28 March 2012

Letters from Inanimate Objects

The campaign continues. However, the other dolls are now writing to me to ask for a sister doll.

Details to note:

  • The youngest doll is "tired of being new".
  • The dolls consider themselves to be my children.
  • A new doll would be a sister for them.
  • A new doll would be a new doll for my daughter.

But if they're my children, doesn't that make them my daughter's siblings? Does that mean I have four children? Why doesn't Ivy call me "Mom"? And how can a doll be both a doll and a sister?

This kid, she slays me.

27 March 2012

Oh, The Drama

Another note delivered to my bedside table:

If you want me to be happy, let me get this one. If you want me to be sad, buy me the other. Well, how about I don't buy you anything? Then you can reside at that point of stasis between happy and sad.

26 March 2012

Math Work

I found this on my bedside table when I went upstairs last night. While I could pull apart the logic (if you'll have money leftover, why don't you ask for less than $60?) and I'm not interested in anyone, much less my eight year old, spending $85 on a bed and bedding for an American Girl doll (especially given the cluttered-pigsty condition of her room), I do appreciate that she showed her math work.

23 March 2012

To Have And To Hold

So different, this man
And this woman:
A stream flowing
In a field.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t believe in marriage. I resisted it for a long time, finally agreeing because my husband felt more strongly about getting married than I did about not being married. Besides, it’s a great excuse for a party and you get all sorts of weird presents.

And you know what? It’s nice. It’s nice to know that there’s someone there who’ll take care of you when you’re sick, and who does all the driving so you can knit in the car. It's great to have someone who understands just why those champagne glasses are so cringe-inducing and how weird it is that your aunt didn't even dry the decanter she must have found at a thrift shop. It's perfect if you marry someone who likes to polish the silver.

It’s good to divide up the tasks, because one of you will be better at loading the dishwasher, and the other will be better at small electrical repairs. Someone will be the tidy one and clean up after the cats, and someone will be much better at running the household finances. One of you will know lots of William Carlos Williams, and the other will know the latin names of perennials.

We’re different, he and I, just like I imagine Flutter and her Clay to be. But different is fine, different is good, so long as the pieces fit together, here, here and here, just so.

I’ve never met him, but her? The woman with the red lipstick and pale skin? She’s divine and he is, therefore, a sublimely lucky man.

Join me (and Emily) in wishing Flutter a big congratulations and all the love in the world.

22 March 2012


Yes. One learns something every day.

I spotted an ad on the subway this morning that, frankly, I thought was a joke on the order of the Saturday Night Live sketch for the Bassomatic and I took a picture so that I'd remember to go look it up.

Doesn't that sound like a joke? It isn't! Mannish water turns out to be a spicy Jamaican goat soup, possibly an aphrodisiac, often served to the groom on his wedding night, at least according to Wikipedia. The manufacturer's website has a recipe if you want to make it yourself (though it requires 2 pounds of goat head and belly), but they also sell an instant soup, and the aforementioned soup mix.

Back when I was in graduate school, I had a part time job in the back office of a big law firm. I had nothing to do with legal work; I helped with systems and office supplies and emergency planning and oversight of the cafeteria. That kind of thing. I rarely ate in the cafeteria, usually preferring an outside adventure, but one day I was in there and they were serving lamb curry for lunch. "Lamb curry", I said to the cook, "sounds good!" He leaned over and winked at me. "It's actually goat, but we don't want to tell the lawyers that." I may well have had a Drake's Coffee Cake out of the machine for lunch that day, but I loved that the cafeteria guys were pulling a fast one on the lawyers.

On the other hand, now that I know about Mannish Water, maybe the cafeteria was trying to rev up the lawyers so that they'd have lots of billable hours and the firm would do well and everyone, including the cooks, would get raises.


Whatever. I love New York City.

19 March 2012

Sweet Potatoes Make Spicy Chili

I used the last of the sweet potatoes today. The last of last season's CSA sweet potatoes, that is. Ones that had been down in the cellar in a paper bag since, oh, October? One of them was a little funky looking, but the rest were fine. For some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to make some kind of chili-ish stew-like thing, which is kind of crazy because it's like SPRING out today, but hey. So I kind of riffed on something I found on A Year Of Slow Cooking, and it was pretty good.

Sweet Potato Chili Riff

 2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chunked
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced1
2 cups of cooked chickpeas
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2/3 of a 28 ounce can of tomatoes2
1 T. chili powder
1 t. smoked paprika3
1 t. chipotle chili powder4
1/2 t. crushed dried green jalapeno5
1 t. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups water
2-3 T. smooth peanut butter.

Use a 4-5-6 quart slow cooker. Layer all the vegetables in the pot. Add the seasonings. Pour the water over the top. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until everything is nice and squishy. Turn off the cooker, and stir in the peanut butter. Serve over rice, with (or without) grated cheese and sour cream.

