January 27, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Look Who's Coming for Dinner

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

I love having people over for dinner -  Manoj stopped complimenting my cooking years ago and the kidlets are not appreciative anyway. Therefore, I like to invite people  over and then force my captive audience to ply me with compliments.  Genius, no?

In particular, I enjoy planning a menu for guests and trying to come up with a menu that is fun and different for my guests to try.  As I mentioned earlier this week, I invited "Emily" and "Victor" over for dinner.  When I invite folks over for the first time, I like to do a general inquiry as to taste, allergies and aversion.  Nothing worse than trying to serve fish to a person who can't stand the sight of it, right?  However, when I asked "Emily" if they had any allergies or food preferences, her reply stumped me a bit:

"Our dietary requirements are kind of strange, so please feel free to say, "WTF?" and tell me that we need to go out instead.  I failed to really consider this when we set things up.  Right now, Victor is a vegetarian that also does not eat chocolate, eggs or cheese.  Oy.  I, on the other hand, am supposed to eat meat or eggs at every meal and typically stay away from rice and pasta at night because they cause my blood sugar to shoot up.  Awesome, right?"
Whoa, Nellie.

Normally, when I cook for Indians, I prefer to make Average Jane's Baked Ziti with Roasted Vegetables.  It is a dish that has a beautiful presentation and it can easily be modified to suit most taste preferences (meat, no-meat, spicy, no spicy, less pasta for low-carb options, etc.).     However, I already knew about "Emily's" low-carb needs and I had started to toy with serving Chicken Marsala. But then, the semi-vegan bit threw that out the window.  What initially gave me pause is that I would need to do TWO main dishes, one vegetarian and one with meat.  And that meant that I was going to have to go with Indian because it is the only cuisine where I have a broad enough skill set to come with such a variety of dishes. It also meant that I was going to have pull out the big guns (er... Santoku knife?) and make a Super Speshul Indian Meal since"Emily" and "Victor" know their Indian food.

Fortunately, Emily's and my fellow Gori In Arms, The Big, Bad, Blonde Bahu, had recently linked to this black-eyed peas recipe which was To Die For. I made it on New Year's Day and as I was cooking it, Anjali and I were constantly stealing bites from it.   So!  There it was... the all-important veggie main dish I needed.  In the end,  for the main dishes,  I went with the black-eyed peas curry with coconut and spinach and a Malayalee-style chicken curry with coconut and cashews.  For the sides, I served a green bean thoren and a spicy tomato dhal along with parathas and basmati rice.

For record, both Emily AND Manoj were like "Um, maybe we should go out?" and I was all "Um, no.  This is FUN!!"

So, thank you, Emily, for that culinary gauntlet.  

I did make a few small modifications to the original recipe.  Also, I prefer my recipes to be simply stated in steps, so I retyped it and thought I should share it here. This is seriously one of the BEST new dishes I have made in a long time and it will definitely become part of our rotation.  Even though it is a vegetarian dish, it is rich with flavor and very satisfying.  Yum.

Black-Eyed Peas With Spinach and Coconut Curry

2 cans of black-eyed peas,drained rinsed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 bundle of fresh spinach, finely chopped
1 can of coconut milk
2-3 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola)
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

Ground Spice Mixture:
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chili powder, to taste
2 tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp ground coriander powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper, to taste

1. In a large pot on medium high heat, add the oil. When hot, add the onions and fry until softened and brown. Then add the garlic and ginger - fry for 1-2 minutes.

2. Add the ground spice mixture and stir for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is fragrant. Add the tomatoes and the black-eyed peas.

3. Stir well and add in the coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes.

4. Add the chopped spinach and mix well.  Simmer for an additional 5-6 minutes.

5. Garnish with freshly the chopped cilantro and serve with rice.

January 25, 2012

The Case of the Two Kindles

"Literally Literary" is a feature in which I write about books, reading and more books. Why am I going to such bother? My hope is the post title will provide a subtle hint that I am posting about BOOKS. For those of you where the topic of books results in narcoleptic fits thereby causing you to faceplant onto your keyboard, this will allow you to just click away from the horror that is the written word. Also, I simply adore the word "literally", it is literally my favorite adverb. Bonus points if pronounced with a Rob Lowe/Parks n' Recreation affectation.

