Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It ain't the heat, it's the humility. - Yogi Berra

For the record, there is nothing like a hot, sweaty, drooling baby crawling around to let you know just how inadequate that last bout of vacuuming was.
Or perhaps futile is a better word choice.

What are we doing today?
Visiting Dad at work?
Going to the public library to find book about tornadoes, Primo’s latest obsession?
Visiting their old preschool before it closes for good at the end of June?
Getting Mama some caffeine? [This is NOT an option, but a necessity.]
Grocery shopping for diapers and wipes and shaving cream and laundry detergent and any number of other necessities I would SWEAR I had JUST stocked up on?
Buying the boys their summer sandals and new sneakers?
Visiting the library where I work because they have an excellent children’s collection?
So many options.

It’s going to be ninety degrees here today.
That must factor in.
It’s so hot that even the goldfish looks hot.

Did I mention that Segundo is potty-training?
He’s doing great, but god, it’s so much work.
It’s almost - I say almost – easier to just deal with diapers.
But he must be trained to attend preschool in the fall.

Also, for whatever reason, my children REFUSE to accept that it’s like Africa-hot, and insist on wearing sweatpants, long-sleeved t-shirts – yesterday I had to wrestle a polarfleece out of Segundo’s literally hot little hands. Time for a dresser drawer purge of all things winter-like. Even the long-sleeved t-shirts I left there for cool summer evenings at the park or the beach – must be hidden.

The only sure thing is that tonight? I drink. With other mamas from Primo’s preschool who have also just endured their first few days full-day with *their* preschooler(s).


So we traveled far and wide today.

First – H’s office. I NEVER understand this, his wanting us to come visit him there. He inevitably looks harried and worried because there are people trying to WORK, and I spend the whole time comparing my sweaty, fat, stringy-haired, squinty-eyed self to all the sleek and well-turned-out office-types who are not stressed out trying to herd three small children quietly throughout the halls. And then I think, “Oh, crap, they probably all think I am checking up on H,” when the reality of it is? I don’t care. At this particular moment. If anyone wants his self-absorbed, slightly-geeky, semi-Asperger’s self? They are welcome to him.
I mean, I love him and all, but I DO have that sticky-out-y stomach issue going on. AS HE CONTINUES TO POINT OUT.
So I ask you, would YOU want him?

Then we walked the two blocks (was I insane?) to the library, where all the computers were down. So the kind lady behind the counter had to handwrite all the barcodes for all our books – all, oh, sixteen of them – for checking-out purposes. Now here is where H redeems himself – he drove the car from where it was parked in front of his office building and left it right outside the library for me. God bless him, because anyone knows that the most difficult thing of any outing is getting the kids in and out of the car. Everything else in between, I can handle with (some) equanimity.

THEN we drove to the boys’ old daycare, which is closing at the end of this month, so H and I thought it would be nice for the boys to go say hi and good-bye to everyone. I enjoyed seeing everyone, but the fact of the matter is that I can never remember whose child is whose, and what people’s names are, and my boys acted like they had never ever seen these people before in their lives. Except the baby, who was thrilled to bits to discover that there are other people his size out there in the big wide world! And they would smile at him! And let him teeth their toys! Oh joy!

And then I descended to the lowest depths of decadence and bad-mama-ism: I not only bought Happy Meals on the way home? I CHARGED THEM so I wouldn’t have to stop at an ATM. I think fast food restaurants accepting credit cards is pretty much the end of civilization as we know it, a depravity like unto the Roman Empire’s all-you-can-eat Christian buffets, and the need for a portion of their houses to be actually named the vomitorium. It’s only the first full day of vacation, and here I am. How much lower can I go? I am all too afraid we shall soon find out.

Then this is where I should blog about what this blog is meant to be about (ya folla?): books. Soon, I swear. I, as Blackbird might say and I believe has, pinky swear. I PROMISE YOU. But now, enough about that literary crap. It’s hot and I desperately need a drink. Preferably alcoholic.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

"Running is a big question mark that's there each and every day. It asks you, 'Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?'"

Things I noticed on my run this morning:

The friendliest people are always the old black guys. They smile and say Good morning, almost without fail. In fact, it gets a little weird sometimes – we’re all running laps around a mile loop of the reservoir, so as you can imagine, you pass each other with some frequency. At some point it HAS to be ok to ignore each other, having said Hello or Good Morning the past three or four times.

The least friendly are the old Italian ladies. I don’t say little old Italian ladies, because these are no frail old nonnies; no, they are of the battle-axe variety, stumping along, speaking Italian to each other. I am always convinced they are discussing how fat I am. No, I am not paranoid.

Which reminds me that I hate running past the little old Italian men, because I don’t like even three-hundred-year old men who are discussing bocce in loud Italian to see the jiggly fat on the back of my legs and my wide-load ass.

I have back fat. And it too jiggles when I run. Which is a disconcerting sensation.

I am not losing any noticeable weight. But of course, I am still consuming my usual amount of chocolate. So, you do the math.

