28 February 2009

Whimsy to Cure the Soul

I don't know where to begin. Not so long ago, I wrote a post about letterboxing, where you go out in the woods on a sort of treasure hunt. But there's not any real treasure at the end, just sort of virtual treasure in that you found the hidden thing and put it back where you found it, but since you know you found it that's your reward.

In response, YourFireAnt commented that "There's a book, filled with lots of things like this, published in '79, called 'Water In The Lake' by Kenneth Maue". So, because I always check out suggestions, I looked it up, and was intrigued enough to buy one from Alibris, because it's out of print.

And it is one of the most peculiarly wonderful things I've encountered in a long time. I read a good chunk of it the other afternoon, curled up in the living room with a glass of wine. Then I wandered into the kitchen and read bits aloud to my husband. I thought about buying a copy for countless different friends.

The exercise titled "Remedies for Minor Nonspecific Ailments of the Soul" was where he got his hooks into me. One frequently needs to remedy a minor nonspecific ailment of the soul; here are some of Maue's suggestions:

  • Go to a department store and buy the smallest item they sell.
  • Find out how blimps got to be called blimps.
  • Make a list of every vegetable you can think of. Tear the paper into tiny shreds. Put the shreds in a pan of water and boil for ten minutes.
  • Play the piano with the back of your head only.
  • Tie together two parked cars with some thread.
  • Read a weekly news magazine. When you finish, cut out one article that especially interests you and tape it to the backside of a picture hanging on your wall.
  • Put a book in your freezer and leave it there.

Some of the book is "exercises" meant for an individual; some of it is odd and ephemeral things to do as a group; and most of it is whimsy made tangible, if impractical.

6. Music
Buy a share of stock on the New York Stock Exchange. ON the days when the price goes up, eat beets, radishes, and turnips. On the days when the price goes down, eat toast, rolls, and marmalade. Continue for three months. Then go to a laboratory and have your blood tested. Send the results to the president of the company in which you own stock.

All in all, it's kind of mind-opening in an offbeat, acid-casualty way. Continue until you are finished, then end.

25 February 2009

24 February 2009

Graces #4 & 5 = Warmth

#4: A very warm coat on a very cold day (thanks Lands' End, for my olive drab "commuter" coat, which fits perfectly, has great pockets, and looks like East German army surplus).

#5: An unasked for ride to the train from a heretofore unknown neighbor (thanks Barbara, for going out of your way after getting stuck behind the school bus I was putting my child on).

23 February 2009

It is a Small World

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a book review, of The School of Essential Ingredients.

Because I'm that way, I read the Acknowledgements at the back of the book. To my surprise, one name jumped out at me - probably since it's an unusual spelling of a reasonably common last name. So I wrote to Erica Bauermeister, the author, and asked if he was who I thought he might be.

Yup. I've never met him, but he was married to a woman I went to college with, a woman who died of ovarian cancer a few years ago, leaving two year old twins. What's more, the book was dedicated to Heidi. When Bauermeister wrote back she said "I'm glad you wrote. It's often felt, in the past three years, as if Heidi's fingerprints have been all over this project. And here you are."

If that's not evidence that the world is a really tiny place, I don't know what is.

22 February 2009

An Eye for An Eye

Because Niobe asked because I asked, I have blue eyes. Sometimes dark, verging towards purple. Sometimes a clear medium blue. But always blue.

Apparently this means that I'm distantly related to every single other person with blue eyes.

How about you?

20 February 2009

My Little Fundraiser

It's been school break this week, and as par for the course for working parents, I've cobbled together a schedule to accomodate the child's need to not be left home alone, and my need to be in the office at least some of the time.  Wednesday, that meant a half day in the office for both of us.  She watched a movie, and worked the calculator, spinning off yards of adding machine tape, adding up huge numbers.  She dubbed the result "money" and handed it 'round the office.  My boss got some, my assistant got some, and my Director of Development got a whole lot.

