Saturday, September 29, 2007

What We Saw Today

A troupe of Morris dancers.

Three brides.

A pair of 11-day-old twins.

Eight ducklings.

Two bagpipers.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Watching the NESN anchors watch the Fenway fans watch the end of the New York-Baltimore game on the scoreboard: surreal.

Winning the division: priceless.

Hilary Duff's Decolletage

Hilary Duff's boobs are totally bumming me out here, both aesthetically and conceptually (the aesthetic should be obvious, if your vision hasn't been totally deformed by porn, and the conceptual is the fact that a quite adorable starlet who is not even 20 feels that she needs to get implants).

I know two teenagers, both 18, I think, who have the most remarkable breasts. R's are quite huge, with cleavage to bury yourself in, and she parades them majestically upon her chest in the skimpiest of tank tops. A's are mid-sized, on the small end, and perky, kind of pyramidal. They are punk-hippie girls (yes, in 2007, that locution is possible) who wouldn't dream of implants. I wish I could feature them in a public interest campaign: Real Is Better (RIB, for short). Or perhaps Bring Out Our Breasts, or Believe: Ourselves, Our Breasts (you can do the acronym yourself).

[Despite blog appearances to the contrary, I am actually getting a lot done this morning. I'm just rewarding myself with breaks for my favorite mainstream press outlets.]

Edited to add: Sorry, the link's messed up, and I can't seem to fix it, but you can get the gist from the text (just imagine grapefruits at about the collarbone level).


Paul Krugman is spot on today too. (And I'm liking his new blog , even though for some reason I can't find it right now??? Hello? NYTimes website design team? You have some work to do.)

Capitalism, people, the problem is unbridled capitalism (under which I lump privatization, consumerism, class warfare--indeed, we might say that Kid Nation and Blackwater emblematize the sorry state we've [long since] arrived at.)

Kid Nation

Haven't watched it. Don't plan to. But Ellen Goodman waxes thoughtful and convincing on it here. I know we lost Molly Ivins, but with Ellen Goodman and Katha Pollitt, we're still holding on.

I'll Take a Week by Myself in the Maldives Now

S has had two days off since we returned from our vacation September 4. One of those was Yom Kippur (he worked the morning of Erev Rosh Hashanah and the evening of Rosh Hashanah). In addition, he has had a small handful of evenings off. Maybe four. I think he's been averaging 80 hour weeks (that's cross-referencing the 85 hour weeks with the weeks when he gets an evening or two, or even a day, off).

Here are some things I have done on my own:

- at least 20 bedtimes

- approximately 20 lice combings

- visits with his parents, my parents, and my sister

- two soccer practices and a half dozen swim practices

- a lot of homework supervision

- opening day parent meeting at Hebrew School

- two meet-the-new-principal meetings

- two school open houses

- I'd say 90% of the shopping (food, cleats, goggles and swim caps, etc.), laundry (including multiple loads of potentially lice-infected sheets and towels), cleaning (100% on that), and cooking (not so much)

- almost all of the cranky child coping

I'm really kind of over this. As Mary Poppins says (in one of our favorite quotes), "Patience falling, tempers rising."

(On the positive side: M and E are getting along well, for the most part, and I can leave them alone when I need to, which makes logistics easier than they used to be.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Recently someone I apparently used to know wrote about me (real me, not blog me) pretty harshly on her blog. In essence, she said I was a racist Mean Girl, and she hoped I hadn't grown up to be a Queen Bee Mom (implying, of course, that I probably had). I have no idea who this person is. A few candidates have been identified and exonerated, to my great relief, so I'm guessing it's someone I didn't really know. And given the circumstances and the company I kept back then, I can totally imagine why she would have thought I was a racist Mean Girl.

Of course, I prefer not to think of myself as a racist Mean Girl, but I am strangely undisturbed by her post. OK, honesty: I'm disturbed enough that I've got my friends trying to figure out who she is, and I'm writing this blog post, but I am not the devastated weeping wreck I might have been, say, 15 years ago when this person seems to have known me. I have no urge to call her out and tell her that I Am Not Mean, and Some Of My Best Friends Are Black, and if she'd seen me at the meeting I went to this morning, she would know that I'm the Good Kind of White Liberal.

