Wednesday, December 19, 2007

RIP Dan Fogelberg

As you may remember, I like Dan Fogelberg's Same Old Lang Syne. I heard it in the car today, and when I got home I thought I'd just buy it on ITunes.

When I opened ITunes, imagine my surprise when the first thing it said was "Remembering Dan Fogelberg."

Remember him.

As the snow turns into rain.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Christmas Present from Ergo

Lunch....A cross between Holly Golightly and Doris Day with a dash of Dorothy Parker.

I am so pleased to have been half of a lunch date that made Ergo feel that way!

Too True

I finally got around to reading Prep (incidentally, if you accidentally search Amazon for "perp," Prep is still the first hit). Eh. But it did have this very good passage, which touches on some things I have been thinking about lately, and something that haunted me throughout my school life:

Sports contained the truth, I decided, the unspoken truth (how quickly we damn ourselves when we start to talk, how small and inglorious we always sound), and it seemed hard to believe that I had never understood this before. They rewarded effortlessness and unself-consciousness; they confirmed that yes, there are rankings of skill and value and that everyone knows what they are...they showed that the best things in the world to be were young and fast.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Cookie Report

Cue newsroom music: doot doo-doo doot doot, doot doo-doo doot doot...

Today was Baking Day chez MomVee, and the results were distinctly mixed. I'm going to take off on a real flight of pop psychological fancy here and posit that the poorness of my cookies reflects my ambivalence at the very idea of cookies in light of R.'s illness and my own desire not to get fat again.

First up: Klejner. This did not go well. I'm really glad that deep-fried things are bad for you, because I am never deep-frying anything ever again. Either the thermometer or the recipe was a total liar, because no matter what temperature the oil was, the cookies browned too fast. Also, the recipe I linked is not the one I used. I used a recipe with three eggs in the dough, and the cookies puffed way up, and my great-grandmother's Klejner were not puffy.

Next: Lemon-Lavender Shortbread. These turned out great. I substituted brown rice flour for 1/4 of the cup of flour, as suggested by Laurie Colwin in More Home Cooking. Also, I pressed the dough into my madeleine pan, which was a risk, but it worked. I wanted the cookies to look like shells because they are for dessert on December 23rd, when I am serving bouillabaisse and doing a sort of South of France theme. There are only 18 of them.

Cranberry-pistachio biscotti. I have had this recipe for so long that it didn't come from the Internet, so no link. They would be much better if I had not left them in the oven too long after I turned all the pieces during the second bake. They are still edible, but the festive Christmasy green and red are all pretty much brown.

I made lots of walnut-stuffed dates on Saturday, so I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

Please, someone, use the hilarious gift tags at Angry Chicken.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Everybody's Doing It

The 2007 Watering Place Gift Guide

This gift guide is a little different. I like Design with a capital D mostly when it's on the Internet or in a magazine, not my house. I know nothing about technology. I violently disapprove of whole categories of products--such as scented soap--most of the time. I can't guarantee that you'll be able to find these gifts--some of them are...metonymic, let's say. But here are nine things that I love, and one thing I think would be a good gift.

1. Creeque Alley
This 2-disc greatest hits of The Mamas and the Papas has been in heavy rotation in my car ever since Ergo blogged about "Dream a Little Dream of Me." Disc One has some of their standards--"California Dreamin'," "Monday Monday," "I Saw Her Again"--but I go for Disc Two, and not just because it boasts "Dream a Little Dream"; you also get the shot of music history in "Creeque Alley," a surprisingly sexy "Twist and Shout," a little Rodgers and Hart with "Glad To Be Unhappy," and the mesmerizing 60s drama of "Safe In My Garden." When the band splits up, the great stuff just keeps coming with Cass Elliot's one-two punch of "It's Getting Better," and "Make Your Own Kind of Music," "Sing" for grownups.

2. My Santa Statue
Someone gave me this as a hostess gift at the first Christmas party we had in our new house--eight years ago! It came from a particularly delicious store, so I was excited when I saw the box at the end of the night. When I opened it, I was disappointed. I needed another Christmas knickknack like a hole in the head. But the next year I got the idea to put him on the newel post. One of the children knocked him off and broke his arm, and it's the old story--I cried, and discovered how much he meant to me. Now he is firmly attached with fun-tac, and he makes me happy every time I use the stairs. Don't be afraid to give someone something they won't immediately go crazy over. And don't be so sure you don't like the thing you just got.

3. My Mystery Grandmother Photo

This is someone's Scandinavian great-great-grandmother. It could be mine, but I know for a fact it isn't. Anyway, this picture is a fantastic piece of cultural history, and I see something new every time I look at it. I had it scanned at Kinko's and so far I've made a big framed print which hangs over my desk, and also had it put on the cover of a notebook at, which came out great. Perhaps there is a photo kicking around your place with untapped potential.

4. The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story
Run, don't walk, to get this little book into the hands of anyone with a sense of humor.

5. Perlagrigia with Truffles
I had this cheese in March and I have not stopped thinking about it since.

6. German Chicken Games
We love to play a game called "Hick Hack In Gackelwack," now available in an English language edition as "Pick Picnic." Another, dominos-and-dice, chicken game is "Pickomino," which we know as "Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck." And my least favorite, but still worth mentioning, is a concentration-type game called "Au Backe!" Like Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, and Hi-Ho Cherry-O!, these games can be played with the very young; but unlike those games, these games do not make you want to stab yourself in the eye with a fork.

7. Love Actually
Since my husband will be at his office party tonight, which blessedly does not involve spouses, I will be watching this movie, sobbing, and folding laundry. I cannot wait.

8. The Pin
I'm not sure what the message of this one is. Keep reaching out? Appreciate your Peter Gabriel t-shirt? Despite what I said above, good design is paramount to a successful gift?

9. The Fountain Overflows
Perhaps the message of the pin is "read more Rebecca West." I firmly believe the world would be a better place if everyone read this book.

10. McSweeney's Book Release Club
The next ten McSweeney's releases for $100. Book-of-the-month club for the terminally hip. It's the gift that keeps on giving, and other cliches! The Michael Chabon looks particularly good.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eggony and Irony

Egging Me On
Here's a new expression for you; at least, it was new to me.

The Punch cartoon was entitled "True Humility," which I found interesting in two ways: one, I don't agree that it's true humility to say such a thing (that parts of a bad egg are excellent, for those who take a firm stand against link-clinking). Why? Because I have been saying things like that--smoothing-over things, get-the-attention-off-me things--and taking the smallest or worst piece all my life, even before I was a mother...and yet, I don't think anyone would say humility is one of my virtues.

The other thing that struck me is that humility isn't a, ahem, cultural value these days. A curate who didn't speak up for himself and try to get a better egg would be viewed as a candidate for therapy. He'd certainly never get his own parish.

Please Alert Alanis Morrisette
Two years ago I made NSLR a shepherd costume for his school's nativity pageant. I was rather proud of the headdress, for which I found instructions on the Internet. As you may have observed, a rectangular dishtowel tied on with rope tends to leave a distressingly bare, un-desert-nomadlike area at the back of the head. The key is to fold a one-yard-square piece of material into an uneven triangle and...but I digress.

A friend of mine reserved the costume in January of 2006. "If the fourth grade is still doing the Nativity in two years, can I borrow that costume?" "Sure," I said, "but I screwed up and it's really, really tight. I didn't leave enough seam allowance, I eyeballed the whole thing. R.'s really skinny, and he could barely squeeze it on." She assured me that her son is also extremely thin.

A few weeks ago I handed over the costume, and then a few days after that I saw my friend. "Boy, I've been meaning to tell you, X. can barely get that robe on. It is tight!" I smiled, also tightly. "We'll still use the headdress, though, and I'll figure something else out," she added.

Last night was the pageant. X. was the shepherd whose head was lost in the vast emptiness tailored to R.'s gigantic cranium.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Real Life Horror

In the car just now S. was talking about something she's doing in science class, sprouting two seeds in damp paper towels. A bell went off in my head.

MV: S, what ever happened to that extra credit experiment you did a long time ago? Trying to make things get moldy?
S: Oh yeah! I totally forgot about that.

It was in one of the kitchen cabinets. It was not pretty.

In other dramas, "The Dresser that Refused to be Delivered" has finally come to a peaceful conclusion. Perhaps because the furniture store knew that I was really, really, angry, they arranged to send the chattiest, most decor-minded delivery man I have ever encountered.

He puts the dresser down in the bedroom.
DM: Hey, this green looks nice with the periwinkle. Different!
He and the silent second delivery man follow me back downstairs and I start writing a check.
DM: It is so cozy in here! Aside, to his co-worker: I want to get this kind of chairs. They're called "Mission."

It's pretty hard to stay mad under those circumstances.

I guess that's good...

cash advance

Monday, December 03, 2007

Freeze Frame!

I think it's safe to say that, since my November 15 post, at least half my traffic comes from people searching for the lyrics to "Centerfold." I don't know what to think about that. One thing it does is give me a sense of the vastness of the world's population, that every day, many many people in New Zealand, Denmark, and Singapore wake up and think to themselves, "What is that song? The one that goes 'My blood runs cold...'?" And a couple of them end up here. Of those, a couple have stayed and clicked around for a few minutes. Which is nice.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Easing Back In

Paris was great, thanks for asking. I may write about it later, but I'm still getting back into the swing of laundry, meals, etc.

I have found time to read Jacob Clifton's recap of the most recent Friday Night Lights episode. The same Jacob Clifton who recaps Gossip Girl. He's really good, people. Television Without Pity is uniformly entertaining, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes even food for thought. But what Clifton is doing is Good Writing. When I read his GG recaps, I keep thinking about what Vera Charles says in Auntie Mame: "I'll never forget what Brooks Atkinson said about that costume. Why, it lifted that turkey right up into a class with Shakespeare!" Now, I know Vera was referring to the costume, but since she had a little pronoun issue, I'm going to pretend she was talking about Atkinson's review. Clifton lifts GG up into a class with...well, with Friday Night Lights at the very least. And he lifts Friday Night Lights up, too, but I'm not going to construct a whole TV drama aesthetic hierarchy for you...I want you to go read his work.

Until my writing brain works again,

Friday, November 16, 2007

Smile the while you kiss me sad adieu

I'm off to the land of the lily. See you in about a week.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Title Redacted Because So Many People Got Here On Lyrics Searches

After a discussion of the inexplicable unavailability of certain songs on MP3,* my brother lent me his CD copies of Mike and the Mechanics and Big Hits of the 80s for ripping purposes. I may never give them back. Whoops, just kidding. What I meant to say is that I began listening to the 80s hits obsessively, and my children's reactions reminded me that I've been germinating a post about 80s music and my children's relationship to it for some time.

S. walks into the kitchen as I wash dishes and bop my head to "Mickey." "What is this?" she asks. "Mickey," I say, most likely in synch with the song, since 78% of the lyrics are "Mickey." "It was one of the first videos on MTV," I offer. "Toni Basil was dressed as a cheerleader."

"Wait, one of the first movies? Really?**"
"No," R. corrects, "one of the first videos. On MTV. Music videos."
"Oh," S. says. "Like the one with the guy walking on top of the water in a pool?"

Yes, my daughter's familiarity with music videos begins and ends with my attempt to describe the video for The Cars' "Magic."

R. walks into the kitchen as I pack the lunches and occasionally spin around to "Centerfold"; "Did he just say, 'My angel is a cellphone?'" he asks.

But that's not what I came here to tell you about.

Came to talk about which songs live and which songs die. Here, of the many hits of the 80s, are the songs with which my children are most familiar:

"Hot Hot Hot" by Buster Poindexter
"Don't You Want Me" by The Human League
"Iron Man" by Black Sabbath
"It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M.
"Celebration" by Kool and the Gang
"Holiday" by Madonna (they get "Celebration" and "Holiday" kind of mixed up)
"Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" by C+C Music Factory (okay, that's 1990)

Now there are lots of 80s songs I play in the house that they would recognize; but the above list are the ones they absorbed from the elementary school culture, and it is this that fascinates me. S. tells me that the first two songs on the list are the favored songs for unison bus singing on class trips: she refers to "Hot Hot Hot" as "Ole ole," and even more annoying, they apparently sing "Don't you love me, baby." Incidentally, I treasure the memory of my entire class singing "Sister Christian" in a boro bus, but it may be colored by my knowledge of the "Tiny Dancer" scene in "Almost Famous." On that same bus, I was probably listening to 60s Motown on my Walkman, but nobody was singing it with me. Ergo, the music of my generation has more staying power than that of my parents' generation. Right?

"Iron Man" mystifies me. They even sing a parody, "I am ice cream man/37 flavors in the back of my van..."

The R.E.M., the Kool and the Gang, and the Madonna they must have gotten from movies; they break into the former when things look bad, and the latter two when things look good. It's a "soundtrack of your life" thing.

And I guess no one will ever be able to resist the beat of "Gonna Make You Sweat," not to mention the musical punchline of "Everybody Dance Now."

But still, that's not the top seven 80s songs I would have picked in 1991, 2000, or ever.

*I see that the CD of "Sixteen Candles" is, in fact, available now. Santa?
**Michael Bluth style.

PS Dick Cavett has a blog.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Three Stories About "Shut Up"

First of all, let me say that "shut up" is a terrible thing to say to anyone, and my children are certainly not allowed to say it, ever, and I do not say it. Very often.

But for some reason, people saying shut up can be as hysterically funny as people falling down and hurting themselves.

In chronological order:

1) When I was in college, my singing group went on a road trip to points South. One evening, when I was starting what turned out to be a doozy of a migraine, I was driving a minivan full of--if I may just be a traitor to my sex for a moment here--cackling hens on an unfamiliar Atlanta highway. At night. So when one of them asked jokingly,* "Are we there yet?" I replied, "No. Shut up." This struck everyone as very, very funny, and everyone in the group proceeded to say "No. Shut up." at the slightest provocation for the next year and a half, constantly reminding me of my moment of weakness.

2) The other day my father asked me a question that made me uncomfortable, and when I brushed it off my mother said, "Shut up, he explained." When I asked where that came from she said she thought Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, but the Internet later informed me that it was the genius Ring Lardner who coined this delightful bit of dialogue. I was particularly pleased since the incident in the book is so similar to my own experience.

3) Not long afterward I learned that King Juan Carlos of Spain had suggested to Hugo Chavez, "Why don't you shut up?" I had already felt a tenderness toward King Juan Carlos since this exchange on 30 Rock a few weeks ago: Steve Buscemi, the PI/fixer, suggests that Jack Donaghy quit his all-white country club, and Donaghy objects that it's not all white--what about "Johnny Carlos?" "He's the King of Spain. I don't think that counts." Now I love him passionately.

*This was supposed to be funny because I had already acquired my group nickname--"Mom." Talk about destiny, right?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Seven Things Meme

Various Mamas have tagged me, in a general sense, for the "Seven Random Things About Yourself" meme. Being an overthinker like Mary's friend Kathy, I'm a bit stuck on what constitutes a random fact and what constitutes a basic, essential, fact. At any rate:

1) I hated (read: was so bad at) volleyball so much in high school gym class that I counted down the last 20 times I had to play it senior year, and vowed never to play volleyball again. I kept that vow through the rest of high school, through college (despite the fact that I joined an eating club where a lot of volleyball was played), and finally broke it at a bar with a beach volleyball court when I was 33. And if you're hoping this will be a heartwarming story about how much I loved it or how much better I was than I remembered...sorry!

2) I love to read Chalet School books by Elinor Brent-Dyer. They are very British, light on the romance, heavy on the moralizing, brief, and extremely satisfying.

3) I had no middle name until I got married. My father felt that three Vs would be excessive, but any other middle initial would ruin the alliteration.

4) I was never very good at ballet, but I adore movies about ballet dancers. "The Turning Point" and "Center Stage" are particularly good.

5) I have a special devotion to St. Joan of Arc, although I didn't know it was called a special devotion until I became Catholic. The first time I ever saw a picture of her I wanted to know all about her, and have devoured whatever I could find ever since. About Joan of Arc, that is.

6) When I was 23 I lived across the street from an Armenian Orthodox church and two doors down from a brothel.

