Cultural differences and laundry folding

Folding laundry is one of my favorite chores.  It reminds me of together time spent with my family when I was a young child.  I folded underwear and socks mostly until I got old enough to help with bigger and more complicated shirts and pants and towels.

Laundry is the ultimate togetherness chore.  Your hands are kept busy but your minds and ears and mouths can converse.

Doing housework together, we notice there are a lot of ways that we’ve learned to do things from our parents differently.  There are differences in how we make beds.  Differences in how we chop vegetables.  Differences in how we fold socks and shirts and pants.

From our families we learned different attitudes and beliefs.  Differences in our beliefs about the purpose of college.  When to have children.  Where to live.  What to eat.  When to eat.  How to care for a baby.

As we come together, sometimes one belief system or habit gets adopted by the other.  We learn from each other.  DH makes beds better.  My chopping method is faster.

Sometimes we create something new.  DH’s family just folds loose socks once, leading to lost loose socks in the drawer.  My family turns them entirely inside out with one inside the other, stretching out the top of one of the two socks.  Now, in our own house, we gently turn over one sock, but just at the top, keeping the socks together without destroying anything.  We were able to come up with what we consider to be a better method of sock folding precisely because of our background differences.  Because of them, we’ve  been shown there are multiple ways to do the same thing we took for granted all our lives.

I think that’s a good metaphor for our marriage.

How have you come together as a family?

The Wedding post

I could have sworn we already did this post, but I think I was just remembering all of the times I’ve left really long comments on other peoples’ The Wedding Posts.  Too bad I can’t remember where they are so I could just copy them…

We had a big wedding for under 3K. We had an outdoor wedding in the rural Midwest (there was a wooden shelter area in case of rain), didn’t buy a photographer, flowers, favors etc. The most expensive thing was food and drink, but getting a barbeque catered runs under 1K in the rural Midwest and 1K buys quite a bit of champagne. We had JCPenny’s prom dresses and rented tuxes (MIL insisted on the tuxes). Friends flew and drove in from all over and we put them up on the floor of my parents’ place. We’ve been to a couple of similar weddings in Northern CA since then that were a bit more expensive but not terribly so.

For us, the most important part of a wedding is the shared joining of two people together in front of their friends and family– those who mean the most to them. It is a shared day but it doesn’t have to be an expensive day.

As a guest, what most people seem to notice are if the bride is beautiful (she always is), if the couple is happy, if the venue is nice and if the food is good, timely, and there’s enough of it. It’s also nice to be able to catch up with or meet new people at the reception. That can all come at $40,000 or it can come at $500. People don’t remember the flowers or the favors or a million other details that can drive the planners crazy at the last minute. They’re not important.

I have noticed an inverse relationship between the amount of money spent on a wedding and the fun had by guests. Usually that’s because fussy formal weddings are no fun and stressed out brides are no fun. Often the DJ has the music too loud, the photographer is constantly in the way recording an event that didn’t really happen (is the photographer really supposed to come down the aisle backwards before the bride?), and there’s a huge wait between wedding and reception which are in two different venues. Sometimes people are blessed with a wedding planner who takes care of things and everything runs beautifully, but more often than not, the fancy wedding is a much more unpleasant experience than it needs to be. Less expensive weddings just tend to be more relaxed.

The best weddings we’ve been to were simple ones full of love and shared commitment. The ones we’ve left early obviously cost a fortune.

As we’re getting older the weddings we go to tend to be simpler rather than fancy, even among those who have cohabited for years. The couples are paying for them instead of the parents, and our friends in their 30s are more focused on what their wedding means to them (and learning from previous weddings they’ve attended) rather than some external dream of a fairytale wedding.

Side note: If you’re having an outdoor reception… don’t choose shrimp as an appetizer. Wasps like it too much.

#2 chimes in:  NEVER have an outdoor reception.  They are hateful.  Even though #1’s wedding was nice.  Not my taste, though.

#1 disagrees:  All my favorite weddings have had outdoor receptions (and an emergency place in case of rain).  #2 is just scared of the day-star.  Possibly allergic.

How was your wedding?  What are your favorite kinds of weddings?  If you haven’t had a wedding yet, what’s your dream wedding like?

