Friday, March 31, 2006

Swift Boating Jill Carroll

Less than one day after her release, it seems that some people are upset with Jill Carroll. She's being branded as an anti-war, liberal mouthpiece for the Iraqi insurgency. The reason for this apparently lies in the fact that she claims her captors treated her well. This piece in the Washington Post is mild. For some real vitrol, do a Google blog search on her name. The right wing blogs are frothing at the mouth over this one.

Speech is free. If you don't toe the Bush party line, you pay extra.

Dinner and a Movie

Friday night nearly always finds us eating with our hands in front of a movie. For the record, the Mothership has not selected the movie for weeks and weeks. I'm just saying.

We usually have pizza or tacos or something like that but since it's Lent tonight needs to be meatless. The "solidarity" recipe on the Catholic Relief Services calendar uses eggplant and since 2 out of 3 people in the household are not huge fans of the aubergine, and because I did make them eat eggplant parmesan recently, I'm opting for saganki.

Many moons ago I worked as the seating hostess for a Greek restaurant in town. I believe that everyone should be required, by law, to work in food service at some point in their career. Makes for much more patience when dining out. Anyway, it was a pretty decent gig. I worked the lunch shift so I could stay out all night at clubs (I was in love with a rhythm guitar player at the time), sleep until 10 a.m., shower, walk the 10 blocks to the restaurant and eat avgolemano for breakfast before my shift started. Plus, I always had tip money. Sweet.

I became enamoured of Greek food, particularly of aforementioned avgolemano, and of saganaki. Kasseri cheese soaked in brandy, floured and then lightly fried before being set on fire with more brandy. The flames were then doused with lemon juice and you were left with a pan of molten cheese goodness. It made for a dramatic table-side experience but more importantly, you got to enjoy gobs of gooey fromage smeared on pita bread. Not much in the world is better than melted cheese.

The Child saw Emeril make saganaki the other night on the Food Network and she was captivated. Wait until she tastes it. Opa!


Stop What You're Doing

Go see Pat RIGHT NOW! He's got an amazing video clip on his blog. You will be delighted! Go! Right now! Tell the boss you're doing research. Go on! Thank me later.

I'm Married to a Star

The "a" key on my keyboard is sticking. Want to guess how frustrating that is?

Last night The Spouse made some comment about all the bloggy affirmation that I received yesterday. (There was a lot and I was feeling the love. Thanks to all of you. If I'd known what an ego boost this whole blogging thing was going to be I'd have started years ago. But then you'd all be sick of me by now. So I'll take it while I can get it). I was feeling a little pixilated anyway so I made some smart comment along the lines of, "Jealous? Is this going to become one of those Chad Lowe and What's-her-Name relationships? Huh? Huh?"

He looked at me blankly. "You know, like those Hollywood couples like What's-her-name and Ryan Phillipe where the wife gets all the work and no one pays attention to the husband?"

Now, what's funny about this is twofold. First of all, I really couldn't remember the names of the wives who were supposedly more famous. I eventually came up with Reese Witherspoon but all I could think of for Chad Lowe's wife was Hillary Duff and I knew that wasn't right.

The other thing that was funny about it is that The Spouse is pretty much a rock star at Costco. He was involved in a project recently that got him favorable notice from Top Brass. He got a promotion, a raise and is even in some promotional video that they keep showing. (I think he's doing a White Snake cover). More to the point, he's won the bread for this family for the last 12 years. I think I have earned, in total, $2,412 since The Child entered the world.

This is not to say that I don't make my contributions around here. Lord knows that clean underwear counts for something. But I am Chad Lowe to his Hillary Whatever. I don't tell him enough how much I appreciate the lifestyle he's given us, how grateful I am that he made it possible for me to stay home with The Child and how much I adore him for being my biggest fan when it comes to my writing. The only charge I can lay at his feet is that he doesn't fully appreciate my roasted beet salad. But that's a beet thing, not a wife thing.

So I would like to take this moment to formally send a shout out to the greatest guy I've ever been married to and affirm my undying love, support and pride. You are the best, Spouse.

Swank. That's it. Hillary Swank. And I came up with that without IMDbing Chad Lowe.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

New Feature

OK, one more thing and then I'll stop.

In the interest of promoting literacy and in celebration of the diversity and wonder that is the English language, I have decided to liven up the side bar with a "word a day" feature. It is my hope that you will endeavor to introduce that word into each day's conversation.

This was also a chance for me to play with html without aid of The Spouse or John. Dig it, boys! The code didn't break!

And Now for Something Completely Self-Aggrandizing

I've added a link to The Writer's Blog. This is a project started by Charlie, his wife and Amy.

First of all, a word about Charlie. I don't know how this Glasgowian (Glasgowite?) found my blog but I'm sure glad he did. Through him I've met a whole new slew of bloggy friends. He claims that one of his chief characteristics is that he attracts "nutters". I don't think he's referring to people in Blogtopia, they all seem pretty groovy to me. But he does have a decided ability to create community. I don't know if you'd call it a coven or a collective or if he's just the Pied Piper and we're all little Hamelin children, following his music into some weird valley of writers but whatever it is, it's pretty cool.

Now for the blog itself. It's a sort of writing experiment wherein individuals are invited to contribute a few paragraphs to an on-going story. The story itself is not in any way determined. Each contribution gives rise to the next one and it's just sort of emerging into a literary thing. So far, so good.

Charlie emailed me earlier this week, inviting me to participate. I hestitate because, as I have stated often and emphatically, I don't do fiction. Some people have a gift for writing in many and various genre and I bow down before them. I'm best with this expository, essay-like stuff. It's what I'm comfortable with and trust me, I'm doing the world a favor by sticking to it. I have a Word folder titled "Really Bad Fiction" if you don't believe me. But one must never get too comfortable, must one? So when he blew his pipe I came along.

The process was torture. I spent hours working on 3 paragraphs. Then I spent yesterday morning completely rewriting 1 of them before sending it off. I've never been so relieved to finish something in my life. And ok, it doesn't actually suck. Within the context of the fine work of the other writers it's just dandy. It was a good exercise and I was glad I pushed myself to be a little discombobulated, if for no other reason than it made me appreciate even more how much fun this other sort of writing is for me.

Contributors get the reward of recommending someone else to participate. (They are hoping to have something like 50 writers involved before it's over). I suggested JP because a) I owe him so much for his bloggy support, technical and otherwise, b) I think he's brilliant and 3) I knew that he had written fiction. Now I also know that he's a bastard because I recommended him yesterday, his post is already up and I bet he wrote it while he was brushing his teeth.

Anyway, go check it out.


Rumor Mill

The conversation began with this question, "Mom, has anyone ever told a really bad rumor about you?"

Oh, if she only knew. In high school and college I was a rumor magnet. And if you fully understood what a good girl I was, I'm serious here, you would be hard pressed to explain it. The high school stuff owed to the fact that my dad was the youth pastor at our church (reason number 1 why I believe in a celibate clergy. I don't care who you ordain but don't drag the kids into it!) When people didn't like what he did or said it always somehow came back on me. Easy target. College was more a function of my being a largish fish in a small pond. I didn't smoke or drink and I was a virgin. But when people know who you are....

Anyway, I answered in the affirmative and then asked, "Is there a rumor about you?"

"Yes. Apparently (she loves that word) someone is saying that I was kissing M. behind the portable". (Go ahead. Savor that for a second. I did. How classic!) Before I could say anything else she turned her baby blues full on me and said, "And NO, we weren't!"

(When I told The Spouse he said, "Well, of course they weren't kissing. He's gay!" Just keep telling yourself that, honey. They're all gay).

We talked about rumors, about how the best way to squelch them is by not playing along and rising above it and all that. I told her about the variety of ways M. may react when he finds out and how to handle that.

But that's not the real point of the story. As I've mentioned before, The Child has had trouble finding real friends in her classes at school, despite the ease with which she makes and keeps them in every other circumstance of her life. Things have been a lot better this year and for the first time she has what I think you could call true friends. I love those kids.

It was her friend, N., who had tipped her off. A couple of other girls rallied around her, saying they didn't believe it and she shouldn't worry. One of the girls even offered the odd solace that "people only gossip about popular kids" so she should take some comfort in that. Ah, the mind of a 12 year old. Although I suppose she has a point. N. decided they should alert the teacher, since they didn't know who had started it. She did so and The Child thanked her later in the cloak room. (I love that they have a cloak room). N. said, "You're my friend, Child, and I'm not going to let anyone say anything mean about you".

The Child grinned as she told me this and said, "She has my back, Mama".

God bless N. A good girlfriend is more valuable than rubies.

Strikes and Rumors of Strikes

Forget those pesky French students. Seattle garbage workers are threatening to go on strike.

