31 August 2012

The Beach

Ah yes. We were on vacation last week, in a little rented house on Cape Cod, walking distance to the bay, 10 minutes to the ocean. Bliss.

We went to the bay, at low tide, sunset, high tide, high noon. At low tide, you can walk out forever and dig up all sorts of critters. At high tide, there was no beach and the steps down the cliff ended in three feet of water.

We went to and in the ocean every day but one.

We even saw a shark! But it was a basking shark, a harmless toothless filter feeder, not one of the great whites that's been out and about.

The day we didn't go to the ocean, we went sea kayaking. One of our boats capsized and one of our iPhones drowned. (If you're wondering, it was neither my boat, nor my phone.)

We played mini-golf three days in a row. Most of the time, we played the right way, and we didn't cry.

On occasion, we played the alternate way, to make the girl laugh. (She'd never played mini-golf before, and it took her a round of frustration and the afore-mentioned tears before she got the hang of it.)

We built a lot of sand castles.

But none of ours were as amazing as this temple.

We ate a goodly amount of ice cream and donuts and fish, because that's what you do on a beach vacation.

We stopped to take pictures in a cemetery, because the yellow lichen was so very lovely. We don't know who Louise was, but she had a really nice headstone.

When we were tired of building sand castles, we buried our child up to her neck. She helped, until her arms were no longer of use.

We did as much boogie boarding as we could, and the one of us who had a broken arm didn't let that stop her. Yes, the waterproof cast really was waterproof.

Everything was wonderful, except that two of us came home with the turistas - not what you expect from a beach vacation that wasn't in Mexico. Either we had some bad oysters (August not being a month with an R) or the water really was bad that day they kicked everyone out of the ocean.

Everything was fabulous, except that we hadn't gone on that kind of rent-a-house-for-a-week vacation in a long time, and so forgot all sorts of really important things - like flip-flops for the girl, and a hat for me, and a pepper grinder (because rental houses always only have pre-ground pepper from 1976). And bug spray, and Tylenol, and a hat for the girl. We did bring a rolling pin (which remained unused) and about 20 knives (most of which, ditto).

Everything was lovely, because - hello? Cape Cod in August? Perfection.

Here's hoping you had a lovely summer vacation.

29 August 2012

I want to talk to you about love

Dear Mrs. Romney,

I’m so glad that you love your husband. But that you love him doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, now does it? I mean, I already have a husband, thanks, and I don’t need to go be falling in love with any other guys.

Your speech last night, with your attempt to seem just like every other woman in the US, was pandering. You’re just like me? You’re just like that mom wondering what’ll happen to her child support? You’re just like that uninsured woman who needs treatment for her ovarian cancer? You’re just like that struggling supermarket checker? You’re just like that mother who wants to have another child but can’t afford it, or can’t find daycare, or can’t swing the thousands of dollars needed for infertility treatments? You’re just like that working mom who has to help her kid with homework on her “second shift”? I don’t think so.

You’re welcome to your opinion, but to say to me that “no one will care more” than your husband? Words, dear, they’re just words.

Your husband has pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act if elected – that’s not a very caring statement.

You telling us that “this man will not fail” and “you can trust Mitt” – more words. What fools do you take us for? Everyone fails. Everybody stumbles, everybody makes mistakes. No one, not anyone, not even Mr. Obama, is infallible. And how can we trust a man who won’t show us his tax returns?

Where are the caring policies that are going to help people who need food, shelter, education? How will we care for the sick, and care for the children whose parents are at work? How will we care for our aging – our aging people and our aging infrastructure? How will we care for our planet, if your husband is elected and vitiates environmental protection laws?

Your husband’s policies and the Republican plank vis-à-vis abortion are really the be all and the end all. Republicans want to eliminate all abortions. But where’s the follow-through? Where’s the prenatal care? Where’s the daycare? Where’s the education for those kids? Where’s the support for adequate nutrition and clean air? A quote from a nun, Sister Joan Chittister, has been popping up in my Facebook feed all day. It turns out that she said this on Bill Moyers' show back in 2004:

For instance, let's look at the abortion question. I'm opposed to abortion.

