May 2007

So the jolt family went camping over the long weekend.  Cabin camping (as in rough bunks & very basic kitchen) with a bunch of friends and their kids.  Sooo much fun.  A little canoeing, a little kayaking, a little hiking, some fishing.  Lots o’ cooking, eating, scrabble & laughter.  And s’mores of course.  Some snippets of conversation:

> First evening, in the kitchen:
jolt: I’m not seeing any beer in the fridge or the coolers.  Who was supposed to bring the beer? We need beer! 

> At the campfire, jolt joins the s’moresfest in progress:
BB: Mommy, stop, drop & roll really works!
jolt: uh, great.  jolt looks at mr. jolt to say wtf? mr. jolt shrugs shoulders.  When assisting BB with pajamas a short while later it is discovered that he has a hole in his shirt, similar to a cigarette type burn hole, but twice the size.   Yes, it’s a good thing stop, drop & roll really works.

> At the picnic table:
10 year old girl: what is feminism?
jolt: feminism is the radical idea that women are human.
10yo: what do you mean, of course women are human!
jolt: yes, but they are not usually treated that way.  Discussion of various examples ensues. (Anyone know of a good primer on feminism suitable for a smart 10 year old girl- I’d love to send one to this budding feminist).

> at the rocky beach:
BB & LB and friends: Will you please help us with our fishing poles.
jolt: Sorry boys, mommy doesn’t do worms, you’ll have to wait for daddy to come back.


Saint Andre is a mild triple creme cheese.  Triple creme, aka triple cream, signifies the amount of milkfat – in other words, this will not endear you to your cardiologist-75% butterfat – yummm.  It is a very mild cheese, and in my opinion, far, far superior to brie.  It is smooth and buttery.  While not the absolute best triple creme (I’ve had some that are close to 90% butterfat) it has a huge advantage in that it is widely available.  After all, what’s the point in recommending a cheese that only elite cityfolk can find and buy.  I can usually find it in the ‘fancy’ cheese section of our supermarket.

Buying tips:  It is often sold in a little round, white cardboard tub.  This is a fair amount of cheese, so you might want to look for a cutoff triangle if you can.  If you do see it packaged in a wedge take a second to poke it softly on the creamy inside.  If it stays dented and feels soft, it’s in good shape.  The one down side of Saint Andre’s wide availability is that some supermarkets do not store it properly or hold it too long and when that happens the middle, which should be creamy and soft, slowly stiffens and is not nearly as tasty.

I enjoyed Saint Andre over the weekend while cabin camping with a great group of friends.  More on that later this week.

Missus jolty do not bolty
How does your garden grow?
With groundhogs, rabbits and two little boys
Destroying all that I sow

We have a pretty nice yard.  It used to be farmland twenty years ago, I’d guess.  In any event, in an effort to add some shade and shape we have planted a ton of trees, bushes, bulbs, etc.  But there is a vast conspiracy of things actively working against us:

1) when they developed this area they must have scraped off whatever topsoil remained from the farm.  The ground is hard, clayish, and full of rocks.  Planting requires serious investment in bags of topsoil. It’s also rockhard when dry.  Digging a hole deep enough to plant a tree requires some serious work.

2) despite building a nice raised bed for veggies and putting not one, but two fences around the top, the groundhogs, those little beasts, are continuing to eat every leaf and flower appearing on our heirloom tomatoes.  The past few years we were late in our tomato plant buying and all the heirloom tomatoes were gone.  This year we finally got them, but the groundhogs are no dummies, they leave the peppers and watermelon alone, but chow down on the poor oxheart tomatoes.  The groundhogs also built dug a house under our garden shed.  That was fine.  Until one died, although at least it had the courtesy to do so with its back end sticking out (kind of like Winnie the Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit’s front door).  I nearly stepped on it walking out to the shed to grab some gloves. Yuck.  mr. jolt was kind enough to dispose of it in the field behind our yard.*

3) The rabbits eat our blueberry bushes.  A couple of years ago, mr. jolt had the lovely idea of planting some blueberry bushes along one side of the yard to grow into a) a source of yumminess and b) a screen between part of the yard next to our neighbors.  The problem is the bunnies keep trimming the bushes back so not only do we get only 4 blueberries a year, but the bushes are not growing.  They are still three sticks with branches growing out of the ground.

