29 December 2007

Four Calling Birds

My due date, or really my mother's due date, was Christmas Day. She had friends who were all set to arrive at the hospital with camels and myrrh. If you know me off-blog and know my last name, you'd understand that it would have been quite entertaining should I have actually been born on Christmas Day. But I wasn't. I was four days late, and I peed all over the delivery room.

Quite some time ago, Julie wrote a post that I stuck part of in my drafts folder for later use - and now the time has come. Today's my birthday.

December 29 is the 363rd day of the year (364th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 2 days remaining until the end of the year.

Events - Random and Mundane

1851 - The first American YMCA opens in Boston, Massachusetts.
1989 - Václav Havel was elected president of Czechoslovakia. He became the first non-Communist who attained the post in more than four decades.
1998 - Leaders of the Khmer Rouge apologize for the 1970s genocide in Cambodia that claimed over 1 million.

Births - Arts and Culture

1876 - Pablo Casals, Catalan musician (d. 1973)
1936 - Mary Tyler Moore, American actress
1942 - Rick Danko, Canadian musician (The Band) (d. 1999)
1946 - Marianne Faithfull, British singer
1952 - Gelsey Kirkland, American dancer

Deaths - An Assassination!

1170 - Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (assassinated) (b. 1118)

Holidays and observances

The fourth day of Christmas.




Here's the meme:

1. Go to Wikipedia and type in your Birthday Month and day only.
2. List 3 Events that occurred that day.
3. List 2 important Birth days (I've indulged myself and listed five).
4. List 1 Death.
5. List a Holiday or Observance. (if any)

27 December 2007

Christmas in 13 Bullet Points

Christmas has come and gone, leaving pine needles and presents, sleep deprived children and many empty wine bottles in the recycling bin. Here are some of the highlights:

1 – raucous game of Mille Bornes, because someone was making up the rules and we spent so much time putting him back in his place with the rule book that he didn't want to play again (though we still love him).

2 – apple confections to bookend Christmas day: apple French toast for breakfast, and apple clafouti for dessert.

3 – batches of cookies made by me (ginger thins, cinnamon clouds, and candy cane crisps).

4 – Christmas ornaments received: 1 pair of pointe shoes, a snowman, a Santa Claus and a fuzzy sparkly red ball.

5 – CDs received: Bridge Over Troubled Water, Bonfires of São João, La Radiolina, We'll Never Turn Back, and The Polish Diva's Polka Party.

6 - copies of the Banksy book Wall and Piece that were floating about, either given or lost in transit, I think (we had trouble keeping track).

7 – articles of clothing received by Miss M: two dresses, one shirt, one fleece pullover, one pair of silver plastic mules with pink marabou trim, one pink feather boa, and one pink petal tutu.

8 – grownups at Christmas dinner: me, my mother, my husband, my brother, my sister and her husband, and two spare adopted family brothers, because we fed the children hot dogs and turned on a movie so we could have dinner in peace. How's that for the holiday spirit?

9 – gifts of food and drink received by me and W.: a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, a box of Arborio rice, a bottle of balsamic vinegar, a box of crystallized ginger, a bottle of dessert wine, a package of Beignet mix, a bottle of sherry vinegar, 2# of red popcorn, and one jar of duck rillettes.

10 - lords a leaping...

11 – handmade objects that I’ve given away (or will be, hence no photo!).

12 – picks and probes in the kit I gave to W. – for woodworking, not dentistry!

13Princess Diana died when her car hit the thirteenth pillar of a tunnel in Paris, on August 31, 1997. What does this have to do with anything? I gave copies of the Tina Brown bio of Princess Diana to both my sister and my friend Peter.

And yes, we unveiled the fruitcake. It had become dust - and so we buried it.

24 December 2007

The Fruitcake

My grandfather died in 1988.

He was a formal sort, nearly always wearing lace up boots and a three piece suit. And for Christmas, he had gift giving traditions - every year we got a fruitcake and a box of pecans. I can still remember sitting around shelling pecans with my mother's antique metal nutcracker, the kind that works like a vice with a screw. There's an exquisite delicate violence to the shelling, with the resulting simple pleasure of extracting the two halves of the nut intact.

The fruitcake was another story. It was always one of those commercial fruitcakes from somewhere down South, the kind that gives fruitcake a bad name. We'd duly put the fruitcake out for consumption at the big chaotic annual Christmas Eve party, and no one ate it, save a few ornery types, and children picking out the glacée cherries. Eventually, it would end up in the compost heap. But my mother always saved the tins - reusing them year after year for storing the dozens of Christmas cookies we made each December. After the cookies were gone, the tins went back into the pantry, to wait atop the freezer until the next December.

One year, round about 1992, my mother was rattling around in the pantry looking for a tin for a batch of cookies. She grabbed one and was startled to find that it wasn't empty. She opened it. Yup - fruitcake. Never opened, its cellophane wrapper intact, it looked perfect. It looked brand new. It looked like it had the the day it arrived, which, given the death of the giver back in 1988, meant it had arrived no later than Christmas of 1987. We oohed and aahed and put it back on top of the freezer. It seemed the only proper thing to do.

Since then, every year we have the unveiling of the fruitcake. For a number of years, it remained perfect, unchanged within its protective film. Then one year, we opened it and discovered that it was covered with a feathery white mold, inside the cellophane. The following year, the mold had transformed into a greyish feltlike covering. One year, we discovered that the plastic wrap had decayed and the fruitcake was oozing out. Sometime thereafter, it began eating through the tin and the tin had to be confined within a plastic bag.

We haven't yet had this year's unveiling - sometime later today, we'll retrieve it from its resting place and see how it's doing. We'll toast it with a glass of sherry, and gently return it to the top of the freezer. And Christmas will have come once again.

20 December 2007

13 Ways to Help

For many people, the impending end of the calendar year is impetus to take out the checkbook and give to charity - to get that deduction into this tax year. And it dovetails nicely with the coincident spirit of giving that surrounds Christmas and Hanukkah (and Kwanzaa, though I'm not much of an expert there).

Need inspiration? Here are thirteen ideas:

1. Last week, Oh The Joys wrote about visiting New Orleans, and about how one could help rebuild the Singleton Elementary School's library. It's easy - buy a book via their Amazon wishlist - it'll get mailed directly to the school. Books for kids - what could be better?

2. A whole mess of food bloggers are having a fundraiser for the UN World Food Programme - with a twist. For every $10 you donate to Menu For Hope, you get a virtual raffle ticket toward your choice of prize.

3. Instead of a donation, make a microloan. For small businesses in developing countries, a loan of $25 or $100 can be a real help in getting going and reaching sustainability. There are a handful of "banks" out there connecting lenders and borrowers - one that I've participated with is Kiva.

4. Your local food bank could probably use help - this article from the New York Times explains why. Do you have non-perishable food items that you could spare? Or give them a check and let them put it to the best use.

5. Last spring I wrote about two healthcare organizations in Africa, both tending to mothers with a childbirth injury called obstetric fistula - the Edna Hospital in Somalia and the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. They both have US based non-profit organizations, so your contributions are tax deductible.

6. DonorsChoose lets you direct your contribution very specifically - to a classroom project of a teacher's devising. I've contributed to two: "Dance Classroom Needs Ballet Barres" and "Building Self Esteem Through Music and Movement". Poke around, you might find something that pushes your buttons.

