Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Editorial Comments

Here are just a few of the headlines from this morning's NY Times:

Investigation says Russians Acted Ineptly in School Raid
An investigation of the terrorist attack on a school in Beslan in 2004 criticized law enforcement agencies for an uncoordinated rescue effort.

You think?

US Set to Loosen Rules on Objects Allowed on Airlines
Federal officials will announce this week that passengers will again be able to carry small tools and scissors aboard commercial airplanes.

Thank heaven; nothing I like better on a long flight then taking care of some of those pesky household repairs.

Prepare the O.R. (and A.A.): Dr. Drake is Back
The return of Rick Springfield as Dr. Noah Drake in "General Hospital" is sure to shake up the series and delight its fans.

Oh, baby...Dr. Noah Drake...before Jon Stamos was Blackie, before Jack Wagner was Frisco Jones, there was Rick Springfield. He was a doctor. But he sang, too. (Like Blackie and Frisco...they were in a band together. Man, I know way too much about this stuff). He was so dreamy. I am SO starting to watch "GH" again! The '80's live! "You know I wish I had Jessie's girl"....

A Life in the Culinary Front Lines
The pioneering culinary journalist Clementine Paddleford wrote the book on American cooking's coming of age.

Holy crap, I have this book! My mom gave it to me AND it's autographed by the author. I need to actually look through it now because according to the Times it is a "seminal" work, rivaled only, apparently by the writing of James Beard. Who I've also never read. I like to read about food.

The Duke Shames the Capitol
As Congress mulls over the larger lessons of Representative Randy Cunningham's demise, it should look to repair its ethics process, which now stands as a scandal unto itself.

Another greedy, crooked politician. Shocking.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Snow. Not.

Snow in Seattle is a rare and wonderful thing. So rare in fact, that most of us don't know how to drive in it and because Seattle is ranged over seven hills it doesn't take much to shut down the city. Which is always kinda groovy. When those unexpected snow days arrive it means all that winter wonderland stuff that people in the midwest take for granted. There a rush to build a snow man, make those snow angels, take a long walk, leaving footprints in the virgin snow, only to hurry home for cocoa because it won't last long. All too soon the warm air will turn that snow to rain and it's back to winter as usual.

Did I mention that snow is rare here? Rare as in the last big snow fall (over 12 inches in our yard) was when The Child was in first grade. Rare as in I've had exactly one white Christmas here (although one year it did start snowing on Boxing Day). With very few exceptions, it also comes as a complete surprise. Oh, they predict it all the time. It's a sport among the local newscasters: "Snow in the will it affect your commute?" Then it snows. In the mountains. But if they say it's going to fall in the lowlands you can pretty much safely bet that the most we'll get is rain. Which is what we get in the lowlands in winter. No, if it snows and sticks down here it is almost always a big, unbidden and joyful surprise. Sometimes it falls in the night and we wake up to that mystical white silence and spend the next hour listening to the school closures, with The Child fast by, fingers and toes crossed, praying for that most rapturous of all childhood delights, a snow day. More memorably it begins in the afternoon, when everyone is at work and school and then we all have impressive stories about how long it took us to get back home in the mess. We get the obligatory and familiar pictures of cars sliding into each other and of the one bozo who tries to make it up Queen Anne hill without chains. Good times.

But as I said, snow here is rare and unpredictable which is why I don't understand why they bother to note it in the forecast at all. All that does is get little children all hopped up for no good reason.

We had such a prediction yesterday. Even the local NPR affiliate was predicting snow, albiet in calm, FM tones as opposed to the apocolyptic message adopted by the TV stations. And The Child believed it. She went outside every half hour last night, checking the thermometer and reporting that it was "still falling". And she woke up this morning, predictably, to rain. You'd have thought Christmas was cancelled. She was soooooooooo sad.

We tried to warn her. We really did. We told her that it never snows when they say its going to. She countered with the one time in her memory that they predicted snow and we got snow. We tried to tell her that was a fluke. We knew exactly what she was feeling. That's how we felt when we were kids, growing up in the Northwest, where snow is rare. But she wasn't buying it. Her conviction that they wouldn't say it if it weren't true was unflinching.

Despite the disappointment and boo boo face this morning, hope springs eternal. It is currently 40 degrees and the sun is going down. "Just 8 more degrees and it's snow temperature," she said. It could be a very long winter.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Harry Potter, Memes and a Movie Review

Meme (noun): A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

I have been trying to understand the concept of the meme. What I know for sure is that it rhymes with "dream". I get that, as a gene passes along genetic material, a meme transmits ideas. Or something like that. So I'm wondering if an example of a meme would be the fact that everyone who saw the first Harry Potter film was saying things like, "That is exactly how I pictured Quidditch!"

While I continue to get this concept through my thick skull, I'd like to reflect on the phenomenon of the Harry Potter franchise. It would be easy to be cynical. Something that is hyped this much has to be Paris Hilton, completely devoid of substance. But in the case of the Potter books and films, the emperor is in fact fully clothed.

I have loved all the books, each more than the last. As a writer I hold JK Rowling in complete and utter awe. She could have so phoned in the later books...they would have sold if they'd been half as good as the first. But instead she's shown true artistry and commitment. She is faithful to her characters, her fictive world and her audience. The first book, in fact, pales in comparison with subsequent titles. The sixth book was the best yet. For creating a new series of classics and for doing so with integrity, she deserves to be the richest woman in Great Britain.

The movies, which were inevitable, have followed a similar course. The directors and producers have managed to be faithful to the text, thereby assuring the loyalty and ticket sales of a massive audience. It is hard for me to separate the two but I think the movies stand alone. (Not that you wouldn't want to read the books). And like the books, each movie has gotten better. The little kids have grown into competent actors. The technology of our day allows the magical world of Hogwarts to be realized as fully as an author could hope.

We went to the Columbia City Cinema Friday night to finally catch the latest HP film. "The Goblet of Fire" is a huge story and the screenwriters did an excellent job of cutting out the extraneous bits while capturing all the material that moves the story. So much of the landscape of the next two books is established in "Goblet". First we have the tensions and challenges of being adolescent. Rowling has done a bloody brilliant job at getting inside teenage hormones and angst. The Yule Ball is the catalyst for this with the pressures of getting a date and confronting feelings (Hermione rocks). It is the complication of teen rebellion and relationships which, in subsequent books, both help and hinder the big picture. And the big picture, as "Goblet" makes clear is that being Harry Potter, "the boy who lived", has become a high stakes game.

Several words about casting:

a) I still miss Richard Harris as Dumbledore but it's not Michael Gambon's fault.

b) The regular cast are all pitch perfect (Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman...I mean, come on, who else could play McGonagall and Snape)?

c) As I said, all of the youngsters are really starting to develop some chops and are maturing nicely. (Not to mention that when Daniel Radcliffe took off his shirt to get into the bath there was an audible sigh in the theatre. Which was two-thirds adults).

But d), where the casting folks have shown particular brilliance is in the revolving cast: the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson and Julie Christie playing tasty little parts, making a big impact in a few scenes. "Goblet of Fire" is no exception. Miranda Richardson scores in the juicy part of Rita Skeeter, the epitome of a yellow journalist. Plus, we get Ralph Fiennes, with creepy, snake-like make-up as Lord Voldemort. Who better to play Pure Evil than the guy who nailed "sadistic Nazi" in "Schindler's List"?

One of these days I need to bust a move and go see a "grown up" movie in a theatre. (Although I guess that Netflix and a big screen TV seem to be working well enough). But for my $8 "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" did not disappoint. I can't wait until it's out on DVD.
The Film Czarina gives "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" 4 out of 5 Koihead.

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Happy Birthday, Jon!

Mr. Stewart is 43 years old today. Bake him a cake.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ta Da!

Today I fooled around with html for the first time. The Spouse had to show me how to do it and it was, like so many other instructional moments in my life, fairly meaningless. To whit, I am one of those people who doesn't learn from explanation. I have to do it to get it, which has resulted in something of a magpie approach to learning. I pick up the pretty, shiny bits that I need and leave the rest, very often failing to fully comprehend the beauty, complexity or subtlty of a subject. This is true even of those subjects which interest me. And while I have sometimes arrived at a deeper understanding of a subject the truth is I'm pretty much of an academic dillitante. But getting back to the point, I'm married to a geek and don't need to understand html, like, ever.

