* here are my fave recipes.

Panini Classico

(recipe is per person)
4 tissue-thin slices of prosciutto (di San Daniele is my fave, but use di Parma if nothing else is available...even an very artisanal local one might repay inspection)
1 plum tomato (I like the San Marzano variety and Roma is also good, but anything FRESH will do nicely)
EVOO for drizzling
2 slices (1/2" or 1cm thick) of really good bread...something in the sourdough or Pane Bigio family
4 slices (1/4" or 1/2cm thick) FRESH mozzarella
6 large rocket/roquette/ruggetta/rucola/arugula leaves

Assemble all of the solids ingredients between the slices of bread, drizzle EVOO on the inside and outside of the bread. Place on a heated skillet/griddle and weigh down until the cheese just begins to melt, then flip over. Cook until the cheese really gets melty. Remove and eat.

Spaghetti with rocket/roquette/ruggetta/rucola/arugula and chile

(serves 4 Italians or 8 normal people)

1 lb. (1/2 kilo) dry spaghetti, I prefer de Cecco
EVOO
2 cloves garlic, sliced as finely as your patience will allow
1 dried red chiles, crushed pretty fine (or two pinches red pepper flakes)
1 can anchovies or 1 Tbsp anchovy paste (I prefer the paste, by Amore)
2 handfuls rocket/roquette/ruggetta/rucola/arugula, plus an extra handful for garnish
1 1/2 lemons, juiced and zested
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano cheese, finely grated

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water till al dente. Heat a little EVOO (in a large skillet, figure on two good swirls around the pan) then add the garlic, chile, and anchovies. Add the rocket/roquette/ruggetta/rucola/arugula, toss and add the lemon zest. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice.

Drain the spaghetti then toss it with the sauce, taste and season if needed. Place on a plate and pile the extra handful of wild rocket on top with a good sprinkling of grated Parmesan.

OPTIONAL: Add cooked, shredded chicken or small (30-40 count) shrimp.

Arugula "Pesto"

4 cups packed fresh rocket/roquette/ruggetta/rucola/arugula
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup EVOO
2 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted, plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablet --really!-- vitamin C (optional, this helps keep the color)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano

Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put the arugula in a large sieve and plunge it into the boiling water. Immediately immerse all the arugula and stir so that it blanches evenly. Blanch for about 15 seconds. Remove, shake off the excess water, then plunge the arugula into the ice water bath and stir again so it cools as fast as possible. Drain well.

Dry the arugula with your hands until very dry. (This is key.) Roughly chop the arugula and put in a food processor. Add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste, olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts, and the vitamin C. Blend for at least 30 seconds. In this way the green of the arugula will thoroughly color the oil. Add the cheese and puree to combine. The pesto will keep several days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

Pull out before dinner to get to room temperature. Before serving, add the remaining 1 tablespoon toasted pinenuts.

Grilled Chicken with Gremolata and Arugula Salad

Gremolata and chicken:
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning
3/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 lb. chicken, cut into 4 oz. cutlets
Olive oil spray
Freshly ground black pepper

Arugula salad:
2 bunches/handful arugula, stemmed and leaves torn
1/4 head radicchio, separated and leaves torn
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon EVOO
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the gremolata: Smash the garlic cloves, sprinkle with the salt, and with the side of a large knife, mash and smear the mixture to a coarse paste. Chop the parsley leaves with the garlic paste. Stir the parsley mixture with the lemon zest, juice, and olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside.

Preheat a grill pan or nonstick skillet to medium high. Spray the chicken cutlets lightly with the olive oil and season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Grill the chicken, in batches if necessary, to avoid crowding the pan, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Put each cutlet on a plate and top with the gremolata.

Toss the arugula, radicchio, and tomatoes with the 1 teaspoon olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and divide among the plates. Serve immediately.


HTH, SG!

-J.

* Whatever the Hell that means.

Posted by Joke at 5:39 PM 4 comments

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Democracy in action!

OK.

I need quickie weekend getaway suggestions for Feb. 2-4, 2007.

