28 September 2012


You're probably registered to vote. But if you aren't, use this little widget to get started, or share it with a friend, a fresh 18 year old, a new neighbor.

Remember, you can't vote if you aren't registered. Do it soon, because the deadline in some states is as soon as October 6. (And don't give me any grief about the fact that the widget is from the Obama campaign. You can use it even if you want to vote for the other guy.)

26 September 2012

Cakes and Pies

I was puttering around in the kitchen the other day, trying to figure out what to have for dinner that would use up lots of things in the fridge. It being high CSA season, we're long on vegetables, and there was some swiss chard that was calling out "eat me"! Yotam Ottolenghi gave me the jumping off point, with a recipe for some little swiss chard cakes. I thought they wouldn't be enough for dinner, but there was a tart shell in the freezer, some mozzarella going begging and a pile of tomatoes on the counter, and thus was born a tomato pie. So when the child came into the kitchen and whined "what's for dinner?", I answered her with a straight face "cakes and pies". I do amuse myself. She was not amused when it came time to sit down at the table and it was all vegetables and cheese.

Do you know Ottolenghi? I don't mean him personally, like you have him over for drinks, but do you know his cookbooks, or his newspaper column? His recipes are mostly vegetarian, and veer towards the eccentric, but I've made two things recently that were good. First was some baked orzo with mozzarella and eggplant that I found over on Smitten Kitchen - it was easy, especially insofar as the orzo went into the oven uncooked, we like that one less step. Also, it made a lot - so I had nice leftovers for lunch. Second were these swiss chard cakes - bound with egg, fried to crunchy goodness. I skipped the yogurt sorrel sauce he suggested because I had neither sorrel nor yogurt (does anyone ever have sorrel just lying around?). No matter, they were nice on their own.

Incidentally, the girl ate the swiss chard cakes, and rejected the tomato pie. Go figure. Then again, she'd probably eat a fried shoe, if there was enough ketchup alongside.

Swiss Chard Cakes (adapted from Ottolenghi)

a bunch of Swiss chard
2 T. pignoli (pine nuts)
1 T. olive oil
4 ounces cheese, coarsely grated (see note)
1 egg (or 2)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup cooked corn off the cob (optional)
½ t. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
vegetable oil & olive oil, for frying

Clean and stem the swiss chard. Boil a big pot of water, and blanch the leaves for about three minutes. Drain and leave to cool down slightly. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze as much water from the leaves as you can (work in golf ball sized lumps) - then roughly chop the leaves, and put in a bowl.

In a small pan, fry the pignoli in the tablespoon of olive oil for a minute or two, until light brown - don't burn them! Add the nuts and oil to the chard, along with the cheese, egg, breadcrumbs, corn, salt and pepper. You may need to add more crumbs if the mix is very soft and sticky. If it doesn't seem to hold together at all, add another egg - at which point you probably will need some more bread crumbs.

Use a mix of vegetable oil and olive oil, and put a couple of good glugs in a nice frying pan. Heat  the oil until a drop of water sizzles. Shape the mix into little patties about 3/4" thick. Fry these in batches for two minutes a side, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate covered with paper towels, to absorb the oil, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: Ottolenghi calls for kashkaval, which I confess that I had never before heard of. And I like cheese. His alternative is mature pecorino. I used gruyere because there was a block turning green in my fridge. Yes, we're fast and easy in the kitchen.

Tomato Pie

1 unbaked 9" tart shell
1 T. minced basil
2 plum tomatoes, sliced
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into smallish chunks
olive oil
salt & pepper

Line the tart shell with foil, and fill with pie weights. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, remove the foil and weights, and bake for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle basil in the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange sliced tomatoes in one layer. Add salt & pepper to taste. Cover tomatoes with mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes - the mozzarella will melt together to cover the tomatoes, and will be beginning to brown. Remove from oven, and let cool for a few minutes before slicing and eating. It's like a margarita pizza in a pie crust.

24 September 2012


Obituaries, especially the kind that run in the backs of alumni magazines, or as paid notices in the good grey lady, tend to a certain formality.

Obituary: A notice of a death, esp. in a newspaper, typically including a brief biography of the deceased person.

They tend towards platitudes and encomiums, and dry recitations of surviving family members. The cause of death is often mentioned, except when the dear departed has committed suicide. Then, it's delicately omitted, except perhaps in the cases of famous celebrity types, where the cause of death is part of the news of the death. I was, therefore, dumbstruck by an obituary I read in my college alumnae magazine:

Jane Doe put an end to her life on __/__/20__, leaving many speechless.

