Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Some Bizarre Sickness

So, if you haven't noticed - I haven't published anything on the blog recently.  I'm just on the other end of crawling out of the pits of a sickness that were so deep I couldn't get my head out from the fog it was stuck in for a full 5 days.

Which is good because my wife is a superb take-care-of-sick-people person.  She treats me so amazingly, it's almost worth being sick and dragging it out.

But which is bad because I couldn't play with Sammy for a full five days.  Not even be within 5 feet of him.  And that was really bad, not only because my wife had to carry the full weight of taking care of him (though I got to sleep a LOT - which was terrific) but also because I turned around, and he was a full week older.  He's CRAWLING for god's sake.  (though the technical term for what he's doing would be closer to forward-motion dragging, we in the Borscht household are claiming a win)

And now, my wife is sick because I got her a homerun birthday present, and she was crazy enough to thank me with a kiss.  And I think some of my snot got in the way of the kiss.  And now she's sick.  Which is REALLY bad, because since she's still feeding Sammy with her breasts (despite having all the same words - this sounds much worse than breastfeeding, doesn't it?) she can't take any pills, which means the sickness is kicking her butt right now.

And yet, she's still busting her ass at work and going with me to class tonight.  I swear, I either married the most dedicated woman alive, or the most stubborn.  Likely both.

I'm back on the horse, people - more content tomorrow with a guest post, and then some good-ol' fashioned Borscht Blogging on Friday.

In the Meantime - check out this website I found while trying to figure out if Elijah Wood is Jewish (he's not).  It's incredibly fun.  By the way, also take a look at the TV show Wilfred on Hulu.  I definitely enjoy how bizarre it is.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thank God This Whole "Summer" Thing is Over

You know what's great?  Mac 'n Cheese.  Kung Fu Movies.  Raises that are above 5%.   Don't get me started on pirates and ninjas.  Also: thinking you woke up at 6AM on a Thursday only to realize it's 4AM on a Friday and you can get 2 more hours of sleep.

But you know what else is awesome?  Fall.  It's definitely in the final four of the NCAA for Seasons.  There's something like that right?  I don't know sports.

Regardless. If you've never experienced a fall, you've gotta get in on it, because Fall is tremendously amazing for all of the following reasons.

  • It is not elevinty billion degrees outside and you do not have to constantly sweat while doing things like sitting around wishing it wasn't summertime.  This is the main benefit to the fall.
In addition to the multitude of reasons listed above, you've also gotta consider the other, less important aspects of the hay-ride to Christmas that is Autumn.  Namely: Hay rides, leaf piles, orange and brown house decorations, and my beautiful country's wondrous decision to write into the constitution the celebration of the Turkey.  It is my constitutional right to have a near death experience once a year from turkey-overdose.  

But on a less ridiculous note, I've gotta refute a little bit the arguments that some people have made that tend to paint Fall as the harbinger of all things cold and awful.  There is something magical about walking through the park, shuffling through the dead leaves with your feet, with your wife's hand in yours while watching the remaining leaves on the trees submit to the inevitable arson that is Autumn.  

In addition, Autumn is the official start of Banya season.  More on this later.

Also, not to sound weird or anything, but I happen to know that I look pretty damn good in fall clothes.  

So there you have it - why I'm super excited about the coming fall.  I'm linking this post up with Mama Insomnia who absolutely loves the fall.  And you can too!  Just click the button below for more discussions about how incredibly awesome the fall is.

Mama Insomnia

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Phase Three of Life is Guest Posting!

Today, I'm welcoming Meghan from Phase Three of Life to guest post!  There are few things that are awesome in this world. But, a mom who can wrestle an 11 month old with chronic, near crippling ear infections and a penchant for high speed chases down the freeway hallway, while maintaining a blog that extolls her outstanding sense of wit and charm is definitely one of those things.  Also, I just learned that she makes a mean chocolate chip cookie bar.  

Back in the days before I became a mom, I was a baker. I say “was” cuz once I had a kid, something had to give. Taking non-stop care of the kid is borderline required, and my boss had an expectation that I would keep coming into the office every single day, so my baking time took a major hit.

Recently, I realized I missed eating loads of cookies and cakes baking for family and friends.  I set aside one precious hour to whip up some chocolate chip cookie bars. Once Mike and I had devoured a significant portion of them, it occurred to me: my kid has never sampled my baking.  

Eleven full months of life on Earth and none of Mom’s baking? “Unacceptable,” I thought to myself.

So after Ryan ate an impressive amount of chicken and sweet potatoes for dinner the other night, I decided his good appetite and general happy demeanor should be rewarded with some dessert.

Kid gobbled it up. (Well, most of it: the chocolate chips are something of a choking hazard, and so I made the supreme sacrifice of ridding the world of them. The things we do for our kids!)

