Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We Don't Need No Education

The Child was very excited to assist me in flouting all the dress code rules: big earrings, nail polish (black), dark lipstick, shirt not tucked in, socks not in school colors and which don't cover my ankle bones. And of course, I was chewing gum. She also thought it was pretty funny that we were in matching clothes, except of course, she wasn't breaking any rules.

I had every intention of going into school. My goal was to get into trouble with the principal. But when we got there I thought it should be cleared one more time with The Child.

"Is this going to embarrass you?"

"No! I think it's cool".

So cool in fact, that she wanted me to come up to her class. Which I did (because let's face it, all too soon this is exactly the sort of thing that will humilate her and ruin her life).

"Good morning, Mr. D.", I said, in my best Brooklyn accent. (Why? I don't know. It seemed tough). "I'm you're new student".

He smiled (he's really, really cute, btw) and said, "Yes, I've heard about you".

Then I fixed the class with a look and said, "This is what not to wear", wished them a happy Halloween and went down to the office where, after they recovered from laughter, I was given detention.

Monday, October 30, 2006

BGS Fans: Looky Here

You have to love the internets. Here's everything you need to know about Fat Apollo.

And here's an amusing bit with the cast musing on who they think will die this season.

Please don't tell your boss I'm behind all this.

Where's the Arnica?

I was hoping to have a picture of my banshee self to impress you with but alas and alack, it's on someone else's camera. Meanwhile, I couldn't blog all weekend due to extreme exhaustion and an inability to move much.

The carnival was a success. The Hall of Horrors did it's job with no fewer than 20 kids left screaming for their mamas. I had some kids come up to me after and say, "You were scary!", to which I replied, "Good!" One girl complained that we didn't have any witches brew, "like last year".

Meanwhile, there was much hauling and lifting and running up and down stairs which became increasingly more steep as the day wore on. Which is, perhaps, why I'm currently aware of every muscle in my legs. There are, it turns out, quite a few of them.

Friday, October 27, 2006

On the Fly

After dropping off The Child at school and having a quick cup of coffee in the teacher's lounge, because I can do that sort of thing, I had to drop a costume off at a friend's house and then go to the drugstore to get candy for the carnival plus our motherlode for Halloween proper. I also found wigs for both The Child and I, which were on sale, so you gotta love that. Then it was off to my regular Friday morning coffee klatch where we talked about how one woman's daughter just started her period and politics, because we're versatile like that and as we were leaving I made the proprietors and customers laugh with a little rant about how Mike McGavick's campaign signs are a serious threat to the safety of vehicles pulling out of the parking lots along Westlake, which I realize doesn't sound the least bit funny and it was a total "you had to be there" sort of thing but one of the customers that was laughing was our County Executive which gave me a smidge of a thrill because, if nothing else, it was one of those, blue city-blue county-blue state sort of moments.

Then I started up to Trader Joe's only to remember that the local NPR affiliate was going to be running an interview with Barack "The Next President of the United States" Obama and I really wanted to hear it so instead of quickly getting my shopping done or waiting to listen to it on my computer later I just drove around town until it was over. This was neither an effective use of time or resources but sometimes I just don't care about things like that. Not when Mr. Obama has the floor. Just saying.

So I get my handful of groceries and lay in a supply of cheap wine and get back home to a very lonely and grateful dog only to have a comrade from The Board (there I go again with the frakking archetypes) who desperately wants me to come up to school to help her put wristbands on kids (entry for the carnival, don't you know) but I couldn't because I have to leave in about 10 minutes to get The Neighbor, whose daughter has her car, and bring her home for a meeting with her contractor (which I'm attending because I'm sort of her deputy project manager) plus I have to remember to give her the tape from last week's "Battlestar Galactica" because she's all caught up except for that and then I have to take her back to work so I can go to school and help with set up.

Did I mention that I picked up an eye patch for our principal? I did.

Another mom is picking up The Child because that mom is going to be a fortune teller tonight and she has recruited The Child to be her little gypsy helper so she's taking her home to put together her costume and I'll still be at school helping out but I'll eventually need to get The Child and go home so I can don my costume (and, btw, I've decided to go with the banshee concept for tonight but be a school girl on Tuesday, which will be funny because I'm going into Maria's but other people are going to be wearing costumes, too; unless they were lying about that to see who was lame enough to show up in costume. Oh, wait. I'm working for Democrats).

Meanwhile, our dishwasher is misbehaving (stupid ol' thing) and in the midst of all the busy-ness and excitement about tonight (I do enjoy dressing up and scaring little kids) all I can really think about is getting back home in time for "BSG".

I have 3 minutes to take a breath. This is me, taking a breath.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Postgame Alert, BTW

Jefferson Spikers - 2, Hiawatha - 0

(And they played last week but The Child was out with her strained muscle thingy so I neglected to report but they won that match as well).

Spikers Season - 4 - 0

I'm So Lucky

I'm not the world's biggest fan of meetings. There are huge chunks of my life, spent in boring, badly run sessions, that I will never get back. I consequently look to spend my volunteer efforts in ways that minimize the need for these soul-draining exercises.


I've been on the Executive Board of the school's Parent Association Committe for almost 2 years now. I expect to serve until The Child graduates. Because I love it. It's not an elected position, all the members were recruited by the administration. I first said 'yes' for the simple reason that meetings were held on Thursday mornings. And you know how I feel about evening meetings. I figured it would be a fairly easy way to rack up my service hours. What I didn't expect was to have quite so much fun.

By an act of pure grace, I happen to serve with a collection of very creative, funny, committed individuals. We are charged with raising $12,000 of the school's annual budget and with building community. We kill two birds with one stone by planning fundraisers that people want to attend. Today was our last meeting before tomorrow's Halloween Carnival. It. Will. Rock.

When we took over, the PAB had been losing steam and was nearly non-existent. It was like pulling teeth, so I hear, to get volunteers. Some classes stepped up, others not so much. We're changing all that. We have great room parents who act as our little field marshalls. An event is coming, we tell them what we need, they get it done. We also started this year having already planned our calendar of events (which was unheard of). This means we spend all our time focusing on how to make each event as terrific as possible, rather than constantly trying to get ahead of the curve. We have our curve. We own our curve. It's almost too easy.

And we have fun. Each member has his or her own particular strengths and we give those gifts free rein. We like each other. We laugh. We get more done in one hour than some executives do all day. I'm sure of that.

Tomorrow we'll be busy turning the cafeteria into a carnival and transforming the upper floor into the dreaded "Hallway of Horrors", which we will all be manning because, hey, that's the most fun bit of the night. And we're selfish that way. (I'm still debating, btw. I'm either going to be a Catholic school girl with a really bad attitude or a banshee. Thoughts?)

I don't know why I'm necessarily posting about this except that sometimes I just can't believe how fortunate I am: all I did was say "yes" to a morning meeting and I fell in with a terrific group of people. It's kinda like how I feel about y'all. Lucky, lucky me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I've Got this Bridge in Brooklyn...

It is inevitable that one dreams big for one's child. You imagine her becoming a doctor or President (yes, please) or being the first human to walk on Mars. Maybe she'll write the Great American Novel or become a renowned actress, like her grandmother, Dame Judi. But just like people who say they were Queen Elizabeth in a past life, but not a peasant who died of plague, you never imagine your child doing anything mundane. She might grow up to be a fine teacher or a chef in her own restaurant (with 2 different programs - at least - on the Food Network), but she won't be managing a Burger King or handing out parking tickets from a little cart.

The Child has her own life plan. She wants to be a veterinarian, an astronaut, a teacher and mother of five. And I, as her mother, like to think that if anyone could manage all those things, it would be her. When I look at her gifts and talents I suspect she will grow up to do something in the arts. Or, because of her profound gift for debate, she could become (gasp) a lawyer. But sometimes I lie in bed at night and think that what she'll end up in is sales.

She did not get this from me. I think I told you the story about being threatened with an F by the yearbook teacher unless I sold 3 ads. I was the only one on the staff who hadn't yet done so and it killed me to do it. (I somehow talked her into just selling 2 and those were to my church and the bank that gave me a student loan for college. And it still took all I had to do that).

When The Child started school we entered the world of fundraising. Every school in the US has to do this, public and private. (The obvious issues this raises may be addressed in another post. Or not). In the parochial system (ours anyway), parents sign a contract and are on the hook for a set amount of fundraising every year. If they don't raise x amount of dollars through various sales and auctions and such, they have to pay the difference at the end of the year. It's how the schools keep tuition manageable. It's part of the deal and I'm fine with it.