There are not many ducks left on the reservoir. There used to be entire flocks. I read an article in the newspaper recently that said that fourteen dead ducks had been discovered up at the reservoir; their cause of death was malnutrition. Now, the reservoir obviously is not a natural habitat, and under its waters do NOT grow greens and weeds and water plants. But there are ponds within the park, so couldn’t the ducks go there? As H pointed out, perhaps any animal that dies of malnutrition in the wild more or less, Darwinically-speaking, deserves to die.

There is honeysuckle in two corners of the reservoir. It smells so nice. I love honeysuckle.

The steps leading into the reservoir waters were down today. I have never seen them down before, they normally must be folded up and fastened, at the side of the waterline. They lead right down into the water and then about a dozen steps below it. I notice these sorts of things because, given my history for swimming illegally in various bodies of water, I have often considered, especially at the end of a run, how refreshing it might be to jump into the reservoir. Steps would make it easier.

Someone had pitched a paint bucket into the water. Um, hello, idiots, that’s our drinking water supply. And it’s nice that the upper reservoir is not covered; the lower one is. If you want the public works people to insist on covering the upper one, then yeah, continue to do stupid shit like that.

Yes, yes, I know - paint, sweaty runner's body - six of one, blah, blah, blah. But *I* am organic at least.

The gardens surrounding the fountain area are lovely. Whoever planned them did a superb job. The irises are just blooming – deep purple with yellow hearts – and the yarrow – and those Dr Seuss-y looking puff balls on tall tall stems. (What ARE those?) The lavender is up. The tulips are done but the lilies are about to come up. Really a beautiful and pleasing display of garden planning know-how.

The water fountains have been turned on, and their fixtures replaced. Definitely a boon for runners, especially in the summer and especially now that the Italian Ice guy won’t be there at the park anymore.

The ribbons left to commemorate and memorialize the Italian ice guy are gone. They weren't left there all that long, considering the guy had plied his trade at the park for well over twenty years.

I need to start weight-training again. My legs need more muscle to support the longer runs I am soon going to have to do, in order to be ready for that 10K in September.


Friday, May 26, 2006

We are all meant to shine, as children do. - Marianne Williamson

On the way to graduation. My little Primo marches manfully down the street. He looked so handsome in his white shirt and khakis, with a paper tie he'd painted last week at preschool looped around his neck.

Graduation mayhem. Yes, it was as loud as it looks. And there were multi-generational dealios going on here. Parents and siblings who had attended the preschool were there to watch their children and sisters and brothers graduate.

SOME smart people brought coffee for their loved ones. I was not that smart. Or that loved. Note to self: if you are going to be in a room packed full of preschoolers, various siblings, grandparents, and parents for any length of time - coffee in the form of a double-shot latte is most definitely in order. Since even I can't condone vodka at 9am. Although this could soon change with the advent of summer vacation.

There was singing, and cheerful greetings to the attendees spoken in unison, and funny little speeches by the two teachers. And a play. Note the troll - very un-troll-like, absolutely adorable M - starring in "The Three Billy Goats Gruff."

With Primo as the Middle Billy Goat Gruff. When he spoke his lines, saying that the Troll really should wait for his bigger, juicier brother to come along, and eat HIM instead, I noticed that Segundo grew visibly nervous.

The surprise finale was a karaoke rendition of "We Will Rock You," complete with hand-painted guitars. A truly classic moment. "You've got mud on your face, a big disgrace, somebody better put you back in your place..."

The four graduates got diplomas. They seemed pleased and proud.
They also quickly came up with several alternate uses for the diplomas. Since my diplomas are lying in a box somewhere in my attic, I'd say that this use is actually pretty ...useful.

The copious amounts of artwork had to come down off the walls. No one wanted to take the Stic-Tack home.

Parents brough cookies and punch and cheese and crackers, for a party afterwards, while we all tried to plan outings over the summer and gathered up the gigantic, nay, did I say COPIOUS?, amounts of artwork.
Terzo wanted DOWN. It was way past his naptime but he was a good sport once I handed him one of my next-door neighbor's to-DIE-for homemade snickerdoodle cookies.

In fact, they were so delectable that he didn't want to waste one. single. crumb. And I took some home and ate them for lunch.

It was a nice little celebration, and I even may have been a little choked up.
But I'll never admit to it.

I'll just blame it on the lack of caffeine.
And the fact that a mere two minutes after the boys got home, they were fighting, and Segundo was jumping on the furniture and crying that he was being teased, and Primo was calling him stupid and poopy and all manner of other pleasant things, and the baby wanted to be changed and fed and put to bed, and H walked out the door to go to work. Where it's peaceful and quiet. And where he will go all summer long. Every day. Leaving me at home with the crazy-making children.

Now, where did I put the vodka?

In winter I get up at night And dress by yellow candle-light. In summer quite the other way I have to go to bed by day. - Robert Louis Stevenson

List Friday, courtesy of Loretta, of Pomegranates and Paper

This week's theme: The harbingers of summer. Loretta requested five each of activities/drinks/foods. As usual, I played fast and loose with the rules.


When I was a kid, my dad going out to buy the sand that went under the little pool he put up in our backyard is what signaled summer to me. We were allowed to play in the pool while it was filling up and for some reason, that was almost more fun than swimming in the already-full pool.

- The smell of hot, sun-baked inner tube, and chlorine
- Bubbles and sidewalk chalk and wiffle ball and games of jailbreak
- Not having to come home until the street lights come on
- Crickets and cicadas and the ding of the Mr Softee ice cream truck
- Purple cows drunk at the backyard picnic table
- Hot dogs on the little hibachi-like grill
- The purchase of a new pair of little white canvas Keds.

Now that I am an adult:

The city pools are filled and are open, and I can gaze at them longingly on my way to work. They always look so refreshing.

The porch furniture is scrubbed and set up, and the swing is let down.
The citronella candles are dug up out of the basement where they’ve been gathering dust.

Cocktails on the front porch before and/or after dinner are now a possibility.
And a probability.

I start wanting iced tea for breakfast rather than hot tea.
And frappucinos instead of hot lattes.
And bagels instead of oatmeal.
And popsicles for afternoon snack.

Our CSA begins. Asparagus and strawberries soon, then onto corn, peaches, raspberries, blueberries, and tomatoes.

The tables and chairs outside the coffee shop appear. The boys and I can sit there and wave hello to all the passing busses.

And flip-flops or Tevas for shoes.

I have to start shaving my legs regularly.

Having to turn on the ceiling fan for it to be cool enough at night to snuggle under the comforter – and it’s still cool enough at 6am to have to wear a long-sleeved shirt for my run, but warm enough that I take it off halfway through.

We start planning the Kennywood visit. Calloo callay, I am not pregnant this summer, so I can ride the rollercoasters! It’s not summer without a corndog, cotton candy, and a couple Thunderbolt rides.

And we may or may not be going to the beach this summer – but do you suppose if I dunked my arm in saltwater , let it dry, and then licked it, it would taste the same as it does after a day in the ocean and sun?

Arguments with furniture are rarely productive. - Kehlog Albran

Sunday I was on my way to the nursery with Terzo, to let him crawl around a bit, because while he was enjoying the stained glass and the organ, he was also making a bit too much of the joyful noise unto the Lord than is necessary. I was waylaid by the book sale in the parish hall. And then my librarian instincts blindsided me and I helped shelf four boxes of newly-arrived books, and organized what they already had shelved. Ahhhh…..much better.

Turns out the church secretary is on lifting limitations due to recent surgery, so I told her I would be happy to come by and shelve whatever comes in. I was totally honest with her, I am happy to help, but it’ll be nice to get first crack at the donations, too. She didn’t seem to mind at all.

This is what I scored:
I Should Have Stayed Home: The worst trips of great writers - so far really interesting and amusing.
The Silver Anniversary Murder - Lee Harris. I’ve read most of Harris’ “holiday” mysteries. Her detective is an ex-nun, and mostly the mysteries are research-intensive sorts of things, but they’re fun, mindless reads. For when I need that.
Babylon Revisited and other stories - F. Scott Fitzgerald. Why not? Collecting the classics is ok.
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant. I have read this several times, but lent my copy to someone in the book club and I will never see it again. And I want to own it. Although I HATED Diamant’s second novel.
The Hours - Michael Cunningham. Not a huge Woolf fan, but I’ve heard too many things about this not to at least check it out.
The Map of Love - Ahdaf Soueif. It was a Booker finalist. I know nothing else. That’s often enough.
A Beautiful Mind - Sylvia Nasar. I’ve never seen the movie, I can’t stand Russell Crowe. But the book looks interesting. Plus, if I remember correctly, he’s a Carnegie Tech alum.

The boys got a few books – Muppets, a (blech!) Berenstain Bears, and another Richard Scarry for Seggie, and two books about natural disasters and weather, for Primo. Going to church is getting to be an expensive habit.


Otherwise, things have been a’ shiftin’ around here. We were given a china cupboard. So now all my platters can live in our original, smaller china cabinet, and the pantry is freed up for foodstuffs.

I am ripping up carpet in the bedrooms – why would you not refinish the whole floor? I just wonder.

And we are rearranging minor things. Just turning this rug the other way made the entryway feel much cozier and welcoming. Like you might want to hang up your coat and stay a while. And as soon as we pick up the armoire I bought off Craig’s List, the TV will migrate down to the living room.

At which point the couch will become the crisis.
Because it’s really ugly, with or without the slipcover. But considering that this morning, Seggie was entertaining himself by piling up the cushions and belly-flopping his way down the furniture mountain, I see no reason whatsoever to spend any kind of real cash on new furniture.

Not while the barbarians still reside here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Communism teaches and seeks two objectives: unrelenting class warfare and the complete eradication of private ownership.

Primo wanted to make sure that everyone knew just what was what, and what was whose, in the TV/computer room.

These shelves and books are clearly Mama's.

This shelf of guitar magazines - obviously Daddy's.

The computer and the desk upon which it sits? Mama's and Daddy's both.

Ditto the printer.

Only adults are permitted to touch the TV and its cabinet. Ipso facto - Mama's and Daddy's.

Also Mama's and Daddy's? The TV tables.

Apparently house components such as windowsills belong to us all. Never mind that Daddy and I are the ones PAYING for this residence.

However, the green leather spinny chair? The boys'.