It was a positive experience all around: Ryan was happy to finally be allowed to eat something unhealthy, and I was satisfied with the confirmation – once and for all – that the kid is most definitely genetically related to me.

He happily splashed in the bathtub for a bit and then went down to sleep without so much as a whimper of complaint.

Mike and I enjoyed a relaxing meal, marveling at how easy the night was going (this is almost always our first mistake).
Then we heard a little cough over the monitor.

We paused our conversation for a moment.

He coughs a lot in his sleep, but this sounded different. Sort of... *cough*… muffled. Or... *cough*… thick?

Mike got to his room first and opened the door.

Oh, god,” he said. “Oh, jeez. Oh, buddy.”

And there it was – chicken, sweet potatoes and chocolate chip cookie bar – all over his face, his hair, his neck, his hands, his sheet, his blanket. More food (did he really eat all of that??) than you’ve ever seen in your entire life.

We stood for a moment, just staring. It was quite a mess to behold, second only to one other incident that probably can never be topped (and I swear, we’re not trying to top it).

Here's what he looks like when he's clean and smiling. Trust me, you don't want to see him the other way.
Once the destruction was all cleaned up and Ryan was sufficiently tortured with a second bath and all the pieces of sweet potato had been plucked from behind the crib and the washer was happily humming, I asked the question that was haunting me:

"Do you think it was the chocolate chip cookie bar?"

"Nah, he probably just ate too much," Mike assured me. "Those cookie bars are delicious."

Please, go check out her blog, you won't regret it.  Also, we should all pool together our resources and try to bribe a couple of those chocolate chip cookie bars off of her.  Comments are off - go check her out!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

iPhone Photo Phun, Where Sammy Learns to Stick his Tongue Out

Two of my very good bloggy friends KLZ and Liz have come up with a great meme.  iPhone Photo Phun. And while it's frustrating that everyone in the world has a better phone than I do, I can still appreciate the joys and benefits of posting photos and calling it a post.

And for this special photo, Sammy has learned how to stick his tongue out at his father.  We had a blast while he was in the tub, sticking our tongues out at each other.  To this day, I'm still not sure whether he was doing it on purpose, or if he was just sensing the air like a snake does.  No matter, I caught it on film and will believe whatever I want about the photo.

Also, I think I had a finger over the lens - see top dark part of photo
Got a photo you love on your phone? Or one you have no idea how it got there, but it shows you wasted with a bunch of random people you've never met at a bar you've never seen before?  Link up with Liz and KLZ for iPhone Photo Phun!

Taming Insanity

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Northeast Philly Guide to Coked-up Babysitters

I was downstairs this morning, getting tea and lunch and other miscellaneous things ready for the day when my babysitter came in. 

She burst into the kitchen, murmuring a hello to me in her thick Russian accent while she made a b-line straight for the broom and dustpan (which my wife calls the tree branch and scoop - not important to the story, but interesting aside).  She was blabbering the whole way about how it was not too hot, not too cold outside like a Russian Goldilocks, and asking me what Russian words were in English.

I wondered if she knew it was too early in the morning for a pop quiz.

She took the broom outside to sweep something up, brought it back inside and proceeded to go through the refrigerator, asking why we haven't eaten any of the food that is in there. 

"Zese Cherries, vhy haven't you eaten zem?"

"My wife takes them to work a little at a time - so we are eating them, just slowly."

"Zese veg-e-tables, vhy haven't you eaten zem?"

"We eat them for's breakfast time.  We'll eat them when dinner time comes."

"Zis choco-lait cake, vhy haven't you eaten zis?"

I thought to myself that if Russian Jewish grandmothers were part of the Gestapo, this would be like what their interrogations would be like.

Then, when we left to go to work, she calls my wife, asking again why we haven't eaten the chocolate cake.  

She's almost 60, but she's seriously like a pre-teen girl on coke.  Her mouth does NOT stop.

A while ago, I worked from home.  It was during earnings season, so I was particularly busy with work.  Yet she came over about every thirty minutes telling me some random fact about her life.  For example:
  • I have daughter - she lives vit me, and I say to her - I say, "Gala! You need to learn how to cook like real woman!" Ok, Zat's all I wanted to say.  I'm sorry, I leave you alone.
  • Me and my daughter go to exercise class called 'Zumba'.  You know what is Zumba?  It is dancing.  (she dances around in a circle like she's having a slight seizure).  It is very good exercise - you should try.  You maybe lose some weight.  Ok, Zat's all I wanted to say.  I'm sorry, I leave you alone.
  • My husband is very particular about name.  In Russian - is Pyotr, but he wants that people call him Petya.  Petya is good Jewish name.  Husband is Jewish, not Russian.  And definitely not Peter! Ok, Zat's all I wanted to say.  I'm sorry, I leave you alone.
  • Sorry, just one more thing! I have two hobbies.  I like to cook, and I like to clean! And sometimes to sew.  You see my dress?  I sewed this.  Look at good stitches on inside! (she turns up the hem and shows me the stitching).  Ok, Zat's all I wanted to say.  I'm sorry, I leave you alone.
This is why I don't work at home anymore.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A PSA: Music Does NOT Sound Better on Vinyl

Dear hipsters:

Ok, I get that gender and general hygiene have taken a backseat to individual expression and raw humanity.  But do you have to be so weird about it?