Their demands are pretty reasonable from where I sit. They want safer working conditions, better overtime pay and better health care (and doesn't everybody who doesn't work for Costco want that?) I say, "Hey! They're garbage workers. Give those guys whatever they want. What? You want to deal with everyone's trash? They're freakin' heroes. Give 'em a raise and while you're at it, throw in iPods with free downloads and a pound of Starbucks peacherry a week".

We're very "green" here in Seattle. Our family is typical as regards waste management. We recycle plastic, paper, tin and glass. We reuse a lot of stuff. Our yard waste is picked up every other week and turned into mulch. We compost kitchen scraps. We have one small garbage can for weekly stuff that can't be dealt with otherwise and one large can in the garage that gets emptied every few months. But the point is that we do have garbage that even I, in my most inspired Martha Stewart moments can't do anything with and I expect it to be hauled off. Unless Mayor Nichols wants a weekly gift basket of all my skank, he'd better take care of those guys.

This does, however, put me in mind of a terrific recipe for using up odd bits of cheese. One less thing to toss out.

Fromage Fort
(That's French for "strong cheese". But you knew that).

You'll want a food processor for this. Whiz up a few whole cloves of garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Then put on the grater attachement. Collect whatever odds and ends of cheese are moldering in the deli bin. Cut off any hard or moldy bits. Run it all through the grater. A mix of hard and soft cheeses is best.

Remove the grater attachment and toss in a tablespoon or so of cream, depending on how much cheese you have. Whiz it all together until the cheese mixture is fairly smooth. Add a splash of marc, if you have it, or regular brandy if you don't.

Scoop the whole mess out into a container with a tight lid and refridgerate for up to a month. Makes a delicious spread for crackers or crostini.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Thingy Things

I bite my nails. I suspect that I left the womb biting them. My paternal grandma hated it. She used to tell me that no boy would ever hold my hand if I bit my nails. She was dead wrong about that. Boys are happy to hold anything you'll let them hold and they don't give a rap about your manicure. But I give her snaps for trying.

Now that I'm in my dotage I have a decent manicure more often than not. What I've figured out is that if I keep my nails polished and trimmed then I don't bite them. The urge is completely subconcious but if I've got lovely polish on I notice it before my fingers hit my teeth and I stop. But I have to maintain the manicure. If I take off raggy polish without having time for a fresh coat, if I go about for any length of time with unvarnished nails then I will bite them to the quick in next to no time. I established the habit of giving myself a proper manicure on Tuesday nights, while I'm watching "Gilmore girls". "Gilmore girls" has been in reruns for the last 412 weeks. I have no fingernails.

Last night The Spouse and I were watching an Eddie Izzard DVD. Eddie Izzard is the funniest man on the planet. He is also a transvestite, a straight one at that. Anyway, we were watching the show and laughing out loud frequently but I kept being distracted by his hands. He has lovely fingernails, polished up beautifully. And I thought, "Bloody hell. I'm not going to let some transvestite look better than I do". So I painted my short, stubby nails a nice red color. They'll look ridiculous for about a week but fortunately, they grow very quickly and hopefully by the time they are long again "Gilmore girls" will start running new episodes. I must come up with a manicure plan for the summer.

Back to Eddie Izzard. If you have never heard his comedy, and if you can handle "language", you must check him out. He's not horribly foul mouthed but he does use some of "those" words. Of course, they don't sound as offensive as the same words in the mouth of say, Chris Rock, because he's British and it's somehow easier to give a pass to naughty words intoned in a British accent. At least it is for me. Which I suppose means that I have no standards whatsoever but there you are. I also vote Democrat.

Eddie's humor is hard to describe. Oh,wait! Here's what it says on his website: "He takes ideas and situations and extrapolates them into bizarre, tangential, absurd and surreal comic narratives. He is the first to admit that he gets well paid for talking total bollocks. The good pay is because unlike the bollocks most of us talk, it's funny". That sums it up pretty well. He's random and intelligent and as likely to talk about the attitude of fruit as he is politics or anything "deep". But it ends up being deep. Last night he did a wonderful, very truthful, bit on the subject of pears. Not something you'd think would provide high comedy but it was great. Anyway, if you meet the language criteria you must check him out.

On another note, if you care about baseball you must go see Iwanski's predictions for the 2006 season.

In the good news department: The Child went to school today. She's still a bit itchy but I've decided that it must be hay fever and hopefully in a few days, once the season is firmly established and no longer wobbling between winter and spring, she'll be just fine.

Also, Charles Taylor was arrested in Nigeria and back in custody. Good thing too because he's a bloody, evil criminal and he deserves to be severly punished for the horrors he unleashed on Liberia. Poor Liberia. I'll never get over the irony 3 years ago: suffering under a brutal dictator, a nation of people begged the US to become involved and help them out but besides sending a few Marines to sit off shore while all hell kept breaking loose we couldn't be bothered. We had to go occupy Iraq. The lesson - and you Sudanese better take note - we can't really be compelled by doing the right thing. Unless you have some oil.

Here's another thing that keeps me from biting my nail. Typing.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Turns out, John Kerry doesn't like tomatoes or the products thereof. His wife is a ketchup heiress. I can imagine the spin Bill O'Reilly will come up with when he gets hold of this news. Especially given that we "liberals", of which John Kerry is one, are supposedly so busy dismantling the fabric of American life with all our anti-family rhetoric. (Examples posted here daily). There's gotta be something in this story that will further prove how we are responsible for the demise of marriage. (Although we are clearly doing something wrong. Massachusettes, that bastion of liberalism that is represented by Senator Kerry, has the lowest divorce rate in the country).

Let me get out ahead of this story: marriage requires respect, understanding and tolerance. I myself married a man who hates beets. And yet, somehow, we make it work. That's the real story: two people who prize their love and commitment above condiments or root vegetables. The Kerrys differ on their view of celery as well. But there are more to a marriage than sharing a crudite platter. Like whose turn it is to pick the en suite movie.

Itchy, Itchy Rash

The Child is suffering from some odd "histimine reaction" which means that she is at home and on Benadryl. The doctor doesn't want to see her unless she breaks out in massive welts or has difficulty breathing. I have not changed our laundry soap or any other product that comes in contact with her tender skin so what is making her so itchy is a mystery. It might, I suppose, be some reaction to the transition between winter and spring. Owing to the miracle of better living through chemistry, she is fine as frog's hair at the moment and using the time to get ahead in her studies. What a concept.

Time is a precious commodity. If I've been learning anything this Lent it has to do with my use of time, or the misuse thereof. I am ridiculously good at wasting time. I did some confronting of that fact during the past week and hit the ground running yesterday. I cleaned and wrote, baked and read, gardened and prayed. I did all this despite the fact that my plans were altered when I had to retrieve an itchy Child from school. Part of my success owed to my timer and routines. Part of it owed to sheer determination. I like having something to show for my day, even if I'm the only one who notices. I don't need monumental accomplishments. A few lines written here, a loaf of bread there will suffice. I don't even necessarily need to be able to see a result, so long as I have the knowledge that I moved an inch closer to one.

Be clear: I think that frittering away time, vegging out, chilling - whatever you want to call it - is an important part of maintaining sanity. I do not understand people who are always on the go, never take a breath while they pile up accomplishment on top of accomplishment without taking time to savor what they've done. Or without pausing to make sure that what they are doing is worth doing. Fortunately, I'm not one of those people.

I'm the perfect Libra in this sense...I like balance. I strive for poise. Which is not to say that I'm poised, although I can pretend to be. But I adore the notion of balance, a poise between rest and accomplishment. I like finding quiet in the midst of noise and I like to keep the quiet honest with a little rattle and hum.

Of course, one has a better chance of balancing life in the aggregate. Day to day can be harder to manage. I could be "thrown off balance" by the presence of The Child or, if I wanted, by the fact that it's raining so my garden momentum is quashed. But I'm not going to be. I like myself better when I don't make excuses.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Just so you know I wasn't just running my mouth.

It's Gotta Be Bad News if You Make it on CNN

Isn't it ironic? On Friday I was waxing poetic on Charlie's blog about how safe Seattle is. The next day 6 people were murdered at a party. Seattle is a very safe city. Things like this don't happen every day. But it sucks that it happened at all.

This is a classic Northwest crime story. Our crime is minimal but what we do have tends to be "Twin Peaks" weird. Think Ted Bundy and the Green River Killer. People theorize about why this is: all the dark and damp, too much coffee. Whatever it is, this particular case seems to boil down to a case of excess ammo.

The officials are still sifting through the evidence. It is way too soon to speculate on anything. But one of the most interesting statements came from our police chief, who referred to the murder weapon as something "designed for hunting humans". That's going to piss off the NRA.

The killer is, of course, being identified as "quiet". It's always the quiet ones, ain't it? People who knew him are using words like "teddy bear". But the teddy bear had a pickup truck full of ammo and weapons. Something was most decidedly up with the dude.