I think I've come to accept, really just in the last few years, that I am who I am. Most people who meet me think I'm funny, smart, energetic, effective, occasionally moody, and perhaps a bit too outspoken. A few people who meet me think I'm an arrogant bitch. And, you know what? Those are basically two sides of the same coin: me, depending on your perspective. You know what else? Most of the people who don't like me? I don't like them either. In fact, I can't think of anyone I really like who dislikes me--now that might still leave me a devastated weeping wreck--which suggests that I am fully capable of being nice.

As for the racist thing? I try, I try my best. I get it a lot, and sometimes I don't get it, and I'm willing to be called out, but the fact is, if you're a liberal white woman trying to do some good, you're going to get called racist, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad.

I always try to be the best version of myself, I don't always succeed, and that's all I can do.

My Glamorous Life

Tonight S and the governor are dishing up the restaurant's specialties at a benefit that teams local celebrities with the chefs of their favorite restaurants.

Oh wait, that's S's glamorous life.

I'm taking E to swim practice and going to the middle school open house. Yeah, baby.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jennifer Garner

So I'm one of those people who likes to think Jennifer Garner is One Of Us. I mean, come on, she's married to Ben! (The post-J Lo, back-to-his-roots Ben!) And she shops at the Farmer's Market! In jeans and a t-shirt! She has that cute little girl, and she takes her to the playground, and she goes to Fenway Park (OK, that's Ben's influence, but she looks like she's having a good time).

I mean, she seems like the antithesis of, say, Tom and Katie, with their endless courting of the paparazzi.

Except then I start to wonder. Actually, I started to wonder a while ago. I was thinking about playground pictures. Denise Richards's playground pictures are obviously staged so as to garner [sic] maximum publicity. Denise poses; Jen plays. But if she didn't want the attention, don't you think she could play at home?

Then this evening I saw her in a Neutrogena commercial. Does she need the money? Or does she just want the publicity? Neutrogena: clean, classy: the Jen image.

But is it all just an image?

The Hegemony of the Testing Establishment

In nine years (cumulative) of public schooling, we have been, for the most part, highly satisfied. The caveat to this satisfaction is that we have bright, compliant children who love school and their teachers and do well on tests. So satisfying them, and by extension us, is not that difficult. But we have been lucky to have five fabulous principals and only one dud teacher. Sure the girls are occasionally bored or annoyed, but I don't have a problem with that: sometimes life is boring and annoying, and learning to stick your nose in your book and ignore it is an excellent skill (one I've certainly mastered).

I occasionally peep over the fence at the creative, integrated, child-centered curricula at the private schools where people I know teach and send their children, and I worry that I am depriving my kids of the kind of education I believe in, but, you know, they've done lots of cool stuff too: built a doghouse for a Habitat for Humanity House, written long stories about trips to London and New York, planted seeds, taste-tested apples, built beach dioramas and put on a play about tidepools and gone on a field trip to the beach, played Bingo in Latin, surveyed their classmates about who likes ice cream and who doesn't. Fun stuff.

Sometimes, though, I am reminded that I have signed my children up for a dozen years of testing, to little real account, and it makes me crazy. Today was one of those days. E's math homework was absolutely appropriate: which dog has more spots than the dog in the doghouse, continue the pattern, which picture has five crayons. Except that at the top of some of the problems it said "test prep," and the kids had to identify which answer was correct by coloring in the little circle (A, B, C, or D) under the answer. I had to explain to E that this was what she was supposed to do. M's spelling homework included analogies. Analogies? Help you learn to spell how? Oh yeah, they don't, they just teach you to take the SAT, and prove nothing at all about your intelligence except that you can do analogies.

Makes me crazy, I tell you.

I Knew It!

All we need is Manny. And Youk, don't forget Youk.

S is right. Dan Shaughnessy truly does hate the Red Sox. You don't write sentences like the opening of the third-to-last paragraph. You just don't do it.

You can say 3, though. Can you say 3?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Forget Brooklyn

Oh, hooray, an excuse not to read all those books I feel guilty about not reading--you know, the ones by all those Jonathans and all them. (I know, must read Jonathan Lethem...someday.) (The reason I trust this guy is his take on The Lovely Bones which I could not even read, though I tried, and which I simply could not believe was such a bestseller. And though I did love A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, his critique is spot-on.) (I suspect he kind of loved it too, despite said critique.)

