Eating Dinner Together, or Maybe Tea

I like the household to eat together when we can.

Thing is, we’re all really busy.  Sometimes we have events going on at night where a big meal is really out of the question.  Certainly greendalekgreendalek doesn’t like to teach on a full stomach, but will often make himself a wrap before going out to teach for the evening.

So, I’ve adopted the custom of afternoon tea on those nights.  If we have to be somewhere too early for a big meal to be feasible, but want to sit down together, I’ll do up a plate of cheese, crackers, fruit and other light but quick to prepare and healthy dainties (for the three of us, this is something that’ll fit on a single dinner plate) and brew up a pot of tea.  We’ve done it the last couple of nights and I think it’s been a success.  We’ll only sit down for twenty minutes or so, but I think those twenty minutes to have a nibble and a cup of tea are a nice way to reconnect.

A friend of mine pointed out a Time Magazine article from a few years ago about families eating dinner together.  Apparently there is a link between eating meals together and how well children do in school and in life.

While we usually do eat together, and are not as overscheduled as many, even we have busy nights.  I wonder if some sort of custom of gathering together for tea might not be a good solution for a lot of people.  You could choose light, healthy foods that you don’t take much preparation, and the cup of tea for the warmth, and you’re all good.  It takes nothing at all to get together, isn’t expensive and is even kinda fun.

Don't Waste Valuable Butt-Scratching Time

Technically what I really should be doing as far as workouts it swimming three days a week and doing a full-body weights workout twice a week.

I, uhhh… Well, I haven’t been doing that.

I don’t think I’ve ever dropped below two workouts (usually a 1000-1500 yard swim) a week, but I have a sedentary job, no yard to take care of that needs yardwork and sedentary hobbies.   Two workouts a week with that lifestyle isn’t really enough to stay healthy and strong, and I know it.  If I had a dog I was walking every day, or was doing something where I was walking the equivalent of a couple of miles a day, it’d be different.

However, with my lifestyle, a good solid workout every weekday is pretty necessary.

With that in mind, I hauled my complaining butt into the weight room today (swam yesterday) and decided that since I’ve been a slacker, I was going to drop back to embarassingly light weights just to make sure I did the darn workout.  You know, Rule One and all.

I was weaker than I thought.  That wimp workout was a challenge!

Ah well.  I’ll do the wimp workout again on Thursday, and then next week do it again.  Then I’ll be a little stronger and can add a little more.  I wish I loved working out.  I mean, it’s okay when I’m in the weight room and all, but I’d rather stay in a warm bed, I really would.

I actually found it hard to hit the weight room today — afraid of being judged or made unwelcome.  That was goofy and there was no excuse for it.  I knew the people in there. I see them several times a week.  None of ’em have ever been mean to me, so there was no reason in the world to think they would do so because I was working out instead of working behind a desk!   If they’re going back to their blogs or weight lifting discussion boards and making fun of how the fat chick looks at the squat rack, I certainly don’t see it.  But they don’t behave as if they’re into that level of petty nastiness in the gym, so I’ve no evidence to think they would.

It got me to thinking.  Sure there’s a lot of nastiness about appearance out there, no doubt.  But it seems a bit unkind to brace oneself for it when one hasn’t any evidence that it’s likely to happen.   Now, I got picked on in school, so I know what it’s like to cultivate the appearance of deafness, but be braced inside for nasty comments.  I know the inward flinch, the way you script in your own mind for a good comeback.  Which, of course, you never remember to use when the situation happens, anyway.   That mental bracing is a waste of valuable butt-scratching time when you think about it.  You’d be much better employed learning to fart the Jaws theme rather than spend precious mental energy on it.

And in my case, thinking about my form when the bar is loaded across my shoulders is a lot better use of mental energy than worrying about how I look to others.  I mean, if I look around to see if I’m being judged, I’m more likely to fall and hurt myself.   Forget that!

Black Friday

Okay, so my husband is ranting about consumerism, especially in relation to the day after Thanksgiving sales.

(If you’re a maternal relative of mine, now would be a good time to swallow anything you’re drinking and to put down the cup.  This won’t really be funny to anyone else).

Man of the House:  Son, we your mother and I were young, we didn’t bounce out of bed on the day after Thanksgiving to go hit the sales.

Me: (eyebrow raised):  Nanny always loved to go shopping on Black Friday.

Man of the House:  Well, she was an economic visionary.