Here are the parameters:

We can fly out of MIA as early as 2:30pm or FLL as early as 3:30pm on Feb. 2nd.
We HAVE to be back in our own beds in our house by 10pm on Feb. 4th at the very latest.
We really aren't wired for long flights or overlong layovers or multiple stops.

This pretty much rules out West Coast stuff since, if we could find a nonstop flight, that'd entails no less than 6 hours on an airplane. And there are precious few nonstops these days, even fewer which meet our time constraints. Which is a damned shame, since there are some dear friends in Phoenix we haven't see in forever and this would have been an ideal thing to do.

Someplace historic-ish would be good. Y'know, monuments and musea and cool old buildings. Decent places to eat and a modicum of shopping. Kid-friendly. For a weekend we'll brave frigid temperatures, since we are pretty happy with ours.

Suggestions?

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:39 AM 10 comments

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Oh, yeah, I meant to tell you...

NOS is in love.

And now, for some background.

As the conscious among you will recall, I have some clients who are Argentine. When you have Argentine clients, whether you like it or not, you also have friends for life. So, when a client's daughter comes to study at Tropical University you have to be all hospitable and stuff and get her all set up.

So, we all go and fetch her and give her a tour of the campus and all that and we noticed that NOS has noticed that said client's daughter is, frankly, a hottie. She thought NOS was all kinds of cute and he about ruptured something from blushing. Then he started showing off the way only 9 year old boys can show off when they are trying to impress someone twelve years older. Then she'd say something to him and he'd clam up* and duck down.

He hasn't actually begun, y'know, pining...but this is a signal that, as the Pirates of the Caribbean narration tells us, "there be rough waters ahead."

-J.



* At LAST! Something that works!

Posted by Joke at 2:05 PM 6 comments

More or less back to normal.

Today is the first "real" day of SAHDness. After all, the first day of anything never really counts. One gets brought up to speed, one sorts of shakes off rust, etc.

Today I have not much to do. Just errandy sorts of things.

I'm also planning a weekend getaway with the two lads. TFBIM -- in the middle of tax season, mind -- is taking off to go to one of her "Teaching The Lepers How To Sing" conferences. So, rather than stay at home bored, I figured I'd see where ridiculous airfares might take us for a weekend. So far, Chicago and Washington DC are leading the pack of choices.

More to come.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:56 AM 5 comments

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Whoa.

Today, being the first day of SAHDness 2007, I got curious and went to check out this blog's stats.

Two surprising facts:

1- I have 18 readers from the UK. Successful lurkers to a person. In 25 months and 720something posts, they have managed to stay utterly silent.

2- I have a reader from Iran. As in, yeah, THAT Iran. If I am in some way responsible for these guys overthrowing their gummint, then cool. Fortunately I have posted no sensitive materials, unless excellent recipes can be used as means of global conquest.

One non-surprising fact:

Australia leads the world in the least lurky readers. Fully 80% of the Australian readers comment, a feat unmatched by any other nation. In fact, no other nation even approaches the possibility of perhaps coming even remotely close.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:02 PM 10 comments

Name that tune.

In many respects* I have terrible luck. Whenever I am playing board games I can be counted upon to roll the worst possible combinations of the dice, for example. Whenever something pressing is, er, pressing my cell phone dies or I get a nasty cold on my 1st full day of SAHDness.

But one area which vexes me with Murphy's Law is music. Allow me to explain.

Sometimes I'll be minding my own business and a great new song will come on the radio. I'll listen to it and I will love it and I want to go to the intelligent person's version of iTunes and download it. But I didn't catch the title/artist. Then I catch the end of the song another time, and the title/artist were announced at the front...or just as the DJ is about to say the name of the song and the artist who performs it, some @#$% will interrupt me and I'll miss it.

It's even more annoying when you have a cold from Hell.

-J.

P.S. I'm blanking on the lyrics, and the pitiful thing is that Badger knows the song, whatever it may be.

* Not in anything, y'know, important.