This post brought to you by everyone's favorite permanent marker, Sharpie.

Monday, May 22, 2006

And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.

Cake-baking day. Everyone knows that the thing you need most of all, when baking a cake, is a double-shot latte.

And, you know, a recipe. From Eat Cake.

Not to mention a very --- helpful --- helper....

And someone else to do the pan prep, since it took longer than mixing the cake batter!

The batter that looked like cat sick.

But that baked up into a delicate little cake.

That everyone devoured.

Even Segundo who really does not have much of a sweet tooth.

And the adults? More or less licked their plates clean.

I play the game for the game's own sake. - Sherlock Holmes, in The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans

Swiped from Joke, who swiped it from Badger (who pilfered it from Karla):

1. What's in the glove box of your car? The folder with all the car stuff in it; a toothbrush; a box of tampons; a hair clip; a pen or two; a five-dollar bill; a few maps (Pittsburgh, PA, NJ); an extra clippy thingey for the car seat/seatbelt
2. Favorite classes in college (or high school):
High school: geometry, algebra, biology, calculus
College: Modern Novel, Shakespeare, History of Theatre
3. Shampoo brand: some sort of Herbal Essence – whatever’s citrus-y
4. Favorite piece of furniture you own: a tie between a red-oak Mission-style china cabinet and my cream-painted drop-leaf secretary/desk that my grandfather built. Although I do adore my bed. It's so cozy.
5. Idea of a really good first date: drinks, then a casual-ish dinner, then home or if it’s going really well, a coffee or a schlep around a bookstore. I hate seeing movies on dates.
6. Favorite fruit: oranges, lemons
7. Pick a passage from a favorite book:
Spring has come; windows are open. Green fire burns fiercely along the branches of every tree and shrub. A month ago the wild geese started flying north; over the lake, against a morning sky, the black-dotted wedge of their flying made lovely patterns. Birds have all picked out their house sites among hedgerows and tree-tops. They are hard at work discovering their own building material. Our neighbor’s bees are singing their spring foraging song. The little brown bee does hum – ho-hum.
Through the open window comes the sound of roller skates. Along the macadam road, where by law or caution they should not be, children dart back and forth like low-skimming swallows. Clump – chug – chirr – clump! Arms saw the air. The plaids and checks, the skirts and sweaters, make patterns. A red-head unties a skipping rope from around her waist and thrusts the wodden handles into two hands outstretched to receive them. In a moment she is going to show what can be done on roller skates with a skipping rope.
A solitary figure escapes the huddle. She chugs over to the curb and mounts it to the sidewalk. She stand sthere and shows what a strange little figure she is, different from the rest….
I knew her in an instant; although I had forgotten all about her for years, had forgotten she had ever existed. It gives me a shock to see her, looking so exactly as she should look, so everlastingly full of life andf still on roller skates. I put my head out of the window and call:

from Roller Skates, by Ruth Sawyer
8. What would you eat for dinner if it were your last night on earth? A Bacardi cocktail; Champagne, fresh field salad with balsamic vinaigrette and olives, roasted duck, something blue-cheese-y (maybe in potatoes), and the coconut-chocolate (Mounds-bar-sy) pie from Gulliftey’s – maybe two pieces. With coffee and a cigarette. And then some Armagnac and a cigarette.
9. Free Will or Destiny: free will
10. What would you sing at karaoke? “Sweet Baby James” – James Taylor. Or “When I’m Sixty-Four”
11. Sweater or Sweatshirt? Sweater. Preferably cashmere, and roomy.
12. Paris, NYC, Tokyo, or Rio de Janeiro? Paris.
13. What do you wear to bed usually? Dilapidated t-shirts from long-ago fraternity parties and men’s pj bottoms from Old Navy
14. If you dyed your hair, what colour would you dye it? Auburn, and I usually do.
15. If you went back to school, what would you study? English literature, specifically during the Renaissance – the symbiosis of religion and the creation of literature
16. Gum or mints? Original Trident gum
17. Recurring nightmares? Trying to escape a house in which I am trapped with a psychopath – generally, it’s in my childhood home, and I have to get across the street to my neighbor’s house to call the police
18. Age & location of first kiss? 14, the haunted house ride at Clementon Amusement Park, Clementon, NJ
19. Describe your favourite pair of shoes: I hate shoes.
20. What movie/tv character do you feel like you relate to most? Lindsay on “Freaks and Geeks”; Natalie on “Sports Night”
21. First CD purchase: I can’t remember. Probably the Eric Clapton Layla boxed set as a Christmas present for my then-boyfriend
22. First concert: Amy Grant, before she went secular (it was the album with the traffic light on the front; “El Shaddai” was her big hit)
23. Do you like camping? Not really. Because as with all vacations, I wind up cooking and cleaning. And oh what fun that is at a campsite. Plus I hate all the spiders in the bathrooms, and it ALWAYS rains when we camp. And I am always convinced I am going to be mauled to death by an animal. See below, although THEY generally are not a danger at campsites.
24. If you were doomed to be mauled to death by an animal, what animal would you prefer that to be? A shark.
25. Do you/would you own a gun? No, no, no, NO.
26. What religion would you like to know more about: Judaism
27. Favourite food as a kid: Hershey bars, or those ice cream bars with the ice cream inside and the crunchy stuff, either chocolate or strawberry on the outside. You could buy them in the school cafeteria for 25 cents.
28. How many languages do you speak? Sadly, only one. I can get by in Italian, as long as all I need is change or the bathroom; I can stumble through reading in Spanish and Italian – meaning, I can get the general gist of an abstract or newspaper article (Three hundred dead in hurricane! President overthrown in military coup!), but certainly absolutely none of the details or nuances.
29. If you were a natural disaster, would you be a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake? Hurricane. I like the water. And I’m full of (hot) air.
30. If you could make one state in the US just go away, which state would that be? Texas. Sorry, Badger. I’d make sure you had time to evacuate.
31. How many prescriptions do you take? One daily, one as needed.
32. Lake or Ocean? Ocean (I am a Jersey Girl.)
33. What is the worst lie you've ever told to get out of work, (and don't say you've never lied to get out of work, because that my friend is a lie and you know it)? I said one of my kids was sick.
34. Do you carry a backpack, a satchel or "man bag", tote bag, brief case, or a backpack on wheels? A soft briefcase-y thing from Eddie Bauer, in dark green.
35. Have you ever been arrested/cited for anything other than traffic violations? Um, yes.
36. Would you ever consider spending some time at a nudist colony? As long as my husband weren’t there to comment on my stomach, yes.
39. Best thing you can cook? I bake like a champ. You name it, I can bake it. H would say my biscotti. I like my lemon-curd cake, or my Mexican pineapple cake.
And what happened to 37 and 38? Forty.
40. If you were going to donate 1000 dollars to a charity, what would that be? I’d split it between the public library and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Give us this day our daily bread...