I got what I wanted, which is to edit the "links" in my sidebar so I can showcase the other blogs I read in case you want to look at them, too. Such a simple little thing and yet it took me down quite a path:

It started simply, benignly enough. What is required to make it onto my list? The Spouse found out the hard way. He has a blog but I didn't list it, which I'm sure gave him a boo boo face. But while he has a blog, he rarely posts. And I don't see the point of a blog that isn't fairly current. Another rule that emerged is that I didn't link to some of the younger bloggers I know because I feel protective of them.

I have been thinking for weeks about adding a list of links to my blog. I knew which ones I would include. They are all, in my opinion, funny and/or well-written and/or insightful. I check them every day. I talk about them to others. So why, when faced with the template screen did I suddenly start feeling angst? Was it the worry that just because I like them doesn't mean you will? What difference does that make? Say it ain't so, that here I am, 48 years old and still prone to worrying about what other people think of me? Ei yi yi. And so I say to you, I read these blogs not because they are pure and perfect but because each one in it's own way does something for me. So there. Read 'em or not. I don't care.

But here's the thing, the true source of the angst was in an even more ridiculous place. You want to know why I really was hesitating? That's right! Because what if you read the other blogs and think, "Holy MOG, where has this magnificent piece of literature been all my life?" Bottom line: I'm petty and selfish and insecure and I want everyone to like me best. Competitiveness masquerading as insecurity. So is there a Pulitzer for Blogging? If I read a really good book I would recommend it to you. I tell everyone I know to watch "Gilmore girls". Why wouldn't I recommend a blog? Over myself I will now be getting.

Such small things can lead you down a path of self-discovery. Ok, not really self-discovery because I've known about that competitive/insecure thing for a while now. But it did get me thinking once again about the whole process of writing and about the road blocks I set up for myself. Why has it taken me 10 years to finish the liturgy book? Is it the demands of motherhood and activism? No. Is it writer's block, a lack of research or material? No. Bottom line, it is the fear that no one will be interested in what I've written because someone else has done or will do it better. Deep in my heart still lurks the notion that there can only be one definitive book on any particular topic and since surely it has been written there isn't any point to mine.

The lameness of this mode of thought should be apparent. What if Evelyn Waugh had thought that about Charles Dickens or Anne Tyler about Jane Austen. OnceWar and Peace got written did that mean that no one else could ever again tackle that subject? Isn't that really the amazing thing about literature and in fact all creative endeavor? There isn't one great painting or great book, great album or great movie. Further, you have AFI lists and the NY Times Best Sellers and Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Albums of All Time", you have great libraries and museums housing amazing works of art and while the word "masterpiece" is bandied about often, there is still room for subjective opinion. Everyone may agree objectively that "Mona Lisa" is a masterpiece. Doesn't mean everyone would actully hang it in their home.

Which is all to say that my greatest demon from a creative point of view is not wanting to do something unless I can do it superlatively. Which is a really ridiculous way to live.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Friday After Turkey

General Observations:

Even if you do regular stuff on the Friday after Thanksgiving (like laundry and book-keeping) it doesn't feel like a regular day.

I am all for education but I think it is w-r-o-n-g to give kids homework over Thanksgiving weekend.

It feels colder when it rains. (I already knew that but seriously, it's freakin' cold right now and wetter than it has been in weeks).

I Really Like:
talking with The Child about grown up and growing up stuff. It's especially great at those times when I'm actually not the dumbest person on the planet.

when The Donald fires the right person. Martha, too.

having enough money to pay all the bills. Even better, I like going through the stack of bills and discovering that half of them aren't due until December.

when you have friends you trust to housesit and then you come home to a house that is just as clean as you left it and maybe even more so.

paying bills on-line. I used to be a real hold-out on that and I still write checks for big stuff like the mortgage because it makes me feel in complete control (even though it's all an illusion) but for sheer ease and convenience, that on-line bill paying thing really works for me.

when my sister remembers to make the cinnamon hard candy that I like. I also think it is really nice that The Spouse remembered to bring some of it home along with the toffee that he likes.

Things I'm Really Looking Forward To:

The Child coming home from her Day o' Fun with Godmom.

The Spouse coming home from his Day o' Work.

Going with aforementioned for pizza and then to the little neighborhood cinema to see (finally) "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire".


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Dinner

The table took up the folks' living room. Mom decorated in in a style worthy of Her Marthaness. The food was superfantastic. We've learned through the iterations of the years that when it comes to Thanksgiving, everyone wants it to taste like it always tasted. This is not the time for variations on the stuffing or some high church recipe for yams. Roasted turkey, bread stuffing (and dressing and PLEASE let's not have another debate about THAT). Giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, Julia's pickled beets, my bean casserole. Cranberry sauce from a can (although some cranberry relishes on the side are acceptable). Desserts can be various so long as there is pumpkin pie.

Even though our usual weekend-long romp was abbreviated because The Spouse has to work on Friday, we stuffed the requisite hilarity into the day. The goofy names, dancing with the neices (they were into "Thriller" this year...don't ask me why), playing Speed Scrabble and getting whooped by my baby sister (again! damn her eyes!) We laughed. We talked. We revelled in the plenty, sang the Doxology in 20 part harmony and were thankful.

But here's the thing: when you don't stay over on Thanksgiving you don't get turkey sandwiches and those ravenous beasts ate practically all the turkey as it was and so here I am, safe at home and feeling generally blessed and yet, oddly bereft. I have no turkey sandwich. Sigh.

Oooh, 2 hours of "The Apprentice"...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Over the River and Through the Woods

To grandmother's house we'll soon be going. The sleigh is gassed up and there is no snow, although there is quite a lot of fog. I still have to pack and make the bed but I thought I'd get a start on my obligatory "List of Things I'm Thankful for This Year".

I'm thankful that I'm not under indictment, nor do I know anyone who is. I do know some people at Preston Gates and Ellis, the law firm whose name is uncomfortably popping up from time to time in the Abramoff scandal but I'm pretty sure none of them are involved. Pretty sure.

I'm thankful that The Child is so excited to see her cousins. I was usually excited to see most of my cousins but there was one family on my dad's side that had the "weird cousins" and they were the ones we usually spent the most time with on holidays. They were supremely weird. Still are. I'm glad none of my nieces and nephews are like that. They are all super cool kids, very sweet and smart and funny. I'm glad The Child has them since we didn't have the decency to give her a sibling.

I'm thankful that I can look forward to a holiday with the family without cringing over the major doses of dysfunction lying ahead. Oh, sure, from time to time there are those who begin to hold forth about something that requires everyone else to bite their tongue until it bleeds but if we all thought the same way about every little thing it would be rather boring, wouldn't it?

I'm thankful that the thought of 2 hours in the car on jammed freeways with nothing but my husband, child and Radio Disney doesn't make me want to vomit. I got water and road snacks for the trip and frankly, I love singing along with Jesse McCartney and Hillary Duff, so there.

I'm thankful that Bri and Suzanne are going to stay here and watch The Dog. I heart him so much and I would be sad if I had to leave him in a kennel where he didn't know anyone.

I'm thankful that all I have to cook for Thanksgiving this year is an eggnog cake (baking as we speak, yum) and a green bean casserole. I'm thankful for green bean casserole. Further proof that I am a gourmand, not a gourmet.

I'm thankful that the tide is turning against the war in Iraq, thankful that some of our troops will be coming home early next year (even military advisors and Condi said it could be done). I'm thankful that when my dad and I go off in a corner to talk we will be in agreement on the war. (We were in agreement from the start but I just take a lot of pleasure in seeing eye to eye with my Reagan Democrat father, because there were so many years when we saw eye to eye on absolutely nothing).

I'm thankful that my house is clean. I'm thankful I have a house. I'm thankful that I don't live in New Orleans or Indonesian or Pakistan. I'm thankful for running water, cell phones, lap tops and indoor plumbing. I'm thankful for my big ass stove and my comfy bed and interesting people with whom to share my life.

I'm thankful for Jon Stewart, Barack Obama, Bono and Bruce Springsteen. I'm thankful for Steve Martin, Colin Firth and the BBC. I'm thankful for the NY Times on line (but not that completely lame thing they are still doing which requires you to pay if you want to read the "good" editorials). I'm thankful for British literature, Garrison Keillor, NPR in general and "Gilmore girls". I'm thankful that there are so many ways for me to be informed (whenever I feel like being informed), entertained (which I want frequently) and challenged to think.