Special Note: All posts contain non-affiliate links - I do not have an Amazonian Fancy Pants Affiliate Thingie.


Note: I have several posts lingering in draft mode and I'm working on cleaning them up for publication - this is one of those posts that I wrote about a month ago. I hesitated on this post to include Susan's (aka Whymommy) post in light of the fact that she is not doing well right now.  Then, I realized what better way to honor Susan than to point to a well-written post that had absolutely nothing to with her cancer?  After all, Susan is so much more than the cancer.)

This post was not sponsored.  Also, if you want a well-written review of the Kindle Fire that is spot-on, check out Susan of WhyMommy - she wrote an excellent, informative review of the Kindle Fire!

When the Kindle Fire was released, we jumped on the chance to get one and called it a "family Christmas present".  I have to confess, it was SO much fun Early Adopting a gadget, we have not Early Adopted a gadget in years because these days, our Budget puts us on the Naughty Step if we Early Adopt.  Also, if I were the Guilty Sort, I would feel bad that I have ended up as the primary user of the Fire.  However, I think we have long established that I am not the Guilty Sort, but rather the Greedy, Selfish Sort.  Who downloaded Fruit Ninja for her precious progeny to enjoy because Greedy as she is, she still has a soul.

Admittedly, I primarily use the Fire to surf the web and to play Words with Friends.  While it is nice to have my books on it, I still prefer to read via my regular Kindle (which is apparently now called the Kindle Keyboard, because Amazon just loves to fuck with us.)  The e-ink technology on the Kindle Keyboard is the bomb and I also like that I can organize my books on it.  For some reason, the Kindle Fire does not have any way to organize books via shelves or collections and it drives me insane to sift through every single goddamned book I own to get to something I haven't read.  Ugh.  The other complaint about reading on the Kindle Fire is that it is pretty heavy and you are limited to one side of the device for turning pages.  For example, the Kindle Keyboard has buttons on BOTH sides of the device for turning pages left or right.  When I snuggle in with a book for an hour or so, I found that my hand went numb from holding the Fire in the same position for so long because it simply does not have that same flexibility for turning pages.

Still, I do love the Fire as a mini-luxury.  It is convenient as an "all-in-one" and I will most certainly not be complaining about it the next time I go on a trip. Unless I am traveling for work, I do not travel with a laptop if possible.

My favorite Kindle Fire story is this:
When it arrived, I stood in our kitchen, pulled it out of the packaging and plugged it in to charge -- thinking I would need to wait for awhile before using it.  However, the Fire immediately sprang to life, searched for WiFi and asked for a password.  I entered our WiFi password and boom!  My entire Kindle library was automatically available.  I was using the damned thing instantly.  Just like the commercial.  I still smile remembering that.

I remember when the Kindle was first released and I sniffed haughtily at the thought of reading electronically.  I would never give up my books, I promised myself.  "Paper forever!", I declared. And yet, here I am with not one, but two e-readers.  And I love them.

Sometimes, it is awesome being wrong.

Have you jumped on the e-reader bandwagon?  Do you swear by your iPad?  While I admit it is far more robust than the Kindle Fire, we simply could not justify the extra $300.  I am curious what that extra $300 really buys. 

January 17, 2012

Nice to meet you!

I love, love social media meetups. Over the years, I have met a fair amount of people via BlogHer, local blogger meetups and Twitter-ish sort of things. Therefore, quite of few of the Imaginary Leprechauns in the Magic Computer Box Thingie have morphed into flesh n' blood folks who have become really good friends. The sort of friends I exchange addresses with, send presents to, add to my Christmas Card list and even invite to my house, deep in the soul-sucking suburbs. The brave new frontier of social media, of course, is Facebook. Last summer, I joined up with a few Facebook groups which I lovingly refer to my "Brown Boys and the White Girls Who Love Them" groups (Note: no one else refers to these groups as such. Just me. Because I established years ago that I have no standards, boundaries or class. Certainly, no class.)

