Wednesday, February 28, 2007

All Aboard the Baby Train!

You may have noticed that I've checked off a few items on my "How To Make a Baby" to-do list over to your right.

This week, we took the first concrete steps toward making our baby dreams a reality.

We still can't really get to work until I've got a job and health insurance, but the ball is beginning to roll.

As you can see from the list, I've got several doctors that I need to visit before we start, because I have some previous health issues that have to be taken into consideration.

In 1991, I had idiopathic glomerulonephritis, which has been completely resolved for about fifteen years now, but I still follow up with my nephrologist annually (more or less). Of course, given the added strain on the kidneys from even the most uneventful of pregnancies, I'll want him to sign off on the plan.

(Don't worry, I've seen Steel Magnolias, and I don't plan on doing anything stupid!)

In December 2004, I had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery. Since then, I've lost about 200 lbs and my weight's been stable (at goal) since June 2006.

Of course, I'm much healthier now and in much better shape to be considering a pregnancy, but I will have some special nutritional concerns, both in terms of getting enough calories for myself and the baby and in terms of getting specific nutrients, since some of them (eg. Calcium, B12) are not absorbed very well after the surgery.

Assuming I'm employed and insured in time to have labwork done by then, I have appointments for my 2-year surgical follow-up, dietician consult and nephrologist consult on April 17.

I had a "talking-with-my-clothes-on" appointment scheduled with my OB-GYN for this past Monday. I was going to postpone, waiting for the insurance, but we decided that it was worth the $60 to go ahead and talk to her and get things started.

She gave me a list of labwork that she'd like to see (in addition to the other stuff for my surgeon and nephrologist) and explained a bit about the process.

I will also need to have an hysterosalpingogram (HSG), in which they inject dye into the uterus and take X-rays to look for polyps, tubal blockage, etc.

I'm scheduled to go back to her on April 20 for a Pap smear and the other tests that happen on that end of me.

I asked her what kind of time-frame we're looking at, from when I have insurance and we can start the testing until we can actually start trying. (Assuming no problems turn up that have to be corrected first.)

She said "Oh, a month-and-a-half."

Holy crow! If all goes well, on both the employment and medical fronts, we could be inseminating by June, and if we got lucky on the first try, could have a baby with a year.

In the meantime, we've decided that since insurance won't pay for the cost of the donor profiles anyway, we might as well go ahead and start screening them more in-depth. More on that in the next post.

Speaking of the Oscars . . .

If you haven't yet seen the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth, buy or rent it today.

Be sure and sit through the credits at the end. It would be worth it just to hear "I Need to Wake Up" (Oscar-winning song by Melissa Etheridge) but they are also interspersed with information about "what you can do" to fight global warming.

I cannot fathom how people can deny that climate change is very real and is a risk to our entire planet.

On the other hand, that's just my view from the "fact-based world."

Silly me.

And the Oscar for Most Inane Response Goes To . . . .

There's a post on Celebrity Baby Blog about Tammy Etheridge (wife of Melissa Etheridge) mentioning, during a pre-Oscar interiew with Joan Rivers, that she's nursing the couple's four-month-old twins, Miller and Johnnie Rose.

Joan Rivers asked Tammy if she had exercised to get back into shape after giving birth to the twins. Tammy said, "No, I'm breastfeeding, I don't have to do anything else." Joan said, "Your breasts look great, so keep nursing!"
CBB went on to give Tammy "kudos" for nursing the twins, and to cite some of the benefits of nursing multiples.
. . . especially since multiples are frequently small and/or pre-term, they need the benefits of breastmilk even more. It can also save time, money, and allow you to bond with each baby individually.
As you may have noticed I'm a HUGE fan of Melissa's and already knew from Tammy's blog that she's nursing the twins.

I'm also a huge advocate of breastfeeding, so I'm glad to hear that she's out there spreading the word - especially about nursing twins.

It it just me, though, who finds it rather disturbing that Joan Rivers' response was that Tammy should keep nursing because her "breasts look great?"

As opposed to, you know, "because your kids will be healthier" or some silly reason like that?

