Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Just The Facts, Ma'am.

I have a tendency to go looking for things like this on other people's blogs. It occurs to me that several months ago I just started writing without preamble (what sort of preamble would be required in a case like this?) and never really gave much thought to introducing myself, the cast of characters, or how I got here.

I'm Molly.

I'm 31.

I'm an only child.

I have two half-brothers (or one whole brother and one total stranger) and six step-siblings.

I am German, Dutch, Scottish, and Irish, which I guess means I am simultaneously stoic, cheap, confrontational, and drunk.

I was born and mostly raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I went to a non-parochial private school starting in fourth grade, as I was not "thriving" in the public school atmosphere. I blame the third-grade teacher who called me "retarded" in front of a class full of third-graders, but if you asked her, it probably could have been my fault too.

I'm not retarded. I prefer "idiot-savant," thanks.

I went to Western Kentucky University as an undergrad. I started out as a photojournalism major and ended up as an English major. I had a startling amount of fun there.

I work for a homeownership development nonprofit in the Washington D.C. area.

I'm married to Dan. He's 36 and an English teacher. He says funny things sometimes. Other times he says things only he thinks are funny, like when he suggested that, to molify pro-lifers, we feed unwanted babies to the homeless.

Dan used to be in the Army. I once asked him about friendly fire. His response: "If somebody shoots you, you probably won't feel very friendly towards them."

Our son is Max. He is two and change. He will probably, at this rate, go away to college wearing the world's largest pair of Pampers.

I went into labor at Sears in Clinton, Maryland. This was every bit as bad as it sounds. Maybe worse.

I like to cook. I also like to read cookbooks, watch the Food Network, and, to a lesser extent, eat.

I like to knit as much as I like to cook. I don't like to read about knitting or watch the DIY Network, however, and I rarely eat what I've made.

We would like another baby. However, unlike last time, it does not seem to be happening for us. If you're just tuning in, I guarantee that you will hear far more about my reproductive pursuits on this blog than you are probably comfortable with.

I started this blog because I became friends with another local blogger and she suggested I should. I'd been rolling the idea around in my head, but I needed the push.

When I was 10, I wanted to be a writer and live in Alexandria, Virginia.

I'm now a writer, but I can't afford the home prices in Alexandria.

Because I'm a writer and married to a teacher, I can barely afford the home prices anywhere in the metro area.

My best friend besides Dan is Kimberly. She is a writer also. She lives in Kentucky and has written a novel. She was my suitemate my freshman year of college. She is married to Michael. They are frequently in town for medical reasons. They're Max's godparents.

I became quite attached to Washington Nationals baseball during their first season in the area, during which I was so completely pregnant that I couldn't do anything but sit on the couch, drink decaffinated, unsweetened iced tea, and watch baseball.

When I was 25, I was diagnosed with type I diabetes. It came as quite a surprise, since I'd never had anything more serious than a particularly uncomfortable case of menstrual cramps up until that point. Yes, I take shots. No, it's not my idea of a good time, but it's vastly preferable to seizures, coma, or death.

I can live without the following: birthday cake, Doritos, space heaters, toaster ovens, dried floral arrangements, processed cheese, area rugs, the Yankees, and uncomfortable shoes.

I cannot live without the following: ice cream, central air conditioning, fresh local produce, stinky cheese, the internet, 600 thread count sheets, and Crocs (oh my God, yes. I know. They're ugly, suburban, cliche, blah blah blah. Go eat a bug. They're also light, cool, incredibly comfortable, and easy on your joints.)

Currently residing on my Celebrity Hump Island: Ben Affleck, Josh Duhamel, Edward Norton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and George Clooney. The Phillip Seymour Hoffman thing is totally inexplicable to me, except that, A.) he has that voice; and B.) He's brainy and funny and talented, and I find those things very appealing.

If I was a rock star, I would be Sheryl Crow. That is not to say that I have any musical ability at all, because I don't. But I'm not an 8-ball-horking blazing hot mess like Amy Winehouse, and I'm not an avant-gard, swan-wearing coolster like Bjork, so I guess that leaves Sheryl Crow.