But I hate stuff like gift wrap sales, magazine subscription drives and the like. You can only go to the well so many times and I have a strict rule that The Child can't solicit donations from anyone who has a kid of their own in school (which also frees me from having to buy the crap their school is selling). So when we make our fundraising elections every year, I go for the big money makers that aren't morally objectionable to me, specifically the jog-a-thon and the auction. Between her jog pledges and my auction procurements, we can hit our nut.

But as I mentioned, The Child loves to sell stuff. She was very happy when, in 2nd or 3rd grade, I gave in to her pleading and let her sell gift wrap. I held the line for the next several years but she begged to do the candy sale this year. I ordered the minimum amount of candy and let her at it.

The sale started on Friday and she's almost out of goods. She's moving chocolate like a tsunami. She's selling chocolate to kids who are selling chocolate. And between this and the jog-a-thon, we've hit our nut, with nary a lick of trouble on my part. Gotta love that. So mommy learns yet another lesson: I might hate sales and therefore hate the notion of anyone having to sell something. But when your child has a gift, you have to encourage them. Caramel Whirls, anyone?


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This I Believe

The dining table is the most important piece of furniture in the home.

There is no amount of barking a dog can do that can’t be quenched with a chicken stick.

Cranberry chutney on turkey cutlets is really yummy.

Home-grown tomatoes taste best.

Prayer might seem pointless but you never know how much worse it would be if you hadn’t prayed.

Dishes with chickens on them rock.

There is such a thing as doing too much.

If a doctor told me I had to stop eating cheese or die I’d put my affairs in order.

Some of the best food in the world is stuffed with other food.

We have more to fear from our own government than we do any other power on earth.

It’s really cool when the moon shines just so through the trees.

Steve Martin is a genius.

There’s nothing more snuggable than a child who is just waking up. Unless it is one that is just falling asleep.

Stuff with bees on them are really cool, especially if the stuff is from France. (Representations of bees, that is. Actual bees would be kind of creepy).

Some things really satisfy, including but not limited to: steel cut oats with plenty of brown sugar and cream, good black coffee, lasagne, applesauce cake. Also, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

There are three times and conditions that are damn near perfect: early morning with a hot cup of coffee, hot summer afternoons with a gin and tonic and late evening, curled up on the couch.

It doesn't matter how much the wine cost, it matters what it tastes like.

Salt and vinegar potato chips are against God's plan.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Snack Mom

There are 2 kinds of mothers. At least. One kind never leaves the house without a supply of Goldfish® crackers, juice boxes, carrots sticks and raisins. The other kind is like me.

My lack of snackage is less of an issue now that The Child is a tweener. But when they are little and you go on a playdate, it's always good to have something for them to munch. I just hardly ever remembered. I always had a little container of Cheerios® in the church diaper bag but it never occured to me to plan ahead like that for day-to-day stuff. Sometimes I think it is because we lived downtown and any outing could always end up at a coffee shop somewhere, with a steamed milk, not too hot, and a butterhorn if anyone was feeling peckish.

But sometimes we'd have playdates with other moms and kids and these women would always have snacks. Not a mere baggie of pretzels but an entire smörgåsbord of crispy, healthy treats. Some of them had soft-sided, thermally controlled bags dedicated to the purpose, plus a case of juice boxes in the car trunk. Just in case. I wanted to be with these women when The Big One hit, knowing we'd be able to survive for days. I just never figured out how to be one of them.

A true Snack Mom isn't just prepared for outings. Her home is also equipped with a variety of crackers, cookies, cheeses and 6 kinds of beverages available at all times. I have juice and milk. Sometimes there are tablewater crackers. Sometimes there are cookies, but they never last longer than a day. Kids come here to play and ask for a snack and my response is, "Well, there's apples". They look at me with baleful eyes and then usually say something like, "Come on, my mom has snacks. We can go to my house".

Poor snack-less Child.

I thought of this today because my friend J is the ultimate Snack Mom and we are meeting up at the dog park this morning. She's such a good Snack Mom that she even remembers snacks for the pups. It's humiliating.

So I just put chicken sticks in my coat pocket. I never have snacks for my child but maybe it's not too late to redeem myself with The Dog.

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Calling All Geeks

The Neighbor finally decided, about a month ago, that she was going to get on the "Battlestar Galactica" bandwagon. She watched the miniseries, started the first season and, as was to be expected, got hooked.

Last week she finished Season 1 and was all excited to borrow my discs for 2.5, only to realize that she still had to rent the first half of season 2. I can still see her face. A picture of it is in the dictionary next to "crestfallen".

She was on a mad scramble to try and catch up because she wants to start watching with us on Friday nights. Now, up until this week, I was content to just fill her in on the high points of the first 3 hours of the new season, with appropriate encouragement that she make sure to watch the reruns when the time came. But after last week there is NO WAY I can allow her to start watching new episodes until she has seen everything.

She should have season 2 completely viewed by Wednesday.

So here's the thing. Do any of you who watch it happen to have all of this season's episodes on tape? And if you do, would you please email me so I can give you my address so you can send them so she can watch them? Pretty please?

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

How the Animals Spent the Morning


Hostess Gifts

I've said it before but it bears repeating: I would still invite the usual suspects to the Autumnal Feast even if they didn't bring such superfantastic hostess gifts. A small token for the hostess is always a lovely gesture but it's not expected. However, the two couples in question have a tendancy to outdo themselves and it always makes the Autumnal Feast feel a smidge like Christmas.

(Btw, the guests brought tokens for the rest of the family, too. The Child got a wild orange feather boa with little lights in it and a pair of earrings. The Spouse got a CD, plus, of course, he gets to enjoy the gifts I received.)

So first off, The Boys gave us this superfantastic microplane box grater. If you have never used a microplane grater you are missing out on some culinary ecstacy. Seriously. It is a joy to cook with well-made tools that are perfectly designed for their function. I heart this.

ChouChou had called earlier in the week to ask for gift ideas. (I don't know why because she has been giving me lovely things for 15 years without any help). I sent her in the direction of a beautiful bowl I'd seen at Williams Sonoma. Actually, we had given the same bowl as a wedding present to the Bride & Groom last month and I'd been thinking of snagging one for myself ever since. So I wasn't surprised when I opened this up:

What I didn't expect was to receive these as well:

Aren't they just the coolest thing ever? I heart them, too. Even though it's not about the stuff.


Autumnal Feast 2006

A fire roaring on the hearth. Lamplight and candles. The Child working the catwalk as she modelled her bridesmaids dress. The Dog sitting oh so patiently at the table, praying for someone to drop a crumb. Laughter. Talking about "Battlestar Galactica" and why they should all be watching it. Examining the Democrats chances for victory in 17 days. Fabulous hostess gifts. The Cardinal asking ChouChou if she had purchased the port at "Reasonably Honest Mufasa's House of Port". (He was being amusing. The port was delicious). Stacks of empty, sticky plates. Autumn has officially begun.

The Menu
Cheese and Salmon Tart ala The Boys
Veuve Cliquot
(my favoritest champagne ever)

Wontons Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms & Shallots on a Tomato Cream Sauce
2005 Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc

(I neglected to take a picture. These are the mushrooms).

Cream of Parsnip Soup with Carrot Puree & Walnut-Chevre Crostini
2004 Dry Creek Fumé Blanc

Mixed Greens with Cranberry Bits & Hazelnuts in Raspberry Vineagrette

Spiced Chicken Breasts with Roasted Pears, Shallots & Garlic
Wild Mushroom Rice Pilaf
Green Beans in Pepper Cumberbunds with Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes

2003 Napa River Merlot
2003 Jackaroo Shiraz

Apple Charlotte with Caramel Sauce & Whipped Cream
with Fonseca Port Bin #27 & Stilton

(I also neglected to take a picture of the pretty little charlottes but this is what ChouChou's plate looked liked after dessert).

The port and Stilton

The Cardinal, saving the caramel sauce while The Child whips the cream.

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More Smug Tips for Superfantastic Entertaining

Your goal in entertaining is to see to the comfort of your guests for the length of time that they are under your roof (I'm paraphrasing Brillat-Savarin). Being a nervous, fussy host or hostess is not the way to achieve this. Making your guests comfortable does not mean, however, that everything must be "perfect". Perfection is a silly aim.

Here's an example. Once upon a time, at Christmas, I had set a very beautiful, yea verily, elaborate table. There was an ego-gratifying degree of oohing and aahing as we sat down to eat. The first course was served and someone, Britton I believe it was, said gently, "Do we need silverware?" Was I mortified and did I make a gigantic, apologetic fuss over my negligence? No. I made a forgettable joke, laughed and got the silverware. And then I just handed it around rather than holding up the meal to set each place just so. Because the soup was on.