Or is that just what's to be expected of Joan Rivers?

On the other hand, I saw the shots of Tammy in that strapless dress during the ceremony, and I certainly can't argue with Joan's assessment ;-)

When they showed her, the first thought that came to mind was, "Oh my. She is nursing twins isn't she?!"


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Word About Anonymity

You may have noticed that I'm using pseudonyms here, not only for Shrike and myself, but also for our hometown and nearby locations.

I actually feel a little wierd doing this, because it kind of takes me back to the early days of my relationship with Shrike, when I was barely out to myself, let alone anyone else, and I was terrified of being "caught."

That is so not me today.

I am about as out now as one can possibly be. My rule of thumb is that if a straight person would reference his or her spouse in a given situation, so will I. I've come out to strangers in parking lots. Literally.

I'm also not one to be real feaked out about protecting my privacy, in the sense that I figure if someone wants to get my phone number or address or whatever, they can use that big book with all the numbers in it that shows up on their doorstep once a year.

Hell, if they know my real name, they can just Google it, and all that info will probably come right up, because I've put it out there in about a zillion places, for one reason or another.

That said, I am going the anonymous route here for a few different reasons:

  1. Shrike is much less comfortable than I am about sharing our personal stuff with all the internets and she asked me to. That's reason enough.
  2. I like the idea of being free to rant about specific people or situations that piss me off, without worrying that the subject will read what I said.
  3. I like the idea of having an outlet to share all the details of our adventures in baby-making, without having everyone I know ask "Are you pregnant yet?" and feeling the need to report in each month when I'm not. I'm hoping that being able to blog about it when (knock-wood) I get a positive test will help me to restrain myself from shouting it from the rooftops for a few weeks in case, God forbid, something should go wrong.
  4. As I've mentioned before, I have a leadership position in my local Democratic Party, and I would hate for anything that I say on my personal blog to reflect negatively on the party or on any other individuals who are involved with it.
So, if you have just stumbled upon this blog, please know that I've got nothing to hide; I'm just trying to keep a bit of a wall between the personal that I'm making public here and my actual public person.

If you've stumbled in and think you know who I really am, shoot me an email (you should know the address, right?) and I'll let you know if you're right.

If you know me, and I've invited you here, congratulations. You're one of a select few whom I trust to keep what you read here just between you, me and the internets.

Also, you've probably earned immunity from my public rants.

Unless you really piss me off.

Bon Appetit!

A couple of days ago, I offered to post the recipes that I made for our Mardi Gras party. Since no one's discovered me here yet, hiding in this brand-new corner of the blogosphere, of course, there have been no requests.

Screw it. I'm posting them anyway.


16 ounces each light and dark rum
(This is a little less rum than the recipe called for, but they were still plenty strong)

32 ounces strawberry daquiri mix
(The recipe called for grenadine or passion fruit juice, but this is what we found. The daquiri mix tasted fine, but is really the wrong consistency - very syrupy, made for frozen drinks. I would use something more clear and "juice-like" next time.)

32 ounces sweet & sour mix
(Recipe called for sour mix or lime juice)

32 ounces orange juice
(Hey - this one was actually in the recipe!)
  1. Make ice ring a day or two before the party: Mix 8 oz each of OJ, daiquiri mix and sweet & sour mix with 8 oz water in a Bundt pan and freeze overnight. (Optional, of course, but keeps the punch cold without diluting. The alcohol will, of course, get a bit diluted over the course of the party, but that's probably a good thing.)
  2. A few hours before the party, mix rums and juices in a large punch bowl and stir until well mixed. Redfrigerate
  3. Just before the party, carefully add the ice ring.
  4. Serve in hurricane glasses. Or, if you're cheap like us, serve in Solo cups.

The defining characteristic of a muffaletta is the olive salad. They're usually made on huge round rolls (like giant hamburger buns) but for a party, I'd recommend doing a big loaf and slicing them, as below.

Olive Salad
1 cup Green olives w/pimentos (chopped)

1 cup Black olives (chopped)

1 cup Red Bell Pepper (chopped)
(The bell peppers at our grocery were very sad that day, so I bought a jar of roasted red peppers, probably about 6 oz, and chopped those up.)

