Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Succeed at Chicken Soup

After a lot of trying, I finally managed to make chicken soup good enough that it didn't make me wish I'd just thrown in a couple of bouillon cubes instead of doing all that work. Here is my recipe.

Bonier parts of one chicken (I used wings, drumsticks, the neck, and the giblets, except for the liver, which John was charitable enough to take off my hands)
Carrots
Onions
Celery, including a few leaves
Water -- should have used more water; although the stock was strong enough, there wasn't much of it

Simmer for 4 hours. By this point it was ten o' clock, so I threw it in the fridge with the idea that I'd do something about it tomorrow.

In the morning it had completely gelled into a firm aspic. This is what a good chicken stock is supposed to do. I was tempted to just eat it as it was, but it wasn't salted at all, and besides, I wanted soup. So I put it back on the stove and melted it again.

I took out all the chicken parts, pulled the meat off and chopped it, and put the meat back in. I chopped up the gizzard very finely, which helps make the chewiness not a problem. (You see I'm not big on giblets.)

Then I had the idea of, instead of throwing the rest of the vegetables in raw and letting them simmer, of sauteing them in olive oil. I believe this was the secret that made it so good. I sauteed onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, just until they were beginning to soften but before the celery lost all its crunch.

Then I threw all the veggies in, added some rice, salt, and pepper, and served it up. It was GOOD. It didn't need seasoning. I was amazed. Then I remembered I had been going to put sour cream in it, so I put a spoonful in my bowl. Then it was even better. And it hadn't even been very hard to make.

Now, however, I am on a celery kick, and want to know what other ways I can cook it to get that yummy taste. Raw, it is so uninspiring to me, but cooked in chicken broth, it becomes exactly what I want. Does anyone have a recipe for celery soup?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thoughts about the little miracle

Now that I've finally gotten the blogjam of old updates out there, it's time to do some serious musing. The things that people ask, and that I always wondered myself before, are mostly along the lines of, "How do you feel? Do you feel different knowing that you're pregnant?"

By and large, the answer is, not really. I always thought that with all those physical changes, there would be this emotional change, something telling me, "You're grown up now. You're a woman now. You're a mom now." But there isn't. I look in the mirror and I look like the same person I always did (just a tiny bit poochier around the midsection). And I have felt like I've looked the same my whole life -- I never noticed a sudden moment where I thought, "I don't look like I'm six anymore." So a big part of me still feels six, and looks at myself saying, "I look six!"

I'm a married lady with a rather noticeable ring on my finger, so it seems I should feel like a grown-up now, or at any rate feel different than when I was single. But I feel the same, and the main difference about being married is that there's this man wandering around "my" apartment all the time. I don't feel that I have come into any new, mysterious knowledge, like I always imagined married people did -- that every time I saw someone who was newly married, they were thinking, "Well, I'm married. Things are different now, and these single people couldn't possibly understand." I don't feel that way at all. I feel just the same as I did before.

On the other hand, I have noticed slow, almost imperceptible changes. Like how at work, I gravitate toward the (much older than me) married teachers when it's lunchtime, instead of the (only slightly older than me) single teachers. I just find their conversation more interesting, and I don't feel like a pig for talking about my husband all the time. (When I'm surrounded by single people, talking about him feels like I'm name-dropping or bragging -- like people who say "my boyfriend" every other sentence. With married people, talking about one's spouse is perfectly natural, and everyone asks after mine.)

Then there are so many things about me that don't need to change to be a wife and mother. For example, my interests. At college, people thought I had no opinions of my own, simply because I am not very politically minded. I can tell you what doesn't work, but I never have any better solutions to offer, and everything I hear from other people sounds so plausible I want to agree with everybody. But if you bring up other issues -- like birth control, discipline, childbirth, nutrition, vaccination, circumcision, or breastfeeding -- I am all over the conversation. I am brimful of opinions, often overflowing. It was just that these issues didn't come up much in college.

Of course, having opinions on things doesn't make one ready to be a good mother. I do have some experience, though. With the exception of one summer job (I cleaned houses), I have worked in childcare in every single job I've held. And of course I helped out an awful lot with the little kids when I was a teenager.

However. None of these things makes me feel remotely like a mother. Even the fact that I am one, technically speaking, does not make me feel like a mother either. At this point the little munchkin is indistinguishable from a stomach bug. (Or perhaps some nastier form of parasite ... I feel pretty wretched sometimes!) I don't look pregnant, I don't feel motherly, I just feel like plain old me, about six or twelve years old, playing house. I can't quite see myself, a few short months from now, carting a baby around everywhere I go that is actually mine.

I'm excited, though. I'm excited the way I've been excited about every major life change -- when I can't quite picture what's on the other side, but I'm looking forward to it all the same. I think of what this kid might turn out like. I dream about him all the time (in the dreams it's generally a him). And it's kind of scary how much I love the little stranger already. I drive more carefully, cross streets more carefully, and eat more carefully just because of him (or her). I live in a passionate carefulness, for fear of doing anything that might hurt her (or him). In the middle of the nastiest stomach upset or the loneliest wakeful night, I find myself thinking, "I wish I didn't feel this way, but I'd rather feel this way than not have the baby coming." When it's unpleasant, it's unpleasant in a worthwhile kind of way -- like the way I felt at the orthodontist, only more so. I'd rather have no suffering and all joy, but I'll take the suffering if I can get the joy.