Academic ups and downs

  • Sleep is for the tenured.
  • I get so depressed when I don’t do any research.  If more than a day is spent on just service or just teaching I start feeling like I’m a failure.
  • It makes me kind of itchy in my brain to have so many unfinished projects.  I am longing for peace and quiet so that I can get some work done!
  • The part of the semester has hit where students can DO the things they couldn’t do at the beginning of the semester.  Their minds have expanded and they’re starting to *get* this whole critical thinking thing.  #2 says, yours do?  How nice for you.  #1  It doesn’t happen every semester, and it doesn’t happen for all students.  But we force a united message at them in the core… they learn correlation is not causation and the plural of anecdote is not data.
  • Even with Boicing, I’m always majorly behind on something.  Usually it’s writing.  Right now though, it’s reading.  I haven’t had to travel in a while so it has built up.  If I didn’t have office hours today I’d stay home in bed and just read this huge stack of stuff.
  • I am ALWAYS behind on email.  Who isn’t?
  • I really like my colleagues.  And I especially like the new hires that are my age in the (related but not the same) department one floor down from ours.   It’s nice having a lot more junior faculty around than there used to be.
  • Research librarians are awesome.  They can point you in new directions if you get lost.
  • Service swallows all your time.
  • Discussion seminars are really difficult when your students are lazy.
  • I hate feeling in the thrall of @#$# student evaluations.
  • The problem with getting more established in one’s field is that when you’re junior you only get crappy papers to referee, and the reports are easy, “Because of X, Y, and Z, this paper is not publishable anywhere” or “This paper is not of general interest but would be great in field journal Q,” but when you’ve been doing this for a while, people start to send you *good* papers that are going to be published, so you have to be a lot more careful with the reports.  And that takes time.  Plus it isn’t obvious right away what to do… early on they’re obvious rejects– just the fact that the top journal is sending a graduate student or first year faculty member a report at all means that it’s an easy reject.  There’s a lot more discretion and uncertainty when they stop sending you crap.  So… much… time…  It’s good for a person, especially when you see the other reviews, but it’s still a big time suck from one’s own stuff.

Links for Maggie to Post on Saturday

Oh Donna, it sucked being a mom back in the day with all the IBTP guilt.  But at least you could kick your kid out of the house to go play on hir own.  We’re not allowed to do that anymore.  I suppose there’s still plenty of society-induced mother guilt to go around, what with the BPA and McDonald’s and all the other poisons.  Good thing I come from a long line of pragmatists.

A productivity recommendation and new vocabulary word, a good word to have in one’s vocabulary (and in one’s life).   Those families, getting in the way of everything.

Umberto Eco says, “We like lists because we don’t want to die” and that “Google is a tragedy” for young students.  Check it out.

Some great female bloggers talk about how life would be different if they’d been granted a Y chromosomes.  Here’s Single Mom Rich Mom’s.

Eeeee!  Bill Amend from Foxtrot did a guest XKCD strip (the poor XKCD guy is dealing with a family illness.  :(  )

First Gen American talks about her Thanksgiving food traditions and how sometimes the tradition maker tries to mix things up.  Also I want some gooseberry pie.

CPP with an impassioned discussion about whether or not we should encourage girls to go into science by making them sex objects.

thoughts on an earlier kid post

In an earlier RBOC, I related an instance at a birthday party in which my kid was talking about a new chapter book (s)he’d gotten.  The mom had questioned my kid about who was actually reading the book, the kid or the adult (technically it was DC sitting on my lap and getting help on the occasional word).  DC said, “Me and mommy read it.”  Then the mother derisively said that her older child (who was standing there) pretended to read at that age, “she said she was just reading in her head.”  As per usual when this comes up, I didn’t say anything.  (Because, when I do acknowledge hir abilities I get cross-examined about being pushy and forcing useless skills like reading on my Rousseau-dream-child.)

Later, DC was actually reading something and the mom got that kind of shocked look that I see from time to time.  It’s hard to describe.  Suffice to say it is not one filled with surprised admiration.

When DC was born I didn’t like going to baby groups for kids hir age because there were always comparisons and always one or two moms who would see that my kid could do something that their kid couldn’t.  Hir growth and abilities did not match any of the baby charts at all… things were done all out of order and months ahead or behind what the books said were normal.  So (s)he was always way ahead of something and another mom would say sadly, “Your kid is doing X?  My kid isn’t doing X… is there something wrong with my kid?”   If I countered with something their kid could do that mine couldn’t I would feel crappy about saying something bad about my kid in front of my kid just to make some other mom feel better about her own insecurities.  (Early on, I stuck to generalities about there being 5 types of skills that kids focus on and mine was a gross motor junkie… that generally led to the mom saying, oh, my kid is very verbal or into small motor skills, and the uncomfortableness would leave.)