No, I didn't know her. But I too was left speechless - both because of the bluntness of the message and the editorializing in its conveyance.

21 September 2012

Remembering Moky

Once upon a time, in 1986 to be exact, we got my mother dressed up in a white tee-shirt, and Ray-Bans, and a leather jacket that my sister had appropriated from an old boyfriend. And we punked up her hair and gave her some big dangly earrings, and took her picture on the front porch of her house.

She was awfully game about the whole thing, even while there were neighbors driving by.

Today would have been her 77th birthday. I miss her.

19 September 2012

The 100%

I am the 53%. I pay federal income tax. I also pay state income tax, property & school tax, FICA tax, and sales tax, not to mention hidden taxes like that on gasoline.

And I am the 47%, because I depend on government.

Today, I drove on a public road. I took two forms of public transportation to get to my job – a commuter rail line, and the NYC subway. I work for a tax exempt not-for-profit organization – we don’t pay any income taxes, but we work in the public good and when we have a good year and don’t incur a deficit, our surpluses do not accrue to the benefit of any individual. My child rides back and forth to her public school on a school bus. Last month, when she broke her arm, we took her to the emergency room at the local non-profit hospital. The yogurt I ate for breakfast was made in a plant that’s inspected by the government. My bank account is guaranteed by the FDIC. The mammogram I had last night was covered by my insurance – with no co-pay – because of the Affordable Care Act.

I believe that food should be safe, health care should be available to all, and roads should be maintained. I believe in the National Endowment for the Arts, and Acadia National Park, and National Public Radio. I appreciate the work that NOAA and the FAA and the NTSB do, and I mail letters and packages and postcards through the Postal Service all the time. Above all, I believe in the social compact.

I guess this makes me 100% in support of President Obama.

17 September 2012

Christmas is Coming, Dude!

A couple of days after we got home from that week on the beach, meaning, back at the end of August, I got an email from my husband, with the subject "Getting a jump on Christmas". In it, he attached a photo from the trip, marked up as a Christmas card. Since our tendency is to wait until after Thanksgiving before even thinking about Christmas cards, I was a little, shall we say, startled.

I'm not sure that this is going to be the card. I mean, Dude? Yeah, we know the Dude abides, but does he need a Christmas card?


I do love that Christmas cards have been so embraced by the digital on-demand printing thing. Years ago, I always bought Unicef cards. Occasionally, we've made cards with rubber stamps and glitter. But since the girl arrived nearly nine years ago, it's seemed de rigeur to do a photo card.

In a happy moment of synchronicity, about 30 seconds after I got the email from the Dude my husband, I got an email from a card company - Minted - asking if I'd like to review their cards. I've not used Minted before, but I've seen and received their cards - like from other people last Christmas - and they're really nice. The design selection ranges from sweet to clever to fun to playful, you can put more than one photo on a card, and you can put a paragraph of "what we did this year" on the back if you want.

So one day soonish, before Thanksgiving but maybe after Halloween, we'll sit down and figure out a picture and a caption and we'll have Christmas cards, dude! Or is that Dude?


Hey - if you want to try Minted - I'm giving away a $50 gift certificate. Comment below, and I'll draw a name out of a hat. As ever, make sure your email address is in your comment or that you're properly signed in - you can't win if I can't get in touch with you. Comments close on Tuesday 9/25.

Disclosure: Minted gave me a gift certificate, which I'll use one day. The opinions are 100% mine.

16 September 2012

2327 Pages Later

You know what's a huge relief?

Deciding that, no, I really don't have to read the four biographies that have piled up by my bed. Really, what more do I need to know about Katharine Hepburn, Keith Richards, Marilyn Monroe, or Steve Jobs? I love her movies, he's a huge rock & roll character, she's an enigma, and he was a genius prick. Right? The books have just been sitting there making me feel bad, and today, I decided that they could go to the big bookshelf in the sky.

Life's too short to read books that you don't really want to read.

14 September 2012


When you are eight, and you are bored, you turn your feet into a family.

12 September 2012

Anti Anti-Microbials

As if I don't have enough things in my life to be irritated about, my kid came home from school yesterday with a box of pencils.

Oh, but not just any pencils, pencils impregnated with Microban.

In little print, it says: "Microban protection inhibits the growth of odor and stain causing bacteria on the pencil."

Why? Why do we care that our pencils don't smell, and don't get stained? Why? Is it worth subjecting our small children to chemicals to kill these little bacteria?

