Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dateline: Chicago

'Morning, all.

It is a lovely morning here in the (not so) Windy City (and why they call it that I've yet to figure out). Slightly overcast but the sun is doing it's best. I've got my coffee (which I'm drinking from a large mug emblazoned with the words "Chicago- The Windy City". And someone really needs to come up with another moniker). The Spouse is sleeping after waking up at 7:30 and realizing it was only 5:30 our time, which is when he usually gets up and hello? he's on vacation. The Child is working a word puzzle and drinking orange juice. Life is good.

The flight yesterday was uneventful, except for 2 things: a) Southwest, while being a very perky sort of airline in general, does this open-seating, group boarding thing. Which means that by the time the C group is called all that's left is middle seats. It also means that if you are in the C group and a family of 3 you will NOT be sitting together. Fortunately, The Child and I were able to snag the last 2 seats together, which was important because she was a little nervous during take-off. Like squeezing-Mommy's-hand-until-Mommy's-wedding-ring-cut-into-the-flesh-nervous. But that pretty much only lasted until she realized that we were off the ground and started oohing and ahhing at all the little stuff below her. (She's only flown one other time and was 4 so she really doesn't remember the experience). And there's something nice about having to be brave for someone else. I was very grown-up about what is to me the most terrifying part of flying. The gin and tonic helped, too. And 2) there were some turbulence. The sort that don't bother seasoned fliers but make someone like me start saying "Hail Mary's" under my breath.

So anyhoo. When the pilot welcomed us to Chicago both The Child and I got impossibly giggly. We hiked to baggage claim, where Jon was going to be meeting us. "How will we know him?" The Child asked? I told her I'd seen pictures and he told me what he'd be wearing plus I had his number in my cell. But as we came down the escalator I saw him right away. And we started waving like little girls and then there were big fat hugs. Anyone watching us would have thought it was a long-lost family reunion not a first time meeting between strangers.

But we're not strangers. And it didn't feel like we were. We have our in-jokes, the little things we already know about each other. Not an awkward moment all evening. Which was pretty much how I'd expected it would be with Uncle Buck but still, it was nice to have that confirmed.

We took the El back to his place, which is, if you don't know, right downtown. He lives on the 49th floor. Hello Chicago! He pointed out the Iwanski's building. He's right above the Chicago River. The evening was mild, the streets far more quiet than I would have expected (because everyone was at the Taste).

We got settled into Jon's superfantastically retro flat and then walked a couple blocks to "the brown gravy place", a Thai joint, for a very nice supper. Then it was back to his building and up to the roof for a 360 degree aerial tour of downtown Chicago. (Really pretty little town they've got here, btw). Then we went back to the flat and had some wine while Jon gave us a little piano recital. Golly, did we feel sophisticated.

After making sure we had everything we needed (note: Hospitality is his middle name), he slogged off to Jack and Steve's, where he's staying this week. (God love him - I'm already thinking that the packet of "Space Noodles" that I brought him (pasta shaped like the Space Needle) is not going to be an adequate host gift).

My little family gathered on the couch-now-folded-out-to-a-very-comfy-bed, looked out the window and kept pinching ourselves. The Child turned on the Food Network and just about plotzed because Gia's travel show came on and she was in...wait for it....Chicago. "That's so appropriate!" The Child exclaimed. Plus, we got some good ideas for eateries.

We all slept the sleep of the righteous and are now bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to roll. The Spouse and Child are going to do a little sight-seeing while Jon and I forage for groceries and go out to Jack and Steve's to make a dinner party for 10. But first I'll have another cuppa. And a bagel.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

My Bags Are Packed (I'm Ready to Go)

Just a few more things to do and we're outta here. Chicago, here we come.

There are so many fun things on our agenda: a dinner party tomorrow night, the Taste of Chicago on Monday, 4th of July party on the 3rd, tickets to "Wicked". And in between, I assume, all manner of sight-seeing and plenty of eating. It's going to be superfantastic!

But as much as I'm looking forward to seeing Chicago (a town I've only ever been in to change planes), the best part is going to be making people "real": Jon, Iwanski, Miss Healthypants, City Mouse (plus we're hooking up with Nicole, who is already real but who we haven't seen in about 8 years). I feel like I know these people already but no matter how honest we are in our blogs, we can still hide behind our words. Meeting these people face-to-face, talking with them, eating with them, hopefully laughing with them - a lot - is going to be a whole different experience. It's a little nerve making. What if they don't like me? Chance I'm willing to take, of course, but there's a little of that. Just a little. Because I'm going to be on my best behavior. Maybe I'll give them presents. Or cash. Then they'll like me, right?

And even though we don't get to meet up with JP (stupid work - I hate them), it's going to be fun being in the same time zone as he is. That's something, isn't it? None of that "it's too early/too late" to call nonsense for 7 whole days. Yep. That's a good thing.

(I ♥ you, Poodle...wish you were going to be there. Are you sure you're feeling well enough to work? Did I just hear you cough?)

I have every intention of blogging while I'm away but I know you'll understand if it's not every day. (Although, who are we kidding? You know I will). Y'all take good care of yourselves!

TTFN!

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ii Yi Yi

I'm well aware that my blogging lately has been largely inane. Sorry about that. Ready for more?

My "Things To Do Before We Leave for Chicago" list is getting longer, not shorter. Last night The Spouse queried whether we needed ID for The Child. Crap. Her passport is expired and that's all she's got. I just called the airline and the good news is that since she's travelling with us, she doesn't need it. I thanked the agent for saving me an hour or two at the DMV this morning. Because, as it is, we've got to go to the dentist.

Earlier this week The Child was complaining about a swollen spot on her gums. I figured it owed to a luncheon of popcorn. She flossed and everything seemed to be fine but last night she woke me up, complaining of pain, and the spot was very swollen again. We obviously have to deal with it now because emergency dentistry in Chicago is not on the itinerary. We're on our way to the dentist right now (a new one, who happens to be just a few blocks away; that's super convenient).

Depending on the diagnosis, I'll either have an insane day or just a very crazy one.

But think of it. Regardless of how nuts things feel right now, the reality is that somewhere in the midst of it all we will get packed, keys will get to The Neighbor (who's watching the house, feeding The Cat and watering the garden). And then we'll be in Chicago and I'll be able to regale you with the fascinating details of our little adventure.

We now return you to your regular scheduled programming.




Update: The Child now has one less tooth in her head. She's very happy as the traumatic removal of a tooth necessarily bumps up the price the Tooth Fairy pays out. And check this out: the dentist put the tooth in this little box. I'd never seen anything like that before.

The Child is now relatively pain-free and to ice the cake, we were back home by 9am. So, yay!, Mommy has time to go get her hair cut. Must represent in Chicago, after all.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Great Kicky Skirt Search of '07

To begin with, I was limited by virtue of possessing a Gap gift card and not wanting to spend any actual money because, you know, we're going on a trip.

I was also limited by the fact that the Gap has really cute clothes but after one passes the age of, oh, say, 35, one must be extremely careful of "cute". I'm all for hip and groovy but looking like a teeny-bopper when you're not is just sad.

Which is why I didn't get a skirt because everything was over the knee. And while I have great gams, nothing I tried on did anything to flatter them.

But they were having a big sale so I tried on about 412 tops. And then I played it safe and got a basic black cardigan and a nice black tank with buttons. Then I found a blouse in the most drop dead shade of blue. Which is a good color for me because of my eyes, but not something I have a lot of in my wardrobe. (Stacy and Clinton would so push me into blue colorways).


