February 27, 2012

Freestyle: Technology

Freestyle is a feature where I ramble aimlessly, abandon all pretenses to story arcs or structures and ultimately, attempt to achieve no point whatsoever.  Enjoy! 

I am 40 years old.  To spry youngsters in their 20s, this means I am bordering on Ancient.  It also means that at times, I am subjected to haughty, snooty comments from firm-skinned youngsters such as "I've been on the Internet half my life!" with the clear indication that since I am Elderly With a Smidgeon of Doddering,  I must have only recently figured out how to get my AOL account up and running in order to receive pictures of my grandchildren and forward email chain letters en masse.

However, this old coot begs to differ.

Growing up in the early 80s, we pretty much always had a computer in our house since my mom "worked in computers".  In fact, our first computer HAD NO HARD DRIVE and everything had to be run directly off a 5x5 floppy. For all of my fellow wrinkled Cocoon-Worthy Extras, remember Eliza, that saucy little minx who could READ YOUR MIND??

I remember my first electronic message ever.  It was actually pre-Internet (for me). I was at the computer center on campus at KU with the Then Boyfriend.  The year was 1991.  Then Boyfriend let me use his VAX account to send a message to my Then Roommate (*Waves Furiously at Mindy Who Reads My Blog*), who was also Super Fancy with her engineering classes and VAX account.  21 years later and I still remember that incredible moment that I had sent a message CLEAR ACROSS CAMPUS.  It was like goddamned magic or something.

Then, during a flash of inspiration, I spliced two paperclips together and invented the goddamned Internet.  Why limit ourselves to the University of Kansas campus, right?  Indeed.

Later, in 1994, I only had two phone jacks in my apartment and since I could not afford to pay the phone company to install another jack, I jury-rigged like 1000 feet worth of phone cords procured at Wal-Mart and snaked it along baseboard (Ah, those were the days, shredding your fingers on baseboard nails!  Are you with me, Gentle Reader?  THOSE WERE THE DAYS.) 

Anyway! I remember specifically in 1995, using my Pinemail Unix account to send email.  To another country.  Also, I lurked in Usenet groups, but rarely commented.  At that time, Usenet was a hotbed of flamewars and the wrong word could send people hunting you until the end of time.  Or so it seemed.  Facebook?  Is nothing in the shadow of a good old-fashioned Usenet Flamewar.   I loved Archie and Veronica and their entire posse of incredibly cool friends because in those days, it was mostly just universities on the Internet and holy crap, data security?  WAS FOR SUCKERS.  And Republicans!  I felt like a goddamned Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden surfing through all of those servers.  Since I didn't really know what I was doing, I just enjoyed poking around, I was certainly not a hacker.  The sheer act of snooping was more than enough to keep me happy.  Ah, yes..... for a Busybody in the early 1990s, those were the halcyon days of unfettered Peeping and Poking.  Bliss!

Oh and the Internet back then did not have pictures.  And when Mosaic finally came around to give us some pictures it was so s....l.....o.......w.

One of my favorite Technology Memories was scoring a data security internship in 1995 solely because I was the only applicant who knew how to use FTP.  That summer internship re-routed the entire course of my career and also led me to one of my longest running friendships, second only to the Aforementioned Mindy (*Waves Furiously At Caroline Who Hopefully is Reading This Post*)

Ah, yes.... knowing FTP in 1995 is probably one of the most significant moments in my entire life.  Period. Caroline notwithstanding.

Now, of course, technology permeates my life and I still welcome it.  Laptops litter our dining room table, two Kindles roam around between family members, gaming devices keep us entertained, smartphones keep us updated, the DVR ensures we are no longer tethered to a TV schedule and now, we have a constant stream of shows available via Netflix.  And yes, our kids know how to use these devices. And I am okay with that.

I am still amazed with and in awe of technology and I hope I never lose that moment of "Whoa" such as that first time I sent an email message via a VAX account to my friend Mindy across campus.

What's your favorite Technology Memory?  What was your first moment of "Whoa"?

This was my first smartphone, a Samsung SPH-i330, which I received in 2002.  A friend of mine at the time worked in product development at Sprint.  She would give me phones prior to their release and I would send her reports on my user experience.  Man, I LOVED this phone.  The browsing was incredibly slow, but it was a fun party trick to bring up websites since few phones at the time supported web browsing.  10 years later and here I am, doing a healthy percentage of my web browsing via my current smartphone.  Astounding.

February 24, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Perhaps, WE are the picky ones.

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking 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.