It is getting late -- for me -- so I had better go. (My pregnant self needs even more sleep than my old self did, and teaching is grueling anyway, so I'm really better if I turn in by nine-thirty. What an old fogey I'm becoming.) I hope to post my thoughts in here from time to time, if only (in case no one reads this blog) so that I will remember them later. My pregnancy journal is as empty as the day I bought it, except for a page where I was translating stuff from the Greek and needed some scrap paper. Perhaps this will serve a little better.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Finally back

Sorry, everyone, for being gone from this blog so long. The longer I'm gone, the less I want to blog, because there are going to be SO many updates to give!
However, I'm back now, so it's time for a long bunch of updates.

The "important project" I've been working on is 13 weeks along and now has all its fingers and toes, but it's still only about two inches long.


So, that's my main excuse for not posting. I know a lot is forgiven when I tell people it's because I'm pregnant! And I'm milking that for all it's worth, because this has been hitting me pretty hard. I have been pretty sick, on and off, and the morning sickness is STILL not gone, although at least I'm not spending all day in bed anymore.
This "project" will not be done till April 16th, so I can't promise I'll be posting as much as I did before until then. After that, why, anything goes -- I have no idea if this will be an easy, sleep-all-the-time kid or a screamer, but given my family history, I'm guessing a screamer. So it'll be a blog-when-I-can life for me.
For those people who like details when it comes to health in pregnancy, the doctor thought I looked very healthy. However, I still have not gained a single pound, which is frustrating because I feel like I am eating my weight in food every day! (Feel being the operative term -- I have lost most of my appetite and tons of my favorite foods look disgusting to me.) I have very low blood pressure, which the doctor said was a good thing, but it does lead to dizziness, especially at work. Luckily, the kids are in tiny little first-grader chairs, so I can sit in my big grown-up chair and still tower over them. (Teaching high school, it was rare for me to sit down at all, all day!) And of course my formerly cast-iron stomach has decided it's not friends with me anymore. Generally I just feel queasy and unwell, which I can push past, but it's not fun. And the newest development is migraine headaches. I do hope this gets better before the end.
Okay, that's the biggest update. Second one is that I have started teaching again for this year. I have the 1st and 2nd grade, combined. It's been pretty good so far, but SO different. The kids are so much more happy to be in school, more easily impressed, more excited than the high school kids were! It is a bit more energy-intensive -- less teaching of information, and more classroom management. In high school, I would teach the information, give the homework, and dismiss them. Everything else was up to the kids, and I expected them to be responsible. Here, I have to check that they write the homework down, that they bring all the right books home for it, that they get their bathroom breaks, that they wash their hands, that they walk in a nice line ... So, even though I have only 15 students instead of 120 like last year, it takes more constant attention than teaching high school did. The grading load, however, is SO much lighter, so I don't bring much work home. (And a good thing, too: with my commute, I leave the house at 7:15 and get home at 4:15. I would hate to have to bring a lot of work home!)
Update three: John is no longer working for the paper. It was too much stress, too far from home, too little money, no health benefits ... and with the baby coming in the spring, he didn't like the fact that he was 45 minutes from home even at the best time of day, and trying to get home in the middle of the day sometimes took well over an hour. The thought of me going into labor with him far away at work made him rather nervous. And I have to admit, I didn't much like the schedule -- he came home at 6:20, which left only about three hours before I had to go to bed. (Between the exhausting job and the pregnancy, staying awake till ten o'clock is beyond me.)
John's new job is at a bank. He will be working as a teller. So far, he is just doing training, but he is happy with it. It's very detail-oriented, which suits his desire to be methodical. The deadlines on the paper never gave him a chance to do that. Also, he is much closer to home -- four miles -- and so he is riding his bike to and from work. I feel awful that he has to do that (I have the car), but he is actually pleased, because it's a chance for him to "get in shape." Now he is still a beanpole, but I guess exercise is good for everyone. I know I could use more myself. Other advantages include that he is getting home not long after I do, and that we will get to switch to his insurance, which costs about less than our current insurance does.
Another update, which luckily I get to tell with the happy ending, is that John has been sick. His whole digestive system was having trouble for something like a month. After seeing two doctors, getting a bunch of lab work done, and going on a special diet, the problem went away on its own. The test results came back, and he does not have any of the horrible things it could have been. It was probably just some stomach bug or infection that didn't go away as fast as it was supposed to. But he is fine now, and celebrating by eating everything in the house.
Final update, which is not terribly interesting, is that our oven is broken. I'd been smelling a gas smell around it for a month, but as my sense of smell is uncannily sensitive right now (believe me, you do not want to smell the things I smell!), I was the only one who could smell it, and was inclined to put it down to just a normal smell of gas ovens which I was oversensitive to. (Never had a gas oven before -- I much prefer electric.) Well, we finally got the gas company in to check it, and they shut it off. Turned out it had a slow leak all that time. (It got way more obvious as the colder weather set in and we had to keep the windows shut.) So cooking has been limited to the crock pot, the kettle, and this "multi-cooker" pot which is fairly handy. Perhaps this is all a blessing, because it has taught me how to cook a lot of things a lot of ways I wouldn't have tried before. But I'm just happy that a guy is coming to replace our stove on Wednesday. Between my food aversions, John's bottomless pit stomach, and the lack of time and energy in my life, I will be happy for more options to cook with. Perhaps if I have time (ha!) I will post some of the recipes that have gotten me through this month or so with no stove.
And I think that's all the news! It is good to be back blogging.
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