Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Dream About Spike

I can't remember the details, but last night I did, indeed, dream about Spike. I think we were in love, and I was in danger from someone else, and he was so sweet and made me feel so safe.

I think this means that I might be ready to end the Buffy hiatus (instituted because of Buffy burnout in the midst of Season Six).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You Know What's *Really* Hard?

Well, first of all, apparently, typing a blog post title is really hard, seeing as how I failed to do so correctly on the last post which should have read, "You Know What's Hard?"

Second, and more to the point of this post, parenting is hard. Specifically, it's really hard to know--in the face of things that challenge the kids--when to push them, when to just encourage them, when to comfort them, and when to just back the hell off.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

You What's Hard?

Trying to knit with a kitten in your lap.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I have just fluffed away the morning in a way that is very unsatisfying--except for the 30 minutes during which I drank my chai latte and read the new Sunset magazine* while listening to the new Sheryl Crow album. It all felt very summery, despite the cold, heavy fog that seems permanently settled over our little nook of California.

*Reading said magazine made me want to hit the road and go to a national park or, better, yet, buy a cheap mining claim in the mountains and built a pre-fab DIY cabin.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Clever Analysis or Closing Argument?

So I'm 30 pages into the "chapter" draft that I'm working on, and I'll need to do at least five more before I do some basic editing and revising and send it to my supervisor. The good thing is that she is willing to read really rough drafts and give me very helpful feedback without making it sound like I'm an ignorant tool.

But as I was writing, I started realizing that what I was writing seemed less like a detailed, sophisticated analysis and more like a desperate closing argument. What I mean is that I was making an argument about my author that, to me, seems important and right on target (of course). And in the writing I was focusing really hard on just laying out the case with evidence. I think it might come across as if I'm just doing a lot of shouting and pointing. But, hey, it's a place to start, right?

My bigger concern is that my supervisor will say, "Um, exactly how does this relate in any way to the other 'chapter' drafts you've submitted?"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Things I Did While the Family was Camping for the Night: A List

3:00--Did the dishes and put bed sheets in the wash.
3:30--Fluffed around on the Internet for an hour while trying to find motivation.
4:30--Got really great work done for about three or four hours*.
8:30ish--Ate spaghetti while watching an annoying indie romantic comedy.
10:36--Considered going to bed before realizing that I forgot to put the bed sheets in the dryer.
11:00--Decided to watch the first part of Possession while the sheet dried.
12:45--Went to bed, wondering why I wasted my time on the first stupid movie while I could have been watching Possession instead (is it weird that I can't remember whether or not I've seen it before?).
1:00-8:00am--slept great
8:00-8:30--lay in bed, in the quiet house, thinking (because I could).
8:45--Back at the computer with tea.

Now I'm sure there will be some e-mails typed, a bit of Internet fluffing, then back to work.

*And by "great work," I mean productive work, not sophisticated or brilliant (or even very good) work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nose to the Grindstone

I just kissed the kids and hubby goodbye so that I can stay home and work on my dissertation while they go camping for the night somewhere up around Big Sur. I am slightly mollified by the fact that we are calling this trip a "recon mission" and in a couple of weeks, we'll all go together on the "real" camping trip*.

I am not mollified, however, by how quickly the summer is flying by. I still have a bazillion chores to do. And remember that 20 pages of academic writing that I wanted to finish by mid-June? I'm only 16 pages in. So it's nose to the grindstone today, tonight, and tomorrow so that I can finish up something and send it off (which is difficult to do since it's not really "finished"). You're probably all snorting at my silly 16 pages, aren't you?

It shouldn't be too hard focus on work today since it's foggy and 57 degrees out, which is pretty much the norm these days. Although I must say that yesterday was beautiful--sunny and high 60s or maybe even 70--which was great because it was our anniversary. My mom had the kids--thanks, Mom!--so we had a leisurely morning over the newspaper, and then we walked to a great little Thai place for lunch, and then we hit the farmer's market on the way home, where hubby bought me a bracelet, a necklace, and some flowers.

Okay, enough recounting of leisure time. It's time to dissertate.

