29 December 2006

Eight Bookplates

I got a nice set of bookplates for Christmas, from my sister, and I've just stuck them into eight favorite cookbooks (and no, my name isn't Sarah Koffman):

  1. Baking with Julia (Dorie Greenspan)
  2. English Bread and Yeast Cookery (Elizabeth David)
  3. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volumes 1 and 2 – bow down to Julia
  4. The Book of Tarts (Maury Rubin) – because I am the Queen of Tarts
  5. The Cake Bible (Rose Levy Beranbaum) – from which I made my wedding cake, and my sister’s, come to think of it
  6. The James Beard Cookbook – from which I learned to make the perfect strawberry shortcake, using a rich biscuit dough
  7. The Joy of Cooking, 1953 – I also have the 1975 edition

28 December 2006

Third Thursday Thirteen

Herewith, for Thursday Thirteen - thirteen books received for Christmas - by the three of us, not just me. There are others - these are just the thirteen presently near to hand.

  1. A Stew or a Story (M.F.K. Fisher) - collected short pieces
  2. Book of Longing (Leonard Cohen) - poetry
  3. Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford
  4. Dirty Sugar Cookies (Ayun Halliday)
  5. English as She is Spoke (José da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino) - hysterical!
  6. Little Tree (e.e. cummings/Chris Raschko)
  7. Olivia’s Opposites (Ian Falconer)
  8. Pete's a Pizza (William Steig) - which I have already read to Miss M. three times today
  9. The Omnivore's Dilemma (Michael Pollan) – 2 copies, oops, my sister's getting one back for her birthday
  10. The Reluctant Dragon (Kenneth Grahame)
  11. The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats)
  12. There’s a Monster in My Backpack (Lisa Moser) – thanks to Mother Reader who reviewed this a month or so ago - it sounded charming, and it is.
  13. Wondrous Strange: the life and art of Glenn Gould (Kevin Bazzana)
Other books include The Twelve Dogs of Christmas, a cookbook by Donna Hay, Turn Turn Turn (an illustrated copy of the psalm with a CD of Pete Seeger singing the song) and a book of homophones written and printed by my sister-in-law.

Is there a theme here? Kids books, food books, word books, art and music books.

27 December 2006

Holiday Chaos, or, Bad Things Happen in Threes

When I was about 8, I split my chin open on the side of a swimming pool. Two days later, my then 3 year old sister split her chin open jumping backwards into the same swimming pool. Different crews in the ER - she had black stitches, I had blue. A few days later, our father did a cannonball into, yes, the same pool and sprained his ankle. Bad things happen in threes.

Two weeks ago, W. had a root canal, which subsequently got infected. Last week, Miss M. came down with pinkeye, thereby missing my brother's wedding celebration (her pediatrician said she needed to be quarantined for 24 hours "unless you don't like them"). The next day, the plumbing at my mother's house clogged, requiring a call to Roto-Rooter and heroic measures by W., who babysat the plumber while three stories worth of sewage poured into the basement and all of the rest of us went to see the Nutcracker.

Nothing bad has happened since - fingers crossed - so bad things really do happen in threes? Let's hope so.

21 December 2006

Totemic Thursday Thirteen

Another Thursday Thirteen - this time = Totemic Food Pairings!

1. Byrrh and Soda - Byrrh is a kind of aperitif, pronounce to rhyme with beer. My mother used to drink it occasionally, with club soda. Hence, Byrrh and Soda - sounds like you're mixing Budweiser and Coca-cola, no?

2. Fish Eyes and Glue - what you call tapioca when it's made with big pearl tapioca, the kind that's about 1/4" in diameter.

3. Waffles and Baked Beans - a family joke. It was, alledgedly, a favorite supper of my paternal grandfather's. I have actually never eaten waffles and baked beans together, though we've had many family discussions about the idea of putting a single bean in each crevice of the waffles.

4. Tomato Soup and Cottage Cheese - a strange and wonderful combination. The tomato soup must be Campbell's; the cottage cheese is your choice. I happen to prefer a "pot-style" cottage cheese, it's drier and works better with the soup. You put a big blob of cottage cheese in the bowl, grind some pepper on top, and add the piping hot soup. Yum.