I tried it on.


It was fabulous.


Except I'd have to lose a rib to zip it all the way.


So I asked if they had it in a 10. And they didn't. Not in the blue. But there was one in black. And it looked superfantastic. I bought it. Even though I have a ton of black in my wardrobe.


Ok, so it looks lame on the hanger. But trust me, it's tres adorable on moi. Nice little empire thing going on, then floats away from the body, which is a good thing when one expects to gain 5 pounds eating one's way through Chicago.

Then I did my 97¢ bit for AIDS research. Because I expect to be admi(red) in my kicky new top.

I handed over my gift card and only had to pony up an extra $14 dollars. Meanwhile, The Child came up from the girls department with a bagful of pink: a cute tankini, a halter and a darling purse.

And $2.37 in change.

The kid can shop.

Now let's all get back to work.

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More Artistic Endeavors


I don't just sketch. Sometimes I like to emboss photographs, especially of important people who eat dinner together.

That is such an inside joke that I won't even bother...you either get it or you don't.

And since I can't answer my own comments because Blogger won't let me:

Yes, SCG, they are.

Red, see above.

Jon: Honey, I love ya. And I have some swamp land to sell you.

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What's Up with That?

Any of you other kids having trouble leaving comments because that stupid "you're about to enter a secure site" (or is it insecure?) popup thingy keeps popping up and won't go away no matter what you do so you have to stop trying altogether?

Not that you'd be able to tell me if you were because you'd go to my comments and get that stupid "you're about to enter a secure site" popup thingy over and over.

Just venting. Move along.

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Pages from My Sketchbook

Here's something you don't know about me. Whenever I need to quiet my thoughts or work out a thorny problem, or even sometimes when I just don't have the words to express myself, I will take out a freshly sharpened pencil and a notebook of high-quality art paper and sketch.

Self-Portrait 16 - Got Hair?

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Self-Portrait 412 - A Study in Fabulous Shoes
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A Child Grows Up
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Pensive Man with Beer
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Impression: Apples
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Rolly Polly Fish Head
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True Love
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Getting Ready

Sorry about the sneeze earlier but motivated by the sudden realization that we're leaving town this week I had to go run some errands. The search for a kicky skirt will resume tomorrow.

Oh, so much to do when you leave town: cleaning out the fridge so it doesn't reek when you return, likewise the laundry basket. Setting up the bills that have to be pungled while we're gone (love that online banking). Planning a travel wardrobe that covers all the bases for 3 people while all fitting into one suitcase. (We did it when we went to Europe, I'm sure we can manage for Chicago). Making sure there's tinned food in the house for The Cat. Programming Jon's cell number into my phone. Busy busy busy.

So while I was out running around The Child called. A friend invited her to go swimming and she asked if she could do that instead of going to her Mother's Helper gig. Of course I said 'no' and of course she was mad, but the kind of mad where you know it was silly to ask in the first place but worth a shot anyway. Work ethic, baby.

And speaking of work ethics, I've got more to do so do it I shall. (Like get the ladder out so I can find my faux alligator red pleather capris for the 4th of July party).

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All of a Sudden, It Hit Me

We're leaving for Chicago in 3 days.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

In Praise of Girlfriends and Dinner Guests

Friday night was a slumber party baby shower for Seattle Coffee Girl. What can I say? Good friends, good wine, good food and one very stubborn baby who absolutely refuses to kick his Auntie Raine.

I made melon soup for one course. Stina thought that mixed with vodka it would be a perfect summer cocktail. (The green is honeydew with mint and ginger ale; the apricot colored one is cantaloup with yogurt and honey. Really yummy. And yeah, blended with vodka would be worth the experiment).

Ree brought spa stuff so it was all about the manis and pedis and facials and generally being girlie. Which is just a really fun thing to do from time to time.


Sleeping on the floor has, sadly, lost it's charm. But waking up to coffee, mimosa, waffles, eggs and bacon in the a.m. was more than adequate compensation.

I came home from that party and went straight to bed and took a proper nap for about 2 hours. Then I was in fine mettle for preparing for the Summer Solstice feast. I have detailed the menu over at "Here's the Dish" so you're welcome to go over there for the yumfest. Suffice to say it was a lovely, lovely evening. The food was really good and the company even better.

Not to mention, and please don't think me shallow, but can these people give hostess gifts, or what? I swear. Prezzies are not the reason I entertain but holy moly, these 2 couples have pretty much just raised the whole thing to an art form.

ChouChou, who has always brought perfectly lovely things, has taken to getting specific requests from me. So I sent her in the direction of Williams Sonoma and a line of chicken motif tablewares I've been collecting. Except, she's the sort of person who, if you say, "I sure could use a new air freshener for my car" will not only by you a pretty little pine tree air freshener but the car to put it in. Consequently, she gave me the tablecloth I'd requested, plus napkins.

But isn't it pretty?
I ♥ it very much.


The Cardinal says that the very pretty French script is just made up nonsense. But we don't care.
He and Mr. Mikey are also no slouches in the hostess-gifting department. This season's offering: a new welcome mat.

I find this highly amusing. But cool as it is, pause for a moment and consider this:

That would be a Moroccan rosewater sprinkler. For The Child. Because every 13 year old girl needs a Moroccan rosewater sprinkler. Which she used with lavish spirit. (Because of course he thought to include both rose and orange water for her use). I'm kinda jealous but have been told that is not sporting of me.

Anyway, the food was fab and no one mentioned that the amuse bouche was the same one I served at the Autumnal Feast. (L'horreur!) I had reviewed all the menus of Solstice Feasts past to make sure there were no repeats but didn't think to research the entire history of feasts with this group. Not that anyone would mind if they did remember because it was an amusing bouche and certainly worth a repeat.

This cozy group of friends has been ringing in the summer season this way for 10 years now. Which is a nice, long time to keep a tradition going, I think.

Moi, playing with my dessert wine glass (empty, of course).



The Cardinal, The Child and Moi



ChouChou does not like having her picture taken.

Mr. Mikey, The Spouse and John, who don't mind being photographed at all.


It was a very satisfying and entertaining weekend. But I'll be super honest with you: after back-to-back dinner parties, book-ended on either side by potluck parties elsewhere, I was really happy to have Thai take-away for dinner last night. And there's some lasagne in the freezer that would be good for dinner tonight. Even the Czarina sometimes needs a mini-break from cooking.






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Don't Read This at Work

There. I warned you.

I have many happy things to report and I will get to that in another post. But first there's this "geez, sometimes it is so hard to be a mom" story.

The mom of one of The Child's classmates died on Friday. She was a young woman, just turned 40, and she was taken out by frakking cancer. She'd been very ill and we knew the time was coming but it was still a shock, what with the whole praying for a miracle thing. I found out at an afternoon meeting and told The Spouse when I got home. (They worked at the same place, although he didn't realize that until it was revealed in a "small world" conversation at a volleyball game). Then I told The Child.

Frankly, I was surprised by her response. She immediately began crying and saying, "No! No!" over and over and over. She had no other words and neither did I.

I held her for a while and she cried and then I left her alone to watch a new episode of "Hannah Montana" while The Spouse and I ate Thai take-away and watched "Baby Boom". (I love Diane Keaton).

The Child seemed to settle down and after a while she did what any intelligent woman does in a time of crisis. She ran a hot bubble bath, chewed an entire pack of gum and soaked.

Later she came out, wrapped in a fluffy towel, skin prickled with heat and said, "I need to talk". She perched on the counter and started to cry it all out.

