07 December 2018

Recycling the Reusable

The eco mantra is reduce, reuse, recycle. And always bring your own bag.

I came home from the farmer's market and unloaded the chicken and greens and bread and hummus and pears and mozzarella and cauliflower and onions and, yes, many pounds of food - and discovered that the side seams on the bottom of my sturdy shopping bag were splitting. Happily, they did not give way in an unseemly fashion in the middle of the parking lot.

I turned the bag inside out, and contemplated fixing the seam. But the bag's construction meant that it would have been a half-assed repair, so I took the bag to the garage thinking I'd bin it. But...

The Instant Pot has been living in the garage on the counter next to the toaster oven - remember my summer kitchen? I'd been thinking that the Instant Pot needed a slip cover, and with nary a pause, I slipped the shopping bag on its head. Ta da! It fit like a glove, though a little taller than it needed to be. I took the bag back inside, dredged up some denim, cut the bag down to size, and Bob's your uncle!

I love that I repurposed a reuseable bag.

30 November 2018

In Which We Fall Down A Gorey Rabbit Hole

Diving into the rabbit holes of sketchy draft posts has been the best thing about #nablopomo. Some of have just stopped me in my tracks - they've been nothing more than a hodgepodge of links and a little text, like this one:

I start copying the links to see where they go.


I love that image!

The next one's the same. So's the third - although the third one tells me the image is the Boggerslosh, from The Utter Zoo.

The Boggerslosh conceals itself
In back of bottles on a shelf.

I fell down the Boggerslosh rabbit hole because I'd bought a book of postcards when visiting the Gorey house a few years ago. The Boggerslosh is the only postcard that I didn't mail off to someone. I kept it because it reminded me both of my mother (who was fond of blue & green glass bottles) and of the Gorey house (with its collections of oddments and glass bottles).

I decide to check my Gorey library. I do not have The Utter Zoo - and it is not included in either Amphigorey or Amphigorey Too.

Tucked inside Amphigorey, though, is a photocopied note in my mother's handwriting:

A nonsense verse or composition - a rigmarole with apparent meaning which proves to be meaningless.

A succession of confused, meaningless or foolish statements; prolix and rambling or incoherent talk.

Ragman Rolls
Document having many names or seals (i.e. Papal bull) - from rolls of deeds in which Scottish novels swore allegiance to Edward I of England in 1291.

I do not remember discussing rigmarole and ragman rolls with my mother, but I love knowing that she cared enough to look up amphigory and follow it back to Edward I.

Aimless archeology paused, I return to the draft post.

The Wuggly Ump, by Edward Gorey

It eats umbrellas, gunny sacks,
Brass doorknobs, mud, and carpet tacks.

The Wuggly Ump is in Amphigory, but - sing tirraloo, sing tirralay! - I also have a battered 1963 hardcover, complete with dust jacket.

What I cannot find is the photo I took at the Gorey house, of the small pile of carpet tacks on a mantelpiece. I know it's here somewhere.

Funnily enough, there's a new biography of Gorey just out, called Born to Be Posthumous. I did need to read aloud much of the review at the breakfast table yesterday. Like:

Even some of Gorey’s most ardent fans assumed he had to be British and long deceased. Such intricate, gothic scenes were supposed to unfurl from the pen of a wan, wraithlike neurasthenic holed up in a garret — not some towering Midwesterner partial to floor-length fur coats and busy days attending the New York City Ballet.

Even though I generally don't love biographies, I might need to put that one on my Christmas list.

I meander here, I meander there. And thus concludes a month of posting, nearly every day.

29 November 2018

Throwback Thursday: Cat Scan

Why yes, I did scan the cat once.

And in a completely unrelated event, I wrote a haiku about the underbelly of the cat.

The underbelly
Of the insatiable beast
Is soft, cat, fluffy.

I tell you, I have found some great stuff in the drafts folder.

28 November 2018

Unanswerable Questions

Why does the free WiFi work on the lower level tracks at Grand Central Terminal but not on the upper level?

We have two water bowls for the cats: one in the kitchen and one in the upstairs bathroom. Why do they only drink out of the the upstairs bowl?

Why does my doctor’s office need to text once, call once, and email TWICE to remind me that I have an appointment on Friday. One or two reminders, okay. But FOUR?

27 November 2018

Giving Tuesday, Or How To Kill Two Birds With The Same Stone

You are probably inundated with posts, emails, tweets, and other messaging about Giving Tuesday.

May I offer another way to think about it?

You surely have people on your holiday gift lists who need a gift from you, but who don’t actually need anything. Yes? I know I do. Instead of buying a tie, or a scented candle, or another well-meaning but banal gift, make a charitable contribution in their name.

One less mug out there in the world, one more pair of toe shoes for a ballerina. It's a win/win.

Incidentally, Giving Tuesday is a new phenomenon - it only began in 2012, the brainchild of the 92nd Street Y. The intent was, and remains, lofty: "a way to pivot back to the values of community and gratitude celebrated on Thanksgiving after Black Friday and Cyber Monday." So, even though you're feeling overwhelmed by the solicitations pouring into your in-box, think about how you can kill two birds with one stone: a charitable contribution can be your gift to someone on your list.