And chances are, faithful readers, I'm thankful for you. Many of you have been oh so kind and supportive of my little chunk of Blogtopia and knowing you are out there keeps me going.

Here's the thing, there's a lot of darkness (war, hurricanes, Paris Hilton) but there is still much to celebrate. So have a good time with your family and friends (all so fascinatingly dysfunctional in their own special way), enjoy your turkey and pie and please, whatever you do, don't call it the Macy's Day Parade.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tuesday's To Do List

One must be flexible in life, "the best laid plans" and all that. Today is chock full o' fun but the first thing I had to do was give The Dog a bath (for reasons best not detailed due to the "eeww" factor). He is now running like a rabid thing through the house, shaking himself repeatedly and growling in a menacing way. He does not enjoy the bath.

We leave tomorrow for a brief Thanksgiving interlude with the family. Now that The Dog is hygenic I can get back to my original gameplan:

There will be a trip Out and About during which I will visit:

Fremont Gardens for paperwhite narcissus bulbs. I force a mess of these every year right after Thanksgiving so they will be in bloom by Christmas. The peppery sweetness of their fragrance combines with the aroma of satsumas (which we eat by the boxful these days) to make my signature Advent potpourri.

(Appropos of hardly anything, I noticed today that Sarah Jessica Parker has a "signature" fragrance called "Lovely" which is selling at Nordstrom and Macy's for $65 a bottle. And not a big honking bottle, either. I just remembered why my "signature" scent is Ivory soap).

Bavarian Meats for a sackful of sauerkraut, smoked pork chops and assorted sausages. Today is (the very clean) Dog's first birthday. We are celebrating with his sister, Trudy, and her family. Since the pups are schnoodles, part Schnauzer, part poodle, I'm serving Alsatian Choucroute to honor of their heritage. Sauerkraut, now there's a signature scent for you. (Truthfully, this recipe is so yummy even sauerkraut avoiders love it).

Pike & Western to get a bottle or two of nouveau beaujolais, 'cause it's that time of year. We can have one tonight and one tomorrow night with the pate I'm taking to Mummy's.

Kaufer's for Advent candles and a new Advent calendar. The new church year begins on Sunday and I can't wait. This is absolutely one of my favorite times of year. I have become rather adept, though I say it myself, at keeping Christmas at bay until it's proper time (which in my book is 12/24-1/6). It's very old school but darn it, it works for me.

Finally, somewhere, anywhere I must try to find Swedish fish as The Child promised I'd provide same for a party at school. This provided what the pros like to call a "teaching moment". The lesson: why we don't make promises on behalf of our mother without consulting our mother first.

While the cash card cools down I have to finish getting the house dusted, swept and tucked in for the house/dog sitter. I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to bake the eggnog cake for Thanksgiving today or tomorrow. There really is plenty of time tomorrow morning. Assuming The Dog doesn't need another bath.

Alsatian Choucroute Garni

(recipe courtesy of The Cardinal)

Drain 2 pounds sauerkraut. Squeeze out juice.

Render ½ pound bacon ends in a Dutch oven. Remove meat.

In bacon fat cook ½ c. thin sliced carrots and 1 c. sliced onion, until onion is translucent.

Stir in sauerkraut and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.

Make a bouquet garni of:
1 sprig parsley
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
10 juniper berries (if no juniper berries are available, toss in a shot of gin)

Bury garni in middle of sauerkraut and pour in:
1 c. dry white wine or 2/3 c. vermouth
2-3 c. chicken or beef stock, just to cover sauerkraut. Season lightly with salt.
Bring to a light simmer on top of stove.

Place a round of buttered wax paper over the top of the sauerkraut and place in preheated 300 degree oven and let simmer 4 ½ - 5 hours, until liquid is absorbed.

During the last 45 minutes of cooking remove wax paper. Sprinkle in some caraway seeds and add selected smoked meats (blanched) and browned sausages. Arrange meat in among ‘kraut and finish cooking.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Thoughts on Poultry

There was a report on NPR this morning that a duck on a commercial farm in BC has been diagnosed with bird flu. The strain of virus is not the big scary one that's going to take us all out but the entire flock is going to be put down as a precaution. Which makes me think that it's not bad enough to be a bird worried about getting sick this winter. The poor things must be getting suspicious and paranoid, too. Duck goes to a party and starts to cough while chatting up a chicken. "Whoa, dude," says the chicken, backing away, feathers ruffled. "You're not sick are you?" "No, man, no", says the duck, giggling nervously. "No, just a tickle in my throat. Canape went down the wrong pipe. It's all good". Poor duck. Even if he's not sick, everyone else at that party is going to keep 10 feet away from him, just in case. Might as well finish his martini and make it an early night.

Speaking of (lame) ducks, our President did the right thing this weekend when he said that Congressman John Murtha was "a fine man, a good man, who has served our country with distinction". He went further to say that debate over Iraq was "worthy" and that those who disagree with the administration need not be considered unpatriotic because they do so. It might have been nice if he'd piped up earlier but at least he said it and I'll acknowledge that here for the handful of you who still think the President is a great leader and is doing a bang up job. I admire your loyalty.

A chicken hawk is "a person enthusiastic about war, provided someone else fights it; particularly when that enthusiasm is undimmed by personal experience with war, most emphatically when that lack of experience came in spite of ample opportunity in that person's youth". In other words, someone like Dick Cheney who didn't serve in Viet Nam, not because he was against the war but because he was too busy (five deferments). Dennis Hastert is another chicken hawk. He didn't serve either. There are a mess of chicken hawks over there on the Hill and they were squawking loud and long last week when Murtha called for the immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq. They didn't say, "Look, war is hell and we'd love to get out of there as soon as possible, too. Here's the game plan and the time table and you just gotta hang in there with us". Instead they challenged the courage and patriotism of yet another decorated war hero. I would love for someone to explain to me the hatred neocons have for veterans. Because it isn't about partisan politics or even this particular war. The Rovian tactic of using a man's military service against him was instituted way before Iraq. They did the same thing to John McCain when he was running for the Republican nomination.

I was so bent by this latest round of "Swift Boat" nonesense that I went to Dennis Hastert's web site. I was going to email him a big "shame on you". Turns out, unlike most senators and representatives, you can't email him if you aren't from his state. (Well, at least not through the website). But I did notice a link to "veterans" so I check it out. He states: "I believe it is very important that the needs of our military veterans be met to the fullest extent possible. Our veterans fought to protect our freedoms and way of life. We should respect our veterans and show our appreciation for the sacrifices they have made". And all I could think was, this is your idea of respect, atacking a veteran's conviction and loyalty because he dares to disagree with you? But then, name calling is the last bastion of those who have no defensible position. "I know you are, but what am I?"

But as much as I despise chicken hawks, I'm a big fan of chicken. Tonight, to celebrate the return of quiet Monday evenings, I'm making my famous and much ballyhooed Chicken and Leek Pie. Here's the recipe. Viva la poulet!

Chicken Pot Pie

In a large cast iron skillet, melt 3 T. butter.

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
2-3 shallots, chopped
Add pepper and salt to taste and saute until chicken begins to brown.

Add in:
1 tomato,chopped
and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato starts to break down and a glaze begins to form.

Stir in 2 T. flour for thickening, cook for 1 minute and add in 1 c. chicken stock.

Stir until sauce begins to thicken.

Stir in:
1 leek, white and light green part, sliced
dillweed to taste

If you wish you may also add in a handful of frozen peas and some cooked, diced carrot

Fit a round of pate brisee over top of skillet. Make slits in crust and decorate with dough cutouts.

Bake at 425 until crust is brown, about 25 minutes.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

If You Don't Have Anything Better to Do...

Thanks to for a heads up on a new Google game. By now we all know what happens when you type "failure" in the search bar and hit the "I'm feeling lucky" key. But this is even more instructive. In the search bar type your name and the word "needs". Then record the first 10 things that pop up (go into the text that pops up for the fun probably won't be in the headline). I only got nine before it started getting meaningless but it was a fun way to wile away the minutes while the frozen avgolemano heated up.

Here is what I need and thank heaven I got that sorted out so easily:

Lorraine needs some information from you.

Lorraine (Hunt) is running for governor. Which is apparently what Nevada needs.

The trip to Lorraine needs to be made via the Eurostar service. (It certainly does. I love Eurostar).

Lorraine needs to work with Brenda Bishop to determine costs for the event. (Oh no, another fundraiser?)

