31 December 2010

Happy New Year!

This reminds me a little of a supermarket display I saw in New Mexico once. In that case it was lard: in the one pound box, the two pound box, the five pound tub, the 10 pound tub and the 25 pound pail.

Here we have champagne for a taste, for one, for two, for a party.

I hope your new year is bubbly.

29 December 2010


Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday dear Magpie,
Happy birthday to me.

I didn't get everything done.

I stalled a third of the way into Gödel, Escher, Bach. I looked at the patchwork baby quilt, and bought the rotary cutter that I needed, but I've not done anything more. I crumpled halfway through Couch to 5K because it got too hot. The ukulele mocks me. The printed blog books frustrate me. We didn't make it to DC.


The sweater is approaching completion - I've half a sleeve and the plackets to go. I cleaned out my closet. We went to the Canadian Maritimes. We had three potluck parties, and will do more. And the croissants were divine.

But now I am Fifty,
I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be fifty now for ever and ever.

Continuing my charitable giving impulse, I created two projects on Crowdrise - one for my workplace (a non-profit where I've worked for the past 14 and a half years), and one for my daughter's daycare (also a non-profit, and where I'm on the board). I then sent out a long email to a lot of people, which began as follows:

If you’re related to me, or grew up with me, or went to school with me, or have been otherwise paying attention, you probably know that I’m turning fifty next week. Because it’s such a tricky time of the year, what with Christmas and New Year’s and school vacations, I’m not having a real party (and anyway, I don’t need any presents and my birthday falls on a Wednesday). If you, however, were thinking of marking this auspicious event somehow, perhaps you’d like to make a charitable donation to one of two charities that are near and dear to me.

I'm pleased that, thus far, there have been more than $1,000 worth of contributions to the two organizations (and that's not counting any checks that may have been mailed directly to either charity).

Thank you all for cheering me along this year, for being a part of my first half century, and for celebrating with me today.

27 December 2010

Doing for Others

I'm very pleased and kind of tickled that my post about charitable giving with children got picked up by BlogHer. If you missed it here the first time, go check it out on the BlogHer site.

And if you need an idea for a lovely, inexpensive way to help feed the hungry, read my friend's Cookie Project post. Maybe you and your kids could organize an Awesome Cookie Project for Valentine's Day.

25 December 2010

24 December 2010

Visions of Sugarplums

Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the house
Lots of creatures were stirring,

and Barbie was riding round and round under the tree, perched regally in her flatbed car, without pants.

A Peal for Peel with Appeal

In the event that someone gives you a box of grapefruit for Christmas, think about saving the rinds. Candied grapefruit rind, or peel, is easy to make, and kind of wonderful. It's like turning a sow's ear into a silk purse, trash to treasure.

I had some supermarket grapefruits earlier in the month - after I'd eaten a half for breakfast, I tucked the shell into the fridge in a plastic bag. Once I had four halves, I was ready to go. Basically, you boil the quartered rinds in plain water, twice, to reduce the bitterness and soften up the peel. Then you boil them again in a simple syrup (half sugar, half water). Finally, you cut the quarters into strips, let them dry overnight, and toss them in sugar. I use the recipe from The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook, though I tend to cut my strips fatter than 1/8" - mine end up more like grapefruit gumdrop batons (thinner strips would be drier and chewier). Also, I find they work better if you cut the strips before drying them overnight.

If you're energetic, and in need of little house presents for all the holiday parties you're traipsing off to, you bag them up and hand them out.

If you're really energetic, you can dip them in chocolate, but I prefer my fruit straight up.

And if you're a little bit crazy, you save the excess sugar that you tossed the peel in because you hate to waste it and you use it in shortbread.

Happy cooking!

22 December 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Angel

(10 points if you can identify the location.)

20 December 2010

Make Glad the Heart of Childhood

We drove into the city yesterday, to take two seven year olds to see Stomp. Somehow, even though it's been playing in the same place for sixteen years (!), we grown-ups had never seen it either. It was a whole lot of fun - good-natured, energetic, boisterous, witty and playful - and it was kind of perfect for a Sunday afternoon. Besides, someone tap dances on bubble wrap - don't you always do that? I was tap dancing on bubble wrap as I worked my way through the presents I was wrapping the other day; it was all over the cellar floor.

