Thursday, April 10, 2014

Rustbucket

photo by Gary Heller available for purchase here.

So, I was driving to work last week. It's something I try to do, oh, you know, like five times or so. They pay me to be there. It's a nice little arrangement we have going.

That day you could tell it was going to be gorgeous, no bones about it.
Already at 7:45 or so there was that sort of crisp feel in the air that tells you it'll be sweater-weather til 10 and then it might as well be summer after that. 

Well, except it's not 98% humidity. And no one is actively melting into the sidewalk yet. So it's not like summer at all.

I'm doing my usual maybe-speeding-but-I'll-never-tell zip along the roads when I find myself having to brake behind this weird little truck. You see these little trucks all the time; they're Frankenstein's monster, built by amateur mechanics with too much time and not enough cash in hand. The parts are different colors, coming off different skeleton trucks the fixer-upper in question scavenged from friends or scrapyards or the side of the road. I've never seen a single one with a working muffler.

This truck is towing behind it the rustiest little speedboat thing I have ever seen in my life.

Since the truck could only go about 40 miles an hour uphill (and there are a LOT of uphills), I had plenty of time to look him over. Sometimes, on the really steep hills, we dropped down to twenty mph. I kind of forgive the guy, though, because I could hear how hard his truck was working just to manage that and I was frankly impressed he'd managed to make that truck road legal at all.

Of course, I don't have any evidence it actually was road legal, but for the sake of my friends who have built similar monstrosities, I'm just going to pretend it was.

(For the record, I have driven home inside Greenville's city limits before behind a Frankenstein's truck that had no doors. Or turn signals. And only one brake light. The guy would just lean out and signal with his arm if he was turning left, or the passenger would lean out and signal if they were turning right. It was an amazing and terrifying adventure.)

There was something in the back of the boat that I couldn't quite figure out, and I kept kind of squinting at it.

Finally, it came to me; it was the engine, sliding around inside the boat, knocking up against a gigantic blue cooler. Well, now I knew the whole story; these two gentlemen were going to the lake today, in their hideous little boat, using an engine that I don't think even belonged to the same kind of boat as the one they were towing, and they were going to drink some beer.

(Oh, sure, it could have been Coke. Maybe it was! We can pretend that, if it helps.)

The boat itself was entirely reddish-brown rust on the bottom, not quite but nearly the same color as the dirt on either side of the road. It began to fade out about halfway up and finally, at the top, was a thin strip of unmarked white; the color the boat was actually supposed to be.

I wondered to myself how this little thing was going to stay above the water. Maybe they're taking it to the metal recycling place, like Old Yeller. Only with tetanus instead of rabies. And a scrapyard instead of a shotgun and oh now I'm thinking about Old Yeller and I'm sad.

Then we passed the metal recycling place.

Hm.

Eventually, I had to admit to myself that they really did mean to take this rustbucket out on the water.

When it came time for me to turn off the highway, and they kept on heading down the road towards the two large lakes I had no doubt were their true destination, I gave them a thumbs-up. They noticed and waved back. The engine knocked around some more in the back, and that was the last I saw of them.

I like to think their thoughts went a little bit like, Hey, that girl gave us a thumbs-up! She must like the boat. I bet she wants to go out on the lake, too. Too bad for her. This is going to be awesome!

Whereas my thoughts were, God speed, little Old Yeller boat, and good luck.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's a...


Tiny t-shirts, little socks
rattles, bibs, and baby blocks
we're excited, it's very true,
that our baby will be wearing...

whatever color she darn well wants to!

(I realize it's saccharine. Deal with it.)

That's right! We've known for a little over a week and have been keeping it very much on the down-low. We told immediate family but asked them to keep it to themselves as well, because, well... we just wanted to have something kind of to ourselves for a while.  So little about pregnancy/babies is allowed to or encouraged to be private, it feels like; we're supposed to share every detail with the world, or at least with Facebook and Instagram.

Well, right here and right now, I'd like to make a vow to those I love and to my readers here: you will never, ever, ever hear me talk about my childbirth in anything but the vaguest terms. I will never regale the internet at large with stories about gross things my baby did. I realize you don't care what's in my eventual baby's diaper today.

Oh, no. Those will never be the stories I tell you here.

I'm going to continue boring you to sleep with my current stories about my entirely not-traumatic childhood.

So I hope you like stories about cows, because I'm gonna figure out how to tell you more stories about cows.

