Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year! (GMT)

Considering that neither Evelin nor I are feeling capable of staying up to ring in the New Year at midnight EST this year, and adding in the fact that Celeste — while she did have a wild wakeup around midnight last night/this morning) — is not a stay-up-late-to-party girl, we decided to call together a few neighborhood friends who also have kids to mark midnight Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

We're planning to have some fondue (cheese and chocolate), champagne (for those imbibing), sparking lemonade (for those not), and other assorted nosh. Last night, Evelin made some breadsticks, and right now she is making an angel food cake and cutting up pineapple and other foods for dipping.

We'll probably stream Virgin Radio or the Moray Firth Radio's Hogmanay Cèilidh and have a nice, early evening ...

Adding to the fun for marking the GMT New Year is that at 23:59:59 UTC±0:00, the clock won't flip immediately to 00:00:00; instead we get a leap second at 23:59:60 UTC±0:00. (Leap seconds are inserted worldwide at the same moment, so it will be marked in Eastern Standard Time at 6:59:60 p.m.) Of course, some people want to abolish leap seconds, but I think they're pretty cool and worth keeping. (Not that I have a vote at the ITU or anything, but ...)

UPDATE: 8:11 p.m. EST and everyone's left and we're about 85% cleaned up — not bad for a New Year's Eve party ... I'm quite full of cheese and a bit of champagne (Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Méthode Champenoise, multivintage from California) at the moment. Evelin wasn't as in to the cèilidh as I was and the Virgin Radio music was a bit bland, so we mostly played some old jazz and swing as background music and flipped on the Virgin stream at 6:58 p.m. EST in time to hear the bells ringing in the New Year in London. Sadly, we missed noting the leap second. Oh well, next time ...

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Make It Stop

With only hours to go in 2005 and the year's Atlantic Hurricane Season over for nearly a month ... we now have Tropical Storm Zeta churning near the Azores. From 11:00 a.m. (EST) this morning:
Zeta is forecasted to burnout in the early hours of 2006, but still ...

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

End of an Era

Well, today marked the end of one year of my time-shifted work schedule. To fulfill my responsibilities as a quasi-part-time stay-at-home dad, I've been at my desk by 4:00 a.m. twice a week so that I leave by noon for the two afternoons Evelin goes in to her office. (She has cut back to part-time, half of which she works from home.)

Overall, I think I've done a pretty decent job. I like the early mornings and get a fair amount of work done when there aren't others around to raise distractions or problems or, even worse, call a meeting. And while there has been the occasional afternoon when I've really encouraged Celeste to take a nap so that I can grab 40 winks, too, I have had some great times with the little girl.

However, I think the varying wake times have taken a bit of a toll on me. So, starting in January, I'm shifting my work schedule again so that I can set the alarm clock to one time and then just leave it there. I'll be working three long days (10 hours) and two short days (6 hours) each week. I often work those sorts of hours, so I'm not concerned about the 10-hour day (11 hours when lunch is counted in), but I'll bet there will be some days that will seem even longer.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Pony Speaks

A while ago, Evelin found a Rockin Pony (apparently, they're currently being sold as the TekNēk Rock 'N Ride Pony) at the thrift shop. It's a cute little plush hobby horse, and while Celeste doesn't ride it too often, she does enjoy pretending to feed it. Whoever dropped it off at the thrift shop forgot to take the old batteries out of it, leaving them to corrode to the point where I couldn't clean the battery compartment. This didn't seem like such a bad thing — the horse is supposed to make noise, and having a silent toy instead seemed like a good idea.

Not willing to leave well enough alone, however, I found a replacement battery compartment and fixed the toy last night. Big mistake. With power, the mouth on the horse moves and it sings a pretty scary song. It also talks and makes running and whinnying sounds. The worst bit is that the old battery compartment had an on/off switch ... my version doesn't, which means the horse starts making the running sound at odd times when we walk past it or are sitting around talking or blogging or something.

But I can't disconnect things: Celeste loves the new talking version of her toy. The first time she heard it, it cracked her up (despite how creepy that song is). She really likes to hold her hand at the horse's mouth while it talks or sings.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmastime Is Here

Technically, Christmas 2004 was Celesete's first Christmas, but considering she wasn't quite four months old at the time, the 2005 iteration of the holiday definitely had a greater impact on her. Although, there were some similarities — last year, she spent a lot of time watching her cousins A--- and L--- opening gifts and running around; this year, she watched her cousin K--- open gifts and run around. However, she was much more into some of the presents (both hers and her cousin's ... especially her cousin's bus puzzle.

Actually Celeste's biggest event of the day was her first-ever sledding run. Perhaps I should back up for a moment. We spent the holiday with my in-laws in New England; although it wasn't too cold while we were there, some three-week-old snow remained on the ground, so M---, K---'s father, was keen to break out the snow tube to see what the girls would think.

This is when I got pretty dumb. Backing up even further: Celeste's cousin K--- has always been a fan of riding in a backpack. When Evelin and I were packing, we decided to bring along the Piggyback thinking that on the off chance K--- went for a ride, Celeste would want to too. When we all went outside for the sledding, K--- and Celeste started off in their respective backpacks. I actually thought we were going for a walk, but soon discovered otherwise. At first Celeste didn't want out of the backpack, but she did want to try riding on the snow tube. I tried to oblige and, well, let's just say it was a dumb idea. No one was hurt, but Celeste and I both got a bit of a scare. (Okay, to clarify, yes, I did try to go down the run on my stomach with Celeste in the backpack — it didn't work, it was dumb, again, no one was hurt.)

After that, Celeste was skittish of the sledding, but after watching K--- take a few runs with various people — and especially after seeing K--- ride down the hill with Evelin — Celeste was ready to give the tube a try. She loved it.

Celeste and Evelin at the bottom of the hill

The problem was when we got back to the top of the hill and it was K---'s turn again: Celeste didn't want to share. We're talking her first real break-down-crying, snot-bubble-blowing, screaming tantrum. Once K---'s run was finished, Celeste got another run and loved it ... until she reached the bottom of the hill and realized it would soon be K---'s turn again. We went through about six of the tantrum/sledding events before K--- got bored and wandered off to look at a tree, giving Celeste more time to sled, including a solo run or two down the bottom half of the hill.

Celeste: Solo Run

The rest of the trip was relatively sedate. Christmas Eve was the big family party, and Celeste did really well with the large crowd. Boxing Day was a trip to visit friends in Easthampton. Tuesday was the drive home — with a detour to visit friends in southeastern Massachusetts.
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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Celeste Says: Have a Rockin' Christmas!

I've always been bad at Christmas cards. I think I did them twice before Evelin and I were married in 1998 and since then we've maybe done them ... another two or three times. But this year, with Celeste's cuteness to inflict upon friends and family, we did the photo card thing. Of course we underordered, so not everyone I would have liked to have sent one to got one. Next year we'll have a better idea of what we're doing ... I hope.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Rebuild New Orleans!

I spent a little time playing with the blog last night. While I support the goals of the Make Poverty History white band campaign, the "Send Tony Blair a Card" band that had been running didn't see as appropriate for a U.S.-based blog, so I decided to remove the black ribbon I'd put in the sidebar (linked to the American Red Cross fund and to after Katrina hit and to replace the MPH band in the upper righthand corner of the screen with a "Rebuild New Orleans!" ribbon modeled after the Make Poverty History band.