26 November 2018

Pinocchio, The Velveteen Rabbit, and Me

Today, because I opted not to go on a field trip to the dirty bowels of our building, my boss shrugged and said "you're a girl".

I replied, "I'm not a girl".

Him: "Well, what are you then?"

Me, snarkily: "Wouldn't you like to know?"

Don't get me wrong. I've made plenty of visits to the cellar. I love the generally off-limits, odd spaces around here. We had a fire drill not long ago, which dumped me out a door I'd never gone through - a ground floor exit through a wood paneled staircase that must have once been lovely.

What I don't love is when people call me a girl. I do not take kindly to people who said "you went to an all girl's school". Nope, I went to a women's college.

I can say, about myself, that I never learned how to be a real girl - but in so saying, I am acknowledging my complete inability to apply or wear makeup, my absolute indifference to any hairstyling that isn't wash and wear (and yes, I don't own a hair dryer), and my refusal to wear spike heels ever.

Unlike Pinocchio (who wants to be a real boy), and the velveteen rabbit (who wants to be a real rabbit), I am perfectly content to be me because, in fact, I am a real girl.

But if you tell me I'm a girl - real or not - I will bite your head off.

25 November 2018

In Which We Rant About The Good Grey Lady

Allow me to be cranky for a moment. I am annoyed with the New York Times.

Today's Arts & Leisure section is modest - only 20 pages, only 12 articles.

Of those 12 articles, nearly HALF - 5 out of 12 - are essentially dialogue. They are not fleshed out writing, they are "he said, she said" transcribed conversations.

The Power of Stories
The Many Perils of Rose Byrne
Bryan Cranston Likes Getting ‘Mad as Hell’
The Boy Who Became Princes
How A $15,000 Movie Rallied Black Auteurs

Actual Written Work
A Network for a New Era
Look, You Need to Start Acting Like a Child
A Partnership Most Powerful
A Writer Who Found His Voice in the Movies
Looking Into the Past
Uncovering the Secrets of Bruegel
Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears a Crown

I'm sorry, but that just seems like a cop-out. Sure, once in a while, maybe once in every Sunday Arts & Leisure section, you can include a transcription, but in nearly half of the pieces?

It's not just today's A&L. These "conversations" have been creeping in all over the paper. The most egregious iteration of this trend was a purported review of an actual new Broadway musical, in which, instead of writing a review, two of the theater critics had a conversation! Lord knows I don't want to see King Kong, but it feels like an over the top dis to not even give it a proper review.

Rant over.

24 November 2018

Cocktail party nibble food

If you are in need of a quick something to bring to an impromptu after-dinner nibble party, here's your ticket: Marinated Brussels Sprouts.

It comes from my mother's Black Book, her looseleaf binder of handwritten and copied and clipped recipes, so I haven't any idea of the original source. But it's essentially pickled sprouts - steam them, and douse them with a hot vinaigrette, and cool, and eat.  I find that the recipe as written makes way too much marinade, so I tend to scale back the liquid.

I haven't time to refrigerate mine for two hours, because I started making them at 5:30 and need to be somewhere by 7:30. But they'll be delicious none-the-less - a piquant addition to a plate of cheese, with the added virtue of healthy!

Marinated Brussels Sprouts
1 pound of Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
3-4 branches of fresh thyme (or a 1/2 t. dried)
1/2 t. dried oregano

Trim the sprouts and cut an X into the bottom of each one. Steam until tender - about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine everything else in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Drain sprouts and place in a heatproof bowl. Pour marinade over sprouts, and set aside to cool a bit. Refrigerate until you need them. Fish the thyme branches out if you used them.

Transfer to a pretty serving dish and serve with toothpicks.

23 November 2018

My Own Private Dictionary

A few years ago, I started reading Georgette Heyer. To date, I've read nine of her Regency romances:

Sylvester: Or the Wicked Uncle
Regency Buck
The Reluctant Widow
Cousin Kate
The Toll-Gate
The Quiet Gentleman

And I found myself looking up any number of words as I went along. Always a good sign in a book, yes?

Herewith, a tiny glossary:

  • Abigail - a lady's maid
  • Almack's – an upper class mixed-sex public social club
  • Cicisbeo – the escort to a married woman, like a walker
  • Curricle - a light, open, two-wheeled carriage pulled by two horses side by side
  • Domino – a robe-like costume worn at a masquerade ball 
  • Farouche – sullen or shy, as in behavior
  • Gig – a light, two-wheeled sprung cart pulled by one horse
  • Gretna Green – a Scottish town (just over the border) where English people ran away to get married under less restrictive rules
  • Jean – light denim fabric, as in “your boots are made of jean, not of kid”
  • Lief – happily or soon – as in “he would just as lief eat a porcupine”
  • Morganatic marriage – a marriage between people of unequal social rank – in the context of royalty, this would prevent the passage of the higher ranking person’s titles and privileges to the lower, and to any children born of the marriage.
  • Obtunding – to dull or to blunt
  • Phaeton – a sporty four-wheeled carriage, drawn by one or two horses, with extravagantly large wheels and open seating
  • Plum – 100 pounds (or maybe more
  • Rheumatic fever - a complication of untreated strep throat
  • Se'enight – archaic word for a week (seven nights)
  • Tilbury – a town in England, not far East of London
  • Ton – upper crust English society
  • Trevithick – English inventor of a steam engine 


22 November 2018

A Happy Thanksgiving To You

This picture wasn't actually taken on Thanksgiving. In fact, it's marked on the back as being taken in March - spring, therefore, not fall. Or maybe it was just processed in March, and was taken in January, or even November. So maybe it was taken on Thanksgiving!

