29 January 2010

Eleven Into Fifty

In exactly eleven months, I'll be fifty. Yeah, whatever, but damn. Fifty? I'm not much for new year's resolutions - but fifty?  It's that kind of round and divisible number that demands something, something big, special, tangible, memorable. The only time I've ever thrown a surprise party was for my mother's fiftieth birthday. Lauren (a/k/a Mental P Mama) is running a marathon for her fiftieth. And so, I've decided to mark my fiftieth year on this planet with a list of eleven things to accomplish.

In no particular order, and with nary a nod to work or self-examination, here's my list:

  1. Read Gödel, Escher, Bach - which I started about 25 years ago. I just bought a new copy, because the old one had a complete and utter glue failure and had to be thrown out. A book! Discarded!
  2. Finish the patchwork baby quilt that I started when I was pregnant - I don't know what we'll do with it, but I'd rather have a finished quilt than that box sitting dolefully in the cellar.
  3. Teach myself how to make croissants - probably with Julia's help.
  4. Get off my ass and start running - I've downloaded a Couch to 5K app. I still need to buy some sneakers, but I might have wait until it's a teensy bit warmer out - it was 10°F when I went out to get the paper this morning.
  5. Learn to play the ukulele - I bought one on a whim. I do need to figure out how to get the kid from untightening the strings - one was loose and floppy the other day.
  6. Create printed books for each year of my blog - I've started this a dozen times, and gotten fed up with all of the editing involved to get the photos in the right places. If you know a better solution than Blurb, let me know, okay?
  7. Knit my girl a sweater - I've got the yarn and the pattern, I just need the gall.
  8. Weed out my closet. You know that rule about "if you haven't worn it in two years"? Well, there are a lot of things in there that haven't been worn in way more than two years.
  9. Leave the country temporarily - after all I've got a passport that I should use at least once before it expires. Maybe we'll go visit the Maritime bloggers, Bon and Kate and Mad, if they'll have us.
  10. Take the girl to Washington, DC - she's itching to meet the President, and her cousin goes to college there, and maybe Stimey will show us around.
  11. Have a quarterly potluck party and invite the neighbors in. You can come too, if you're around.
I plan to post progress reports on the 29th of each month. Wish me luck!

28 January 2010

On Not Watching TV

I really watch hardly any television. This isn't a rant for or against TV, it's just that I'd rather read a book. I may find one show at a time that I'll watch with some urgency - like Glee this past fall, and Big Love right now - but that's it. It's like serial monogamy; I can only get involved with one at a time, and there are episodes of celibacy between the marriages. I never watch TV news because it seems thoroughly redundant, and I didn't grow up watching it, and who's home at that hour anyway? I can't stay up late enough to watch The Daily Show or anything of that ilk, and we don't get whatever channel it is that Rachel Maddow is on. And I do rather like watching figure skating, but that comes round awfully infrequently, so it doesn't count.

But there's a downside to the never watching the news. Last night, during the State of the Union address, the cameras were skittering through the audience, looking for sleeping congressmen and inappropriate eyerolling. I was watching, in the good company of the Momocrats, and periodically the camera would pause on someone - and I had no idea who. Well, it's not that I don't know who Harry Reid is, it's that I don't know what he looks like. Oh, sure, I can recognize Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden and Janet Napolitano and Ruth Bader Ginsburg - but most of them I couldn't pick out of a line-up.

It is a hole in my knowledge base.

26 January 2010


Remember how I said that I'd découpaged an old stool as a Christmas present? The recipient's parents sent me some pictures, since I'd forgotten to take any before wrapping.

Milo x 3

All the greenery is from magazine advertisements, catalogs, invitations or brochures. I save seas of green grass, aerial landscapes, stylized leaves, water droplets. I collect stuff without text or figure or structure - but with pattern and texture and color.

milo detailThe block letters of the name are cut from a glossy brochure that introduced the Gehry building at Bard College - its undulating roof of shimmery steel shingles abstractly blue in contrast to the greens underneath.

I didn't do much to prepare the stool - I roughed up the flat surfaces with some sandpaper, and set to work with the Mod Podge. I'm pleased with how it came out - but even better? So's the nine month old recipient.

24 January 2010

Rite of Passage

The other night, we were having dinner when it dawned on me - the kid had cut her hair. It wasn't a complete hatchet job, just a little layering along the left side, but - here's the slacker mom part - it took us almost two days to notice. Yup, Parents Of The Year.

