Thursday, May 31, 2007

It's All Part of Growing Up: Drama Queens

This morning The Child tried to get out of going to school. She began with the time honored, "I have something I want to say and I don't want you to talk until I'm finished". This always means she's going to pitch something to which I'll be saying "No".

She proceeds to make the case for staying home so that she can work on her story (which is due Friday and which she told me last night she didn't have to work on because she was almost done), read ("for like 3 hours, so my class can win the Pizza Party for the class with the most minutes"), work on her math facts, practise typing, discover a cure for cancer and generally improve her mind all day long.

I listened and then asked, "So, why don't you want to go to school?"

She said it had nothing to do with that, she just wanted time to work on all these projects.

"You can do all that when you get home".

"But Muh-oommmm, I'm going to want to play soccer with the Gang when I get home".

"Sounds like your priorities are all mixed up, then", I said, ever so calmly. "School work comes first, then soccer. If you want to get these things done then..."

"But Muh-oommmmm..."

And like that, for about 12 rounds. Have I mentioned that The Child is not one for taking "no" for an answer?

"Listen," I finally said, "You asked to talk. You talked. I listened. And I say 'no'. You're going to school. You have 15 days left and you're this close to making honors. You need to be in school and you're going to school".

Then the truth came out. She wants a break from "the drama".

Oh. The drama. 2 (very typical) things are going on. One is that a friend has started talking trash about her in order to ingratiate herself with the "popular kids". Said "friend", btw, never even particularly had friends until The Child came along. Not to mention, I hauled her petty little butt to school for the first 6 months of the year, plus took her to volleyball games, without so much as a 'thanks a lot' or a couple bucks for gas. Which, when I was doing it, didn't bother me at all. The kid is in a single parent home, it was totally on the way and I didn't do it for any other reason than that it was the right thing to do. But I'll be honest, now I kinda want to smack her.

The other drama owes to a breakup between a 7th grader and an 8th grader, with some other girl being blamed for the break up even though the parties involved have repeatedly said she had nothing to do with it. The Child is getting sucked in because she's friends with the girl who's being blamed. Everyone is getting all Capulet and Montague about the whole stupid thing. Which you and I know is the way of adolescents, but still.

And you know what I really hate? The fact that I show up to school for a meeting today and all these simpering little chicklets, who are being nasty to my kid, smile honey at me and say, "Hi, Mrs. T!" I'd as soon crack their heads together as look at them, snivelling little rat-faced gits.

This morning I told The Child a story about a girl who made my life a misery throughout high school. She was a petty, gossiping thing whose brother I dated off and on. When we were on I was the apple of the entire family's eye. (Perhaps, now that I think on it, they were so nasty because they only had the one eye). But when we were off, oh. my. yord. And the whole family got into the act, the parents included. They would snipe at me, say horrible things behind my back, complain to my parents about what a wretched child I was. But in some ways the oldest daughter was the worst because I saw her on campus every day and she never failed to say cutting things and talk about me. It was so bad that even after I graduated and moved away from home there were still one or two incidents, the last occurring when I was 30 frakking years old. I mean, come the frak on! The words "get a life" spring to mind.

So I told The Child about all this, including my eventual realization that there was never going to be a change in the behavior of the girl or her family. The only thing that freed me from their drama was the decision to not engage. I told her that there will always be people who just aren't happy unless they are trying to make someone else miserable and that life is too short to play their petty little game.

Oh, and btw, I was regaling her with this tale on the way to school. I walked her in (since I had my meeting) and I said, "Child, I'm telling you all this to help you see that this drama you're experiencing is nothing new. Everyone has a story like this. But you get to decide whether or not you're going to play along. Stand firm in the truth you know about yourself, focus on the good friends you have and let the rest of them stew in their own juice".

She smiled and said, "Thanks, Mom". I love when that happens.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hi! I'm Having a Pity Party. Wanna Come?

I've been putting off blogging today because I don't want to tell you what I'm really thinking lest you find me lame beyond belief. But then I thought, "Hey, like they haven't figured that out already. The kids are alright".

It goes something like this:

A friend sent me a link to an article in the local paper about these two women, one in Seattle, one in Paris, who both have blogs (about food) and both just got book deals. I know my friend's intention was to show me what is possible, to be encouraging and all that but the net effect was flaming green-eyed jealousy and a whole lot of "pft"ing.

Now here's the thing: I didn't start my blog to get a frakking book deal and I'm perfectly happy with my 110 hits a day (on a good day) and the handful of faithful readers who comment. (Because I like the back and forth of the comments and, as has been noted before, sometimes the comments are better than the initial post. It's fun. And if I was getting thousands of hits a day, like those stupid book deal women, it might translate into more comments and then I wouldn't be able to answer them all and that would stink).

I pretty much have abandoned the "discovered in a soda shop" route to any sort of success. It's all about plugging away and risking and all that "up by your bootstraps" stuff. But still. Sheesh. Stupid book deal women. We hate them. (Even though I'm pretty sure I'll end up buying at least one of the books).

The Neighbor asked if I'd read the blogs and I muttered that I wasn't going to give them another hit, silly women with their stupid book deals, especially the one who lives in Paris which should be gift enough for a person for crying out loud. But today I did. And they are good blogs. I didn't read them, however, and say, "Oh. My. Lord. Well, that explains it. Of course they got a book deal and not only that we should all stop writing because they are saying with eloquence and beauty everything that ever needs be said". They were good blogs, I repeat. But on a good day mine is just as good. So bollocks.

And then there was other stuff: a friend who just got a superfantastic new job and I couldn't be happier for her for she truly is deserving but part of me was all, "Well, crap" and jealous. Because there is one iron in the fire that might be very nice but it's one of those deals where if someone special takes a job I'll have a job and if he doesn't than I won't. It's just a possibility. Which essentially leaves me in the same frakking place I've been since February of wanting a job but not wanting just any old job for the sake of having a job and trying to figure out what's next. I do not do well with uncertainty. Which is unfortunate, given that not much is certain. Ever.

I started my pity party last night with The Neighbor, giving her strict instructions that I was NOT looking to be encouraged or jollied out of my mood or given stirring speeches. I just wanted to vent. And she let me. But we got into the notion of success and how I would count that. In most areas of my life I'm perfectly content, yea verily. But when it comes to writing, I do have some nebulous goals. I don't write for the sake of art. It isn't enough to craft a particularly elegant sentence. At some point along the way, I want it to be read. I don't need to be on the New York Times best-seller list for 6 months. But published would be nice.

"You are published," she said.

"Yes, but one article in one literary journal isn't enough", said I. Because it's not. It was all very thrilling and affirming and all that but it's not like I said, "Excellent, that's one off the short list. Now all I have to do is learn to make chevre and I'll die happy".

But blah blah blah. We've already established that my musings about being a writer are utter twaddle. There's more:

1. I had a profound conversation last night with The Child which made it clear that she is at the point of considering Deep Things. She's thinking for herself, questioning for herself, making things her own. Which is lovely to see. And a little scary. We set her on a path, which is our job, but she'll be travelling it in her own way. She's growing up and that makes me feel shaky sometimes.

b. We're planning this boffo trip to Chicago in July and someone was going to come and now he can't. Which sux so much it isn't even funny. When The Child found out she wailed, "Well, then I'm not going either". Yes, she is, because we've already bought the tickets, it will be fun and she'll get to meet other people but still. I'd be bitter® about it but I don't own the rights.

3. My stupid frakking car stalled on me twice this morning so as soon as I got the kids to school - by the grace of God and all the archangels in charge of all things automotive - I had to take the piece of crap to my car guys. Again.

So grumbled, grumble, fuss, fuss, fuss.

