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Theme 2013 – Jumping in with Both Feet

28 Dec

I’ve been noodling over a theme for the coming year – less a specific set of resolutions, and more a mechanism to focus my energies in the coming year. For 2013, I’m thinking something like “stop half-assing stuff.” But a more positive way to put it is more like “Jump in with Both Feet.” This is the year I am going to stop phoning it in as much as possible, be present in the present, make plans and follow through, not just vaguely wave at stuff. So 2013, it’s time I stop acting like a blunt pencil, and start getting sharp.

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11 for ’12 update

23 Dec

In 2011, I did a dozen for 2011 list. In 2012, I pulled some of those things I had on that list, and re-tacked them on to my 12 for ’12 list. In a tough loss right out of the gate, I only really had 11 for 12, even with the repeats. Still, let’s assess:

Project

Category

Log Line

Status

Sweet Vanilla

Crafts, Food

Make homemade vanilla, with labels, made them gift-worthy.

Done! But not great! I’ll post some photos of the vanilla, but the original ‘bourbon’, ‘rum’ and ‘sweet’ vanillas all basically smell and taste like booze, and look pretty wan. The bottle labels are…meh. Still, worth the effort. Ish.

Booky booky

Education, Personal Development

Read a dozen books for 2012, 12 books in 12 months.

Sort of succeeded. Or at least, read 11, with one still in progress (which I may finish in the next week or so). If you are interested, you can see a complete list of them. This probably deserves a separate post as well.

Dashboard – Data Mashup

Internet

Data Garden/Visualization of life or work

Mostly failed again. I really want to do this, though, and I think the coming year will see something spectacular in this category. I’m serious this time, really!

Sunday Supper

Kinwork

Quarterly Sunday Suppers. Have people over for a dinner, 4 times during the year. A relaxing, big, family-style dinner.

One of four, so a qualified success! But honestly, not totally worth the effort. You can read about the results of our one and only supper that we held this year. The food was good, the company was lovely, but our apartment is too small, we invited like 12 people, of whom 2+2kids actually came, just not worth the effort of doing. We want(ed) to invite all of our friends on a rolling basis, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Game Night!

Kinwork

Quarterly Game Nights, with friends and kids.

Did not accomplish this at all. The closest we came is that I spent some time this year playing Dark Souls. I’m not even going to pretend that counts. Which sucks, because we have some games just sitting and waiting for us to get to them!

Pull it together, man! Still!

Technology

Quit doing labor on behalf of other companies, who use my personal information, eyeballs, attention, and content to make money for themselves.

Ok, so I am off of Instagram, but still on Facebook and the Twitters, and even this humble blog is hosted at wordpress instead of being hosted at my own website. My new policy at FB seems to be working – whereby I delete all of my activity occasionally. So I’m relatively active, but also sparse. I’m not naive to believe that protects my data from being kept by FB, etc., but it’s something. Obviously, this deserves a more expansive post.

Sell, baby Sell!

Entrepreneurship

One of my main year-goals this year is to sell something on Etsy. If I can list it, I suspect I can strongarm a friend or two into purchases. So it’s a little more like get something listed on Etsy.

Failed, two years in a row. This is getting depressing folks.

Father Kung-fu

Personal Development, Fathering

Not fffffuuuuuuu, but, you know, skill achieved through hard work and practice.

This is where I think I kind of shined in 2012. I’m not saying that I have learned all there is to know about fathering, but I do feel much more confident about doing fun stuff, necessary-but-not-fun stuff, and exercising patience to a degree I didn’t think possible in 2011.

Educate thyself

Technology, Personal Development

Take a couple of Coursera courses courses.

Ok, so mostly failure. I took two courses, and lasted 3 weeks through them, but didn’t end up finishing either of them. The homework, the tests, the projects. It turns out that my suspicions as a professor have been pretty spot-on. I refused auditors on the principle that if you are not required to commit to a course, it is very challenging to do so. I’ll try again, mostly on coding, statistics, analysis, other fun stuff.

Run, Fat Boy, Run

Personal Development

I’m working on an appropriate amount of distance, and a way to mark it. Ideally a self-updating map of the US, with me running across it, one mile at a time, measured by my fitbit.

My fitbit broke from last year, and I’ve mostly failed miserably at this goal. There is always 2013 though!!

New Job

Personal Development, Career

Get a new job, and a new career.

Working. On. It. This is what is occupying my mind most, and ratcheting up the stress levels of my life more than anything. It’s last on the list, but first in my heart.

Can’t stop this train

22 Dec

Poor baby has had a series of medical punches in the neck lately. None of them have been super serious, but there’s been stomach flu, croup, now MRSA staph infection. This latter one is requiring me to poke and squeeze the ridiculous abscess on his belly. Plus 10 days of antibiotics. So we cancelled what was going to be the smallest of get-togethers for his 2nd birthday party, since we don’t want to infect anyone and he went to sleep with odd timing due to the day-long doctor and emergency room visits. We had even ordered cupcakes!