But I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking. If all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed and why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.

I’m open-minded. I listen. And even though I call myself a lefty-commie-pinko, I have views that aren’t completely in lockstep. There’ve been plenty of times at work when I rail about state or federal policies that annoy me, that cause busywork for us, and that the right jumps all over as “job-killing”. I’m not at all enamored of the few unions I’ve had to deal with; they seem to be all about lining the pockets of their administrators and not doing much good for their members.

I want better public transportation. I want there to be congestion pricing so it costs an arm & a leg to drive a car into Manhattan. I want Medicare for all – a single payer system is what we need. I like the electronic medical records that my doctor’s office has used since long before the Affordable Care Act required it - it makes coordination of care a whole lot better. I think guns in the hands of the general public are a disaster. I wish we spent a lot less money on the military.

Here’s the thing. It’s a democracy. We need to work together. We need to be smart about now, and smart about the future. We need to care for all of the people, not just the unborn people and the armed forces.

And just because you tell me that Mitt loves America doesn’t mean that he’s the right man to be President. Because, really. It's not about love.



24 August 2012

How to invent in the kitchen

I've been remiss. My favorite cookbook of the last year, and I haven't mentioned it. It's the book I bought and wrapped for myself for Christmas last year, and it's called An Everlasting Meal, and more than a cookbook, it's a way of being. I've read it cover to cover a couple of times, and I've dipped into many other times. Really, it's a treatise on how to think about cooking. Almost every recipe looks like a recipe, but really isn't. They're guidelines, suggestions.

Take this: A Vibrant Vegetable Salad. The first ingredient is two cups of cooked vegetables. What kind? Does it matter? Would zucchini work? The onion - any color, or a shallot. The herb - parsley or mint. She specifies red wine vinegar, but if the kind of cooked vegetable doesn't matter, why couldn't the vinegar be sherry, or champagne, or even apple cider? And the nuts - do I need nuts? I don't have any nuts.

It's a sketch, an idea for what could be. I peered into the fridge and pulled out a container of grilled zucchini, and another of grilled green peppers - both leftovers from dinner a couple of nights ago. In the freezer, I found a bag of not-yet-croutons, buttery, garlicky, stale lumps of bread. The garden is awash in herbs of all stripes; I picked some mint. A half of a sweet fresh onion turned up in the crisper drawer. Salt, olive oil, mustard: all staples.

I sliced the onion and splashed it with sherry vinegar, and set it aside to soften. I chopped the zucchini. I rubbed some of the burned skin off of the green pepper and chopped that up too. I chopped up the stale bread and tossed it in a skillet to brown. Minced the mint, added the mustard to the onions, added everything else, saving the now croutons for last. Ta da! An invented salad, almost a main course because of the bread. We eat it alongside grilled steak, and little homegrown tomatoes, cut in half and tossed with salt and basil and olive oil.

The salad is magical - humdrum ingredients turned into other. Cold leftover grilled zucchini, limp and squishy? It's transformed by the little bit of mint, and the almost pickled onion, and the crunch of the croutons.

Here, here's what I did. But you should feel free to invent your own. Just make sure you start with that thinly sliced onion, macerated in vinegar for ten or twenty minutes. It's the key.

Zucchini Pepper Bread Salad, inspired by Tamar Adler

1/4 onion
3 T. sherry vinegar
a pinch of salt
2 medium zucchini, sliced into planks and grilled
2 green peppers, halved and grilled
1/2 t. mustard
olive oil
a few sprigs of mint
freshly made croutons

Thinly slice the onion and put it in a big enough bowl. Add vinegar and salt, and toss to coat. Set aside for ten minutes, or a half hour. Stir the onions when it occurs to you. Add the mustard to the onions. Whack up the zucchini and green pepper; add to the onions. Drizzle in some olive oil, add the mint and the croutons.