I - because I am that kind of crank - started googling Microban.

Here's what it says on the Microban website:

Today, Americans are spending more and more time at their desks in school, work or home offices. Dirty desktops can create the ideal conditions for damaging microbes to grow and reproduce. In a recent study, researchers found that the average desk had 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
Built-in Microban antimicrobial technology provides an added level of cleanliness for your office and school products by inhibiting the uncontrolled growth of microbes, such as bacteria that can cause odors and product deterioration.

Read that closely - maybe the desk is covered with bacteria, but this product is only going to kill the bacteria that "cause odors and product deterioration" - not bacteria that might actually make you sick.

Microban is vague about what chemical is in those pencils:

Microban utilizes a broad range of antimicrobial technologies to meet the specific needs of your product application. We’ll evaluate your efficacy requirements, manufacturing processes, product usage conditions and durability needs to find the right antimicrobial solution for your unique product.

A few of the weblinks I turned up indicated that it could be triclosan in those pencils, a chemical one really doesn't want in the hands of prepubescent girls because it's an endocrine disrupter, like BPA. And how many people do you know that chew pencils, or just hold them in their teeth while they're pulling out the measuring tape? There, triclosan in your mouth!

SafeMama notes that "it just feeds into people’s paranoia about germs and nothing else. I don’t think we’re all going to die if everything we own isn’t protected by Microban."

Rodale points out that not only are antibacterial products unnecessary, they're likely to be more expensive too.

And the The Daily Green led me to an NRDC blog and from there to the HuffPo and that's when my head exploded.

Come on. Pencils are pencils. They might get smelly or moldy. So what? Wash your hands and get on with your day. Or throw the damned pencil out - it's not like they're expensive or likely to last for a long time.

The only way we're going to stop the manufacturers from putting anti-bacterial crap in everything is to stop buying it. I never do, but still I have a box of anti-microbial pencils in my house. And yes, you can be sure I'm sending all of this information to my kid's school.

10 September 2012

Folding the flag is putting it to bed for the night

The last time I was in this particular funeral home, the funeral home of choice for my father's side of the family, was when my grandmother died. The first time was when her husband, my grandfather, died. My grandmother was a little not-quite-there by the time her husband died, and I remember sitting with her, holding her hand, when someone came over and said "I'm so sorry your husband's gone". And she said, "no, no, he's not gone, he's right over there" and waved vaguely in the direction of either the open coffin or my uncle, who was rather the spitting image of his father.

Today it was my uncle's turn - all of my grandparents are dead, and the next generation is eroding. My mother, an ex-uncle (long divorced from my aunt, but still the father of my cousins), and now this uncle.

He was a dear man who could beat anyone at ping pong, even when he was playing with a cast iron frying pan. He could catch fish when no one else could. His wife is a tap-dancing puppeteer (well, not at the same time), and after he retired and they moved to California, he managed and emceed her dancing grandma troupe, the Tap-A-Tooties. He cooked, he played tennis, he once played lacrosse against Jim Brown.

After the service at the funeral home, we made our way to the cemetery. Because he'd served in the Army during the Korean War as an artillery forward observer, he had military honors at the gravesite: a bugler played taps, and two uniformed personnel folded the flag, mesmerizingly, in silence.

And then, while we were milling around before heading out for lunch, one of my cousins whipped out her gardening gloves and a trowel, and planted pansies by the big marker for the family plot.

It's why to be buried, I think. Someone will plant pansies, or leave pebbles on the headstone, or bring gingerbread men and pfeffernüsse at Christmas time. Someone will remember you.

We will remember Uncle Phil.

07 September 2012

More Stuff From My Mother's House

Here are just some of the oddments we found while cleaning out the fabric cabinets:

Sweatshirt sleeves
- no longer attached to the sweatshirts

Wallpaper leftover from the third floor bathroom of the previous house
- which was sold in 1972

The back pocket from a pair of jeans 
- still attached to a square of the ass

I see these saving tendencies in myself. A disembodied sleeve could be used as protection for a fragile slender object. Two could be repurposed into storm cuffs for a coat without them. Wallpaper can be used in a decoupage project, or as wrapping paper. The pocket? The pocket is where my imagination fails. I've turned the calf section of a jeans leg into a handbag, but I can't think what to do with a pocket still attached to just a square of denim.

04 September 2012

Adaptive Reuse

And the prize for the best ancillary use of the jalousie windows on a sun porch goes to a fruit seller on Martha's Vineyard: