31 May 2009

Grace #26 - Creel

If I may say so myself, I have the coolest bicycle basket ever. We went for a ride today, twelve miles along a former train line now paved for non-motorized recreation - and no one, not nobody, had as nice a basket.

It was my idea, and my creel, but my clever husband fabricated the cunning aluminum support structure that attaches the creel to the bicycle.

The only thing missing today was a nice goat cheese and tomato sandwich. Next time, we'll bring lunch.

28 May 2009

Graces #13-25 = Thirteen Graces

  1. Mail order coffee on auto-delivery.
  2. The fact that my bluetooth headset never seems to need to be charged.
  3. Grapefruit cologne.
  4. When strangers pronounce my last name correctly.
  5. Aglaia.
  6. Euphrosyne.
  7. Thalia.
  8. Introducing the child to Bringing Up Baby, a movie with dinosaurs AND sharp-toothed animals, not to mention Katharine Hepburn.
  9. The smell of warm rain on wet grass.
  10. A job where I need not wear shoes in the office.
  11. Picking arugula that I grew myself.
  12. Mock Sancerre.
  13. Internet friends who turn into real life friends, and take pictures of your childhood.

24 May 2009

More Aimless Archeology: I am in no condition to function as a juror at this time.

Pinned to the bulletin board in my mother's office is a piece of paper that my brother wrote up, years ago, in preparation for a big garage sale. It remains a useful set of edicts, as we putter around, trying to begin to clean out our mother's house.

That said, it's nearly impossible to refrain from aimless archeology. I found my "Five Year" diary, locked and missing its key. Unable to resist, I cut the strap and spent far too long looking through my deep thoughts from 1970 to 1977 (yeah, more than five years). It ranges from the banal to the ridiculous, and includes crushes on a shocking number of boys. Today being May 24, I had to check and see what I was doing on that day: in 1972, at age eleven, my mother took me to the ballet (which means that she probably took me out of school since it was a Wednesday), and I went home on the train alone.

We found a file folder of jury duty notices and receipts, and a wonderful letter in which my mother asked for a postponement of jury duty.

And we threw away many many pairs of grimy tube socks, and some eye shadow that dated to, oh, 1966? Let's put it this way: I remember that eye shadow from playing dress-up as a kid.

23 May 2009


I suppose that if I were a real gardener, I'd grow my tomatoes from seed. But I'm not, and we get lots of great tomatoes from our CSA, and can get lots more tomatoes at farmstands and the like.

But I do like to put in a couple of plants, just because. And if you only want two plants, it doesn't make any sense at all to buy a package of seed, most of which will go to waste. Furthermore, most of what we'll get from the CSA will be plain red tomatoes - great, but not unusual. So, I want to grow something different, off the beaten track.

I picked up my two tomato plants the other day, from Silver Heights Farm, a vendor at the Union Square Greenmarket who sells nothing but seedlings, almost all of which are heirloom varieties of herbs and flowers and vegetables that you've never heard of.

  • Black Krim, 75 days, I. This heirloom has become quite popular in the farmers’ marketplace, but is a bit tricky to harvest. Pick before it appears to have developed full color and ripeness, when the fruit is still somewhat firm. 10-12 oz., dark brown-red is darker in hot weather. Interior is a deep reddish green. A hint of saltiness, unusually juicy, with plenty of meaty texture. This heavy producer is prone to cracking and catfacing. From Krymsk on the Black Sea of Russia.

  • Dagma’s Perfection, 73 days, I. This elegant fruit is bi-colored, pale yellow with delicate, light red striping. Slightly flattened, 12 ounces, with 3” diameter. Flesh is firm and juicy with hints of tropical fruit and lime. 

I can't wait to slice one of each, and lay them on a plate, and drizzle them with olive oil, and sprinkle them with kosher salt, and bedeck them with chopped basil.  Two and a half months to heaven.

22 May 2009

Four Random Things

How's this? A YEAR ago, She She tagged me for a meme. A whole year ago.

And six months ago, Cold Spaghetti did too.

Obviously, I never get anything done, though I am good at making to do lists. Cold Spaghetti wanted six random things, and She She wanted thirteen. Thirteen plus six is too many; here are four:

  1. Growing up, my mother always used charge cards - she had a card for every single department store in the area, before the wide spread development of credit cards that could be used anywhere. I was shockingly old before I realized that you could go to Macy's or Lord & Taylor and pay cash. I didn't know they took cash. I thought they only took charge cards.

  2. I love driving with the windows open.  I love driving with the music up loud.  I hate air-conditioning.  All of this means that I really prefer to be alone in the car, because windows open + loud music = conversation is impossible.

  3. Flannel sheets are never as plush as the day they come out of the package - it's just all downhill from there. On the other hand, good 100% cotton percale gets better and better, and finally, when it's perfect? It disintegrates. I prefer percale.

