Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Blogger html

Look over there in the side bar. Anyone have any idea why there's a space between "Quafee Tawk" and "The Weekly View"? In the template there is no space and the code for both links seems to be in order. It happened after I changed Angela's link. It kinda bugs me. It looks like I've sent Grish off to play by himself and I so wouldn't do that. Thoughts?

On another note, something I DID do is remove the link to "The Piper's Wife". This was not an easy decision and it was done with reluctance but Girlfriend, despite my admonitions to "publish or perish", was not updating her posts. At all. She's busy. I understand. But you know my feelings on this subject. You have to have new content at least semi-regularly for me to keep coming around. Otherwise, what's the point? So if TPW gets less busy and starts posting again I'll put that link right up there. But for now I've had to put her in a box in the blog closet. I know she understands.

UPDATE: The Spouse found my mistake. What a difference a / makes.

Law & Order

Monday The Child and a M Street pal decided to have a lemonade stand. They were in need of lemons, so off they went to the co-op, like they've done dozens of times. There's a fairly busy street 2 blocks from our house. They were waiting to cross (there aren't any traffic lights) and a car slowed and waved them through the intersection. They cross and continued on their merry way. The car crossed the intersection then backed up, stopped across the street from them and honked. Two men inside began to gesture to the girls to come over.

Here's the good news: they didn't. They ran into a narrow alley behind a bunch of houses, peeked out and saw that the car was still there so they ran through the back yard of a house that was known to the pal and knocked on the door. The neighbor then went outside with them. The car was gone so the neighbor walked them back to M Street.

Excitement ensued. We called the police, who sent an officer right away. She was awesome. She interviewed the girls and got quite a bit of information. They could describe the men, the size and color of the car and the pal even had a few digits from the license plate. While they were being interviewed the officer, who'd already called in the car, got word that a car matching the desciption had been sighted about 10 blocks away. The officer took the girls off to see if they could make an ID. (As they excitedly climbed into the car I said, "This is the only time I ever want to see you in the back of a cop car, hear?") They returned shortly and indeed, the girls thought that may have been the car. It was empty but the cops ran the plates and it was owned by a holding company, which the officer said raised some red flags.

That was pretty much it. We got a case number and may hear from a detective. The officer gave the girls some sticker badges and told them that she was really proud of them because they had absolutely done everything right and she just wished more kids knew what they knew.

MW, the other mom, and I were proud, too. You don't often get the opportunity to see if anything you're trying to teach your kids is sinking in. And "stranger danger" isn't the sort of thing you can really practise, like a fire drill. You just have to keep telling them and telling them and hope something sticks. In this case it did and our girls are ok because of it.

There is a fear factor, though. The Child has been in need of extra hugs. She wanted me to sleep with her on Monday night and yesterday she didn't want to go to school. So we had to talk, again, about the fact that this is a safe neighborhood (it really is and she knows soooo many of the people who live around here....lots of "safe houses"). I stressed that she can't let a couple of jerks take away her power. She has a right to walk in her own neighborhood without fear.

She is coping in classic Child fashion: she's made a large and elaborate map complete with a key and various colors to denote the action of the incident. She is, on the advice of a teacher, writing a story about it, partly just to get it out and partly because, as she said, "I really think other kids should know what to do in this situation". She has also done some second-guessing of herself: maybe going into the alley wasn't the best thing, maybe they should have tried to run back home.... But there's no sense in that. The alley wasn't maybe a typically good choice but in this case it was perfect because it was narrow and surrounded by houses. Houses full of people because it was a holiday. And you can't second guess yourself anyway. The fact is that they didn't panic and everything worked out.

As a mom I've had two sorts of reactions. The first, of course, ran to getting a gun, hunting these bastards down and, after eviscerating them with a rusty churchkey and putting their heads on pikes, shooting them dead like the pervert dogs that they are. Or something charitable like that. On the other hand, I'm grateful that my baby is safe and really proud of her for taking care of herself. Because fundamentally, that's my job. And now we have a test case that suggests I might be on the right track in that department.

The fact is that all kids, even the ones not growing up in the Big City, need to learn how to protect themselves. There are people in the world who are not nice. But I also don't want my child to live in fear. The world is like my Uncle D once described Central Park, perfectly safe all the time and perfectly dangerous all the time. It's all a matter of timing. And if you're timing is off, you need to be prepared.

I'll still let The Child walk to the store by herself (although she'll always have the walkie-talkie from now on). I'll still let her roam the 'hood (provided there's a rough itinerary within a prescribed perimeter). Some day I'll let her go out with a boy (depending on the boy) and drive a car and move out and start her own life. I'm starting to think she'll be ready for the responsibility.

Birthday Calculator

Here's something fun from my Texas friend, Wendy. It's a Birthday Calculator that tells you all kinds of stuff, like when you were likely conceived and how many BTUs will be generated by the candles on your next birthday cake. You know, really important information. There's also something about "life path numbers" and the life numbers with which you are most compatible. Turns out The Spouse and I are highly compatible. The Child? She "should get along" with us.

My life number, by the way, is 9. Someday I'll trouble to figure out what that's supposed to mean. In case I'm on the wrong path or something.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Stuff Around the House

So all the cool kids are doing it (like here and here and here) so what the hey. It's certainly a good solution for those "blogger's block" times when you don't have much to say.

This is my chicken cookie jar, looking out the window at the very sunny back garden. I think she is wondering why the heck it's nice now, when everyone has gone back to school and work.

I found this cookie jar in a mega-thrift shop in Yachats, Oregon. The town motto is "La di dah". I'm not kidding. We were there for a family reunion about 7 years ago and, as is the way of our people, the women went shopping while the men went golfing. (Except my sainted brother who had taken all the younger kids to a zoo or museum or something).