Were I inclined, this would be the moment for dusting off my soapbox and ranting about the NRA and their inability to distinguish between hunting rifles and bandoliers of bullets. Accepting their premise that it isn't guns that kill but people, why do they consistently oppose any legislation that would restrict certain people from getting guns? It defies logic. Like Katie Holmes' pregnancy and headcheese.

But I don't feel like getting on my soapbox. I'm just very sad about it all. There is a collective funk that settles over a town when something like this happens. It is unsettling, all the more so because the neighborhood in question is well-known to us. The Child's volleyball game on Sataurday was just blocks from the crime scene.

At times like this one tries to be self-comforting. One thinks, "It's sad of course, but I don't go to raves and after-hour parties." or "Those crazy kids could have predicted that something like this would happen". In other words, the victims somehow set themselves up for the violence. And if that is the case then I don't have anything to fear. But the victims were innocent, the violence random. And the violence didn't happen just anywhere. It happened here, in my hometown, and that is what disturbs the calm of an otherwise lovely spring day.


Baking Bread

It was the summer of '79, the Black Summer. I'd graduated from college and was unemployed. I was dating the wrong boy. I wasn't getting along with my room-mate (one of those friends who was dear and wonderful, as long as we weren't living under the same roof. Which we did on 3, maybe 4 occasions. We no longer speak). That was the summer I learned to bake bread.

It was a survival tactic. Everything costs a lot of money when you don't have any money and I was looking for every little economy I could find. When my mom gave me the Better Homes & Gardens Homemade Bread Cookbook I tried my hand at the alchemy of bread.

The recipes in this book, which as you can see I still own and have used a lot, are quite good. There is some basic baking information in the book but most of the important things seem to have been left out. Or perhaps it's just that there are certain things you can only learn by doing. For example:

It takes far longer for whole wheat bread to rise than white bread.
On a very damp day you may use a lot more flour than the recipe calls for.
You can't overknead bread if you're doing it by hand but watch it if you're using a dough hook.
No book cannot adequately impart the feel of bread dough when it has been kneaded enough.

My first attempts at bread were dense and inedible. The trick is not so much ingredients and effort as developing patience. Dough needs time. How long to knead, how long it must rise and rest and rise again are all subject to forces outside the baker's control. If you are in a hurry, best to make biscuits.

I no longer bake due to financial privation. Every 8 days or so it is time to make a fresh batch. The only problem with home-baked bread is that it doesn't last as long, by which I mean, it is hard to resist and we eat far more of it than the store-bought flannel bread. There is no resisting a loaf fresh from the oven. A loaf has never completely cooled before everyone has to have a test slice, smeared with butter and eaten out of hand with not so much as a plate to catch the crumbs. The Dog will take care of those. And if we consume more carbs than is currently fastionably, who cares? Life is short. I have no time or patience for an anti-carb mentality. What is the point of life without bread? And wine. And cheese. Everything else might be negotiable, but not that holy trinity of yeast and bacteria sanctified.

One thing I have had little success with is sourdough. I made some sourdough starter once many years ago, carefully following the instructions to combine flour, water, yeast and sugar and leave the sponge in a warm place. It bubbled up nicely and I took care to daily stir down the sponge during the 5 day "incubation" period. Except for the day I forgot. I came home to an overpowering scent of yeast and a small puddle of sponge on the counter. The cleanup was complicated by the fact that dough was still dripping from somewhere. I looked up and the sponge had burst over the walls of the bowl, climbed out and over the shelf and was dripping first to the counter and then to the floor. This was a very sticky and disgusting mess to clean up and I didn't try again for years. When I did try again the starter failed to start. There seemed to be absolutely no wild yeasts present in the air of our new house (and it's the wild yeasts who come to party with the regular yeast that make the characteristic "sour" taste of sourdough).

After 8 years of baking here, I am hoping that the environment is now conducive to sourdough success. I'm going to give it a go today, along with baking the week's supply of oatmeal-wheat bread. It's time for a fresh batch when the last loaf measures 3 inches.


Not That It Comes as Any Big Surprise

And yet. The New York Times this morning.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sabbath Ramblings

On the devoutness scale we score around 7, maybe 8. We go to church even when it's not a big holiday. We fast when we're supposed to, feast when it's time to party and we try -mind you, try - to live our lives according to Christian precepts. I always rather liked how Jesus summed up all the commandments: Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. That's enough to keep one busy for a lifetime.

I believe it is entirely possible to live a good life, even a "spiritual" life without church. In the years between the wasteland of being a Baptist and becoming a Catholic I didn't go to church much at all but I still believed. I understand the variety of spiritual expression as well as completely getting why some people think the whole thing is absolute bunk. (I don't understand Scientologists but I don't think I'm alone in that). I am, however, largely incapable of being a bossy-boots about religious practise, primarily because I've not yet got a handle on the planks in my eye. Consider the specks in your eye free from my interference for the foreseeable future.

I love our church community and I will miss being there this morning but I'll still be renewing my spirit today -which I very much need-and even if it is without naves and sacraments it will be done in the company of saints.

I will invoke the blessing of St. Fiacre while making another attempt at gardening. I was really blue yesterday and gardening seemed like such a fine idea. But the weather wasn't nearly as warm as it looked and I managed only to plant sweet pea seeds before my fingers froze solid. Today I'm going to try and clean up the beds in front of the house, since that's what everyone sees and a tidy front garden of lavendar, roses and creeping thyme is much nicer than the dandelions and crabgrass that hold sway at the moment.

St. Monica is the patron saint of mothers. Also, the patron saint of disappointing children. That's funny. The Child is too young to be considered a bonafide disappointment. The last few days have just been really, really hard. Sometimes, boys and girls, I do not feel up to the whole teenager thing. Which I hate because I think it's boring to act as if raising teenagers is more difficult than raising any other age. (It's all hard, at least if you're trying to do a good job of it).

But the last few days have just been beyond frustrating. She will not listen. Not at all. She is being argumentative, beligerent and stubborn. This is complicated by the fact that I cannot figure out how to engage her or enforce discipline without eventually screaming until blood comes out my ears. Also, some words have slipped out that I'm not so proud of because I'd freaking wash her mouth out if she said them so why am I using them in her presence? It's been very upsetting all the way around. I'm disappointed in myself, I'm at a loss as to how to get through to her and I'm exhausted.

Yesterday, after her volleyball game, we went to lunch and had a fine time. As The Spouse was paying our bill, The Child wrapped herself around me and hugged me for the longest time. I felt all of our "I'm sorry's" and "I really love you's" flowing into each other. Then we came home and she made me crazy again. So I'll be asking for the intercessions of St. Monica because I really can't take too much more of this. Seriously. Boarding school is always an option.

St. Vitus is the patron saint of comedy. WWW emailed me this video clip of John McCain singing Streisand hits. It is laugh-out-loud-don't-drink-anything-while-viewing-or-it-will-come-out-your-nose funny. Also, when yesterday's waitress asked for my order I said, "A garden salad, 4 Diet Sprites and all the TVs turned to FOX news". She didn't get it because she was like, really young, but The Spouse was amused.

I was really bummed yesterday but I got over it. Hugging The Child helped, even if we still fought later on. Planting some small things even with numb fingers helped. Other mood boosters included: Iwanski telling me I was prettier than he was, dog kisses, dusting the living room while singing along to "Sk8tr Boi", having Ms. M to dinner and enjoying a fantastic tangerine-chicken salad made by The Child. (She makes me crazy but the kid can cook!) Time at Our Lady of the Pillowcase (Catholic for "sleeping in on Sunday") didn't hurt either.

Shabbat Shalom.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

I'm Still in My Jammies. Bad. Bad.

One of my cardinal blogging rules is that I don't read any of my favorite blogs until I've done my own posting. I broke that rule today because I'm kinda bummed about something that happened around here last night and I don't want to talk about it. Now I'm even more bummed because I can't make any snide comments about Dick Cheney's hotel requirements because they wouldn't be anywhere near as clever as Pat's or John's.

This is just one of those mornings when everyone is prettier, smarter and funnier than me. Oh, yeah, and a better parent.

But on the "things couldn't be better" side of the equation, the Return of the Remote was a great and joyous ocassion. Mind you, we actually have 2 remotes for our tv. I do not understand all the intricacies of this except that while the Black One, which we had, controls inputs, volume and channels, the one thing it doesn't do is allow you to adjust aspect ratios. That is the job of the Grey One. The thing about aspect ratios is that there are all these different DVD formats, regular, full, cinema, etc. etc. etc. and if you don't get it right you're potentially looking at people with little squat legs and big heads. Which is a problem if you're not watching something with hobbits in it. The real point here, is that I was the one responsible for losing the remote. (It had fallen down between cushions on the couch. I know. That's the first place you would have looked. And I did. Just not hard enough). I think you can all appreciate what it means when a wife loses her husband's remote. Really, I'm lucky to be here.