These Facebook groups crack me up because essentially what happens is that we are all so convinced our Desi Boyz Are More Special Than Everyone Else's that all too often threads in particular groups disintegrate into virtual fistfights over Who Is Right on various cultural topics. Which is quite ridiculous because in India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka/Nepal/Bangladesh? Anything CAN and DOES happen. Throw a stereotype against a wall somewhere on the sub-continent of Asia and it will stick. Eventually. Give it time. After all, you are dealing with an incredibly diverse population of people well over a billion strong. Just wait. Trust me, Gentle Reader..... There's a head- bobbing, turban-wearing taxi driver with hopes of owning a Motel 6 out there somewhere in the world. Keep looking, folks. He's there.

Admittedly, I still think my Meat-Eating, Ferragamo Wearing, Malayalee Syrian Christian Indian Boy is pretty darned special and therefore, I WIN THE INTERNET.

Anyway! Through these groups, I came across a gal from Kansas City through one of the aforementioned Facebook groups where we gather and share our hobbies in All Things Brown. Let's call my new friend "Emily", shall we? "Emily" is married to "Victor". So, a month back I invite "Emily" and "Victor" for dinner. "Emily" replies back with an enthusiastic "Yes!" and then proceeds to whip out a long, apologetic list of dietary restrictions that amounted to the equivalent of a culinary guantlet. SO FUN. Challenge gleefully accepted! (Guess what this Friday's Intestinal Fortitude will feature??)

A week before "Emily" and "Victor" are to come for dinner, I come down with a nasty cold. I recover from this cold, but per usual, my sense of smell is all knocked to hell. Everything smells like stale, sour coffee. Which really sucks when you are hoping to cobble together an edible, multi-course Indian meal -- folks, you need your sniffer when you are cooking. I believe the meal came out okay. I think. Manoj said it did and at this point, when I suck at something, Martha Stewart be damned - -Manoj does not hold back.

So, "Emily" and "Victor" show up, the meal is going fine, the four of us have established some basic back stories. The Indian boys are the same religion and had even both lived in the same town back in India for awhile. Ditto for the Gori girls (and we are both Jayhawks! Double bonus!) When the topic turned to employment and included Major Kansas City Employer, we all jumped in on that one.

The evening is merry, everything is bright. Yeah! Success! And then...... I start to feel nauseous. What the hell?? In a few minutes, I go upstairs and commence with Curry Tossing #1. Immediately, I have flashbacks to the Bridesmaids Bug. Have I been struck with some sort of Hostess Curse? Did I anger the Kitchen Gods? I go back downstairs, holding out hope it was the chicken salad I had for a late lunch and not one of the FOUR Indian dishes I had just lovingly prepared and served to two folks from the Internet I had just MET IN PERSON FOR THE FIRST TIME.

During Curry Tossing #2, under the influence of nausea, I convince myself that "Emily" and "Victor" probably watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and are now suspecting that I have a drug problem like Kim Richards.  I need to come clean.  Wait, that sounds wrong.

So, I come down from Curry Tossing #2 and discover my kids climbing all over "Victor" like monkeys and notice they have coerced him into playing Sequence for Kids (What? Don't your children strong-arm visitors into playing boardgames? No? Just mine?) I choose this moment to quietly inquire if anyone else is feeling sick? No? Not even a little? Whew. I assure them that I am not snorting Blue Sky off of the toilet seat (personally, I prefer countertops), but that it appears the chicken salad may be the culprit, after all

Curry Tossing #3? "Emily" and "Victor" stay a bit longer to appease the Miss Manners of the world, then give each other a desperate Look of Retreat, then they make a polite, albeit hasty getaway.