7) I love chocolate-orange-flavored anything.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Prodigal Returns to the Magazine Basket

I am working my way through a pile of magazines up to 18 months old. I don't know why I stopped reading them--they're the ones with lots of words and very few pictures--except that I may have been traumatized by the man who offered me a bagel at S.'s softball game and then said, his tone dripping with mysterious venom, "Oh please, go back to your magazine."

Anyway, yesterday I found an article that did a lot to repair the psychic wound I incurred in that exchange. I love articles that tell me I'm raising my children properly, and this one was a doozy in that regard. It is entitled "Educated at Home," by Hugh Barbour, O. Praem., and can be found in the September 2006 issue of Chronicles magazine. I will now quote from it at tiresome length, because it bolsters one of my most cherished beliefs: that good conversation at a fine meal is the meaning of life.

Simply put, if, in a believing family, there is close attention to the quality of meals in both their culinary and their social aspects, and if, in the same family, care is taken to read and discuss the best sources, then the pleasure concomitant with these bodily and rational requirements of our nature will serve as a strong motivation for the will to retain the revealed Faith and moral virtue celebrated and proclaimed in the same family. Passing pleasures form the memory and stir up a nostalgia for the good things that never end.

...the sharing of food in the circle of the family and the sharing of thoughts in conversation are like two brackets between which all that is of any value in our culture can be contained.

A word to the parents who have done all they can, and whose sons and daughters have fallen away. There is a parable for you, that of the prodigal son: a parable of a successful domestic education. Was it not the basic human pleasures found in his father's house that moved him to come to himself and return with a heart full of hopeful compunction?...If there is a fatted calf, and music, and dignified vesture, and paternal discourse, we will all persevere until that Sunday afternoon at home comes which no evening shadow will follow.

Speaking of the prodigal son, I have a recommendation for you New York-based readers: the exhibit at the Museum of Biblical Art entitled "The Art of Forgiveness: Images of the Prodigal Son." It is well worth the price of admission, if you take the trouble to slow yourself down, sit on a bench, and really examine some of the pieces. I was particularly taken by James Tissot's modern-dress version, especially since he was known for his exhaustive research into the dress, customs and landscape of the Holy Land in preparation for his other biblical work. I was also struck by how difficult it is to get the father's expression right; there is so much attention paid to the prodigal son and to the resentful "good" brother, but in some ways the father is the most interesting character in the tableau. Or maybe I just say that because I am a parent.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Scientific Evidence...

...of exactly how stupid Lance Bass is. Lance, sweetie, Vegas is full of people who just got married. It's also full of people looking for free drinks. That ploy might have worked in any other city.

Bass Married for Free Drinks

Pop star Lance Bass once married a girlfriend for fun - because they wanted to get free alcohol. The former 'N Sync singer - who is openly gay - admits he had a quickie wedding in Las Vegas in "1999 or 2000" with a girl who was "just a friend" - but their attempts to get free booze failed miserably. He says, "People do stupid things in the heat of the moment. I've been in Vegas where I've gotten married for like five minutes, but no one talks about it, though. In fact, the only reason we did it is because we wanted to get free drinks all night... and we didn't get one. We're like, 'We just got married,' and they're like, 'Ah, whatever.'" Bass came out in July 2006, after 'N Sync disbanded.

Friday, November 02, 2007


I'm not doing NaBloPoMo this year because I am going to Paris! for Thanksgiving week, and I don't have the technology to post across the pond. (It's so exciting I can't wait until the end of the sentence to put in the exclamation point). And I don't think I'd ever be able to do NaNoWriMo. I think, though, that I'll try to take advantage of the frenzy of activity all around me in the blogosphere and finally finish revising my novel. It will mean roughly a chapter a day.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Taking Care of Business and Working Overtime

First order of business: no, yesterday's post title was not a typo, but rather a reference to the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem "The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord" ("I caught this morning morning's minion, kingdom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon..."). Today I'm alluding to 70s Canadian rock to make it easier on everyone.

Halloween report: a good time was had by all, and MomVee is glad Halloween is over for another year. No, I didn't have to make it harder on myself by making Vampire Cupcakes, link thanks to Not Martha. I made a few changes: I used angel food cake, because it is lower in fat than other cake and, interestingly, lower in carbs than reduced-sugar sponge cake. I substituted pureed thawed frozen raspberries for pureed cherry pie filling, because there was no added sugar and raspberries are marginally more nutritious than cherries. I did use canned reduced-sugar frosting, because I'm lazy.

Not too lazy to also make Mummy Dogs, no link because I don't know where I found the idea initially. Google mummy dogs and you'll find a wealth of online expertise, but I'll give you a hint: they're like pigs in a blanket. I also carved M.'s pumpkin and my own pumpkin, yes, I know I don't have to have my own pumpkin, and that that would be another place to save some time and effort. Except my pumpkin was awesome, and how could I deprive the world of that?

On today's agenda: parent-teacher conferences, volunteering at Ronald McDonald House, and piano lessons.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Lemony Snicket has a new book out called "The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story." That makes me smile every time I think about it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I caught this morning morning's meathead...

Spotted: a group of Catholic high school boys dressed as Hasidim. Bad idea jeans.

I just got around to reading an article in the September 10th issue of The American Conservative, "The Once And Future Christendom." It's quite good. Even if the "conservative" label frightens you, read it for the Tolkien references. Besides, it's Halloween, so a good day to be frightened.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Oh heck, no one reads this anyway...

The October 24 2007 issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly reports that, at the dedication of Stanhope Hall as the new home of the Center for African American Studies, President Shirley Tilghman "noted that it is located 'at the heart' of the University both physically and intellectually." I like to think that if I were involved with the Center for African American Studies, I would be appalled by her sycophantic insincerity. Stanhope Hall is not at the physical heart of the University, except by virtue of its proximity to Nassau Hall, in which case it would be more accurate to say it is located "at the liver."

The intellectual point is even more outrageous, however much one values African American Studies. It is in the very nature of Programs, Studies, and Centers, as distinct from Departments, that they are interdisciplinary. For disciplines to interact, they must first exist. If only logic and rhetoric, or theology, or philosophy (beyond the rather esoteric brand that is favored there), were taught at Princeton, they might be at the intellectual heart of the university. As it is, I would argue that History, English, and Politics--the most populous arts departments--are the leading candidates.

While I'm crawling to the spindly end of this limb, I might observe that History and English, housed as they are near the library and connected to the chapel, or Politics, across the street from History and English and nestled near the eating clubs, provide serious candidates for the physical heart as well.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Five-Year-Old Gets the Best Lines

M: Someone went to the principal's office today.
MV: Really!
M: Yes. It was X___! I was in love with him, but now I can't be anymore.
MV: Because he went to the principal's office?
M: Yes. I could never marry him now.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Her Writing Needs Work, But She's in AP Self-Esteem

M: Mommy, what does this say?
MV: Shat glocri. I gult. Kr.
M: No, that's a C.
MV: Oh. Shat glocri. I gult. K.C.
M: I created new words!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Notes From All Over

Let's see, let's see...

Warning--parental bragging ahead:

Both NSLR. and S. medaled in their respective categories at the parochial XC championships yesterday. R. and I ran in the 1.5 mile Parents/Coaches run. He was wearing a polo, khaki shorts with a belt, a baseball cap, and his old, beat-down trail runners. He hasn't run since he was in high school. I was wearing new shoes and running shorts. I have been running 10-15 miles a week for a year and a half. He came in 15th at 11:29. He was disappointed with his finish. I came in 33rd, right around 14 minutes. I'm not bitter, no.

But the best part is this: when we were sitting around waiting for the meet to be over and the awards given out, Coach K. came over and said to NSLR, "the St. _____ coach just told me one of her boys fell down and someone from St. _____ helped him up, lost a few places in the process. So I'm figuring that was you."

It was. I think we're almost done with that one.

My main problem with DIY

It doesn't happen instantaneously. I sanded and primed two desks today, and I feel absolutely no sense of accomplishment.

Dumbledore Being Gay

Did she intend it all along? That's all I want to know. I doubt it, though. I think she's drunk on her cultural power. So I think it's a cheap shot.

New Blogs and Places to Drink

Check 'em out.

