30 June 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Ferris Wheel

ferris wheel at rye playland

[At Rye Playland, looking up while waiting to get on.]

29 June 2010

Still Lifes

One of the comments on my daughter's end of year report card was that she makes up great stories, but gets bogged down in illustrating them at the expense of getting the words on paper. I think she tends towards visual description, rather than written.

Periodically, she finds and commandeers my camera, and days later I discover a set of photos she's taken without my knowledge. Not long ago, she shot about 25 pictures in under 10 minutes, probably while I was upstairs getting dressed in the morning.

I'm intrigued by her eye. I cropped this picture at the bottom, because (in my opinion) there was too much table top in the shot, but it's otherwise as she framed it side to side and along the top.

The original, uncropped, is on Flickr, along with the rest of the series - which includes a few goofy self-portraits, and some where the hand of the artist is visible manipulating objects. We signed her up for a week long "Seeing Stories" class at the nearby art theater media lab; I hope she eats it up.

27 June 2010

When Worlds Collide

So there I am, cutting my six year old's long dirty fingernails, a horrid task because she loathes it so much she runs away and screams and cries, but she's finally settled down so I'm doing a nice tidy job, when out of her mouth comes "you're making it look like I have hobo fingers!"

The first thing that went through my mind was "she's been reading The Bloggess?"

I composed myself and asked her what hobo fingers were and where she'd heard about them. "iCarly" said she. "iCarly bites her fingernails to the nub and she's got hobo fingers."

Okay then. Maybe Jenny can find the hobo fingers she needs in the dumpster outside the iCarly sound stage.

26 June 2010

Playing Hooky

I played hooky the other day.

dragon coaster at rye playlandOur anniversary was on Thursday, and the last day of first grade was on Friday, and Thursday was a half day anyway, so I took Thursday off. We indulged in subterfuge; I pretended to go to work, but actually I hung out at Starbucks until the girl was safely on the bus.

A few hours later, we headed to the bus stop to get her - she was duly surprised to see me, and thoroughly excited when we told her we were going to Rye Playland for the afternoon.

old carousel horseRye Playland is a local small amusement park, hard on Long Island Sound, with an ice rink, a pool, a beach, and a wooden roller coaster from 1928. I went there a bunch as a kid, but except for a trip to the ice rink last winter, I hadn't been back since. It's a total blast. Luckily, it wasn't crowded - probably because it was a Thursday afternoon and school wasn't yet out. It's funky, and charming - sort of art deco meets Chautauqua Victorian.

bumper carsWe started off on the Dragon Coaster - the girl screamed and cried and refused to ride it again. Every ride thereafter, she asked the attendant, "does this go fast?" We did a carousel, the ferris wheel, the Old Mill boat ride (twice), some of the kiddie rides (the ones she wasn't too tall for!), the bumper cars, the log flume (twice) and the Yo-Yo and the Kite Flyer and I can't remember what else. I wanted to go back on the Dragon, but there was no convincing the child.

After we got home and destickified, we went out to dinner at a good restaurant, where the girl decreed the chicken fingers "better than McDonald's or Burger King or my school" and I had Prosecco and pork belly and a cheese course in lieu of dessert, but I got dessert anyway when they brought us a complimentary crème brûlée because it was our anniversary after all.

I think it might have been the perfect way to celebrate our anniversary.

24 June 2010

By The Numbers

1 first kiss (in front of Tiffany's)
2 cats (Slinky and Yoyo, one of whom was named after a toy, and the other after a cello player)
2 apartments (on 78th and 88th)
1 memorable dinner at Le Pré Catelan (with fireworks for a stranger's birthday, and an argument about asparagus)
1 irascible child (the 6 1/2 year old)
1 little house (where we live now)
4 cars (the little Ford, the intrepid Saab, the workhorse Jeep, and Kate)
3 wedding rings (because I "needed" two, one in white gold and one in yellow)

What do these add up to? Our fifteenth wedding anniversary.

[And honey? No crystal, because it just gets broken, and no watches, because the cell phones have obviated them. Rye Playland with you and the girl will be just fine.]

23 June 2010

Making Up Stories

When I noticed the discreet "Gramercy Tavern" embroidered on his messenger bag, I figured he'd get off the train at 23rd Street, and he did. But then I had to wonder about the scar, an inch or so long, running northeast up his forehead from the bridge of his nose. Was it a kitchen accident? A knife fight with a dishwasher? A spat with the waitstaff over tips?