"Emily" claims that all is fine and they weren't offended by my pretend drug habit or my simian children and that Hey! Let's have lunch sometime!  Totally!

In a restaurant.

Of course.

January 11, 2012

So..... You Think You Want a Turtle/Lizard/Rabbit/Frog/Tarantula/Snake/Parrot

Note: I mention my pet store a lot in this post, but the pet store did N OT sponsor this post -- all the fancy words presented here are simply MY opinions and should be not be treated as "expert advice". I also wanted to note that The Olathe Pet Store is locally owned and does not carry cats or dogs. I frequent The Olathe Pet Store almost weekly and the owner is very experienced and more importantly, responsible and knowledgable in the care of his animals.

In 2008, we got our first tarantula --- Sofia. We mostly got her because Arun was really into tarantulas at the time and a tarantula is a creature that needs a minimum of care. Also, it would seem that we are Those Parents who are total suckers for their child's every whim. Indeed. Oh sure, it did help that we had been visiting Sofia for months at the pet store and we already knew her to be super laidback and not skittish like Pinktoe tarantulas are normally known to be. I did some basic research on tarantula husbandry before getting Sofia and felt confident that I knew what we were in for. There were very few surprises except for the fact that apparently, you can develop real, life-like feelings for a tarantula. Feelings! Who knew?

Since Sofia, I've dived head-first into tarantulas as a hobby (I just purchased my 5th T last week. Oy.) Also, Arun has added geckos to his much-desired pet list. We've had a crested gecko (who died last year) and for his past birthday, Arun begged for a gargoyle gecko. In fact, he was given a choice between a gecko and a DSi and he still chose the gecko - as he put it "I like pets more than video games." Gentle Reader, it is difficult to resist that sort of earnest reasoning from a dewy-eyed 6 year old sporting an adorable mushroom cloud of hair.

World, meet Chloe.

Along the way of dabbling into the tarantula and gecko hobbies, I have considered other exotic pets as well. We are firmly entrenched in the arachnid/reptile camp for the time being, but I thought it would be nice to document some of the thought processes I go through when considering bringing a new animal into our home. Also, I've been asked all sorts of questions when it comes to exotic animal ownership and in the future, I am going to direct folks to this post.

Read everything you can regarding the pet in which you are interested -- Internet, library, asking folks you know who are in the hobby. Also, most of the hobbies have message boards -- cruise a few of those. It will give you an idea of the sort of crowd you are joining, in addition to any hot topics regarding the hobby. (To Handle or Not To Handle Your Tarantula is a HUGE issue amongst the arachnid enthusiasts and the topic usually garners some heated commentary.)

It also helps to get a feel for what you want to look for in a healthy specimen of what you are wanting to buy - go to a pet store or hobbyist gathering to actually SEE the animal. I learned this the hard way -- I had done all the bookwork on crested geckos but realize now that I did not handle nearly enough of them to get a feel for personality (and I had handled mostly adults, not hatchlings.) I ended up buying a crested who was pretty sluggish and at the time, I thought he was laid back. Now, I realize a crested hatchling should do quite a bit more scampering and jumping around than ours did. I now suspect that our crested was probably not in good health when we bought him.

Age and Gender Does Matter
Often, baby critters are cheaper, but that comes at a cost because it is riskier - an adult has a more established history of health and behavior and therefore, is a safe buy.  However, buying a baby is fun because you get to watch your wee one grow.  If you do buy a baby, ask the owner how many feedings the animal has had (my store's owner likes his reptile hatchlings to have at the very least, 3 feedings to get a gauge as to health).  Also, in many animals, there are striking differences in appearances and color variations between the male and females.  Try to get a look at both lads and lasses before making your decision.  And! Even more importantly, there can be differences in life spans between genders -- male tarantulas can be found cheaper quite simply because they do not live as long as females.