Cheerfully and flagrantly stolen from Blackbird, who in turn swiped it from various other people, and tracked down at last at The newspaper clipping generator.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Is it progress if a cannibal uses a fork? - Stanislaw Lec

My dear college friend Hungry in LA sent me a birthday package. It contained this:

Sharks and Other Sea Monsters

She knows me so well. I love it.
Thank you, Hungry! I love you!
Is the dog still alive?


I am currently enjoying The Sex Lives of Cannibals, on both Blackbird’s and Badger’s recommendations. It’s by and about a Westerner working in the equatorial Pacific atolls, and is set in the Republic of Kiribati - which is a neighbor to Tuvalu. Not that anyone we know lives in Tuvalu…


I went to my orthodontist today. He who reminds me of a fatter – um, maybe heavier is a better word - Colin Firth. Impeccably dressed, as always. Adorable. Married with five children. Good friend of the sweetheart drummer from H’s band. It used to be I couldn’t speak in his presence – I mean, aside from the fact that his hands were in my mouth up to his elbows – but he’s known me through two pregnancies – AND, I am sorry, once a man has seen you having molds of your mouth made – you just know there is never ever going to be any potential there, even for a mild flirtation, not even if you were the last woman and he were the last man on earth.

Double that after he’s handled your retainer.

My teeth are perfect. They haven’t moved in two years.
Because I wear my retainer every single night.
It’s dead sexy.

And then he asked if I was pregnant.

So now, even if by some bizarre twist of fate he found the retainer and the blue mold-making stuff wildly, secretly sexy? I wouldn’t have him.




Then I went to the thrift shop up the street, run by the Junior League (translates to: They always have nice stuff - and strangely cheap!)

One beautiful thing about a blog is that I can tell YOU all about my thrift shop purchases and modestly accept your approval and kudos for bargains found and fabulous stuff ferreted out. Because when I told my husband, not only did he not care, but then it grossed him out that the clothes I was wearing came from a thrift shop and so then I couldn’t wear them. Which is sort of pointless. So I write a blog, everyone wins. Well, except maybe you, gentle readers, but hey, your fate is in your own hands.

I scored:

  • A Saks Fifth Avenue blue-striped cotton bathrobe - not that I ever wear a bathrobe. But if I did, this is the kind I would. And it was only three bucks. So maybe I’ll start wearing a bathrobe, swanning around the house in my blue-stripes, trailing the belt behind me, over cute slouchy pjs from LL Bean. See! I can wear it Christmas morning so I’ll look just like one of those thin and blonde models in the Bean catalog, carrying around a cup of cocoa and ruffling the golden retriever’s fur. Well, except for the thin and blonde part. Oh, and the golden retriever. But three dollars! How could I resist? That whole little fantasy right there was worth the three bucks.

  • Brown linen wide-legged capris from Old Navy, that I wore to work tonight with a grey v-neck t-shirt and a slouchy cloud-grey silk v-neck sweater I gave H for Christmas umpteen years ago and that he never wore so I swiped it back. I look quite cute, even if I say so myself. Very NOT LL Bean, however.

  • Jeans – because no matter how bad they look, you must own a pair of jeans that you can wear

  • Navy and white abstract print skirt – my typical skirt these days – A-line, low-waist. Fine for work.

  • Black and white plaid skirt, long, sort of mermaid-y shaped…still not so sure about this one. It fits over my hips just fine but not particularly well over my tummy. Damn kids.