Sweet gloves, bro.

Seriously, if you're trying to make a statement, please read Aristotle's Rhetoric.  Especially the part where you're not supposed to disgust the people you're trying to make that statement to. Chapter 2, I think.
I'm sorry that you had to see this picture.
I think the world would take these people more seriously if they didn't wear every item of clothing they owned (or no clothes at all), actively try to look like serial rapists, or judge all people who weren't being as weird as they are.

That is all.  (Source for both photos, and quite possibly my new favorite website)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Go Ahead, Extrapolate. Just...Do it Where I Can't See You

Every week, about three times a week, we drive past a house on our way to my in-law's place.  Inside that house is just some random dad of three boys.  His kids are all under the age of 10, and they've got just about the coolest dad ever.

The dad and his three boys built a catapult from scratch out of a bunch of 2x4s, a giant rubber band, and a coffee can.  It's probably 8 feet tall, and they use it to launch payloads at their neighbors or each other.  Or neighborhood girls a la Calvin and Hobbes.

The dad and his three boys built a bunch of benches, camouflaged them, and have been selling them for $25.  They've got the sign attached to the bench, and it seems like they're doing pretty well so far. I mean, who wouldn't want a camouflaged bench?  On second thought, it might be hard to see if you put it in the garden. 

The dad and his three boys have a giant tree house in their backyard, which, I presume, the father built and they're using as a base camp for all kind of awesome father-son adventures.

The dad and his three boys have at least 300 nerf guns and go around shooting each other with them at least three times a day.  ...Ok, i've never actually SEEN this happen, but I'm assuming.  Because it seems like something they'd do.  Because I know them and all.

And every winter, at least when there's enough snow, the dad and his three boys always build some kind of enormous structure that they use for amazing snowball fights.  One year it was an honest-to-god Igloo.  The next it was a snow fort the size of a small house.  Still another year they built a snowman that was without exaggeration the size of their two story house.  I'm still unsure how they did it.

I am guessing that either the dad owns his own business and works only a few hours a day, or he's a stay at home dad.

Growing up, the most my dad did with me was bring me and my brother on really long and grueling trips to terrible jungle locations with lots of cannibals, fire ants, and lava pits. And when we weren't on some arduous journey through Mordor, he was at work.  Yeah, he worked hard and all, but when it really comes down to it, he missed a lot of our childhood - and we missed a lot of our father.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm trying to say here, but there's definitely something to be said.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tattoos and Piercings on Children

I have three tattoos.  They are badass.  I used to have my eyebrow pierced and both nipples pierced.  The piercings were also classified as badass.  With the piercings combined with the tattoos, I was doubly or maybe triply badass.  But then I grew up and took out the piercings when I graduated college; I thought that's what a grown up would do. 

And now, a couple years later, I don't think I'd ever get a piercing again, but I'd love a new tattoo.  I've just gotta overcome three problems. 

#1: I want it to be something incredibly awesome and timeless.  I'm thinking about the first line to Anna Karenina in the upper center of my back: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." (only in Russian).  Any other suggestions?

#2: I want to either put it in a place that will not succumb to my inevitable obesity/gravity, or to start putting money away for monthly liposuctions (tattoos on morbidly obese people look...well...not pleasant). 

and #3: I need to convince my wife, or drug her with chloroform so she'll wake up and it'll be too late.

But this post isn't really about MY tattoos and piercings.  It's about the ones Sammy can never have. *Sob*

My wife and I disagree on many things when it comes to raising Sammy, but nothing divides us as much as tattoos and piercings. 

You see, in Russian culture, the only people who had tattoos were people who came from prison.  I imagine there are exceptions, but from what I understand, this isn't hyperbole - literally NO ONE had tattoos other than ex-cons.  And as for piercings, they don't understand why anyone would injure themselves purposefully and put stupid rings in their faces/bodies.  So imagine the in-law's surprise when their daughter brought me home.

Growing up in this culture, you can imagine my wife's stance.  No son of hers will be seen as an ex-con, or an idiot.

