Geek. Pirate. Mom

The Life and Times of Whitney Drake

Archive for November, 2011

MIA, part two.

I started off my day the way I always do. I took the kids to school.

Then I stopped by my doctor to get a referral. And now I’m here at the ER waiting room. I’m fine, but my iron levels are low enough, he wanted me to come here for a blood transfusion.

I’ll explain it all tomorrow.  Just covering my ass for NaBloPoMo.

Day 29 of NaBloPoMo

Update: I’m staying the night, getting blood. I’ll explain more later. Right now, I’m going to eat some pudding.

Great Expectations.

Reviews. They’re both a nuisance and important. Especially for a self-published author who are trying to earn a living by selling ebooks. Or if you’re Anne Rice, occasionally you vent at Amazon reviewers who disliked your book.

Why am I sharing this? An author posted a blog with guidelines about how to post reviews on Amazon- which mostly seemed to say that if you posted anything less than a 4 or 5 star review, you were being rude to the author. There’s been a fair amount of backlash (this is an excellent post on it, and this is as concise as you can possibly get on the subject), and the woman has been backpedaling a bit.

But as I thought about how ridiculous the situation was, I realized that it wasn’t just for her suggesting that you game the system or seeming to imply that if you aren’t going to rate your friends as high as you possibly can that you just aren’t friends. It was her expectations of what was a fair review.

By her guidelines, you should review a book like you would any regular product. Like a pair of jeans or a toaster. Was the book everything you were promised? She suggested you give it 5 stars. Was it just a little off? 4 stars. And so on and so forth.

When did we skew our ability to rate things?

Back in high school, I was in the honor’s track. Where A’s were handed out like candy, even if I turned in what I felt was mediocre work. By the time I was in college, A was meaningless. It wasn’t something to strive for, or an achievement. It was a reminder that the bar was lowered somewhere along the line.

Elsewhere in the world, most people get C’s. Not because they aren’t smart. But because a C is average. It isn’t nearly failing, it is quite simply what everyone is expected to get or know. Getting A’s are nearly unheard of in some schools in Europe.

One of the first times I got a performance review for a job, I was having the scale explained to me. Satisfactory, which was in the middle of the performance scale, I was told was just that. It meant I was doing my job well. Outstanding meant I was going above and beyond, and Exceeds Expectations meant that I was walking on water. It was refreshing. Knowing that it was unlikely for anyone- even a good employee like me to get an Exceeds Expectations made me feel like my evaluation actually reflected me.

The strangest thing about all this is that we expect people my age and younger to have inflated self-images because we’ve been told how awesome we are since we were little. The woman who wrote the blog post is a baby boomer, and has tried to use this as an excuse. Like she didn’t think her blog post would get that much attention. She didn’t think other Boomers would know how Amazon ratings worked, so she was explaining it. Right. Which is why she started off her post by saying how if a friend gave her a 2 star rating, they weren’t really a friend at all. She also said she was mentioning higher ratings because Amazon won’t recommend books with low star ratings (that’s in the comment section of the first reply post I linked), but actually didn’t mention that anywhere in her post- which is interesting information. (On the whole Baby Boomer thing, my mom is a Boomer and is extremely internet savvy. She would never have posted something on the the internet that she wasn’t prepared to stand behind. Or try to use her age as an excuse.)

Realistically, she wrote a post saying that if you want authors to love you, you should stroke their egos by giving them well-written and highly rated reviews on Amazon. She might say otherwise, but that’s what it is.

But if you do that, you’re doing everyone a disservice. I’m guilty of saying that something is the “BEST EVAR” when it’s just enjoyable. We love superlatives. But when you rank thinks as being the Top when you just mean to say it was a decent book- who are you helping? Nobody, really. We can all learn from bad reviews- not the “I bought this because I thought it was a spy novel and it was a cookbook” type of comments. But from the ones who thought plot elements were confusing, or that some parts weren’t explored enough.