*I feel so much like the un-fun wet blanket of the family, and I worry that the kids will forget all of the things I did with them and only remember the things I didn't. Family reunions will go like this, "Hey, Mom, remember that one time when we were camping and . . . Oh, that's right, you weren't there."

[Edit to add:// If I get enough work finished before dinner, I might watch a movie. Any good recommendations--chick flicks or otherwise--that are available on Netflix instant play?]

[Edit again:// Five pages written, so I'm at page 21! Good progress. Also, I know where to start tomorrow for at least five additional pages, perhaps more. Also, no word from hubby in the kids. I'm sure they can't call me because they don't have phone coverage, but I hate not knowing where they are while also knowing that they can't call someone if they need to. Very unsettling. Do any phone carriers specialize in deep woods cell coverage? Bah. I hope worrying won't keep me from sleeping. Maybe I'll have an extra glass of port after dinner.]

Friday, July 16, 2010

Battle of the Brontes: It's ON!

At last night's book group meeting, we decided to take a hiatus from Don Quixote. Some of us will keep reading and report back to the rest of the group about whether or not we, as a group, might want to read the Second Part. Let's face it, episodic plots are challenging for modern readers.

In the meantime, we were casting about for our next book. In the summer we usually do classics, and one of the members said that he'd like to do something by a woman writer since his current writing project involves some female POV. Someone mentioned Wuthering Heights. And then we got in a little Bronte debate--Jane Eyre vs. Wuthering Heights, and then I recommended a Battle of the Brontes*. (I was inspired by a recent post by the Steel Magnolia about her progress with WH.)

I, myself, love love love Jane Eyre, but I have never read Wuthering Heights. I have tried once of twice, but I haven't gotten into it. But now is my chance.

It turns out that most of the book group members are very familiar with one or the other, but not both. As a result, for the next meeting, we'll each read whichever one we haven't read or haven't read in a long time. Then, we will have a comparative discussion.

I must admit that I'm going in with extreme bias.

*It seems fitting that in the above portrait, they look ready to fight. (Photo source:

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Remember this?

Well, now it looks like this:

And this:

I know. Amazing, huh? I can hear your applause and see your herkies. And while the closet is not quite as beautiful as it was when it was empty, it's still quite tidy and, I think, functional:

Now I just have to work on this:

But first, I need to eat some leftover Thai food and then hit Don Quixote before book group.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Group Fail

Okay, well, I haven't actually failed yet.

I am supposed to read the first 200 pages of Don Quixote for our next meeting, but I'm only on page 25 or so, and the meeting is tomorrow.

It's not that I don't like DQ. So far, I think it's quite funny, and it's interesting for me to think about it as contemporary with Spenser's FQ. Also, I'm so stoked to have a book with a plot (even an episodic one), especially after some of the recent books for book group that were extremely light on plot unity. But I'm only a little ways into the book because it's hard to find the time to read between cleaning closets, working on the dissertation, reading the first Stephanie Plum book, and re-watching Season 3 of Lost in the evenings with hubby*.

I know. I'm such a philistine.

Right now, I'm at a coffee shop, with a scone and chai latte, working on the dissertation, and Don Quixote is here on the table, just looking at me like one of those Geico money stacks with the googly eyes.

No matter. Back to Eliza Haywood and Book 18 of The Female Spectator. With my scone and latte.

*After we watch Season Three, we'll re-watch Season Four. We have already re-watched Season Five. We're preparing for the release of Season Six on DVD in August. We have not yet watched any of Season Six, so no spoilers, please! Also, in light of all of this, we've taken a break from Buffy, which is okay, because when we hit Season Six of Buffy, we got kinda burned out. Did this happen to any other Buffy fans?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Dissertation 15

We've all heard about the Freshman 15, but what about the Dissertation 15? Does every PhD student gain weight while sitting on her arse, doing endless reading and writing? Or is it just me?

I lost weight during spring semester when I taught everyday. Now that it's summer, despite recreational activities, the pounds are creeping back. I blame the dissertation.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sleepin' with the Fishes!