1 cup Olive Oil

2 Tbs Red Wine or White Wine Vinegar

2 tsp Garlic

3 Tbs Fresh Parsley (chopped)

French Bread or something similar
(The one we used is wider and shorter than French, and probably worked better.)

(From the Deli - about 12 slices was right for 2 loaves of bread.)

(See ham note.)

Provolone Cheese
  1. Make olive salad the day before the party: Mix all olive salad ingredients and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Cut bread in half horizontally, as if you would for a sandwich. Scoop out some of the center of each side the loaf and broil briefly in the oven, cut side down, then cut side up. Do not brown; just get it “crispy.”
  3. Remove bread from oven. On each half spread olive salad, then layer ham, salami, and provolone.
  4. Toast both halves of bread until browned and cheese is melted.
  5. Replace top half of bread, press down to seal.
  6. Slice and serve. (Secure each slice with a toothpick.)

"Monkey Bread" King Cake
This is not a "traditional" King Cake, but it is easy and is certainly close enough for BlueState. I wouldn't try to pass it off anywhere that folks actually eat King Cake (which is more like a giant filled Danish, baked in a ring.) Of course, you could serve it for any occassion, without the purple/green/gold icing.

4 cans canned cinnamon rolls with icing
(Either the sugary or cream cheese icing is ok. We accidentally bought two cans of each. I mixed it all together and it worked fine.)

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1-1/4 stick butter

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Blue, Red, Yellow food coloring
(ie gnomes)

Plastic baby
(This represents Baby Jesus. The tradition is that the person who finds the baby in their slice of cake hosts the next party, provides the next King Cake, or is King or Queen of Mardi Gras. You could also offer a prize for that person. If you don't live where Mardi Gras happens, google "King Cake Baby" and order one! Don't drive all over town looking for it.)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Separate cinnamon rolls and cut into halves. Roll halves into balls.
  3. Mix 2/3-cup sugar and 1-tsp cinnamon. Roll dough balls in sugar-cinnamon mixture until evenly coated.
  4. Place dough balls in a greased (or Pammed) Bundt pan (can also just shape them into a ring on a cookie sheet). I was able to do two layers, with a few more to fill in the blank spots.
  5. Sprinkle remaining sugar mixture on top.
  6. Mix brown sugar, butter, and 1-tsp cinnamon in saucepan. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over biscuits. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes.
  7. While cake is baking, divide icing into 3 equal portions and color green, gold and purple. It's easier to color if you warm it in the microwave for a few seconds first.
  8. When the cake is done, before icing, hide the plastic baby in the cake, from the bottom. (I popped out one dough ball, dug out a little cavity, stuck in the baby and replaced the dough ball, "gluing" it back in with a little icing.)
  9. When cake is cool, invert onto a plate and decorate by drizzling icing on top, alternating the colors around the cake.

Monday, February 26, 2007

How Not to Cook a Pot Roast

Earlier this month, as part of our current attempt to save money and to cut back on dining out, I cooked a pot roast - for maybe the third time in my life.

On the day that I was going to cook it, I had lunch plans with a friend. So, I got everything ready that morning and in the crockpot and let it cook while I was gone.

It all seemed ok when I got home from lunch - smelling good, seemed hot, looked good.

I think?

I went out again around 4 pm and when I got back around 5:30 or so, I checked it again and noticed it was warm, but definitely not hot. I pulled the meat out, and it was still mostly raw.


Then I noticed the scorched spot on the backsplash behind the pot!

Oh. My. God.

It seems that when I put the ceramic-put-the-food-in-it part of the crockpot into the metal-gets-hot-and-makes-it-cook part, I caught a bit of the cord between them. As it heated, the insulation on the cord melted and it must have shorted out.

I don't know if there were flames, or if it just went "pop" or what, because it all evidently happened while I was gone, but there's one scorched mark and it also looks like something splattered on the backsplash/counter. Not sure what that would be. Burnt plastic???

