28 February 2010

Eleven Into Fifty Minus One Equals TEN

Of course, there's no 29th of February (this year), so my first "Eleven Into Fifty" update has to be today, the 28th.

1. I started Gödel, Escher, Bach. I didn't get much past the introduction, but I started it. I also edited my Library Thing widget so that it's the only book listed, and the cover is huge, so that it haunts me every time I look at my own blog.

3. I haven't tried the croissants yet, but I did find a recipe for chocolate croissants in "small steps over the course of a few days", which I will attempt sooner than later.

5. I can play a scale on the ukulele, if I'm looking at the instructions and chewing on my bottom lip.

8. Mission accomplished! Over the course of a couple of weekends, I went through pretty much every article of clothing that I own, save socks and underwear. There were things in there that hadn't been worn in so long that they needed to be dusted. The thrift shop got several large boxes of clothes, I got rid of every single wire hanger, and I can find things in my closet again.

11. The first of the quarterly potluck dinners is next weekend - if you're around, tell me and I'll invite you.

27 February 2010


If I were Ilina, and if it were Friday, I'd invite you in for a cocktail.

As you may recall, one of the activities the child engaged in yesterday was the harvesting of icicles, which were duly stored in the freezer. When it came time, at day's end, for a cocktail, I stuck a couple of them in my scotch. Johnny-Walker-Black-on-the-icicles.

Now, the definition of "branch water" doesn't include icicles - but shouldn't it? After all, the icicle is somewhat branch-like in appearance.

26 February 2010

Snow Day!

It's beautiful out, and there's no school, and I didn't try to slog my way into the city, and the kid had a playdate here this morning, and is over at the other kid's house now, (because we've discovered the joys of playdates with the other only child first grader who lives around the corner), and I had tomato soup for lunch, and the power hasn't gone out, and there's no place we need to be. Oh, and there are harvested icicles in my freezer.

The only foreseeable flaws are that we are short on wine and firewood, which will be tragic if the power does go out.

24 February 2010

Wordless Wednesday: On The River

Actually, on the pier at Piermont, with her badass shades and her new-from-eBay winter jacket and some phragmites (with three syllables, not two, just in case you'd been wondering).

23 February 2010

Dear Mr. President

Several months ago, I had a mammogram, at the very civilized hour of in the evening after dinner. (Really. I have a full time job. Scheduling mammograms during the day is a pain in the ass. Besides, the group practice we use has the machinery - they might as well get more hours a day out of it. And the technician likes it too - she works from 12 to 8 and avoids traffic. And I don't have to wait at all. Win win win.) When I got home, the child asked if I’d gotten a lollipop - because of course you get a lollipop after going to the doctor. I told her she might should write a letter to the President, offering up her suggestion. Periodically, it comes up again. Yesterday, she wrote her letter.

I'm not sure that her letter is going to add anything to the health care debate underway in Washington, but I do think it is important to encourage one's child to participate in our democracy.

22 February 2010

Monkey Doll, Redux

Last week was school break in these parts. Sometime during the week, the girlie started asking if she could come to work with me, so I brought her in on Friday.

We had a lovely day - lunch out at a restaurant, movies on the office DVD player, ice cream on the train home, and in between, a trip to the mecca downstairs that is the costume shop. We went down to show them the fringe become doll hair, but then one thing led to another and she left with a bag full of ribbons and bits of trim and a tassel and two yards of pink silk damask and beads and baubles and "diamonds" and fabric flowers. And while we were wandering around collecting all of this joy, one of the stitchers whipped up a green tutu for the doll - just like that. Back upstairs, she spread everything out and proceeded to sew red bands on an arm and a leg, and a diagonal sash of pink flowers. She cracks me up.

Now we've got everything stashed away in a plastic tackle box, "my own sewing kit, Mama". Time to teach her to sew on buttons, methinks.

21 February 2010


The lovely Mayberry Mom says I make her happy. Lots of small things make me happy:

  • That first cup of coffee in the morning
  • The sun shining in the brilliant blue sky
  • Shuffle on my iPod
  • MThis charming M - for me and for Mayberry. [You can find your own decorative initial(s) here.]
  • Sheepskin slippers
  • Gorgonzola
  • The girlie reading books to me
  • Clean sheets
  • Slitting open the package of Peeps so they ripen in time for Easter
  • Dinner every night with my husband and child
Tag, you're it!

17 February 2010

Monkey Girl

I made the girlie a monkey. Well, it was supposed to be a monkey, like the ones that Kelly made, but the girlie didn't want a tail, or ears, or hair. I finished it - the doll - one night, while listening to Slouchy read aloud her poem about her grandmother, which ends with the apt line "I watch your busy hands. They fly." Poking stuffing into the legs and stitching them up, while my friend remembered her grandmother's handiwork, was some kind of lovely synchronicity.