Working with the code New Links posted for a "Get Firefox Ribbon," I noodled up a New Orleans ribbon in Mardi Gras colors à la the magnetic ribbon my uncle was passing out at Thanksgiving. It's linked to the Renew New Orleans Foundation, a new 501(c)3 that is working to raise money for local New Orleans charities. From the Renew New Orleans Foundation FAQ:
100% of the profits from the Foundation’s fundraising activities will go to local New Orleans charities. We believe local New Orleans charities will be best suited to assist in the long-term rebuilding of the city, so we plan on donating to a variety of charities in the future depending on the needs required at that time. The areas we want to focus on are: 1) Health, 2) Education and 3) the Arts. Specific emphasis will be given to finding charities that support children and at-risk youths.
If others want to use this, it's pretty simple to do: Just add the following code to the body section of your web page or blog template. I do ask that you copy the banner to your own server and then edit the URL to wherever you've placed your copy of the image. Oh, and if the code is sloppy or buggy, please let me know and I'll try to fix/tweak.

<!-- Rebuild New Orleans ribbon -->
<style type="text/css">
border:0px none;
<a class="rbnofloatlink"href=""><img class="rbnofloatimage" alt="Rebuild New Orleans!" title="Rebuild New Orleans!" src="" /></a></div>

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Got Kicked!

This morning at 5:07 a.m., Celeste let out a short cry. Nothing unusual: it might be a bad dream, it might be a sudden waking, it's probably nothing. Our usual MO is to listen and see if it reoccurs or progresses or if she just goes back to sleep. This morning, it was just a one-off cry followed by more sleep.

But Evelin said she could feel the baby swimming laps. I put my hand on her belly, expecting to feel nothing — as with Celeste, this one seems to get real quiet whenever I try to feel any movement — and did. Evelin said to push a little more firmly, pressing her hand down over mine. Suddenly *wham* — there's a punch or kick from the inside that I could feel! That's so cool.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Celeste: Not Convinced

Bush's latest charm offensive in the wake of revelations of his making up rationales for authorization of illegal wiretaps hasn't convinced Celeste much. We received in the mail today a postcard from NARAL Pro Choice America about Samuel Alito, "The Radical Right's Supreme Court Pick."

She pointed to W. and said "Bad Man."

I may have used that term and pointed to both Alito and Bush, but Celeste focused in on W. when she said it.

(Getting to the part of the post that won't bother my parents as much ...) Celeste actually has been saying a lot more; some of it just parroting back when we say something, but other times she's showing full understanding of context.

For example, last week during her bath, I put my face in the water to blow bubbles for her. She will put her face to the water, but doesn't quite manage to blow bubbles herself; however, she will say "bubbles" and sign PLEASE and today at storytime at the library, when the librarian cranked up the bubble machine, Celeste bent down like she was going to blow bubbles in her bath.

Also, tonight while we were putting on her pyjamas, Celeste spied her dump truck book and said "dump truck." She refused to say it again, but insisted she could say it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Adventuresome Eater

I remain impressed by Celeste's cosmopolitan eating habits. We set out this evening for an early dinner out: Evelin was thinking Indian food, but the place we were headed, Tiffin, wasn't open for dinner yet. (We were about 20 minutes ahead of their opening time.) We thought about circling back around to try Udupi Palace, but traffic was terrible and instead we headed toward College Park.

The Indian place we used to frequent there has since changed over to Tex-Mex, so we started rethinking things. We thought there might be another South Asian place in the same strip mall, but if there wasn't we thought we could head over to Seven Seas for some Chinese food. Instead, we ended up trying a new Japanese place, Hanami (花見), which was near where the Indian place used to be.

Overall, Evelin isn't that keen on Japanese food. I think in the 14 years or so that I've known her, we've eaten at Japanese places together twice or thrice at the most. Part of it is that she doesn't like seaweed, which pretty much rules out sushi (although not sashimi), and part is that the typical Japanese seasonings tend toward the bitter too much for her taste.

Still, she was game to try Hanami and Celeste was ready to get out of the T.R.U.C.K.

It turned out pretty good. Evelin had a shrimp hibachi dish; I had a vegetable teriyaki dish, along with a cucumber roll. Celeste, however, tried it all (except the shrimp). She was really good, having a bit of miso soup, egg from Eveln's fried rice, vegetables from both of our dishes, and bits of both of our salads. She even had two bites of cucumber roll — the nori was a bit too much for her to chew, so she ended up getting the rice and cucumber out of the roll and spat back out the seaweed.

She was also just really good in the restaurant, watching everything going on at the tables around us and just having a good time. I think the only downside for her was that since we didn't go to Tiffin, she didn't get the mango lassi I'd promised her ...

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Food From Home

This evening, Celeste got her first taste of what will be a regular meal throughout her life — red beans and rice. I don't make red beans too often, a few times a year, in part because it's an all day process and also because they only really taste right when I have Camellia red kidney beans, which I have to get either my mom to send up from Louisiana or I have to order from somewhere like CajunGrocer.

It wasn't the best pot of beans I've ever made; I should have brought them to a boil before leaving them to soak overnight. Some of the beans turned out nice and creamy, but others were a little on the hard side. However, Celeste liked them, eating a little bowl sans rice. I only cooked a pound, so there're leftovers for her to enjoy tomorrow, too.

Naturally, while cooking the beans, I got to wondering about Camellia and how it fared Katrina. According to The Advocate in Baton Rouge, Camellia survived the storm, but, like many businesses in New Orleans, was suffering from a lack of staff.

I've also been wondering about the other food from back home that I have to find ways to get every now and then. We can find Zatarain's creole mustard in small jars up here, but those run empty in no time at all, so I have to get the big jars. On the McCormick website, there are some letters to employees, saying that they were hoping to get back to manufacturing in early October.

While it's good to see these businesses bouncing back, it is worrying how Congress and the Administration are moving so slowly in getting plans together to rebuild New Orleans. Bush is pledging $1.5 billion to rebuild levees and flood walls, but Bush has pledged plenty of money before and not come through, such as with his promises of aid to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa.

And, while thinking about Katrina and New Orleans, check out Steve Conn's song "New Orleans, New Orleans (Katrina Christmas)" [ MP3 lyrics ]. The song's a bit blunt in places — "All I want for Christmas is to see Michael Brown / Hanging by his thumbs from a tree Uptown" — but Conn is right that "In Washington they wag their heads and say it's such a pity / But do you think they'd ask if we should rebuild New York City?" (via Street Knowledge)

Another Food Story

In a totally unrelated food story, Celeste has started feeding her Rockin' Pony. She'll take a bowl and hold it up to the hobby horse's mouth; sometimes she brings over Cheerios and other things to it, too. If you ask if she thinks her pony might be hungry, she'll pause and then nod and go get the bowl to feed the pony. It's really cute.
Celeste Feeds Her Rockin' Pony

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Cell Phone Migration

So, as I mentioned the other day, I've given up on my Virgin Mobile paygo mobile service. It's not that I have a problem with the paygo model — I actually like it more than an XXX minutes for $YY.99 per month plan — but Working Assets offered me a free camera phone (an LG PM225) and I've been wanting one of those for a while. Plus, I was using the Virgin phone at a rate that was equal to what the Working Assets plan cost. Now, the trick for me is to not tap the Internet features (including picture messaging) at a rate that makes the Working Assets plan cost more than I was spending with Virgin.

All this means we have a spare Audiovox CDM8500 phone laying around ... which makes Celeste very happy. She always has enjoyed playing with phones — cell phones, landlines, remote controls (she holds them up to her ear as if they were telephones) — so now she has her own phone to play with. She's already figured out how to turn it on, and this afternoon I heard a voice coming from the phone ... Celeste had accessed a menu that was prompting her to record voice dialing cues.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bedtime Rituals

I didn't note the exact date, but Celeste weaned herself from breastmilk a little bit before Thanksgiving. Evelin's not sure if it is because of the pregnancy or just her body, but she didn't think there was much milk there to be had and it was just more effort than Celeste was willing to put up with. We'd been asking her after her bath if she wanted a book or milk and she would usually say MILK, but the nursing sessions were getting shorter and shorter. Finally she started thinking more about having a book, so Evelin would tell her good night and Celeste and I would settle down to read something.