Lorraine needs to be taught a lesson.

Lorraine needs more help learning at home.

Lorraine needs no introduction. (Ain't that the truth).

Damnit (sic) Lorraine neeeds to hurry up and come home.

And possibly my favorite:
Lorraine needs to do what Mary Beth and I do - load it up ourselves and take it to the landfill.

What do you need? (Don't answer that).

Head Game

The girls lost last night. And they beat themselves. They won the first game of the match and were up 13-8 in the second. They just needed 2 more points. And that's when it happened. The intoxicating smell of victory was in the air and went straight to their heads. They were vibrating with excitment and lost their focus. Every girl who came up to serve had the same expression on her face, The Child included, and that expression said, "I will score the winning point. I will be the hero". And the other team took advantage to come back and beat 'em 15-13.

Everything is still cool at this point. It's a best of three match. A third game cuts into our dinner time, which means I might be late to watch Martha Stewart's "Apprentice" but it's ok. For a long, gruesome set of minutes it looked like our girls were going to be soundly drubbed...the score went to 1-7 real quickly. But they came back, there were some great volleys and then it happened. They were still down, though not uncomfortably, and one of the girls, and all I'm going to say is she was NOT mine, started to cry. The game wasn't over and she started to cry which of course made all the other girls get boo-boo faces. Their opponents saw those beaten looks and it was all over. They scored their next few points and walked away victors.

It might be helpful, at this juncture, to admit that I really am not a huge fan of children as a group. It is not a guarantee that just because I like you I will find your child as fascinating as you do. Which is perfectly fine because a) I'm never going to tell you or your kid to your face, b) you may well feel the same way about mine, c) I'm sure I'll like them much more when they grow up and 4) as long as you love 'em it's all good. There are some children who I find to be super fantastic but fundamentally the gush and sentiment I bring to an encounter with a baby is not assured past the age of 14 months. Which is to explain that when the crying started I did not respond with compassion. Having only that afternoon learned that the kid in question is something of a Drama Queen anyway, I was not disposed to feel sorry for her. Wring her neck, perhaps, but not feel sorry.

We were talking at dinner about the mental aspects of the game and The Child felt compelled, with her innate fairness, to clarify that the DQ "wasn't crying, she was moping". "Just as bad!" four adults declared in unison. First, it was bad sportsmanship and second, it was stupid. She brought the team down, they collectively rolled over, exposed their soft white underbellies to the alpha pack and in that moment gave up their victory.

They beat themselves last night...first with excess confidence and fatally, by quitting before the game was over. Further proof that all the skills in the world aren't enough to make you successful if you don't have the mental commitment to succeed. Hopefully they will all learn that sooner rather than later.

Speaking of which, I made huge progress on my book yesterday and I'm starting to think it's that whole Nicole Richie thing. I mean, my lord in heaven, if Nicole Richie is a published author - family, name recognition and connections aside - what's my excuse?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What's Our Ball? Every Ball!

My dad was a total jock and excelled at every sport he played. One of my first memories is of being in a sports arena at a basketball game. Daddy was a high school coach during my formative years and when he wasn't coaching or playing a pick-up game somewhere, he was watching sports on television.

I am not an athlete. I was the kid picked last for everything and the first one to get thrown out in dodgeball. I couldn't get a volleyball serve over the net until I was in my 20's. When you're a grown-up and no longer forced against your will to participate in P.E., sports can become fun because no one cares. I'm still not an athlete but I love watching baseball (and hating the Yankees). I play a mean game of boules.

The Child falls between the two extremes. She doesn't necessarily have a lot of innate athletic talent but she's active and willing. She's tried a lot of sports but it wasn't until last year that she found the perfect fit in volleyball. It makes me happy that she's found a sport she likes and is good at. Team sports do have the potential to teach a child about teamwork, discipline and striving for one's personal best. And who knows? Maybe she'll become good enough to get a scholarship.

She played volleyball for the first time last year and was definately the most improved player by the end of the spring season. She practised all the time to improve her skills and saw an almost immediate payoff. Plus, she had the satisfaction of being on a very good team. They won their championship game in the fall and went to the semi-finals before being eliminated in the spring.

There were two girls from last years team who "played up" this year so the 7th-8th graders could field a team. These girls were commonly perceived to be the best players because they had great serves and were tall. In truth, they were inconsistent at best. Yes, they could serve, but they did their share of standing there and letting the ball drop. The fact that I think one of them is a useless princess and the other is a mean witch should be noted in the interest of fairness. In short, I didn't think we'd miss them this year and I was right. The drama level is significantly reduced. And the other girls (all returning players) have had the opportunity to really grow, both as individuals and as a team. They began sure they wouldn't win without those other girls. Not only are they winning, they have all gained a new level of confidence. They see what they can do and they don't have any drama queens around pointing out their errors (which is how drama queens deflect attention from the fact that they themselves are not perfect. I really hate girls like that and I always will and I'm not going to apologize for it). The Child has become one of the most consistent players on the team, both offensively and defensively. She will throw herself toward a ball to make a return. She gets her serves over probably 90% of the time. She is fearless, willing and most charmingly, very encouraging of her team-mates. Last week she served the winning point in two games.

Tonight is the championship game and win or lose I'm very proud of our team, my little Spiker, in particular. We're going to go have a celebratory burger somewhere after the game. Even if we don't come home with a trophy, it's been a great season. All that said, you know what I'll be celebrating the most? That volleyball is over and we get our Monday and Wednesday evenings back. At least until CYO starts.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What Happens when the NY Times has Articles about People I Don't Care About

I'm trying to remember if we burned Nicole Richie at our Celebrity Bonfire this summer. I don't think we did because by then she and Paris were on the outs, which we thought spoke highly of Nicole. Although we might have burned her because we have a real thing about people who are famous for being famous. But we probably didn't because she is dressing so much better these days. So imagine my surprise this morning when I saw a glowing, yea verily, nigh unto gushing piece on Nicole in one of the last bastions of serious news, the New York Times.

Apparently Nicole has written a book, "The Truth about Diamonds", which is "loosely based" on her life. For example, the main character is the adopted daughter of a famous singer and she does a reality show with a socialite friend. I'll not quibble about how much imagination had to go into this work of fiction. The point is that she had a book signing recently and the joint was hopping with dazzled fans who talked about what a role model she is and how much they love her, blah blah blah. At this point I still don't care one way or the other about Nicole Richie but by the end of the article I did start thinking that she wasn't the worst role model a kid could have. She kicked drugs, which is a good thing. She appears to have a fair amount of drive. She unloaded Paris Hilton, which as I said, shows a tremendous amount of good sense. And she wrote a book, which is more than I can say at this point. (Although I'm going to snidely suggest that it was probably 'way easier for her to get a publisher than it would be for moi. But still, snaps for finishing a manuscript).

Here's what really got me, though. Apparently Nicole used to be considered a bit tubby (by who's standards I don't know) and now she is waif-like in her thinness. Which has of course led to the inevitable rumors that she's replaced heroin with an eating disorder. (It occurs to me that I've never seen a fat heroin addict, but I digress). Nicole swears she isn't anorexic. Here's the shock. I believe her.

I come from a long line of long lines. Women genetically influenced by the maternal side of the gene pool are tall and willowy. Up to a certain point in life, we can eat whatever we want and still be thin as reeds. I was skinny until I had The Child. And I actually had total strangers approach me from time to time and ask if I was anorexic. Astonishing, isn't it? Would you actually go up to someone you'd never met and say, "Hey, you're really overweight. Quite a problem with the self-control, eh?" Sheesh. I had a neice who encountered a particularly warped elementary teacher who called the poor child up in front of the class and used her as an example of malnourishment. (Why my sister didn't sue....) Even The Child's pediatrician was worried that she was "failing to thrive" because she was so low on the percentile chart. Fortunately, our pediatrician also accepted the family background as truth and when she consistently examined a healthy, albiet small, child she relaxed.

Sometimes I miss how skinny I was...I could eat anything, wear anything. But with age and child bearing I got a woman's body. Not fat, just real. Curves and such. It actually took me a while to get used to it. I didn't recognize myself in this form and I will admit that for a time I was a bit obsessed with my weight (which was never outrageous) and the fact that for a while there I was wearing a size 10. Double digits seemed 'way freaky. But it was all in my head. I got over it without doing anything drastic. I starting working out and watching what I ate and shutting up about the inevitable changes.