Slouchy's grandmother might well have appreciated the monkey's provenance. The bit of pink for the body was leftover from a skirt I had in high school. The white of the arms and legs and head was salvaged from a worn out bedsheet. The beige of the face came from the cut off leg of a pair of pants - either my husband's or my father's - and the vintage green calico is the mystery. (The Palm Beach chintz on the hand-me-down sofa is a thorn in my side; I need to get that couch reupholstered and soon!)

The next morning, the girlie found the doll in her bed and came climbing in with me to tell me "Mama, make a list, she needs hair, and a hat and shoes and a skirt, make a list, Mama". Got that? Hair.

Luckily, there's a costume shop in my building, so I went down and begged for 18" of glittery fringe - which my boss saw draped on my desk and wondered aloud if I was planning to make it into pasties. I think not. Monkeys don't wear pasties. And it'll make perfect hair when I get a chance to hand-sew it to the doll's head.

16 February 2010

Chicken And Potatoes

Ever since we started buying a huge amount of beef at once, chicken has become an infrequent luxury in these parts. The mere thought of a roast chicken, sizzling in the oven, filling the house with that ineffable scent - oh, it makes me weak at the knees. And hungry.

The other day, after an outing to see eagles - live eagles, a bald eagle and a golden eagle, but in a tent, not on the wing - we decided we needed to stop by and get a (dead) chicken born and raised in our NYC suburban county. I don't think that there's any connection between seeing the eagles flapping around (and that golden eagle was BIG) and wanting to eat poultry for dinner, but there you have it.

Later that day, I went upstairs to take a nap. About five minutes after I fell asleep, my husband started bellowing from the kitchen that he needed me. I stumbled downstairs, without my glasses, and found him waving the chicken around by its neck. Which was attached to its head. And its feet were dangling around down at the other end. It was quite a sight, and a distinct reminder that this was no Frank Perdue bird, no sir. Unfortunately, it turned out to be kind of a tough bird, the kind that probably would have been better off braised, not roasted. Its carcass became a lovely stock, enriched by the afore-mentioned feet.

Alongside the chicken, we had potatoes, (twice) cooked my new favorite way. Take some medium sized potatoes with thin skins. Wash them, but don't peel them. Pile them in a bowl, cover them with plastic wrap, and microwave them until you can stick a fork in them. (Or boil them, though this is one of the few things I countenance using the microwave for. That and making tea in the ingenious teapot.) Drain the potatoes and, working on a cutting board, gently smash them with the flat side of a big knife. You want to squish them down to about 1/2" thick. And the reason you left the skins on is because it helps hold them together. Smear some olive oil on a sheet pan, and carefully transfer the potatoes over. Drizzle olive oil on the top sides, and sprinkle with a little kosher salt. Bake them for about 20 minutes at 400°F - flipping them once if you're so inclined. They come out like the love child of potato pancakes, mashed potatoes, hash browns and baked potatoes - crispy and molten and earthy and wonderful. They needed nothing on them, though the child dipped hers in ketchup because she dips everything in ketchup.

15 February 2010

Existential crisis

I put the girlie to bed and settled in to watch some of the Olympics, as one does these days. A little while later, she crept downstairs; I walked her back up again. As I tucked her in for the second time, she began wailing:

I don’t want to grow up. I want to be six forever and ever. I don’t care if my friends grow up. I don't want to die. Granny died. I want to stay six. I don’t want to grow up.

How can’t I grow up?

I don’t want to grow up. I don’t I don’t I don’t.

How don’t I grow up?

Deep sobs, many tears, much snot.  Me, snuggled up next to her, feeling at a complete loss. Everyone grows up, everyone dies. How do you assuage the fears of the six year old, when no one wants to grow up, no one wants to grow old, no one wants to die?

12 February 2010

Two Answers, A Questions, A Request, and An Apology

Lord knows I am no kind of blogging guru. I know enough to get around, meaning, I only mess with HTML if I have to.

But I figured out two things about Blogger recently that I thought were worth sharing.

Answer 1) Like lots of people, I am periodically plagued with comment spam. Word verification helps, but it's so annoying that I usually leave it off. Recently, the comment spam has all been landing on old posts - which, happily, is easy to remedy. Find your Blogger Dashboard and then go to Settings > Comments > Comment moderation - and enable comment moderation on older posts. Blogger's default is 14 days, but you can set the time frame to longer or shorter. Then, if a spammer tries to comment on an old post, it won't appear, and you can easily delete it from your Blogger dashboard.