For me, the satisfaction is in finishing it and putting it out there. Having it be well-liked would just be icing on the cake.

Am I alone in thinking that we need to stop grading everything on a curve? That it’s okay to say something is fine instead of needing to gush about it?

Day 28 of NaBloPoMo

MIA

So I forgot to write a post for today ahead of time.

Today we went to Disneyland with my parents and had a great time.

Yesterday, TheBoy and I went to see The Muppets- and yes, we had a great time. If you were a fan of the Muppets as a kid, I urge you to go see the movie. And if you aren’t familiar with the Muppets, check it out anyways. Yes, I love them so much that I want everyone to see it. (We’re planning on taking the boys next week)

Mahna Mahna.

Day 27 of NaBloPoMo

Yawn.

I know that my kids wear me out, but I’ve discovered that my brother in law makes me tired, too.

The youngest brother in law is 23, and he and his girlfriend go out all the time. Out late at night, up relatively early in the morning. They went shopping on Black Friday at midnight and came home in the middle of the night, then went out to a family dinner and got home late and turned right around to go out with their friends.

I’m exhausted just typing this.

When TheBoy and I were their age, I’d already left Disney and was working a 9-5 (and then some) for an oral surgeon. He was a lead at Disneyland, and working 40+ hours. You know what we did? We’d go to work, and crash on the couch at home with a meal. For kicks, we’d watch bad movies and make up drinking games to go along with them. (Unless you want your liver to fail, please don’t ask about the Pearl Harbor drinking game. That one was brutal- and we didn’t have that many rules!)

I admit, we were never really the stay out all night partying types. In college we’d stay up all night coding, and I’d stay up all night in gaming binges. And our solo Vegas trips were more about roller coasters, food and a little gambling than about clubbing. (Now they’re all about food. And spas. YES)

I guess I’m admitting that we aren’t the all-nighter crowd anymore- unless it’s because one of the boys is violently ill.

But honestly, I’m fine with that.

Day 26 of NaBloPoMo

Lazy Friday

After watching countless television ads, my oldest asked us about Black Friday. So he announced it to everyone as though it were a holiday. We made sure he understood that we weren’t shopping. That for us, Friday is about relaxing.

But still, “It’s Black Friday! Black Friday!” Which makes me think of the stupid Kohl’s Friday parody song, and the fact that it had a cardinal Black Friday sin in it- namely, the woman taking something out of someone’s cart. The family agrees that that’s the way to get beaten up. Or apparently these days, sprayed with pepper spray.

Thanksgiving was a success. The meal was served about 4:30, and somehow we managed to get everything out and warm. While I cooked the asparagus, I reheated the meal I’d made for LK & I in the oven, and it turned out well. I forgot to take pictures- it was a busy day. Worst foodie ever.

I liked the stuffing recipe I used, though I think I’ll add more vegetables next time, and now I know how much broth to add. The gravy was perfect, and unbelievably easy to make. (I did not use the flour from the gluten-free recipe I’d seen, so I made a slurry instead- where you mix together broth & flour prior to adding it to the drippings) The turkey was amazing, though I’m definitely just going to make a turkey breast for LK and I next year.

I discovered that the Oldest Kidlet wants to help in the kitchen, and doesn’t mind getting messy. He rubbed butter all over my turkey (my recipe? Don’t stuff the bird except with a little bunch of herbs, cover the skin with a TON of butter and sprinkle on some salt, pepper and chopped herbs. Then cook per the directions your bird came with- I tented mine with foil for most of it, and it came out golden and extremely juicy). Of course, this led to an uncomfortable conversation about butchering animals for food.

OK: We’re having a real turkey?
Me: No, it’s a fake one.
OK: This isn’t a real turkey. Those have feathers and say gobble gobble.
Me: (long pause) Sweetie, this was a real turkey. But in order for us to eat it, they had to kill it and plucked off all the feathers for us.
OK: Is that its eye? (He saw the pop up thermometer in it)
Me: No, that’s the thermometer. They actually took off its head…
OK: And its feet, too? I don’t see any feet.

