Monday, July 31, 2006

Last Day of July

There are 100 days until the mid-term elections and I predict that every single day between now and then I will receive 412 emails from high-level Democrats, asking me for money. I feel special.

Today, speaking of feeling special, I will be in the same vast room as Bill Clinton. That will be very exciting. (And no, I won't photoshop myself into a picture with him. I'll take a little, tiny digital snap from clear across the room, just like I did with Hillary). I heard President Clinton speak once before, when he was running for election. It was down at the Pike Place Market, it was raining and it was one of the most electric events I've ever attended. I remember walking away thinking, "I just heard the next President of the United States". He is a forceful, charasmatic speaker. He's the sort of guy who either had to get into politics or become a tv evangelist. And I miss him. Sigh.

As you know, I tend to worry a lot about The Child academically and for good reason. But much as I'm justified, the fact remains that this is her responsibility and there is, increasingly, only so much I can do.

She has a summer assignment to read and report on 3 books. We worked out a schedule of reading and writing that has her getting everything done by the 2nd to last week of August, giving her 3 full weeks before school without any academic responsibilites. So far, she's on pace. I told her yesterday, however, that she would need to devote her morning to academic pursuits, knowing that in my absence this afternoon she would likely be playing on the computer or watching television.

I just went in to check on her and she's not up yet. But she was sitting in her bed, going through the Box of Academic Achievement. Early last year she decorated a shoe box and anytime she brought home a 'no missing assignments reward' or a good grade the paper was ceremoniously installed in the Box. When I found her this morning she said she was "reviewing" and then said, "And when I'm done, I'd like to get rid of all of this to make room in the Box for next year". I said that would be fine and then she asked, "Do you think we could burn all these?"

"Ah," I said, "sort of like saying 'that's behind me, now I'm going forward?'"

"Exactly," she said.

Yet another sign, perhaps, that she's ready to take responsibility for her grades next year? Maybe. But who doesn't like ritual bonfires? I must go find some matches and dust off the Ceremonial Headdress.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Saturday Evening

The Spouse and Child are out making a movie today. I just realized I don't know if they will be home for dinner. And I can't call because if they are in the middle of shooting then a ringing cell phone won't be a welcome thing and The Spouse might even snark at me.

If they come home I'm making chicken with apricot glaze & almonds. If they don't I'm having salad. But if I wasn't feeling tubby I would eat pizza. Lots and lots of pizza.

What Kind of Pizza are You?

Meatball Pizza
Unusual and uncompromising.
You're usually the first to discover a new trend.
You appreciate a good meal and good company.
You're an interesting blend of traditional and modern.

No Place for That

"This was a crime of hate, and there's no place for that in the city of Seattle."
Mayor Greg Nickels, July 28, 2006


By now you've no doubt heard that Seattle made it into the news again and not in a good way.

The Neighbor and I were having our usual Friday preprandial glass of wine when The Spouse came over with "a face". We turned on the news at his instruction. Neighbor and I decided to call on the Rabbi's Wife, even though it was about 10 minutes 'til Sabbath. Meanwhile, The Spouse went next door because the woman who owns the house works at the Jewish Federation and he wanted to see if the renter had any word. (We're still waiting to hear but as our friend is older than the listed ages of the victims presumably she wasn't harmed. Physically, anyway).

We arrived just as the Rabbi was leaving for shul but he was very grateful that we came by. We stayed to talk with Rabbi's Wife for a few moments, until it was time for her to light the candles and invite in the Sabbath. And the irony wasn't lost on us. I suspect it will be a challenge to have a shabbat shalom this weekend.

Politically, I don't consider myself "pro-Israel" in the sense that everything they do is right or justified. I think, for example, their current engagement with Lebanon is a bit over the top. I do believe the nation has a right to exist but so does every other nation. And yes, Hezbollah and Hamas are "bad guys" and should be disarmed but from the news reports it doesn't look to me like those groups are the ones suffering from this war. And to me a Lebanese child is just as valuable as an Israeli child. The mom in me gets really, really pissed off at crazy men with their big guns and big words who don't get that.

And of course, we didn't get into the politics last night because the point isn't whether or not one agrees with the nation of Israel in the current conflict. The women shot yesterday were regular women, going about their day and anticipating their Sabbath like they do every Friday. And like the Rabbi's Wife said, "You just expect to be able to go to work and come home from work each day". Yeah. You do. The fact of their being Jewish doesn't make them collectively responsible for what is going on in the Middle East.

I've been thinking a lot about collective responsibility lately. It's a thorny one. I've heard players in the Middle East use it to justify the bombing of civilians. With this kind of thinking, killed and wounded civilians aren't "collateral damage". They are considered to be responsible for their governments and therefore legitimate targets. Or at least, that's what some Israeli general was saying about the Palestinians a few weeks ago. They elected Hamas so they pay the price.

Of course you know where my mind went. I didn't vote for George W. Bush. Neither did at least 48% of the rest of America (and that's assuming, you know, a legitimate election). That seems to be an awful lot of people to hold responsible for his actions. Which begs the question. To what degree are citizens in a democracy responsible for the decisions of their leadership? And what if, like me, you sign petitions and act as a citizen co-sponsor of legislation and send emails to the White House urging this or that course of action? I mean, do I get a pass for his decisions because I am on record as not supporting them? I should but the trouble is people always seem to shoot first and ask questions later.

Well, this is getting entirely too rambling and heavy for a Saturday morning. I hate when that happens.

Here's the thing: we hugged the Rabbi's Wife and wished her a peaceful sabbath anyway. "Lots of prayers," she said, "lots of prayers". And one wonders; how many prayers, condolence calls from goyim and healing actions and peaceful intentions have to be poured into a deep wound like this? I am all about healing and restoration but I gotta tell you, some people are making it mighty daunting these days.


Friday, July 28, 2006

All That Jazz

The Child and I zipped down to Audrey Hepburn's yesterday so we could attend opening night of Molly's summer musicale. Molly is one of my favorite neices (and not just because she reads my blog) and there isn't much I wouldn't do for her, including driving 1.5 hours to hear a group of high school kids sing show tunes.

There were some extremely talented kids in the class of '03 who come home from college in the summer and work with the younger kids in the high school theater program. They put together a 2 hour program (down from an original 3) that highlighted popular musical theater since the 1950's. 8 kids, 2 in college, 2 in junior high, 4 in high school. 5 girls, 3 boys. Got the picture? No. You don't.

a) The kids looked fantastic, dressed and coiffed to the nines.

b) They had pipes.

c) They had chops.

d) Most of them had moves.

Some of the voices were a little weak, especially in the beginning, what with nerves and all. You could tell from their stage presence who was in junior high. But all of them were completely into what they were doing and dished up medleys of songs that were fun, amusing, and sometimes downright mind-blowing. After the Caberet-like opening of "let us entertain you" type songs we got a little "West Side Story", a bit of "Les Mis", a smattering of "Lion King". We were treated to medleys of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim and Jonathan Larson (he of "Rent"). One of the most enjoyable bits, for me, was the Kander & Ebb medley...the guys who wrote music for shows like "Chicago". (Who knew? The music was familiar but I realized the shows were ones that had been choreographed by Bob Fosse and that's the name I attach to the music. Silly me.) One of my favorite songs was "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup" which posits that the trouble in the word today is the haste typified by take-away coffee.

The highlight, in a collection of highlights, might well have been when Molly sang "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" (which happens to be the first song The Child ever learned to sing). She and this boy also did a pretty terrific "Tonight" from "West Side Story". Also, there was a moment during intermission, with Audrey Hepburn and I in the bathroom trying to drink from the sink faucets because the only water fountain is in the band room, which wasn't open, but you kinda had to be there.

The best thing about the evening, simply, was the spirit and energy of these kids. They were talented and yes, some more than others but you could tell that all of them, if they keep at it, could be good, possibly even great. It wasn't hard to imagine that some of them, if they really want it, could end up going places. I'm not just saying that. Sure, the road to Broadway is littered with the corpses of talented kids with a dream and it is more likely a girl like Jessica Simpson, with a pushy father and willingness to pander, is more likely to get the gigs than the earnest, hard working, talented kid from Boondocks, USA. But on a night like last night you could believe anything was possible for these kids because you could see they believed it. And sometimes it is really important to me to see that kind of hope and purpose and dream-spinning. Plus, I was just super proud of my Molly.