Of course it wasn't that simple. Celeste would pick a book and want to read about two pages before demanding a different book. The first few times, we went though about five or ten books before I would tell her last book, she'd look at too pages and ask for a different one, and then I'd put her in her crib.

After about three times of that routine, we shifted to just getting her into her pyjamas, making sure she had Blankie and a pacifier, and then popping her into bed. Most nights, that worked, although there usually would be a few protest cries.

The current routine is bath, followed by pyjamas. Evelin tells her goodnight and I let Celeste turn off the light. I then talk to her about the things she'd seen or done during the day, and then put her in the crib. Last week, she started waking up about an hour after than routine, crying, and we'd find her standing in the crib in need of serious soothing, so I added an additional step: Instead of just holding her next to the crib to talk about her day, I'm now sitting down with her for about five minutes. Depending upon how active she is, I might talk about her day or sing a song or just rock her gently. She hasn't fallen asleep in my arms, but she's definitely on her way when I move her to the crib.

It's a nice little routine, but I'm sure she'll change it up somehow in another week or two ...

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005


On Sunday, while I was at the office (long story; all part of the same long story as to why I have yet to finish my Thanksgiving posts or blog much this month), Evelin called to let Celeste tell me her new word "back-pack." That's right word, as in spoken word, not sign. She kept walking over to the Piggyback, patting it, and saying "back-pack."

It's not her first word, but it is definately her longest. (She's also saying Mumma, Daddy, up, hot, and a few other things regularly, and there's been the stray bath, cat, and other words/vocalizations. Once it sounded like she said playground, but we must have misheard her.)

So, as soon as I got home, Celeste hopped up into the backpack and she and I hiked up to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner.
Celeste in Backpack.jpg
(I only look like a freak in that shot because it was taken with a cameraphone* ... at least I hope that's the reason.)

Anyway, this afternoon, Celeste wedged herself into the corner where we keep the Piggyback and started tugging at it, saying "backpack" and signing PLEASE. I offered to take her out, if she'd put on her snowsuit, but the thought of getting back into that set her off crying, so we compromised.

Sometimes, Celeste likes to be carried around the house by Evelin in the sling; with me, apparently, she like to be carried around the house in the backpack. We spent about 20 minutes mostly walking around the livingroom and diningroom (although she did give me a few moments to sit down and start this entry, too).

* Which I guess brings up another thing to blog: I've shifted away from Paygoism. Evelin remains a paygoist for now, and Celeste enjoys playing with my old phone, but I'm now with Working Assets Wireless.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Celeste Goes Postal

This afternoon, Celeste surprised me a bit. First off, she didn't sleep very late, which wasn't a great surprise (for the past few of my afternoons, she's been taking a long nap, giving me about 90 minutes after I get home to have lunch, tie up some loose ends from the office, etc. — today she woke about five minutes after Evelin left ...), but she was pretty game for spending much of the afternoon out.

Evelin'd warned me that this morning Celeste had been pretty grumpy and didn't want to go to playgroup or outside at all, which really isn't like her. She did, however, have a 30 minute tea party, so it wasn't much of a surprise when she toddled straight from her nap to the table and started signing PLEASE while pointing at her tea service.

I wasn't ready for a tea party, so I distracted her with some books and made her lunch. We then started talking about the rest of the afternoon and she seemed game for going out.

I gave her two options: ride a train or go to a museum. She seemed to waffle a bit, but as we got closer to the Metro station, she signed TRAIN more definitely. Because I didn't know how long she'd enjoy the trip and to keep us more above ground than not, we headed from West Hyattsville toward the end of the line in Greenbelt. She spent the entire time standing on the seat staring out the window (or when we were underground at her reflection in the window). There were a few excited squeals, including one when she saw the airplanes at the College Park Airport, so as we got closer to West Hyattsville on the return, I asked her if she wanted to keep riding the train or to get off ... she said TRAIN.

So we went to the National Postal Museum, which isn't quite the non sequitor it might seem to be. We changed from the Green Line to the Red at Fort Totten and headed in to Union Station, which is next door to the museum. I figured the Postal Museum would be a quiet, small, easy-to-get-to museum with several different things to look at, and Celeste was amazed by the airplanes at first and the stagecoach/horses, but I think the thing she liked best was just walking around. She also liked petting the statue of Owney; rubbing his nose is supposed to be good luck, according to the docent at the front desk of the museum.

Afterwards, we walked back to Union Station to see the Norwegian Christmas trains and tree and Celeste had a little snack before we hopped back on the train to head home. Luckily, we didn't have a long when changing trains at Fort Totten, and Celeste enjoyed the train ride home as much as the one into the city.

The trip through the Metro system also gave me the chance to point out to Celeste the importance of standing to the right and walking on the left when on an escalator.

Back home, Celeste could not be dissuaded from a tea party. We were lacking scones and clotted cream, but she was happy with a little cheese, some bits of apple, and a 100% Whole Grain Fig Newton. Actually, we both were supposed to get a Newton, but she bogarted them; as soon as I put a quarter of a Newton down on my plate and a quarter of a Newton on her plate, she dropped whatever was in her hands to grab both bits of Newton.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

She Mocks Me

I'm a bit under the weather today; it seems I have some remnants of the touch of Katrina Crud that Celeste picked up in Louisiana. Toward the end of our visit, Celeste's nose was running a lot and she was coughing some; when we got home she was running a slight fever. We also figured that since she's weaned off breastmilk she's relying on her own antibodies now and is probably going to get a few more colds than she has had thus far in life.

We attributed it all to a mix of construction dust and other gunk floating through the air along with teething, but it did seem to linger for a little while ... and it must have been a bit contagious. Evelin had a little cough and she's still nursing a sore throat at night that's lingered since we got back. Yesterday, my nose started running and this morning I was running at about 100°F. Plus I didn't sleep well Friday or Saturday night, coming downstairs at 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m., respectively.

Since I should be trying to edit listings for a year-end directory this weekend, I instead spent much of day lazing in bed, mostly napping and, on and off, reading.

While dealing with the crud, Celeste learned how to blow her nose. We can hold up a tissue and she will sneeze into it. Since the cold made her nose a bit sore, she's often waves away the tissue these days. Still, whenever she hears me sneeze or cough, Celeste mimics the sound — holding up her hand to cover her mouth/nose, which we've been trying to teach her. At first it was cute, but now it seems she's doing it to tease me ...

[ADDENDUM: Since I tend to sneeze like a bull elephant, Evelin has joined in Celeste's game and is mocking me too.]

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Belgian Christmas

After spending a while in the Piggyback helping me with raking, Celeste got a taste of a Belgian Christmas this afternoon. Originally, we thought we'd go to see Santa Claus arrive by helicopter at the College Park Airport Museum, but the big arrival happened during Celeste's nap, so we shifted gears and headed to Riversdale.

With the help of the Belgian Embassy, the Riversdale Historical Society had organized "Sint Niklaas Day: A Winter Afternoon for Children." Like the airport event, we missed the arrival — in a sleigh pulled by a big draft horse — but Celeste did get to see Sint Niklaas in his miter and cape.