1 Well, I would have used fresh garlic but WE HAD NONE. I swear. How did that happen? We did have some granulated Penzey's garlic, so I sprinkled some in.
2 This is ridiculous. 2/3 of a can? It's what there was. Four of the (plum) tomatoes had been fished out for something else; it's what was left.
3 Smoked paprika is the bee's knees. It adds a smoky bacon-y-nessa to everything. Get some if you don't already have it. It's the magical secret ingredient.
     a Or should that be baconiness? I don't think so; too reminiscent of marchioness.
4 Funnily enough, this was in the original recipe. However, my jar of it was a gift from a co-worker's girlfriend; she made it herself with peppers that his brother grew out in the midwest.
5 It's a jar that's been in the cabinet for YEARS. I think it's regenerating or something, because I stick a bit in anything spicy and the jar is still half full

14 March 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Cat in Hat

Last time, it was cat-sized pink doll hats. This time, it's a pop-up blue top hat, bigger than the poor cat. Stay tuned, I'm sure there are more hats in this cat's future.

12 March 2012

Impossible Things Before Breakfast

My college reunion is later this year. For the "record book", we were asked for a 500 word essay. I thought I'd share mine with you.

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

All of these things are true:

Cauliflower drizzled with olive oil and roasted in a hot oven until crispy around the edges is a wonderful thing to eat.

My boss once called me a horrible Mensa bitch. I told him I was going to put it on my business cards.

I still read the newspaper, the printed inky broadsheet newspaper. Sometimes I even rip things out of it, like recipes which I will never make, or typos that make me cringe.

My eight year old falls asleep best when snuggled up close to me. Consequently, I tend to go to bed earlier than I might otherwise, but I get a lot of reading done.

I love belonging to a CSA. Having no choice in the produce we get each week is curiously freeing; we're forced to cook and eat things we'd probably never buy otherwise. I still hate butternut squash, but I can now make a great dinner out of eggplant or sweet potatoes.

As much as I sometimes wish I were the stay at home parent, I love my full-time job, and we're oddly lucky that a perverse circumstance has led to my husband being home to take care of our daughter. He makes her lunch, puts her on the bus, drives her to swimming, and manages her social calendar. I come home and drill her on the times tables.

My cats hate me, probably because I'm not home as often as the other two humans in the household. I'm trying to seduce them with a private stash of freeze dried tuna flakes.

Buying jeans is a thankless proposition, akin to shopping for bras and bathing suits.

There is a difference between believing something to be impossible, and believing in impossible things. The latter is preferable.

If you give me the choice of a lemon dessert or a chocolate one, I will take lemon.

My daughter thinks I am the most annoying mother in the world. She also thinks I'm the best mother she's ever had - but is clever enough to point out that I'm the only mother she's ever had.

I've never had a manicure. I think I'll keep it that way.

I can't imagine what it's going to cost in 2021 when my kid is ready for college.

One gift of a liberal arts education is "the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function" (F. Scott Fitzgerald).

The summer before I went to college, my mother and I made a quilt for me to use on my dorm bed. It's now on my daughter's bed, fraying a bit, needing repairs from time to time. I keep fixing it though, because it's our quilt, and my mother's too, and it wraps us in memory and thrift.

On the far side of fifty, I revel in idiosyncrasy.

08 March 2012

Extreme Couponing!

Yeah. I'm not a huge coupon user. Hell, I hardly ever go to the supermarket. I buy toilet paper and paper towels and cat food on-line, we have milk, eggs and butter delivered, we get fruits and vegetables from the farmer's market or our CSA, and we buy meat in bulk from a right-minded butcher. And, we don't even have a supermarket in town anymore, because they up and closed back in August, citing hurricane damage, and nothing has taken its place. Frankly, other than ice cream and the occasional potato chip, I don't miss the supermarket much though it is kind of irritating to run out of a staple in the middle of a recipe and have no place to go.

I digress. Someone offered me two free coupons to try some frozen pizza, and (true confession) it's a brand I've had and liked, so I took the coupons. (I know. But just because we eat local vegetables and well-raised chickens doesn't mean that frozen pizza isn't ever what's for dinner.) I was headed to the wine store because we were somehow out of wine (really, how could that have happened?) and the supermarket that carries that pizza is in the same shopping center, so I figured I'd cash in my coupons. I picked up the two pies, and headed to the check out, with my own nylon shopping bag. Imagine my surprise when the cashier rang me up, and concluded that I was due a nickel in change - because of the "canvas bag refund".

I think I win at extreme couponing. They PAID me to buy pizza. Even the cashier was amused.

07 March 2012

Unite To Give

As you may know, I'm a big fan of charitable giving, and about finding ways to do so with my child. Part of my impulse is born out of the fact that almost all of my paid work experience has been in the service of non-profit organizations, and part of it is because I just deeply believe that helping others is the right thing to do. That helping can take different forms, like volunteering, sponsoring a friend in a walk-a-thon, donating stuff to a thrift shop, and of couse direct cash contributions.

At the end of the calendar year, we sit down and talk through the pile of envelopes from this, that and the other place. Shall we give to help the read more...

