Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Boo! Who?

Boo! Mama and Papa's pumpkins
We've had a few things going on that have been keeping me from doing any writing. Last weekend, we had a pumpkin carving brunch party during which Mama and I found time to carve these pumpkins. It was a great time with many (recently) ex-coworkers, many sourdough waffles, much maple syrup from Grammy's farm, a delicious strata from Mama, and no fingers lost during carving.

OK, seriously, where's  the candy?
On Sunday, we met up with a friend of Mama's from her days at the UNF. Mama and her friend talked about life as consultants while I chased 3B around. The next day, I showed up at my new job, which exhausts me by requiring me to think all day long. I'm telling you, it's a workout. As regular readers will attest, my brain isn't a muscle that I'm used to using.

Hey, this is a rip off.
The fatigue hasn't kept us from enjoying Halloween, however. Today was 3B's day at day care, and Ms. K called us last night to ask us if he had a costume, since some of the other moms were hoping to dress up all the kids when they picked theirs up and take some pictures. We sent along the monkey costume that we'd gotten for 3B and got back adorable pictures of the kids, including a scowling 3B. I'm not posting any here, since they include the other kids, but we did get some pictures when we went down to D&D's house, where 3B did his only trick-or-treating.

Hm. That was good. How about an adult size candy bar?
For the record, we introduced two new foods today: asparagus and Three Musketeers bars.

The asparagus wasn't such a big hit.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

One of the luckiest men alive

We went pumpkin picking last weekend, as did William, over at Poop & Boogies. Although we took the video camera with extra tapes to capture the anticipated overflow of cuteness, we didn't take the video camera battery, so you get these photos instead. At least we remembered the diaper bag, unlike last year, when 3B screamed all the way to the patch--not that we remember that drive like we'd remember toothpicks being jabbed into our eyes.

3B looks for a pumpkin

This year, not only did 3B enjoy the drive, we had our friend D. along for the ride. However, although we thought we were going to the same patch we went to last year, with the goats, and the historic buildings, and all of that, it turns out we printed directions to the patch one turnoff before that. But, we were glad for the mistake, since this patch was a much more sincere patch than the one we meant to go to turned out to be this year.

You don't scare me, Scarecrow.

This year, the patch we meant to go to was nothing more than pumpkins trucked in to sit on a lawn, rather than the patch we went to this year, which still had about half the pumpkins still on the vine. However, the patch we meant to go to did have funnel cakes and cider--before we got there.

Almost as pretty as the Popeye's chicken place out our window at home.

Oh well, there's always next year for videos and the funnel cakes. At least this year we had a shot at seeing the Great Pumpkin and there was plenty of cuteness, which should be the case every year.

Don't look back, you can never look back...unless you're really cute

As long as we don't forget to bring 3B.

What is a perfect pumpkin, anyway?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The hardest part

Show of hands, please: who isn't busy?

Right. Just as I thought, we're all overloaded, overbooked, and under stress. Perhaps that's why it took me three months to compile this reply to Steve's tag. Oh well, the waiting is the hardest part, but that's all over now, baby blue.

(Note: Because we're vegetarians--no feet, no faces--all of these places are good for vegheads. Some also serve meat-type items, but you carnivores will have to figure out if those dishes are any good. Also, Steve stole my top Italian food choice, but these are my other selections.)

Ben's Chili Bowl
When we moved to DC, our rat-trap basement apartment was around the corner and a block up from Ben's, which was conveniently located between our Metro stop and home. We took advantage of this convenience often, since this is one of the only places where you can get a good bowl of vegetarian chili. If you come to DC and don't visit Ben's, you haven't really tasted DC.
Need I say more?

Java Green
A great place in DC for quick tasty vegetarian lunches. Although I think they're mostly geared toward lunches for DC workers, we've also gotten takeout bibimbop and other fun stuff to take to Screen on the Green, so they are open evenings. This is one of those places that makes vegetarian versions of dishes that typically include meat as well as serving delicious straight-up veggie dishes.

I don't know if this is the best Ethiopian food in DC, but it's damn fine. We used to go more when we lived closer--right up the street, really--and when we had a . . . what's the word for it? . . . social life. Yeah, that's it--social life. If we still had a social life, it would be worth the drive in from Dixie.

