Sunday, July 30, 2006

"In the end we are among the lucky ones." - Anthony Bourdain, "Watching Beirut Die"

If you haven’t read this article on Salon by Tony Bourdain about his recent trip (and escape from) Beirut, do. It’s one of the best pieces on the Middle East tragedies that I have read. It's thoughtful and sensitive and beautifully written, and made me cry for what's happening in our world.


I ran in the rain this morning. I love to run in the rain. Almost as much as I love to run in the snow. The thing about the snow is that often you are the ONLY person out in it. Other souls will brave the rain, especially if it’s been hot. Today there were out with me in the rain several old men with umbrellas; an little old Italian woman with an eye patch (can I say she’s Eye-talian? Haha!); and one other young-ish girl who was so professional and good at running that she couldn’t even respond to a “Morning.” The deluge really hit while I was walking home, and I was drenched – well, I was drenched anyway, what with sweat and all – by the time I kicked off my running shoes and peeled my sopping socks off on my front porch.

By 730 this morning I had:
Run three miles
Baked a chocolate cake
Made up a pie crust
Emptied the dishwasher
Scrubbed the downstairs bathroom which perpetually reeks of pee
Straightened up the living room
Sorted the mail from the past three days
Run two loads of laundry and sorted four others

I really need to rearrange my schedule so I am getting up at 5 everyday, I am so productive. The downer is that by 1030 I am hot and grumpy and tired. Perhaps if I weren’t burning the candle at both ends – instead, last night I hung out at Gina’s till 11, noodling around with her new computer (I’ll let her tell you all about it!) and my tablet PC, then I came home and read some. I started Literacy and Longing in L.A. because I just wasn’t in the mood to continue with Icebergs right then. But Literacy pissed me off.

First of all, I see nothing wrong with wanting to, even needing to, own books. They are relatively inexpensive, they don’t hurt you or anyone else, and they look nice. The fact that this book makes much of Dora’s “illness” just annoyed me.

Secondly, the main character, Dora? Is the world’s most annoying protagonist. First of all, she is a classic depressive, and not a little obsessive-compulsive. Now, whoo-hoo, she doesn’t succumb to the alcoholism that her mother indulges in, but neither has she gotten any kind of help so far, for her myriad problems, among them her “book hermit” days. I enjoy curling up for the afternoon with a good book and escaping somewhere exotic or at least different as much as anyone, but I do NOT turn off the phone, ignore the doorbell, and not emerge for three or four days running. And wouldn’t even if I could. Don’t even get me started on her immature view of relationships and her stalker-ish tendencies where her SECOND EX-HUSBAND is concerned….so while I am enjoying the book parts – what she reads and why – I could never ever be friends with Dora because she PISSES ME OFF. You know what? Married people were single once, too; it’s not as if we sprung from the womb fully wedded, and maybe we too know exactly the ups and downs of single life and maybe the grass is NOT greener. And if you’ve BEEN married (twice!) you should most definitely know this. Dora.

I am liking the quietness and strength of Icebergs but it’s not a fast read and it’s due back tomorrow. I don’t think I can renew it, if there’s another hold on it. But I will get it out again and read more. I was just starting to get a feel for the characters.

In the pile to-be-read: The Girls - Lori Lansens; Geek Love - Katherine Dunn; Havoc, in its Third Year - Ronan Bennett; Savannah Breeze - Mary Kay Andrews; How to Eat - Nigella Lawson.

I LOVED How to be a Domestic Goddess and had great success with the dense chocolate loaf cake (spread with cream cheese, it was wonderful, just as Nigella said it would be). However…I then experimented with a recipe called (and this should have been my first clue) “Blueberry Boy-Bait.” The meringue topping and “bread-thickened custard” should have been my second and third. But I plugged along, eventually winding up with something that, whole, looked like a giant brain:

and in the bowl, looked little better. I had to pitch it. Which doesn’t mean I don’t still want to own Ms. Lawson’s books, it just means that if the title of a recipe is suspect, I should listen to my gut!


I also just received a review copy of Ayun Halliday's Mama Lama Ding Dong. Ayun will be stopping by Behind the Stove onTuesday, August 22, as part of her virtual book tour for this new (to the UK) release. Put it on your calendars, people!

Friday, July 28, 2006

I'm a little teapot, short and stout. Here is my handle, here is my...other...handle...?

Shit! I'm a sugar bowl!

Except I'm not even that!
I'm a lousy sugar-pourer.



Thursday Show-and-Tell, courtesy of Blackbird

Thursday, July 27, 2006

At six o'clock their Mummies and Daddies, Will take them home to bed, Because they're tired little Teddy Bears.

Now that all of the scheduled activities of summer are over - the zoo camps and the art camps and the swimming lessons - we have our days completely free to do what we like. (I mean, after dinner is planned and laundry is done and the house is cleaned, right? and of course, working around the nap schedule.) We have all sorts of fun and exciting stuff planned - visiting the Science Center with its submarine you can tour (have I ever mentioned that I am claustrophobic?); visiting Old Economy Village for the train exhibit; afternoons at the pool; out-of-town visitors and visits to relatives...but yesterday, it was as simple as a walk to the park, some baseball playing, and a picnic.

The boys call this uphill slog "Gordon's Hill" and run up, pretending to be Thomas and Toby or some other Very Useful Engines. I push up the stroller, counting it as exercise. I wish that they exhibited this much energy on the way down - then it's all, "Are we home yet? I have to go to the bathroom! Can you carry me?"

We had peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches - crunchy for Primo, creamy for Seg. And grapes and banana and apple and chocolate-chip cookies and bottles of water, and a bagel for the baby. And of course, coffee for the Mama.
We could play checkers if we liked, as you can see.

Primo kept shouting at Seg to "pump, pump!" And Terzo just laughed and laughed, showing off his three - almost four - teeth. And apparently utilizing the swing as a sort of teether.

We played some baseball when we first got there, but we were thwarted in our second-inning efforts by not one, but TWO, weed-whacking gentlemen from the city division of lawncare. (Can you see them in the pics? It's like Where's Waldo? But different.) I am sure that Division of Lawncare is NOT what they call it....but what would YOU call it? Honestly I did not mind, as my initial sprint to first base caused my poor childbirth-ravaged bladder to rebel and I was afraid I might dribble a little. And I am not talking basketball.
The boys also had to pee - and they gleefully ran behind a tree and let it, er, whiz.

So, after an hour or two, we packed it in and packed it up and headed home.
For well-deserved naps. And cold drinks. And convenient bathrooms. Ah, bliss.

Only Trouble is, Gee Whiz, I’m Dreamin’ My Life Away

So I started seeing a new shrink. She’s a Jungian analyst, which I think is pretty cool. One of the things she’s asked me to do is keep track of my dreams. Here, for your entertainment, is what I wrote down in the dark when I woke up last night:

-Cracks in dry skin on J’s (my sister’s) legs. At Mom and Dad’s house with the boy. Everyone trying to fix her legs, using mixtures of different Origin’s products. All the cracks in my legs were from scrapes, not dry skin.

-A lady was nursing a very cute baby.

-I was in a bungalow. No people were inside, but my parents were out on the street. The place was very well kept, but decorated in the 80s—lots of bad colors and patterns, etc. I remember looking into the laundry room and seeing folded towels inside the dryer, and looking into the bathroom to see an oddly shaped mirror, over which hung narrow, empty glass shelves. There was a blackbird hanging around outside.

-A high school friend of mine, S, did an interview for StoryCorps.

-I made a huge mistake at work, involving underwriting for Cirque du Soliel.

-Driving around a car with a friend from college, looking for a place to get something to eat. He was interested in a place that somehow involved blue bubbles. And the tag was sticking out of his shirt. I was worried about getting home, because I was supposed to be seeing a friend I hadn’t seen since my wedding.