I named this blog "the nonhipster mom" because I am not one of the cool kids. I have never been one of the cool kids. I think one of my defining characteristics is my lack of social aptitude, and I've chosen to embrace it, since it doesn't appear to be going away.

So. That's enough, I think.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This is so Skull-Punchingly Awesome I can Barely See Straight

My God...just waiting for the technology to catch up.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Can You Smell What The Rock Is Cooking?

After a phone call from the realtor to inform us that the homeowner's association is meeting in two hours to discuss our offer, and another panicked phone call from me to Dan, relating in one long sentence the depth and breadth of my hysteria:

Dan: "Don't worry. I love you, baby. I'm your rock."

Yes you are. I love you too.

*Edited: Contract countered by seller; counteroffer ACCEPTED by all parties as of 6 p.m.!

Friday, August 24, 2007

At Least We Don't Have To Evict Any Crack Whores

As I write this, our real estate agent (if you need one, send me an email and I'll send you his name and number) is writing a contract for an offer on our first house.

We haven't said anything to most people--including our parents--because we get tired of having to answer the "found a house yet?" questions. My mother is the worst. She would call us every day if she thought we'd answer the phone that often: "How's the house-hunting going?" Seriously, I love you, but shove off. WE STILL LIVE IN AN APARTMENT! Does that tell you ANYTHING at all?

There really aren't that many ways for house-hunting to go. We live in a very expensive area and, while we make a good living between the two of us, it's not good enough to afford a $600,000 starter home. Okay, I've talked about my mother, but this is not a woman in touch with the realities of living in the D.C. metro area. She lives in an enormous 4-bedroom, 3-bath modern split level in Kalamazoo, Michigan. When she bought it, Pharmacia, the area's largest employer, had been bought by Pfizer, and all of the employees were gradually being let go or transferred. There were about 15 houses for sale in the three blocks around her house, and suffice it to say, they were a steal. Her beautiful, modern home went for $161,000.

This is not the case here. Where we live, $161,000 will not buy you a one-bedroom condo in a bad neighborhood. And by "bad neighborhood," I mean the kind of neighborhood where you duck when you hear gunfire. The kind where you don't really want to raise kids.

When she was here in May, we looked at a two-bedroom townhouse in Greenbelt, Maryland. That is a long way from where Dan works--45 minutes, easily. This townhouse was listed at $214,900. My mother and I both left in tears, while Dan, inexplicably, went on and on about how much he liked the shed out behind the place.

My reaction: "I would rather be homeless. Like, living in a HOMELESS SHELTER."

My mother's reaction: "They must have listed the price wrong."

Dan: "Did you see that shed? That shed makes me very happy."

Molly: "Would you shut the fucking fuck up about the fucking shed? What the fuck?"

Molly's Mother: "I can't imagine anybody paying $215,000 for that. That looked like a meth lab."

Molly: "When have you ever been in a meth lab?"

Dan: "But the shed..."

And so on. Anybody wonder why I really just wanted to talk about my hair? That house had an entire wall in the living room that appeared to be made out of cardboard, painted to look like exposed brick, nailed to the studs.

But a couple of weeks ago, I saw a listing on Craig's List for a house in Indian Head, Maryland. Indian Head is a long, long, long way away from where I work. It is a long way. I will just leave it at that. It's not so bad for Dan, but this will be a 1-hour commute for me, minimum.

Indian Head, Maryland, is not a very happening place. I did not see myself moving here. It lacks things like Target. And a grocery store.

However, when you find a house that is twice the size, at least, of anything else you've looked at so far, and the price is $150,000 less than the last place you found that you would even consider buying, you make exceptions.

We found a house. And we're making an offer. OMG, BFF. WTF?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Some of the Worst Mistakes

I have notoriously difficult, unmanageable hair. It is curly, but curlier on my left than on my right. It is snarly, baby-fine, and highly breakable. It hangs in my face. It grows fast, and before I have paid the credit card bill for my last haircut, it needs to be cut again. It is a mass of differing, unflattering, and uninteresting colors. I can blow it out straight, but again, it's that snarly, baby-fine, and highly breakable problem again.