I saw this cookie jar and I had to have it. I don't know why. I don't bake cookies that often and when I do there aren't enough left to put in a cookie jar. It's not the most accurate representation of a chicken. But there was something about it that said, "Take me home". I kept walking away and coming back and finally, amid the mocking of my family, bought it. They all threatened to inundate me with chicken ceramics for the rest of my life but to date none of them have. Although they still tease me about the chicken.

I still can't explain the presence of the chicken in my life. I'm really not a ceramic chicken cookie jar kind of gal. (Which is why the womenfolk found my choice so odd. It was out of character and therefore worthy of twitting). But there she sits and I still love her so she stays.

Also, as you know, The Spouse and I have been catching up on "Battlestar Gallactica" and finding it very enjoyable. We also find it amusing that the humans derisively refer to the Cylons as "toasters". What's even funnier is that whenever you actually see a toaster it's like this one:

Our frackin' toaster. It has a plan.

Monday, May 29, 2006


The BBQ proceeded as planned and it never actually rained the entire time. Hardy NW souls that we are, we hung out on the deck and everyone ate outside even though it was grey and not precisely balmy. Everytime there was a whisper of blue sky someone, usually The Spouse, would say, "See, it's summer".

The food was great and it wasn't until The Neighbor turned to me and said, "Killer potato salad" that I realized I hadn't made anything except the baked beans. The Spouse, having worshipped yesterday at Our Lady of Perpetual Percale, ended up making the potato salad, coleslaw and whipping up the Trader Joe's brownies. All of which were, by the way, killer.

Some people who were planning on coming totally wimped out because of the rain, big babies weren't able to make it after all but we were pleasantly surprised when our former neighbor and her daugher arrived.

I shall interupt the party report now to sing the praises of the Family C. They used to live on the corner just north of us. Good times: mutual baby sitting service, being within crawling distance of each other's parties, the general fabulousness of calling over the fence and saying, "You guys want a cocktail?" Their daughter was born on my birthday, shortly after they moved in, and The Child immediately acquired the thing she most longed for, a baby sister. The husbands totally got each other (same books, movies, computer geekiness), the wives had plenty in common. It was the Ricardos and the Mertz's. It broke our hearts when they moved north. (That stinking "more house, less money" thing, again).

Note: If The Neighbor ever moves we'll have to collectively throw ourselves off of something.

Other guests included one of The Child's boy toys and his uncle (they'd taken her to the Folklife festival in the afternoon) and one of The Spouse's on-line gaming buddies, who can no longer be referred to as an "imaginary friend" because, well, he's real. And very nice. And also more or less agreed with my theories of what to expect in the 7th Harry Potter book.

Anyway, it was big fun, the food was great, I hardly had to do anything except hang with guests (which is what a hostess is supposed to do) and everyone cleared out in time for The Spouse and I to watch one episode of "Battlestar Gallactica". (JP, that really is a compelling bit of entertainment. Thank you).

Today began with significant sleeping in and will largely be composed of nothing in particular. The Child will be making dinner. My kind of national holiday.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Official Start of the Grilling Season?

This is the Big Ass BBQ. It's rather damp.

An empty glass was left out on the deck the other day. It is now bearing about 3 inches of rainwater. (I'd show you a picture but my camera battery is exhausted. Poor thing.)

Today is our annual Memorial Weekend BBQ.
Guests bring what they want to grill and swill, we provide the sides and desserts. It's one of those drop in when you want, stay as long as you want sort of parties and it's always a good time.

We hold it rain or shine. The fact that it's raining means I'm going to have to make potato salad AND dust. Oh well. Happy Memorial Day.

Web Neutrality

Here's an exceeding cogent piece on the threat to Internet access and why you should care. So please read it and then make sure you do something about it. Like I said the other day. You can't say you haven't been warned. Thank you. We now return you to your regular blog fare. For now.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Third Thing

The mere chance of Alberto Gonzales resigning ? Nuts. I might have to come up with a new happy dance.

Second Thing

My mother, whose praises haven't been sung quite enough in this blog, is a very remarkable person. She's been my best friend since I was born. I love her very much. But sometimes even my sainted mother does things that are not well-thought out. Today she sent me a link to the church we used to attend when I was a teenager and my dad first in the ministry (reason number 1 why I totally believe in a celibate clergy, by the way). And there, for all to see was this:

This is a picture of the youth choir I sang with back in the day. Not always good days, I might add. Kinda gave me a shuddery feeling to see this thing, what with me not being properly caffinated at the time. I could have sworn this document was still classified.

If you can make it bigger, go ahead and try to figure out which of these really well-dressed kids grew up to me. And please, be kind.

First Thing

Here's a little something I'll bet you didn't know about me. I sometimes spend inordinant amounts of time looking through Google Images and save pictures to files so I have them on hand. I have little folders in "my pictures" organized by subject matter -politics, religion, household objects, French things - just to name a few.

As it turns out, I usually can't remember what I already have and don't bother to search through all those tidy little folders so I end up googling specifically for each day's post anyway, unless of course, I'm using my own pictures. But still, there are all these .gifs, .bmps and .jpgs waiting on my computer for the lucky day when they get to grace some of my prose.

So this morning I'm emailing my mom about just this and that but in signing off realized that it all sounded kinda bitchy (I sent it anyway because this is my mom, the person who loves me best in the whole world no matter what). But it was bitchy. You know why? This is why:

I knew that file would come in handy someday.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Something Else Yummy

It is 8 and I am the only one up. Well, The Cat is awake and holding forth on something but it's nothing a scoop of tinned food won't solve. The Spouse has a 4 day weekend and is still in bed just because he can be. The Child is also still in bed because, I'm guessing, she hasn't been this comfortable in days. I'm calling her in "camped out" this morning. She might as well get an early start on her Memorial Week-end, too.

