Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Time to Think

The Setting: The Hovel.

The Soundtrack: The What Women Want Soundtrack.

Steaming up the Oven: Cuban bread and kale chips.

The Scenario: Looks like I might have time to turn those lists blue after all.

If I hadn't let on all that much over the last few months, work has been hard on me.

Without my typical go-to of overabundant caffeine intake (not so good for the baby), the 5-or-6 hours of sleep I'd get between shifts some nights was not enough to drag me out of the expected state of forgetfulness, clumsiness, and confusion that is so often referred to as "pregnancy brain," so functioning on a mental level equal to or surpassing my peers was not happening.

Worse, balancing the ever-growing cocoon on my belly while repetitiously pushing, pulling, reaching, stooping, lifting, etc., as per my job description, was sending me home with back pain so intense that my moans and grimaces could have secured me a featured role in a commercial for the prescriptions blue-hairs use to combat crippling arthritis.

Thus, at my visit to the doctor last week, the nurse gave me a list of appropriate restrictions, like no lifting over 25 lbs.

Turns out my place of employment does not sanction "light duty" for injuries not caused on the job.

As my condition originated in the bedroom and not the backstock, I would have to go on medical leave.

So now I sit, praying my short-term disability claim will be approved so that I can continue to feed myself and the fetus, and surveying all that I can theoretically accomplish now that time is mine for the least for a little while.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bring to a Boil Over Low Heat...continued

By the time I went to bed the list looked like this:

*Unload dishwasher, reload dishwasher
*Exercise at the Y
*Go to Target for Space Bags
*Go to Whole Foods for vanilla wafers
*Take ham out of freezer
*Clean out dresser drawers, Space-Bag all clothes that won't fit over baby belly, start a Good Will bag
*Clean off table to make room for sewing machine
*Start making onesies out of old T-shirts
*Practice Italian Instant Immersion
*Simmer heavy cream with vanilla bean for Chantilly cream. Chill. Whip.
*Make pudding. Chill pudding. Make banana pudding.
*Start dinner.

When Hoosband got home we went for a walk, watched Disc 2 of Weeds, Season 6, and happily consumed peas and pudding.

The peas were a little al dente, and the pudding was a little thin, but the flavors were outstanding, and I was completely satisfied.

Setting out to make this pudding, I was fairly certain I knew what I was doing, but my craving was so intense, I could not accept the possibility of spending the time to make pudding from scratch and not ending up with pudding.

Thus, I consulted my primary texts.

Nothing on pudding.

I consulted  my secondary texts.

No luck.

Finally, in the Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book I found a recipe for "cornstarch pudding."

Hmmm...cornstarch had not been a part of my initial gameplan.

I reviewed the ingredients: sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk....

I decided to swap out the sugar and cornsarch combo for confectioner's sugar, which is, after all, sugar and cornstarch. Other than that...what the heck, I'd play along.

The instructions, as per Betty's style, were teasingly simple and brief:

        Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture boils. Boil 1 minute. Blend in vanilla. Chill.

Now, here's where I would have drastically departed from Betty if left to my own devices: bringing the mixture to a boil over low heat.

You see, I am impatient, which, as a life-long CMT (Culinary Mastermind in Training), I can tell you is not the most useful character trait.

Many a Thanksgiving pie was not devoured (but rather sloshed across the floorboards of my mother's car in the transportation process) as a casualty of my youthful failure to grasp the importance of letting the filling set.

Having learned a lesson or two by now (let's hope), this time I acquiesced to the instructions in print and set the heat to Low.

Stirring...and stirring...and stirring...and drinking a glass of water...and stirring...and talking to Hoosband on the phone...and stirring...and checking my email...and stirring for what was certainly the better part of an afternoon, I waited patiently for the first signs of a boil.

My innate impatience gasping for breath beneath the surface, I finally adjusted the heat slightly to med-low and flitted back over to the computer to finish reading about "What to Expect" in week 26 of gestation.

Predictable as my favorite friends-who-fall-in-love flick, as soon as I abandoned my pot of goop, pudding bubbles began bursting.

I rushed back to the stove and readied my whisk, but clumps had formed quickly like middle-school cliques and would not be swirled into submission.