I could be fixated on my kid’s shortcomings, like how despite having been mostly “potty trained” for almost 2 years, (s)he’s been having accidents about 3 days a week for the past couple of months (5pm right before we pick hir up, like clockwork) and is a LONG way away from night-times without diapers.  Most other kids hir age are better about that.  But I have faith and trust that (s)he’ll be diaper-free and dry eventually, and for years at a time.  It only bothers me when we’re running late and have to make an emergency change or someone accidentally sticks a disposable diaper in the wash.  I could worry that (s)he’s not as athletic as, or tall as, or still can’t pronounce the “r” sound like the other kids.  But (s)he’ll get more coordinated, (s)he’ll grow, and if the “r” sound doesn’t come (s)he’ll do speech therapy like my sister did.  I’m sure there’s lots of other ways I could be negatively thinking about my kid, but I’d rather focus on the positive and love everything that makes hir who (s)he is.  If some day (s)he has trouble with a specific subject matter we’ll work to fix that just like we’ll do with pronunciation, but we’re not there yet.

When someone is feeling intimidated by my DC’s accomplishments, I don’t pull out that list of weaknesses to make the person feel better.  I don’t like feeling that I should have to.  Their kids will learn to read and do math and maybe even sit still in restaurants someday.  They should have more faith and trust in their kids and they should celebrate their own kids’ accomplishments.

I do think my kid is better than any other kid out there (until we have a second, anyway).  But, I also think that there’s something wrong if you feel the same way about hir instead of about your own kids.  It’s not my place to say that all parents should think the world of their kids, as I understand there are different parenting styles.  But don’t make me feel lousy for my kid’s accomplishments if you don’t think your kid is the best there is.

Now, I do want to note that I don’t get negative reactions from everyone (or from most people… but it’s the tiny subset that get you).  Parents with more than one kid seem to understand that kids can be faster or slower or different and there’s nothing wrong with them.  Parents of younger kids also generally don’t give any sort of negative reaction.  In fact, today’s birthday party the host’s mom was very nice when she noticed DS’s printing (“They practice it a lot at preschool,” I replied, which is true).  The thing DC gets praised about most is hir ability to follow directions and sit still and generally behave, and nobody ever seems nasty about that.  Hir classmates who are athletic or artistic also never seem to provoke negative reactions from anyone (something I noticed after Donna Freedman pointed it out).  It’s really just the academics.  And that annoys me.

p.s.  Recently at a birthday party we put together a little gift pack of books.  We went with a pet dinosaur theme.  The girl in question keeps talking about dinosaurs and the great books she got (they’re the in thing at school, but only the boys get to wear dinosaur shirts).  She’s not so into the myriad princess barbies that also showed up.  Why is it that girls are always given crappy princess stuff and barbie stuff?  We ALL want to know more about dinosaurs.  We ALL want to play with trains and trucks and legos and blocks.  Girl toys SUCK.  IBTP.

Disclaimer:  We do believe that both genders should have access to stuffed animals and dolls in moderation, and we will buy a tea set for children of either gender because we love tea sets.  We will, however, go with at tasteful dark blue china for male children even if we favor pink roses overall.  We’re not complete cultural iconoclasts.

Grandma’s food traditions

Familial food traditions are wonderful.  Here’s First Gen American’s Babci’s sauerkraut tradition.

My familial food traditions are pretty much 1950s Betty Crocker on one side and 1970s French cooking on the other (my dad took a lot of cooking classes when he was a single young man in a city famous for the quality of its chefs).

DH, on the other hand, has one of those wonderful grandmothers who makes things from scratch like nobody else makes.  They may have started in a cookbook or magazine but over the decades they have morphed into something unreproducible.

Of course, the family has tried very hard to reproduce these wonderful foods, the rolls, the jam, the noodles, and so on.

First they asked her to write the recipes down.  Of course the recipe didn’t end up tasting like hers.  Then an aunt decided to video tape her and measure every handful before DH’s grandmother threw them in.  This worked better.

A lot of conversation went like this, “What’s that brown powder you just tossed in without measuring?”  “Oh this?  Just a little nutmeg.”  “Nutmeg?  There’s no nutmeg in the recipe you wrote down.”  “Oh, it’s such a small amount it isn’t worth bothering with.”  And the aunt would add, “a pinch of nutmeg” to the recipe.  DH’s aunt has gotten pretty close on the cinnamon rolls (my favorite which I always request whenever we visit– Grandma DH sends a bag home with me and I am in glycemic coma heaven until they’re gone.)