On the way into town, I had the iPod with all-Christmas-all-the-time going, because you know, it's almost Christmas. At one point, Mir asked me to put on Santa Baby. Her friend said "what's that?", to which Mir replied "it's a song by Catwoman". Child has her cultural references down pat. Later on, she confided to her friend "the woman in the song thinks Santa is her rich boyfriend". I love eavesdropping on those backseat conversations, though this one devolved into "Santa Claus doesn't exist" - "yes, he does" - "no, he doesn't". Eventually I told them that they'd have to agree to disagree. I don't know if they got that, but they did move on from the Santa discussion.

I've wrapped all of the presents, except those from Santa (one of which I still have to buy). We laid in special paper for the Santa presents - but I've been wobbling about whether Daddy/Husband's presents should be in Santa paper or not. I mean, we'll go to bed on Christmas Eve with a few stray presents under the tree, so everything that'll be there the next morning will be from Santa, right? I think I just answered my own question.

Yes, dears, there is a Santa Claus.

16 December 2010


My mother did Christmas right. The house was decorated just so, a garland at the door, swags over the fireplaces, the golden rope across a mirror. A little tree stood in the dining room window, the big tree, always a balsam fir, held court in the corner of the living room. Red votives marched along the mantle, red ribbons bedecked the chandelier. Tinsel wasn't allowed. Wrapping paper and ribbons had to be red, white, green, silver or gold. With a few exceptions, the only ornaments on the trees were antique glass balls.

Every year, I'd ask if I could decorate my room - "a little tree, just for me? a wreath?". No. Christmas stayed downstairs.

I bought a tinsel tree some years ago - I can't remember if it was before or after the child was born, or where we were living at the time. But, it was on sale dirt cheap at ABC Carpet (where nothing is ever less than expensive, much less $13 for a four foot high tree) and it had a certain kitschy charm. I carried it home on the train, shedding bits of gold tinsel with every jostle.

My husband hates it; its shedding puts it in the category of "fucking glitter". My mother hated it; it was far too déclassé. It makes me perversely happy, and my daughter loves it with the passion you'd expect of a seven year old girl.

Last year, we let her have it in her room. I gave her a shoebox of ornaments to call her own - ones she's made, some weird old plastic bells, a Mexican tin heart, the fabric angel her uncle gave her the year she was born, a ceramic chef - found an orphan string of lights, and let her go to town. It's her tree now.

Because some Christmas traditions are made to be broken.

15 December 2010

Wordful Christmas Cookies for Wednesday

Hiding in the back pantry at the party the other night, so as not to offend the sensibilities of those who might be offended, were some Christmas cookies that my sister-in-law made.  (Avert your eyes if you're liable to be offended.)

Happily, an upstanding young man for whom I babysat a long time ago took some lovely pictures. We're hoping his mother hasn't seen them.  The pictures, that is. We know she didn't see the cookies.

14 December 2010

How to Play Santa

It's always fun to play Santa Claus, but it's really fun to do it unexpectedly.

I was offered the opportunity, as (read more)

13 December 2010


It's that time of the year. I work for a non-profit; our end of year appeal letter just went in the mail. I'm on the board of another; I had to write that letter. At the same time, I'm bombarded at home with mail solicitations from charities of all stripes, ones we've supported in the past, and ones we haven't.

This year, I decided to do something a little different. Usually, I just sit down and write checks as I see fit, with little or no input from my family. But I thought it was time to involve the seven year old in the charitable giving, to try to get her to think about something other than buying more things for her.

We keep a container of pennies in her homework caddy, because they are easy to manipulate when discussing how 5 + 5 = 10, but 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 also equals 10 (and so forth). I rounded up all the rest of the pennies I could muster - and counted them: there were 79. The pennies were to be the stand-in for the donations - so that we could allocate our giving budget in a visual fashion.

I then took a stack of index cards, and wrote down the names of a bunch of charities that we've supported before and that I felt pre-disposed to, pre-selected, if you will. We all sat down at the table, and I talked through each of the organizations: this is where I work, this is where you swim, this is where you went to day care, these guys help feed hungry people, this place helps women internationally, this one vaccinates poor children around the world, and so on.