  4. The secret to nonagenarian lucidity is Red Bull, at least as evidenced by one Ruth Cummins, who was quoted on the front page of today's New York Times.

21 May 2009

Pride and Twitter

Pause now, and acknowledge, universally, that Mad has done the be all and the end all; she's rendered Pride and Prejudice in Twitterspeak.

I am speechless with awe and admiration.

Go read her post. It will be your good fortune.

20 May 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Lilac

[This isn't the standard garden lilac - it's got much smaller leaves and a more open flower structure, and while it smells wonderful, it doesn't smell quite the same. But it's lovely, none-the-less. I think it's Syringa microphylla, the littleleaf lilac. But it came with the house, and I don't know for sure.]

19 May 2009

Serendipitous Photography

You know how one thing leads to another? Queen Goob was waxing rhapsodic about men in kilts, and I remembered that somewhere in my house I have a picture of a penis. An uncircumcised penis, if you must know.

I'd found one day, stashed away somewhere, a forgotten disposable camera. We finished off the roll with cute pictures of kittens and rainbows, and sent it off to be developed. When the photos came back, I was shocked - really - to find a picture of an unrecognizable penis in the lot. I mean, I didn't take the picture, and I didn't know it had been taken, and I didn't know whose it was.

We had, almost a year earlier, gone to a Robert Burns dinner, at which all the men wore kilts and sporrans. We'd taken the camera along, and clearly someone had had taken the old "picture up the skirt". So the answer to the old question about what the Scots wear under their kilts? Now you know.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Back when we got married, we had a somewhat untraditional and informal wedding, for which we didn't hire a photographer. Lots of people took pictures, and we had about a dozen disposable cameras on hand. For the most part, those cameras came back with a mish-mosh of good and not-so-good images, but one of them included gem after gem. I never found out who had taken those pictures, but it was someone with a good eye.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

For Christmas, I got a new camera, and we turned over the old one to the girl. It's a little digital camera, nothing fancy, but she loves taking pictures with it. She arranges her stuffed animals, and poses her parents.  And once in a while, we remember to slurp the images off of the camera card, and find such funny things, like Alex the lion, taken when she should have been going to sleep.

18 May 2009


When you see the chives in flower, you understand that the giant allium that blooms in the perennial bed is in the onion family. It's like a mammoth chive blossom.

17 May 2009

Count Your Blessing

Yeah, the blog, she is unlocked!! Phew. I did copy all of the posts into a Word file, so it's now stored at home, and I imported the whole thing into a Wordpress blog, just in case. But, I am happy that I don't have to learn a new platform - at least just yet. Phew. What controversial stuff have I been posting that lead the powers that be to flag me as a spam blog?

Yesterday, we spent the afternoon with Liz and Emily at their Picnic With A Purpose - a fun time with hotdogs and paint and cupcakes and bloggers. It was great to put a face to some blogs.

On the way to the picnic, the kid piped up with:

Her: This music makes me feel like an Indian.

Me: What kind of Indian?

Her: Pocahontas

The thing is, we were listening to Prince. Controversy, to be exact (which, tangentially, always sounds to me like he's singing "count your blessing" which almost makes sense in the context of the song). When pressed, she said that Pocahontas wanted to be free too. She then went off on a unified theory of the universe, telling me that Hannah Montana's brother was named Prince, after the Prince that we were listening to, and that, somehow, this Prince is related to Hannah Montana, and in fact "he sounds like Hannah Montana". If Prince were dead, he'd be rolling in his grave now.

14 May 2009

Skinny Asparagus Is Stupid

I totally stole the title of this post. There used to be a food & recipe column in the Village Voice, like a really long time ago, because I'm like really old. It was called "Waiting For Dessert" and ran under the pseudonym Vladimir Estragon. Get it?

Actually it was written by Geoffrey Stokes, who was a pretty good writer on music and other stuff, but I really liked the food column. It's where I picked up the trick of sweating onions in the butter that becomes the white sauce for a macaroni and cheese - it gives it a nice depth of flavor.

Anyway, once upon a time, he titled a column "Skinny Asparagus is Stupid" and went on a tear about the relative values of fat and thin asparagus. I'm firmly in the fat stalks camp, but they can be hard to find.

It's asparagus season right this very minute, and it's all over the greenmarket, but most of the vendors have it bundled into convenient pre-weighed one pound bundles so you don't get to pick big or little. But yesterday, someone had it loose! And not only was it loose, they had a lot of really fat spears. I stood there teasing out the fattest of the fat, until I had a pound and a half of them, and it was only 14 stalks! The biggest is an inch in diameter at the base.

We're having a feast tomorrow.

