Thursday, December 21, 2006

More Christmas Magic

NSBR and I are trying to work up a little musical number for Christmas day with my family. My mother is playing piano duets with NSLR and S, and M is going to sing "Jingle Bells" with my brother. So R. and I want to do something with this gem, which we only discovered in the past year or so. Robbie Robertson strikes again (his "Broken Arrow" was one of "our" songs, and we were pretty outraged when Rod Stewart had a hit with it a couple of years later).

So R.'s working on guitar, and I'm trying to come up with a descant on the mandolin. After a year of sporadically trying to learn cross-picking in my nonexistent spare time, I discovered that what Robbie George (Princeton professor and erstwhile bluegrass musician) told me in June is true: if you can play pizzicato on the violin, you can pick out a melody on the mandolin. But of course, now I want to play all these long, drawn-out notes. Please don't let me discover that I should have worked harder on the violin, that the violin was what I wanted all along. I want to make pretty mandolin sounds! I want to pick the living daylights out of that thing like Chris Thile!

Super-Easy Little Mince Pies

Buy a big jar of mincemeat and two boxes of ready-made pie crust (the kind that unrolls).
Grease a mini-muffin pan.
Cut out circles from the unrolled crust with a 2 1/4 inch biscuit cutter and press into pan. Put a teaspoonful of mincemeat (and I mean a teaspoon from your flatware drawer, not a measuring teaspoon) in each one. Cut stars to top pies (you'll need a star cutter that's on the small side). Press star points onto edges of bottom crust, although this turned out to be an empty exercise on my part. Bake at 375 degrees (in my sluggish oven) for 20 minutes. Cool in pan.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Seasonal Notes

Sunday night December 17th: not a good night to start idly paging through your Martha Stewart books. Why, why didn't I make gallons of preserves in July, hundreds of fruitcakes in October, and comb the antique stores for the perfect baskets and bowls in which to present my gifts. (Okay, I know in the case of the fruitcakes it's because I'm well aware that everyone hates fruitcake).

But I did get all Martha Stewart-y on a small scale. The girls helped me strip the leaves off of a lot of lemon verbena I had drying in the attic. We cut circles from some plaid fabric I had hanging around and made little sachet bundles. We wove Danish heart baskets. Today I made stuffed dates (I roll them in sugar), for which I usually enlist S.'s help but she has strep throat again and that's not a gift I want to give.

And then we packed all those things, plus the odd ornament or two, in with the Starbucks cards and voila! Teacher presents. Safe for another year. And without all that pesky canning.


There's a song I am currently loving, and apparently the DJ at Lite FM is too. It has to be hard to listen to Andy Williams exhorting you to hang up your sock several times a day, so thank goodness there's Dan Fogelberg and his excellent Same Old Lang Syne.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


  • If you mix a box of Goya Mexican Rice with a box of Goya Red Beans and Rice, it turns out very well.
  • If you ever have the opportunity to pick up a wallpaper or upholstery sample book, grab it. They are excellent for making dioramas.*

*This tip only for people who intend to have children who attend school. Or insane people who actually like to make dioramas.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I think that I shall never see/A poem as lovely as cookie-dough ice cream

On Saturday night we had takeout Indian with the N.'s, old friends of mine, and the B.'s, NSBR's sister and brother-in-law. JN and SB were on my right and left, so my end of the table was by far the more cynical end. We had Ben and Jerry's for dessert and NSBR commented, "Hey, this cookie-dough ice cream is pretty good!" SB began shaking with repressed laughter. JN and I looked at him inquiringly. "It's like going back in time," he managed to get out, "It's like hearing something someone said in 1987."

We have officially gone over to the dark side: I ordered an artificial Christmas tree yesterday. It's not your father's artificial tree. Very realistic looking, and comes pre-lit. I won't miss the nerve-wracking process of putting the lights on, nor the shower of needles (some of last year's needles are still stuck in the front door threshold), or the necessity of watering. I'm hoping we use it long enough to save some money. But I will miss the fragrance, and it seems so LA (and thus wrong) to spray the thing with pine scent.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Time Machine

Does anyone else remember Ice Bird? I told my parents I wanted this for Christmas when I was 3 or 4, and I can still remember the vehemence with which they informed me that I would not be getting one. Now my main reaction to the commercial is "Could that syrup look less appetizing?"

Saturday, December 02, 2006


I'm not doing Holidailies.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Attention Stalkers

I've decided to blog about this, despite the fact that it pinpoints my location rather handily:

Our local bowling alley has been called "Memory Lanes" for as long as I can remember. (Get it? Memory Lanes?)

They have changed the name to "Memory Bowling," and have a new sign that features a bowling elephant.

That's all I'm going to say.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Last Dance, Last Chance For Love

So no, I didn't make it. Luckily, I wasn't in it for the prizes--and I am so not a realist that while I still had perfect attendance I was worried about what I would do if I won the scary turkey painting.

I did pretty well, though. I only missed those four hellish days of our "vacation." And if I had shelled out $10/day for the in-room Internet at the Marriott Courtyard I wouldn't have missed those. But somehow on top of the bazillion dollars our two rooms cost, $40 was too much. At least in my addled "vacation" state.

And since I'm a glutton for punishment, I'm trying again.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Three More Totally Unrelated Things

I watched "House" for the first time in a long time last night and it was awful. Just awful.

I have the GI bug my kids had on "vacation." I thought I had had a very light case already, but I was wrong. I have it now. It is also just awful.

I'm rereading Gone With The Wind for the umpteenth time. It's wonderful. Next I'm going to watch the movie for the umpteenth time. I deserve it, because I'm sick.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Three Totally Unrelated Things

Giant Presidents' Heads
On our "vacation," we did go on one entertaining outing between all the fevers and vomiting and so forth. Now, we are unusual in that we have already been to Colonial Williamsburg too many times to count (especially NSBR), Jamestown a few times, Yorktown once, and Busch Gardens once. So we are, admittedly, scraping the bottom of the barrel. But Presidents Park has a certain schlocky charm.

Here is a picture of S. hugging JFK's tie because he was the first and only Catholic president (her idea):

Piano, Piano, Piano (Get it, Ergo?)
We are getting a piano! It is a Steinway console with a music rack just like this:

But in ebony satin, like this:

My parents are giving it to us. A friend of theirs inherited a grand and is selling this one at a good price. It is far too generous a gift, but I could not say no. I want a real piano so much (right now we have a Clavinova, which they also gave us. It's magnificent, but it's not a piano). And, frankly, my mother wants us to have a real piano so much. Her piano, the piano I grew up playing, is a Steinway console, so being my freakishly loyal self I consider it the best type of piano, preferable to a Steinway grand. And we'll have it for Christmas caroling! And the childrens' teachers will be so happy! Bliss.

Studio 60
No one is that bad at telling jokes. And I just wish they had made it that Tom couldn't tell a joke, or the rookie, or Sim...I wish they had not gone straight for a woman. It makes me hate Aaron Sorkin. It makes me want to boycott the show. But I want to know who the father of Jordan's baby is.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back, and Worse Than Ever

I was, in fact, unable to post while on Thanksgiving "vacation." That word is in quotes because an experience so hellish cannot be described as a vacation without irony. I don't feel able to share most of the incidents that went into making it unenjoyable, but I will say that I am looking for a new pediatrician. Take the worst epithet you can think of, add an intensifying obscenity in front of it, and you begin to get a mild sense of how I feel about our current one. S. was diagnosed with strep throat less than a week before Thanksgiving, so when R. and M. developed sore throats the day after, I figured we knew what we were dealing with. I called the ped's office on Saturday morning only to be told "You'll have to take them to see someone down there." This despite past assurances that, even when home, once I had one strep case if someon else developed symptoms I could just call for a prescription.

Ironically, the extremely kind doctor at the urgent care center said he wouldn't bother to culture R. and M. "Even if it came back negative, I'd be inclined to give you a prescription, with strep already in the house." I smiled weakly at him.