I need to get off to my standing Friday morning coffee klatsch and shop for groceries but I have a quick little side dish to share with you. It is healthy, Miss Pants, and it went great with the chipotle butter snapper thing.

Hot Black Bean Salad

1 tin black beans (or you can soak & cook the beans yourself but this is quicker)
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 c. frozen sweet corn

Place everything in a saucepan over medium-high heat until everything is warmed through.

Sheesh. That's easy. Well, yes it is but it's mighty tasty, too and has myriad applications within a variety of menues. In the case of the snapper, S&C, we used this as a bed for the fish. It was quite the yummilicious taste treat.

Right. Time to call school.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Miss Healthypants, Paging Miss Healthypants

There is a woman in Chicago. If I am interpretting the chicken innards correctly she is variously referred to as Miss Healthypants or as The Hag. The latter owes not to her being old, haggard or in anyway unpleasant. Just to do with a gay she knows. Right.

So Miss Healthypants, who clearly comes by that moniker honestly, was asking if I had any "quick, easy, healthy, spicy" recipes. Do I have recipes? If a tree falls in the woods and there's no one to hear it does it make a sound? Of course I have such recipes, you little vixen. These two were originally from my friend BBB although they've been tweaked a smidge because that's what I like to do. I happily share them now and I'll poke around for some more. Here's what we ate this week while Childless.

Mini Red Curry Burgers

¾ lb. extra-lean ground beef (10% fat or less)
1 medium zucchini, grated
salt & pepper
1 bunch green onion, chopped (white and light green)
1/3 cup low fat yogurt
2 tsp. Thai red curry paste (2 t. is the original recipe amount but frankly, and I like things spicy, a rounded teaspoon is plenty. Unless you actually enjoy having the back of your head blown off).

For the sauce:

Combine 2 T. grated zucchini with yogurt and 1 T. onion plus salt & pepper to taste

For the burgers:

Combine hamburger with remaining zucchini and onion, salt & pepper (to taste) and Thai red curry paste. Form into eight 2” patties. Grill on non-stick pan over med-high heat, about 4 min per side for medium.

Pop the tiny little burgers into mini pita pockets with 2 T. sauce.

Now, I realize that butter isn't the first thing that springs to mind when one is being healthy but a) it is not a trans fat, b) if St. Paul was right about anything he was right when he said "all things in moderation" and 3) life without butter is a like a day without sunshine.

Pan-fried Snapper with Chipotle Butter

½ stick unsalted butter, softened
½ to 1 T. finely chopped canned chipotle chilies in adobo plus 2 t. adobo sauce
½ teaspoon salt
4 red snapper fillets (or any firm white fish)
1/3 c. flour
2 T. veggie oil

Mash together butter, chipotles, adobo sauce and salt to taste until blended.

Pat fish dry and season with salt and pepper. Spread flour on a plate and dredge fish, knocking off excess.

Heat 1 ½ T. oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, the panfry fish, turning over once, until browned and just cooked through, 4-6 minutes. Transfer as cooked with a slotted spatula to plates and add more oil to skillet as need. Top fish with dollops of chipotle butter.

Extra chipotle butter (and you will have it) can be plopped onto some plastic wrap and then rolled up like you would for sugar cookies. Wrap that up with foil (don't forget to mark it) and you can keep it, pretty near indefinately, for subsequent healthy fish dinners.

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Home to Roost

The Spouse had asked me to take a photo of The Child upon her return from camp. He thought it would be charming to capture the first impression of Her Grubbiness emerging from a 2 hour car trip after 4 days of peeing in the woods. This proved hard to do as upon seeing me she squealed "Mommmmmy!!!!!!!", cannonballed into me and proceeded to crush my ribs. Didn't even have time to get the lens cap off.

But here are some subsequent shots:

A certain someone missed her very much.....

And, of course, her first request upon re-entry to civilization was for French fries:

Can you see how muddy her jeans are? At home she just unloaded her entire backback into the washer. It was raining the whole time they were there. (They got thunder, lightening and hail, too. Guess that's why they call it environmental camp).

Debriefing will take a few days but I can tell you this much: she had a great time, she wasn't homesick and she never wants to see another port-a-potty as long as she lives.

Happy Birthday, Bad Alice

Go wish Bad Alice a happy birthday, if you're so inclined. She's been having a rough time lately with a sick child and I'll bet she'd appreciate a little extra love today.

Bad Alice was one of the first blogs I ever found (I liked the title. It is not, by the way, her real name). I like reading her because she's so honest. It's refreshing in our age of spin to find someone who feels no need to pull punches, gild the lily or practise other sorts of fakery.

Happy birthday, Bad Alice. Hope this is your best decade yet!

Bloggers of the World Unite

There's trouble afoot regarding the Internet. Go check out for more information. You know something's going on when and the Christian Coalition are working together. Sign the petion, call your reps, blog about it, whatever.

A Pie for Sling

He's been missing the "good old days".

Last Day of "Vacation"


I looked into the room a moment ago,and this is what I saw—
my chair in its place by the window,
the book turned facedown on the table.
And on the sill, the cigarette
left burning in its ashtray.
Malingerer! my uncle yelled at me
so long ago. He was right.
I've set aside time today,
same as every day,
for doing nothing at all.

-Raymond Carver

That about sums it up. These last few days have been nothing short of blissful. I have a mere 3 chapters left to edit on The Book (hurray, hurray) so I have "something to show" for this gift of time. But I have also had plenty of time for loafing and it has been, as loafing is, a balm to my spirit.

I also noticed that the house has been immaculate this week and I haven't done much to make it so. So I guess we know definatively where the majority of the messes come from. Not that I'm complaining. The life of the mind - which is the one I've been living, mostly, this week - doesn't make messes. The life of living does. And the more life there is, the bigger the messes. I didn't have to do laundry every day when it was just me. Now I do, but it's a sign that I share my life with other people...messy, imperfect people without whom I wouldn't be half the person I am.
The Child returns home today and I say, "Bring it on". I love the little rascal, even if she is a sticky little clutter bug. It will be nice to have her home.