06 March 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies, or How I Fell Down A Rabbit Hole

If you're like me, you always make your chocolate chip cookies using the recipe on the back of the bag, the iconic "Toll House cookies", even if you don't actually use Nestlé chips because Nestlé is evil and all that. Whatev. Toll House cookies were one of the first things I learned to make by myself, so long ago that I remember when the recipe on the package included 1/2 teaspoon of water. They've dropped the water, either because such a tiny quantity seems ludicrous, or eggs are bigger, or flour is different, or who knows why. Toll House cookies were also the first thing I learned to tinker with - I'd skimp on the flour and change the ratio of brown to white sugar, but I always added the water. My cookies always spread just right, so the chips made little hills on the surface of the cookie.

Since Kim Boyce's book Good to the Grain came out a couple of years ago, I've seen reference to her chocolate chip cookie recipe a number of times, and noted that it uses 100% whole wheat flour. Despite the fact that I slip a little whole wheat into lots of things, I rarely use 100% whole wheat - it's just too aggressive.

But I recently came across yet another reference to those cookies, and it seemed like a chocolate chip cookie day, so I made them. And they're fabulous. Other than a little graininess at the finish, you'd be hard pressed to tell that they have any whole wheat in them, and the texture is perfect, mostly crispy and a bit chewy. I only baked a handful right after I made the dough; the rest I formed into a log, which I stuck in the freezer. Cookies sliced off the log and baked frozen were excellent as well.

I got to thinking - how different could the two recipes be? Besides the flour, what made Boyce's different from the old Toll House standard? Me being me, I geeked out and did a side by side comparison (leaving out the nuts, because I always leave out the nuts):

Huh. I'd have guessed that the Boyce cookies had a higher percentage of butter, given their crisp deliciousness, but actually, they've got more flour and more sugar than the Toll House. Boyce also adds baking powder, and uses cold butter in place of softer warmer butter. I'm no Shirley O. Corriher, so I can't really go into the science of the cookies, but it's kind of fascinating that two iterations of a recipe for cookies can be so similar and yet have demonstrably different results.

A couple of years ago, the Times published an article, by David Leite, in search of the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. He pulled it apart in many ways: the temperature of the dough, the length of time between mixing and baking, the size of the chocolate pieces, the size of the cookies, the amount of salt. One thing led to another, and I found a blog post by the Culinary Collections Librarian at the New York Public Library, going back to the original Toll House recipe - with the water! - and then I really felt like I'd fallen down a rabbit hole. I mean, one could make chocolate chip cookies all the live long day, testing out different flours and sugars and butters and leavenings, and they'd all be pretty good, not to mention the fact that your perfect cookie might not be my perfect cookie.

That said, I'll make Boyce's cookies again, because they really were good. Though, I've never tried the recipe for the Tate's chocolate chip cookies (which looks just like the Toll House recipe with only 2 cups of flour), and I've not tried the Times recipe (which has two kinds of flour), and, oh lord, I really ought to go on a diet.

05 March 2012

Free Cialis!

There is some deep irony in the fact that, on the first page of the business section in today’s New York Times, there is an article about Rush Limbaugh losing advertisers, and on the back page, there is a full page ad offering up a 30 day supply of free Cialis. Contraception is on the front lines, but the drug companies are giving away “erectile dysfunction” meds. In 2006, Limbaugh got caught coming back from the Dominican Republican carrying a bottle of Viagra - in someone else's name, and joked that perhaps he'd gotten Bob Dole's luggage. So, let's see, a law school student filling a prescription for birth control pills is a slut, which makes Limbaugh a ... what? The mind boggles.

Like Mother Jones notes, it's possible that Limbaugh simply doesn't understand birth control:

It's almost surreal to have to point out that regulating pregnancy is a legitimate medical need. Unlike erectile dysfunction drugs, whose sole purpose is to facilitate sexual activity, birth control has other legitimate medical uses beyond preventing pregnancy.

And let's not forget that it takes two to tango - presumably Limbaugh had a partner when he was using his little blue pills, and presumably one or both of them was using birth control.


How is it possible that in 2012 we are talking about contraception? How is it that in 2012, white Republican men are trying to legislate women's health issues? How can it be that, in 2012, women's rights are being trampled on in this way?

I tell you, I want this sign:

photo from Jezebel - used with great glee and no permission

01 March 2012

Miracles of Modern Technology

On Valentine’s Day, I sent my father an email with a link to an article in the online local paper near his house, about the reopening of a semi-major road that had been closed since Hurricane Irene. He doesn’t actually “do” email, though, and he wasn’t in his office anyway, so his secretary printed the email, added a handwritten note that she’d been “unable to open the attachment” (which wasn’t an attachment, it was a URL), and faxed the piece of paper to the home of the person with whom my father was then staying.

My father picked up the now cryptic fax, cryptic because the original email had been all about the URL, and the linked-to article wasn't included, and you can’t click a URL on a piece of paper, you need those glowing bits and bytes. He scribbled a question mark next to my name, and put the fax in an envelope. This envelope then went home with him, two states away, where he added a stamp and dropped it at the post office.

It arrived in my mailbox yesterday.

Did you get that?

  • Email from A to B.
  • Fax from B to C.
  • Envelope transported from C to D.
  • Envelope mailed from D to A.

Next time a bridge reopens, I’m going to call him. If nothing else, it’ll be quicker.