I'm in a valley time and have been for a while. I'm so over it but as I don't see an incline in the near distance, I'm forced to look for whatever beauties the valley might afford. And there is, at least, some dappled light on the path:

  • We had our first al fresco family meal last night - chicken with chutney crust, moist and delicious.
  • There's plenty of wine in the house.
  • I started watching "Battlestar Galactic" (the mini-series) again.
  • I got an email from Dariush this morning. (Oh, btw, I'm jealous of him, too; but he's not stupid). It had nothing to do with any of this but managed to be encouraging and stir me to action on a little project I've cooked up.
  • The car guys just called and the problem appears to just be some silly wire so it probably won't cost $412,000 to redeem my piece of crap vehicle. (2000 Ford Focus - worst car since the Edsel. Just saying).
  • I had a nice chat with Payson.
  • JP called and made me laugh, plus I think I've convinced him to come for my birthday in September.
  • The weather is very beautiful and it's hard to be completely poo-headed about everything when the sun is shining.

    I think it was Julian of Norwich who said, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well". I believe that. Even when I'm in a pissy mood.

Chicken with Chutney Crust

1 c. fresh breadcrumbs
¼ c. dill weed
½ t. dried basil
¼ t. salt

chutney (Major Grey's is yummy but any sort will do)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine breadcrumbs with seasonings.

Pat dry chicken breasts. Spread both sides with chutney. Dredge in breadcrumb mixture and place on a rack in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until chicken tests done.

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A Tribute

The Chicago end of Blogtopia is all a dither today, what with the celebration of one of their highest feasts, the birthday of Miss Healthypants. Her loving husband & best poodle have offered their tributes, mostly because they've had several hours already to do so. But now it is time for the West Coast to acknowledge this auspicious occasion.

I myself am not yet personally acquainted with the inestimable MHP, although I did chat with her once on the phone. (She has a very lovely voice and was giggling). But she is well-loved by people whose judgement I trust and so am assured that she is worthy of any and all tributes.

But what to do? I get to meet her in July and am looking forward to that. I will be able to cook for her, which is the sort of thing I like doing for people I care about. But today is her birthday. Something should be done now. I could bake her a cake (a healthy sort of cake; applesauce, say), take a picture of it and "give" it to her via the internets. But that doesn't seem like quite enough for a woman of her calibre.

And then it hit me. The perfect gift.

MHP, thank you for coming into the world and making so many people happy. It is with great pleasure that I initiate you into the Exalted Order of Koihead. You wear it well. Happy birthday, sweetie!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day BBQ

Here's a fun game: When The Spouse is engaged in his annual Memorial Day viewing of war movies, start making potato salad. He will begin to call out to make sure you're putting in celery. Then he will say, "And onions". Tell him you're thinking of using green onions. Watch the fireworks.

Funny thing about picnic food. You can find thousands of recipes for tarted up versions of the standard fare. But in my experience, nothing satisfies the crowd like the classics: potato salad (with mayo-mustard dressing; none of your high-falutin' vinaigrettes, thankyouverymuch), coleslaw (cabbage, shredded carrots, vinegar-sugar-mayo dressing) and baked beans (molasses, ketchup, mustard). Nothin' fancy; people want their potato salad to taste like potato salad. The variations and permutations are all very well for any other occasion, but not Memorial Day and not Labor Day.

I also made devilled eggs. It was as if I'd lassoed the moon and given generous portions to each of the guests. They came to the table, gleaming on their bed of basil. (I don't have one of those devilled egg plates, the kind with the divots in it so the eggs don't roll around. But a little bed of parsley or basil or even lettuce will keep them in place and look pretty, to boot). There were probably 6 people standing around the table, looking at them. Everything was still under plastic wrap, as we were heating up the grill. The look of longing was heart-breaking. Finally, Jim said, "Boy, I'm ready to start eating those now" and I said, "Well, then, let's eat them". Oh, the joy. We eat took an egg, toasted to summer and chomped them down. Seattle Coffee Girl likened the bliss to oyster shooters.

The Spouse noted, mournfully, much later in the evening, that he didn't get any devilled eggs. They disappeared quickly and he was busy chatting up people. Fortunately, he'd been given a trial egg earlier in the afternoon.

Another funny thing about picnic side dishes. I don't use any recipes. I just know how everything is supposed to taste. Big spoonfuls of this, squirts of that, stir and taste and adjust accordingly. How many potatoes? Until the bowl is full. How many eggs? Enough. How much mustard? Less than the amount of mayo but more than a dab. Somehow, it all works out.

The trifle was superfantastic, too. For that I can provide a recipe.

Chocolate Trifle

1 chocolate cake, baked and stuck in a bundt pan
2 boxes of chocolate pudding mix (yeah, I coulda made it from scratch but I didn't).
1 pint heavy whipping cream, whipped and lightly sweetened
1 bag chocolate chips (Fair Trade chocolate so that you can eat in good conscience)
Triple Sec

Pull handfuls of cake out of the bundt pan and scatter in bottom of a trifle bowl (the nice one that you love a lot upon which your husband is later going to drop a glass fishing float and bust into 6 shattered pieces).

Sprinkle the cake with the merest bit of Triple Sec because pregnant people and children will be eating it.

Spread half the pudding over the cake.

Glop about 1 c. of whipping cream over the pudding.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips.


Chill until ready to serve. Stand back.

The guests bring whatever they want to grill. This was the first go-round. Later you would have found pork ribs and corn on the cob on there, too.

I had a steak set aside for myself but when it came time to eat it was a hot dog that was calling my name, mostly because I just wanted plenty of room on the plate for the side dishes. That's what it's all about.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

For City Mouse

Sometimes it's really hard to be a mom. 'Cause your job is to let them leave. That can suck.

I ♥ you, babe.

"You'll be in My Heart"
Phil Collins

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The Spirit Moved

We wrapped up the Easter season with our Pentecost supper last night. The Spouse made his delicious split pea soup and some fabulously crusty French bread with just a hint of rosemary. There was chocolate cake for dessert.

I had nothing to do with any of it.

Which was kinda superfantastic because usually I'm much more involved and it was nice to just do as I pleased except to sweep and tidy and borrow napkins from The Neighbor.

Then, because it was the Sunday before a Monday holiday, we had karaoke. Yay!

It was a small group and we've all been singing together for years now. We all have our standards. But last night we decide to bust out of our comfort zone and try new material. Which was fun. Except that I learned something very interesting about myself. All those 80s songs that I love so well? Yeah. Turns out, I sing them a whole lot better when I'm singing along with the video and can let Patty or Suzanna take the lead. That way, when I don't actually know the words or the bridge or the key change it doesn't matter because they do.

I nailed "Cruel to be Kind", though. That was a comfort.

Turns out, Kina writes the songs that make the whole world sing.

Ree doesn't like having her picture taken but she's the consumate DJ. She also has an intimidating pair of pipes. "Why didn't she try out for 'American Idol'?" asked the Neighb.

"Because no one in Seattle has talent, remember?" answered Moi.

The Spouse, rocking a little AC/DC.

The Child doing "Step by Step". She's all about the New Kids on the Block these days.

Jerry ramping up for a little air guitar. He does a wicked "Werewolves of London", btw.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band showed up.

The Neighbor did a little "Moondance", to the delight of The Cat.

The Dog wanted to sing "Who Let the Dogs Out", but it wasn't on the play list. So he pouted.

Now I must away to make potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans and chocolate trifle (I know, not a traditional "Memorial Day" sort of dessert but the bundt cake from last night won't come loose from its pan and that's what I do with recalcitrant cake.

Have a good Memorial Day, all. Remember, in the midst of your watermelon, those who have fallen.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Trivia

I just got an email from Netflix informing me that the miniseries of "Battlestar Galactica" is shipping today. That makes me happy. I'm so ready to watch it all again from the beginning. I may be alone in that and I'm ok with it.

Big plans this weekend. Sunday is Pentecost so we're gathering the usual suspects around the table for the traditional split pea soup made from the Easter ham bone. Yum. And Monday is the traditional "bring what you want to grill and we do the rest" Memorial Day BBQ. (Come by any time after 5 and BYOB).

A new poll out today says that 72% of Americans believe this country is headed in the wrong direction. Misery loves company.

The Spouse and I started watching "Hollywoodland" last night. We didn't finish it. I don't know if we're even going to bother. I guess we should. Plus it would be fun to write a review of a movie that, at for the first 90 minutes hasn't done much for me. Adrian Brody is hot, though.