First, let me get this out of the way -- my kids love, love the 4 Food Groups of Ye Olde Typical White Kid ....... Nuggets, Cheeseburgers, PB&J, and Mac n' Cheese. And no, I did not include pizza because there is NO SHAME IN PIZZA, dammit. And yes, we do enjoy some fast food because I strongly believe fast food has an appropriate time and place in our lives (but that is a post for another Friday, yes?) So, lest you think this is the post where I brag about my kids begging for foie gras with a raspberry compote let me assure you that they will never sniff their noses at a chicken McNugget.  Although, admittedly, I do hold out hope that someday they will beg for foie gras with a raspberry compote because obese goose liver is The Yummy.

So!  Moving on!
When I talk about Team Chaos and their eating habits, I have referred to Arun as "our picky eater". However, I have decided to no longer use that phrase because it is simply not fair. Arun is not a picky eater, he just eats a bit differently than Manoj, Anjali and I.

What does Arun like?  Fish, in all forms -- fried, baked, filleted, whatever.  He loves sashimi -- octopus, salmon and eel are his favorite.  He also loves gyros meat, steak (medium-well, thankyouverymuch), lobster, shrimp and crab.  Lately, he's been begging for crawfish.  He also eats a variety of veggies and fruits.

What he does not like, however, is ethnic food (unless it is a Taiwanese style dumpling, Italian pasta, Tex-Mex taco or Indian paratha.)  As you can imagine, this refusal of ethnic food includes just about anything and everything I cook.  And this is where it is difficult to not compare my kids since nearly every recipe I have posted here is Anjali Approved.  That girl will eat just about anything I cook and her spice tolerance is quite impressive (the other day, I made karahi chicken and threw in 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper because I was feeling the need for some mouth blisters.  Anju groused it was too hot and then, KEPT ON EATING, ZOMG.) Also, I am composing this post in between bites of a bean burrito smothered in Cholula.  I am hoping to get half of this burrito into my mouth parts before Anjali steals the rest from me.

While Arun prefers plainer foods, Anjali prefer foods rich in taste.  Even as a toddler, she would waddle over to Manoj so that he could hand-feed her (it is a very common for Indian to hand-feed their children).  That girl has a ridiculous sense of smell and taste.  Just yesterday, I posted on Facebook:
OMG. all day long Anjali has been insisting that we get Manoj coffeecake for his birthday today. "Coffeecake, Mama. COFFEECAKE." Turns out, she meant tiramasu. 

Good thing I didn't listen to her and actually bought tiramasu.
Of course she meant tiramasu, a cake soaked in espresso.  Stupid, stupid Mama.

The thing about food and our kids is that we really did not do much differently between the two of them.  Until the age of 2, Arun ate curry and this is why, to us, he seems picky.  

For me, I have decided to live by the following two tenets:

Tenet #1  Kids Are People, Too
As an adult, I do not eat things that I do not like.  Period.  I hate ketchup.  I hate Jello.  I hate okra. I hate green beans cooked White People Style.  As an adult, I do not eat these things. Ever.  When I catch myself trying to force foods on my kids, I think back to when I was kid and I was pushed to eat green beans.  Why should I force my kids to eat things they do not like?  Furthermore, I firmly believe the Empty Plate Theory is unhealthy and encourages mindless, purposeless eating habits.  I also do not constantly push my kids to try new things.  Every chance I get, I encourage them to try new things, but I keep the pushing to minimum.  Yes, I do push occasionally.  For example, I made tilapia the other night and used a Creole rub on it.  I made Arun's piece without the rub, but I did push him to take a few bites of my piece because I actually thought it was something that he would like.  And he did!  Will he ask for his fish with a spice rub from now on?  Not necessarily, but I was happy that he at least ventured out a bit.

Tenet #2 The Tastebuds of Children Change
I have seen directly and specifically how my kids tastebuds have changed over the years (i.e. Arun eating curry at a young age)  Even recently, Anjali has begun rejecting one of her favorite drinks.  The way she phrased it was "Mama, I don't like Ovaltine and milk anymore.  My tastebuds do all the tasting and they changed.  They CHANGED, Mama."  I see so much pressure for parents to expose their kids (even babies!) to loads of different tastes and the implication is that if a child is not exposed to a variety of tastes now, now, NOW! they will be ruined forever. FOREVER!  And....well....  I just think that is a load of complete crap.  If that were the case, someone like me would have never grown up to love things like curry and sushi -- foods that I had never experienced until I was in my 20s.  

Yes, I do encourage my kids to try new foods, but I don't push it.  Tasting new foods should be fun.

The next time I find myself frustrated with Arun's Plain Jane Tastebuds, I am going to remember the quail eggs.  A few weekends ago, we went to a huge Asian superstore and in the produce section, Arun spied some quail eggs.  I had NO idea what to do with quail eggs and the thought of them made me queasy for some reason.  Arun kept pestering and we gave in. 

It turns out, quail eggs are pretty tasty -- much like a chicken egg, but just a bit better.

And a lot smaller.