When her name was called, Evelin took Celeste up to the front of the room. Celeste did not want to sit on his lap, which Sint Niklaas was okay with. He then asked her if she'd been a good girl and she shook her head no. He still gave her a little bag of goodies — a cup, some plastic animals, crayons, and a coloring book of images from the St. Nicholas Center — and she signed THANK YOU back to him ... so even if she thinks she hasn't been a good girl, at least she was polite.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Risotto and Olives

(in the same entry, not the same dish) ... This afternoon, Celeste was down for her nap when I got home, so I took advantage of the break to quickly rake the front yard. Thursday is our day for the city to come along and vacuum up the leaves, and this was supposed to be the last week of pickups, which is one of the reasons we came back from Louisiana on Saturday. However, my Sunday raking was all for naught as the fronts that pushed through Tuesday pulled a bunch more leaves off the trees ... and a ton of leaves remain up there, which is why I'm glad to see that the city is extending the leaf collections into January. But I digress ... while she napped, I cleaned up the front yard and had time left over to get a head start on dinner.

When Celeste and I went to the grocery on Tuesday, I picked up some green peppers. Evelin and I had talked about having risotto this week and I thought it'd be nice to have risotto-stuffed peppers. For the risotto, I decided on a mix of wild mushrooms (I had a package of dried mushrooms, so it was an easy decision to make) and got to work. Just as I was about to start the soffritto, I thought I heard something from Celeste over the baby monitor. I paused, but no further noise, so I dove in to the cooking. That worked out okay, until I heard Lamba's rattle about 10 minutes later ... with about two minutes to go before it was time to release the pressure on the pressure cooker.

Fortunately, Celeste was entertaining herself and never started crying and I was able to finish up the risotto. In fact, she was glad: While changing her diaper, I casually mentioned that risotto was on the menu for lunch for her and she screamed with glee and almost flung herself off the changing table.

(Skipping forward to later, the peppers turned out pretty good, especially the nice crust of parmesan that I melted on top of each of them, although the risotto itself was on the weak side. I used a new vegetable stock concentrate and it was a little watery ...)

As for the olives, I've mentioned before my fondness for gin and bleu cheese-stuffed olives. Also during our Tuesday run to make groceries, Celeste and I picked up some olives. The olive cart at our regular grocery has been upended and there are only a few varieties of olives still available (and sadly none of them are stuffed with bleu cheese), so I picked up a bottle of olives. Bad, bad decision. I read the label, not the ingredients.

That evening, I wasted a bit of The Quintessential dry gin in discovering that the olives were stuffed with "imitation blue cheese." Whatever that is, it certainly isn't edible.

So, when Celeste and I made a run to Whole Foods this afternoon, I picked up a bottle of Divina blue cheese stuffed olives ... much better. The olives are little crunchier than I like, but the cheese taste is good and it goes well with the cold Quintessential ...

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

SETI Switchover

I've had one computer or another working on decoding extraterrestrial radio signals as part of the SETI@home since 23 August 1999. In that time, I processed 1929 workunits with a total CPU usage time of 5.211 years. Basically, the project uses downtime on volunteer home computers around the world to do lots of number crunching for SETI that otherwise would need to spend billions on dedicated computer facilities.

SETI@home 1,000 Workunits Certificate

Back in March, SETI@home announced plans to switch from the classic interface to BONIC, a distributed computation manager that works with SETI@home and similar projects, but I never got around to making the change. When I returned to the office, I noticed a popup on my computer saying that SETI@home Classic was shutting down in December and that I needed to install the BONIC client if I wanted to continue with the project.

The bummer is all my old credits don't transfer to the new setup, so I'm back at 0 workunits (not that that's why I'm doing this — I just like the screensaver), but I am able to hook up with other projects, too. Now, overnight and during meetings that run way too long, my computer is happily crunching numbers for SETI@home and ...

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

'80s Girl

Not only did Celeste wake up from her nap with A Flock of Seagulls hair, I put some batteries into my Casio SK-1 synth (which my dad reminded me was taking up space in my old closet in Louisiana) and she really rocked out on it ...

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Kids and Cheese

Celeste loves cheese — usually the processed American slices wrapped plastic, but also sharp chedder and Spanish cheeses, especially manchego and tetilla — and she often has some cheese for an afternoon snack, but Stuart Mudie's description of his daughter's crèche ...

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Monday, November 28, 2005

I'm Back ...

... from storytime at the library that is. Evelin is at the 20-week ultrasound at the moment, so I extended my Thanksgiving holiday to watch Celeste for the morning. (Actually, Evelin and Celeste let me get some work done this morning before Evelin had to leave for the doctor, and I'm switching back and forth between this and work while Celeste naps.) Originally, she was to have her 20-week visit with the midwife, too, but that ended up getting cancelled via voicemail while we were in Louisiana.

Which, I guess, brings up the other part of "I'm Back ...", we went to Louisiana for Thanksgiving. Given the horror show that was Hurricane Katrina and its wake, there was no way I was going to miss being back home for the holiday. Plus, the rotation was that we would be there for Thanksgiving anyway, so no one should assume that a tree has to hit my folks' house — or New Orleans severely damaged — to get me to visit.

Unlike the Montana trip, I didn't blog things on my Palm as we went along, and although I'm heading into a work crunch, I hope to have entries for the trip up within a few days ...But before I get started on all that, one cute story:

One night while we were home, my niece, A---, apparently was talking in her sleep. According to her mother, she said "No, slow down!" presumably referring to her father's driving. Well, when we got home on Saturday, Celeste was having a rough night — she's teething, maybe in a leap, and has a little cold or something — and she ended up in our bed a bit after midnight. I didn't sleep so well for the rest of the night, so I was awake at 5:00 a.m. or so when I noticed that Celeste was moving one hand up over her head. It didn't look like a stretch or anything, and she did it a few times in a row, which makes me think she was dreaming about the airplane ride home or something and was signing AIRPLANE in her sleep ...

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thanksgiving Day 5: The Trip Home

Saturday started a bit early when Celeste woke up and dinna want to go back to sleep. In hopes that Evelin could get some more sleep, we went downstairs and tried to play quietly on the couch in the back room. I think it was 4:30 a.m. or so. Of course, trying to keep Celeste quiet isn't always possible, and my mom came out for a little while to see if she could help, which gave us a little time to talk and to try to keep Celeste occupied.

Our flight wasn't until 11:30 a.m., so we had time to enjoy a leisurely last morning, chatting and futzing around while finishing up the packing and making sure we hadn't forgotten anything before I had to resume my time as a member of BODCCATA.

The MSYIAD flight was Celeste's eighth flight segment in her life, and considering that I guess we did pretty well. When we first got on the plane, she was a little hyped up because there was a little boy about the same age as her in the seat next to me (with his mother). I took the middle seat while Evelin and Celeste shared the window seat. Celeste spent most of the time before takeoff opening and closing the window shades and trying to reach over for the copy of Pajama Time! the boy was reading.

Soon after the flight attendants were told to crosscheck and verify, one of them stopped short in front of our row. Apparently there are only four oxygen masks above each row, which meant the mother and boy needed to move to another seat — three adults and two babies were too much for the row.

With Pajama Time! out of eyesight, Celeste settled down and ended up falling asleep for most of the flight to Virginia ... however, when the pilot came on the PA to say that he was turning on the fasten seatbelts sign and that we'd be landing in about 15 minutes, she woke up. And she was mad. For most of the rest of the flight, we were that family all the roadwarriors hate: intermittent screaming mixed with sobs and moments of silence. She was still tired and just couldn't take it. Once we were off the plane, she did pretty well, although she wasn't to keen to get back into her carseat.