So, the Wee Baby Faulk is a girl. Or will be. Or is. Her chromosomes are anyway, so that's something. Now I have to deal with the weirdest part of having a girl; how to convince everyone please dear god, whatever you do don't buy her anything pink. Well, until she can choose the color for herself. Once she can successfully point at that frilly pink dress she can wear it and I will buy it and I will grit my teeth and smile, but until then I'm the fashion stylist in this house and, spoiler alert; I'm not super girly.

I know. You're shocked. But it's true.

I hate pink.

... and I'm having a girl.

God help us all.

Monday, March 17, 2014

In Which I Almost Slap a Doctor: Those Sweet Childhood Memories

Don't trust that smiling face. He's probably a monster.


So, I have this thing about my ears.

It's basically because I had ear infections from a very young age, one after the other. Essentially starting in infancy, my ears have been my off-and-on enemy and also something I probably need to live, since the warning cries of my friends and family are shockingly necessary for my survival thus far.

Some of my earliest memories are of pain ringing in my left ear, waking me up in the middle of the night. I was a crier, and God forbid anyone else dare to sleep when I don't feel well, so I have pretty clear recollections of my sister's unhappy squinting nighttime face while I bawled over hurt I had a hard time actually explaining. The ear itself didn't hurt, but somewhere inside of it rang with such intense pain that I occasionally thought maybe it was my brain dying.

I had tubes put in when I was six years old. They're kind of nothing when you think about them as an adult, but as a six-year-old who was going into what was at the time still considered surgery it all struck me as Very Important and Grave Indeed.

My parents were surprised to find out exactly how bad my ears had gotten. Oh, sure, I was prone to infections, but you know a lot of babies born premature are. Ear infections are just sort of a childhood curse; you deal with them and you move on. Kids grow out of it, or you put tubes in. That's that. My parents were working on the assumption that, as no doctors had actually expressed any serious concern prior to that about my rate of infections, that they would probably fix themselves as time went on.

Except one day, driving down the interstate to the city we did all our shopping in, I was looking out the window at the fields, sitting in the backseat. My sister and mother were talking, and I was pretty happily just keeping to myself.

My mother said something to me. I have a very clear memory of my left ear being turned towards the front of the car, as I was looking outside. I think she repeated herself, and I realized she was talking to me and looked at her and said matter-of-factly, "Mom, I can't hear you if you're not looking at me when you talk."
While I don't remember my visit to the ear doctor shortly thereafter, I DO remember, with complete clarity, the look on my mother's face when I said that. I assume anyone's face would look roughly the same when their child essentially implies, in the same tone they would say we're out of Kool-Aid, that they might be going deaf.

So there was a very exciting visit to a specialist and shortly thereafter I had tubes put in my ears. I remember a hospital bed, and a big stuffed bear someone gave me; a grandparent, I think. I remember being a royal terror because the anesthesia made me feel bad and, being very young, I had no way to deal with that other than to take it out on people I knew would love me anyway no matter what.

And somehow, they still do.

I had those tubes for a long time.

One of them fell out on its own, like they're supposed to, but the other, the one in my left ear (seeing a theme here?), stuck around for a good long time. I think I was in fifth grade when the ear specialist decided it was time to take it out.

Of course, he didn't tell ME that.

I was sitting on the examining table-thing, swinging my legs a little. The doctor had mumbled something to my mother I couldn't quite hear, but the nurse was nice and while I've never been exactly FOND of doctors, I rarely actually disliked them.

He came over with the light-tool they shine into your ears in his hand, and cheerfully told me he was going to take a look, and to just hold still for a second.

The only warning I had was that the nurse suddenly put both her hands over mine.

I had exactly enough time to think that THAT was kind of weird before blinding pain shot through the left side of my head.

It didn't last very long, but I had spent much of my young life dealing with continuous ear pain for one reason or another. They ached due to the ear infections, and then after the tubes they would ache every time there was wind, or sometimes when it was cold, or just for fun some days. And I did everything I could to protect my ears, because I needed them and would do anything to keep the pain of ear infections from coming back.

So, anyway, blinding pain.

There I am, sitting like a good kid, when the doctor decides he's just going to take the tube out of my ear and that, you know, it's not like I need to KNOW about that or anything. Of course not. Not like kids tend to react with panic to unexplained hurt caused by strangers.