For me, I think that there's absolutely nothing wrong with him getting tattoos, as long as he enacts the 6 month waiting period.  Think up a design, make a decision, and then wait 6 months before putting it on your body.  If you still want to put that design on you in 6 months, you're more than welcome to (provided you pay for it).  And as for piercings, who cares?  The only downside to my piercings is that my nipples are always hard from the buildup of scar tissue in the nipples.  Other than that, there's nothing wrong with getting piercings.  Newsflash: They're removable.

Where do you all stand on tattooing your children? 

(With their consent, I mean.  Not like branding them.  And obviously after they turn 18, not right now.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Balanced Approach to Kicking Sammy Out

This was me yesterday on my way to work:

Which is why I didn't post anything.

The reason?  Sammy is being a ridiculous person, and the wife is following suit. 

You see, we've had him sleeping in our room ever since the beginning of time.  Never in our bed, but always in his crib/bassinet.  But when we first started out, we could play the bagpipes, throw tambourines at each other, and play the penis game but with megaphones.  Whatever we did, Sammy wouldn't wake up.

But now, his highness needs absolute quiet in order to sleep soundly.  And you know what?  I DON'T MIND.  He's a baby, and that's what they do/need. 

But you know what I DO mind?  His sleeping in our bedroom.  Or let me be more clear: my wife's insistence on his sleeping in our bedroom.  And the fact that no matter how quiet I am, she still yells at me to be quieter.  So what follows is a plea to her - to get her to agree to move him into his own room, down the hall. 

Reason #1: The following is a list of things that make sounds in the bedroom with very little perturbation (yes, that's a word) and there's nothing to do about it:  The door hinges, the creaky floor, the creaky bed slats, the clanky curtain shades, the bathroom faucet, the toilet, the drawer sets, the closet, the clothes in the closet, your slippers, the computers as we're going to bed, the door to the bathroom, the alarm clock in the morning, the beeping of the bottle warmer.

Reason #2: When you shush me to be quiet, you actually are louder than anything I've done to provoke said shushing.

Reason #3: I almost guarantee that he'll sleep better in another room where I won't be constantly trying to fairy-flit around like giant 200+ pound tinkerbell/ballerina in boxer briefs. 

Reason #4: I almost guarantee that WE'LL sleep better not having to constantly shush each other. 

Reason #5: If WE sleep better, we'll be happier, and I'll be able to pour more effort into this blog, which will garner attention from large bigwigs, who will want to sign me up to write the next great American novel which will bring in gazillions of dollars which we will use to buy lots of really sweet nerf guns.

And, because I was always taught to weigh the counter arguments:

Counterargument #1: But he's too little!
     Reality: Psh, he's got adult sized poops.  That's the only metric I go by.

Counterargument #2: But the room isn't ready yet! There are no cute animal stickers on the wall!
     Reality: Amazon has 2-day shipping for a reason.  Problem solved.

Counterargument #3: But I'll miss him! 
     Reality: if, in the middle of the night, you miss him so terribly, I won't have any problem with you going down the hall to kiss him and hug him and rub his face with your face as much as you want.  No problem at all.

Counterargument #4: But what if he gets up 9 times a night like he is now?
     Reality: Ok, this is really the only legitimate argument.  I still maintain that he's getting up solely because he's we're making sounds in the room that are above 0.001 decibel.  Or because he's teething and grumpy.  We could do a trial period.  Three nights.  Two to get over sleeping in a new place, and one just for good luck. 

Counterargument #4b: Yeah?  and Who's going to get up to take care of him?
     Reality: If we do it over the weekend, and I'm allowed to take unlimited (or just one) naps during the daytime, I'll take the brunt of the workload.  Just to prove a point.  If I'm wrong, we'll bring him right back and wait until he's a year and I'll be completely silent about it.  And I'll work on levitation.

Please, people, send some support for the cause in the comments!  She reads all of them!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Funnel Cake Saga...Part Two

After the amazing display of undying love and affection for me that my wife showed when the seagulls attacked (that could be a sweet TV show), I was mostly just happy to be alive.  So I didn't think about the fact that she almost sacrificed me to the seagulls for funnel cake.  So, we continued down the boardwalk - chuckling to ourselves and forever gifted with the seagull story to laugh at and tell our grandchildren.  Yes, we are so boring that this is a "tell your grandkids" story.  If by "boring" you mean "awesome".

We knew of another funnel cake place that was a little close to the hotel, and I promised her I'd pick her up one when we passed by.  Only this time, we'd get it to go and in a paper bag so we could take it home and inside to eat.  Just in case there were any seagulls that were vigilantly determined to prevent any Funnel Cake enjoyment.  

Finally, once the revelry about being alive ended, we noticed there was a massive, mean looking cloud looming overhead.  This must have been the cloud that god had in mind when he designed the "Ominous" class of clouds.  It was pitch black, and rolled across the sky in a low flying billowing haste.   You could tell it was just waiting for you to get just far enough away from any real cover to start taking a giant, watery dump on your head.  