Was it a girl? A long ago playground fight? A car accident?

Or domestic violence? Or maybe an incendiary device?

So many possibilities in that one little scar.

22 June 2010


I had a really great part-time job back when I was in graduate school. I worked in the back office of a big white-shoe law firm, doing odd jobs for my boss, who was head of office services. I got to do things like find a new cafeteria vendor and figure out a better system for distributing office supplies, and make contingency plans for a threatened NYC transit strike. That strike never came to pass (and I confess that I was a tiny bit disappointed, because I wanted to see if my planning would work), but we’d taken the threat seriously because it wasn’t all that long after the eleven day strike in 1980. That’s the strike when hordes of female office workers forced to walk to work across the Brooklyn Bridge took to wearing running shoes with their tidy suits, changing to pumps only when they got to their desks. After the strike, lots of women continued to wear sneakers to work – hell, I still see it from time to time.

One of the women I worked with was a file clerk named Lillian. Lillian was from far away in Brooklyn. She lived at home, and spent all her money on shoes and clothes, and all her time moping about looking for a husband. In contradistinction to the sneaker-clad women, she wore sunshine-yellow patent-leather fuck-me heels on the train and changed into bedroom slippers in the office – you know she was hoping to find a date on the subway.

But big-hearted Lillian had a tragic flaw. She had a growth on her gum, near one of her canines, so big it was kind of like an extra tooth sticking out in a place it didn’t belong. A visit to an oral surgeon would have gone a lot farther towards finding a guy than all those many pairs of shoes.

I wonder what ever happened to her.

21 June 2010

How To Make A Cat Love You

It's easy, really.

how to make a cat love you

Just pet it some more.

20 June 2010

Once A Ponatime

I am organizing and collating and weeding the many many pieces of paper and "books" and artwork that are coming home as the kidlet cleans out her desk in preparation for the last week of school. Indulge me if I post a gem or two, like once a ponatime.

17 June 2010

Right Now

Right now, the girl is watching television after a day of playing hooky - "my throat hurts, Mama". I think she just needed some mommy time, so I took her to work with me.

Right now, I'm drinking a glass of unoaked Chardonnay and feeling glad that the day is nearly over.

Right now, the sun is low in the sky but still bright - the tree trunks are sunlit, their leaves are radiant green, and blue peeps out behind the glow.

Right now, my heart aches for a friend.

Right now, all's right with the world, and so much isn't.

Filched from Nora and Jennifer.

16 June 2010

Tweeting Inconsistency

Yesterday at 5:57pm, I tweeted a complaint about tourists, after having forced my way through clumps and clumps of them while trying to get to my train:

I'm such a curmudgeon. Tourists may be good for the economy, but they're so annoying.

Then, at 9:37pm, I queried my twitter peeps for travel suggestions:

Where in New Brunswick/Nova Scotia should we go in August? By car, via Maine. With 6yo.

There is some deep irony in the fact that within the space of a few hours I went from hating tourists to wanting to be one.

15 June 2010


Upon investigation, it turns out that she was describing the properties of ICE, not I.

13 June 2010

Alchemilla, Pulsatilla

Dear Very Mary,

I am remiss. I am chagrined that I am remiss. You are a dear and generous correspondent, and you have not been thanked for the last most joyfully received little lagniappe. You, of all people, have not been thanked.

Very Mary, your stamped garden tags are divine. I can't wait to fabricate little hangers for Alchemilla, Pulsatilla, Kerria, Rudbeckia, Allium, Astilbe and Loosestrife. It's poetry - read them aloud. Alchemilla, Pulsatilla.

But best of all? The necklace you sent along for my daughter. It's perfect. Every little girl needs her name on things, lots of things, and the tiny blue bead is nearly the color of her eyes. Did I say perfect? It is.

Thank you, Very Mary, for the little treasures you send our way from time to time, and I promise that my thank you notes will be more timely in the future. I love having you as a pen pal.

