29 September 2011

Another Nightgown

Once upon a time, for years and years in fact, I slept naked. But shortly before I was due to give birth to the child who is now about to turn eight, it occurred to me that I might want to own a nightgown so that I wouldn't be freezing when up in the middle of the night with a nursing baby. So I bought a nightgown. I got a nice cotton nightgown from Hanna Andersson, with buttons down almost to the waist. It wasn't intended as a nursing gown, but it worked perfectly.

Eight years later, and some other nightgowns in the arsenal, because I have an occasional prudishness about sleeping naked when the child comes climbing in so often, the original nightgown is threadbare. The right elbow is worn through, there are pinpoint holes here and there, and the band of one cuff is about two-thirds off. It's time. So I bought a new one - almost the same, but longer, with different stripes. And I packed the old one and took it to Cape Cod, thinking instead of vacation underwear, it could be vacation nightgown, and I'd just leave it hanging on the line at the rented house.

The girl stopped me as I headed out with the clothes pins. "But Mama, you have to keep it!" She knows I bought it right before I had her, she knows I nursed her in it. She knows, and so I packed it again.

Maybe I'll bronze it.

27 September 2011

I'll Miss You, Dear.

The other day, an acquaintance died. Suddenly. At 63. I've not yet heard why.

I'd met him at my last job - he was the thoroughly idiosyncratic outside accountant. He'd come in, schmooze his way through the office, and return to his stunningly "oh-my-god-where-is-the-floor" messy office. A dear. He knew, within moments of our first meeting, that it was the wrong job for me. And he proceeded to call me, weekly, for the next year, to tell me about other jobs, until finally he told me about the job I have now - a place I've been for more than 15 years.

He was good people. From his disheveled perch in the accounting office, he informally brokered tickets and jobs. We'd talk from time to time - he let me know about other jobs (on a less frequent basis), he sent a present when my baby was born, and he called once to ask me where to have dinner on a second date. Like I would know?

But last I'd heard, he had a steady girlfriend.

And now he's gone.

Dear disheveled auditor, thank you. For finding me my job, for being your quirky self, for breathing fresh air into the stuffy world of accounting.


26 September 2011

Double Negatives

Yesterday, I managed to say "I don't have no money" without it being grammatically incorrect.

My husband had to do a double take - he thought that his lovely wife had uncharacteristically erred, until he thought it through all the way. I'd offered the girl "all the money in my wallet" to try a pickled mushroom. She countered with "you probably have no money", to which I replied "I don't have no money" - I knew there was something, I just didn't know how much.

Luckily, I didn't have to hand over what turned out to be $18, as she declined the mushroom altogether.

Would you eat a pickled mushroom on promise of something more than "no money", or would you need to know the dollar amount in advance?

23 September 2011

Flat Stanley

The first grade classes at our daughter's school do a Flat Stanley project every year. You know Flat Stanley, right? He's a kid who gets accidentally squished to two dimensions, which turns out to be sort of cool because he can slip under doors and travel in a mailing envelope. The school project has the kids make their own Flat Stanley, write a letter to someone, and mail their Stanley off on an adventure.

Me being me, I suggested that the girlie send her Flat Stanley to a State Department friend of mine who was then in Ethiopia. So she did. We got some wonderful emails and photos from Ethiopia:

Sorry for the many delays of Flat Stanley - he has had some adventures, though. We went to a track meet at the International Community School in Addis Ababa. Stanley had a tour of the school, looked at a Tukle, the traditional round Ethiopian house, and hung out in a garden, including a banana tree. The running track here is the best running rack in East Africa, and is a track where the Ethiopian Olympic team frequently trains.

Then they went to Sabahar, a silk weaving place started by friends of ours, where local extract and weave silk at fair wages. Stanley got to hang out with some silk worms and mulberry leaves - the silk worms seemed happy with Stanley and did take any bites out of him - they only eat the leaves!

Stanley got lost for a little while - we had hoped to send him home during a recent visit back to the US, but he got lost in our stuff, so instead we took him traveling some more with us in Ethiopia. A couple weeks ago, we traveled to Axum and Lalibela, Ethiopia. Axum has these huge obelisks called "stellae" that were built over 600 years ago. The churches at Lalibela are often thought to be the 8th wonder of the world - buildings carved out of rock since the 1200's. Look these places up - they're pretty cool.

We may get some other traveling with Stanley done - then finally Stanley should be ready to head home - sorry it's long after the end of the school year, but I hope you enjoy seeing some of his travels!