How to anow yore alder sister

(By E.)

1. Do not do what yore sister says.

2. be a brat.

3. Lie in yore sisters bed.

4. Get her relly agre so she hits you and gos to her room.

5. buy somthing with yoer own money that she wanted to buy with her own money and do not let her play with it.

6. Steel yoer sisters cloth.

Editor's note: Each of these tactics has been tested in our home laboratory. Indeed, this list was written on the yardsale whiteboard that is the subject of #5.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I can't tell you how happy I am

that the Yankees lost this afternoon.

It's going to be a long week.

In case you're counting, the number is 5.

Notting Hell

Lately it seems that just about the only topics of conversation amongst the 30/40something privileged parent set (which would be my set) are kids (corollary: schools), real estate, and infidelity. Notting Hell proves the point (though the point might need to be revised to feature the ULTRA-privileged, which is certainly not my set).

When I first saw notices about Notting Hell, I swore I wouldn't read it. I've given up mommy lit, right? Especially cute marketing mommy lit. But there it was on the shelf in the library, and before I knew it I was reading it, and then a day and a half later I'd finished it, and, you know, a few days later, I'm still thinking about it, which means...well, I'm not sure what it means, except that it's worth a blog post.

So Notting Hell is about super-rich yummy mummies who live on a communal garden in Notting Hill. They get all worked up about the super-rich Americans rebuilding their garage, they have affairs, and one of them tries to get pregnant. They also go out to lunch, do yoga, talk about feng shui, and enjoy (or pretend to enjoy) various annual communal garden events (member meeting, sports day, bonfire night). It's not the best-written book on the block, but, honestly, while I noticed the awkward sentences, I didn't really care--it's just not that kind of book. It also uses commodities as a shorthand for characterization, but, again, I didn't really care--it was just that kind of book. What kind of book? Trashy, eminently readable, all in all quite fun.

The chapters alternate between the first-person narratives of Clare (wealthy, uptight garden designer trying to get pregnant) and Mimi (poorest person on the garden, chaotic freelance writer and mother of three, including eleven- and six-year-old girls whom M became quite entranced by after I read her some funny passages--she kept asking me whether there was anything new about Mirabel and Posy). One thing that was strikingly skillful about the writing was that you got quite different senses of Clare and Mimi in each of the narratives, that is, from their self-presentations and the way they talk about each other, yet both those senses make sense--i.e. the book nicely shows the gaps between how we see ourselves and how others see us.

One thing that was strikingly odd about the book was that it went along in quite a jolly way with some angst but little heavy morality--and then all of a sudden, CRASH, Mimi is heavily punished, by her husband who has been the most easy-going of the bunch. Part of the goal, I assume is to make her husband, who doesn't care about the status obsessions of Notting Hill, a hero figure, that is, to turn farce into social critique. Except that her husband is aloof from the status obsessions of Notting Hill because he is old money (i.e. we're not talking Marxism). When Mimi and her family move to the country, all their problems are solved (i.e. the status-conscious materialism of Notting Hill was the problem? and punishment is really reward?) except that Mimi still describes everything she owns in name brands (satire? it's all just the same and punishment and reward are irrelevant concepts?). In other words, the book ends with some heavy narrative incoherence (or maybe it's coherence of a higher order?), but, you know, that's OK too.

As for those name brands and name drops, which are the novel's dominant motif: it was absolutely blatant how they function as a construct for reader identification. The book does include a glossary in the back (I wonder if the British edition has one too) which identifies all the shops and code words of yummy mummy Notting Hill life, but clearly the book's intended audience--or at least one intended audience--is those who can nod knowingly when Clare puts on her forget-what-they're-called boots or Mimi lunches at the E&O. And I, of course, totally fall for it, because I know what Agent Provacateur is! And I've been to that bakery! And aren't I lucky that even though I'm not a Notting Hill yummy mummy, I can read books about them! Ah, fiction...

So yes, though I'm sure it wasn't the author's intention, Notting Hell made me think about how fiction works, and I always like that.