So we picked up the pace.  And not just a little bit, we were legitimately speed walking, Malcolm in the Middle style. I had my hips swaying and everything.  I think I even broke a sweat, though in the summertime, I can pretty much do that whenever.  Yes, even eating.

I was the red one, because come  Not a manly color.

I hatched a brilliant plan:  

I would go on ahead and channel my inner super-power-walker and order/pick up the funnel cake so that it would be ready by the time she came and met up with me.  She was pushing the stroller with Sammy in it (who was STILL having an awesome time and didn't know anything was up) so it was hard for her to go full speed.  

And everything was going to plan!  I got to the funnel cake distributor, slammed my fist on the table and eked out between deep pants of breath, "FUNNEL CAKE!"  And it was ready near instantaneously.  But then...we got a little off the boardwalk.  We were still about 3/4 of a mile away from our hotel, and the cloud must have known it.  He squeezed a little bit out just to mess with us.  Big. Effing. Drops.  But thankfully, it held off for about another five minutes.

Funnel cake in hand, we were speeding towards the hotel.  And we were about half a mile away.  We could see the hotel in the distance!!  And that's exactly when the cloud unleashed its full wrath on us.

The wife ducked into the awning of another hotel, just out of reach of the pounding rain.  I grabbed the funnel cake and like a badass, I told her to wait with Sammy and the stroller under the awning, and I'd come pick them up in the car.  The sky looked like it wasn't going to let up any time soon, and we didn't want to be hanging out on the boardwalk under an awning all night, and plus, I'm manly like that.  Takin' care of business.

Fast forward through the boring stuff, and once we finally got settled into the room, the coveted funnel cake was cold and soaking wet, and we threw out the entire thing without having a bite.

If my wife were a 3 year old boy, this would have been what she looked like

Now, there's no question in my mind: someone's looking over us.  And his/her sole interest is making sure my wife doesn't get funnel cake.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

100th Post!!! Time to Celebrate, Russian Style!

Happy 100th post to me!!! and to celebrate, we'll all drink shots of vodka and toast to life, love, and health!

As a present to you all for coming along with me so far, I had an amazingly wonderful video of my in laws singing the Soviet national anthem after three bottles of vodka while we were at the beach last week.  It's something that comes out relatively frequently when reminiscing about the motherland.

HOWEVER, I wasn't given permission to post it because there was some concern that it would be...somewhat...embarrassing.  Harumph, don't they know that's the point?  So anyway, what follows will have to suffice.  I found this searching "drunk russians singing soviet national anthem".  It's almost exactly what you would have seen had I uploaded my own family's video.

Sadly, we Americans don't have this kind of nostalgic, nationalistic pride.  It's a shame, really.

Thank you so much for reading - I love you all!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Funnel Cake Saga...Part One

My wife has many, many wonderful qualities.  What follows is not a discussion of one of them.  I would like to tell you a story about what happened during our trip to the beach.  And yes, there are lots of adorably cute pictures of Sammy in a diaper and an awesome safari hat with his feet stuck into the sand.  But the story is much more important.

This is like Porn to my wife
My wife has a terrible obsession with funnel cake.  So when we went to the beach, she had been preparing me for a couple weeks about how it was my responsibility as a husband to go into the wilderness and hunt and kill for her a cake of the funnel variety and bring it back to the cave so as to provide for my family.  I informed her that it was not the Mesozoic, and, in fact, that since she makes more money than me (it's a temporary issue, I'm sure) - she was quite capable of purchasing her own stupid cake.  Then, I peacefully agreed to get her a funnel cake, but only after a gentle jab in the ribs from my better half.

We were walking down the boardwalk, and figured we had about two hours before Sammy needed to sleep, so we could walk down the boardwalk for an hour and turn around, which would work out perfectly.  She knew of a funnel cake place exactly an hour out, so that would be our turnaround place.  (aside: how does one "know of a funnel cake place"?  don't they just appear out of the ether?  It's not like they're in the yellowbook or anything).

We had a magnificent walk, enjoying the sights, and laughing pleasantly watching Sammy interact with the bright new surroundings.

When we got to the funnel cake place, I got a table in the outdoor food court area.  The wife came over with the funnel cake, and sat across from me, obviously unsettled.  I asked what the issue was.  Her reply: Seagulls.  There must have been fifty of them all hanging out around this outdoor seating area.

"Braiiiiins!  But in a pinch, funnel cake will suffice"
"Seagulls?"  I replied, "Psh, they're weak!  There is no way those things will come over here.  And even if they do, I'll swat it with my fists of fury."

So.....The rest of the story pretty much writes itself.

