28 September 2007

Magpie Needs...

Magpie needs you.
Magpie needs the sparkle sparkle.
Magpie needs your help.
Magpie needs the function array change key case.
Magpie needs trees for nesting.
Magpie needs two parsers.
Magpie needs to be upgraded.
Magpie needs to be rescued.
Magpie needs to do something about its waiting times.
Magpie needs two blue.
Magpie needs no description.
Magpie needs defending.
Magpie needs to rescue the moon.
Magpie needs braces.
Magpie needs help.

A Google game, stolen from Niobe. It's found poetry.

27 September 2007

CSA Week 17 - SQUASH!

Oh no! The squash has arrived!

  • Sunshine Kabocha Squash (1)
  • Mei Qing Choi (1 head)
  • Red Russian Kale (1 bunch)
  • Broccoli (1 head)
  • Fennel (1 bulb)
  • Beefsteak Tomatoes (4)
  • Juliet Tomatoes (pint)
  • Mariachi Hot Peppers (3)
  • Green Beans (quart)
  • Lettuce
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Arugula

I will be brave; I will try to find a palatable way to prepare the squash. Otherwise, it would make a very sweet little jack-o-lantern, and Halloween is just around the corner...

We are finally at the point of drowning in vegetables. We are overrun with broccoli, awash in tomatoes, swimming in peppers, inundated with salad greens. It may be time to start putting some things (other than tomatoes) into the freezer. Like soup, glorious soup. The thing about soup is that it is generally thoroughly forgiving. And, if frozen in two-cup containers, it makes a perfect lunch for a workday - toss the frozen container in your bag, stick it in the waver at lunchtime, and ta da! Nearly instant, very virtuous lunch. Need soup inspiration? Try Mad Hatter - she wrote a delicious post with a divinely witty title: A soup├žon of soup's on.

26 September 2007

Sick Chicken Update

My sick chicken is all better - she's even finished with her antibiotics, and required no junket.

But, I now know why sick chickens need junket: Because Mr. Hippity says so.

There was an eccentric pair of 1960s singer/songwriter/story tellers - Jim Copp and Ed Brown - who put out a series of self-produced records in which they included sound effects, hand-drawn art work, a pop-out cardboard theater, and a general goofiness. And we had at least one of the records in the house when I was a kid - though my younger sister remembers it better than me, and she still has that original LP.

Anyway, armed with a few search terms tossed out by my mother (Copp, Brown, Gumdrop Follies), I dove into Google and found that the records are still around - on LP, cassette tape and/or CD - direct from the original publisher. And, I found a gloriously peculiar site for collectors and fans of weird music, the forum archives of which pointed me towards the correct song: Mr. Hippity's Pull Toy - in which Mr. Hippity believes that his chicken pull toy is dying and requires Junket for a cure. And so, I ordered a CD copy of A Fidgety Frolic, and await its arrival to share with my formerly sick chicken.

25 September 2007

Musical Esoterica

Here's the kind of place I work at:

Someone in the office is listening to music - a cacophonous non-linear hodgepodge - dubbing a CD to minidisk to use in the studio. I finally asked "what IS that?" "Xenakis" was the reply, "sounds like bad Meredith Monk".

And here's what happened in the car the other day:

Miss M. has become quite fond of the Pink Martini song "Hey Eugene". When I started the disk from the beginning, that is, not jumping directly to "Hey Eugene" as we often do, she asked "Is that Newgene's Mommy?"

Maybe you had to be there. Both times.

24 September 2007

Monday Mission: "Dear John"

Dear Skechers,

When we got together a couple of months ago, I thought you were great. We fit together well, you complemented me, and you were game to go everywhere I go. But then, you started to flag in your support for me. I think there’s something wrong with you, the way that you just kept slipping away from me. And then, I caught you on the subway, with an elderly woman. It was then that I knew things were over, and you weren’t the shoe for me.


[This post is a Monday Mission - today's was to write a post in the form of a rejection letter. There's more at Painted Maypole.]