In any case, it says holiday to me. It says family to me. And so, I offer it, this portrait of my siblings, for Thanksgiving.

May your day include a ferocious game of Monopoly, played - perversely - outdoors on the front porch. Wear a warm hat, and a leather motorcycle jacket purloined from the French boyfriend. Drink your beer from a bottle, and don't forget a blue bowl of Cheez Doodles. For what is Thanksgiving if not nostalgia?

21 November 2018

How To File

My mother's filing system was...idiosyncratic. Oh, I'm sure she knew where everything was. But my sister recently unearthed these three folders, and passed them along to me, and ... I got nothing. Two Misc. Papers and one ?. How does one know what one will find in any of those folders?

Maybe it's like the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Secrets abound?

20 November 2018

Sophie Czarnewsky Nissen Hager

Several years ago, we were in San Francisco on vacation, and found ourselves wandering through the National Cemetery there.

I took a picture of a grave, for two reasons. 1) I loved that the stone was carved as a book. 2) What happened to Sophie?

Sophie's husband was Llewellyn F. Hager, a warrant officer, who was born in 1886 and died in 1927 at only 41.

But Sophie? Sophie was born in 1891, and NEVER DIED!

Was her maiden name Czarnewsky? Or was it Nissen? Or was Nissen her first husband? And if she wasn't buried next to Mr. Hager, did she go on to yet another marriage? She'd have been only 36 when Llewellyn died.

I have idly googled her from time to time, and I have turned up NOTHING.

It gnaws at me.

What happened to Sophie?

19 November 2018

Magic and History, Tits and Ass

I was lucky enough to see A Chorus Line on Broadway in its first incarnation – twice, if memory serves. Its soundtrack became part of the perennial playlist in my mother’s house, and we used to dance around the living room singing "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three". Later, I got my own CD, and yet later, transferred all the songs to MP3. Needless to say, all of the songs are indelibly imprinted in my head. I didn’t see the 2006 revival because I had a small child and no time. But the small child is now 15, and a couple of weeks ago, she sang “What I Did For Love” at a recital. En passant that night, my sister-in-law told me that it was going to be at City Center last week, for a week, and one thing led to another and the child had a birthday and my other sister-in-law got tickets for my daughter (and me, as chaperone) to see it.

It was spectacular. We were sitting up in the balcony, the house was packed, and there was a palpable joy in the room. What a delight to be there, and how lucky we were, me yet again, her for the first time.

The building I work in is intimately connected to Michael Bennett, likely purchased and renovated by him with his proceeds from that original production. When I started working here, the building was home to several theatrical support shops: a costume shop, a shoemaker, a hat maker and a set designer. The hat maker, Woody Shelp, grew old, and retired, and his space was taken over by the costume shop. They sublet it to a costume designer. Eventually, the costume shop went out of business, but the designer stayed, until last year, when he decided he could save money by working out of his home. He left behind a few pieces of furniture, some of which dated back to the hat maker days, the hat maker who died in 2004. Before we re-leased the space, we pondered what to do with the small waist high work table. I opened the ill-fitting metal drawers and found magic: five of the hat maker’s labels stamped with the names of actors for whom hats were destined, a handful of hatpins, and a little piece of the beaded organza band Woody used for all of the Chorus Line hats. I have it squirreled away in an envelope, pinned to the bulletin board in my office.

I love that I knew the hat maker. I love that I got to watch A Chorus Line next to my jaw-agape, singing-in-my-ear girl. I love that I have a tiny piece of one of those glittering gold top hats.

18 November 2018


Oh well. So much for NaBloPoMo.

Today I am attempting to clean up my desk and my house and the OMG piles of paper everywhere.

And, because sometimes I roll that way, I'm listing weird shite on eBay, like a petticoat from Laura Ashley that I wore in high school. It was meant to be worn peeking out from under one of those Victorian-meets-prairie cotton flannel dresses.

And it has now been kicking around my house, unworn, for far too long.

Last year, I fell into a headline trap and bought a pair of those Rothy's shoes. I so liked the idea of them, but I just didn't like the way they fit me.

Them? They're going on eBay too.

How about you? Are you a throw it away person, a give it to Goodwill person, a hold onto it until someone needs it person, or a let's put it on eBay person?

16 November 2018

Because, Science

November isn’t just NaBloPoMo, it’s also Lung Cancer Awareness Month; as a result, my sister has been posting about lung cancer on Facebook every day.

Here’s what she wrote there on Tuesday:

LCAM, Day 13.