P.S. I'm working on a way to do a weekly poetry podcast. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 19, 2007

...they wind up wounded, not even dead/

Tonight in juggleland.

What I remembered today:

  • the money and forms for all three pictures
  • that R. and S. needed to wear dress-up clothes

What I forgot:

  • To remind S. to take her clarinet. The temptation is to let her go one week without lessons and learn, well, a lesson from it. But having paid ahead for a year's lessons, and being an absent-minded professor type myself, I brought the clarinet to school.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


What I remembered last night/this morning:

  • R. needed to work on his collage of 31 sins cut out of magazines (generally one painful letter at a time, because our magazines don't seem to have whole words about sin in them. Pictures, perhaps: is frivolity a sin?) and pasted onto what his teachers insist on calling "a posterboard cut in half" because saying 14X22 and putting an end to the frantic discussions among mothers on the corner would be so much less fun.
  • S. needed to bring in small plants, rocks, sticks, etc. for her 2-liter soda bottle terrarium.
  • R. and S. needed to wear their Cross-Country uniforms because today is Fall Sports Picture Day. R. also needed to bring a change of clothes because it is 6th Grade Behavior Warning Free Dress-Down Day, and we can't miss an opportunity to dress down when that privilege is offered, even if that means changing from t-shirt and shorts into t-shirt and shorts.
  • M. needed to be coaxed into an outfit nicer than the stained t-shirts and jeans she typically favors, because today is Kindergarten Picture Day.
What I didn't remember:

  • To send in the money and form for M.'s picture package.

In other news, I picked up the Gossip Girl crack pipe again. Don't look at me like that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

I have to get fingerprinted at Sagem Morpho because I volunteer at the children's school. The less said about that, and about the diocese's "plan" to "protect" children, the better.

No, the thing I couldn't have made up is this: on the form you fill out before you register online for your fingerprinting appointment, it says "Gender" and then offers three choices: Male, Female, Both. See, I almost said swear to God, and that would probably be wrong.

Don't even get me started on the fact that it should say "Sex," not gender, because I am a person, not a noun...

Lord Peter was so right.

Also, Sagem Morpho can't deal with anything but Internet Explorer. No Safari, no Firefox.

So many things to complain about, so little time.

Sign of the Apocalypse

I have been watching "Legally Blonde," the musical,* which I DVR'd from MTV on Sunday evening. The opening number is rather catchy, and I am extremely grieved to report that it is entitled "Omigod You Guys." Hordes of sorority sisters swarming around the stage singing "Oh my God," (or, apparently, "omigod") "Oh my God, you guys." Perhaps you would like to view the video and count how many times; I don't have the heart.

I won't claim that I never take the Lord's name in vain, but I always feel bad about it. I will not allow my children to do so. And this song is just...staggering in its onslaught of trivializing blasphemy.

*While folding laundry, I hasten to add; so my time has not been wasted.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Official time: 29:11.4

Which Side of the Brain Do You Use to Waste Time on the Internet?

"O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?"
-- W. B. Yeats

How can we know ourselves?

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Watering Place Index

29:05--What I think was my 5K time yesterday. They hadn't posted the slowpoke standings by the time I finished my banana and water and headed to the car; and I'm tired of waiting for them to post the official times on the web. I'm pretty sure 29:05 was what I saw on the clock as I ran by, and that would be nice because...

5--is the delightfully precise number of minutes my time improved from last year's 34:05.

9:23--my new mile pace, down from 10:59 of last year's 5K and 11:12 of May's Spring Lake 5.

34--my "safety" time to beat.

32--my realistic goal time.

30--my "dream" goal time. This means, of course, that I get to celebrate the achievement of my dream goal for approximately five minutes and then face the fact that my dream goal was not fantastic enough.

10--the number of K I agreed to run with my friend MB on December 9. Why, I ask myself, why?

1--the number of theaters in my rather broadly defined geographical "area" in which the extravagantly recommended (in the blogosphere) movie "Once" is playing. The one theater is on 12th street in Greenwich Village, which I wish I had known when I was in New York last Friday.

Approximately 15--the total number of minutes it took the plumber to light the pilot light on the furnace and fix our running upstairs toilet.

85--the number of dollars I expect to pay for above services. At least now I know how to light the pilot light in the future.

over 300, 10, and 1--Not-so-little-R.'s blood sugar (which prevented him from running), S.'s seconds over her best time, and the number of times M. vomited at the XC meet yesterday, all of which I obscurely and irrationally feel are my fault for missing the meet to go to my own race.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I know what they mean, but...

I think "Pelosi vows to push ahead with genocide measure" is one of the most delicious headlines I've read in a long time. (It's currently on the NY Times feed for my Google home page. Let's see how long it takes them to reword it.)


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Brava, Doris

Doris Lessing is the recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Doris Lessing is not one of my favorite authors. I might not even exactly say that I like her work; but I recognize its worth, and its importance. I like my literature a little more heartwarming. That said, Doris was a party to one of the great epiphanies of my life. In the spring of 1990 I was taking a course on British Woman Writers and wanted to write a final paper on The Story of an African Farm. My professor insisted that I compare SoaAF with Martha Quest. I did not want to do this, and I whined for a while. I told the professor that I found Martha Quest not only unsympathetic, but also unbelievable as a character, because she was able to believe in totally contrary things simultaneously, and was so deceived about what was going on in her own life. In fact, the thesis of my paper ultimately ended up being, essentially, "Lyndall can't believe in anything; Martha believes in everything."

Then my boyfriend who never wanted to kiss me or spend time with me broke up with me on Sunday morning of Houseparties weekend, and my soul smacked itself on the forehead. Because, you see, at some level I knew it all the time. While I planned the rest of our lives together I knew that my boyfriend did not love me, at least not in the way that he ought to. La Quest, c'etait moi.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

My Own Invention

Pumpkin Barliotto

I combined a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe, "Barley Risotto with Corn and Basil" and a Ladies Home Journal recipe, "Pumpkin Parmesan Risotto," to make Pumpkin Barliotto. Voila:

Six cups simmering chicken broth
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 C pearl barley
3/4 C dry white wine
1 C canned pumpkin
1/2 C fresh sage leaves, slivered
1 C grated Parmesan
coarse salt and ground pepper

Saute onion in olive oil until soft, add barley and saute for one minute. Add wine and cook until almost evaporated. Add hot broth, 2 cups initially, cook until absorbed. Continue adding broth to cover and then cook until barley is creamy and slightly chewy, about 45 minutes. Add pumpkin, sage and cheese. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Makes about 5-6 main dish servings.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

It's Over. Already.

I've been too busy to get around to recommending "Gossip Girl," but just pretend I did. Then pretend that I withdrew the recommendation. Just. Too. Stupid.

Immoral I can take. One can always claim that the awful behavior of young people on TV will serve as a warning, and that good ultimately triumphs in these shows. But stupid I cannot take, and the flights of fancy around the topic of securing Ivy League admission in last night's show were so embarrassingly far-fetched and wrong that I didn't make it very much past the first commercial break.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Too True

"I am always trying to say something too silly to be believed; but I never manage it."

Busman's Honeymoon, Dorothy Sayers

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Yellow Darkness, Sinister of Rain

It's been gloomy all day; I wish it would just go ahead and rain.

If I may just be vulgar for a moment, learning to write--or, more accurately, learning to write and being left-handed--is kicking my daughter's ass. I ache for her. I've never watched one of my children struggle so much with something so essential before. We all struggle with things like not being forgetful, and managing our time, and self-discipline--but all the time we're pretty much fooling the authorities in the outside world. M.'s teachers haven't said anything about her writing problems yet, and who knows? maybe she's still ahead of the curve. It's just hard for a heretofore spoiled mother's heart to take, especially in a child for whom the first 5 and a half years of life--social interaction, etc.--was pretty breezy.

My other daughter is practicing the clarinet. Practicing the clarinet, for a beginner, involves making a lot of squeaking sounds. One's first, gut reaction is to holler, "Stop making that sound!" So far I have been able to control myself.