While I’m glad that he does seem to understand that the animals he learned about are the ones we eat, I wish I’d told him that we don’t need to share this with everyone. Yes, yesterday he told everyone at dinner that we were having a real turkey, it just had its feathers plucked and head chopped off.

That’s my boy?

I should add that I’m extremely thankful for TheBoy, who couldn’t sleep yesterday morning (he works overnights, so he only got off work Thursday morning) and actually stayed up over 24 hours in order to help with Thanksgiving. He is a rock star, and there’s no way his mom and I could have pulled off the day without him- well, not without tearing our hair out.

Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, and that you have a safe weekend.

Day 25 of NaBloPoMo

How Thanksgiving won me over.

I thought that since my posts this week have been a little short, and often a bit rushed, I’d try to put together something a little more thoughtful for today.

My family was never big on Thanksgiving. The highlight of the meal was never the turkey, but always on the side dishes and desserts. During the years our family was vegetarian, we basically just served sides and dessert. Thanksgiving was always an intimate thing, just the four of us.

Then I went off to college, and got a job at Disneyland. I know I’ve talked about how great working for Disneyland was- and it was, but there was a huge downside to the job. Disneyland is open 365 days a year, and unless you’ve worked there for decades, odds are good you’re going to have to work every single holiday. The first Thanksgiving I missed wasn’t such a big deal. I got to have leftovers at my future in-law’s house, and I’d had a Thanksgiving sandwich (openfaced turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce, gravy and mashed potatoes) with my dad the day before.

Suddenly a holiday I hadn’t regarded as important became important- just because it was something I was missing out on. (This wasn’t true for every holiday I had to work. It made me downright loathe New Year’s Eve, a holiday that I never really enjoyed to start off with. Our NYE parties are quiet, and usually involve lots of hors d’eorves. NOM)

After I left Disneyland, we drafted a formal holiday agreement with our families, so that nobody would get more holiday time than the other. We split the holidays. Thanksgiving with my family one year, Christmas with his. It’s worked out well.

Thanksgiving with my parents prior to food allergies meant either a small get together (two years ago, it was a small dinner at my parents with my grandma!) or a new experience (four years ago, we dined at a restaurant near Disneyland, having pumpkin ravioli and turkey). This year, the cards didn’t quite line up for dinner with my family, so I’m doing double holidays with TheBoy’s family this year (and spending the day with my parents on Sunday).

I’ve always loved cooking. Food, as I’ve mentioned before, is a way to spread love in my family- so making a big holiday meal is magic to me. There’s a poetry in trying to coordinate dishes, in making sure you offer something for everything- those dishes that they associate with the holiday. I’ll admit, my family is much more up to experimentation than my in-laws- two years back, we tried a different bread, stuffing and even a different yam recipe than usual. Which is fun, and that’s part of what I love about time with them. I love holiday meals with my in-laws because of the tradition. A long table filled with lots of people (their meal is for MIL’s family and FIL’s family) and lots of food.

Apparently you take the food is love philosophy and combine with with being cheated out of several Thanksgivings, and suddenly a holiday that didn’t mean much to me other than pecan pie became important.

As I do every year, I give thanks for my friends and family. Not just the people I know in the “real world”, but the people I’ve met through Facebook, Twitter and G+ – proof that you can make real connections in this digital world of ours, even with people who have completely different points of view (some of my best internet friends aren’t liberals!). Thank you for reading my blogs, and giving me support to keep writing. My life is crazy, but you keep me sane. Thank you all.

Day 24 of NaBloPoMo, haven’t missed an update yet!

Making Thanksgiving.

