Monday, September 29, 2008


Every once in a while a day comes along that totally kicks my ass. A day when all the forced optimism in the world isn't enough to keep away all annoyance and frustration with the little inconveniences that life throws one's way. To make matters worse, they're usually minor things in and of themselves, but they band together and beat me repeatedly about the head. None of them are big enough to complain about, but damn if they don't put me in a foul mood.

Editing to add: I fixed my mood with knitting retail therapy. I finally broke down and ordered the book, yarn, and needles to knit Eunny Jang's "Autumn Rose" pullover. I've been coveting this sweater for half of forever, and lo and behold the book was on sale 40% off at Knit Picks. I kept putting it off because I have all sorts of other things here to knit/spin, but the call of color work got too loud to think over. I will now return to my regularly scheduled sock.

Editing again: Okay, what's really under my skin is the fact that I had an appointment at the Midwife center that got all munged up by traffic and apparently I'm a Luddite because I don't carry a cell phone but anyway the longer I stew about it the more I realize what had me worked up more than feeling looked down on for not being a pregnant woman or a woman with a cell phone or a magical flying car is the fact that deep down in my hormonal heart of hearts is the unpractical but powerful wish to be planning adding a third child to our family. I'm not ready for that. Mr. Unreserved is not ready for that. We may never be ready for that. The jury is still very much out. But being in the building where both girls were born, the site of all the prenatal checkups, the building where I was so full of anticipation and excitement and squirming unborn person not once but twice hit me right in the gut.

Friday, September 26, 2008

How a toad made me bake ginger snaps

On Tuesday the girls helped their father do yard work. At this age, "helping" generally consists of staying out of the way. While they were out there, the three of them found a toad. It must have been a remarkable toad because I got to hear all about it the moment I came home from work.

The story about the toad reminded me that we have a "Frog and Toad" treasury that we haven't read from in a while. I had a Frog and Toad book growing up, and if having your own kids isn't an excuse to relive one's childhood I don't know what is. So we read about the time when Toad baked cookies, and neither Frog nor Toad had the willpower to stop eating them. The story never mentions what kind of cookies they were, but for some reason in my mind they were always tiny ginger snaps. Maybe it's the fact that the illustrations are only in brown and green.

For the rest of the week, I couldn't quit thinking of ginger snaps. Tonight found me back in the kitchen (last week's kolache went over very well at the wedding), baking ginger cookies from Better Homes and Garden's "Giant Ginger Cookie" recipe. I made mine small, though, just like Toad's. I have no intention of feeding them to birds.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Crickets chirping

It's always quiet when I get up on the soap box (not that I have many commenters in the first place). This is a marked improvement over what happens when I bust out the soap box in "real" life (people begging me to just stop already). That's why I have this blog. On the internet, no one can make you be quiet. Many people have pointed out to me that I talk very fast. It's a defense mechanism. I knew I'd only have so long to ramble on before my family would beg me to stop, so I had to get everything I wanted to say in quickly. I mused while doing dishes in my lab that maybe there's something wrong with a career that you have to convince people isn't awful. But then I'm having a bad week at work. Yes, it's only Monday.

My only brother is nine years my junior. When I found out that my children would be 2yrs apart, I was curious to see what their relationship would be like. I polled people, and it seemed to be a 50/50 split between "they'll be best of friends" and "they'll want to claw each other's eyes out." I assumed the reality would waver between the two.
Anna and Claire are nearly inseparable. They wake up together, go to bed together, and spend most of the day playing together. For the past hour they have been upstairs wrestling like overgrown puppies, complete with shrieks, giggles, and not very muffled thuds. Typically one of the thuds will lead to tears, then an adult will have to go and referee and redirect. I like watching how they interact together. Neither can stand to see her sister in distress, but they each know how to really torment the other when necessary.

I would like to post something about knitting, since I haven't mentioned that much lately, but instead I've been sticking adhesive tiles to the nasty kitchen floor. They're not our first choice in flooring, but they'll stop us from getting splinters until we can really redo the kitchen. So if you'll excuse me, I've got a date with a carpenter's square.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Electricity, chemicals, and cookies

Our power came back on Monday evening at 10:00 sharp. We had gone out for dinner along with many other disgruntled looking people, managed to score a few of the last bags of ice from the grocery store, and went home to listen to rerun sitcoms on the TV band radio by the light of a camping lantern. We did lose some food, but mostly just small things. I know there were still people without power in the area for a day or two after that, so I am grateful.

Last night we got to attend the premiere event of a mobile science program put together as a joint venture between the Carnegie Science Center and my employer, who as always shall remain nameless. Lalala I can't hear you! And I wouldn't even mention this, except for the fact that I got to be IN the program. They picked fourp people to be examples of "real live scientists." It was so much fun! I was apprehensive about seeing the finished product. I hate hearing my own voice on the answering machine let alone seeing my mug on a big overhead screen. And they let me talk off script! For a program that children will see! Poor, brave, foolish people. And the whole thing was great, and my segments didn't make me want to crawl under the nearest lab bench. The people at the Science Center are creative geniuses and I salute them.