7. Cancer feels omnipresent these days - despite Richard Nixon's 1971 declaration of war on cancer. This year, I've given to the American Cancer Society (by sponsoring my sister at her local Relay for Life, and by donating old clothes to my local thrift shop), to the Pan-Mass Challenge, to Susan J. Komen For The Cure (supporting WhyMommy's walkathon), and to Joan's Legacy. Likely you know someone with cancer - maybe a donation to a cancer support or cancer research organization is the one for you.

8. Schools are an easy one. I give to my college every year, because I'm a happy alumna. I also support my child's non-profit daycare, because they do a wonderful job taking care of and teaching my child.

9. Since moving to the suburbs a few years ago, I've been spending a little more time in the car. Also, we finally got our clock radio fixed. All of this means that we listen to the radio more than we used to. So I've started donating to the local public radio station. Mine's WNYC. But yours probably needs support too.

10. Doctors without Borders does a great job of providing medical care to people who need it - often in war-torn, famine-struck countries.

11. If you want a bit of whimsy with your contribution, give someone a goat! Heifer International takes care of the actual goat procurement, but you get to sleep better at night knowing that some family has a goat because of you.

12. Planned Parenthood is a really good organization, doing really important work. Lots of people have a knee-jerk reaction that Planned Parenthood is all about abortions. In fact, if their family planning and women's health care services weren't around, there'd be a lot more abortions. Bitch PhD says it better than I can - be sure to read her post. If you'd rather help pregnant women, an article in the Times last month profiled the San Francisco Homeless Prenatal Program.

13. Last but not least, look around at your local community. Before the year is out, I'll likely send a check to the local volunteer ambulance corps (with fingers crossed that I'll never need them), the local volunteer fire department (ditto) and the nearby hospital (where a kindly postpartum nurse gave me spare parts for my Medela pump at 8:00 on a Saturday morning right after we moved in and I'd had an accident with the kitchen sink - and, no, I hadn't given birth there).

Okay, open your checkbooks!

justpostdec2007

19 December 2007

The Heart of the Matter


Miss M. helped me decorate the tree. When I unboxed the red glass heart, she wanted to hang it buried deep within, the heart of the Christmas tree.

(Again, too many words for Wordless Wednesday, but what are you going to do?)

17 December 2007

More Little NY Moments

The other morning, I saw a child in a stroller, "reading" the Hanna Andersson catalogue. Starting consumerism early? Picking out his winter wardrobe? Looking for things for his Christmas list?

While waiting for my lunch, I heard the expeditor order "BLT, hold the bacon". Hold the bacon? Isn't that the point of a BLT? Especially when the place uses Niman Ranch bacon?

And last week, I was sitting in my boss's office, gazing out the window at the rooftop across the street, when I spotted a guy on the roof having a smoke and taking a leak.

16 December 2007

Princess Trivia

Out of the mouths of babes four year olds: Ariel wears a sea bra to protect her deese* from sharks.




* Miss M.'s word for breasts. Don't ask me, I'm just her mother.

15 December 2007

A Different Pay It Forward

I've been furiously fabricating Christmas presents, which I can't discuss in any detail because all or most of the recipients read this here blog. (Hi!) Anyway, I'm on a roll, and I've got the supplies, so, when I saw Dawn's post this morning about a "Pay It Forward" homemade object exchange, I had to sign up.

So - the first 3 commenters to commit to doing a give away of something homemade will get something homemade from me.

“I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this Pay It Forward exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.”

For the first 3 people that respond I have a handmade thing that I’ll send you, sometime in January. Your job?

  1. Post a comment here and make sure I have (or can find) your email address so that I can contact you for your mailing address.
  2. Put this on your own blog, and send something you make to the first 3 people that respond.

14 December 2007

CSA Week 25 - The End


This was the last week of our CSA share - all storage vegetables:

  • Potatoes (6)
  • Red Cabbage (1 head)
  • Carrots (2 bags)
  • Onions (4)
  • Beets (7)
  • Butternut Squash (1)

We now have a lifetime supply of carrots, because we still have carrots from several weeks ago and because we accidentally took two bags (Miss M. dropped one in my tote while W. was picking up another and we didn't realize it until we were home). We also have at least a winter's worth of cabbage - both red and white. Luckily I've found two simple and wonderful recipes for cabbage. The first is red cabbage braised in the oven - there's hardly any preparation beyond chopping and it cooks unattended. The second is white cabbage browned in butter - in this case, it's all about the technique, and it's good in the way that browned brussels sprouts are good.



Braised Red Cabbage (adapted from Riverford)

1 lb red cabbage (about a 1/3 of a head)
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 apple
1 t. ground allspice
1 T. brown sugar
3 T. red wine vinegar
salt & pepper
2 T. butter
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300F. Finely shred the cabbage, finely chop the onions and garlic and peel, core and finely chop the apples.
  2. Toss together the onion, garlic, apple, allspice, brown sugar and salt & pepper to taste.
  3. Arrange a layer of cabbage in the base of a large casserole then add a layer of the onions/apple mix. Alternate the layers until all the ingredients are used.
  4. Pour over the wine vinegar, dot with butter, cover the dish with its lid or some foil and bake slowly in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.


Sauteed Cabbage (adapted from Ina Garten)

1 head white cabbage
3 T. butter
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
  1. Remove the core and cut the cabbage in very thin slices, as if you were making coleslaw.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saute pan over med-high heat. Add the cabbage, salt and pepper and saute for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and begins to brown. Serve hot.

13 December 2007

Thirteen Pet Peeves

Aha! Killing two birds with one stone - pet peeves for Julie's Hump Day Hmm (okay, a day late) AND Thursday Thirteen. I'm cranky, and I just want to get where I'm going.

  1. Men who spit on the street (and it’s always men).
  2. People who amble along the sidewalk two or three abreast.
  3. Folks who go up the down staircase or down the up staircase.
  4. People who fail to stand to the right on escalators.
  5. Drivers who don’t signal.
  6. Drivers who tailgate.
  7. Anyone who talks too loudly on the train (whether on a cell-phone or with a companion).
  8. Dogs on leashes that are too long.
  9. Wheelie bags anywhere but the airport, because their owners never seem to understand where the bags are.
  10. Litterers.
  11. People who put their feet up on the seat of the train.
  12. Pushy people who fail to let the passengers off first.
  13. Anyone who stops – coming or going – in a doorway or at the top or bottom of the stairs.

Can you tell that I commute by train and subway?

Incidentally, my mother had a cat named Peeve. Yup, she had a pet Peeve.

12 December 2007

You say Lellow, I say Yellow.

She still can't say yellow.

This morning, as I was putting yellow clips in her hair, I asked her what color they were.

Her: Lellow.

Me: Why can't you say yellow? Say yes.

Her: No Mommy, I don't say that word, I say no.

09 December 2007

Gingerbread Houses

I used to make a gingerbread house every year.

In the fall of 1982, I spent four months in London. That Christmas, I decided to make the Tower of London in gingerbread. It came out looking rather more like a Moorish cloister, but it was pretty divine, in I may say so myself. It had a square tower at one corner, and a crenellated round tower opposite. The round tower was tricky - right after it came out of the oven, we rolled the still soft piece of dough around a tube made from shirt cardboard.

At some point, I stopped making a house every year - there just wasn't the time, and I wasn't likely to top the Tower of London. But we did one two years ago, with Miss M. and her cousins involved in the construction, and we only didn't do one last year because my brother got married and that party was rather all-consuming. I think it's got to be back in the annual event category - a simple house with lots of help from all the little cousins.