21 September 2007


Mad Hatter requested kitsch a while ago. How's this, Mad? It's the cabinet in our downstairs bathroom. One of those sets of "teeth" is mine, and the other is W.'s - because yes, we both needed crowns a couple of years ago. And what else are you going to do with the Farmer's Almanac but put it in the bathroom? I think it's some kind of law.

I had a lot of orthodonture as a child. The orthodontist, a sadistic man named Morris, had a whole wall of tightly-spaced narrow glass shelves full of plaster casts of other children's teeth. I can still remember what it felt like to bite down into the u-shaped trough of goo, which hit so far back in the mouth that it was impossible not to gag. And then the rubber bands and wax and pain and retainers...not fun, not fun at all. W. never had to go to the orthodontist. I hope that Miss M. has inherited his teeth and not mine.

She likes to play with the plaster teeth in the bathroom cabinet. Not a squeamish child, no not at all.

20 September 2007

Thorny Thursday Thirteen

I have never:

  1. Had a pedicure
  2. Traveled to the Frisian Islands
  3. Owned diamonds
  4. Eaten roadkill
  5. Driven cross country
  6. Drank absinthe
  7. Been self-employed
  8. Flown a plane
  9. Gotten a speeding ticket
  10. Played golf
  11. Had dinner at Per Se
  12. Smoked a cigarette
  13. Sailed to Europe on a Polish freighter

The prime numbered items I think I’d like to do. The others? I don’t think so.

19 September 2007

CSA Week 16 - Tomato Tart

No squash (winter or summer) - so we are staving off the despair of winter squash for at least another week!

  • Italia Peppers (4)
  • Potatoes (1 quart)
  • Juliet Tomatoes (1 pint)
  • Beefsteak Tomatoes (1 quart)
  • Broccoli Rabe
  • Tatsoi
  • Garlic (2 heads)
  • Sweet Corn (3 ears)
  • Salad Mix
  • Basil
  • Arugula

Last night's dinner was a splendid tomato tart, though the recipe called it a "pie". But it was open-faced and baked in a tart shell, so I think it's a tomato tart. Besides, I'm the queen of tarts, not the queen of pies. It's got better prosody.

Tomato Pie*
(Adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini: Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition)
Pie crust
6 plum tomatoes, cut 1/4 inch thick
Salt (optional)
2 cups shredded cheese**
Olive oil
1/3 cup minced fresh basil
1/2 t. ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Fit pie crust to a 9-10" tart pan. Do not prick crust. Partially bake 9-11 minutes or until golden. (If crust puffs up, gently press back with back of wooden spoon.) Remove and cool crust. Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt, if desired, and place in single layer on paper towels; let drain 30 minutes***. Pat dry. Sprinkle cheese evenly in cooled pastry shell. Arrange tomatoes over cheese in an overlapping circular pattern, covering surface. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with basil and pepper. Bake 30-35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Serve hot or at room temperature.

* The recipe called it a "southern" tomato pie. I don't know what's southern about it, but I'm from the Northeast.

** The recipe called for mozzarella or swiss; I used cheddar because it's what I had. I think almost any cheese would work, except maybe Velveeta or Brie.

*** I did this draining thing, but I think it was unnecessary. Maybe it would be a good idea if you were using beefsteak tomatoes instead of plum...

18 September 2007

The Coffee Truck and the Pink Medicine

Exiting the doctor's office yesterday:

Miss M.: Look, the coffee truck!
Me: Actually it's UPS.
Miss M.: The one that brought my sleeping bag?
Me, to woman laughing nearby: Yes, four months ago.
Miss M.: What's it doing?
Me: Bringing stuff to the doctors.
Miss M.: Sleeping bags?

Little does she know that every month the UPS truck brings us four pounds of Peet's coffee. It is indeed the coffee truck, more so than the sleeping bag truck.

She's a little better today - but didn't want to take her (pink) amoxicillin, demanding instead the (red) acetaminophen: I want red medicine, the pink medicine doesn't match my plate!