She got freaked, and we got up to start walking to a less seagull-y area (she still hasn't had a piece of funnel cake yet).  I've got the funnel cake in my hands, when she says to me, "Honey dearest, please break a piece of the funnel cake off and hand it to me", to which I replied, "sure, my lovely sweet peach!"

And all of a sudden...BAM!  A seagull lands right on my head as I'm passing the piece to the wife.  Another one blind-sides me and knocks the funnel cake out of my hand.  The cake is lying helpless on the boardwalk (right-side up, thankfully), and my dear, loving, wife says to me, "What are you doing?!? Pick it up!!  It's funnel cake, for god's sake!" Thanks, love.  I'm beginning to see the list of priorities form in my wife's head.  #1: Sammy  #2: Funnel Cake  #3 Herself: and #238: My 26 year streak of no seagull bites.

At this point, there are four seagulls swarmed around the cake, and I've gotta live up to my "gonna smack'em" mantra I so stupidly asserted earlier in the evening.  I crack a couple across the beak with my sneakers and dive in for the cake.

When I've finally secured the funnel cake in hand, she says to me "Come on! to the hotel!!!"  And we dash off towards our hotel room where we're sure we won't be eaten alive by seagulls.  The seagulls follow us.  When they continue divebombing us, she then says, "What are you doing??  Walk with us, but far behind us!  but whatever you do, SAVE THE FUNNEL CAKE!"

My dear, dear wife.  I owe so much to you.  Namely, the seagull hickeys I've got now all over my body.

I didn't listen to my wife for the first time in a long while, and I sacrificed the funnel cake.  May it rest in peace.  Though likely it was ripped apart by a huge flock of seagulls and then subsequently passed through all of their digestive systems and launched back on the poor boardwalk goers.  That's what they get, I guess, for not helping us defend against seagull attack.

The story's not over, but that's enough for one post.  Until tomorrow!

Monday, August 8, 2011

10 Russian Foods That are Making Me Obese, and That I Can't Live Without

So for this week's list, I wanted to do a counter argument to the list I made about the most disgusting Russian foods.  Because, honestly, the Russians make some absolutely amazing dishes that are seriously going to make me bedridden with obesity such that I'll have to be brought to the hospital via crane. 

1. Tea.  Russians never do anything without first letting it "steep" for a while in a cup of hot tea (see what I did there?).  EVERY meal is ended with tea.  And at first, I was sort of indifferent, because honestly, tea?  I honestly thought it was really dumb, especially growing up with my parents always having decaf coffee after dinner.  Now, I can't even believe my parents with their stupid decaf.  "Seriously?  Decaf? What's the point?" I mutter at them with my nose up in the air.

2. Borscht.  Without borscht, I wouldn't have been able to name this blog something awesome.  I was always skeptical about borscht, especially given that I'm not a beet lover, but there's something about the way that it's all put together with the cabbage, the beef, and the beets (not to mention pouring a mountain of sour cream in the soup) that makes me as crazy as a preteen girl at a Bieber concert.

3. Shashlik.  I've discussed this before, but I've gotta mention it again because it's so imperative to my survival.  Grilled pork butt.  It's outstanding, and I've got a delicious man-crush on whoever created this non-gross method of eating butt.

4. Pirogi.  You can't screw these up.  It seems like whatever you put in a pirogi makes it the most delicious pirogi ever created.  Eggs, bacon, meat, rice, vegetables, cherries, onions, whatever it is, they're outstanding.  And the great part is that every family has a different recipe, so you've gotta try everyone's, and they're always competing for room in your stomach, which I can't complain about.

5. Golubtsy.  I never heard of these before, but it's essentially beef and rice wrapped in cabbage, all boiled.  Sounds a bit gross, and for those of you who don't like boiled vegetables, this wouldn't be for you (my wife is of your camp).  But throw half a can of sour cream on top, and I'm living in "oh my god" land where all they play is James Brown.  These are excellent.

6. Olivie - This is the quintessential Russian Salad, and like pirogis, every family has their own recipe.  For my in-laws, they do potatoes, pickles, bologna, and eggs, all nearly swimming in mayonnaise.  But there are families who do it with chicken, or who add carrots, or any number of variations.  If it were up to me, we'd substitute our bed for a giant bowl of olivie and eat while we sleep.  Yeah, it's that good.

7. Salads.  Russians don't believe in lettuce.  I mean, some will use a tiny bit, but normally, Russian salads are nothing like American salads, which are usually 90% lettuce.  When my wife and her family make salads, they're made of two cucumbers, two tomatoes, and half an onion.  And that's it.  Also, they don't believe in any salad dressing other than oil and vinegar.  I used to be annoyed by the whole "no dressing" thing, but now, there's nothing better on a hot summer night than one of these light and delicious salads made with just the best parts of the salads.

