Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Finally Learning to Cook

I kind of like to cook.

That's something I never thought I would ever write. In our family, Paul has always been the chef, and I'm the baker. That's still the case, but I'm inching into Paul's realm, first out of necessity and then because I actually enjoy it.

It goes something like this:

Before Edith was born up until she starting eating solid foods last May, Paul and I would eat supper at about 9 p.m. Because of our hours and commutes, we were rarely both home before 7 p.m. When we did get home, we would relax for a bit, and then Paul would start supper.

With Edith, that plan became untenable. It didn't make sense to always feed her a meal before bedtime, only for Paul and me to eat a couple of hours later. Plus, our move to Ohio shortened Paul's commute, so he's home a little earlier. We decided to move up our dinnertime by a few hours.

I began to feel like I needed to chip in more for supper, and I don't mean heating the oven for a frozen pizza. Although Paul was home slightly earlier, our mealtime would still be pushed back if he had to cook supper each night. So I've slowly taken over some meals during the week.

At first it was just the easy things I've long known how to make: quesadillas, salmon cakes, breakfast burritos, chicken bakes. Then Paul taught me enchiladas, and I can make tacos if he reminds me of the correct proportion of spices to add.

Now I'm branching out without his help: homemade macaroni and cheese, a couple of lentil dishes that Edith just loves, and a tortilla pie that is seriously one of the best things I've ever made -- not that there's much competition.

I've had a miss or two -- Edith liked my applesauce rice and I thought it was OK, but Paul determined that it was kind of disgusting. But at least I'm trying new things and looking up new recipes.

I still have a long way to go before I would consider myself a good cook by any means. But I am proud that I have at least a few well-rounded meals that I can depend on without resorting on anyone but me.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Duckling Day at Whetstone Library

Imagine hundreds of babies and toddlers, all dressed up as ducklings on one fine spring morning. That's Duckling Day, and we weren't going to miss it.

Duckling Day is evidently a long-time annual tradition at the Whetstone branch of the Columbus library system, stretching back decades. During this year's event on Saturday, there were live ducks, plenty of fake ducks in plastic pools for the kids to play with, duck-themed crafts, a puppet show, and of course the duck parade.

A fraction of the parade.

The library gives away costume packs for weeks beforehand -- basically a brown paper bag, orange and yellow construction paper and directions on how to fashion it into a mask and body. Some kids wear more elaborate Halloween-type duckling costumes, but I was surprised at just how creative those paper costumes could be.

None of that this year, however. Edith screamed bloody murder when I tried to slip on that paper bag with holes cut out for her head and arms. So she wore a yellow shirt and shorts, the mask around her neck, and orange paper webbed feet around her shoes.

She seemed to have a fine time, but let's be honest -- this year was mainly for us. I'm curious to see just how much more she'll really enjoy it next year.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Making Music in the Park

Clinton-Como Park a short walk from our house has a cool feature that I've never seen before: a small music board with blue notes that swivel to bang adjacent metal hemispheres. Neat, but I'm glad that I don't live too nearby -- they're loud!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter at Home

I've said over and over that one of the best things about living in Ohio again is being so close to our families. That's especially true at every holiday.

But this Easter was even more special -- it's the first one that I've spent with my family in Defiance for at least a decade, as far as I can remember. When we lived in Columbus before, it seemed to make more sense to stay local since we both had to work the next day and Paul's family is nearby.

Maybe the difference now is that the 150 miles between Columbus and Defiance don't seem so long compared to that 500-mile trip between New York and Ohio. Or maybe spending Easter in Defiance was more appealing this year since I don't have to work the next day!

Either way, I'm glad to have the option again for this holiday and all of the ones that follow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Starting to Read Again

I was long proud of the fact that I managed to read eight books a month for years and years. There were a few exceptions -- notably, the months I had morning sickness -- but I kept it up. Even after Edith was born I generally fit in eight books, thanks to the frequent breastfeeding and naps in my lap that kept me sitting still for hours each day.

But that all fell by the wayside when we moved back to Ohio. I had already determined that I wouldn't be able to read as much in the first few weeks. What I didn't foresee is how much it would be curbed back when I began freelancing.

It shouldn't have been a surprise. All of a sudden, my evening free time was spent in front of a computer. And I have to admit, in the free time I do have I often just want to zone out on Facebook or Twitter.

I'm getting back into the reading habit, but not at the same level I was a year ago. My goal now is a couple of books a month; I think I'm currently at number three for April. I've also found that I must be much choosier about my books  -- not only because I'm reading fewer of them, but because I have too many other distractions at my fingertips. If my book is boring, I reach for my phone. In New York, if my book was boring, I just kept reading because I had nothing else to do in the subway.