I've always used the gingerbread recipe from the original Times cookbook, but with some extra flour and extra spices. Start by making a template out of shirt cardboard: the front/back, the side, and the roof. You'll need two of each. Roll the dough out on parchment, so that you can slide the parchment onto a baking sheet and bake it right on the parchment. Cut out openings for doors and windows before you put it in the oven. Make sure and bake through - you might want to bake it a little longer and at a lower temperature than the recipe specifies. If you're feeling up to it, you can used crushed sourballs or lifesavers for stained glass windows, with little strips of rolled dough for muntins. You can also do some decorating with dough before baking, like making shutters, or "architectural detail" along the corners. My favorite roofing material is Necco wafers - it makes a roof that looks like Mediterranean tile. And yes, eat the house, don't store it. Or bring it to work and have the office vultures devour it. I remember taking hunks to school in my lunch bag, well into January.

The only thing to use for icing (glue) is royal icing, which is just egg white, lemon juice and powdered sugar. It's pure white, it's easily dyed with food color, and it hardens like cement to hold the house together, and hold all of the decorations in place. You can also use it as decoration on its own - make a bit of green icing and use it for vines, or make yellow shutters.

And about the roof...I always "sew" it together with a couple of loops of dental floss to "hinge" it at the top. A sturdy needle will slide right through. Sewing it together means that the roof pieces won't slide off before the icing sets up. The dental floss is the only part of the house you can't eat.

The other candy I like to use (beyond Neccos for the roof) includes Life Savers (but only white ones), candy canes, miniature marshmallows, dragees (which are apparently illegal in California), gum drops (but only spice flavored ones, because they taste better with the gingerbread), and cinnamon red hots.

If you read all of the comments on my post about Hanukkah last week, you'll have seen one from my best friend from high school. She mentioned, among other things, those gingerbread houses of yore. So, highschoolbff, this one's for you. (And if you commented on that post, thank you - I appreciate the wisdom and heart that came from each one of you.)

08 December 2007

Question, Comment, Command

My backseat driver doesn't tell me which way to go, but she does provide a running discourse.

Question:
What do coyotes eat?

Comment:
You know what a river is? A river is a kind of bath that lives outside.

Command:
Correct your body, Mama! (She wants us to lean into the curve when we're heading for a bend in the road.)

07 December 2007

La Sagna

Back in October, I wrote about the sale of the house across the street from my mother, and the accompanying tag sale, and the later dumpster diving. Well, among the items that came back from the dumpster were two index card boxes - her recipe files. Clearly, she didn't need to take them with her to a nursing home where she'll never see a stove again, but it's sad that neither of her kids was interested.

Anyway, I flipped through the cards and stopped short to scratch my head when I saw the name of one recipe. What exotic thing could La Sagna be? Well, it turns out that it's just lasagne. Or lasagna. Or La Sagna.

But so Mrs. Wright's recipe lives on in the hands of folks who might like it, here it is:

I have no idea who Mrs. Joanne Decher is, or was.

Incidentally, according to the all knowing Wikipedia, "lasagne" is derived from the Greek word for chamber pot. Yum!

06 December 2007

Riddle Me This

This week, they've been "studying" Hanukkah at our daycare. On Monday, the kids made menorahs - eight marshmallows stuck to a paper plate with frosting, with two stacked marshmallows for the shamash, and popsicle sticks for the candles. She ate hers for a snack Monday evening. On Tuesday, they had latkes for lunch. Sometime yesterday, Miss M. asked if we could light candles - more, I think, because she wants to blow them out, but spurred to ask by the Hanukkah discussions at school.

In scooting around on the web, looking for explanations of Hanukkah, I found this odd tidbit: A festival in which the right of every person to follow their own religion is celebrated.

As I've said before, I'm a Christmas-loving heathen atheist. I grew up in an non-religious household - we went to the beach every Sunday in the summer, and to the skating rink every Sunday in the winter. But we always celebrated Christmas, with aplomb - presents spread halfway across the living room, roast goose, five pound sacks of pistachios, and an enormous party on Christmas Eve every year.

Given the heathen atheist business, one could argue that my celebration of Christmas is hypocritical. However, Christmas as we know it also celebrates the winter solstice, the new year, the cyclical nature of time And, it uses elements from many non-Christian sources in its celebratory traditions: the exchange of gifts, the indoor decoration of a tree, the feasting and general revelry.

So, riddle me this: Since Miss M. has asked to light candles for Hanukkah, why shouldn't we? Why shouldn't we incorporate a menorah and eight nights of candles into our winter, December, holiday celebrations?

05 December 2007

Random Quotes

Three things that made me chuckle recently:

“Béjart and Stravinsky is one of those fabled partnerships, like Romeo and Goneril, or bacon and strawberries.” (Clement Crisp as quoted in Alistair Macaulay's Times review of the Ailey opening)

“I couldn’t refuse,” he says. “I would bite my elbows.” (Mikhail Baryshnikov, about going back on stage in a play, from this week's New Yorker)

"I would be going long on picpoul." (Joshua Wesson, quoted in the Times in an article about expected increases in the price of wine)

04 December 2007

Three Weeks 'Til Christmas

I've been thinking that there's all this time before Christmas, until I just looked at the calendar and realized that it's the 25th in three weeks. Yikes! Where'd the time go?

Over the weekend, we snuck into the Christmas boxes and extracted some tchotchkes - the Santa matrushka is on the mantlepiece, a stuffed Rudolf is the new favorite toy, and the Jingle Bells music box has already been to school once.

And we got out the Christmas books. I love that we have a collection of books that comes out for one month a year. Some are tried and true, like How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. But others are newer and weren't around when I was a kid, like these two charmers:











Do you have a favorite Christmas book?

03 December 2007

One Sentence

I'm all posted out. So, here's my favorite one-sentence joke:

A skeleton walks into a bar and says "I'll have a beer and a mop".

It's about the only joke I can remember with any consistency. You?


30 November 2007

Fatigue










Want to dip into nostalgia for the pleasing mustiness of library stacks and the tactile joy of oak-fronted card catalogues? Click here.

29 November 2007

CSA Week 24

I took a half a vacation day yesterday because it was my day to babysit the CSA pick-up site. I got there at about 2:15 to help unload the truck and organize the boxes. And those boxes were heavy! Moving a handtruck with four crates of cabbage uphill is hard work.

But it was fun to meet all the other participants, to share cooking ideas, to bemoan the lack of leeks, to groan about more cabbage. Everyone loves onions and potatoes. Beets? Either you love 'em or you hate 'em. Everyone was sorry that we only have one more week, but thrilled that the enrollment packets for next year were available.

  • Celeriac (1)
  • Potatoes (a small basket, ~6)
  • Carrots (1 bag)
  • Sweet Potatoes (paper bag)
  • Beets (3)
  • Onions (2)
  • Butternut Squash (1)
  • Green Cabbage (1 head)

And while I was hanging out, between checking people in and rearranging the crates, I finished one Christmas present and made some headway on another. So, a productive afternoon, in lots of ways. Moral of the story? Sign up next year for a summer day - it was COLD yesterday.

28 November 2007

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Clothes Horse

I swear, I don't know where she came from sometimes. Me, I hardly ever wear a skirt and rarely wear heels. She changes her clothes at the drop of hat, prefers skirts to pants, and keeps asking me to buy her some "heel highs".

The last time I went shoe shopping, I was trying on some comfortable flat shoes, while she was trying on all the heels in the place. Note, please, that the shoes don't match and she has two right feet. I suppose it's better than two left feet.

[I think I am constitutionally incapable of letting the picture tell the story - hence it's almost wordless Wednesday.]