Posted by Joke at 1:39 PM 19 comments

Friday, January 12, 2007

Househusband: The Warm Up

Over the last couple of days I have started to shake off the grim remnants of 60+ hour workweeks* and have begun to get ready for SAHDness. To get acclimated, I started taking NOS to his after school thing, picking up NTS from his after school thing and started doing 2-a-day workouts, doing assorted errands and all that.

It's sorta fun meeting up with The Moms (even the Mom Mafia types are polite to my face) all of whom tell me:

1- My kids are so big.
2- To say hi to my wife.

As we've covered before in our previous class, there are the assorted types of moms, and one other SAHD who is a VERY kept* man. It's funny how they all sorta blob together according to subtype. The Mafiosi ovah theah, the Power Moms (the ones who treat parenting as if it paid well into the 6 figures and dress the tasteful-but-jawdroppingly-expensive part), the Fun Moms, etc. They all more-or-less like me, but the more time one of them spends on the cell phone, the less likely she is to be a pal.

As part of my SAHDness (and in compliance with my previous post) I started making Healthier Dinners. My kids (and TFBIM!) will be getting more vegetables and less of the flesh and starches. So, last night I made a very basic teriyaki chicken. I had a lot of leftover thighs in the freezer and miscalculating badly, put them all to marinate. So I had to grill off the whole lot. Only it was rainy, so I had to use the indoor grill. Only the fan cut out halfway through, so I had to turn on the ceiling fan and open the window. Only the window wouldn't open because the rail from the hurricane shutter had not been removed. But it all worked out in the end. My family ate of the chicken, and some sesame-garlic asparagus and some jasmine rice with ginger and chile.

So that was good. Other than dealing with the smoke issue, the whole thing was no more than 25 min. start to finish.

The biggest change, for those of you who haven't/don't have to switch from FT work to SAH work is in dealing with being pulled in seventeen different directions when you're used to nearly drowning in only one direction. Whereas at the office I may spend weeks, even months, sweating out one thing that could mean either untold wealth or the end of life on the planet...at home I have to do all "the little things," usually at once. At work I may give my brain over to finding a solution to X only to discover that 7 hours have somehow evaporated, but at home I sprint in eighteen different directions only to discover 3 minutes have elapsed.

It takes some getting used to, is all.

-J.

* Remember kids, God made work as punishment.
** A/k/a that lucky bastard...he has a trophy wife who makes $$$$$$ and keeps him in rarefied designerwear and sports cars and a house the garage of which is larger than my first house. AND he is a very nice guy.

Posted by Joke at 7:58 AM 14 comments

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Year, clean start

There is an insidious little something I have noticed as I age. This is a very unique-to-me manifestation of a universal phenomenon. Given my work/SAHD schedule I had always put on a few pounds and then shed them.

Well.

Going through my closet, inventorying the place, I noticed that over the last 6-7 years the gain/loss thing has shifted, slowly but inexorably, towards the gain side. I'd started at X, reached Y and then went back to X. But at some point, I never quite reached X again. Since X.1 was close enough to X, I paid it no mind. Then I reached Y.2 and figuring that wasn't materially worse than Y, I--you guessed it!--paid it no mind.

The enemy, in my case, is snacking. For 2007, snacking has got to go, evicted like a dissolute brother-in-law. This is something I have to monitor SAHDly. This year I was rather diligent and after I lost the previous season's weight (mind you, we're not talking about drastic amounts here) I was careful to not exceed the peak.

The goal, boldly enough, is to get to see my abdominals again. The plan is to really make a dent in this regard and then (the brain-surgery-is-easier part) to keep the momentum going as I hit my heavy season.

The upside to all this is that this will afford me a focus point during my SAHD time. With both kids in school and, um, less of a penchant for ::cough, cough:: over-volunteering, I'll have no excuse. I'm just on the wrong side of 40, so I'm getting that now or never feeling.