-I was at my parents’ house again, and my dad was literally stuck somehow on the wall, just below the ceiling, in the stairway leading up to the bedrooms. I commented that I didn’t know he could do that. He was fixing something. As he worked, he told my mother and me about how he’d gone to the Science Center with some friends, but that they’d been mean to him. And then one of the friends came over, and I stood behind him as he talked to my parents, flipping him off and making faces at him.

I really don’t know what to make of any of that. I had talked to my parents in the evening, so that explains why they showed up so often. Other than that, though, I’m lost.

In other news, I started watching the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. I don’t know how I lived for so long without it, but now I’m hooked. It’s about high school, which I love. It’s got strong, smart female characters. It’s got a librarian with a British accent. And it’s smart and funny. I’m so happy to know that I have the whole series to look forward to—it’s better than Christmas!

The boy is back the Center for the Arts this week, doing Anime and Cartooning. Comic strips, animation cells, and sculpted action figures. He’s loving it. And he talked to be about armature, which impressed me. :-)

That’s about it for me. Feel free to analyze those dreams, if you’re up to it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

You don't sing me love songs, you don't bring me flowers...

Is it a bad sign to be quoting Neil Diamond? I have been a wee bit out of sorts and grumpy and un-bloggy. But I think I am better now. *I* have NOT been OxyCleaning my house, however.

I HAVE gotten a rug for my bedroom. Shhhhh, don't tell H, I trash-picked it. It cost a hundred bucks to have it cleaned thoroughly, but other than a few very small moth-damaged bits, it is in fabulous shape. It looks great in the bedroom, with all the bookshelves and pale colors. I just need to paint the trimwork now.

Baby sold separately.

AND witness - Big Boy Underwear! Seggie is now potty-trained. He has even gone three nights with a dry bed! Yay, Seg! Although why oh why did I not buy stock in Pampers when I had the chance?

AND I ventured into that hell, the swimsuit department, and I found a swimsuit that doesn't exactly make me look like, say, Christie Brinkley, but since I don't look like Christie on my best day ("Will I ever play the piano again, doc?") I am ok with the fact that I look all right in it, and I have not frightened any small children at the pool. That I know of.
Notice I did not show you a picture of the actual purchased swimsuit. Because it is skirted. Now, I know skirts on swimsuits are VERY in this year, and it's not a frumpy old-lady skirt but a cute little black straight one, but since I used to make fun of people who wore skirted bathing suits, I am going to pretend I didn't reveal that to you.

In other news, Sarah Louise went to visit her parents this weekend. And she brought ME back a present. A very cool present. Any of you who are expecting various mailings from me may anticipate them being sealed with my - ahem - royal seal.

And look at the cool wax stick. It's almost too pretty to use up.

I consider myself a bit of a Luddite when it comes to writing implements and stationery and letter-writing/sending implements. I can spend hours browsing through office supply places, stationers, heck, the school supplies aisle of Giant Eagle. I have long maintained that the Victorian custom of the lady of the house retiring to her morning room to deal with correspondence (and menu-planning) should be brought back. I would LOVE to swan around my morning room (perhaps wearing those furry slipper thingeys). So anyway, I think that this little shop, from whence my cool present came, would be totally my cup of tea.

Another view. Because it is JUST. SO. COOL.

And last - but most definitely NOT least - I returned the books to the library. Well, most of them. Seg peed on the one Titanic book. So we are going to have to replace that one. I have no doubt that some people would have just swabbed it off and put it in the book bin and no one would be any the wiser. Having said THAT, I may never borrow a library book again. No, no, kidding. I'll take my chances. Besides, reliable sources tell me that urine is sterile.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Holy Mother of God! er, Memes!

If you really want to read the Mother of All Memes, culled from this website with its thousands of questions, click on the title link above.
Consider this my "Hundred Things" as well; now I never have to do that one.

And that concludes National Meme Week.
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Thank you for your support.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A-letterboxing We Go!

The boy and I just had our first letterboxing adventure, and I thank Blackbird for the idea and BB for the encouragement to get off my butt and actually do it.

We found the box closest to our house, buried in a hollow of the roots in a big tree in the middle of our wonderful Frick Park. I took the camera, but my batteries died in the middle of all the action. I didn't get to photograph the book we found, to give evidence that there had been visitors from as far away as FL. Cool! :-)

This is the park, on the trail. It had stopped raining when we left the house, but the skies were gray.

I know it's dark, because we're under an umbrella (it had started pouring by this time), but here's the hidden letterbox.

And here, in a blurry photo, is our book. My stamp is the fat chick who's dressed as a princess, which makes me laugh every time I see it. :-) The stamp we found was the acorn.

I don't know if we did everything exactly right, but we did make sure to seal the box and hide it well, which I think is most important. Oh, that, and that we had a lot of fun.

If you get a chance, I highly recommend it. The boy wants to make sure we look up every local box, as well as boxes in any new places we go to. Yay!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Follow me, don't follow me...

National Meme Week continues, right here Behind the Stove.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the Mother of all memes, but right now, a little meme I like to call "Unconscious Mutterings". [Actually I think I HAVE to call it that, isn't there some sort of copyright/fair use thingey going on? Anyhoo....]

  1. Video :: killed the radio star

  2. Fantasy :: island. De plane, de plane!

  3. Homework :: sucks

  4. Crush :: I’ve got my spine, I’ve got my orange crush

  5. Late :: than never

  6. Husband :: wife

  7. Soccer :: ball

  8. Wine :: before roses [WTF?!?!?!]

  9. Before :: and after

  10. Romantic :: son of a gun

And there you have it, folks, a scary little look into BabelBabe's unconscious.
Oops, subconscious.
Did I do that subconsciously?
Oh, I am so confused!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"Hell is other people." - Jean-Paul Sartre ******UPDATED (slightly)*********

Oh, come on, you KNEW I was going to use that quote.

Today's meme: What's your Hell like?
[I totally swiped this from Badger, who swiped it from Mags because she “thought it was kewl.” And so do I.]

Drinks in my hell:
Warm beer
Lite beer
Tomato juice
Crystal Light
Glasses of that sweet, icky crap champagne that everyone serves for the toast at weddings

Food in my hell:
Cottage cheese
Cool Whip
Miracle Whip
Unripe tomatoes
My mother-in-law's baccala and potatoes

Occupations in my hell:
grade school teacher
gym teacher

Music mix in my hell:
James Blunt
Michael Jackson
Britney Spears
Dave Matthews, ad nauseum

President in my hell:
To quote my mother, I am in hell.

Authors in my hell:
The jackasses who write the Left Behind series
Tom Clancy
Stephen King
Danielle Steele

Husbands in my hell:
At the moment, H.
And Tom Cruise

Only activities allowed in my hell:
Eye exams
Glucose tolerance testing
Buckling children into carseats
Swimsuit shopping


I committed The Cardinal Sin this afternoon.


Due to poor planning and insane optimism on my part, Primo’s second week of swim lessons (11-11:45am) coincided with his week of art camp (1230-330pm). And instead of doing what H did on the one day this week he was at the domestic helm (the babysitter is on vacation this week), namely, keeping Primo home from everything under the guise of “diarrhea,” I spent the week ferrying the three boys hither and yon, entertaining the two younger boys during the swim lessons since 45 minutes is not even enough time to get them in and out of the car to go somewhere else, packing a lunch for Primo to eat in the car between activities, plying all three with gallons of fluids since it’s in the mid-nineties, and stressing everyday about the 330 pick-up from art camp, which is prime nap time for the other two.