So now we're home, and in addition to unpacking and finding a new ped, I just need to register the new car, junk the old one (after I obtain the title, which I never bothered to pick up after the loan was paid up), detail the new car, and entertain my mother-in-law, who arrives later today.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Sad Realization

I am going over many rivers and through lots of woods today. When I reach the Marriott that substitutes for Grandmother's house, it may or may not have one computer with internet access in the lobby. Ain't got no laptop, aint got no wifi. So this may be the end of the line for me. I hadn't even come close to giving up yet.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I am proud to report

That when you search Google for sausage kimchi bap, my blog is the first hit.

The Fire Next Time

Just started listening to Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions album, and it is awesome. I know, I'm a little behind (an expression I can never use without thinking of a corny belated-birthday greeting card with a picture of a baby's butt). What I lack in punctuality I make up in enthusiasm. My favorite cut is "Mary Don't You Weep," not only because of its rousing vocals and outstanding fiddle work by Soozie Tyrell, but also because of its peculiar appropriateness to this season of the liturgical year, when the readings are full of eschatology in anticipation of Advent and the eventual Second Coming. I confess my ignorance freely: although I always loved James Baldwin's title The Fire Next Time, I never knew its source--

God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, but fire next time.
Pharaoh's army got drownded,
O Mary don't you weep.

And I consider myself something of an aficionado of spirituals. I'm also reminded of the vogue Take Six was enjoying when I was in college (at least in a capella circles), and their very different but similarly excellent version of the song.

O Mary don't you weep
Tell Martha not to moan (Martha, don't you moan)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Notes From All Over

My Idea of Hell
David Blaine has a new stunt planned. I really don't know what to say other than I'm so glad I'm not David Blaine.

Mmmm, dim sum
Can't be beat as a Sunday treat. The five of us plus BIL and SIL got out of there for $60 plus tip. My only complaint is that some of the cart-pushers walk up and say inquiringly, "Octopus?" while others say something in Chinese. And we are willing to learn the Chinese names, but no one will provide both names for a thing in a single session. My assignment for next time is to learn the Chinese name of "Shark fin dumpling" because we couldn't secure any this time. But we thought we had learned the name of the bun with the creamy yellow filling--Dan Tot--only to be presented with a tartlet crust holding what seemed to be basically a raw egg. When we finally secured the item we had been thinking of, we asked what it was called. "Mexican bun," we were told.

Oh, and we all tried chicken feet. Simultaneously, for bravery. And now we never have to have them again. I'm kind of disappointed. I had hoped that we would discover that we adored chicken feet, and then we could get all kinds of street cred with the cartfolk. But it was not to be. Chicken feet are a lot of fat, and a lot of barbecue sauce, and a lot of small, uncomfortable, hard-to-manage pieces of bone and connective tissue.

Literary Lions
I happened to catch wind of the fact that last night's Simpsons would feature Michael Chabon and Jonathan Franzen (to my delight, Tom Wolfe and Gore Vidal also appeared), so I made a point of watching it and let the kids watch with us. I haven't watched the Simpsons for many, many years. It is still funny. Something for everyone--slapstick, satire and allusion.
I laughed hardest at the banner above the entrance to the "Wordloaf" conference: "Warning, Philip Roth may be moody." Do we think perhaps Mr. Roth declined a spot on the show? Although I also enjoyed Bart's enthusiastic summing-up of a day of Vermont sight-seeing (esp. given that I've spent some time in Middlebury): "Lisa, we learned so much! Did you know that candles are made by losers?"
This morning NSLR asked, "Can we stay up to watch the Simpsons every Sunday night?" "Well," I said, "You can if it's particularly educational." "What was educational about last night?" "All the literary figures."
S: What are literary figures?
MV: Writers.
NSLR: Right, like Tom Wolfe. And those other guys.
MV: Michael Chabon and Jonathan Franzen.
M: And Rice.
I had no clue what she was talking about, and then R. reminded me that **SPOILER Chabon said to Franzen, "You fight like Anne Rice!" END SPOILER** It was peculiarly like the seemingly random but actually relevant things that Sunny Baudelaire says.

What Have We Learned?
TomKat's wedding proves once and for all that Armani does make a "novvy blue tuxado."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Treasure Trove

If you, like me, have a fondness for 60s-style illustration art with or without irony, look here.

I very much want this:

I have the Bastien-LePage Joan, an art nouveau Sarah Bernhart theater poster Joan, and the "Buy War Bonds" Joan from the national archives. But now I know that I need a gamine Joan.

I have had this obsession--since I became Catholic I learned to call it a "special devotion"--to Joan of Arc ever since I was about 6. My mother went antiquing with a friend and the friend came home with a very romanticized Joan of Arc lithograph. She told me who it was and I was hooked: a young woman who wore armor and saved France! How cool can you get?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

In Fairness to the Menfolk

Two people have arrived here searching for "Though we adore men individually," and of course you remember what comes next. (Link for those who don't).

So I thought I would share these wise words from my writing idol, Rebecca West:

"Another vice incident to woman at present is spiritual pride. She has found the first steps of man's journey upwards quite easy. He had pretended they were difficult, so he gets what he deserves if woman assumes that all the other steps are just as easy, and that the government of empires is as easy as getting a university degree."

And she knew Mrs. Pankhurst.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Our New Car!

If there is a bell or a whistle, this baby has it. Well, it's a 2005, so no Bluetooth (!)--but GPS, DVD, power everything, camera in the back for parking and backing up...and before you think maybe we spoiled ourselves a tad too much I'll just say these two things:

  • My mother described our old car (you know, the one in which I got a literal kick in the ass a week and a half ago) as "squalid."
  • NSBR's Dad has a BMW and his brother and his wife have a Mercedes and a Lexus. If R. wants the fanciest used minivan ever, ever, I say let him have it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Warning: Child Anecdote

M. thinks that she is the first person in history to experience much of what she does, so she frequently explains it to me. "We had a fire drill today." "Ah." "That's when you practice what you would do if there was a real fire." "Yes."

So last night she brought me one of the last candies in her trick-or-treat bag, a packet of plain M&Ms. "Could you open this for me?" As I opened it, she said, "These are soooo good." I tried the same technique I use with adults who are telling me what I already know, to the same no avail. "Yes, aren't they?" "They have chocolate inside," she explained, "and crunchy colored shells on the outside." "I like the peanut ones even better," I flailed. "And they have little Ws on them," she added.

"Actually, they're Ms, M."
"They are?"
"Yes." As gently as I knew how, "That's why they're called M and Ms."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Kids Book Meme

Mark what you've read in bold, italicize what you own.

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak we also own this in French, oddly enough
Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss and this in Latin
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
The BFG by Roald Dahl
The Giver by Lois Lowry
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardine
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (Erica says she has my copy maybe but I’m not sure)
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary (Noah goes on kicks where he rereads all of these)
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
Basil of Baker Street, by Eve Titus
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Stuart Little by E. B. White
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
The Watsons Go to Birmingham1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch

Halfway There

We've made it to Day 15 of Nablopomo, and since November is one of those handy months that hath 30 days, that means we're halfway done. Have I posted every day? Yes, and I'd estimate at a conservative average of 150 words a day. Have I written the approximately 3,000 words required to finish my novel? No, why would I do a thing like that?

Speaking of outraged rhetorical questions, I am an even worse shopping blogger than I previously thought. Not only is that camera at Walgreens pretty sucky, it also doesn't exist. A couple of days after I ordered it I got an e-mail from Walgreens saying, "We don't have that camera--what, are you crazy? Why did you even think up such a thing?" I checked their website and the camera is still in fact there with its enthusiastic labels: "IN STOCK!" "Free Shipping!" "Easy Saver Rebate!"

The flu shot went fine. I filled out a long form with many questions and indicated at least twice that I had never had a flu shot before. When I got to the nurse she glanced at my form and looked at me, saying, "So you have had the flu shot before."
"Um, no," I said, politely not pointing at THE FORM, "I haven't ever had a flu shot before."
As it turns out, this was an attempt at the Jedi mind trick, because then she sighed heavily and said accusingly, "Now I have to ask you a bunch of questions!" These included was I allergic to eggs or chicken. Is anyone allergic to chicken? She also suggested that I "Stick around for 5 minutes in case you have a really bad reaction." So that was nice. I read my Elle (I subscribed to many flitty mags with airline miles recently. Will this keep me from buying them at the supermarket checkout? We will see. Sadly, no airline offers O, and that is a siren call hard to resist, since it has actual articles that keep me engaged for more than 20 minutes).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I Heart Jack Rudolph

But Harriet Hayes is leaving me cold. It's not her "homophobia" either; I feel like she's playing Matthew. Yes, I know he broke up with her.