This morning, I came into the office and found the following email from the Director of Development:

Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 4:02 PM
Subject: money raised by miranda

With great appreciation to Miranda, I’m delighted to report that using the “money maker,” she generated $54Billion for (organization) today.  That should be enough to carry us through the next 13 recessions.

In case you have doubts, I have the receipts which she assured me are legal tender and “you can show a policeman.”
Five years old and she's printing money.

19 February 2009


Within a few days of one another last month, two people (Candy & Ilina) gave me the same award, one of those awards that requires disclosure of things about oneself, not to mention the tagging of others:

When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to said person so everyone knows he or she is real. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Show the 7 victims’ names and links and leave a harassing comment informing them that they were prized with “Honest Weblog.” Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon. List at least ten honest things about yourself. Then, pass it on!

I'm plum out of things to reveal - but here's my one thoroughly idiosyncratic fast-food confession:

When on a road trip, one sometimes must stop for fast food. On those occasions, I invariably order two hamburgers. I never ever get anything fancy or complicated, no Big Macs or Whoppers or cheeseburgers. I carefully remove the bottom half of each bun, the bottom because the pickles and ketchup are always between the burger and the top of the bun, and reassemble the two hamburgers into one double. Top bun, pickle, burger, burger, pickle, top bun. I get a double hamburger for less money, with more pickles. Fast food heaven. Then, because I'm looking out for the seagulls and bunny rabbits, I fling the greasy bottom buns out the window of the moving car. I never consider it to be littering, because I know that some small creature is going to delight in my rejected bottom buns. It does, however, infuriate my husband. (And I stopped doing it when the child became aware, lest she start flinging inanimate objects out the car windows.)

As to tagging? I can't. It's too cold and I have to go to bed now.

17 February 2009


Plenty of other people have said plenty of things about that woman who had octoplets a few weeks ago. Batshit crazy, she is. I don't really need to add anything.

But every time I read about it, or talk about it, the thing that makes me the saddest - and the angriest - is that she gives IVF a really bad name. And I worry that this event, her litter, is going to cause a backlash against IVF, with the powers that be imposing more regulations and more requirements on the procedure. And the problem with that is that more regulation could backfire on those of us that need(ed) it.

I got pregnant at 42 with my own eggs. It was our third cycle of IVF; there were twelve eggs retrieved, and there were 10 embryos available for transfer three days later. The embryologist chose the best five, and those five were transferred to my uterus. One took, implanted if you will, and now, the one child that resulted is a feisty kindergartner.

There's no question in my mind that transferring five embryos was appropriate - considering my age, our prior cycles, the quality of the embryos. There is also - but maybe it's just me - no question that had I turned up pregnant with quints, a selective reduction would have been in order.

The press hoopla surrounding the octo-mom puts a spotlight on an isolated case - and I sorely hope that it's recognized as an aberration. Take that doctor's license away, but don't take away the ability of good ethical doctors to treat patients in the most appropriate way.

16 February 2009

Hiking The Appalachian Trail

I'm way too much of a wuss to do something like through hike the Appalachian trail. Hell, I've never even gone camping, except for camping for sissies, where someone else sets up your tent and erects your cot and cooks your food. But I've always wanted to to walk over the Bear Mountain Bridge - and it's the spot where the Appalachian Trail crosses the mighty Hudson River.

So that's what we did today. We drove up to the western side of the bridge, parked and walked to mid-span and back. It was glorious - a chilly but perfectly gorgeous day.

Afterwards, we clambered down a trail, over a mini-suspension bridge over the Popolopen Creek and back up the other side to the remains of Fort Montgomery.

But hiking the Appalachian Trail? That was the high point for me.

13 February 2009

How to Turn A Bad Day Around

I got out of bed this morning in a thoroughly foul mood, angry, sad, pissed off, weepy.

