30 November 2010

North Korean Rockettes

I was mesmerized this morning by a photo in the Times which someone saw fit to give a half a page to, in color.

Look at them! Look at the toes of the standing legs, all lined up just so. The working legs, all extended at precisely the same angle. The heads, slightly tilted to the right.

But why are all their ankles taped?

29 November 2010

Eleven Into Fifty Minus Ten Equals ONE

ACK! I have only a month left to:

1. Finish Gödel, Escher, Bach, which means reading about two-thirds since I'm stuck at about a third of the way in.

2. Finish the damned baby quilt.

4. Run more - I got hung up on about week 5 of Couch to 5K in 9 weeks.

5. Pick up the damned ukulele.

6. Order the damned blog books from Blog2Print.

7. Finish the sweater! This might actually happen: the body is done, and I'm about halfway down the first sleeve. The buttonholes will probably be my undoing, unless I back the placket with grosgrain and put the buttonholes in by machine.

10. The likelihood of getting to Washington, DC before the year is out is extremely slim; but it's not going anywhere.

11. Have one more potluck party - either something Christmas-y, or maybe a 50th birthday party. You'll come, right?

25 November 2010

Mummers and Man-made Monstrosities

My clever sister-in-law was reading the Times on-line the other day, an article about unlearning a New York accent, and got sidetracked by a sidebar containing the 1938 Almanac for New Yorkers. I am thankful that she passed it along to me, because it is a thing of great beauty, full of gems and sarcasm. Here are the pages from Thanksgiving week of that year.

Thanksgiving Day:
Mummers and manmade monstrosities parade the streets for the greater glory of Macy's.

The day after Thanksgiving:
Bicarbonate-of-Soda Day

But see for yourself. You might find yourself reading aloud to the assembled masses at your Thanksgiving feast.

This day is solemn and historic
Mother, pass the paregoric.

May your Thanksgiving be all you want it to be.

23 November 2010

Nephew Zygote

Mommy, are you going to bed at the same time as me?

You bet, kid. The root canal was still bugging me and the bed with fresh sheets and the doubled up duvet was calling to me. I read her a chapter of Julie Tells Her Story (because she has entered that American Girl doll obsession stage) and then she picked up her book and I picked the Sunday magazine.

Mommy, what's z-y-g-goat?

Zygote, I tell her, and then I ask What's a zygote? knowing that she knows the answer, because she's reading It's NOT The Stork.

She tells me that it's the combination of the egg and the sperm and goes back to her book.

Mommy, can I read something to you?

The parts of our bodies that are under our underpants or bathing suits are called “privates” or “our privates”. If you touch or rub the private parts of your own body because it tickles and feels good, that’s an “okay touch”.

I do that!

I put down my magazine and we have a little talk. It's okay to do that, but it has to be in private, and you're the only one that's allowed to do that.

She goes back to reading, I pick up my magazine again. She moves on to her next book.

Mommy, what's n-e-p-h-e-w?

Phew. She doesn't ask me to explain Zen. No more hard questions for one evening.

22 November 2010

Cranberries and Brussels Sprouts

I know, most people think Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. And gravy. And mashed potatoes. And wet bread, also known as (yuck) stuffing.

Sure, a bit of turkey with a swath of perfectly cooked skin next to Julia's garlic mashed potatoes napped with my husband's gravy is a great thing. But to me, it's not Thanksgiving without cranberries in some form along with a cruciferous vegetable from the Brassica oleracea group.

I'm partial to the uncooked cranberry sauce where you fling an orange and a bag of cranberries into the Cuisinart, and add sugar to taste. But a beautifully simple way to get cranberries on the table is at dessert, in a "pie" that's really a cake. If you're having pumpkin pie, which you probably are, the cranberry cake makes a nice complementary dessert.

As for the cruciferous vegetable, it could be kale or broccoli or cauliflower (or collards or kohlrabi or cabbage). But some years back, I happened on a fine recipe for hashed brussels sprouts, the kind of preparation that is lightning fast and will make a convert out of almost any professed brussels sprouts hater.

The recipes follow - because although I've been making them for years, I've never passed them along to you.