5. Yogurt and pretzels - a nice lunch on the run. The pretzels should be small and broken up a bit; the yogurt should be Dannon with the fruit on the bottom. Once upon a time, this was wonderful with the now departed Dannon Dutch Apple yogurt flavor. The combination of soft and hard, sweet and salty, is hard to beat.

6. Peanut butter and sardines - perhaps another family joke? My maternal grandfather claimed to like a nice sandwich of peanut butter and sardines - he said that the peanut butter held the sardines on the sandwich.

7. Cottage Cheese and Pickle Relish - another quick lunch. I eat this occasionally - again, the sweet and savory combination is great. I like to pretend that the pickles are vegetables and therefore good for me.

8. Popcorn and Sherry - my paternal grandfather served this as hors d'oeuvres for holiday gatherings. The popcorn must be freshly popped in a pan, with salt and butter. The sherry must be Amontillado. He always presented the popcorn in a tall, straight-sided wooden bowl. My mother surmises that a vague rancidity in the bowl added to the distinct flavor of the popcorn. In any case, they do go strangely well together - the nuttiness of the sherry, the salt and grease of the popcorn.

9. Nassau County Snacks - okay, this one is terribly idiosyncratic. I grew up in Nassau County; the county colors are blue and orange. So, Nassau County snacks are Cheez Doodles (orange!) served in a blue enamelware bowl. Blue and orange.

10. Endive and Watercress - served as a salad for holiday meals. It's a great peppery, clean salad and it makes a nice foil for a standing rib roast or other big rich piece of meat.

11. Gin and Tonic - they just go together. It was the only mixed drink at our wedding. We had wine, champagne, beer and gin & tonic. What more do you need?

12. Orange Juice and Cranberry Juice. Yes, it can be a mixed drink if you add vodka, but just orange and cranberry together is a great combination. Somehow, the two together transform into a third flavor.

13. Ginger Ale and Saltines - what you have when you're sick. I don't even like ginger ale, but it does wonders for an upset stomach.

20 December 2006

Christmas Trees

While we got our tree and got it up in a timely fashion, it took a number of days to actually get it decorated. But now that it is, it makes me happy. I love coming into the house and smelling the tree, and trotting over to turn it on is almost the first thing I do.

Carrying the boxes of ornaments up from the cellar and lovingly unpacking them and fondling them as they go on the tree is so memory filled, in a wholly affectionate way. First the lights go on. Then the tree topper - an old glass finial type topper. Then the little old ornaments at the top of the tree. As I make my way down, the ornaments get bigger and less fragile (and newer). Concessions in the past to cats and in the present to the toddler mean that there are ornaments on the tree that I'd just as soon not have, but practicality dictates some unbreakable ornaments for Miss M. to poke.

Getting the tree itself has often been some kind of an adventure too. There was the tree that was part of the party decorations for the early December opening night party of The Forest by Robert Wilson and David Byrne at BAM a long time ago. After the party, I single-handedly crammed a tree (free!) in the back of the Ford Fiesta at an ungodly hour of the night, drove it home from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side, and lugged it into my apartment. My then boyfriend (now husband) got up in the morning and was stunned to discover a tree that hadn't been there the night before. Another time, we bought at tree at the Union Square market and brought it home on the subway.

15 December 2006

Wrapping Paper

Every week, Miss M. comes home from school with two or three of those big sheets of newsprint covered with tempura, you know, art. I can't keep them all, but I feel guilty tossing them. So, the vaguely color appropriate became Christmas wrapping. It's also been used as birthday wrapping for her school chums. And, I believe I wrapped all of her own birthday presents in her own wrapping paper...


My new favorite website is the complete Mozart archive. It is completely searchable, and returns pdfs of everything he wrote. Everything. I keep printing things out, like I'm going to sing the Queen of the Night aria next week. If I did, I might sound a little like Florence Foster Jenkins.

Silent Night

At last check, I have 36 versions of Silent Night in iTunes.

A particularly wonderful one is Silent Night played on the musical saw, on the Asylum Street Spankers Christmas record.

[Can you tell how old I am? Records are still records, even though they're CDs.]