I have had a number of extraordinarily bad haircuts over the last 30 years. Some of the worst mistakes I've ever made have been haircuts and colors, including one about a year and a half ago that made me look like the bastard love-child of Eminem and Elton John, bleached and burned out and absolutely not worth the money I was dumb enough to pay for it. Most of the time, it happens when I am feeling down or vulnerable or low, and there is a fair shot that I will feel worse when I leave than I did when I walked in.

I don't like to walk into a salon without an idea of what I want to have happen when I leave. If I walk in without specific directions for a stylist, I leave with the same boring, middle-aged, PTA-mom haircut--long, dull layers, long, dull, face-framing wisps, the assumption that I'll blow my hair out every morning and never wear it curly. Snore. Hair that ends up in a ponytail by 2 p.m. every day.

I googled "Try on hairstyles" the other day. There are numerous websites where you can do exactly this--feed in your picture and then freak the fuck out at the thought of actually doing that to yourself. Here's a pretty good example:

Anybody remember when Nick Nolte got caught doing Ecstacy with those teenage hookers, and passed out in his neighbor's backyard? Remember his mugshot? Yeah, this is me with that haircut. Is this a style anyone who's not addicted to heroin willingly accepts?

Here's another one. I'm planning on doing my hair this way when I audition to be Alby Grant's seventh wife on "Big Love."

Very attractive, no?

This one is less than awful. I think it's actually sort of fun. By the way, this is not terribly far off from the actual color of my hair. It used to be blond when I was little, and has grown progressively darker my whole life. This looks low-maintenance.

One of the difficulties with me and haircuts is that I have a roundish, longish face that may or may not look even rounder and longer based on where my hair hits my face. Not that this is a hairstyle I would choose by any means, but this does illustrate my point:

See? The ubiquitous fucking ponytail is better than this.

This is the haircut I always end up with--the one I was talking about before, with the long layers and the blah blah blah. It's not bad. Just boring.

So. Enough of that. But you get the idea.

Here's another one I'd consider. My fear is that, due to the ungodly humidity here, if I got this haircut, I would spend my entire life trying to convince my hair that it does indeed want to be straight.

Here's the same haircut, on me, without all the straightening.

Wow! Terrific. I may commit suicide.

This is the last one I'm considering. It doesn't make me look, you know, elderly. I really am not that crazy about the fact that a haircut has this much to do with how I feel about myself. But a bad haircut, on me, is just so unbelievably awful, and a good one is such a life-saver.

What do you guys think? I mean, I think I know what I want, but I am not known for my good judgement when it comes to my hair. Throw me a bone.
Lurkers, this would be a great time for you to, you know, out yourselves. Love ya.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sweet and Salty

Several days ago, I ran out of coarse kosher salt. It's one of those kitchen staples that I usually have lots of, but like lots ot things, it just sort of got away from me this summer. Dan picked it up last night at the grocery store before he picked me up from at the Metro. Have I mentioned how much I love the Metro? I do. Public transit is so different here than it is in a lot of cities whose transit systems have deservedly awful reputations. It's clean, convenient, runs on time, and doesn't tolerate a lot of the nonsense that takes place in New York. It saves me a grand total of about forty minutes a day of driving, and I can knit on the commute.

Wow. That paragraph was so utterly stream-of-consciousness, my middle name should be "non sequiter."

Salt. I was talking about salt. So Dan picked up a box of kosher salt at the grocery store.

My whole life, my grandmother kept a crock of kosher salt on her kitchen counter next to her stove. Let me just say that this was a woman who loved salt. When she was dying of metastatic cervical cancer at 94, having radiation and chemotherapy, my mother could always convince her to eat -- as long as the meal consisted of Ensure and bacon. One of her favorite things was radishes, sliced in half and dipped in -- yes, you guessed it -- that exact same crock of kosher salt. It is a wonder that high blood pressure didn't get her, frankly.