And speaking of things kicking one's posterior, I returned from a three-day weekend in Boston last night. In years past, when returning from such a trip, I would conscientiously devote the next day to doing absolutely nothing. I don't seem to be able to do that anymore, logistically or temperamentally. Not that I'm back on top of things. Oh, no no no no no. But I did go for a run, restock the fridge and pantry, drive various people to various things, and make dinner.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Sonny Curtis wrote "I Fought The Law," "Walk Right Back," and the theme from the Mary Tyler Moore show.

Enough said.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tramp Stamp Comes Home to Roost, or Brood...

I picked the Tuesday Wall Street Journal off of the coffee table today and read with interest that some women with lower-back tattoos are concerned about the safety of getting an epidural during labor and having the anesthesiologist poke the needle through their tattoos. The article said that nearly 25% of women ages 18-50 have tattoos, of which nearly 20% are of the lower-back variety. And apparently 65% of the four million births per year in the US involve epidurals.

Now, one easy way around this is not to have an epidural. Not to brag--and I am well aware that many people think this indicates stupidity or insanity on my part, so don't worry about the old ego too much--but I made it through an intervention-rich, pitocin-assisted 27 hour labor with 4 hours of pushing and no epidural.

An even easier solution: don't get a tattoo! On those occasions when you just cannot let life go by without ornamenting your body, consider henna. Or how about Sharpies? They come in so many pretty colors these days.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Marshall Crenshaw, I Am Here For You

I've been missing for almost a week, I know. But just listen to what I accomplished:
  • I removed seven no-longer-functional cords and cables, four speakers, and a sub-woofer from the sun room, and swept up some museum-quality dust bunnies. In the process I managed to mess up the new computer!
  • I attended Back-to-School Night two nights in a row, including the new (to me) and grueling "follow your middle-school student's Tuesday schedule" program. Okay, maybe not grueling.
  • I revised Chapter One of my book for the third or fourth time. Please tell me that getting the first chapter perfect will be the key to the rest of the book.
  • And much, much more!

What's so cynical about that? Nothing, apart from my chronic systemic cynicism (say that ten times fast!). No, the cynicism begins here:

With regard to the student tasered at the Kerry speech in Florida: I would never condone the use of the taser in that situation and setting. I don't know enough about tasers to say whether I think their use is ever justified. I hate the idea of causing people pain.

But when I tried to watch the incident on YouTube, I wanted to taser that guy in under 60 seconds, long before security even started to approach him. I'm just saying.

Also, Fall Fundraiser for the kids' school kicked off on Monday. Here is one of the items they are supposed to try to sell. Mickey is not wearing those folded glasses. No, this is a Mickey-shaped stand built for the express purpose of storing your glasses. I think constantly losing them would actually be preferable to making house room for a large Mickey head, how about you?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Two Brief Notes on the Bizarreness of Life

  • At the grocery store today this product happened to catch my eye. The link mentions that you need a medium onion to complete the onion soup project, but I couldn't resist picking up the box, which also specifies 8 cups of water. What's inside the box? Authentically French-tasting chemical powder, presumably. The fact that the box was on the "50% off why did we ever carry this item?" rack restored my faith in human nature somewhat.
  • M.'s homework on Tuesday was a picture of children playing on a playground; she was supposed to color in the children who were breaking playground rules. She colored in quite a few obvious malefactors, such as a boy standing on the slide. Today the worksheet came home "corrected," with several additional children circled. Apparently virtually everyone depicted on the playground was misbehaving, including a girl who was hanging upside down by her knees from the jungle gym. Now, I was never brave enough to perform this feat myself; but I always thought that was just the sort of thing one was expected to do on the jungle gym.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pescetarian Lunchbox

I thought the lunch I made for the children today was particularly appetizing and beautiful, so I took a picture of it:

That's M.'s lunchbox. R.'s has all blue containers, and S.'s has more muted primary colors. You can buy one at Laptop Lunches, and I found out about them at Vegan Lunch Box. If you are a faithful reader, you have already heard more than you want to about our lunch boxes.

Clockwise from top left: leftover crispy shrimp from Martha Stewart Everyday Food, made crispy in the oven with panko. Panko, where have you been all my life? All those wasted years (two) as I walked through the bulk aisle at Whole Foods, idly wondering, "What's panko?" And even after I knew--some kind of Japanese bread crumbs--I didn't understand what kind of magic you would bring me. Let's see, where was I? Cut up strawberries. Dried apricots and Laughing Cow cheese. Green beans and grape tomatoes with a tiny container of hummus. Yummus, as the Cowardly Lion might say.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Born, Jog Most of the Time

I am a real runner now. I just ran in the rain. A soft, drizzly-to-light range rain, but rain nonetheless. It was actually quite refreshing. I'll be darned: the conventional wisdom turned out to be right again. I also did some rudimentary speedwork, which I think was awfully brave of me because I don't like the part of running that hurts, and I put a lot of effort into getting in good enough shape to run without pain in my carefully chosen comfort zone. But I also saw the looks on well-meaning seasoned runners' faces last fall when I told them my 5K time. Not to mention the fact that the conventional wisdom says having a goal reduces boredom.

I ran with my tiny junky giveaway radio because my Dell DJ has given up the ghost. WBJB was playing the transcendent "New York City Serenade."* What happened to my Bruce Springsteen, the 1970s Dylanesque Springsteen? Is there any way we can get him back?

*My favorite Songfact: "Springsteen would often visit New York City as a break from Jersey." Yes...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

RIP Madeleine L'Engle

New York Times

"You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

Madeleine L'Engle is the only author I have ever written to. I had read most of her young adult fiction before I got to college, but I discovered her adult fiction in my college library, and I wrote to thank her for The Small Rain, which I found so moving that I had to take regular breaks for walks while reading it. She wrote back the most marvelous thing: "Thank you for caring about Katherine."

There Are No Readers, Any More

I try to make my titles allusive, but so gently allusive as to be merely nagging. For example, "Golden Years" was meant to stick David Bowie's 1975 song of that name in your head, if it could be stuck. And...scanning May, June, July and August, no other real examples.

At any rate, the above title gently alludes to Edna St. Vincent Millay's 1940 poem, "There Are No Islands, Any More: Lines Written in Passion and in Deep Concern for England, France and My Own Country." Vigorous Internet searches (vigorous considering that I am ever-so-slightly hung over) seem to demonstrate that Millay coined this oft-used and rarely-attributed phrase. I own this poem, printed and bound by itself, in what I have just discovered is a stated first edition.

But, as Arlo Guthrie says, that's not what I came here to talk about. I'm here to talk about blog readership. I read an actual statistic about this once, but I have no idea where or what it was, so I'm going to make something up. Warning: statistics not actually to scale. Statistics are fanciful representations. To wit: in 2002 there were 5,000 blogs, of which perhaps 50 were mommy blogs with a side of culture. In 2007 there are 37 bazillion blogs, of which 3 bazillion are mommy blogs with a side of culture. I started mine in 2005. If I had started just a little earlier, people would have had a vastly greater mathematical chance of happening upon my blog. Once they happened upon, they might have looked around. They might have bookmarked me, even though I am not as funny as Dooce or Finslippy. They might have gotten in the habit of reading my blog.

Now, even on the best traffic days of my life--the sideways refrigerator picture, last November courtesy of the Nablopomo randomizer, the day that Dawn actually dropped by to see my list of junk--I get ten or fifteen sets of eyeballs, and none of them ever comes back. I don't think it's because I'm so boring (although this post has clearly gone on way too long); I think it's because they already have enough blogs to read. I certainly do.

This week, Sitemeter informs me, I had an average of four readers a day, and I can tell you exactly who they were: Ergo, MissWG, my husband, and someone who found me by searching for such things as:

"What kind of hat does Holly Golightly wear?"
"First Communion Trunk Show Miami""Gotta Run For Shelter"
"Anna Karenina Watering Place"

and my favorite,

"How to find Aspergum."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Golden Years

My 20th high school reunion has been scheduled for August of next year. [Do the math on that one! I guess the readers of my profile will no longer believe that I am 251 years old.] I hereby declare the start of one year of sickening nostalgia. I meant to begin with an image gallery of some objects that I particularly remember from the 80s, but was almost immediately stymied.