Anyway, caught up in the moment, I solicited the autographs of all the kids, telling them that when they are famous I can sell my program on eBay and make a fortune. And I was only kidding a little bit.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Housekeeping in Blogtopia

A big apology to anyone who may have stopped by here this morning and then decided to go visit Sling. Oops! Apparently some nimrod hijacked his url and the result was, um, well, disgusting. But the ever resilient Sling has a new url and is back up and running and he gets snaps for that. Because if it happened to me I'd be blind with rage. (This might be a good time to go back through your posts and save anything you're particularly proud of to another place. Like Word. Because stuff happens).

And if any of you who link to Sling are just now making the rounds of Blogtopia, rest assured that Grish and I have the correct url and you can get there from here without having to go to hell first.

And on another note, I removed darling Angela's link because not only is it not there it is now linking to some twinky car insurance thing and who needs the aggravation? If she moves back into Blogtopia we'll find her again and I for one, will link to her straightaway.

Carry on.


Striking an Accord

Last night The Neighbor and I went to a very nice interfaith prayer for peace and then we went out for a very, very nice chicken creole salad, Lemon Drops and bananas flambe with vanilla ice cream. The evening ended with our usual Wednesday night activity of watching "Project Runway". (Our little snowboarder girl was eliminated last night which gave us boo-boo faces. She wasn't likely to get all the way to Fashion Week but we liked her).

I tell you all this to set you up for my dream last night, which was wicked brilliant. I solved the Middle East crisis. And not to brag or anything, but I rocked. My solution was comprised of common sense, a maternal "If you can't play nice..." system of rewards and consequences with a little Dr. Phil thrown in ("OK, Children of Ishmael. Your father Abraham sent you and your mother away because his wife had some issues. And how did you feel about that?"). The entire European community and all the moderate Arab nations were totally endorsing my plan and the Arabs were just gleeful about the win/win of economic incentives/disarming of Hezbollah/isolating-Iran-until-they-give-up-their-nukes bit. Also, the theme park (details to be released at a later date. Shhhh).

The best part of the dream was when I looked at Tony Blair and said, "Dude, you can totally be the hero here" and he looked sorta uncertainly toward Condi, who was sitting all by herself in a corner and then he looked at me, his face lit as my brilliance dawned on him, and he said, "Bloody hell! You're right!" You see, I was coaching Tony because it wasn't about getting the credit for talking sense into all these bozos; I just wanted them to stop mucking up things for everyone else because enough is enough. Which is what I told them. Condi was totally ticked off but frankly, I'm not sure if that's because Tony and I snatched whatever chance she had at a legacy away from her stupid little neo-con fingers OR if it was because I was wearing this:

Condi was for sure jealous of my little dog. No one noticed her Prada boots. At all.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Procrastination is Stupid

People who procrastinate are silly. That'd be me.

Here's what I need to do:

Call June for a lunch date (she's left 2 messages)
Call JJ to finalize some puppy arrangements.
Send out letters to next year's room parents (a letter that has been written for a week. I only have to find the room parent list, look up the addresses in the directory and address the envelopes).
Mail a registration form for schola camp for The Child. The form has been filled out since June and I wrote the check last week. Why is it still on my desk? Because I have to stop and look up the address of the Cathedral.

What is really silly is that all these things are weighing on me because they aren't done. And it will be the work of minutes to do them. So what's the hold up? I understand when I procrastinate about things that I don't enjoy doing. That is a perfectly sane thing to do. Not productive, but sane. But avoiding things that aren't hard to do and just need to be done? What's that about? Because every day I do things that don't exactly rock my world. I'm not thrilled to the marrow to swab the bathroom or unload the dishwasher. Laundry is probably the one thing I'd hire out if hiring out were an option. Sweeping and mopping are satisfying in the end result but I don't wake up saying, "Goody, today I get to sweep". But I do it, every day, without thinking. But looking up an address? Sticking a stamp on an envelope?

And while it is tempting to think about whether procrastination is inherited or learned that in itself would be adding another layer of procrastination to the whole ridiculous process so I won't. Although The Child got up, asked if I had made notes on her book report draft and since I hadn't yet said she would go work on her typing in the meantime. Which suggests that it is not hereditary.

Here's something I accomplished: yesterday it remained cool enough to iron everything that needed ironing. Not exactly brokering peace in the Middle East but is still felt good.

As I write Nicole is coaching The Child because she has a little scene in a movie this weekend (friend of The Spouse, no studios involved, don't get excited) and must deliver a line in French and she, The Child, wants to make sure to get it just right. Ironically, the line is "J'ai des devoir a faire" which for purposes of the story means "I have homework" but is more literally something like "I've got things to do". And because I'm so silly and easily manipulated, saying "J'ai des devoir a faire" inspires me to get all that pestery stuff done. Because everything sounds better in French. Pardonnez-moi, j'ai des devoir a faire. Bon jour.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My Morning So Far

I worked out very diligently this morning because I really am not pleased with my present girth (My Summer Waistline, brought to you by "Hey, have another hot dog. It's summer!"). When I returned I cut two small bouquets of roses from my garden and arranged them at the kitchen counter thinking that it was Anne Morrow Lindberg (or someone like that) who said something or other about the joy of arranging one's own flowers first thing in the morning and how she was right. Then I started wondering if she knew her husband was a Nazi sympathizer and that threatened to ruin my mood so I stopped and instead poured a cup of very delicious coffee and sat in the back garden, where it was cool and fine, reading Pride and Prejudice.

It was so cool and fine that I finally had to put on a sweatshirt and then to go inside because I still wanted to read but the coolness wasn't allowing my coffee to sustain the requisite state of hot. I sliced open a grapefruit for breakfast, compelled by aforementioned girth, and kept reading. (I'm at the good part, near the end, when Elizabeth realizes that she has misjudged Mr. Darcy and might even love him and of course, as I'm reading I'm picturing Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle so it's even better). I read so long that I started to get sleepy. I laid down on the couch and closed my eyes, The Dog climbed up beside me and I napped, only to wake in a panic thinking I might have slept away the whole morning. Which I hadn't because it was only 9:30am.

And that's a story about why it can be so swell to get up at 5:30am.

In other news, the cool and fine morning seems to be holding. In fact, the sky is the color of slate. It is not dark and glowering but it is definately opaque and it seems to promise that even if it does heat up today, it will be cooler than it has been. This is a very good thing because, not to go on and on about it, but many people here 'bouts, are not fans of the heat. Their ancestors did not come from balmy climes and they carry in their blood a need for dark and cool and salted fish. The city-wide crankiness factor is palpable and if it weren't for the Mist of Niceness The Spouse and I would be no better. A little respite is a good thing.

Plus, I have 2 laundry baskets full of napkins and table cloths which need ironing but it has been too bloody hot. I tried ironing out on the deck yesterday but even that was too much. Today is perfectly suited to the task and very little makes me feel an accomplished homemaker as when I stack freshly ironed linens in their closet and set a little bunch of lavendar on them because I can.

On Sunday The Child was the recipient of severe restrictions in consequence of behavior unbecoming a person not in fact raised in a barn. Yesterday morning she woke up all sweetness and the model of penitance and by way of amends for previously shouting things like "You are so unfair," "Shut up!" and "I hate you", asked if we could have Mommy and Daughter's Day of Fun. This consisted of an alternating pattern of playing a game then sitting under the mister with a cooling drink and talking. We had a very lovely time and the best game of Scrabble we've ever played. Among other things. She was the overall winner of the day's tournament, mostly because she kicked my butt at "Life" (for which she constructed an ATM machine out of a wine box).

I hope she'll consent to playing Scrabble again today. I let her use the Scrabble dictionary to help her along and she was very delighted to discover that "aa" is an actual word (referring to some sort of cindery lava) and "od" is a "hypothetical force of nature". I snicker (to myself) watching her look up stuff and spell correctly. Heaven forbid she should figure out that she is improving her mind. Also, don't tell her that keeping score in Yatzee means using math facts.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Swede and Chick

Booger, I mean, Blogger is finally playing nice again.


So, There's this Guy

To begin with, we were both running just a smidge late. But Swede & Czech rang my cell right away to say he was 5 minutes out, which was a very good start because it's nice when people call to say they are running late.

I get to the restaurant first and it is impossibly hot so I'm standing under a tree waiting. And the nervousness starts. I sorta know what he looks like, but people change. It's not like we update our profile pictures all the time. So then all these guys start walking by and I'm thinking, "Oh, geez, I hope that's not him", (for all sorts of shallow reasons which I'll not relate to you because I value your good opinion and really, I'm ashamed of myself for not being more enlightened) .