I'm getting a flu shot for the first time ever today. I avoided it for a long time because my grandmother had a friend who had a bad reaction to a flu shot in 1976 and went into a coma from which she never emerged. But since I make all three of my children (two of whom are classified as high risk and the other has what my MIL calls a "weak chest") do it, I figured I should put my upper arm where my mouth is. Also if I actually avoided having the flu that would be great.

Went to the gym for the first time in a long time. For some reason I feel much cleaner after I shower at the gym than I do at home. Hmmm.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Today's Theme Is Narcissism

I am currently reveling in about $50 worth of drugstore beauty products. I bought them all on the advice of a single article in Jane magazine. (Despite the fact that Jane so agressively informs me it is for women in their 20s. At first it was a guilty salon pleasure and now I've actually subscribed.) It was either the October or November issue, and since I can't find it I can't give the author credit, but almost every one of these products is a home run. The best of the bunch:

  • Pantene Restoratives Time Renewal has done amazing things to my hair in two shampoos.
  • Revlon Skinlights Instant Skin Brightener. You squeeze this stuff onto your fingertips and think, oh no no no no no. Then you spread it on your face and you look 25 again. It's that simple. Why 25-year-olds want to look 15 I don't know, but there it is.
  • Neutrogena Sunblock Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 55 Lotion. Key words here being "Dry-touch." You know how all the beauty editors and dermatologists say you should wear sunscreen every day, even in the winter, and on your hands and everything and you say "Screw you" because even Coppertone sport is not something you want on your face 365 days a year? Behold this stuff, which has a light, normal un-coconutlike scent and you'd never know it was there after you rub it in.
Also, I have a new blog: The Reunions Project. It's my 15th college reunion in June, and I intend to be hot. So hot that all the guys who wouldn't look at me 15-19 years ago will be kicking themselves. Hot enough for at least one person to admit it out loud. Hot enough to make up for the fact that I was pregnant at my 5th and had a 2.5-month-old baby along at the 10th.

Anyway, The Reunions Project is the reincarnation of my triathlon blog. I did manage to run a 5K in October, I don't know if I ever mentioned that. And I may revisit the triathlon thing in the future. But right now it's all about the shallow.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Let's See, Let's See...

I forgot to write about the putative 7-day itch, as the 7th day of NaBloPoMo was the rather stimulating election day. But as it turns out, in the world of consistent blogging the 12th day is the sticking point, as Fussy found out one day too early.

You don't care what I had for lunch, but would you like to know how I rearranged the furniture in NSBR's study? I bought an $85 bookcase at the Storehouse going-out-of-business sale and put it in NSLR's bedroom. I moved his tall and horrendous black particle board bookcase (which once divided his uncle's college-era studio apartment) out in the hall and started hefting it up the attic stairs. And then I thought, what if I could get this into R.'s study? With a lot of paint rubbing and a little windowsill gouging it was done, futon and desk moved to different locations and a wall magically opened up for the bookcase. And then...and THEN I got to move all the books about sports, and fly-fishing, and celestial navigation, and how to succeed in business by organizing your desk, increasing your memory power and never sending a resume, into that room and close the door! I even brought R.'s marble chess set, for which we have not had horizontal space since 1997, down from the attic and set it up on the shelf.

And he loved it, so that was good. In fact, it may have been the marital equivalent of a little Election Day in this, our 13th year.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Just Call Me LameGirl

Anybody want a crappy digital camera roughly akin to mine?

There's one at right now. $59.99 with $20 rebate, and free shipping.

The Big Apple Circus was amazing. But it was still a circus, and I say the hell with it. I like narrative, I think is one problem. I don't particularly enjoy seeing animals with four legs standing around on two. And clowns scare me. The children loved it, and seeing their laughter and amazement was totally worth it.

But the goody bags. Best. Goody. Bags. Ever.

Nylon back-saver style sports bags (this brings our count of giveaway drawstring sports bags in the house to 7). Polar Express DVD (want one?). M.'s favorite bubble gum toothpaste. Things that color your bathwater--if you like that sort of thing. Cookies, chocolates, peppermints, Pez. Shower gel, conditioner. Ergonomic mouse pad. That's what I can remember without looking inside again.

I love free stuff. I'm cheap, hence the crapola camera. Which I think I'm getting S. for Christmas, because it's a perfect first camera for a child.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Attempted Reader Participation

M. came to me just now while getting dressed for school. "Can you zip me up," she requested, indicating her periwinkle track jacket, "So I look a little more immotized?"

If you can plausibly tell me what word she actually meant, I will send you my extra copy of the 1965 Fowler's English Usage with dustjacket.

Sartorial Advice
Tonight the whole family is going to the opening night gala of the Big Apple Circus courtesy of NSBR's CEO. Research indicates that dress is business casual. M. is wearing this sweater with hot pink wide-wale courduroys, because you can make 4-year-olds wear stuff like that, even ones as stubborn as M. S. is wearing a navy blue argyle sweater from the Gap that is sold out so no picture, with matching knee socks, mid-calf chocolate brown boots, a knee-length denim skirt, and lacy hot pink tank underneath. R. is wearing this sweater with khakis, natch. I am wearing these pants in black with my periwinkle cable-knit cashmere sweater and black leather jacket.

So here's the question: plain-vamp buttery soft black loafers, or my black microfiber Audrey ballet flats from the apparently and sadly defunct Shoes With Souls?

As Thanksgiving Approaches
Is there any other holiday at which we are quite so surrounded with fanciful representations of the animal we are about to devour?

The Funny Part
I forgot to tell the funny part of the car accident story. My "valet" key chain ripped in half on Monday, so I was going around with just my ignition key. Our car has a safety feature that shuts off the fuel pump after a hard impact, and you have to turn it back on by accessing a really hard-to-find button behind a little compartment door in the back of the car. When the police arrived, they asked if my car was driveable and I could pull it into the side street. "Yes," I said, "but I just need to find the fuel shutoff switch and I might need your help."
"No problem, ma'am, just open up the back and I'll find it for you."
"Well, I don't have the tailgate key."
"You don't have the tailgate key."
"No. So I need to kind of climb in there from the back seat, but I wondered if you knew where the button is, because I don't remember."
"It's on the left."
It was on the right.
So picture me on all fours in the back of my station wagon, rooting around through a hole in the insulation above the wheel well, on the phone with NSBR as he tries to describe to me where the thing is, and the cop is poking his head anxiously in the passenger door, asking, "Have you found it, ma'am?"

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Picture

I blogged about this picture in February, and finally managed to get it scanned.

By the way, I just noticed that Blogger has been dating my posts according to when I started the draft, not when I posted. So far it's not a problem for NaBloPoMo, there's at least one post every day; but, for example, the election day story is dated on election day, instead of the next day. I'll leave it because I don't want to be accused to tampering, but I'll be more aware from now on.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Good News and Bad News

Did you know that Coinstar now lets you redeem your coins for Amazon gift certificates with no surcharge? When I found out, R. had to restrain me from getting in my car with the coin jar and driving to the A&P at 11 pm. I was forced to wait until the next day. Now I have $34.66 to spend at Amazon. It reminds me of when I was living in New York and MP gave some money to a guy in Washington Square Park: "Now, I don't want you to spend any of this on food," M. said sternly.