I am an atheist. Some would call me a nonbeliever, but that’s incorrect. I believe in a lot of things, just not in a god. You know what I really, really believe in? Science. 
I have spent the past month, leading up to the past three days, immersed in the science of medical research. It has humbled me beyond all comprehension - the funding applications I was charged with reviewing contained the densest, hardest reading I have ever done. Truth be told, I did not understand most of the science. But the scientists and researchers do - and I am in awe of their work.
I am alive today - my awesome cancer friends are alive today - not because of prayers or divine intervention or miracles. Because of science.

Science spelled out with DNA, a magnet, a test tube, a shell, nitrogen, the crescent moon, and leaves.

[What she's been participating in is the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, as a consumer reviewer. She's awesome and I'm proud of her.]

15 November 2018

Scent Memory

Odors are powerful. One whiff and your brain whirs, oh yes, I remember that.

I grew up on Long Island, and, as a result, I have traveled through Penn Station often. We would take the train in and out of Manhattan, on visits to museums or expeditions to Broadway shows. Later, I’d change trains at Penn for Amtrak, to get back and forth to college. Summers, I commuted - a daily passenger.
Penn Station then and now always smells to me like donuts. Sweet, oily, distinct. Stale beer and indifferent popcorn, occasional piss, late night vomit - they layer grace notes into the donut aroma. But a whiff of that particular donut small will always jolt me back to hours spent waiting at or traversing through Penn.

For years now, I’ve commuted daily through Grand Central Terminal. It’s a palace, a wonder, a temple, especially as compared to Penn Station. Penn is low-ceilinged, subterranean, warren-like; GCT soars, replete with daylight in the main upstairs hall. GCT has never smelled specific to me. Yes, it's briny in the Oyster Bar and smells of solvents near the shoeshine and there are pockets of coffee, onion bagels, diesel fuel, flowers. But there’s no one smell that says “I am in Grand Central”.

The powers that be are building a whole new station under GCT - the Long Island Rail Road will one day stop there, 14 stories underground, providing “East Side Access” (because Penn Station is so far away). It’s supposed to be open and running four years from now.

Recently, one of the stands in the lower level food hall changed hands. I can’t remember what was there before, but now it’s a fancy-pants donut shop. The result, for me, is that now, willy-nilly, GCT smells like Penn Station. It's like the Doughnut Plant is a harbinger of the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road.

14 November 2018

Be Prepared

I, curmudgeon, am usually exasperated by tourists and strollers and tourists with strollers at rush hour? OMG.

This morning, the downtown express was unusually uncrowded, and the family of four tourists plus two strollers wasn't in the way.

And the father? He caught my eye, because attached to his baseball cap he had two hair elastics and one barrette.

It warmed the cockles of my cold black heart to see how well prepared he was for the inevitable hair emergency that was going to befall his three-year-old daughter.

Kudos, stranger!

[I did find myself singing Be Prepared to myself. Because, curmudgeon.]

13 November 2018

Words from the girl, and other matters of importance

"This womanhood stuff is disgusting!" (pause) "But maybe my tits will get bigger."

Wielding a bowl and a pair of chopsticks: "This is the best way to eat hot Cheetos, because you don't get red dust on your hands."

"Japan is attacking!" Me, blank look. "You know, white underpants, red blood...?"

* * * * * * *

I don't know about your house, but in ours, there are two female people and one male person. This results in rather too many conversations at the dinner table about matters of the uterus, many attempts to make Daddy squeamish, and long groans at how awful it all is. The final straw - for my husband, anyway - might have been the Diva cup discussion over breakfast.

We have also had conversations about how lucky we are here in these United States, where most of us have easy access to sanitary pads and tampons, and where menstrual cups and period underpants exist, and where we have high tech apps that predict just when to expect to have the painters in.

That said, there are plenty of women and girls in the US who have have trouble getting menstrual supplies. Schools do not always recognize that teen-aged girls may need pads or tampons, because their cycles may be erratic and their period arrives when they're unprepared, or because they haven't the money to buy the goods. Prisons and jails often fail to supply adequate quantities of pads. Shelters may not have supplies available.

Happily, New York City passed a landmark law "to ensure access to menstrual products in public schools, shelters and corrections facilities." And Free the Tampons "believes that every bathroom outside the home should provide freely accessible items that people who menstruate need for their periods. We think menstruators shouldn't have to worry about an unexpected physical need becoming an overwhelming emotional ordeal." And just last week, Nevada became the tenth state to lift the "tampon tax" - meaning that there's no state sales tax on tampons and sanitary pads.

Women and girls are not so lucky in other parts of the world.

In Kenya though, ZanaAfrica supplies pads to girls who need them.

And in India, Arunachalam Muruganantham, the Indian sanitary pad revolutionary invented a simple machine that enables village women to produce their own pads for sale.

What is important about our dinner table conversations is that we are having them. There is no shame in a bodily function like menstruation; and failure to discuss only leads to misinformation and stigma, and - in fact - is a human rights concern for girls and women.

Remember: human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights.

12 November 2018

The Birds And The Bees

The astute reader may have surmised that I am cleaning out my drafts folder. What better project than #NaBloPoMo?!

If you have children, and are in need of literature with which to guide them vis-à-vis the birds and the bees, I would like to heartily recommend the following three books by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley.

Ages 4-8
It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends

Ages 7-10
It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families

Age 10+
It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health

They are funny, dispassionate, and inclusive.