Driving home, I reflected that I feel no small amount of pride knowing that more than likely some middle school girl somewhere is going to see the program, and hopefully realize that not all scientists look like Albert Einstein, or Dr. Frankenstein. Seriously. Do a Google image search on "scientist." I'll wait. Are you back? I saw one woman on the first page, and she was down there a ways. There were none on page two. Wanna try something funny? Still got that Google image search window up? Search on "hot scientist." Oh! There's the females! (hot male scientists everywhere should feel affronted)

We live in an enlightened era where girls are taught that (theoretically) they can do anything they want and (theoretically) be anything they want to be and that (theoretically) they are just as good at math and science as any boy. But the reality is that the unspoken message that science (chemistry in particular) is really hard, or the domain of boys (or really ugly girls that wouldn't get a date anyway so she might as well be in a lab on prom night), or only for uber-smart geeks, or evil, or dangerous and likely to kill us all or at the very least wreck the environment and next thing you know *poof* no more polar bears is still out there.

So maybe that hypothetical 10yr old girl will see me or my colleague in this presentation and be able to relate. Maybe her mind will be a little more open to considering a career in science. She may study for eight years and get her PhD in chemistry, land a job with a successful manufacturing company (after an additional four years spent in a low-paying post doc), and get to see her job outsourced to some backwater in India where cheap labor and a lack of environmental regulations make it impossible for American firms to compete. Go science!
Sorry. Inadvertent bitter tangent.

Anyway, I'm off to bake kolachi. My husband's mother's cousin's daughter's daughter is getting married tomorrow and I volunteered my baking skills. If you're not from here, cookie tables are a sacred wedding tradition (if you're from here, you already know this). While some caterers will stock a table for you, and professional cookie specialists exist, more commonly all the women in the family bake a big ol' batch of cookies for the reception. The table(s) at our reception were unreal - we had TONS of cookies. I'd guestimate several hundred dozen, many courtesy of my grandmother. A good cookie table is a badge of wedding honor, so I pay it forward. Also I like to bake, and I like to show off my grandma's kolachi recipe.

Monday, September 15, 2008

'urricaines 'ardly HEVER 'appen

Stupid hurricane. Power at home is out. Has been out for 19hrs, will probably have to mercilessly prune the refrigerator a mere two days after stocking up on groceries.
Had to come to work wet-headed and uncaffienated. Not lucky enough to be associated with the more local work location which was closed due to outage - double insult. Family and properties are mostly unharmed, bar the odd horizontal tree. I realize I have no room to complain, considering how hard-hit others have been by this and other hurricanes. On the other hand, I thought that "no hurricanes" was one of the few meterological perks of living in Pittsburgh.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Low carb epic fail

I've just had one of "those" Sundays. A Sunday where I feel like all I did was feed people. Sometimes this feels like a burden, and sometimes an accomplishment. But they're always Sunday.
Waffles for the girls' breakfast
Cinnamon rolls for a morning treat
French toast and bacon for brunch
Spaghetti and meatballs and salad and homemade focaccia bread and salad
Apple raspberry tart with vanilla bean ice cream
And umpteen mess up the kitchen clean up the kitchen cycles later I am tired.
And full of carbs. Honest, we do like fruits and vegetables around here. But today we were all feeling weary of grilled meats and corn on the cob and hand fruits and all the summer staples we've been subsisting on for months. (I will read this in February and laugh bitterly)
As much as I am raging against the trees that are turning colors too soon, I guess I really am ready to be done with summer. I don't mind fall. I mind what comes after it. And we're still majorly behind on home improvement projects that should be completed before the snow flies.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Knitting like the wind

I knit "english". I am neither the fastest nor the slowest knitter in the world. My knitting time is, like many working mothers of small people, limited.
For most of the summer I've been forcing myself to plug along on the lace project that will not end. I was happy to see progress on it, but the weeks of having to force myself to pick up the knitting was wearing thin. Don't get me wrong - I love knitting lace. The problem is it doesn't lend itself to working a couple rows here or there. And it's no good for car knitting - the yarn is too slippery.
I hadn't knit any socks since early spring/late winter. It frustrates me to have a finished object that has to wait for the weather to change before I can wear it. When we went away for the weekend I started a pair of socks for Mr. Unreserved. It felt good to be on dpns again. (I especially like the KnitPicks Harmony dpns) This is my second attempt at spousal socks, as the last pair fit me perfectly. Then one went permanently missing. Those were never meant to be my socks and the universe made sure of it.
Socks normally take me a minimum of a month, which is why I was surprised to find myself working the heel flap last night.
Apparently the way to make yourself feel like a fast/productive knitter is to work something tedious for three months.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

This post is Green!