I was in a car accident yesterday, which I did not particularly enjoy, despite the fact that we intend to buy a new car. It was just one more message from God that it's time to get rid of this one: the mysterious oil-eating habit, the hubcap lost in the high peaks of the Adirondacks, the oddly hanging bumper. Basically, it rained super hard all day on everyone's leaf piles, and then a crossing guard walked out into the street with her little STOP sign and I stopped. But it took me a really long time to stop. And then it took the van behind me even longer. Neither of us entered the crosswalk, so that was good. Then a guy in a pickup going the other way stopped to give the crossing guard some choice words, which I appreciated. "I wasn't stopping them," she protested, "I was trying to stop this lane." I explained to her (with cordiality surprising to myself, but I was not actually present in my body at the time) that when someone walks out into traffic, I generally stop regardless of what lane either of us is in.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Warning: Child Anecdote

We pull up outside the middle school.
M: Why are we here?
MV: I am here to vote.
M: What is vote?
MV: It's when we let the country know who we want our leaders to be.
M: Oh. Can I be one?
MV: You have to be grown up.
M: Can an old lady do it?
MV: Yes.
M: An old lady in a wheelchair?
MV: Yes, why?
M: I don't know. Can an old man?
MV: That's mostly who does.

I have voted and we're walking out. M., holding my hand, stops walking and looks up at me.
M: When will you find out if you're the leader?

Don't Forget To Vote!

We're clearly soldiers in petticoats
Dauntless crusaders for women's votes
Though we adore men individually
We agree that as a group they're rather stupid

Cast off the shackles of yesterday
Shoulder to shoulder into the fray
Our daughters' daughters will adore us
And they'll sing in grateful chorus
Well done, sister suffragette

From Kensington to Billingsgate one hears the restless cries
In every corner of the land, womankind arise!
Political equality and equal rights with men
Take heart for Mrs. Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again

No more the meek and mild subservients, we
We're fighting for our rights militantly
Never you fear!

So cast off the shackles of yesterday...
...Well done, well done, well done, sister suffragette

--Richard and Robert Sherman, "Sister Suffragette," Mary Poppins

Monday, November 06, 2006

Two Thumbs Way Up... the steamer method for hard-boiled eggs as vetted by Not Martha. They were perfectly cooked, marvelously easy to peel, and I love any method that leaves the hot water on the stove to cool off rather than awkwardly dumped in the sink and onto my unaproned front.

Also, I've made these before, but never really realized how good they were until Saturday night, when I served them warm and paired them with a lentil soup in which three beef marrow bones had been simmering all day. In this recipe, yeast rolls and biscuits meet, make beautiful love, and give birth to muffin-shaped offspring. Yum, and thanks to the actual Martha, or one of her 500 minions. (That would make a good Hopkins parody: "I caught this morning Martha's minion, kingdom of domesticity's doxy...").

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Lending A Hand

I have to--well, I offered to*--lead S.'s Brownie troop in song tomorrow in order to help them earn their "Making Music" try-it (a try-it is a badge, for the scouting virgins among you).

Have I picked up the guitar to practice? Yes, once. Do I play the guitar? No, not really. Did I tell the leader I play the guitar? Yes, because most people don't know the difference between me and someone who can play the guitar.

Just say a little prayer for me that I can sing all the chosen songs comfortably in the key of D.

*I call this Preemptive Volunteering. If, at the beginning of the year, I say, "Oh, hey, I play the guitar and I'd love to take charge of any music badges you have to do," then I stand a better chance of avoiding stuff like 100 cartons of cookies in my living room.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Notes From All Over--Now Rich With Allusion

  • What "tempts" a person who's never tried crystal meth to buy crystal meth? And then gives him the strength to throw it away?* And many, many more questions.
  • Remember the odd sock basket? I took away the basket and vowed that the sock pile would dry up: I would have the discipline to throw away the odd socks after a certain period of time, and I would be better about looking under beds and dressers on a more regular basis. So now I have the odd sock mess under my nighttable, which seems to be full of singletons that are unthroawayable, because they are half of everyone's absolute favorite pairs--NSBR's Smartwool, M.'s frog socks.
  • Guess what fashion item has gotten me the most compliments this fall? Not the new long swishy denim skirt, the outfit my mother brought me from Paris, my beloved suede jacket, the nifty green tweed blazer from L.L. Bean with Celtic Cross lapel pin M. de M. gave me. Nope, hands down the big winner is my navy blue hemp fake Chuck T.'s from Shoes With Souls (no link because link's not working. Oh no, did they die? Shoes with souls in heaven?) So thank you Ergo!
  • Someone please tell David Margolick that Jenny Cavilleri was not Jewish, but Italian.

*I may be biased because I hate Sudafed so much.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Too True

One of the things I fear if I were ever lucky enough to publish:

"You said, Mother, that criticism would help me. But how can
it, when it's so contradictory that I don't know whether I've written
a promising book or broken all the ten commandments?" cried poor
Jo, turning over a heap of notices, the perusal of which filled her
with pride and joy one minute, wrath and dismay the next. "This
man says, `An exquisite book, full of truth, beauty, and earnestness.
All is sweet, pure, and healthy.'" continued the perplexed
authoress. "The next, `The theory of the book is bad, full of
morbid fancies, spiritualistic ideas, and unnatural characters.'
Now, as I had no theory of any kind, don't believe in Spiritualism,
and copied my characters from life, I don't see how this critic can
be right. Another says, `It's one of the best American novels which
has appeared for years.' (I know better than that), and the next
asserts that `Though it is original, and written with great force
and feeling, it is a dangerous book.' 'Tisn't! Some make fun of it,
some overpraise, and nearly all insist that I had a deep theory to
expound, when I only wrote it for the pleasure and the money. I
wish I'd printed the whole or not at all, for I do hate to be so

--Little Women, via The Literature Network

Oh Yes, I've Been Here Before

Wow, this "every day" thing really comes up and smacks you in the head, doesn't it?

I have posted before about how NSBR and I are just ten seconds ahead of the trends, not enough so that anyone will actually believe us when our new crazes become nationwide. Not that it matters. And our information about what's new, what's in, what's hot is based on the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, not even the Village Voice or anything (well, occasionally the Voice), not even Daily Candy (well, occasionally...).

But I digress. This summer the New York Times ran a story called, basically, "Supermodels Able to Drink More Rose than Cosmos and it's still pink!" No, it was called "Rose the hot drink for summer." Anyway, I showed it to my father, pleased because R. and I had two prized bottles of rose we bought on our Napa trip (we suspected we had risen in the esteem of the pourers when we agreed to taste the rose. We're the kind of people who care if the pourer admires our taste.) And pleased because H. (R's sister) and S. (her husband) had been ordering assorted case lots of rose all summer and sharing most of it with us. "Look, rose wine is hot this summer," I said to my father, and he, with the social anxiety of working-class origins and an unshakable Baby Boomer suspicion of pink wine, said, "I don't think so."

But I continue to digress. I can't link to it because the online Journal is subscriber-only, but the WSJ had a story yesterday, "It's Hip to Hem: Sewing Makes a Comeback." And I am proud to report that I went right through that trend and came out the other side, long ago.

I like knitting, although I have several scarves languishing in various rooms of the house right now, and I have not graduated beyond scarves and hats to anything resembling the shaping skills of a sweater or even the stick-to-it-iveness of a blanket. I like the idea of sewing, and it is handy to have a machine and be able to run things through it--if, for instance, you like making felt Christmas stockings for all the new babies in your family, or even if you are sorry you ever opened that can of adorable felt worms, it's better to sew most parts of them than to glue everything. I like the idea of sewing, but can't bear very much of the reality of it.

I felt vaguely guilty about this until my mother began to plan her retirement. S. said, "Guess what! Nana says after she retires she's going to teach me to sew!" "That's great, honey," I replied, and it took a few days for it to really sink in, but one day I was driving by myself and I suddenly thought, Now I do not have to learn to sew, just in order to teach S. to sew! It had been weighing on me more heavily than I realized. I'm off the hook, I thought with increasing excitement. With any luck, by the time my mother no longer wants to hem the occasional pair of pants for me, S. will be able to do it, my mind continued evilly. S. has many sterling qualities I lack, and I think she may actually take to sewing.

Here's why I can't and won't do it:

1) My machine is old and quirky, and I'm not about to buy another one and then not use it.
2) There's no good fabric at the national chains, and the Mom-and-Pops are going out of business right and left. I hear there's good fabric in the city, but basically you get what you pay for, and meanwhile I could be paying for the labor, too.
3) Do you know how many sleeves you have to set in, and zippers, and long seams you sew and then discover one piece is facing wrong side out, before you get good? Too many. A person could be writing. Or reading. Or cooking. Playing the piano...