Will he ever like Indian food besides parathas??  Maybe not.  But as long as he continues to try new foods and simply have fun with it, I will be okay with that.

February 23, 2012

I Am Here

When I take blogging breaks, I never quite know how to start up again.  I thought this image might be telling, because this is mostly where I have been lately:
I use the bottom journal for jotting down the little things that Team Chaos says and does.  The papers stuffed inside the journal are print-outs of Twitter and Facebook statuses.  Not only am I anal retentive (with a dash of OCD), it has always bothered me that Twitter and Facebook are essentially the ephemera of social media memories.  While it is probable that this blog will exist for long enough that my kids can read it, other social media outlets are not so stable.  Twitter does not keep your stream for very long and Facebook is still not really an acceptable medium for memory keeping.  The top journal is the one I jot things in that have made me smile or have made me happy for the day.  I certainly do not do much deep thinking in either journal, but it makes me happy to pick up a pen and write in them.  I keep them on the table beside my chair and really, it is quite easy to keep up the habit.

Sadly, that is your exciting conclusion to the Case of the Missing Blogger.  I apologize for your disappointment.

So!  Moving on!  Where else have I been?

First, along with the rest of the Free World, I was sucked faster than a Dementor's Kiss into the world of Downton Abbey.  What is Downton Abbey, you say?  It's a show which features an aristocratic British family, just as the world is about to dig its heels into World I.  The mystery and intrigue in this show not only involves the family itself but even better, the staff of servants.  Most of the action is reflected upon through both sets of viewpoints.  As I wrote on Facebook:
 "The Real Housewives of Downton Abbey: Less alcohol, equal amounts of bling, more frownlines and all the servants speak fluent English. However, the only tables overturned are metaphorical."
What I have really enjoyed from this series is not only the sumptuous settings and fashions, but also the historical aspect.  I love watching folks' reactions to such glorious inventions as electricity, motor vehicles and the telephone.  And during all of the kitchen scenes, I am constantly distracted because I enjoy figuring out how Mrs. Patton gets all those gourmet meals to the table with nary a Cuisinart in sight.

If you are already a Downton Abbey Junkie, I highly recommend watching Gosford Park (the movie).  When I first started DA, I kept thinking how it reminded me of Gosford Park, then I found out they were written and created by Julian Fellowes.  Huh.  Also, if you are a fan of Brendan Coyle (aka Mr. Bates), you might be interested in the mini-series North and South -- Coyle played a key character in that series and I have been a fan of his ever since.

Oops.  I did not mean for this to turn into a Downton Abbey post, but that has been the bulk of my entertainment for the past two weeks.  Couple that with the fact that I just finished the George RR Martin's "Game of Thrones: Song of Fire and Ice" AND the fact that I just began Jane Austen's "Emma" and I am fearing for my use of the English language.  If I am not careful, I am at risk for starting to sound like Madonna during her Guy Ritchie Era.  YIKES.  And an ersatz English accent does not flatter anyone, much less the British.  *shudder*

Anyway -- besides voraciously feeding my Anglophilia, I have been trying to suck as much precious time with my kiddos as possible.  I cannot lie, the past 8 months have been filled with cancer-related deaths and a new one is looming.   Cancer worms your way into your psyche after awhile.  I try not to indulge my inner melodrama much here, but.....  damn.

I realize that, logically speaking, life is fragile.  I know this.  I am simply tired of being reminded.

And there are some days when I cannot hug my kids enough.

February 7, 2012


Susan (aka WhyMommy of ToddlerPlanet), passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for our consideration in donating to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

There is so very much that can be said about Susan and the way that she chose to conduct herself as life threw curve ball after curve ball at her. However, I think she says it best herself in this mantra she posted on her About page:
All that survives after our death are publications and people.

So look carefully after the words you write, the thoughts and publications you create, and how you love others. For these are the only things that will remain.
Words to live by. Peace be with you, Susan.

February 3, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
White Girl Tested, Brown Boy Approved

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking 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.

So, remember that post about my working and potentially using our slow cooker? I received SO many awesome ideas from that post - via email, Facebook and the comments section.  Frankly, I am still sifting through them. We got hung up after a few false starts where we found out in that uniquely soul-crushing way that using the high setting for long periods of time tends to result in Gobi Desert Worthy Chicken. I am surprised tumbleweeds did not come flying out of the damned pot. Now that we have figured out using the low setting is a vastly more palatable of an option, our slow cooking attempts have resulted in some divine dishes lately!