13 May 2009

Wardrobe Wednesday, with gratuitous cuteness

Canada geese are rather a scourge, but lordy lordy, the babies are cute.

This baby's pretty cute too. She wanted to wear all dark colors to school: black tights, navy skirt, black camisole, navy sweater, black shoes - but we had a morning meltdown of epic proportion because the black camisole was in the laundry. Eventually, she consented to the orange tank top, tucked into the skirt and with the sweater buttoned over it. As you can see, by day's end, she'd gotten over it.

12 May 2009

A Man In A Red Tutu

Among the great pleasures to be found in the New York Times are the often witty photo essays by Bill Cunningham. He rides 'round town on a bicycle, taking pictures on the street and at various benefit parties.

Last week, I got an invitation* to the opening of the Design on a Dime benefit for Housing Works. Housing Works is a dual purpose organization, "committed to ending the twin crises of AIDS and homelessness", and they run some fabulous thrift shops in support of their mission. The Design on a Dime event gathered designery types, and let them loose to create stylish "room vignettes" with materials gathered from the thrift shops.

It was all very entertaining, and there was plenty of wine, and enough food, and at least 90% of the men were gay, and Peter claims they all go to his gym, and they were all very beautiful, and it's too bad for Peter that he had to be my walker, and even the staffers in t-shirts were fabulous, like this bald man in a red tutu and fishnet tights and high-heeled boots, but none of that is the point.

The best part of the night was spotting Bill Cunningham tap a woman on the shoulder. She demurred, and turned away, but then came to her senses (after conferring with a friend) and followed him. We watched as he asked her to sit on the arm of a chair, a wing chair covered in a black fabric with gold squiggles, a chair that well matched her black jacket with gold squiggles. It was entirely charming to watch him in action, and I was sorely disappointed that the lady and the chair didn't make it into Sunday's Evening Hours.

*BlogHer's doing something with Kmart, and Kmart was one of the underwriters of the benefit, and BlogHer got them to invite the NY-metro area bloggers, or that's what I was led to believe. I checked in at the press table. Where's my press pass?

11 May 2009


Me, reading aloud from "Now We Are Six":

No one can tell me,
   Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
   Where the wind goes.
Her, interrupting:
It comes from the South Pole!

Now you know.

09 May 2009

Annals of Gardening: Garden Club Sales

The next best thing to digging up plants at my mother's house are the annual garden club sales. Oh sure, they sell some commercial stuff like six-packs of impatiens and hanging pots of petunias, but the good stuff, the stuff I want, is the stuff people pot up out of their own backyards.

By some grace of scheduling, I got to hit two sales this morning, one starting at 8 in the next town over, and my town's at 9. I did buy some basil and a six-pack of lobelia, but mostly I scored a mess of perennials, eleven pots in all. It's like the plant material equivalent of locavore eating - it all came from with a few miles of my house.

I got huge pots of phlox and nepeta, and little ones of heuchera and pulmonaria. There's physostegia and penstemon and wood geranium and corydalis. But my favorite two were a pot marked yellow iris that also contained thalictrum, and a pot marked brunnera that included a piece of variegated hosta. Clearly the iris likes the thalictrum and the brunnera complements the hosta, or their former owners liked the combinations. In any case, I transplanted them as I got 'em.

Here's hoping my local plants like their new locale.

07 May 2009

IVF Shoes


Do you know about IVF shoes? They're not the shoes that you wear into the retrieval room, but the shoes you buy yourself as a prize for bearing all those damned needles. I'm not even a shoe whore, and I had IVF shoes.

The first clinic I went to was right around the corner from a Taryn Rose shoe store. Daily trips past the window, and one day I just had to go in and buy an expensive pair of sweet black heels with a teensy strap across the instep. In point of fact, they weren't even IVF shoes, they were IUI shoes - that was the sticking-the-toes-in-the-water cycle. No baby. Just shoes.

The next cycle, the first IVF cycle, resulted in a necklace. It was something I'd been eyeballing, coveting even, for quite a while. I can't now remember when we bought the necklace - whether it was during the cycle, or the wait, or after we found out that I was pregnant. It seemed to me a perfect necklace for a mother-to-be, two similar stones, one a little bigger than the other.

And then we lost the baby.

Probably out of some vague superstition - another necklace, another miscarriage? - we told almost no one about the second IVF cycle, and it garnered no trinkets. It lives on, but just in memory, mine mostly, and on some scraps of paper with cryptic notes as to E2 and lining and units.

The third IVF has a very tangible aide memoire in that raucous, tiger-loving, clothes-horse who climbs into my bed for a snuggle every morning.

Back to the necklace. After the miscarriage, the necklace became my memory. It's all that remains of that pregnancy and the two rocks now represent my two children, the big one getting bigger, the small one never to be.