[ASIDE: Even though Celeste didn't have her own seat for this trip, we still used the Britax RoundaboutGo-Go Kidz combo we used on theMontana trip. We needed a carseat in Louisiana and this way we didn't have to carry a stroller, too. Since we were checking the Roundabout/Kidz, I bought a big carseat bag, thinking I could keep the Kidz attached to the Roundabout and just check the whole thing. It took some wrangling, but I did manage to get it to fit; however, when I opened the bag in New Orleans after the first flight, one of the wheels had popped off the Kidz. It all snapped back together and worked fine, but it was a little disconcerting. When I opened the bag in Dulles, I encountered the same problem, but this time I knew to look for the little cap and washer that held the wheel to the axel. Again it snapped back together fine, but I wish there were a way to ensure that thing could stand up to checking at the gate — maybe the bag itself stresses the wheel too much and we'd be better off without a bag or just a plastic bag to protect the fabric on the seat.]

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving Day 4: Global Wildlife

So how do you follow up a big Thanksgiving Day family get together? By going to feed a bunch of wild animals, of course. On Friday, we gathered up the girls and all headed off to Global Wildlife Center in Folsum. Evelin and I went one Boxing Day years ago, but we thought it would be fun for all of us, especially Celeste and her cousins.

Basically, Global Wildlife is more than 900 acres of forest and plains that's home to some 3,000+ animals, including bison, giraffes, zebras, camels, kangaroos, antelopes, and other grasslands animals. You ride through the park on a tractor-pulled wagon/tram, which stops periodically to let people feed alfalfa pellets to the animals. According to the center's staff, they didn't loose any animals during Hurricane Katrina, although several hundred trees were downed; for the most part, the animals just huddled in big mixed-species packs and weathered out the rain and winds.

We got there a little before 10:00 a.m. for the first safari tour of the day, got our tickets, and a big bucket of pellets. Since the center was closed on Thursday for the holiday, the animals were eager to crowd the wagons as soon as they left the basecamp.

The first group was mostly longhorn cattle (Bos taurus (one of whom's horns was getting way too close for comfort), bison (Bison bison), elands (Taurotragus oryx), a zebu (Bos indicus), at least one beefalo (Bos taurus × Bison bison), and several varieties of deer (family Cervidae). The cattle and bison were not shy about sticking their heads in to the wagon to have feed poured into their mouths; A-- got licked by one cow.

We eventually pushed on, past the pens where newly arrived animals were in quarantine and past the kangaroo pen (I'm not sure why they don't mix with the general population, but the kangaroos, mostly red kangas (Macropus rufus), if I remember correctly, are kept in their own enclosure). We then started seeing more deer and antelope. We also saw a pair of Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus) who were happy to get close enough for some food.

Through most of this, Celeste was pretty happy. She may have tried to pet one or two of the animals, but mostly she just wanted to sit and soak it all in. A--- and L--- were getting pretty excited with dumping food out to the animals. All three girls enjoyed pouring the alfalfa pellets on to the floor of the tram, too.

Up next were the big draw — reticulated giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata)). They have a small family group — the male, Slim; the female, Kameel; and the baby, Seemore Freckles — and they aren't shy about sticking their heads into the wagons for some pellets. Last time Evelin and I went to Global Wildlife, Seemore was just a yearling; now he's still young, but getting bigger. Evelin and Celeste were in perfect position to have Kameel get very up close and personal with them, which both of them liked. Evelin got to touch the giraffe; I don't think Celeste did, however. I was on the other side of the tram taking pictures, so I don't know for sure, but I'd bet Celeste was making her blowing kisses noise, which is what she claims a giraffe says.

Celeste & EvelinCeleste spies a blackbuckCeleste & Evelin Feed Kameel

Seemore ended the feeding stop by doing some running and jousting with the various deer and antelope, sending a group of them scattering as he ran through the brush. As the tram continued, we saw more and more antelopes and deer, including some blackbucks (Antilope cervicapra) and Père David's deer (Elaphurus davidianu), as well as some llamas (Lama glama) and two dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius).

Then we came to big draw number two — the Grevy's zebra (Equus grevyi) herd. Because they bite, the tourguide asked us to only drop food to the ground for the zebras and not to try to touch or feed them directly. L--- was very happy to dump food over the side.

As we headed away from the zebras and back to the basecamp, the only downside to a 10:00 safari became apparent ... too close to naptime. Celeste, A---, L--- and a 20-month-old* who was also on our tram were all getting very grumpy. We had a few snacks (which was against the rules) that the girls could munch on, which helped a little, but they were all getting tired and ready to head home.

*The little girl and her mother were evacuees from Mississippi. Apparently they'd been coming to Global Wildlife just about every weekend since Katrina forced them from their homes ...

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Day 3: Thanksgiving

The big day itself. Most people were arriving around 11:00 a.m., so we had a little time to finish up preparations and to get some of the food prepared and ready for the crowd. Unless I'm counting wrong, we had 28 people total, and since the F--- next door were having their family over there were a few additional people crossing back and forth between the parties. Celeste was the second youngest (her second cousin T--- is a few months younger), but did pretty well with the crowd. She did sort of keep to herself some, but she was polite to most everyone and even spent some time in the middle of the crowd of children (although I didn't get her to show off the firm handshake we've been working on).

Celeste at Thanksgiving

My uncle, S---, passed out Rebuild New Orleans magnetic ribbons (the ribbon is purple, green, and gold — the colors of Mardi Gras). I'll admit that I'm a bit of a cynic when it comes to ribbon awareness and previously would only have considered a Support Our Sox magnet, but I was more than happy to put magnets on the T.R.U.C.K. and the Hyundai ... and I need to shift my commute so I drive past the Capitol every evening.

It was really good seeing everybody. Five cousins (along with the families of three of them and the fiancée of one other) were missing, so it wasn't quite a substitute for the "everyone's here" Christmas that didn't quite happen last year, but it was still a very nice time. And, of course, everyone had their Katrina, evacuation and post-Katrina reconstruction stories. It did dredge up some of those old feelings of guilt, but everyone seems to be rolling along pretty well — either rebuilding or moving in a new direction that makes sense — so it was good to hear both what people went through and what they have in store for the future.

My grandmother led the grace before dinner, and we all stood out on the deck (in the shadow of the tree that crunched my parents' house) and sang "We Gather Together". In the saying of grace, she struck the perfect note between looking back on the disaster and looking ahead to the future.

One funny thing was talking to some of my young first cousins once removed, most of whom I've had very little interaction with since we don't get down to Louisiana very often. One, L---, was hanging around while I was feeding Celeste. When I said something to her, she replied "How do you know my name?" I explained that I was her cousin and that the last time I'd seen her, she was about the same size as Celeste. She wasn't quite convinced. She didn't make me produce ID or anything, but I think she eventually accepted things when I said that her aunt and uncle (actually great aunt and great uncle_ were my mother and father and that her parents were my first cousins. The bit about Celeste being her second cousin pretty much went over her head, however.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Day 2: Preparing for T-Day

Wednesday was spent largely getting ready for Thanksgiving proper. There was some cleaning up of the yard, moving furniture and rugs into the back room of the house, moving plants and stuff back to the deck, etc.

Until a few days before we arrived, the back part of the house was still isolated from the rest of the place with plywood sealing off the three entrances to the room. By the time Evelin, Celeste, and I arrived, the house was back together and the back wall (which was once windows) was two full-length windows and a french door; however, while the trim work was in place, it wasn't painted and the floors were bare subflooring.

(The bare floors actually worked out pretty well considering that my nieces, A--- and L---, were spilling some food on the ground, and Celeste was throwing a bit of her own.)

Outside, we used one of the painters' ladders to climb up the tree that did the damage to the house to see what we could see. Much of the tree is still in situ; the tree trimmers need to bring a crane to the site to remove another tree (which has one bit hanging ominously over the garage that cannot be removed by a climber), so they decided to wait until then to cut down the rest of the tree that hit the house. Plus, there are two bees nests in the tree, which makes the crane an easier option than getting climbers, bee wranglers, and pest control coördinating on site.