[Sadly, I just had to give up on a new book by an author whose last novel I quite loved. In this one the main character is predictably unidimensional (i.e. the plot will obviously be generated by the need to make her multi-dimensional), and the bad use of pronouns and proper nouns is just too annoying to get past. The narration is third person limited (I think that's what it's called--I should know what it's called!--when it is third person but from the point of view and inside the thoughts of a single character), and the story totally focuses on the heroine, so it would be OK to use "she" most of the time, but instead the author keeps sticking in her name, including in the middle of quite short paragraphs that have begun with her name and continued to be about her. It just drove me crazy. I suppose you could say that this novel also made me think about fiction, and it certainly has a higher purpose than Notting Hell, with lots of big concepts like forgiveness and love, as well as politics, but...either I am once again proving myself a thoroughly superficial person in my fiction predilections, or Notting Hell is good at what it does, and this other book just isn't.]

[Edited to add: Oh dear, maybe I should have stuck with the abandoned book longer. But it's too late now, already returned it, and the review isn't compelling enough to make me want to take it out again...but I do feel bad now.]

Newspaper Reading

This Modern Love essay did little for me overall, but I loved the part where she woke up her sister:

It was late, but I called my sister anyway, letting the phone ring until I woke her. “Hello?” she breathed.

“Turn on your computer,” I said. After I directed her to his page, we sat there in silence, our phones pressed up against our ears, our breathing uneven.

“Oh, my God,” my sister said.

“Oh, my God,” I agreed.

My sister and I would so totally do that.

Here's a horrifying piece everyone should read. As I've said many times, sometimes I feel like I just live my tiny little life in total denial of what's going on around us.

And if you want horrifying in a tiny little way, here you go. I spent yesterday afternoon on the sidelines of a soccer field covered with six year olds. I can't even imagine.

Most Excellent Bumper Sticker Spotted on My Morning Run

Where are we going?
And what am I doing in this handbasket?

(It was a perfect morning for a run--just a nip of chill in the air, the river and pond were glassy still--and I felt perfectly in tune with my legs.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

In Which I Am An Unrepentant Feminist

I pretend to understand when women get married and change their names--of course you want to share your children's names, sure it's easier, how nice of you to want to make your husband happy--but really I don't. On a certain level I don't care--I have remained friends with many women, most of them younger than me, who have changed their names--and the power of my aesthetics over my politics is visible in the fact that the one good reason I can see for changing your name is hating the original name and delighting in an excuse to jettison it. Bottom line, though: if you are of my fortysomething mom cohort, and your parents did not bestow upon you a moniker like Turdimsprezechelheimer and you have changed your name, I not only don't get it, but I will always feel like there is a fundamental difference between us. And, you know, there usually is.

In No Longer Red State Capital City Suburb, there was me and J and J and L and Dawn and a few women I worked with, and that was pretty much it for original name holders. All the neighborhood moms had taken their husband's names, as did all the younger women we knew who got married. And J, J, L, Dawn, and the women I worked with? Smart, older feminists, who got what I was saying. The other women? Nice women whom I liked a lot and was happy to hang out with, but from whom I felt, fundamentally, different.

And this is one of the many reasons I feel at home in East Coast Big City. I think I can say that virtually every fortysomething mom I know has kept her name. Some of them have even--how anachronistic!--hyphenated their children's names. And we are not even the only family who has given their kids the mother's name. (In fact, one of the few truly annoying moms in my circles: has her husband's name. Though, now that I think of it, to counter that, one of the nicest moms I know has her husband's name--but she's also in her mid/late 50s.) These moms? I like them, I'm happy to hang out with them, and they get what I'm saying.

So, yes: job, house, and financial travails aside, I'm still glad we moved.

(This post was inspired by receiving the Hebrew school directory and noticing that the parents have different names in just about all the Town families--which is not the case for the families from Fancy Republican Town Next Door--and then going on a Yom Kippur hike with a bunch of neighborhood families and attending a break fast with a bunch of 6th/1st grade families, all of which families had moms who kept their names, all of whom I quite adore.) (J, I wish you had been there!)

Edited to add: I'm totally down with both members of a couple changing their names! (See Jackie's comment below.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I've Fallen In Love

With a shoe. That I can't afford. And probably don't need, though I kind of do. I mean, I don't need that particular ridiculously expensive shoe, but I could definitely use a shoe (actually two) to wear to work. If I had work.

As M would say, with great dramatic effect, "It's traaaagic!"