The crock is a small brown ceramic one, round and maybe five inches high. It came from the grocery store, filled with Win Schuler bar cheez -- I'm not sure if we have that here, but if you're from Michigan, or maybe northern Ohio, you're probably familiar with Win Schuler. Great stuff. A normal person would have thrown it away when it was empty. Not Gran, though.

My mother, the youngest of four children, was born in 1940. My grandparents married in 1930 and raised their children during the Depression and the second World War. My grandmother once said that she had a fight with her husband about how much sugar he put in his coffee. "Sugar was rationed," she explained. "He would finish his coffee and there'd still be sugar in the bottom of the cup. It made me so mad!"

She had an entire basement filled with food, mostly canned vegetables, mostly having expired somewhere around 1989. Her freezers--that's plural--were filled to bursting with things so frostbitten that they were unidentifiable, even when they were thawed. My cousins and I referred to her basement as The Food Museum. She saved margerine containers, plastic bags, Cool Whip tubs, and--well, basically everything that ever came in the door. My mother once threw away a pile of church lady meeting minutes from 1951. My grandmother barely spoke to her for a week.

When she was speaking, she had a way with words, my Gran. Once, when we were driving somewhere, out of nowhere, she said, "When I was your age, I was married and had three kids."
I had just broken up with my boyfriend of three years. "I know, Gran," I said.

"I'm sure you'd meet someone right away if you weren't so heavy," she told me in a very encouraging tone of voice.

And then I killed her.

Just kidding. But still, this was not exactly music to my ears. I was as thin as I'd been since high school, and substantially less satisfied with my life at that point that I had been in a long time. She sure cut to the chase, my Gran.

I went on my first date with Dan the night before Gran's birthday. That night, I went to her apartment there in her retirement community, planning to take her out for dinner. Instead, she'd cooked--chicken and homemade noodles, my favorite. I offered to take her to Steak 'n' Shake for a malt after dinner, her favorite treat. "Sure," she said. "Let's go to the cemetary first."

"I...okay," I said.

So for her birthday, I drove her to the cemetary where three of her four children, husband, and two grandchildren are buried, then to Steak 'n' Shake for chocolate malts. After we watched "Friends" on television--her favorite TV show--I wished her happy birthday, kissed her good night, and left. On the way out, I called Dan on my cell phone.

"How's your Grandma?" he asked.

"That was the weirdest birthday party I've ever been to," I told him.

Gran was very sick when Dan and I got married, but we got married in her church, which made her very happy. Several days later, she told my mother she didn't think she could live by herself anymore, even in her assisted living community, and should probably move in with them.

We got married in July. I got pregnant in October. Coming back from the doctor's appointment where the doctor confirmed that I was pregnant, my mother called. It was getting close to the end. Gran didn't get out of bed anymore. She wouldn't eat--not even bacon.

I didn't tell her I was pregnant. I really didn't want her emotions about her mother dying to be wrapped up in her emotions about me being pregnant. Besides, it was early. It made sense to wait. I'm not always sure I did the right thing, but based on what my mother said, Gran wouldn't have realized that I was pregnant at all.

My Gran died the first week in November of 2004. She was survived by her daughter, six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild, and Max, four weeks gestation. Her will stated that my mother should receive one quarter of her estate, and the rest should be split among her grandchildren.

This inheratance was sizable, and it allowed me to pay off our car and stay home for a year with Max. That is a really big deal.

My gran had a lot of junk--sixty years worth of margerine tubs, for example. She also had things that reminded me and all of my cousins of our childhood, spent on the southeast corner of Wall Lake in Delton, Michigan, learning to waterski and fish for three-inch long bluegill (my theory is that we caught the same ten fish all summer long every year) and torment each other all summer. I even lived there for a year when I was 22, rent free. Gran was the best roommate I ever had: she didn't use my tampons, borrow my clothes or CD's, or lose my phone messages--probably because she was too hard-of-hearing to hear the phone ringing most of the time. During a storm that summer, the enormous oak tree on the hill in front of the house fell. It knocked down the railing on the deck and flattened a pink plastic flamingo my Uncle Lonnie had once given my mother as a joke, as well as a couple of very old, extremely uncomfortable metal lawn chairs, and just barely missing the northeast corner of the house. Gran said that when she married my grandfather in 1930 and laid eyes on that tree for the first time, she'd said, "That tree won't make it through the winter." The tree made it through the next sixty-nine winters.