I do regret not reading as much anymore, and I recognize that I should cut out some of the bad habits that have taken its place. But I also don't want to be beholden to books at the expense of real life.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Coolest Mailbox I've Ever Had

Edith with our mailbox in October.

One of our home's unique feature that I love is its mailbox. We don't have a typical mailbox at the end of our driveway -- in fact, no one in our neighborhood does.

But we don't even have a mail slot in the door, or a box hanging outside our door. Instead, the postal carrier slips our mail into a slot at about chest-high, and it slips down a chute. We open a tiny door in the house that falls just below our knees to retrieve our letters. No need to go outside to get the mail!

Edith especially loves the little door. It's the perfect height for her to open and shut.

I like it too, although it means there's nowhere for us to leave letters for the carrier to take to the post office. Luckily we got used to dropping our mail into the big blue boxes in New York, and we do the same here. There are mailboxes at two locations we regularly frequent -- the library and grocery store -- so we're not too hard up. And it's worth it for the cool mailbox.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Too Quiet

The quiet creeps me out sometimes.

It was never quiet in our Brooklyn apartment. We lived on a busy corner, so in the daytime you could always hear the chatter of the people on the sidewalk. In the summer, patrons of the restaurant and bar downstairs provided a pleasant hum. In the winter, the radiators pounded. At Christmastime, the pharmacy downstairs and a few doors over piped carols over a speaker. Throughout the year there were the horns of the ships in the bay, the creaking floors above us and, of course, always the traffic -- buses, garbage trucks and regular old cars.

If you happened to wake up at about 3 in the morning, you might catch a couple of moments of quietude. Until a car alarm interrupted.

Columbus, by comparison, is silent. I think it's funny when anyone complains about the noise from nearby Route 315 -- I barely notice it unless it's pointed out. I also often hear the distant train horns at night, which I actually enjoy. Reminds me of those ships in New York.

Traffic is moderate. If I hear an outdoor noise, it might just be one of the neighbors opening a garage door. Lately the most annoying noise has been a few empty branches brushing against a side window on our house.

As annoying as the cacophony was when we first moved to New York, I miss it. Sometimes the quiet here is just too quiet.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How NY Changed My Speech, at Least a Little

Let's face it: the Ohio and New York "accents" are basically identical.

I'm not talking about Brooklynese -- that's another beast altogether. It's strangely distinct (watch "Saturday Night Fever," anyone?), and what's even stranger is that many people who are born and bred in Brooklyn don't speak with it. Some native Brooklyners sound like they could have come from Ohio.

So by and large, New Yorkers and Ohioans sound the same. But I have definitely noticed three small changes in my speech since we moved to New York and back  -- nothing that anyone would notice, I think, but interesting to me all the same.

First: grocery. Before New York, I pronounced it "gro-shree." Now I say "gro-sir-ee." Our six years in Brooklyn turned it into a three-syllable word.

Next: coupon. Before New York, it was "cue-pon." Now, "coo-pon."

And last, a phrase. "It is what it is." I seem to remember that phrase being a minor annoyance when we first moved to New York. Maybe it was a little too obvious for my taste. Now I find it creeping into my speech regularly.

I don't know why, how or exactly when I made these changes, and I wonder if I say anything else differently that I haven't noticed. Of course, I've kept the vast majority of  my Ohio- and Midwesternisms -- the predominant one being "pop." No soda for me. You can take the girl out of Ohio, but you can't take the Ohio out of the girl.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring in Ohio vs. NYC

It's been a long winter, and I wonder if it's even over. As late as last Saturday we got enough snowfall to significantly cover the yard, although it had disappeared by the next afternoon.

This is always the time of year in which I'm anxious for spring weather to arrive, and that was true in New York as well as Ohio.

Dare I say it, but in New York the cabin fever was even worse. In Ohio, our car is in the garage only a few feet away. In New York, both the subway and our parked vehicle were blocks away, giving me an even lower incentive to go outside in cold weather.

Of course, our Brooklyn apartment was also smaller than our Columbus house, intensifying the cooped-up feeling. I remember walking to the subway on some of the first lovely days of the year and sincerely feeling a sense of elation: It was spring, I was in New York and life couldn't get any better.

I expect this spring will be different then any others I have spent in Ohio -- it's my first with a kid, with a park within walking distance and with a stay-at-home job that will allow me to completely take advantage of the weather and amenities nearby. Edith and I made a pilgrimage to the park on a one-off sunny day a few weeks back, and played in the backyard, too. Oh, a backyard -- something else we didn't have in Brooklyn!

Paul is looking forward to grilling again -- the Weber stayed at his Mom's house while we were in New York. And I'm looking forward to eating a few meals on the front porch, if the mosquitoes don't beat me to it. But most of all, I'm just looking forward to the warm sunny days that make me forget what snow even feels like.


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