From the ground, the drey in one part of the break was visible, as was some of the scarring and an odd bit of the tree that looked like driftwood. C---, our neighbor, is a forester and she concurred that the driftwood bit was weird looking; she said it looked almost petrified.

The Face in the Tree The Tree Cavity

Climbing up, however, one could see that the tree wasn't hollow. The cavity had a bunch of dirt, leaves, and litter in it, but it only seemed to go down about a foot. There was a little weed growing up there, too. Since the tree overlooks the deck where much of Thanksgiving would be spent (a beautiful, 75°F day was forecast), my dad put a geranium up in the cavity.

The Tree In SituIn the afternoon, Evelin, Celeste, and I ran out to the farmstand to buy some fresh strawberries and satsumas, and to the grocery store to pick up some things for Thanksgiving. Celeste already loves strawberries, but fresh Louisiana berries are sooooooooo much better than the ones we get up in Maryland (be it local ones from the farmers market or ones shipped in from California, Florida, or Mexico) that it was almost unfair to let Celeste develop a taste for them. Fortunately for us, she doesn't like citrus at the moment, otherwise I'm sure the satsumas would have pushed her over the edge and she would have demanded we stay there ...

(continues ...)

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Thanksgiving Day 2: New Orleans Amber

One other thing I picked up at the grocery was a bottle of New Orleans Amber Rum. Celebration Distillation Corp. was "the oldest premium rum distillery on the U.S. mainland" (it was founded in 1995); they used Louisiana sugarcane to produce single barrel and blended rums that I've heard were pretty good. I've always meant to pick up a bottle, but I'm not much of a rum drinker these days, so I never ended up buying any while back visiting my folks.

Unfortunately, Katrina also took a toll on Celebration. Eamonn Fitzgerald’s Rainy Day contacted the distillery back in early September and received this reply:
"Unfortunately, our distillery and the rum in it was submerged in the toxic flood water when one of the levees broke. The future of our company is uncertain, however, the employees are safely evacuated. We're glad you enjoyed Cane what we did, we don't know if or when we'll be making rum again."
I'd read this elsewhere in the aftermath of the storm, so when I saw a bottle of New Orleans Amber on the shelf at Winn-Dixie, I picked it up. They also had two bottles of New Orleans Crystal, but I passed on those. (I do kind of wish I'd spied a bottle of the five-year-old single-barrel Cane Amber, which sounds especially nice.)

New Orleans Flood Map: Celebration Distillation Corp.

According to the City of New Orleans Property Database, the distillery site is 1.5 feet below sealevel (and in an "A2" flood zone). The New Orleans Flood Map says the maximum water at the distillery address (2815 Frenchmen St., New Orleans, LA 70122) was 3.2 feet, but clicking on the satellite image of the distillery building reports water levels ranging from barely 2 feet to nearly 5 feet. in various parts of the facility. In any case, it'll be a little while before I open the bottle, I think, but it's sad to think that it could well be something that might never be made again.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thanksgiving Day 1: Disaster Tourism

As soon as the Katrina mess settled down and everyone had time to think about it, my mother decided she wanted to have Thanksgiving at her house. Being on the North Shore, my folks weren't as effected as all the family members who had had to evacuate from New Orleans. There was the back corner of the house that had to be rebuilt and other work done, but the decision was made ... and I was glad. I've felt bad about not getting down to Louisiana in the wake of the storm — not that there is much I could have really done to help, but still the yen is there to help or, at least, to be there.

In planning the trip, Evelin and I looked over the options and decided to make the haul out to IAD for the direct flight instead of spending less time on the road and more time in the air/airports. We also decided to have Celeste make her first trip sans a seat of her own. It's about a 2- to 212-hour trip, and we thought Celeste could handle that.

Of course, the other part of it meant we needed to leave the house around 5:15 a.m. for an 8:30 a.m. flight. Originally, I thought we could leave a little later, maybe closer to 6:00 a.m., but 1) I am generally paranoid about not leaving enough time to catch a plane; 2) the pre-trip press reports were making it sound like the airport parking lots were already filling up; and 3) when I tried to check in online the night before, I discovered that something was wrong and I needed to talk to a person at the airline counter.

We ended up making good time to the airport, parked in the Blue Lot, instead of the holiday overflow lot, and never really found out what the problem was. At first, it seemed that it was because I had Celeste linked to my ticket as an in-lap infant, then they said it was because my credit card had only my initials on it instead of my full first name, then they said I should always travel using my full first name (this despite having been chastised once before when work booked a ticket for me as "Carter Ross" when my frequent flyer card is assigned to "T. Carter Ross" — or as the airline computers always read it "Tcarter Ross" ...).

There were several other babes in arms on the flight and things generally went well. Celeste managed a short (40 minutes or so) nap and only got a little antsy towards the end of the flight. Since I was sitting in the middle seat as we came down, it was hard to figure out the approach we were making into New Orleans. From the air, the biggest evidence of Katrina was all the blue tarps on roofs, but the tree canopy seemed thinner ... not that so many trees were down (although they were), but that the ones that were there were quite bare.

My folks met us on the ground and we headed off to visit my grandmother. She's been back in New Orleans since early November, and was doing well despite things being far from normal — lots of traffic signals were out, houses obviously empty, Red Cross relief centers very visible, millions of signs offering tree removal, house cleaning, sheetrock hanging, car buying, etc. We had a good little visit, and Celeste was very obliging in showing off some of her skillz with sign language and animal sounds.

After the visit, we headed off on a quick tour of some of neighborhoods and up past Tulane through Fontainebleau and Mid City to Lakeview and West End, near where the 17th Street Canal breeched. Bits of the city looked like they were coming back to life with lots of signs of construction and work going on, but, as we got closer and closer to Lake Pontchartrain, the higher the waterlines on the houses got and the more abandoned places looked. There was still some traffic and work going on, but a lot less. In West End, we could see where the neutral ground was still being used to store storm debris, mostly fallen trees and branches, and where it was being ground up for disposal. Some of the mulch piles (not to mention debris piles) were at least two storeys high.

Heading back through the swamp, there were further signs of damage — some houses/houseboats that were knocked over, broken trees, generally thinner canopies — but the bigger shock was when we turned on to my parents' street. I'm not sure how many of the water oaks were gone, but more were missing than remained. Several tall stumps were still in place, having been drafted as emergency electrical/telephone poles, but others were just gone. I think it was the first time I'd ever really seen the front of our next-door neighbor's house.

During the whole trip, I kept finding myself looking up across the backyard or in other directions, wondering what looked different: I'd check with my dad or mom to make sure my memory wasn't faulty, but almost every time it was because one or more big trees and their canopies were no longer blocking the sky.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

In a Pile of Leaves

In a Pile of Leaves

We spent a little time today trying to get a picture of Celeste for our Christmas card. I guess it's a sign of the age (our age?), but we decided to do one of those picture-with-text-on-the-side card things and for that we needed a good festive season photo of Celeste. Of course, with no snow on the ground, we were stuck with leaves or something else as the background.

The above photo wasn't the image that won out in the end, but I did rake up a nice pile of leaves and stood Celeste in it to see what she'd think. She enjoys picking up leaves at the park and walking around with them, so I thought a big pile of leaves would be interesting to her. Instead, it proved a bit overwhelming ... especially when I had the bright idea to start throwing some to give the snapshot a leaves-falling effect ...

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Before Noon ...

... (well, before 12:15 p.m.) I had most of what I wanted to do today done, and a little bit more. Not that I was planning to get anything too difficult done, but often it seems even a few little things are hard to get accomplished over the average weekend.

