Taking Stock: May 2020

Making: An effort?  The first couple of weeks of quarantine lock down (and all the video calls that commenced) had me really concerned about the state of my face.  It just looked so old.


And I know intellectually, that growing old is a privelege denied to many.  But still.  So, I started making an effort.  On heavy video conference meeting days, I put makeup on.  And have a more reasonable camera angle.  Spoiler, my external webcam, which I think I have had for 7-8 years?  Not the best camera for accurately representing my face.

Cooking: I didn’t realize it, but Bon Appetit has a new series of recipes, which I think are meant for novice chefs… or those wanting to use simple ingredients.  Whatever the case, I have made their No Knead Foccacia and its wonderful.  Like, so good that even the sprigs of rosemary I pruned off the half dead plant on my deck couldn’t ruin it.

Sipping: So much carbonated water.  I’ve been kind of frustrated with Best Buy and Target with getting my soda stream carbon tanks.  TBH, I don’t believe that I should have to drink still water, like some type peasant.  And since I am home with Dave, we have been going through the Soda Stream tanks pretty fast.  There were three different times I went to Target for a tank and couldn’t get one… once after I called to check that they had them.  Truthfully, if I was a smoker and had a fire source in my pocket, I would have set fire to the store.  So, I found a company that does exchanges through the mail.  The tanks are a little more ($20 as opposed to $15), but they are shipped straight to my door.  And I don’t have to fight the urge to burn Target to the ground.  Apparently, you get your ass called a Karen for that shit.

Listening: I have been listening to all the audiobooks! None of the Mann-Booker books… the one I have going on my phone is the Luminaries, which is absolutely awful.  I feel like I have been listening to it forever.  If someone told me that it was 1000 hours long, that would feel about right to me. For some reason, I am physically incapable of sitting and reading a book these days… but I am whipping through the audiobooks.

Wishing: For travel.  I want to go some place.  I don’t know where.  Somewhere. I am thisclose to packing Dave and Nico into a car and driving to Texas to stay with my sister and her family.  Just to go.  Just for a change of scenery.

Enjoying: Imperfect Produce has started carrying meat and seafood.  I don’t always get my selections, but last night I had scallops that were delicious.  Really like getting a box on Monday knowing that I’ve got a good start on produce for the week, along with some protein.

Loving:  An iPad pro.  I just got a new work laptop (Surface Book), so this was really not necessary to buy.  But, I was honestly fed up with trying to read stuff on my Kindle.  It seems that every time I’d go to read on it, it was dead and the memory was full, despite it having a big ass SD card in it.  I also wanted it because I love digital magazines.  Also, as much as I try, I just get make an “Everything” Notebook happen.  So, I end up with a notebook for every occasion and without fail, I usualy don’t have the notebook I need when I need it… so I’d like to experiment with notetaking with handwritten notes on the iPad.  I’ve even been thinking about making my own digital planner, with all the spare time that I have.  If I figure out how to monetize them, its over for you bitches.   *silly*.  I really hope that I use it a lot.  Like, I kinda wish I could go back and do school so that I could do shit like this:

Watching: All the series!  Seriously, how in the hell am I unable to get a paper’s analyses together, but I have managed to watch all 7 seasons of Brooklyn 99 during the pandemic. I have also watched: the first season of Beforeigners, the first season of LegoMasters, half of the first season of the English Game,  two seasons of Killing Eve, and all of Four Weddings and a Funeral. How? Also, I have watched the first (and only) season of Making the Cut (on Amazon).  We’ve also watched the entire collection of Jeopardy on Netflix, as well as the first parts of Season 2 of Sunderland Till I Die and Take Us Home Leeds United.

Hoping: Really hoping to get more people into the parent group at Nico’s school.  I’d like to be able to do more grant writing and fundraising and not have to do community building events and stuff that I don’t want to do.  I have found my first couple of grants, I just need to get off my ass and do it.

Wearing: Masks these days.  Really glad I was able to pick up some cotton print last year to rep Manchester City and the Cubs.

Following: The Kitchen Committee on Insta (@thekitchencommittee).  Maggie Mason found a box of recipes at flea market and has been posting the recipe cards.  Followers claim them and make them.  Then send a pic of the dish, as well as their impression.  Absolutely genius.  The recipes are what you’d expect.  They look like they were written by someone’s grandma, having lived through the great depression.  And saved.  Lovely.