I recently discovered that it is possible to customize Converse "Chuck Taylors." (Go to and search for "converse one" or roll mouse over Fall Issue and select Converse One). That's tempting, but when I was in high school I had a pair of Chuck T.'s that attracted as much attention as a person could possibly desire:

The best part? I shared these shoes with my friend M. We pooled our money to purchase them at the sidewalk sales, where I must admit there were many many pairs available, due to the limited appeal of gold lame athletic shoes. I like to think we split the cost not only because teenagers have very little money (M.'s parents and mine were exceptionally generous, but not especially wealthy), but also because we sensed that it was excessive to own an entire pair of gold lame sneakers.

So, I thought to myself, what's the next totemic fashion item that springs to mind? Aha! My "Who Cares What Frankie Say?" t-shirt. I am both sad and happy to report that while the Internet is bursting with images of the "Frankie Say Relax" t-shirt, nary an image of its sarcastic sartorial retort is to be found. Sad? Because it brought my image gallery to a screeching halt. Happy? Because I am telling myself that the scarcity of the image means my shirt was just as clever and subversive as I thought it was 23 years ago.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

As Promised

Here I am, mere hours after Labor Day ended, and full of fascinating stuff to post. Actually I can't think of much. The bloom is really off the blogging rose. It's not like the heady days of 2006, 129 total posts for the year.

Almost a year ago, I was reading the memoirs of a tradition-loving, brilliant and homosexual Englishman; and now I am again, this time Moab Is My Washpot by Stephen Fry. I haven't gotten very far into it, but already there is a line I love almost as much as Bennett's line about family secrets. Fry's most vivid memory of his day-school experience is an incident in which his courage failed and then he proceeded to lie extensively about it; but to his surprise his teacher has no recollection of it, but instead mentions a charming--but in a way no less humiliating--moment that Fry had completely forgotten. "In John Kett's past the sun shines and birds sing, in mine there are banks of black thundercloud eternally forming over my head." I sometimes feel this way.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sometimes the Mouths of Babes are Batting a Thousand

MV: Is that what you're wearing to E.'s birthday party?
M: Oh! I don't know...
MV: Well it's up to you, honey.
M: It is?
MV: Yes.
M: I thought you meant, please don't wear that to the party.
MV: Ah.
M: Because sometimes people use that word...that way of mean--
MV: I know.

Yes. Yes, I did know that.

M: Mommy, did you know that you can buy things by wasting your money?

[Sorry for the short posts. Watch this space after Labor Day, though. Woo!]

Monday, August 27, 2007

Would That It Were So

Achewood today.

Of course, there's always the chance that one would find oneself to be a registered a**hole.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Did You Know? A Sporting Goods Update

When you open a plastic bin full of soccer clothing and equipment ranging from 1-7 years old, all of which has, I swear, been washed--it smells really, really bad.

Fashion and Home Fashion

Amazingly, I've never blogged about this before, but for a mother of three, the theme of the last two weeks of August is always going to be "Shoes." We had an incredibly frustrating trip on Monday, trying to accommodate both the principal's Draconian new dress code and R. and S.'s mysterious aesthetic requirements, not to mention the new total inability on the part of shoes salesmen to fit shoes properly. However, we have now achieved for S: school shoes, dress shoes, gym shoes, track shoes; for R: school shoes and dress shoes that are one and the same, gym shoes, track shoes. Hey, wait, we're done! At least until the box arrives from and R's sneakers are the wrong size. Oh, also, M. needs soccer cleats. What's that you say? We have a dozen old pairs of cleats in the attic? Don't be silly. Not one of them is even close to the right size.

Now, I think I've built up enough stress here that I might enjoy tearing strips of cheap muslin. But if you'd rather just buy some, Grandin Road is the place for you! They are offering Tattered Cloth at the low low price of $19 for your Halloween decorating needs. Click around there. I'm all for Halloween decor, considering my black cat collection, but I can't help feeling things are getting a bit out of hand.

Monday, August 20, 2007

One of Many Car Conversations

M: I just saw wild horses!
MV: They're probably not wild.
NSBR: (feeling that Mommy was too crushing) But you saw some horses, sweetie?
MV: Yes, and they were wild.


But they've been captured.

So Much To Say

Well, it's been a long time, apart from the Mothertalk book review. Why? Well, it's summer, for one thing. I'm always at the beach. And my Internet wasn't working at home, and I don't really like posting to my blog from my parents' house. (Incidentally, the secret is partly out: NSBR knows I have a blog, although he is oddly reticent about asking for the URL.) Also, what was the other thing? Oh yeah, I'm lazy.

But now, now! August is busting out all over. I just came back from a lovely trip whereon I saw the Milky Way for the first time (at least as far as I can remember. Certainly the most convincingly milky Milky Way I've ever seen, and the most stars), rode a horse for the first time, caught a glimpse of the Thousand Islands at Boldt Castle, and read Anna Karenina for the third time.

In backwards chronology, my wonderful husband solved our Internet problem in a rather extravagant way. Upon determining that it was a Windows, rather than a hardware, problem, he got me a brand-new, just-released Imac as an early birthday present. Set up and humming in less than 15 minutes, gorgeous 20-inch screen, no tower under the desk to bang the chair leg into. If you can be in love with a computer, I am. And R. is, too, since the Mac system is now UNIX based and thus this machine approximates the NeXT machines he loved so much at our super-secret college.

On this computer, I will finish revising my book and send it out to the great world.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Maximum Enjoyment

I have a dirty little secret. Well, not so dirty, really. I like to read young adult books. I have read the full Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lucy Maud Montgomery oeuvres more times than you can shake a stick at. And don't even get me started on Madeleine L'Engle, or the rare English delicacy of Chalet School books.

And yet I didn't have to out myself on this one. My husband came home the day I received my review copy of Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. "You're reading a James Patterson book?" he asked dubiously. "Yes," I said defensively, "you know I like kids' books." (N.B. at the time he still didn't know about the blog. He does now.) "It's a kids' book?" he followed up.

Yes, dear readers, I was mostly unaware of the staggeringly successful career of James Patterson. Certainly Along Came A Spider rings a bell, now that you mention it. The name Alex Cross might have pricked up my ears. But, you know. Guy books, right?

Which is part of what makes MR3 so amazing. The titular heroine, leader of her gang of bird/human hybrid children, is one of the best female characters I've encountered in a long time. She's strong, brave and incredibly tough, an unbeatable fighter--and I mean punching and kicking--but she's also a nurturing surrogate mother to her little charges, even as she longs to lay her burdens down for a moment and let someone mother her.

Maximum Ride is a roller coaster of a book, with short chapters, lots of action and tons of twists. I think I can safely say there's just enough romance to satisfy female readers and not disgust male ones; but I'll have to get back to you when my son and daughter have finished reading it. There are serious lessons to be found here, too: the dangers of technology run amok; the feeling any kid can have (even one who wasn't created in a lab) that the grownups are really doing a bad job of running the world. Most impressive, there are more than a couple of tough moral choices in this book: moments when what's right comes up against what seems practical, or even safe.

Patterson does a great job of recapping seamlessly, so it's possible to pick up this book, the third in a series, and have no problem following the plot or understanding what's at stake. I intend to recommend the whole series to my kids, though. Max and her gang are great, realistic role models--flawed but with good stuff inside--and the writing's not Shakespeare, but it's a treat.

Speaking of treats, the Maximum Ride website is a ride in itself, where you can keep tabs on the upcoming MR movie.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Walk It Out, Fosse

YouTube, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Go visit Dawn and learn that Thomas Dolby has a blog, Stevie Wonder is even more awesome than you thought, and then go to YouTube to see Marvin Gaye sing the national anthem.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I Love A Parade. Actually I Don't.