11 November 2018

On the Inanity of Plastic Bags

I am amused by the shite I have found in my drafts folder.

How about this?

The plastic bag songs

Katy Perry
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

"Drive By"
Oh I swear to you
I'll be there for you
This is not a drive by
Just a shy guy looking for a two-ply
Hefty bag to hold my love

Right. Apparently I was briefly obsessed with pop songs referencing plastic bags. There are a lot of them! Why do I care? Because it's inane? Because it is inane!

I do like that the internet is like one enormous concordance. You want songs about "plastic bags"? We got 'em. Prefer "hefty bags"? We got them too.

Honestly, though, do you ever feel like a plastic bag, looking for a hefty bag to hold your love?


10 November 2018

My Favorite Baby

It’s the girl’s 15th birthday. She's lovely. She rides, she sings, she's got a 4.0 grade in trig so far this year.

A couple of weeks ago, she told me she wished she’d been born a year earlier, so she could start learning to drive. “My friend N. is getting her learner’s permit next week, and D’s getting hers at the end of the month. I wish I was turning sixteen.”

I gently pointed out that if she’d been born a year earlier she’d have been a different person.

It’s a funny thing to think about. If you hadn’t been made of that egg and that sperm, who would you be?

And then, somehow, because it seemed related, I told her that I’d had a miscarriage, before she was born. She took it all in stride, as she does most things, and went back to SnapChatting while controlling the car's music. (I liked it when she sat in the back seat and I had total music control. At least I don't hate everything she puts on.)

Yesterday, I was again reminded that miscarriage is one of those taboo subjects - so many people have had one, but until you raise your hand and say "here too", you don't know. Because, it turns out that Michelle Obama had a miscarriage, and went on to use IVF to conceive the two Obama children.

"Reflecting on it now, Mrs. Obama says she wished she knew other women had experienced miscarriages as well — a lesson that would have helped lift the shame she associated with it."

Let's remember to talk about the hard things. It's better when you don't feel alone.

Oh, and wish me luck. She's having 10 girls over for a slumber party tonight.

09 November 2018

In Which I Demonstrate That I Am Going To Hell

Once upon a time, back when the girl was a baby, I used to lurk on the Urban Baby message boards. It was like front row seats to a train wreck, a delicious mix of schadenfreude and wickedness. I weaned myself of that bad bad habit, but now there's Facebook, specifically the local "moms" page. It's almost as entertaining as Urban Baby used to be, and it's not anonymous.

I used to copy my favorites into a draft post, titled "Best of [   ] Moms". Then I felt bad and stopped doing that. In fact, I stopped lurking because it generally just infuriated me. But I never did delete the draft.

Typos, inanity, excessive punctuation, and a constant searching for honest and reasonable tradespeople: life in the suburbs.

  • Would love a recommendation for an eyebrow specialist for my 12 year old for her Bat Mitzvah. Thanks. (No 12 year old needs her eyebrows done.)
  • HOSE OR NO HOSE...Black or Nude
  • Need some pet insurance advice, please..Our dog came from a good breeder so hoping there are no hidden genetical surprises and am thinking of higher deductible but have no idea. Sorry for inane question on a Sunday morning. (Genetical?)
  • Does anyone know a good and cheap handyman that can fix a leaky faucet to a closet door? (Since when do closet doors have faucets?)
  • (About middle school kids) These are their formidable years, when bonds and relationships are created. (Formidable!)
  • Is anyone interested in buying a pair of brand new UGGs. Long story, but my 12 year old bought them on eBay and ended up with two pairs. She bought them for $90. Let me know if your interested. (Um, why is your 12 year old shopping on eBay?)
  • Help mom's : Who to call to get my auto vacuum in the house fixed???? (Car vacuum or central vacuum?)
  • I am looking for great closet stretching companies. Any recommendations? (How do you stretch a closet?)
  • Can anyone recommend a reasonably priced built-in guy? (I think we all want a built-in guy.)
  • Looking for a reliable and honest cleaning lady. Any recommendations would we helpful. Thanks !
  • What are people giving for a cash gift at a black tie wedding? It's pretty fancy at the Mandarin Oriental and I'm not sure what the appropriate amount would be. (Sputter...the wedding venue does not the gift determine.)
  • Hi. Can anyone recommend a reliable local psychic that does NOT use tea leaves (I am allergic) or a crystal ball (long story). Thanks in advance.
  • Has anyone sprayed their lawn for tics? If so has it been effective and which company did you use? (Let's hope the lawn doesn't have Tourette's.)
  • i need an excellent creative local accpontant to do my complicared tax return thanks
  • Looking to get wood floors refinished. Has anyone hired someone great for this? Thank yo

08 November 2018

On Bra Shopping and Nomenclature

Of all the things that I can think of that are not at all fun, bra shopping is right up there on the list. Over and over, though, people say that Nordstrom is a great place to buy a bra. And I am here to say that they do indeed have excellent customer service. I took the child there a couple of years ago, prepared for a horrendous experience, and I got the nicest down-to-earth woman who took one look at her and said "wait here". A couple of minutes later she turned up with the perfect bra in the right size. I was kind of dumbfounded.