There are still a few hours left of my mini-break and I have every intention of enjoying them. Then I'll pick up my scraggly little camper with her garbage bag full of wet and muddy clothes (it rained all week at camp), we'll sit down to a chicken and leek pie and hear all her stories and it will all be very good.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I Wish I Was Kidding

Here's proof that democracy really doesn't work everywhere.

I so missed the conclave when Brangelina was canonized.

Why I Still Haven't Made the Bed

What are you going to do? He's just a little dog.

Enough of this Foolishness

I fixed the link on the foreign language post. And now I really need to get some work done.

High School Musical

Back in January The Child was all agog for a made-for-TV movie that was going to premiere on the Disney Channel. “Made-for-TV”. The only thing worse than that is “straight to video”, right? The Spouse and I were not excited about spending a Friday evening watching some ridiculous Disney pap but sometimes you do things for your kid just because you love her. So we sat down to watch “High School Musical”. And we loved it.

For those of you without children of the requisite age, “High School Musical” is all the rage among the tweenage set. And with good reason. It’s a classic boy meets-loses-gets girl story but also treats of the adolescent struggle to step outside the box of high school cliques and follow your dreams. The story isn't remotely original but every generation has it's defining film and "HSM" could be it for the Zs.

The movie was made for a mere $5 million with an unknown cast. (Not a Hillary Duff or Raven to be had here). It has been viewed by over 30 million people. The soundtrack has sold 1.9 million copies as of this month, it has twice been #1 on the Billboard 200 and been certified platinum twice.

What makes it so good? The actors are all darling (and have decent chops). The music is completely singable. The dance numbers are terrific. (Every kid who has seen the film knows the moves to the final dance number). The movie ultimately works is because it is a true high school musical. Think “Grease”. In fact, the comparison is richly made in a number of the articles I’ve read. The finale “We’re All in This Together” will make you think of “We Go Together”. And that’s ok. “HSM” isn’t a rip-off. It is a charming and entertaining and, dare I say it, thoroughly wholesome without making your teeth hurt.

Here’s how good it is: the DVD was released yesterday and The Spouse brought it home per The Child’s request. She is going to want to watch it as soon as she gets home. But she won’t be getting the first crack at it. No. In a childless house, eating very adult food (the chipotle fish rocked), The Spouse and I popped it in the player. There we were, two 48 year old adults, watching, laughing, tapping our feet and (in my case) singing along. Maybe we’re complete nerds. But I double dog dare you to put “High School Musical” on your Netflix list, regardless of your child status, and if you don’t like it, well, I don’t want to hear about it. Just trust me on this. And if you don’t see it now that’s fine because the odds are extremely high that within the next 5-10 years you will be going to a high school production of this show. And you will love it.

Here’s a clip of what is, arguably, my favorite number in the film. If this doesn’t say “classic musical” I don’t know what does. Turn it up.

Mais Oui

You Should Learn French

C'est super! You appreciate the finer things in life... wine, art, cheese, love affairs.

You are definitely a Parisian at heart. You just need your tongue to catch up...


Quote for the Day

"Were we to choose our leaders on the basis of their reading experience and not their political programs, there would be much less grief on earth. I believe ... that for someone who has read a lot of Dickens to shoot his like in the name of an idea is harder than for someone who has read no Dickens."
- Joseph Brodsky

Coffee & Paper

Interesting NY Times article this a.m. regarding an FBI search this weekend in Rep. William Jefferson's offices. Rep. Jefferson, a Democrat, is a crook and should resign. That's not what this is about. Senior Republicans are just as bent about this as the Dems. It's to do with separation of powers and the "speech and debate" clause of the Constitution. The last line of the article is the kicker.

And speaking of the DOJ and the Constitution, this editorial actually made me wince. And I don't like Alberto Gonzales, either.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It's Quiet. Too Quiet.

Earlier today I thought something was wrong with my clock. It said 3:30 but I had accomplished entirely too much for it to be that early in the afternoon.

I love my kid. You know I do. I'm thinking about her; hoping that she's wearing sunscreen, having fun and not missing home too much. It will be great to have her home again but man, oh, man I am SO digging not having to shuttle her to and from school. Those two daily trips bookend my time and somehow, knowing that there's only so much of it, I never quite escape the feeling of Things Pending. Projects are always abandoned mid projection because I have to gather up The Dog, lock the house and run off.

I don't have to get up early this week but do because I'm so enjoying this wealth of time. To date I have edited half the chapters in The Book & caught up on my reading. I even bailed out the contents of The Child's room and removed the film of stickiness that seemed to be everywhere therein. (She is required to "clean" her room on a regular basis but about once a month its a good policy for me to go in there and toss all the stained, ragged and torn bits that accumulate. As is the way of most children, she "cleans" around this garbage but never misses it when it is gone). It now looks less like a rag and bone shop and more like a nice, airy retreat. And after 4 days in a cabin and peeing in the woods, I think she'll appreciate it. It won't stay that way, but she'll appreciate it.

And did I mention that The Spouse and I are enjoying spicy food this week? Specifically, chipotles & curry. The Child just isn't ready for that level of spiciness. We had a chipotle chili casserole-y thing last night and tonight is snapper with chipotle butter. Tomorrow night we're having mini-burgers tarted up with Thai red curry. Yum.

No Kidding. I Love Nerds.

I am nerdier than 4% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out! This came from Grish via Sling, both of whom, by the by, are mid-rank nerds. I would like to point out that the characterization that I "despise nerds" is hardly true given that I married one (and still like him quite a lot). Based on the questions in the test it would be more accurate to merely suggest that math and science were not, ahem, my forte. I can, in fact, be very nerdy about other things.