The nice thing about being a SAHD is that all the moms never ask you to head up this committee or help out with that event. They figure a Y chromosome renders you hopeless and they rarely ask. If they do ask, and if it's an absolute nightmare, the Y chromosome allows me to say "Um, no, thanks." and then not brood or feel guilty. After all, I have books to read. Even better is that when the inevitable bake sales arrive, I get to show off my plumage amid the stacks of brownies and bales of chocolate-chip cookies.*

I might make it to a few meetings of a few things, but I have heard through the grapevine** that I ran afoul of some of the Mom Mafia*** with some of my "impertinent questions" **** and this has freed up more time.

Mind you, I still have to make periodic appearances at the office, return calls, etc. but it's a very impressive thing to behold how much lighter my schedule is today than it was the last working Wednesday of 2006. As in "several standard deviations" less.

And now, to run errands.

-J.

* Honestly, is that ALL people can think of?
** The moms with the cell phones surgically attached to their heads.
*** The moms with two minivans, who name their children Jared and Madison and have them doing 6 extra curricular activities...none of them well.
**** The event that likely caused me to be labled--quite correctly--as impertinent;
Mom-in-chief: I think we should go with the children and help build the playground for [school in Little Haiti].
Me: Um, how is our collective Creole French?
Mom-in-chief: Um...a little rusty.
Me: And our construction skills?
Mom-in-chief: I'm guessing we don't have any.
Me: So basically we'd only go there for the purposes of getting a sunburn and be extra mouths to feed?

Posted by Joke at 9:18 AM 12 comments

Friday, January 05, 2007

Your year-end bonus. UPDATED!

Dear Internet,

We have reached that time of the year as a family when we know Holiday Season and Tax Season are equidistant. This moment is defined by TFBIM going mental over "the appalling mess that our house has become" with unarchived gifts, boxes, etc. while she is still at home to harry and nag the rest of us to help achieve her vision of domestic limpidity.

So, while we're in Purge Mode I hereby offer you -- FREE! -- one of the leftover goody bags from her surprise birthday party. One has already been earmarked for Poppy, who couldn't attend this year; so that one is off-limits.

The other six (as pictured here) are up for grabs. The rules are simple:

1- You have to email me and tell me you want one.
2- Shipping is on me.
3- One per household.
4- In case of a tie, lurkers get preference on TWO of the six bags.
5- FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED. I don't want any fights.
6- You pay whatever taxes, tariffs, duties, fees, charges levied by whatever semi-socialist jurisdiction in which you have chosen to reside.

Fair?

-J.

UPDATE!
I have received your requests and unless two regulars are bumped by as-yet-unknown lurkers by, oh, tomorrow morning...things will go out as they stand.

Posted by Joke at 10:00 AM 6 comments

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Assorted and trivial bits.

The car already has 239 miles on it. In two days. With no long-distance trips or anything. Let that thought process through your brain for a moment.
*****
If you have a retailer who stocks it, run--don't walk--and load up on Domaine Chandon's Blanc de Noirs. It's pretty dry, but given that it's "the classic blend" of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with some Pinot Meunier (sp?) thrown in for good measure, it’s soft and round and elegant at the same time. This is a really wunnerful sparkling "champenoise" with rich strawberry 'n' cream/peaches 'n' cream and vanilla flavors that are nuanced and complex. Think of buttery, shellfish-ish appetizers and you may just swoon and make noises. After New Year's, I managed to find it for $15. FIFTEEN.
*****
There is a non-scandal scandal in my extended family. Since many of you expressed sincere wishes to get mo' background on my less-than-functional cousin, I thought I'd share the news, pretty much as I received it.

OK. This cousin is my mom's sister's daughter. She has two children, Boy Cousin and Girl Cousin. The former has somehow managed to get and (thus far) stay a functional human being and is one of the few relatives I have with whom I'd be friends if he weren't related to me. GC is, um, not. Let's just say she takes after her mom.

Now. My aunt and my uncle got remarried to each other a few years back and set up housekeeping as husband and wife, she moving into his house. She then, for some inexplicable reason, signed over the deed to her house to GC. For equally unfathomable reasons, GC's dad also signed over HIS house to GC. So, one day GC up and sold both houses and for good measure managed to get my uncle to hand over almost $50K to her, somehow. Frankly, GC has shown infinitely more initiative and proven herself more calculating than I would have imagined. Other than the fact she shafted BC--her brother--out of half of the inheritance, my hat is off to her.