22 August 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Office Supplies

In the kitchen:

In the bathroom:

In the garden:

20 August 2012

Punch Line: Pincus Fuctus

Two Hasidic Jews, went to Pincus the tailor for new suits. "Pincus," said the first man, "we need new suits. But the last time we came to you for new suits, we told you we wanted black suits. The suits you made us were not black. They were sort of dark gray maybe, but not black. We need new suits, and this time we want black suits, from the darkest black cloth there is."

Pincus reached behind the counter for a bolt of cloth and said, "See this cloth? It is from this fabric that I make habits for nuns. In all the world," Pincus said, running the fabric through his fingers, "there is no blacker cloth than the cloth I make nun's habits from. It is from this cloth that I'll make your new suits!"

A few weeks later the two Hasids were walking down the street in their new suits when they passed two nuns. On a whim, one of the men went up to one of the nuns. He grabbed her sleeve and held it up against his own. Then, in an angry voice, he muttered something to his friend and they both walked on.

"What did that man want?" one nun asked the other. "I don't know," she replied, "he looked at my habit, said something in Latin, and left." "In Latin?" asked
the first nun. "What did he say?"

He said, "Marcus, Pincus fuctus."

16 August 2012

14 August 2012

Girl Singer in Cast

Might I kvell a bit?

Back in January, the girlie wrote out her New Year's resolutions. There were only three: learn to ride a "hourse", learn to sing better, form a band. Being indulgent parents who needed to find things to keep her occupied during the summer, we sent her to horseback riding camp for a week, and signed her up for a week of rock and roll camp at a music school in town. All resolutions accounted for!

For the first day of rock star camp, she was to bring in a list of five favorite songs; she picked six:

  • Respect / Aretha Franklin
  • Bad Romance / Lady Gaga
  • Girls In Their Summer Clothes / Bruce Springsteen
  • Back In The USSR / The Beatles
  • Friend of the Devil / Grateful Dead
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps / The Beatles

I love this list. I think we're bringing her up right.

Unfortunately, the poor chicken broke her arm on Saturday, ice skating. Yes, ice skating in August. It's a pretty minor break, and she's only in the cast until just after Labor Day, but still. She was a real trooper about it. Also, I'm really glad she didn't fall off a horse last week, because that might not have been such a minor little break. And, her "instrument" for rock star camp is voice, which is also good, 'cause I think she'd have a hard time learning guitar, drums or piano with that cast on her right arm. I'm sure she'll have no trouble wielding a microphone.

13 August 2012

Summer in a Glass

I don't know what it is about iced tea and lemonade, but it's what I love to drink in the summer, well, before 5:00 anyway. It's better than plain tea with a slice of lemon, it's less sweet than (most) straight lemonade. I do, however, draw the line at calling it by the name of a professional golfer. "Half lemonade, half iced tea, not too much ice" is what I ask for (otherwise they add too much ice and it's all watery before you're done).

But the other day, it occurred to me that there was no reason to buy one with my sandwich; I could just make it.

Assemble the ingredients:

1 fancy office Keurig machine
1 wide mouth pint Mason jar (with ring)
1 Cuppow lid
1 black tea K-cup
4 ounces lemonade (or, Joe's Summer Blend)

Dump a bunch of ice cubes in the mason jar. Brew a four ounce cup of tea directly over the ice.

Top off with lemonade.

Expect everyone in your office to assume that you're drinking moonshine.

So, what's the Cuppow? It is a seriously clever little gizmo: a plastic insert for your Mason jar to turn it into a sippy cup/travel mug. Want one? I'm so enamored of mine (which I bought with my own scratch) that I asked the Cuppow people for one to give away. Comment on this post with a better name for this drink than that of a golfer; the best name wins, unless I get flummoxed and just draw names out of a Mason jar. Cuppow will ship it directly to you (but you'll have to supply your own Mason jar), so make sure that your email address is in your comment or you're properly logged in. Without an email address, I can't get in touch with you. (Comments close on 8/27.)