What do you make, year in and year out?

Nantucket Cranberry Pie/Cake (adapted from Laurie Colwin's More Home Cooking)
2 cups chopped cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional; I never use them)
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup melted butter (1 and a half sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 t. vanilla extract (or almond, or ½ t. of Fiori Di Sicilia)
Gently mix the cranberries, walnuts and ½ cup sugar and spread in a 10-inch pie plate (without a crust - this is really a cake, not a pie).

Mix eggs, melted butter, 1 cup sugar, flour, and vanilla extract. Stir till smooth.

Pour over cranberry walnut mixture and bake for 40 minutes at 350 F.

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

Hashed Brussels Sprouts (adapted from the Union Square Cafe Cookbook)
1 lb Brussels sprouts
Juice of half a lemon
Zest of a lemon
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T. poppy seeds
1/4 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Cut the stems off the sprouts and halve them lengthwise. Thinly slice each half and toss them in a big bowl with the lemon juice.

Heat the olive oil in a big skillet (or wok) over high heat, almost to the smoking point. Carefully add the sprouts, garlic and poppy seeds to the hot pan (it'll pop and splash - don't get burned) and stir for about 3 minutes, until the sprouts are bright green and barely crunchy. Add the wine, and salt and pepper to taste, reduce heat to low and cook for another minute. Transfer to a bowl, toss in the lemon zest, and serve.

19 November 2010

Many Things

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings."

I have ever so many things to talk about, but work and life and a root canal have all gotten in the way. Not to mention the two different volunteer gigs which are eating away at my spare time.  And let's not forget Thanksgiving to be thought about (and traveled for, to a place where the sea will be icy cold and the bacon will not have wings).

And ideas for Christmas are sloshing around in my head.

I can't wait to climb into bed with my friend Vicodin.

Happy weekend, all.

16 November 2010

Ice Cream Before Noon

What kind of a birthday party do you want?

A pajama party!

Since there was no way in hell that we were having a slumber party, we decided that the best way to incorporate pajamas into the party would be to have a breakfast party. We brainstormed ideas and settled on waffles at 9:00 on a Sunday morning.

Pajamas were worn, many waffles were made, three pounds of bacon was eaten, much drama ensued, one conference was held in a closet, several children were dragged out from under a bed, one small boy came downstairs and told me very seriously that "bad words are being said upstairs", umpteen cardboard blueberries were stuck onto a three foot square waffle poster, Twister was played, and there was cake.

But oh, it wasn't just any cake: it was ice cream waffle cake, four chocolate waffles, with chocolate and vanilla ice cream in between - for a total of seven layers for a seventh birthday.

We have a big square waffle maker, so we made big square waffles, and then used a 9" cake pan as a template to cut clean circles out of the squares. Then we lined three 9" cake pans with parchment and filled them with softened ice cream. Those went into the freezer for a while, so they were firm enough to handle and peel. Last, we stacked (and photographed in series). The chocolate waffles were tasty and not too sweet, a good foil for the ice cream, though chewier than I thought they'd be. (I thought the waffles would soften up like the gooey cake on the outside of an ice cream sandwich.)

And for party favors, which I wouldn't mind doing away with altogether, but that's another post, my sister Pinky had a genius idea: waffle weave long johns on sale at Target. Pajamas! Waffles! All-in-one!

After everyone was gone and the house was sort of cleaned up and the girl was intently coloring, I took to my bed and had a nice nap, my version of Hide 'N Sleep, which never did get played at the party. What would the rules have been anyway?

12 November 2010

Step This Way

I was skimming through the paid obits in the Times, as one does, when a name popped out at me. Not the whole name, just the none-too-common last name. I then read the whole of that obit, and when I got to the name of the dead woman's dead husband, it fell into place: my stepsister's stepmother!

Mind you, I'd never met the woman.

But my father was his second wife's fourth husband, and her first husband had been the dead woman's dead husband. And my stepmother had two kids by said man (and another by her second husband, though that's kind of irelevant to this tale) and those kids are my stepsiblings. So their father's subsequent wife would have been their stepmother, and are you confused yet?