Last week, the kindergarten teacher had sent a note home about Valentine's Day saying "you may send in 18 cards...". You MAY? It sure sounded like a command to me. So, because I'm cheap and the kid was disinterested, we used the free cards that came in the back of the High Five magazine, and it was like pulling teeth to get her to write her name on them. So part of the morning's malaise was feeling like a cross between a slacker mom and a curmudgeon.

But I got to the office and got a link for a free Marvin Gaye song from Amazon, and it perked me the fuck up.

Here's Let's Get It On - download it and maybe it'll perk you up too. The link is only free until the end of the day tomorrow - you know, Valentine's Day.

12 February 2009


The getting-the-child-to-school schedule is complicated. Three days a week, I drive her to school. Ideally, I drop her off at 7:30 and get on a train before 8, but ideally doesn't happen very often. Whatever.

The other two days a week, she takes the bus and I take the 9:09 train. And invariably, on those two days a week, because my schedule is predictable thanks to the promptness of the bus, I walk by a couple flirting by the overpass to the tracks.

She stands two or three steps up to give the appearance of "I'm running for the train". He, more snappily dressed than one might expect of a taxi-dispatcher, looks up to her, taking a break from putting the babysitters into their car service cars. They flirt, he smiles, she smiles.

I arrived one morning just behind her, and watched as she peeked into the taxi shack, "I'm here". She went to stand in her spot on the steps, he followed a moment later, and they assumed the position.

I never see them part. I'm always up and over before the train pulls in, waiting at just the right door.

But I wonder as I pass them on the stairs. Does she have a boyfriend, a husband, a partner? Does he? Is it just flirting? Have they ever gone out for a beer? Or more? Will they? And I wonder if the same little scene plays out five days a week, or just on the two that I take the 9:09 train.

11 February 2009

Grace #3 = The windows are open!

It's 61° in NYC right now, and it is a distinct pleasure to sit in my office, with the window open not six feet away, especially because it was in the teens but a week ago.

10 February 2009

The School of Essential Ingredients

I like books.  I like food.  So when Mother Talk put out a call for reviewers for a book called The School of Essential Ingredients, and described it as being about a cooking class, I had to sign up, because, well, it's a fiction book about food...
(read more)

09 February 2009

Letterboxing in Sunshine

You’ve maybe heard of geocaching, where you use a GPS device to plunge into the woods and find things.

Letterboxing is the low tech equivalent; instead of entering coordinates into your GPS unit, you follow written instructions (walk .1 mile with the lake on your left, turn right at the huge boulder, count 90 steps from the park bench) until you find your “treasure”. Hidden will be a watertight container with a notebook, rubber stamp, stamp pad and pen. You carry your own rubber stamp and notebook. When you find the spot, you use the hidden stamp to mark your notebook, and your stamp to mark the cached log.

I read about letterboxing ages ago on Scribbletown, and filed it away as a potentially fun outdoor activity. So yesterday, when the sun came out and the temperature climbed up above freezing, the girlie and I headed out.

There were two letterboxes stashed in a local park; we tried the first, but it began with a trek up a steep icy hill, so we backtracked. The second was easy walking, but I did all the clue finding as Mir was more interested in picking up sticks and talking to the non-scary dogs. She did like stamping the book and signing her name, but I think the charm of the enterprise was a little lost on her – it’ll be more fun when she’s a bit older.

Still, it was nice to get out into the sunshine and remember that spring really is going to be here one day.

05 February 2009

Butter, Revisited

"What do you blog about?" is a question I got asked a few times the other night. Well, um, stuff - life, food, parents, parenting, work, books - you know, stuff. And while food is in there, and is something I like to write about and think about, it's by no means the focal point of this here blog.

So, it was kind of a mystery to me to get an invitation a couple of weeks ago to attend a cooking class/cocktail party with Cat Cora - who I'd never before heard of. [I've heard of the Iron Chef program, but I've never watched it, so I don't know the participants.] But it was at a swank location, and they were offering car service, and I figured what the hell, it might be an amusing night out. I roped a friend into being my walker, and told them I'd be there.