Answer 2) I finally got sick of the blogroll that ate my sidebar, a blogroll that was pulling from Bloglines even though I stopped using Bloglines as a reader. It was out of date and out of control. But I'd been reluctant to use the Google Reader widget because it was, to me anyway, ugly and I didn't know how to make it match my template. I figured it out! I started by selecting a handful of feeds and tagging them "Blogs You Should Read" - tagging them let me select a subset of the whole damned list of feeds, and creates a folder with the tag name. Then, in Reader, click on Settings > Reader Settings (towards the upper right of the window). From Settings, click onto Folders and Tags.

Make sure that the folder is marked "Public", and then click the link that says "Add a blogroll to your site". That'll take you to a pop-up window where you can configure the sidebar widget. Leave the title box EMPTY and set the color scheme to NONE. Copy the generated HTML and go back to your Blogger Layout page. Add an HTML widget and paste in the HTML that you just copied out of Reader. If you want a title, add one here. That way, the title and list in your new blogroll widget will pick up the styling that applies to the rest of your blog. Matchy matchy joy!

Question) Sitemeter lets me see a lot of information on a per visit basis - like Domain Name, IP Address, Country, City, Time of Visit, Visit Length, Page Views, Referring URL, Visit Entry Page, etc. Is there a way to get that kind of detail out of Google Analytics? Because if there is, I can't figure it out.

Request) Please enable your email in your Blogger profile. Click on your profile and make sure it's linked to your blog and your email. You can have a separate email exclusively for blog stuff, if you'd like. If you don't have a real blog, you can set up a "blog" without any content so that you have a profile with an email. This also goes for people with other than Blogger blogs - you can have a Blogger profile that links to your Wordpress/SquareSpace/TypePad blog - or even to your Etsy shop. But the email is key - it's what lets me reply to your comment, which I dearly love to do.

Apology) Blogger seems to be comment challenged of late. I can't comment most of the time, at least from the (cough) PC in the (cough) office. So, I may well have been reading and not commenting, but the not commenting isn't my fault. And I still love you.

11 February 2010

This is why they invented cellphone cameras

Perhaps "constipation" would be a better word choice than "inconvenience", because if you were looking for the Senokot, you might be more than inconvenienced by its unavailability. And no, I wasn't buying Senokot - I was merely picking up a prescription, for something unrelated to my gastrointestinal tract, if you must know.

10 February 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Snow Day

Is there anything better than a snow day on a Wednesday? I think not. We got the valentines done (the secret ones and a pile for the first grade class), I made a pot of chili (with hidden sweet potatoes), I put the laundry away (that had been sitting around since Sunday), we went for a walk, and the kid went over to a friend's house for an impromptu playdate.  The mail came, though nothing but bills, and the UPS man delivered some new underpants. (Is there anything weirder than ordering underwear on Amazon?) I even shoveled a path up the driveway, but not the whole thing, because, why?

The only flaw in this lovely day is that the newspaper never got delivered - although it could be buried out there.  I'll probably find it in April.

09 February 2010

Duct Tape

We have a kind of half-assed set of blocks and chutes with which to build marble runs. I call it half-assed because it's nearly impossible to actually get it to work - the pieces are all too clumsy, and the marbles tend to blow the whole thing apart, and the pieces aren't graduated enough to let you get just the right amount of incline.

So here's my question. Is it allowable to use duct tape and popsicle sticks to make the thing work right, or is that unsporting?

[What I really want is a Cuboro set, but they are so damned expensive.]

08 February 2010

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

I was standing on line, waiting for my lunch, eavesdropping on the people in front of me. At one point, she said to him "oh, yeah, and they want it ay-sap" – which got me thinking. When you say ASAP out loud, do you say "ay-sap" or "ay-ess-ay-pee"? Or do you just say "as soon as possible", which, to me anyway, rolls off the tongue more easily? What about when you see it on paper and read it to yourself?

How about WTF? Do you say "double-you–tee–eff" or "what the fuck"? "What the fuck" has 40% fewer syllables than saying each letter individually, and you get to speak that magically strong multi-purpose word. Fuck.

According to that bastion of definition, Urban Dictionary, "roffle" is a verb derived from pronouncing ROFL as a word. Have you ever actually said "roffle"?

Wikipedia has a staggeringly long and quite fascinating article on Acronyms and Initialisms - which discusses none of these three.

I think, though, my favorite conglomeration of initials is Initials:

LBJ took the IRT
Down to 4th Street USA
When he got there
What did he see?
The youth of America on LSD




Luckily the girlie hasn't yet asked me to explain this or any of the other songs from Hair.

05 February 2010


Her first backpack has fallen by the wayside, a year and a half into her elementary school career. It's developed holes, and terminal grunge, and lining flakiness. I assumed it would last longer - somewhere I still have a backpack that I used in high school, and it looks nearly new. I tell you, things just aren't made like they used to. Planned obsolescence?  I thought about returning it to Lands' End and invoking their unconditional guarantee, but guilt got the better of me, as it has been exceedingly well used. I did buy a replacement in a more dirt friendly pattern.