So I had three things I wanted to do: 1) get a haircut; 2) put up the second sconce (the first one went up last Saturday); and 3) enter my receipts into Quicken and pay a few bills. By 12:15 p.m., it was all done, and I still had time to pull some more vines and to clean the acorns from the street.

The first thing that helped get the day started off right was that Celeste slept very well last night. (And simply thinking that, much less blogging it, probably dooms us for tonight ...) With the current cold snap (Thursday night–Friday morning was our first freeze of the season), we thought maybe that night and the night before's bad times might be due to her being a bit cold. We've been putting two layers of pyjamas on Celeste, along with socks, and she has her blankie in bed with her (although it used more for snuggling than covering), but we do keep the house on the cooler side ... so I decided to move an oil-filled convection heater up from the basement to her room.

It was a little tricky figuring out where to position the heater so that it was a safe distance from the crib and from other furniture and where the on/off and temperature lights wouldn't distract Celeste, but we did find a place and it seemed to work. She slept through 'til 7:00 a.m. There were some little waking cries around 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., but no real "Hey, I'm awake!" cries.

With a full night's sleep, we were all in pretty good shape to deal with the day. After breakfast (Celeste wanted scrambled eggs; Evelin made us pancakes), I headed out to the barbershop. Perfect timing: Just after I got into the one free chair, three other people walked in ...

Soon after I got home, Evelin and Celeste headed out to the park to meet up with a friend. Celeste was dressed in a little snowsuit that made her almost as wide as she is tall. It was a bit difficult for her to maneuver in, but, as Evelin noted several times, she was warm.

While they were out, I added a new task to the list of goals for the day: the acorns. Around here, leaves are picked up by the city with a big vacuum truck. Everyone rakes everything out to the curbline and once a week during autumn, the truck comes 'round and picks everything up. It works pretty well, except that this year — because of the coolish summer, dry August, wet September, and warm October, I guess — we had a ton of acorns. The vacuum truck doesn't do a good job with things heavier than leaves, including acorns, so I came home Thursday night to several large piles of acorns in the street in front of our house.

I raked the front yard again, and then bagged all the acorns and some of the leaves and stuck things aside for the week after next (there's no yardwaste or leaf pickup next week, because of Thanksgiving).

I then moved to the backyard to see if I could pull the bits of dead porcelainberry out of the dogwood that I didn't manage to pull out last weekend. Using a polesaw, I was able to get most all of the vine out, although I did end up climbing the tree to get the last few bits from the tree. It added up to an 11th bag of vines ... and there's still plenty (dead) in another neighbor's trees.

After that it was on to the bills. Evelin and Celeste got home as I was finishing that up and Celeste went down for her nap ... leaving Evelin free to help me get that sconce up.

With the chores all done, the afternoon was free to take care of Evelin's other task for the day: a run up to Arundel Mills to the Stride Rite outlet to get Celeste some new shoes. She's walking a lot more and her Robeez are getting a bit slippy. (I've sanded the soles a few times to try and keep them rough, but they get slick fairly quickly.) I'd never actually been to Arundel Mills before and for some reason thought it was after BWI; instead, we ended up missing the exit and ran into a ton of construction traffic most of the way in to Baltimore. Considering that we were almost there, I suggested we bail on the shoe shopping and go to the National Aquarium or something, but we ended up turning back and finding the shoes.

Celeste wasn't too keen on the first few pairs she tried, but we ended up with a pair she was willing to wear out of the store. We then walked around the mall a little, and Celeste ended up going crazy over the Pawsenclaws & Co. store, petting the various stuffed animals, and walking from bear to dog to reindeer to bear, repeat ...

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Too Cool for Modern Music

This evening I was stuck in traffic and scanning stations. I ended up on WQSR, the Jack FM outlet in Baltimore. John Mellencamp's "Cherry Bomb" was playing, which was fun, but then it ended and something with a good drum line kicked in; the guitar started up and then some horns ... and then I realized what it was — Chicago, "25 or 6 to 4". Embarrassing, but still a pretty good tune.

That I was enjoying a Chicago tune probably undercuts the rest of this entry, but I've recently been turned on to MP3 blogs, and have been finding and enjoying some pretty good tune because of it. Back in early October, Drink at linked to Jefitoblog's "Complete Idiot's Guide to Big Country." After a few other interesting entries at Jefitoblog, I started looking around and landed on My Old Kentucky Blog, microclips, Lonesome Music, and Salon's Audiofile column, as well as The Hype Machine, an aggregator for MP3 blogs.

While a lot of MP3 blogs post MP3s for evaluation purposes with the request that downloaders delete files within a few days of downloading them, they sometimes also link to really cool things that are legal to download for noncommercial purposes, such as the Live Audio Archive. I've found some excellent Calexico shows there (you need a program to convert the FLAC files to MP3 or WAV, but this show is excellent), as well as some rare Billy Bragg performances and a few fun Clumsy Lovers sets.

One of the better live sets I've found through an MP3 blog is Iron and Wine together with Calexico live at the Triple Door in Seattle. It's not free, but Iron and Wine's performance at Bonnaroo 2005 is also excellent.

A long time ago, in one of my first few entries, I blogged about legal MP3s. I still think the Web is a great means for promoting new bands, and several MP3 blogs have been pointing to Everybody Loves Irene, a very chill trip-hop/down-tempo band from Indonesia. The Indonesia angle is just a fun note for their bio; the music is nothing like dangdut or other typical Indonesian musical styles. They're just a solid band that deserves much wider attention. Check out "Gravity Always Wins" [MP3] (Uncertainty, Anxiety, and All the Sorrow In This World EP version) and "Hybrid Moments" [MP3] (demo version).

Since I don't have an iPod, most of the time I'm playing back MP3s via the computer or I burn files to an audio CD, but a few weeks ago I did pick up a Roadmaster VR-3 FM modulator/MP3 player. It has some limitations, but being able to drop MP3s to a USB thumbdrive that I can snap into a device in the car for playback is pretty cool ... and gives me something besides Chicago to jam to.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fall Down/Pull Up

Celeste and I came up with a new game today. I was sitting on the floor and she was walking over to me, bumped into me, and I rolled backwards. Celeste looked a little worried and started tugging me at my shirt to pull me back up.

A little later, I was laying on the floor, and she came over, sat on my stomach and tried to pull me up. I sat up and tipped her backwards. We went back and forth several times: I pulled her up and tilted myself back; she tried to pull me up and I tilted her back again; and so forth.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sleep, Precious Sleep

I don't know what it is, but last night Celeste was up a ton, and tonight/this morning I was the insomniac. For Celeste, we think part of it might have been her stomach. She's been changing how much and when she eats, which is understandable as she's still growing a lot but it's not quite the same as during her first year. So when she had three vegetarian meatballs, some peas, some mango and some other stuff for dinner in the 5:00 p.m. hour, it seems it wasn't quite enough to hold her all the way to morning. (She may have also had some of the leftover spaghetti squash with asparagus and ricotta that I made on Friday; it's bulky but spaghetti squash is so calorie-lite that it doesn't really stick with you too long.)

She went to bed a bit past 7:00 p.m. and woke at 9-something, around 11 or midnight, again at 3:00 a.m., and then pretty much every half hour until Evelin nursed her back to sleep at 5:00 a.m. or so. I know, bad parenting for not realizing that she was hungry, but the usual soothing strategy — replace pacifier, make sure blankie is in her hands, pat her head and/or back — was working, just not for very long.

Last night, we gave her a little second dinner/heavy dessert just before her bath, and she was sleeping when I left for work. There were some little sleep cries on and off through the night, but none of them necessitated soothing or other intervention.