Noticing: I am notiching the hell out of Carolyn Marten’s wardrobe on Killing Eve.  I love it.  It is definitely my vibe: solids, age appropriate, lots of gray, black, and navy.  cm_tabcollarcoat_whitetop

No so certain about that white top- mostly because white tops are magnent for food for me.  But that gray jacket? WANT! The crazy thing about the way she dresses, is that it’s low-key, but expensive AF.  Really need to get a house, so I can have a sewing corner, so I can have a dress form, so I can sew these clothes, because even I can’t justify an expensive Armani wardobe.

Thinking: I am thinking about doing another Master’s Degree.  DPU offers a self-designed interdisciplinary Masters.  You’re limited to no more than 6 courses in each of the different colleges.  The more I learn about digial humanities, the more I am intrigued by it, its methods, and its tools.  As an employee, I can take up to 8 credit hours per quarter, for free.

Christmas In Texas- One of our Favorites!!

Christmas was a little weird this year.  We had plans to drive down to Texas to see Nicole and her family, but not till Christmas day.  Also, Christmas was on a Sunday, so we didn’t really have a lot of time to enjoy the holiday in Chicago.  I worked pretty much up till Dec. 23.  I lost some of my vacation days because I was fairly focused on getting a couple of research projects done.  Plus I was working on course prep for a new course I was scheduled for during winter quarter. 
Nico had a winter show again this year.  It was by far the best one since he started there.  Lots of class singalongs.  It was my favorite.  
We ended up with a real tree again this year.  Bought it from a Wisconsin tree seller posted up at the Jewel on at Clark and Ashland.  Nico helped decorate the tree (a lot this year).  
We had the G family over for dinner on the 23rd.  The boys decorated christmas cookies.  I made croissants (pictured below).  They are a lot of work.  But the kids had a blast.  Nico and the middle boy (J) had a hard time getting along.  

One of the sweeter developments this year is Nico wanting to give gifts.  He wrapped up some old toys for the kids as gifts.  I ended up taking him to Target to buy gifts instead.  But it was sweet.  We also gave him a little money to buy gifts for us at the school bazaar.  He has really good taste.  He got me a ceramic pencil cup from Berger and some body sprays from the bazaar.  He also got Dave a hands free phone holder for the car.  
We also ended up having the talk about Santa.  I didn’t do it well, because it was unexpected and I was unprepared.  I was sorta taken aback about how grown up he is.  

Reading Jolabokaflod on Christmas eve.  
Christmas was good this year.  Nico got a big nerf gun.  BJ (Kevin’s friend from childhood) hooked m up with some rechargeable chinese batteries.  Nico’s nerf gun leaves a bit of a mark.  Dave’s parents got him a City kit, a razor scooter, a baseball bag, and some Oyo legos.  Gran and Gramps got Nico the Osmo coding set (we learned about Osmo from Dave’s best friend’s family at Thanksgiving).  It comes with a couple of kits-tangram and letters.  The coding set was an add on. It is the best of the three.  So much so, that I like playing with it.  🙂
Dave and Nico got me a judo gi.  So excited.  I am going to be able to start my “training as a judoka for one year” life list item.  
Nico and I got Dave a new kindle.  

The trip to Texas was relatively uneventful.  We were 2.5 hours late to getting our rental car and it was gone.  So we ended up with a 15 passenger van.  It was nice to have that much room. It would have been better without all the seats though.  

Nico and the cousins got along famously.  He and Maddox would play sports outside for HOURS. 
For me, the Bain kids get more fun every time I see them.  Jo is very sweet and so clever.  She had oral surgery while we were there.  Becks is still pretty cuddly and chatty.  We had a couple of really funny conversations.  Em liked hanging out and doing arts and crafts stuff.  Maddox is funny because he seems so grown.  He and Nico bonded over dude perfect- and were just plain silly.    

On our way back to Chicago, we made a stop by Royse City.  So far, this is the second pic of Dave and Nico in front of that Royse City sign.  I hope we can keep taking them- it would be Nice to have a series of like 10-20 of those.  So, I just need Nicole and Cody to never move. 🙂

We took our time coming back, and stayed the night in Missouri somewhere.  We stopped off in Jeff City so Dave could check out Mizzou.  We had lunch at one of his old stomping grounds (and watched the U of L bowl game).  After, the boys dipped into a campus gear store to get Nico suited up with a long sleeve t and an Oyo Mizzou guy.  