I've unsuccessfully tried logic: But the pink medicine matches your pajamas.

And I've tried bribery: You can't go to Grandma's unless you take your pink medicine.

Finally, I pretended she was a cat, stuck the medicine syringe in her cheek and clamped her jaw shut.

17 September 2007

Sick Chickens

I have a little sick chicken today. We went to a friend's house for a "playday" yesterday, and after little more than an hour Miss M. decided abruptly that we had to go home. She hunkered down on the couch with Noggin and was quickly asleep. Shortly thereafter I realized she was hot. Despite repeated doses of acetaminophen, the fever didn't break until about 8 this morning. Around the same time, I discovered that she had an all over rash. So, off we went to the pediatrician. They took one look at her and said "strep". Quick culture confirmed it. Poor thing is asleep on the couch again.

I feel terrible that we were at someone's house just before she showed any symptoms, because she was likely contagious.

But here's the question: why is it that I think sick chickens need junket? Was there some old advertising slogan along the lines of "junket is for sick chickens"? Or did I once invent that in a feverish moment? Or did my mother make it up?

I thought of making her some junket - but I think I may make rice pudding instead.

Edited to add: Junket is a brand name for a rennet tablet. It's used to make a dessert by coagulating sweetened milk. Rennet is also used for cheese making.

Lying Awake

16 September 2007

The Owl and The Pussycat

I've always loved Edward Lear. So I was delighted when W.'s aunt turned up on Labor Day weekend with a couple of old books for Miss M., one of which was a copy of Lear's "Nonsense Songs", illustrated by one L. Leslie Brooke. The other book was written and illustrated by the same Brooke and is called "Johnny Crow's Party", and happens to be the companion to a book my mother had as a child called "Johnny Crow's Garden". I got curious about Brooke and went slip-sliding around the internet looking for information, background, what have you. Alas, I didn't find much biographical stuff, but I did discover that some of his books have been digitized.

Wow. These digitized books are an amazing thing. They're all supposedly out of copyright, so once it's out there on the web, it's available to me and to you and to anyone else. I found that the New York Public Library's copy of the Lear was up there, so I downloaded the large pdf - it turned out to be the same book as mine. But their copy has had the spine taped back together (with what looks like Scotch tape) and mine has a color illustration up front that differs from theirs. So that the internet is complete (hah!), here's the illustration variant - a very whimsical color plate of the owl looking lecherous and the pussycat simpering alongside. The piggy-wig (with a ring at the end of his nose) and the turkey (who lives on the hill) are in the background.

15 September 2007

In The Basket

Three years ago:

Three days ago:

14 September 2007

What Should I Be When I Grow Up?

What better way to waste time on a Friday afternoon than to muse about a new career? According to Career Cruising, which I found through Rome-Colored Glasses, here are my top ten suggested jobs (out of a list of 40):

  1. Personal Financial Planner
  2. Certified Public Accountant
  3. Corporate / Commercial Lawyer
  4. Research Analyst (Financial)
  5. Lobbyist
  6. Economist
  7. Economic Development Officer
  8. Customs Broker
  9. Special Effects Technician
  10. Judge

I am rather appalled at how boring that all sounds, while at the same time, kind of bemused - I'm neither #1 nor #2, but not all that far off. And I'd be a great judge, but I'd have to be a lawyer first. But, what is #9 doing in there? Does that speak to my penchant for tossing water balloons off the deck?

Most interesting is that nowhere on the list of 40 is a job title that comes close to what I actually do. Maybe that's because "Director of Everything Else" is just too idiosyncratic?

13 September 2007

CSA Week 15

You may well be weary of my vegetable lists. But, I'm not really doing it for you - I'm doing it for me. This list-making is my way of keeping track of what we've gotten from the CSA. At the end of the season, I plan to do a little economic analysis. My sense is that this has been a good deal financially - that overall this way of getting our produce is cheaper than it would have been to buy all this stuff at the supermarket, farmstands, and greenmarket like we've done in past summers. There is no question that the quality has been amazing. Add to that the fact that the vegetables are local, and that the breadth of variety has been inspirational, and you get a fabulous experience - one that we'll happily repeat - though maybe without the weekly blog entries!