Prepare to be jealous. I'm sorry. I don't mean to gloat, but you really need to be prepared.

This weekend, we spent Saturday night at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. And I do mean that we spent the night at the aquarium itself. As in, we slept by the Outer Bay tank, staring up at giant tuna and hammerhead sharks, and at 4:00a.m., I walked barefoot to the bathroom to pee as if I owned the place. Sunday morning, we even took a picture of the Girl naked in front of the tank when she was changing out of her jammies, just prove we slept there (of course, I'm not going to post such a picture, so, really, you still have to just take my word for it).

Apparently, the aquarium lets people do this. Usually, it's groups of scouts or something of that nature, but families can do it, too*. We are very lucky to have a friend who captains a sailboat that the aquarium contracts for it's sailing tours. And that friend got us in for free. So it was just their family and ours, sleepin' with the fishes. Well, and a large boy scout troup, but they were out of hearing range.

We also got a behind-the-scenes tour, and the next day, when all of the other aquarium "campers" had to leave, we got to stay. In fact, for about 20-30 minutes we were the only people (other than staff) in the place. I swear, I felt like we were breaking the law.

And all of this happened after we got to go on a sunset sail on the boat that our friend captains. Monterey Bay was calm and beautiful, and we even saw a basking shark, which is, apparently, quite rare these days. And there was wine, cheese, and cookies. And hubby got to help hoist the sail and steer the boat and, of course, now he wants one. But since this boat is a two-million dollar beauty (which my skipper friend does not own, of course), hubby will be getting no such thing. But I'll tell you what will be happening: The skipper and his wife will be getting a lot of date nights while we babysit their daughter. It was so nice of them to take us along for all of these perks.

It was a great weekend, except for this morning when hubs and the kids went in the motel hot tub and got gnarly chemical burns/rashes on their skin. The kids have red bumps and welts, and hub's leg and arm hair is now fine, blond, and slightly curled peach fuzz instead of straight, brown, and coarse man hair. When they arrived back at the room after swimming, the kids were crying and screaming because of the burning and stinging. Not the best way to end a great weekend. I'm hoping they'll remember the aquarium highlights more than the chemical burns.

*If you have the cash, I highly recommend a vacation to Monterey that includes the sleepover. It really is amazing. And while you're at it, take a sailing trip! And rent some kayaks. I just love Monterey, and fall is a great time of year to visit.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cleaning and De-Cluttering

Yesterday, I spent some time working on the playroom and the playroom closet. Mostly on the closet. Unfortunately, I did not take a "before" picture of the closet. But here is the "after" picture:

When the Girl came saw the closet, she took in her breath and said, "It's beeeaaaauuuuttiiiifuulllll!" Just more proof that having clean, clutter-free spaces is good for the soul and mind.

I also cleaned out the corner of the room where the bookshelf used to be so that I could put a table in the room. I wanted the kids to have a place in there to do art work or have dinner with their friends (a proverbial "kid" table). It's our old dining table, and it looks good. I think I'll get a lamp to hang above it:

Okay. So the closet is clean and organized and ready for me to put stuff away. Lucky for you, I did take "before" picture of the room, now that it contains all of the contents that have been vomited out by the closet:

There is a queen-sized futon under there that is kind of hard to see. I'm hoping that the bed makes it all look worse than it is and that, overall, it's not as bad as it looks. I'm sparing you a picture of the desk since I'm not sure what I'm going to do with that mess yet.

I plan to put some things away later today (in the closet) while the kids are playing. Right now, I need to work on the dissertation, but it's tempting to spend the morning browsing simplicity blogs so that I can get inspired to throw out more stuff.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fairy Facts

Last night, Hubs took care of kids and a kid-friend so that kid-friend's mom and I could go to a movie. When we returned, they were making fairy houses. For the rest of the evening, the Girl was busting out with various fairy facts. I wish I could remember them all, but I do remember this:

"Cloud fairies take care of water and make the dew drops."


"I mean they make the don't drops."

* * *

Even today, the Girl keeps talking about don't drops. Should I consider this some kind of strange fairy negativity?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Take That, King George!