This wasn't a great aunt who she'd never really known or even a beloved pet (the sad demise of Clara the Frog is always her reference point for these things). This was someone she knew, had given hugs to, joked with. And she was also gobsmacked by the breadth of the loss. She kept talking about "all the people who are affected by this".

Gemma had 6 kids. 2 of them are so little they probably don't even understand what's happening. The Child felt sad for them. She felt sad for the older kids in the family and especially for her classmate, N., who has always been a little mother but now kinda really is. The Child was worried about all the classmates of all the children. She's concerned for the dad and how he's going to work and care for 6 children. She was trying to imagine the feelings of someone her age who's lost her mom.

She cried because the funeral is going to be on Saturday and we'll be in Chicago. "I was supposed to be having the time of my life that day and now I won't because I'll know what everyone else is dealing with". Ah...survivor guilt.

She lamented the lateness of the hour because she had a strong desire to connect with classmates. She cried because she'd never told N. in so may words that she would be there for her.

"You can still do that," I said. "She's going to need to know that for months to come".

And I told her that I felt weird, too, because the last time I talked to Gemma she had said she was going back to the doctor because of pain in her back. I'd been perky and encouraging, saying "I'm sure it's nothing. You've come so far, you're going to be fine". Because I believed it and wanted it to be true and because what else do you say? That was the day she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital and they discovered the cancer had spread to her lungs.

I reminded The Child of all the people we know, her uncle, grandpa, ChouChou, Edy...who had cancer and didn't die, of the miracles we'd seen and how part of what makes this so hard is that we were counting on another miracle.

"I know," she wailed. "That's it exactly".

Then she said, "You know how they can do all sorts of things, like fix people's hearts with pig hearts? Why can't they fix cancer?"

Why indeed. And of course I told her that lots of times they can fix cancer but this wasn't one of them. I told her there are t-shirts that say, "Cancer Sucks".

"I want one," she sobbed. "In black!"

Cancer does suck. Gemma's death sucks. It is as simple and unfathomable as that.

The Child cried and talked and raled against it all and I let her. No pat answers, no Hallmark card phrases to try and make her feel better. Last night was a night for just being pissed off about it all. And then she did what you do when you are 13 and trying to fathom the unfathomable. She asked if I could sleep with her.

So I did.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Fair Warning: Today I Sneezed

I didn't buy a kicky skirt yesterday. The Gap was closed for remodeling.






I did buy 2 new books: A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain and How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher. They seemed like good travel/summertime reads.






The Child has some Mother's Helper gigs lined up for next week. She's all googly eyed at the prospect of earning the superfantastic sum of $5/hour. She believes herself to be rich. Just wait until we start making her pay rent.




The dinner last night was perfectly lovely. It's our church's centenniel this year so everyone got a little (plastic) boater to wear. The Spouse kept singing "Lida Rose".


The Child, being way too cool with The Prince and Seattle Coffee Girl. Look at SCG...doesn't being preggers suit her?


I hate super long tables. Very not conducive to conversation, even if you are sitting with people you really, really love. But it's probably ok. We were otherwise engaged. A little penne and meatballs, anyone?



As good as the pasta was, the real hit for me were the antipasto plates with delicious cured meats from Mr. Batali's deli, Salumi. Thinly sliced morsels of moist, spicy yumminess, set off by very ripe and juicy cherries. That and some wine was pretty much all I needed. Although I did, of course, have some pasta. To be polite, you know.

This is what The Child considers a salad plate:I don't even know what that greeny-white stuff was supposed to be.

And here's the giant St. James the Greater puppet that is sometimes used in parades and appropriate processions. He's very cool. Kinda freaky, but cool.
Right. I've wasted enough of your time with this dither. A day of grocery shopping and cooking awaits, with, I expect, a counterpoint of "Get in there and clean your room; you're not going anywhere until you do"...."But Muh-ommmmm"..."Don't you 'Muh-ommmmm' me, young lady". That'll be fun.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Now For Some Good News

The school picnic was a success. I know this, because both parents and teachers were coming up to tell me how great it was. They particularly liked that it happened right after school let out, rather than being on another day.

Attendance was significantly improved over other years. That was a good thing. Except for the fact that we barely had enough food, even with me making an emergency run to Costco right before it started.

I thought this photo was amusing:

We had pinatas for the little kids and they recruited The Child to help them. She has developed something of a reputation for being the person who's gonna bring it on home when it comes to pinata whacking. Not, perhaps, the sort of thing one puts on a high school application but we all have our gifts.

Please note the use of the phrase "high school application". Because I now am in possession of an 8th grader. Who needs a cocktail?

The Child was exceedingly proud of her report card, as well she should be. She just barely missed getting honors because she had one D. But since that D was in math and up from the F of last trimester, she'll take it. Not to mention that her teacher gave her high marks for effort and told me himself that she had worked really, really hard. As for the rest of her grades, though, wow. She brought up her grades, in all but one subject. And when I say "brought up", we're talking about A's and B's up from C's and D's. Yeah, I'm bragging and you're going to sit there and listen to it. This is a huge, huge accomplishment for her. Not to mention that the 8th grade teacher (who had her for social studies and lit this year) said that if she can just get her organization worked out and turn in on time the work that she does, she'd be "golden".

Of course, we know that. She knows that. So once again, this summer, we will work on those skills some more.

Last night she made a flyer, advertising herself as a Mother's Helper, and distributed it to some young families in the 'hood. Hopefully she'll get a few gigs. I'm a firm believer in kids being able to just knock around for the summer and not being over-programmed, even though I totally understand that most people have to work and don't have the luxury of letting their kids bash around kid-like for 2.5 months. But that said, The Child is now at an age where the responsibility of work is not a bad thing, either. And she gets snaps for being all entrepreneurial and motivated.

I must away. I promised The Child we'd blow some gift cards at The Gap. I need to find a kicky skirt for Chicago. And I need to make a salad for the Ministries dinner at church tonight. This is always a very lovely affair, with dinner catered by Mario Batali's folks. Yeah, we know how to roll.

Happy first day of summer, y'all. It was supposed to rain here today but at present it is beautifully sunny and mild. The tomatoes want watering. Oh, golly, how I love this time of year.

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R.I.P


I'm very sad to report that Bugsy has gone to be with St. Lassie.

He had a very rough night on Wednesday and was clearly uncomfortable all day yesterday. (The Neighbor's son and his girlfriend were with him all day). When she got home from work they decided that keeping him alive at this point was more for them than for him and so they took him to the vet and were with him when he died.

And yes, we were all crying and very sad last night because Bugsy was a part of our family, too. He stayed with us whenever she was out of town. On nice days, when The Neighb would leave him out in the yard, he'd come over to the fence to say "hi" and get his head scratched through the fence.

People who don't have pets don't understand how much a part of the rhythm of your life they become. And dogs, in particular, occupy a special place in the life of a family. They have so much personality, they give love so unconditionally. When our Cat was sick and possibly dying that made us all very sad. But once The Child looked up at me and said, "Oh, mommy, if I'm this sad about The Cat, what would it be like if it was The Dog?" It hurts to even contemplate it.

Which is why we all know how hard this is for The Neighbor and her kids. (We're all so glad both of them were in town when all this happened).