Shout out to Chicago: I asked The Child to plan and cook dinner for tomorrow night. She leafed through her Rachael Ray 365 Meals cookbook for a bit then looked up and said, "I want Chicago dogs. We still have celery salt from Iwanskifest". Don't know where I'm going to get sport peppers but I thought that was cute.

By this weekend JP and I will have replaced our entire catalog at "Here's the 80s" with our own stock. For days and days and days now we've been downloading the videos (which means we now have them firmly in our own computerized possession) and then uploading them to Dailymotion, a YouTube-like site that's based out of France. This gives us a hedge against neanderthals like Viacom who haven't found a way to adapt their business model to the 21st century. Here's the thing: we posted our 2,000th video last weekend. It's been a Herculean task but we're almost done and that is very exciting.

We have a lot of fun over there. Too much fun, probably. We've created our own little virtual video club and even though hits are fairly low these days, new people come by all the time and it's cool. Plus, I totally love working with JP. He cracks me up every single day and you can't put a premium on that. And Sling is the best virtual bartender in the world. If you're not doing anything this weekend, you really should come by.

Have a good, safe weekend. Remember those who have given their lives in service of our country. You can start with the 3,486 who've died so far in Iraq.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Movie Review - Wherein I Don't So Much Review as React: The Queen

Anglophile that I am, I anticipated enjoying "The Queen", the Stephen Frears movie that won Helen Mirren her Oscar this year. "Enjoy" is probably the wrong word, what with the film not exactly being a romp. But it is a very good film.

"The Queen" examines the relationship between the newly elected Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and Queen Elizabeth II during the time of Princess Diana's death. A skillful use of actual news reel footage is employed to create the context and show the public outpouring that followed Diana's death. Meanwhile, the action of the film show us what was going on behind the closed doors of 10 Downing Street and Balmoral Castle.

The story is well-known to us: the people mourned in a completely uncharacteristic way, given the stiff-upper-lip tendencies of the British and the royal family holed up in Balmoral, thinking that it was a "private affair" and that the hysteria would all quickly blow over. The film shows us how a very modern Prime Minister struggled to guide the Queen to react, to give the people what they wanted. The subtext is the tension between the modern world and the hide-bound tradition of the monarchy and how Blair worked to avert what he saw as a crisis arising from the anti-monarchy sentiment that grew more fierce as the people mourned and the Queen kept silent. Tony Blair was overwhelming elected primarily because he promised a breath of modernity that the Brits seemed ready to embrace. The anti-monarchy sentiments are primarily given voice by Blair's wife, Cherie, played with brittle tartness by Helen McCory. (Whether this was merely a device or a reflection of Mrs. Blair's true feelings I couldn't say). As the story plays out it is Blair, the modernist, who ends up saving the monarchy from itself.

Micheal Sheen plays a very charming, accessible Blair. The real Blair always seems a bit theatrical; Sheen downplays that, rendering a character who is entirely believable. We're not distracted by Blair's tendency to be a bit of a toff so we can focus on the relationships at play. Nice touch.

There was, however, one thing that bothered me immensely about the film. Prince Charles, played by Alex Jennings, is written as a complete milquetoast, who's motivations are reduced to a fear of being assassinated. I was no fan of Charles' during the period in question, what with the Camilla thing and all, but I've read quite a bit about that time and know he was anything but weak and passive. Not only did he retrieve Diana's body from Paris, against his mother's wishes, but he was, in fact, the one who told the Queen that if she didn't address the people, he would. That fact is dismissed entirely, with Blair doing all the heavy lifting. I can appreciate why the focus was on Blair's role but to dismiss Charles like that really bothered me.

Which I suppose goes to the challenge of making a film like this. It is necessarily a different thing to look at a recent time in history rather than something farther back in time. We're still so close to that fateful week, know so much about it. A film-maker must tread with some carefulness. Besides that one misstep, Frears succeeds.

In the end, though, I found myself having a completely different reaction to the film than I had expected and it had nothing to do with the movie and everything to do with Tony Blair. I liked the guy. His "people's princess" stuff was spot on...the people needed to hear that and if the Queen wasn't going to give it to them, the PM would. And I remember Blair on 9/11. He was the one who spoke comfort to me, something my own president didn't even attempt to do until days later. I could always get past his snooty manner of speaking and hear his words and I loved him for that. But then, oh, then...

I suppose you could make a case to justify his support of Bush in the early days of Iraq, what with the tight ties between the US and England, even though he was wrong. But I just couldn't get over it. I was watching this leader with his finger firmly on the pulse of the English people and couldn't help thinking, "What happened to that guy?" Why, why, why hasn't he been the voice of reason? He showed tremendous leadership in the face of all the crisis created by the death of a princess. Where was that leadership when the stakes were even higher? I don't know that Frears had any intention of raising those questions but with Blair leaving office, and leaving it with such low opinion ratings, I just couldn't divorce myself from all that. Which is probably way too bad.

The real gold in this film is, without question, Helen Mirren. Well, duh. Aforementioned Oscar was well-deserved. As challenging as it must be to play a historical character that is firmly ingrained in popular consciousness, how much more challenging to play a historical figure who is still living? But Mirren brings all her considerable skill to bear in her portrayal of Elizabeth II. In lesser hands Elizabeth's character, steeped as it is in duty and tradition, could have been portrayed on one stiff note. But Mirren gives us so much more. Yeah, Elizabeth has a stick up her hinney. But Mirren gives her depth and range, whether its in sparks of humor, chips of anger, a well placed "bugger" of irritation or quiet vulnerability. (There's something particularly charming in the moments when she calls the Queen Mother "mummy"). Mirren's Elizabeth is an embattled woman who is enormously confused about why she is under siege and there is not a false note in her portrayal. It's a brilliant performance.

The Film Czarina gives "The Queen" 3 ¾ Koihead out of 5

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I've been pulling together some stuff to submit to a local parenting magazine. At first I was really excited. I'm a parent and I can write. Then I started putting it off. I realized that it owes to the great Poetry Submission Debacle of 1980.

It's not so much an actual fear of rejection. That goes with the territory. There isn't a writer worth his or her salt that hasn't been rejected. J.K. Rowling springs to mind and she ended up doing ok for herself. No, it's more to do with being rejected cruelly, being told that I did it all wrong. I hate being wrong.

But then, last night, I was inspired by two things. First, The Spouse was talking about some reality show, "On the Lot" I think it's called. There's been a lot of buzz about it in the indie film community, with which he's connected, and his whole thing is that is not how you earn your chops. You get a gig, you do your best and try to be a reasonable person and then you get hired on something else. You have to be willing to be a grunt, you have to be willing to learn and eventually you manage to get somewhere.

As an example he cited our friend Norbert, who works in LA half of the year. Norbert doesn't go down to the union hall to see what's available. He calls the people he knows to see what they're doing and they hire him because he has a good reputation in the industry. That's how it works.

It made me think about how sparse my actual writing cred is but obviously, the only way to get more stuff on the resume is to work it. So there you go.

And then, because I'm still in mourning for "Gilmore girls" and don't yet know what to do with myself of a Tuesday evening, I watched most of the finale of "Dancing with the Stars". It's a really annoying program, btw, but I knew Apolo Ono was in the finals and I ♥ him.

He and his adorable partner Julieanne won, which means that now he has a shiny disco ball trophy to put next to his bronze, silver and gold Olympic medals. That in itself is a little silly, I know. But here's the thing: this is a 25 year old kid (just had his birthday yesterday, in fact) who has already accomplished some significant things. He could probably rest on his endorsements for the rest of his life. But he entered this silly competition, for whatever reasons, and then he put everything he had into it. He listened to and learned from his professional partner. He took the judges critique to heart and every week, from what I understand, he worked hard to be the best he could be. He was consistently described last night, by judges, other competitors and people who know him as "determined".

After winning he was asked how he felt and replied, "I feel amazing! You put your mind to something, you give 100 percent, sacrifice and dedication, anything is possible.”