Here’s the lineup for today’s cookathon:

Pumpkin Cheesecake – The only change I have to make is using gluten free ginger snaps (from Trader Joe’s) for the crust.
The Turkey (I’m following the instructions on the bird and I’m going to coat the bird in butter when I cook it, baste it regularly and cover it with foil if it starts to look too brown.)
Gluten free Sage stuffing – I’ll be making this ahead and reheating it tomorrow.
And I’ll also be making the gravy today- and I’ll reheat/thin it out tomorrow.

I’m sure I’ll have some in progress pictures to add later…


The star of the show! It came out of the oven VERY late on Wed night, but was perfectly cooked and unbelievably juicy.

Day 23 of NaBloPoMo

Allergies vs Thanksgiving

As you all should know by now, the Little Kidlet has a slew of allergies and I have a gluten issue. On a normal day, this means that LK and I have a lot of separate meals from the rest of the family.

But how does it affect holidays? Well, in the past, I’d roast a turkey for LK and make sure he had a couple of sides. Now that I’m on a restricted diet, we’re going for broke- I’m going to make a separate meal for her and I.

How to handle it? I bought separate tupperware containers for LK and I with different colored lids so that it’ll be obvious which leftovers are ours. I found matching serving spoons (all bright green) so that it’d be easy for family to look at an item and know that it’s the allergen-free ones, and not theirs.

And to minimize contamination, I’m making most of our food tomorrow. The only thing I won’t be making are the mashed potatoes- but I’ll be making those for the rest of the family, too. After I boil the potatoes, I’ll be setting aside some to make for the Little Kidlet, then use the rest for the big batch of mashed potatoes (then I’ll set aside some of those for me). Oh, and I’ll be labeling all the plastic containers just so we all know what is what.

The menu:
A roast turkey, unstuffed – I bought a fresh one from the store, and made the people at the store laugh because I was looking for the smallest bird while everyone was looking for the biggest ones.
Sage stuffing – I saw this recipe and thought it looked delicious. Instead of making it in the crock pot (next year: tiny crock pot), I’ll do it in the oven and just microwave it the day of.
Gluten free turkey gravy – this I’ll make the day before with the drippings from the turkey, reheat the day of and thin it out if I need to (I bought a LOT of a chicken broth that I know is gluten free).
Mashed potatoes – for LK, I’ll make a batch with almond milk and butter.
Roasted asparagus – a family favorite, I’m really making this one so that LK and I have a veggie on our plate. This will be made day of and at the last minute since it’s so fast (400 degrees for 10 minutes!)

And for me, a pumpkin cheesecake with a gluten free crust. While LK can’t have this (it isn’t dairy-free or egg-free), I can’t live without a dessert at Thanksgiving. He’ll have his favorite snickerdoodles. I didn’t think about experimenting with pies until now, so I’ll start a few trials to prepare for Christmas.

Now, this brings me to an observation I’ve made over the last week. When you start talking about cooking for someone with food allergies, people usually make some pretty crazy assumptions.

A woman I worked with at Disneyland has some similar allergies to LK and posted on Facebook that she was making blueberry muffins. In the comments were several people who said (and I assume they were joking) things like “you’re taking out the best part” or “are they even considered muffins anymore?” And I was suddenly very annoyed.

Why? 80% of the time when I say something about being on a gluten-free diet, the person I’m talking to will reply with “I couldn’t live without [insert gluten filled item here].” Which for someone still struggling with keeping to my diet, is pretty rough. Because yes, I do miss croissants and crusty french bread. But I’m still surviving. Which is the important thing.

When I mention my son’s allergies, everyone responds with “then what does he eat?” Well, there’s a lot he can still eat. Considering it’s been 3 1/2 years of a diet without those allergens, and he’s close to 75th percentile for height and 50th percentile for weight… I think he’s doing just fine. Plus, he doesn’t know how amazing a buttery croissant is. So he’s absolutely fine with his world as it is.

I suppose I’m saying, give people with allergies a break. It’s tough. You can’t go out to eat without asking a million questions- it’s even hard to eat at other people’s houses without interrogating them. It’s one thing to ask me how I handle it. It’s another to lead off with how much my life must suck.