Bugsy was 15 and 1/2. He led a very exciting life for a Bichon. The Son used to treat him as if he were a Doberman...taking him off on surfing vacations and the like. He got to fly to Montana last Christmas. (The picture above is from that trip; he's posing with The Son).
He was a family dog who became the beloved, constant companion of The Neighbor when she went through her divorce. He was with her when the kids left the nest and he always seemed to be just a smidge more sprightly whenever either of them returned home. He was a quiet, loving little chap who looked like a foo-foo dog but had the heart of a champion. He was dearly loved.

We're going to have a wake for him in a couple of weeks. That'll be a good thing. And maybe, when some time has passed, The Neighbor will get another dog. (She's hardly ever been without one in her whole life. The Spouse has suggested that she send up black smoke every day and then, when she gets a new dog, signal its arrival with white smoke. What a card). Of course, she can't really think about that right now. Now is the time for just missing Bugsy and being grateful for all his doggy years of friendship.

Rest in peace, Bugs. Hope all the fire hydrants in heaven are solid gold.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Oh, So Quickly

Skol's out! Almost.

From 8-10 I'll be with the other Board members setting up for the end-o-the-year picnic. We party from 10 to 1. After clean up I'm taking my carpool for ice cream and then it's no more pencils, no more books for 2.5 months. (Except for the math tutoring and the 3 book reports that'll be due September 4).

The Child has been singing this for 5 days:



Secondly, I'd like to say that I had no intention of being so provocative yesterday when I alluded to "marriage-altering stuff without providing details. Although, reading what y'all came up with by way of filling in the blanks was tres entertaining.

I'm still not dishing out details. If you've been reading for any length of time you know that I don't write about the internal workings of my marriage. It's just one of my personal blog rules. Suffice to say, there was an area of our discourse that needed some work and we had a very civilized conversation about the ways in which to work it. What was "marriage-altering", to me, was the fact that a) we had a very civilized conversation about something that we'd normally handle by heaving crockery at each other and 2) we came to an understanding that promises to greatly improve how we deal with this area in future. That's all.

Nothing anywhere near as glamorous as a pregnancy (hello? do we not realize mommy is almost 50? Puleeze!), windfalls, moves or new careers. But isn't it nice to know that after 16 years two people can work with rather than against each other? I think it is.

Finally: Last night I went blithely tripping over to The Neighbor's for the customary cocktail to encounter a silent little group in the back garden. The Neighb, her 2 kids and the Son's girlfriend were gathered around Bugsy, the very ancient Bichon, who is on his last legs.

The vet isn't sure what's wrong except to say that his blood cell count is very low and he's on his way out. He gave them some pain medication to keep him comfortable and now we just wait. The Neighb is only hoping that he goes peacefully at home and so do I.

The Child and I both paid our respects. Bugsy was sort of our starter dog. He'd come to stay with us whenever The Neighb travelled. We love the old boy and it will be very sad when he goes to St. Francis. So if all you pet lovers would send good thoughts in The Neighbor's direction, that would be very nice.

Right. Time to rouse The Child, slather on sunscreen and get ourselves off to the last hours of school. I'm going to be so happy when it's 2 o'clock.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Oy Vey

What shall I tell you about today?

Should I share with you how thoroughly and completely yesterday was not my own and how I was a personal hero to both the school secretary and the 7th grade teacher? Naw,. You'd come away thinking that I single-handedly provide the volunteer corps for our little school and that would be inaccurate.

Perhaps I could tell you about the long and civilized conversation The Spouse and I had about a potentially marriage-altering subject. But no. It's personal. And don't worry. It's potentially marriage-altering in a good way; very positive, in fact. Mommy and Daddy are fine. And no, puppies, you're not getting a new baby brother.

I should announce that the corkscrews have been found. I know you were worrying about that. One turned up in the family room couch, the other one fell out of the dishwasher. And they were found in time to get some red wine into the stew. Phew.

I missed the Dateline interview with Wills and Harry last night. Had no idea it was even happening. The madness of this week is seriously interferring with my pop culture saavy. That is not good.

This morning is going to be spent doing more school-related running around and then I have to start planning the menu for the Solstice Feast, which is Saturday night. And put finishing touches on a shower that The Neighbor and I are hosting for Seattle Coffee Girl on Friday. And plan a menu for a dinner next week for friends who are visiting from Arizona. And probably a million other things that I can't even think of right now but will remember either at 3 a.m. or just before they need to happen.

And if you were planning on heading over to "Here's the Dish" (and btw, thanks if you are) you'll want to save that for your afternoon diversion because I need to get about my errands now or I'll lose my will.

Who's ready for a vacation?

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Crisis

I cannot find either of our corkscrews.

A Couple of Things

The Spouse called me this a.m. to announce that "Fortune Hunters won the award for best short @ SIFF. That is so superfantastic. Congratulations to Thom and Mike and all the cast 'n crew. Well deserved. Consider it a preview of your Oscar win after the short grows up and becomes a feature.


The Child got a new hair cut this weekend. She has never been one for "doing" her hair and it's been more and more maddening. The line between obsession with one's looks and not caring a bit is very broad. I've been nudging her toward some comfortable place in the middle, a place that involves at least dragging a brush through the thatch once in a while.

But her new do suits her very well and more to the point, she absolutely loves it. And has been caught brushing her hair several times a day since Saturday. Huzzah!



Friday night was the Spring Concert. The 7th grade was going to be dancing at the top of the program and I'd arranged with The Child that we were going to split as soon as they were done. (By the time your kid is in 7th grade you really don't need to see any more performances by little tiny cute things that aren't yours lisping their way through "Don't Worry, Be Happy").

Well, she called in the afternoon to say that The Principal had decided that some of the acts for the school talent show also needed to perform and asked The Child to be one of them. Crap.

Not only did I not want to stay through the entire show but I get very nervous when The Child performs solo. It's not that I'm ashamed of her. I admire her moxie. And she's not a bad singer. Oh, when she was wee she had more enthusiasm than tunefulness, but carrying a tune is something that can be learned and in her years of musical training she's made friends with pitch. And she stays on it 7 or 8 times out of 10. But it is still nerve-wracking as a mom because you want them to do well and you can't help but worry that they won't.

The talent piece began. 2 8th graders did an amazing dance-off: Irish step dancing versus tap. It was a little slice of Riverdance and it rocked. They coulda stopped the show right there. But no. Then another 8th grader, with a very nice voice sang an a capella number. Then a kid did mouth music. (OK, not a skill I see taking him places but then, I love the 80s).

A band of 7th graders took the stage, including The Princess, a girl in The Child's class for whom I bear no affection whatsoever. All I could think was that she was going to rock, being perfection embodied and all that, and the poor Child was going to have to follow her.

The bass started. Very fuzzy, but pretty good. Then the guitar came in. I don't know what he was playing, but it bore no relationship to the bass line. Then Princess started to sing "Driftaway". Badly. Really, really badly. No spirit, no facial expression (too cool for that), and absolutely no tune. Then a boy began to sing with her, also very badly. And then they started to rap. Which was a blessing, only because they didn't need to be tuneful. I sat there quietly, next to a teacher, with ears bleeding.

Then the teacher leaned over to me and said, "It's too bad this isn't being videotaped to be shown later...like when she brings home a boyfriend from college".

Yay! It wasn't just me. I leaned over and whispered, "Well, the good news is, I'm a lot less nervous about my own kid singing now". And the teacher laughed.

The band kept going, oblivious to their dreadfulness. How dreadful? If Tunefulness walked up to Princess and slapped her with a road map she still wouldn't have been able to locate the neighborhood of the pitch. Nails on a chalkboard have a more soothing effect.

They finished, raggedly, to polite (and I think, relieved) applause.