8.  Napoleon.  Oh god, Russians do desserts right.  And this particular cake is the best cake I think I've ever had.  The only problem: it takes 2 days to make.  Essentially, it's a cake made of both sour cream and whipped cream, with maybe 25 or 30 paper thin layers with the cream smothered in between each layer.  In the end, it's about eight or nine inches tall (depending on how many layers you make) and it lasts about thirty seconds.  Once you put it on the table, it's a madhouse.  I've personally lost two fingers to Napoleon related injuries.

9.  Dill.  An herb the Americans give little attention to that the Russians will put on ANYTHING.  I don't blame them though, it adds a seriously fresh and amazing aroma and taste that I think a lot of American foods are missing.

10.  Zharkoye.  This is a strange dish, and is sort of the Russian version of the spanish paella.  It's chicken wings (or some other meat, but my in-laws use chicken wings) braised with a magical sauce of carrots, onions, and water - all mixed in with potatoes.  I still have no idea how it's done, even though I've helped make it dozens of times.  All I know is that it's outstanding.

So if you're ever able to get access to a Russian household, please, please, please ask for these ten things - I promise you that you won't be disappointed. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Learning things? Awww, man! *pouts*

Ah, boy, it's been a whole week, and sadly, #SummerBlogSocial is coming to a close.

So in the past four days, from reading everyone else's posts, and comments on this here blog, I've come to the conclusion that today's post will encapsulate all the things I learned during my time at Summer Blog Social.

It is not some grand revelation that I want to blog full time. Everyone wants to blog full time.  Ok, maybe not everyone, but if you were to give someone the option to sit around all day drinking lattes, cocktails, and aperitifs while tweeting all day long vs. going to a 9-5, most people wouldn't think twice about it.  So, I shouldn't think it's some amazingly unique plan or desire to be a full time blogger.   The "duh" factor on this one is pretty high.  At LEAST a nine or a ten.

Twitter is like being bitten by a radioactive spider.  You know that line, "with great awesomeness comes great responsibility" or whatever it was from the spiderman movie.  You can either use it to be an amazingly engaged person whom everyone wants to be friends with because they are just about as cool as humanly possible.  Or you can...well, not.  People also have amazingly complicated formulae regarding tweets to retweets ratios, tweets to links ratios, and overall self-promotion ratios.  I'm actually very surprised that such a very literary world incorporates math so readily into their daily lives.

While most people have their emails linked so that when they comment, their reply addresses are listed, some do not, and it is absolutely needs to be remedied.  When you comment on one of my posts, I absolutely love being able to email you back with a witty and sometimes (read:never) insightful response that will almost certainly (read: definitely not) fulfill and enrich your life.  But if the response is "" it may as well be "iactuallydontlikecommunicatingwithyou@stoptalkingtome.please".  And I get sad.  No, I really do, there's usually tears and everything because a potential connection could have been made, but now, i'm just left staring at some words that are analogous to graffiti.

And probably the last important thing that I learned is that no matter how much apprehension you feel, or insecure you are, or how marginally you are awake or conscious, talking to people on twitter and leaving comments is always, always, always appreciated.  I guess I knew this one as well, but after this week, it was definitely solidified in my brain.

So, I wanted to thank both Liz and Jessica for coming up with such a great link up idea, and for all the people who are new followers and whom I am now following as well.  It's been a great time this week.

But honestly?  I can't wait to stop being serious and get back to being a sarcastic and silly goofball.  I've got some great stories from my recent trip to the beach.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Time Suck That is Blogging

As the last day I'll post something for the #SummerBlogSocial, I chose to do prompt #12, which asks, as you reflect back on your time blogging, tweeting and Facebooking, what has surprised you most?

Ahh, blogging.  It's been an amazing 3-4 months.  But looking back, I've gotta say I'm surprised about how much of a time suck the entire process was.

It started with dreaming up a topic, something that would serve as the foundation for the entire blog.  Then, I started thinking about how to designing a look/brand.  Then, thinking up a post, deciding the correct angle to discuss that post, creating that post, and finally making sure people come to see what you've written, which includes commenting, promoting, and branding.

While each post might take less than 30 minutes to write, the entire blogging experience eats on average three or four hours of my day.  Which, at the starting block, I definitely never had expected.  And please don't take that as a complaint - I love every second of it.  

I spend time reading other's blogs, and commenting, tweeting (when I've got something to say), but I think the most dangerous and expansive time suck is dreaming - dreaming about what I want to do with the whole thing.  