Little things will go wrong in the course of an evening. You can get all upset and make everyone uncomfortable with your hissyfit or you can gamely compensate and move on. And being uncomfortable with the perception that I'm somehow an expert in all this, here's a list of all the things that "went wrong" last night and why it was no big deal:

1) The amuse bouche had been baked, per the recipe, but I didn't like the look of it. There were enough extra bits for a taste test and sure enough, the flavor was fine but the texture not so much.

Why This Was No Big Deal: I trust my instincts. Recipes are guidelines, not absolute and sacred texts. Baked wontons wasn't working so just before serving I tossed the little beggers into a pot of boiling water. They softened up nicely and were delicious.

2) The chicken was supposed to have a sauce, which pretty much disappeared during baking and 3) Each serving was supposed to be topped with bleu cheese but I forgot.

Why Neither of These Things Was a Big Deal: The chicken was delicous and perfectly cooked. The pears and things accompanied it very nicely. A port sauce and the bleu cheese would have been terrific and I know what to do to the recipe next time to make sure there is sauce but it would have been ridiculous to hold up the meal over them. In short, if things don't turn out exactly the way you intended, do not call attention to it by leaping up to making sandwiches for everyone because "dinner is ruined". And if dinner really is ruined, smile sweetly, order pizza and pour some more wine while you wait for the delivery boy.

5) The rice dish wasn't nearly as flavorful as I had intended it to be.

Why This Was No Big Deal: It's just rice.

4) I have issues with caramel. I don't know why. I could make it just fine in our apartment but somehow, in this house, it is very hit and miss. This time around I was actually successful in making the caramel sauce (with The Cardinal at my side, rendering encouragement and Latin prayers) but a couple hours later, when it was time to serve, it had hardened. The sauceboat basically contained one giant slab of praline.

Why This was No Big Deal: I don't need to do everything myself. (Don't you just hate a hostess who won't let you help when you offer? I mean, sure, if everything is done it's fine but when she's still slaving around the kitchen and you offer but she says "no" because somehow if you help then she hasn't done it? I hate that.) I already had The Child busy making whipping cream (because that is what children are for) so I called upon The Cardinal, a fine cook in his own right, and allowed him to be a hero. Which he was with the combined superpowers of microwave, a pan of warm water and a little more cream. And let me tell you, a little more cream never hurt anyone.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Smug Tips for Preparing Superfantastic Dinner Parties

I've got both ovens going and half the burners. The sweatshirt is off and preparations are moving right along. But as I've been chopping and sautéing and taste testing ('cause you have to do that) I've been thinking about how preparing parties like this really aren't that big a deal. They used to be, but not anymore. Because I've learned a thing or two in 28 years of entertaining.

First of all, don't make fussy food for a dinner party. If you want to try a recipe that require a whole lot of fiddling, save it for a leisurely weekend. Once guests arrive you should be able to spend the majority of your time with them, not in the kitchen seiving and mixing.

I learned that lesson in the early years with The Spouse. I think it was our first Christmas. At that point, young housewife that I was, I was planning menues largely with an eye toward impressing the crap out of my guests. NOT a pure motive, by the way. Anyway, the dinner had been grand and people were still talking about it weeks later. A friend, days hence, was talking about something really funny that had been said or done at the party and I had no recollection of the event. Because I had been in the kitchen, working on my impressive whatever, and had missed the heart of the party. And I have never, ever done that again.

I plan menues with lots of yummy sounding food that I know people will want to eat and do as much as possible ahead so that the evening is spent enjoying my guests. A minute or two here and there to finish a dish or pop something in the oven is all that is required. This also has the advantage of leaving me far less harried which means I'm not shrieking at the family in frustration moments before the guests are to arrive. Trust me, that is much more enjoyable for all of us.

Second of all, I don't care what your kitchen looks like; I don't care if it 2400sf with all the latest appliances, a hot plate in a room the size of a phone booth or something in between. The key to stress-free entertaining is to clean up as you go. I'm serious. There is nothing that makes you never want to entertain again than a kitchen that looks like a dirty bomb went off. Empty the dishwasher, start a soapy sink and empty the garbage pail. Load, wash and wipe as you go. Run the dishwasher when it's full and empty it as soon as it's done so you are ready to go again.

I haven't mastered this completely and there is always something going on in the kitchen when guests arrive. It rarely looks like it's about to model for "House and Garden", with all the counters clear and all the pots washed. But minimizing the chaos as you go is the only way you're going to feel like doing this again sometime. Plus, it makes it really easy to restore order after the evening is over. (This is important to me because while I don't mind waking up to dessert plates still on the table, being greeted first thing by a roasting pan full of greasy water... Eeww).

Third, if you feel like blogging in the middle of preparing for a party, preheat the oven for your crostini to 350° when it's really supposed to be 425°. You'll have at least 15 minutes of blog time.

I Just Love it When

....The Child gets out her homework and does it without a word from moi.

...the morning of the Autumnal Feast starts out foggy and chill. I got up early this a.m. (for a Saturday, I mean) and the house was shrouded with mistiness. It's clearing off now, which is fine as well because I would rather harvest apples in the crisp than the wet.

...the whole day is stretching out in front of me and all I have to do is soak dried mushrooms, chop aromatics, caramelize apples, clarify butter, grind spices, trim baby peppers, slice pears, toast crostini (and walnuts and hazelnuts), seal wontons, make sauce (3 - one for the amuse bouche, one for the entree and one for dessert) and set the table.

...I set the Autumnal Feast table with leaves The Child has collected, strewing them over the burgandy and cream table cloth (red wine stains don't show as much). I love arranging the candles and plates and calligraphing the guests names onto cards for the jewel colored place holders.

...the first cup of coffee tastes this good.

....the morning sun peeps over the top of The Neighbor's house and into my writing window.


Friday, October 20, 2006


The Child likes cinnamon toast for breakfast. (Yes, I try to get some other food into her as well). She's also not a fan of the crust so this morning I cut them off for her (which I don't usually bother to do).

When she came to the table she was suitably touched and I got a very sincere, "Oh, Mommy, that's sooooo sweet of you". And then she added, "Oh, wow, Mommy, that's really sweet of you! You made a heart!"

This was puzzling as I had only made the toast 8 minutes earlier and did not have any recollection of doing anything fancier than cutting off the crusts. She showed me the toast and it wasn't the bread that was heart-shaped but the way the cinnamon sugar melted into the butter. (Which I also didn't do).

Anyway, it pleased the hooha out of The Child and she said, "Well, I have to take a picture of this and you so have to blog about it".

So I did.

Good News, Better News

The news out of North Korea today is positive. I hope it's true.

Meanwhile, tomorrow night is the annual Autumnal Feast. Which I can't blog about at the moment because some of the guests read this blog and you know how I am about secrecy.

I can tell you this: it will be yummy. Dessert will involve apples from my own apple stick.

I'll blog all about it tomorrow but for now I have some shopping and prep work to do.


Do You Laugh or Do You Cry?

Steven Colbert tries to interpret some recent statements by Senator Rick Santorum.

Click here since I'm not clever enough to plug in the actual video.

Friday Fluff

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?
I'm not nearly as original as I thought.
My nom de plume is a smidge more unique:

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

However, on those days when I want to feel really, really special I need something truly out of the ordinary.
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?
At such times, please refer to me as Squiggy Beckinheim. Thank you.
Also, I checked and there are no Lorelie Gilmores in the USA.

Thanks to Viola for finding the fun.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Half a Century

Fifty years ago today my parents, Sean Connery and Dame Judi, were 2 crazy kids who, being too young to know any better, stood in front of God and everybody and swore their undying love, for better or for worse. Fifty years later they've had their share of both and they are still together.

(I've been working for months on this painting, based on one of their wedding photos. I hope they like it).

Here is a random list of things I celebrate about their marriage:

They have always kissed in front of us kids.

They pray, faithfully, for all of us. And in the years when we were little tiny, they dared to pray for the people we would marry and for the children we would have. That is some serious, serious karma.

Dame Judi and Sean Connery are a great model for marriage because they aren't perfect. They fought, they had their "black periods". In their early years, especially, Sean was too "man of the house" in not a good way and Judi was too deferential. Because there is such a thing as being too deferential. For example, when your husband who knows nothing about farming gets a pash on for farm auctions and repeatedly comes home every week with the sickest, puniest animals, you should speak up. I watched Dame Judi hold things in and I learned not to. (Talk about for better or worse).

But as the years have passed, they seem to have rubbed the edges off on each other. She stands up for herself more, he has become more sensitive. (I still think he could do a better job of telling her how much he loves her. He tells everyone else. If you're reading this, Sean, I'm just saying).

In their fifty years they have moved more than anyone should (and considering that Sean isn't in the military, it's a lot). But we always had roots, if not of place then in a clear sense of being a family. Wherever we were Dame Judi made a home; one full of comfort, good food, old books and beautiful things. (Dame Judi is a home-maker in the truest sense of the word. She doesn't need lots of money to accomplish this. She's just very, very clever).