It is also a really gorgeous day and since I've given up computer games for Lent, there's a darned good chance that I'll do some gardening this afternoon. Which might be exactly the tonic I need right now.

Friday, March 24, 2006

My Imperfections are Many. And Yet.

I found the bloody remote.

(And all the villagers rejoiced. Yea.)

Random Thoughts

I shoplifted a toothbrush today. I was a criminal for about 1 minute before I realized what happened, went back inside Safeway and paid for it. And while the checker seemed to think it was a fairly noble act, it was not one of the more deeply fraught moral dilemmas of my life.

I can't find our tweezers. I also misplaced one of our remotes (the one that controls aspect ratios on the Big Ass TV) .

Had an interesting conversation last night with The Neighbor's Mother, who is house-&-dog sitting while The Neighbor galavants in Europe. We talked about books, travel and art. She was surpised and disappointed when she saw the "Mona Lisa" because it was so small. I had a similar experience on seeing "Starry Night", although I was amazed, not disappointed. We shared stories of a similar experience while travelling in Europe when we became aware of how much older European culture is. (You know it is older, of course, but then you hear a tour guide say something like, "On your right, Westminster Abbey, where kings and queens have been crowned for over 1000 years" and it hits you that America is still so young. Too young to be bossing the world around. Rather like a 2 year old running a family). That segued into a brief discussion of the notion of 'empire' and then this elegant woman, widely read, widely traveled, with truly great hair and firmly in her 7th decade of life went off on the Bush Administration. I can't tell you how gratifying it was.

My friend Julie is shopping around for one of those balance balls because her physical therapist wants her to use it instead of a desk chair. Doing so will apparently strengthen her back and abs and improve her posture. She suggested I think about getting one, too. While the thought of improving my abs without benefit of sit-ups is tempting, I cannot, between The Child and The Dog, imagine a large ball staying at my desk for any length of time.

I am feeling soggy of mind and spirit today. You know what cures that for me? Firing up some Springsteen, tidying up and having ice cream. Finding the bloody remote would be nice, too.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Comfort Zone

Microsoft is coming out with a new version of Windows. There's bruhaha because the launch date has been pushed back and there was just breaking news about a massive restructure of the Windows group as a result. Who cares? The longer it takes for that new software to come out the happier I'll be.

I spend hours at day at the computer, live and die by my high speed connection and can't remember life before the Internet (thanks again, Al). But I'm also something of a Luddite. Or at least, I hate when The Spouse feels compelled to upgrade our software. I get used to things looking a certain way, knowing which icons mean what and how to get my computer to do the limited number of things I require of it. I'm not geek enough to get excited about Microsoft messing with my comfort zone.

From what I can tell, there have been no significant changes to Windows in the last 10 years. If ever. All they do is move stuff around, rename it, change the colors and maybe, just to justify the purchase price, add an animated paper clip or puppy dog as a "help" feature. (I type, "Dear John" and Annoying McAnnoyerson pops up and says, "It looks like you're writing a letter! What would you like to do?" Write the flippin' letter without your perky little dog butt in my face, that's what!) And I, so deeply embedded in my ways, get frustrated and inordinantly angry because I have to change my way of doing things, even if ever so slightly. (I hate when there's a new version of Quicken, too. Man, I hate that).

I don't like learning curves, however gently they slope. Left to my own devices, I'd still be using DOS commands. I appreciate certain technical advances, like that computer screens no longer glow orange and that laptops get sleeker and sleeker. I admit to having been the driving force behind the purchase of a very expensive set of Bang Olufsen phones for no other reason than they were sexy. I am a sucker for good design and pretty packaging. But that works best for toiletries and kitchenware. Microsoft could put their new Windows software in a Chinese rice paper wrapper, hand emboss it with a fleur de lis, wrap it with a grass green cloth ribbon and seal it with lavendar scented wax and I still wouldn't be excited about the fact that I have to relearn to use something that was working just fine before they decided to move everything around.

Omigosh. I am nettled by software upgrades. The Spouse sighs and rolls his eyes when I rearrange the house. The reason is pretty much the same: someone messed with what was familiar and comfortable. Right then. I will steel myself to embrace change. I will not be a stodgy puss when Windows Vista finally launches. 'Cause, honey, I'm sure as heck not going to stop redecorating.

Fish Be Gone

First of all, I'd like to thank those of you who offered support, encouragement and ideas relative to the fish smell in our living room. Your kind words helped me through this difficult time.

I am happy to report that the smell has gone. Whatever it was, it seems to have swum upstream.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Glass Half Empty

There is a weird smell in our living room. BBB, who came for tea yesterday, couldn't smell it. No one else in the family has said anything. But it smells like a fish peed. I've cleaned, mopped and burned incense but I still smell it. Weird.

There was too much drama in our house last night. You'd think, after all these years, we'd have figured out some way of coping with all the strong wills in this house without re-enacting Titus Andronicus. Metaphorically speaking.

It's raining.

I watched the President's press conference from yesterday. And I had to look at Karl Rove. Eeeww.

"Gilmore girls" was a repeat. Again.

Glass Half Full

The Spouse got a promotion yesterday. With money. Very unexpected, the latter part. Good on him. I can buy more incense for the fish smell.

Our puppy is so funny. He has secured a piece of tortilla and is prancing through the house with it. Apparently he'd rather show it off than eat it.

The Child sprang right out of bed this morning. And she seems quite cheerful. Could it be, at least for now, that she has recognized that we do the things we do (like ground her for sneaking out to play when she hadn't finished her homework) and insist on certain standards (like finishing her damn homework) because we love her and want her to succeed? Sometimes drama, even badly executed, has its uses.

Dripping is part of spring in these parts. And we've had so much snow in the mountains that, unless a drought starts right this second, we are going to have plenty of water this summer. This will make my garden very happy.

If W wasn't such a putz "The Daily Show" wouldn't be nearly as funny.

The Spouse and I watched "Napoleon Dynamite" last night. Sweet.


I prefer to drink from a half full glass. And I like to top it off. Pass the vino.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I'm Really am a Pussy Cat

Did I mention that over the weekend I was every coach's worst nightmare?

I've had to do a fair amount of advocacy for The Child over the years because of the dyslexia and all that but when it comes to athletics I've pretty much stayed out of it. What's to advocate for? You take the kid to practise, you show up for games, you launder uniforms and you go to the pizza party at the end of the season. Maybe you chip in for a gift for the coach, maybe not. Depends on how organized the other parents are. But that's pretty much school sports at the elementary level. And of course, because this is CYO, it's all about the fun and the teamwork and the opportunities. No yelling "Kill 'em!" from the sidelines or mixing it up with parents from the other team in the parking lot. Usually.

I've had some concerns about our Coach this year, that he plays favorites and doesn't competently judge the abilities of all his players. But I kept my mouth shut because God knows I wouldn't want to volunteer to coach a girls volleyball team. He gets credit just for showing up.

But 2 weekends ago The Child spent most of the game on the bench. It seemed a little unfair. I ran it by some coach friends because I don't want to be one of those obnoxious "My little baby, blah blah blah" idiot parents. They felt my concern was justified and supported my clever ruse of asking if The Child had been benched for bad behavior as a good, non-threatening way to start a conversation.

Meanwhile, The Spouse suggests that I'm over-reacting and should not say anything. (He often thinks I'm over-reacting He is usually wrong). But I decide to take his advice and wait and see how the next game goes. This is how it went:

The Child is a starter. A ball comes right at her belly and she can't return it. Coach pulls her out. She sits on the bench for most of the game. He finally puts her back in. Same thing happens. He pulls her out for the remainder of the game. Mind you, every other girl on the team is missing shots, missing serves, whatever. The Child is just the only one on the bench for having done so.

At this point, not only am I beyond angry but The Spouse agrees that I've not misjudged the situation. Add to that the other 3 parents who are wondering what is going on.

Now, emotional as I am, I know that any conversation with Coach is going to have to wait until I calm down because whatever his failings as a coach or even as a human being, it is not appropriate that I rip him a new one. The Child, meanwhile, sees slightly more action in the second game, including being allowed to serve (and scoring points, thank you very much). I calm down, slightly.

After the game I'm talking to my friend Alex, one of the coaches I'd consulted earlier. Actually, I'm venting. And he's being very sympathetic. Then Coach walks up and breezily says, "The Child played well today". To which I respond, "Yeah, when she was allowed to play". I then proceeded to open up a can of Mad Mama and give it to him.

To my credit, I:
a) did not yell
b) did not swear and
3) apologized for the fact that I was probably too angry to be talking to him in that moment but since he brought it up....