27 November 2007

It's All About The Pegboard

Julia Child in her kitchen:
My mother in her kitchen:
And you know what? They both went to Smith.

26 November 2007

Damned Cablevision

I watch hardly any television, but I got all excited reading the paper this morning. In December, Ovation is running the Battle of the Nutcrackers: four different versions with a chance to vote on your favorite. I'd watch that in a minute, and so would the little girl. But, our cable provider doesn't carry Ovation. I am bereft.

Watching the "same" thing over and over again is a terrific way to train the eye and sharpen one's critical faculties. In this case, two of the productions are pretty traditional (New York City Ballet and the Bolshoi), while two are a bit more out there (Mark Morris and Matthew Bourne). But they all use the same music, and the same basic story line.

Again, I am bereft. We'll have to make do by listening to lots of "covers" of the Tschaikovsky score and dancing around the kitchen ourselves. Damned Cablevision.

25 November 2007

Rhymes With Sunday

The child is completely erratic as to identifying letters, and can't spell her name past the first two or three letters, but she’s into rhyming.

Sometimes she quizzes me:

  • What rhymes with steeple? (People)
  • What rhymes with pink? (Sink, mink, slink)
  • What rhymes with medusa? (Kousa)

And sometimes she just announces, with glee: Cat and bat rhyme! Tree and key rhyme!

At the doctor last week, for her four-year-old checkup, I mentioned this to him and then prompted her: "What rhymes with bill?" Her answer? "Kill." His dry comment? "I saw that movie". My response? Mortification.

Speaking of rhyming, I met S. and Z. of Rhymes with Javelin the other day. It's a funny thing, knowing someone on-line and then meeting them in person. On the one hand, one learns a lot of stuff about a person from reading their blog (and their breadcrumb trail through other people's blogs). On the other hand, it's a complete stranger! In your house! I had a lovely time, and I'm happy to now have face and voice to put to a small piece of the interblogs. Thanks for coming to visit, S.

24 November 2007

Seven Sept Sieben Siete Syv Sette Hét

Dawn tagged me to disclose seven weird and/or random things about me. There are rules and stuff, but rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules.

  1. I have never colored my hair.
  2. The only A+ I got in college was in Philosophy of Art - which was not in my major. I was very proud of that grade.
  3. I didn't want to get married - W. had to talk me into it over several dinners at the bar in a restaurant near our apartment. The bartender was distinctly amused; he said it was usually the other way around. In the end, it was a good excuse for a party.
  4. I love Christmas even though I'm a heathen pagan atheist.
  5. I prefer to sleep without nightclothes, but I started wearing a nightgown when my child was born - all that getting up in the cold, cold night was too much to bear naked.
  6. If circumstances had been different, I would have tried cloth diapers. But now we use cloth napkins.
  7. In my next life, I want to be a coloratura soprano so I can sing Der Hölle Rache. In the meantime, you can watch Diana Damrau do it. (The aria starts at about 2 minutes in.)




*English, French, German, Spanish, Danish, Italian, Hungarian

23 November 2007

Thanksgiving Past

Yesterday, we traveled (10 minutes) over the (tiny) river and through the (suburban) woods to Miss M.'s paternal grandparents' house, for a lovely meal:

  • turkey
  • gravy
  • tuscan kale sauteed with olive oil and garlic
  • mashed potatoes
  • stuffing
  • cauliflower braised in red wine*
  • salad with feta and grapefruit
  • steamed carrots
  • cranberry orange relish
  • cornbread
  • rolls
  • pumpkin pie
  • cranberry tart

And now the turkey carcass is aboiling for stock, and so the house smells divine.

Growing up, we always had Thanksgiving at my paternal grandparents' house. The meal was always the same - turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, creamed onions, kale with hazelnuts - and my aunt always brought dessert. There was always a children's table, and one year there were two children's tables because there were so many people. I always liked hanging out in the kitchen, especially hoping for that first slice of breast meat - the one with the biggest piece of crackly brown skin.

After a time, my grandparents relinquished the cooking to one of my uncles, but the celebration remained at their house. So that he'd have everything he wanted for the preparation, my uncle brought with him a bunch of stuff from home, including a couple of containers of stock from his freezer. He merrily cooked along, using the stock to enhance the gravy. Alas, it turned out that the (unmarked) container was fish stock - not chicken or turkey. Fish stock. He swore me to secrecy in the kitchen and proceeded to serve the fishy gravy. I, knowing better, politely declined the gravy at the table. Everyone else ate it, puzzled. To this day, I can't remember if he fessed up that day or not. I've never forgotten it. The moral of the story: label what you put in the freezer!

I can think of other skeletons in the pantry, but they're more along the lines of the year I made creamed fennel for Thanksgiving and no one ate it, or the year it took me seven hours to drive from Boston to New York and my mother's lasagne was ruined and she hasn't made lasagne since. But the fish stock in the gravy - and the hush-hush surrounding it - that takes the cake.



Cauliflower Stained with Red Wine
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Cut the cauliflower into 2-inch chunks. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting pan. Dot with garlic, drizzle with oil and wine, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 450°F for about 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender at the stalk when pierced with a fork. Serve at room temperature. If you're feeling fancy, simmer the pan juices until reduced some and drizzle over the top of the cauliflower. (Adapted from the Campagna cookbook)

22 November 2007

Giving Thanks

In preparation for Thanksgiving, the children at Miss M.'s daycare discussed what they were thankful for and the teachers wrote it all up.

In one go-round, Miss M. said "I am thankful for my family, my aunt and uncle".

On the other? "I am thankful that I am going to marry Nico."

Oh dear.

Happy Thanksgiving, to one and all.







(Nico is a boy in her class, not the Nico of the Velvet Underground. We have not gotten that far in her musical education.)

21 November 2007

We Shall Not Be Moved

I was going to post a picture for Wordless Wednesday, but I got waylaid by Julie’s Hump Day Hmm topic – music: What does it mean for you, in your life? Do you simply listen? Are you a singer? A musician? Were you one? The picture can wait. The earworm in my head is trying to crawl out.

My musical upbringing was idiosyncratic, completely.

I grew up with show tunes and folk singers on the stereo – Hair, Joni Mitchell, A Chorus Line, Tom Paxton, Candide, Odetta. I grew up with a favorite recording of Britten’s "Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra" – a rare recording without narration, because who needs narration when the music tells you what’s happening?

By high school, I was hanging out with a geek crowd. Other than classical music, the only two songs I remember listening to in high school were “Stairway to Heaven” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. Pretty lame, huh? Don’t bother with the math – I graduated from high school in 1978.

I ended up as a music major in college – and therefore listened to and played mostly classical music. And I went to a lot of concerts. The aberration was Bruce Springsteen – I spent many an evening listening to Bruce while drinking Mount Gay rum & Tab and playing Boggle.

The fall after I graduated from college, I spent four months in London, working but alone. I still had my student ID, and I used it to go out to concerts, operas, ballets 5 or 6 nights a week. And while in graduate school, I went out a lot – to concerts, operas, ballets, and the occasional night club.

But gradually, slowly, I’ve very nearly given up attending live performances of classical music. I’d simply rather not be in a concert hall. Because, it’s boring. And that saddens me. Because if I can’t bear it – me – who used to play the flute and who majored in music in college and who actually knows some stuff about what's going on – where the hell is the audience going to come from? I don’t even listen to all that much classical music anymore – because too often I’m in the car or on the train and I just don’t have the attention span that a 25 minute symphony requires, not to mention the fact that many of my CDs never got unpacked when we moved more than three years ago.