Since then, I have been back to Nordstrom on my own account several times. Every time, though, there's the struggle between my desire for a bra without an underwire, and the fact that nearly all of the bras for sale have underwires. I have given in a couple of times, and ended up with underwire bras that aren't terrible. And once I got a bra with vertical side stays that I ended up removing with an X-Acto knife (because they dug into me something awful). But the holy grail is out there, I know it.

The last time I went, I went because I'd lost weight and the two "best" bras that used to fit no longer fit - the molded cups had sad little air pockets within. So, I hauled myself down to the mall, where you have to pay $3 or $4 to park the car, which always just seems to me to be an abomination, I mean, don't they want you to stay and shop and buy and not feel nickel and dimed by paying for parking? It's a suburban mall, not a parking garage on 44th Street in the theater district! I digress.

The nice and knowledgeable saleswoman at Nordstrom found me a couple of bras that fit. Underwire. Boring. And then I found myself saying to her, plaintively, do you have anything more fun? With that, she disappeared, returning with an armload of this that and the other thing, including some things without wires. It turns out that if you want a wireless bra, you need to ask for a bralette. And if you ask for a bralette, you will have your pick of ridiculous and delightful fluff. I walked out of there with a sober beige bra with side stays (as yet unremoved), a sober black underwire bra, a lacy silver grey bralette, and a lacy royal purple bralette. I mean, I never learned how to be a real girl, but as long as I'm going to have to wear a bra, it might as well amuse me, right?

And reader?

It's all because of nomenclature.

07 November 2018

Askew, or Why To Avoid Fast Fashion

I bought a shirt at Target over the summer. I almost never buy clothes there for myself, but it was a cute black and white striped sleeveless shirt, made in a linen knit, with a faux placket detail at the neck and little vee-slits where the side seams meet the hem.

I shouldn’t have bought it. It was cut off square, and every time I wash it, it gets more askew, trying to spiral around me. The side seams twist clockwise, the left to the front, the right to the back. The center back seam veers off center. The front placket skews to the right. No amount of pulling or shaping or blocking will fix it, because the fabric was cut badly.

Every time I wear it, and I do because I’ve found the right cardigan buttoned just so hides the most egregious flaws and lets a bit of the black and white stripes show, I think of my mother. She’d have held it up in the store, noticed that the grain of the fabric was off kilter, declared it flawed, and she wouldn’t have bought it - as cute and as cheap as it was.

Because she sewed, she knew that "the fabric of a garment should be cut either straight along the grain, or in the case of a bias cut, on a clear angle, usually 45 degrees, which allows for the fabric to stretch. If it isn’t cut properly, the garment can pull out of shape with wear." And she taught me enough to know what to look for.

In this case, cute won over prudence. I should have known better.

06 November 2018


I know. Broken record.

In NY the polls are open from 6 in the morning, to 9 in in the evening. Go. Our country depends on you.

Your vote is your voice. And voting is a right, a privilege and a duty. Do it.


05 November 2018


Tomorrow (Tuesday November 6th) is Election Day, if you're in one of the many places that doesn't yet have early voting. Please, for the health of our country, vote for the Democrats.


04 November 2018


Sunday morning, and we are driving to Long Island to visit the newest baby in the family - my brother’s child, my daughter’s cousin.

My daughter is doing French homework in the back seat and I failed to bring a book of my own, so I’ve plunged straight into the book she’s reading in English class: The Things They Carried.

“What’s it about?” asks my husband. “The things they carried” chime Mir and I. They carried guns and photos and gravity and dope and flak jackets and bandages and pebbles.

I progress past her bookmark at page 19 and finish the first story. And make the mistake of mentioning the letters he burned. “I hadn’t gotten that far!” she wails from the back seat.

What do I carry? Lip balm and bandannas and a hair brush even though I nearly never brush my hair except before I leave the house in the morning and before I go to bed. A letter from a friend who died last year and a list of Broadway shows I’d like to see and a tiny micro tool, because you never know.

Last week, the girl rummaged around in the downstairs coat closet and found my old black suede Gap bomber jacket which I bought in the late 80s and haven’t worn in forever. It has a dark green satin lining with paisleys and a small zippered pocket on the left breast. “Check the pocket, there’s a baby inside.” She unzips the pocket, with its sharp toothy brass zipper that feels dangerous as you slip your hand past, and bingo. Tiny plastic baby.

It is a comfort to me that tiny plastic baby is still in the pocket and ever will be, even though I can’t remember where tiny plastic baby came from. But every time I wore that coat, or moved it to a new closet, I checked for tiny plastic baby, “ah yes, there she is”. Carried.

03 November 2018

Not Walking the Walk

The Lungevity walk-a-thon was supposed to be last Saturday - but anticipated bad weather forced them to postpone the event a week. So it's today. And again, the weather is yucky. And alas, my sister had plans to be out of town this weekend, and I have stuff to do, and so neither of us are actually going to walk in the actual walk-a-thon.


I personally have raised nearly $2,000, and my sister's team has raised nearly $16,000, and overall, the event has raised almost $134,000. And that's really good. Because - as you know, anyone can get lung cancer - not just smokers.

The facts:

To me, one of the most shocking of those facts is that "lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, yet only 6% of federal research dollars spent on cancer research are spent on lung cancer".