Stanley didn't come home. And a year went by, and the girlie was now a second grader, and she saw all the Flat Stanleys go up on the bulletin boards in the first grade hallway, and she got teary. Where's my Flat Stanley? Oh, out having adventures, I said, he'll be home one day.

And then Maternal Dementia posted about their Flat Stanley going missing, and I felt better. Except that she was able to clone theirs, with the full acquiescence of her child, because Stanley had been lost In Their Very House, so I didn't really feel better. But I knew in my heart of hearts that Stanley was going to turn up.

And you know what? Stanley just came home, after 18 months of international travel. I do believe he's the best traveled Stanley ever sent out from that school - having gone to Virginia, then Ethiopia, then Pennsylvania, then back to Ethiopia, and then to New Jersey, and now back to New York. He's just exhausted, and terribly thin, but we're all so pleased to have him back. I think he'll stay home for a while.

But we're definitely going to have to fatten him up. Luckily, there's an Ethiopian restaurant in the next town. He'll probably like that.

21 September 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Birthday

Today would have been my mother's 76th birthday. She dearly loved the beach, the ocean, and when we were up at the Cape, I gathered pebbles and wrote her name on an unsullied stretch of smoothly packed sand. I imagine that it pleased her.

20 September 2011

Tuesday Parentexting

In a fit of optimism, because we've never tried to communicate this way, I texted my 76 year old father when we arrived in Newport a few weeks ago. (I knew he was in a meeting, and didn't want to interrupt with a phone call.)

He answered me 16 days later.

I think maybe texting isn't going to be the way.

P.S. Mental P Mama posts parentexts every Tuesday. But hers are with her kids, not her older parents!

19 September 2011

True Confessions

Don't ask me why, but I was reading Town & Country not too long ago - fluff, you know, upper crust fluff - it was in the waiting room where I was getting a mammogram. I was distinctly amused to find in it an article* about stealing soap from hotels, with the subhead What is it about hotel soaps that inspires such avarice among even the most sensible of people? I mean, really, did you think that the readers of Town & Country would bother to pilfer the amenities?

I confess. I always take the soap. And the shampoo and conditioner and lotion. And sometimes the shower caps. It's like a little souvenir. And occasionally, if it's a swank hotel, it's a really nice little souvenir. Of late, I've been using conditioner from the Del Coronado - I open the bottle and the citrusy-coconuty scent wafts me back to San Diego. And I'm at the tail end of a bottle of Bulgari body lotion from the Four Seasons in New York - I slather it on my legs and think wistfully about the big suite we hung out in for my mother-in-law's birthday. Yeah, sometimes you get something truly indifferent, but the seven year old doesn't care what her conditioner smells like.

I don't travel enough for my soap acquisitions to make much of a difference. But my father? He travels all the time. And he takes the soap too. (I guess it runs in the family.) And because he travels so much, it starts to accumulate, so when I go to visit, I steal his pilfered soap from him. It's getting complicated, right?

But here's the true confession, the one I can't believe I'm about to share. I take all of the little bottles of shampoo, and I pour them all into one big one. It's some crazy Yankee frugality mixed with a bit of stick-it-to-the-man.

I can't remember the last time I bought shampoo.

*I'd link to the article, but I can't find it anywhere; Town & Country doesn't seem to have entered the digital age. USA Today summarized it, though.

16 September 2011

Shoe Friday - Vintage

There were always dress-up shoes at Granny's house. Somewhere, there are pictures of me in these very shoes, which came home with us one day. They almost fit the seven year old, though they're a size 7AAA. I've no idea whose they were. My mother? My grandmother? A lady with a delicate, small foot.

14 September 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Spiderweb

(Don't embiggen the picture, it's not a very good picture, because I took it outside at night with my cellphone. But as we were sitting on the deck eating dinner one night, the outdoor light with the motion-sensor came on, for reasons unknown, and bang, the spiderweb was all lit up. If the light hadn't turned on just like that, we'd have missed the spiderweb. And it was huge, and its spider was in the middle of it, and I didn't even think to go looking for the actual camera, not that it's all that much better than the cellphone camera, because what if, I don't know, something happened and I missed it?)

13 September 2011

A Little Charity, and a Rant about Scent

You may recall my post-Blogher post, in which I mentioned that P&G handed out no swag, but instead promised to mail a box to your house. Said box arrived last week, full of full-sized products to try. Lots of the things in the box were products that I've no interest in trying (washing machine cleaner) or just don't need (tampons and pads) or don't ever use (mascara).