Shrike got home about 10 minutes after I discovered it. I told her "Um, we're not having pot roast tonight. Oh, and I almost set the house on fire."

I'm not sure if all this happened while I was out in the afternoon, or if it was while I was at lunch, so we didn't know long it was at the cooking temperature or and how long it was sitting around cooling off, but we went on the theory that cooking it for real would kill any germs that might have gotten a start while it was just sitting around.

So, I dumped it all into a regular pot and stuck it in the fridge, and we went out for dinner.

I definitely needed a drink after all that, anyway!

I cooked it in a regular pot on the stove the next day. While I was at home. Watching like a hawk.

It was delicious.

If you promise not to set your house on fire, I'll give you the recipe, such as it is:

Whozat's Pot Roast

1 pot roast
(I have no idea how big; we just bought the thing that said "pot roast" on it)

6 or so smallish red potatoes

1 package onion soup mix
(I used the store brand.)

2 cubes beef bullion
(Because, you know, a huge hunk of beef isn't nearly beefy enough)

Some carrots
(Meh. We're not fans, and we always pick them out anyway, so we're just skipping them next time. I "splurged" and bought the baby ones, because I'm too lazy to chop them. I got way too many; tonight I threw the frozen leftovers out in the snow-covered yard, for the wild bunnies.)

  1. Brown the meat in a skillet, then put it in the crockpot.
  2. Dump in the onion soup mix, and roll the roast around in it. Pat the soup mix all over the roast and in the crevaces. I suspect it will wash right off a couple of steps from now, but it seemed like the thing to do.
  3. Chop the potatoes into 4 or 5 chunks each and toss in the pot.
  4. Dissolve the bullion cubes in a bit of water and dump in, then add enough additional water to cover the meat.
  5. Cook on low for four hours, let rest for two, refrigerate overnight, transfer to a regular pot and cook on the stove, on medium heat, for six hours.
  6. Or, you know, just cook in the crockpot on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours, or until the meat is falling apart.
Enjoy safely.

The bunnies haven't touched the frozen/thawed carrots, or the parsley that I threw out there at the same time. BigGaloot, on the other hand, stops and eats a few each day on our way out for a walk.

Good Fences . . .

Here's a little quiz for you:

1. When deciding to have a child, one should consult:

a. One's "gut"
b. One's partner
c. No-damn-body else
d. All of the above

2. When someone tells you that they plan to have a child, acceptable responses include:
a. "Congratulations!"
b. "Good luck!"
c. Anything in the entire universe other than "I think that's a really bad idea."
d. All of the above

If you answered anything other than "D" to either question, you are not our across-the-street neighbors.

Hop in the Way-Back Machine!

Before I quit my job last summer to work for the BlueState Democratic Party, I was a web developer for about 6.5 years. I'd taught myself and was very lucky to find a company willing to hire me, although I really wasn't qualified at the time. I learned a lot on that job and I'd like to think that I got to be pretty good at it.

The first website I ever created was a very primative, very cheesy, very 1998 (hey - it WAS 1998!) personal site for the two of us - the original web incarnation "Shrike & Whozat."

I made the site as a suprise for Shrike while she was in BlueState visiting her family during the first Christmas that we were together (living in Texas). I used Netscape Composer (shudder) and thought, "Hey this is fun. It would be really cool to get paid for doing it all day!"

As my web development skills increased, the site went through a couple of redesigns and major overhauls and eventually I kind of lost interest and took the site offline because I was no longer maintaining it with any kind of regularity.

(Shrike also wasn't too keen on my sharing all our business with the internets, but I guess I've convinced her to let me give that another try!)

This was all before the Age of the Blog, but the site included "Our Story" - the tale of how we met, "Latest News" - a periodic journal of our adventures, and "Our Wedding" - a diary chronicling the planning of our commitment ceremony (February 10, 2001).

So, in the interest of providing a bit of history about us and of providing some worthwhile (I'd like to think) content here, from the "get-go," I'm in the process of reposting the information from our old site.

I'm dating the entries to when they were originally posted, which explains the posts from 1999 - 2004, followed by big gap, and then a "welcome to my new blog!" post.