It's such a basic formula that it seems naive but coming from someone who has proven the formula time and again, it had weight. And I thought, "100%. What would that look like?" Because, people, to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure that I've even managed 50%.

So there you go. I'm going to ship that stuff off and look for other stuff and keep plugging and who knows? Maybe I'll get a frakkin' disco ball myself someday.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Playing Games

Thank heaven. I was having trouble coming up with something meaningful to write and then I read Greeny's blog and she tagged me to write 7 things about myself. Since I just wrote 10 interesting (and picture me making air quotes around the interesting) things the other day, today I chose to write about 7 meaningless things.

1) I have a facility for accents. More than that, I'm a sponge. 30 minutes in the company of someone from somewhere else and I'm talking like them. It's ridiculous.

2) The song that's running through my head today is "When the Whip Comes Down".

3) The Neighbor and I watched the finale of "The Bachelor" last night, even though we kinda hated ourselves for it, and we were really happy with his choice. Unfortunately, given the shows track record, the odds are they'd broken up before the credits rolled. I'm such a tool.

4) I'm the person who turned The Spouse on to single malt scotch. I don't really like scotch.

5) I don't hate hair metal as much as I let on.

6) I can eat an entire box of Cap'n Crunch in one sitting.

7) I graduated high school with honors by the mere expedient of negotiation. I was going to get a B in History but I told my teacher that was the only thing standing between me and honors and since I hadn't ever made trouble in class he should give me an A. So he did.

Now I tag Grish, Alan, Sling and Renee.

Your choices are "interesting things", "meaningful things" or "useless" things.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

I Found This Amusing

The Child is out with The Boyfriend today so The Spouse decided we should celebrate by having BBQ for lunch. (We're also going to have curry for dinner. We know how to take advantage of her absence. Yes. Yes, we do).

So anyway, we eat our delicious pork sammies and potato salad and then he went off to watch TV while I played videos at the club.

He just came out and announced he was feeling peckish.

"How is that possible? Aren't you still full from lunch?"

"From the lunch I ate 4 hours ago?"

"Yeah, but you've just been lying around watching mutant bug movies on SciFi; it's not like you're burning any calories".

"Oh, honey," he says, opening the refrigerator door. "You'll never understand the pain of being a man".

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Better Late Than Never Movie Review: Pan's Labyrinth

I've always been a sucker for stories that juxtapose myth and magic with the every day world. (The Spouse and I, for example, adored an NBC mini-series that ran a few years ago called "The Tenth Kingdom". It was superfantastic. We were the only people who watched it). Whether it's the Fractured Fairy Tales of Rocky and Bullwinkle days, retelling of well-known tales with a completely different take ("Ever After", for example) or a story like "Ella Enchanted" that mixes fable with modern day anachronisms, I love the way that the archetypes of fairy tales can be used to comment on modern concerns. There is power in these ancient stories and the fact that writers and directors keep coming up with new ways to interpret old tales and symbols is fascinating to me.
Consequently, I was predisposed to love "Pan's Labyrinth", the 2006 Spanish film that had so much buzz and was expected to be a shoo-in at the Oscars. (Which it was for all things artistic: cinematography, art direction and make-up, but shockingly, not for best foreign film). And love it I did.

A young girl, Ofelia, played by the mesmerizing Ivana Baquero, leaves the city with her pregnant mother to live in the country with her new step-father. It is post-Spanish civil war and the step-father is a captain in Franco's army. He is, to be brief, not a nice man. Played with a chilly sort of charm by Sergi Lopez, the Captain is everything you would expect in a fascist. Cold, unimaginative, ruthless and not at all pleased with his step-daughter who he would no doubt dislike merely for being a girl but who is also dreamy and bookish, his total opposite. Her mother clearly chose to be with him out of a desire for protection rather than any particular affection but is too sick with her pregnancy to be of much support to Ofelia. The Captain treats his pregnant wife as an invalid and is distant and stern with Ofelia. (Not to mention he's occupied with trying to rout out a band of resistance fighters who are operating in the surrounding hillside).

With mom on bedrest and a wicked step-father to avoid, Ofelia is left to her own devises. She is led by magical means to a labyrinth where she encounters a faun. He tells her that she is a long-lost princess who must perform 3 tasks in order to return to the underworld kingdom she left oh, so long ago.

And that's all I'm going to tell you about any of the action because you know how I hate when people tell you every detail of a movie until you think, "well, no sense in bothering with it now...I know everything that happens".

Here's what I enjoyed about the movie:

It is absolutely gorgeous to look at, intricate and stark by turns. There is a darkness to the magical world that mirrors the reality Ofelia is seeking to escape. It's a more comforting place and a refuge because she feels she belongs there but it has its own measure of dangers and unknowns.

The performances are excellent. Even the smaller roles are full of depth and the characters are ably rendered by the cast. Miss Baquero is herself magical, with her big eyes and entirely believable performance. Another standout is Maribel Verdu, who plays Mercedes, the housekeeper (and resistance plant - I'm not giving away anything), who befriends Ofelia.

The story is compelling, blending edginess and charm as Ofelia weaves in and out of magic and reality. Her nonchalant embrace of the magic is what helps her to cope with the wretched realities of life with the Captain. She believes that magic will heal her mother, magic will keep her safe. Belief, however, is not enough. Ofelia must be very brave as she faces her 3 tasks. In the end magic and reality collide and it is Ofelia's courage that decides her fate.

One reviewer I read suggested the film was appropriate for ages 12 and up. I chose not to let The Child see it. There is a smidge of rough language and there is some very ruthless violence that is appropriate to the story but a little harsh for a young thing. Still, I look forward to the day a year or two hence when I watch it with her. Movies with strong girl characters are always a gift and this one is no exception.

I highly recommend it.
The Film Czarina gives "Pan's Labyrinth" 4 out of 5 Koihead.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Finer Things

I'm getting tired of the word "fine", particularly as it is uttered by a certain Child who seems not to understand the true meaning of the word.

Moi: "Child, please turn off the television and go put away your laundry".

Child: "Wait. I have to finish this (fill in the blank).

Moi: "No. Now. I've already asked you twice".

Child: "Fine".


Child: "May I go play at E's house?"

Moi: "Not right now".

Child: "Why not?"

Moi: "Because I already told you that you weren't going anywhere until your homework is done and your room is clean".

Child: "But M-uh-ommm, I promise I'll do it all when I get back. I just want to have a little fun in my life. (Yes, she really said that). I swear I'll do it when I get back. I pinky-swear promise on my life I will".

Moi: "No, you have to do it now. It's called 'having priorities'. Plus you already pinky-swore promised that you'd do those things first thing this morning".

Child: "But M-uh-ommm, I..."

Moi: "NO!"

Child: "Oh, fine!"

The limitations of the written word are glaring right now. I cannot convey to you with any amount of italics, umlauts or other signs the tone and inflection of her "fine". Except to say that the way she says it is the complete opposite of "fine". She is not "fine" with the judgement that has been rendered or the request that has been made. She is not, in those moments, particularly "fine" with the person who has made the request or judgement.

If it were "fine" she would happily skip to her over-flowing laundry basket and tidily put away her clothes while whistling an exceedingly happy tune.

If she were "fine" with not going to play when there is work to be done she would kiss me on the cheek and submissively tell me that not only was she eager to get to her chores but that her heart was overflowing with gratitude for a mother who is teaching her to prioritize and make good choices.

She is not "fine". My lord, what child could be fine when possessed of a mother who has the audacity to ask her to set the table when her favorite episode of "Hannah Montana" -which she's seen 12 times already- is just starting? Who could possibly be fine when being burdened with expectation of clearing her own dishes, doing her homework on time and going to bed at a decent hour?

Child: "May I play volleyball with the house before I go to bed?" (She bumps the ball up on the roof so she can return it. Resourceful child).

Moi: "Yes. For 15 minutes and then you have to go to bed and read".

Child: "OK"

(15 minutes later)

Moi: "Time's up. Go get ready for bed".

Child: "15 more minutes?"

Moi: "Nope".

Child: "Please, just 15 more minutes and I pinky-swear promise on my life..."