I’d much rather listen to stuff on my iPod – I’m addicted to shuffle. I put the thing on random and enjoy the felicitous (or not) juxtapositions of Bob Dylan against Stephin Merritt, Wilco followed by Sweet Honey in the Rock, Emmylou Harris after Brian Wilson, Billie Holiday next to the Talking Heads, Morphine before Jeff Buckley. Or sometimes I listen to all the versions of "Hallelujah" in a row (I've got five). And I add stuff – I rummage around on the web or in iTunes, I follow through on suggestions, I hear what co-workers are playing through their computers in the office, I buy the new Springsteen record. I own one Fiona Apple song because I heard it on Jonathan Schwartz’s weekend radio show – and it’s divine, though nothing else of hers grabs me. I even downloaded a free song that I got because I bought a cup of coffee at Starbucks. And that’s today’s earworm: Mavis Staples singing We Shall Not Be Moved. It’s a great song, a protest song, and she does it with power and subtlety. It’s so good that I think I need to buy the whole record.

Julie - you pushed a couple of buttons. I think I have at least two more posts related to this one, if not more. Because I didn't talk about playing music. I didn't talk about singing. I didn't talk about the future, I didn't talk about the joys of modern technology. So, stay tuned.

20 November 2007

Mother Goose in the Night Kitchen

Every time I read Mother Goose to Miss M., I think of In The Night Kitchen, and vice versa:

Mother Goose (Iona Opie & Rosemary Wells)

Blow, wind, blow! And go, mill, go!
That the miller may grind his corn;
That the baker may take it,
and into bread make it,
and bring us a loaf in the morn.
In the Night Kitchen (Maurice Sendak)
…Where the bakers who bake till the dawn,
so we can have cake in the morn…

So, which is it? Cake for breakfast, or bread?

19 November 2007

Wait, Make that a Genius!

I did it again (don't ask me why) and this time my site came up Genius! Maybe it's self-reflexive - maybe when I tested it again, it saw its own link and figured anyone displaying the Reading Level link had to be Genius? Then again, who knows. I like Genius better than Post Grad anyway. And I'll stop this nonsense now.

Sub-Genius

Well, it's a good thing I've got an MA, so I can read my own damned blog. But still. I thought I was a genius.

18 November 2007

Wonderful Women Who Hit the Mark

It's prize season again! Maybe it's because all the NaBloPoMo participants (6152 last I looked) are looking for easy content. After all, posting EVERY SINGLE DAY starts to feel like a millstone around the neck.

I've gotten two prizes recently. BLC, a feisty person of the female persuasion, gave me the "Wonderful Women of the Web" prize (originated by Marci). And I am tickled to pass it on to Alejna, because she's cool and smart, and also of the female persuasion.

And the lovely and funny Jessica of Oh, The Joys gave me the Splat, also known as "Blogging That Hits The Mark". That one I'd like to give to Emily of Wheels on the Bus - who writes beautifully of her dysfunctional family, and her functional one.

17 November 2007

Just What is an Opera Singer, Anyway?

When I picked up Miss M. at daycare yesterday, she announced to me: I'm going to be an opera singer when I grow up, when I'm 16.

Later in the car, while listening to Springsteen's Girls in Their Summer Clothes, she declared that Bruce Springsteen's a good opera singer.

And this morning, with Ella Fitzgerald singing over breakfast, she wanted to know who it was and then asked Is she an opera singer?

I think her musical education needs a little work.

16 November 2007

Just Posts Kvelling

I'm thrilled to be on the list of Just Posts again for November. Thrilled. Especially because while I nominated one of my own posts (yes, that's kosher), a second of my posts also made the list. The whole list is at Mad's and at Jen's. Check out the many voices of conscience.

In the past month, since I wrote a Blog Action Day post about the environment, I've been on a junk mail rampage. If there's a postage paid return envelope, I return the address panel marked "REMOVE FROM LIST". If there's no envelope, but there is a fax number, I fax back the address panel, marked in the same way. If I have to, I resort to using the web or (horrors) the telephone. I've faxed back 62*. I didn't keep track of the phone/mail/internet removal requests, but maybe there were another twenty.

But I have a new outlet for my crankiness. My mother-in-law told me about a website where you can enter your name (and variants) and decline various catalogues. I don't know if it'll work, but it feels like a pro-active thing to do. So I declined five yesterday.




*Yes, I kept them in a pile and counted them yesterday before I threw them out - I'm some kind of a crazy person.

15 November 2007

Non-Local Eating, or This is Not the CSA

I'm home sick today, and the doorbell just rang. It was the mailman, with a box that was too big for the mailbox.

Within?

Meyer lemons, persimmons and baby artichokes - mailed from California by a friend, out of the blue, unexpectedly. I am delighted and flabbergasted and excited.

Thank you, Alisha!

CSA Week 23

It's dark now when we pick up our vegetables. And last night, the light in the barn went out just when we got there. So while someone was scrambling for a new light bulb, I was feeling around blindly in the potato bin. By the time she was back with the bulb, I could nearly see what I was doing. Still, the potatoes that came home with me are somewhat less than beautiful.

  • Winterboer Kale
  • Onions (3)
  • Green Cabbage
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Carnival Winter Squash (3)
  • Potatoes (7)
  • Tomatoes (1 quart)

Unlike the tuscan kale and red russian kale of past weeks at the CSA, the kale this week reminds me of the unloved kale of my childhood. Every year for Thanksgiving, my paternal grandfather served kale with hazelnuts. And he - I think - habitually undercooked it, because it always seemed to me to be like eating steel wool. It was not one of my favorites.

14 November 2007

In The Forest

Among the pleasures of raising a little person is the revisiting and rediscovery of books from my childhood. And, as my mother saved everything and my sister has shared the spoils (she had kids first), many of these books really are from my childhood - the actual, tangible copies, battered and repaired.

One that we've come back to again and again is a sweet illustrated story by Marie Hall Ets, called In the Forest. The book is a little bit of make believe: a boy plays in forest with imaginary animals, with the refrain "when I went for a walk in the forest". They make a parade and then a picnic, and then poof! Dad comes and the make-believe evaporates, and the last line is "when I come for a walk in the forest". It's dear, with lovely quiet poetic text and sweet black & white drawings. The book was originally published in 1944, and received a Caldecott Honor in 1945. Alas, the copy we have is a cheap Scholastic edition from 1966. It kind of makes me want to find a first edition.

(PS - #3 for Children's Book Week)

13 November 2007

Boys in Ballet

Through work, I came by a copy of a new kids book by Denise Gruska called The Only Boy in Ballet Class.

It's quite sweet - it's written by a mom whose son loves ballet - but other parents looked at her disparagingly, "how could you let your son take dancing lessons?". In the book, the boy takes ballet classes, and his schoolmates tease him - until the day he gets roped into playing football because they're short a kid, and he saves the day because he knows how to move. And the day after they win, all the boys from football turn up in his ballet class so that they too can learn to move.

Ballet dancers are athletes, and awesome athletes at that. They train hard, they take care of their bodies, and they have a grace about their movement that can enhance other activity. See here and here if you don't believe me. Remember Lynn Swann, football player?" He credits dance classes with his grace on the gridiron. How about Edward Villella? He played baseball AND was a welterweight boxer.