And today it happened.
My next-door neighbor was not home.
My in-laws were awaiting the Triple A guy.
The back-up babysitter was not answering her cell phone.
Sarah Louise was at work.

I had no choice.

Fortunately, I got to leave for work at 530, so I am not paying the price, H is.
And he damn well deserves it, if you ask me.


AMENDED: he says FORTY pounds.
He says he was being all mathematical and shit, and doing thirds and quarters again of body weight.
Well, you know, compared to SIXTY, hell, FORTY should be a fucking breeze, dontcha think?


My coffee maker

Thursday Show-and-Tell, courtesy of Blackbird

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It's inhumane to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who view it as a kind of recreational activity.

I bet this kind of thing does not happen to heroin addicts. I bet that when serious heroin addicts go to purchase their heroin, they do not tolerate waiting in line while some dilettante in front of them orders a hazelnut smack-a-cino with cinnamon sprinkles. - Dave Barry


National Meme Week continues...

A meme for a Monday morning, on a Wednesday evening. It's still a bit of a lame-o meme (hence the Monday morning-ness of it), but please just go with it.

From Suse of Pea Soup (who nicked from Pavlov's Cat who stole it from Quirkie).

(grandfather/grandmother on your father's side, your favorite sweet/lolly):
Tecla Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

(first initial of first name followed by "izzle", first two or three letters of your last name followed by "dizzle"):
Vizzle Swedizzle

(favorite color, favorite animal):
Green Shark

(first 3 letters of your name- last 3 letters of mother's maiden name, first 3 letters of your pet's name repeated twice):
Valduk SepSep

("The", your favorite color, the automobile you drive):
The Green Matrix


In other news:

I have been READING.

I finished Kathryn Davis’ The Thin Place. It wasn’t quite the blow-me-away experience I was anticipating, based upon Jessa Crispin (of Bookslut)’s reviews. Best book of 2005? I am not so sure. But it WAS an intricately faceted little gem of a novel, filled with both clarity and mystery.

I finished Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life last night, sitting in the Sharp Edge with a Yuengling and a plate of buffalo bites. At first I thought, “Eh,” but she grew on me. And now I’d love to give my own life encyclopedia a shot. Maybe someday...I’ll bet a lot of it could be culled from blog entries, come to think of it...

Sarah Louise recommended Margaret Maron’s The Last Lessons of Summer; in fact, she – wielding, and some might contend, abusing, her considerable librarian powers – checked it out under my account and brought it home to me. Now THAT is service. I consider myself an excellent librarian, but even I don’t do that sort of thing for my patrons. I like Margaret Maron; I have enjoyed several of her Deborah Knott mysteries in the past. But I am not feeling the love here yet, people. And I want to like it – it’s a cool plot, and I like the author’s previous work, and SL likes it. I’ll give it another thirty pages or so...

And then I will move on – to Laurie Notaro’s Autobiography of a Fat Bride which had me laughing so hard this morning, I think I may have scared the neighbor children, if not my own; and Literacy and Longing in L.A., recommended by both Gina AND SL.

To wrap up – I still haven’t finished Getting Stoned with Savages because H ran away with it to read, and I have no idea where it is now. Laurie King got put aside for more pressing library books. I was LOVING No Angel but it also does not have to be returned anywhere.

I AM grooving on Nigella Lawson at the moment. I got Domestic Goddess from the library and now I MUST own it. (I have to pick up How to Eat from the library tomorrow and I am sure I’ll want that one as well.) I find myself, even in this ninety-five degree weather (that’s 35 degrees for you Down Under Celsius types), jonesing to bake things called Fairy Cakes and Muscat Syllabub. It’s a toss-up what’ll get baked tomorrow to take to the final swim lesson on Friday for the swim teachers, and for the moms to munch – the damp chocolate loaf cake (spread with cream cheese per Nigella’s instructions) or the jam-doughnut muffins. And I really, really, REALLY want to make the Blueberry Boy-Bait with all the fresh blueberries I just bought at the grocery store last night. But H is off sweets, and I need to lose – ahem – sixty pounds according to SOME PEOPLE, and about twenty according to people who live on this planet – so I will content myself with baking for others.
Nigella is so homey – her books read like she’s sitting at your kitchen table, coffee cup in hand, chatting away about the kids and your husbands and school and whatever. She mentions Laurie Colwin – which I found interesting because she very much reminds me of Colwin’s homey, down-to-earth style. (And in fact, one of Colwin’s recipes (for Black Cake) that I have been dying to try for YEARS, is included in Goddess, minus the burnt sugar essence, so maybe I’ll give it a whirl come Christmas time).

I am in an excellent book groove at the moment, and am enjoying it thoroughly. It’s nice to have risen from the slump.


It’s Blackbird’s birthday today.
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday, dearest Blackbird!
Happy birthday to you!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

“Five is right out.” - Monty Python’s Holy Grail ------------ !!!UPDATED!!!!

Peg is absolutely right, and I am not sure how I missed it! Hey, maybe the OCD is cured! That trip to Lourdes really worked!
Here's my fifth thing of five and in keeping with Blackbird's original intentions, it is NOT book-related:

Five Things in/on my Nightstand
a bottle of seltzer water
my ceiling fan remote
a blue spaghetti-server thingey from IKEA that works wonderfully as a back-scratcher (and no, I do not put it back in the kitchen, its exclusive use is now as a back-scratcher)
a stack of to-be-read books
the newest issue of House and Garden

Oh, and the bear claw has been consumed. So I owe you a different purse item: how about, a recipe for Recuperation Soup, from Esurientes, one of my favorite food blogs and probably the first blog I ever started reading, via Lazy Cow? I am dying to try it.

All right. As you were...

National Meme Week continues...

5 Things meme, from Blackbird

5 things in my closet -

my winter boots (LL Bean duck boots)
all my extra purses/bags
a hat box with a cute straw boater in it
my pants/skirts/dresses, hung up
most of my necklaces, hanging on a hook

5 things in my fridge -

Sesame oil
Primadonna Italian dressing
A six-pack of Smirnoff Ice
A pineapple

5 things in my car –

Empty coffee to-go cups
Three carseats
A picnic blanket
A polarfleece blanket
A box of baby wipes

5 things in my purse -

My weekly planner
A packet of mini barrettes to keep my bangs out of my eyes
My cell phone
My favorite red pen
A bear claw pastry, in a brown paper bag

Monday, July 17, 2006

What? Think I got eyes in my butt? - Julia Roberts as Daisy, "Mystic Pizza"

Didn't anyone tell you? It's National Meme Week.
Everyday, you get a new meme from me. 'cause I gotta use up my backlog.

Also, check it out: I'm famous! And, uh, exotic.

Monday Meme

From Blackbird, who got it from stuff and junk.