No, this isn't Prince's new album, and no, this isn't a restaurant that we're going to be taking 3B to anytime soon. Then again, we're not going to take ourselves there anytime soon either. We did get taken there by good friends for a birthday party when they had a vegetarian dinner tasting menu which was full of sublime dishes that the sommelier paired perfectly. So, if you know anyone who's having a birthday, suggest that they take you to 2941 for it.

A friend who grew up in Bethesda tipped us off to this unassuming Indian place with delicious food. I've loved everything I've had here, and Mama waits all year for our friend, his wife, and their baby to come to town for Christmas, so we can go to Haandi where Mama can get the malai kofta she's waited 364 days for. Sure, we could go at some other time, but where's the fun in that?

I hate places that dress up in the garb of another city to make their food seem to be authentically from that city, as almost any bagel shop does to back up their claim of selling "real New York bagels." Hey, if they were real New York bagels, your shop would be in NYC, know what I'm sayin'? However, I think this is the real deal: NYC pizza in Dixie, so I'm willing to overlook all the NY trappings in Valentino's, as long as they don't change their pizza, which has a wafer-thin, cracker-crisp crust that is as close to perfect as possible. The crust doesn't travel well, however, so if you order out your mileage may vary. And their garlic knots--oh, get the garlic knots. Oh yeah, their pastas are good too. Be warned that one serving is usually enough for two, including their large pizzas, which are so wide we almost have to tip them sideways to get them through our front door.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Morning has broken

Mine is the sunlight
Mine is the sunlight

Mine is the morning
Mine is the morning

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I hate you all...

...which is why I put Tetris and Asteroids in my sidebar. I figure that those timesucks are only fair payback for all of you getting me hooked on blogs with your damned insights and wit and sublime writing. OK, and stories about beer shooting out of your nose.

After all, if I wasn't ruining my vision staring at that big blank Google Reader widget on my iGoogle home page, waiting for a new item to appear from one of your blogs, I might actually use my spare time to do something useful, like develop a gene therapy to cure Tay-Sachs disease; learn Hindi, so the Bradstein Household could outsource ourselves to India; or even keep 3B out of the dog's crate, where he likes to shut himself in and chew on the bars.

You think we should ease up on Folsom Prison Blues rotation in iTunes?

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Monday, October 15, 2007

No sleep 'til...uh...Scranton?

3B and Mama picking apples

We made it back, despite making an unplanned all-night drive back from Grammy's, which is 500+ miles, for those of you keeping score at home. We left at 3B's bedtime, got him to sleep in his car seat, in hopes of getting halfway home the first night and only having five hours to drive on Sunday, allowing us to arrive feeling somewhat human. Instead, we ended up arriving at home at 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning, feeling like we'd been run over by 1,000 tractor trailers. Had I known it was going to turn out like this, perhaps I would have packed differently.

Of course, 3B and Barky slept the whole way down, with the exception of an unscheduled playtime stop at a truck stop, because really, what better playground is there for a toddler than a truck stop at 1:30 a.m.? So, two hours after we arrived, they were up and ready for a fun-filled day, and I was reminded why 39-year olds don't pull all nighters. I also learned that I have my first bona fide old person condition as a result of skipping along the GW Parkway at 18 miles an hour on my hip. When I sit in one position for too long, my hip gets stiff, as in, "Oh, I can't make that drive myself. It's my hip you know. You kids will have to drive me." As soon as I start saying things like, "Feels like rain, my hip's acting up again." take me out back in the tall grass and shoot me.

I don't want this to become a hotel gripe blog, so I won't go into details beyond noting that if you're thinking of staying in a Red Roof Inn, and they promise you a crib, don't count on them actually having a crib in the building when you arrive. Also, don't count on another room being available within 100+ miles with a crib in a hotel that allows dogs. And bikes. Yeah, we might as well pack a circus tent with us when we travel. We're a regular three-ring freakin' circus.

But really, the trip was wonderful and relaxing and filling for me, since I didn't have to work the whole time. I'm not sure Mama can say the same. I did manage to get registered with NYC to be a marriage officiant, eat a mess of pie, a stack or two of cookies, and some fresh apples off the tree. I'm sure that I'll have more to report about all the nothing that I did as soon as I figure out what day it is.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

America's Best Value Inn: Not the Best, Not a Value

For the century, we booked a room at a place recommended by the ride, America's Best Value Inn, in Cambridge, Maryland.