Then, even though we said we’d meet outside the restaurant, I start wondering if maybe he’s inside so I peek through the windows to gander if there is someone who looks like he might be S&C, feeling kinda dorky about it all and thinking how great it is that I don’t have to go on blind dates because that’s kind of how this feels and who needs the aggrevation, you know? And I turn and across the street is this darling fellow waving his arms happily at me and all the nervousness went away, we greeted each other like old friends and spent the next 3.5 hours happily ensconced in a booth at Geraldine’s Counter talking and talking and talking.

Some of our conversation was of the informational-getting-to-know you variety, but not much. Most was just a mish-mash of politics, religion, kids, relationships, work, writing and blogging and telling stories. There weren’t any awkward silences or struggles to “make conversation”. It really felt a lot more like how it feels when you hook up with a friend that you email but haven’t seen in a long time. We laughed an awful lot. I admitted to him that I’d been a little nervous about meeting and we laughed about that, too, because so had he. [Note to Self: Fundamentally, everyone desires to be liked and found amusing and interesting. It's not just you]. Fortunately, for S&C & me anyway, we found the other perfectly delightful. (Unless he’s a big faker but I don’t think he is because his eyes are too twinkly for such falsehood).

The folks at Geraldine’s were awfully nice…they don’t close between lunch and dinner so it was ok that we were hanging for hours but still. They kept us supplied with water and coffee and just cleaned around us. And when we finally left it was only to return to ask the waitress if she’d take our picture, which she was only too happy to do (and if Blogger was cooperating you could see how cute we are. Maybe it will work later.)

So my first meeting with a blog buddy went very well, it was a delightful afternoon AND he picked up the check. I will now proceed to add him to my Christmas card list.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Just a Few Things

I wasn't going to even think about complaining about the heat these last few days because it's worse in lots of other places. But now that it has gotten up over 100 degrees I feel justified in commenting.

How do you people do it? You there, the ones living in those parts of the country or the world who are inclined to say, "100 degrees? Ooh, chilly. Best grab a sweater before we go visit Lorraine". Seriously. Yes, I know you all have air conditioning and dim houses and things like mint juleps but Lord have mercy, is it worth it? Because I'll tell you what, pretty much all I could manage yesterday was sitting as still as possible in poses that allowed me to not have any part of myself touching myself. Sometimes I gutted up and took the long, dusty stroll to The Neighbor's house where we would both sit in positions that allowed us not to have any part of ourselves touching ourselves and we would look at each other and say, "How do people live in places that are hot all the time?" It just sapped all our energy and will. It was all I could do to write some emails.

The Spouse, however, did rig up The Mist of Niceness. The garden hose with mist attachment is held to a step ladder by a clamp. It is ungaily but we turn it on and sit in the Andirondack chairs and it is very, very nice. It cools the air as well as our sweaty little selves and so we had a lovely evening. The Neighbor joined us (bringing a very gorgeous fruit tart which, yes, she baked yesterday. The heat makes you do crazy things). And the Mist of Niceness cooled us down so well that we were almost able to approximate actual conversation.

Looks like there's more of it to come today, but I will be required to be more functional. After mass is our annual church picnic (and a celebration of our priest's 40th anniversary in the ministry) and then I'm meeting S&C for coffee. My first blog buddy meeting, ever. I admit, I'm starting to feel a little nervous about it. I have encountered so many wonderful people here in Blogtopia and wouldn't mind meeting them for real. But now that I actually am it makes me feel a little squidgy, in a good way.

It's like this: I'm pretty honest in my blog, which is a good thing. But it's a blog. I create it. Which means that if I write something that isn't particularly funny or insightful, I delete it. I edit out the more unattractive or boring bits of my life because they are, after all, unattractive and boring. Which is not to say that I try to make it sound like I'm perfect all the time. I think you know by now that I'm not. But still. I think we get to craft the image of ourself in Blogtopia in a particular way and the danger in meeting one of you is that the cat will get out of the bag. What if I'm boring and stupid? And what if tomorrow's entry in S&C's blog is: "Oh, yeah. Had coffee with Lorraine. Really, really good coffee. Excellent".

Which all sounds like I'm overthinking this, which I'm actually not. It has crossed my mind is all and since you're in Blogtopia, too, I thought you could relate. Also, I'm having a wardrobe crisis because no one in Seattle really has a proper summer wardrobe. Most of our stuff is all-season wear and if we DO have summer clothes it's shorts and tank tops. Which is to say that the only sleeveless dress I have that's church-worthy is black wool and if the ambient air in my kitchen is any indication, I do NOT want to wear wool today. But I kinda want to look nice for my first meeting with a fellow Blogtopian. Oh. The drama.

On another note, has anyone heard a peep from Angela lately? Her blog is gone and the email I have for her is suddenly not working? Anyone have any clues? Angela, Boobala, where are you?

Right. Can you believe I wrote this without benefit of coffee? Must alter that situation immediately. Have a good day, y'all. Swelter on.


Friday, July 21, 2006

I Read the News Today. Oh, Boy.

The temptation is to:

bury my head in the sand (or maybe under the fertile soil of my burgeoning grade vines).


fantasize about what the world would be like if Al Gore had been allowed to be elected president.

(In this fantasy the goodwill extended by the world after 9/11 would have been used to strengthen allies, broker firm anti-terror partnerships with Arab nations that would have eradicated Al Qaeda, disbanded Hezbollah and developed the origins of a genuine peace between Israel & Palestine. Hamas would not have been elected because the Palestinians would have had hope. There would be no war in Iraq & over 2500 soldiers and countless Iraqis would still be alive. The Kyoto protocols would have been signed and green house emissions would be at an all-time low. The US would still be a super power and a force for good in the world. Domestically, we'd be sitting on a huge surplus, alternative energy would be prospering and the Constitution would be intact. Roberts and Alito wouldn't be on the bench. And as long as I'm fantasizing, I'd have a syndicated column, The Child would always turn in her homework and The Dog wouldn't bark at the neighbors. Oh, and "The West Wing" wouldn't have been cancelled, the Pallidinos would still be producing "Gilmore girls" and the Mariners would be in first place, up by 30 games over everyone else. Including the Yankees).

We live in interesting times. The temptation is to lament. To worry. To move to Iceland. I could rail against our misbegotten President and his abysmal lack of leadership until my brain bleeds. The temptation is to despair.

But fundamentally, except for the railing bit, it goes against my nature to give in. I want to hope. I don't buy the fundie/neo-con "Jesus is coming back so it doesn't matter" laissez-faire world view.

I believe I'm called to hope, to work for peace and justice. I believe I'm called to affirm the sacredness of life, including the lives of those in Gaza, Tyre, Nazareth and Beirut. I believe, because I have to, that Bill Clinton was right when he said that people are more good than bad and more intelligent than they are stupid (Brittany Spears is an obvious exception and I think Bill would back me up on that. And I necessarily have to except our "leadership" - to use the term loosely - but still).

Sling has a beautiful new granddaguther named Olivia Love. Figs are in season. My garden is growing and the house is filled with light. There is good music, good food and inexpensive wine to be had. I have friends. I have you. We have each other.

All of this is worth celebrating. It is worth fighting against despair and seeming hopelessness. I know it doesn't seem like much but it's all I've got and by God, I'm not going to let the Darkness crowd out the Light. Because if I do that, if you do that, then we really are fracked.

Hang in there, my little poodles. We have to hang in there. And that, as Forrest Gump would say, is all I'm going to say about that.

For those of you in the Seattle area, St. James Cathedral is hosting an interfaith prayer for peace on Wednesday, July 26 at 7pm. Because that won't hurt, either.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blogging Stuff Around the House

Last summer my brother, George Clooney, and his family had ocassion to stay at our house while we were on vacation. When we returned they were still there so we got a little one-on-one time with them, a rare occurance.

I was sitting at the dining table with my sister-in-law, Mrs. George Clooney, when I happened to glance up at the wall above our built-in buffet. "That's odd", I thought, "Why would I have left a wine bottle there?" We continued talking and I looked up again.

"Hey!" I exclaimed, "Did you paint that, Mrs. George Clooney?"

She blushed. "Yes, it's your hostess gift", she said.

Mrs. George Clooney is an amazing painter and tromp l'oeil is just one of her specialties. She never travels without her paints and on a gracious whim she decided to spark our walls with a touch of her gift.

I adore having talented people in my life.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Overheard while working out this morning:

Woman 1: So, are you getting excited.

Woman 2: Oh, very.

Woman 1: And you're all ready to go? You rented your house?

Woman 2: Yes.

Woman 1: Are you at all nervous?

Woman 2: Oh, no. We're just hoping everything settles down before we get there.