Moi: "NO! Bed. Now"

Child: "OH! FINE!"

So not fine.

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Rosie and Jane Need Friends

Everyone should have at least one action figure to inspire them. While every notable has not yet been giving the honor of such distinction, there are quite a few to be had at Archie McPhee's, a venerable Seattle institution.
For a mere $8.95 (plus shipping and handling), who are you going to put on your desk?


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Another Sweet Thing


In the cool of the morning I cut my first roses of the season: apricot colored "Just Joey" for the living room, pale pink "Heritage" in the bathroom and on my desk, 3 "Heritage" buds for The Child's room and one gorgeously fragrant "Gertrude Jekyll" for our bedroom.

I love roses. So does Jane Austen.

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Sweet Things

We had take-out pizza for dinner last night. Because the Gilmore girls loved pizza. And I baked a store-bought apple pie for dessert because a) the Gilmore girls loved pie and 2) Lorelei never cooks.

Now I'm having apple pie for breakfast. With coffee. The Gilmore girls sure did love their coffee.

During dinner last night The Child was telling us that she had this fantasy that Uncle JP was going to show up at our door just in time to watch the finale of "Gilmore girls" with us.

Then there was a knock on the door. You should have seen her face.

It wasn't Uncle JP. It was some woman and her kid. The kid had found my wallet outside the pizza place. Everything was still in my wallet.

Apparently the kid found it and took it home and told his mom to call the police. Mom told him that wouldn't be necessary and just looked for my ID. When she realized that we just lived a street over they brought it to me. Could have called and had me come, but no, took it on herself to make the delivery. And the kid refused to accept a reward. I did, however, praise him mightily for his integrity. His mom beamed and he did that awkward "aw shucks" shuffle that pre-teens are wont to do.

When the "Gilmore girls" theme started, The Child and I began to sing along. And then we started crying. And we cried all the way through the song. (Laugh and I'll hurt you).

After the show ended The Spouse found me in the kitchen and he gave me a big hug. And he didn't laugh at me.

15 minutes after the show ended JP called. It was after 11 his time and because Central Time shows are actually 3 hours ahead of Pacific Time, he'd had to wait forever to call me. But he did. And the commiseration was good. Of course, we also realized that with "Gilmore girls" gone we have nothing to hold our relationship together. We're so over.


We still have the 80s.

Was the ending what I wanted? No. But it was ok. Considering everything, they did what they could. It wasn't lame. It ended sweetly enough, right where it began. Rory got a job, reporting from the campaign trail with Barack Obama. Plus she met Christian Amanpour, who she idolizes. Luke and Lorelei are going to be together, even though we didn't really get the satisfaction there that we deserved. It was just one long goodbye and now it's over.

I'm wearing black. I'll try and pick up the shattered pieces of my existence and move on. I won't bother you with it again.

JP already played this last week but I don't care. One more for the road:

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It's My Blog and I'll Cry if I Want To

"Gilmore girls" ends tonight. My favorite show ever (besides "Battlestar Galactica"). I am very sad. I'm sad for all the reasons I mentioned the other day. All good shows come to an end. But this one didn't have the plug pulled until just a few weeks ago. Up until that time there was still a shot. And the fans wanted another season. According to JP, Lauren Graham was the one who pulled the plug, saying that the story had been told and there was no where else to go with it. I couldn't disagree more but then, I haven't been working on a series for seven years. I don't really want to be subjected to a final lame season which is missing it's heart because the star and producer is done, even though I can think of at least 3 story lines that deserve more of a conclusion than I think they can give me tonight.

I am sad. The spring sunshine mocks my pain. It should be raining. Two women just walked by with their dogs and strollers, callously laughing at a joke. Don't they know? Don't they care? Wars rage, disease and famine march across Africa, idiots run the government and yet, on Tuesday night at 8pm I could sit down and for one hour be transported to a wacky little town in Connecticut and lose myself in the life and loves of the Gilmore girls. It was one of the funniest, best written shows on television and I am going to miss it. (Doesn't help that the new season of "Battlestar" is still seven months away).

Sure, I can collect all the seasons on DVD (which I plan on doing) and watch it whenever I want. But we all know that's not the same. It's an adage in the industry that where you leave a movie (or television show) is supposed to give you a sense of where the characters go after the ending. In other words, Sam is still running his bar in Boston. Bob is a psychiatrist in Chicago who once dreamed of owning an inn in Vermont (or wherever). Jerry and his friends, well, I guess they're still in jail. Paul and Jamie had their ups and downs but their marriage endured and their kid grew up to be a film-maker like her dad. Hawkeye survived the Korean conflict, BJ went back to Mill Valley with Peg and Erin. Will and Grace's kids grew up to marry each other.

But the girls? I don't know. Are their dreams going to come true? Is Lorelie going to end up with Luke, as she should? Will they get married and make another Gilmore girl?

People, I'm not kidding you when I tell you that this all makes me very sad. I don't even care if you think admitting this demonstrates a complete lack of perspective. I loved this show and it's going away and there will be weeping. Oh, yes, there will be weeping.

But first we dance. Found this little clip today and it made me smile in spite of myself. (Sorry, Rosemary-say 'hi' to the gerbils for me).

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day Reflections

For the record, I really did have a lovely Mother's Day. The Family was properly attentive and sweet and I enjoyed my day very much. That said, Mother's Day is a joke.

"WHAT?" you cry. "How can you say such a thing about a time honored tradition that is dedicated solely to the celebration of all things mother?"

Well, first of all, I say, don't shout. Let's use our inside voices, please. And second, it's true.

I was listening yesterday to some women - hard working, deserving moms - who'd had a less than stellar day and were disappointed. And I thought, been there.

There have been Mother's Days that were not superfantastic: the one I spent in the bedroom with my 18 month old because her father wanted to watch "Pulp Fiction" and there was no way to keep her from seeing it unless we were ensconced elsewhere. (Why didn't I take her out and do something fun? I was too busy being a martyr and feeling ticked off that no one was making a fuss over me). There was the one just last year when The Child and her father were at each other's throats all day.

But then I think, the only thing that made those days a pain was my expectation that something glorious was supposed to be happening. If The Spouse wants to watch a movie that isn't family appropriate on any other Sunday of the year I bat not an eyelash. When he and The Child argue, well, I don't like it particularly but why is it a criminal offense when they go to it on "my day". Says who?

Hallmark, mostly.

Mother's Day rivals Christmas and Valentine's Day for rampant consumerism. But that's not the most sick and wrong part of it all. What's sick and wrong is that all of a sudden, women every where start fantasizing about being Queen for a Day. Breakfast in bed, pliable and adoring children, considerate dish-washing, meal preparing, house-cleaning spouses. They will be massaged, petted, stuffed with chocolates and plied with champagne. The entire day's activities will be given over to what Mama wants and what Mama deserves, and what she deserves is nothing but the best we can offer.

Then it doesn't happen. The reality doesn't meet the expectation. And all of a sudden, mothers everywhere feel worse than they would on any other day of the year.

Here's the thing: what's so special about the 2nd Sunday of May? In a perfect world, every day should be Mother's Day. I for one would rather have my child tell me that she loves me because she's feeling the love than because she's "supposed to". And breakfast in bed? Who doesn't love that? But the fact that The Spouse brings me coffee every morning before he leaves for work says more to me about his consideration and devotion than a plate of Eggs Bennie. (Not that his Eggs Benedict isn't a big deal).

Every single day I make important and largely unsung contributions to this family. Every. Day. I do it because I love them, because I want to live in a tidy house, because I want to eat good food ('k, I over-cooked the pork chops last night, but usually I shoot and score). I do what I do because I have a notion about the kind of family we should be, about the kind of child I hope to turn loose on the world someday and bringing that notion to reality is a lot of work. I don't do it for pay (God knows), I don't do it for accolades or jewelry. I do it because it's important work to which I've committed myself, body and soul. And yes, what I do should be acknowledged and celebrated. As should The Spouse be acknowledged and celebrated for his contributions. I think The Child should be supported and encouraged when she shows promise. Or makes her bed. And I think we could all do a better job of paying attention to the efforts of the others in the family and not take it all so for granted. But again, when The Spouse sits back after a particularly good dinner (not last night's pork chops) and says, "That was really good, honey", it gives me great joy. When one of them says, "I love what you did with x, y, or z" I feel a sweet, calm peace. When we acknowledge the goodness of our life, when we sit together peaceably, when we laugh loud and long, those times are the height and summit of my experience as a mom and they are worth more than any amount of jewels or roses or Eggs Benedict. (I do love my Eggs Benedict, though).