• What is your salad dressing of choice? Anything vinaigrette. Although the OTHER choice at the wedding was red Roquefort, and I should have had that.
• What is your favorite fast food restaurant? McDonalds. It’s a wonder Primo didn’t emerge in a French fry shape…
• What is your favorite sit down restaurant? Any kind of sushi – probably Sushi Too in Shadyside
• On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant? 15 - 20%. But if the service sucks, less.
• What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of? Mild buffalo bites with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks, accompanied by an ice-cold Yuengling - go on, try me.
• Name three foods you detest above all others. Cottage cheese; cheese of the cottage; cottage-y type cheese-y stuff
• What is your favorite dish to order in a Chinese restaurant? Hot and sour soup, chicken with cashews
• What are your pizza toppings of choice? Green peppers and mushrooms
• What do you like to put on your toast? Unsalted butter, lots, so the toast is limp, then a mixture of cinnamon and sugar
• What is your favorite type of gum? Original Trident

• What do you consider to be your best physical attribute? My wrists
• Are you right handed or left handed? Right. Although I’ve always wanted to be left handed, and I do eat left handed.
• Do you like your smile? No.
• Have you ever had anything removed from your body? Some teeth
• Would you like to? Yes. I’d get rid of the stomach flab and hip fat in a heartbeat. Anyone want to fund a tummy tuck/liposuction?
• Which of your five senses do you think is keenest? Hearing. To the point of distraction.
• When was the last time you had a cavity? A while ago, can’t remember exactly. Before I had my braces.
• What is the heaviest item you lift regularly? Terzo
• Have you ever been knocked unconscious? Yes, when I was small

• Number of contacts in your cell phone? 20ish
• Number of contacts in your email address book? Couple hundred?
• What is your wallpaper on your computer? One of Blackbird’s vacation beach pics at home; the boys at Thomas in Strasburg at work
• What is your screen saver on your computer? Windows default at home; a marquee quote by Jorge Luis Borges about Paradise being a library at work
• Are there naked pictures saved on your computer? No, all of my photos are clothed decently
• How many land line phones do you have in your house? three
• How many televisions are in your house? one
• What kitchen appliance do you use the least? Crock pot
• What is the format of the radio station you listen to the most? Don’t listen to the radio. Too noisy.
• How many sex toys do you own that require batteries? Sex? Wait, I remember that. It causes BABIES. Get thee behind me, Satan!

• If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die? No.
• If you could change your first name, what would you change it to? My middle name
• How do you express your artistic side? I bake, I blog
• What color do you think you look best in? Pink, sadly
• How long do you think you could last in a medium security prison? Probably a surprisingly long time. (See Dare-ology.)
• Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake? By mistake? No.
• If we weren’t bound by society’s conventions, do you have a relative you would make a pass at? Back in my younger days, yes.
• How often do you go to church? A couple Sundays a month
• Have you ever saved someone’s life? Does keeping the children alive at all count?
• Has someone ever saved yours? Yes, in that psychological way.

For this last section, if you would do it for less or more money, indicate how much.

• Would you walk naked for a half mile down a public street for $100,000? Yes, but don’t tell them that, I want to negotiate for more.
• Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100? I’ve done it for free
• Would you have sex with a member of the same sex for $10,000? I’ve done it for free, but I could use the cash
• Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000? Not in a gajillion years
• Would you never blog again for $50,000? Not in a gajillion years
• Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000? Yes, but you would probably pay twice that not to have to look at it
• Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000? No. Yuck.
• Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000? It depends upon the person and the circumstances. I am still contemplating H and the bus...
• Would you shave your head and get your entire body waxed for $5,000? No. Maybe for fifty thou.
• Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000? Hell yeah. For a couple hundred, I’d give it up for the rest of my life.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

You say po-tay-to, and I say po-tah-to...

Stolen from Joke, who swiped from Badger, who nicked it from Karla.
All in the house that Jack built.

1. How old do you wish you were? I am fairly happy being the age I am now.

2. Where were you when 9/11 happened? In the office.
My brother worked in the building across the street from the WTC, and I spent hours watching TV news coverage, crying, and speed-dialing his cell, office, and home numbers. The email I sent immediately upon hearing the news never got to him as his firm’s back-up servers were in the WTC. I finally got the message that he and his fiance were safe, they’d walked home to 14th St before the buildings collapsed, sometime around 2 or 3 pm.

3. What do you do when vending machines steal your money? Curse, kick, repeat. For all the good it does.

4. Do you consider yourself kind? No. I am too impatient to be truly kind.

5. If you had to get a tattoo, where and what would it be?

6. If you could be fluent in any other language what would it be? French. My husband speaks French to the boys, and once they start understanding, responding, I am so toast!

7. Do you know your neighbors? Yes. I love the ones on one side, we do stuff together and cook out and watch each others’ kids; am on a “Hi-how-are-ya?” basis with the rest of the immediate neighbors.

8. What do you consider a vacation? Doing NOTHING but lie on the couch, drink in hand, good book propped on stomach. Maayyybbbeeee walk down to the beach and swim a bit. Ice cream or take-out for dinner.

9. Do you follow your horoscope? No.

10. Would you move for the person you loved? I stayed where I’d moved, for the person I loved, which is even a bigger deal, IMO.

11. Are you touchy feely? Not in the least. My idea of romantic interaction is a punch on the arm and a “Love ya, dude.”

12. Do you believe that opposites attract? H and I are living proof. He IS an extraterrestrial life form, you know.

13. Dream job? Have it.

14. Favorite channels? English.

15. Favorite place to go on a weekend? Nowhere. I like to lie around the house, bum with the boys, and sleep.

16. Showers or Bath? Showers for cleanliness, baths for my soul.

17. Do you paint your nails? Not on purpose. But sometimes the roller slips...

18. Do you trust people easily? I am a very suspicious person.

19. What are your phobias? Spiders. Bugs. Heights – that’ll I’ll leap off whatever tall object I am on.

20. Do you want kids? Got ‘em. Can’t return ‘em.

21. Do you keep a handwritten journal? I live for my computer.

22. Where would you rather be right now? Nowhere. I’ve been dying to work on a blog post all weekend. Time gets shorter and shorter for that. Although the pool later is enticing…

23. What makes you feel warm and safe? Money in the bank. Something baking in the oven.

24. Heavy or light sleep? Sleep? What’s that?

25. Are you paranoid? No. They really are out to get me.

26. Are you impatient? Yes. Therefore not kind. See Number four.

27. Who can you relate to? Just about everybody but those I have to relate to IRL on a daily basis. Except Gina. And L and L and S. Ok, I am not as unrelateable as I thought.

28. How do you feel about interracial couples? Wha? Really? C’mon. Who cares about that sort of stuff? Do they love each other? Well, then…

29. Have you been burned by love? Yep. And still scarred. Ah, my delicate little psyche.

30. What's your life motto? “It’s not brain surgery, people.”

31. What's your main ringtone on your mobile? I switched it to the theme from The Godfather, and will keep it like that for eternity.

32. What were you doing at midnight last night? Returning home from a decadent and elegant wedding. More later….

33. Who was your last text message from? Gina

34. Whose bed did you sleep in last night? Mine

35. What color shirt are you wearing? White

36. Most recent movie you watched? Cars. Ka-chow!

37. Name five things you have on you at all times? Glasses, wedding ring, diamond studs in three holes in upper earlobes, excess weight in my hips, and that itchy patch of eczema on my middle back.

38. What color are your bed sheets? Pale green. Or beige. Or cream. Neutrals.

39. How much cash do you have on you right now? $21.25

40. What is your favorite part of a chicken? The egg.

41. What's your favorite town/city? New Orleans.

42. I can't wait till... I can read in peace.

43. Who got you to join MySpace? Some Internet-trawling pedophile who thought I was thirteen.

44. What did you have for dinner last night? Soup, salad, Virgina spots with potato, shredded zucchini, roasted tomato, and broccoli rabe.

45. How tall are you barefoot? 5'9"

46. Have you ever smoked crack? Only in theory.

47. Do you own a gun? No. I’d hate to be killed with one of my own possessions.

48. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Very strong tea with lots of milk and sugar, and then a nonfat latte.