It was a fairly civilized conversation. I listened to what he had to say (some crap about how she doesn't always pay attention in practise and so doesn't have the skills that he'd like. I told him I'd talk to her about that. Then I inquired, "So every other girl on the team is pitch perfect at all times in practise and The Child is the only one you have a problem with?" He had the grace to say 'no'). As evidenced by the amount of time The Child played in the game on Sunday, I'm assuming Coach listened to me as well.

In the end, aside from the fact that I was just plain right and he was wrong, these are 6th grade kids, not professional athletes. Regardless of athletic ability or whatever, they all deserve a chance to play and to learn. Which they won't get sitting on the bench for no good reason. Now that this point has been brought to his attention, I'm hopeful that Coach will display a tad more equity for the rest of the season. If he can't do it because it's the right thing to do, he'll do it to keep me off his back. Either way.

Did I mention that the girls are still undefeated?


Monday, March 20, 2006

The Power of Positive Thinking

The weather this morning is absolutely, perfectly spring-like. The sky is clear, a light frost is giving way to warmth and the air is full of bird-song (and jet liners, but I'm ignoring that, as it does not suit my purpose or mood). All manner of things are budding and bursting and dripping with new life. I have, as you've seen, successfully balanced an egg on it's end, which can apparently only be accomplished on the Vernal Equinox. So I'm feeling pretty sassy.

The Child is doing a report on Egypt and she learned yesterday that they only have 2 seasons there. ("Hot and hotter", said The Spouse). I cannot imagine living somewhere that doesn't have 4 distinct seasons, if for no other reason that the start of a new season is like a do-over, a fresh page. In that vein, I've been thinking a lot lately about the power of thinking positively. "If you build it, they will come," as Shoeless Joe Jackson famously told Kevin Costner before he became box-office poison.

I am by no means "new age" in my thinking but I do believe that if you visualize something enough it can become a reality. I've done it on at least 2 ocassions. And what with the dawning of spring, I've decided not to become distracted or bound by pesky realities but will create the world I want to live in just by saying it is so. Therefore:

I look fabulous in a bathing suit. And I don't even have to work at it. In fact, the medical community is still trying to figure out how, after pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding I ended up leaner and perkier than I began. Nicole Kidman wishes she had my hair.

I have received the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Pulitzer. I didn't submit anything to a publisher. They just think I'm brilliant and gave me these pretty awards. They come with money. I'm buying a house in the South of France.

I am embarking later this week on a 50 state speaking tour. Turns out that I'm the best mother ever and it would be wrong not to share all my wisdom with others. Sure, I am still impatient and hardly ever bake cookies but remember? We're ignoring piddly facts.

We have a ton of money. I mean, a ton. Don't even know what to do with it all.

Now you try. It's fun!

(I would personally like to that the Bush Administration for reminding me that wishful thinking is always preferable to facing facts. You guys rock. Happy Anniversary. Mission so accomplished.)


In the words of my neighbor, Mikela, "Oh, yes, you can!" Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Greg Atkinson

Some of you couldn't get the bittersweet chocolate Guiness recipe so let's try again. Because you really have to try it. Here's the link for Northwest Essentials. Go to "Recipes", click on the "St. Patrick's Day Dinner" and you'll find the cake recipe.


Saturday, March 18, 2006


To be sure, last night was as fine a feast as any St. Paddy's before it, and the meat was not missed. In fact, I have 2 new favorite recipes to share with you.

The first is adapted from Jeff Smith's "Immigrant Ancestors" cookbook. Reading over the recipe I was concerned that his methods cooked the scallops too long, thus turning them into tough street hoodlums with no yum factor left. So I nod in his general direction but this is what I came up with. This is as good a dish as anything without okra in it can be. I'd prove it by giving you some left-overs but there aren't any!

Scallop and Mushroom Pie

1-1/2 lbs. scallops
(I used bay scallops because they are little, cute and not so pricey. If you want to use sea scallops you can but you'll want to cut them at least in half)

1 c. milk

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

2 T. butter

1 heaping T. all-purpose flour

1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced (I used the cremini...button mushrooms are fine)

1/4 c. amontillado sherry (Never use cooking sherry. You know that right? Rule #1: Never cook with anything you wouldn't drink.)

3 c. cold mashed potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the scallops and milk in a saucepan over very low heat so that the milk warms but never bubbles. (Don't even let it simmer). When the scallops have begun to turn opaque (5 minutes or so), remove from heat. Strain milk into a bowl and put scallops into an overproof casserole or gratin dish.

Meanwhile, melt 1 T. of butter and lightly saute the sliced mushrooms. When they have begun to soften up add the sherry and give another stir or two so the 'shrooms begin to absorb some of the sherry. Remove from heat and stir sherry and 'shrooms in with scallops. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Melt the other T. of butter and add in the flour. Cook for 1 minute to form a paste and add in the scallop milk, stirring to make a roux. When the roux bubbles and thickens, pour it over the scallops and mushrooms, stirring gently to combine everything.

Top the scallop mix with the mashed potatoes in a layer to cover. Top with bits of butter.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes begin to brown and crisp up. Garnish with parsley and serve.

As for dessert, I'm going to send you over to renowned local chef Greg Atkinson to retrieve the recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate-Guiness cake because it's his and I wouldn't change a thing. (And you know that is the thing with recipes, right? I could publish an entire cookbook using recipes from other chefs, so long as I'd made a few changes to each recipe so that it was "my own". I think that's kinda cool, actually, because for me that's one of the things cooking is about, inventing and experimenting and putting your own mark on a dish). So anyway, as I wouldn't change a thing of Mr. Atkinson's recipe I can't in good concience share it here without his permission. Trust me when I say that you must follow where the link leads and you must print the recipe and you must make it because it is the best chocolate cake I've ever made. And I am also not the biggest chocolate fan. My sister-in-law, who is, ate 2 pieces.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Paddy's Day To Do List

Top o' the mornin' to ye!

It's going to be a crazy day. Must:

Tidy up, as guests are coming for dinner

Make The Child dust the 4 dozen lanterns for the auction which I've had for a week but put in the garage and forgot about until 6:30 this a.m. when I woke up and thought, "Oh. Right. Lanterns.".

Tie ribbons on dusted lanterns.

Aid and abet leprechauns.

Have coffee with friends who are then taking The Child bowling so I can:

Go grocery shopping

Fluff and buff auction displays at school

When The Child returns from bowling she is going to meet Alan for the play she didn't go to last week so I have to deliver her downtown before returning to our end of the city to:

Buy scallops

Buy produce

Cook dinner and maybe bake a chocolate Guiness cake, assuming I can find the recipe on Greg Atkinson's website

Pungle the bills due this cycle, per my new "I am so organized" plan.

Have a glass of wine and wait for St. Patrick's Day guests to arrive

Have a fine saint's day. Wear something green.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


I have neither bowhunting nor nunchuck skills but The Spouse just showed me how to download pictures from our camera. (Too simple for words and I feel quite the silly rabbit for my thoroughly unwarranted techno-fear). I am empowered.


Schnoodle with Carnevale Lamb Bone

Paper Tiger

We don't live in squalor. Never have. Even before the days of FLYlady the house was always tidy and we ate regular meals. I'm not pathologically disorganized or lazy. But man, am I easily sidetracked. I can be very easily distracted by things I oughtn't to be and too often leave neglected the bits that, were I just to take a few minutes each day to manage, wouldn't turn into the monsters they sometimes are.

Today I am thinking specifically about paper. It just keeps coming at me and my instinctual response is to toss it in a drawer with a "Gotta get to that", at which point I read blogs or play "just a few minutes" of a computer game or do some sort of household thing that I find more compelling. Like wiping the fronts of the kitchen counters. Seriously. I'd rather scrub just about anything than spend 15 minutes paying bills, filling out forms and returning phone calls. How I worked as an office manager, in charge of 5 staff and overseeing a budget of 1.5 million I will never freaking know. I was a terrific office manager. I got things done, baby! Now, at a time in my life when maybe 15 minutes a day is enough to keep it under control I am hard pressed to find the time. What is up with that?

I know that writing and caring for the family are my most compelling occupations. I find tremendous satisfaction in running a home. Most elements, of it, that is. But the paper thing is out of control, probably because I don't think it is nearly as fun as the other things I need to do. And we are all about the fun over here at Mom Co.

Paperwork that has been ignored will sometimes take care of itself. Like the email from a bride asking if we were coming to the wedding because we hadn't rsvp'd yet. (We're not. And yes, I had the grace to be humiliated that she had to inquire since I myself am annoyed beyond belief by people who can't be bothered to rsvp. I know. I'm a hypocrite.) Or getting a call from the school secretary about our guest list for the auction because I hadn't filled out the reservation form. So that's two pieces of paper that can just be recycled but sheesh.