Yes. Woman 2 is taking her family to Israel for an extended stay. I understand the affection American Jews have for "the Promised Land" and all the "next year in Jerusalem" stuff but holy Mother, how many kinds of crazy do you have to be to go willingly into a war zone with a Doris Day, "hope everything settles down" game plan? There are people being air-lifted out of that region, for crying out loud. I'm all for holding out hope for a swift and peaceful resolution because I'm a fracking Pollyanna but come on! Going to Israel right now seems about as sensible as driving in the wrong lane and hoping not to get hit.

In other news, I don't like things that are sticky. It's actually my least favorite part of parenting children. Yesterday I shooed The Child outside to play because I felt that 412 hours of computer time was plenty for one day. She was a little annoyed with me. There was a ball. It was flung with some, shall we say, enthusiasm, in the direction of the window before which sits my desk. Message received. Problem is, she nailed the humming bird feeder, thus flinging sticky sugar water everywhere (and depriving little flicker birds of a happy treat). The Spouse, nature loving good guy that he is, whipped up a fresh batch of sugar water for the birdies, which he put out this morning. (It's a lovely shade of blue, which he's hoping they find as attractive as they do red because we're out of red food coloring). Anyway, some of the sugar water got on the kitchen floor so now that's sticky. And this is the biggest problem in my life right now.

Also, Blogger was eating my posts this morning so I gave up and took The Child swimming at Meg's. Now we are both exhausted. Which is sorta messing with our very impressive afternoon to do list. Que sera sera. I'm too tired to feel like being a better mom and insisting we rise above our baser instincts. As long as the sugar mess is cleaned up before the ants attack.

And back to Israel, apparently the US plan is to hold off and let Israel bomb the crap out of southern Lebanon to "weaken" Hezbollah before Condi marches in on her Prada boots and helps set up a buffer zone that will be, theoretically, held/occupied/whatever by a multi-national force. Why am I not feeling confident of this plan? Oh, and while all this is going on, our president just vetoed his first bill ever. Because stem cell research is bad. It's bad! Much more bad, apparently, than fanatics of all stripes bombing women and children into fragments. That he can live with. Crap, I think my brain is bleeding again.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Summer Lovin'

Last night I made my favorite summertime dinner. It is simple and elegant (we have served it for dinner parties) and delicious. Plus, it looks pretty.

Chicken Paillards with Proscuitto and Figs

6 T. white wine
3 T. finely chopped fresh rosemary plus 8 sprigs
1 t. red pepper flakes
2 T. fresh lemon juice plus 1 lemon sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
1 t. salt
¼ t. freshly ground pepper
¼ c. olive oil
4-8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded ¼ in. thick (1 half breast for each diner)
1-2 pints fresh Black Mission figs (to provide a minimum 2 per diner but you'll want to up that if I'm at table)
1 one-pound loaf country bread, cut into 1 ½ inch thick slices
8-10 slices proscuitto

Combine wine, chopped rosemary, pepper flakes, lemon juice, salt, pepper and oil. Pour into a large, shallow non-reactive dish. Add check breasts, lemon slices and 3 rosemary sprigs to dish with marinade. Cover; refrigerate 3 hours or up to overnight, turning chicken occasionally.

Brush grill with oil. Heat grill to medium hot. Just before cooking chicken, oil grill again. Grill chicken until juices run clear, 3 to 5 minutes, per side; set aside.

Grill whole figs on coolest part of grill until soft and warm, 3 to 6 minutes. (If you want to be really groovy, take some long stems of fresh rosemary, pull off the lower leaves leaving just a tuft at the top and use these to skewer the figs, like kabobs. I forgot to do that last night but it makes a very nice presentation). Slather bread with extra virgin olive oil and grill until bread is browned on both sides.

Wrap proscuitto loosely around each chicken breast. Arrange on a platter. Garnish with rosemary and serve with Balsamic Fig Sauce, figs and bread.

Balsamic Fig Sauce

1 pound dried Black Mission figs, chopped
1/3 c. red wine
1 T. balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
1/8 t. freshly ground pepper
½ t. sugar
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Combine all ingredients with ½ c. water in a small saucepan. Cover; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer; cook, partially covered, until fruit has broken down, 20 to 30 minutes.

Let cool slightly; remove rosemary sprig. Press mixture through a large-holed sieve with a rubber spatula.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Let's get one thing clear straight off. I love Johnny Depp and suspect I always will.

We took The Child and Best Friend to see the movie on Saturday afternoon. There is a little cinema in an old Masonic temple down the street. It is a very groovy, cozy little theatre. There are lots of similar little places around town, "art houses" you'd have to call them, that specialize in indy and foreign films. The Columbia City theatre is struggling to make it's way by showing first run films. I don't know how they manage but they've been hanging in there for a couple years now. It's just so very cool to be able to see a "big" picture without going to a 412 screen cineplex and pay $41.12 for a small bag of popcorn.

I never read movie reviews if there is the remotest possible chance that I'll be seeing the film in a theatre. (Which is rare because most of the movies I like are going to be just fine viewed on the big screen at home once it comes out on DVD. And I'm so behind on recent movies that I can wait. Urgency is just not a part of the equation for me). I like to make up my own mind and not be influenced by the reviews. It had filtered down through the ether that the reviews of "Pirates" were "mixed" but I didn't really know why. And with Orlando, Keira and Johnny how bad could it be?

So I sat with my open mind and my Hot Tamales for 2 and a half hours that I am NEVER getting back, willing myself not to hate this movie that, had they cut it by about 45 or so minutes, would have been fabulous. But it wasn't. It just kept going and going and going, for no discernible reason than to set everything up for the 3rd movie. Which seems like a real cynical waste of talent, celluloid and time.

The special effects are fabulous. The costume/makeup situation is amazing...especially the pirates on The Flying Dutchman. Holy mother of Pearl! Davy Jones is totally creepy and I never was innured to the creepiness thereof. The acting was fine. Johnny Depp plays Captain Jack with a little less swish than in the first film but I think that owes not to any anti-swish agenda on the part of the studio and everything to do with the spark between him and Elizabeth and the need to move that forward.

I loved the opening scene of the movie and the film, on balance, is cinematically near-perfect. The nugget of story was well done and even compelling. Had they focused on that instead of all the other fol-di-rol, which seemed like a "coming attractions" promotion for new rides at Disneyland, it would have been a terrific film for a Saturday afternoon. But in the end there was too much chasing around and and not enough pure storytelling. And that's what I hated about it.

So if you haven't gone yet, I'm telling you, save your ducats. Rent it on Netflix if you want because at least then you'll be able to go to the bathroom without feeling like you're missing anything. (And if you do go to the movie feel free to use the restroom anywhere in the middle of the longest 2.5 hours of your life because you will not miss a damn thing. You'll want to see the last 30 minutes or so. Plan accordingly).

The Film Czarina gives "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" 2 out of 5 Koihead.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

I Could Have Sworn....

The Child was asking me to show a particular post to Best Friend because it had such a cute picture. So I looked all through July and couldn't find it. And then I realized that it hadn't actually been posted. And that is, as my sister Audrey Hepburn would say, sick and wrong.

So here is the cutest picture EVAH:

Baby Charlie and his faithful dog visiting the Eiffel Tower. A fitting end to Bastille Day, eh?

Wow. Heavy.

This is going to be a little long and possibly depressing but I have to talk to someone.

I was minding my own business this afternoon, toodling down Rainier Ave. toward Trader Joe’s, listening to NPR discussions of the situation in the Middle East and feeling at once very sad about it all but also removed from the tragedy. Suddenly, about 10 yards ahead of me, in the other lane, a car came to a sudden stop, I heard a thump and saw something go flying. There was a big SUV in front of me so I was spared the details but the car had hit a pedestrian or a cyclist or maybe someone on a scooter. Everything came to a stop, about a dozen cell phones came out and we all sat there for a few minutes. Those of us not directly involved were able to exit Rainier and go on about our business, but we had to drive past the victim. I couldn’t see much (to be honest, I wasn’t looking that closely) but the person seemed to be very, very still. And while there were a lot of people standing nearby, no one was actually with the body…which tells me that there wasn’t anything anyone could do.

The other evening, The Spouse and one of his movie comrades were driving the grip truck when they suddenly heard a “pop, pop, pop” and turned to see someone fall down dead.

The convergence of these incidents has had me thinking all afternoon. Life is precious. And it can be taken very quickly. I am personally holding out for the quiet-passing-on-in my-sleep-when-I’m-412 mode of exiting the planet but it is a good, if unsettling thing, to be forced to contemplate the tenuous nature of human life. Which I was doing as I wandered the aisles of Trader Joe’s looking for aioli and figs and tomato paste. And I felt pretty darned lucky to be able to do so. Because I am, for now, here and it would be a shame not to be just a bit more mindful of that gift.