All for eighteen bucks.

Thrift stores rock the casbah.


List Friday, courtesy of Loretta, of Pomegranates and Paper

This week's theme: Advice for the college graduate, from the keyboard of one older and wiser - or at least older…


  • Do what you love and the money will follow.
    (Or it might not, but at least you will be happy.
    Although mostly, the money does indeed follow. Maybe not wealth untold, but enough to support yourself.)
  • That said, try really really hard not to default on your student loans. (But if you do, if you can make the payments on time, in full, for twelve months, you'll be back in the good graces of your lenders. And then you can get a mortgage just fine.)

  • Appreciate your freedom. Family life with kids and a home is wonderful, but it's nice to be footloose and fancy-free too.
    Someday you'll want to have ice cream for dinner and spend whole weekends reading big fat novels and will not be able to.

  • Travel whenever possible. Don't dismiss traveling somewhere you don't think you want to go, because sometimes the best adventures are completely serendipitous.

  • Don't be afraid to try new things and make new friends. But stay in touch with your college friends, because they knew you when, and in fifteen years, that'll be a good thing. Because they’ll send you cool birthday gifts!

  • Invest in a good dictionary, if you don't already have one. (Although if you are a college graduate, WHY don't you have one?)
    And get a library card at your local library.

That is all. I hope you profit from my untold wisdom. It would be nice if SOMEBODY’S kids listened to me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

He that hath a wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief.

I think I have recovered from my case of Blogger’s Clog - here’s a catch-up post full of whatever has caught my fancy in the past few weeks.

I mentioned that my church was holding a book sale, and that I scored big time. Turns out this sale goes on all. summer. long. The rector says there gets to be a point where people stop buying books and start bringing them. So this is most definitely something to keep my eye on.

Books from the church book sale (there were more, a whole shopping bag full, but some were for the boys and some were just, “Hey this is cheap so let’s check it out” titles; these were the big scores):
Stiff and her newest, Spook, by Mary Roach – in pristine hardcover.
Wickett’s Remedy - also in pristine hardcover. Ok, I know I tried to read this before and didn’t care for it, but I LOVED Bee Season and so for a buck I figured I could give this another shot, especially in such great condition, in hardcover!
Caleb Carr’s Killing Time - not that I was so in love with The Alienist, but hey – it was cheap. Also in great shape.
A couple mysteries, including a Ruth Rendell I have not read.

Someone at my church has a seriously bad brand-new-book habit, my sweet little Internet ones, and apparently money to burn. And I am benefiting. Ah.

I started ripping up the carpet in what will soon be the library/computer room, so I can move the bookshelves in there, so I can move the books in there, so I can organize them again, so I can find what I need to read when I want it. Who says I am not organized? Also, time to catalog the fiction.

Those of you who have been following my so-called Holocaust reading: Stones from the River, Leeway Cottage, A Thread of Grace, add to the list After Long Silence by Helen Fremont. ‘An intense read’ barely begins to describe it. The author was raised in the Midwest as a Roman Catholic and finds out in her early thirties that both of her parents are actually Jewish Holocaust survivors. They do not even go by their real names anymore, and they have maintained this fa├žade for well over thirty years. Apparently there’s been some controversy regarding the author’s motives for delving into her parents’ hidden past and for writing this book, and I do understand that viewpoint – her parents still do not acknowledge her findings – but what an incredible, moving, brave saga. Her parents are extraordinary people. There were parts in the book about the author’s sexuality that I found unnecessary and even distracting, and development of minor characters was spotty, but overall, a terrific addition to survivor literature.

On a much lighter note:
Sarah Louise made me buy Eat Cake so I suppose it’s only fair that she be the first to benefit – I am baking her a cake. Pick a flavor, SL. Because this book, in addition to being funny and heartwarming and having the greatest cast of quirky and smart characters that I’ve run across since Bridget Jones? Totally makes you want to bake - and eat - cake.

I am trying to read a book someone’s agent sent to me, but it’s slow going. I promised said agent a review when I finished. So you will also get the review. But I may not finish it. Which right there is a review in itself.


I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It was pouring rain. And I thought to myself, “Self, the floors must be vacuumed and mopped.” Because it seems as if the Cheerios have been multiplying and migrating during the night, and I am tired of walking around with cereal bits stuck to the soles of my feet. Didn’t Paul Simon write a song about that? Anyhoo – so I made Nutella and English muffin sandwiches, and sliced up banana, and mixed up a bowl of assorted dried fruits, and set the boys up in front of the TV to watch a movie – big treat around here. Perhaps too big, as it is fraught with all sorts of unseen landmines – like I picked the wrong movie. Arguing and screaming ensued. I turned off the TV. Much more, much louder screaming, that woke the sleeping baby. I lost it, did lots of my own screaming, whacked both of the boys on their butts, and sent them to their room. Crying myself, I called H and sobbed about what a horrible failure I am as a mother, that my children are mean and awful and I was just trying to do something nice for them, and what is wrong with them, and what is wrong with me? Blah blah blah, ad nauseum. Then I had a slug of vodka – no, no, that’s what I wished I had done. I mopped and vacuumed and felt a bit better. And then everyone calmed down and eventually they ate most of their lunch, but we did NOT watch a movie.