Here's why I don't believe it's a trend:

Most women in this town don't even make dinner (reportedly). They're going to make clothes?

I do make curtains. A cat could do that.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I Am Woman, Hear Me Whimper And Gag

I'm sick. I have a sore throat, the kind of sore throat that comes with fatigue, headache, nausea and despair. For more details, see the headline and you'll get the idea. NSBR is about 18 hours ahead of me on this one, he's moved on to the congestion portion. I know I will be very sorry to have said this, just as I am very sorry I did not show him more sympathy about 18 hours ago, but I cannot wait to leave the sore throat part behind me.

S. just woke up and pointed mournfully to her throat. This should be a fun day. I have a parent-teacher conference at 9 a.m., and I suppose everyone will continue to want to eat regularly.

But I do have some good news. I just saved a bunch of money by switching, just kidding. They do need to retire those ads, since even my children use that line and children should not joke about discount car insurance.

The good news is that NSLR's best friend also did not make the basketball team. I know that doesn't sound like good news, but he's an uber-athletic tyke and I pretty much assumed he did make it/had made it until NSLR got home from cross-country practice on Monday. Even then, he waited until he'd been home for half an hour and sauntered down to the kitchen. "I'm bursting with news," he announced. And then did he lead with that? No: "Mrs. B says I can wear my Ninja hockey mask in class tomorrow!" Then it was "C. didn't make the team either."

Anyway, it's much more comfortable when your buddy is in the same boat. At least for me. As I asserted the other day, and as you can see here, MV is much more thrown by this than NSLR.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Boo! See You Tomorrow for NaBloPoMo

Small Craft Warning

I love this older children thing. Last night we carved three pumpkins before NSBR got home, and it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I remembered. I cut the lids out and NSLR and S. did almost all the rest--I did a little finishing-touch gut-scraping for M., and I transferred her design and carved it, but R. and S. did their own. One thing that helps is these little saws they have now, so you no longer have to use a huge and scary carving knife for the whole job the way my father did it.

S: Mommy, how old were you when you first carved your own pumpkin?
MV: 26.
The children laugh
MV: No, I'm serious. Grandpop wouldn't let me anywhere near that thing.

1. M.'s design carved by MV
2. Not-so-little-R.
3. S.

R.'s is supposed to wear a wizard's hat with attached wig, but that pesky fear of fire causes me to whip off the hat whenever he's not looking.

M.'s Costume Odyssey--Yet Another Unmarketable Skill
In, oh, August, M. said she wanted to be a fairy. So I got down S.'s old fairy costume (which I made) from the attic, and she gave it the okay. Then my mother (without, apparently, ever realizing that this was insulting to me and my handiwork) bought her a fairy costume from Marshall's. M., bless her heart, stood firm.

Until Sunday morning, when everyone was getting dressed for the town parade. I keep all the old homemade costumes in a plastic zipper bag, and when I opened it up M. spotted R.'s Wilbur costume (from the year he was Wilbur and S. was Charlotte, the year I despaired of ever winning a prize in said parade). She wanted to be Wilbur. The costume fit and was reasonably intact, there are many medals among the dressup clothes in the basement, but the web was dismantled long ago.

So I made a spider web out of kitchen twine and the top of a laundry basket in under an hour. I painted it with sparkly glaze. I attached a spider ring since we lacked a humanoid Charlotte this time around. Please tell me you can read the "Some Pig" message woven into it, even if you can't.

But did M. carry the web in the parade? No, of course not! "Why didn't you carry your web in the parade, honey?" "Nana was carrying it for me." Right. And can you bring a web to school? No, no props in school. And of course you can't carry a web while you're trick-or-treating and need all available hands for grabbing candy.

So does anyone have ideas about what to do next with this web, other than publishing it here so my average 8 readers a day can see it (or not see it, judging from the amount of time 7 of my daily readers spend on the page)? So far I've got:

--Put it in the attic and let the children deal with it when I die.
--Hang it in the girls' bedroom.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Mobius Strip

The beginning of the end
Blow the spit out of your bugle, because it's going to be time to blow Taps for Studio 60 pretty soon. Last week's show had some flaws so fundamental that I couldn't bring myself to blog about it. In fact, I told NSBR that I would be giving up, were I not the pathological show-nurturer I am. I knew the end was near, so I told him I would stick it out for the last few episodes. Of course, that's what I did with "Reunion," and those characters and their unresolved plotlines still haunt me.

And now, and now...they've got "Friday Night Lights" in the 10 o'clock slot tonight. That can't be good.

But really I won't be too character haunted by this one, I think. I love Matt, of course. I like Cal but I haven't gotten attached to him. I'm not big on Harriet, except for her kick-ass Holly Hunter impression. I'm oddly attracted to Danny. I adore Jack Rudolph. I identify with Jordan, because she's not as smart as she thinks she is and she gets drunk sometimes. I'd like to like Tom, and I know this is not his fault, but I can't believe even a red-state American who brought up a son who became a professional comedian has not heard of "Who's On First?" Let's do the Venn diagram here. Everyone who's ever watched television. Is over 40. Likes baseball. Likes
"clean" humor. Went to school. Has heard of "Who's On First." Don't be such a friggin' snob, Aaron.

The end of the beginning
Just when we were getting our hopes up, NSLR did not make the basketball team. My son awes me. He has expressed not one iota of resentment and very little disappointment at this news. He is full of plans for the future--"now I can try fencing!" The figure my friend L. quoted for the cost of fencing equipment flashes before my eyes. Was it $800 or $1200? "Now I can really work on my squash! I'll keep running so I'm ready for track in the spring." Blessed track, they'll take any warm body.

Anyway, how did I raise such a good not-so-little guy? I mean, yes, I'm doing my best to hide my bitterness and rage, but his either doesn't exist or it's buried so far we'll never find it. I have a sense he's worried more about upsetting us than he is about himself.

The end of the end
I highly recommend all 13 volumes of the Series of Unfortunate Events.

The beginning of the beginning
Two days until the start of NaBloPoMo!

Incidentally, Blogger has two strikes with me. I have a Wordpress blog semi-set up, but even if Blogger strikes thrice, I'm going to wait until December to switch hosting, so as not to confuse M. Kennedy.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Little Day Music

I have this on vinyl:

And I've been playing it all week. It made me realize a few things:

1. I want to be a cabaret singer (the sudden revival of this interest may also have to do with the Andrew McCarthy movie, which was honestly pretty bad and yet quite enjoyable). Any ideas on how I can accomplish that?
2. I want to hear Ergo sing this song.
3. Why am I not better acquainted with Janis Ian? Because not only is "Stars" totally awesome, but I also like "At Seventeen."
4. There is an NPR station at Fordham that plays folk music from 5 am to 8 or 10 pm weekdays and Sundays 8-11 am. I discovered this searching for "Barbara Cook Stars" and getting a playlist with not only that song but also "Weeded Out" by the Roches and "Move On" from Sunday in the Park with George. In short, someone from WFUV sneaks into my house and plays my records.

The only problem is that my local NPR station is at 90.5 and this one's at 90.7, so unlikely I'm going to be able to tune it in.

Irony of ironies? I got into Fordham for grad school. My thesis advisor begged me to go there. "You won't be happy at NYU," he said, "they will basically ignore you. At Fordham everyone gets mentoring, they're much nicer."

I was not happy at NYU. Was that because they failed to mentor me, or because I really want to be a cabaret singer?

Friday, October 27, 2006

...And Our Final Dispatch of the Day

Pick-Your-Own Tip
Go to the farm when it's 40 degrees out, and no one will be overly...forgive me, picky...about his or her pumpkin. Downside: most of the pumpkins are rotten.

Another Quick Dispatch

NSLR says his teacher wants the kids to ask their parents for permission to see a PG-13 movie about tornados that she would like to screen in class. Of course, I say, and then I start to worry. I've never seen this movie, and maybe there is something really objectionable in it. So I check the IMDB page for "Twister," which informs me that the movie is "rated PG-13 for intense descriptions...of very bad weather." (ellipsis mine).