Before I accepted the invitation, I tried googling to figure out what this might be about - the invitation called it "The BIG FAT Truth"chef dinner and made reference to a "secret ingredient".

Not until the day of the event did I figure out what the secret ingredient was, and what the party was likely to be about - it turns out that Cat Cora is shilling for Unilever's soft spreads, and the event was a kick-off for a new marketing campaign propping up the "right kind of fats".

It seems to me that the people in charge of the invitations didn't do much in the way of due diligence. If they had, they might have noticed that the very first post I ever wrote was about butter.


Peter and I swanned into a drop-dead beautiful loft-like duplex apartment, complete with two fireplaces, enormous kitchen, floor to ceiling bookshelves and a huge wrap-around terrace. The place was beautifully lit, the drinks were terrific, and the gorgeous flower arrangements were in plastic spread tubs.

Cat Cora did a brief demonstration - making vegetable dumplings by sauteing some broccoli slaw in melted soft spread, folding that into wonton skins, and basting them with more melted soft spread before it went into the oven. On the counter in front of her, there were cheese straws in a plastic spread tub.

The dumplings later appeared on trays as passed hors d'oeuvres - with their dipping sauce in plastic spread tubs.

At the end of the evening, they sent us home with a copy of Cat Cora's Cooking From the Hip - which looks like a perfectly nice cookbook, full of olive oil and butter, and not a trace of soft spread - as well as a card file containing lots of "myths" and "truths" and "lies" about butter and soft spreads, as well as recipes for all of the foods served at the party.

I'm sorry, but I don't buy it.

First of all, I'm thoroughly in the Michael Pollan camp - in this case, hewing to the avoid foods with unfamiliar, unpronounceable ingredients edict. Secondly, I like my food to taste good, and that stuff not only doesn't taste good, it leaves a weird coating in your mouth.

Butter tastes great. It has nice mouth feel. It's all natural - if you had a cow, you could make it yourself. Butter's been around for a really long time. Soft spread is a factory invention. Why would you want to ingest that? If you want to cut back on the fat in your diet, use less. If you want to lower your cholesterol and saturated fat intake, use olive oil.

I could go on and on, nitpicking through the press release and the recipe cards, poking holes in this and that. But I'm starting to feel churlish and, to be fair, the evening was fun in more than one respect: I got to hang with Peter, I met a couple of interesting, like-minded bloggers, and they were pouring a lovely crisp fat-free white wine.

03 February 2009

Pink Dress

My mother's brother got married, for the first time, when I was just six. I was the flower girl - in a pink dress that my mother made, and a pair of the red Moroccan leather shoes that she bought in series (every size, for party shoes, and they got handed down). The expression on my face slays me - clearly, the wedding will fall to pieces if I fail at walking down the aisle.

Later, that marriage did fail - probably because he is a despicable beast. But, as my mother kept everything, I still have the pink dress, and after the photo resurfaced the other night, I figured I'd better get a picture of the girlie in the dress, before she outgrows it and it's too late.

Please excuse the scab on her forehead; she fell down go boom the other night, smack dab on her forehead and one hip and both knees. She's fine but her father may be scarred for life - he tripped her accidentally and caused the fall.

The dress fits perfectly. Too bad no one we know is getting married.

02 February 2009


Kelly tagged me to post the fourth picture from the fourth folder. I don't know if I actually found the "right" photo - but here's the girlie. She and I had accompanied my mother to a doctor's appointment, and we were waiting in the hospital lobby. She's wearing a tie-dyed dress that I (badly) tie-dyed in a fit of hippy craftiness, and she's four years old.

The best part of this is that Kelly DIDN'T ask me to show you my legs - which I actually have been shaving, lord knows why, it being the winter and all.