28 November 2012


Oh how I love to read the obituaries in the good grey lady. Today's was a gem.

From the second paragraph:

"The cause was complications of liver cancer..."

From the third paragraph:

"Flamboyant and loquacious, wealthy and generous, Mr. Richards was a high roller in the theater world, and a high liver..."

Swoon. Liver, liver.

21 November 2012

Give On Tuesday

Over dinner, while she was inhaling some pasta, the girl asked me "when's Black Friday?"

I immediately thought shopping frenzy, day after Thanksgiving, oh no, how do I get out of this and asked her, blandly, "what's Black Friday?"

"Oh," she said, "it's the day we can send our letters to Santa Claus."

Oh that. That I can handle. Going anywhere near a mall, a big box store, a national retailer on the day after Thanksgiving? No can do. Hell, I avoid all of those places pretty much all the time.

It's funny how the few days after Thanksgiving have become an all out shopping frenzy, with a different shtick for each day: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, [Blue Law Sunday], Cyber Monday.

As an antidote, we've got a newly minted concept: Giving Tuesday. I know that I don't need to be reminded to give, but maybe other people do. Do you?

Giving a bit to charity each year is a good thing. It's good for you, and good for the recipients. Think about it. And maybe, just maybe, set aside some of that money you save at the mall on Black Friday, or the $25 rebate from American Express from shopping locally on Small Business Saturday, and sit down and write a check to a charity on Tuesday. If it's something you've never done, and don't know where to begin, start locally. Do you have a local animal shelter? A food pantry? A daycare? How about a nearby historic site, or the volunteer ambulance corps? Does your high school have a scholarship fund for kids who need help paying for college? Is there a center for victims of domestic violence in the next town? Maybe there's a little county-wide orchestra - they need your help to keep playing Bach, Beethoven, Monteverdi. Really, if you just look around, there's a place that needs your help.

The Giving Tuesday site has a list of ideas - talk through the list with your family.

And remember: every little bit helps. I know this in my bones; I've spent my life working for non-profit organizations. We love your contributions - big and small. They validate us and our work, and we appreciate you every single day.

Give. Next Tuesday.

19 November 2012

A Weekend In The Country

I'm not sure that there is anything more exhausting than spending three days on your feet selling the contents of the house you grew up in to friends and strangers. It is also cathartic, sad, funny, and odd. But most of all, it's exhausting. I got home at 7:00 last night, and was in bed by 8:00.

While the chief proprietors of the estate sale were me and my two siblings, lovely friends came and helped out, like the (gay male) matron-of-honor from my wedding, and my (also has a blog) best friend from college. Neighbors floated in and out, bearing cream cheese be-smeared bagels and pumpkin oatmeal cookies. Old friends carted away trinkets and clocks. More than one person needed stuff to replace stuff lost in the hurricane. A lady bought two percolators and two coffee grinders, and told me she was going to mail them to family in South America - so my sister threw in some coffee filters. One woman was the first one in the door on Saturday morning, and berated us because the cast iron skillet she'd seen hanging on the wall (in a picture on the internet) was no longer there. Sorry, lady, we sold it! You should have come on Friday!

Friends from inside the computer showed up - and tweeted and blogged about their purchases. Nice to have seen you, Jean! Great to have met you, George! Thanks for hanging out, Heidi! Glad you got that shell, Jane!

A strange woman came up to me and told me that Kathy from California had sent her. I was momentarily flustered, until the gears clicked into place and I blurted out "Kathy With Cats"? Yup - someone I know on Facebook had forwarded a link to a friend of hers who lived not too far away. It was like Kathy by proxy.

Tom came a couple of times and bought a mess of stuff. I'm sure he made out like a bandit, but whatev. Somehow, I can't remember why, he ended up with my phone number. My cell rang at about 9 on Saturday night; it was Tom. "I unpacked all my stuff, and remember that little pepper mill? It's not there. Remember that guy who picked it up from my pile? I think he boosted it." Tom wasn't calling to ask for his money back or anything - he was calling to caution us about the people who don't want to pay for anything, "they boost stuff all the time". [There was a little racial profiling going on, but his impulse was well-meant.]

Amanda came a couple of times and told us her entire sordid life story, and bought a mess of stuff. She might have boosted something; we know she dug the sterling ice bucket out of the liquor cabinet, but we reclaimed it.

Tracy came back three times, the first two times buying for her boyfriend, the third time WITH her boyfriend. They were great and enthusiastic and charming. Also, I loved her raincoat. They probably took us for a ride too, but again, whatev.

My high school flute teacher bought my grandmother's punch bowl and its dozen matching cups. Someone I babysat for bought the dresser from the front hall. Darius, who I'd never met before, but whose sister went to college with the woman I babysat for, asked me if I thought he could sew a cell phone case from a piece of leather he scrounged up. I told him how, and gave him the leather.

When we weren't selling and schlepping and talking and learning the names of almost every single buyer, we were running up to Starbucks and the train station and nailing signs to trees. Starbucks was supposed to be open at 6 on Sunday morning but when we got there at ten to 7, they were locked up tight - with all the lights on. I banged on the door, needing that double shot skim latte, stat. Finally, a woman came to the door. Apologetically, she told us she couldn't let us in, because no one else had shown up to work. But she took our orders, locked the door again, made the coffee, and came back with the two cups. Free! Brownie points to Starbucks for doing the right thing.