If you can and would like to contribute, we'd be deeply appreciative. If you're a research-the-charity-before-you-give person, Lungevity has a four star rating from Charity Navigator.

Thank you.

02 November 2018

What They Don't Tell You About Teenagers

You know that small children will smear ketchup everywhere and wreak havoc on the knees of their clothes.

What you don't know is that you will one day have teenagers, who use over-the-counter acne medication, and wash their hands inadequately, and RUIN YOUR TOWELS.

And because we only have one bathroom, I have to look at this every day.

Benzoyl peroxide is of the devil.

01 November 2018

Pa Rum-Pum Pum Pum

It's the first of November.

I sit down on the train, next to a woman doing a crossword puzzle, but not the same one I will be doing after I've finished reading the hard news. I think to myself "crosswords unite" and settle in.

Muffled deep in her bag, her cell phone rings - but not the usual default ringtone. No, it's...and she pulls it out of her bag, thus unmuffling it, her cell ring tone is “Little Drummer Boy”.

I have lost the “Little Drummer Boy” challenge before it’s begun.

I did, however, lean over to her and tell her that her ring tone had made my day.

Because honestly? I love me some Christmas music - even if it is only November 1st.

23 October 2018

In Which We Adapt An Iconic Recipe

The cake of memory is the NYT plum torte. Summer is not complete without it. And yet, made as perennially printed by the Times, it is not especially low-carb friendly, clocking in (according to VeryWell's calculator) at 43 grams per serving.

In an effort to tamp down the carb count and lower the glycemic index, I replaced some of the sugar with coconut sugar, and all of the white flour with half spelt, half almond meal. And because I had some sad, mealy, end of season peaches, I used them instead of plums. The result? Lovely. Full flavored, nicely textured, and 2/3 of the carbs as the original. Whole grains, for the win. Sure, it's still not "low carb", but sometimes one really needs a little sweet, especially while watching the Great British Baking Show after dinner.

Peach Cake

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup spelt
1/2 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt (optional)
2 eggs
1 1/2 peaches, sliced
Cinnamon sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a mixer, cream the sugars and butter. Add the flours, baking powder, salt and eggs; beat well.
  • Spoon and spread the batter into a greased 8" pan - either a springform, or a regular pan with a disk of parchment in the bottom. Arranged the sliced peaches in a neat fan around the batter, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  • Bake 55-60 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, remove from pan and let cool on a rack until it's time to slide onto a serving plate. Serve plain, or with whipped cream if you're fancy.

12 October 2018

Because I am a completist...

And because Phryne Fisher is just the escapist ticket these days.

No, I didn't read them in order. (I'm not that compulsive.) It doesn't really matter, but there is some character development from book to book.

The TV show is great too.

08 October 2018

36 hours

The shadow
flying over there
is the plane
I am on.
We converge
with a shudder
and the rumble of
wheels on the ground.
Together again.

The girl and I just went to North Carolina for 36 hours, just like the New York Times travel section columns! We were there for a family wedding - but carved out enough time to go shopping, eat barbecue, have breakfast with old blogging friends, and tour the Governor's Mansion.

And today, I have spent the day moving papers from here to there, tying a little baby quilt, making weird seedy hardtack, and in the pile of papers, I found this little ridiculous poem that I'd jotted down once upon a time - on a trip to Detroit, in point of fact.

Flying is weird, and requires magical thinking, but I'd never have gone to North Carolina for 36 hours otherwise.

21 September 2018

The Annual #FuckCancer/Happy Birthday Post

83, she would’ve been, today. I think of her every day. I think she would’ve been delighted that we went to visit the island from which her father‘s family had come, off the coast of Germany (and I can’t believe she never went there). I think she’d be horrified and dismayed by the revelations of bad behavior at the New York City Ballet. I know she would be angry and sad at the political state of this country right now. She would love my beautiful daughter, with her big heart and burning desire to succeed and her grandmother’s love of riding - which skipped a generation. (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been on a horse, and one of those was a mule.) She’d be tickled that I planted a New Dawn rose that scrambles up my back deck, and wholly supportive of my repair & recycle sewing projects.

[Remember the external fixator?]

I miss her.


If you are inclined to remember Moky, perhaps you’d support my walk-a-thon effort. My sister - who also has lung cancer - has again put together a team for a Lungevity event next month. Join us IRL (!), or by making a contribution. Lungevity does good work funding scientific research, educating on early detection, and providing patient support to help "people live better with lung cancer and dramatically improve on the current 18% five-year survival rate". And, they have a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator.

Click the Donate button below, or use this link to Lungevity.

Thank you.

09 September 2018

A Four Penny Dreadful

As you will remember, from time to time I rail about charitable solicitations that have annoyed me - especially when there are live stamps or actual dimes involved.

Yesterday brought a new iteration of the live stamp mishegoss.

Yes. The organization glued four penny stamps onto a business reply mail envelope. In other words, the organization just wasted four cents on that mailing because if the BRM comes back, the post office is going to charge them whatever they charge for a BRM (first class postage plus a surcharge which varies depending on how many pieces come back), and if the envelope doesn’t come back, the four cents is gone like the wind. And, since the return rate on charitable solicitations is generally low (like in the single digits low), nearly 95% of those penny stamps are going in the garbage.