One of those culinary champions was a dish from my friend Andrea of Caucasian Curry.  The best part about getting  a recipe from a fellow Gori In Arms who is also in a Mixed Pickle Marriage, is that generally speaking, the recipes will be a slam-dunk when selling them to Manoj since the dish will have already been deemed Desi Worthy. It's a common misconception that Manoj only prefers spicy food -- actually, he prefers food with strong, complex flavors.  Through careful research, I have managed to find nice substitutes for some of my old favorites.  For example, Manoj will eat this Peruvian Chicken Soup, which features limes, cilantro and hard-boiled eggs.  Certainly, this is not your grandma's chicken soup.  (Unless you are Peruvian, natch.)  But still,  I often struggle when I really want something in the way of comfort food.

Thanks to Andrea and her Slow Cooker Thai Chicken, I have something to turn to now.

Andrea's Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

1 14 oz can light coconut milk
2 heaping tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 tsp curry powder
2 tbs red chili sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken (I used 2 to 2 1/2 lbs bone-in)
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves rough chopped garlic
5 green chilies
1/2 cup rough chopped roasted peanuts

1/2 cup fresh cilantro and lime for garnish

Note: Instead of curry powder and red chili sauce, Andrea uses 1 tablespoon red curry paste (Patak's Hot) Also, Andrea has added things such as carrots to this.  Honestly, I believe this dish might have Kitchen Sink potential and I will certainly be viewing other veggies with a closer eye the next time I make this.  YUM.


  1. In a 5- to 6-qt slow cooker, combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, curry paste and ginger.  Mix well (I let the cooker heat up a bit to help melt the peanut butter)
  2. Add the chicken, peppers and onion. Stir thoroughly.
  3. Cook, covered, until chicken is cooked through, on low for 5 to 6 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.
  4. Spoon the chicken, vegetables and sauce over the rice or noodles and sprinkle with the cilantro; serve with the lime wedges, if desired.

February 1, 2012

Literally Literary: My Reading Resolutions for 2012

"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.

Reading Resolutions for 2012
  1. Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility
  2. Reread Pride and Prejudice
  3. Reread Gone with the Wind in addition to some critiques (I first read GWTW when I was 11 years old, then I read it several times again through the years. I suspect I will be horrified by the re-read. Sigh. I need to reflect on that which is exactly why I want to reread it)
  4. Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone
  5. Dennis Lehane's A Drink Before the War
  6. Reread Catcher in the Rye (I LOVED this in my late 20s. I'm curious to see if I will still be impressed.)
  7. Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent
  8. Charles Dickens' Great Expectations
  9. Edith Wharton's House of Mirth
  10. At least one Dorothy Parker short story (I read "Big Blond", "The Telephone Call", "You Were Perfectly Fine", "The Last Tea" and "Little Curtis")
  11. A graphic novel (Note: I read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi)
  12. George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones
  13. George R.R. Martin's Clash of Kings
  14. Reread Atwood's Oryx and Crake, then read the sequel The Year of the Flood
  15. John Irving's The World According to Garp
  16. One Sherlock Holmes story
  17. One Agatha Christie
  18. Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life
  19. Oscar Wilde's A Portrait of Dorian Gray
  20. Daniel Borstein's The Seekers
  21. Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence
  22. blogger Kelle Hampton's Bloom
  23. blogger Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened
As I finish books, I will bold them in red.

I think that is it -- the list includes plenty of space for book club selections and delicious popular fiction that will be released this year, while still giving me definition and focus.

 In the past, I've based my Reading Resolutions on simple numbers (i.e. "Read x number of books this year") and generally,  I fit about 40-50 reads yearly.  However, for 2012, I wanted to pinpoint some specific sorts of reads and put them in a list. Rather than mistily muse "Someday, I am going to read Great Expectations.", I am putting it on a list and I am going to Actually Do It.  This year (at least before the Mayans fulfill their quest for world domination.)  I wandered throughout my house to compile this list -- every selection is something I already own and many have been gathering dust for years (Jacques Barzun, I am looking at you).  Furthermore, I wanted to expose myself to some different manners of writing style, language and story structures.  I tried to pick from a variety of genres.

Currently,  I am  reading Margaret Atwood's Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination which is DELICIOUS -- it is much more than just her mental meanderings on speculative fiction and science fiction.  It was a Random Grab at the library, which are always fun, right?  I am also reading John Green's Looking for Alaska (Shout out to Zoot for pointing me to this author -- I LOVED his heartbreaking The Fault in Our Stars)  I am also more than half way through the Game of Thrones: Book 1 --  I do have a tight timeline on that series because the HBO show comes back with Season 2 in April and I have decided I want to read the books from now on before seeing the show (i.e. I saw the Season 1 before reading Book 1.  I think the reading experience will be richer if I reverse that for Season 2/Book 2).  Unfortunately, I am not a speed reader like Average Jane and will need to light a fire under my ass pretty soon to meet my goal.

And yes, I AM open to suggestions and have some space on my reading resolutions list -- anything that you have read lately that is a Must Read for my 2012 Reading Resolutions?  Do you have any recommendations for a graphic novel?