I read the book to Miss M. last night and realized that the book's message - that boys can be ballet dancers - is a good message for both boys and girls. Both need to understand that ballet isn't just pink and tutus and pink and sparkles and pink. It's hard work in the service of music and beauty and line. Hard work. You can't do it without being a superb athlete.

(PS - #2 for Children's Book Week)

12 November 2007

Rhymes with Wright

It's Children's Book Week this week, or so says the Children's Book Council, and since I've had some musings on books rattling around in my head, I thought this would be a good week to get them out.

Despite the fact that Miss M. is now FOUR, we have a sweet little board book that still comes out from time to time. It's called Bear and Kite and it's a quick poem of opposites, in which all of the second words rhyme:

Bear and kite
Black and white
Play and fight
Loose and tight
Wrong and right
Day and night.
Best of all? The author is Cliff Wright.

11 November 2007

Aftermath

The party was a success. The birthday girl wore her Glinda costume until it was time to run around outside. Adults ate adult food, kids ate peanut butter and jelly. Everyone had cake, even though the frosting was more mauve than pink. [Red food color plus yellow butter equals a peachy color; I tried to compensate with a little blue and ended up with mauve.]

I may have been a little harsh yesterday - there's absolutely a place in the world for juice boxes and pizza. It's just that I think there should be food for the grown-ups too. We're not yet at the drop-off stage of birthday parties, so there are at least as many adults as kids at the parties we attend, and I am tired of hanging out for hours at birthday parties making small talk with no food or drink.

Now that the dust has settled, I've had a chance to render my verdicts on the gifts. Her favorite is one of the scariest things I have ever seen: Ariel's disembodied head, with a comb and a spritz bottle and clips and rollers, so you can style her hair. It is truly appalling, and, of course, it was the hit of the four-year-old set. My favorite? A divine and witty book called Tidying Up Art.

10 November 2007

Party!

Party favors for kiddie birthday parties are a scourge to which I am generally opposed. Usually it's a handful of junky plastic toys and some candy, neither of which we need. Last year, for Miss M.'s third birthday, I didn't bother. Each of her little classmates got to take home one of the mylar balloons - which meant that there were fewer balloons in my little house. This year, inspiration struck me and I put together what I think are fabulous party favors.

Each kid gets a translucent plastic harmonica (a real one, by Hohner), wrapped in a pair of cotton bandannas, held together with a ponytail holder.

A harmonica! To make noise with! And pretend to be Bob Dylan!

Bandannas! To wear as skirts or scarves! To wrap your dollies or teddies in!

And it didn't cost an arm and a leg - the harmonicas were $2.49 each and the bandannas were $9.90 a dozen.

I am easily amused. I hope the four year olds are too.

And, to amuse the grown-ups, we're having real food and real wine. No pizza, no juice boxes. Instead: smoked pork loin, onion pie, coleslaw, potato pie, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, bread & jam sandwiches, local apple cider, seltzer, a dry riesling from Bonny Doon and a red velvet cake with pink icing.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Miss M.!!

09 November 2007

CSA - Make-up Week

I had the strangest dream last night. I was in a drugstore, and hanging on the wall, for sale, were plastic bags of onion sets. But they weren't like any onion sets that exist - they were pelletized in dirt, and had fake greenery coming out the top (like fake scallions). Peculiar.

I reported this to W. who instantly told me that it was because I hadn't yet catalogued this week's CSA produce. I do believe he's right! We'd gone out on Wednesday night, so not only had I not catalogued it, I hadn't even looked at it - my mother-in-law had picked up the vegetables.

My mind's at rest now. Here's what we got:

  • Tomatoes (3)
  • White Potatoes
  • Salad greens
  • Carrots
  • Onions (5)
  • Red Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Tuscan Kale

Yes, tomatoes again, a week into November. I confess that I am very nearly tired of tomatoes. I may just roast the rest of them.

08 November 2007

13 Google Searches

It's time for another edition of search queries! Here are thirteen ways that people ended up on my blog.

  1. Magpie eggs for sale
  2. What happened to my 9 cell embryos
  3. How to paint leopard spots on bathroom
  4. Is your husband in green paint
  5. what does it mean if a cyst biopsy on my forehead comes back positive?
  6. My chickens are sick
  7. worksheets on the woods for preschool
  8. Bun hairpin how to old-fashioned
  9. Cabbage kings sea pigs
  10. breastfeeding husband photo
  11. "did you really make that face?"
  12. one day at a time what was julies stuffed teddy bears name
  13. leif garrett mom's birthday

The last one slays me, in part because I never wrote anything about Leif Garrett...it shows up in a comment left by the inimitable Bossy.

One of the things about looking at other people's search queries is parsing how they construct the query. Do they use full sentences? Do they use a question mark? In what order do the key words appear? And then there's the subject. Was query #10 trying to find a picture of a father breastfeeding? Apparently it is possible to induce lactation in men, but I think it's pretty rare.

Two queries that I get a lot are choreography ideas and extended breastfeeding. Extended breastfeeding I understand - I did write about it, and it is something that's a concern to people. But choreography ideas? It wouldn't occur to me that there were enough choreographers out there needing ideas and thinking that they might find ideas on the interwebs. Get in the studio, put on some music, and get your ass in gear!

07 November 2007

Commenting Etiquette

A question. If you comment on a post of mine, and your comment triggers a response from me, I usually email you back instead of responding in the comments (that is, assuming I can find your email address). Mostly it’s because of how I behave with regard to other people’s blogs – I nearly never go back and read comments that appear after I’ve commented – not because I’m not interested, but because there’s only so much I can keep up with.

  • Do you like that?
  • Do you hate that?
  • Do you like to get a response via email?
  • Or do you prefer to see responses in the comments?
  • Do you know that Blogger now has an option whereby you can subscribe to comments via email? Have you tried that?

Despite this looking like a quiz, it isn't. I'd really like to know your habits and your preferences. Do tell!

06 November 2007

Grammar Woes

I got an email from someone that read, in part, as follows:

...brought to my tension the error on the...

Um, that should have been attention. The scary thing? He's the principal of a public school.

05 November 2007

Housekeeping!

I never dust at home, so there are scary things under and behind all the furniture. But I've taken advantage of a sick day - the girlie, not me - to move prizes and the blogroll to another home: virtual dusting. I suppose I should have been actually dusting.

Gender Questions

This blew my mind a bit - at work recently, I got a survey about non-profit leadership. The general demographic information at the end asked the following question:

What is your gender?
  • Male
  • Female
  • Transgender
  • Inter-sex
  • Decline to State
  • Self-identify:___________

I travel in liberal lefty arty circles, and I have never seen those available responses before. Not that there's anything wrong with it, I'm just amused.

And eBay seems to be on a similar bandwagon. I was listing some of my spare possessions (yeah, I get on that kick once in a while), one of which was a brand new baby blanket. There was a drop-down window with the following choices for gender:

  • Boy
  • Girl
  • Unisex
  • Enter Your Own

I clicked "girl" because it was a pink blanket. But why is it generally understood that "pink is for girls" and "blue is for boys"? It apparently wasn't a convention until the 50s, when the rise of the middle class meant that "people who could afford to make the gender assignment did so". And it may date to 1868, when Louisa May Alcott published Little Women, and "Amy put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on the girl, French fashion, so you can always tell."

The head spins.

At this very moment, my little girl is curled on the couch in her Glinda the Good Witch costume from last week, home sick with a fever. That is, dressed in PINK! Because it seems to be hard-wired into her.