And no, no one paid me to write this post, and I bought my own Cuppow lid, and the office pays for the Keurig, and I bought my own lemonade at the Greenmarket, and of course, all of my opinions are my own.

10 August 2012

Free Ice

If you find yourself in New York, staying in a hotel not far from East 57th Street, and you decide you need some wine, because you are not the kind of person who will pay $35 for a half bottle of Chardonnay out of the mini-bar, I suggest that you wander over to Sherry-Lehmann, and buy yourself two bottles of a nice Sauvignon Blanc, and tell the salesperson that you are staying in a hotel, and that there is no room in the tiny refrigerator, because it is full of the afore-mentioned half bottles of very expensive wine, and when he offers to put ice in the box, do not stop to think "what could he mean, put ice in the box?" and accept his gracious offer.

Because when you finally open the box several hours later, you will discover that he has lined a two-bottle-sized corrugated box with a very sturdy plastic bag, and has packed ice all around your two bottles of wine, and rolled up the plastic bag, and sealed the box well, and it is just like a private little ice bucket for your Sauvignon Blanc, and really, there isn't anything better.

Yes, I did this last week.

Incidentally, Sherry-Lehmann has a reputation for being a high-end, to the carriage trade, hoity-toity wine seller. The fact of the matter is that it is perfectly possibly to find perfectly nice bottles of wine on their website for under $10 a bottle, and - if you live in the right place and buy a case or two - the shipping is free. Actually setting foot in the store was slightly bewildering and felt a little like going to Mecca, but the ice in the box was such a perfect gesture and one you'd never get if you were shopping on-line. Bricks and mortar, for the win!

08 August 2012

Right. The Swag Post.

It's hard not to come home from the BlogHer conference without a whole lot of stuff. Even being selective, somehow you end up with toothpaste and vibrators and tee shirts and body scrub and battery operated candles.

One of the sponsors was Perrigo - a drug manufacturer that makes products that get sold as store brands. They were there with a display of over the counter pharmaceuticals branded for Walgreens, but that's really not the point. I am one of those people who from time to time - a couple of times a year - needs to take a 14 day course of Omeprazole to get my digestive tract back in good working order. The pills are usually blister-packed and in a box - like the Rite Aid box in my picture. The blister-packs are insanely annoying, so much so that I usually attack the plastic and foil with scissors to extract all the pills at once. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Perrigo version for Walgreens was in a BOTTLE. I liked it so much that I told the rep so, and now I'm telling you. I'll grant you that there are times when blister-packs are okay - like when you need to carry a couple of pills out and about with you - but having Omeprazole in a bottle is a better thing.

Another sponsor was SaveAntibiotics.org, a program of the Pew Charitable Trusts Health Group. From their website:

The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming is working to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics by phasing out the overuse and misuse of the drugs in food animal production. We work with public health and food industry leaders, veterinarians, agricultural interests, academics, and citizen groups who share our objective of protecting human and animal health.

I don't know about you, but I'm all for reducing antibiotic use in the food supply - it's one of the reasons we don't buy supermarket meat in our household. Sure, sometimes a cow with mastitis might need a dose of amoxicillin, but "up to 70% of US antibiotics go to farm animals that aren't sick". Dosing up chickens and pigs so that they can be crammed into overcrowded, dirty barns is a terrible idea, one that leads to drug-resistant bug strains.

The huge irony here is that SaveAntibiotics.org was one of the little sponsors with a no-frills booth, while Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farms spent top dollar for big, splashy booths and top billing, and handed out glop all the live long day. What kind of antibiotics are in their meats, huh? And how does BlogHer reconcile the message here? Factory meat on the one hand, anti-antibiotics on the other. I'm really glad the Pew people were at the conference, and I hope their message got through to at least a couple of people.