I open the mail over the recycling bin. My stack of paper isn't full of stuff I never need to deal with in the first place. And I understand, in theory, the "touch it once" principle but in practise, not so much. Unfortunately, the consequences of ignoring the inevitable can be dire. Overdrawing bank accounts, paying things late, missing appointments. And I have, regrettably, done all these things. Mea culpa.

Well, it's Lent. And the point of Lent, among other things, is to reform one's character. I am lazy about those things which I deem unglamorous. And that's just stupid. Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward overcoming it. So I've made some new rules for myself, which I am posting above my desk until they become habitual:

1. I will not read any blogs until I've done my paperwork for the day.
2. Diversion is one thing, avoidance is quite something else. Therefore, for the remainder of Lent, I will not play any computer games.
3. I will pay all bills on paydays. Just knowing the money is there is not enough. (And for crying out loud, I pay nearly everything on line anyway. It's not complicated). Likewise, I will enter all ATM & POS slips the day I receive them. (It's never pleasant when you discover that your hefty Quicken balance bears no relationship to the reality of your bank account).

I am at peace with many of my imperfections. But it's time to rehire my inner office manager. I've been limping by with a temp for way too long.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Just So's You Know

Archbishop Brunett has granted a dispensation for St. Patrick's Day. We might have scallop and mushroom pie anyway. Either way, there will be Irish beer.

Oh, golly, I nearly forgot. Soon we will celebrate the one time in the year when The Child will clean her room within an inch of it's life and do so with a smile on her face. Por que? Leprechauns.

It was the tradition at her old school that the leprechauns would mess up the K & 1st grade classrooms on St. Patrick's day. I happened to be at school the first time it happened. The Child regarded this visitation as the most amazing and miraculous thing ever. Not to be outdone, I went home, upended her chair, flung some clothes and toys about and sprinkled the whole thing with green glitter shamrocks and some "gold" chocolate coins. The Child was positively gob smacked by this second visit.

The leprechauns have come every year since to wreak their mischievious havoc. But you can't tell the leprechauns have been by if your room was a mess to begin with, can you? In fact, they can't even be bothered to mess up a mess. No fun in that. So she will give her room a thorough going over and she will not mind when the leprechauns reverse her efforts. Whatever frustration their peskiness induces will be mitigated by the chocolate.


Barack Obama is coming to Seattle this weekend to do a fundraiser for Maria. I can't go because The Child has a volleyball game and I've got stuff to do for the school auction.

So bummed. I heart Barack Obama.


OK, Maybe We Haven't Completely Failed. Yet.

Yesterday The Child was caught where she should not have been. She maintains that she was doing no wrong (other than being where she should not have been). Without proof of any other mis-deeds I think that's pretty much where it ends. But it did provide an opportunity to share the important life lesson of "avoiding the appearance of evil".

"Say", I said, "You're in high school and you're invited to a party. An older kid brings a keg of beer. Everyone is drinking except you. Two boys get in a fight and the cops are called. The cops decide to teach everyone a lesson about under-age drinking so they load everyone up in a paddy wagon and book them into jail for the night. What are the odds you're in jail?"

"99-100%", she replies. "But Mom, that would never happen to me because as soon as I got there and knew people were drinking I'd call you to come get me".

From her lips to God's ear.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

And I'll Bet "Gilmore girls" is a Rerun

Last night's babysitting gig scored me many cookies. That made me happy. What made me less happy was the discovery that my laptop battery is only good for one game of "Age of Mythology" before going into hibernation.

So there I was. No laptop and I couldn't figure out how to make their DirectTV work. I'd eaten as many hamentaschen as seemed appropriate and hadn't brought a book with me. The search for magazines turned up nary a Vanity Fair, New Yorker or even Good Housekeeping. There was a stash of parenting magazines, specifically, parenting magazines for people with children under the age of 10. Been there, done that. But everything else in the house was in Hebrew, which is not one of my languages, so I settled for a 5 month old issue of "Child". Therein I discovered a movement called "Attachment Parenting" which apparently has as it's hallmarks things like co-sleeping, breastfeeding and carrying the baby/child around in a sling. Turns out that a dozen years ago I was cutting edge and didn't realize it. (Although apparently there's all sorts of new research on the risks of co-sleeping which wasn't available 12 years ago so all I can say is, "Oops. Sorry". And strictly speaking, I didn't use a sling because I didn't have one. I just carried her around a lot).

Frankly, too much information is a bad thing. If we really knew everything there was to know about parenting, trust me, no one would take it on. It can be the greatest joy you'll ever experience. It is also relentless. Once you're in, you are never not a parent. And sometimes that sucks. It sucks when you have to watch them struggle, be hurt, and make less than stellar choices. What happens if they grow up and vote for the other party? You love them anyway, of course. It's your child. But it can suck.

It really sucks when you devote your energies to instilling values only to find out that you probably have to go to school and have a "come to Jesus" with your kid and the teacher because your kid was caught in a questionable situation (no, it's not sex...sheesh) and then compounded her dubious behavior with a lie. Not that I know anyone in that situation, but I can imagine the mixture of emotions a parent might feel, the gut-twisting that embraces both humiliation and disappointment. On one hand, you'd feel that you had completely failed as a parent. On the other, you'd have a seething desire just to wring her neck. Or his neck, as the case may be. Again, not that I'd know from personal experience.

I did, once, step barefoot on a Lego. That, my friends, is a special kind of pain.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Just Another Manic Monday

By now you know that my favorite day is one with nothing much in it. I like getting home from the school drop-off to have the hours spreading before me, free of all obligations but a quick tidy of the house and writing. Today isn't going to be like that.

My dear friend Stina's grandmother died last week and the funeral is today. I didn't know Nanay but I have to go for Stina. Not that she'll notice. As the oldest grandchild all the arrangements have fallen to her while her dad and his sibs have spent the week not coping with their grief and being generally dysfunctional. Stina hasn't had any time to grieve because she's been scheduling rosaries, finding ministers for the mass (it's not taking place at our church - which would have made her life much easier), dealing with the funeral home, planning eulogies, prayers and the "dead spread" for afterwards. Poor darling called me on Friday because "You're the only person I can think of who doesn't want anything from me". I hope I'll get at least 2 minutes with her at the reception but given that half of the Philippines is coming to the funeral, it doesn't look good.

This evening I'm babysitting for some neighbors so they can go to a Purim celebration. I am hoping to be amply paid in hamantaschen...which are fabulous little triangular cookies (to resemble the shape of Haman's hat). They are usually filled with some sort of jammy concoction or poppyseeds. Yum. Purim celebrates how Queen Esther saved the Jews from the evil conspirings of Haman. It's a great story about how a beautiful woman did all the heavy lifting for a people. Go read it.

In between these two events I have other things to do. The Child has been congested and snorky for months and this morning woke up complaining of a sore throat. I'm sure it's just the consequence of post-nasal drip but something must be done. Of course, her solution was to stay home. But as this condition did not prohibit her from playing volleyball yesterday (still undeafeated), hanging with the M Street Gang nor watching and then discussing endlessly the special features on the Harry Potter 4 disc, she went to school. She fought valiently, to the point of planting her face, on purpose, in a pool of berry sauce I'd made for her pancakes. What gets into these young people?

I need to make pie crust for tonight's quiche (we'll be eating in shifts, what with my babysitting gig and The Child having volleyball practise), pungle some bills and tidy up a manuscript. I need to dust and beribbon 40 lanterns for the school auction this weekend, make some calls and possibly color my hair.

Finally, I have to find out if the Archbishop has issued a dispensation for Friday. In years past, when St. Patrick's day has fallen on a Friday in Lent, we have received a by on the "no meat" thing so we can have the traditional corned beef. But if he doesn't then we'll be celebrating with colcannon. Or maybe a scallop and mushroom pie. Actually, that sounds pretty tempting...

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Art, and it is an Art, of Avoidance

I was on my way to a meeting last night (which, of course, I resented because the only thing worse than an evening meeting is one on a freaking Friday night) when I blew a tire. As you can imagine, I was really disappointed because it meant limping the car back home instead of going all the way to school. Darn and darn again.

The Spouse put on the spare for me this morning but the original tire is beyond repair and I must get myself to Costco for a replacement. I can think of better things to do with a glorious Saturday morning, a glorious morning burnished to perfection, by the way, because our coffee grinder part arrived yesterday.

But first I read my blogs. My reading inspires me to add every available 21st century "Battlestar Galactica" episode to my Netflix queue and find out what my cyborg name is. Then I have to tell you about it. Then I go back to the fun site and learn my monster name:

Lethal, Offensive, Redhead-Reaping, Anthropologist-Injuring Nightmare of Emotion

How funny is that?