Then The Child got up. She did this little number from, what else?, "High School Musical":







She wasn't half bad. She was singing along to the CD which, because it had the vocal track,was being played softly. So softly even The Child had trouble hearing it. (Yes, I told her weeks ago to use the karaoke disk that she has). So there were a few places that went a little flat. But mostly, she got it right. Not to mention that she looked adorable and even managed some expression. It was really dark and my flash stinks so this is the best I could do photo-wise, but then, I think it's kinda arty looking.

Anyway, she left the stage to much more spirited applause and came right up to me with a "Let's get outta here". On the way to the car I complimented her performance and then she said, "Well, I know I was better than Princess. And Mom, when I sing in the talent show, I think I should use the karaoke disk".

Brilliant idea! Why didn't I think of that?

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Holy Moly

You have to stop everything right now and go look at this clip on Booda Baby's. If you aren't thoroughly gobsmacked I don't even want to talk to you.

Ain't the creativity of others just grand?

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Ta Da!

Y'all have been so supportive about the new food blog. I really appreciate it. A ton.

I'll spare you the whole story, because it's over on the new site anyway, but suffice to say that I would not be launching today without the superhuman efforts of The Hat and JP. She climbed into my brain, saw my vision and translated it into the most superfantastic art. You are going to plotz when you see it. He took the art and made the perfect banner, plus spent quite a few hours over the last days brain-storming, suggesting, admiring and generally being the wind beneath my wings. Kids, there is no way this blog would look as superb as it does without you and you deserve a life-time supply of applesauce cake.

Another big shout out goes to the folks who suggested titles, The Neighbor, Seattle Coffee Girl, The Cardinal, and Jon. But in the end it was Red who first suggested the winning title (confirmed later by some of the suggestions I received in comments). It's absolutely right.

I'd also like to thank my family, for being patient about their late dinners over the last couple of evenings and to Dame Judi, just because she's the best mommy in the world.

I think that's enough ado. Lords and ladies, distinguished Koihead, I am pleased to introduce to you (adjusts tiara and smashes champagne over the laptop) - "Here's the Dish".

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Angry Boots

I had a scary dream last night, one of those dreams that is really scary when it happens but very silly when you talk about it.

I was getting ready to leave the house to run some errands. The Child had left all her school clothes, including her funky boots, in a heap on the floor by the piano. I was at the door, getting my coat or something, and one of the boots started tapping impatiently. Then both boots got up and charged me.

The Spouse woke me up because apparently I was crying out.

It was 3 a.m. and I couldn't sleep so I got up for a while and fussed with some things, pulling out bills that need to be pungled today and like that. After about an hour I was sufficiently tired so returned to bed.

The Dog, as is his way, had moved up from the foot of the bed to take over my spot, but he was lying close enough to The Spouse that I could get into bed without disturbing his furry self. I lay there for a moment, The Dog curled against me, my husband slumbered on the other side, and I felt very blissful and tender. I lay a hand on The Dog's little head and stroked The Spouse's foot with mine. And he promptly pushed it away because it was cold.

I thought that was funny.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Oh My Yord

Things have been relatively quiet around the Casa social calendar-wise. And then everything exploded.

While I was sitting in my Parent Board meeting The Child came in to announce that the 7th grade will be performing salsa at the Spring Concert.

"What Spring Concert?" I asked.

"The one tomorrow night", came the blithe reply.

Are you frakking kidding me?

Here's a run-down of the current calendar for the next little bit.

Tonight - Stupid meeting of the 7th grade parents (more on that in a sec)

Friday - Frakkety frakking Spring Concert

Saturday - Lie very, very low and don't move.

Sunday - Father's Day + church + I have to spend a couple hours at school with the other board members moving all our stuff out of a supply closet that we just found out is going to be taken over by a new computer system.

Monday - help set-up for graduation reception (something the 7th grade does for the 8th). I'm going to be there from 3-6 setting up. The Child has to hang until...wait for it...10 frakking p.m. Guess who has to pick her up?

Tuesday - Lie very, very low and don't move, except to coordinate details and plan menus for the rest of the week because:

Wednesday - end-of-the-year school picnic

Thursday - Ministries dinner at church (have to bring a salad for 8)

Friday - sleep-over baby shower for Seattle Coffee Girl (including an elegant little supper for 6 or 7)

Saturday - Summer Solstice feast

Sunday - Final Parent Board meeting

And then there are 4 days to pack and get hair cuts and what-not before we leave for Chicago on Friday.

I need a tablet.

So the meeting tonight. First, you need to understand that the parents of The Child's class have not historically distinguished themselves as go-getters. There are some parents who have been involved with various projects but after 3 years, I don't even know probably half of the folks. They show up for Curriculum Night in September and that's the last you see of them.

Right, so a meeting has been called to review our role for graduation (fine) and to start discussing fundraising for next year so that the kids can take their 8th grade trip to...wait for it...New York and D.C.

On one hand, this is a very impressive thing. I really didn't think we'd get our act together enough to manage anything more than a trip to Ballard. I am very impressed that a couple of parents, neither of whom are moi, have stepped up to get us organized.

That said, I happen to know for a fact that they are going to propose that our fundraising strategy should involve working a stand at Safeco field.

There are manifold problems with this idea, imho.

1) It's a complete headache. You need 20 people to staff a booth; 20 people who are willing to give up 9-10 hours of an evening or weekend. Parent Association has done if for a couple of years and we're not next year because it is such a pain in the arse.

2) It's one of those things that sounds good on paper. If you have a full complement of people you get paid $1200 plus any profits. But if it's a light staff, at $60/head, it can end up being a lot of hours for very little return.

c) Some people, such as moi ,are just not going to sign up. I'll tell you that right now. There is no way in the world I am going to work any Safeco games to send a bunch of 14-year-olds to the eastern seaboard.

Add to all that, I don't think it is the responsibility of the parents to raise all the funds for this expedition. Good lord, even this morning The Child said, "Well, Mommy, I really think that if we want to go to New York we should be the ones raising the money".

Damn straight, my little chickadee! She said I could quote her. I so am.

Now, I'm not going to go to the meeting and tell them that Safeco is a stupid idea. If they think enough parents will be happy to do it and they want to organize it, that's just dandy. More power to them. But I will make a case for there being avenues for parents who can't or won't do Safeco to aid the cause. And then I'm going to bring up the whole kids-having-ownership thing and then, just because I'm so superfantastic, I'm going to volunteer to be the one who sits down with the kids at the beginning of the year to brainstorm a slate of fundraisers, develop a calendar and marketing plan and generally engage the little beggars in raising their own bloody money.

And if that plan goes over, just between us, I'm also going to be keeping very close tabs on who is involved and to what degree. Because I can tell you right now there are entirely too many kids in that class who have quite the sense of entitlement and are very good at standing in the shadows while others do the heavy lifting, stepping out just in time to take all the credit. That is so not happening on my watch. Bwahahaha.

On the other hand, I'm so volunteering to chaperon the little darlings should all this come to fruition. New York and DC? Hello? I'm so there!





On the Happy Happy Joy Joy front, things are moving ahead on the food blog. I finally have a name that I'm pleased with, JP is going to design my banner and The Hat is doing the artwork. I've been busy copying some of my old food posts into the new space so that there will be some stuff there when I launch. It's become quite the little project but I'm excited about it. I even, at JP's suggestion, registered the .com and .net domain names for the title. This is going to be a nice little way of keeping mommy off the streets and out of trouble. I'm thinking I'll open 'er up for business next week sometime. I'll keep you posted.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

She Blinded Me With Science

The Child has a test coming up in science class so at dinner she's been quizzing us about simple machines. It doesn't feel like studying if you have a chance to make mom and dad look stupid. Check that, rewind. The only person who she makes look stupid is mom.