In addition, posting these lists is my little subtle proselytizing for the CSA movement. CSA stands for community sponsored (or supported) agriculture. In a nutshell, a bunch of people buy shares in a farm. In return for money provided up front, the farm distributes all of its produce to the members. In the case of the farm we belong to, they distribute at 18 pick up sites between Albany and New York City. We pick up at someone's house in the next town. The site is open from 3 to 7 one day a week, and is staffed by one of the members (my turn comes in November). The produce is set out in plastic boxes with hinged lids and there's a list of what's included for the week - how many ears of corn, how much lettuce, etc. You bring your own bags and pack it yourself. Other farms operate slightly differently - I know of some that pack each family's share into a box. Lots let you pick up at the farm.

If you're interested in finding a CSA near you, try Local Harvest or Biodynamics. We had to sign up and pay in the winter, for a share that began in June.

And now, without further ado, here's what we picked up yesterday:

  • Sweet Corn (4)
  • Yukina Savoy (a Chinese cabbage, loose greens)
  • Mei-Ching-Choi (1 head, like bok choi)
  • Broccoli (1 huge head)
  • Beefsteak Tomatoes (3)
  • Juliet Tomatoes (1 pint)
  • Plum Tomatoes (1 quart)
  • Ping Pong Tomatoes (1 quart)
  • String Beans
  • Garlic (2 heads)
  • Red skinned potatoes (1 quart)
  • Sweet Red Italia Peppers (3)
  • Salad Mix
  • Cilantro (but I didn't take any)
  • Arugula
  • Basil

I am secretly thrilled that the expected winter squash did not materialize. I'm sure we'll be seeing more winter squash than I would like to see in a lifetime. Maybe I'll be converted. I'm not holding my breath.

What I'm Reading

I just updated my Library Thing list and groaned when I realized that the two books I was adding to "currently reading" were perhaps diametrically opposed: Claudia Roden's Coffee: A Connoisseur's Companion and Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's Sleepless in America: Is Your Child Misbehaving...or Missing Sleep?

At least the child isn't drinking coffee.

12 September 2007

More little NY moments that made me smile

  • Small boy, about 4, riding atop his smaller sister’s stroller – with his toenails painted, white on one foot, red on the other.
  • Lovely tall blonde woman on the subway with the most animated baby girl riding high, facing outward, in her Bjorn – a two-toned lime and army green Bjorn.
  • Biker dude on commuter train, wearing Harley vest and Harley fingerless gloves, carrying a totebag – printed all over with an image of Monet’s waterlilies.
  • Two young Japanese women, sharing a tray of sushi out of a plastic bag, with chopsticks, and washing it down with chocolate soy milk – at 9:00 in the morning, on the subway.

Why yes, I do have blue eyes!

You Are a Blue Crayon

Your world is colored in calm, understated, deep colors. You are a loyal person, and the truest friend anyone could hope to find. On the inside, you tend to be emotional and even a bit moody. However, you know that people depend on you. So you put on a strong front.

11 September 2007

The Chatt'ring Magpie

My father-in-law has a fondness for antiquarian books, especially ones aimed at children. The other day, he emailed me about a book with a magpie in the title:

In 1817, John Marshall, a London publisher, put out "The Hopping, Prating, Chatt'ring Magpie – A game of Questions and Commands for Children." It is described in a recent bookseller's catalogue as being a "round robin memory counting game that ends with inflicting punishment on the loser."

It lacks, most likely, the whip that was polybagged with the original edition.

The only thing is, there weren’t any plastic bags in 1817. Maybe the whip was sold separately? Seriously though, what’s with a game that inflicts punishment on the loser? Isn’t losing enough?

10 September 2007

I Know It

Once upon a time, my brother asked my mother when it was that she knew that I was a crusty child.