They raised 4 kids with hardly any money but none of us knew how little until we left home. They kept us safe and warm. They taught us to love God and books and how not to take anything too seriously. They taught us to pray, to be kind to others and to be hospitable. And when they were teaching us all of this stuff they weren't just telling us, they were showing us.

Sean Connery and Dame Judi have weathered serious illness, financial instability and the myriad trials that go with being a pastor and pastor's wife (the former is hard, the latter is brutal). They have also known a lot of love, laughter, adventure and the power of faithfulness triumphing over all.

They refer to themselves "the old folks" which, strictly speaking, they are. But they are not boring old people. Probably because they were never boring young people. They are interesting & funny and their kids and grandkids still like hanging out with them.

As each of us introduced an in-law to the family, they opened their arms and hearts. The designation of "in-law" is rarely even used. In their hearts we are all their kids. They have doted upon each and every grandbaby and, since the oldest grandbaby is now married, could easily have the opportunity to dote on some great-grands as well. And I suspect nothing will give them greater pleasure.

My parents are people of faith and conviction. They are two of the funniest people you'll ever meet. Sean Connery seriously can't sing a note, but he makes beautiful cross-stitch pieces. Dame Judi has the wit, intelligence and talent to have done just about anything she wanted but her greatest pride of accomplishment is her children.

I have only been married for 15 years. A pittance. But I can imagine still being with The Spouse 35 years from now because I've seen that it can be done. And not "done" in the sense of it always being perfect or easy but "done" in the sense of 2 people choosing every day to live out the promises they made. I know there were times when the only thing that held them together was a sense of duty and obligation. Sometimes that is all you have. But mostly they've stayed together because they still love each other. They made a promise 50 years ago and they kept their word. I, for one, am eternally grateful.

Congratulations Sean and Dame Judi. I love you. And as Lady Dashwood says in "What a Girl Wants", "Y'all rock!"

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So Weird

Last night I was talking to The Child before she went to bed. She was in the doorway of the bathroom, ready to start her nightly wash-up, and I was in the hall. It was just casual conversation, nothing of significance, and then I realized that we were practically eye-to-eye. Literally.

Her pediatrician once said that she'd top out at 5'2" and I knew that wasn't going to be the case. We grow 'em tall and skinny in my clan. But somehow I never considered the implications of her being the same height as moi. And she's not done growing.

So, so weird.

Thank You, Gina

My Geek Girl came through. She figured out why there were unsightly spaces in my blogroll. It looks so nice, now. You rock, Gina!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Lou Pinella is going to manage the Chicago Cubs. I can totally live with that.

Wednesday is My New Favorite Day

I used to not be so enamoured of Wednesday because it's "early dismissal" day. School lets out at 2, which meant leaving here at 1:45 and somehow that just seems way too early. My routine, more or less, is to spend the first few hours of the morning writing, break for lunch and then do house-y stuff and read or whatever until it's time to get The Child. 1:45 just rolls around way too soon most of the time.

But Wednesday is now my longest day of the week. The Child, as is required of all middle school students at St. G's, has to fulfill 30 service hours by the end of the year. This can be anything from groundskeeping to tutoring, all designed to instill some community spirit and volunterism in the little beggers. Which is a noble goal, btw. The Child has signed up to help with arts & crafts at the after-school program on Wednesday. She works until 5. It's awesome.

Speaking of pomegranates, Jon sent me a recipe for a raita of yoghurt, pomegrante kernals, mint and ginger. It sounded super fantastic so tonight I'm making lamb and potato samosas which I'll serve with aforementioned raita. I'm thinking, yum.

And for those of you who care, tonight is the finale of "Project Runway" and then The Neighbor and I have to find something else to do on Wednesday evenings.

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New Neighbors

I've added some new links to my blog roll, mostly because I navigate to my regular blogs through my own blog and I had grown weary of having to go look these 3 up from my "Favorites". I'm lazy like that.

I've been reading The Complaint Department for a couple months now. Here's what I like about Jlow. Her blog is funny, a bit sardonic even. She intelligent. She's married to a world-famous sheriff. She's cute as a button. Here's something else I like about her: she's a Republican. Not the vicious Ann Coulter type, not the black-and-white-my-country-right-or-wrong type. Just the old-fashioned small government/low taxes type. You know, the kind that seems to be so rare these days. Her blog isn’t all that political, either, this just happens to be a piece of the whole picture that is Jlow. And I find it refreshing.

We all know the trouble with labels. It's been too much a part of the problem in this country lately. We smoosh people into little pigeon holes and then it is much easier to dismiss them, hate them even. I'm as guilty of that as anyone, although I try not to be because I know how it feels. I have a brother-in-law who has always made assumptions about my views. Having grown weary of it, I recently challenged him to ask me what I believed about any given issue. He threw about a half dozen things at me, from gun control to abortion to capital punishment. And he ended up looking at me with a dropped jaw. In every case I did not say what he fully expected me to say. On some issues, I took a far more conservative position that his own. (He considers himself an "independent leaning libertarian"). The point was made: because a person largely votes Democrat and holds "liberal" views on some issues doesn't mean you can safely peg them.

If we were more invested in listening to each other and engaging one another in conversation there would be a lot less friction in the world. But that takes time and most people can't be bothered. The black and white comfort of labels is much easier.If it’s true that we’re judged by the company we keep then I hope what my blog roll says is that I try to keep an open mind. Everyone over there doesn't necessarily always hold the same views I do or conduct their lives according to the same precepts but I like reading them because it’s important to me that I not just curl up the comfort of my own opinions, assuming blithely that everyone thinks like I do. Because they don't always.

Plus, nearly everyone over there on the blog roll makes me laugh every day. Jlow makes me laugh. That’s super important. So stop by and say “hey” and tell her I sent you.

Two other blogs of note, Gina over at Eclectic Defined and Greeny at You Get What You Need. I found Gina through Charlie, which should be recommendation enough. But she’s also one of the nicest people ever. Among other things, she has offered to be my back-up computer geek because she’s totally into that techy stuff. That amuses me because she is an attractive, blond California girl (who doesn't live in California). There I go again, making assumptions and labeling people. Gina’s adorable and she wants me to send her figs.

Greeny is adorable, too. She doesn’t post as often as I’d like but when she does it is usually more than worth the reading. Plus she’s always questing for the ultimate cocktail…a worthy goal in my estimation.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mission Accomplished

This is a drawer of my desk. Specifically, it is the drawer into which I stick everything I don't feel like dealing with at the moment. Call it my "In" drawer. Dealing with it was among the drudgeries that I tasked myself with facing today.

And this is what it looks like now. Huzzah, huzzah.

It's Bad to Procrastinate. Seriously.

I procrastinate about the things which I consider to be drudgery. "Drudgery" is a relative term. I find most household related tasks to be very satisfying. The accomplishment is verifiable, the rewards immediate. Many of the daily tasks, the ones that have to be done over and over and never end don't bug me.

And then there's the other stuff. The stuff about which I procrastinate because it just doesn't satisfy me in the same way. I wish I could be one of those people who does all the stuff they don't like first thing to get it out of the way. Rather, I fancy that if I just ignore it long enough someone else will do it. Oddly, they never do.

I do wish I could figure out how to do things when I have the time to do them instead of thinking that there will be more time later. I really should know better by now. And I'm not talking about big dramatic things like being hospitalized or hit by a truck. It's just that when I think that the whole day is spreading in front of me the reality is, maybe not so much.

After too much noodling around yesterday I told myself to set the timer and get to my drudgeries. Which I did, because sometimes I listen to myself. Then the phone rang: The Child calling from school, in pain.

So yesterday ended up being all buggered up. But today was begun with renewed spirit and determination to banish the drudgeries so that they aren't niggling at me while I'm trying to do the things that bring pleasure and satisfaction. So far so good. I'd like to dismiss these things as unimportant in the grand scheme of things, and maybe on some level they are. But the boring little details of day-to-day life are like putting oil in the car. It's smelly, messy and not very glamorous but it makes everything that matters run more smoothly. And I just this second realized that this is also part of the reason that I "dress up" every day. Because those tasks I deem drudgery don't feel so drudgy when I'm wearing cute little pumps and a flirty skirt.

And The Child, thank you for asking, is fine. For the last couple of weeks, she's been complaining off and on of stomach pains. She's been, pun intended, gutting up just fine in spite of it but yesterday it was troublesome enough that she wanted to come home. I was, of course, reluctant. My mind always runs on two simultaneous and opposing tracks in these situations.

Track 1: She's faking, she's trying to get out of something, I should tell her to get back to work and stop being such a slacker or she'll never amount to anything.