She sent me her first text message the other day, using her grandmother's phone. Grandma stood by offering instruction, but the girl did all the writing and typing. She dearly wants a cell phone, and claims that other first graders have them, which I find hard to believe. She also wants a DS which other first graders do have. In fact, she came home from a playdate with two games for it that the other kid didn't want any more. This caused a serious rift, because she knows I have a DS, and "why can't I use yours, Mommy?", but I really think a six year old needs to be doing something more constructive. We've compromised for the moment - five minutes a night on not-school nights (yes, 10 minutes a week, I am the mean mommy). And threatening to take time away is proving a good inducement to better behavior. It's slippery, this navigating through the intersection of parenting and technology.

The first grade play was yesterday - a sort of musical revue adaptation of "Where the Wild Things Are", with songs written by the school's music teacher (who, incidentally, I've known since fifth grade, and no, I don't live in the town I grew up in). All the first graders participated, singing songs en masse interspersed with Sendak's lines, each one recited by a different kid. The girlie got to be the emcee - opening the show alone in front of the curtain, speaking right into the microphone, memorized lines and all - and yes, those are snow boots she's wearing with capri length leggings under a skirt.

A week of firsts.

03 February 2010

Shiny Pretty Hearts and Things

Pretty things attract the eye of the magpie from time to time.

Like valentines, insanely cute, with no branded characters, and free for the printing. Alpha Mom rounded up a whole mess of them last year, and added more this year. I printed out these whimsical vibrant cards for the first grader to hand out; I'll bet you a nickel that no one else in her class will have the same valentines.

And Japanese masking tape in a gazillion colors and patterns. I want it all, though I haven't any idea what to do with it. Decorate packages? Make collages? Create handmade greeting cards? I could live in my cellar all day long, puttering around and acting crafty.

Or printable graph paper, variously variable, for doodles or what have you. What's so appealing about graph paper? Well, kind of the same thing that makes a Moleskine notebook jump into your hands - the contained possibility.

Are you still thinking about Haiti every day? I am. Want another way to help? Lovely SweetSalty Kate has put together an online auction of art, photography, paper crafts, clothing, and creative goods. The proceeds will go directly to the St. Joseph's Family of homes for children in Haiti. Buy something. I've already been outbid once. You've got until Monday.

02 February 2010

Do You Wait In Line or On Line?

So, I know it’s partially my own damned fault, for waiting until the first of the month to buy my monthly train ticket. But, honestly, should it have taken waiting on line for thirty-five minutes, while I missed two trains home?

Yesterday morning, the lines were so long that I’d have been late to work. In the evening, I arrived 21 minutes before my desired train, thinking – wrongly – that 21 minutes would be enough time. I couldn’t buy the ticket last week, because my office participates in the TransitChek program, and I didn’t have my TransitChek Visa card until the end of last week – and Friday night in GCT is as crazy busy as the first and last of the month. I couldn’t buy the ticket at my train station, because they closed the ticket office at my train station in the middle of January. I couldn’t use the ticket machines at my train station or in Grand Central; the ticket machines can only take one form of payment and because my $230 TransitChek Visa is less than the cost of my monthly ticket, I have to pay the balance some other way.

So I was stuck, waiting on line, watching the trains disappear from the Big Board, and thinking evil thoughts about the antiquated system by which MetroNorth has you line up to buy your tickets – there’s a single line for each ticket window. So, if you pick the slowpoke line, you’re screwed. A better system would have a single line feeding all of the ticket windows – you can’t pick the wrong window that way. The Whole Foods near my office has an ingenious queuing system, and it works almost flawlessly. But the powers that be at GCT probably don’t want to mar the august glory of the great space with something so pedestrian as queuing ropes.

When I finally got up to the window, I gave the slowpoke rookie clerk my TransitChek Visa and my other credit card – only to be told that I couldn’t put the balance on a second credit card, I had to pay by cash or check. That in itself is insanity – but luckily I’d been to the cash machine at lunch time so I actually had the cash on me – I’d left the house in the morning with about 89 cents in change in my wallet, and I almost never carry my check book.

In concept, TransitChek is a good thing – it encourages and rewards public transit users by giving us a tax break. But you could cut out a whole level of bureaucracy by letting people have a tax deduction of up to that $230 a month, properly documented of course, and eliminate the silly TransitChek Visas and vouchers and hassle.

By the time I finally got on the train, I was hopping irritated, not to mention damned glad I hadn’t waited on line in the morning what with the no cash in the wallet and all.

Did you have a nice day yesterday?