Things I am nerdy about:

the domestic life of Henry VIII
"All My Children"
grocery shopping
the Lord Peter Whimsey murder mysteries
interior design

But the periodic table and the size of my RAM, not so much. (And yes, I realize that last sentence provides a ton of fodder for a certain Scotsman. Have at it).

Monday, May 22, 2006

On this Day in History

In case you haven't visited him yet, today is Iwanski's blogiversary.

Blogtopia is a richer place for this talented writer/photographer/spatula-snorting man. Go wish him well. Maybe there'll be cake.


Mocking the Saints

Great thanks to The Neighbor for forwarding this Slate article to me. Those of you with young children will find this advice very helpful in preparing your child for the birth of Brad and Angie's much-hyped-super baby. Those of you with grandchildren, nephews, neices and godchildren should also bone up. This is a challenging time for us all but remember, it takes a village.

(In Brangelina's case it takes a resort in Nambia, a multi-million dollar photo deal (the money is going to charity because they do, after all, walk on freaking water), a sealed-off maternity wing and a private jet. But it ain't easy birthing the messiah. Those halo-first presentations can be brutal).

Hot Diggety

The Child has been successfully sold to the gypsies sent off to environmental camp. She woke with a snarky voice and stuffy nose but nothing short of an intervention by the Mayo Clinic would have kept her home. She was positively vibrating with excitement. I also got a nice, protracted "goodbye" hug when I dropped her off. A little homesickness will do her good.

It is a very drippy day. Here's what I won't be doing: working in the garden.

I barely know what to do with myself. Even though I have every weekday to myself, the fact is that in the afternoon I have to stop what I'm doing to go pick up The Child and then it's homework and "clean your room" and all that sort of thing until dinner. Now I'm a free agent until The Spouse gets home and the hours are stretched before me to the horizon. I'm feeling a little giddy at the moment.

I think I'll make another pot of coffee, read some blogs and then get cracking on The Book. (This is the perfect time to bring that baby home).

New Release

A suggestion for your disposable income. I'm not a huge fan of country music but I'm crazy for that rockin' 1st amendment and all chicks, Dixie or otherwise, who speak their minds.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Charmed Life

Angela and Charlie's comments on yesterday's post had me thinking about what it means to have a charmed life. Truth be told, I often feel that I do. It's not that everything has always gone exactly the way I wished nor is my history without its fraught periods. But fundamentally, I have no complaints. It may owe to nothing more than being basically a glass-half-full-kind of girl who really does stop to smell the roses. (Because really, why wouldn't you?)

But I can be a fishwife, The Spouse passive-aggressive and The Child, in the way of all tween-agers, maddening. We all, despite sharing a roof, can be selfish beyond belief. I don't intend to sanitize everything for your protection, I just decided, in the beginning, that my blog was no place to come and complain relentlessly about my family or bemoan the ways in which we disappoint each other. The exception, of course, being if I can do so in a mildly amusing way, thereby making a universal comment on the human condition.

That decision, however, renders this blog a place that might tend toward painting a picture of general rosiness and charm. "Our house is a very, very fine house" and all that. And our house is a fine house (not grand, but fine) and most days and most minutes of most days, I'm delighted to be in this house with these people. We laugh quite a lot, we eat well and are blessed with work we enjoy and friends we love. I'm just saying that we aren't without our dramas. Trust me. I just prefer to leave out most of the sturm and drang because, frankly, who needs it?

As it happens, most of yesterday I had a vague sense of thunder in the back of my head. People weren't being particularly patient with each other, there was an air of stress peppered with hormones. At the afternoon birthday party we were none of us in the same room at the same time for more than 10 seconds. Which was more than fine. It wasn't hostility. We just needed a break.

We were back to rights by the time we returned home and our dinner guests arrived. And then, in the midst of the evening and apropos of nothing, there was a moment: Stina was playing a Mozart something on the piano, the aroma of kebabs was wafting through the open door, children were playing happily, the fading light was just so in the room and I thought, "Yes, this is a charmed life". So Angela, I'll grant you the charm. But let's not confuse charm with perfection. Perfection would be deadly dull anyway.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Weekend Diddly Dos

The Spouse woke up with some sort of critter up his you-know and decided to make the Viking shine like it did when it first came to live with us. Then, as long as he was at it, he figured he might as well pull out the fridge and clean there, too. He was rewarded, initially, with a dime and 2 furry gumballs. Then he got lots of snaps from Moi. Say what you will about the man, when the mood takes him he can clean like no one I know.

Now the kitchen is nigh unto spotless for the dinner we're having tonight with good friends. We used to hang a lot more often but they bought a house in the north end (more house for less money) and despite all our good intentions, we just don't see them as often as we used to. So I'm looking forward to this evening. The Spouse pulled out the BA Grill the other day so we're going to fire it up for some orange-thyme pork kebabs with bulgar pilaf. Say "yum".

Dropped a wad at the drugstore getting crap for The Child to take to camp. HMOG, you'd think she was going to the rain forest for the foreseeable future instead of 4 days at a CYO camp 1 hour from town. Sunscreen, bug repellant, allergy and headache medicine, just in case. It would have been a bigger wad if I hadn't insisted she keep to the school packing list. When faced with a rack of travel size gimcracks, she suddenly becomes the girliest girl. The child who brushes her hair only at gunpoint suddenly needs pomade? Needless to say, I was using the word "no" a lot. Which is really exhausting, by the way.

I also bought a new mop. I love getting new tools so I find this very exciting, even though mopping is actually one of my least favorite chores.