So there I am, embracing the lesson that the universe is offering and get to my car. I load my groceries and then realize that the putz next to me has parked over the parking line and in such a fashion that I a) can’t get in the driver’s side of the car and 2) I can’t back out without whacking their fracking side mirror with my own. On the other side of me is a mini van and the woman who owned it showed up just as I finished loading groceries. She had 2 small kids and was pregnant. I offered to help her.

“Oh, that’s fine,” she said, a little testily if the truth be told. (Maybe she thought I was treating her like an invalid because she’s preggers).

“It’s no trouble,” I said. “I can’t go anywhere anyway” and explain the situation.

So we start chatting and of course, comment on the inconsiderate nature of the boob parked next to me.

“With everything that is going on in the world right now,” I said, “would it really hurt people to extend just a smidge of courtesy?”

She replied, “Oh, there’s no courtesy anymore”. I felt inclined to agree with her but it made me sad because I’d just seen death and had been thinking about embracing life more fully and somehow courtesy seemed to factor into that. You know, I’m still here and you’re still here so while we are let’s park our cars properly so as not to inconvenience others.

Her groceries loaded, I climb into my car from the passenger side (glad once again that I don’t weigh 412 pounds) and wait for her to pull out so that I can maneuver myself out via her empty space. Another car came up and was waiting to take her spot. She waved to them to drive on. They sat, because they wanted the space. She got out of her car and went to explain to them that I needed room to get out of the garage. So they drove around again. She left, I left and then I thought, “Hey, that was courteous!” She had courteously told the other driver to give me room. The other driver had courteously obliged.

I still had some shopping to do so I started looking for random acts of courtesy and I was rewarded. I remembered the woman who, right after the accident, got out of her car with a blanket for the victim. There was the guy who not only let someone turn across 2 lanes of traffic in front of him but actually waved the person through when it was clear. There was the customer at the drugstore who, having finished her shopping, helped a woman in a wheelchair get her shopping cart out of the store. There was me on my way home, letting a Lexus merge in front of me because the traffic was still hinky at the site of the accident. [Note: I try to be a courteous driver but do have a bias against Lexus drivers. But since this guy was actually using his expensive turn signals and waiting patiently for a break, I gave him one]. And there was the person who finally let me merge. (I will not dwell on the discourtesy of the 9 cars before him because I’m trying to be upbeat here).

Please forgive me for rambling a bit. I’m still a little shaky. But I’m thankful. I’m thankful to be alive on a beautiful July afternoon. I’m thankful that The Child’s best friend in the whole world is spending the night. I’m thankful that we have a lovely evening planned with neighbors and friends. I’m thankful that The Child, who was about to get really pissy with me because I was insisting she clean her room decided to cooperate. And I’m thankful that when I told her what had happened her initial response was to give me a hug and her second was to stick a fake jewel on her forehead and make up a song and dance for me that was really more Chinese than Indian (because it was about chow mien) but it was funny and it’s the thought that counts.

So listen, please take care of yourself this weekend. And for the rest of your life. Which I hope is long and blessed. And be kind to others. Because you can.


Bastille Day

On this day in history a mess of French people stormed the Bastille, a big prison that was the symbol of all the evils wrought by French kings and queens during their centuries of rule and cake-eating. There were only a few prisoners in the Bastille at the time, most misdemeanors, like ordering vin blanc with steak and dressing badly. But it was a powerful gesture and touched off what we now know as the French Revolution, without which we would not have the Statue of Liberty or Freedom Fries. So there.

I love the French, as you well know, and am part French myself so we will celebrate. Because I will use just about any excuse for a party.

First we're going over to The Neighbor's for cocktails with the couple that lives next door to her. They have been renting the house for over a year now and we talk over the fence and say things like "We really should get together". So we finally are. I'm going to make some lavendar honey to pour over crotins of chevre, which will be served with crackers.

After apertif we'll come back home to listen to Edith Piaf and eat our traditional Bastille Day supper of bouillabaisse with lots of crusty baguette. I'm going to say "yum" now. Yum.

Here's my recipe for bouillabaise, which I simplified from a very simple recipe in Pat Wells' At Home in Provence. Traditionally, you make a fish stock from the bones and heads of fish before you start the soup. She does this as well but I don't bother. I find that my version is fishy enough without that trouble and besides, it's gross. It makes me sing that song, "Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads. Fish heads, fish heads, eat them up, yum". Which is fun but that's as far as I really want to go.


2 pounds monkfish, grouper, striped bass or cod
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 head garlic, cloves seperated and peeled
1 t. fennel seeds
Bouquet garni of parsley, celery leaves, fresh bay leaves and sprigs of thyme
2 t. sea salt, or to taste
2 T. tomato paste
2 T. pastis
1 14.5 oz. can of whole plum tomatoes in juice
6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1 and 1/2 quarts water
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and cut into bite-size pieces
small pinch of saffron threads
grated zest of 1 orange
3 T. minced fennel fronds
Aioli (you can make it yourself but Trader Joe's has a really good one that's already to go)

Cut the fish into 3 inch pieces.

In a large, heavy stockpot, heat the oil over moderate heat until hot. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, bouquet garni, and salt. Cook gently without browning for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, pastis, canned & fresh tomatoes, water and cayenne. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Using an immersion mixer, roughly puree the liquid. (Or run everything through the coarse blade of a food mill and return to the stockpot). Taste & adjust seasoning. Add the fennel, cover and simmer gently until the fennel is soft 15 minutes. (If you want, you can do this way ahead of serving time).

When ready to serve, bring the liquid to a very gentle simmer until heated through. Add the saffron and the fish. Lower the heat and cook gently just until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

To serve, transfer portions of the fish and fennel to warmed bowls. Spoon the broth over the fish. Sprinkle with orange zest and fennel fronds. Pass the aioli at table, so guests can swirl a teaspoon or two into their soup.

Serve with lots and lots and lots of crusty bread with butter.

Viva la France!

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Good Use for Lawyers

Breaking news: Valerie Plame is suing Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby and Devil's Spawn Karl Rove for conspiring to ruin her career as a CIA agent. I. Love. It.

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Enjoy it While You Can

I'm whispering so as not to tempt the Fates (Wendy and Phil Fate, lovely people) or toss a spanner in the works or otherwise bollocks up what is, at present, a perfectly delightful week but I have to tell you this: The Child is a dream. All the angst of the last few months has subsided quite nicely and it is pleasant. Very pleasant.

Don't think for a minute that I believe we have now safely negotiated the rocky shoals of adolesence and found a calm harbor. She's 12. We've barely left the dock. But it would be a mistake not to celebrate the moment.

We had quite the come-to-Jesus at the beginning of the summer. The Child is very strong willed. She does not enjoy taking "no" for an answer or being told what to do. By anyone. And before you get all, "ah, an independent spirit...don't quench the burning fires of individualism" I will say "pfft". Listen, she can think all the radical, individualistic thoughts she wants and when she leaves this house she can conduct her affairs or not in any way she sees fit. But I think about that scene in "Sound of Music" where the von Trapps are hiding in the cemetary and I fear that if it were us we'd be off to a concentration camp faster than you can say "do, a deer".

Moi: (whispering) "Quick. Hide behind Uncle Freddy's tombstone and hold still!"

Child: (loudly) "Why? Why do I have to go behind Uncle Freddy? What's going on? Why are you whispering? Eeeww, it's dark and cobwebby back here. I don't want to hide. Can I watch television?"

Nazi Rat Bastard: "Hande oben!"

No, you have the right, as a parent, to expect, nay, demand a measure of compliance from your under-age child.

And so, the come-to-Jesus. I reminded her that she was, in fact, not an adult. I told her that her argumentative ways were not productive, that it is fine to ask questions but that when an instruction is given sometimes one doesn't have the luxury of explanations. If I say, "Please unload the dishwasher" what I mean is "Unload the dishwasher, don't complain and don't do anything else until it is done". I told her that her lack of respect for the adults in her life was bordering on pathological (ok, I didn't say it like that) and that she was sabatoging her own success and possibly even her safety by not learning to listen to and respect the words & feelings of others.

She seemed to get it. However stubborn she can be, she wants to be liked and get along and be well regarded. There was a measure of improvement. Then one evening she started to debate some simple request. I said, "Please stop arguing and just do it".

"I'm not arguing," came the reply. "I'm not raising my voice".

