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Kathryn Below are 10 entries, after skipping 10 most recent ones in the "Kathryn" journal:

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November 20th, 2011
10:59 pm

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RIP Ellen
cancer can fuck itself sideways.

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November 19th, 2011
11:03 pm

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Thought Process of a Sleep Deprived Cook
I'm making pot roast tomorrow for a multi-family dinner, and on the advice of my father, I pulled out Mastering the Art of French Cooking to do Julia Child's braised beef. Dad says it's fantastic, and I hope it is; I'm serving it with the recommended sides (braised carrots and brown-braised onions, even though I have some misgivings about peeling all those damned pearl onions) as well as homemade bread and possibly creamed spinach.

Anyway, the recipe starts out with a 12-24 hour marinade in aromatics and wine, and Julia says to marinate all the ingredients in a bowl just large enough to hold everything. that seemed potentially dangerous, so instead I decided to do it in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. This is how that went.

4.5 lb rolled round roast: excellent.
1 cup each thinly sliced carrots, celery, and onions: took some packing in, but at the end of the day, not a problem.
Poke in the garlic, the thyme, the cloves, and the bay leaf: things are starting to get moderately tight.
1/4 cup of chopped parsley: OK, right, stuff stuff stuff.

Five cups red wine. . . wow, that's a lot of wine, is that just to cover or do I really need it all? Hm, this boils down to become the braising liquid, I'd better use it all. Measure measure measure, pour off the first cup, then another quart, then start to pour.

Oh.
Oh, hm.
Oh, goodness.
UM
UM OK
UM
THIS WAS A HORRIBLE IDEA
ACK!
"Erik! HELP! I need your hands!!!!!!!!"

Fortunately there was not a disaster, we got the bag sealed (barely) and then resealed inside a second larger ziploc bag, and it is now marinating away in the fridge. But whew, that was a close run thing.

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November 17th, 2011
07:38 pm

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Alden's crawling!
Not far, well, or easily -- but he did it!! He had a STELLAR OT session today, just had made all kinds of leaps, not just motor ones but cognitive and sensory as well. He has some sensory. . . differences? Not really problems, just atypical ways he reacts to his environment? that his therapist says to keep an eye on. Like, he doesn't play vroom-vroom with cars, he turns them over and flicks the wheels instead. He likes to feel textures, he flips cups over and over to hear the clattery sound. Stuff like that. It's consistent with the sensory portion of autism, but he has absolutely none of the social signs of classical autism, in fact he's an exceptionally reactive and social baby, he smiles and makes eye contact and laughs when you laugh, and when something cool happens he looks around the room to make sure all of you saw it. . . he's not autistic. But he also doesn't point, and he doesn't follow it when you point, and his language development is. . . certainly not advanced.

BUT ANYWAY, I ramble. He was doing all kinds of great things in OT today -- pulling to kneel, reaching across midline, rotating, waving at the baby in the mirror, waving at the therapist in response to verbal (not gestural) prompting, pulling up his knees to do a lizard crawl, putting things into and dumping them out of buckets, etc. Rhona (the therapist) was so thrilled, she spent the entire session clapping and grinning. At the very end, she put her hand under Alden's chest to help him support himself, and he happily did an assisted crawl all over the room.

After therapy and lunch, Lillian wanted to go to the run-and-shriek -- the indoor playground at the mall, so-called because there the children run, and also shriek. The run-and-shriek has these sort of sculptures that are made of a rigid armature with foam over them and vinyl covering them, so you can climb on them but they aren't hard, and the ground is that spongy bouncy rubber stuff with a really high-friction carpet over it to cut down on slippage.. Lillian took off like a shot, and Alden tried to army crawl around, but the carpet was too frictional to make it easy, and he whined a little, so I got down there with him and did the supported crawl thing with him. (Halfway through, Lillian climbed on my back. Livestrong does not have calorie burn counts for "crawling around holding up your 1-year-old while a 5-year-old rides on your back," but I do not feel bad about skipping the gym today, let me tell you.)

One of the climbing sculptures had a little deck thing that was about 10" high, and he climbed up onto it with very little struggle. . . and then wanted to do that over and over and over again. I kept moving him back and assisting him the 8-10 feet to the thing to give him the practice, and I realized that I was using less and less pressure to hold him up. So I set him back, and let go, and. . . .



(apologies for crappy pixellated iphone video)

I cried. I'm crying now, actually, posting this. I know it is not a big deal, that lots and lots and LOTS of kids go through OT and have delays and are totally OK and there are lots of kids that have way greater struggles than Alden does, but he's my baby, and I just want him to be happy. He actually did that little crawl three times, and then he was DONE. He's fast asleep now and it wouldn't surprise me if he stays that way for hours.