We made it back in time for New Years Eve with the G family.  Which was awesome and fun.  I managed to NOT get schnockered this year, which was a huge win.  

Thanksgiving in Florida

Thanksgiving was really fun this year.  Morning of, we flew down to Miami super early.  We got in town just in time for Thanksgiving dinner with Dave’s parents.  
It got chilly fast in Chicago, so it was really nice to be in the sun.  So much so that Dave and Nico got some swims in at the pool.  The water wasn’t heated (LOL).  Nico did not mind.  Dave did, a little.  I was excited to read and relax in a chair in the sun.  
On Saturday, the boys went to do judo at a big judo place down there.  I got to see one of my good friends from grad school (Ursula) who lives with her family in Cooper City.  We got our nails done and had a blast just hanging out.  

We also spent the afternoon with a family that Mike and Gay know.  They have a pretty sweet house with a pool and 4 kids, three of whom were pretty close to Nico’s age.  Of course Nico had a blast.  We also got to see Dave’s best friend and their family.  They have a son who is about Nico’s age.  They hit it off.

It is comforting to know that we can take Nico places and he can figure out a way to get along and even have fun with other kids.


I had originally planned to take Nico camping in August as part of his birthday celebration.  But then Gran’s Michigan travel plans changed so we spun the camping trip to October, which was actually better, since I *really* wanted to go in October.

One of the gym owners and his girlfriend (Dan and Kay) have started an adventure business, where they take people on various kinds of adventures and help them get introduced in a relatively safe environment to things like camping, rock climbing, hiking, etc.

I didn’t have appropriate gear for myself.  I managed to get Nico a sleeping bag before we went, but ended up borrowing one whose owner said that she thought would not be warm enough.  I was taking my woobie (poncho liner that I stole from JJ) and thought I could layer on enough layers to not be cold.  That was false.  I froze my butt off on the first night- and didn’t get much sleep.

Kay let me borrow an extra sleeping bag for the second night and it worked like a charm (in that I fell into the sleep of the dead).  It also wasn’t as cold, so that helped.

We got to do some hiking and climbing on Saturday.  Turns out, that Nico is a wiz at rock climbing.

So much so, I think I am going to try to find some places to do rock climbing around here.

I didn’t do any climbing, but mostly because I didn’t like the angle my feet would have had to work with my ankles on the rock.  Also, I don’t like 10 people watching me do things.  Anything.  So… I just spectated and cheered for Nico, who was a champ.  The climb involved a decent hike- with not trivial elevation.  It was a good reminder that weightlifting shape is not the same as running from zombies in the woods up a hill shape.
It was a touch early for fall colors- it had been relatively warm when we got there.  But it was gorgeous.  Cool- so the bugs were not an issue.  It was really cool.
We tried our hand at fishing on Sunday- which was a beat down.  Someone (whose name rhymes with Rico) cranked the reel on his fishing rod to tightly, so it caused the rod to get jacked up.  And when I tried to fix it, I busted the whole damn thing.  Since we were casting from the shore, we didn’t get any bites.  The day we fished was over cast and grey.  Not like below.
Despite using big juicy night crawlers, there were no bites.  It makes me nervous that I caught my Dad’s fishing gene.  Which is unfortunate, since I used to fish like I belonged in the Hansen clan (that runs the Northwestern on The Deadliest Catch).  The good news is that there is a group that does fishing lessons here in the Chicago area.  Am thinking I might get a chance to go out there and do that.  I tried learning from a book.  I literally bought a book to learn how to fish.  I might as well be reading chinese: “When the rainbows go after the spinning charlies, make sure you hit them with the reds and the crawlers before the jimmies get in there.” WHAT?  What is happening?
The trip was really fun- I learned how to start a fire and cook over an open fire (although, there were a couple of these there– turns out Mama really wants one!) Also, as if I needed any more things to be snobbish about, camping gear.  So far, the list stands at (in no order)
  1. yarn
  2. beer
  3. stationery+pens
  4. athletic gear
  5. quilting fabric
  6. planners
  7. camping gear


Where will it end?