I'm just saying that if the family needs one day to gut up and tell me I'm a good mom (or wife or homemaker), then we're probably doing something wrong. If The Child gives me a big sloppy kiss on Saturday and The Spouse raves about me on Monday, it shouldn't matter if no one said anything on Sunday, even if it is the 2nd Sunday of May. And sure, if they want to continue making a fuss on Mother's Day, that's fine. But it means more to me that they make a fuss at other times of the year, too. That's how I know I'm doing my job. Because in the end, I'm not doing this for the glory. To my knowledge, no one ever won a Nobel for being a good wife and mom. The reward is in a (fundamentally) content husband, a (reasonably) well-behaved child and a (mostly) happy, peaceful family.

Speaking of peace, did you know that Mother's Day in the US began in 1870 with Julia Ward Howe? (Sure, you've heard of her...she's responsible for turning a Union army song into the "Battle Hymn of the Republic"). She was inspired by a woman named Ann Jarvis, who started what she called "Mothers' Work Days", organizing women to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides during the Civil War. In 1868 she began to work reconciling Union and Confederate neighbors. Howe was so moved by Mrs. Jarvis' efforts that she wrote a Mother's Day Proclamation as a call for peace and disarmament. She wasn't able to get recognition for a formal holiday...that came later, party due to the efforts of Ana Jarvis, daughter of Ann. In 1908, at the church where her mom had taught Sunday School, the younger Jarvis handed out carnations to all the mothers, in honor of her own. The notion caught on and became a national holiday in 1914 (thank you, President Wilson). Within 9 years the holiday was already so commercial that Ana Jarvis herself became a huge opponent of what the day had become. Twasn't the point, you see, for it to be about cards and chocolates. It was supposed to be about peace and reconciliation.

I expect we'll still have some sort of to-do here for Mother's Day. Father's Day as well. Because we are the sort of people who will use any excuse for a party. But it would be even better if on those days and the other 363 days of the year we bent our energies to living peaceably and kindly with each other. And eating Eggs Benedict more than once a year.

Mother's Day Proclamation - 1870

Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

-Julia Ward Howe

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My Mother's Day was Lovely, Thank You

I appreciated all the comments wishing me a reduction in snorkiness levels and a happy Mother's Day. It was very kind. The snorkiness is on it's way out and Mother's Day was awesome.

It began with a nice lie-in until I couldn't lie-in anymore. Then The Spouse presented me with a dozen beautiful roses and made a luscious breakfast of Eggs Benedict and mimosas. Possibly of greater importance, he then cleaned the kitchen. We all played a game of Scrabble, which The Spouse won and then The Child went off to play with friends. It's an irony, but the best mother's days seem to be the ones when no particular mothering is involved. I spent the day in my jammies, playing videos and throwing, with Sling, a virtual party at "Here's the 80s" for JP's birthday.

The Spouse made a yummy dinner and then we sat around the table and read aloud "Rikki Tikki Tavi" by Rudyard Kipling. I'd never read the story before and it turns out that it was one of The Spouse's favorites growing up. His mom, may she rest in peace, used to read it to him all the time so it was a nice little way to honor her mothering as well.

The day was wrapped up with The Child and I watching "Iron Chef: Battle Garbanzo" on the Foood Network. Good times. Good day.

Of course, now I'm the Worst Mother in The World again. She just called and asked me to bring her a CD for use in the talent show. She doesn't actually know that she needs it but she wants to be prepared. And I replied that it was the sort of thing she really needed to be responsible for and that I didn't really have time to run it over to her. She was not pleased but there you go. Could I have actually bothered to run that errand for her? Sure. But at 13 it's time she learns to look after the bits and pieces of her own day. It's my job to teach her that.

The best part of being sick is the renewed sense of energy when the illness passes. I expect to be a very productive little kitten today.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Far Flung

I love my site meter. In the early days of blogging I was completely obsessed with it, checking it at least every hour and my mood rising or falling like the tides depending on how many hits I got.

I'm over that now and usually only check it once a week or less. But my favorite part is the world map. I click to see the last 100 readers and it is just too cool. This morning, for example, there were hits as far flung as Wellington, New Zealand and Barrow, Alaska. The UAE, Chile, Germany, Nova Scotia (where I hope to someday fly my Lear jet to see the total eclipse of the sun). Then there were all the little clusters on the US map. I can make assumptions about some of the little dots, Dame Judi was just on as was Poodle. But then there are surprises, places where I don't know that I know anyone and I wonder who they are, if they are regular readers or just passing through.

And I even wonder what the weather is like where they (you) are. It's a lovely day here. Is the sun shining as generously on the brownstones of the Bronx or the rooftops of Lambeth, England? I wonder if they (you) all had a good night's rest (I didn't) and if you started your day with a lovely hot cup of something (I did). What will you be up to today? Any interesting plans for the evening? Are you well?

Yep, I like my site map. It makes me think globally. I like that.

And I didn't sleep well because I have this stupid cold that makes for snorking and other nonsense and I kept walking myself up. I'll tell you one thing, though, that Spouse of mine totally took the "sickness and health" bit of our vows seriously. He's been doing all sorts of homely things this morning so I don't have to. Which is just superfantastic of him.

And if I end up taking to my bed, he will bring me tea and soup and make sure I'm comfy. I don't think it will come to that. I just need to not overdo, drink my fluids and maybe take a nap later.

I'll amuse myself by playing videos over at The Club for a while. (We've been very busy, figuring out how to download and upload videos ourselves. Thus we are creating a little cache of videos (did I say little? JP says it's looking like it will be 3000 before we are done) so that we can always play what we want when we want. It's a lot of work (for a hobby) but it's liberating, too. And I just love production meetings).

Have a lovely day, wherever you are.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Big Fun

A few weeks ago The Neighbor was involved in an annual variety show that her co-workers put on. She graciously authorized me to share with you these pictures from the performance.

"These Boots Were Made for Walkin'" as Nancy Sinatra

and "Islands in the Stream" as Dolly Parton.

Good times.

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Per Request

The lovely Renee graciously gave me permission to share her Thai steak salad recipe so that you can all enjoy it at home. It is superfantastic and oh so easy to make. Renee says the original came from Parents magazine and she made some adaptations to come up with this. Highly recommend it. Note that the longer you let the beef marinate the more delicious it is, as is the way of marinades.

Thai Steak Salad

For the salad:
1 -2 lb. skirt steak, sliced fairly thin (like ½ in. or so)
4 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 bag (16 oz.) coleslaw mix
1 bunch green onions, sliced
3 carrots, shredded - or use matchsticks

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
4 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. olive oil
grated ginger - as much as you like
½ tsp. salt

Combine the soy sauce, oil, garlic and ginger in a bowl. Add the steak strips and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or even overnight. (The longer it marinates the yummier).

Combine coleslaw mix, green onions and carrots in a salad bowl.

Combine dressing ingredients in a small saucepan and heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Toss the warm dressing with the vegetables.

Quickly cook the steak strips- on a grill or in a very hot pan with a smidge of oil- until nicely browned on the outside (just a few minutes). Toss finished meat with salad mixture.


What's For Dinner?

Editor's Note: Please be warned. If you are a vegetarian you probably want to skip this post. Go in peace.

I was just listening to a conversation on the local NPR station about food aversions/taboos...the things Americans are disinclined to eat and why. Much about horse meat and innards, with the comments seeming to come down largely on the side of economic and class differences. Poorer cultures, people who grew up on the farm, folks out of the Depression, these are your candidates for oxtail, tongue, scrambled brains. People disconnected from the process of raising the animal or who have the resources to buy better cuts of meat are going to stay away from such foods.