I realized I had to do this for The Child as much as for myself. She got the long, thin genes and I want her to be able to enjoy it while she can without being obsessed about the way she looks. Never mind the societal pressures, which are real. What message was I giving her by obsessing over the 5 pounds or so that I sought to banish? The Child has a pretty strong self-image. I'd like to keep it that way. And while we're at it I want her to enjoy the freedom of indulging a healthy appetite without worrying that she won't fit into her prom dress, to pursue sports because she loves them, not because it burns calories. Her worth isn't tied to her looks (never mind that she's cute as a button). And neither is mine.

So that's the thought path I was led down this morning. And if Nicole Richie is figuring out how to use her power for good and not for evil, then all the better. We need as much of that as we can get. Also, I'd forgotten this but I went through a brief Commodores period. I loved dancing to "Brickhouse". Which is really ironic considering today's subject. "Shake it down, shake it down, shake it down now"....

Monday, November 14, 2005

Manic Monday

This is how my kitchen counter is supposed to look. But it doesn't because:

We fixed a big dinner for the In-Laws last night which was a rousing success but stalled out on the clean-up. I overslept this morning, which meant that not only did I not deal with the dinner mess, I added to it with breakfast. Meanwhile:

I let The Child stay up to watch "Iron Chef" last night but that souffle has fallen. She simply cannot stay up until 10 on a school night. She couldn't be rousted from bed until 7:15 and generally lollygagged in that under-rested way that people have with the result that we were late out the door. So not cool. And halfway to school she realized that she'd left her lunch on the table. But I couldn't deal with that just then because:

I had to turn in the cash from Karaoke Night and then go volunteer because there's another fundraiser coming up (let's face it, it's all about the fundraising in re-election office). I hand-addressed some 30 or so vellum envelopes which took no time at all so after stamping the calligraphically perfect envelopes I headed downtown to replace a bra that had been chewed by our lingerie obsessed puppy. Alas, the purchase must be deferred until later in the week because the shipment wasn't yet unloaded and I didn't want to hang around so instead:

I came home to free the dog from the prison that is the kitchen and take him with me to drop off The Child's lunch. I was chatted with the School Secretary who was miffed that the oil executives didn't have to be sworn in when they testified before the Senate Energy & Commerce committees last week. Which got me thinking:

Sen. Cantwell moved to have the oil execs. sworn in, Sen. Boxer seconded, but they were shouted down by Sen. Stevens of Alaska. Is it just me or does that guy yell a lot? Every time I see him anymore he seems to be going off at quite un-Senate-like volumes. I half expect to tune into C-Span one of these days to see him banging his shoe on the table and screaming, "We will bury you". Still puzzling over the Senator's volume control issues I returned home only to find that:

I don't know where to begin. I told you I can't think if the kitchen is a mess. I wasn't kidding. And besides that I'm preoccupied with the fact that I did something stupid over the weekend which has resulted in hurt feelings on the part of a friend and I haven't yet had the opportunity to make it right. Spending the rest of the afternoon all draggle-tailed and frowsy isn't going to make me feel any better, heal the rift or get my kitchen clean. In times like these there is only one solution: grab the timer, turn on the soundtrack to "Moulin Rouge" and take it one dish at a time. I love Ewan McGregor.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bad Dreams

We had a Karaoke party at school tonight. I was the impetus behind the idea so necessarily felt a fair amount of obligation relative to its success. Short story, we had a great time, we raised some money and I got to sing "Love Shack" with my friend Dave. All good.

But last night I had a very freaky dream. I'm sure, on the most basic level, that I was worrying about whether the party would be a success. In the dream I was in a church sanctuary. Suddenly, a group of terrorists come in with automatic weapons and force us all to the floor. There was a bit in there about window shades that wouldn't close. I remember lying on the floor and heaving with fear. Then, with no apparent transition, I'm in a room alone with Karl Rove and he spends the next hour trying to convince me that he's a good guy but all I can think is "Geez, this guy is such a tub".

Isn't the subconscious weird?

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Tim made up a French word for me: "blogeuse", a female blogger. No one has ever made up a word for me in English, let alone French. “Blogeuse”, like a chanteuse with a laptop.

After 3 months out in Blogtopia I have a few observations:

First, Blogtopia is full of a ton and a half of dreck. Boring, angry, stupid, stupid stuff that makes you question the whole human experiment. But between a combination of random accident and recommendations I have found some really fine stuff, too. And when I do I bookmark it immediately lest I forget the name. Hopefully this weekend The Spouse is going to show me how to list links to other blogs (something quite done out here in Blogtopia). I’ll be judicious about it. I read this one blog that has a list of probably 50 bazillion links on it and I just don’t think anybody has that kind of time.

Second, Blogtopia can be a very amusing place. Here's a bit that just made me glad to be alive.

Third, we’ve all been hearing for some time now how the Internet is responsible for the decline of conversation, handwritten notes and similar other relationship killing ills which will ultimately lead to us all being isolated in our individual cubicles, plugged into the matrix and lit only by the glow of our computer screens. My experience, though, is that there is a groovy little circle of connection among all these people even though we haven’t met in person.

I’ve found some blogs I really enjoy and sometimes I leave a comment. Then they look me up, come read what I’ve got going on and leave a comment. I find it oddly heartwarming. It is, as The Neighbor observed, something like a cocktail party. We only reveal what we want to about ourselves. It’s not that we necessarily develop some sort of life-lasting intimacy but it’s a connection nonetheless. And it is always comforting to find other people who are funny, who think about the same things I do, who don’t mind being honest about what they question or are learning.

Fourth, Blogtopia is full of stories, interesting stories about people living their lives, struggling with their relationships or faith or whatever. There are people into piercings and tatoos looking for a good chili recipe. One day I happened on a blog with an interesting Alice in Wonderlandy sort of name. Browsing the posts I found her asking for a good, easy chili recipe. Well, I have that (Payson's Papa's Chili, as we call it) so I sent it. She posted a thank you on my blog and said something about how much she loved crockpots. I go back to her blog and check out her profile. And she seems to have a sort of goth sensibility. Which is fine but the point is that you wouldn't necessarily peg someone like that as a fan of the crockpot. Which is to say that maybe because we can't see each other Blogtopia has the potential to break down the most fundamental of prejudices. We can't prejudge what we can't see. And there is the added advantage that if we don’t like what someone writes we don't have to waste our time with their blog, unlike the people in our lives we wish were that easy to dismiss.

Fifth, something like 6% of us have blogs. Which amounts to a bunch of people. Thousands maybe. Which is to say that the odds of ever being read are pretty high. I played it safe, giving the link to my blog to a handful of friends that I was reasonably sure would like what they read. These people are very nice about it and their encouragement is a gift. But I had a real Sally Field sort of moment when I noticed that one of my favorite blogs had a link to MY blog on his site. When someone who couldn’t pick you out of a lineup thinks you blog isn’t a complete waste of time it’s pretty flattering.

Finally, post or perish. If you have a blog and you want to be read then you better commit to regular posting. I’ve found some blogs with potential but if they don’t post regularly I lose interest and stop checking it out. But with all those blogs out there, the quest for quality continues.

My coffee has gone cold. I hate when that happens.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Shout out to Omaha

We go to Hood Canal every summer with another family. The other mom and I like to spend our afternoons drinking Mike's and reading magazines like "In Touch" and "Us". These are magazines that we never read otherwise, unless we are killing time in an outer office somewhere. When we're done reading, we tear out the pictures of all the celebrities that we find offensive. This year we were big on Angelina Jolie, Jessica Simpson and that perennial favorite, Paris Hilton. We have a bonfire every night but toward the middle of the week we have Celebrity Bonfire, where we toss these vanities to their fate.

I tell you all this because there's a blogger in Omaha who does a fine job of critiquing the current scene and he has a special place in his heart for Jessica. And I thought he'd like to see this picture.

Some Veterans I Have Known

My dad was a Marine (Semper Fi). We have a picture of him looking 'way handsome, wearing his uniform and jarhead crew cut, sitting in the back of a bicycle cart on the streets of Tokyo. He was stationed in Japan after basic training and was just about to be shipped out when the Korean war ended. He didn't see a lick of action. But he's a veteran. Thanks for scaring away the commies, daddy. (That's what he always told us...that the Communists heard he was coming so they gave up).