Throughout our decade or so of marriage, DH has taken it upon himself to try to replicate the dinner rolls.  He’s used the original recipe, and more recently his aunt’s update.  He’s scoured Cook’s Illustrated and a food science textbook (On Food and Cooking) and the internet for hints on why they weren’t rising as high or were too big or too small or too buttery or not the right shade of brown.

The best thing about this process is that I have appreciated every single yummy mistake.  In fact, some of DH’s experiments have ended up yummier than the original to my inexperienced tastebuds, but not to DH’s more experienced ones.

DH wants the rolls to be just the same as his grandmother’s because they taste like love.

And maybe it’s not healthy for food to be equivalent to love, but I’m going to stuff myself silly today and if that’s not love, well, we can’t tell the difference enough to care.  Not today anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What are your family food traditions?

Our birth

In case you don’t read squirrelers (and you should), and were wondering how we came about, here’s excerpts from the transcript of our birth.

I feel grumpy and irritable
I have so much crap to do

Maggie: hahahahaha I was reading GRS comments without looking at the names– and I saw one and thought, “That really sounds like nicole! I wonder if she wrote it?” and I scrolled up and you did. Haha.

Nicole: I’m a grumpy gus
a negative nelly

Maggie: oh dear. Now I just got angry and posted a tart comment on someone’s blog.
Everyone has a blog. My adviser’s son has a blog about cooking.

Nicole: gasp!
I didn’t know you posted to blogs
which one which one?
I don’t have a blog

Maggie: we should start a blog called nicole & maggie

Nicole: ha!
it can be totally grumpy
but you know
that would like take time and effort

Maggie: I even know how to make blogs now, thanks to a project…

Nicole: bah to effort
can you monetize them?
‘cuz I do like money
we can have it be the grumpy rumblings of the untenured
“Grumpy rumblings by Maggie and Nicole”

Maggie: I’m not sure about monetizing; but how hard can it be?

Nicole: we can complain about other people being stupid
people will have flame wars in our comments sections and totally dis us
but so long as there’s money…

Maggie: hehe
I think the title of the blog should be “Nicole & Maggie” and the tag line should be “Grumpy rumblings of the untenured”

Nicole: excellent
I can complain about people who complain about things and don’t do anything to fix them

Maggie: I can complain about EVERYTHING
we can of course have an extensive blogroll on the side

Nicole: and I can complain about mothers who think that anybody who does anything different than they did is destroying their child
and oh, the complaints about students

Maggie: yes

Nicole: and heat

Maggie: YES

And thus our little blog was born.

How was your blog born, if you have one?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 34 Comments »

Words we love

These words need your help.

We opened our hearts and adopted philargyrist.  It describes us.  It is what we are.  We are not ashamed to be philargyrists.  We proclaim it proudly.  We are philargyrists.  And so, we think, are most of you.  Especially our PF readers.

We love words.

We love the words that everyone loves, like defenestrate, callipygous (#2 Is that the one about having a beautiful butt?  ‘Cuz whatever that word is, my sister loves it.  Even though she isn’t and doesn’t.  #1  I don’t know about beautiful, but definitely shapely.  Having shapely buttocks.  #2  It’s ironic because she has no butt at all.  It’s just flatness. I can’t tell what she sits on.  #1  My sister and I are quite callipygous.), gazebo, schadenfreude, pace (in sense 2, that is, with all due respect and noting the argument of*), and many more.

We love the more rare ones that should be used more often, like philargyrist, murklins, succisive, to name just a few.

What words do you love?

*we learned this excellent word by graduate school, even if CPP did not.

Cooking when you’re really broke

You probably know the basics.  Here’s a bunch of bullets for your enjoyment.  I am SO glad we don’t have to do these anymore.  (Though I am making some leek and potato soup right now!)