The Fair

We’ve been trying to squeeze in as much fun as summer will allow, in the last couple of weeks of August.  Granny You was in Michigan for a longer trip last week, so Nico and I headed over for a couple of days to hang out.  We did some work on the family tree, which required a road trip out to the Drake aka Baker Cemetery in Amboy Township.  
Friday Gran took us to a community fair in Hudsonville, which was actually quite large, for being a community fair.  Nico got a little helicopter time in before we headed to the barns to check out the animals.  

Uncle Scott was with us- so we hit up some rides.  Here we are on something called the Glider.  True story: I don’t think I like rides.  During this one, I kept my eyes closed.  

Uncle Scott rode this one, called The Magic Carpet ride. It goes up in the air and around.  Or as I like to call it: NOPE.  

Nico had his first go at bumper cars.  He wasn’t big enough to go himself, and not quite tall enough to reach the pedals.  So I did the driving.  So it probably wasn’t as much fun as it would have been if he got to drive himself.  Maybe next time, kid. 

And then these guys.  So the last time we did a fair, Nico didnt even get close to winning a fish.  So, stupidly, I thought it would be about the same now.  That was false.  Nico won two goldfish.  He named them Little Fin and Guppy (don’t ask me which is which).  So I guess we now have to get a fish tank set up.  
This weekend, Dave went to the first soccer meeting of the new year.  He got uniforms for his team- which is cool.  They are being sponsored by Fox Sports this year, and their uniforms are green with a white stripe across the chest.  Nico is super excited about it.  He is going to try to get the team name to be the Dingos, but I am holding out for the Super Worms.  

The Long Overdue Christmas Post

Wow… what a crazy month.

First, it started with the FLU.  Yes, we got it.  The worst time to remember that you didnt get a flu shot is the second after your kid’s pediatrician tells you that he tested positive for flu.  That was me.

But we recovered pretty fast.  Nico responded quickly to the Tamiflu and was back at school quickly. Just in time for his winter performance.  The performance we interesting.  I think it suffered a bit from “too much going on”.  There was a re-enactment of scenes from Frozen, not to mention some actual music playing.  Frankly, I feel like it would have been better to just sing songs and do little dances, but I admit, I am a strange duck.

Nico’s class was very well behaved.  No one lost their mind while having to sit through the entire performance, even though it was quite hot and they were all over dressed.  Look at him. Isn’t he precious?

Nico played hookie on the last Friday before Winter break.  We rented a MINIVAN and packed the dogs and Christmas gifts and drove to Texas to see the Cousins and Aunt Nicole and Uncle Cody.  It was a long drive… one that was punctuated early on with the sounds of Gordon having diarrhea.  In the way back.  So, our progress was slowed by stopping every hour to walk them and avoid that happening.

We got to meet Jojo, who’d been in the states for less than a month.  It was really exciting, because she is adorable, but also because she is learning so many new things.  Nico, Maddox, and Em are finally at an age where they can play pretty well together unsupervised… so they were a little rabble running around the house playing together.  Beckett is pretty close to being able to join in.  But he mostly played with Jojo and hung out with us.  

One of my favorite things was telling Beckett that I was the boss of him.  And he telling me vice versa.  It was fantastic.  
We also did this:

Note to self: Don’t do that again.  Ever.  I had never done one as a grown-up, so I was curious.  This was completely edible… and we definitely picked at it a little… but it occurred to me that this is a perfectly good waste of candy.  And besides… I don’t even like most of that candy.  So in the future, just buy the “good” stuff and eat it…. no need to decorate a house with it.  

We made it back to Chicago in time for Christmas eve.  We did some quick cleaning and shopping for groceries before I finished off the night with gift wrapping.  Even though I have been chipping away at it since Thanksgiving, it seemed like still so much to wrap.  

Nico made out like a bandit, per usual.  Some hits from this year: the food prep set and storm trooper set that Santa got him, the science fair kit from Dave and me, a Batman robot that Grandma and Grandpa got him, Legos from the cousins, and a compass and military book that Gran and Grampy got him.  

For dinner, we had a pork roast, green beans (with bacon), mashed potatoes, and chocolate pecan pie.  I did the roast and the green beans in crockpots, which was nice, since I didnt have to stand over the stove all day.  Grandma and Grandpa came to town and Dave picked them up at the airport.  We spent most of the break with them watching sport, playing sport, doing science experiments, and reading.  It was a pretty fantastic great holiday.