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November 16th, 2011
10:48 am

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Chicken and Potatoes
This is a solid dinner for a cold night. It's not the healthiest thing I've ever cooked, but when you actually break it down, it's not as bad as you might think. This also has the distinction of being 1) something my entire family, children included, will tuck into with gusto and 2) under ten dollars for the whole meal, almost certainly. Depending on the size of your chicken and your appetites, you can make it serve either four or eight -- in my family, it serves all four of us for dinner, plus lunch for me and Erik the next day. It does take about an hour and a half from the time you take the chicken out of the fridge, but it's so good, and it's not solid cooking -- you can chase children and drink a glass of wine and have a conversation while you do it.

Tools:
  • A big cast iron skillet or braiser pan, or other stove-to-oven pan. I have one from Lodge that I like very much that was 1/4th the price of the Le Creuset equivalent. Of course, the enamel's chipping like crazy -- you get what you pay for -- but it's definitely worth the $60.
  • A broiler pan, one of those two-piece jobbies that gives the drippings a place to drip

Ingredients:
  • One whole roasting chicken cut into parts -- either split breast + leg quarters or quartered breast, drumstick and thigh separated, plus wings with tips removed. Save the back, giblets, and wing tips for stock.
  • about 2-3 pounds of russet potatoes, depending on how much you like potatoes. The potatoes are super good, so you might use even more.
  • 1 Tbsp. salt, or less to taste
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh herb of your choosing, or 1-2 Tbsp. dry. I like rosemary, but tarragon or basil or thyme or sage would be delicious. I've also done this with Penzey's Mural of Flavor blend and it was stupendous. Or you could use a southwest-type spice blend for a totally different but still nomtastic dish.
  • One entire stick of butter

Get the chicken out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Season the chicken parts with about 1/3 the salt, about half the pepper, and most of if not all of the herbs. Use a LOT of herbs, more than is really necessary. The reasons why will become apparent in a moment.

Melt the butter in the skillet or what have you, over medium-low to medium heat. It is very important not to ever let the heat get too high in the pan! Once the butter is all melted and starting to foam or bubble a little bit, put the chicken breasts in the pan, skin side down. Cook for about a minute, then add the legs, also skin side down. Again, don't raise the heat too high! Just let the chicken parts hang out there in the butter, bubbling away gently, for about ten minutes -- check it after five to make sure that it's not sticking and that the skin is browning up. If the skin isn't browning up, you can try turning the heat up a VERY TINY BIT, but be careful not to let the butter burn. Lots of your herby bits will be falling off into the butter -- this is expected behavior.

After about ten minutes, or whenever the skin on the breasts is starting to get some good color, add the wings and turn the breasts over. After about five more minutes, or whenever the skin on the legs is nice and crispy, turn the wings and the legs over. After about five MORE minutes, remove the breasts to the broiler pan and get them into the oven, followed by the legs and wings five to ten minutes later.

During all these cooking intervals, peel and chop your potatoes into about 3/4" chunks. Toss with the remaining salt, pepper, and herbs -- don't freak out if there aren't a lot of herbs left, there are lots more in the pan. When the chicken is all out of the skillet, dump the potatoes in and continue to cook at that same low-ish heat, stirring frequently to coat the potatoes in the butter, until they start to soften and get translucent. If they start to break up, stop stirring them quite so much and turn the heat down a little lower. After about fifteen to twenty minutes, put the potatoes in the oven with the chicken.

Cook everything all together in the oven until the chicken reaches about 175-180 in the thickest part of the breast, measured with a meat thermometer. this will probably be after it's been in the oven for about 45 minutes, unless you have a convection oven in which case who knows. At that point, the potatoes will be browning on the top and the bottom and fully cooked through. The wings might be done 10 minutes earlier, and if so you can throw them to the inevitably starving children. Pull everything out of the oven, and serve with whatever vegetable you like -- steamed broccoli, or brussels sprouts, or braised cabbage, or creamed spinach, or whatever.

Because of the initial bubbling in the butter, the fat in the chicken is rendered out so a lot of it ends up in the broiler pan, and the skin is crispy on the legs but the breast isn't dry. The chicken also transfers its flavor (and maillard browning yumminess) to the butter, and hence to the potatoes, making them so delicious I have to forcibly stop myself from eating them after I'm already stuffed. And I don't particularly like potatoes!

It's not haute cuisine, there's nothing fancy or challenging about it, but it's a solid way to feed a crowd. And while the entire! stick! of butter! is a little eye-opening, it's spread over 4-8 servings. If I've done my math right, 1 chicken quarter + 1 cup of potatoes slides in at just about 500 calories, if that's the sort of thing you're tracking. And the leftovers reheat better than you might expect.