The Spouse, he's all about the science stuff and what's worse, he totally understands what he's saying. Me? I fall back on the time-honored line, "I was an English major".

The cool thing is that The Child seems to get this stuff, too. For example, back in the dark ages, when The Spouse was her age, there were 3 kinds of simple machines: inclined plane, lever and pulley. Nowadays, they speak of 6 simple machines adding screw, wedge and wheel & axle to the mix. So the other night they had a spirited debate over The Spouse's contention that the 3 others were really just variations of the original 3 and The Child arguing for the integrity of the unique purpose of all 6. Yeah, I got lost, too. But it was awesome that she didn't just parrot the list of 6 but actually understood enough about what they do to make a cogent argument. Because that's the point, isn't it?

For me, when I was learning that sort of stuff, I'd memorize whatever I needed in order to make a stab at passing the test. Then the information would immediately fall out the back of my head. Plus, I didn't care. I never had a burning curiosity about why things worked. It was, and is, enough for me to take it on faith. The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round and then you get to the mall. Works for me.

I can't prove this scientifically, for obvious reasons, but I believe that there must be genes for this sort of thing. The Spouse's parents were both engineers. His brother is an engineer. He has an aunt who is a biologist by training. He's a computer geek. My side of the family is made up of musicians and writers. I do not believe that there is a single person in my family, for at least 3 generations, who is or was any good at math and if they are, they married in. I'm talking about blood relatives. Balancing a checkbook is about all any of us has ever mastered. That, and I can calculate a 20% tip in my head. But that's pretty much the extent of it.

So it just fascinates me to see my child possessed of abilities on both sides of the brain. She is very creative. She loves to sing and dance and write stories. She loves to act. But she also has an aptitude for the sciences. I wouldn't say that she loves those studies as much as the others but when she decides to pay attention, she gets it.

I think that's cool.




"She Blinded Me With Science" Thomas Dolby

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Over-thinking













Sling started it. Go here and you too can create your own personal seal, just like the cool kids.

I have a really hard time with stuff like this, finding one pithy little phrase or thought that sums me up. Not because I'm so bloody complicated; distillation is just a process that confounds me.

It's why I like to write; plenty of time to edit. Stick a microphone in my face and ask a simple question and there will be a dearth of bon mots, but probably plenty of "ums" and "ehs".

Me speaking not so much with the articulateness.


Anyhoo, for about a week now I've been puzzling over a title for a new blog. Some of you have suggested it and what with various other things that have been conspiring in my universe, I've decided to launch a food blog. I don't want to abandon this one, because it's good to have a place to drivel on about whatever is drivelling. The challenge of another blog, themed to something I am pretty interested in, seems like a good/fun idea.

But what to call it? Because I don't want something too cutesy or confining. I don't want to name it something that will get it beat up on the playground. (And no, honey, Tiffany and Jennifer aren't good names for a blog. But thanks). I've asked advice of friends and rolled their suggestions round and round to see if anything sticks.

JP says I'm overthinking it. He's probably right, because he usually is. But still.

You know what probably is complicating this? All that time spent in front of the Food Network the other day. They're all about "point of view" over there. You know:

Rachael has 30 minute meals.
Bobby grills.
Emeril turns things up a notch.
Sandra never cooks anything herself.
Paula is all about the down home cookin', y'all.
Gia has big teeth, all the better for eathing everyday Italian food, my dear.
Alton explores the science behind the yum.
Ina doesn't wear shoes.
Nigella bites, of course, and it really is just absolutely brilliant.

So anyway, I've been trying to come up with some pithy little title that conveys not just what I think about food but what a reader might expect to find therein. Last night The Neighbor and I were brain-storming (ha! That's exactly what I feel like, like there's a storm in my brain) and came up with something that at least made both of us laugh. So that's done. Unless I change my mind. Which I could. I expect to launch it later this week. I'll let you know.

There are other things about which my brain has been storming:

I recently gave solicited advice to a friend which was so generous in its objectivity that I have effectively aced myself out of another job opportunity. (The gun shot wound in my foot is healing nicely, thank you).

All of a sudden and with absolutely no warning, school is almost out. Which means that any projects I feel compelled to finish before summer need to be finished in the next 7 days, and all without the benefit of my extra long days because The Child is done with her service hours. Plus next week is going to be insane and then it's almost time to go to Chicago. Not to mention I have about 412 things to do for the end-of-the-year picnic.

I am mystified as to how The Child's room, which was nicely tidied up on Saturday, can already be a disaster when all she's pretty much done in it is read and sleep.

Perhaps this should be my seal:

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Little to Report

The visit from the Best Friend was terrific. Golly, I love that kid.

The thing I have always loved about the two of them together is the effortlessness of their interaction. Even after not seeing each other since last summer, it was as if no time had passed. (Except for the very exciting discovery that The Child is now the taller of the two). They greeted each other with hugs and giggles, then scurried off to look at pictures of boyfriends and giggle some more.

We had burgers for dinner and watched "High School Musical", the two of them whispering back and forth:

"Zach is so cute!"

"You can have him, I'm going to marry Corbin."

tee titter tee

After the movie they disappeared into The Child's room for a raucous hour or two and emerged to share with me the "Harry Potter Rap" that they'd written. Word.

I finally sent them to bed and was amused to find the assorted girl litter strewn through the house: notebook paper scribbled with their names and those of their boyfriends ("Mr. & Mrs. First Love Crushybuns"), facial cleanser and toner in the bathroom, dresses slung over doors.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a bad tummy ache, which persisted throughout the day. No Corpus Christi parade for me. The Spouse went, as he was scheduled to drive van, but the girls stayed with me. I always make pancakes for them but due to my incapacitation they made their own. AND cleaned the kitchen. They kept busily to themselves while I watched Food Network shows and hugged a water bottle, coming in occasionally to check on me. Sweet kids.

The reason BF was in town was to celebrate the recent graduations of an uncle and brother. So she and The Child went off to the brother's party and when The Child returned home around 5, she made me one of her spectacular cheese omelette's.

I feel perfectly well today so there you go. Yesterday felt like a waste in some respects what with missing one of my favorite church liturgies and not having more time with BF and missing out on catching up with her folks at the party. But maybe I needed all that lounging and napping, for emotional as well as physical reasons. There are worst things than an enforced day of rest.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

And the Winner Is


It's been a good week for The Child.


They've been celebrating "Literacy Week" at school, with all sorts of fun events. The kids spent May logging the number of minutes they read each day. The Child's class won a pizza party for having the most minutes as a class and she was in a 3-way tie for the top readers. The reward for that accomplishment was having lunch with a real honest-to-goodness author. (Who's name I never did get. Oh well). The Child was tres excited about that.


Each class decorated their classroom door to showcase a particular author. 3 of us from the Parent Association board were the judges. The 7th grade, having read The Hobbit earlier in the year, went for Tolkien, turning their door into a quite fine hobbit hole: very green door, a "brass knob" in the center and all. They then copied the opening sentences into various languages (demonstrating the universal appeal of the book), had a bio of the author and a picture of a hobbit that you could see through the window. Superfantastic.