49. What is your secret weapon to lure in the opposite sex? I can bake a cherry pie, charming Billy.

50. Do you have A.D.D.? No. In fact, quite the opposite. Which can also be a curse.

51. What time did you wake up today? Just now.

52. Current worry? Never losing this extra weight. Money. Brain tumors.

53. Current hate? This extra weight. The need for money. My mother-in-law. My breast pump.

54. Favorite place to be? Reading in bed.

55. Where would you like to travel? Anywhere, everywhere. I’m up for anywhere. But Australia first, to meet some people.

56. Where do you think you'll be in 10 yrs? No idea. But the ride will be fun.

57. Last thing you ate? A little piece of a Ritter Sport milk chocolate bar with whole hazlenuts

58. What songs do you sing in the shower? Whatever the boys have been singing.

59. Last person that made you laugh? H

60. Worst injury you've ever had? I’ve given birth three times. I think that counts.

61. Does someone have a crush on you? Not thatI know of, but I have crushes on a couple people.

62. What is your favorite candy? Chocolate.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I should, indeed, prefer twenty men to escape death through mercy, than one innocent to be condemned unjustly. - Sir John Fortescue

Is it kosher to tell you NOW what case the jury selection was for?

Double homicide.
Freaking double homicide.
I have never before been called for criminal court; my previous two experiences were for civil court, and I wasn’t picked – I wasn’t even impaneled – either time.

I have to admit I was a little pissed that I was called for jury duty at all.
I’d already managed to get deferred once, due to the breastfeeding/pumping thing.
But duty called, and I answered.
Hey, I may be a card-carrying member of the ACLU, but I love my country and do my patriotic duty, damn it! Besides, it was a fully legit excuse to be away from the kids for eight hours, in peace and quiet, to read.
So by the time my call rolled around and for precisely that reason, I was so hoping to be picked for the jury.
Well, that, and watching a criminal case could have been really exciting and interesting.
Upsetting, too, I suppose.
But I have a strong stomach and am smart and can be fairly rational when required – I really would be an excellent juror.

Formerly, parking downtown for jury duty was a huge issue - before I became the self-assured – and cheap – person I am today, when the thought of taking public transit anywhere filled me with dread and anxiety and caused me to break out in a cold sweat. They only pay you around 10 bucks, and parking downtown for the day can take more than that. I know this from previous experience, and because the woman sitting behind me during the questioning explained it all in GREAT. DETAIL. to her poor neighbor. “Well, first Fred – Fred’s my husband – Fred said to me, you should park at the wharf but then I saw it was raining. So then Fred said, well, you can park in the Kaufman’s garage but the garage was really busy today, something must be going on downtown (Um, a little thing called THE ALL-STAR GAME, lady) and then Fred said [wasn’t that a band sometime in the 80s?], he said, you could park…” by which point I wanted to poke my eardrums out with my specially-issued county courts ballpoint pen; besides, *I* was smart and took the bus.

I wore a grey t-shirt, a long black skirt, and my Crocs. I was operating under the delusion that the courthouse was air-conditioned, which, in theory, it was. In reality, it was hot, and a lot of people- some of whom, may I say, had not showered anywhere near as recently as I had – generate a lot of heat. By mid-afternoon I was just grateful that I hadn’t been assigned to one of the chairs by the windows, through which the sun was beating. Yes, it stopped raining long enough to make twelve or so potential jurors really miserable. Fred’s Wife spent a great deal of time after lunch explaining how she’d chosen what to wear to jury duty: “Well, I said to Fred, I know it’s hot, but I might be cold so I will wear a dress with no sleeves (yes, that is called a SLEEVELESS dress. Twit.) and a sweater over it. But my pink sweater was in the laundry, and my purple sweater was missing a button – so I thought I’d go to Kaufmann’s and pick up something, but they wanted 42 dollars for a sweater, I mean, a sweater you could get anywhere, and I just couldn’t see plunking down 42 dollars for an ordinary sweater! I mean, it wasn’t anything special, although it would have been perfect. But 42 dollars for a sweater seemed a little high, but I needed a sweater…”

How many books did I take with me for an eight-hour day?
And I was glad, because The Plague started putting me to sleep right after lunch and right around the time they spirited away the coffee in the jurors’ rooms.
So I dived into Penny Vicenzi’s No Angel and that engrossed me. Well, when I wasn’t eavesdropping on the defense attorney and the prosecuting assistant D.A. questioning prospective jurors. Or listening, no matter how I tried to block her out, to Fred’s Wife.

They spent almost fifteen minutes questioning me. I can’t decide what made them not pick me – (sob! I feel so rejected!) It might have been my admission to ACLU membership. It might have been my three kids (one of the testifying witnesses is the seven-year-old daughter of one of the victims). It might have been my maybe-not-quite-decisive-enough “Yes, I think so” or “No, I don’t think so” answers to many questions, said quietly, but purposefully in the hope that I was coming across as open-minded yet sensible and intelligent juror material. It might have been my lack of appropriate solemnity while talking about my husband’s brush with sort-of-violent crime ten years ago (um, at the time it was scary but really? He was kinda dumb about approaching an occupied parked car, at midnight, and got knocked down and clonked with the roll sausage he’d walked to the grocery store to get for the post-Christmas brunch we were hosting the next day. Not that, you know, I mean to minimize his experience or anything but since at the moment I myself am contemplating pushing him under a bus, I can hardly get too riled up about the Sausage Clonkers. (No, I'm not an idiot, I shared NONE of this explication with the attorneys.))

Fortunately Fred’s Wife kept her opinions to herself re: the case and the defendant, but I could tell it was a struggle for her, and only the threat of being held in contempt of court kept her silent. She did spend a great deal of time speculating on the other case up for jury selection that day, in the courtroom: “I wonder why they only picked like five jurors? And their questioning went so much faster, I wonder why. I wonder what they asked them? I wonder where I’ll eat lunch, maybe I’ll go to Bruegger’s but there will probably be a huge line. Maybe I should have packed my lunch. Fred said I should have packed my lunch but we were all out of jumbo…”

The defendant was handsome, clean-cut, polite, respectful, and wearing a ginormous black cross on a chain outside his shirt. Even if in dress pants he still had the butt-sag going. He was three feet away from me, across the table. We made eye contact. He was - I say this now, now that I have not been selected to participate in a jury of his peers – a MURDERER. It boggles the mind. I in my sheltered little middle-class existence had some trouble wrapping my brain around the fact that this….BOY….allegedly shot and killed two people in cold blood. In front of one of the victim’s six-year-old daughter. He looked like someone I would ride the bus with, or see walking down my street. People capable of murder should LOOK like they are capable of murder, don’t you think, and not like honor students at one of the decent public high schools in the city?

And while we are at it – the jury pool. The judge – who resembled William H. Macy very much – reminded us that every defendant is entitled to a jury of his peers, if s/he chooses. Yet every defendant I saw that day – three – were black. The jury pool? Mostly white, mostly middle-aged. I’m willing to wager they were mostly comfortable, at least making a living on their own, if probably pretty blue-collar. Yet where do they get prospective jurors from? Voting registers, drivers’ license lists, home ownership rolls. I generalize a bit here, but by and large, the defendants in most of the cases that have caught my attention are black, poor – or at least too poor to own property, and I’d guess – completely unscientifically – odds are good they don’t drive. The ridership of the buses I take seems easily 80-20 African-American/white. It didn’t seem quite fair to me that the defendant, who was assured a jury of his “peers,” most likely drew mostly white, mostly middle-class jurors, who may not be able to empathize with him at all, who may, in fact, not understand where he’s coming from at all. (At least he didn’t wind up with Fred’s Wife.) I realize I am hugely generalizing and shooting in the dark here, but the ACLU membership part of my brain is fighting with the scared-of-a-dude-who-may-have-shot-2-people part of my brain, and trying to be fair to both. And you are the lucky recipients of my scattered and vague musings.

Pennsylvania still has the death penalty. I have always been against the death penalty. Now even more so. I understand the seriousness of the crimes with which this boy was charged, but my God, he IS just a boy. He’s 21. He’s still practically a child. Albeit a misguided, angry, and perhaps conscience-less child. But having never before had any sort of interaction with the alleged perpetrator of a crime, I have to say, I don’t know how you can speak with a person thusly accused, or make any sort of contact, and then convince yourself that you have the right to condemn another living being to death. That really DOES boggle my mind. Or maybe Texans just have much more self-assurance than do I?