A couple of days earlier, she'd been out at an evening art class with her father. She had a sheaf of papers with her when they got home, and retired to her room, with the kitchen scissors, to cut images out (and make confetti). I went up a little later, to read to her and put her to bed, and found her under the bed with the paper and scissors - where she was, apparently, also giving herself a haircut. Because I didn't have to crawl under the bed to fish her out - as I sometimes do - I didn't notice the little pile of hair and paper clippings. Bedskirts hide all manner of sins.

I realize that it's almost a rite of passage for kids to cut their own hair, and I can't get too worked up about it. I'm stunned, though, that we completely missed it.

20 January 2010

What's in a Name?

For Christmas one year, my sister gave my child a book called Miranda's Ghosts. It sparked something in me, and I've since made a point of adding books to her library that include her name in the title.

Besides Miranda's Ghosts, we have What Is Miranda Looking At?Miranda the ExplorerMiranda the Great and The Secret in Miranda's Closet.  I quite like the first three, but I can't vouch for the last two as we haven't yet read them.

I've poked around Amazon and put a handful of other titles on my wishlist:

Incidentally, there are a stunning number of bodice rippers about Miranda, a goodly assortment of books about Miranda v. Arizona, and a set of Carmen Miranda paper dolls.

And, though Miranda isn't in the title, I was thrilled to learn that Miranda is the protagonist of When You Reach Me, the winner of this year's Newbery Medal. I put that on my wishlist too.

Do you seek out books that feature your child's name?

Edited to add: It goes without saying that we have several copies of The Tempest around, and yes, she knows she's Prospero's daughter.

19 January 2010

Styrofoam vs. Staffordshire

I'm in some kind of blogging slump, combined with way too much to do at work, and the sloth of the deep dark winter.

In the meantime, I need to share a passage from yesterday's New York Times, from an article titled Therapists Report Increase in Green Disputes - that is, you want to compost, your husband doesn't want to bother. Or, you want fluffy dryer dried towels, someone else is okay with crunchy air-dried towels.

Anyway, here's the passage I had to read aloud at the breakfast table:

If Ms. Petso prepares a vegan meal for the family, her parents prepare hot dogs to go alongside. Her parents serve on throwaway Styrofoam plates; she grabs a plate that can be cleaned and reused. Her mother, who says she prefers the way food tastes when it is served on Styrofoam, notes that washing dishes has its own environmental costs.

Please. Explain to me how food tastes when served on Styrofoam, because I am at a complete loss.

14 January 2010

Haiti / Heavy Heart

The earthquake in Haiti has unsettled me in many ways, and I have a hard time articulating why. Perhaps it's that I've known, and still know, friends and co-workers from Haiti. Perhaps it's that a college friend adopted a Haitian baby not long ago. Perhaps it's that it's here in this hemisphere, not that far away from this city of mine that supports a large Haitian population. Perhaps it's remembering Tracy Kidder's New Yorker profile of Paul Farmer.

Yesterday, I made a contribution to Partners In Health - Paul Farmer's organization - the subject of an op-ed piece, by Tracy Kidder, in today's New York Times:

...There are effective aid organizations working in Haiti. At least one has not been crippled by the earthquake. Partners in Health...has been the largest health care provider in rural Haiti. It operates, in partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health, some 10 hospitals and clinics, all far from the capital and all still intact. As a result of this calamity, Partners in Health probably just became the largest health care provider still standing in all Haiti.

I know that there are a lot of organizations doing good work. PIH has its "boots on the ground" already - which is why I sent my donation there.

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

The friend who adopted a Haitian child sent out an email last night in which she talked about her daughter's orphanage. Because I thought it was interesting, and that you might too, I've made it into a pdf which you can read here.

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

And my daughter. My little philanthropic child. After school yesterday, she and her daddy watched a little of the news coverage - they talked about what had happened, what an earthquake is, where Haiti is, what the people needed. Her response? "Let's collect money and send it to them. I want to get my class to help, and all of the first grade." She rounded up three quarters and a nickel and a penny, and handed it to me: "Mommy, I want this to help."

It breaks my heart.

11 January 2010


One of my 4 and a half year old nephew’s Christmas presents was a switchblade comb – wildly inappropriate, thoroughly amusing. He ran around the house whipping it open and menacing folks, having a grand old time.

Some while later, I caught my six year old daughter attempting to trade him a gold drawstring bag of Hanukah gelt AND a pirate charm for the switchblade. I put a stop to it – thinking it’s kind of unseemly to trade out your Christmas presents on the very day on which you receive them – not to mention the fact that I really didn’t need to have a switchblade living under our roof.