There's a whole lot of food anthropology wrapped up in this conversation but what it made me think of, mostly, was my maternal grandfather.

Grandpa would, simply, eat anything. I know, because I watched him. One Christmas his sons-in-law gifted him with a tin of bees. It was like a sardine tin. He rolled back the lid with the little key and there were dozens and dozens of tightly packed dead bees. Which he then proceeded to eat on a cracker and pronounce "Delicious". Chocolate covered ants? You betcha. Deep fried cockroaches? Don't know that he ever did eat them, but if someone offered he would have.

He also loved offal. I have a vivid memory of standing with him in front of the butcher's case in a market while he ogled a very large and disgusting (to moi) beef tongue. Which he bought so grandma could cook it up. I took a pass, thankyouverymuch. That experience, coupled with the one and only time Dame Judi tried to feed us liver and onions, sealed forever in me a distaste for anything that intimate to an animal.

I have since had tongue. Exactly once, in a French bistro here in town as part of the chaucuterie platter. It was smoked, sliced very thin and absolutely lovely but the entire time I ate it I kept wishing the waitress hadn't actually pointed out that it was tongue. This knowledge hampered my full enjoyment as I kept picturing that big disgusting thing that Grandpa had bought. I managed to eat one piece.

I like my food somewhat removed from the source. I'm not even that crazy about meat with the bones in. Oh, man, when we were in France I ordered this beautiful dish of rabbit and pasta. It was just heaven. But the rabbit was full of bones and after a while I just gave up because it was too much work. And, I supposed, with the bone thing, even a little too connected to the little furry critter that had given it's life for my sustenance.

We raised sheep on the farm and when they got older, they were butchered. For meat. This was no big deal until the time that we were served a particular mutton stew. We all started happily eating and then someone asked, "Wait. Who is this?" Because of course we named all the animals and one, Endora, was the matriarch of the flock and much loved. Dame Judi probably wishes she'd been less forthcoming because upon learning the identity of our dinner, we all burst into tears and refused to finish our meal.

It occurs to me that while I do enjoy lamb, it is not and never has been my favorite meat to eat. Bet that's why.

Once a boyfriend spent an entire day (and a small fortune) on making a bouillabaisse for Christmas Eve dinner. It smelled like heaven and was brimming with a gorgeous variety of seafood. There were huge prawns perched on top, looking so inviting in all their pink gleaminess. He picked one up and declared, "Look! Shrimp roe!" and began to happily slurp the little eggs from the underside of the shrimp. As I used to say when I was little and served something I didn't like, it made my throat small. I could not eat those eggs or the mama shrimp to which they were attached. Just couldn't do it. And pretty much couldn't eat the soup, either. Which ticked off the boyfriend. Whatever. And yes, of course, I love caviar. You know I do. Caviar comes in a jar, like God intended.

Other things I don't enjoy eating and avoid at all costs:

Clams (all I ate for a week on Martha's Vineyard in the '80s. Enough to last me a lifetime). Although I will eat clam chowder.

Trout. (Too many bones).

Any fish served with it's face still attached.

Chicken skin.

Anything originally intended for procreation. (Meaning the gonads. Love me some roe...detached from aforementioned).

Cooked oysters. Love 'em raw, if they are smallish and there's a chilled French Chablis on hand. The mouth feel of cooked oysters gags me.


Anything originally intended for digestion or circulation.

Cookies with raisins in them. (I have, oddly enough, been eating and thoroughly enjoying, cinnamon-raisin bread for breakfast).

Apple pie with raisins in it. That's just sick and wrong.

Mincemeat, either the original, which was actually meat that was minced, (had one bite of it once at a party...totally nasty) or the fruity weird stuff that comes in a jar.

Fruit cake (but I will eat pannetone).

What don't you like to eat?

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

2:30? What the...

Where did the time go?

Wasn't supposed to have a meeting this morning but then one board member who's been MIA the last couple of weeks showed up and then we found out that no one told us the End O' the Year picnic had to be rescheduled because of some church event. And me, just having requested a reservation from the city at a nearby park since our playfield is going to be a construction zone by then.

But we came up with an alternate date and I was able to secure time from the city so that's all good. Then we spent another hour or so talking about next year's schedule and lots of other stuff so we can hit the ground running. Always a good thing when you have to raise $10,000 in 8 months.

Then it was home to clean and write letters and clean up some sort of unidentifiable substance that had been deposited on the family room floor by an unknown pet. Love that.

Last night The Spouse and I finished our annual May Day viewing of "Reds". Love that movie. It explores some very interesting ideas regarding the subject of revolution, that's for sure. But man, it's long.

And now it's time to go get The Child and my other little riders, an hour earlier than expected. But that's ok because it will give us more time for our new favorite game, a little thing we like to call "Puppyball". The Child is working on her baseball fielding skills (which are rather impressive, though I say it) so we've been playing catch in the afternoon. The Dog seems to think he's involved and runs back and forth between us, hoping for a dropped ball. As soon as that happens he pounces and runs away with it. We pick up the volleyball and start bumping it, which makes him drop the baseball and start racing between us in hopes we'll drop the big one. Which we do, intentionally, so that he can jump on it and start chewing while we retrieve the baseball, which then becomes known as the spit ball. And so it goes. He loves it and so do we.

It's been beautiful here the last few days. I have little teeny tiny baby lettuces coming up. Yay.

Gotta run. But here's another take on the concept of revolution, just for fun. (Sorry, Rosie).

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More Good News

The Child learned yesterday that she's getting honors-worthy grades in math and science as well! Her homework scores in math are 100%, 91% for science. If she keeps that up and does well on tests she's golden.

Some months ago The Spouse put out an open call for a script for a movie short, just so he can fool around with making a movie. He likes doing that sort of thing. Iwanski rose toe the bait with a good basic script. The two of them have been honing and polishing and tonight we're having our first read through. Yeah, neopotism. The Child and I are starring, with The Neighbor cast as "the best friend". It will be a stretch for her, but she's game.

We're also having Renee's Thai steak salad for dinner tonight. Yum.

And that's all. I have much to take care of today, given my obsession yesterday with the bank account.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Maybe I'm Lucky After All

Praisalluia, as we used to say at teen Bible camp.

I finally faced my fears, downloaded all the bank transactions for the last 45 days and matched them line by line with my Quicken. Turns out I had double booked a number of things, including the April mortgage payment. Whew. I really do have what the bank thinks I have. (Actually, the bank thinks I have $100 more than I do but right now I'm not inclined to go looking for it. Maybe later).

For once, I'm very happy to be an idiot.

Oh, and hey, in all my woe-is-me-ness earlier I forgot to mention something about The Child:

She came home on Friday with a progress report from her history/lit/language arts teacher. She was getting an A+ in reading, thankyouverymuch, owing to her brilliant Shakespearean performance.

"I don't get it," she said. "The most you can get is 100 and I got 109".

"Well, the thing is, that 100 is the most you could do to satisfy the teacher. You went above and beyond and he wanted to give you credit for that".

"Oh," she said, grinning like the proverbial cat with a canary.

She was getting a C in history, but that owed to missing assignments (the bane!). And she was getting an F in Language Arts, for the same reason. The good news was 2 fold. Her grades for the work/tests she'd done was quite good, A and B work, in fact. Which means she's getting the material and with dyslexia you have to worry about that. The other good news was that she has until this Friday to turn in any missing assignments, all of which have the potential to pull up her grades.

And she was determined. She did her daily homework on Friday afternoon and on Saturday morning sat down to her make-up work without being told, cajoled or otherwise forced.

But then, yesterday she came home with the brilliant news that when she turned in her make-up assignments the teacher discovered that he had failed to give her credit for something she had already done. And so, thus far, in his classes she is currently bound for honor roll. For the first time since she was 6. (Are you kvelling, Uncle JP?)

This morning as I dropped her off at school she gave me the injunction to go to the store, please, and get some bananas. "Mr. R. says bananas are über fruit", she said. "I want to keep doing well in school".

If über fruit is part of the equation, über fruit she shall have.