However, around 3 pm when I wandered into the Beverage Room of the Juror Complex to get a cup of coffee only to discover that the court lackeys had cleared it all away, (How could they not appreciate that a juror might need caffeinated stimulation by 3pm? How, I ask you? It seemed cruel and unusual to me.) I walked into the middle of a discussion among my fellow potential jurors regarding why THEY should get out of serving. I offered in a timid voice that I actually wanted to be picked. I thought it would be interesting. You could make a difference, a real difference, feel like you were truly contributing to society, however small that contribution turned out to be. (Not to mention I’d have an ironclad excuse to get a babysitter for the next five days.) And everyone else agreed that if you WANT to serve as a juror, you darn well should be allowed to so everyone else can go the hell home and attend to their dying parents, lonely pets, and brain surgery practice.

[A little addendum: ”One Courtroom, Two Juries, in Homicide Trial”.]

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

'Good heavens!' said Frog. 'That thing is Toad!

Alice Hoffman has been very hit-or-miss the past few years.

The first book of hers I ever read was Practical Magic, and it was, well, MAGIC. It made me laugh and cry, it was spooky at times, it was just wonderful, and had just enough of her unique magic realism touches that it felt…luminous.
As I am wont to do with authors whose books I enjoy very much, I then tried to read all her early and other stuff. I’ve done this with AS Byatt, and with Margaret Atwood, and with several other lesser writers, and I am ALWAYS disappointed. As I was with Hoffman. I could see the talent and the spark, but mostly I found her other books clumsy, clichéd, and/or scattered. Illumination Night, Turtle Moon, White Horses, Property Of - all disappointing. Blue’s Diary was more than disappointing, I outright disliked it. Here on Earth and The River God were readable but not what I wanted or expected from Hoffman. I knew what she was capable of.

Then, within the past few years, I read The Probable Future. Three generations of Sparrow women are blessed – or cursed, depending on how you view things - with unusual gifts – Elinor perceives when people are lying; Jenny sees other people’s dreams, and Stella can foresee a person’s manner of death. Probable Future was the enchanting, haunted mix of modern reality and disconcertingly strange history that is a hallmark of Hoffman’s best work.

And then, on Saturday, I plucked The Ice Queen off the New Books shelf. The protagonist, whose name we never learn, is a librarian who is struck by lightning. I have a bit of a thing for books peopled by or starring librarians. But it’s also so much more than that. I read it in one giant gulp, Saturday night, staying up waaaayy too late in order to finish.

Albeit in a quote from a review of Seventh Heaven, Publisher’s Weekly hits the Alice Hoffman nail squarely on the head: “...she tells more than a compulsively readable story. She does magic, she unsettles you and she leaves you feeling emotionally purged and satisfied.

Honestly, after I turned the last page, I wanted a stiff drink and a cigarette.

Now I am manfully plodding through Laurie R. King’s Night Work, one of her Kate Martinelli mysteries. I would enjoy it more if I didn’t dislike Kate’s lover so very much, but I find Lee insufferable and annoying. In lieu of a Mary Russell novel from King, though, it’s better than nothing.

But then. THEN! A co-worker sent me the following article, “Caution: These Books May Make you Skip Work!” by Nancy Pearl, and now?
My list grows ever longer.

Also? I am borrowing Literacy and Longing in L.A. from Gina, because it’s so very nice and comforting to know I am not alone in my illness.


As if Arnold Lobel (of Frog and Toad fame) needs *anything else* to recommend him:

Books to the ceiling
Books to the sky.
My pile of books
Are a mile high.
How I love them!
How I need them!
I'll have a long beard
By the time I read them.

- Arnold Lobel


Something stupid happened over the weekend, and I am so very angry that I cannot concentrate on anything, let alone blog entries. So if my posts are a bit sparse for the next few days, please forgive.

Quidditch, Anyone?

I may have mentioned that the boy is going to various day camps around the city this summer, because even though he doesn’t have school, I still have to go to work. This week is QUIDDITCH CAMP!

Mr. F., one of the very most awesome teachers at the boy’s school (who has FIVE sons of his own), has put this camp together, and while I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, it turns out that it’s brilliant.

Muggle quidditch works pretty much the same way that wizard quidditch does, with a few adjustments. Obviously, there’s no flying—everyone just runs around. All the positions are the same, but the keepers both only have one ring to guard. The rings are elevated at either end of the field, and the keepers each get a “noodle” (those foam things you play with in the pool) to try to knock the quaffles (balls slightly smaller than basketballs, and lighter, but not foam) away from the rings. The chasers try to get the quaffles through the rings, to score ten points per goal. In the meantime, beaters pick bludgers (yesterday they were tennis ball-sized Nerf balls; today the kids were told to bring swim suits so they can use water balloons) up off the ground and wing them at the chasers. The seekers run around looking for the snitch. What in the world does Mr. F. use for a snitch? One of those helicopter-like things you launch by pulling a ripcord! I think that’s genius!

So there you go. If you’ve got a yard and enough kids around, chances are you have enough things around your house to set up a quidditch team. If you have a whistle, you can be Madam Hooch.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

In the pregnancy process I have come to realize how much of the burden is on the female partner. - Al Roker

Clearly Al Roker is a STUPID big fat annoying man...the ellipseseseseses are back, because I can't be bothered to write a proper entry, so, it’s I am at work…had a good, not great, run this morning, which is bound to happen when you haven’t run for a week...the bus took a VERY unexpected detour this morning and I thought I had reality-jumped into the movie “Speed”...I was NOT reassured by the sight of city environmental services trucks in the closed-off side streets….I just found out that there was a 4-alarm fire that closed Fifth Ave...I have upgraded from a grande to a venti latte these days...I have been at work for an hour and haven’t had a question yet...why am I here?...Seg’s at swim lessons even as I type, and I will bet the water is freezing...he has been practicing “airplane arms” lying on the floor or the ground all week long...he’s really freakingly unbearably cute when he does this...there’s a gigantic drill down the street, burrowing into rock for the foundation for the new student union-y building, and I can hear it IN HERE...yes, it’s rhythmic and going to drive me bonkers...I finished Julie & Julia last night, enjoyed it very made me want to cook things...I thought I’d finish reading The Plague but eh...already ditched the Ken Follett “thriller” idea what was supposed to be so thrilling, especially since, you know, people in real life have died of Ebola and that’s not thrilling, it’s tragic and I considered starting Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian because Lazy Cow liked it but instead I thought I’d better finish the book I have on interlibrary loan...have I mentioned before that I can’t read on the bus, it makes me co-worker and friend L lent me a copy of a magazine that is very much like my much-beloved and sadly now-defunct Book my list of to-read books continues to grow exponentially and I am very sad that I am going to die before I get to read everything I want to...took Terzo for his nine-month check-up yesterday; The Baby is gigantic, he weighs 23 pounds, 4 ounces, and is in the 95% for height...I swear to you that he ate two bowls of leek and potato soup for dinner last night...did I tell you about the five pierogies he ate last week one night for dinner?...he’s ahead of the curve on the standing/cruising/walking thing, according to his pediatrician...of course he is, he has two older brothers to keep up with...Seg has asked that I go to the hospital and bring back another brother, called Thomas...Primo requests a girl “from your belly next time” so he can call her Annika, like in Pippi Longstocking...oh, the innocence of youth...H admits that if we could just GET a baby he’d like to have another, it’s the nine months of pregnancy that is holding him up...HE’s telling ME?...OHMYFUCKINGGOD a patron just asked me if I was having a little boy or a little I start thinking, if I look pregnant, perhaps I should just BE pregnant...No! No no no no no no no. NO. This way madness lies...Gina, slap me!....did I mention I ran THREE MILES this morning? And did thirty sit-ups?...I do thirty sit-ups every day, for all the good they do. My flab resides atop solid muscle...Primo is having his cousins sleep over tonight, he is planning a marathon Monopoly tournament and a viewing of “The Great Muppet Caper”...they are making pizza for dinner, with “boxed” chicken nuggets and red grapes...quite the menu planner, my little Primo...he even used his own cash, from his piggy bank, to buy little prizes for the Monopoly game, is that adorable?...I have to go drown myself now. And anyway, I didn’t find out what I was having any of the times I actually WAS pregnant...And in the immortal words of Dave Barry, “You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.”