I had a pet mouse when I was about five. A black mouse. Named Schwartz*. One morning my mother discovered that he had expired during the night. She went downstairs to drink some coffee and smoke a cigarette while she contemplated how to tell her small child about the dead mouse. When I came downstairs, and sat down to eat my cereal, she told me: “Your mouse is dead”. I looked up and said "I know it". She knew then.

Somehow, this little tale seemed an appropriate introduction to two more bloggity awards. Mayberry Mom says I'm a schmoozer. And Oh, The Joys says I'm nice. I am verklempt all over again. I used to be crusty, and now I'm a nice schmoozer? Then again, my husband would probably say still I'm crusty, and I know that my mother would. Can't be all things to all people, I guess.

But I know how to pass my prizes along!

I hereby dub Julie Pippert of Using My Words a good schmoozer (and community builder, through her Hump Day Hmms). She is a great writer and has the best internet monikers for her kids ever: Patience and Persistence. If that doesn't describe young ones to a T, I don't know what does.

And I hereby dub S. of Rhymes with Javelin as just plain nice, not to mention kind and smart and empathetic. And she knits with fishing line! And grows her own tomatoes! And she owns a bookstore! She's pretty cool.

Thank you Mayberry Mom and Oh, The Joys for bestowing these honors upon me so that I could pass them along.

*That’s how I’ve always spelled it – but it’s kind of a corruption. The Yiddish is “shvartz”, German is “Schwarz”. In any case, it was a black mouse, and we probably shouldn't have called it that. What did I know? I was only five.

09 September 2007

Stunted Growth

It's a good thing we joined the CSA, because I'm apparently not much of a farmer. As evidence, I give you this photo: the sum total of our carrot crop this year.I'm not sure what possessed me to grow them in the first place. I don't much like carrots, and Miss M. doesn't eat them. But she came home from school one day last spring with a plastic cup full of dirt and one sprouted carrot. I dutifully put it in the ground in the herb garden, and the next thing I knew, a packet of carrot seeds jumped into my hands at the garden center one day. I think we'll not try it again.

07 September 2007

I Went Out and Shot a Couch

Those Parent Blogger people have another blog blast going, about style or the lack thereof. The Little Black Book of Style might have something to say about the fact that 98% of the time I wear jeans and a black shirt. But once upon a time, I used to wear this here jacket with jeans and a black shirt. Stylish, no?

Periodically, like most people, I go through my closet and toss, sell or donate the things I am never going to wear again. But every time I lay my hands on this jacket, I pat it, straighten it on the hanger, and put it back in the closet. I just can't get rid of it. I don't wear it. I'm not going to wear it. I haven't worn it in, oh, 15 years?

I used to wear it. I'd wear it with jeans and a black turtleneck, and I got lots of compliments. The jacket is, after all, eye-catching. And every time someone said something, I got to reply merrily "Thank you. I went out and shot a couch."

The jacket has been in my possession for at least 20 years, and if memory serves me correctly, my sister had the SAME jacket. Imagine. There were two of them. I wonder what happened to hers.

I've just had an epiphany, though. I think I'll cut up the jacket and turn it into a throw pillow. Wouldn't that be a nice karmic reincarnation? Couch to jacket to throw pillow? Too bad it doesn't go with my living room.

06 September 2007

CSA Week 14 and a neighborly pie

Yesterday, the problem of having a two-earner household up and bit us. The CSA pickup site is open from 3-7, but we can't get there until 5-5:30 as we both have full-time jobs and someone has to pick up the girlie. And so yesterday, when W. got there around 5, the heirloom tomatoes were all gone. Great sadness.