We Didn't Have a Name for It Then

A long time ago, my sister and I arrived in Amsterdam the night before New Year's Eve. We had thought we would easily find a hostel or cheap hotel--in fact, I think we just planned to stay at Bob's--but no go. People laughed in our faces. No reservation the night before New Year's Eve? Forget it!

We stood in the square outside the train station, wondering what to do. If worst came to worst, we could always spend the night in the train station, we figured, and then go back the next day to England, where my sister had a cozy dorm room (we slept head to toe in her very narrow bed, and cooked in the communal kitchen where everyone had their own shelf with their own national food).

Then I saw a man with a big backpack emerge from the station and walk purposefully across the square. I figured he had a place to go, so I went up and asked him if he could suggest a place to stay. It turned out that he was not the tourist I'd mistaken him for, but an Amsterdamian returning from a chess tournament. He, too, scoffed at the idea of finding a place to stay the night before New Year's Eve, but he followed his scoff by inviting us to come stay with him until we did find something.

Somehow the chess tournament made him seem safe. Plus, it was a long time ago and we were young. Truly, we hesitated barely a moment before accepting his offer.

He lived in a squat in an abandoned hospital. A bunch of young people had taken it over, and by then it was a fairly reputable squat that also housed a youth center and an organization that sent bicycles to El Salvador, among other things. His flat was an old operating room with 20-foot ceilings, tall windows, and granite ledges. He slept in a loft and my sister and I slept on the couches. He loved Siouxsie and the Banshees.

He insisted that we could stay with him as long as we wanted, but we did try to find another place the next day, New Year's Eve, and then we gave up. That night his friends invited us to a vegetarian New Year's Eve dinner--I think he had a date--and we ate the traditional New Year's Eve olliebollen with them, and then went out into the streets where people set off fireworks all night long.

I think we stayed there, in the hospital squat, for almost a week, visiting the Van Gogh museum and the Anne Frank house during the day and falling asleep at night to the sound of Siouxsie and the Banshees. I meant to send him some bootlegs when I got back to London, but I never did. It's one of the things I regret.

This NY Times article on couch surfing made me think of that time. Our experience certainly proves their philosophy, and yet there's something to be said for unorganized serendipity.

[Go ahead, click on that Times link, whenever you're reading this post, and say "so long" to Times Select!]

I Did It So You Wouldn't Have To

Yes, I did, I watched the premiere of Gossip Girl.

Come on, what do you expect from the world's greatest 90210 fan? OK, maybe not the world's greatest, but dedicated for sure, and to Melrose Place too. I never got on the O.C. bandwagon, but it wasn't for lack of desire. I watched the premiere, because B's cousin was in it, and quite enjoyed it, but then watching TV regularly is such a challenge for me these days. And I always pause at the DVD when we're getting movies, but the commitment, oy, the commitment...

So, will I commit to Gossip Girl? Probably not.

Rich kids, inappropriate parents, partying in limousines, partying in bars, partying at parties, fast-cut soft porn, glitz, more glitz.

Good boy, bad girl trying to be good, really bad boy, young innocent girl, ambiguously boring boy who cheated on ambiguously boring girl with bad girl trying to be good back when she was bad.

I mean, no redeeming features, but quite fun.

Sort of Dangerous Liaisons on TV, without John Malkovich.

And the bad girl trying to be good heroine looks kind of like Cate Blanchett meets Giselle with a touch of Kate Moss and a tiny bit of young Ellen Barkin. Not that she looks anything like a high school student, but that's not the point.

Hmm, maybe I will watch again...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Take It All Back

Eric Gagne? Mistake.

Dice-K? Send him home.

J.D. Drew? Loser.

But, seriously, the rest of this team? Great guys. Great team. So WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO US?

I don't read a single Red Sox blog (oh my god, what a nightmarish thought), but I'm wondering what they're saying about Tito these days... I mean, I love him, really, and I trust him, really, but...well, let's just say the doubt, it might be surfacing soon.

My other perhaps productive but surely non-original thought is Manny. Who hasn't played since August 28 (right?). And since August 28? Not so pretty around here...

Please please please let me be able to take it all back again on September 30. For now, I'm just trying not to look.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What She's Really Learning

M: Of course Latin is my most creative class. There's no Latin Blue State Proficiency Test.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Off the Deep End?