Friday, July 07, 2006

Hello, My Name is Gina. I'm a Huge Dork

I am so tired I can’t think straight. I got to work this morning and stood dozing at the elevator for a minute or two before realizing that it wasn’t coming because I hadn’t pressed the button. Why so tired? Well, because my cousin slept over so she can hang out with the boy today, since he’s not in any camps this week. I stayed up too late with her, and then stayed up even later reading after I went to bed. Because, even if I’m so tired my eyes are burning, I don’t like to go to sleep without getting some time to be quiet and read. (Adrian Mole: The Lost Years. Meh. Funny in parts, but not nearly as great as the first book. But STILL I stayed up too late with it. Because I’m an idiot.)

I also had weird dreams, including one where the boy and I buzzed all over some strange neighborhood on a mini-bike. Also, I know there was one with lots of rain. And one where I had sex with a guy I grew up with (the weird part about that dream wasn’t that we had sex [which was weird, yes, okay] but that at one point I was STANDING ON MY HEAD. Hello, Sting and Trudy. Top that.)


My cousin, the boy, and I went to see Harry & the Potters at the library last night. (Bablebabe pointed out that Mimi Smartypants went too, in Chicago. Does this mean I’m as cool as Mimi, or is she as dorky as I am?) I can’t tell you how much fun this was. They did the show outside, on the library’s main lawn, and the weather was perfect. Blue sky, cool breeze (which is unheard of here in July), and live music—what more can anyone ask for?

Well, how about a hundred or so kids dressed up in Harry Potter dorkery? There were wizards in hats and robes, and school kids in ties, sweaters and skirts, and a Snape, a Rita Skeeter and some Death Eaters. How about the fact that the bands (there were two—Draco & the Malfoys opened) sounded really good, and that the songs were written with . . . love? Care? Affection? D&tMs did songs about how Pansy Parkinson is the only decent-looking girl in Slytherin, how Ron’s parents had too many kids, how much Harry is a freak and a fraud, and how—when it came to it—Draco wouldn’t kill Albus Dumbledore. Good stuff. H&tPs sang a love song about Ginny, a really funny song about the disastrous Valentine’s Day with Cho, one about saving Serious, one about Umbridge, and one really rousing one called, “Give it Up for Fred & George”.

I was so happy to see people singing, dancing, and cheering . . . in front of the library! Goooo Books!

One last thing: The Mummy was on cable last night, so we had it on in the background. Rachel Weisz is a librarian in this movie, which is awesome, but . . . I’m almost a librarian, and realized I would have been pretty useless in their situation. If we ever get into trouble in ancient tombs of any kind, please don’t look to me for leadership.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup! - Lewis Carroll, in Alice in Wonderland

I find the best days with my boys are days in which I don’t expect to do much at all. Leave the house a mess, feed them pizza for dinner, and just go have some fun.

We are all still coming off our mini-vacation feeling from the long weekend in which we hung out around the house, spent a lot of time at the pool, went to the movies (I took the boys to see “Cars”. And can I just tell you it has been so long since I have been to the movies – think “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” – that I thought the dude had charged me the evening price for the matinee, but no, six bucks IS the matinee price! Ouch!), watched television, including a thrilling World Cup soccer game that went into double overtime, and went out to eat. So yesterday I continued our sloth auditions and took the boys to the Center for Creative Play.

The Center for Creative Play (CCP) lives in what was once a supermarket; now it’s a giant hangar-like space full of all kinds of toys and play areas and play sets. There’s a play kitchen and a treehouse and a jungle gym-y kind of thing, and ride-on toys, and a baby area full of Exersaucers and chewy toys, and an art room and a music room and a dress-up room. In other words, it’s the perfect place to set the boys loose, put the baby down on the floor among some toys, and sit down with a coffee and a book.
If you’re me.
If you are another sort of mother, you play with your children, and run around with them, and help them paint, and play peek-a-boo with the baby and see if he can crawl up ramps and slide down slides.

My boys seemed content to spend three hours grocery shopping and cooking up a plastic feast; and the baby seemed content to crawl in and out of a gigantic foam tunnel only about a gazillion and a half times.

I myself was perfectly content to read Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, & Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living, of course keeping an eye on my boys to make sure they weren’t beating up anyone, weren’t getting beat up by anyone, and weren’t being abducted by pedophiles or aliens. I was easily within arm’s reach of The Baby, plus he will only go so far away from me just yet.

And yet…I garnered clearly nasty looks from one mother who was busy coaxing her infant down the slide using one of those high-pitched giggly voices, clapping and saying, “Oh, yay for Myrtle!” when the unfortunate child tumbled to the bottom - rather than, say, reading a newspaper or chatting with another mom. Which is JUST FINE, if that’s what makes you happy and fulfilled. Just don’t be judging ME.
This is the same mother who gave me the hairy eyeball when I sat down on the floor in a back corner and nursed my hungry baby.
Another mother saw fit to physically pick up my baby, who was ten feet away from me in the giant expanse of floor space, while I was chatting with a mom I knew from the boys’ old daycare, and deposit him at my feet, saying, “I didn’t know if you knew where he was…” He was the ONLY CHILD playing with the foam blocks, for God’s sake, and he was directly in front of me, only – gasp! - about ten feet away. While I – God forbid - was conducting an adult conversation.

What is with people? My boys were happy, I was happy. We were all having a good time. I knew where they were, they knew where I was (of course they did, since I am the one with the snacks…), everyone was busily occupied and safe and sound. So sorry if I was not interacting with MY children to YOUR specifications. And yet you didn’t seem to appreciate the interaction when I whipped out a boobie and stuck it in The Baby’s gaping maw. Huh. There’s no pleasing some people.

And today? Today was a typical Thursday. The babysitter comes for the day, and I don’t have to be at work till three, so I always have a list as long as my arm of things I am convinced I have time to do. I never ever accomplish all of them – no one could, but then, no one has ever accused me of holding realistic expectations either. Plus, I get hung up checking email, reading blogs, writing blog entries. I think, “I’ll just quick check my email,” and half an hour later, I come to. It’s like a….dream. Yeah, that’s it.

But I did have coffee and read some more of Julie & Julia…. It’s a fun book to read, and I was pleased to discover that her blog is back up. A few months ago it had been down, I thought, but since the book is about the writing of the blog and not the cooking so much, it’s nice to be able to go read the blog about the cooking part.
And I bought sheets because H keeps stealing my nice 300-plus thread-count, 100% cotton, pale- and soothing-colored sheets, and I get stuck with the garish red-and-navy striped ones that I swear give me nightmares and headaches both. I found a set of full, 400 thread count, cotton, pale-green-on-green floral print sheets at TJ Maxx for TWENTY BUCKS. It doesn’t get any better than that.
And I stopped at the grocery store.
And I ran.
And then I ate a BLT for lunch, the tomato juice and mayo dripping down my arm, and a bowl of leek and potato soup, made from our CSA leeks. At least I think they were leeks – but even if they weren’t, they made a fine bowl of soup.
H will have this meal for dinner tonight, only just with an LT as he doesn’t do B.
And I finished this fabulous meal off with a no-bake oatmeal cookie thingey, the recipe for which I got from my breastfeeding mothers’ online support group because oatmeal boosts breastmilk production, did you know that? Oh yeah.