04 November 2007

Butter Tarts

A couple of weeks ago, Beck mentioned some butter tarts, and followed up with the recipe. I was intrigued; anything called butter tarts sounds good to me. Apparently they're some kind of Canadian treat. And since I have a Canadian sister-in-law who had a birthday not so long ago, I figured that butter tarts would be a perfect thing to make.

The recipe called for corn syrup. Not having any in the house, I trotted off to the supermarket to get some. The bottle of Karo corn syrup was emblazoned with "With Real Vanilla". Hmm - I don't remember that corn syrup had flavor added. So I read the label: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, vanilla and salt. Damn HFCS is in EVERYTHING - even corn syrup. But nearby on the same shelf was Lyle's Golden Syrup - a pure cane sugar syrup - nothing but cane sugar syrup. So I bought and used that instead.

And, those butter tarts were FINE. They are very sweet, and maybe could have used a touch more salt in the filling, but splendid none-the-less. I left out the raisins. They are rather like pecan pie without the pecans.

And the Canadian? She said they were better than her Grammy's. I thought that was pretty good validation.

03 November 2007

CSA Week 22 - Tomatoes, Strawberries, Squash and Kale

We finally turned the heat on on Wednesday, the same day that I picked up a quart of tomatoes from the CSA. And yesterday, there were strawberries at the greenmarket. Local strawberries! In November! I bought 2 pints. How could I pass them by? But, what strange weather it's been.

  • Potatoes (~3 1/2 lbs)
  • Cauliflower
  • Toscana Kale
  • Beets (3, ~2 lbs)
  • Salad Mix
  • Tomatoes (quart)
  • Red Onions (3)
  • Parsley

Brave girl that I am, I finally tackled a squash - one of the acorn squashes from a week or two ago. It smelled revolting while I was scraping the seeds out, it smelled disgusting in the oven, it smelled nauseating while I was spooning the pulp out of the shell. But I persisted and made Pinknest's pumpkin bread - without icing, with some whole wheat flour, with dried lemon peel instead of fresh orange rind, and with freshly cooked acorn squash in lieu of canned pumpkin. It's terrific. Even the girl and the husband had some. Of course, it's not really bread. It's cake. There's no two ways about it.

For dinner tonight, I may try a recipe for the black kale that was in the Times last week - a salad of raw kale with a garlicky cheese-laced dressing. Then again, it's blustery and raw, and salad might not be in the cards.

CSA Week 21

Hmmm...

Somehow I completely forgot to post this - this was the CSA distribution for 10/24. I think there are too many posts in my drafts folder...

  • Broccoli
  • Red Cabbage
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Acorn Squash (2)
  • Salad Mix
  • Beefsteak Tomatoes (5)
  • Collard Greens
  • Onions (1)
  • Red Onions (2)
  • Carrots (3+ lbs)

02 November 2007

Spanning the Centuries

Yesterday would have been my grandfather's 108th birthday. He was born in 1899, in the 19th century.

Next week is our daughter's 4th birthday. She was born in 2003, in the 21st century.

I'm the fulcrum - born more-or-less midway through the 20th century with close relatives in each century surrounding. Of course, my mother can say the same - it's her father, and her granddaughter.

My grandfather was a sweet man. He was good with his hands - at drawing, building, fixing. He composted his leaves, but always called it humus. He smoked a pipe and watched baseball from his recliner. He ate his corn off the cob because he had false teeth. He didn't drive because he couldn't feel his feet - much later, it turned out that he'd had a benign brain tumor, probably for 20 or 30 years. He ate, or claimed to, peanut butter and sardines on rye - using the peanut butter to glue the sardines in place. He was a first generation American - born in Brooklyn to parents from the Frisian Islands. His surname is German but three of his four grandparents had Danish names. He loved CDB!

Owl, this is for you.

F U N-E X ?
S, I F X .
F U N-E M ?
S, I F M.
OK, I-L F M N X .

01 November 2007

13 Kinds of Apples

Continuing last week's apple thread...

There's a world of apples out there, beyond Macintosh and Granny Smith and Red Delicious. I just ordered my annual sampler pack from Apple Source. They'll send you a divided box of 12 perfectly picked and packed apples, with a chart like on the back of the Whitman Sampler chocolate box so you know what you're eating. Side by side, the many varieties are surprisingly diverse and differently delectable. And, they have fabulous, whimsical, evocative names. Like these thirteen:

  1. Black Gilliflower
  2. Dr. Matthews
  3. Gold Coast
  4. Grimes Golden
  5. Hidden Rose
  6. Moyer's Prize
  7. Newtown Pippin
  8. Kandil Sinap
  9. Pitmaston Pineapple
  10. Razor Russet
  11. Turley Winesap
  12. Ashmead's Kernel
  13. Esopus Spitzenberg

I ordered the Antique Sampler, so I don't know what I'm going to get. But whatever turns up, it'll be fun. And tasty. And different. And not Red Delicious.

31 October 2007

Wordless Wednesday: Dancing




One day last week, the above photos were in the Times accompanying that day's dance reviews - three different reviews, three different companies (click on the photos to get to the reviews). I was struck by the similarities in the poses. You think the photo editor was having fun?

(I thought of posting pumpkin pictures because it is, after all, Halloween - but they came out terribly, and surely everyone else is doing it.)

30 October 2007

Knitting for Bears

I had the idea that it would be sweet to knit a sweater for one of Miss M.'s many teddy bears. I found a pattern at Wee Wonderfuls, and printed out a picture to show to her. Her response? "They're not chilly because they have coats."

Okay kid, no sweaters for your bears.

29 October 2007

Spam, Close to Home

The following spam email message turned up in my office account last week:

Dear Benefactor Of 2007 Masory Grant,

The Freemason society of Bournemout under the jurisdiction of the all Seeing Eye, Master Nicholas Brenner has after series of secret deliberations selected you to be a beneficiary of our 2007 foundation laying grants and also an optional opening at the round table of the Freemason society.

These grants are issued every year around the world in accordance with the objective of the Freemasons as stated by Thomas Paine in 1808 which is to ensure the continuous freedom of man and to enhance mans living conditions.

We will also advice that these funds which amount to USD2.5million be used to better the lot of man through your own initiative and also we will go further to info that the open slot to become a Freemason is optional, you can decline the offer.

I recognized it for what it was, but I shared it with our Director of Development - I thought she'd be amused. Her eyes opened wide and she confessed to a fleeting feeling that it was valid, because we are - for real - due to be notified as to the renewal of our annual support grant from the local Order of Masons. It's just a coincidence, but an odd one none-the-less.

27 October 2007

What a Wonderful World

All's right with the world - the little girl is asleep in her own bed, before 9:00. And she fell asleep in my arms while I was mangling the lyrics to What a Wonderful World. Here's the master:

And the lyrics, if you need them:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world...

26 October 2007

Bread and Jam - and Frances, and Ellyn, and Jessica

Me: You're full of beans this morning.

Miss M.: No, I'm full of lobster.

I can only think that this is because we've been reading (and re-reading and reading again) Bread and Jam for Frances before bed. Because, after Frances remembers that there are all sorts of wonderful things to eat beyond bread and jam, she trots off to school with a lobster salad sandwich. Maybe lobster was cheaper in 1964?

Frances is often held up as a poster child picky eater, but it's hard to argue that she really is - her bread and jam kick doesn't even last two days. The book starts with breakfast, at which meal she chooses not to eat her egg - there is no indication that she's refused everything but bread and jam prior. At dinner that same night, she chooses not to eat her veal cutlet in favor of bread and jam - and confesses to having traded her lunch for a friend's bread and jam. At breakfast on the second day, she isn't offered an egg - because, her mother says, "you do not like eggs." At lunch on that second day, her friend has an elaborate lunch with sandwich and pickle and hard-boiled egg and fruit and dessert, while Frances has bread and jam. At night on the second day, when presented with bread and jam, she realizes that "What I am / is tired of jam" and so has spaghetti and meatballs for dinner with the rest of the family.