Track 2: Oh. My. God. Something is so wrong. Something is seriously, seriously wrong. God, please don't let it be a tumor.

'Cause I'm balanced like that.

I picked her up and initiated the Dr. Mom inquisition. She describes the pain, the conditions under which she experiences it, etc. etc. I rule out all the obvious things via a series of unbloggable questions. Then I ask about emotional stuff, a test she wasn't prepared for, someone trying to take her lunch money, that sort of thing. She assures me that school is great, nothing's going on, it isn't anything like that. I have her do the "jumping test" to see if it's her appendix. Kids with appendicitis will either refuse to jump or jump once and stop because the pain is so bad. I had to tell The Child to stop jumping.

I get her into bed with a water bottle and before calling the pediatrician's office, google "abdominal pain". Now, we all know that if you google an ailment you will be taken to a site that describes your exact symptoms and diagnosis you as terminal and incurable. But I got lucky and the first hit was a renowned pediatrician's site, wherein he described 7 common abdominal complaints, 5 of which are not serious and 2 of which are. And it seemed really clear that what The Child was suffering from was strained abs.

She had an appointment in the afternoon and the doctor pretty much confirmed my theory. She did all the requisite poking and prodding and found nothing abnormal. The Child's descriptions were consistent with strained muscles. The only thing the doc was concerned about was that she was in enough pain to want to come home from school so if she isn't better by next Monday I have to take her in again. But I don't think that will be the case.

She got a doctor's note excusing her from PE (oh, what I wouldn't have given for something like that in my youth) and is laying off volleyball this week. And how did she do this, you ask? No way of knowing. Could have been a volleyball dive, could have been a prolonged bout of sneezing, could have been lugging 412 pounds of school supplies up 2 flights of stairs on the first day of school. She just has to take it easy so the muscles can heal.

Of couse, she decided to milk all this today and requested to stay home. And you know what? I let her. Less running around on her behalf means that much more time to accomplish my lofty drudgery goals. Cue the cashmere and pearls and action!

Both Lauren Graham and Sting were on "Studio 60" last night. Nowhere near enough of either of them but still. It was fun.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Why, Indeed

Brooke noticed that I haven't posted the Applesauce Cake recipe. Considering how obnoxious I've been about it, that is quite a glaring omission.

Please note that as we do not like nuts and raisins inside our pastries the recipe notably leaves them out. If you are otherwise inclined you can, of course, add such things. (Eeww).

Lorraine's Applesauce Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg pinch of cloves
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
2 cups applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, cream the butter. Add the brown sugar and continue mixing. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla, then mix until well blended and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the applesauce. Pour batter into a greased and floured loaf or tube pan and bake until firm to the touch, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan, then turn it out.

To serve dust with powdered sugar or frost with Gingered Vanilla Buttercream Icing.

Gingered Vanilla Buttercream Icing

3 c. confectioner’s sugar
1 c. butter, softened to room temperature
1 t. vanilla extract
1-2 T. whipping cream
¼ candied ginger, chopped up fine

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla, 1 T. cream and the ginger and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed to reach spreadable consistency.

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General Monday-ish Things

  • On the way home from school this morning I stopped to let 25 ducks cross the street. They were using the crosswalk so I didn't mind. If they'd have been jaywalking it would have been another story.

  • The Spouse was Putty McPutterson this weekend. He bottled beer, winterized the lawn and put "oh no you don't" moss thwarting agents on the roof. He also made some really awesome chili for dinner on Saturday and fab fish and chips last night. This morning he made his side of the bed when he got up. I do not know what that was about but he gets snaps.

  • The Child had her first babysitting gig this weekend, on Friday night. She didn't have to do much. Her 2 year old charge was already asleep when she got there and the parents were next door at the Rabbi's house. She pretty much just ate kosher snacks and watched satellite television. But it was a hallmark none the less. She rang at about 9:30, which was, of course during "Battlestar Galactica". The Spouse thought maybe she was getting a little lonely and/or scared. She was home about 15 minutes later and the only reason she called was because she was supposed to be done at 9:30 and the folks weren't home yet. Just exhibiting responsibility and maturity. Didn't need us at all.

  • Yesterday the Parent Association hosted a pancake breakfast/harvest festival wherein we dressed like farmers, had a pumpkin patch and served a ton of food from 7am to 1:30pm. We made many, many dollars. I was exhausted.

  • I made another applesauce cake this weekend and this time I made a buttercream frosting to which I added bits of candied ginger. Defrakkinglicious.

  • It is cold and drippy today. The garden looks pathetic.

  • I am presently in the throes of a deep, nay, pathological bout of procrastination. I'm about to change that. Right after I play "tug" with The Dog.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Big Guy Diplomacy

Last night I had another one of those dreams.

The Spouse and I were in North Korea to adopt a baby. (I think this came from having heard something about Madonna buying adopting a child in Malawi). Anyway, we were led into a room where we had to correctly answer 4 obscure questions in order to receive the child. But as I was answering questions about bluenose dolphins, The Spouse smiled at me, backed into another room and I never saw him again. So, as I'm wont to do in these sorts of dreams, I cried and cried and cried while I looked for him, all the while leading around this little Korean child.

It was a creepy dream but upon waking it led to the most astonishing revelation, a solution to the nuclear standoff with North Korea so simple I can't believe no one has thought of it.

Yesterday on NPR (of course) some expert on the situation was saying that the one thing North Korea seems to really, really want is a bi-lateral talk with the US. Which our government refuses to do. Now, I've never understood why our various presidents are unwilling to talk face to face with various other leaders. Seems to me, if you're the most powerful man in the world (after Superman et al, of course) you could, and probably should, sit down with just about anyone. What does it hurt?

But Mr. Bush won't talk to that hideous little man in North Korea and so here he is, classic "mouse that roared", testing bombs (or pretending to test them) and making everyone completely nervous, all because, just like a 2 year old throwing a tantrum, he wants some attention. Ok. Ignoring a tantrum by a 2 year old - good thing. Ignoring a maniac with a bomb - not so much.

But here's the thing: George Bush is 5'11. Kim Jong Il is 5'2", maybe 5'3". Rumor has it, he wears lifts in his shoes. He is a very, very small man. Short men have a need to overcompensate for their lack of stature. It's called a "Napolean complex". And we all know Napolean was a trouble-maker.

Also, Kim Jong Il is funny looking. George Bush, well, sure, some of us make fun of him but he's not an unattractive man. In fact, as a youth he was quite the hottie. He's no Colin Firth, but then, sadly, so few men are.

I say, hey, Mr. Bush, invite Kim Jong Il to Washington D.C. Meet him at the airport, surrounded by the press, so everyone sees how far down you have to bend to shake the little man's hand. Take him to the White House and stand in the Oval Office for a photo op so the world can see you towering over the little, tiny man. Have a state dinner, with lots and lots of photographers near the receiving line so that every news agency from the BBC to Aljezeera gets lots of lovely photos of you, George Bush, the very tall leader of the free world standing next to the smallest dictator ever.

Then serve Mr. Il the best quality kim chee money can buy, give him tea and talk to him. Tell him that you and the rest of the world aren't going to take anymore crap from him. Tell him that he's going to be accompanied back to North Korea by UN troops, who are going to enter and inspect his nuclear facilities and that if they find anything that threatens the world, they will take it out by force and destroy it and they will shoot anyone who stands in their way. Tell him that if he co-operates, the world community will feed his starving people and, oh, by the way, one false move and we'll sit by while China takes over your ass. And then we'll send China flowers.

And once you've put the fear of whatever into him, take him out into the Rose Garden for a press conference and while he stands in your very impressive shadow, politely and deferentially announce the accord that has been struck between your two "great nations".

This could so work.


New Policy

The Child has always been a perky kid. From the time she was a toddler she would awake in the morning, bright-eyed and ready to go. With the advance toward teen-dom, however, mornings have gotten a little more soggy.

I decided this morning to institute a new policy. When I went to wake her I took with me a small cup of coffee, with sugar and milk. I turned on her lamp, sat on the bed and asked her to sit up. I figured she and I could have a tot of coffee together and talk about simple morning things for a few minutes, ease her into the day and that sort of thing.

When I gave her the cup she looked at me suspiciously and said, "Who died?"

"No one died".

She took a sip and scowled at me, "Alright, come clean, what did I do wrong?"

"You didn't do anything wrong. I just thought this would be a nice, gentle way to start your day". She still didn't seem convinced but she enjoyed the coffee and we're off to a nice start.