My Perfect sister-in-law called last night, to tell me that she is going to be the librarian at her boys’ small, private Catholic school. Now, S has her shit together and usually gets what she wants, but, um, how do I say this? I HAD TO GET A MASTER’S DEGREE to be a librarian. H has pointed out to me that I work as a *reference librarian* in a *university* – do I WANT to be a Catholic-school, part-time librarian? No, but my friends, that is not the point. Is it. Apparently the catch is in her title. She can be whatever she wants, for as long as she wants, as long as she is termed the “interim” whatever. And I am not saying she won’t be the best thing that ever happened to that library – if anyone can argue to get Heather Has Two Mommies on the shelves there, S sure can. And she is a fund-raising wiz, not to mention energetic and enthusiastic and smart. [sotto voce: she also has lovely boobs…ahem….boob job…] but *I* have a master’s degree.
Now I just sound like Bill Nye.

I know I never did the t-shirt Show-and-Tell. I apologize profusely, if not earnestly. But I only wear boring t-shirts – race shirts and old fraternity party shirts - so I was going to use the boys as models and have them wear their favorites. Only I could never get all three clean at the same time, to take the photo. So I will tell you that Primo’s favorite t-shirt is a tie between a very ugly blue-and-yellow shirt with the planets printed on it, and his grey Batman t-shirt that came with the Underoos he got for Christmas. Segundo’s favorite t-shirt is a Pittsburgh Penguins t-shirt with Sidney Crosby’s name and number on the back. The baby doesn’t know it but his favorite t-shirt is a white long-sleeved shirt from BabyGap with a badly-drawn picture of a puppy on the front. Now you know. As if you care.

I found this on a Craig’s List listing:
Brown leather Ikea sofa. Sofa has a rustic appearance. Can send a pic via cell phone. It's about 6-7 years old and was not used much. I do not watch TV and I never had a party while I used this sofa in my living room. I never had sex on it either. Once I spilled a bowl of cereal on it and it wiped right up.

I named my Mother’s Day pig.
Wait for it.
Francis Bacon

I was eating chocolate-covered pretzels the other day and had a brilliant idea: salted chocolate. Yes?


My apologies ahead of time to L, whose dear little dog is often gussied up in these crazy get-ups. Ingrid is sweet and beautiful, and I don’t mean her when I poke fun. I swear! Although this dress? May just push me over the top:

And dudes? The velour dog hoodie. Actually sorta cute, I guess.

The two-piece bathing suit, though? Just wrong.

And this? How does the dog go to the bathroom?

This is what the well-dressed dog wears to cruise in San Fran…

Do I look fat in this?
Is this not sort of…redundant?
Not to mention it looks more like a fuzzy heart.
Veins in, arteries out…maybe it looks better on...

Now this is actually funny.

But still so wrong.


It’s the end of the world as I know it.
(But I feel fine.)

I don't know about you but I just want to take a BITE out of one of those delicious baby thighs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I completely stopped eating dead creatures in 1989. - Bryan Adams

I have blogger's block.

I thnk I expended all my wittiness and humor last weekend for Blackbird's benefit - good heavens, that was TWO weekends ago now - anyway, now I am DRY.

My older brother just left - he came in Sunday evening, wearing a Philadelphia Flyers sweatshirt, which provoked my boys into saying things like, "Yucky Flyers!" and "Punch those Flyers right in the nose!" in affectionate greeting.

Because my brother is a bachelor and subsists on things like Wawa hoagies and supermarket salads, I consider it my right and proper sisterly duty to cook all kinds of delicacies and goodies for him when he comes to visit.

Now, when my little brother comes, I alternate between meals for him - chicken and rice in cream sauce, cornbread, canned cranberry sauce, and this impossibly rich, enormous cheesecake that he and I have been known to devour in a twenty-four hour period, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - and meals for his beautiful, healthy, and very thin wife - broiled fish, rice, steamed vegetables, baked potatoes, salads.

But when C comes to town, I know he will eat anything I put in front of him - as long as there are no nuts in it, he is allergic - so this is sorta fun for me.

Monday I made turkey sloppy joes on potato rolls, corn on the cob, and homemade oven fries. Also an apple cake. Last night I made baked ziti with sausage and mozzarella, a huge tossed salad, and buttery garlic bread. For breakfast this morning I scrambled him several eggs with green pepper, onion, tomato, and provolone, with a side of toast, and fruit salad.
He ate everything heartily, washed down with several cups of coffee or Guinness, depending on the hour. There is but one slice of apple cake left. Ah. I feel as if I have fulfilled my hostessly obligation, to send my houseguests home with distended bellies and no need to eat for a week.

Visits with C in the past have been tense; sometimes having him around can be like having another child around. The only difference being that HE at least is obedient -his favorite saying is, "I'm just a foot soldier," meaning he just does what he's told, ma'am. Which can be ok but can also be extremely frustrating. But he seems to have reached a good and peaceful place in his life and the past few visits have been fun and he's even been helpful. Heck, he even sprung for a case of beer this visit! And played endless games of table football and Battleship with Primo. Not to mention he can and does hold the baby for hours on end. Which is a good thing as my formerly sweet and easy-going baby has turned into a back-arching tyrant. He seems to actually enjoy throwing himself backwards and banging his head on things. Good thing he grows cuter with each passing day. Because otherwise? I'd give him to the gypsies. As long as they promised to return him when the tyrant phase ended, because I can always use another toddler around telling me I'm "pitty."