But this is fun--at you can see a young gentleman named Charles V. dancing to various tunes suggested by his viewers. I found the site because someone--someone I wish I could get to know--requested that he dance to Kate and Anna McGarrigle's "Travellin' on for Jesus," for which I was trying to find guitar chords. Sadly, it seems that has not yet come to pass.(The dancing. Or, for that matter, the guitar chords.) But I enjoyed the embedded video for "Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go)."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Funny, I Have The Opposite Problem

M. is sitting on the couch with S.'s discarded 3rd grade science textbook.

"There's nothing in this whole book about socks! It's all learning, learning, learning. So inappropriate."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Two and a Half Stories About Never Saying Never

1. When I was 13 I got an ill-advised sort of punk 80s-style short haircut that caused unobservant people to think I was a boy. Even, once, when I was wearing a miniskirt. As I said, unobservant. Anyway, after about a year of this haircut I decided to grow it out. And my grandmother, flailing for conversation topics, said,

"Your mother tells me you're growing your hair out."
"Yes," I said. "I figure this is kind of my last chance to have long hair." (In the early-to-mid 80s, grownup women did not have long hair unless they were hippies who couldn't let go).
"Oh, I don't know," she said. "Grandmom (her mother, my great-grandmother) always had long hair. You could wear it up."
WhatEVER, I thought. As if I would ever wear my hair up. Gag me, etc.

So now, thanks to the miracle of modern hair accessory technology, and having tried a variety of short to medium cuts that make me feel, well, not like myself, I have long hair that I wear up almost every day. It suits me. And then I can take it down and do that "Why, Miss Jones!" sexy librarian thing. Nannie was right.

2. For many years I have read magazine articles suggesting that families should exercise together. And I would dismiss the idea with lightning speed. Yes, I wanted my children to participate in sports, and I fervently hoped that they would not find gym class the torment it was to me. And yes, I would, sporadically, seek out some form of exercise for myself--tapes, classes, the elliptical--none of them very family-oriented.

Yesterday I went for a run with NSLR and S, and it was so fun. Okay, they still didn't actually run with me the whole time, because they run nearly twice as fast as I do (6:30 miles to my 11). But it was fun being on the trail, and stretching together, and driving there and back. The parenting magazines were right.

2.5 The fact that I am even running is a bit of a never-say-never miracle in itself. And now I feel like the world is my oyster. I could, potentially, try to learn squash and play with the rest of my family (if they play left-handed or something).

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Best Damn Place Of All

I just got back from my 15th college reunion, and I am suffused with love for everyone and everything in the world. Actually, I got back on Sunday, but today was the first day I was fully conscious again. It was fun driving home. The super-secret college that Ergo and I attended is still quite the idyllic place, especially when it is chock full of old people.

I'm still not firing on all cylinders. So much so that I'm not sure that's the right idiom. Or whether it is, in fact, a metaphor. Apparently I was quite drunk on Saturday night--I am told that I kept saying, slowly and loudly, "I am Kick. Ing. It!" I vaguely remember telling a room full of people a secret story about someplace I vomited freshman year.

What else can I say without invading other people's privacy? Not much. Hey, but I will tell you this: I had a Pilates session today and my instructor couldn't understand how I had made so much progress in one week. "Let's do another advanced move," she said in a voice full of wonder. So for dramatically increasing your strength and flexiblity, I strongly recommend a three-day binge of mixed beer, wine, rum, and vodka; five hours of sleep a night; and small amounts of bad institutional food. So much more fun than the Master Cleanse.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Good Cry

Today in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jay Parini writes about graduation speeches, and says that Fred Rogers' 2001 speech at Middlebury is his favorite of all time. I was privileged to be at that speech (my little brother is Midd '01) and it was everything Parini says and more. You can read the text here.

I was sitting in the audience (is it an audience at Commencement?) feeling sorry for myself. I have a treasure box full of things to feel self-pity about, and sometimes I like to take them out and sift through them. (NB this post was not inspired by Ergo's recent thoughts, but I bet reading the speech will make her feel at least a little bit better.) Reaching all the way back to 8th grade, when to my intense and eternal surprise I was not chosen to make a graduation speech. High school graduation was okay, but at college on Class Day I did not win any awards or even get honors in my department, and my mother pointed out that I had gained a lot of weight. Nobody came to my Step Sing because they didn't want to take my brother out of school too much so my parents tag-teamed everything except Commencement itself. Whereas my brother's commencement weekend was a destination event, a family extravaganza. "We ordered a videotape of the ceremony," my mother told me excitedly. "I don't think they offered videos of your graduation." "Actually, they did," I noted shortly.

So I sat in the audience (?) reflecting bitterly on these injustices, and on the fact that I had graduated nine years before and had nothing to show for it but a happy marriage and two wonderful children.

And then Fred Rogers started talking. Really, you must read the speech for yourself. There is not a line that isn't brilliant and good. Basically everyone present was at least sniffing, if not sobbing, by the end. But this was the part that really got me:


Italics mine.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Watch Me In June

I am not going to do Script Frenzy. But I am giving myself a one-month extension on revising my novel. I can do that. And I can finish revising. Because I am the girl who lost 15 pounds and has some very slight muscle definition in her arms!

Friday, April 27, 2007

They knew of you. Now they know you.

I Netflix'ed "Say Anything" and I'm watching it right now while I fold the laundry. Well, okay, right nowI'm blogging, but I'm in the middle of folding the laundry.

Embarrasingly enough, I decided to see the movie again because it was on a list, somewhere on the Internet, of the best movie sex scenes. Or the best quirky movie sex scenes? Anyway, I was surprised. I did not remember any sex scene in Say Anything; if you asked me, I would have said Diane Court and Lloyd Dobbler haven't had sex yet when they get on the airplane.

What I remember is this: I went to see the movie in the spring of my freshman year of college, with my roommate and the boy who would be my boyfriend in another six months. They both went to single-sex private high schools. As we walked home from the Eric Garden, weirdest-named movie theater in America, we talked about what a good movie it was.

One of them said, "Wow. That graduation party at the beginning."
"I know!" I put in, "I have been to so many parties exactly like that. It was so brilliant, so evocative..." I trailed off as I realized they were both looking at me in horror. They thought the party was appalling debauchery; they fervently hoped it was a satrical exaggeration.

I identified not only with the kind of high school depicted, and the kind of people Lloyd hung out with, but also with Diane's position as the Brainy Girl who doesn't get to know most people until the end of senior year. I have never been as beautiful as Ione Skye, but I think I was that type...soft-looking. Fresh-faced.

There was no Lloyd Dobbler in my life. A couple of would-be Lloyd Dobblers asked me out in high school, and I ran screaming, basically. I only wanted, as Woody Allen says in "Annie Hall," to belong to a club that was not interested in having me as a member. As a consequence I spent most of high school without a boyfriend, which was probably for the best.

PS: Wikipedia has a list of all the (many) pop culture references to "Say Anything," mostly consisting of people holding boomboxes over their heads.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Notes From All Over

An Entirely Different Sort of Song
The children ask me what the words are to "Here Comes Peter Cottontail." Gamely, I begin singing:

MV:Here comes Peter Cottontail...
....colored eggs for sister Sue,/There's an orchid for your Mommy/And an--
S: An organ?

Will The Lights Go On Again?
Now that Friday Night Lights is over, I don't know what to do with myself on Wednesday night. Going back and reading that sentence, it sounds like it makes very little sense. But if you don't know by now that Friday Night Lights is a TV show, the best new show this season, I can't help you anyway.

I had more but I can't remember it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Are They Trying to Break My Heart?

This infuriates me:
"My success as a scientist depended on my neglecting my first set of children."

I mean, what the hell? Does he really think that? Could he have manged to say, I don't know, "Unfortunately, my sucess as a scientist etc."? Or is it all okay because he gets this second family and he can do it right?

If anyone's success depends on neglecting children, it's not worth having. I say that from my incredibly spoiled position as a "stay-at-home" mother of three children with an increasingly successful father. But he has not always been so successful. He has always been, and continues to be, intimately involved in the lives of his children: my absolutely equal partner in their upbringing, if not always their physical daily care.

Maybe we're not talking about money here. Success as a scientist, after all, is probably measured by research breakthroughs, by standing and respect in the community.

Still. To paraphrase Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons--it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world...but for success as a scientist?

It's Too Late Baby, Now, It's Too Late

How I would have loved a Second Avenue Subway when I lived on Second Avenue.

I suppose learning all those bus routes was character-building. And sometimes when I was taking the 34th St crosstown I would just get off on the spur of the moment to buy particularly tempting takeout or see a movie solo. That was fun.

But not as fun as having a subway option when it's snowing. Or raining. Or 100 degrees out. Or a gridlock day...