Reaching Across the Ocean, Bridging the Cultural Divide

Sometimes I forget that I have an international readership. (Hi, you two!!!!)
Yesterday, words and concepts were bandied about, with what I really can only call typical American arrogance. Dariushalavi asked for a clarification of terms, which I will happily provide because (and I think we can all agree on this) there is enough misunderstanding in the world. It is not my job to make things murkier than they already are. Plus, I always admire people who aren't afraid to ask questions. It's the know-it-alls I struggle with.

So, Dariushalavi, first and foremost:

1. Aa crockpot is a smallish appliance used for slow cooking. "Crockpot" is a brandname, "slow cooker" the generic. (But "crockpot" is universally commonly used in reference to any slow cooker.) The concept is simple. An earthware crock sits in a metal bowl-like thing with a warmer. You chop your ingredients & brown your meat and pop everything into the unit. You turn it on either high (4-6 hours of cooking) or low (8-10 hours). By some sort of wizardry, the unit heats and cooks the food properly, without it overcooking or seething with bacteria.

Ownership of this appliance was actually a cause for mirth when The Spouse and I first received it. Crockpots were for people with no taste or style, or so we thought. The first thing ever cooked in the crockpot that just died was a batch of Payson's Papa's Chili and it turned out really well and for many years that was all the crockpot was ever used for. (Which may explain why it lasted so long).

I didn't really discover the joy and wonder of this appliance until The Child started being so involved with after-school activiites. Mealtime is very important to us and I didn't want to lose that value. So on long days, when we're out of the house in the late afternoon/early evening, I put something in the crockpot in the morning and we come home to delicous smells and a meal, ready to serve.

And despite my youthful bias, a crockpot, like any other appliance, yields good food if good food is put into it. One has to be careful. I don't follow a lot of slow cooker recipes exactly. If one calls for putting green beans into the pot at the beginning I don't because, eeww. Green beans cooked for 8 hours? No.

b. Velveeta is a very scary faux cheese product that doesn't contain, to my knowledge, a single ingredient actually found in nature. It is prized for its ability to melt very smoothly. (As opposed to taking the time to whisk batches of good cheese (grated) into a white sauce to achieve the same thing.)

3. Rotel is also a brand name for a line of "Tex-Mex" products, like tins of chopped tomatoes with green chilis.

Bonus information: Yesterday I referred to a party dip of Velveeta and salsa. Rotel could be used as well. The ingredients are combined in a bowl, put in a microwave until the "cheese" has melted and then it's eaten with tortilla chips. One is most likely to be served this treat when gathering at someone's home to watch a sporting event on television, like the Superbowl.

Now, aren't you glad you asked?


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Life is Fast. Cook Slow.

Meet my new love.

Isn't it pretty? The earthenware insert is a very nice oval shape with an embossed design around the rim. It will look very nice on the table, when I'm inclined to use it in that way.

And Bride, I know you fancied this one but they are clearly cousins. Plus, did yours come with this?

Meet the "Little Dipper", which is supposedly ideal for sauces and dips. You know, like that Velveeta and salsa thing we always make for football games. (As if).

And all for the fabulous Costco price of $39.99. I also picked up a copy of "Reds", one of my top favorite movies of all time.

So let's celebrate. Here's what's cooking away in the new crockpot even as we speak; a recipe developed, btw, by The Bride and presented in her own words:

Fajita Stew

Serves 4

2 pounds lean top round, cubed into 1” bits and seared on high heat
1 small onion, chopped
1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp red chile powder
salt, garlic powder, pepper, cumin, oregano to taste
½ bag frozen bell pepper trio from Trader Joe’s (or you can use fresh, but they’re so darned expensive that I refuse to use $2 peppers in a darned crock pot, but if you buy fresh, chop up one red one)
½ cup water
½ cup flour

Caramelize the onions with some olive oil. Then dry the meat cubelets off and sear them nicely on all sides in your cast iron pan. Dump everything into your crockpot. And the rest is history.


End of an Era

We've all had this happen. We go along with our lives and try to "enjoy every sandwich" but you know how it goes. We become complacent. Sure, we appreciate the presence of the other in our lives but assume, callously, that they'll always be there.

Then something happens. Maybe it's the cumulative effect of a thousand little inattentions. Maybe it's just age, familiarity and weariness. But suddenly, when we least expect it and likely when things actually seem to be going pretty well, there is a break. It is so small we don't even notice it at first and then, without warning, the dam bursts and we're left with, well, nothing. Nothing but a memory.

And 15 years is a long time. Especially by today's standards. Ours is a planned-obsolescence-love-'em-and-leave-'em society. It happens. And yet...

So it is with a heavy but resigned heart that I tell you, today, October 12, 2006, my crockpot died. The crockpot that has served us well since the day we were married. The crockpot relied upon for Thursday night suppers and chili feasts. Oh, the chili feast! We're having one this weekend and here I sit with nothing but the ruins of a lost love.

My heart is breaking but I must high-tail it to Costco to buy a new one. Ooh, maybe even one in stainless steel.

Oh, how quickly we move on.


So's You Know

I suppose this goes without saying, but I feel compelled, after going on the record about my loathing for the Yankees, that the tragic accident that killed Cory Lidle is a very sad thing and I'm very sorry for his family and his team-mates.

Carry on.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Postgame Alert

Jefferson- 2 Greenlake - 0

Spikers Season:

So There

I did it. I started a file labeled "High Schools" and put some stuff in it from last night. I filed it behind this year's Parent Handbook and it's going to sit there until we need it. One more step toward making peace with my child getting older.

The hooha last night was just fine. I told The Principal that we were only going to one session because we needed to get home. (I didn't tell her we needed to get home to eat hoisin pork in homemade onion crepes and watch "Gilmore girls"). I let The Child decide which session we should attend and she chose the one for a school not previously on the list but which she's become enamoured of. (I am assuming this interest has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that a particular boy hopes to go there).

And I must admit, I was impressed. It sounded like a pretty fine school. The admissions dude talked about how they are unique among the Catholic high schools in that, while they do look at grades, they also look at leadership potential and a kid's school and community involvement. They do accomodate LD kids. It's not huge, it's closer to our house than our (so far) #1 choice and they have an undefeated girls volleyball team.

The Child was the only kid at our session (and she was very cute and attentive) so the school's principal gave her a school t-shirt. She also scored pens and rubber bracelets. She read the entire school prospectus in bed last night and woke up this morning just bursting to tell me all she'd learned.

I did not want to rain on her parade but I did feel compelled to tell her that we are in the "information" phase and no decisions are being made until next year. Which she got. But she's still excited.

Meanwhile, she looked particularly cute this morning. I told her that she looks very mature when she wears her uniform skirt instead of pants. (I don't know why this is but it's true). "Oh, well,"she said, nonchalantly hoisting her backpack on her shoulder, "that's probably because I've decided to start acting like I'm already in high school".

I think that's a good thing.

I said, "I realize this will fall on deaf ears because you're a kid and kids are always focused on their future but you know, don't forget to enjoy your time right now. As Warren Zevon said, 'Enjoy every sandwich'".


I explained and then she said, "Who's Warren Zevon?"

"You know, the "Werewolves of London" guy".

"Oh, right. Him".

And then she sang "Ah-oooo, werewolves of London" all the way to school

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Apropos of Nothing

I'm currently in the throes of a Warren Zevon phase so I was surfing around YouTube for stuff and I found this clip of The Wallflowers & Jordan Zevon on the Letterman show.

Which leads me to point out, because I've been remiss in doing so earlier, that Jakob Dylan is really handsome.

Just thought I'd mention that. Go back to work.

Last Night, after "Gilmore girls"

Moi: So. Do we move to Chicago?

Spouse: Why would we do that?

Moi: North Korea has the bomb. We're on the west coast.

Spouse: Yes and now there's a threat of nuclear war.

Moi: But you're horrible in a crisis. When they nuke us, you're just going to be a frakking a**hole.

He was greatly amused by this but later tried to suggest that he is, in fact, just fine in a crisis. I have examples to the contrary. (They are also very amusing, after the fact, but it wouldn't be fair to share them in this forum. Over beer sometime, when it's just the two of us, though, remind me and I'll tell you). Besides, it's starting to look like North Korea doesn't actually have the bomb, they're just big, unstable, whacked out pranksters. It might be a tempest in a teapot. (I love that phrase). On the face of it, I'm probably less concerned about North Korea than I am about the fact that the people in charge of "diplomacy" around here don't exactly inspire my confidence. Cool heads, baby. That's what you need in a crisis. The difference between the international scene and my household is that if one of us flips out we just end up laughing about it later.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Where are You Going, My Little One, Little One

Back in my day, you graduated 8th grade and went on to one of the two high schools in the area, depending on where you lived. 4 years later, if you were so inclined, you took the SAT, applied to a college or two and left home. Or you didn’t.

There might be a smidge more pressure on kids now a days.