I then started the allocation by placing 10 pennies on the card for my college. The seven year old then made all of the rest of the allocations - 2 pennies here, 5 there, 6 for that one, 10 for another - until most of the pennies were accounted for. At that point, I asked her to talk about what she thought was missing, and as a result, we added in the library in our town, as well as the library in Granny's town. My husband asked that Greenpeace be included, and we were done.

I'm not sure that she completely understood what we were doing, but she did get a chance to voice her desires and move pennies from one organization to others, rebalancing our giving portfolio. Because we weren't working with real money - the pennies could just as well have been buttons - it was perhaps too cerebral for her.

On a somewhat related tangent, there's a YouTube video that's been making the rounds in my arts-related non-profit world, called Explaining an Arts NonProfit. It is hysterically funny and painfully sad as it points out the disjunct between what an arts organization needs, and what the public understands.

After watching it, I added the Octarium to my list - not least because hardly any of our budget had been allocated to arts and culture.

I was syndicated on BlogHer.com

10 December 2010

Push My Buttons

We were perusing the aisles at the Container Store the other day, and landed transfixed in front of a display of magnets in all shapes and sizes. [I am always looking for really good strong magnets so all the crap on the refrigerator doesn't keep falling off.] I looked at these earnest reminder buttons, and said to my husband "what it's missing is a WTF". The stock person behind me howled with laughter.

I mean, don't you need a WTF magnet?

You know that line from Field of Dreams?

If you build it, he will come.
If you think it, you will find it, at Zazzle.

< rant > And no, no one paid me for blathering about buttons. Did I need to say that? I totally understand disclosing relationships - but do I also have to disclose that there is NO relationship if I talk about any kind of product at all? If I tell you that I'm sitting here wearing Danskos, is that a product placement? No, of course not. I bought the damned shoes. I can't even remember where. And quoting a 1989 movie? Sometimes this stuff makes my head hurt. You know the difference between editorial, advertorial, and advertising, right? You know that I'll tell you if someone pays me a huge amount of money to write a post, right? Okay. I'm glad to have that off my chest. < /rant >

09 December 2010

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Catalogues received 12/6/2010

LL Bean (holiday 2010)
Hearthsong (ditto)
Hickory Farms (ditto)
Patagonia (holiday favorites 2010)
REI (where gift giving meets woohoo!)
Bluestone Perennials (spring 2011)

Ack. Much as I love the anticipation of spring engendered by garden catalogues arriving in mid-winter, I do not appreciate them in early December, when I still haven't cut down the buddleia, much less put up the Christmas tree.

07 December 2010


This kid? This kid is going to be a lawyer. She wrote the contract on the left a few days ago, when Daddy put her to bed without dessert (only because it was late, not out of some sort of punishment). She called him on it the next morning, you can be sure. I believe the scribble at the bottom is a drawing of a bowl of sorbet - which, incidentally, she spelled right while getting breakfast wrong.

The right hand contract was drawn up last night. I finally got a new phone - which is a long complicated story about MobileMe and obsolescence and my first generation iPhone that refused to even think about letting me have a calendar anymore - and the girl decided that she wanted my old one so she could play Plants vs. Zombies "because I just got two more plants, Mommy".

I did take a moment to point out to her that neither was a valid contract because of the lack of consideration - never to early to learn the basics of contract law, eh?  On the other hand, all she's asking for now is a discussion. If we get to the next step, we could agree that she could have the old phone (which will work like an iPod Touch because it's been deactivated) in return for

  • Cleaning up her room
  • Setting the table
  • Sleeping in her own bed
  • Eating vegetables

06 December 2010

Love Me To Used Well You

I am generally too literal minded for poetry. Oh, once in a while, something strikes my fancy or hits my synapses just right, but generally speaking, I skip over the poems in the New Yorker.

Recently, though, they printed a poem which totally charmed me with its seductively witty and spare construction.

When I googled it, to see if I could find it for you, dear readers, I discovered that the poet - Ciara Shuttleworth - had tossed it off in her graduate Prosody and Form class, during class. Furthermore, it's a thoroughly rigid poem form, here wrought with great precision and economy.

Part of me wants to write a six word sestina myself, for the intellectual exercise. Most of me is happy to know that someone else has done it with such aplomb.

03 December 2010

Down With Dust Jackets!