I think that, perhaps, this year was one of my favorite firework-viewing experiences ever. It's certainly at the top of the list.

Here on the Central Coast of California, we have several firework shows to choose from, and they are all in beach towns. But the traffic to these displays can get so crazy! Also, in the summer, we get a lot of fog from the heavy marine layer. The high inland temperatures (90s and higher) combine with the cold water temperatures (mid-50s) to create fog at the coast. Case in point, as I'm typing this, it's foggy outside and somewhere around 60 degrees. Not a speck of sunshine or blue sky to be seen*. Often, the fog burns off later in the afternoon, and every once in a while the wind shifts a bit and blows the fog seaward, but we get a lot of fog in the summer. We call it June gloom (even as we move into July). So, with all of this fog, sometimes the fireworks don't look like fireworks, but rather like glowing tufts of cotton candy.

I mentioned to a friend that we were thinking of paddling into the bay to watch the local firework show from the kayaks, and she said that she and other friends usually paddle over to the dunes and watch from there. So after spending the middle of the day in town at a little festival (where it was sunny and warm), we came home and got ready to paddle. Lo and behold, it was sunny at the coast, and the marine layer seemed to be parked a little ways out to sea. Still, I packed up warm clothes while hubby loaded the boats. After picking up some burritos and beer, were were ready.

We met our friend at the bay at about 7:00pm, and paddled over to the dunes. It was a great paddle. We got some exercise, we got to paddle through the sailboats in the marina, we saw the sea life, and we even passed the barge from which the fireworks would be launched. Unfortunately, the fog rolled in just as we were crossing the bay. Still, we had hopes that the fog layer would be high enough to still allow for a good show.

At the dunes, there were just a few other families. We ate and drank, and the kids played with other kids. The fireworks started at 9:00, and we definitely had the best seats in town. The fireworks exploded right in front of us, over the water and below the fog, so the the view was perfect. The kids were mesmerized. And best of all? No big crowds. And no traffic. Especially on the way out. Instead of battling a mass exodus of cars, we launched into water that was completely calm and still. It was dark and peaceful as we paddled back to the marina, just the sound of our paddles dipping into the water. We only saw one motorized boat on the way, and it managed to not run over us. Bonus.

It was a late night, and the kids were tired, but it was fantastic: Good, clean livin'.

But I don't have pictures, because even though I took my camera with me, I forgot to use it. That's usually how I roll.

Hope everyone had a great time celebrating the day on which our slave-owning forefathers told King George he could take his Empire and shove it up his tyrannical arse**.

*But if I drive about a mile--or even half a mile--inland, it will be sunny and warm.

**It's all a bit politically fraught, but HEY!, I like fireworks and BBQ!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cherry Picking

Yesterday, I took the kids berry picking. We hadn't been to the u-pick berry patch in a couple of years, but we headed over there to give it a try. When we pulled in, I saw the owner tending his large garden/small farm, but things looked different. No berry baskets. No money box. I approached him to ask him if he was open for business, but he didn't seem to hear very well. After some confusion, he told me that he had closed down over a year ago--"I don't sell anything anymore," he said--but that he supposed we could pick what we wanted and just take it. He gave us a bucket and a brief tour of the ripe berries--being alternately cheerful and gruff--and then told us to have fun.

We filled a big bucket of cherries (Bing and Rainier), and we filled some cups with raspberries and blackberries. I wish I'd had a camera to take a picture of the kids in the cherry orchard. The branches drooped with fruit.

When we finished, I tried to give him a $20, but he waved me off. I didn't push my luck to ask if we could come back, but I sort of wish I had. I mean, what is he going to do with all of that fruit?

I'll tell you what we did with it. We came home and made this:

And after we made that, we still had this:

So now I'm thinking of canning some brandied cherries. But the recipe calls for six pounds of cherries, and I don't have a single scale in the house, which is probably why I'm willing to eat this:

I suppose I can guess how much six pounds is by comparing it to the five pound bag of sugar I just bought. Or I could drink some brandy first, and then just guess.