You're Still Pretty

There’s a beauty product company that’s doing a promotion to encourage the idea that all body types are beautiful. It’s always bothered me, and not because I think that if you fall outside the classic norm you should hate yourself or feel bad about yourself.

What bothers me is that the most important way a woman is to be valued is whether or not she is considered beautiful.

Pretty is not the rent I pay on this earth for occupying the space marked “female”.  I don’t owe the world pretty.   My value in this world isn’t higher because I am pretty or not.  So I don’t need a commerical reassuring me that even though I’m fat, I’m beautiful anyway, as if it’s a pat on the head to reassure me I’m still valuable.   Damn right I’m valuable.  I’m smart.  I have good insights.  I’ve learned things I can teach people.  Hell, when I was a teenager, and frankly considerably better looking than Susan Boyle, if offered the chance to take her looks if it meant her voice went with it, I’d’ve taken it in a red-hot minute.  The fact I don’t sing well has always bothered me more than the fact I’m not movie-star material.

Whether or not I am beautiful is immaterial in the face of what kind of parent I am, how I treat my fellow human beings, whether or not anyone’s lives are going to be enriched from knowing me or not — not how goddamned decorative I am.  I am a living, breathing human being.  The idea that because I’m female I should somehow be ornamental if I want to be valued drives me up a wall.

The message that it’s okay to be fat because you’re still pretty is totally getting it wrong (and yes, there are plenty of fat people who are very attractve, indeed!).  The message should be:  Pretty is a value (and c’mon, pretty is nice to look at), but it’s hardly the only value and certainly not the most important one!

Knitting Around

I suppose anyone who reads this blog has ascertained that I’m a pretty enthusiastic knitter.

I didn’t get into knitting until about 2005 or so.  I was going through an insane amount of stress, I had some friends who knitted and it looked cool and I like having something to do with my hands while watching a movie and things like that.  I made some scarves and a hat or two, and it was fun, but I didn’t really groove on knitting until I learned to knit in the round making toe-up socks with short row heels.  In fact, I don’t know how to make a traditional heel to this day.  My favorite socks are the ones I knit myself.  They’re warmer than the cotton jobs you buy in department stores, being wool and all.   The hand-washing, though, is a bit of a pain.

I made a sweater after I’d been knitting about six months.  A friend kindly sent me The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns after a complaint about the fact that I knew how to use a sloper in sewing, so why didn’t knitting have something like that?  I don’t much like trying to create to a specific pattern, you see.  But there are garment templates to work and create from.  I learned a lot from this book, still use it for making mittens and hat and think it’s a good book for any knitter who likes to create her own work, but needs a good canvas to start from.

That sweater I made?  It proved three things:  The Sweater Curse is real,  I hate sewing up a sweater, and I prefer knitting in the round to knitting flat when it comes to garments.  It wasn’t a very good sweater, mind.  I did my best, but I wasn’t skilled enough yet.

Some time later, I got a copy of Knitting Without Tears.  Now, I’d always wanted to be able to knit sweaters and had a feeling that if I just didn’t have to seam the darned things, I’d have something nice that I’d be content to wear or to give to someone else.  I live in Northern New England.  You’d be hard put to find a more practical application of knitting than making sweaters. It’s no wonder that some of the most gorgeous and inventive garments in the knitting tradition are local to Northern Europe.   Once I’d learned stranded knitting using a two fisted technique (yes, I can knit with my right or left hand — useful when you’re carrying two colors of yarn), you bet I was going to start knitting sweaters in the Nordic and Icelandic traditions.

It is the inherent practicality of it that I love, though.  Knitting is like banked time.  Think of how much waiting we do in our lives — waiting in line at the bank, waiting at the airport, riding in the car to get somewhere, waiting at the doctor’s office.  You’d be amazed how many of the socks I wear are knitted on airplanes or trains.  There are socks  I have that remind me of trips I’ve taken because they were created while travelling.  When you knit, that time becomes productive time.  At the end of it, you have a real sweater you can wear for years, or socks that keep your feet toasty warm.

Random Morning Thoughts

“If there is any kind of Supreme Being, it is up to us to become his moral superior.”  – Lord Havelock Vetinari Unseen Academicals, by Sir Terry Pratchett.

Yeah, I’ve been a little slow off the mark reading the new Pratchett book.  It came out a couple of weeks ago and I’ve only just acquired it.  It was a little startling, therefore that this particular comment appeared that was so in harmony with some things I’ve been thinking during my own Bible study[1].