But for me (and Evelin, too, to a degree), there was a lot of awake time. I went to bed around 9:30 p.m., but woke up a little past midnight. After about 90 minutes of twisting and turning, I went downstairs to read until it was time to head in to the office. If it hadn't been one of my early mornings to work, I might have been better able to get back to sleep, but I kept looking at the clock and thinking that I have to be up in two hours and that just dinna help things.

I guessing, even if Celeste slept well, this afternoon is going to be rough for me if not for her ...

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Fire at the Weather Station?

I had to call home this morning to make sure all was well in the Florida Parishes. A while ago, I took up Google's offer to personalize my homepage and as part of the deal it feeds me headlines from the BBC, The Washington Post, Reuters, and Google News; the word of the day; top radio-related news headlines; and the weather forecast for where I live, where my parents live, where my parents-in-law live, and for Paris (where my European editor lives).

This morning, the weather forecast for Maryland looked fine, as did the ones for Massachusetts and Paris. Hammond, Louisiana, however, was registering a temperature of 126°F. It did cool off a little to 118°F later, but it soon jumped back up to 132°F.

Calling home, my mother said it was foggy (which matched what Google was saying), but the temperature was only about 70°F. After a few hours, the Google Weather report did even out to match out with what my mother said the day was like, but I still have to wonder if there was a fire at wherever the temperature sensor was or something ...

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Amino Results

Evelin just got the call from the testing place and the amino results were all normal. All the choromosomes are there; no delitions or inversions detected; no spina bifida. Everything looks good and healthy!

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Neighbors: Yardwork & Brunch

Although a little sore from yesterday's raking, I spent most of the afternoon in our neighbor's yard ripping out what I'm pretty sure is porcelainberry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (Maxim.) Trautv.). Even if my identification of the species is wrong, it's still an evil, invasive that was doing more damage than I realized.

A while ago, I noticed some vines coming from our neighbor's yard over the fence and into our dogwood. I kept meaning to get permission to go rip it out (they're getting on in years and are letting some of their yardwork slip, particularly in what's a fairly wild back corner of their yard where it abuts ours), but just didn't see them out or it would slip my mind. J--- was out raking this morning when I got home from the farmer's market, so I asked and she readily agreed.

Flash forward to the end of the day ... 10 bags of vine and other detritus and I know I didn't get it all. I did find the grandfather root and cut it off at the ground, so hopefully anything that is still in the trees/bushes will die back (especially those that are up in another neighbor's trees) and at least not spread any further, but there seem to be a lot of little roots that I'm sure are still in the ground waiting to spring up in a few months. I guess I'll need to check things a couple of times over the summer to see what can be done to keep it from coming back.

There were some comic moments. I practically had to play Tarzan to get some vines out of the trees and, of course, at least one of those broke in mid-swing sending me sprawling. Okay, maybe that happened three or four times.

Oh, and I'm sure I saw some poison ivy out there too, so hopefully the showering with anti-ivy soap helped ... I don't want to end up like last time.

In other stuff for the day, Evelin, Celeste, and I were invited to a neighbor's for brunch. Evelin made a very tasty cinnamon roll ring and Celeste went down for a nap about a half-hour before we were due at M---, J---, and T---'s house. Evelin went ahead with the food and I waited for Celeste to wake, figuring it wouldn't be more than 20 minutes or so ... and I waited ... and I waited ... and I read the paper (and waited) ... and folded some laundry ... and waited ... and about an hour-and-a-half passed before Evelin called to see if we were on our way ... and Celeste was still asleep.

Finally, she woke after a well-over-two-hour nap (not that I'm complaining), so Celeste and I headed up the street just in time to see some of the other guests leaving. We ended up spending about 20 minutes or so hanging out (and Celeste stuffed herself with strawberries) before heading back home ...

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Chore Day

Today was the first big rake of the season. I broke one rake haft, bought a new 9 × 9 tarp, and made a big pile of leaves for the city to pick up. The new tarp is great; I used an old bedsheet — the traditional leaf-removal device — to clear leaves from the upper garden (the P³ part of the yard) and it took four trips to move everything to the curbline. It was during this process that the rake haft broke, necessitating a trip to the hardware store where I found the new tarp. It's bigger, has handles and ropes that help close things more securely and allowed me to clear the entire backyard of leaves in just four trips ... and the fourth trip was really just the dregs of things.

Despite not having one neighbor's oak, our fig tree, and a few branches from our oaks, there were still a lot of leaves to clear ... and even more disconcerting is that a lot of leaves look like they plan to stay on the trees for a while yet to come. The big twinned oak in the backyard hasn't even a hint of color.

One thing I did notice is that there seem to be a lot more acorns this year than last. Several of the bedsheet/tarp loads were quite heavy due to acorns, and the hill in front of the house grew a bit slippy as more and more acorns were raked over it. I don't know how well the city's leaf vacuum trucks will deal with that; it may well be that we'll be picking up acorns long after the leaves have been taken away.

After the raking, I took care of a few other things around the house. Evelin's mother gave us an early Christmas present — new sconces for the livingroom — and I installed one of the two (Celeste was needing too much attention to get both of them up as I needed Evelin to help hold things while I was doing the wiring). In getting the sconce in, I noticed the shelf we hang keys from and put mail on was loose, so I had to replace one of the screw anchors.

Other chores accomplished: Replaced one of the ceiling tiles in the basement bathroom; drilled a drainage hole in the bottom of one of Evelin's flower pots; and installed all the accessories/replacement parts for the B.O.B. Duallie stroller (it was missing the jogging strap and a frame plug, and Evelin wanted a handlebar console — Prolitic Sports carries all the small replacement parts, although they aren't listed on the website). There might have been something else; I can't remember at this point.

While I was doing all this, Evelin watched over Celeste, but we did all get to take a trip to the park in the afternoon. Actually, Celeste is getting really good and brave in the park. Her favorite remains the swings, but she's also really liking walking around and exploring the ramps, and she's getting really good at going down the one (fairly big for her) slide on the firetruck by herself. Evelin's not convinced this is the best idea, but I put her on one end of the platform and encourage her to walk down to the slide. She'll sit down short of the slide proper to scoot herself off the edge, and I catch her at the bottom of the slide.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Few More Gerunds

Nesting ... One toy Celeste is enjoying right now is her mother's old set of matryoshka (матрешка) nesting dolls. We've hidden the two smallest dolls (choking hazards), but Celeste likes taking the others apart and occasionally manages to stack them to one degree or another. Last night, she was working hard with the smallest of the dolls available to her, popping it apart and putting it back to together again. Whenever she got the doll back into one piece, she would clap and raise her arms in triumph ...

Carrying ... When her grandmother was visiting over the weekend, Celeste received a box of Barnum's Animals Crackers. But she hasn't opened them yet. Celeste likes just holding the string and carrying the box around, as well as looking at the animals on the outside. I figure she is going to be upset about how long she's been playing with the box once she finds out what's inside it ...

Sleeping ... Well, I dinna blog it last night because Celeste'd been sleeping fairly well. Maybe one short wake up in the middle of the night, but easy to soothe back to sleep. Last night, however, was a bad night. Lots of crying, several wakeups, and a trip to our bed. Urgh.

And Now for Something Completely Different

CONGRATULATIONS to Anita and Dave over at This, That and the Mother Thing; to Kay over at narrating kayoz; and (offline) to C--- and J---! Thems a lot of babies (or at least pregnancy announcements) ... And a similar CONGRATULATIONS to Tiffanni and Dan at Try Whistling This for surviving homestudy visit number one.

UPDATE (Thursday morning): And another blinking CONGRATULATIONS goes out to MC and Darren at Running*Cooking*Writing ...

And, yes, I do think that is one of the few instances when the (rightfully disparaged) <blink> tag is allowable.

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