*climbs up on soapbox* Ahem. Your attention please.
The claim of some products or system of products to be more environmentally friendly or "green" does not automatically make them a better choice for you or for the environment. (but almost certainly means they're better for the wallets of those who are selling them)
I am not trying to vilify those who are trying to be environmentally responsible either by creating or consuming such products. I'm just pointing out that some thought needs to be given before giving something the "better" stamp of approval.
Think reusable products are inherently superior to disposable? Maybe they are. But did they take more energy to manufacture in the first place? What resources are required to clean/sanitize said product for reuse? How long is the expected lifetime?
Everyone "knows" that biodegradable products are better. But how many people know the precise details behind the claim? Does this product break down in the environment, but only by breaking into tiny pieces that continue to litter the landscape? How long does it take? Will it perform the same buried in a landfill as it will sitting on a prairie? What is left behind when this product degrades - a mere cornstarch residue, or non-degrading plasticizers and other assorted persistent molecules?
Speaking of corn, we all know that corn is a renewable resource, therefore corn-based products are superior in every way to those made from petrochemicals. Except that in some cases more petrochemicals had to be used to refine and manufacture the corn-based product that its plastic cousin would require from start to finish.
All those completely natural superior non-chemical cleaners are still chemicals. Just because vinegar can be made from apples doesn't mean the active ingredient isn't acetic acid. Is acetic acid more benign than Triclosan? Maybe. But they're both chemicals. "All natural" does NOT mean "no chemicals."
Repeat after me: "Chemicals are not all inherently evil." (some of them just smell that way)

Being kind to the environment is a great ambition. It's just not always black and white.

I'm tired of hearing people compete to be greener than thou while spouting junk science made for the sole purpose of separating people from more of their money.
I'm Sarah Unreserved, and I approve this message.
*climbs down, puts soap box away, goes back to knitting a sock*

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day 08

There is a family curse that makes women particularly fertile Labor Day weekend. This is made obvious by the eight birthdays my family has during the last week of May. We've joked that in order to prevent more birthday cake eating Memorial Day weekend, all couples should take separate vacations for Labor Day. In a pinch, existing children are excellent at preventing subsequent children. Feeling so bold with our inability to have any private time, we left suburbia for the (over developed resort-filled) wilds.

We had a fabulous weekend at Laurel Hill State Park. This was our first time out in our tent in two years (Claire didn't remember it, which makes sense since she was only 8mo old when last she slept in it), and we were pleased with how well-equipped we were. The first few times we went camping without the benefit of other family or a well-stocked cabin were a series of minor nuisances as we figured out what supplies we were lacking, or tried to remember how to use the Coleman stove. This time we felt like old pros, and our stress levels (at or near zero) reflected it.

When we left it was getting toasty out, but when we arrived at camp we found it cool, overcast, and damp from the morning's rain. We set up camp and entertained ourselves with fine literature. (Sudoku and coloring books)

We checked out the campground and the girls got to play at the playground. This, according to Anna, almost made up for the fact that Pap-pap wasn't there.

I don't know about the rest of summer, but by this time of year, it gets cold at night in the Laurel Highlands. We were cozy in our sleeping bags, and were made even cozier when Claire decided she was scared of the dark and wound up in bed with us.

The next morning I was really starting to wish I'd brought warmer foot-wear than flip-flops. The girls, of course, had a variety of footwear and clothing. I know what kids are like while camping and always over pack assuming they will fall in a creek/find a really big mud puddle/spill their beverage down their shirts/leak out of their diapers. (it was the later) Fortunately the sun came out in a big way. The sky was so beautiful I had to take a picture of it. This is a stupid picture, as it looks like a blue screen of death, but I love it. I live in Pittsburgh. Skies like this are as rare as hen's teeth.

So we went to the beach! I promised Anna we would go to a beach this year. I did not promise salt water. I had to convince my children that there are no crabs in the lake. They would not find sea shells. There are no sharks and no 'occodiles. Claire was in no danger of "falling into the ocean."

Anna is apparently practicing posing for the Sport's Illustrated swimsuit edition.

What you can't see in the above picture is that it was one of Claire's dozen attempts at getting the sand off her feet. She ran up the beach to our blanket, and was dismayed to find her feet all sandy. She ran back to the water, carefully washed them off, and ran back through the sand to the blanket, only to find them coated with sand again. Lather, rinse, repeat while cruel Mama laughed and laughed.

When we got back to camp the girls relaxed by doing something that I never got to do as a (deprived) camping child.

Camping is a perpetual struggle between being equipped enough for comfort without bringing a stupid amount of unnecessary crap with you. This point varies from person to person, sort of like a sleep number. Some people can be happy camping with little more than a tarp and a pocket knife. Some people are not at home with less than a toaster and a microwave. While I normally would scorn the addition of the DVD player, it bought me 30 minutes to cook dinner in peace without my children trying to ignite themselves with Coleman fuel and/or propane. I still reserve the right to look down on those who insist on plugging their children in for a trip to the bank.

I've always found it a downer for "go home" day to only involve eating, packing, and taking off, so we took a little hike this morning out an easy trail to the dam touted on the park's brochure. It did not disappoint.

We even managed a rare picture of the entire Unreserved clan together!

This has nothing to do with our trip, but I have to point out that I would totally believe the news media if they told me there was a hurricane in a given place even if they did NOT send some poor schlub out to stand in it. That is all.

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  • I'm Sarah
  • From Pittsburgh, United States
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