I think I have been quite reasonable on the lice front. Anxious and insecure, yes, but I have neither shaved everyone's heads nor rubbed in a bit of shampoo and ignored it. There has been a lot of combing and laundry, a bit of internet searching (really, not that much, considering), one dose of chemicals and one dose of home remedy (dubbed, in our home, Operation Saladhead: mayonnaise, followed by white vinegar).

Today, though, I did something ridiculous. I threw out every single hair band, including the ones at the bottom of the box, which may never even have touched the head of a member of this family.

I was at the drugstore, buying more laundry detergent for the really quite unbelievable heap of laundry in the basement. I saw the hair accessories. I realized that for ten dollars, give or take, I could buy two dozen thick black hairbands, two dozen thick colored hairbands, and a massive hunk of thin colored hair bands. And then I wouldn't have to worry about the hairbands.


Now back to our regular routine of laundry and combing.

[I hope lice positing will cease soon. And then maybe I'll post about lucid dreaming. Or vetoing children's health care. Or misbehavior at religious school.]

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's Not That Bad

Life's fine, really, just the mouse was a bit of overkill.

What the Hell, Let's Just Add Vermin

I am sitting here at the kitchen table, working, yes, I am working at 11:30 on Saturday night at my kitchen table, and a mouse just sauntered, yes, it really did saunter, in a skittering mouse kind of sauntering way, across the bottom of the refrigerator, turning right at the baseboard, and then I looked away, so I have no idea where it went, but I just cannot cope with a mouse in the kitchen at this point, this point in the evening, this point in the weekend, this point in my life. So I'll tell S about it tomorrow, and he will be unable to cope because, well, he has lots of reasons not to be able to cope with a mouse in the house, beginning with the fact that he spends perhaps nine hours a day in the house, seven of them asleep, and we're talking seven days a week. As well as not coping, he may get mad and shout and swear, and that will be unpleasant, even though he will be shouting at the mouse, not at any of us. But, you know, shouting at a mouse won't really do much. Then there's the fact that I left my phone at my sister's house, which could be secondary to the mouse, though I don't know, it seems easier to ignore a mouse than a lack of phone. So I have no phone, and I have a mouse, and it's the middle of the night, and I'm sitting here at my kitchen table. Some people are out dancing and drinking and flirting and enjoying what a Saturday night should be, but I am here, at the kitchen table, with no phone, and a mouse, and now I think I'll get back to work.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chocolate Babka

Really, I should not be a baker. I am neither precise nor patient, I have no faith in anything, and baking fills me with anxiety. Yet I persist. Why? No idea. Is the product worth the pain? This week: decidedly.

I know, Rosh Hashanah. I should be making honey cake, or at least apple cake. We even have a delicious recipe for apple cake (the apples are applesauce, and there is lots of olive oil--it's Italian[ish]). Nevertheless, Monday night found me sitting at the kitchen table with Nigella and Joan, trying to decide what to make.

I didn't get to Nigella. I didn't even get to the Rosh Hashanah section of Joan. I got stopped in Shabbat by Chocolate Babka. Chocolate Babka? For Rosh Hashanah? I don't know: it just grabbed me and had to be made. Remember when I used to make chocolate cakes? I haven't made one in a long time, and just the other day I thought: I should make a chocolate cake. Then there was the Chocolate Babka recipe in last December's Gourmet. Phantom made that one, and my recollection is that it did not blow us away. So Chocolate Babka remained an unspoken goal. And there it was.

Sure enough, my usual baking trauma commenced. Made the dough the night before. An ordinaryish dough, five eggs, made in the mixer, 15 minutes of mixing. And it was still totally sticky. The recipe said soft, but this seemed ridiculous. Luckily, S was home by that point, so he reassured me, as he does, divided the dough in three, dusted the three with flour, and put them in the refrigerator.

The next day. Need for ingredients. Whole Food: chocolate, but no almond paste. Way too many chocolate choices, and I hadn't written down what kind I needed. Finally went for Lindt bittersweet, since you pretty much can't go wrong with bittersweet or Lindt, and it was a 10 ounce bar and I had written down that I needed nine ounces (and it did not cost a fortune). Luckily, bittersweet turned out to be right. Gourmet store: French almond paste in tiny and huge bars. Hadn't written down how much I needed. Got the huge. Anyone know any almond paste recipes?