Everyone else in the family is appalled and shocked. Much like people are appalled and shocked when they leave their wallet behind and the money goes missing. My bet? GC will go all Prodigal Son and, once the cash runs out, everyone will forgive her.

*****

In about a week or so, I go back to being a SAHD.

That is all.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:17 AM 9 comments

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The abbreviated version of the whole thing.

Some of you may have had your appetites whetted by pictures of TFBIM's rocket* with four doors. The more sentient among you will not be fully satisfied until you get a thorough accounting of our trip to Poppyville.

As longtime readers, you will recall I (sometimes solo, sometimes with TFBIM) travel to Poppyville once or twice per year. This year we took those whom we have offsprung that they may loiter and frolic with Poppette and Master Buxom. Seeing as how this was our kids' first trip there, TFBIM was bound and determined to do all the touristy stuff which was okay. Since there are retail emporia not present (or not present any longer) down heah, as well as different merchandise in those that are, I also insisted on purchasing assorted bits and pieces. It is a good thing that Poppyville sits atop a glacier and is hemmed in by tundra and permafrost, because at the Ralph Lauren flagship store, all gentlemen's swimwear was down about 80% in price and I was powerless to resist. I was also compelled to add to my cufflink/studs collection. Oh, and Mark Bittman's latest cookbook.

TFBIM was also bouyed by a real-life Lord & Taylor store (which left us about 6 years ago) and therefore she managed to help line the pockets of both Mr. Lord & Mr. Taylor. To say nothing of how we availed ourselves of the surfeit of appalling souvenirs available in Major Metropolitan Areas. Perfectly ridiculous coffee mugs, plates, snowglobes, magnets, tee shirts and keychains all managed to find a place in our luggage.

We also exchanged giftage with the Buxoms and, after almost nine months, I was able to finally rid myself of the Official Preppy Ice Bucket and Official Preppy Book Bag which I had found online for Poppy. Also a Mac software thing (a DK guidebook on CD-ROM) that shows a lot of the stuff those Master & Commander books mention. And a Viyella shirt that may be for Poppy or TSMPM, depending on who wins the argument.

At one such place, the Buxoms and the Jokes finally stopped for lunch at what is Poppyville's best-kept secret. As is usual when we get together, things just sparkled and there was much sweetness and light. We went to lunch and the children more or less behaved and the adults conversed and laughed and had seared tuna "nachos" and the like. We agreed to times and arrangements for later that evening, given it was New Year's Eve.

The original plan was for us to retire relatively early and fetch our kids and head back to our hotel. This is because NTS is, um, not much of a sleeper and he can get all kinds of fidgety...something which doesn't jibe well with adults trying to recuperate from an champagne-suffused evening. But upon further reflection we agreed that we'd let our kids do a sleepover thing. (Our pediatrician had suggested that we try a half-cap of melatonin on NTS to regulate his sleep cycle and that had been working very, very well. Naturally, NTS is still a bit young to swallow pills easily, so we crush it up and mix it in with yogurt or ice cream, etc.) Upon decanting our lads at Poppy HQ, we had left a small scoop of ice cream suitably mixed up with the melatonin, and trusting Fate, we departed.

As a side note, I must out Poppy as having looked splendid. She arrayed herself in such a way that if someone had told you the NYE shindig was, in point of fact, Poppy's, you'd have believed it. Only later did she confess to how frugal she was in the acquisition of her outfit. Poppy knows what works on her and in conjunction with her bonhomie and generally raucuous demeanor it all worked gloriously. Had I been allowed a word edgewise, I would have told her so well before now. To show you what an amazing pal Poppy is, she even remembered my black-tie raiments were different from those worn on our previous black-tie occasion and had the audacious grace to comment to the effect I was elegant. Had I any decency, I would have blushed richly.