My father-in-law saw rather more action. "Saving Private Ryan" action. He was part of the "greatest generation", served in WWII and came home to never speak of it again. The ways in which he was a hero pretty much went with him to his grave. He passed before I ever met The Spouse so I can't thank him for beating back the Axis forces. But we can all agree that 'twas a pretty great thing.

The Spouse's Uncle M was a WWII veteran, as well, pilot in the south Pacific. We heard rather more stories from him, mostly about flying itself, not so much the war. He was a big, wonderful, generous love of a man who hated the "Japs" (and that was as polite as he got) until the day he died.

As for my generation, I didn't know anyone who served in Viet Nam. We were in a Mennonite church at the time. I knew conciencious objectors. I worked for John Kerry, though. And I respect John McCain a lot. Does that count?

Then there was Larry (Nicaragua) and Art (Iraq I). Young men, healthy men. Neither one of them likes to talk about what they experienced. War, apparently, is indeed hell. And since a veteran is anyone who has served as opposed to only those who actually saw action I think too of assorted uncles, Dale, Tim, others who were willing and able and, in my view, particularly fortunate.

As for the current conflict, we have a "degrees of separation" thing going one personally known to us, lots of brothers of and sisters of and friends of friends. My hair dresser's husband, the Neighbor's cousin's husband's friend. It takes a lot of courage to put on a uniform, give up your will and be sent wherever your government decides they want you. I've learned that it takes a lot of courage to stay back home and wait and pray and hope that you'll see your loved one again.

I am pretty conflicted about war (interesting choice of words) and peace. I wish people had listened when Ike warned against the military-industrial complex. I have been in my share of anti-war demonstrations but it makes me sad, fundamentally, that there are ever wars to protest. I bawled my eyes out the first time I ever saw "Gallipoli"...a movie which pretty much sums up, for me, the general evil of war. And yes, blah, blah, blah, sometimes war is necessary and of course I'm glad that we're not all speaking German or Russian or whatever else we'd be speaking if we hadn't stopped the barbarians at the gate. I'm old enough to have heard all the arguments, right, left and center and furthermore, I understand them all. Hence the statement "I get pretty conflicted about war".

But here's the thing: whatever else I may think, those who put on that uniform and those they leave behind make a sacrifice on behalf of the rest of us. Which is an honorable thing. Which is why a "grateful" nation should:

a) never send them into war without having first exhausted every diplomatic option;
b) never lie about why they are going;
c) never send them off without the necessary planning, training, troops and equipment to do the job or without a plan to "win the peace";
d) prove we truly honor their service by doing everything we can to care for and support them when they return. Never cut veterans benefits. Especially don't cut benefits while solidiers are still fighting the war that is making them veterans. That's really not ok.

Who says Veteran's Day is just a bank holiday that nobody cares about? Sure, it's not like I'm baking a Veteran's Day cake for the big Veteran's Day party we're having later. But I just spent the last hour and a half thinking about the veteran's I have known and loved and I honor them. I shall now conclude my Veteran's Day commemoration by listening to John Lennon's "Imagine", because what's a holiday without music? Peace out.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dying is Easy, Parenting is Hard

Last night The Child and I had to have a talk. She'd been caught doing something wrong and a confrontation was in order. (No, I'm not going to tell you what it was. I write a lot about my family but I don't want to someday see a tell-all book entitled "Blogged: How the Worst Mother in the World Ruined My Life"; not written by my kid, anyway). We started well. I'd had all day to think about it so I wasn't in the crazy place. She did not compound the infraction with a lie (good, she's learned the first rule of politics: the coverup is always worse than the crime). She was contrite. She was remorseful. She accepted the consequences without any of her usual pre-law arguments. But with kids this age what they do isn't nearly as important as why they did it.

Thankfully, so far, The Child and I can still talk about things and she's pretty forthcoming with me. I know kids can get sneaky but I have a fair amount of confidence in our ability to talk. My mom and I always could talk and with very few exceptions maintained that throughout my high school years. Anything can happen (and usually does), I'm just saying that I have a model that proves it isn't impossible to talk to your teens. Anyway. She starts telling me that she feels stressed about homework, that she has a lot to do, a lot of projects and she's worried she can't keep up. She tells me that she's disappointed in herself for not consistently bringing home "No Missing Assignments" rewards.

First thing I have to do is help her focus on the positive. We talk about how much better this school year is, how much improved she is in both academic attitude and performance, that she is in fact keeping up with her lessons so far. Then we move to the more philisophical ground...that she can't worry about what's looming ahead, can't worry about the rest of middle school or what high school is going to be like or where to go to college. I encourage her to focus on what she can control...doing her work, turning in her assignments, learning to be more organized. I remind her that she's bright, creative, determined and full of potential. I tell her that she can do anything with that skill set if she learns how to manage herself. I explain that every project in life can be broken down into small baby-steps and that if she learns how to do that she never need be intimidated by a big assignment. I tell her, probably most importantly, that every day her one over-riding task is just to be the best person she can be. I urge her to live each day to the fullest and not worry about the future so much. There was something corny in there about how if she does her best and uses her gifts to the fullest then her days will string together into a beautiful life. (I guess there was an image of a necklace in my head somewhere) I promised that she would always have my support and encouragement. I wanted to cry, she did. Then she wanted to watch television.

After hugs and kisses we went our separate ways and that's when I realized that I'd just witnessed The Child's first existential crisis. The kind of worry she's dealing with is so different from grownup worry. If I live as long as my maternal grandmother I've got a good 50 years left. I know that the sailing won't always be smooth but I also know what it's like to weather a storm. Whatever concerns I have from day to day, I'm dealing with them as an adult, with a wealth of history, experience and the world's best support system. I know there is always a way out. But I remember what kid worry is like. You don't yet know much of anything. You have so little control over your life. You HAVE to go to school. You HAVE to do your homework. You HAVE to listen to the grownups and be nice to people and clean up your room. It kinda sucks, really. Kid worry is full of unknowns. The other day she said, "I can't imagine what I'm going to be like when I'm a grownup". And she really can't. She can say that she wants to be a veterinarian/writer/astronaut and the mother of twelve but she can't imagine, right now, how she's going to get there. I mean, she doesn't even know what her shoe size will be.

So I guess my point is that while life is full of surprises, there's something to knowing, metaphorically, that your shoe size isn't going to change. There are some givens in adulthood, no matter what twists appear in the road. But you have to grow into those things. No one, not even Mom, can give them to you. Which is all to say that I'm really glad I'm not 11 anymore.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


The house this morning - with its truths
scrambled, blankets and feathers, the start of the day
already in flux-drifts like a poor little boat
between its horizons of order and of sleep.

Objects want only to drag themselves along:
vestiges, entropic followers, cold legacies.
Papers hide their shriveled vowels;
the wine in the bottle prefers to continue yesterday.

But you - The One Who Puts Things in Order - you shimmer
through like a bee, probing space lost to the darkness:
conquering light, you with your white energy.

So you construct a new clarity here,
and objects obey, following the wind of life:
an Order establishes its bread, its dove.

Pablo Neruda

This is my signature poem. It tells me that homekeeping can be the means to peacemaking. It names me, Ordenadora - The One Who Puts Things in Order. That is exactly what I do. I derive enormous satisfaction from the simple act of ordering our lives. I walk through the house, pulling up blankets, removing water glasses from side tables, fluffing pillows, wiping crumbs from a counter. In about 15 minutes I can restore order, create cosmos from chaos. When I do this, I create order and peace. It is a gift that I can give my family. They might not even recognize it but I know that by bringing order to our home in these small and gentle ways, their lives are made easier.

A friend once remarked, marvelled really, that my house was always clean. "No," I told her. "It isn't always clean but it is always tidy". Even before Flylady I understood the importance of being able to sit down in a chair without having to first move a pile of laundry, of being able to set the table without having to pick up 4 days worth of mail and newspapers. Now that I have routines that address the cleanliness issue, it is even easier to be Ordenadora. It truly requires little effort to burnish the edges, so to speak.

One day, shortly after we finished our kitchen remodel, the Rabbi's Wife came to call, eager to see the results of our efforts. It was a day when I had not been Ordenadora. The house wasn't a disaster, mind you. It never is. But it didn't yet speak peace. And I found myself apologizing for the dishes still on the counter and the unswept floor. I was disappointed that my beautiful kitchen wasn't quite as lovely as it could have been. (This was probably enhanced by the fact that the Rabbi's Wife has a spotless, pristine home). It was silly of course. The house wasn't that bad at all and she probably wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't said anything. People do live here, after all. But I vowed then and there that I would never again be caught out like that. The bed would be made first thing, the surfaces cleared after use. I didn't want to ever again feel like I needed to apologize for the state of my house, unless we'd just been hit by a hurricane or something.