Leek and Potato Soup

3 leeks, white and green parts, quartered, soaked, and chopped
1 ½ pounds of potatoes (about 5-6 average sized), peeled and chopped into ½” cubes
3 TBSP butter
½ cup cream
5 cups chicken broth

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the leeks until tender, about six minutes. Add the potatoes and sauté for about three more minutes. Add the broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add cream and bring back to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste, throw in a few handfuls of grated fresh parmesan, and a couple tablespoons chopped fresh parsley. When it’s cooled a wee bit, whirl about half the soup in the blender or food processor and then add back into the pot, to thicken the soup.


No-Bake Oatmeal Fudgie Cookie Thingeys
(I call them Breastmilk Boosters, but you don’t have to...)

2 cups sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup (1 stick) butter
¼ cup cocoa
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups instant/quick cook oats
1 cup coconut

Combine sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa, in a medium saucepan, over low heat. Bring to a boil, stirring pretty frequently. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and peanut butter; stir till dissolved. Stir in oatmeal and coconut. You can scoop this onto waxed paper, into dainty little balls using a cookie-dough scoop, or into those pretty printed or metallic papers. Or you can pour it into a greased 9x13 pan and refrigerate until set and then hack it into bars. Whatever works for you.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

If the automobile had followed the same development as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and

explode once a year killing everyone inside.
- Robert Cringely


My car inspection expired.
June 30.

I knew it was coming – the months trudge onward, as they are wont to do.

We bought the car in an April, which I remember because Seg had just been born, and H’s joke was that only a crazy man buys his wife a new car when she is – uh – indisposed.
But LAST year I spaced on the inspection, so it got bumped from April to June.
Even the giant red letters on the top of the calendar page – “BB’s CAR INSPECTION DUE!!!” – weren’t enough of a reminder.

So I called the dealership and they squeezed me in Monday morning, 730 a.m. Groan. Yay, but groan.

Then it dawned on me – no sane man could expect me to take one, two, or three boys to the dealership with me, if it wasn’t necessary – and it wasn’t, as H was off work for the holiday weekend.

I stopped at Starbucks for my cup of Colombian blood, got the car to the dealership, and then realized that in my excitement to leave the house unencumbered by children and armed with a new book, I had left the new registration papers at home. Sitting by the door. Where they had been sitting all month, waiting for me to carry them the ten yards to the car, to put the sticker on the plate and stash the paperwork in the glove box. And they can’t inspect without the proper paperwork. Like, oh, current vehicle registration.

I go to this particular dealership because my old and dear friend R, who has put up with me since freshman year of college and is like a third brother to me, is the service manager there. But it’s a good twenty-five minutes drive from my house, over the river and through the woods, er, tunnel, which in this town is somewhat akin to crossing a continent. What a PAIN for H to have to load all three boys in the car to bring the registration. What a pain to have to drive all the way home, losing my spot in the inspection queue, and drive all the way back….then it came to me.

Sarah Louise and I get together for coffee on Monday mornings. Sometimes we linger and chat, other times we power-coffee and get on with our days. This morning, she was to be my car-registration angel. She even offered to bring me coffee! That Sarah Louise, she’s a good soul.

My car passed, with no major work needed. Whoo!

Then we hit the best thrift shop in town.
I didn’t exactly KNOW it was the best thrift shop in town, but within ten minutes of entering its doors, I walked over to check out the clothes with an armload of books. (I also bought a boring, blue-on-blue-striped button-down Old Navy stretch shirt.)
My grand total: thirteen dollars.

The Julie/Julia Project – Julie Powell – for 3 bucks! I have so been wanting to read this. I wish her blog was still up though, as the book is more about the writing of the blog and then the book than the actual cooking. I am also now obsessed with tracking down MY copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Surrender, Dorothy – Meg Wolitzer. I have recently become a HUGE Meg Wolitzer fan and have decided I need to own everything she’s written. This is a good start. Now I can return the library’s (overdue) copy.
The Ice Master – Jennifer Niven. Arctic exploration – check. Tales of survival – check. Death and doom – CHECK.
Ghost Stories of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County – Beth Trapani. I used to own this local-made-good little book; the author went to my alma mater, AND, coincidentally for this post, also used to date my friend R before she ran away to Philly to news-anchor stardom and a completely unsuitable older man.
The Distant Echo – Val McDermid. Could’ve sworn I’d read something of hers, but it’s possible I got a book from the library and never opened it. I always hear McDermid’s name come up when great mysteries are discussed (either that, or I ALWAYS confuse McDermid with Denise Mina)
The Queen of the Tambourine – Jane Gardam. Someone, on some blog, some time recently, had Gardam listed as one of her favorite authors. Whoever you were – I am trusting you here. Everything else on your list was stuff I like.

So...the moral to this story is: don’t forget to have your car inspected on time.

BUT if you do forget, make sure you have an old friend who is the service manager at a dealership very near an excellent thrift shop.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Sunday, July 02, 2006

“I feel better when I have more weight on me." - Angelina Jolie

This? Is a trunk.
It lives at the end of my bed.

In this trunk are the clothes I cannot bear to part with, that just don't fit me currently.

They range from just-a-little-too-snug-for-real-comfort to not-able-to-go-over-my-hips to ohmigod-who-are-we-kidding, I-can't-fit-ONE-leg-in-these.

There are blouses with arms that are too tight;
there are t-shirts that are too short, exposing the belly.
Oh, the scary, scary belly.

There are muffin-top jeans.

There are pencil skirts that would look more like those chubby crayons preschoolers use.

There are shorts that are way too short for my body at the moment. Even if I could get them on, and buttoned, I would never expose unsuspecting people to the horror that are my thighs.

There's a bathing suit in there; I have exchanged it for a swim burqa for the summer.

There is even a dead-sexy red dress H bought me on our honeymoon that I will NEVER fit into again.

I have gotten rid of bags and bags of clothes; these are the ones I cannot bear to part with.

Some because I just love them: the red suede skirt, the French blue button-down, the grey silk slip.

There are some clothes that are the workhorses of my job wardrobe: straight grey or beige skirts, long black skirts, white blouses.

Some are running clothes that I don't fit into anymore. How bad is it when you don't fit into your workout clothes?

There's the straight grey wool knee-length skirt from Old Navy, with just a bit of stretch to it, that is a SIZE SIX. I KNOW it was a labeling error but I don't care. It once fit me beautifully, and made me look and feel thin and glamorous.
I could wear it with virtually anything - a navy silk blouse and black pumps and my silver choker for work; a black wool turtleneck and knee-length black boots for a wedding (or a funeral); a white button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up and my black loafers for a casual Sunday dinner at my in-laws. I refuse to get rid of it. It's a size six, people! It once FIT ME. I may be more sentimental about that skirt than I am about my wedding photos or my babies' first shoes.

I weeded my closet the other day, pulling out everything that didn't fit.
I was left with the trunk full of clothes that don't fit me, and a closet very sparse in clothes that do: a blue-and-white print skirt; a pale blue linen skirt; a pair of brown linen capris; a pair of jeans; a pair of flat-front khakis (unfortunately with paint on them), an abstract print turquoise-and-black dress, and some neutral V-necked T-shirts.

If this doesn't motivate and inspire me to lose some weight, nothing will. Because it's gonna get mighty cold come fall, and I will have NOTHING to wear.

And NOBODY wants that now, do we?