Home. Have to pick up E in two hours. House is a mess. I am tired. Need to mix cake crumbs (chocolate chip muffin from Whole Food), melted butter, and fraction of huge almond paste bar in Cuisinart. Only no-longer-so-new-that-my-failures-have-any-justification Cuisinart refuses to turn on. There is something that I am not locking, but I have no idea what it is. Call S. He is useless. Hang up on him. Waste precious time searching for Cuisinart manual online. Download Adobe to new computer. Cuisinart manual seems to assume a level of competence I lack--i.e. the ability to turn on the Cuisinart. Give up and switch to tiny Cuisinart. Which barely mixes cake crumbs, melted butter, and almond paste, but clearly is not going to chop ten ounces of chocolate. Chop chocolate by hand.

Roll out dough, spread almond paste mix, sprinkle chocolate, roll up, put one in loaf pan, two in bundt pan. Creatively mix leftover chopped chocolate (remember, bar was 10 ounces, recipe said 9) into streusel. Sprinkle streusel on babkas. Streusel slides down sides of babkas. Leave babkas to rise. Pick up E from school.

Recipe says they should rise above the pan. Nothing ever rises above the pan. But it's been more than an hour. Stress. Put babkas in oven. Go to farmer's market.

Home with apples, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, flowers. Take babkas out of oven. They have risen above pan. They look like babkas. Everyone impressed. I am sure that appearances are deceiving.

Well, they were outrageously good. We ate the loaf last night with my dad, and leftovers at lunch today with my mom. I took the bundt to the neighborhood Rosh Hashanah picnic this evening, and the crowd went wild. Truly. Softly sumptuous dough, sweet chocolatey filling, delicious streusel, light yet filling.

Joan Nathan's Chocolate Babka: definitely a keeper.

Lessons learned? Probably none.

Lucy, Daughter of the Devil

We have been anxiously watching Lucy's development, for many reasons, and we are thrilled that she has finally reached the little screen. Unfortunately, Adult Swim is a little late for us (yes, all of us, even the actual adults), but luckily there is also YouTube. (I only discovered the previous link's worth of video while googling for the show's website, so I've been relying on YouTube, and what the hell is wrong with those Adult Swim people that they haven't made the show a real website?) Luckily, too, Lucy has at least one maniacal fan who is serving up all things Lucy.

Really, take the time to watch at least the YouTube clip. It's funny. Very funny. And twisted. We like twisted. Hell, even my mom likes twisted, when it comes to Lucy. And we want everyone to love Lucy as much as we do and make her a huge hit so Cartoon Network orders lots more episodes and people we love get rich. And happy, of course.

Only don't watch it at work.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

L'Shana Tova

Now that's what I call a walk-off home run. (OK, so everyone else calls it a walk-off home run too...)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thank Goodness

This is no time to be losing multiple games to Tampa Bay. Luckily, they worked it out. Or worked their way out of it. Or whatever.

Summer Songs

It's been a long time since I was in tune with the zeitgeist on summer songs. Last summer? I think I heard "Crazy" once. This summer I'm a little more with it: Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, and "Umbrella" will always make me think of the summer of 2007, and if Wilco counts as a certain corner of the zeitgeist, well, everyone knows how I feel about Sky Blue Sky.

But really for me this summer is about two songs, "Purple People" and "Wagon Wheel."

[Just have to say that this post is causing me anonymity angst. Really my anonymity is a ridiculous schtick, because I do believe that everyone who reads this blog knows me in real life--is there anyone out there who has no idea who I am??--yet I persist in maintaining the pseudo-anonymity thing, which is hard in this post because it is so tied in to my summer which I'm only writing about obliquely here, even though everyone knows all about it. Stupid, I know, but my very small OCD inclination is manifesting, and I just can't bring myself to change my ways, so obliqueness it is.]

I can't link to "Purple People" because it was just written this summer by two excellent friends of mine whom I could link to, but won't (see above). Let me just say, though, that if these friends ever make it big, which is quite possible, you can say that you first heard about "Purple People" here and, like the rest of us, you won't be able to stop singing it.