A good friend is turning 40 today and we're off with a bottle of single malt scotch to celebrate. Then it's home to make panna cotta for tonight's dessert. Have a swell week-end.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Joke for Today

The man on the left, wearing a fabulous vintage chiffon-lined Dior gold lame gown over a silk Vera Wang empire waisted tulle cocktail dress, accessorized with a 3-foot beaded peaked House of Whoville hat, along with the ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore in "The Wizard of Oz", is worried that "The Da Vinci Code" might make the Roman Catholic Church look foolish.

That's not my joke. Kate sent it to me. Just thought you'd like to know that not all Catholics take themselves too seriously.

The End of an Era. Again.

All of you who are so highly evolved that you've killed your television are to be commended. I'll now warn you that you might as well skip today's post for lo, despite my reading of books, listening to public radio and generally fancying myself a reasonably intelligent and thoughtful person, this one is all about television. In point of fact, two of my shows this week passed on into that great Syndicated Beyond and it's been a little hard for me. Tears were shed. I must vent.

I cried twice during the finale of the West Wing for 2 very specific reasons. First, because it gave me a totemic White House where a good leader, surrounded by decent people, strove to do the right thing. It was more than good television; for the last 5 years it's been a respite. I also teared up when President Bartlett handed Charlie a worn copy of the Constitution. The symbol was not lost on me. Our most cherished national document is in peril and that worries me, a lot.

My reaction to the ending of "Will and Grace" surprised me a little, though. Last night I got that odd feeling, for which there oughta be a fantastic German word, the feeling that nothing will ever be this good again. (I've also experienced this with certain books and music). It's not completely true, of course. When Mary Richards switched off the office lights for the last time who could have imagined that someday there'd be "Mad About You", "Seinfeld" and yes, "Friends". Of course there will be other good shows, so good that when they end I'll say "It's the end of an era". And I'll be right.

A television show that is smart, funny and well written is as valid as any other creative endeavor. Whether it merely entertains or goes so far as to illuminate something about the human condition it is all to the good. Plus, I don't see how an attachment to a television character like Grace Adler is any odder than admiring a fictional character like Elizabeth Bennett or Harriet Vane.

Spoiler Alert: If you TiVo-ed last night's show you'll want to stop reading now.

In the history of classic TV finale's, the finale of "Will and Grace" was no "Newhart" (which I believe to be untouchable anyway). Instead we got closure. We won't be privy to it anymore but these characters will go on and they will be just fine. Will ends up happy, Karen and Jack end up happy, Grace ends up happy. (It was a sit com after all). But before the final affirmation of the power of friendship there was a path diverging -if you will- in a yellow wood of personal choices. There was a subtlely played and authentic treatment of how friendship changes because of life circumstances. But like I said, it all ended happily with a lovely parting gift: Will's son grows up to marry Grace's daughter. And I thought that was just perfect.

So, there you go. "The West Wing" and "Will and Grace" are gone and yet another television era comes to an end. And I still have my "Gilmore girls".

Thursday, May 18, 2006

How the...

One minute it's in the house, in the spot where it always is. The next minute it's out on the deck and full of toys. I didn't do it.

Think what he could do with opposable thumbs.

Full Disclosure

Remember back in January when I announced that I had finished my book on family liturgy? That was true. It was also true that the manuscript had been turned over to some folks for "editorial comment" and that a Writer Friend had offered to read it and pass it on (should it so merit) to his agent.

But in the weeks since the feedback has been collected I have been talking about working on it more than actually working on it. I've gone beyond even my considerable powers of procrastination to not work on it. Since Writer Friend has been promised a manuscript by the time he returns from a book tour (at the end of the month) I have to deliver. I'm not a lying liar.

Every day, for weeks, I've risen with the intention of working on it and every day I don't.

Today was no different. I took my morning coffee out in the kitchen garden. The air was cool and vernal, the light was dappled. It was a perfect, fresh-start sort of morning. Well-rested, clear-headed and properly caffinated I asked myself, somewhat boldly, "Self, what is the hold-up?" Myself is not used to such direct confrontation and was caught off-guard by the frankness of the query. But after a few nonplussed moments, Myself answered:

"I'm tired of this book. After 10 years I'm ready to send it off to its fate. I don't want to work on it anymore".

Those of you with more experience at the writing thing might well have answered Myself with, "Well, so then, you're done. Be done". Ah, but you see, I can't do that. Because it was a work-in-progress over a 10 year period, the voice in the book changes. And the difference in that voice between the early stuff and the latter stuff is glaring. GLARING. It has to be fixed. And sure, maybe it could be fixed in editing, assuming that it was accepted for publication. But I think it is so glaring a problem that it could adversely affect the publication odds.

The good news is that, in taking time to think about it, I also realized how to fix it, which was most of the battle. Now it's just taking the time.

As long as I'm confessing let's add that I'm a freaking hypocrite. I stand over The Child like a fishwife, hectoring her about school work when she probably got the procrastination gene from me. Of course, I have to hector her but it's that whole "do as I say, not as I do" thing. I'm not exactly credible on this point. Not that she knows this. She has no idea. Which is what makes it so hypocritical.

Enough. Time to look to my Muse and ask, "What Would Jane Austen Do?" She'd stop bitching, belly up to her writing desk and start writing, that's what. She sure as shootin' wouldn't fire up a game of "Age of Mythology".


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

So Amy Says...

that the picture of The Child and I singing karaoke was about the sweetest thing she'd ever seen. Which made me think, "Nah, this is". Below you'll find what is, to date, my favorite photo of me and The Child. (The Enfant Terrible shot from Nantes runs a close second). I have this pinned up by my desk (which you will note if you look at the photo from this post).

I don't post a lot of pictures of The Child full on and I won't, usually. But when you look at this photo you will know everything you need to know about what she was like as a wee one:


I'm messing around with photos today, having only just realized that when I download photos I can also delete them from the camera. (All the little geeks say, "Duh"). Time to organize them into the folders on the server.