And now I know I can actually get her some. Huzzah.

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Things I Hate

I've been trying to write a post that would be potentially more interesting than this one is about to be but I'm too preoccupied to do it justice.

Yesterday I was a very good girl, attending quite faithfully to things that don't rock my world, like book-keeping. But then my Quicken started blorting for reasons only it knows and it took me about 5 hours to do my bank reconciliation. And when it was finally done it was off by a dollar so I still had to go through everything one more time to find the boo-boo. Which I finally did but still.

The bad news? The bank seems to think we have way more money than I do. "Score!" says you. "Not so fast," says me. This is the week I'm supposed to pay the mortgage and such. Can't be writing big checks until I know for sure where the discrepancy is. And because I'm just not that lucky, I'm worried that it's not going to work out in my favor.

A Little Play


The Spouse: "What's for dinner tonight, honey?"

The Wife: "Rice and beans".


The Spouse: "What's for dinner tonight?"

The Wife: "Rice and beans".


The Spouse: "Don't tell me, let me guess, rice and beans?" (throws crockery)

The End

And of course, because I'm worried about it I'm afraid to look at it and thus am completely stressing out even as I try to avoid it. Which is really not working for me.

Not to mention, I have other important matters to attend to today: parent club business, resumes to write and send in, videos to download, a dog to walk. I gotta get in gear, despite my overwhelming desire to just sit in a corner and rock with my blankie tucked under my chin.

And as long as I'm dwelling on stupid things I hate, turns out "Gilmore girls" is ending once and for all. There are only 2 more episodes. When I was apprised of this sad fact via a definitive email from JP, I almost cried. I told The Spouse how upset I was and he was all, "Yeah, but you feel like this whenever one of your shows ends. You'll deal".

And of course I'll deal because it's only television after all (Only television? Did I say that out loud?) The difference between this ending and say, "Seinfeld" is that with "Seinfeld" I knew going in it was the last season. So did the writers, thus allowing them to build the show to a conclusion. But all through this season of the girls, no one knew for sure whether the show would be getting an 8th season. While the writers have done their best to restore the show to its former wit and grace, they aren't going to be able to deliver what the people want in time. They just aren't. And that makes me sad.

This was a pivotal moment from last week's episode. I swear, if you don't get a little choked up...even if you don't watch the seriously need to go digging in the bottom of your closet for your soul.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

I Hate To Sew

Dame Judi is a seamstress. When I was growing up, she made a lot of our clothes. Back-to-school shopping involved a trip to the fabric store. DJ always had pattern books around the house and we'd have done a preliminary run-through, but there was nothing like going into the shop to the tables in the back where the huge pattern books sat and look through them. Then we'd copy down the numbers and rifle through the immense file cabinets to find the packets.

With four children, plus herself to clothe, Dame Judi seemed to always have sewing projects in various states of doneness. I remember at the farm she and Sean working to outfit one of the smaller upstairs rooms for a dedicated sewing room. (I also recall this project included employing some very heavy reclaimed wood, siding from an out building, as I recall. I also recall one of those shelves slipping as they tried to install it and one of them getting a gigantic sliver of wood in the shoulder. Nasty).

We could always count on DJ making our Easter frocks, usually staying up until the wee hours of Easter morning to finish them. Nothing, it seemed, was beyond her scope. Lined skirts, dresses, pant suits. (I remember one particularly stunning outfit she made for me...a bright red, orange and yellow plaid with red flocked flowers on it that she turned into a jacket and pants. I loved that outfit. It was the 70s). No fabric was too heavy or too sheer. And she always took fabulous liberties with the patterns, changing them up to suit ones taste and style.

She made both of my sisters wedding gowns. She would have made mine, too, but I found something off the rack at Laura Ashley for $300 and she said she wouldn't be able to make it for less than that so to go ahead and buy it. She did, however, make my petticoat and veil. The petticoat, layers and layers of tulle, was lined with a satin underskirt, on which she appliqued a heart taken from some extra fabric that had composed her wedding gown. She also made The Child's baptismal gown, complete with petticoat - embroidered with her initials and the date of her baptism- and a little cap. Both the dress and the cap were smocked by hand and at the hem of the gown she worked in the handkerchief I'd carried on my wedding day.

Precious heirlooms.

All the grandbabies received hand-made dresses from Nana. She just recently finished a costume for some musicale that Molly was in. Every single thing she does is beautiful and amazing, even if the creation of it gives her fits.

In my youth, I assumed that a talent for homemaking skills was genetic. Dame Judi had a flair for interior design, so did I. She was a brilliant cook, so was I. ('K, as a kid I wouldn't say my culinary skills were brilliant but I was interested, she coached me and I did alright. Certainly, she laid a fine foundation for me). So I necessarily assumed that I'd be able to sew like she did.


To be fair, the first project I embarked on was a shirt. For my Ken doll. Too small, too intricate. I was frustrated with the bothersome details and abandoned the project. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

When I was in high school, however, I decided to take another stab at it. I enrolled in a Beginning Sewing home-ec class. At first it was all well and good. We started by making samples. Taking smallish squares of cotton we'd perform the basics of sewing: darts, seams, etc., sewing all these little samples together into a book. That was fine. But then we had to do our final project. It was to be a simple a-line jumper, nothing too complicated. I selected a pattern and fabric. It was rosy pink with tiny flowers on it. Pretty.

We could work on the project at home, since there weren't enough machines in the classroom for everyone to have one. I rarely sewed in class. I was shy. I was, stupidly, nervous about working on my jumper where everyone could see me. What if I made a mistake? (Yeah, what if? The teacher would have been there to guide me and I might have learned something). So I opted instead to sit in the back, looking through big pattern books and talking with my friends. I think I sewed in the class exactly once, doing the long side seams...the easiest part.

And then. The project deadline suddenly arrived and I hadn't done a lick on the jumper. I hadn't worked on it at home, either, you see. I remember Dame Judi being none too pleased with me when I announced that I had to sew that evening. There was a lecture about procrastination and then she set me up in the sewing room, with the caveat that since I'd left it to this late date she was not going to be available to help me. Tough love.

At first, in my anger and arrogance, I was determined to show her. I'd whip that thing together and it would be perfect. But nothing about the process was remotely whip-like. The facing around the neckline confused me. A needle broke. I stuck pins into myself. And then, when I finally had everything pinned together and started sewing in earnest, the tension on the bobbin went off. I didn't know how to fix it and I couldn't ask for help. So I sewed anyway. The top stitches were alright but the ones underneath were loose and crooked. I soldiered on, finishing the blasted thing in the wee hours of the morning.

I turned it in and forgot about it.

A week or so later my teacher asked to see me after class. She was a hip, earnest young woman, in her first year of teaching. She told me, sadly, that my jumper was unacceptable. "I just can't give you a passing grade for this," she said, her big brown eyes welling up. "I know you're a good student," she said, "so I've decided to give you the weekend to do it again. If you can turn in a better project, I'll be able to raise your grade".

Now, I wasn't at all an aggressive student. I was the kind of kid who thought twice about asking a teacher if I could use the bathroom. So what happened next surprises me to this day. I looked right at her and said, "Ms. Hutchison, I really appreciate that and you're a great teacher. But I hate sewing and I'd rather get an F than ever have to sew anything ever again".

Poor thing. Fresh from teacher's college, ready to save the world, and she had failed to inspire me to love sewing. Oh well.

For the record, I didn't flunk. That was my dad's last year of teaching and Ms. Hutchison was one of the young teachers who held him in high esteem. I think she couldn't bear to flunk his kid. I'm pretty sure she gave me a C. Undeserved. But there it is.

To this day, I'd pretty much rather eat rocks than sew anything. That includes mending. I have a basket, as we speak, of things that are wanting a button or have a bit of hem coming undone. These tasks are in fact within my scope. I just hate doing even that. Which is why most of the items in my mending basket have been there for about a year. Seriously. The only thing motivating me to address them is that many of them are spring wardrobe items, things I'd rather like to be wearing about now. So I'll probably gut up and work through them this week. But I won't like it.

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