  • Split pea soup, dried beans (the price of these has gone up during the recession… still, a bag of beans is well under a dollar), rice, potatoes, eggs. Breakfast for dinner (eggs, pancakes etc.).  Cereal is a pretty cheap meal.  Oatmeal (rolled oats, storebrand) is even cheaper, and healthier in many cases.  Keep some raisins around to throw in.
  • Some cuisines lend themselves more to really cheap cooking than others.  Look at Mexican, Italian, Indian cuisines for cheap and different meals.
  • Don’t let anything go to waste. Make sure to cook/process all those vegetables before they go bad. If they start to look wilt-y make a stir-fry (vinegar and sugar make an excellent sweet and sour sauce) or a soup or an omelette. If your library has The Victory Garden Cookbook, it is an excellent resource. (Another set of favorites for cheap healthy pantry meals: Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen! and Faster! I’m Starving!)  Spoiled milk can be used to make biscuits or pancakes.  (#2 says: yuck.)  (#1 says:  it’s just clabbered milk… but I probably shouldn’t tell you about the pancakes I used to make DC…)
  • Frozen produce is often less expensive than fresh.  Same with frozen berries.  Shop seasonal produce.
  • Spices are often cheaper in the ethnic food aisle than in the regular spice aisle.
  • Yeast is often the most expensive part of making bread… you only need to buy it once.  Keep a starter or a piece of old dough for yeast.
  • Use white vinegar in place of almost all your cleaning products– you don’t need rinse aid for the dishwasher, or dowell bathroom cleaner or even windex. You can even add some to laundry in place of colorfast bleach. It smells while you’re using it, but the smell goes away when it dries. It actually works better than most cleaning solution and is healthier too, IMHO.
  • Chicken– used to be leg-thigh combinations and wings were cheapest.  Right now there’s a glut of breasts on the market.  Whole pieces (with bones) still less expensive than boneless skinless.  Stew the meat and repackage it into smaller packages and freeze so you can add a little meat to daily meals.  Bacon is great to keep in the freezer– a few pieces at a time will brighten many dishes.  Think of meat as a flavoring, not a main component of the dish.
  • Some grocery stores have heavy mark-downs on things close to their expiration date.  Sometimes these items will be in with the regular items, but sometimes they’re in special areas of the grocery store.  Find out which stores do this and where, and check those bins.  Sometimes you can score enough avocados for guacamole that night for under $2 or meat and cheese ends to brighten up whatever egg or bean or rice dish you’re making that night.
  • Try to get some red meat on occasion, unless you’re committed to strict vegetarianism. If you lose your ability to digest red meat, to regain it start with processed sandwich roast beef, then move to ground beef, and only then venture back into steak. (Of course, my vegetarian roommate in college had an English Breakfast after 8 years of vegetarianism with no effect… 8 months of graduate school living and I throw up after eating a steak…)
  • Shredded cheese, store brand, large container is the best way to get cheese back in your diet. Make quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches etc.
  • Save some money to buy a lot of groceries around Thanksgiving. They have amazing loss leaders during that time and it’s a great time to stock up on things like flour, butter, and sugar.
  • In general unprocessed food is much less expensive than processed– making your own bread, etc. However, macaroni and cheese casserole is one of my favorite meals– use one or two packages of mac and cheese (on sale– you can never spend more than 50 cents a box… though these days I splurge and spend a dollar to get whole wheat), a can of tuna and some frozen mixed veggies or peas (#2 says: how very midwestern!)  (#1:  I like salami filled with cream cheese too… and french onion dip).
  • Use your freezer. When you make things from scratch you often end up with a lot more than you can eat. Don’t let things go bad. Get tupperware or just ziploc bags (possibly tin-foil). It’s worth the investment.
  • Look up on the internet Pantry menus (or Pantry food…) Pantries are wonderful because you keep basic items around (flour, canned tomatoes, pasta, beans, etc.) that allow you to use store specials etc. to throw together a great meal. Additionally, when money is short you can eat off your pantry with various creative meals.
  • When grocery shopping, always compare the cost per pound or cost per item, not the absolute price. And do look at the prices.
  • Often at farmer’s markets you can get good deals when you go late… but you have to process the food right away when you get home because it’s been sitting out all day and if you need to pick out the stuff that’s already gone bad and make sure the rest doesn’t go bad.
  • Add sour cream to guacamole.  (#2 says: NOOOOOOOO000000000!)

What are your tips for cooking when you’ve got hardly any money at all?

Bathroom reading: We’re pro-

#2  I can’t live without reading

#1  There’s a reason DH and I both spend a lot of time in the bathroom these days

#2  Well yes.  I got through the whole first third of The Baroque Cycle in the bathroom while I was writing my diss.

#1  Good stuff, bathroom reading.  It’s the kind you can’t feel guilty about no matter what the circumstances… Unless there’s someone else waiting for the toilet

#2  Right.  That was the only way I’d let myself read during the hard-core writing phase.  My wrists were seriously busted up and I had to take some breaks now and then….

#1  Of course.  It isn’t safe to type forever.  Not to mention the computer can cause constipation.  True fact.*

#2  Well my problem was my wrists.

#1  Hm,  I think DH’s problem might be the former.

#2  I don’t want to hear about it.

*Disclaimer:  I made this up

What are your thoughts on bathroom reading?  Essential, or just icky?  (Included:  do you have kids?)