Abashedly yours,


12 June 2010

Seventeen Dollars

One of the seriously great things about our town is the annual library book sale. If, like me, you wait until Saturday, everything is half price. When we swooped through this morning, we got thirty books for seventeen dollars. Mostly, we got stuff for the girl: 6 Magic Treehouse books, 4 from the Junie B. Jones series, and 3 of the Boxcar Children, plus a mess of other books, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Trumpet of the Swan, and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

And if I go back tomorrow? The remaining books are FREE.

10 June 2010

Compact Fluorescents

Call this a public service announcement.

Last week, my husband was home in our unfinished but completely serviceable basement. We spend rather a lot of time down there; our desks and computers are there, the laundry is there, the sewing machine is there, the crafty supplies are there. It's lit with bare light bulbs in plain porcelain sockets, and in a nod to energy efficiency, all those bulbs are spiral compact fluorescents. Well. While he was sitting there folding the laundry or something, one of the bulbs started crackling and smoking. He cut the power and removed the bulb before anything bad could happen, and I fired off a letter to the manufacturer.

I got a polite email back, which included the following:

CFL's have a unique "end-of-life" characteristic. As unpleasant as it is, in certain circumstances, a CFL may emit smoke and a melting, plastic-like odor at the end of its life. This is a common occurrence in all brands of CFL's and is not considered dangerous. Bulbs burn out when the ballast overheats and an electronic component, the Voltage Dependent Resister (VDR), opens up like a fuse in your home’s fuse box, shutting off the circuit and generating heat and possibly a small amount of smoke. This might sound dangerous, but the VDR is a cut-off switch that prevents any hazards. The melted plastic you are seeing where the glass coil connects to the ballast is simply a sign that the heat is escaping as intended in the design of the bulb. Please look for ENERGY STAR logo on the packaging, the seal of quality which means that the bulb is safe because it has undergone stringent test procedures.

The email also included links to several websites to corroborate this oddness, one of which was Underwriters Laboratories.

I have to say that I think this is incredibly peculiar. My husband and I both reacted the same way: the light bulb seemed to be failing in a spectacularly dangerous way, like, if we hadn't been home, there wouldn't have been a home to come home to. But according to the manufacturer and Underwriters Laboratories, this is a common way in which compact fluorescents die at the end of their life span.

Did you know this? Why would this not be better publicized? Or, why aren't the lights designed to die coolly and quietly?

09 June 2010


We threw a big shindig for my father-in-law's birthday over the weekend - tent, bartender, surprise guests, kielbasa, lobster rolls, strawberries, Cool Whip, fat cherries flown in from California, Flying Saucers, and champagne. [He has an expansive palate, ranging from a taste for fine wine and lobsters to a deep love of the highly processed.]

During the planning process, someone suggested getting custom M&Ms to tie up in little bags as party favors. You can only have two lines of 8 characters each, but we cleverly came up with:


My sister-in-law went ahead and ordered them, only to get a phone call from the company telling her that they wouldn't print #!@?&* because it was a bad word and they were a family company. Despite Cathy's protestation that #!@?&* isn't a word at all, they wouldn't budge, and we ended up with:

Big Bday

It wasn't nearly as much fun as #!@?&* would have been. Weigh in. Is #!@?&* a dirty word? Hell, is it even a word?

[I see that Blogger doesn't much like the characters either. Check out the way it converted the permalink.]

08 June 2010

The Distribution of the Thousand Dimes

Remember how I asked you to vote on four charities, each of which would receive a share of $100 based on the percentage of votes received?

I wrote the checks:

Edna Hospital = $24

Partners In Health = $31

Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen = $33

Nothing But Nets = $12

And then I sent another check to the Henry Louis Granju Memorial Scholarship Fund, because Henry's story breaks my heart.

07 June 2010

Punch Line: Diesel Fitter

I used to go to Mets games. I used to be lucky, in that my father's wife's father had box seats at Shea, about five rows back from the field between home plate and the Mets dugout, but because he lived in Florida, his tickets were frequently up for grabs. I remember once taking the #7 train to Shea with my sister and her friend Adam, while he told a joke. He stretched it out, elaborated it to a fair-thee-well, embellished it with accents, and had the entire packed subway car listening raptly. It's another one of those jokes where, once heard, the punch line lives on - kind of like you can conjure up the whole of The Cutting Edge just by singing out "toe pick".