So, check out the archives and enjoy!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler!

Last weekend, we hosted a murder mystery party, using the boxed game Murder at Mardi Gras: A Big Mystery in the Big Easy by Dinner Games.

The weather was a little iffy that evening, so four of our guests didn't make it, but two of them were scheduled to play "optional" characters and we just covered for the other two.

As the host of the party, I didn't think I ought to play a real role, so I wore Shrike's cop costume from Halloween 05, and played Officer Marie Bon Chance, who was investigating the murder. Shrike played Bourbon DuPre, the illegitimate nephew of the murder victim, and a French Quarter jazz musician.

We decided against a sit-down dinner, but I cooked up some (more-or-less) traditional New Orleans fair for the buffet, including a punchbowl full of hurricanes, muffaletta sandwiches and a king cake for dessert.

I cheated a bit on the king cake, and did it "monkey bread" style, but I think it came out great.

The biggest challenge was finding the "baby" to put inside. Instead of ordering one online (as anyone who happened to be living above the Mason-Dixon line, and having any sense, would have done) I put it off til the last minute, then drove all over town looking for something acceptable.

I was getting pretty desperate, and begining to wonder how offensive it would be for Baby Jesus to be represented by a Bratz Doll, when we finally stumbled upon this:

If you can't read the packaging in the photo, let me explain. Ranger, the border collie-ish dog here, is one of several who run a day care. In this playset, Ranger is also operating an ice cream stand.

The dog. Is selling ice cream. To be-diapered babies. With pigtails.

Well, of course.

So, I snipped off the pigtails, hid the baby in the king cake, and put the rest of the playset in the toybox for our six-year-old niece.

Our niece and nephew spent the night on Friday. Saturday morning, she found the set and saw that the baby was missing. Aunt Shrike told her that I'd put it in a cake.

The first I heard of this was when she came into the bedroom and woke me up to say "Aunt Whozat, Aunt Shrike told me to ask you if you ate the plastic baby from my toy."

If anyone is interested (Bueller?) I'll be happy to post the recipes that I used for the cake, as well as the muffalettas and hurricanes.

The Thinks I've Thunk: #1

From time to time, odd little things come to my mind, which I am (for better or worse) compelled to share.

This is one such thing. I fear suspect there may be more:

Food coloring bottles have always reminded me of tiny little men - gnomes, perhaps - wearing pointy, color-coded hats.

Is that wierd?

And, So, It Begins

Welcome to the newest spot in the blogiverse.

At least for the next 0.001 seconds. . . .

Here's a quick introduction:

Who am I?
I'm a 38 year old native Texan who met the love of my life (Shrike) on the internet 9 years ago and followed her north to a very red area of a fairly blue state. I'm very involved in my local Democratic Party (such as it is) and worked for the state Party in the 06 cycle. I'm currently unemployed, but as soon as I have a job and health insurance, we plan to start trying to get me pregnant.

What will I be writing about?
Everything. And nothing. And a few things in between.

My favorite blogs to read are those that are just a glimpse into someone's everyday life. That's what I suspect this will be with, perhaps, the occasional political rant.

As I mentioned above, we're hoping to start trying to get me pregnant soon (short version, for those wondering - artificial insemination using an anonymous donor; longer version to come, no doubt) and, when the time comes, I plan to blog about that and then, hopefully, continue to blog about our child and our family.

Why am I blogging?
I'm quite an extrovert; I tend to think out loud, and tend to assume that everyone is just dying to hear exactly what I'm thinking, doing, or obsessing about at the moment.

(My motto: If it's in my head, it must come out of my mouth!)

I suspect that's often not the case but surely there's someone out there in all of the internets who might be interested.

Also, being a bum currently between assignments, I've got a lot of time on my hands. I've been spending a good deal of said time reading blogs, and I realized that I'm starting to narrate my life in my head, as though I were writing a blog post.

I took that as an indication that I should either start my own blog, or seek professional help.

So. There it is, and here I am.

I still have some work to do around here on the template, settings, etc, but I'll be back soon with more ramblings.