While some people have nothing but small rooms to complain about, the size of our room was OK, it was some other small details that bothered us. Like the small hole in the wall.

The small petri dish that was our bathroom ceiling.

The small issue of our bathroom fan cover laying on the bathroom counter.

Which is related to the small issue of our bathroom fan being uncovered.

And then there was the small issue of the ottoman.

All in all, cleanliness seems to be one of the smallest issues on the agenda at the ABVI. And trust me when I say that you're glad I didn't take pictures of the cigarette burns on the bathtub, and that I couldn't include the smell that pervaded the room in this post.

After we'd been in it for 10 seconds, I said that it's the kind of room where you always want to wear your shoes. Mama said it's the kind of room where you wish you brought your own sheets.

I'm just glad that we didn't bring Grammy and 3B along, as we had considered, to stay in the room while we rode our century. At any rate, if you're looking for a place to stay, you might want to pass up the next ABVI that you see. According to their own brochure, they rate this property a 4 (out of 5) as a property that is well above their average. I shudder to think what the properties that rate as a 1 look like.

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They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

I lied to you, and I don't even feel bad about it. I'm too tired to feel much of anything, but that has more to do with foolishly being up until 1 a.m. before dropping off Grammy and 3B at the airport and driving to NYC with Mama than it does with riding 100 miles on our bikes yesterday.

But hey, I don't need to be awake to drive, right?

We completed our century and did much better than we expected, finishing in about eight hours, which included about seven hours of riding time. That means that we averaged a riding speed of about 14 miles an hour, which is about .5 mph faster than we averaged on our training rides.

Greater than all the numbers, however, was the feeling of completing the ride and not feeling totally wiped out. Sure, we grabbed a quick beer, a quick dinner, and went right to sleep, but we felt no worse than we did after any of our training rides. This morning we weren't stiff or sore, although we could feel a little muscle fatigue when we were carrying bikes up stairs, but nothing bad. All of that means that the training paid off, and that the 10-15 hours a week we spent in spandex, straddling our skinny leather saddles, were worth it.

Even greater than that was the feeling of coming home and 3B seeing us and smiling his big, crazy, around-the-thumb smile at us. You know, after he'd taken 30 seconds or so to look us up and down and scowl at us, either because he didn't recognize us after a 24-hour absence or because he's already passive-aggressive at 14-months old.

We did take the camera on the ride, but we were so busy pedaling and yakking that we didn't take many pictures. We did take a few on Assateague, however. Here's what you can't do:

Here's what you can do:

No idea who that kid in the back is, but that's me telling him that he's nowhere near man enough to wear my Naugahyde riding jacket.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen

  • After our century tomorrow, we'll be headed up to Grammy's dairy farm in Vermont (Mama's Grammy, 3B's Great Grammy) for a week, where cookies and pies are always at hand, but where we're out of reach of cell phones and the innernets. I know, me without the innernet for a week. It'll be like Nixon in China. Except without the paranoid megalomaniac part. But also without the noodles. Oh, but there will be Grammy's cookies. Mmm. Cookies. Plus walks in the woods for Barky and naps on the couch for Papa. Mmm. Naps.
  • Hey, you know what's really good to do right before a long bike ride? Jam your thumb playing softball. That's a harmless injury for a bike rider, right? I mean, what do you do with your hands when you ride your bike, except rest the weight of your upper body on them over every bump for 100 miles? You think we should pack the ibuprofen? On the upside, we won the softball game--we try to win one a season--and I made a coupla' good plays, including a snow cone catch in left field foul territory. Fortunately, our bleachers are pretty small, so there was no risk of a Bartman stealing the catch, although the other team attempted to claim that I dropped it. So, I led off the next inning by dropping a homer out the left field line. Catch that.
  • My sister, California Girl, makes me laugh. Out loud. At work. Even though I'm in a veal fattening pen with tissue paper thin walls, surrounded by editors working so quietly that you could hear a moth fart. I'm still laughing.
  • Hey, sometimes this daddy blog even mentions a baby. In keeping with that occasional tradition, check this out: 3B got new kicks on Wednesday. In fact, they're his first pair of real shoes. For the Walk This Way video that I have yet to complete (real soon, I swear), I wanted vintage Adidas, black, with white stripes, but I was at work when Mama and Grammy took him shoe shopping. Instead, he got these StrideRites, which he rocks, although rumor has it that he initially reacted to them much the same way Barky does when Mama puts on his snow booties at Grammy's in the winter (I just tell him to suck it up) or when you put Scotch tape on the bottom of a cat's paws. Not that I would know how a cat would react to that.