I removed the mixture from the heat and poured it slowly and carefully over a (much too small for the job) fine mesh sieve into a fresh, clean bowl. The lumpy remnants could then be flattened out, little by little with my handy silicone spatula and gradually re-introduced to the mixture.

In the end, the pudding was fine. A little limp, but layered with fresh bananas, organic vanilla wafers, and vanilla bean Chantilly cream, who's to complain?

Still, there is a lesson to be learned here, as there always seems to be.

I took a tedious process, generously applied my impatience to it, and created more completely unnecessary work for myself.

I can't help but thinking about what's coming for Hoosband, me, and Ziggy (as we have taken to calling the fetus).

Hoosband has gotten into and been awarded an amazing scholarship for grad school, which would mean a major move, and a major life change.

For me it could mean more items in blue on my lists.

....And more time to perfect my pudding recipe.

I get stressed so often at my inability to accomplish it all, to be a good wife, a good employee, a good vessell of procreation, and to do what I can to further my own goals in the minutes in between.

But stressing and rushing gets me nothing (but gray hairs and indigestion).

All I can do is stay focused, attentive, and try not to crank up the heat too much.

Patience is the secret to good pudding.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bring to a Boil Over Low Heat

The Setting: An apartment whose mess is rivaled only by those appearing on Hoarders.

The Soundtrack: The 2011 Academy Singers.

On the Stove-top: Pudding. Peas.

The Scenario: There is never enough time on a day off to do all the things today I'll be dreaming of doing tomorrow.

Let me let you into my brain for a minute.

Need to write and work on recipes. Apartment messy. Must clean. Need good cleaning music. Feel like writing. Nothing worth saying today. Mmm....Pudding. Banana Pudding. Pudding will need to cool after cooking. Start cooking now. Kitchen messy. Hate cooking in messy kitchen. Clean kitchen. Cleaning products toxic. Want to go organic. Clean out fridge. Make space for pudding. Hmm... Pudding recipe? Wing it? Find a reference just in case. Should have gotten coffee earlier. Too late now. Will never fall asleep. Baby makes it hard to sleep. Baby coming soon. Want to make onesies out of old t-shirts. No space for sewing. Must clean apartment.

Fun, huh? And that was cleaned up a little.

My work schedule is incredibly erratic. My hours typically range from 7 am to right around midnight, my commute is long, and my potential work days are any 5 out of seven (not of my selecting). I love my job, but running on half-tanks while growing a human inside me is a challenge.

My days off sometimes include staff meetings and/or doctor's appointments, so a full day with Hoosband (if it's the weekend) or to myself (if a weekday) is a rare and wonderful thing.

The days I get to spend with Hoosband generally follow the pattern of breakfast, exercise, errands, laundry, dinner prep, and falling into a food coma while enjoying our latest arrival from Netflix. We don't like to spend a lot of time on the computer on these days since our time together is so limited, and, well, we like each other's company.

That leaves the wayward weekday-off for writing and all the other me-time activities that barely make it off the buffet and onto my plate.

When there is enough room on my plate for all, I usually manage only a taste and not enough to satisfy. But that's what you get when your tastes are diverse and your dinner break is fleeting.

I often make bulleted lists (on the bathroom mirror or on the Post-its scattered around The Hovel like little reminders of my failures to catch the productivity train in time for departure) just to keep my stream of consciousness in check.

Today's list reads:

*Unload dishwasher, reload dishwasher
*Exercise at the Y
*Go to Target for Space Bags
*Go to Whole Foods for vanilla wafers
*Take ham out of freezer
*Clean out dresser drawers, Space-Bag all clothes that won't fit over baby belly, start a Good Will bag
*Clean off table to make room for sewing machine
*Start making onesies out of old T-shirts
*Practice Italian Instant Immersion
*Simmer heavy cream with vanilla bean for Chantilly cream. Chill. Whip.
*Make pudding. Chill pudding. Make banana pudding.
*Start dinner.

Theoretically, all this was to be done by 5 or so, which is when I expect Hoosband home from work today.

So far I have done (or am in the process of doing) only the items in blue.

I want to keep writing, but the clock just struck 4, and this meager, unfulfilling taste is all I have time for tonight if I want to eat dinner (and, perhaps more importantly, dessert) by an acceptable hour.

To be continued...