Today was character day and as you can see, she went as Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books. (She's not sad in that photo; she's trying to look serious). She called just now to tell me that the class won the door competition (the other judges apparently agreed with moi) and that she also won the prize for best costume in her class.
Sometimes it is really nice to be rewarded for your efforts, no?
Groovy as all that was, she's anticipating an even better weekend. The Best Friend is coming to town for some family celebrations and we get to have her over-night on Saturday. The Best Friend, you'll remember, doesn't live in Seattle anymore so visits are far and few between. When I told The Child she actually started to cry, that's how much she loves and misses BF. The fact that The Spouse and I are terribly, terribly fond of her is just an added bonus.
Plus, The Child will now be highly motivated to clean her room. Score.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Cleaning Up

Well, that was a load of fun.

Thanks for coming to the potluck and making it such a superfantastic event. The food was excellent, we had enough for everyone and I even have a few bottles of wine left over. No beer, though ((JP). I had the last of Nicole's apple tart for breakfast. Yum. (OK, I confess. I hid away a slice just for that purpose. You people are ravening beasts).

I also want to give a shout out to Sling for staying after to help clean up. You're such a gentleman. And thanks to The Hat and Red for policing the butts after all the "not smoking". If there's one thing I hate it's sodden faux ciggie bits in the lawn. And it's raining today.

I've got to run the crockpot back over to Alice but I just wanted to say, in all seriousness, I totally knew that virtual potluck idea would work. You are a very fun, creative bunch of people and it's a frakking honor to know you. I mean it. I think we proved two things: 1) you don't need microgreens to have a swell party and b) cheese rules.

We're so doing this again next month.

FYI: there's a "Hello Kitty" fanny pack and a NASCAR cap in the Lost and Found. Oh, and Rosemary, I think I have one of your hamsters. How he got into the bread box I do not know.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sur la Table

There are a number of items in the news that bear comment today. However, the thing that struck me was this article in the NY Times. Go ahead and read it. I'll wait.

la la la la la

Ooh, I really need a manicure.

dum di dum di dum

"I'm going down to Liverpool to do nothing..." la la la la la

Edward James Olmos won best actor at the ALMA's last night. I love "Battlestar Galactica".

Maybe red nail polish.

'K, back? That's right, kids, no schaudenfraude about Lewis Libby getting 30 months (whoo to the hoo). We're going to talk about how silly people are about food. I've confessed before to having, once upon a time, been a foodie. Which is why reading about these people in New York engaging in dinner parties like it's some sort of blood sport really got me going. Talk about missing the point.

Breaking bread with someone is one of the most profound symbols in human culture. We come to the table to nourish ourselves and strengthen bonds with others. Period. When feeding others becomes about impressing or even intimidating those gathered, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

When we have a dinner party I thoroughly enjoy lavishing attention on the details of the feast with every intention of pleasing my guests. Because I want to please them. I want to do something nice for them and make them feel special. It is not, I repeat not so that they will spend 15 minutes between the entree and cheese courses telling me what a marvel I am.

Granted, a reputation for consistently serving good food has a price. Here is a list of people who cook for us:

The Cardinal and Mr. Mikey
The Neighbor
Seattle Coffee Girl
Jim and Kelly
JJ & Elroy
Stina and Dave
Ree (she rarely entertains but is always happy to bring food to parties)
The Sister-in-Law

This is not to suggest that cooking for us is the only way to prove friendship. There are plenty of people in our lives who show their love and friendship in other ways. That's fine. Not everyone entertains or enjoys cooking like we do.

But it does bother me when people say, and they have, that they are "too intimidated" to cook for me. "Too intimidated". As if I'm that Jeffrey Steingarten person who judges on "Iron Chef America". (He has a book called The Man Who Ate Everything. He regularly gives the impression of being the man who ate everything and didn't enjoy any of it. Ever. And furthermore, holds you in contempt for daring to cook).

This intimidation, and I know because I've asked, hasn't to do with me being some hard-to-please snoot, insufferably inquiring as to the pedigree of the brie. "Oh, no, it's just that you do it so well and I'd be embarrassed to serve you ordinary food".

Ordinary food. That's funny. Because I cook ordinary food. It isn't sprinkled with fairy dust or gilded or brought to the table on angel wings. Good food, lovingly prepared is all that is required for a nice dinner. Do you hear me? Food as art, the dinner party as weapon...this is so not the point. Crack open a bottle of 3 Buck Chuck, throw something on the grill and have a party. Lighten up.

It almost makes me not want to write about food anymore because it makes me feel I might be contributing to the madness. If joy, affection and a sense of celebration - even if you are only (only?) celebrating the gift of being alive together - isn't at the heart of your meal then what is the point? I'd rather have a dried out pork chop offered in love than duck breast in peach sauce served with ulterior motives.

One of the things I'm most looking forward to about our trip to Chicago is cooking for people. And Jon and I are looking forward to cooking together. Because it will be fun. Because it will be a way of showing these heretofore virtual friends that I care about them. I don't worry that I must somehow prove myself and therefore everything must be perfect or the whole evening will be ruined and my reputation along with it. If something goes awry we'll send out for pizza. I hear they have pretty good deep-dish pie in the Windy City. Maybe I'll screw up dinner on purpose.

Let's have some fun. I hereby invite you to a virtual pot luck. I'm making a simple roast chicken. What are you bringing?

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Monday, June 04, 2007

On the Red Carpet: "Fortune Hunters" at the Seattle International Film Festival


I kid. There was a carpet, all over the floor of the theater, but it wasn't red. I didn't really borrow Reese Witherspoon's Oscar dress, either. (She offered but I said, "Reese, honey, pft. This is Seattle. Maybe for Cannes. And here, eat something for heaven's sake. You're starting to look like a Barbie doll").


Last night we attended a program called "Northwest Ties", a part of SIFF that showcases regional independent film-makers. Upon entering, everyone received a ballot. The audience rates the films on a 1-5 scale and the winner receives the...wait for it...Golden Space Needle Award. This is no small prize, especially if you are hoping to create some buzz and find financing for, oh, let's say, turning your short into a feature length film.

I should probably make a little statement here about my general views on movies, what with me presuming to review films from time to time and all that. I'm not an avid film-goer. (You know that if you've noticed that I generally review films that I've rented on Netflix). My tastes are pretty simple. I like a good story. I say I don't like violent films but that's not strictly true; for example, "The Usual Suspects" is one of my favorite movies. I don't mind a "message" film, as long as it's not preachy. I don't mind high concept films, as long as they aren't pretentious or boring and tell a story. For the record and apropos of nothing, I hate the first 3 (newer) Star Wars movies (except for Ewan McGregor) and love the older 3. I don't always go ga-ga for the movies everyone raves about ("Brokeback Mountain" springs to mind) and rather enjoyed "Ishtar". So take my opinions with a big grain of fleur de sel.




Right then. I went into the evening with an admitted bias for "Fortune Hunters". The Spouse had so much fun working on the picture. The cast and crew I've met are all delightful people. Of course it was going to be the best movie. But I was determined to be open-minded and objective. Much as I love it, I wasn't going to allow sentiment to make me give it a 5 if there was another film that was better.

There wasn't.

What a relief.

"Fortune Hunters" played first. I didn't like that. Granted, as The Spouse pointed out, it was better than running toward the end of the program when everyone had to pee really bad but still, you run a risk of being forgotten by the time you've seen 6 other movies. As it was, "Fortune Hunters" set the standard by which all the other films would be judged (and no, Thom, I'm not just saying that because I know you're going to Google "fortune hunters" this morning).