  • Among other items I've failed to mention is the fact that Mama is now consulting part-time. The consulting part is great, keeping Mama active in her field, where she does great work, and keeping her adult vocabulary from atrophying after days full of Wheels on the Bus song marathons. The part-time part is mostly theoretical at this point, however, so she's been managing to work at least 40 hours a week while herding 3B into some semblance of safe play.
  • That brings me to another point I've failed to mention (I write a lot, but say little, don't I? I like to think of it as fun, light, airy material that won't weigh you down. I'm the cotton candy of blogs. Oops, watch for tooth decay.) aaaanyway . . . Mama's been able to keep up this crazy schedule thanks to Grammy (3B's, not Mama's), who has been visiting us for the past week. She's wonderful company to have in our house, a huge help for both of us in getting things done, and 3B loves her. Plus, Grammy will fly with 3B to his Great Grammy's house while we drive there, to eliminate one of the 12-hour drives we'd have to make with him if we drove him both ways.
  • Grammy's flight favor also allows us to stop in NYC to get me all legalized up as a marriage officiant for my best friend's wedding in May. He'll be out of town (his show is in tech in Delaware), so we'll stay with his fiancee, who we love, and not just because she makes Cosmos you could drown in and never lets our glasses empty. Well, we can't remember in the morning if that's the reason or not. And, hey, we wouldn't even have to spend the night if NYC didn't shut down for Columbus Day. Seriously? Columbus Day? We still spend a day celebrating a sailor whose navigational skill led him to believe that the Caribbean was India?
  • Speaking of weekends . . . thanks in large part to a Dallas Cowboy--one more reason not to like them, as if the other 4,713 reasons weren't enough--I'm now in the cellar of Black Belt Mama's fantasy football league. In recognition of my fall from an undefeated record in the preseason (when we play no games) to my current standing, I've updated my team logo:

  • OK, now go read something worthwhile for the next week. (Also, all of you had better write lots of funny, fascinating, intriguing posts. When I come back, it will be my last week at work and my choice will be either clicking through my feed reader or pretending to work. Ha ha ha, just kidding of course, since I know my coworkers read this. Ha ha ha. But really: funny, fascinating, and intriguing or I send over a week's worth of cow pies from Grammy's farm.)

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hump Day Quickies

Ass + Fatigue = Assateague
I guess that now that we have rider numbers, we really do have to ride this century. When I told a coworker where the ride is, he pointed out that Assateague could be a portmanteau for ass + fatigue. Thanks. That'll help me keep my mind off how much my assateague aches after 100 miles.

And if you're crazy enough to be out there this weekend, look for my number to catch a glimpse of me as I zip by. Not on the road, though. I'll be doing my zipping at the final pit stop, running to the table that has the pie and ice cream.

(And for all of you innernet stalkers, who drive around the innernet tubes in your trucks, clogging up the pipes, waiting for someone to be gone so you can go in and rearrange their living room, I have two pieces of information for you: our house won't be empty or unwatched, and our address is 1060 West Addison--Google it yourselves, you lazy stalker slobs.)

I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
OK, so I've never worked an honest day in my life. My hands are softer than a baby's bottom, but without all the diaper rash. So, I'm not quitting the farm life that I never led, but I am leaving my current place of employ as of October 19 and starting at a brand new shiny place on October 22. (New to me--they've been around more than 50 years.)

I think that the shock of the transition is finally wearing off a little, and that I'm starting to enjoy that relaxing end of a job where the need to work is overshadowed by the need to get out in the beautiful fall weather, walk across the street, and buy a Heath Bar Blizzard at DQ. Or a three-olive martini at Clyde's. Yeah, after nine olives, I'm full and feeling ready to work again.