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A Family of Cyborgs

Lifeform Optimized for Rational Repair, Accurate Infiltration and Nocturnal Exploration

Synthetic Person Optimized for Ultimate Sabotage and Exploration

Cybernetic Humanoid Intended for Logical Destruction

Thanks to Pat. Get your own here.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Update: She's Still my Little Girl

The Child turned down the play invitation after all. She said it was because she wanted to "watch Harry Potter with my mommy and daddy".

How much longer is it going to be that she prefers being with us to going out on a Friday night?

Ok. It probably has more to do with Harry Potter than it does with us. But still.


"You're a Wizard, Harry".

There was only one bit of drama in our house this week, having to do with "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire".

The second we knew the release date of the DVD, The Spouse pledged to pick it up at the warehouse. (Have I mentioned he works for Costco Corporate?) He came home with it Tuesday night. Prior to its purchase we had many family discussions about how excited we were to watch it tonight, as Friday is our standing "dinner and a movie at home" night.

The Child nigh unto attacked her father when he came home Tuesday and, cut-up that he is, he first feigned no knowledge of said DVD. Drama. Then, ha ha ha, he pulls it out. She wants to watch it then and there. But no, we're saving it for Friday, remember? Mild drama and a pretty please, may I just watch the special features? This was granted but when an hour later The Spouse caught her starting up the actual film he confiscated it. Drama.

Allow me to note that the Harry Potter franchise has been a god-send to our family. Specifically, it has inspired our dyslexic daughter, the one who'd rather eat a sprouts & liver pudding than read, to pick up a book. More precisely, pick up 6 books. What few "Sylvan moments" we've enjoyed have been granted by Harry Potter. Furthermore, the character of Hermione Granger has been an inspiration to The Child. She is not and likely never will be the academician that Hermione is, but when she needs to focus on a piece of work, especially in a subject she doesn't enjoy, she pretends she's Hermione and she gets it done. Her handwriting, which is naturally abysmal, is nearly perfect when she determines to "write like Hermione". Finally, we have had many fine conversations about sex, death, moral choices and perserverance because of things she's read in the books. They make her think. In short, I owe a big "thank you" and possibly a shrine, to JK Rowling for what her books have given our child. (The fact that we enjoy reading them as well is icing on the cake).

Last night, having finished all her homework, she wanted to watch the special features again. But The Spouse had hidden the disc. (He really, really wants us all to watch it together, knowing she'll watch it every day for a week once we do). I didn't know where it was. Major drama. Tears and mournful expressions drama. To the point that I threaten to return the bloody thing if she doesn't stop. Which she does. She contents herself with watching interviews from the 3rd movie and goes to bed saying that she absolutely cannot wait until tonight.

This morning I retrieved a message from her friend, Alan, who was inviting her to go to a play tonight. I told her when she woke up, adding, that, of course, we have plans tonight. She says, "Yes" then pauses for a moment. "Of course, we could always watch it tomorrow night".

So she's going out and The Spouse and I are going to watch "A Very Long Engagement" which we have had from Netflix for a very long time.


Thursday, March 09, 2006


I've added another link, to my friend Edy's blog, Hodgepodge. She's another one of those random people who found me by way of "Highland Dreams" Charlie. I heart her.

Edy is dealing with Hodgkins right now and she writes about that journey in her blog. Among other things. You might think that a blog about cancer would be a real downer and let's face it, it's not a happy, perky topic. But Edy has a remarkable spirit and a great sense of humor and I'd suggest that her writing on the subject is insightful, moving and even luminous, without getting all weird and creepy. How's that for a recommendation?

Anywho, some of her friends just shaved their heads in solidarity. 5 years ago my friend ChouChou had a recurrance of brain cancer (which she beat). She ended up not having chemo but half of her head was shaved for the surgery so it still seemed reasonable to shave my head. I actually liked having a shaved head. No bad hair days. Shower time was drastically reduced. Plus, it turns out that I have a big, round head. So I was compelled to wear lots of makeup and dress really pretty so I didn't scare little children or get hit on by other women. (I had a real Sinead O'Connor thing going on and I'd still have a shaved head if The Spouse had liked it as much as I did. He didn't).

There are lots of ways to show someone that you love and support them. Strictly speaking, shaving my head wouldn't do much for Edy because she'd never see it. She'll be healed and sassy by the time it grows out. But I can pray for her. Those of you who do such things might want to as well and y'all might want to drop by her blog and cheer her on.

A Thursday List

Happy happy joy joy. Cuisinart just e'd to say the grinder top has shipped.

Last night was the finale of "Project Runway". I am happy to report that the evil Santino has been sent back to the bowels of the earth from whence he came and little, tiny Chloe was named the winner. Daniel V. had a lovely collection. He would be very happy designing for Calvin Klein. I decided last week, after reviewing the collections again, that Chloe's was the strongest and I went into last night rooting for her to win. (The Neighbor will back me up on this).

Now I have no reality tv to watch because I refuse to watch "The Apprentice" in retaliation for all the nasty things The Donald said about Martha and Alexis. Take that, Donald. And also, the couple that The Neighbor and I were rooting for on "The Bachelor", yeah, they've already broken up. That show really is lame. Watching it is really just an opportunity for The Neighbor and I to drink tea and mock pretty girls for their lavish use of "like" and "amazing".

In other news, The Neighbor is leaving Tuesday for Rome. Our church choir is going to sing for the Pope. Again. I am going to miss her. I go over there nearly every night for a glass of wine and a "how was your day". This is really going to mess up my schedule.

Last night I was listening to NPR and "Marketplace" began with this statement: "Today is March 8 and you might want to note that. Because this is the date when Congress found its backbone". Apparently the GOP leadership has decided to make W choose whether he wants money for Iraq and Katrina relief or if he wants the Dubai port deal to go through. They've attached an ammendment to the budget blocking the sale. Won't that be interesting?

Pekin duck is a variety of duck. Some people pervert the word to "Peking". But it's really "pekin". Good night and good luck.


Faith Voices for the Common Good

For those of you out there in Blogtopia who are believers and who feel that the Iraq War, among other things, is not a reflection of true "moral values", you might be interested in this opportunity to come together with other people of faith and develop a statement on the Iraq war. It's an online writing project, March 20-21, on the 3rd anniversary of the war. (Time does fly when you're accomplishing your mission, doesn't it?)

For some, "moral values" has to do with whether or not to let Adam and Steve get married. For others that phrase encompasses issues like war, poverty, care for the environment and social justice. The other guys have had the podium for a long time. But progressive faith groups are rising up to say, "Ya know, I've been taking a gander at the gospels and I'm not seeing a real fit between the teachings of Jesus and the rhetoric of this administration. Just saying". Faith Voices is one such organization. (It is an ecumenical group and while I'd guess tht the majority of members are in Christian denominations it isn't exclusive of other faith traditions).

There was a time when I was reluctant to identify myself as a Christian, not because I was ashamed of my faith but because I was humiliated by how it was being co-opted for the purposes of power and political gain. It still bugs me enormously but I realized that hiding my light under the proverbial bushel wasn't going to shut anybody up and further, it was doing just as much harm. The only way to reclaim the faith and change the public discourse (and perception) is to speak up.

'K, that said, I know some of you bloggers out there are on a similar page and you might want to lend your thoughts and writing talents to this project. I've been involved in similar projects with Faith Voices. It's easy, fun and I really think some of you should look into it. (You know who you are).


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Fun with Dinnertime Detritus

Pekin Duck

A Petty but Heartfelt Whine

When we redid the kitchen it was an opportunity for Mommy to get some new appliances. Specifically, the Viking, which was the whole point of the exercise anyway. But I also got a Dualit toaster (they use them in Buckingham Palace and it's ever been my philosophy that if it's good enough for the Queen of England...) and a Cuisinart coffee maker.

This is a beautiful machine, as you can see. It has a built-in grinder and timer so you can load it at night, set the alarm and awake to, well, actually you awake to the brutal, gnashing sound of the very agressive grinder but then you smell the gorgeous, heavenly scent of fresh brewed coffee.

Early in it's tenure in our home, a teeny tiny piece of the grinder lid broke. Any reasonable person would have hightailed it back to Williams Sonoma, receipt in hand, demanding a new machine. But it was just a tiny piece and as long as it sat in its place everything still worked. Plus, I'm lazy.

I mentioned a few posts ago that the machine was sidelined. Here's the thing: a few weeks ago, in particular need of my java, I kept messing up while trying to set up the coffee machine, with the result that I had to dump the whole thing out over the sink to clean it up. The sink was full of grounds so I ran the disposal. It made a funny sound but you know, things happen. I get everything set to roll and the machine starts beeping. Assuming it's just the programming gone wonky from being unplugged, I fiddle with it, unplug and plug it a few times before finally reaching for the user manual. This states, quite clearly, that the beeping is the cause of parts not being positioned correctly. So I run the drill again. Still beeping. Only then do I realize what you have already figured out. The little broken bit had gone through the garbage disposal.