  • Sweet Corn (6)
  • Potatoes (3 big white ones)
  • Broccoli Rabe
  • Broccoli
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Juliet Tomatoes (1 quart)
  • Red Onion (1)
  • Garlic (1 head)
  • Sweet Red Italia Peppers (4)
  • Salad Mix
  • Cilantro
  • Arugula
  • Parsley

Several weeks ago, Julie's Hump Day Hmmm was about neighbors. The whole time that I was growing up, there was a Labor Day party across the street (or on my mother's porch if it rained). It was mostly a block party, but with lots of honorary members - people who lived across town or on the next block. The hosts provided tables and ice and wine and lemonade and paper plates and plastic cups and forks. And the food was potluck: everyone brought something, nearly universally homemade. And some of those homemade things were perennial: the plum torte from down the hill, the tabouli that my mother made every year, and the potato pie from a woman in the next block. That potato pie is divine, and it was always the first thing to be gone when the vultures descended upon the tables of food.

So, though Labor Day has come and gone, here is that recipe for the divine Potato Pie.

Potato Pie

3 pounds of potatoes (~8)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 T. chopped parsley
2 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground pepper
3 T. butter
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 T. water
1 cup heavy cream at room temperature
Butter pie dough for a double crust pie

Peel potatoes, and slice thinly. Toss with onion, salt, pepper, parsley - and set aside. Fit pastry to a 11.75 x 7.5 x 1.75" pan (or 10" round pie plate). Drain liquid from potatoes. Fill pastry, dot potatoes with butter. Add top crust. Cut 4-5 good sized slits, and brush top with egg yolk. Bake at 375° until potatoes are tender - 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Take out of oven and pour cream bit by bit in the slits, letting it absorb (this takes patience!). Eat at room temperature. Or, bring to your next block party and watch it disappear!

05 September 2007

Pint Sized Grammar

About a boy in her daycare class:

I love Owen, he's such a favorite boy for me.

How she asks for things:

May you please get me some milk?

Instead of using "tomorrow":

The next day, can I visit the children?

Sometimes it sounds like she's speaking English as a second language.

04 September 2007

Book Karma, September edition

It's the September edition of the Pay It Forward Book Exchange! This month, I'm giving away a copy of Ayun Halliday's Dirty Sugar Cookies. If you want it, leave me a comment on this post by Monday September 10. I'll pick a random winner and mail you the book. Please make sure your email address is available, either in the comment or on your own blog. The only requirement is that you pass the book along when you're done - either through a Pay It Forward post of your own, or just giving it to someone who wants to read it.

Edited to add: Her Grace won!

02 September 2007

Preparing for Winter

Now that it's September and there's a coolness to the air, W. has been in full on preparation for winter. By the end of the day, he'll have been through a bushel of tomatoes (half beefsteak, half plum), and made slow roasted tomatoes, tomato puree, and a vat of pomorola sauce. It's all going in the freezer, and will be gone by the time summer is here again. This red onion was so strange and beautiful inside that I almost wanted to use it as a rubber stamp.

The roasted tomatoes get a sprinkle of dried herbs, salt, and pepper and a tiny drizzle of olive oil, and go in the oven for a couple of hours at about 225°. They dry out a little and collapse a bit. We'll then freeze them on the sheet pans, and transfer them to bags when they're fully hard.

The sauce is just tomato, red onion, garlic, basil, carrot, celery and a glug of olive oil. Nothing is sauteed; it's just all cooked down at once, and then run through the food mill. It's fine over pasta as is, or can be the base for something more complicated. I don't know how big that stock pot is, but yes, that is a lot of sauce. It wasn't cooked in that pot...it was done in three smaller batches and then combined to cool before being divided up into freezer containers.

The ABCs of Suburban Real Estate

Asphalt bespoils countryside.
Deer eat forsythia.
Grass, hedges, insects join knotweed.
Lo, McMansion needs one patio.
Quality Realtor says to utilize visual wiles.
Xeriscape yard.

It's really terrible, especially in light of the wonderous ones produced by Slouching Mom and Niobe.

But it amused me no end.

I am easily amused?

01 September 2007

Making Books

My sister-in-law sent along this link to a new blog at the San Francisco Center for the Book. It's just begun, but it's got some great ideas for making books with kids. So, it's my public service announcement for the day, and for the beginning of the new school year. Enjoy!