What I really need to do, though, is think about how to keep these photos. They can't live on the computer forever. Some day there will be a great grandchild who's going to want to see what the old folks looked like back in the day and The Child will have nothing to offer them. I pretty much stopped making photo albums when we got the digital camera. I'm not a scrapbook-y crafty kind of gal but it seems reasonable to create a record, something substantive that one can take down from a shelf and look at over the head of a fascinated child.

When I was a kid someone uncovered a couple glass negatives of photos taken of the Scottish branch of the family tree. We all have copies of these serious looking folks in their severe black clothing. I can't tell you the whole story of this clan (my Oregon sister is the keeper of that flame) but I have these photographic documents to wonder at and scan for familiar genetic manifestations. I can look at it and think, "These are my people". We have some photos of The Spouse's ancestors as well, including one of his great grands and his baby grandmother in front of a sod house in Minnesota. Very "Little House on the Prairie". I'm not going to crazy here but it occurs that I might do a better job of collecting and recording the family story for future generations, something slightly more accessible than a bunch of digital files on disks, that is.

I'll add that to my list of things to do before The Child leaves home.

Meanwhile, remember, the Mother and Child who together karaoke are forever hunkadorky:

Hit me, baby, one more time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Things That Happened Today

The Child bluffed her way into cleaning out her mother in poker. Actually, it wasn't a real bluff in the sense of not having anything and making people think she did. Kid had a pair of kings and a pair of 10s and all I had was a pair of 4s. Point is, she beat me stone cold. Which is good. In case the college thing doesn't work out.

The Spouse and I watched a couple episodes of "Arrested Development". We're catching up. God bless Netflix.

The Cat caught and killed a bird. Which she proceeded to eat on the kitchen counter. I didn't take pictures.

It was 80 degrees here today. What the crap is that about?

Karl Rove is still a free man. But I'm hopeful.

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A New Day

I took to my bed yesterday, my suffering eased only by the ministrations of my little dog, who gently licked my brow. As I lay in a darkened, fetid sickroom I thought, "HMOG, Bush is going to invade Mexico!"

It seemed just crazy enough to be something his gang would cook up. And think of the problems it would solve. If we annexed Mexico we'd resolve the immigration problem in one fell swoop because, well, if Mexico was ours then the people would be ours so they wouldn't be trying to get into America anymore because they'd already be in America. Talk about a win-win situation. And on top of that we'd get their oil, tequila, silver bracelets and all the Chicklets we could chew. This was starting to sound like a pretty good plan.

By the afternoon I was all better. Wrung out, but better. I was completely useless all day. Well, I managed to pay the mortgage on time. That's always good. But as the hour for the President's speech approached I began to feel vaguely anxious. What if an invasion of Mexico wasn't the result of a bird talon headache? What if, while thrashing in pain, I'd accidently turned on the radio and heard an NPR analyisis?

Imagine my relief. We aren't invading Mexico. Not yet anyway. We're sending a mess of troops to the border for a year (where they're coming from I have no idea) and we're going to be setting up cameras and building walls and generally seeing to it that our border is less porous (how we'll pay for it I have no idea). But we are NOT invading Mexico. Yet.

And, while this may seem like a remnant of my headache induced lunacy, I tell you in complete honesty that watching the President last night didn't exactly make my skin itch. Maybe because he wasn't invoking 9/11 every 30 seconds and actually seemed to have a plan. In fact, not all of his plan is bad. And, again, I know this is going to seem crazy, but he even gets some snaps. 2 snaps. 1 for taking on those critics who want to round up all the immigrants and deport them. (If he'd mentioned that these critics were members of his own party I might have given him double snaps on this one but me giving Bush snaps...come on. He's so happy right now). He laid out a very cogent description of the path that should be created for those who have been here illegally for a long time and I agree with him. (Cue the flying pigs....) His 2nd snap is for urging us to try and be civilized in conducting this debate and to remember that we are talking about human beings with dignity and worth.

I feel great this morning and thanks to all of you sweet people who wished me well. (Oh, that's cool. I never really thought of what that phrase means). My head is clear, my heart is pure and yes, of course, I still think W is the worst president we've ever had. Calm down. I'm going into Maria's this morning and then I'll hopefully be able to spend the afternoon in far more productive ways than I did yesterday. Like think about what I'm going to do with my share of the tequila.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Best Laid Plans

The alarm was set for 6. I envisioned perfect, fresh coffee inspiring today's post, which would be published before The Child got up. That would leave the morning free for a long walk with The Dog, meeting a writing deadline, pungling some bills (on time, by the way), all topped off with a much needed scrubbing of the kitchen floor. Depending on how things went there was also a good chance that some vegetable seeds would making it into the prepared kitchen gardens.

I woke up with the most sick-making, eye-blinding, how-did-these-bird-talons-get-stuck-in-my brain, fiendish headache. So screw it all. I'm going back to bed.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day, Schmother's Day

I have always found it ironic that the thing most women want for Mother's Day is a break from all the stuff that is related to being a mother. For my part, I'm just hoping to avoid any involvment with dishes. I do not want to wash dishes, put away dishes or set a table. So far, so good.

The Child has been acting like she's got something up her sleeve but she's out with the M Street gang and I don't expect to see her until it's time for her to make dinner. Maybe making dinner is the thing up her sleeve. That is swell because a home can only contain so many picture frames made out of popsicle sticks.

I'm trying to be tough, in case you haven't noticed. Here's the thing. This morning, in Mass, the Schola Cantorum, of which The Child is a member, sang with the men from the Cathedral Choir. As May is one of the months wherein the Virgin Mary gets special attention, the choir always sings a Marian hymn at the end of mass. This morning it was the Ave Maria by the modern composer Beibl. I ripped it off a CD of our choir so I could put it up for you but it's not an mp3 file and I'm not geek enough to figure out how else to get it to you. I even went on line to try and find some mp3s of it, and I did, but they didn't sound ANYTHING like our choir so I just gave it all up. Suffice to say, it is a very beautiful hymn and if you ever have occasion to hear it sung by a good choir you will be fortunate, indeed.