(Another time we can ponder the philosophical implications of the lack of one tiny piece rendering an entire machine useless).

A new part has been requested but it is, of course, on backorder. We were making Americanos with our little espresso machine but it wasn't optimal as we can only get one bowl of coffee at a time. Saturday The Spouse went to Costco and came home with a "backup" Mr. Coffee. But despite all sorts of fussing with coffee-to-water ratios, regardless of experiments with brew strength options, for all it's sleekish lines and brand new nature, the machine makes very poor coffee. Rather than the "French morning" brew we're used to we get mooshy, stewed, church basement coffee. Actually, I've had better coffee in church basements.

I have not lost perspective. This is a petty, frivolous whine. Iran is trying to get nukes and Dick "Dead Eye" Cheney is talking consequences. AIDs, religious strife, war, famine, and disease are rampant. W is lighting his cigars with the Bill of Rights. Innocent little babies are being adopted by Angelina Jolie and "Gilmore girls" was a rerun last night. It's madness, I tell you. And I know that not being able to use my snazzy coffee maker, purchased for what is a good annual salary in most third world nations, doesn't amount to a hill of Indonesian peaberry beans. But I could more authentically face the above named crises were I better caffinated.

That Noise You Hear? Thomas Jefferson Rolling in His Grave. Again.

The Senate Intelligence (using the term loosely, folks) Committe has decided that hey, we don't need a full scale investigation into ILLEGAL DOMESTIC wiretapping. We'll settle for a few more Senators being kept in the loop and that'll be good enough.

I am just feeling so warm and safe and cozy right now.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Remodel Revisited

2 years ago around this time we were remodeling our house. No. We were doing non-sexy but necessary work behind the walls, upgrading the plumbing and the wiring. But since we were going to be ripping things up anyway we also repainted 3 rooms and treated ourselves to a kitchen update.

We have what architects refer to as a "mid-century" house. This employs semantics to the extent of making our 1952 ranch/rambler (depending on what part of the country you're from) sound like something designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It's not. Although it does, admittedly, owe to that legacy and even that of the Arts & Crafts movement. Our house was built by craftsmen who cared about quality and longevity. It's solid bones and practical layout make up for what it lacks in architectural greatness.

This house didn't meet, by any stretch, the image either The Spouse or I had for our "perfect" house But it was in the city, in a good neighborhood, had the room we needed and we could afford it. And it has become, if not our perfect house, a perfect home.

Something of a sucker for anniversaries, I've been thinking about those 6 weeks of the remodel. It wasn't horrible, compared to some stories I've heard. We had one subcontractor who was less than impressive but we worked around it. (Thankfully, The Spouse knows quite a lot about electricity). We did a lot of work ourselves, patching and painting. I learned to tile (and a girl should have a trade).

The Child was probably the person affected most during the experience. She had to sleep on the couch for weeks as the main access to the bathroom plumbing was through her room. She often had to study at The Neighbor's house because it was too noisy and distracting over here. And she got bored with eating out. One night, when it was her turn to choose the restaurant, she said, "I choose home. I want you to cook". But she was a trooper and enjoyed the opportunities she had to go under the house.

Anyway. The above photo is one of my favorite interior views. I used a lot of color this time around. We get a ton of natural light, both from the east and the west so even on dank, rainy days the colors remain bright and cheerful. Sometimes, being so far out now from the mayhem, I start thinking about other projects. I wonder, frequently, about the challenges of having one bathroom come the day The Child decides to care about her appearance. But, not to put too fine a point on it, we are fortunate to have what we do. Any dreams and plans are moderated by the thought that if we never did another thing to this house it would be enough. This is a happy little house and I love it. That's all.

Monday, March 06, 2006

This is So Weird, Part Deux

Looks like my paperwork, fingerprints and urinalysis have all been processed and I have received the necessary credentials to view my own blog. That's a load off.

In purusing the Blogspot Help Groups I discovered that a lot of other bloggers were having the same problem this morning. Which was comforting. What wasn't comforting? The number of people left wondering if their blog had been turned over to the feds by Google or deleted for expressing anti-Bush sentiments or was merely inaccessible because at that moment it was being read by the government.

Paranoia is not a good thing, people. We earned our crazy fair and square but really, we have got to get a grip. They mean us no harm. I'm just sure of it. Karl Rove is a big teddy bear. W is the best president we've ever had and jp should stop blaming him for everything. (tap tap this thing on?)

Well, This is Weird

For some reason I can hit all my favorite blogs but am being denied access to my own. The Spouse says he can't get to it, either. (I can obviously get to my dashboard or I would be writing this. But whenever I try to "view blog" I get an error message that says that not only am I "not authorized" to view the page but I am also lacking in credentials. Which is kinda funny when you think about it. What credentials do you need to write a blog? Have you seen some of the stuff out there?

But perhaps this is a little karmic "don't get all full of yourself, girlie girl" after all the affirmation I got last week. It's probably deserved.

And it's a little bit of a relief. I have a mess o' things to tackle today so I probably shouldn't spend that much time blogging anyway.

So, if you even see this, I hope you have a good day. Now I will go pray for humility.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

"I Don't Even Want to Quit You, Oscar".

For the second or third year running, I will be watching the Oscars having not seen a single film nominated in a major category. Not even "Wallace and Grommit". Unless Harry Potter 4 is in the "Best Movie Franchise Ever" category, my familiarity with any of the honored films is based on how often I saw commercials for it during "Gilmore girls".

I love the movies, I just don't go to the theater that much anymore. We operate by a "big screen" methodology and frankly, the screen at home and the surround-sound that go with it has begun to seriously cut into what we consider a "big screen film". Briefly, though, explosions are usually involved, Colin Firth is not. I don't have to be the first one on the block to see a film and am almost always content to wait until it comes out on DVD. Which it will soon enough. And that is why God created Netflix.

Much pre-Oscar jabbering can be summed up thusly: movie theater attendance is down, none of the nominated films were "blockbusters" (because merely recouping production costs and turning a profit isn't a real "success" by Hollywood standards) and the big pictures this year are all super political. Which surprises me as I don't think of Johnny and June Cash as activists. Guess I'll understand when I finally see "Walk the Line". Oh, and because of all this and other related conditions, no one is going to watch the Oscars tonight.

But I'll be there. I love Oscar night. I will manage to get excited even though I have no feelings whatsoever about any of the films. We will have the veggie tortilla lasagna I make every year (not glamorous but really yummy). I will fill out the ballot in the newspaper, as will The Spouse, and at some point this evening I will be in the bathroom privately delivering my own Oscar speech to the mirror.

I did a little acting: student body plays from 3rd through 8th grade, chorus for "Finian's Rainbow" freshman year of high school. And junior year I played Annie, the nervous maid in "Life with Father". Not to brag but I owned that part and when, at the end of the year Thespian Troupe 827 held it's annual awards, I walked away with Best Supporting Actress. In college I dated a guy in the drama department.

So I have had occasion to compose my Oscar speech and I know most of you have one, too. In recent years mine has to do with an original or adapted screenplay and I share the honor with Emma Thompson. How this happens, since I don't write fiction or know Emma Thompson, is not the point. Wearing a fabulous gown and remembering to thank The Spouse while trying not to cry, is.

The other buzz tonight is about Jon Stewart as emcee. Do I think he can handle the switch from satiric political commentary to hosting Hollywood's biggest night? Maybe. Will he look fabulous in a tux? Absolutely.

So here are my purely subjectives picks for Oscars:

Best Picture: "Brokeback Mountain"
I just love a good Western.

Best Direction: Ang Lee.
Although to be honest with you, "Sense and Sensibility" put me to sleep (and that's saying something for a Jane Austin fan) so maybe I have to rethink this.

Leading Actor: Heath Ledger.
I've heard that Philip Seymour Hoffman is amazing as Truman Capote but here's the thing: I think there should be two acting categories: one for playing a known character and one for creating a character. Because I don't really think they are the same thing. And I loved Heath in "A Knight's Tale". Where he also kisses a man on the mouth. I'm just saying.

Supporting Actor: George Clooney.
Because I heart him.

Leading Actress: Reese Witherspoon.
Because she is just a cutie patootie and I heart her, too. Also, because Judi Dench seems to get Oscars thrown at her just for showing up at the makeup trailer and I grow weary of that. Not her. Love her. But sheesh, let someone else win for a change.

Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz.
Because a) she's a cutie patootie and 2) I think her character was supposed to be romantically involved with Ralph Fiennes' character and having to kiss Ralph Fiennes and act like you mean it would take serious acting chops.

Oh, joy. I was just reviewing all the categories. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was nominated for Costume Design and "Revenge of the Sith" for Make-up. HA! I've seen those.