And on to the finale - her own complicated and elegant lunch at school, complete with doily, a tiny vase of violets, celery and olives, a tiny basket of cherries, and the afore-mentioned lobster salad sandwich.

Meals with our small child are the typical mix of cajoling and rejoicing. She'll scarf down risotto like nobody's business, but steak? Nah. Hot dogs and cheese sandwiches, yes. Peanut butter, no. Sometimes we'll resort to white lies: "This is Pat's chicken - she told me how to make it." [Pat's the cook at school.] The chicken in question was a butterflied charcoal grilled chicken, with all the black stuff cut off, and ketchup on the side - and Pat had nothing to do with it. And the kid ate that chicken.

Mostly, I've tried to take to heart the Ellyn Satter dictum: "The parent is responsible for what, when, where - and the child is responsible for how much and whether." She's not going to starve. Sure, I wish she'd eat some more vegetables, but I'm not going to start pretending that pureed cauliflower is ricotta and neither am I going to lace chocolate chip cookies with chickpeas. And hey, even fancy organic hot dogs are cheap! If she starts demanding lobster salad sandwiches, we're going to be in the poorhouse.


[This is loosely in response to the Parent Bloggers blast in connection with the release of Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld.]

25 October 2007

13 Ways of Looking at a(n) _____*

The constraint of Thursday Thirteen appeals to me - and I find myself constructing odd lists in spare moments.

  1. It is crunchy.
  2. It is indented.
  3. It is juicy.
  4. It is nutritious.
  5. It is past.
  6. It is portable.
  7. It is potential.
  8. It is prophylactic.
  9. It is round.
  10. It is sweet.
  11. It is tempting.
  12. It is versatile.
  13. It is waiting.

So. What is it? Tiny prize to the first person to guess right.




(*with many, many apologies to Wallace Stevens)

24 October 2007

You think I do what?

Last week, Suburban Turmoil had a great post about how marketers do and should approach the mommy bloggers. I read it with interest, though not with much recognition - I don't get a lot of unsolicited marketing solicitations via email, though they happen from time to time. When they come in, they’re usually understandable and usually pointed towards the parenting aspect of my blog – review a kids book, check out a parent-oriented website service. I actually accepted a copy of a book, which I’ve yet to do anything about, and it sits there making me feel guilty, which is really asinine because I don’t owe them a damned thing.

This morning, though, I got one that made me laugh out loud: “I contacted you because you have a pharmacy / medicine related blog”. I guess it’s all that talk about Follistim and Repronex and progesterone-in-oil and baby aspirin and microdose Lupron – not to mention cancer and emergency rooms and cancer and gall bladders.

23 October 2007

Cocktail Playdates, revisited

When we picked Miss M. up at daycare yesterday, it was a beautiful fall day and all the kids were outside. We hung out for a bit chatting with people, she demonstrated her tricycle riding prowess, we discussed playdates, and Miss M. asked a teacher if she’d like to come to our house for a “wine-over”.

Some neologism, huh? Grown-ups drink wine and she's pining for a sleep-over, so the next best thing is a wine-over.

As it happens, it's the one teacher I would invite over for some wine. Though I did discover this morning that another teacher and the daycare director went to the Springsteen concert at the Garden last week. I'd have gone to that in a minute.

22 October 2007

Aging and Illness

Last week's New Yorker* had a profile of Jacques Barzun, "the eminent historian and cultural critic" which included this bit about getting old:

A few weeks shy of his hundredth birthday, Barzun is still pressed to read manuscripts, give talks and attend affairs in his honor. He tries to accommodate everyone, but there is simply less of him to go around. He's five inches shorter than he used to be, a decrease due to aging and spinal stenosis, which causes pain and numbness in the legs. He relies on a cane or a walker to get around, and, as one might expect, he is alert to the irony of aging: when time is short, old age takes up a lot of time. There are doctors' visits, tests to be suffered, results to wait for, ailments and medications to be studied - all distractions from the work. "Old age is like learning a new profession," he noted drily. "And not one of your own choosing."

In fact, many illnesses could be looked at as similarly like entering a new profession - be it infertility, cancer, multiple sclerosis, or what have you. You're plunged into learning all there is to know and doing all there is to do, leaving less to time to just live life. Life is complicated.







*the issue dated 10/22/07

21 October 2007

Respect and Old Age

My mother’s lived in her house since 1972, and the people across the street were there before her. They were a sweet couple of teetotallers, he a Methodist minister, she the cookie-baking minister’s wife. He died five years ago. She’d been doing well, but fell a couple of months ago and landed in a nursing home. Bang zoom: her kids put the house on the market, moved their mom to a facility in the mid-West, held a tag sale, and filled up a dumpster with the detritus of two lives.

It’s so sad.

The tag sale was yesterday. It was run by a hostile incompetent hired gun – the place was a mess and the stuff was priced completely erratically and mostly unmarked (so you had to ask, whereupon she made up a price on the spot). You’d think that someone running a tag sale, working on commission, would want to maximize the income by keeping things presentable, by clearly pricing everything, by acting knowledgeable and helpful. In this case, you would be wrong.

There were still spices in the kitchen cabinets and Q-tips in the bathroom. For all I know, they were for sale. There were clothes in the closets and piles of linens on the floor. There was no order to anything.

My mother and I wandered around – I found a handmade double wedding ring quilt in a heap upstairs, and asked how much. $5, said the hostile incompetent. So I bought a quilt for $5 – I don’t need it, but I couldn’t walk away from it. There was a handsome mirror in the dining room – my mother said she’d been asking $400 at the pre-sale earlier in the week. By yesterday, the price was down to $75. I went back at the end of the day and offered $20. She countered with $30. I left. About 10 minutes later, my husband showed up – I sent him across the street, and he came back with the mirror for $25. And my mother went over and came home with a little upholstered rocker for free – earlier, the hostile incompetent had been asking $60. So erratic.

Once the tag sale was over, they starting heaving things into a dumpster. Plaques given to the minister. Antique clock parts (his hobby was clock repair). Dishes. Books. Christmas ornaments. Napkins. Space heaters.

It’s so disrespectful.

It’s so wasteful.

My brother and sister and their spouses and a family friend and a neighbor headed across the street after dark and, wine-fueled, dove into the dumpster with flashlights.

It seemed right to rescue some bits of their life. A pressed glass citrus reamer. A crochet hook. A pinecone-shaped iron cuckoo clock weight. A Horatio Alger book.

It could have been done so much better. They could have found a way to let her stay in the house. They could have found her a place to live in the area - where she has friends and neighbors and acquaintances and church folk - instead of shipping her off to the middle of the country where she'll know no one but her dead husband's elderly brother. They could have hired a more sensitive person to run the tag sale. They could have been more respectful of her stuff, her life, her things, his life, his hobbies, their life. They could have packed off much of the stuff to thrift shops, to shelters, to people to whom the stuff would have made a difference. A space heater tossed in a dumpster does no one any good. A box fan...the same.

It sounds like I'm blaming her children - and in part I am. But it's also our society. We think nothing of discarding things and people, we disrespect the past. In that is our curse for the future. It's environmental. It's societal. It's human. We should do better.