But you know, at least just for the three of us, the show must go on. And so we called forth the Subway of Justice…

subway close

This monster takes up our entire living room. Here it is a bit further back:

subway full

There is also an accompanying ‘turnstile’ and swipe machine. I spray painted this thing down in the basement; the box came from an appliance store down the block; the mock-up of the subway placard was cut-and-paste jiggery-pokery with Keynote; the swipe machine was cardboard box wrapped in metallic contact paper.

So Happy Christmas and Solstice and New Year to you all. I’m resolving to write more in 2013, but I fear the bar for 2012 was so low that there is nowhere to go but up.

Sunday supper, the first

22 Oct

As part of my New Year’s resolutions this year (2012! Woot!), I wanted to try hosting ‘Sunday Suppers’, a quarterly event where I would make food, we would have a bunch of people over early-ish on Sunday evening, and we would sup and laugh and kinwork the hell out of the place. It would be a new iteration on our Wednesday Night Movie Nights, which we used to host back in the day.

Of course, I did not manage to do this, over 10 months this year. But this past Sunday, we did indeed host one. I thought I would invite a handful of our friends at a time, hoping that some if not all would come. This time I invited eight friends, with a bunch of their kids – if everyone came, we would have a dozen or more people in our (tiny) apartment. I have in mind to eventually invite everyone we know, but it might take a while.

Naturally, just about everyone bowed out, due to scheduling or unexpected events. We ended up with our old neighbors and their two little ones.

The food went off beautifully. Herbed bibb lettuce salad (Boston bibb lettuce, salted a bit, and tossed with a generous handful of herbs – tarragon, parsley, chives, a bit of thyme – and a shallot vinaigrette). Beef short rib stew (Brown the ribs on three sides in a big lidded pot, with some olive oil, in batches. Remove. Sautee some diced carrots, a couple roughly chopped onions, a tied-up bundle of thyme, chives, parsley, all until a bit brown. Remove. Pour in 1/2 bottle or more of red wine, and reduce by 2/3. Add back in meat, vegetables. Add in chopped tomatoes from a big can, with or without juice, a roghly diced head of garlic, a lot of salt, some pepper. Maybe toss in a big peel of orange. Fill up to the top of the meat with broth of some sort. Stir. Put on the lid, and cook in a 325 degree oven for 2-4 hours, until the meat is soft). Roasted broccoli (salt, pepper, olive oil, cooked on a tray at 375-400 degrees until browned and as soft as you like it).

We also had two kinds of ice cream that I made, salted caramel and chocolate. They were the best things eaten.

All of this is a prelude to what I wanted to talk about, which is about small children and adults eating dinner. Our ideal practice is that baby sits at the table and eats what we eat. Sometimes, if we eat beef stew with bread, he can eat just the bread and that’s fine. Plan B is to do this, but if he doesn’t eat, to give him yogurt or fruit at the end of dinner, which he normally will eat. Plan C is to make something separate for him that is easy (some pasta with just cheese, or tuna fish). In almost all of these plans, he has to sit at the table until we are done, or basically done eating.

In practice, we hover between plan A and plan B, and it is much more often me who is willing to move towards plans B and C. This is surprising for both of us, frankly. We kind of thought I would be the hardass. But alas, I’m a bit of the pushover. Or at least we take turns being the softie.

But our neighbors, they let the kids play in the middle of dinner, if they didn’t want the salad but were waiting for the meat course. I am not judging here, I swear, particularly because they have two kids, one of whom doesn’t eat that well, and if they want to do whatever they want, goddess bless ’em. However, this made it impossible for us to execute our ‘ass in the chair’ policy. And what a difference it made for Brooklyn Babe! Baby had a mini-meltdown, presumably from the stress of having people playing with his toys, and not really having the run of house, combined with the unwillingness of mama and papa to actually play with him during dinner.

All was forgiven when we all came together as a family to gorge ourselves on ice cream. But wow this eating thing is a minefield.

House is now back in order, the bathroom is clean, and there are some leftovers in the freezer. It’s too soon to contemplate another Sunday supper quite yet, but I’m going to call it a qualified success.

12 for ’12 – Vanilla

12 Jan

One of my projects for this year is to make homemade vanilla extract. The process is simple (vanilla beans sit in a neutral alcohol until their flavor is, well, extracted), but it takes about 6 months for the vanilla to extract fully. No time like the present!

I’m making three different kinds. Normally, vanilla extract is made with vodka since it is about as neutral as you can get. So there is vodka. But I’m also making vanilla extracted into rum, and bourbon. Without further ado, here is Day 1:

See you in 6 months, my pretties. Baby mama is going to design some labels, I think we’re tentatively calling it Sweet B’s Vanilla (suggestions welcome, I’m not in the least bit convinced by that name). Our tentative tag line is ‘he may be vanilla but he’s not plain’.