There’s a passage in Matthew[2] where Jesus is discussing the goodness of the Nature of God.  Ya know, maybe God was good by the standards of the time, but any parent who treated his child like God treated His children would have found himself hauled in front of a court to answer for abusing his kids.

Of course, you always get the Elisha and the Bears[3] comment from we people who are just too horrible and corrupt to understand the goodness of God.  But read the Bible with care and attention.  The book is loaded with similar stories.  My flawed and human parents loved me more than to murder me for making fun of someone’s bald head, just sayin’.

I can’t see that what’s described in the Bible is in any way loving, especially the Christian story.  God set up the game in the first place, so he set it up that someone had to be tortured to death in a nasty way to redeem people for things that God defined as sins in the first place?  I wouldn’t even consider pulling a shell game like that on someone I hated, much less someone I loved.

If there is a God and he’s anything like the Biblical description, he’s vicious, childish and cruel.  This, I’m supposed to worship?  The description of God from the Bible is someone I’d try my best to stay far, far away from and do my best to shield my kids from.

[1] Yes, we Godless Heathens dammed to the fires of everlasting torment do study religious texts, too.  Strange, innit?

[2] Matthew 7:9-10 Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?

[3] 2 Kings 2:23-25

Mini Pot Pie Bento

I did an experiment with mini chicken pot pies in a muffin tin for bento.  I think they turned out rather well!  I didn’t have enough dough for two of the pot pies out of the dozen, so I used those right away rather than freeze them.

Between this and the shepherd’s pie experiment, I’m pretty happy with the muffin tin dishes I’ve been making for bento.    I just need to think so some more to come up with others.  To be honest, these are a bit work-intensive.  Thing is, they do freeze well, so if you do up a whole muffin tin of them, you’re doing enough for six bento, which means you’ve got plenty extra for another day’s worth of bento.

I was thinking about how to make lasagna in muffin tins, and it occurred to me that homemade noodles would be ideal, because I could cut them into circles pretty easily.

Keeping Warm as a Tightwad

I set up my netbook at my desk for the first time since I bought it. I don’t often work from a desk, what can I say? But when I’m studying from a manual to review to teach a class, I like a desk and a good surface to write on. The increased real estate on my working surface is nice, lemme tellya.

I’ve been avoiding turning on the heat, but did briefly this morning before I realized I was being silly.  Yeah, it was 59F and all, but I have a wonderful warm slanket and portable warmers I can heat in the microwave and all that smack.  So, really, I was reacting to a number rather than a comfort level.

I do have the thermostat on 55F, though.  If the temperature drops unexpectedly one night, I’d just as soon not wake up to frozen pipes.  Hypothermia isn’t an issue, as lots of blankets keep one toasty warm in bed.

Shepherd's Pie Bento

Shepherd's Pie Bento

I did an experiment and made some shepherd’s pies in some muffin tins for bentos.  While I do love onigiri and all, I think a variety of mini-meals is a good idea.  Besides, these suckers freeze and building up the bento stash is a Good Thing.

I’m going to be experimenting in the future with some other meals in muffin tins, since the size is so perfect for bento.  I’ve done mini quiches and they’re wonderful.  I’ve seen it suggested one can do mini lasagnas, pot pies or ‘most anything else you’d make in a casserole dish. The advantage of this is that I can do a whole muffin tin of these babies and freeze them.  Pre-prepped is good.

Exercise and Acceptance

I had a woman approach me yesterday in the gym asking when the hours for swimming were going to change so that people could get in the pool early in the morning.  I blinked at her, kind of confused and said that she could do so every morning.

She said, “The schedule says Lap Swim.  I don’t swim laps, I do water exercises.”

I explained that she’s quite free to grab a lane and work out in the water if that suits her fancy. She may have to share a lane if the pool is busy, but no-one’s gonna care if she swims laps, aquajogs or whatever.  We have everything from competitive swimmers with tons of gear and a workout printout in a sealed plastic bag to people who have to use a cane get down the ramp into the water and do aqua workouts with a belt to keep them floating in the deep end.

I love seeing that.  Working out isn’t just for the athletes.  Bodies need to move, but not all bodies can move in the same way.  I like the fact that the range is accepted and that no-one is made to feel as if they shouldn’t be there unless they’re training for a triathlon or something.