* * * * * * * * * * *

Joe and Larry were brothers, who worked together in a bra factory. Work slowed down, and they were both laid off, and so they trotted down to the local unemployment office.

The clerk called Joe into her office and asked him what he did. Joe said "Cup stitcher. I sew two pieces of fabric together to make the cups for the brassieres."

The clerk looked up cup stitcher in the big book of jobs. Finding it classed as unskilled labor, she gave him $300 a week unemployment pay.

Larry then went into the clerk's office. She asked Larry his occupation. Larry told her he was a diesel fitter. The clerk determined that diesel fitter was a skilled job, and awarded him $600 a week.

When Joe found out that Larry was getting twice as much, he was furious. He stormed back in to find out why his brother was collecting double his unemployment pay.

The clerk explained, "When I looked it up, cup stitchers were unskilled laborers and diesel fitters were skilled laborers."

"Skill? What skill?" yelled Joe. "I sew the cups together. Larry puts 'em on his head and says 'Yeah. Dese'll fit 'er.'"

04 June 2010

If It Was My Home

If the oil spill were near my home, it would envelop all of Connecticut, and reach from Boston to Albany to New Jersey and half way across Pennsylvania.

Use If It Was My Home to superimpose the spill on your part of the world - it will likely shock you and sadden you.

03 June 2010

Ice Cream and Brownies

The other day, we celebrated my father-in-law's birthday, one of those big round numbers which I'll keep to myself. I tossed around ideas for a dessert, but my husband kept rejecting them: he doesn't like x, he doesn't like y. Finally, I rifled through the big pile of recipes that I've printed out off of the intertubes (because I don't seem to be organized enough to use Delicious like a good index) and picked out an ice cream recipe that I've been meaning to try for a long time. And, because ice cream needed a little something, I made a batch of brownies.

Heaven in a bowl.

First, the brownies. My all time favorite brownie recipe is one that Laurie Colwin claims came from Katherine Hepburn's family; it is available on Epicurious. The Colwin-Hepburn axis is nearly enough to love something, but these brownies are seriously good and totally easy. So easy, in fact, that my six year old can almost make them by herself. You melt the butter and chocolate together in a small saucepan, and add everything else TO THE POT. One bowl! Easy! Delicious! No frou-frou ingredients! And a stellar pedigree!

Second, the ice cream. I love caramel. I love dulce de leche. I love all those butterscotchy flavors. And I love a hit of salt in my sweets. Also, I'm in one of my occasional periods of insane love for my ice cream maker, because it turns really simple stuff into wonderfulness. So, naturally, the recipe that leapt out of the pile was David Lebovitz's salted butter caramel ice cream. Oh, dear lord, it is the ice cream of my dreams. It didn't even matter that I screwed it up because we always keep a 1/2 cup measure in the sugar canister (and a one cup measure in the flour) and not 'til later when I was making the brownies did I realize that in fact there was a 1/3 cup measure living in the sugar bin which means that I made the ice cream with 1/3 less sugar than it should have had which could account for the fact that it was distinctly salty but no matter, it was still excellent. [When I make it again, I'll do it with the right amount of sugar. Also, I did pour my praline/caramel out onto a silpat sheet - and when it was time to crush the praline, I just rolled up the silpat. Clever, no? I am full of labor-saving tricks.]

Incidentally, I availed myself of Blogger's recent addition of static pages, and added a recipe index to my site, which you can get to over there in the right sidebar. I did it for me as much as for anyone else, because I find myself rooting around in my own archives looking for thus and such, but maybe you'll like it too.

Bon appétit!

01 June 2010

Free Books!

I am probably the last parent in the universe to know about this, but thanks to Raising Weg, I now know that you can download summer book-reading forms from Borders and Barnes & Noble: kids read books, write 'em down, and redeem the list for a free book. That sounds splendid to me, and I bet I can get my increasingly fluent little reader on board.

Incidentally, she is currently mad for the Magic Treehouse series and last week, she brought Dingoes at Dinnertime home from school. As you can imagine, its title prompted a round of "a dingo ate my baby" which the girlie can now do in a nice Streep imitation. (I can't find Streep doing it; here's Elaine.) I mean, don't you have to say that out loud every time you hear the word "dingo"? It's kind of like I can't drive through Yonkers without saying "Yonkers, where true love conquers", but I digress. Free books! Get your kids to read!