Part of the shock comes from this change being so easy. I wasn't actively looking for something new, although I was obviously receptive to it, when a fellow member of the Pajama Mafia--hey, I don't have ready access to the Velvet Mafia, so I make do with what I've got, which is friends who blog, aka, the Pajama Mafia . . . Pajamafia?--contacted me with an opportunity that I was really excited about. That I
am still really excited about.

No, you don't get details right now, because I don't want all six of you loyal readers, like, stalking me on my first day of work and getting all pajamarazzi on my ass with flashbulbs and all that. Don't worry. You know I'll get all loaded later and tell you aaaaaalllllll about it. More than you ever wanted to know. Olives do that to me.

The first one is always free.
Who doesn't love a pyramid scheme? Especially one that makes you more popular with, like, friends and stuff and bring you, like, millions of readers.

Besides, I know that this one is totally legit because I read about it on the innernets. On a blog, even, so you know that it's true. Besides, who wouldn't love a widget named after Neil Peart's band?

But seriously, it's like Amway without the soap, like Tupperware without the plastic, Mormons without the missionaries, Sarah without the Goon Squad . . . no wait, that last one isn't right. It's totally Sarah and the Goon Squad.

In fact, Sarah made me do it, she got me hooked, she gave me the first freebie, she started it, she jumped off a bridge and made me jump too . . . it's not my fault! So, if you don't make, like, millions of friends and have your blog so overrun with readers that your server melts into a silicon puddle, don't blame me.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Books we wish we had

Some of 3B's books are dreadfully banal, attempting to demonstrate good habits through the characters they portray. They include clunky, awkward, and ugly pages designed to prompt us to say things like, "Look, the cows and the sheep don't pinch their mommy and daddy." Or "Do you see the cats brushing their teeth?" (Although 3B loves brushing his teeth, it's more because he's been soothed by it since three months, when he started teething, than as a result of any picture in a book.)

Of course, these have somehow become some of 3B's favorite books. To his credit, he also loves, loves, loves the old kids books that I grew up with that Sisters #1 & 2 and Brother #2 sent from Mom's house last time they were there. Those illustrations are tiny, durable works of art, and the text is carefully crafted and edited, making for precious jewels of books rather than the slapdash asinine crap that passes as baby brainfood these days.

3B also loves books of photos, many of which are filled with pages of photos of smiling kids doing things like eating with their bibs laying neatly around their necks, rather than torn off and flung down on the floor. And, seriously, how did they get that picture? I heard they had to sew the bib onto the kid's onesie and duct tape the onesie to the kid . . . does that work? Do you know where our duct tape is?

I appreciate the attempts that these books make to help us by modeling desirable behavior, but these books are clearly produced by committees, not by actual parents, because they are far too basic and sterile in their messages. To help these committees sharpen their messages and produce useful books, I have drafted this list of role model behavior that I would like to see modeled in kids books, although I believe in showing consequences as an effective deterrent:
  • Look, the cat played with the knobs on the stove and burst into flames. Owwie.
  • See the parrot who dropped his toy into the toilet and got flushed with his toy down the toilet and out to sea. Oopsie.
  • Here's a dog who played with the heavy drawers in the kitchen and broke all the fingers on his hand. His name is now Lefty.
  • Look, the monkey has become thinner than his shadow because he refuses to sit down in his high chair, which is the only place he'll eat. His name is Slim, and he will disappear tomorrow if he doesn't sit down and eat something today. Right now.
  • See the rabbit who rolls off his changing pad before his butt is wiped off and scrambles away and bounces around the house. See him next to Cinderella, scrubbing poop off of the floors at midnight? Scrub, little bunny, scrub!
  • Here's the hyena who insisted on standing up in the bathtub and stretching across the room to grab his toothbrush, causing him to lose his perilous footing in the tub, at which point he fell behind the toilet and rolled under the sink cabinet, never to see his parents again. Very sad. If only he'd listened to his parents when they told him to be careful in the tub, he wouldn't be an orphan now.
  • Look, the billy goat filled up the hair-rinsing bucket with bathwater, poured it down his throat, and then hacked, gagged, and barfed his way through the rest of bathtime. Barf, billy goat, barf!
Really, would something more concrete like these examples be so hard to include?

How about you, my six loyal readers, anything that you would like for the authors of kids books to model in their art or stories?

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