Happily, though, the box came the day before our local fire department was doing a supplies drive for people upstate affected by Hurricane Irene. So I repacked about half of the things and delivered Tampax tampons, Always pads, Olay facial cloths, two Cover Girl mascaras, Ivory body wash, two kinds of Febreze, the aforementioned Tide washing machine cleaner, Downy Unstopables, and some Pantene Curly "damage repair ampoules" down to the collection point at the farmer's market.

So, P&G, thank you for helping me to help some other people. Someone whose basement had two feet of water in it is likely to appreciate the Febreze. And someone whose whole house washed away may well be in need of the pick-me-up provided by a new mascara.

<rant>Okay, okay. I have to poke it with a stick. Downy Unstopables? 1) They spelled it wrong; it should be "unstoppable". 2) Why? Why would you want to dump little pellets in the wash, to add fragrance to your laundry, fragrance that according to the promo language on the Downy website is supposed "to keep active wear, towels, and other fabrics smelling “wow” right up until the next wash." Huh? It's such a persistent odor embedded in your clothing that it lasts through the wash, through the dryer cycle, into the closet, and the whole while you're wearing that shirt? What the hell is in it? Why would I want to do that to my clothes and my nose? To be fair, I'm probably the wrong person for it - I never use air fresheners because I'd rather smell a fart for the few minutes before it dissipates than have possibly dangerous artificial chemicals wafting through my house, I use unscented deodorant, and the laundry detergent I use is so lightly scented that there's no odor left if I run the load through the dryer. But still. Downy presumably saw a need. Why?</rant>

12 September 2011

Tales of the First Week of Third Grade

Fine, sure, okay, whatever.

School started last Tuesday. It was pouring rain, so there was no "first day of school" photo. Also, since I am a slacker mom, I don't think I've taken a "first day of school" picture since kindergarten, which was actually THE first day of school. For the record, she was wearing a purple/turquoise sundress dress from Target ($4, on sale, can't beat that with a stick) with a pale aqua sweater and similarly colored leggings. And silver sandals. The girl has some style.

On Thursday, at breakfast, that is, after two days of school, she anxiously confessed that she was worried about "international" tests in April. Oy. I'm a little irritated that the school, or the teacher, is already winding these kids up about mandated standardized tests. Not fair. Wrong.

We are, and this really has nothing to do with school, knee-deep in D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. I am enjoying reading it to her as much as she is in having it read to her - "please, Mama, just another bit". I'm liking the Greek myth refresher I'm getting; she's captivated by the myriad interleaving stories. The other night, I went in to shoo her into bed - I had to clear something off of her bed so she could climb in, and so dropped a pile of something on the chair, on which all the Groovy Girls were sitting, in a row. "No, Mama, that's the council of goddesses." Okay, then.

The pernicious book log is back. I am working up to a conversation with the teacher, after "back to school" night next week. It's one thing to sign her homework book and certify that she read for at least 30 minutes. But the nitpicking log too? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

And so begins third grade. In ten years, we'll be packing her off to college.

09 September 2011

Tweet Beet

Two things happened last week while I was poking around the internet looking for news of the tiny valley in the Catskills where my father has a house.

First, while I like farting around on Twitter, its utility as a news source really became clear as I found people tweeting information about roads closed, bridges out, alternative routes, and utility services. I mean, it's one thing to read tweets about the revolution in Egypt or the assassination of Bin Laden - important, yes, but not as tangible as something happening in a place where you know the people, the roads, the streams, the landmarks, and where all the phone lines seem to be out.

Second, I found a recipe for a beet pie. I know, who'd a thunk it? Beets? In a pie? A dessert pie? It was on the blog of a person who has a house up there in the Catskills, who I'd found via Twitter. (I know. You were wondering how these two things were connected. Everything is connected to everything, if you just know where to look.) I was intrigued enough to make it, especially because I had beets in the fridge from the CSA. What I really wanted to do was make it for the assembled friends and family up on the Cape, and not tell anyone what was in it, but that didn't really happen; there were too many people in the kitchen. (Let's digress again - have you ever made the mock apple pie recipe on the back of the Ritz Cracker box? It's worth doing once, because it really does fool people.) Because I assumed (correctly) that the rental house kitchen wasn't going to be well-equipped, I prepped all the dry ingredients into a plastic bag, and got my husband to make a pie crust, and brought everything else that we needed. And, you know? It was really good. It's almost more like a mince pie, what with the dried fruit and nuts. The original recipe called for cooking the beets; I somehow failed to notice that step and used raw grated beets - it came out just fine. Also, I used the maple syrup called for, but because there was no detectable maple flavor, I might try it with Lyle's Golden Syrup next time. Here's the recipe, as adapted from Edible/Usable.