Right now, the book that I'm reading to the girl each night is called Carbonel, and it's about a magic cat and a witch and a broom that can fly and a girl and her friend. It's pretty terrific and you should run out and get it for your kid (or yourself), but that's almost besides the point.

One of the reasons I like it so much has nothing to do with the words, and everything to do with the binding - that is, the physical object. It's hardcover, quarter-bound with red cotton on the spine and full color panels, and it came with no dust jacket. No dust jacket!

I don't know about you, but I hate dust jackets on kids' books. Most kids aren't dexterous enough to read books with their dust jackets on, so you have to take them off and store them, which is just a pain in the ass.  And then when you pass the book along to your nieces or nephews or neighbors, you have to remember to find the dust jacket lest you end up owning a dust jacket without its book.  Of course, I guess you could toss them, but I am categorically unable to do so, and so I have a couple of boxes of dust jackets kicking around in an upstairs closet.

And what's the point of a dust jacket in this modern age anyway? To make the book more attractive? It's wholly possible to print lovely covers, just like on Carbonel. To provide a blurb on the inside front jacket flap? No kid is going to read that. So there's space for an author bio and photo on the inside back flap? They usually get printed in the book anyway, in case the dust jacket disappears.

What do you think? Thumbs up or down for dust jackets on books for kids? I say we start a revolution.

02 December 2010

PSA: What To Do About A Not-Okay Touch

After last week's Zygote Nephew post, you know, the one about, um, masturbation, I got an email from someone who preferred not to comment. I could have asked her to add the comment anonymously, or I could have done that for her, but I think it's a point that needs to be made and therefore deserves the spotlight of a post.

Good call on the zygote conversation. But as the mom of a child who was sexually molested, I'd say that when you have those conversations about what's an okay touch and what's not, it's important to realize that knowing something isn't okay doesn't mean a kid knows what to do to stop it. You need to say, "What would you do if someone touched you in your private places?" and "What could you do if the person didn't stop?"

The key line is something like this: "No big kid or grown-up needs you to keep a secret from your mommy. If someone touches you and then tells you not to tell, that is a SURE SIGN that you need to let me know." It was shortly after my annual conversation about private parts being private, in which I (for reasons unknown) emphasized the need to come to me *especially* if she was scared, that brought our unhappy situation to light. It's not that I hadn't talked to my daughter before, but that I hadn't discussed how to handle the situation if it arose.

Thank you, anonymous non-commenter. I'll be having this conversation with my seven year old, soon.

Also, if you're having these conversations with your kids, and would like the support of a book that the child will read over and over again, It's NOT the Stork, the book that prompted this in the first place, does talk about "okay" and "not okay" touches.

01 December 2010

Eccentric Eclectic Xmas List

Since *everyone* does a holiday round-up about now, I figured I'd get in on the act with a list of some things that people I know might be getting for Christmas:

1) Wandering around Portland last weekend, we stopped into a shop selling flavored balsamic vinegar. It is oddly delicious, and I imagine that the espresso balsamic drizzled over a pork chop will be divine.

2) The girl child got an American Girl doll for her birthday, but it only came with the clothes on its back. Instead of spending an arm and a leg on actual American Girl pajamas, I found some on Etsy - they're cute, they were cheap, and the money goes to a person instead of to Mattel. There are lots of people selling doll clothes on Etsy - just search for 18" doll clothes if you need some.

3) My very wonderful friend Very Mary makes very charming necklaces, personalized to order. She wraps them beautifully, and her handwriting on the package is just splendid.

4) I've been eyeing Happy Tape forever; I finally bought some to wrap with and some to give away.

5) Somehow, we ended up with two copies of The Magic Pudding because I'd bought one and squirreled it away a long time ago, and then my sister-in-law gave a copy to my daughter for her birthday last month. So the original copy is now destined for another child - that's not re-gifting, is it? Incidentally, if you don't know about the New York Review Children’s Collection, you might want to buy one of each.

6) I had a credit for a dozen free note cards at Shutterfly, so I had some printed using an image from my decay blog.

7) As soon as I saw the solar queen, I knew I needed one. Her purse is a solar cell! She waves in the sunlight!

8) It is impossible to buy anything for my father; he has everything. So, instead, I'm adopting him a golden eagle through the Delaware Valley Raptor Center. I could adopt a bald eagle instead, but the golden is BIGGER!

What's on your list?