Later, when I asked her about it – amused, mind you, not rattled or horrified – she explained that “Tiny didn’t want to trade because he already had a bag of gelt”. Okay then.

There’s some moral in here about capitalism and big bags of money and giving the people what they want, but I can’t figure it out.

08 January 2010

Pointless Feckless Aimless and Graceless

Yesterday, I got a Facebook message from someone, which read follows:

Some fun is going on.... just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color, nothing else. And send this on to ONLY girls no men .... It will be neat to see if this will spread the wings of cancer awareness. It will be fun to see how long it takes before the men will wonder why all the girls have a color in their status.. Haha

It pissed me off, for a number of reasons - the silliness, the sexism, the trivialization of cancer. It’s like junior high school or something. First of all, how the hell is this supposed to "spread the wings of cancer awareness"? If you see a status update that says "black", are you going to make the cognitive leap to cancer? I don't think so. Second, I'm irked by the men vs. girls thing in the text. The opposite of girl is boy. The opposite of men is women. Grown-ups are men and women (unless they’re ballet dancers, in which case they’re girls and boys – but that’s another day). Third, is this supposed to be about breast cancer? What about lung and prostate and pancreatic cancer? What about lymphoma and melanoma? Not sexy enough because lungs don't wear undergarments?

Susan (Why Mommy) weighed in with a post today – reminding us that women who’ve had double mastectomies don’t wear bras. In her post, she linked to a Newsweek blog post about this whole Facebook meme, in which the author points out "This isn't awareness or education; it's titillation". And Barbara Card Atkinson got all hot and bothered on Facebook – privately, to me, and publicly, where she said: "Instead of listing your bra color, why not send a donation to the cancer fighting foundation of your choice? Everyone *is* aware - so go make an actual difference!"

That’s it, people – we’re aware of cancer, we need ACTION, we don't need to know what color bra you are or aren't wearing.


06 January 2010

To Cut Apart / To Cling Together

I bought my husband a copy of Julie Powell’s book, Cleaving, for Christmas. I didn’t buy it because of her blog (which I never read) or her other book (which I haven’t read) or the movie (which I didn’t see until after Christmas). I didn’t buy it because of Julie Powell. I bought it because of the butcher.

Because, you see, that’s our butcher. All of the beef we’ve eaten in the past couple of years has come from Fleisher’s. We've got ground lamb, lard and stock in the freezer from Fleisher's. We had their Rockin' Moroccan sausages for dinner the other night.

I have to say, though, if I'd read the review first, I might not have bought the book. Because, whoa - the marriage and obsession parts of the subtitle are pretty squeamy making. She's totally not likeable, and her cheating on her husband is revolting, not least because the lover is also revolting, and anonymous sex in a stairwell? Yuck.

That said, the butcher shop parts - which make up the bulk of the first 80% of the book - are interesting. She gets the meat, she gets what they're doing, she brings the cutting and the grinding and the roasting alive on the page. Knowing that butcher shop from the front of the house, as I do, it was fascinating to read about the back of the shop antics and practices of the owners and staff.

The last 20% is a travelogue of meat 'round the world - and it feels lame and irrelevant.

I have to hand it to her though - as much as I loathed her person, for the infidelity, for the texting on the Taconic, for the whining, I finished the book in a kind of breathless whirlwind of "what's she going to cut up next?".

Incidentally, the title of the book is one of those cool autoantonyms, with two distinct and opposite meanings:

CLEAVE: To cut apart / to cling together

Clearly the butchery is the cutting apart. The obsession is the clinging together. Is the marriage coming apart or sticking together? Ah, language.

03 January 2010

O Tannenbaum

Tomorrow I have to go back to work. It's been a nice week and a half off - with Christmas celebrations that began on the 24th, and finished today. There was champagne, and good cheese, and excellent beef, not to mention raised waffles and candy cane crisps. Oh, and bagels and wine and clementines and pistachios.

Our tree is still up, though most of the presents have found their places around the house. And I hate taking down the tree. It takes so long, and it sucks all the glitter out of the air. And then there are needles to vacuum up, and boxes to carry down, and the tree itself to be dragged, unceremoniously, to the curb.

If I were brave and had a back forty and some explosives, I'd rocket launch the tree instead.

After all, a Christmas tree deserves a good send off as reward for filling our hearts with gaiety, no?