Because honestly, even with all the label reading and a small (but growing) list of trusted restaurants- I still have a pretty great life.

Day 22 of NaBloPoMo

Forgetfulness.

As in, it’s almost 8pm and I completely forgot about writing a blog post today.

It was a rough weekend. It’s been the first weekend where the boys had no chance to go outside. It was too cold on Saturday and rained on Sunday. So by the end, I had two whiny little boys.

Every night, we have a regular routine. We come up to bed, I read them a book and they go to sleep. Oh, I also turn out the light in their room. Only I forgot to turn out the light.

Saturday night, I was informed by my brother in law that the light was on (I’m still not sure why he didn’t turn it off). So I went upstairs, and opened the door. The Little Kidlet was fast asleep. His brother on the other hand, was laying in bed with his head propped up in his chin. “Mommy,” he said icily. “You forgot about the light.”

I turned it off and went back down to watch TV with TheBoy.

Last night, I walked downstairs to spend more time with TheBoy before he had to go in to work (he works overnights as well as weekend overtime). I heard sobbing from upstairs and went to the stairs. There was the Oldest Kidlet, tired beyond belief, sobbing because I’d forgotten to turn off the light again. I turned off the light, and as I sat down on the couch to watch The Simpsons (episode: The Book Job, highly recommended for both fans of the Simpsons and avid readers) I realized that he’d been so tired he hadn’t realized he could have turned it off himself!

So there you have it. I’m a forgetful person, though mostly if it’s because I’m looking forward to seeing my husband. The truth is, I wouldn’t want him to change his schedule. He gets to spend a lot more time with the kids than the average dad does, and weirdly I get a lot of privacy for writing.

For those concerned, I did remember to turn off the light. As I walked out of the room, my oldest said, “I’m so glad you remembered. Three days in a row would be too much.”

Gee, thanks kid.

Day 21 of NaBloPoMo

I had a dream…

..and I dreamed it for you, June. And if it wasn’t for me, then where would you be, Miss Gypsy Rose Lee-

Just kidding. I just really love Gypsy. With all this talk about Natalie Wood’s death, it has me thinking about some of her more memorable roles. While for West Side Story was all about Rita Moreno’s Oscar winning turn as Anita for me, Gypsy was all about Natalie Wood for me.

There was something about Gypsy that attracted me- the story of a girl overshadowed by her sister only to emerge and become a bigger star. Which is odd. Because out of my sister and I, I was the one who got attention for my talents first. But it resonated with me. Maybe because boys didn’t really notice me?

Anyways, I learned a lot from Gypsy. That a lady doesn’t give it all away, they leave them wanting more. Also, if I’m going to be an ecdysiast, I want fabulous costumes.

(For the 1989 revival of Gypsy, the ladies of You Gotta Get a Gimmick appeared on Geraldo. I share because the live audience really does add something. And they’re hysterical)

Enough about Gypsy. I had a very vivid dream last night, and I’m mining part of it for a novel. The rest… well, the rest didn’t make much sense at all. Imagine a modern rom com that shifted to a period piece, then to an action movie. I think there was a horror element to it, too. But at least there was a moment that was wonderful and perfect.

I had thought about sharing more about the dream, but it was really too random for me to elaborate more about without someone worrying that I need a straight jacket and a padded cell. I suppose that at least I can take comfort in knowing that my brain is constantly dreaming up stories.

As long as I can remember I’ve had vivid dreams. In high school I used to have a series of dreams where my friends and I moved into Disneyland and lived in various attractions/shops after the park closed. It was a continuing dream, which I’m told is fairly rare. I lived in the Tiki Room.

Here’s to hoping my dreams, even if they’re nonsensical, continue to be entertaining. (I feel the need to share that my spellcheck suggested I replace nonsensical with nonconsensual)

Day 20 of NaBloPoMo

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