Tonight is the first in a series of opportunities for us to start weighing high school options for The Child, as all the Catholic high schools in the area send representatives to an information night at St. G’s. "We're going tonight, right, Mama? This is important."

Have I mentioned that The Child is in the 7th grade?

It still sometimes surprises me that my little pudding faced boofie baby is old enough to start thinking about Next Steps. You go along and you go along and then, wham, out of nowhere you remember again that the dependent, dripping thing you started out with is learning to do for itself. Breast to bottle to sippy cup and then all of a sudden, the kid is getting her own milk out of the fridge. And then going to the store, by herself, to buy the milk.

And while I'm here, just trying to enjoy the ride, The Child has been focusing more and more on her future. She talks all the time about the summer, 2 years hence, which she’ll be spending in France with Nicole et famille. She’s already told me that she expects to take a year or two before going to college, to travel and work. She wants to get married (still mostly to Daniel Radcliffe, but the pool is widening) and have babies (probably 5).

I’m still trying to get her to remember to brush her hair in the morning.

So, anyway, here we are, preparing for an informational meeting. As you know, I am not a fan of the evening meeting, even less so when it is a Tuesday and “Gilmore girls” is on at 8. And with 2 nights of volleyball plus choir, this is the only evening when the routine is not dictated by extras. And I like that about Tuesday nights.

I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t your child’s future more important than a television show?” Well, sure, most of the time it is. But in this case, if she goes to Catholic high school there is really only one choice. Most of the schools are fiercely competitive and academic. Slews of 4.0 students don’t get into these schools. And “fiercely competitive and academic” is not a phrase that applies to The Child. There was one other high school in which she expressed interest; until we found out they had moved their campus much farther east than I intend to drive.

The school at the top of the list has a sterling reputation, a renowned theater & music program and volleyball. It is also a school that ‘gets’ learning disabilities and has programs to support LD students, which most of the other Catholic high schools do not. So we will go to the 20-minute session at 7 o’clock and come home. We’ll get our feet wet with this whole “planning your future” thing and set up an information file and the next time there is an informational meeting we’ll go check out another school or two, because one does need options.

But in writing this I realize that my “dipping one toe” strategy has less to do with keeping Tuesday evening sacrosanct than with the fact that sometimes I’m so not ready for this. I’m still wrapping my head around having a middle schooler, people. Shouldn't I get comfortable with that idea before I ship her off to high school? I know all this growing-up-in-a-blink-of-an-eye is universal. I've seen the "when did this happen" expression on the faces of Dame Judi & Sean Connery. Children grow up and you don't feel any older and it catches you by surprise, even when it probably shouldn't.

"Turn around and she's 2, turn around and she's 4, turn around and she's a young girl, going out of the door"...

Basta! It is a perfect fall day and I promised The Spouse cookies. I can only indulge all things varklempt a little longer. I shall do this by listening to Warren Zevon's "Tenderness on the Block", rock's answer to "Sunrise, Sunset". And then I shall snap out of it with a little something else by Mr. Zevon. I like having a plan.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

A Few Things You Should Know About Me

1. My dad, Sean Connery, used to play baseball in college and I have vague memories of night games, under the lights, the smell of cigar smoke (which I still love because of those nights) and the sounds of cracking bats and cheering. Very basic, very visceral. I must have been, what, 2? 3?

2. 20 years later I saw my first professional game ever, in San Francisco at Candlestick Park. That's when I fell in love with the liturgy of baseball...the hot dog, the beer, the 7th inning stretch. And when, years later, I saw "Bull Durham" for the first time and Susan Sarandon's character talked about "the church of baseball", I knew exactly what she meant.

3. I stopped even reading postgame alerts in August. The Mariners sucked this year. I do not recognize this team. They haven't been the same since Lou Piniella left. I was at Safeco Field for Lou's farewell. I cried. I love Lou.

4. I hate the Yankees. Hate 'em, hate 'em, hate 'em. Their first round elimination in post season play makes me insufferably giddy. I love when the Yankees lose and I really love when they don't get anywhere near the World Series. And I say this even though many former Mariners play for the Yankees. They are in pinstripes now so I do not love them. They were not loyal to me, I am not loyal to them. Meh.

5. If this happens, that cracking sound you hear will be my heart. Please, Lou, anywhere but there.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pomegranates are Plentiful in Chicago

Jon was out shopping yesterday and took this picture for me. Isn't that sweet? Every kid in The Child's class could have had extra credit if we lived in Chicago. As it was, only 3 found the elusive fruit.

The Child is busy making sandwiches. Once a month members of the parish take sandwiches to a homeless shelter downtown. She's been making sandwiches for "her men" since she was 4. She hadn't been very vigilant about it in recent months but this week, when she got her reminder card, she said she'd make them if I remembered to get the stuff. I said I'd get the stuff if she remembered to remind me. She did.

The applesauce cake turned out very well. I love when I get cake "right". It does, however, need a little something (probably because there are no raisins or nuts in it because we, as a family, are not fond of the raisin or the nut hidden inside pastry of any sort). The Child thinks it needs a buttercream frosting. I'm thinking creme anglaise. And that, it would appear, is the biggest decision facing us on this dimmish October morning.

Good Sabbath.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

We Laughed. We Cried. We Ate Risotto.

Both The Spouse and I were very excited about last night's premiere of "Battlestar Galactica". I mention this because you may not have picked up on the fact that we are, how you say, fans of the show. But first we had our typical Friday night family dinner-&-a-movie.

Dinner was one of the best risottos I've ever made. It was sausage risotto but instead of grilling the sausages and serving them on top of the rice I took the meat out of the casings and scrambled it with the onions and arborio before adding the stock. There were bits of sausage-y goodness in every bite. It was really nice.

Movie was a surprisingly good film, "The Greatest Game Ever Played".

Dame Judi had recommended the film. Which is about golf. Which she doesn't play. So the fact that she was so emphatic about our need to see it was compelling. And while I suppose it is, on the face of it, about golf it is really about following your dreams (even if your father is a jerk about them) and about class and nationalism (and how being "the best" has the power to transcend that) and about the importance of keeping your head in the game and about how mothers are wonderful people (ok, that bit might have been more subtle than some of the other themes but I picked up on it). It is stylistic, beautifully made and well-acted. Sometimes Disney really gets it right. There. I said it. Highly recommend the film.

And then....

There are not even enough superlatives in my lexicon to tell you how good "Battlestar Galactica" was last night. The show airs on the SciFi channel but the only thing remotely scifi about it is that there are spaceships and robots. (The cylons. The ones with the plan).

The premise -if you don't know- is that the cylons, created by man, have evolved and rebelled and have turned on humankind. There is a remnant of survivors and the story has to do with saving the human race, fighting the cylons (who outnumber the humans by some superfantastically high number) and figuring out how to start over again. The story is way more about politics and religion and what motivates people to do what they do than it is about aliens and technology. And. I. Love. It.

Trivia: Did you know that the reason JP thought I would like this show was because I was a fan of "The West Wing"? "Battlestar Galactica": adventure show for wonks.

This is going to be a lazy day and I deserve it, don't you think? I'm going to play "Age of Empires III", I'm going to read the November issue of Martha Stewart Living and I may even take a nap. I may make some applesauce but that's a more contemplative thing than it is a doing thing. And it will make the house smell really nice. The Child is in charge of dinner. Should be a perfectly lovely day. Hope yours is, too.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Extra Credit

Yesterday afternoon was, I confess, an exercise in the-best-laid-plans phenomenon. I knew it would be a little nutty and was prepared for it. But then, well, this is how I summed it up, in an email to Jon:

I am about ready to take my child by her neck and wring it. She was late coming out of study hall, to the point that I had to go looking all over school for her (because she did her study hall in her classroom, not in study hall proper) and by the time we actually got to the car it was too damn late to try and get across town for choir so we came home and I called her in absent to choir and then she realized she left her math book at school, which means she'll have a missing assignment report which means she'll lose tv privileges for a week so she spent 15 minutes crying about it instead of doing the other work she has and we have to leave in 40 fracking minutes for her volleyball game. And J is coming to pick up Trudy which means that The Child will feel compelled to get up and dance around when she arrives. Oh, and did I mention she needs a pomegranate for school tomorrow?

Hello? Who needs a cocktail?

This apparently made Jon laugh. That's what I'm here for.

So this bloody pomegranate thing. The 7th grade has been reading myths and folklore, in a run up to the big book of the trimester, The Hobbit. After reading the myth of Persephone the teacher said that anyone who brought a pomegrantate to class would get extra credit. Query: do teachers not realize that assignments like this are not assignments for the children, but for the parents? Tell them to find a picture of a pomegranate on the Internet or to make a papier mache pomegranate (that could be kinda cool). Have them write a cinquain poem about bloody pomegranates but giving a kid one day to bring an out-of-season fruit to school is not the way to engender the good will of people who you need to chaperone your field trips.