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November 15th, 2011
09:33 am

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Milestones and address changes
First of all, my old nwlink.com address is no longer good. New address is ktewson@gmail.com.

Alden is ONE YEAR OLD. Appalling. He's still not really crawling; at ten months, our ped was concerned about his gross motor development and referred us to an occupational therapist. He's in OT now once a week and making significant progress, enough progress that our old solution to keep him out of the catfood no longer works. :-) His delay appears to be the result of troubles coordinating the two hemispheres of his brain; he army crawls now, but he still wants to do it frog style (like he's swimming breast stroke) rather than lizard style (arm over arm, leg by leg), and he gets cranky when he has to do different things with different sides of his body -- like weight-bear on one arm while he reaches for the other. Fortunately, that's the sort of thing that OT is really good at addressing, and the therapist has assured me that there's no cause for concern as long as he's making progress. I myself was in OT for a couple years for sensory integration issues, so none of this is really that unexpected.

A tad more concerning is that he has some sensory issues, and what may be some cognitive/language issues. He doesn't play vroom-vroom with cars; he turns them over and flicks the wheels. He doesn't put things into cups or dump them out. He has some body-stim stuff that he does, it's hard to describe but involves putting his arms straight out and sort of bobbling his hands and shoulders around. He doesn't point, and his vocabulary is limited to ma-ma, da-da, na-na (sometimes nursing and sometimes Lily, he has trouble with the L sound) and the signs for more, milk, and food. He's also the most social baby you ever met in your whole life, with eye contact and turn-taking and responding to his name and if you say "Where's mama?" he'll look at me, and he smiles back and waves back and is distracted by voices and all that stuff, so classical autism is pretty obviously off the table. But cognitively he might just be a tad different, just his own little snowflake.

Which, given his parents, is not even remotely surprising. So I am resolute in my refusal to worry. This doesn't mean I don't worry all the time, it just means that I'm aware that my worrying is silly.

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October 12th, 2011
09:22 am

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I feel better about the chances of seeing the series finished now.
To all my friends who have read the Song of Ice and Fire books: go back to the very first one, Game of Thrones, and read the scene of Bran's very first falling dream, the one that starts with the crow that asks for corn and tries to teach him to fly. I don't have page numbers because I have the e-edition omnibus, sorry, but after reading the whole thing thus far, re-reading that scene is pretty impressive.

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October 3rd, 2011
03:59 pm

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Door: STOPPED.
I have finished all the George RR Martin / Game of Thrones / Songs of Ice and Fire books. Please engage me in rampant speculation now, because OMG.

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September 10th, 2011
10:54 am

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The Braised Greens of the People
People all over the world eat greens -- mustard greens, dandelion greens, collards, kale, bok choy, spinach, whatever you find in the area. They eat them because they are crazy nutritious, will grow well in soil of even moderate fertility, often have a long growing season, and in fact may be some of the only food available in a non-industrial society. There are a nearly infinite number of ways to cook them, but a particular subset seem to fall into a pattern. We get lots and LOTS of greens in our farm share, enough so that I really have to cook them all the time, and so I've gotten good at working with this pattern. So here I present to you:

The Braised Greens of the People (where the People are whomever's cooking style you're looking to ape)

Serves 4, roughly

Ingredients:
1/4 cup of the Flavorful Fat of the People (rendered bacon or salt pork, olive oil, sesame oil, chili sesame oil, mustard oil)
An appropriate amount of the Powerful Aromatics of the People (onion, garlic, garlic and ginger, garlic and cumin, &c. Alliums are particularly good.)
2 bunches or so of braising greens. The type will affect the final dish, but they're all good. Leave 'em whole, or chop them.
2-4 tablespoons of the Delicious Acid of the People (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, black vinegar, balsamic vinegar, &c)

Heat the fat in a heavy dutch oven; if you're using bacon or salt pork, cut it into bits and render it slowly until the fat has come out and the bits are crispy. Add the aromatics and cook as appropriate. Add the greens and turn the heat down low. Cook them until they are soft and yielding. Pour the acid over the top, salt and pepper if necessary, and serve.

I'm eating these, mediterranean-style along with homemade sausage, for breakfast right now. Well, brunch, I guess.

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August 21st, 2011
02:24 am

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Well, here goes nothing.
Monday, I start training for the 2012 Kirkland Sprint Triathlon. Half mile open water swim, 12 mile bike, 3 mile run.

Gulp.

(They have an Athena division, which is women 150 pounds and heavier. Sadly there appears to be no such thing as a Hera division.)

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August 5th, 2011
05:04 pm

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Resume question
Should you put your Erdős–Bacon number on your resume? Asking, sadly, for someone else, as I do not have an Erdős–Bacon number.

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