20 January 2020

Easter eggs and other unexpected pleasures

I read. A lot. Maybe not as much as some, but I logged 81 books in GoodReads last year. If I were more organized, I'd be able to tell you the ratio between fiction and non-fiction. But 36 were library books. A bunch were little obsessions:

Some were books I feel like I should have read a long time ago: I loved Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark and I think of it often. I cracked through nine books in a two week beach vacation - starting, aptly, with Pamela Paul's My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues.

Other notable books read include these that I'd read again:

The last book I read in 2019 was The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. It's the first in a series wherein Mary Russell befriends Sherlock Holmes and becomes his collaborator. My friend Teresa had sent me the first three just before Christmas. Teresa's sent me books before - she sent me all 12 of the Robin Paige mysteries a few years ago.

And what I love about reading the books from Teresa is that she is a die-hard editor: every book that she has passed along to me has at least a few edits (in pencil - only in pencil). She fixes typos. She edits out unnecessary words.

She replaces infelicitous words.

And in A Monstrous Regiment of Women, the 2nd Mary Russell book, which I have just finished, she added page numbers.

It's like finding Easter eggs.

Recently, someone created a Facebook group of OG bloggers - people who'd attended one or more BlogHer conferences back in the day. Reading those posts is an exercise in a lovely sort of nostalgia, even though I was so tangentially attached - there, but not "in". Teresa never went to BlogHer, but I'd never have met Teresa but for the blogging community. There are so many people - mostly women - that are good friends to this day, who have made my life immeasurably richer, who I'd never have met otherwise. I am so grateful for that, even though the platform is not what it was and there's far less reading and writing of blogs going on. Nevertheless, I persist.

14 January 2020

Myriad Poetry

I have been housecleaning (desk cleaning?) in my office, following a complete (and long overdue) rewrite of the employee handbook. I've been tossing notes and samples and articles and whatnot, and today I went through an enormous bound Powerpoint handout from some seminar I once went to, checking for notes in case there was anything I *needed* to keep.

Well. There's a slide titled "The Myriad of Leaves".

I mean, who talks like that?

If it's not obvious, the leaves in this case are not the kind that grow on trees, but rather the different kinds of times off from work.

I was clearly bored and my mind wandered to the other kind of leaves ... resulting in a haiku in the margin.

Myriad of leaves
Falling from the autumn sky
A Powerpoint dream

You write poetry during boring workshops, yes?

PS Apparently "the myriad of leaves" is not incorrect, at least according to Dictionary.com and Grammarist. But it certainly sent me off on a tangent.

02 January 2020


There was an article in the Times the other day about a new law in California, that mandates "that every public company in the state should have a woman on the board by the end of" 2019. I read it with great interest. It's not that I'm a candidate for a board seat, but I am concerned with gender equity and I've long been aware that many public companies and mutual funds have few to no women on their boards.

I have shares in a couple of mutual funds that entitle me to vote by proxy on various things - including the election of people to the funds' boards. For years, I have consciously voted FOR all of the women, and AGAINST all of the men. I know that 1) it won't change anything because my one vote isn't enough to make a difference, and 2) some of the men are probably great and some of the women are likely awful, but I don't have time to research each and every one of the candidates and (back to #1) it's not going to change anything. It is, however, my little act of resistance and it pleases me enormously.

Vote Ballot Clipart

01 January 2020


Do I begin with the book or the bag?

Let's start with Bill. Bill Cunningham's death in 2016 left a hole in the heart of the New York Times. He was something else, a charming eccentric with a great eye. Happily Clarkson Potter has come out with a delicious coffee table book, collecting decades of his street photographs and, incidentally, acting as a history of fashion from about 1970 to 2015.

I'm not a fashionista. I'm happy to wear jeans and a cardigan every day, I don't go in for designer labels, and I haven't worn heels since I was 19 and foolish. But those photographs by Cunningham, and the way he assembled them into essays - 4 pictures of people in black & white stripes, or 7 pictures of people jumping over or stepping in puddles, or all the leather jackets, all the skin tight dresses, all the palazzo pants - pure joy. I can love it without wanting to dress up.

Relatedly, and in the department of "I never learned how to be a real girl," is I don't go in for fancy leather bags. I pretty much only use a handbag on the weekend or on vacation (I use a tote bag to get back and forth to work), and usually I tend towards a useful smallish nylon bag with a cross body shoulder strap. I find, though, that when I'm running errands and climbing in and out of the car, I tend to grab the bag by the top - where there isn't a handle - and that kind of defeats the whole shoulder strap thing. So I've had my eye out for a small bag with no shoulder strap, and I haven't found one. Well, that's not totally true - I found a lovely one on line one day, but it's rather out of my price range. But! Not so long ago, I remembered that I had once upon a time bought a small black cotton tool bag, and I rummaged around in the house and I found it! And it was exactly what I was thinking I needed.

Imagine, then, my surprise and delight to find, in the Cunningham book, a 1987 picture of super model Naomi Campbell, in 1987, in which she's CARRYING THE VERY SAME SMALL BLACK TOOL BAG.

I just about plotzed.

Was it a thing? Did I somehow know that little black toolbags were all the rage? Or was it just happenstance? I cannot remember where or why I bought that bag, but I am distinctly amused to own it.

And if you too want to be like me and Naomi Campbell, you can find them online: Military Surplus GI Style Canvas Mechanics Tool Bag - Small

Here's to inadvertent fashion in 2020!

25 December 2019

On the 25th day of ...

Breakfast over.
Presents unwrapped.
House tidied again.

And the girl and I are off to the movies. I think it's a new tradition - last year, she and I saw Mary Queen of Scots on Christmas Day.

Today, we are seeing Little Women.

A happy Christmas to you, and a merry New Year too!

24 December 2019

On the 24th day of ...

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

Right now feels like the calm before the storm. The stockings are up, the cookies are made. Yes, I made those crazy beautiful striped cookies from the Times special insert - using green instead of red for the stripes because I've got pink pigs and candy cane crisps and green coordinates better.

The house is sort of a little tidy, but for the wrapping paper that is inexplicably shedding its tiny HO HO HOs. I keep finding HO in random places, usually the floor.


The fireplace log plays on the TV (I had to get my husband to add an app to the Apple TV), and the curiously pyramided paperwhites are happy.

And I am drinking the 24th tea from my Advent calendar of tea.

22 December 2019

On the 22nd day of ...

Another perennial family favorite Christmas "cookie" is the cinnamon toast. I know, right?

It is improbably wonderful, kind of in the matzo crack department in that it relies on a base of commercially available bread, but without chocolate.

(I might be a heretic; I don't do chocolate cookies or chocolate anything as Christmas sweets.)

Every time I set out to make it, I have to call my sister and ask her for the recipe because I think I've never written it down and she makes it more than I do and therefore can actually remember the details.

Yesterday morning, I texted her a picture of the loaf of bread at the ready. (I should point out that it's actually the wrong kind of bread - ideally you want Pepperidge Farm Very Thin - but regular sandwich bread will do. I suppose you could be fancy and make your own, or buy some artisanal pain de mie, but Pepperidge Farm is fine.)

My sister promptly called me back and this is what I wrote down.

To be a little less cryptic, here's how to make Cinnamon Toast:

Buy a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Very Thin. Working with 3-4 slices at a time, carefully (gingerly) cut off all the crusts. (Save them for breadcrumbs or to feed your local opossum.)

Mix together one stick of well-softened butter, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Gently smear this on the bread - the Very Thin is fragile so you really do want your butter soft. Cut the squares into halves - either triangles or just rectangles. Spread out on cookie sheets and bake for an hour at 275°F.