4) Ordering mulch.  This is the bane of my gardening existence.  We always over or under order.  This year I found this nifty calculator online to translate square yards of flower beds into cubic yards of mulch.  I’m not linking to it because it didn’t work.  We easily have 40% more mulch than we need.  We have mulched 75% of the yard and have about 50% of the mulch left blocking our driveway. Oh wheelbarrows full of mulch, how do I hate thee and my aching back. . .

5) Weeds.  You would think that after burying our flower beds in a foot of mulch (we have to use it somehow) that it would have some impact on the weeds, but no.  It’s like laundry.  The minute you finish one round, you have to start again.  And because mr. jolt and I do not believe in watering lawns on a regular basis (incredibly wasteful) the weeds are slowly taking over our lawn.  Our neighbors had the same problem and just finished ripping out their entire lawn and reseeding.  Not fun and not something I plan to do ever, if at all possible.

What yard woes (or lack of yard woes – I remember those in the city) do you have?

Sorry all you crazy asiago fans.  I just don’t get it.  The asiago trend crested a few years back, I think.  It was everywhere: asiago bagels, asiago pizza, asiago this and that.  I just never saw the point.  It tasted somewhere between cheddar and parmesan, but because of the lack of familiarity with the name it took on a hue of exotica, this unusual, “new” (to America) gourmet cheese.  All it did was give restaurants an excuse to hike their prices for cheese covered stuff.  Anyway, feel free to disagree in the comments or recommend some fabulous asiago recipe that will force me to change my mind.  I’ll be over here eating my pasta the way I always did, with parmesan/romano on top.  And I like my bagels plain, thank you very much,  any cheese on them will be put between slices by myself (my favorite: a good plain bagel, scooped* & toasted, with cream cheese, parmesan cheese & a liberal sprinkling of fresh ground pepper)

* scooped is when you slice the bagel and scoop out some of the squishy inside so that you have room for more stuff inside the yummy chewier outside.

So I was reading this story by Shakes Sis, which instantly brought to mind a similar experience I had as a teen, only I failed to demonstrate similar wit or fighting ability, alas.

Back in high school when I still thought I might go into politics*, I interned afternoons after school for our local congressman.   My job mainly consisted of taking constituent calls & directing them to the appropriate constituent service person in our local office (not bad, actually, for a high school gig, albeit, unpaid).

Anyway, I and the other local interns were invited to attend a local fundraiser.  It was a mid-term one, just keeping the coffers steady as it were.  So it’s this local place with long tables, with catered bbq or some such and somehow in this table where I’m sitting surrounded by donors and their wives the topic came up of people who could wiggle their ears (I swear I didn’t raise the topic).  Well, I can wiggle my ears, so I demonstrated.  I then also demonstrated my amazing ability to lift one eyebrow at a time (I can do both sides; I am SO talented).  At which point the middle-aged man across the table from me grabbed his pecs and said, “Well, can you wiggle these?”

I died, I died, I died a thousand deaths.  His wife smacked him in the arm, and squealed “Harry!” or whatever his name was in that shocked-embarrasment-horror that only some women can do when confronted with a mate’s utter slimeballness.  I slunk away from the table in a haze of pink embarrassment and buried the memory by following a fellow intern’s suggestion to try the mudslides being served back at the bar & slinking out with said fellow intern for a massive make-out session in the parking lot.

As horrible as it made me feel at the time, it did cure me (mostly) of any desire to show off my fabulous ears and eyebrows. 

* I honestly have no idea what happened to my desire to get involved in politics.  Perhaps when I studied political science in college and it sapped all the juice out.   Now I just read the papers and political blogs and vent. 

(Updated to add additional food for the rant.) 

So I got an e-mail today from a co-worker announcing that he will be celebrating his birthday at a local bar later this week & inviting us all to imbibe with him.  Added to the end, “I will be celebrating my 39th birthday.”   And while not to say that my co-worker looks old, but he is manifestly not 39.