14 December 2006

Thirsty Thursday Thirteen

I grew up in a sailing community. On Thursday evenings in the summer, there was a little racing series called Thirsty Thursdays. Cocktails under sail. It wasn't about the racing per se, as much as the being out on the water for a sunset sail and a picnic on a weeknight. With that in mind, here's my thirsty Thursday Thirteen - beverages for a work day seguing into a holiday meal:

1. Black Coffee – made from freshly ground Peet’s house blend
2. Hot Apple Cider from the Union Square Greenmarket
3. Lemon Zinger tea
4. Seltzer (plain or lemon-lime)
5. Chicken Noodle Soup (well, it’s mostly liquid)
6. V-8
7. Coffee with milk, and a chocolate chip cookie on the side
8. Gus Pomegranate Soda
9. Gin & Tonic, heavy on the lime
10. Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose
11. White wine, especially a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc
12. Apple Ice wine
13. Calvados

12 December 2006


During her bath last night, Miss M. announced to me: "Bangoo's a kind of watermelon when you wash your hair." What on earth could she mean?


I have a subscription to Brain Child - it was originally a gift from my sister, the first Christmas after Miss M. was born, and I've continued to renew it because it's good provocative germane writing.

The Winter 2007 arrived in the mailbox last week and was promptly devoured. Well, no I didn't eat it. But I did read it cover to cover.

I frequently feel like some kind of mother imposter - just flying by the seat of my pants, trying to keep Miss M. on an even keel. And that pretending-to-be-someone's-mother feeling is often exacerbated in the presence of other mothers (unless they're clearly slacker moms, too!). So while reading an essay* in Brain Child about a woman and her adopted Chinese daughter, I was struck by this passage excerpt:

I had to develop an expression which showed slight embarrassment and wry amusement along with great fondness...

She goes on about her kid's exploits in the grocery store (watching the lobsters! singing "Old MacDonald" in the meat department!), but that description floored me - I know it so well - slight embarrassment, wry amusement, great fondness - oh yes, daily.

* The essay is My Girl: Made in China, raised in Illinois, by Gale Renee Walden.

11 December 2006

Disney Cheese

Last week's New Yorker had a piece by Anthony Lane about Walt Disney - a book review, mostly, but broader and more rambling than just a book review. Disney, blah blah blah, more Disney, more blah blah blah. Then this:

To understand Disney's advance, you need to go to Paris. In particular, you need to go to Paris before January 15th, to the Grand Palais, which is home to an exhibit of Disney's art. This in itself is astounding. To the French mind, Disney represents the arrowhead of American cultural assault, and if America were to return the favor it would need to mount a major retrospective of soft, unpasteurized French cheese at the Metropolitan Museum.

This stopped me in my tracks (on the tracks; I was on the train). What would a cheese retrospective look like? Would tasting be involved? Soft cheeses are usually young - can you have a retrospective of young cheese? Would there be cave replicas? Affineurs on display? A didactic interactive display of pasteurization and why it knocks the character out of cheese? Don't get me wrong - I love cheese. I just thought the idea of a cheese retrospective was something else.

Christmas Music

I have a sickness. I have 2.7 days worth of Christmas music in iTunes. More than 30 versions of Jingle Bells. 36 of Silent Night. 20 of O Holy Night. It goes on. The next door neighbor suggested that perhaps my husband needed a support group.

But there are others out there! Sweetney posted a whole holiday mix tape - she's my kind of girl.

09 December 2006

Word of the Day: Absquatulate

Absquatulate is one of my favorite words. Every time I use it in conversation, I get a "huh?". It means, no joke, get up and squat elsewhere.

The only definition I found on the web was at Wordnet:

(v) abscond, bolt, absquatulate, decamp, run off, go off, make off (run away; usually includes taking something or somebody along) "The thief made off with our silver"; "the accountant absconded with the cash from the safe"

"Get up and squat elsewhere" is better, no?

08 December 2006

Christmas Meme

I found this at Irish Goddess, and borrowed it for here.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
To drink while decorating? Sherry, preferably a nice amontillado.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa wraps, I wrap, Daddy wraps - we all wrap.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Only white.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nah. Where do you get it anyway?

5. When do you put up your decorations?
Well, the wreath is up and the tree is going up tomorrow.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Julia Child's Garlic Mashed Potatoes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Maybe I'll post the recipe later.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
Making endless numbers of cookies and decorating them with multiple colors of piped royal icing.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
What do you mean?

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Never. And every year we pester my mother to let us do so.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
With white lights, and old glass bead chains, and glass ornaments - lots old, some new. I will reluctantly put some non-breakable ornaments on the tree as a concession to the 3 year old.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love it Especially when there's a snow day.