In my mind, I've created a structure, a town, no - a city-state, psh, a WHOLE COUNTRY, all built around the idea of a visual representation of every connection that happens on my neural network, plastered onto the internet so as to keep record of it all so it doesn't tumble out of my head like I'm trying to catch a bowl of jello with my hands that some punk poured out of the third story window.  In my brain, I've got a website with travel recommendations, business ideas, investment choices and tutorials, silly vlogs where I make an ass out of myself while learning how to cook insanely difficult meals, humerous short stories, short biographies that I've written more as a way to learn how to write than anything else, political manifestos, societal commentaries, novels, book reviews, film critiques, gardening suggestions, poetry, essays, apostrophes, screenplays, and cartoons.

These are the dreams that take up at least a sixth of my day, but like I said - I'm not complaining.  I love this.  I love blogging.  If I could figure out a way to get paid a decent salary for this, I'd quit my real job in a heartbeat and work full time at interacting with the blogging community.

In the end, this is what surprised me the absolute most: that while so much of my day is devoted to something I previously found so intangible and silly, I've now discovered just how awesome this intangible and silly thing could really be.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wit vs. Self-promotion: A Quandary

This is the third day of #SummerBlogSocial 2011, and this post is for prompt #6, which asks: Tell us about an element or two of your blog or social media presence that you are unsure of and would like opinions on.

I love twitter.  No, seriously, I think I have a little bit of a man-crush on it.  It's like every single one of my tweets is a mini-blog post that I get all giddy and excited over hitting the "publish" button on my computer.  And the fact that I've gathered together such a great mini-community that sometimes will respond to my tweets that I think are so clever and amazing with adulation and praise - that's awesome. 

But, as with all great loves, I've got a little bit of a quarrel with my crush.  Sometimes, I just don't have anything to say.

So my twitter account will sit idle, waiting for some twit-spiration to arise and per-twit me to be clever and twitty for a couple of days.  And all my followers will get in the meantime is a couple of tweets a day that say,
"hey - I know you're super busy and all, but I just wrote this really long diatribe about nothing of any importance to you.  By the way, what's the difference between a monologue and a diatribe?  I know what a dialogue is, but can you have a monotribe?  Haha, I really love these kinds of linguistic questions, don't you?  ok, anyway, here's the link for my blog, come see me, please?  no seriously, come!"
Although not in so many characters.

In addition to the lack of inspiration when it comes to funny and clever tweets (we can't all be Marinka @motherhoodNYC) I have a phone that is about as current as those massive brick phones of the early 80s, so even when I DO have something awesome to say, it takes me about 30 minutes to type it out.

So my question to you all is really two-fold:

First, how do you all manage your twitter account in terms of actual substance and tweets that promote real connections between you and your followers vs. self-promotion.  And second, how do you perceive those people who will, for days, do nothing but self-promote (albeit sparse self-promotion, but absent any real content). 

Writing that last sentence, I feel like I should add a disclaimer: if someone follows me, and I look through their history and all I see are links, I will not follow.  What does that say about me?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Severe Case of Navel-Gazing, or Omphaloskepsis (which sounds better)

High emotion tends to create drama, and drama is usually what draws an audience.  But the thing about high emotion is that one needs to express that emotion in an environment that the person feels is safe - no one likes to put themselves out there only to be met with ridicule and negative reaction.

So in a way, the ability to control your audience is crucial. 

I tried to show this on a 3D graph (with an x, y and z axis) but I couldn't figure out anywhere where I could make 3D graphs except by hand.  And I'm not smart enough to draw that, so you'll just have to imagine it.  It'll be awesome when you do.

Moving on...

For example, my family doesn't know about this blog - and I'd pay anything to make sure they never do - because I feel like if they WERE to find out about it, I really wouldn't be able to write this blog the same way that I do.

I tried to write a second blog (concurrently with this one) that would be available to them.  It started out terribly, and ended up with me just sort of copying and pasting boring and watered-down posts from this blog over to that one.  In the end, it was a terrible disaster, and I put it on death row.  Trying to write to an audience that includes them is about as conducive to creativity as having an open-faced dirty-diaper-sandwich rubbed in your face.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in an audience controlled environment, I can shoot to write like Michelangelo (the ninja turtle, not the angsty and perpetually filthy painter) would write, whereas otherwise, I'd have to write like I would imagine Leonardo or Donatello would write: boring, melancholy and ultimately depressing and stifling. Also, if you're going to choose a ninja weapon, don't choose a Katana or a Sai.  They're dumb weapons.  Nun-chucks are where it's at.  At least the Shredder had those really cool spikes on his hands.

But I've also considered going to the other extreme: total anonymity.  I'm still actually considering that possibility.  This way I'd be able to talk about EVERYTHING.  The problem, of course, is then I can't talk to anyone about it.  Which I love.  My wife is probably starting to get annoyed by just how much I talk about you all.

So I guess in the end, my question is: how do you all manage your blog life and your real life?  Are they intertwined at all?  Do you have any tips/suggestions?