(added) Last month when mr. jolt’s mom was visiting, we celebrated her birthday.  BB asked her how old she was, she demurred at first saying, “oh you don’t tell people how old you are when you’re my age.”  At least she didn’t tell him not to ask such a rude question of a lady.  But perhaps she saw my look of horror/disbelief at this nonsense because a minute or two later she “confessed” to being 57.  Sheesh.  Here is a woman who entered a male-dominated field at a young age and battled sexism (and the reverse ageism inflicted on young women in professional fields) and is in many respects a strong admirable woman (not all, I have many quibbles with her, but they are not the subject of this post) and she won’t tell her grandson how old she is?  I mean, to him, anyone in double digits is ancient anyway (and frankly, she’s a pretty young grandma in many circles).  As they say at Shakesville, what the poop?

What is it about age and the way we succumb to the societally-enforced idea that if one is not between 16-28 that one must pretend to be?  Sheesh.  I look back at my youth ( from the age of 37) and it felt like 0-20 was all about the rush to be older, to be more independent.  And then there is the media emphasis on people in their 20s (ok, aside from the reflexive and non-stop boomermania) so that one is made to feel like one is on a slippery slope, on the downward path, over the hill, etc., the moment one turns 30?

What’s up with the coy assertions that one is turning 39 (for the umpteenth time).  Can’t we get over it already?  What’s up with the rush through childhood and the dismissal  of interest once one is past 35.

My mom, when I was somewhere in my 20s and struggling to make sense of it all, told me that she hated her twenties.  Aside from having me (which she assured me was wonderful), she got married, had her husband shipped off to Vietnam 2 weeks after I was born, had said husband return, separated, became single mom in name as well as fact and, generally, struggled to figure out the crazy world and how she could survive and succeed in it while doing her best to raise me.  She felt her 30s were much better.  And they probably were, more stable certainly, and more financially secure thanks to the climb to a professional position and remarriage.

As for me, I couldn’t wait to turn 30.  Not because my 20s were bad.  For the most part they were actually pretty good.  But there’s a lot of stuff you have to figure out in your 20s and I’m not sure one always has the tools to do it.  So we all struggle through, having fun, stressing out, while feeling compelled thanks to media frenzy to feel like we have to live it up in some fashion before it is “too late”.

Anyway, as I approach 40, I hope that I continue to enjoy the age in which I’m in as opposed to looking back, looking back, the way it seems so many people do.  Yes, my twenties were fun & I was more fit, etc. But my 30s so far have been pretty good.  If you ever hear me saying that I’m turning 39 or 49 “again” please dump beer on my head until I come to my senses.

(updated to fix formatting & add question)

Being overwhelmed at work, I thought I would take my mind off it all this evening by envisioning dream days, i.e., five wonderful ways to spend a day:
1) Beach. wake up early in a house near the beach and sneak out to the local donut shop with one of the boys to bring back donuts & coffee to eat before all of us head out to the beach where we build sand castles and wade into tide pools all day, mr. jolt & I taking turns playing with the kids and reading trashy books, breaking only for fried food and ice cream at lunch time.  Breaking from the beach in early afternoon for a round of mini-golf before de-sanding back at the house, followed by a picnic on the beach watching seals bob up and down in the water at sunset.  Bliss.*

2) Couplehood. mr. jolt & I in a hotel, sans children, sleeping in, spending a day wandering art museums until our brains are stuffed full of images; lunching at a bistro where I have a mesclun salad and really good bistro style french fires and a glass of wine; followed by walks through a beautiful public park, sitting on a bench reading next to each other in the late afternoon; capped off by a delicious dinner of eclectic food, lots of wine, which leads to . . . .

3) Alone. A day alone in which I sit outside on a warm, but not hot day, with a wonderful book and read it straight-through.  Alternatively, this would be almost as satisfying if done inside while terrible weather rages outside as long as there is plenty of hot chocolate and a cozy blanket to sit under.

4) Nature. A day spent hiking (a soft hike because the kids are with us) through the woods; spotting the occasional interesting flora and fauna; breaking for a picnic in a meadow underneath a shady tree while the kids run around trying to catch butterflies; the kids fall asleep on the way home and mr. jolt and I have fascinating conversation about moral philosophy.

5) Friends. Spending the entire day with close friends while various kids run around like wild animals, the entire day spent talking, cooking, eating, cleaning, then cooking and eating some more followed by a mock-vicious game of scrabble or poker.

What would be your dream day?

*We have actually lived this one where we go each year for vacation.   I love it because there is absolutely no thinking involved, no planning. 

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