My mother made sure that we would all get the things that were most precious to us, that reminded us of Gran and our childhood. Two of my cousins bought the property that her home stood on--one cousin lives next door, in the house that my aunt and uncle built, next door to my grandparents, a crazy upside down house with a huge kitchen on the second floor and a walkout basement of a first floor.

Every time I fill the salt crock on my kitchen counter, I think of my Gran. It's her salt crock, I asked my mother for it, and it wouldn't have been worth a dime to most people. I think she was surprised that I wanted it. But I think of her every time I look at it, and hope that someday, an old cheese crock from the grocery store will be as precious to someone who catalogues my idiosyncrasies for the benefit of the internet, just to show how much they loved me.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Lists Which Have Nothing To Do With Babies or Pregnancy

Ten Things Max Has Said Without Prompting In The Last Week

1. "Yay! Meat!"
2. "Hello, Max! You silly." (To his own reflection in the mirror)
3. "Go potty? No thank you very much." (Potty training has hit a bit of a bump.)
4. "Yah-yah-yah-yah-yah." (In a high falsetto voice, in imitation of me, while waving both hands in sort of a duck's bill fashion, while I attempted to lecture him about something which, clearly, he failed to see the importance of.)
5. "Need hug!"
6. "Eat eat onion. Eat eat apple. Eat eat Daddy." (What does this even mean?)
7. "AWESOME!" (In response to the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?")
9. "Hi Kitty! You go be bad."
10. "Max baby? Baby, of course."

Six Things We Consumed As A Family This Afternoon At Baltimore's Lexington Market, And One More Thing Consumed Several Hours Later
1. Battered and deep-fried onion rings and mushrooms. (Wrong. Just...wrong.)
2. Hot-and-spicy Polish Sausage with this crazy tomato-onion-green chili sauce on it, sort of a really good ranchero sauce.
3. Smoked turkey dog, plain (a la Max)
4. Authentic lamb gyro on pita, with tzatziki and goat feta (Dan declared it as good as the ones he got in the Army in Germany from street vendors, announcing that the only thing that would have made it better was "about fourteen German beers first.")
5. Maryland crab soup from Faidley's Seafood Market with half a crab literally sticking out of the soup (fair--a little too much cartilege left in with the crab.)
6. Calamari, fried when I ordered it, also from Faidley's.
7. Tums.

Ten Reasons Why The America's Test Kitchen "Best Recipe" Cookbook Is So Worth It.
1. Beef tacos
2. Chicken Provencal in the slow cooker
3. Carbonnade Flamande (Belgian beef stew with beer and onions)
4. Garlic Mashed Potatoes (excellent with numbers 2 and 3)
5. Black olive vinaigrette with fresh thyme
6. Buttermilk cole slaw
7. Asian dry rubbed barbecued beef brisket for the charcoal grill
8. Fresh Whole Red snapper a la Vera Cruz
9. Smoked cheddar-horseradish cheeseburgers for the charcoal grill
10 Grilled vegetable pasta salad with red wine vinaigrette (I could write a whole post about my abiding love for vinaigrette, but that would be self-indulgent and boring)

Four Reasons I Took The Day Off
1. Last day before Dan goes back to work and Max goes back to daycare
2. Our house is a disaster area
3. My lovely but occasionally incomprehensable boss is in town after a month traveling, and she is just too effing much to deal with on a Friday
4. Family-friendly comp-time policy

One Thing I Didn't Know Before I Checked My Email Tonight
1. Jamie Lee Curtis is a pseudohermaphordite, and that's why all of her kids are adopted.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Tuesday Morning Random

WARNING: Probably not safe for work...depending on your office, of course.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Ethnic Festivities

On Craig's List this morning:

"Extremely affordable, beautiful rowhome in Baltimore City, totally
rehabbed, near Patterson Park with all its ethnic festivities. "
Ethnic festivities? Am I mistaken, or is this the same Patterson Park where two cops were shot by drug dealers this week? Doesn't anybody but me read Laura Lippman?