I serve this dish often at birthday parties and family dinners as it's easy and makes a lot. To complement it, all you need to do is throw together a tossed salad - maybe with some fresh mozzarella in the salad as well - and slice up some Italian bread. And I have yet to meet anyone who does not like it, or at least parts of it.

Baked Ziti

Olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 big cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1/4 cup dry red wine (I have even used cooking wine and it's all right, but a drinkable wine is preferred.)
35-oz can whole plum tomatoes, chopped, with juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano, or 2 TBSP dried
1 cup ricotta
1 cup grated pecorino or other Italian cheese or blend
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 lb ziti
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, cubed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Lightly oil a 9x13 baking dish.

In a large skillet, heat about 2 TBSP olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, saute till soft, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and sausage, saute till sausage begins to brown.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Drain fat if necessary.
Add wine, let boil till almost gone.
Add tomatoes. Cook uncovered, at lively simmer, for about 10 minutes. Sauce will thicken slightly.
Add oregano.

In large bowl, mix ricotta, half the pecorino, parsley, a pinch of nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook ziti till al dente.
Drain well and toss with ricotta mixture.
Add sausage and sauce and mix again.
Add mozzarella and toss gently.
Pour into baking dish and sprinkle with remaining pecorino.

Bake uncovered till lightly browned and bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Monday, May 15, 2006

If the people have no bread, let them eat cake. - Marie Antoinette

As I type this, Terzo is intently trying to jam things down the radiator pipe holes in the hardwood floor. I am fairly confident that, at 21 pounds, 5 ounces, HE will not fit. But I digress.

I took the two younger boys to the bookstore this morning, as an excuse to get some coffee and kill some time in a pleasant way. I do have stuff to do, just nothing that could be done with the two of them around so I figured we might as well enjoy ourselves.

Our Barnes and Noble has a Thomas table, with umpteen trains and all the fancy-schmancy pieces. My boys could play there for hours, were I so inclined.
The baby was not mobile the last time we went, so there was that this time around to deal with, but still, I can sit down, give him a train to chew on (preferably one of the not-popular ones, like Duck), and drink my coffee in relative peace. And oddly, the boys do not fight with each other over the B&N trains the way they do at home - probably because they are busy fending off OUTSIDERS.

I decided that since I had a little extra cash left over this week - no idea how that happened - that I would buy the last Kate Martinelli mystery that I hadn't read. So I bought Night Work.
And Sarah Louise was with us, and she recommended a book she has been raving about, Eat Cake. How oh how could I possibly resist that title? I ADORE cake. So I bought that too.
And then, there's this blog that Gina and I found when we'd first started blogging, consisting of Weight Watcher recipe cards from the seventies that are hilarious, with commentary. The woman who posted them got a book deal - and lo and behold, The Amazing Mackerel Diet Plan book was born. And I bought it. Because I really like to support fellow bloggers.. If you ever get a book deal, I promise you, I will buy your book pretty much as soon as it comes out. Because I am a good friend that way. (Although,I have to say, commentary was completely unnecessary in the Jiffy Cooking cookbook Blackbird and I scored last weekend at the Bethlehem thrift shop.)
I wanted to buy the new issue of Outside magazine, the one where Nando Parrado, one of the survivors of the 1972 Andes airplane crash, has his new book excerpted. It's the first time he's ever talked about his experience, and I can't wait to read it. So I decided to wait and just buy the book instead.

And would you like to know what else I bought? This little porker captured my heart at first glance. He has this precious little curling tail, and those teeny, velvety cloven hooves. He is MINE. He will live on my mantel. He will NOT be slobbered upon by babies, or thrown around by toddlers. (I must have pigs on the brain - in Bethlehem, I barely restrained myself from buying a little plush pig with her little nursling piglets attached magnetically - decided it was a bit to close to home...) Anyway, I think I will consider him my Mother's Day gift to myself.

Speaking of, I still think, despite my lovely day, that celebrating Mother's Day is such a scam. I decided this morning that I would rather celebrate National My-Children-Not-Pummeling-Each-Other-to-Death day. Does anyone know when that holiday falls? And if Hallmark makes cards for it? I actually thought I would be spending my Mother's Day at church and then at the Holiday Inn, eating bad food and observing my nephew's First Communion. Although probably in reverse order. I think that this was incredibly poor timing and taste on the part of the Catholic church, to schedule this on Mother's Day, but what can you do? He's my nephew, it's a big deal to him, and we love him - we go. But Mother's Day is normally when I can count on being taken out for an enormous sushi dinner. Which didn't happen this year. Instead I anticipated - not in the positive sense - undercooked chicken and overcooked green beans and wilted salad. At least there would be cake. Surprisingly, SHOCKINGLY, even, the food was good, the cookies were plentiful, and the cake - it was delicious.