And in a fit of debauchery after dark, we drove around town with a slit-open dead feather pillow, sprinkling feathers up and down the streets, hoping people would think some chickens had run amok. Some of them are still there.

Almost. We're almost done.

09 November 2012

Three Squared

Tomorrow, the girl turns nine.

Tonight, she's having a slumber party. Seven girls are camping out in front of the TV. There's ice cream cake in the freezer, and popcorn planned, and waffles on deck for breakfast. I even conjured up a perfect party favor: each girl gets her own travel sized pillow, with her name stenciled on the case.

Today, she took a mess of rice crispy treats to school. I only told my teacher what I was bringing; I wanted it to be a surprise for my friends.

Last night, the power was only out for an hour, and back on by the time we had the serious work of making the treats and stenciling the pillowcases. (Dinner had to be made in the dark.)

Nine years ago, I had no idea what was in store for us.

Happy birthday, girlie.

07 November 2012


You want to know how I know our kid is actually listening to us?

Every time we spy a full moon, we sigh and say "la bella luna". And sometimes we launch into a couple of lines of That's Amore, when the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie. It's just one of those things we do.

I finally got around to addressing the third grade pile - all the writing and collages and spelling tests and math quizzes and the report on the arctic hare. [Yes, she's in fourth grade, but I've been a little swamped. An unplanned week at home helped.] I was entirely charmed by a set of poems she'd written, and completely undone by this one.

Labelaloona. La bella luna. Oh beautiful moon. Oh beautiful child, you light up my sky night and day.

03 November 2012

On Dust Jackets and Snow

Sometime when the girl was quite small, I systematically took all of the dust jackets off of all the the books in her room, because she was doing it anyway. And my latent OCD was kicking in and I didn't want the dust jackets lost or damaged so I put them away for safe keeping.

In my enforced absence from the office, thanks to Sandy, I went on a clean-up-the-girl's-room rampage and, sigh, edited her library. In the process, I reunited all of the dust-jackets with their books.

I'm very conflicted about dust jackets.


They're usually pretty, and often a book without its jacket looks boring and naked. If they come with the book, they should stay with the book - it is as it was meant to be.


They slip around and make it harder to read the book. And you can't use the flap of a dust jacket as a bookmark because it distorts the dust jacket which then never lies quite straight again. (Oh, is that more of my OCD showing?)

It's quite possible to design a lovely book without need for a dust jacket - all the handsome hardcovers in the New York Review of Books Children's Collection have printed covers with red fabric spines. The worst are the picture books with jackets that are the very duplicate of the printed hardcover - it seems such a waste of paper!

Then again, once in a while, the dust jacket actually adds something wonderful to the book. A case in point is Eric Carle's Dream Snow. It has a clear acetate cover, printed with snowflakes, like the overlays within the book.

Without the jacket, there's no snow on the cover. With it, it's magic. Every year at Christmas, in the years after the great storing of the dust jackets, I'd pick up Dream Snow to read it aloud, and I'd cringe to myself about the missing dust jacket. Now, it's right again. I can't wait for Christmas.

So, dear readers, are you pro or con dust jackets? Do you keep them until they're tattered, and gently repair them with archival tape, or will you not have them in the house?

01 November 2012

Post Sandy

Storm. Wind, a little rain, a lot of luck. No trees down on our property. Power is still on. Internet/TV/landline phone still work. Cell service sucks; people who have Verizon instead of AT&T are in better shape in that regard.

But. Lots of power out in our town. Lots of trees down, roads closed. No school ALL WEEK. Halloween trick or treat theoretically postponed until next week, but essentially cancelled in my opinion. Really, who's going to have any candy left?

Con-Ed has one truck in the area - because, rightly, Con-Ed is focusing on that big swath of Manhattan south of 39th Street that is dark. Did I mention that's where my office is? Yes, no work for the weary.

Manhattan, like the part where my office is, may have power restored Friday or Saturday. But in my home neck of the woods? They're thinking maybe next weekend. This storm was a big deal; don't anyone tell you otherwise.

I have been cooking. It's therapeutic, and we need to eat. Since Sunday:

Chocolate chip cookies
Chickpea/fennel soup
Rhubarb/blueberry upside down cake
"Candy corn" cookies
Apple cider caramels
Unstuffed cabbage (in the crockpot)
Many cheese quesadillas for the girl and her friends

Happily we had plenty of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, not to mention apple cider, fresh sausage, heavy cream, plenty of vegetables, three stalks of rhubarb from the garden, lots of cheese, tortillas, and oddments in the freezer.

The caramels? Might be the best thing ever.

The unstuffed cabbage? I kind of made it up, and it tastes good but its consistency is like glue - I should have added the rice an hour ago instead of at 11 this morning. Oh well. Live and learn.

Here's hoping you are safe and sound and warm and dry and well-fed and well-rested whereever you may be.