Allergies and Other Health Concerns
Allergies aren't just for cats and dogs. Tarantulas are venomous, but are not fatal unless you are allergic to bees. Tarantulas also kick off uricating hairs which are painful and itchy -- they seem to affect Arun even more so since he already deals with some skin allergies. Reptiles, amphibians, turtles, tortoises may carry salmonella and it is extremely important to wash your hands after every interaction. Folks with compromised or lowered immune systems need to carefully consider these concerns.
I had him wear gloves, in case Chloe decided to kick a few hairs. Her biting him? Not statistically likely.

Food Source
What will your pet eat? Is the food source expensive? Is there a pet store convenient to your house for getting the food source? What is the feeding schedule? For example, I would love to have a bearded dragon, but I really don't like crickets. Unless I want to be going to the pet store every other day, I would have to essentially keep a cricket farm in my house. We settled on crested and gargoyle geckos because they are a happy medium -- they will eat the occasional cricket and otherwise live on a rehydrated fruit product called Repashy. Conversely, tarantulas only need a few crickets here and there - about every other week or so. I live very near to the pet store and it is quite easy to just cruise through, pick up some crickets and head back home.

Another example is that Arun really wants a snake, but I could not handle buying the food source -- MICE. Sweet, furry, adorable MICE. When Arun can actually drive himself to the pet store to procure mice, I am perfectly okay with him getting a smaller snake -- for example, a corn snake or a ball python (NO Burmese pythons in my home. EVER.) Until then, there will be no snakes in our house because I cannot buy a pinkie, then throw it into a cage and hear it squeal as it meets its doom. I simply cannot. Come to think of it, as much as I hate squirrels, perhaps I should rereconsider that Burmese python.

Life Span
How long will your pet live? Some pets, such as parrots and giant tortoises, can live past your own lifetime. Are you committed to caring for that pet throughout its life? Do you have a plan for your pet should your pet outlive YOU? If your pet has a shorter life span, are you emotionally okay with letting it go? Last year, I bought a male Pinktoe tarantula. I knew that Daniel's bargain price of $15 meant that his time on Earth was limited -- once a male tarantula is mature, they will die during their next attempt at molting (the process where a tarantula sheds its entire exoskeleton, in addition to mouth parts and sexual organs). Sure enough, last month Daniel attempted to molt and died. I was sad, but since I had made an informed decision when I bought him, I was not shocked when he died.
This is Gordon the Gecko, Jr. I sure as hell hope he lives longer than Gordon the Gecko, Sr.

Source of Knowledge and Supplies
I have been very lucky in that I have always had a good pet store nearby who employed knowledgable and responsible employees. Someone selling you an exotic pet might actually be a bit hesitant to sell you a pet -- my pet store even has a document that must be signed. Don't be offended if the pet store employee asks YOU some questions regarding your purchase. A responsible pet store simply wants to ensure their animals go to a permanent, safe home since buyer's remorse can hurt everyone, including the animal.

Hobby Shows and Conventions
Be very wary of buying an animal from a show or convention if this is your first purchase. I bought our crested at a convention and I do believe that was part of the problem. Looking back, I wasn't as informed on the subject as I should have been and I think I made a mistake on that purchase (for example, I had primarily handled juvenile/adult cresteds when doing my research -- I was not as familiar with hatchlings). Conversely, I have no hesitations on buying a tarantula at a show because I have been in the hobby for several years now and have a much better idea of what I am looking for and which questions to ask.

Oh sure, that pet might be on sale or appear to be reasonably priced, but he is going to have needs. Food costs money - crickets are cheap, mice are not. Enclosures and accessories are not free. Substrate and cage liners are another consideration.
Anjali has proven empirically that it is far cheaper to build a tarantula and a cage out of Legos (including a blue web.) As you can see, she is very proud of her creation.

Last year, someone was giving away a really cool red-eared slider turtle. I would have loved to have that animal but the space requirements were beyond what I was willing to commit to since a larger turtle needs both a dry and aquatic environment. Furthermore, turtles live for a long time! (See: Life Span)  Also consider that if you have bought a baby, that baby will grow, which means more space and potentially bigger enclosures. I now own a variety of enclosures for a variety of sized tarantulas.  (And yet, my husband still sleeps with me at night.  \)

Tarantulas are minimalists in the care area. I give water about once a week, mist their cages occasionally and throw in a few crickets here and there. Depending on the state of their enclosures, I only clean them every month or so. Conversely, the fish and the gecko have to be fed every day. The gecko needs his cage misted at least every other day. The fish and the gecko poop considerably more than the tarantulas (Rule #1 of Pets: Everyone Poops!) Some animals need a consistently maintained environment - both temperature and humidity need to be considered. When the pilot light on our furnace went out, our house got really cold until we re-lit it. the next morning I lost sleep that night worrying about the gecko getting too cold and spent the night checking on him and trying to snuggle him (He was not as appreciative as you'd suspect.). From a care and handling perspective, I would be okay with a variety of lizards and even a snake, but I have issues with their eating habits (See: Food Source) A dream of mine is to have a veiled chameleon, but I doubt it will ever happen -- chameleons are such emotionally and physically sensitive creatures and their setups are fairly expensive, pretty high maintenance. I am not sure I could give a chameleon the detailed care and specific environment it needs.

Do you want a pet that you can actually pet? A gecko or a bearded dragon doesn't mind handling. On the other hand, as mentioned, a chameleon does not do well with excessive handling. Various types of tarantulas don't mind handling, but are YOU okay with handling? Even if your pet is mostly in his cage, at some point that pet needs to be removed from the cage while you clean it. In short, you WILL be handling your pet at some point. Whether you like it or not.  (If not, you can use this handy, dandy guide to trapping your animal.  Works for mice and tarantulas.  Dogs?  Not so much.)
We don't handle our tarantulas a lot, I actually don't think they enjoy it. We do, however, let them roam around once in awhile.  And occasionally play with the Angry Birds.

And now, I shall open the floor to you. Do you have other questions? For those of you also experienced in this area, is there anything that I might have missed?

January 9, 2012

On Working

According to recent headlines, my levels of happiness should have shot through the roof when I started working again last month. Yes, indeed -- according to one recent study it was boldly declared that "Working Moms Feel Better than Stay-at-Home Moms". After a working hiatus of over 6 years, you would assume that I would have noticed significant elevations in the levels of my life satisfaction, no?

Studies such as the one I have referenced always make me smile. Often, it is difficult to determine if the sample sizes were selected randomly in a true, statistical sense.  More importantly, the sample sizes are generally so insignificant in actual numbers that extrapolating results to a larger population is useless and  downright misleading. Additionally, the testing methodology seems to simply stem from a series of subjective interviews and observations with 1300 subjects in 10 locations over a 10 year period of time.  Don't get me started on how the media conveniently leaves out that the study was focused quite a bit on part-time working mothers.

It would almost make you think that someone has an agenda.

In December, when I trotted out the door with travel mug in hand, in that true, traditional sense of working which involves Going to An Actual Office With Real, Life-Like People While My Children Are in Daycare (as opposed to the past forays into working that involved me, my laptop and my dining room table), I noticed right off the bat that I miss my kids. I really, really miss them -- seeing them for just a few hours a day is simply not enough for me. They are small and their time with me is so very temporary. I feel this acutely - particularly in light of the fact that Arun will be in school full-time this fall. Furthermore, I hate that Anjali has taken this so hard - she has been crying at dropoff and is vocal in that she would rather I stay home. At night, she squeezes in close and whispers "I miss you, Mama."

I miss our laidback mornings. I miss my messy-haired, sleepy-eyed kids with stinky breath coming down the stairs and snuggling in my lap for a few minutes as they wake up.

I miss walking my kids to school -- Manoj is currently doing virtually all of the school/daycare dropoffs and pickups. I love knowing their teachers, I enjoy seeing directly what is happening in their school environments. I miss connecting with other parents and being involved in all of that.

I miss cooking meals from scratch. We have tried the slow cooker thing, but we are still mostly cobbling together meals via picking through the leftovers in the fridge or doing take out. I miss grocery shopping throughout the week. I enjoy meandering through the store with the kids and letting them pick out whatever they want in the produce aisle. I miss picking through fresh ingredients and trying to come up with fun ideas for the week.

I miss my books and I do miss my social media outlets (Facebook drama notwithstanding. I do not particularly miss that). However, I do not miss my TV shows and in fact, have pared them down even further (Once Upon a Time, Terra Nova I hardly knew ye.)

I miss exercising. This week I am reworking my exercise schedule and am hoping this new routine will work. My mental health NEEDS at least three workouts a week (Four is better, but three at least helps keep the Wolves of Insanity at bay)


I sort of like working, too. I discovered that I have missed the adrenaline of deadlines. I have missed using Big Words. I have missed using my past work experiences and my graduate degree and my CPA license. I have missed all of that. Overall, I missed making a difference that someone else sometimes notices. Believe me, no one in my house notices when I mop the floor or carefully fold all of the laundry.

I missed the strict schedule that kept me on task. My house is generally more organized and cleaner now that I have been working (I religiously use the Simple Mom's Pocket Docket!)

I missed the paycheck. Contributing directly to my family's coffers in a significant way shoots straight to the heart of my self-esteem. I cannot lie, I am keenly aware of what financial sacrifice we are making by my Just Staying Home.

So, has working impacted my overall levels of Happiness? Not nearly as much as I thought it would. Surprisingly so. I had thought for sure that I would be absolutely miserable working and that has not been the case, either.  Oh sure, I would rather be Just Staying Home, but the aspects of Working that I do enjoy are helping to balance the parts that I do not relish.

Frankly, to surmise that my Happiness relies upon my employment status is sad and fails to take into account that there is far more to life than just working.

I cannot predict what our future holds. I am not sure if this Working Thing will continue or if I will go back to a life of leisure where I Just Stay Home. However, I do know this:

My level of Happiness is not dependent upon it either way.

January 6, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Champagne Wishes

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Image Credit: Carmentipa

This post is non-sponsored. I could only wish that Veuve Clicquot would sponsor this post. Fervently wish.

Ah, New Year's Eve -- I really enjoy this holiday even though our past few years have been low-key, even downright boring. Usually, we pick up a pizza, some champagne, a few movies, then we snuggle in for the night. I buy some hats and noisemakers for the kids, but other than the champagne? Our New Year's Eve looks like most of our Fridays.

And I am fine with that. Or was fine with that. This year, we got invited to not one, but TWO bona fide, kid-friendly parties that are mere blocks from our house. Score! I snagged some cheap wine and some moderately priced champagne. I made some Mexicorn dip and threw some pre-made samosas in the oven. And then, we spent an evening relaxing with some equally low-key folks.

Speaking of champagne, one of my favorite parts of New Year's is the excuse to drink it. I love, love champagne - I enjoy the clean, crisp feel on my tongue with a slightly sour finish. YUM. Also, I appreciate how the French view champagne as just another wine, not something to be saved for special occasions. We should drink champagne every day, no? A lovely moment in my life was having a glass of Dom Perignon and it did not disappoint. A dream of mine is to just once have a glass of Crystal. My favorite champagne is Veuve Clicquot, but I do like Mo√ęt & Chandon's White Star -- both sell for about $40 a bottle. Since that has been out of my acceptable price range the past few years, I've hunted for a nice California brut and have discovered that a Rhoderer Estate Brut fits the bill.

However, we don't drink our champagne at the end of the night. We drink our champagne first thing, at the beginning of the evening. I do not want to swill and guzzle my champagne. Using one of my cherished hollow-stemmed glasses, I would rather slowly sip and fully savor my drink. Much the same attitude I should have toward life in general.

A perfect way to start the New Year.

Are you a champagne sort? How do you normally spend your New Year's?