You may say “but I’ll add my own stamp so the charity doesn’t have to pay”. Whatcha gonna do, use a Forever stamp that you have sitting around, or rustle up 46¢ worth of stamps? You’re unlikely to do the latter, so it’s a waste of 4¢. Plus, in my experience, even though some postage paid BRM envelopes say something like “use your own stamp and help us more”, like this one does, the post office does not always recognize that. You put your stamp on, the post office may well charge the charity the BRM rate anyway. (I have seen this happen; it’s one of the reasons we’ve given up on BRM mail in my office.)

End result?

International Rescue Committee is off of my list.

Cautionary tale for you?

Don’t put a stamp on a Business Reply Mail envelope.

04 September 2018

Tabbouleh, variant

My mother's stock in trade dish for the annual Labor Day potluck was always tabbouleh. Bulgur, mint, parsley, olive oil and lots of lemon juice.

Yesterday, I needed a side salad to go with some pork chops. I had a little bit of bulgur, a half a can of chickpeas, and a cucumber, so I whacked together a tabbouleh variant. I posted a picture on Instagram, because it was cheerful, and someone asked for the recipe. There wasn't one. So:

Tabbouleh with Chick Peas

  • 1/3 cup of dried bulgur
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 can of rinsed chickpeas
  • handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 a cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 a sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • handful of mint, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2-3 T. olive oil
  • 2-3 T. white wine vinegar

Put bulgur in a bowl, add boiling water and cover. Let stand for 10-15 minutes. Drain if necessary, and return to bowl. Add all other ingredients, and mix. Taste and season as necessary. If you want to be fancy, chop the onion and soak it in the vinegar while the bulgur is steeping. That'll take some of the bite out of the onion. This is enough for four people as a side dish.

03 September 2018

Reflections On Traveling in Northern Europe In August 2018

There are wind farms everywhere.

There are many solar panels deployed.

Nearly every single toilet is dual flush.

We stayed in six hotels. In five of them, you had to put your key card in a slot inside the door in order to "turn on" the electricity in the room. No card, no lights. No card, no iPhone charging.

Hotel hallway lights were on motion sensors. Open the door, and the lights go on. Walk down the hall, and the lights go on in segments ahead of you.

In five of the six hotels, there were no amenities of the sort you find in all American hotels - just a wall mounted soap dispenser near the sink, and one in the shower. No conditioner, no lotion, (no souvenirs). In a couple of hotels, the product was the same at both the sink and the shower. In others, it was hand soap by the sink, and shampoo/body wash in the shower. When it comes down to it, is there a difference?

In five of the six hotels, the queen/king bed came with Two. Separate. Duvets. One for each of us. In all seriousness? This is genius. No stealing of covers possible. I may have to institute this at home.

Walking is everything.

There are nearly no overhead wires. Occasionally in the countryside, you see distribution lines. But all of the general electricity and telecommunications is delivered via buried lines. In the city, overhead lighting is suspended from cables.

Traffic is frequently calmed via chicanes - a little zig-zag just to slow you down. I think some chicanes would be useful in my town.

Roundabouts are everywhere.

Denmark is nearly cashless - although I had some cash, I didn't need it and could have gotten away with having none.

Translated signage will never not make me laugh.

03 August 2018

Cluny Brown

There's a periodic book column in the New York Times, called "The Enthusiast", described as "an occasional column dedicated to the books we love to read and reread." Several months ago, the column's subject was Margery Sharp - an author heretofore unknown to me (despite a whole mess of children's books that seem like books I should know). Charmed by the description of "Cluny Brown", I put it on hold at the library. And waited. And read some other books. And finally, a couple of weeks ago, "Cluny Brown" was mine to borrow.

I picked it up and was irrationally pleased to find that it was in that increasingly rare library binding: indestructible buckram. The cover is brown on beige, in a sort of feathered marble pattern.

The title is stamped on the spine in no-nonsense capitals.

And best, because it's a book that's been in circulation since about 1972, it's got a due date card pocket inside the back cover. Which, in my considered opinion, is the best place to store your bookmark.

So much pleasure from the merely physical aspects of the book. And! But! Happily, it is a wonderful book. Cluny is an idiosyncratic character of the highest order, and moves through life in a rather different plane than those around her. A plumber's niece, she has the temerity to take herself to tea at the Ritz "all on her own, to see what it was like."

At the end of Chapter 4, a foreign visitor has arrived at the Devon country house at which Cluny is now in service as a parlormaid.

Thus layer by layer, without any conscious effort, the oyster that was Friars Carmel smoothed and overlaid its grain of sand, producing, like a pearl, a distinguished Professor, met at a British Embassy, recovering from an operation, and fond of horses.

No such process, naturally, was applied to the new parlormaid.

Indeed, her entrance, at the beginning of Chapter 5, is spectacular and distinctly unparlourmaidlike:

Cluny Brown arrived at Friars Carmel in a Rolls-Royce.

Cluny simply doesn't act in the ways in which people expect a plumber's niece parlourmaid to act. She's delightful, and so is the book.