Ah-ha! I was always telling her not to argue but she didn't think it was an argument unless there was yelling. So I refined my terms. Then, I think, she really got it. Because since that moment she has not argued with me OR raised her voice. She's pouted from time to time at having to stop some fun to do something "boring", like feed The Dog, but on balance she's been very co-operative. And more than that, she has begun to learn how to ask for what she wants without all the debate and drama that normally ensued. AND she's even been fairly responsible about things like helping around the house and doing school work (she has to read 3 books and write reports which are due the first day of school).

Like I said, I'm not deluding myself that we are done with the struggles. Please. Did I mention she's 12? But for many shiny days now I've been able to glimpse the future, the Post-Fraught Period, and I'm hopeful.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mail Bag

A reader from Wisconsin asks, "Do you have any tongue free photos?"

Gentle reader, I think it has been demonstrated by now that my family is genetically predisposed to pulling a face whenever a camera is pointed in their direction. I was able, however, to glean the archives for this little gem:

You'll note that the presence of a bird on his head did have the effect of keeping George Clooney's tongue in his mouth.

Molly Beluga has a bird. She is no longer particularly fond of the bird but she's not cruel enough to let it loose in the wild or roast it. The bird is a tad, oh, what's the word? Noisy. She let it out of it's cage for a bit and it flew around the house. Yes, my sister, Audrey Hepburn, who keeps a very tidy home, allows this creature to fly about her house. (And in answer to the burning question that is now framing on your tongue, no it didn't but apparently it has in times past. 'Nuff said).

This bird also alit on my head. And my neice's and on that of Mrs. George Clooney. I personally found it to be one of the most profoundly disconcerting moments of my life. There was something very, very unsettling about the desperate flapping of wings as it swooped in before the landing and likewise on take-off. Creeped me out, frankly. Plus it messed up my hair.

At least it wasn't a goose.

George Clooney

This is my brother, George Clooney. He was not very cooperative when I tried to capture his essential handsomeness. I warned him what would happen if I didn't get a good picture. He's probably sorry now that he didn't take me seriously.George and his family lived in Arizona for a number of years, only just coming back to the NW last summer (they're in Idaho but we'll count it, just for the sake of argument).

He is married to a very lovely, talented, patient woman. The last few years have been somewhat fraught what with 2 challenging boys, George getting his PhD (yes, that is the face of a Doctor of Music) and the subsequent employment issues arising therefrom. But George and Mrs. Clooney have infinite patience and faith and it is paying off. He is now more or less gainfully employed and they are settling into their new life. More importantly, they are close enough to participate, once again, in family fun.

George and I were super close growing up, the sort of closeness that affords us the ability to just pick up where we left off when we see each other. And it's weird because for as close as we are we don't talk a lot or email. My updates on the doings in his life are more likely to come from my mom, Dame Judi, than from him. And yet. I feel a bond with this very intelligent and talented man who I still sometimes call "Bubby" that has nothing to do with how often we chat.

George is very charming and funny. He loves baseball. He has a scar on his chin that is my fault because when I was 2 or something I put him in my doll stroller, because he was my baby Bubby, and the aluminum deathtrap collapsed and speared him. One of my earliest memories is of a hospital hallway. I think it was from that experience. Anyway, I'm really sorry about that but you know, a scar is kinda of distinguished, don't you think?

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Audrey Hepburn

This is my baby sister, Audrey Hepburn. I love her.

I always loved her because she was the baby. But I didn't really know her very well. My brother and I are very close in age, there was a break and then came my sisters (4 kids in 5 1/2 years. Don't get me started). My other sister, Martha Stewart and I, well, hated each other growing up. Couldn't have been more different. Fought all the time. Audrey stayed out of the fray. And then I left home at 17 and a whole mess of family life/memory making/what-have-you proceeded without me.

Over the last 10 years or so, however, Audrey and I have rediscovered each other. And among other things, we really like each other. We don't necessarily agree on everything but none of that matters. When it comes to essentials we are of one mind. Our husbands have similar natures, which means we have like marital experiences. One of her children has learning struggles like The Child's so we understand each other's frustration and guilt and anxiety. We make each other laugh. We make each other think. Talking with her is effortless, whether we are being serious or silly. I never feel like I have to apologize for myself with her.

You don't chose your family. You love them (or not) because they are your family. You'd give 'em a kidney if they needed it. In the case of Audrey Hepburn, if she wasn't my sister and I met her at a cocktail party, I would totally want to get her phone number and be her friend. She's adorable and I love her. And she doesn't even read my blog.

Scenes from a Reunion: 5

My sister and her family live just outside a very small town. To get to their house you turn off the highway between a real estate office and a couple of projects-like houses that kinda make you think, "Hmmm" and drive through a gate and then, viola!, you are at their house, which is charming, tucked into a little enclave of trees and sky. It is private and calm and lovely. They have, as has been mentioned, a creek running on one side of their estate.

Most people in America don't name their houses. More's the pity. I think we should because it is a very charming custom. I have suggested to Audrey Hepburn that they formally call their place "Creekside" because, well, it is, but also because their place is sorta evolving into the location for family get-togethers because it is more or less central to everyone else. A lot of group memories are being made there.

When I was growing up my mom's sister & BIL had a place maybe 5 miles from ours. They named it "Glad Tidings" and it was a place of glad tidings and mirth and peacefulness. My uncle, God rest him, used to tell me how much he loved sitting on his back deck, looking out over the fields and soaking in the peace of it all. My BIL, Mr. Audrey Hepburn, said something very similar to me about his creek. Anywho, I just think "Creekside" should become family shorthand:

Q: "Where are we having Thanksgiving this year?"
A: "Creekside".

I hope to name our house, too, but it has to evolve. Nothing has emerged yet but I'm still looking. It'll come to me.

Behind the Camera

That's the title of The Spouse's blog, which I don't link to because he doesn't post on it very often (but I probably should just because, you know, he's my spouse). He spent many years of his young life working in the TV/movie biz, as an electrician. He loved the work, although it was always feast or famine. He made a lot of money when he worked but it had to last until the next gig, which is why he also spent all those years cooking in restaurants.

The movie scene in Seattle looked, back there in the early '90's, like it was going to be the Next Big Thing. But Washington state didn't manage the opportunity very well, which is why, to this day, most movies that are set in Seattle are actually shot in Vancouver, B.C. This posed an issue for The Spouse. He could, like a lot of his film buddies, take the plunge and move to L.A., where there was plenty of work or he could stay here and eke out a living.

When we got married I had a good job. We could have played "Starving Artist and the Breadwinner" quite happily. Or he could have lived in LA 6 months out of the year (because I had NO interest in living in LA, not even with the man I loved. Which is probably the difference between someone who gets married in her 20's vs someone in her mid 30s but there it is). He, however, was the one who made all the "house and kid" noises. And the one thing I wasn't going to do was raise a kid in LA and/or by myself part-time.

There were no ultimatums or acrimony. He just had a decision to make and obviously, he chose to leave the biz. He became a computer programmer and provides us with a very nice life. We have a sweet little house, cars that run & a beautiful child. He made it possible for me to stay home with our baby and now to stay home and try to make my way in the world as a writer (and we all know how much that pays). Our child is in private school. We have a good life but sometimes I've wondered if he ever had regrets.

The Spouse is very creative. He makes little movies all the time, editing together fun bits on his PC. He's helped a co-worker, who is an aspiring film-maker, make a film. He's got a script of his own that he would like to shoot, just for grins. And yet...

He found a call for volunteers to crew a film being shot here in town and hopped on board. He took some vacation time and he's been lighting this little movie called "Fortune Hunters" since Saturday. The last day of shooting is Sunday. He is having the time of his life. The Child and I visited the set yesterday and everyone we met (including the director...who couldn't have been a nicer guy) kept thanking us for "sharing" him. I suppose we are. We haven't seen much of him since Saturday evening. Shoots are wrapping late at night so The Child and I are eating without him and going to bed 'way before he gets home. But he is so happy that we don't mind.

Here's the thing: we did have the evening together on Saturday and he was raving about his first day and how many people he's working with who know the people he knows. He was telling me about one guy, who is a neighbor, who has a family and spends 6 months of the year in LA. He told me how patient and appreciative everyone was, how fun it was to be doing such physical work again. Then he looked at me and said, "I had to make a big decision 15 years ago and you know what? I don't regret it for a minute". He has a job (which technically makes him the only person on the film who's getting paid) and isn't stressing about doing such a great job that he'll get hired again. This time it's just for fun and for the love of doing it. Which couldn't be sweeter.