Not Getting Things Done

Like I mentioned in my last post, I was in Ann Arbor this week.  ICPSR (the Interuniversty Consortium for Political and Social Research) holds trainings every year on lots of topics, from Data to Methods and its basically awesome.  I have been wanting to go for a long time, and this summer I finally managed.  I ended up signed up for a 5 day workshop on Structural Equation Modeling.  Unfortunately for all involved, I only got about 50% of what we covered in class… but its been several years since I had a formal stats class.  The good news is that the materials were ON POINT.  So, I have everything I need to get in lots of trouble with SEM when I get home.  SO that is good.

But being away from home for that long is hard.  I stayed in the dorm- so I didnt have easy access to a fridge or air that didnt feel like the inside of someone’s shoe.  Also, it was pretty structured… so my MO of grazing on healthy food all day was thrown out the window. So instead of eating 4-6 smallish meals/snacks throughout the day, I had to eat three BIG meals.  Plus, with that kind of learning, it’s real hard to be motivated to do anything when I got back to my room.  I’d like to say that I worked out, wrote, and saw Ann Arbor, but I would be lying.  I did manage to get through the 5th season of Dexter… so there is that.

I think I just need to stop kidding myself about being “productive” on trips like this one.  I had grand intentions to GET SHIT DONE.  But then, Netflix Happens.

Fun for the boys, none for the mom!

It’s the end of the quarter and I just want it to be over.  I want the grading to be over.  I explicitly set up the quarter to have final projects due the second to last week of class and then exams in the last week of class.  In my benevolent mercy, I granted an extension on the final projects.  STUPID.  Because now the grading seems like it will never end.  Boo!!

Dave and Nico are in Louisville this week.  Dave’s parents came up from Miami for a high school reunion (I think).  So Nico and Dave went down there this weekend and are staying with Mike and Gay with Tony and Kathy.  Nico is having a blast with them… following Grandma around, catching lightning bugs with Kaley (Tony and Kathy’s grand daughter), and riding on lawnmowers.  
What is not to love, right?
Dave has been doing judo. And I have been stuck in Chicago!  Doing work!!  I never get to have any fun!!  

Been around the world…

We had a fantastic trip to Florida.  Seriously- it was just what we needed.

We left late on Wednesday night (after I taught), but we settled into the drive quite nicely.  Nico went to sleep right away and I dozed till Indianopolis, where I took over for Dave, who was quite tired. I got us through to Nashville over night (in terrible rain) and Dave took over.  We pulled into Tallahassee late on Thursday to stay the night with G and LJ, (Nico’s good friends from Creative Preschool).  I was a little nervous that the boys would be awkward- like suddenly they would think, “Why did we hang out so much together back in the day?  You’re lame!”

But my fears were unfounded.  In about 45 seconds, they had picked up exactly where they’d left off.  Which was fantastic.  Nico was a scotch bummed when we left the next day to head down to Ft. Myers Beach, which makes me think that they are still good friends after all.

We got to Ft. Myers Beach around mid afternoon.  My mom and dad have a week in a time share on Ft. Myers Beach, at Spring Break, which is why we were that far south.  Once we got there, it took us about 20 minutes to get in the pool.  Seriously,we swam for probably 2 hours.  It was fantastic!!

We ended up doing some shelling on the beach and Granny made us smores (in a kitchen- NBD).  Nico even entertained by singing his rendition of “Let it go” (from Frozen- which is just weird… normally he is pretty shy about things like that, with people who are not Dave and me).  Saturday morning, we checked out and headed over to Miami to see Dave’s parents and Aunt Rosie.

We didn’t do much there- except hang out and swim.  Grandma and Grandpa got Nico a toy heliocopter, which required some playing.  I got sunburned at the beach.  We went to bed late and slept late.  It was really restful.  I am so glad that we got to go and the weather was nice.  

We left Monday night to head back.  Yeah, we ended up driving 4 days in a car, to stay 3, but I really liked the trip- mostly because I like road trips.  If we were on vacation, I wouldn’t do much more than I did in the car (read, listen to music, talk with my boys, and eat snacks).  The car had XM radio- so we blasted Radio Margaritaville and The Bruce Springsteen channels pretty much the whole way.

I should add, that save the 10 minutes while we were leaving G and L’s house and 10 minutes just outside of Louisville- Nico was an absolute gem.  Seriously… I am reluctant to breath mention of it… but we might have turned a corner, which I will talk about more later.