Our respective spouses guiltily lagged behind and made goo-goo eyes at each other (they call it "conversation" and I suppose they looked quite swellegant their own damned selves) while Poppy waxed vulgar, but with such elegance and suavity that Emily Post herself would have applauded, whistled and demanded an encore of the wisecrack involving the livestock with stiletto heels. No mean feat that.

We met up with some of their friends whom we'd known from before, met others whom we hadn't (Poppy regaled one or two with the "we met on the Internet" story, which made me giddy.) and generally had a swell time. I made cruel fun of a friend of Poppy's who currently resides -- yet again -- on her naughty list, and generally conversed merrily with others. All of which stands to reason, as we started out at her place with a cocktail, then drank champagne, then had wine (Jekel 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon) with dinner (yummy but impossibly rich) and champagne again. Shortly around 12:15ish we decided to call it a night. Had we traveled sans children I would have liked to prove, once and for all, that I actually enjoy dancing. This will have to keep until next time.

As it turns out, NTS was not in the mood to eat and thus having the Mickey Finn Vanilla Ice Cream proved, er, difficult. This was compounded by NOS "helping" with the ice cream, meaning that NTS got half the dose or so, which led to his waking up around--gulp--5am. When Poppy informed me of this detail, my heart

just

@#$%ing

sank.

It wouldn't have been so bad had the grownups retired early-ish. But this meant that Poppy and TSMPM were running on maybe 5 hours of sleep the next day. (Memo to Poppy: Please feel free to charge us a dowry if Poppette marries NTS.) Catholic guilt over the matter haunts me to this very moment, inexorably so.

Other than that we had a lovely New Year's Day, going to the zoo, having lunch and hanging out until a sleep-deprived NTS demanded a shower at Chez Poppy and (since we had to decline his request) proceeded to launch a crying jag. After which he was fine. He has been taking his melatonin and sleeping his allotted hours and his brother has NOT been "helping" in this regard. As I said before, during our flight home, TFBIM was all verklempt** at the unfailing kindness and all around militant niceness of Poppy and TSMSM. We are very, very lucky to count them as pals. MWAH!

-J.

* She was "inadvertently going 90mph" when she realized what was what and slowed down.

** This is not QUITE what our Aussie cousins would consider sooky. It's about two train stops before reaching sooky, but one stop past lump-in-the-throat.

Posted by Joke at 1:17 PM 4 comments

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Well, since you asked.

OK, here are pictures of TFBIM's Christmas gift. Alfa Romeo (duh!) 168 Super.Gorgeous! Fast! Surprisingly economical!
Who says I cannot wrap gifts? (Notice the "Euro-style" license plate space. I gotta buy the little light thingies that fill in that space and also illuminate the license plate. But that's a peccata minuta type of thing.)
Cavernous, innit?
My favorite screenshot from the DVD manual (which includes a scene named "Autobahn Run" which also features toddlers sleeping at this speed).

And the cabin. Notice my rather space-efficient wife has scooted up the seat as far as it'll go.

And there you have it.

-J.


Posted by Joke at 5:50 PM 10 comments

A ramble for the New Year.

First!

I just wanted to let everyone know that Poppy, and indeed all the Buxoms, are human gems. Poppy and TSMSM allowed our kids to sleep over (rather than having us pick up our lads at 12:something and haul them back to the hotel) and were gracious enough not to wince openly when NTS decided to get all insomniac and then when he had a hissy-fit after returning from our little field trip to the zoo.

In fact, TFBIM was all verklempt on the ride to the airport that Poppy et al. were so manifestly kind and lovely. To shower irony on the matter, as our travel day got worse, NTS behaved like an angel. How he can stand waiting at the baggage claim for seventy minutes with nary a peep, but caterwauled like a soprano being thrashed to death with a bagpipe upon being denied a chance to shower at Poppy's...frankly, it's a mystery.

Beyond these bare facts what you need know is that we had a wonderful trip and Poppy made my year by announcing to several important people that we had met on the Internet.

Photos of TFBIM's car to follow in the morrow.

We love you Poppy and auxiliary Buxoms! MWAH!

-J., speechlessly grateful.

Posted by Joke at 1:18 AM 2 comments