Now that he's gotten his feet wet, I wouldn't be surprised if he does a few more things like this. Maybe he could even get a little day player work so he can finance his own film. I'm just thrilled that he has made a hobby of something he is good at and loves so much. I think that's what you call a win/win.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Scenes from a Reunion: Charlie, Don't Look

The Child was so beautifully behaved during the reunion that I could hardly contain my pride. There was only one time we remotely edged into argument and that was over these:

She really, really, really, really, really, really wanted to bring home a new kitty.

They were very sweet kitties and I was tempted but the turf in our house is already solidly claimed by The Cat and The Dog. It wouldn't have been fair.

My sister kept stoking the fires (evil woman) by saying that she'd be forced to put the kitties in a box and give them away outside of Walmart. I intervened, giving her the address of a cat loving Scotsman who I know will give them a very happy home. Sweet kitties.

This is their mother, Paul Anka:

She's moving to Scotland, too.

Scenes from a Reunion:3

Here I am with 2 of my sibs, George Clooney and Audrey Hepburn, and some woman.

Not to brag, but we're a pretty good lookin' clan.

The next generation, in particular, will be doing their part to keep America beautiful.

But credit where credit is due. How could we not be beautiful with parents like these?

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Scenes from a Reunion: 2

I wonder a lot about what sort of memories The Child will have of her childhood. One thing I know she will remember with great fondness and vivid clarity is the swimming hole at Auntie's.

The Child is a water baby. She is also decended from Norwegians on her father's side. She therefore loves to play in water and is also impervious to cold. This is a good thing, as the swimming hole is frigid. She would be happily up to her neck in water, even as the cousins she was swimming with were blue and shivering, wrapped in towels.

The Child is also very determined. When she sets her mind on something, she doesn't give up. She wanted to be able to jump from the rope swing and then be able to swim from one end of the pool to the other. She worked at it, over and over, until she finally yelped, "I did it, Mama!"

I am trying to figure out how to get her to bring a fraction of that commitment to her school work. If I do, she'll get early admission to Harvard.

The Rope Swing

First, you have to climb the slippery slope to get to the rope.

Grab the rope & hold your breath...

Push off...

and swing out over the water!

Scenes from a Reunion

Where to begin. I love my family. They are a bunch of nut cases and we certainly have our own level of dysfunction. But I can't think of many families I've met that I'd rather have, in the main, than my own. We laugh. A lot. There was one point when I thought my brother was going to die, he was laughing so hard. My cousin was asking me about my book (his dad is a published author, as was our grandfather) and Bro kept interjecting all sorts of little witticisms and cracking himself up. Cousin had asked about the title and I was saying that Author Friend thought I should change it. Bro said, "Well, you know what Grandpa said about a good book title..." and then he started to laugh. We waited. He composed himself and said, "Grandpa always said..." and started laughing again. It got ridiculous. He kept laughing and we kept laughing at his laughter and after about, no kidding, 10 attempts to finish the story he finally blurts out, "Grandpa always said, "A good book title needs an 'r' in it'. That was the joke. No. It's not particularly funny. But the journey sure was.

Here's another thing about my family. A lot of them are hypochondriacs. I'm not much of one. I just have a tumor when I get a headache and I generally interpret heart burn as a heart attack. I'm mild compared to my neice, E. She always claims to have a tumor or blood disease or flesh eating bacteria. But the winner, hands down, has to be Cousin's daughter, K. She is said, "Oh, yes. I always have something. I've had 27 different kinds of cancer, HIV, West Nile virus, leprosy (but that only lasted for a day). And I have a lot of heart attacks". Her mother, a very lovely and genteel woman added, "Yes, she had a heart attack on the plane coming here" and proceeded to act out K's ordeal. K then said, "It wasn't really a heart attack, though. What happened was my arteries corroded and my heart fell into my stomach". Well, yeah. That's bad.

That's K up there, not actually having a heart attack. At the moment.

Monday, July 10, 2006

And By The Way...

This is one of my neices. She is a very lovely girl. But she would never cooperate when Auntie tried to take her picture. This annoyed me. This morning we went to the coffee/gift shop where she works and I tried again. This is her idea of cooperation. I told her that I was going to post this picture on my blog. So here it is.

Next time, E., you'd better pose nicely for Auntie. I hope you've learned your lesson, young lady.


Ok, the lights are back on and the blinds are up. You can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.

But I'm tired and have to go fetch The Dog so for now suffice to say:

Lovely time.

Excellent family.

Excessive amounts of laughter.

Danced for many, many minutes with neices. I am confident they were laughing with joy and delight and not, in fact, mocking my varied and impressive moves.

Realized that I knew who the GooGoo Dolls were without realizing it was the GooGoo Dolls.

My baby sister is the best.

There is no one I'd rather take a road trip with than The Child. Serious.

More later. It's good to be home. I missed you.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Maybe, Maybe Not

I just made myself laugh. I was going to leave a post about how The Child and I were leaving for a little family shindig and how I consequently might not be posting much, blah blah, blah.

Then I realized that I've already posted twice today and we'll be home tomorrow in the early afternoon so what's the big deal? Oh no! "Here's the Thing" has gone dark for 24 hours! What shall we ever do?????????


The Mountain

Seattle is, as you know if you pay attention, in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. It is a very beautiful mountain. It is a dangerous mountain. It is our chief natural landmark. (The Space Needle not being indiginous to the region). Much is named for this mountain, from beer to streets to baseball teams. The mountain is unique because it can be seen from both the western and eastern sides of the state (the west has the better view).

No one who lives here calls Mt. Rainier by its name. It is simply, The Mountain. "Oh, good," one says, "The Mountain is out today", meaning, of course, that it is not shrouded in clouds. It is a beautiful sight, one that never gets old.

A Few Other Observations from Our Day at the Races

I love the guy who wears jodphurs and plays the trumpet before each race. What I especially love is that he'll play a few bars of something very groovy, like "Summertime" before the clarion call that announces the race. It's classy.

And speaking of classy: we didn't look like we were going to Ascot or anything but both The Neighbor and I were pulled together. There were two women in front of us that also looked very nice. One actually looked as if she could have been an extra in the Ascot scene from "My Fair Lady", in a trim black and white pinstripe dress. But that is the exception. And I must say that I find myself increasing bothered by the Walmart mentality of most Americans in the details of their lives. You know why they call us the ugly Americans? Because, besides our foreign policy, we don't know how to dress. And seriously, if you weigh 50 pounds more than you should, tight jeans and a t shirt are simply not a good look for you. Likewise stretch shorts.

If we go next year I am seriously going to wear a sundress and little kitten heels or something like that because I am so ashamed of our national slovenliness. We're at the track, for crying out loud! The sport (as Charlie reminds me) of kings. Granted, America doesn't have a king but that is no excuse. I'm not saying everyone should turn up in bespoke perfection but sheesh, people, a little pride wouldn't kill you.

Here's something that I find delightful at the races. It is, even for badly dressed Americans, a pretty genteel experience. You have some hard-core folks sitting or standing around the off-track screens who make a smidge of noise. And, of course, I have no idea what takes place in the posh boxes where the grandees swill and swish. But for the rest of us, it's all very calm and orderly. One sits and studies the racing form. One may have a drink or a bite to eat (sure, it's a hot dog but, meh, it's a bite). One chats pleasantly with those nearby. One strolls around, one may go down near the fence to watch the race or stay in one's seat. But, except for the ocassional squall of a baby or bored I'm-too-small-to-be-here-take-me-to-the-pony-rides small child, the noise level is negligible. But then. It cracks me up. Everyone is so hushed and then the race begins and people grow even more quiet. Then the horses round the last turn into the final stretch and the cheering begins, building slowly until it is at riot levels as the horses cross the line. And then there is a smattering of applause and the disgusted shaking of heads and everyone goes back to studying the racing form and talking quietly. I really like that.

Editorial Note:

I had a bunch of pictures in this post and then I got an error message (unrelated to Blogger, if you can believe it) and of course, I hadn't saved a draft so I lost the post AND now I can't upload pictures. Maybe later. Maybe not.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


I am abundantly bored by many kid-oriented activities. Places with names like "Fun Center" and anything smacking of a water park make me go cold. Even the zoo bores me out of my mind. Of course, you necessarily have to do things like this from time to time, but anyone who offers to take The Child to such places without me are permanently enshrined in my Hall O' Heroes.

The track, however, is another story. Especially when you take a couple of young tweeners. The kids sat near us, but not with us. (Where The Child endeared herself to a couple of older women, who followed her advice & won a couple of races). They went to the arcade. They watched the races down by the track, far from us but still within sight. Uncle D (who is permanently enshrined in aforementioned hall) took them down to the paddock. They were capable of getting their own beverages. Thus saved from having to entertain them, I could just sit with The Neighbor, drink Mike's and make bad $2 bets. This was a very good thing and not the least bit boring.