Dispatches From the Parenting Front

Breakfast Tip
Put the brown sugar at the bottom of the bowl and dish the oatmeal out on top. Sure, you don't see that beautiful brown melty puddle of brown sugar, but then they have to stir it up to get the sugar incorporated and they don't just eat the teaspoonful of oatmeal that surrounds the puddle.

Further Adventures in Spelling with my Daughter
M at bedtime: I want my water! L-E-R-D water! (She's sort of the opposite of Julia's Patrick).

Getting Our Hopes Up
I suspect the increasing grouchiness and cynicism of my father, our resident basketball expert, indicates that there is some glimmer of hope that NSLR will actually make the team. The bad news: he can't make a hook shot. The good news: he did well in the passing drill and kept his man (who happens to be the best player in the 5th grade) from scoring during the scrimmage. Oh, and he has the best attitude ever.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Tragedy of Genetics

A Conversation With My Son

NSLR: Coming out of school Mommy! Basketball tryouts are tomorrow night from seven to nine, and Saturday...
MV: No, I have the schedule at home. They're Wednesday from five to six-thirty.
NSLR: There's been a change.
MV: Oh. In JV or Varsity?
NSLR: What's JV?
a tiresome discussion ensues, finishing up with
MV: NSLR, what exactly did they say in this announcement?
NSLR: Well...I'm not sure. I only started listening to it in the middle when I realized they had said "Basketball."

This is a phenomenon we call "Blah blah blah basketball blah blah blah," an allusion to the Far Side cartoon about what we say to dogs and what they hear. It is a genetic trait he inherited from NSBR.

But then...
MV: NSLR, you should listen to all the announcements. That's what they're for, right?
NSLR: I guess.
MV: They have them right before dismissal, right, and you're all sitting at your desks with your bags packed? He nods. Doesn't it seem simpler for everyone to listen to the whole thing, and then you don't have to worry about missing something that pertains to you?
NSLR: Yeah.
MV: I mean, what else is there to do, anyway?
NSLR: who, though 11, still fails to recognize a rhetorical question sometimes, and is eager to please by providing an answer Um, read?

That he got from me.

Edited on 2/6/07 to remove link to image of said Far Side cartoon. According to Sitemeter, fully half of my hits come from people who are looking for that image. No more.

Post Every Day You Will

NaNoWriMo is a little too much for me. I'll be psyched if I write the last two chapters of my existing novel and start revising it by year's end. But I do think I can manage

I'm too much of a Luddite to put the button on my template. So shoot me.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My Secondhand Haul

In my $2 bag from the church rummage sale:

VHS Miracle on 34th Street
VHS Charlie Brown Christmas

1965 hardback Fowler's Modern English Usage with dustjacket (I already have one and so does my Mom but I couldn't pass it up for throwing in a $2 bag. Anyone want it?)

Paperback Maeve Binchy Light a Penny Candle, only Binchy I've never read. Decommissioned (or stolen) from my high school library.

Cookbook The Country Kitchen: Picnics. I seem to recall making a no more cookbooks rule. Oh well. I always need picnic ideas, since we eat at the beach four meals, every weekend, all summer. And no one except my mother realizes how much more work it is.

Books that might get S. to read and are longer than 85 pp., thus qualifying for the "Read 30 Books in a Year Club" at school: Betsy-Tacy and Tib, Bunnicula, My Dog Can Fly, and something called Waiting For Mama (turn of the century Lower East Side. S. has a surprising weakness for historical fiction).

3 heavy glass parfait dishes

Classic goldfish bowl, also heavy glass. I negotiated S. down from rodent to fish, and I'm not ready for an actual aquarium, but the bowls in the stores are all plastic and flims-o-rama.

In a box from the church rummage sale: 26 pieces of rose-colored fake Fiestaware, which harmonizes with my dwindling Caleca wedding dishes. $3

From a garage sale (NSLR pointed it out to me as we drove by "There's a garage sale at O.'s cousin's house." "I am so there!" I shouted, dropped the kids at my mother's and drove back. I love O.'s cousin's house and O.'s mother's house and the stuff inside it, so I figured there would be good things there.) :

A wall cabinet with shelves inside and an manly/Americana-y painted door that will go beautifully in NSBR's study. $3
Bellows with a brass relief picture of a Victorian family on the side. Bellows being one of those things NSBR can't believe we don't have. Every time he builds a fire: "I'm sure we have bellows." Now we do. $1
Fake coonskin cap, our second. $1
Foam surfboard (not a boogie board. Tween-sized but surfboard-shaped, with fins. I may keep it for myself.) $1
Mint Little Bear hardback $1 (that's a lot for a book but D. (O.'s mother) was getting impatient and just said a dollar for everything. The total was a steal so, whatever.)

A Few Rhetorical Questions About the Week I Just Had

  • Why are they so bitchy at Pottery Barn (and Crate and Barrel, incidentally)? What are the odds of a rug still in its factory shrink-wrap having a big black smudge across one end?
  • How can a dishwasher be making a grinding noise so horrifying that you feel you should immediately turn it off to prevent further damage, and then when the repairman comes it purrs like a kitten?
  • Why do plumbers (and doctors, incidentally) want to fix the thing that's easy to fix instead of the thing that's probably actually wrong? Have they forgotten that I'll have to pay them more? Or is laziness the highest good?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Basking in the Blue Glow of the Tube

Caught a little of "Six Degrees" last night (NSBR's been working late this week and I stay up too late watching random TV as a result). I hardly recognized Campbell Scott. His hair is all gray! His face is all thin! Is this what the men my age will look like in 9 more years?


Speaking of men, I had a very peculiar dream last night in which I was involved (emotionally) with 2 or possibly more men. One of them looked like Jason Bateman, so clearly I'm missing "Arrested Development." Another was an amalgam of Jack Bauer and the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, so clearly I've been watching 24 DVDs and my kids have been watching Star Wars 1,2 and 3.

It's the ancient Rome setting that's really mystifying.


In addition to working all the time, NSBR is going away this weekend, so I have a special treat in store for myself: this movie. Before you start getting worried, rest assured that the presence of Andrew McCarthy is sufficient. Even if this is the worst movie ever made, I'll just watch him and be content. He's getting old, too, though.

The March! of Time!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Urgent Memo To Aaron Sorkin

Don't do it!

Not yet. Yes, Matt and Harriet are adorable. Yes, we want them to get together. But slow down, tiger. Once you get them together it's over. Aaron, Aaron, Aaron. You're nine years older than me. You must remember what we learned from Sam and Diane, from David and Maddie. It's the worst kind of shark-jumping there is. Save it for the third season when the show is already past its expiration date.

And forget about the together, apart, together, apart, together, apart...that's for daytime dramas, buddy. I stopped watching those years ago. Okay, four years ago, but still. I woke up and realized Guiding Light was never going to have a happy ending.

If you're not careful I'll switch over to books entirely.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Too True

A new feature inspired by Terry Teachout's "Almanac."

"Because it was my third I was spared a lot of unnecessary discomfort. No one sent us any dainty pink sweaters, for instance. We received only one pair of booties, and those were a pair of rosebud-covered white ones that someone had sent Laurie when he was born and which I had given, still in their original pink tissue paper, to a friend when her first child was born; she had subsequently sent them to her cousin in Texas for a second baby and the cousin sent them back East on the occasion of a mutual friend's twins; the mutual friend gave them to me, with a card saying 'Love to Baby' and the pink tissue paper hardly ruffled. I set them carefully aside, because I knew someone who was having a baby in June."
--Life Among the Savages, Shirley Jackson

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


My mother comes every morning to pick up R. and S. and drive them to school.

Every morning I set out three bowls of granola in the vain hope that M. will eat hers. She never does, and she always eats something like crackers, which I tell myself is not so different from granola if you have a glass of milk. But she is a savvy child and realizes that grandmotherly types look askance at alternative breakfasts. Today I tried to use her Nana-worship in my favor by telling M. "eat your breakfast" while my mother was still here.

"But Mommy," she said, "I want to get my own--" she lowers her voice to a conspiratorial whisper "--S-Q-R-L!"

I assume she meant breakfast. Please God don't let her want to get her own squirrel.