You're probably thinking, yes, but life does indeed happen. And besides, who wants to live in a place where you aren't allowed to live? Doesn't the very fact of being human mean that you'll make messes? Of course. I'm not one to cover my couch with a plastic protector or run after everyone with a dustpan and crumber. I don't lose it when there are smudges on the window or sticky spots on the floor. I am not obsessive compulsive nor a martyr to some impossible myth of perfection. Things don't have to be just so. But you can't live fully in clutter. You need to be able to relax, put your feet up. I want my home to be as welcome and embrace my family every day. I don't believe in cleaning up just because company is coming (which I used to do). I finally realized that we deserve to be treated as well as we treat our guests.

It might sound silly, but I actually get a lot of joy from my daily ritual of being Ordenadora. Once I've assisted Order in establishing "its bread, its dove" I can think clearly. I can write. I can read. In 15 short minutes I can set the stage so that we can all live our lives with less distraction. And it is a ritual, not a chore. It is as meaningful as dipping my fingers in the font at church and making the ancient sign of the cross. I've done that a million times but each time reminds me of my baptismal call. And each morning I assume the mantle of Ordenadora I remind myself of what matters most to me, the ones I love, the need for peace and the freedom to get on with the pursuit of my own dreams.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Things to Do Today

I did my volunteering at Cantwell's office yesterday so today is going to be like my Monday would have been if I'd been home. Here's what I have to do:

1) Generally dust, spritz and sweep around the house

2) Iron

3) Do a load of laundry including the pair of school pants in the trunk which I was carrying around because I thought they belonged to another child only it turns out they don't.

4) Try to find a recipe for green beans that isn't boring

5) Clean the Viking (reference to the stove, not The Spouse)

6) Vote.

No on 330, yes on 336, yes on the smoking ban, no on the monorail, no on repealing the gas tax. I'm voting for one City Council incumbent (Conlin) and for all the rest of the challengers, including the dude running against the mayor. Oh, and I'm voting Green for the first time ever, for King County Executive. I'm not happy with the incumbent, can't vote for the Republican (because he has a domestic violence record, not because he's GOP. I voted GOP for state attorney general last year. And so far I haven't regretted it). The Green candidate seems like a really level-headed, prudent guy and what the heck because I'm pretty sure Sims will be re-elected. People are dissatisfied but what they say at a dinner party and what they do in the privacy of the voting booth are not always the same thing).

7) Call Smith Barney. This makes me nervous because I've never done it before but I need to sell some shares. "Buy, sell! Buy! Bye!" (No, I didn't get inside info from Bill Frist...we just need to be a little more liquid).

8) Take Mr. Puppers for a walk inbetween rain showers.

9) Work on my essay for Payson.

10) Work on my book.

11) Drink some more coffee. (Move that item to number one).

12) Make a list of stuff to do for the karaoke event at school Saturday, based on the very real dream I had last night.

And I must accomplish all this by 2:45 when I have to leave to pick up The Child. We are instituting a new homework policy tonight. She was up until 11 last night working on stuff and she still didn't get it all done. (Although she was able to finish it this morning over pancakes). Now, in her defense, it isn't that she had all afternoon to work and just diddled around. She had volleyball practise. But it is also clear that we need to be much more structured about the homework sessions because the later it gets, the harder it is for her to be focused (which makes total sense but who needs the aggrevation, I ask you?)

And my reward for accomplishing all this is a fresh "Gilmore girls" tonight. Yeah.

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Some People Are So Touchy

In my previous post I noted that torture is "morally reprehensible". Which it is. Unless you are Caligula or Hitler or Sadaam Hussein or, apparently, Dick Cheney, I don't think you can argue with that.

Last night, when we saw the Cheney headline The Spouse said, "That's morally reprehensible". And I agreed. And I used that phrase in my post without giving him credit. And now he's pouting over his keyboard. So, okay, okay. Credit where credit is due. Although I also think it worth noting that the phrase "morally reprehensible" is not in fact coined by him. He is, however, credited with the following: "I had a hangnail and it really hurt" (coined in the labor room after delivery of The Child), "bug channel" and "I mean, what about the Borgias?"

I Can't Resist

First of all, if you search Google images for the veep, most of the pictures are singularly unflattering. He always seems to be caught in mid-sneer. I think that's unfortunate, but telling.

There was a headline in the Seattle Times yesterday that read, and I quote, "Cheney battling efforts to ban torture, abuse, officials say". That's right. He's been putting himself at odds with Rummy and Condi and just about all the rest of them to get lawmakers to oppose the McCain Amendment. (You remember John McCain...Viet Nam vet who was tortured in a POW camp. A man who has, shall we say, street cred on this subject). To be fair, apparently Cheney wants an exemption for the one else is supposed to torture, just the feds. I'm sure the official wonks in blogdom have plenty of more insightful comments to make on this. But I just gotta say, torture is morally reprehensible. What does that make someone who advocates torture? A compassionate conservative? I think not.

Monday, November 07, 2005

La Vie En Rose

This Edith Piaf classic is one of the hits in the soundtrack of my life. I love it and one of these days I'm going to learn to sing it. It was one of the many French tunes that played during our Bistro Dinner Saturday night.

I know you're just dying to know what we ate. 'K. First course was apertif. When we were in France every apertif was composed of peanuts, olives and champagne, so that's what we served. This was followed by an amuse bouche of parmesan baskets filled with herbed chevre. Salade was a Pat Wells recipe, Cheesemaker's Salad, which is freakishly simple and delicious. You steep thin sliced shallot in red wine vinegar for a few hours. When it's time to serve you toss the vinegar and shallots with mixed greens, then toss the salad with a few tablespoons of heavy cream. Sounds kooky but it is lay-down-your-fork-and-make-yummy-noises-good.

Soupe was a bisque of roasted tomatoes, garlic & shallot.

The entree was bourride, poached white fish (in this case rock snapper) with a light sauce of aioli and shrimp. That was served with salt roasted potatoes.

Then it was time for fromage: Basque Shepherd's cheese, Stilton, brie champignon and some chevre that I had marinated in oil with garlic, red chilies, basil and pepper. Then and only then did we have tarte tatin with whipped cream.

Oui, it was yummy. Oui, the company was tres manifique and mais oui, the kitchen was piled to the ceiling with dishes afterwards. It was all bon, tres bon.

(What is pas bon are these riots in France. I have an email in to my friend Nicole who lives in Laval. I know from her that tensions between the French and their immigrant population are nothing new. I just want to know what's really going on. I'm a little skeptical of the US press casting this as a Muslim thing when it seems to be more related to poverty and discrimination. Whatever is going on, I don't like it and it is very upsetting to my little Francophile heart).

Returning to a lighter, rose-colored note. Last night, though still significantly fried from Saturday's fete, I made plate cooked salmon for the Family and The Neighbor and then we watched the West Wing live debate. I am getting a real kick out of West Wing this's a giant exercise in "what if". What if a Christian Democrat ran against a pro-choice, atheist Republican? (What? You can be a Christian and a Democrat? Mon dieu!) What if we turned conventional issues on their head? What if candidates had a "real" debate? Seems to me that we need to have a different conversation about a lot of issues in this country, using different language than we've been accustomed to and this show, entertainment though it be, is showing us what that might look like.

Plus I just about plotzed when Jimmy Smits' character owned the name of "liberal". He cited "liberal" contributions to American life, like ending segregation, getting the vote for women and African-Americans, creating Social Security and Medicare, to name a few. Then he said, "What did conservatives do? They opposed every single one of those things. So if you are going to throw that label of 'liberal' at my feet, Senator, I'll pick it up and wear it as a badge of honor". 'Bout freakin' time. Oh, wait. I just remembered he's not a real candidate.

To top off this madcap weekend we watched "Iron Chef America", with Morimoto facing off against Seattle's own Tom Douglas. The secret ingredient was wild salmon and Tom kicked the Iron Chef. I think it would be fun to judge an Iron Chef competition. Unless the secret ingredient was offal and I had to eat sweetbread ice cream. Eeeww.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Bistro Dinner

For the last couple of years we have donated a "Bistro Dinner for Six" to a school auction. Except that I rig it so that the same people buy it and they are 10, not 6. But they buy the wine and we make the food and unlike some similar event where we'd be lackeys preparing and serving, we are at table with them.