12. Can you ice skate?
I haven't skated in years. I used to be able to do a waltz jump.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
My favorite gift ever was when my husband woke me up at about 2:00 in the morning on Valentine's Day to give me an iPod. I still love my Pod. I can fill it up with days worth of Christmas music.

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you?
Putting iTunes on random with the Christmas music.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Julia Child's Apple Clafouti. Simple, delicious, and not too rich. And good for breakfast the next day if there are leftovers.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
The huge party at my mother's house every year on Christmas Eve. Of course, it's not happening this year - but we'll figure something out.

17. What tops your tree?
An antique blown glass tree-topper.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Giving. I like making lists, buying things, wrapping them, and watching people open stuff they didn't know they needed.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
It is not possible to answer this question. I do like Pavarotti singing O Holy Night with an Italian accent, though. And it's fun to belt out Jerusalem around the piano.

20. Candy Canes!
That's not a question.


Cost of an IUI ~$3000.
Cost of a simple IVF ~$10,000.
Julie's Snowflakes = Priceless

06 December 2006

Phenomenal Woman

Thanks to Mitali at The Fire Escape I got to re-read a favorite poem this morning. Maya Angelou was the speaker at my college graduation, nearly 25 years ago. She was (and is) wonderful - a force of nature and a great inspiration. And her phrase "Phenomenal Woman" - or more commonly amongst my fellow alumnae, "Phenomenal Women", so as to encompass the all of us - has become a catch-phrase, a slogan for the class.

by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a model's fashion size
But when I start to tell them
They think I'm telling lies.
I say
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips
The stride of my steps
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please
And to a man
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees
Then they swarm around me
A hive of honey bees.
I say
It's the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth
The swing of my waist
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say
It's in the arch of my back
The sun of my smile
The ride of my breasts
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say
It's in the click of my heels
The bend of my hair
The palm of my hand
The need for my care.
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.


Oh the Google searchers. Someone landed at my site having typed "Sharks Patrol By Cake" into the Google search engine. I love that.

04 December 2006


I wasn't very interested in the article, but I read every word of the sign in the accompanying photo. It's nice to see that Tyson's internal signage is so well grammar-checked.

[If the photo is too small to read the sign, it says "Don't Walk To Fast For Floor Conditions".]

02 December 2006

Striped Socks and Starbucks

Or, alliteration is fun. Okay, I digress.

The other day, I asked Miss M. what she'd like to get Daddy for Christmas. She said "striped socks". Where that came from, I don't know. We're not a household of patterned socks; mine are usually black or white though I do have a few patterned ones, W's are usually black or another dark solid color, Miss M's are bold and pastel solid colors. So this afternoon, we walked into town to find some striped socks. Sure enough, at the somewhat twee clothing store in town, we found some. She picked the color, I paid, we left.

For further amusement, we went to Starbuck's for hot chocolate. Generally, I think Starbuck's is the evil empire. My pet peeve is that if you ask for a cup of coffee with milk - i.e. not a fancy latte or some such, just a plain old coffee with milk - You Have To Put The Milk In Yourself. I'm sorry, but that's not service. If you go in there with a little kid and a handful of shopping bags and an umbrella and and and...you can't do it. They should put the milk in your damned coffee.

Anyway, back to this afternoon: I asked the cashier for a small hot chocolate with a spare cup - figuring that I could split it and add a little milk to one to cool it down for Miss M. The cashier said, "we can put it in two cups for you". Okay. So we go to the end of the counter to wait for the cups, and the coffee maker lady (I can't bring myself to say "barista") hands over two full cups. Full. She didn't make one hot chocolate and pour half into a second cup - she gave us two. For the price of one. I was strangely moved by this - who'd have thought that Starbuck's was capable of such generosity?

01 December 2006

Holiday Gift Guides

Wow, a lot of people are way more organized than me. I root around the net while wasting time at work, but I can't get it together to actually make lists with links of ideas of gifts to buy. But other people do and have! Cool Mom Picks has a bunch of interesting stuff, usefully organized by recipient. Miss Doxie has a hysterical list of things to buy and where to get them. Mighty Girl always has lots of great picks - I drool over her picks on a regular basis. And besides, it's December 1st and time to get cracking on your shopping if you haven't finished it already.