In Large Amounts, As Depeche Mode Said

So, in the past few weeks I've been trying to live a little more quietly--less Internet, less TV, even less reading (not to mention hourlong runs, alone with my thoughts). After a while, I began to hear the things I say to myself. And what I heard myself saying, over and over, quite discourteously and dismissively, was, "That doesn't count!"

I accomplished nothing today, I would think. If only I didn't have to spend all that time clearing off my desk...putting things away...raking leaves...driving the kids. I could have gotten something done.

So my resolution for the remaining three quarters of this year? Everything counts.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cheaper than Antidepressants, and No (Bad) Sexual Side Effects

I can now run 5 miles in under 57 minutes (less than 11.5 minute miles, for the innumerate among you). I have lost 12 pounds as promised, or somewhere around there, since the vagaries of fluid intake, my crappy scale, and phases of the moon make precise weight determination impossible.

I have only revised 3 chapters of my book.

So my batting average for Lenten resolutions is .500.

On the other hand, I feel awesome. I have a friend who started taking antidepressants and not long afterward her husband said, "Ooops, sorry I put on the dishwasher. I know you hate the sound of the dishwasher in the evening." And my friend said, "I do? Gosh, it's not really bothering me right now."

I had a similar moment on Monday. We had just had breakfast at the Courtyard (have I mentioned how much I love hotel breakfasts? And watching TV in bed?). I was all packed, the children were all packed, NSBR was finishing his packing. I said, "Hey, shall I go get a cart?"

NSBR looked at me in surprise. "Um, sure!" So I went to find a cart. I wondered why he was surprised. I was a little surprised at myself. And then I realized that in the same scenario in years past, I would have been huddled in a chair with my book, glad that my packing was done, and fuming at the fact that R. didn't get up sooner or do his faster, since it was his job to go out into the big scary hotel, possibly having to walk some distance and/or ask a person a question, get a cart, load it, etc.

Suddenly it didn't seem so onerous. That same friend puts it down to the running, and I am inclined to agree.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


On the Express line (the real express line, the "About 10 items or less" one. I love that "about.") at the Foodtown, the woman in front of me had:

A bucket of fried chicken
Three cans of Alpo
TV Guide
A large bottle of Bayer aspirin

It suggested something, although I don't know what.

In the interests of full disclosure: I had a little tray of the expensive super-skinny kind of green beans (yes, I know, haricots verts, but my brother-in-law who spent his adolescence in France makes fun of me when I call them that. "That means green beans!" he objects.); parsnips; a net bag of onions; a pint of heavy cream. I bought my Oprah, Advil and Yesterday's News earlier in the week, and I'm not allowed to have fried chicken until I'm thinner.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Spinach Feta Pizza

Spinach Feta Pizza, originally uploaded by MomVee.

I think this is some of the best pizza I've ever made. In terms of my original recipes, the monterey jack/black bean/mango is probably the best, but I haven't made that since I got my beloved new pizza stone. And, incidentally, my beloved new camera. Notice how this picture is not blurry? Nice, huh?

Make a whole wheat pizza crust with a cup of whole wheat flour, 2 cups of white flour, a splash of olive oil, a teaspoon of salt, a scant cup of water, and a packet (2.25 tsp) of yeast. After it rises, split the dough in two and roll out two pizza crusts. While it's rising, shred 8 ounces of feta cheese and 8 ounces of supermarket brand swiss cheese together. Defrost a 10 oz package of chopped spinach and press out the water. Mix with a drained can of chopped tomatoes, a quarter cup of olive oil, a few cloves of crushed garlic, and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

Place your crusts on your preheated pizza pan(s) or stone(s) and top with cheese mixture followed by spinach mixture. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Die happy.

P.S. Sundays are not part of Lent. Bet you didn't know that. No, I'm totally serious.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I'd like to stay and taste my first champagne

I'm giving up blogging, and as much of the web as possible, for Lent.

The next time you see me--or don't see me, as the case may be--I hope to be 12 pounds lighter and roughly halfway through revising my novel.

I will be logging my diet and workouts at, doing the 2007 Self Challenge and jump-starting it with a Self "Reach Your Goal" program of losing 8 lbs. in the next four weeks. I have a new diet plan: I eat yogurt and granola for breakfast and lunch, then (as the Slimfast commercials used to say) a sensible dinner. As of day 3 it's working pretty well. I love yogurt and granola very much.

A bientot!

Monday, February 19, 2007

I didn't even have to head for the cheatin' side of town

With R and the two big kids away, I've been indulging in an orgy of television every night.

Now when he returns I'll have to tell him that I've fallen in love with Patrick Verona (I know, I'm awfully late to this party).

And that my new full-time job is The Infamous Chill Sisters.

Wheeeee! Sliding down to the bottom of the bookmarks on my completion neurosis

When I left you (aside from my brief visit to post the gorgeous Dooce-style [forgive the cliche but, Not!] photo of my poor ice-laden dogwood tree), Hannibal was crossing the Alps courtesy of Look and Learn.

Want a "Trust Snape" t-shirt? Visit the Etsy shop of Bookshelves of Doom, and while you're at it, visit the bookshelves themselves, especially if you're like me, never grew up, and like to keep on top of young adult literature. Luckily for me I can pretend I'm vetting the stuff for my kids. Bwa ha ha ha ha! I'm thinking of opening an Etsy shop once I finish the sleeves and hood of my second knitted baby jacket. Or the left sleeve of my first. About the Trust Snape shirt, I fit into my boys' XL right now, but I hope to fit into it more attractively soon. If you're bigger than me, I suggest e-mailing Leila Roy and urging her to branch out into adult size t-shirts.

This next one is awesome, on a level with the snowblower purchase. Map a running route around your neighborhood (or anywhere) and find out what distance it is! It may initially be somewhat disheartening, when you find out your 3-mile loop is a measly 2.4, but ultimately a very useful tool.

While you're out there running, drop a book somewhere noticeable, but not before you've registered it with BookCrossing. Then, with any luck, you'll be able to track its fascinating progress through the world.

More in the category of things I haven't tried yet, but plan to (thus they are not installed in the folders of oblivion):

*A soup swap party (courtesy of NotMartha)
*A magazine purse (but with Look and Learn illustrations from the vintage book that brought me to the website)
*Trying to like people better (and Lent is a good time for this)
*Two from the Sampler: Dorset buttons for the baby jackets, and a washer necklace
*Opening up my black brocade high school diary (from Pearl River Mart) at Cringe. First I'm going to have to dig it out of my parents' house, but I'm sure there's some good stuff in there. For starters, I recall an elaborate plan to copy my personal style from Ally Sheedy's character in St. Elmo's Fire. Oh my.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Winter Wonderland

More Links for You

Let's see. Last time we left off at Shanghai, for which I was roundly abused by another supposedly recovered addict. In the interim, I tried both the Easy Cheese "Crackers," which were a huge success (although I would specify 3.5 minutes in the microwave rather than 3), and the Lara-type bars, less so (dates and cashews worked nicely enough; dates, banana, walnut and a lot of desperately dumped-in coconut to try to dry things out not so much).

Bags Unlimited probably has something you could pack your "crackers" and Lara-type bars in after you made them. I like them for their CD sleeves. Cheap Ribbons has lots of, you guessed it, cheap ribbon; my sister-in-law clued me in to the possibilities of tulle for great-looking packages even if you're not a great bow-tier.

If you know me and you've had a baby recently, you know I am a huge fan of the Hug and Hold Baby as a "Sorry you have a new sibling" present. Whoops, that's "Congratulations on having a new sibling!" Most things this cute and useful (and obscure) cost way more than $20.

Terry Teachout introduced me to the NameVoyager, at which one can waste nearly as much time as at Songfacts or Shanghai (okay, not even close, but it is a timewaster). FYI: the popularity of my name peaked in the 1910s, which finally explains why both my grandmothers had the name but no one else I've ever met does.

Ergo, we only have 3 and a half months left to learn to dance like Napoleon Dynamite for Reunions.

I love illustration art. Here's a depiction of Hannibal crossing the Alps. And you can send it as an e-card. How about "I'd do anything for you, honey. Except cross the Alps with elephants. Happy Valentine's Day!"