So everyone left for school and M. got the box of Club crackers out of the pantry.

"How many crackers can I have?" she asked.
"Six." We stood and looked at each other for a minute. "Can you count to six?" I asked.
"Sure!" She said, and stood in the middle of the kitchen with her hands over her eyes. "One, two, three..."
"I mean can you count six crackers."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Translation, always good for a laugh.

My mother just returned from two weeks in France and gave the children (among other things) soft cotton flannel pajamas she bought on the street in Paris. They are made by Absorba, a company I always thought made baby clothes exclusively. I immediately set about finding an Internet source for these pajamas, because they would make great gifts. I found lots of online retailers selling Absorba infant and toddler wear, an Absorba site under construction, and then this, translated courtesy of Google:*

Absorbed is the leader of the thin layer in the world.

But Absorba does not equip only the babies! By equipping the children with 0 to 8 years, Absorba is affirmed like one of the tenors of the average/top-of-the-range market.

Absorbed, it is also a whole range of underclothing of quality, combining comfort and safety for the children from 0 to 16 years.
Each season Absorbed created a collection for the shops and the great distribution. The collections merry, are coloured and of great quality.

A strong national and international presence

Absorbed is present in France in all the networks of sale and abroad, only in selective distribution. Absorbed equips the children with the whole world!

With a constant development of its sales turnover which enables him to sell meadows of 20 million underclothing, pyjamas and clothing in more than 40 countries, the mark is particularly established abroad; it there carries out 70% of its volume of businesses and profits from a formidable international notoriety.

High-speed motorboat in Europe, Absorba is present in the South-East Asia (South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand), in the United States, in Canada, in Latin America (Mexico and soon Argentina), in the Middle East (Egypt and Syria), and in the Maghreb countries.

Wouldn't you like to be the leader of the thin layer? Let alone one of the tenors of the average/top-of-the-rage market. Truly admirable to equip the children with the whole world. I confess to being mystified by the high-speed motorboat reference.

*I think the ponderous language is infectious, I could not seem to write that paragraph properly.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tonstant Weader Admits the Wisdom of This:

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries. — AA Milne

I don't know if this falls into the category of disorderly, or just weird, but here goes: this out-of-focus* plastic acorn (it is recognizable as an acorn, right?) began life at the end of a pull-string on a defunct baby music box that belonged to my mother, and then to me, and then to not-so-little-R. (Amusing aside: by the time R. was a baby pullstrings were three inches long if they existed at all, and they did not terminate in exquisitely chokable acorns).

For a while I kept the music box and the acorn around, hoping to reattach them, but there's only a hole in one end of the acorn, hence a knot big enough to keep the string in will not in fact admit the string. I must have tossed the music box at some point, but--and here's where the weirdness comes in--I kept the acorn because I liked it. Periodically I come across it in a little bowl or bag of luggage keys, safety pins, marbles, Bionicle joints, etc. and then it rolls away again.

Wednesday after school M. told me for show-and-tell on Friday she had to bring in either a squirrel or an acorn.** I knew there was a Happy Meal Beanie Baby squirrel somewhere in S.'s desk drawer, but didn't feel strong enough to go digging. I figured we would just turn to Google Image this morning. But I woke up in the middle of the night thinking, "Plastic acorn! In the drawer of the hanging whatnot thing in the master bedroom alcove!" And sure enough, there it was. I instructed M. to "tell" that this acorn was handed down from her grandmother, but I don't think it sank in.

*Progress on the camera front: if I plug it in on the camera function, the screen reads "PC Camera" and it won't let me do anything. If I plug it in on the picture management function, the screen reads "MSDC" and I can do all sorts of things. It really, really sucks, though, which for $30 I guess I expected.

**M. is the show-and-tell child we all dream of: she has reminded me of this about 50,000 times, and always at a relatively appropriate moment.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

My Refrigerator Is Not Really Sideways

And I am not cut out for a blog audience of more than 2.

Voila le refrigerateur.

My roommate when I first graduated in and lived in NYC did not like things on the refrigerator, because her mother did not like things on the refrigerator. I am scarred by this and thus only allow items on the side of the refrigerator, which faces the basement door (I'm perched dangerously on the basement stairs to take this picture).

There was nothing on my refrigerator until my children hit school age. Turns out magnets is a very, very popular thing for children to make and give their parents on all the big parental-gift occasions. And what am I going to tell my Three? Mommy was aesthetically scarred by an anti-fridge-decoration roommate?

In vaguely left to right and top to bottom order:

Poison control magnet. Two marble magnets I made a la notmartha. S's school picture on a wooden heart and two magnetized Duelmasters cards. (Not-so-big-R.'s favorites. Not.)
Four dollar-store magnets S. got as favors at the Father-Daughter dance: they say "Sporty,""Girly,""Romantic" and something else bizarre. Local pizza guys. Two nifty tiles, by not-so-little-R. and S. S. with a dog practically smothering her in a wooden frame. A lighthouse magnet I decorated as an example, followed by the one M. decorated. S.'s lighthouse is cut out, as are five bazillion swim meet ribbons. Uncle Sam. Pen that matches weekly calendar pad. Weekly calendar pad on which I often write the week's menu, when there is a week's menu. It says we're having ham and escarole soup today. I have the ham and escarole, but can't find the recipe or anything like it online. Thumbprint cats and thumbprint owls. Health insurance company magnet. Tasmanian devil job chart that no one ever took seriously, and why should they? I mean, it's the Tasmanian devil. Think he ever helped his mother or put his shoes away? Let alone practicing the piano.

Some new video series from Ignatius Press, up there because I liked the cowboy. Peter Rabbit pad for grocery lists. Tiger magnet (my favorite) holding up R.'s totally excellent picture of a horse and chariot.

This is more interesting than what I had for lunch how? (Taco Bell bean burrito).

Notes From All Over (My Brain)

Have you ever cooked one of those turkey breasts the turkey sellers came out with so they wouldn't have to make all their money in November and December? And it smelled so, so good as it was baking but then you ate it and there was no dark meat and it tasted like nothing? Okay, part of that is because turkey is in the smells-better-than-it-tastes triad (coffee, popcorn, turkey). But I have one word for you, one word that will revolutionize your turkey breast consumption:


Yesterday I slow-cooked a turkey breast according to this recipe (except I used 1/4 cup of Rex Goliath Pinot Noir instead of a 1/2 cup of white, because that's what was sitting on my counter. Oh, and fresh herbs).

And then I made a delicata squash salad. To this recipe I added some nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and cumin. I have to mess with everything. I love delicata squash because you don't have to peel it, and have I mentioned that I am lazy? It's a big part of my self-image.

Very good dinner. Autumnal yet not too heavy. Nutritious. Tasty. Easy. Novel.


To tell this next story, I need to use a real name. For those stalkers who manage to find me and my family based on this information, more power to you.

The music teacher at my kids' school is named Mr. Fitzpatrick. When I picked up M. from school yesterday she said, "Mr. Saintpatrick taught us a new song today." "It's Fitzpatrick, honey," I corrected. She thought for a moment. "When I'm older I'll know what his name is," she decided.

I feel that way about so many things.


Ergo has a great post up. And I'm not saying that just because I'm mentioned in it.

I have too many scary swirly thoughts about the preservation of literature to start talking about it at this time. But I have a tangential concern--the lack in spontanaeity and the over-personalization of music delivery. I have tried to express these thoughts to my husband and can't quite get through to him, but here goes:

There are quite a few songs I absolutely love but for some reason are not in my collection: e.g. "The Boys of Summer," "Come On Eileen," "Are You Lonesome Tonight," "Lean On Me." They're mostly not in my collection because I had a rule when I was young: no buying an album for just one cut. When they come on the radio, I turn it up (and if it's "The Boys of Summer" I open the window).

Now you can buy one cut. But I resist for at least two reasons:

1) I don't like my music existing only on a hard drive. It seems dangerous to me. Silly, probably.
2) I think the treat of something randomly coming up on the radio is an important experience.