I was surrounded by winners. The Neighbor picked a horse in the second that netted her $12. Which she promptly spent on a couple of bottles of Mike's. The kids were asking me to place bets for them. (Yes, contributing to the deliquency of minors. Guilty). The Child's friend is a math savant and that frackin' kid picked 3 winners out of 4. Including one horse that pulled ahead of mine in the final stretch. I wanted to smack him but, you know, he's not mine. I, on the other hand, lost in every race.

But no matter. I got to place my bets, which I've decided is the best part of going to the track. "In the 4th, $2 to win on 6". I love doing that. I would like to create a job for myself wherein all I do is go to the window for other people. In one race I placed 3 bets. I wrote everything down in the exact order and read from the form when I laid down my money. Then I leaned in to the woman and whispered, "Did I do that alright?"

She beamed and said, "You did that exactly right. You can now consider yourself a pro". Doesn't take much to make me happy, does it?

It was a beautiful day, we saw friends and the kids didn't drive us nuts. Gotta like that.

Horse Race

Dang it! Last night we were watching "Batman Begins" and out of nowhere I say, "Oh! Remind me to charge the battery for the camera". And no one did and of course, I didn't remember. So I hope there's enough juice to chronicle at least a bit of today's outing to the track. It's Costco Family Day at Emerald Downs, which means we have tickets to get in and coupons for chips & soda. Yum. One doesn't necessary think of horse racing and family being in the same category but it's all in how you look at it. Kids like horses.

Originally we had a largish party planned, then The Spouse couldn't go because of this independent film project he's working on. So The Child invited a friend. Then another couple neglected to write down the date and now my BIL and his wife are making hemming and hawing noises. So it could just be The Neighbor and the kids and me. But that's ok, too, because, you know, I'm dreadfully fond of The Neighbor.

So I have a system at the track. I don't pay a lick of attention to the odds or the horse's history. But if I like the horse's name, I bet on it to win. This system was perfected the first time we went to one of these things. My SIL and I chose the horse together and won in the first two races. After that, not so much. But we still just couldn't bring ourselves to bet on a horse with a "stupid" name.

It's kinda fun at the track. There's an actual guy with an actual horn that blows that "da da da da tah da" thing that you always think of in connection to horse races. It's fun to go look at the horses in the paddock and of course, who doesn't love eating a hotdog in a sporting venue? It's a beautiful day today, which will be nice because horses and mud are not so fun. I'm a very conservative gambler (which I'm sure, given the events of the last few days comes as a total shock to you). I am willing to lose a set amount and basically figure that if I break even I've done well. It's not about the betting (although I felt a bit like I was in a movie the first time I placed a bet for some horse to win and another to show, kinda like being in "The Sting"). It's a novelty, something we don't usually do. And it is always fun to spend a Saturday afternoon with people you like. Plus, it'll get me away from the computer. Which is a good thing right now.

Bush Covers U2

Please forgive me if you've already seen this or, more importantly, if you've already posted it and somehow I missed seeing it (I'm a bit behind in my blog reading). Also forgive me for not having that cool video player thing that so many of you use. All I can give you is a link. Oh, and maybe a picture:

"Sunday, Bloody Sunday"

Friday, July 07, 2006

Wedding Bells

The recent marriage of Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban got me thinking....

Seriously. I'm stopping now.

I Can Quit Any Time I Want To

'K, just showing you that I fixed the cat picture:

Faux-to Album

Thankfully, I'm figuring out how to resize images. (Pretty much it's a big "duh", The Child showed me how: "No! No! Pull it in from the corners! If you do it that way he'll look all fat and squishy!) This breakthrough will make my fauxtos (which I think is the only way to refer to them) much more convincing in future. Come on. Who believes my cat is really that big?

Anyway, here's a fauxto from our family reunion last summer, me with my sibs. You'd think I'd be pretty jealous of them all, what with my clearly having come from the shallow end of the gene pool. But I don't begrudge any of them their looks or their success. We are family. Get up everybody and sing.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

TRB: Total Request Blog

The Neighbor with her fiancee, George Clooney:

The Cat treed up the Eiffel Tower. The Dog is making sure she doesn't come back down and annoy Charlie.

First of all, my technique clearly needs some work. Second of all, this is pretty much all I've been doing today. I need to stop.



Mr. Iwanski was writing about France yesterday and I so concurred with his comments that I felt compelled to say again that I couldn't agree with him more. Or d'accord, as the French say when they are agreeing with each other. (Only it sounds like dah-core, so we were confused as hell for the first 4 days that we heard it. It peppered conversation (because the French are a far more agreeable lot that many people seem to think) and we just couldn't figure it out. We finally asked Marcel and he explained and lights went on and we said, "Oh! D'accord. Sure!" and then we started saying, "d'accord, d'accord" like a couple of crazy people. Which only further endeared us to the French.

Anyway, all this thinking of France reminded me that I needed to show you my latest thanks-for-feeding-my-dog-while-I-was-galavanting-in-Canada gift from The Neighbor:

What I particularly like about this rendition of the Eiffel Tower (of which I have many) is that it is made of iron, just like the actual Tower. I am exceedingly fond of the Eiffel Tower. It is my favorite landmark in the world. I love it so much that I'm going to go sit on it right now.

Oh, wait! I can't go without The Dog!

Sometimes I really crack myself up.

Is it Thursday? Already?

First of all, I've been getting in touch with my Inner Amy, but Blogger is being a booger about uploading pictures so you're just going to have to wait. (Dammit).

Also, the whole having a holiday on Tuesday thing is wrecking havoc with my week. Yesterday felt like Saturday, which gave me a false sense of nobility as I weeded the kitchen garden and did laundry. You know, because I don't usually bother with things like that on the weekend. Plus now, here it is, Thursday already, which means it actually is almost the weekend. Which is going to be busy because we're going to the track on Saturday (Costco Family Day) and Sunday The Child and I are going to go to a family get-together as one of the New Jersey cousins is coming through town with his wife. I haven't seen my cousin in about 15 years and I haven't seen his wife in, like, 20. So that will be big fun. Plus, we've decided to stay overnight with my baby sister and her family, which will be delightful because she is delightful, her children are delightful and her husband is a hoot. The Spouse, meanwhile, will be working on a movie as part of the crew. Just for fun.

I did go work out with The Neighbor this morning, which is important because a) I haven't been doing that and 2) it got me started plenty early so maybe, just maybe, today will feel like a regular weekday and I'll spend less time playing Age of Empires III. *

I shall now go make myself useful and wait on the time when Blogger deigns to upload pictures again.

* Which I've decided I like well enough, Pat. The graphics are terrific and the learning curve wasn't too daunting. There's still a lot of stuff I have yet to really utilize in the game but some of the positives are that the techs are consolidated on fewer buildings so you aren't jumping around all the time. Your colonists don't have to waste time and resources building lumber and mining camps and even at their lowest level they seem to accrue resources faster. I miss the god powers and relic monkeys from Age of Mythology but having played and compared all the civilizations and most of the maps I was growing weary of it. AoE III is a nice change. Except that my laptop doesn't support it as well as a PC would. I can't even bother building ships because if there's a sea battle, fuggedaboudit. But otherwise, it's all good.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Corn Dogs

Who doesn't love them? (And if you don't, keep it to yourself for I am feeling rhapsodic and prefer to have my mood left entirely alone).

I was planning to share the recipe and then totally forgot but Nicole's request reminded me, so here it is. The funny thing about this recipe is that it came from "Saveur" magazine...which is several editorial rungs above "Good Housekeeping". It still cracks me up that I got a carnival food recipe from a chichi magazine. These are super delicious.

Corn Dogs

1 c. flour
2/3 c. yellow cornmeal
2 T. sugar
1 ½ t. baking powder
¼ t. dry mustard
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ c. milk
vegetable oil
8 hot dogs
8 wooden skewers

Sift together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and mustard in a bowl. Whisk together egg, milk and 2 t. oil in another bowl. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, beating with a wooden spoon until batter is smooth.

Heat oil to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, dry hot dogs with paper towels, then skewer them with wooden skewers. Dip hot dogs into batter until evenly coated. Gently place battered hot dogs in hot oil and fry, turning once or twice, until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Drain on a paper towels.

Here's a trick for coating the dogs that I learned from Alton Brown over on the Food Network. Put the batter into a pint glass and then you can just pop the dogs into the batter for even coating.

Serve with mustard and ketchup.