I was thinking about this the other day - Niobe is doing a babylost memorial walk this weekend and offered to remember the "baby or babies that you hold only in your heart" if you send her the names and dates. There is no name, there is no date, there's only what's in my heart - and the necklace.

(PS - That's not my necklace, but mine's the same style. It's made by one Terri Logan, who makes sterling settings for found river stones.)

05 May 2009

Cinco de Mayo Macaroons

One of the things about having a full time job is that I have little or no contact with the PTA mothers in my kid's school. I think this may be a good thing.

Back in September, feeling guilted into participation by a ream of paper sent home with the newly minted kindergartener, I signed up to help out at the May Teacher Appreciation Lunch. Yes, in September they were looking for May volunteers. I figured it was going to be a potluck thing, like the Teacher Appreciation Lunches where I work - heartfelt, but nothing to write home about.

Um, no.

A few weeks back, I got a call from the woman coordinating the event. Are you still able to help out? It's a Cinco de Mayo theme.

This was to be no ordinary potluck, no. The committee picked recipes, prepared them and taste-tested them, and then issued edicts and recipes to the hapless volunteers.

By the time she got around to calling me, they were down to two dishes that they still needed people to make - a marinated flank steak, and coconut macaroons. Poking it with a stick, I had to ask what coconut macaroons had to do with Cinco de Mayo. Well, everyone loves them and they're light and all the teachers are always on a diet.

I sighed and put coconut and sweetened condensed milk on the shopping list.

Luckily all I had to do was make the macaroons and deliver them to school, because this turned out to be one enormous production. There were volunteers standing by the drop off lane at school this morning, collecting food, checking names off the list, and handing out cookbooks. Yes - they collated copies of all eleven* of the recipes and handed them out to thank the volunteers. If the committee settled on eleven, how many do you think they included in the taste test?

There's a piece of me that is grateful to live in a town with a strong, well-organized PTA. I'm happy that I'm not nickel and dimed at every turn, that we're not commanded to do this or show up for that. At the same time, they seem to have a lot of time on their hands, and I wonder if this organizational energy could be better spent.

I think I'll just keep taking the train to work. It keeps me out of trouble.

*grilled chicken, grilled flank steak, five salads and four desserts - and the macaroons were an Ina Garten recipe, but I thought they were too sweet and gummy.

04 May 2009

Things Learned From My Mother: Ballet

Missing my mother is something that I feel in unpredictable odd moments, though the stabs of absence last week were all about the ballet.

We've kept, for now anyway, her tickets to City Ballet. This spring, Romeo+Juliet turned up on the subscription, and I promptly turned them in for a matinee of Coppelia - I figured that a comic ballet about dolls and trickery might be better for a five year old than a bastardization of a Shakespeare tragedy.

To brush up on the story, I started in my own bookshelves where I've got a copy of Balanchine's Festival of Ballet that my mother gave me years ago. I then trotted off to the public library and found two picture books and a DVD. One of the books was Margot Fonteyn's telling of Coppelia; once when my mother had taken me to something at the New York State Theater, she spotted Fonteyn in the audience and sent me over for an autograph - and Fonteyn refused! Bitch. The DVD starred Fernando Bujones as Franz; back in the day, my mother used to take me out of school to see stuff, and we were in the audience when Bujones brought down the house as a 15 year old at the School of American Ballet workshop.

So not only did I use her tickets to take my daughter to Coppelia, my mother made her presence felt each time I turned around.

Moky, thank you for having introduced me to the ballet.

03 May 2009

Eggs, Found - and a Prize

Several weeks ago, I threw down a kitchen gauntlet when I posted that recipe for Eggs In Hiding. I expected that it might make people run screaming from the room, and most did, but two stepped up and made it.

De both made the original, and invented a modern variation, and decided the original was better.

Kristin too made a modern variation, which her husband declared was good enough to eat again.

I promised them each a kitchen implement - De's package is in the mail, Kristin's will be if she send me her address (hint).

And Holly? I'm still waiting. I know you bought the corn flakes. She made it, and her kids ate it all up.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Some time ago, Kelly gave me a prize. Since prizes like to be passed along, and seeing as both De and Kristin created new versions of the Eggs in Hiding recipe, I hereby bestow the Kreativ Blogger award on them.

01 May 2009

Dogwood Haiku

A leaning dogwood
So lovely, so hopeful, yet
Not long for this world

There's a dogwood in our yard, a white dogwood just hanging on. It arches down the hill, unbalanced, because one of its uphill branches rotted and fell off, and another cut loose one day when we were rescuing the tree from some pernicious vines that a previous owner had allowed to run rampant.

Someday, the rest of the tree will go, but until then, I love its eccentric lean, its vaguely Japanese aspect, its crisp white flowers brightening a foggy day.