And the flip side of reason number 2 is it's good to let the radio happen to you sometimes, even the songs you don't care for. It's kind of like taking a few bites of your squash before you get more turkey. I don't like the idea of everyone out there with their Ipods tailoring their entire day's music, every day. And don't get me wrong, I love the playlist. I wouldn't have kept up with the running without it. (Yes, I have kept up with the running. Another post.)

But my antiquated car stereo has 12 FM presets, for goodness sake. If I can't find anything I like on there I turn the radio off. And that's good too.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Night After Night, My Heartbeat Shows The Fear

Name that tune.

I have posted before about my problems with pseudoephedrine. And I may or may not have mentioned that thanks to a few idiots who took diet pills and had strokes, my beloved Triaminic with its sweet, sweet PPA was taken off the market. And put back on containing evil Pseudo.

I have either a cold or allergies and on Tuesday night I took an Allegra-D. Good news: bone dry nose; bad news: obsessive hallucination, racing pulse and consequent sleeplessness.

Last night (and most of yesterday) I took Dayquil. Upside: little to no psychosis; downside: only works for 4-6 hours, so I woke up at 5 a.m. stuffy, runny and sneezy. (Remember the dwarfs Stuffy and Runny?)

I suppose this is TMI even for blog readers.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Speaking of Hipness

For years, my brother and I have riffed on a bit of movie dialogue:

"Is that a pajama top?"

Eventually I asked him hey, what is that from, and he said, "I don't know. I saw the preview in high school and it was so funny, but I don't know."

A little investigation uncovered the movie "Kicking and Screaming," (not to be confused with last year's Will Ferrell soccer movie, "Kicking & Screaming.") but it was not available on DVD. Nor, it seemed, would it ever be available, as few people had ever heard of the movie. I would have to wait until we were in an economic position--or feeling whimsical enough--to spend $35 on a used VHS of a movie that might or might not be any good.

But now, perhaps because of the success of "The Squid and The Whale" by director Noah Baumbach, "K&S" has been released on DVD and while your local Blockbuster doesn't have it, it is at Netflix. When they tell you it's a long wait, don't believe them, because I moved it to the top of my queue and got it two days later.

I don't want to overpromise. It's not the funniest movie ever. It's very...young. Imperfect. The premise--aimless bunch of friends after college graduation--is not groundbreaking. But the cast is stellar: Eric Stolz, Chris Eigeman, Olivia D'Abo; and there are some great lines, some great moments.

See it.

Miro With a Touch of Chagall

I finally found the USB cord for my crapola digital camera. I thought I would still be thwarted when the driver refused to open, but then sweet Windows said, "Hey, I can't help noticing there's a camera attached to my butt, want me to take the pictures out of it?"

Family portrait by M. I can't figure out how to rotate it. I am the giant figure, she's next to me, R. floats with red hair, S. is next to him, NSLR. below him.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Boob Tube Musings

It seems that my husband is right, we are too old and decrepit to stay up until 11 o'clock every Monday night watching "Studio 60."

However, the show is soooo good that it may be worth ruining my health.
And I have to stay hip somehow.
And "House" has jumped the shark.
And "Criminal Intent" hasn't exactly jumped but they've just...lost me.
I don't even want to talk about "The OC." Except to say that in a very weak moment I bought myself a Wonder Woman costume at Marshall's.

No, we don't have Tivo. Yes, I know you think we should get it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

We Continue with the Music and Children Theme

M. and I were grocery shopping and she kept making an odd sound. "Are you a cat?" I asked in the inadvertently patronizing tones we mothers sometimes adopt.

"No," she said scornfully. "I'm the Wawa pedal."

Yeah, I mostly post about music, as it turns out

So many little things have happened in the past couple of weeks that I meant to blog, but now they are lost in my subconscious. Here's one from this morning's drive to school:

I'm switching through radio stations and pause briefly on something unidentifiable and grungesque.
MV: I think this is a little too rockin' for this early in the morning.
R,S: Yeah.
I change the channel and stop on The Cars, "Magic."
R: This too.
MV: No, no, no. This is just synthesizery. 80s.
I turn it up and start singing along.
MV: This song had a great video in which the guy seems to be walking on the surface of a swimming pool.
R, ever the affirmer: Cool!
Some discussion ensues about how they achieved the effect
S: So what was it about?
MV: Well, the chorus line is "It's magic when I'm with you."
To my surprise* my voice quavers and my eyes fill up.

S: Okay, but what was it about?
MV: Testily. It's a love song, S.
S: No, the movie.
MV: It wasn't a movie, it was a video.
Uncomprehending silence emanates from the back of the car.
MV: A music video. We watched them all day.

*But not yours, dear readers.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Dude Lit?

I'm reading Glamorous Disasters, and am a bit mystified. Who is the intended audience for this book? It reads exactly as if someone gave The Nanny Diaries to some hack and said "Turn the girl in this story into a guy." Accordingly there's a little more no-strings sex and vigorous exercise but basically the story arc is the same. Are there a lot of young men who want to read books like this? My sense is that the straight young men who are reading, are reading things like Tom Clancy or whoever is the current Tom Clancy, along with manly non-fiction such as "Guns, Germs and Steel."

I realize that this may reflect some deep-seated sexism on my part, just as I know it should not make me uncomfortable to hear Michael Bolton sing "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?"

But there you go.

OTOH, Elliot Shrefer had a hard act to follow, because I just finished reading Alan Bennett's Untold Stories, with an epigrammatic gem on nearly every page. My favorite: "Every family has a secret, and the secret is that it is not like other families."

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Deejay Mentality--Wedding Music Part II

I haven't said much about my brother's wedding. It was beautiful and fun, one of the nicest weddings I've been to (and I've been to quite a few). They had a DJ, a wedding music option I've become increasingly reconciled to over the past few years. When I got married I was determined to have live music, and I put what I thought was a lot of effort into getting it right, because music is important to me. I photocopied lots of songs for the band (some of which they played during the cocktail hour and then ignored for the rest of the evening). I handed back their provided playlist with some songs, that I found thematically inappropriate for wedding play, crossed out ("I Hate Myself For Loving You," "Runaround Sue"). But I just couldn't anticipate all the objectionable things the apparently tasteful band would do, like singing "The bride cuts the cake" to the tune of The Farmer In The Dell, or playing the Flintstones' theme. Why? I still ask myself, why?

Anyway, it was nothing compared to the work W. and J. put in, giving minute-by-minute song instructions to the DJ, burning CDs with the cuts he didn't have, and most amazing, checking in with him frequently during the reception, something I would have been totally unable to do even if it had occurred to me, because I was in a phantasmagoric dreamstate at my wedding reception.

Impressive. And I don't think of W. as such a music-centric guy, because he declined to make music--quit piano, quit musical theater after 8th grade--of his own. Perhaps, I began to think, it's because he doesn't make his own music that he is even more obsessive than I about his recorded music.

Then he and J. came to the beach for a day and we were reminiscing about the wedding. I complimented him on the success of the music, we talked about the first dance choices different people make, and then he told me a story:

He and J. went to another wedding this summer. The wedding couple danced to Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet" and then they danced with their parents to...shoot, I can't remember. Not important. Then they gradually got everyone out on the dance floor with something like "We Are Family." People were loving it.

"Now," W. said, "the next song was the crucial moment of the entire night. It had to keep everyone dancing. It had to be something absolutely everyone likes."

"Build Me Up Buttercup," I suggested.

"Exactly." He said. "Or the Jackson Five. Or Sweet Caroline." He had several more suggestions.

"Instead, he played 'Mambo Number Five.'"

Now I recognized the moment he was talking about. And I acknowledge the tragedy that occurred. But I never would have given it as much thought as W. and J. did.

But then I realized what it is. I'm going to call it the Mix Tape mentality just to be luddite about it, but it's really about CD burning. W. and J. are at the forefront of the generation that downloaded illegally and joyfully, had 8 million mp3s on their laptops, and mixed them every which way onto CDs for friends. In my day, making a mix tape was a labor of love, sitting in a cramped position in front of your stereo or boombox, cuing up and pausing, dropping needles--only the truly dedicated did it very often.

But now burning a CD for someone is a matter of a few clicks of the mouse. You can get a lot of practice at it, and put your heart and soul into the song choices and the order.

Don't you think "Build Me Up Buttercup"?