Ethnic festivities. The extremely affordable, beautiful rowhome in Baltimore City, by the way, was listed for just under $200,000.

Extra Virgin Fest

Dan and I live in a smallish apartment. To be fair, when we moved into it, we'd been married for two weeks and had just sold all of our furniture and moved halfway across the country. Our smallish apartment seemed vast then--with no toddler, no furniture, and most of our stuff still in storage in Michigan. Now there's barely room to turn around, we own the world's largest couch, and we are feverishly house-hunting for something both affordable should I describe it? Non-crack-den-like.

One thing we haven't had for the three years we've been here is a barbecue grill. We have a tiny deck off the living room that faces the woods between Oxon Hill High School and John Hanson Elementary. These woods are actually quite lovely--full of all sorts of wildlife, including two very angry and aggressive foxes that like to fight underneath our bedroom window at 2 A.M. But the deck is small, and here, there really isn't great weather for grilling--it's either gray, sloppy, rainy, and cold, or hotter than the surface of the sun.

Lately, however, I've been hungry for good, real charcoal-grilled food, not the imitation that the George Foreman Grill approximates. Dan has had trouble resisting the ancient, primordial urge to wield a club and burn animal flesh over an open flame. Last weekend, in Target, we found a small Weber charcoal grill for $30, brought it home, and put it together on the deck.

This hasn't been the best week for grilling--we've had something else going on pretty much every night, including the Nationals-Reds game on Wednesday (best seats we've ever had, thanks to the ticket scalpers outside the Metro--$45 seats for $30!--and the Nats won). But last night, with great determination, we lit the grill and brined a couple of pork chops.

I could not have been more pleased with the result. We buy most of our meat at Sam's Club, not because I am a great fan of Wal-Mart, but because they sell really excellent meat at great prices. I still prefer, for holidays or special meals, to pick up something free range or custom dry-aged at Whole Foods or one of the butchers at Eastern Market, but for every day meals, you can't really beat 93% lean ground black angus for $2.09 a pound. Anyway, these pork chops came from Sam's in a gigantic 9-pound package that I split up into four or five smaller packages and Vacuum-Sealed (I could write a whole post about how much I love my Vacuum Sealer, and all of the things that I Vacuum-Seal, and don't you wish you had one? but I will spare you for now). They were thick-cut, lean, boneless loin chops, brined for two hours in salt and brown sugar, and they could not have been juicier or more tender. I used a rosemary-garlic seasoning mix (also from Sam's; one of the other things I get there is giant packages of seasonings that I use most, like chili powder and this rosemary-garlic stuff) and olive oil, and on the grill, they picked up the best, most delicate smoky flavor. Great stuff.

As an afterthought, I threw a couple of ears of sweet corn in some boiling water and made a wild-rice salad. The wild rice salad was so good and easy to make I thought I'd put the recipe up here, because I am kind of a show-off when it comes to delicious things I just make up.

2 packages Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice Original Flavor
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1 finely diced shallot
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped pecans
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup (more or less, to taste) good-quality balsalmic vinaigrette dressing (I like the Simply Enjoy brand Italian Balsalmic Vinaigrette from Giant, but you can make your own with 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup good balsalmic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, a pinch of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon of pepper, and 1 minced clove of garlic and/or 1 minced shallot, all whisked or shaken together)
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the rice according to the package directions, omitting the seasoning packets. While the rice is cooking, toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat until they smell toasty. Let cool. Combine the dressing, onion, shallot, cranberries, and pecans in a serving bowl.

When the rice is done, rinse it in cold runnning water, shake dry, and mix with the olive oil. Mix with all of the other stuff in the serving bowl, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

This is enough salad for a smallish crowd, but leftovers are great. The sweet corn left something to be desired, but I'm kind of fussy. Maybe we'll try it on the grill next time.

Next up: pasta salad, maybe, with salami and basil and fresh mozzerella? Red-skin potato salad with chervil and dill?