Good. Because here's an even weirder thing. If my father had been married to someone else BEFORE he met my mother, and had kids with that (hypothetical) woman, my stepsister's stepmother would be my mother.

Kinship systems are complicated.

10 November 2010


Seven days old:

Seven years old:

Happy birthday to my favorite baby. Your hair is much better than it used to be!

(And yeah. She had cake for breakfast.)

09 November 2010

Cars and Pasta

A quote from my husband: I think if Jeep is going to name a car the Rubicon, they should have another called the Styx.

Many years ago, my (blogless) friend Karen told my husband - who liked to dabble under the hood of my little Ford, and who still likes to cook - that he should open a car repair shop with restaurant, and call it Carbonara.

A quote from my child: God is a piece of macaroni.

And speaking of which, yes, I did finally put the Flying Spaghetti Monster on my car, albeit a little crookedly:

08 November 2010

She goes where angels fear to tread

I'm so glad I drink my tea straight up, because this is an actual email I had to send out last week:

Yo! Buy your own milk!

Someone opened a brand new unopened bottle of milk from Ronnybrook – and drank some. This was someone else’s milk! If you didn’t buy it, if you didn’t put it in the fridge, it’s not yours!

Be nice.

Besides, the office provides FREE coffee, tea and sugar – because they aren’t perishable. Milk is your responsibility.

There are now eleventy-four containers of milk in the office fridge. Do they behave better in your office?

05 November 2010

Look At The Heart

She was standing next to me, her hand just above above mine on the subway pole. If it hadn't been for the band-aid, I wouldn’t have looked twice at her hand. But I did. Just to the right, partly covered by the tape, there was a white scar, an X. And to the right of that? A faint white heart at the base of her thumb.

I looked at her wrist – another scar, just a thin white line. I wondered what was under the band-aid – more cutting? An O, perhaps?

Because what else would it be?

Still, the heart threw me. I love you, I harm you. I hate me, I love me. A hug, a kiss, a heart - carved right into the flesh.

Every day, there are stories, as long as you know where to look.

03 November 2010

My Cowgirl

Someone in my office gave her the Stetson last year; from it sprang a Halloween costume. We found cowboy boots at a consignment shop, and the black & white western-styled flannel shirt at Target. Jeans, bandanna, white undershirt, and horse were already on hand. The only thing I had to do was make the chaps; I cobbled them together using ultrasuede scrounged from my local costume shop and by looking at pictures on the intertubes. The only thing missing is a pair of six-shooters. They are more trouble to come by than they were worth.

At some point during the day, before we went out trick or treating, she called up and tried to borrow her grandmother's neighbor's horse. Grandma was supposed to tie the horse to the car, and drive it over to our house. Or something. Needless to say, that didn't happen.

Hope you had a nice Halloween and that all of the remaining candy has been distributed to the vultures in your office.

02 November 2010

Learning English Is Hard

Of course, to my chagrin, the errant apostrophe is alive and kicking in my house: the second grader has frequent lapses in which she turns plurals into possessives. To be fair, she’s also confused about which and witch, and your and you’re. But the extra apostrophe?

She had some homework last week which involved reading a poem, identifying words in the poem which had either a short a vowel sound or a long a, and making a list of said words on the page.  Despite the fact that the poem was printed out, right there, so all she had to do was copy, she managed to turn faces into face’s, and apples into apple’s.

I need to nip this one in the bud, like right this very minute.

01 November 2010

Its Precision, It's Complexity

I stopped in my tracks at the top of the subway stairs. There, pasted to the wall, was a huge billboard, all black type on a white background. I looked at it. I looked again. There in the middle was an errant apostrophe.

But it's not just any errant apostrophe: it was placed there after the billboard went up, carefully hand-drawn, in ink. Someone decided that "its" needed to be "it's" - even though "its" is right and "it's" is wrong. Please to note, also, that the artist didn't add an apostrophe to the "its" before precision.

So - instead of correcting an apostrophe abuse, the artist created one. Is it ironic and perverse? Or idiotic and unknowing?

There are mysteries everywhere.