Right. So I check at the co-op. They don't have any. We go to the game. We have to wait for the first group to finish up so I go to the Safeway right by the community center. No pomegranates. Why would there be? We see pomegranates in the winter, usually around Christmas time.

On the way home The Child suggests we check some other stores. "It's nearly 8pm, I'm hungry and you still have homework," I said, rather unsympathetically. "Let's hope you're doing good work in lit already. Besides," I add, "this isn't even pomegranate season".

"I know," she answered blithely, "that's why it's extra credit". (Silently I sneer, "Mr. R., I got your extra credit right here".)

There's a funky produce stand on our way home and The Child sees that the lights are still on. We stop. They have pomegranates for $1.89 each. I have $2. She buys the bloody thing and I instruct her to put it immediately in her backpack the second we get home because I know that if she manages to leave it behind I will not be pleased.

Btw, one of her team-mates had her math book with her so The Child was able to photocopy her assignment and get it done. No missing assignment AND she had a pomegranate to turn in. Huzzah, huzzah. But shouldn't I be the one who gets the extra credit?

There is something that mitigates any residual frustration I may feel from yesterday, which is, of course, the premiere of "Battlestar Galactica" in just a little less than 8 hours. I have a plan.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Postgame Alert

Jefferson Spikers 2 Ballard "What? Is that a volleyball?" 0

Spikers Season 2-0


Is it Thursday Already?

It’s probably just me but there should be a law wherein only people currently in the possession of children should be allowed to schedule children’s activities.

The fall season of volleyball is through a community center league. The games are always on school nights. When the game is for the early evening it’s ok, but some of the games are scheduled for later, like 7:30, and usually in the hinterland. Even if, as usually happens, the girls win the first two matches, thus eliminating the need for a 3rd, we’re looking at an hour, plus travel time. It’s madness, I tell you. Children also have to do homework and eat a decent supper and get to bed.

Additionally, it turns out our games are on alternating Wednesdays and Thursdays, which would be fine except The Child has choir practice on Thursday. It’s doable, just a little nuttier than I would like. She’ll leave choir early this week and then in the course of the season she’ll miss one game and one practise. It’ll be fine.

When she started school we had a “one activity a trimester” rule. This worked very well when she was little and as she got older we upped the ante to 2 activities.

Things changed again this year. Volleyball and choir are no brainers. She loves volleyball and it’s good for a kid to have an athletic activity. Maybe she’ll go to college at Pepperdine and be very popular. She loves to sing in the choir and it is good for a kid to be exposed to the arts. Plus, it’s important for her to minister in the parish.

This year, however, she also wanted to join the Debate Club. As has been mentioned, this suits her innate talent for verbary and argument. In addition to that, middle school students at St. G’s are required to perform 30 service hours a year. Now on Wednesdays she stays after school to help with the Arts & Crafts program.

The good news: Monday through Thursday I have until at least 4pm to do as I like (or need).

On the other hand, is it too much? Moms. We worry like that.

This is a one trimester at a time kind of deal. So far it is working. She is getting her homework done. She’s getting enough rest. She’s happy, not stressed.

What about downtime, you ask? Well, you know, pretty much her idea of downtime is vegging in front of some sort of screen. One only needs so much of that. And at first she even considered dropping something in the interest of “more free time”.

But on reflection, these activites are what she does in her “free time”. She participates in them because she enjoys them. She’s spending time with friends; she’s engaging her mind and her heart. And it’s a lot, at least on paper, but having a fair amount of structure is actually encouraging more focus and discipline on her part. And let’s face it, that’s also real life. We all have to learn to manage our work and indulge our interests. It’s not a bad thing, at 12, to learn how to accommodate a lot of diverse activates and still fulfill your obligations, which in her case is keeping her grades about a D.

So, that’s the deal this trimester. When the 2nd one starts we’ll re-evaluate. If she decides she’d like to have fewer extracurriculars then she’ll drop something. I’m not, fortunately for her, a parent who’s going to insist she have her finger in every pie nor do I take inordinate pride in being “on the go”. Less stuff would be fine with me. For now, more is just dandy, too.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

One More Time. For JP.

I don't even know if y'all know the story behind this. My mentor in all things photoshoppy, Amy, made this piccy some months ago. (She has also completely remodeled her blog so you won't be able to find the original post).

It was very funny when she put it up. So was JP's comment, which I remember vividly, which was "She should rename her blog 'Here's a Couple of Things'".

What you should know is that those aren't my girls. Not my hair, either (although if Jon had his way it would be). That, in fact, is the hair and body of the lovely Sigourney Weaver.

Anyway, big fun and I enjoyed the fun so much that I made it my profile pic for a while. But, like I said, it was time for a change.

I do, however, have this picture as the screensaver on my laptop. Because I'm vain that way.

Little Celebrations

1. The rains haven't completely returned. It is an Indian summer, cool mornings and nights, warm days. It's beautiful.

2. Yesterday I started to harvest apples. We have a columnar apple tree in the herb bed, what The Spouse charmingly refers to as "the apple stick". The apple stick is full of fruit this year, for a little tree. I have already baked one pie.

The above bowlful represents only about half of what is left on the tree, which doesn't include the ones which have already fallen or the ones which The Dog learned to steal from the bottom most branches. I have a hankering for applesauce cake (no raisins, eeww) and turnovers and tarte tatin.

3. Last night The Neighbor and I had our usual "cocktail hour", for about twice as long as usual. Sometimes it's just a quick check-in, "how was your day" sort of visit. Sometimes we really get going, like last night, talking about politics, personal responsibility, hope, reality tv, blogs and how much we both hate it when someone says, "Well, that's just the way it is".

Have I mentioned lately how much I love The Neighbor? Somewhere along the way she went from being a really cool neighbor who shared the proverbial cup of sugar over a fence and was fun (and convenient) to hang with to becoming one of my best friends. I heart her.

4. And while I'm handing out puffy hearts, thanks to my darling poodle, JP, again, for being just the bestest ever. I really wanted to change my profile picture but I couldn't figure out how to do it. (The Spouse has always done it for me and I never remembered to ask him to help when he had the time to help me). So I asked JP and he gave me instructions and when I got error messages he explained what I was doing wrong so I could fix it until, voilà, new picture.

Whenever I hear about how "disconnected" we're all supposedly becoming because of the Internet, I think, among others, of my Poodle. I believe very much in the strength and power of community. Seeking to build community is one of the values that guides my life. I love my blog community. I love JP.

5. I also need to give a belated snap to Renée who figured out how to insert accent marks and groovy symbols into text and generously shared that infomation when asked. And also because she is a very gifted writer who is very enjoyable to read, even though she did recently post a very icky picture of a very icky spider that she found in her basement.

6. "Gilmore girls" was good last night. Really good. That makes me so happy.

7. Ikea's frozen Swedish meatballs are the most delicious thing ever. We had them for dinner last night with lingonberry sauce. And it's a good thing I planned it that way, too, because it meant that I could spend extra time hanging with The Neighbor and still give the family a decent dinner, even though I was an hour late getting it to the table.

8. Our Jewish neighbors are preparing for Sukkot, which means that little huts are springing up in various back gardens. There will be a lot of late night feasting and laughter will come over the back fence from the Rabbi's house. The Rabbi's Wife has invited The Neighbor and I to stop in one evening and I think we will. I will have to get a bottle of kosher wine to take with us. The Rabbi's Wife is an excellent cook.

9. All my clean napkins are ironed.

10. Tonight we're having Gourmet Baffoo for dinner. A few years back, when The Child began to take a serious interest in cooking, she asked to invent a recipe. I was planning on doing something with chicken and she started to suggest how it should be prepared. It was basically a modification of my chicken and biscuits recipe, without the biscuits, and served over pasta. It was good. When I asked her what we should call the concoction she said, "Gourmet Baffoo". I don't know what the heck that's supposed to mean but that's what we call it.

Gourmet Baffoo

Brown 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into pieces. Set aside.
Dice ½ c. of carrots and cook in boiling water just until beginning to be tender.

Prepare farfalle or rotini pasta, according to package directions.

While pasta cooks:

In pan that chicken was browned in add 2 T. butter and sauté:
¼ pound crimini mushrooms, diced
½ large onion, diced

When onion is translucent, sprinkle in 2 T. flour and cook 1 minute.

Add 2 c. half & half and cook until sauce thickens. Add in 1/2 c. frozen green peas and the cooked carrots. Add ¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese and salt & pepper to taste.

Pour cooked pasta in baking dish. Lay chicken pieces on pasta and cover all with sauce. Top with bread crumbs.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

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