I had a Pottery Barn gift card (fab hostess gift from ChouChou) so I decided to spend it yesterday. I love housewares. I particularly love buying dishes. If I were filthy rich I would spend inordinate sums of money on tableware. As it is, I have a pretty good stock, enough to serve at least 30. But one can always use more. So I'm poking around the sales shelves at PB and I found these super fantastic napkin rings. They are white porcelain, square and numbered 1-12. So totally cute and, I think, rather bistro-like.

It's going to be a busy day of chopping, baking, blending, moussing and table setting. We're serving 7 courses, after all. So I'd better get to it, eh? Allez cuisine!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mea Culpa

I've got another post in the works but I have to stop and get something off my chest.

First of all, I have scoured the left-over Halloween candy and eaten all the Smarties and Sweetarts. I'm glad they are gone but the tummy ache lingers and my tongue has weird sugar bumps on it. Second of all, Sarah the Lawyer sent me a link to this game today and it was way too addicting. I probably wasted 30 minutes with it, while chewing really bad bubble gum from the left-over Halloween stash. Which is all just a little picture of the pathetic, if you ask me. It's not exactly like sitting around in a stained house dress and curlers drinking gin out of a coffee cup while my 400 cats nest in the stacks of newspapers but it's not pretty, I'm ashamed and I am going to stop.

If you, however, have been productive today and feel the need for some amusement, here you go. But play at your peril. One game won't be enough. Don't do this at work. That's all I'm going to say. You're a grownup. (Except you, Molly. Go do your homework).

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What's in Your Grocery Bag?

Do you ever wonder what the checker is thinking about you when you buy your groceries? Not so much the days when you are clearly buying food for your meals. What do they care that you picked up some pig knuckles and rutabagas? To each their own. No, I'm thinking of the times when you pop in for those little incidentals. Like the time I picked up toilet paper, a 1.5 liter of wine and the Vanity Fair with Jennifer Aniston on the cover. Did that look like an afternoon of fun to the checker? Today I bought tea lights, odor neutralizer and a Lunchable. I also hadn't yet changed out of my workout clothes or done my hair and makeup. Did that suggest a certain funk about my life? No electricity, smelly house and a twisted notion of nutrition? Nah. I'm sure Ernie wasn't judging.

The tealights are for our Day of the Dead altar. We have votives remembering some of our dearly departed but I was out of little candles. The altar looks good with our collection of sugar skulls and calaveras (those groovy skelteton figures from Mexico). The Child just has to pick some flowers to add and we're good to go for our remembrance feast. We'll eat Mexican food and listen to Mozart's "Requiem". I love All Souls. If you believe, as I do, that death is not the end then it's appropriate to pause and celebrate the sweetness of life and remember fondly those who have gone before.

The Lunchable is the result of a bargain with the devil. We have always done a pretty good job of giving nutritious food to The Child. She's inhaled her share of candy and we aren't exactly strangers to fast food but on balance her diet is, in fact, balanced. But the small ones, they do resist the wholesome imperatives of well-meaning parents. Once she started school and was exposed to the Lunchable it became her dearest desire to be able to have them for lunch. Any steady diet of this product was out of the question but I compromised when it comes to field trips. I personally think of Lunchables as a gagfest in a box but The Child, with the tastebuds of youth likes 'em and what the hey. I remember the mystique of the field trip lunch, the sheer grooviness of opening up your brown bag to see that Mom had sprung for a Twinkie. So The Child got her (disgusting) "Pizza and Treatza" lunch and I hope someday she'll remember and think kindly of her old mom.

The Frebreze-like product? I have a dog but it doesn't mean my house has to smell like a kennel.

The End of the World as We Know It

Today legislation is being introduced in France to ban smoking in all public places. A cafe without a cloud of Gauloise swirling amid the clatter of coffee cups and Edith Piaf? Mon dieu!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Don't Read This, Auntie Nan. It's Political.

This is a picture of the pot calling the kettle black. Bill Frist was outraged today when the Democrats invoked a little used parlimentary tactic to force completion of an investigation of the intelligence underpinning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Democratic Whip Richard Durbin said they wanted to find out if Americans were misled into believing the Iraq invasion was necessary. Senator Frist, the majority leader, called this tactic a "stunt" and said it was "an affront to the United States of America, and it is wrong."

You go, Bill. Because what with trying to get rid of the filibuster and being investigated for insider trading, lord knows you are the authority on stunts and affronts. You and your good buddy Trent Lott (the one looking all smug to Frist's right) know all about decorum, leadership and putting the good of the people over partisan politics. And a grateful nation thanks you.

By the way, this 'stunt' worked. Guess you do what you have to when you're the minority. Take notes, Bill, because after 2006, you'll know what that feels like. (Unless of course you're in jail by then).

Not My Usual Tuesday

So, last night, after all the Halloweenie activities, after I'd removed my itchy banshee wig, after the candy bowl was placed out of The Dog's reach, we sit down to a late dinner. I mention that I'm not going to my volunteer gig this week. Both The Spouse and The Child react with a shocked "why?"

Here's the why: the big mailing I was going to be doing isn't ready yet because it's an invitation to a fundraiser that Maria is doing with some other senator and the two of them haven't quite worked out the details. (Dang it, what's that other woman's name? It's on the tip of my'll come to me...oh, whatever, she's the senator from New York. Anyway...) The only other volunteer project is a phone bank and I don't do that phone bank thing. This elicited another shocked "why" from The Child. I told her that calling total strangers makes me nervous.

Actually, calling total strangers makes me want to boot. Last year I (reluctantly) did some get-out-the-vote calling for the Kerry campaign and almost had a stroke. Mind you, I was calling little old ladies, party faithful, who said things to me like, "Of course I'm voting for him, dearie, and you young people just keep up the good work" and it still made me hyperventilate.

I'm not a shrinking violet but I am shy, even though no one ever believes it. I am pretty good at developing relationships after first contact but there is a little toll that has to be paid every time I enter a new situation. This is why I could never be a politician or a salesperson.

For example, senior year of high school I was on the year book staff. We each had to sell a minimum number of ads as part of our grade. I didn't do it until I was threatened with a D. (As I was going to major in English I thought a D in Yearbook might look particularly unseemly on my transcript). I sold two bloody ads at $25/ to my dad's church and one to the bank that gave me my student loan. And it was torture. Contrast this with The Child, who will set up a stand and sell whatever she can think of at the drop of a hat. A child who actually gets mad at me for not doing the candy sale at school because nothing gives her more pleasure than going door-to-door hawking goods. Not that there's anything wrong with her boldness or her salesmanship. I'm just saying she didn't get it from me.

Here's another story about how shy I am. When The Child was younger she went to dance school. The first year she did it with her friend Julia, which meant I had a friend to hang out with while the kids danced. Then Julia moved away. Now I was on my own, which meant that beyond an occasional polite 'hi' or 'bye', I would sit by myself reading or writing while the other mothers talked. Sometimes I'd pretend to be super interested in the notices on the bulletin board advertising studio space and used toe shoes. The other mothers talked. They appeared to have all these pre-existing bonds of neighborhood, pre-schools and mutual friends. The Child didn't go to pre-school, we didn't live in Mt. Baker or Leschi and so I sat quietly. I didn't interject myself into their conversations. I didn't engage any of them even when there was opportunity. I kept shyly to myself. Which was fine because it wasn't like I was a lonely kid on the playground. I had friends, for crying out loud. It was one hour a week out of my life.

But what's ironic is that two of those women have since become friends. Not, mind you, because I did anything. They enrolled their kids at St. T's when we were there. One of them, Julie, reached out to me and I ended up acquiring a whole new group to hang with because of it. And since Julie is part of the reason I'm writing again and the whole reason why we have a schnoodle, I'm pretty grateful that she's not as shy as I am.

Talk about digressing. What I really wanted to mention was that, having learned I had a "free day", if you will, The Spouse suggested that I take the day for myself, which I thought was just brilliantly sensitive of him. Here's the thing. I am pretty good at taking care of myself and don't typically feel guilty for doing something just for me. But it is still really sweet that The Spouse recognizes that I am pretty busy most of the time and acknowledges my need for down time. So big fat snaps to him. I think I'll begin with another cup of coffee.