Now admittedly, I've seen the film about half a dozen times. Hello? We own the DVD. But it's a charming story that it has yet to grow old. Plus, seeing it on a big screen was exciting. The best part was being in a largish theater with a full house, at least half of whom had nothing to do with the production, and hear their response. Which was superfantastic. People laughed at all the right parts. And they laughed loudly. They burst into generous applause at the end, quieted for the little bits of business in the credits and then applauded enthusiastically again. There was also whooping. And a holler or two. ('k, that was me).

There were other films. One was a documentary. Which, btw, had no business in that program, imho. A documentary is not a short film. It is a documentary. You necessarily judge that form differently. Plus, the doc was about a local woman who takes photographs of children who are terminally ill. Hello? Is it really fair to place a romantic comedy in competition with such a work? I think not.

There were 2 other movies which I frankly hated. One was an arty little thing that is an example of form over substance. Another was an over-wrought thing with no dialogue that was just silly and not in a good way.

As far as I was concerned there were only two films that were remotely to be considered competition for "Fortune Hunters". One suffered from some serious miscasting (which was ironic because the director raved about the gift of her fabulous cast). The other had some good lines and the lead was quite good but it came out of a theater piece and consequently had a stilted, talky quality. Not everyone, it should be noted, is David Mamut. It had a nice, hopeful little ending, though.

I know what you're thinking: my bias is showing. "Come on," says you. "Is "Fortune Hunters" really all that great?"

Yeah. It is. It's funny. It's truly, objectively funny. Because I'm so familiar with the story, I wondered how the audience would react to the major plot point. Would they see it coming? But they didn't. There was an audible little buzz of "Uh oh" when it happened. And you could tell they wanted to see how it would all play out. In short, the script had the crowd from the start and never lost it's grip.

It's a cute story with great writing but it is the two leads, Jessica Skerrit (Megan) and Kelvin Yu* (Arthur) who make this film work. (Do yourself a favor and keep your eye on these kids). They are refreshing actors, both possessed of terrific comedic timing. They are entirely believable and bring a natural ease to their roles. I especially appreciated this after seeing the other shorts; too many of the performances reminded me of Jon Lovitz and his "Acting!!!" thespian.

Another strength of the film is the possibilities hinted at in the short. There are characters to be more fully fleshed out, relationships to be explored. And Arthur should have to work harder to get Megan back. Which is why it's so exciting that Mike and Thom have nearly finished the screenplay for the feature length version. Judging by the response to the film (which I thought really was most generous for "Fortune Hunters" than any of the other offerings), I'm not the only one who will want to see it.

After the screening there was the obligatory Q&A with the directors (and one self-important actress who made me grind my teeth). I find those things largely insufferable, with "ego" being the operative word. Thom and the guy who made the documentary were the only ones who didn't make me want to find a cattle prod. But maybe that was just because I hadn't eaten anything since lunch and was getting cranky.

Mercifully, the Q&A wrapped up and a bunch of us went up to Braca, a Capitol Hill bar where part of the movie was shot. The Spouse and I had a little nosh, a little wine and some nice chats. Of course, he's the social butterfly in these situations, popping off to talk to this person or that, leaving me to fend for myself because he assumes I'm a big girl. which I am. A big shy girl. So not one for the idle chit-chat. But I talked for a while with a nice young man name Court who did production design on the film. And I spoke with Jessica (you'll remember she graciously gave me her autograph at the last screening). She's a charming young woman and I hope she'll be very successful because she is a) talented and 2) really sweet and, when I look at the current crop of young actresses in the business, I think that is a pretty important commodity.

(Oh, and btw, she might be reading this so I'll just take a moment to say: Hi, Jessica. I mean every word. You're great in the film, you're a darling girl and I hope you have a brilliant career. Or at least see the vast majority of your dreams come true. Whichever. You go, sweet cheeks. Make Seattle proud).

Court, Thom, Jessica and Moi
Here's looking forward to the day when I can announce, "'Fortune Hunters', coming soon to a theatre near you".


JP: Please note, Kelvin was on "Gilmore girls".

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Monday Miscellany

The Child sprained her finger on Friday. She was playing soccer, fell and jammed the middle finger of her right hand straight down into the sun baked earth. She came home in excruciating pain, her finger the size of a breakfast sausage. She wanted me to call the doctor but I told her that they wouldn't do anything different that I would, which was to ice it, give her doses of ibuprofen and lash the injured digit to her ring finger. (Of course, I called them on Saturday and they confirmed my treatment. If it's not improving by tomorrow or Wednesday they'll want to snap some X-rays but even then they won't be able to do anything more for it than we're doing already).

Poor little right handed thing. I had to type a paper for her yesterday because, well, you try typing with 2 of your fingers wrapped in wads of strapping. Poor little hamfisted dear.

This is going to be a crazy day to start off a semi-crazy week. I'll be going back to school in a few hours for a groundbreaking ceremony. Our little tiny school has raised enough money to build a gym. It's all very exciting. Lots of hooha, bishops in tall pointy hats, "gold" shovels and the whole nine yards. It's been quite an achievement and construction will be completed in time, theoretically anyway, for The Child to play spring volleyball in her own school gym before she graduates. After a very hot weekend, rain is threatening. I hope it holds off because mudbreaking ceremonies are not very glamorous.

Then I come home for another few hours before retrieving the children and then go off to meet The Spouse for the premiere of "Fortune Hunters" at the Seattle International Film Festival. This is a very big deal for all involved in the project and I can't wait to see the audience reaction. I hope lots and lots of people come. If you live in Seattle, you should call about tickets. Really, you should. There's nothing on TV tonight anyway.

The Neighbor's Daughter is coming to hangout with The Child. This is very sweet of the Daughter and very exciting for The Child. Mary Catherine, as we like to call her, is the big sister The Child never had.

I must away. I cannot see the top of my desk, there is a stack of ephemera at my feet and I simply must do something about it all because the very thought of it is making me cranky.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Music That's Not From the Eighties, if You Can Believe That

It's Friday and that means I'm starting to think about what I'm going to play at The Club this weekend. Which gets me thinking about music in general, how we all have songs that are part of our own personal soundtrack and take us right back to a specific time in our lives. Then I started thinking about songs that might make up The Child's soundtrack.

You all know that her signature tune was "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina". When she saw Madonna singing it in "Evita" she looked at me with shocked expression and said, "That's my song!" Let's say it together...diva. But there are other tunes that should be on her hit parade.

Recently we decided to watch "Yellow Submarine". The Spouse had taken The Child to see it when it was re-released for its 30th anniversary. She was 4. She was very into the Beatles. She loved it. He bought the video. When we put it on the other night she said she didn't really remember it so it was like watching it for the first time. Until "Hey Bulldog" came on and she began singing it. She didn't remember knowing the song, but she knew it.





"Hey Bulldog" The Beatles


The Christmas before she was born, The Spouse gave me "Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can't We?" (which, btw, I always thought was a classic album title). When she was brand-new, I used to dance her in my arms to this tune:




"Linger" The Cranberries


But the song that got the all-time best reaction from her was "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" It didn't matter where she was in the apartment or what she was doing; if we put that tune on she'd run to the stereo and dance like the wild Boofacina that she was. We have it on video tape somewhere...I really should find it and get it up on Dailymotion. You'd die laughing at the cuteness of it all. Oh, wait. I seem to recall that it was shot when I was having a bad hair day. Maybe we won't expose it to the world. But dang, she was adorable.

I wonder if she remembers that song. Maybe I'll play the video when she gets home and see what happens.





REM "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?"

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