The choirs gathered on the altar during the final prayers and were facing the priest, which means they were also facing the pews in which we were sitting. The Child was in the second row but I caught a glimps of her little face and it hit me: there are only 6 years left before she technically is out of the house. Now, maybe she'll live with us until she's 30 but something tells me, not so much. And 6 years isn't a long time. I know, because we've already had her for 12 and I can still remember like yesterday all her little baby ways. And she's not a baby any more. She doesn't need me in the same ways as she used to. Which is not to say that I'm anything like off the hook with this mothering thing. It's just that it all changes so fast and sometimes I can't keep up.

Anyway, I have this "just 6 more years" revelation thing and then she saw me. She smiled broadly and pulled her ear and I pulled mine back. Then she turned with the rest of the choir toward the statue of Mary and started singing this absolutely gorgeous hymn and even though I have heard it a 100 times it caught me someplace deep down and I just stood there quietly weeping.

Maybe it's just because "The West Wing" is ending tonight. That's probably it.

Happy Mother's Day to any of you who answer to that calling (as our priest said this a.m.). And also to any of you who, in the capacity of sister, auntie, friend or godperson have occasion to inform and nurture the lives of younglings. And also to all of you who ever had or currently are in possession of a mother and to all of you responsible for making someone a mother.

Now I have to go comfort The Child, who just came home crying. Oh goody. I still have my uses.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ain't It Just the Truth

Friday, May 12, 2006

An Observation

"Ack!" he exclaimed, "It looks like a Catholic school girl exploded in here!"

6 Degrees of Separation

"Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on earth can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries". Thus spake Wikipedia. I've no doubt that this is true.

Allow me to demonstrate. The Spouse used to work in the movie biz. At a cast/crew party I met and spoke, briefly, to the lovely and talented Natasha Richardson. In those few moments I began a chain of connection that gets me pretty much to any and all actors on at least 2 continents.

For example:
Me>Tasha>Liam Neeson
Me>Tasha>Colin Firth (which makes me dizzy with joy)
Me>Tasha>Alan Rickman>all the Harry Potter stars (The Child loves that one).

Never mind that Natasha's mother is Vanessa Redgrave, which puts me 3 degrees from anyone Vanessa has ever known or worked with. Let's put the celebrity factor aside for a moment. Factoring in regular, ordinary people puts me 3 degrees from every hotel clerk, waiter or Palestinian Ms. Redgrave ever met. Which puts me 4 degrees to everyone each of those people ever met.

Here are some more examples:

Me>Tasha>Lindsay Lohan

I've met a cousin of The Neighbor's who went to St. Andrews College and spilled beer on Prince William:

JM's mom was once hit on by Louis Armstrong:
Me>JM>his mom>Louis>Grace Kelly

Sometimes, in my idle hours, I play this game and marvel at all the people to whom I am connected. And again, those are the ones easily traced through their filmography on the IMDb. All chains of connection we establish through our lives would be equally fascinating, were we able to trace them. What are the links that follow from me to the guy who checked my groceries this morning? Who does he know? It really is a very small world.

And that is why the NSA is getting in on the fun. They aren't accessing our phone records because they want to know about us. No, you silly rabbits, they just want to know everyone we've ever talked to so they can determine whether one of those people talked to someone who talked to someone else who talked to someone in, let's say, al Qaeda. It's a benign game of 6 degrees of separation so let's all just relax.

Here's a fun one: Me>John Kerry>George W. Bush. What is great about that is it gets me 3 degrees to Stephen Colbert and only 4 to Jon Stewart. No, wait, Kerry's been on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart in 3.

And my Bacon number? It's 3.
Me>Spouse>Keifer Sutherland>Kevin Bacon

Your turn.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

How to Cook Dinner

Here is The Child's recipe for Chicken in Puttanesca Sauce over Polenta:

First, you have to don your super fab flamenco apron that The Neighbor brought you from Espana.

You also have to load the soundtrack to "High School Musical" and crank it up until your mother has to say "Will you turn that music down!" (But since mom was singing and dancing along I know she likes it. It was probably just too loud for her old ears).

It's a good idea to read through the recipe once before you start cooking.

Thaw 3 chicken breasts and chop into chunks. You'll probably have to yell at The Cat for trying to steal some.

You need to chop 8 anchovy fillets. Which are nasty.

And 6 cloves of garlic. Which are not.

You'll also need:
3 T. capers, drained
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes (if you want but I leave them out because I don't like things too spicy).
1/4 c. flat-leaf parsely, chopped
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes. All I had was tomato sauce, though, but it was fine.

Use a cherry pitter to pit 20 Kalamata olives. Yell at your dad if he tries to snitch one because you've already counted them out.

Once everything is chopped up you have your mise en place and are ready to go. I'm wicked good at mise en place.

This is about the time when you should take a few minutes to dance to "High School Musical" and show your mom all your moves.

Check the recipe one more time. I've got a tube of polenta sliced into rounds. I've sauteed the chicken in extra-virgin olive oil and once it's cooked through I'm going to transfer it to a plate to keep warm.

Now 3 T. of EVOO go into the skillet. Cook the garlic, anchovies and pepper flakes until the anchovies melt into the oil and the garlic is tender. Add the olives, capers, tomatoes, parsley and some black pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a bubble, add the chicken back into the sauce and turn down the heat to medium. Simmer everything for 5 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, cook your polenta slices in some oil. I used our griddle but you can do it in a skillet if you want.

Plate up a few polenta slices and top with the sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and serve to your family. They will spend a lot of time telling you how delicious dinner is. And there won't be any left-overs. Sorry.