November 02, 2004
Today's the day.
Vote early, vote often.
November 03, 2004
Good job, voting, you all. Record numbers turned out. Not too shabby. Now, stop voting!
November 12, 2004
Every once in a while, I take a break from telling my devoted readers (well, okay, my devoted *reader* -- some tech support guy in India who is learning English by reading this site. Shake the spatula, my paint chip cellphone!) how to vote or what to think and actually post news about events in Casa Rousselle.
The years 2003 and 2004 have been exceedingly odd here at Allan Central, but I haven't been thrown out of the roller coaster car and it's entirely possible that things are heading for an upturn.
Life hasn't been bad -- in fact, all things considered, we've been doing okay. My family and I are all generally healthy and of sound minds. We remain materially comfortable, insofar as we have been maintaining a roof over our heads and food on the table, clothes on our backs and fairly reliable transportation at our disposal. Our friends remain genuinely wonderful and supportive. We remain blessed to live in a part of the world that is relatively free of crime and political oppression, with an abundance of natural beauty and well-harnessed natural resources. And of course, we are exceedingly blessed to have a happy and healthy child who grows smarter and stronger, more articulate and more beautiful with each passing day.
But the past couple of years have also been rather stressful. Finances and careers and balancing desires with reality have been the major sources of stress, with the typical problem of figuring out how best to use our time.
One problem, for example, has been the house situation. We have a great house... for two adults. Alas, we are no longer just two. We are a couple with a child, and we've been chafing at the boundaries ever since Alexander learned how to walk. We don't have a yard and can't fence in the back patio, we live right off of a major street, and that means we can't just let Alex go outside on his own whenever he wants out of the house. Etc., etc., etc.
It's likely that our house is bigger than the trailer my parents lived in when I was Alex's age, but Paulette and I would still like to have a fenced-in yard for Alex. Is that being too greedy? I don't think so. We'd still like to have rooms to use for "his" and "her" offices, separate from each other and from Alex's room and our bedroom and the living room. More than our parent's had? Surely. But in this age of working from home, it's not unreasonable to want it.
And what if there should be more children in our future? While my sister slept on a bunk bed in a closet off of my room, I'd still prefer for Alex to be able to have his own room and any future kids to have their own rooms, too.
So we started looking at new houses, and found something that we liked that had a great floor plan. Well, okay, Paulette's office is going to have to be the living room, after all. And, well, the closet for Alex's room is just big enough to hold a crib (but not a bunk bed). But otherwise, it's still bigger than what we've got now.
Granted, it's on a small, small lot -- so small that the back yard is pretty much the same size as that patch of green you usually see between the sidewalk and the curb -- but at least we can fence it in and let the kid(s) roam about, if we are so inclined.
The house hunt took up the better part of the first half of 2004. Once we found what we wanted, however, we then had to figure out how to acquire it. Since we are not independently (or even dependently) wealthy, we would have to sell our current house to buy it.
Houses in our neighborhood have been selling like hotcakes for big, big bucks, so we got our house ready, waited until I wasn't travelling quite so much for my job (thereby allowing me to help with the house), and then put our house up on the market.
And waited. And waited. And waited.
And waited some more.
Wouldn't you know it, the week we went on the market was the week that pretty much all house-buying activity in our part of town stopped dead.
We tried all sorts of things, but nothing helped. Every morning, we would have to make the house completely spotless in case someone wanted to drop by to see the place. That took a lot of time out of each day. But that, plus the many things we did to make the house more attractive, seemed to be in vain.
In the meantime, the clock was ticking away on our offer on the other house.
Months went by. Months.
And then, just as we neared our very last deadline for wrapping up the deal on the new house, we found a buyer for the old house who turned out to be the best possible buyer we could have hoped for. Yee-ha.
As we approach the end of 2004, there are a lot of things like that which seem to be turning around; turning out simply excellently. Given a rocky couple of years, we're ready for things to go our way for a bit.
Now, if only that story I sent to The New Yorker finds a home there....
November 16, 2004
Here's a quick and easy recipe that has become a bit of a signature piece for me over the years. It's got great flavor, great presentation, provides a hearty entree, and takes very little time to prepare. This is a recipe I've modified from one that I learned way back during my time in grad school. It is:
Allan's World Famous Garlic Ginger Flank Steak
First, you make the marinade. Combine:
* 1/2 cup dark soy sauce (none of this "lite" crap)
* 1/2 teaspoonful (or so) of spicy hot sesame oil (Mongolian Fire Oil will do, too)
* 1/2 bulb of garlic, which you will crush fresh with your own press (none of this pre-crushed nonsense)
* A few tablespoonfuls of diced ginger. Dice it as fine as you can manage manually; don't crush it to a pulp with a machine
That's it. That's the marinade. If you're any good at peeling and mincing the garlic, you can have this whipped up in ten minutes or less.
Next, take the meat:
1 1/2 to 2 lbs. flank steak
Score the flank steak on both sides with a knife. Put it in a glass pan, and mash half of the marinade into one side. Flip it over, and mash the rest of the marinade into the other side.
Let stand for anywhere from a half hour to a few hours. I've occasionally allowed a steak to marinate in the fridge for a couple of days, but the maximum benefit appears to be hit after one day. Three hours is actually very effective.
Okay, so you've prepared the marinade, and you've prepared the steak. Now, when you're about ready to eat, you can either fire up the grill or turn your oven on to the "Broil" setting. Broil (or grill) for seven minutes. Flip the steak over. Broil (or grill) it for another seven minutes.
Ta-da! You now have a perfectly cooked, medium-rare flank steak that will be oh-so-tender and oh-so-tasty.
Cut the steak against the grain into strips and serve.
Serve with garlic bread, salad (romaine-lettuce works particularly well), and optionally a pasta side-dish. And if you're so inclined, a good red wine, naturally.
Try cutting the garlic fine with a knife instead of using a garlic press. Produces a different flavor, and brings out the ginger. (This is Paulette's prefered variation.)
Try smoking with hickory wood chips on your grill or on a smoker. The hickory does mute the garlic flavor a bit, but it all works quite well together.
November 28, 2004
I merely offer a funny observation today.
I've noticed that other parents do this, but now I'm noticing Paulette and me doing it as well: communicating to the other parent by what you say to the child. Essentially, you say something to the child that might normally be a part of your conversation, but what you're really doing is conveying information to your partner who happens to be within earshot.
Parent #1: Well, Child, after we get you cleaned up, perhaps Parent #2 will take you out for a walk.
Translation: Honey? I know you're listening. Will you please take Child out for a walk? I need a break after we finish cleaning up, here.
I've seen this sort of nonsense on sitcoms (usually it's more malignant, like: "Child, if Parent #2 doesn't take you out for a walk, then I'm going to owe you a lot of money for therapy because of our resulting divorce..."), and then occasionally with friends of ours as they started to have kids (not quite so malignant). Now we've got a kid in the house, and we're doing it, too.
Was this learned? Did we pick this up from the sitcoms and our friends? Or is this actually a naturally programmed way for humans to interact? Yet one more means of indirect communication? Hmmmm.
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