Beet Pie

  • 1 single unbaked pie shell (9 inches)
  • 2 medium beets
  • 1/2 cup grade B maple syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 t white vinegar (I used balsamic, because it's all we had)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1/2 t ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 T flour
  • 3/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel beets, and grate on a box grater - measure out one cup of grated beets (you may have a bit leftover).
  3. Beat the eggs gently in a bowl. Add all other ingredients except walnuts and raisins, and mix well. Add beets, walnuts and raisins (or dried cranberries) and stir until blended. Pour into the unbaked pie shell.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes or until pie is firm. Cool on a rack and serve still warm with vanilla ice cream.

08 September 2011

ConAgra Kerfuffle

You hear about the latest blogger / PR fiasco? It was in yesterday's Times, headlined Bloggers Don’t Follow the Script, to ConAgra’s Chagrin, among other places. Basically, Marie Callendar's PR agency invited a bunch of food bloggers to a talk and a dinner with a chef, and instead of chef-made food, they served up some frozen lasagne. Oh, and there were hidden cameras.

It reminded me a little of the time that I was invited to a cooking class/cocktail party with Cat Cora - there was mention made of a "secret ingredient" but not until we got there did we know that the secret ingredient was margarine. Yuck. At least Cat Cora was cooking with it, not that the food was any good. But she gets brownie points for making the best of it - instead of serving up frozen lasagne and pretending it was homemade.

Here's the thing. If the PR agency had been up front about the frozen lasagne, would anyone have accepted the invitation? I doubt it. They were trying for the bait and switch, dangling a four course meal and a celebrity chef in front of bloggers who, from the accounts I've seen, don't eat frozen food, avoid food additives they can't pronounce, read labels and know how to cook.

I've said it before: eat real food, people. If we don't buy the overly processed food in the frozen section of the supermarket, they'll stop making it. Right? Sigh. It's a sad battle to be fighting.

07 September 2011

Container Synchronicity

The Box OfficeDriving home the other day, we passed a structure right near the highway in Providence, an eye-catching cobalt blue building made of shipping containers. It was intriguing enough that I looked it up - it turns out to be a little office building, called The Box Office. Totally cunning, and according to NPR, it was about half the cost to build as an ordinary building would have been.

Then, in today's paper, in one of those moments of synchronicity, there was an obituary for - wait for it - the inventor of the shipping container, one Keith Tantlinger. Given that yesterday I was rooting around on the intertubes trying to find the containerized office building, I felt compelled to read the obituary, all 1220 words of it. It was worth it, for this sentence alone:

Tens of millions of shipping containers roam the world today, filled with lumber, coal and hay, not to mention computers and cars.

Tell me, are you not now imagining a container bursting at the seams with hay, while you sing Low Bridge, Everybody Down?

06 September 2011

Where Have I Been?

Where have I been?

Excellent question.

Short answer: in the car

and at the beach.

Longer answer:

The girl and I went to Newport for a night, and then to Cape Cod for two. My sister-in-law rented a house on the Cape for the entire week – and invited various family and friends to come share in its ocean views and easy beach access. Of course, we could only spend two days there, sob, because school started today – which meant leaving the Cape on Labor Day, thank you very much and yes it took us umpteen hours to get home yesterday, with so much traffic that I was able to take pictures in the car and track my progress via Foursquare. The beach was fabulously glorious, but next time, we really have to go for a week so as to amortize that horrific traffic thing. That, or win the lottery and fly in by private plane.

Still Life #1 –

Still Life #2 –

Someday maybe the kid will learn how to take off her clothes and not leave them in the middle of the floor. On the other hand, I loved the inadvertent whimsy of the piles so much that I had to take pictures. Then, of course, I had to sweep up the sand.

But, school! Huzzah, hooray! The girl was completely excited and a little nervous about the first day of third grade, and I failed to take a picture because, well, it was raining. She was totally color coordinated in purple and blue, and thrilled to be in a class with the boy she’s been planning to marry since PRESCHOOL. Thrilled to the point of blushing. Gah.

I can't believe it's September already.