Verizon was another sponsor. I suppose they were flogging something at their booth; I didn't stop to see. BUT. They included a plastic postage-paid envelope in the official BlogHer swag bag, an envelope to use to "donate your old wireless phone to HopeLine and support victims of domestic violence". I like that. Instead of dead or obsolete phones going in the trash, they might help someone. I'll be using that envelope soon.

Also in the official swag bag was a full-size bottle of some Lysol multi-purpose cleaner. Um. How many of the attendees FLEW to New York on AIRPLANES? How many of those bottles got tucked behind plants in the lobby of the Hilton? A free coupon would have been a more efficient way to get the product in the hands of people who might want to try it and didn't want to pack it in their checked luggage.

Why oh why does Land O Lakes think that butter needs olive oil? That's a misguided product invention if ever I heard one. If I want to saute my antibiotic-free chicken breasts in a mix of olive oil and butter, I can pour a glug from the olive oil bottle and drop in a pat of nice plain butter. (Besides, if you've read Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, you'll be pretty sure that whatever is in that Land O Lakes stuff is a far cry from real fresh olive oil.)

Next, who needs feminine wash? Poise was there, branching out from incontinence with a whole new line of products aimed at menopausal women. Who knows, the cooling towelettes could come in handy, especially since it's been so stinking hot in New York City. But "feminine wash"? Are you actually going to wash your armpits with bar soap, and your head with shampoo, and your "intimate area" with something else altogether? Thanks, soap works fine down there.

Onward. I got invited to a party for B(L)oomers - you know, baby boomers, old ladies - which was not a BlogHer official party. I went, out of some perverse curiosity, and I actually had a good time there. The wine they were serving amused me no end - instead of a bottle, it comes in four individual cups all shrink-wrapped together, Stacked. Sure, there's a huge plastic thing going on which makes my earthy-crunchy self cringe, but if you were heading for a glass-free picnic zone? And it's portion-controlled? And you could use the plastic glasses for votives later? More to the point, the merlot wasn't half bad.

Best of all, the B(L)oomers party was sponsored in part by Demeter, the maker of all those thoroughly idiosyncratic and wonderful fragrances, like Gin & Tonic, and Tomato, and Mildew, and Black Pepper. And bestest of all, I won a door prize of ten bottles, ten that I got to pick out myself. And because ten was kind of more than I needed, I gave some to Sarah and Aurelia and Stephanie (who came over to hang out in my swanky hotel room and drink wine and eat potato chips), and to my sister-in-law who got me said hotel room. And my daughter got a bottle of Hersheys Kisses, and my husband got Fireplace, so she now smells like chocolate and he smells like wood smoke. I kept Dirt and Laundromat and Greenhouse for myself.

Until next year. Or maybe not.

05 August 2012

And, Back Home Again

I have never had a manicure. Oh, I've painted my fingernails a couple of times, ineptly, but later I look down and my fingers look like someone else's fingers and I reach for the nail polish remover as soon as I can.

excellent * crowded * crazy

But Thursday night, after picking up my badge for the BlogHer conference, Sarah and I headed to the Expo hall to see what was what. We found Amanda getting her nails "done" so we bellied up to the bar and got ours done too - stick on plastic nails. I picked a steely dark blue/purple; Sarah went with jungle red. And so it began: two days and three nights of other, like some kind of out of body experience, the disconnect enhanced by the fact that the conference was in New York, in my city.

fun * moving * weird

I stayed up too late, I talked to strangers, I was captivated by both Martha Stewart and Katie Couric. I got fired up about a project that has nothing to do with my blog and everything to do with real life, in my town - and met someone who might can help. I met a foster mother from Mississippi, and I gushed at Lesbian Dad who maybe has the happiest smile ever. I hugged Neil and Marty and Cecily and Bon and Dresden and a lot of other people, and I never even laid eyes on Liz or Isabel or Joanne.

annoying * educational * terrific

The first thing I did when I got home was peel off my plastic fingernails. And then I took a nap, and then I mailed some stick on breast lifts to my sister, because it's nice to redistribute swag. And then we went to the pool, and now I'm back to my real life.