I jerked my hands back from the nurse, and my mother must have seen something in my face because she was getting up and out of her chair before I realized that I had one hand in the air, ready to slap a man roughly four times my age in the face.

I received a very educational lecture on how we're supposed to be more respectful to doctors after that, but I think we should all just be proud of me for not letting loose on that man with all the brand new curse words rural public school was teaching me every day.

... and also for not hitting him.

I'm pretty sure he deserved it for lying to a naive 11-year-old.

Also, turns out I don't trust doctors now.

So that's exciting.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Not Entirely Unhealthy Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I say 'not entirely' because, in two smallish loaves, there is still most of a stick of butter and a cup of sugar in this recipe. I adapted it from this chocolate zucchini bread recipe, except that some things we didn't have, some things I didn't feel like using, and I also don't really feel like zucchini bread ever requires quite that much butter and added sugar.

How are you supposed to add more butter on top of a warm slice if it already has so much in it?

Think about it. These are important questions I'm asking here.

Our veggie delivery is in the midst of the worst part of the year, where they're having to range far and wide to find us things since nothing local is really happening right now. So the last couple of weeks we've had more zucchinis than we're sure what to do with. Last week I made sausage-stuffed oven-roasted zucchini based on this recipe, only using hot Italian sausage and slightly different cheese.

This week, I decided I was feelin' like there isn't enough chocolate in my life.

So I fixed that problem.


Not Entirely Unhealthy Chocolate Zucchini Bread

What You Need:
Approximately 3 - 4 cups grated zucchini, allowed to drain in a sieve
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Approximately one teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 cup demerara (raw) sugar
2 eggs
3/4 of one stick of butter, melted (around 6 tablespoons)
1 single-serve cup unsweetened applesauce (around 4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

On to the Creation!
Spray two bread-loaf type baking pans with non-stick spray and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Make sure you've grated your zucchini and allowed it to drain before you start on any other step, otherwise you will have very wet bread indeed.
Whisk together the whole wheat flour, unsweetened cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a large-ish mixing bowl. Make sure all ingredients are well-combined.

In a separate, larger bowl, beat together sugar and eggs until smooth, for about a minute. You really don't need an electric mixer for this; I do most everything by hand and this was super easy. Stir in melted butter and vanilla extract.

Add your zucchini and grated ginger to the sugar and egg mixture. Add your dry ingredients slowly, in three parts, making sure everything is combined before you pour the next bit. Ensure that the mix of well-stirred, but try to move quickly since over-stirring can make the bread even more dense. We're already going to get some pretty dense bread thanks to that whole wheat flour.

Pour half of your mix into each baking pan. Bake for around 50 minutes; when you pull out the loaves, a fork or toothpick stuck into the middle should come out clean. If it isn't, you might need a couple more minutes. Let cool in pans for a few minutes, then remove loaves to a separate pan or rack to continue cooling outside of the pans. 

The bread is best when still a little warm, although it will be crumbly. I suggest adding a little butter - or apple butter - to the loaf for delicious dessert-breakfast.
 
Or, you know, whenever. 'Whenever' is generally how we handle food like that at this house.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

28

28 years ago. Although... not much has changed, really.

so on my birthday...

my husband made me sausage and cheese grits for breakfast
I had free Starbucks for lunch
my birthday books should arrive tomorrow
(two books on cults for research purposes and Stephen King's On Writing)
(plus I've got this one coming as soon as it's officially out!)
I tried to pick up my maternity pants from the tailor,
only to find out she hadn't hemmed them yet
"I can have them ready in two hours!"
It was surprisingly difficult to explain that I had to be
physically present at my job before then
so I must pine away for one more week
but then... oh then,
it's glorious, glorified sweatpants for me from now on!
 I made that free Starbucks last as long as possible
hugged the dog for a while
(he liked it)
hugged the cat, too
(she, uh... didn't)
I went to work, which insists on being held on my birthday
darn it
swore up and down that next year I'm taking a vacation day
and ate more sausage grits for dinner
because this baby and I, we eats what we wants
most importantly, I came home and was loved
by a husband, two cranky cats, and a dog who can't figure out
where it is I go all day
and why it is I must leave him
there was a cupcake waiting for me
two cards from my parents (one funny, one serious)
my birthday card from my grandma
and
for a moment, I was content.



then I thought, "I'm almost 30."
I plan to spend tomorrow recovering from that realization.

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past birthday posts:
27
(there is no 26 - I was kinda depressed at the time - see here)
25
24
23