"Wagon Wheel" is a little more complicated, I've just discovered, in the course of my requisite googling. Everyone everywhere (in the tiny little corner of the world where I spent my summer) was singing "Wagon Wheel." Why were we singing it? I have no idea. Truly. But singing it we were. I was told it was an old Dylan song, but apparently it's an Old Crow Medicine Show/Dylan mashup (yes, I know I'm using the word mashup unorthodoxly these days, but it's my blog and I can do what I want). I've never heard of Old Crow Medicine Show, but here's a video of them singing it. Here are the lyrics and, at the bottom, a bit of the complicated history.

Maybe you can tell why we sang it all the time, and maybe you can't, but one of the highlights of my summer was sitting in B and B's tiny living room, which used to be our tiny living room too, and I can't believe all eight of us used to share that tiny house, while B and J and S played guitar, and we all sang "Wagon Wheel," and I remembered once again that guys playing guitar are totally hot, and singing with your friends is the best, and it was a perfect summer night, and all was good in the world--at least our tiny little corner of the world.

(Summer of 1987? Another summer with B: Graceland and Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car.")

(This is another one of those posts that absolutely proves how solipsistically useless blogs are.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Today's Dilemma

If I don't take the cold medicine, I can't breathe.

If I take the cold medicine, I can't think.


The highlight of my weekend: watching M and E at the dining room table, each playing Stardoll on a laptop, laughing and chattering away as they constructed and compared their fashion creations.

Microexplanation: Yes, it was their umpteenth hours of screentime. Yes, it was a stupid website. But three of the four of us had nasty colds all weekend and one of the four of us was at work with his nasty cold all weekend, so I was just happy they were amusing each other and I could lie on the couch with my nasty cold and read the paper.

Macroexplanation: I think I am not misremembering when I say that for the first four years of E's life, M and E got along great. Yes, Mom, I know M would pinch E in her carseat--or do whatever it was you thought I didn't notice--when I wasn't looking, but overall they enjoyed each other's company, played together fairly endlessly, and fought briefly when at all. This honeymoon was, of course, predicated on their age difference: four years older, M still loved to play, but could make all the rules; four years younger, E was in love with her older sister, generally happy to follow her rules, and cute enough that when she was insubordinate, M could usually just laugh.

Then E got some opinions. And M got a life. And things weren't quite so halcyon. E wanted to make rules, M wanted to go out and play with her friends, and while there were still more happy moments than not, the fighting escalated, as did M's efforts to manipulate E ("First we'll play my game, then we'll play your game...OK, now that my game's over, I just want to read, not play.") and E's comprehension of when she was being, shall we say, played ("M's not being FAIR!").

When M got back from camp this summer, we hit rock bottom. I am quite confident that in the long run M and E will be best of friends. They really do like each other, and by the time M is in college and E in high school, I'm sure they will have much to do and say, not the least of which will be commiserating over their impossible mother. But with M entering middle school and E in first grade, things looked bleak. M wanted to hang out with her friends, and E felt abandoned. M had a cellphone and could go to the park and the store by herself, and E was jealous. E wanted to play, and M was bored. Which resulted in fight after fight after fight, pretty much constantly. I knew part of it was circumstantial, as M transitioned from camp independence to the familial embrace, but it was so dire as to seem (temporarily) permanent. Had we become one of those families whose kids don't get along?

No, thank goodness. And, interestingly, it took the forced intimacy of family vacation to bring them back together. On our vacation, they shared a room--and for the most part stayed in it all night, which may be a first. It was a pretty cool vacation and a pretty cool room, and they got very into doing things on their own in their room. The vacation also naturally involved time together and time apart, which made things less forced. And since we got home, they've just been normal again. Yes, they fight. Yes, M has her middle school life and E gets jealous and bored. But they are not sworn enemies, as they seemed to be three weeks ago, they play, and they seem reasonably happy together, except when they're not.

And I am one relieved mother of children who get along well enough.

Friday, September 07, 2007

S's Latest Pick

I can't find a direct link, but go here and click on track 9. Basically a John Berryman/Beach Boys mash-up, metaphorically speaking, and that's all I'm going to say. Oh, I should probably also say that it's hauntingly beautiful, musically and lyrically.

I hate to say it

but if I were Theo and I had to make a decision right now, I don't think I would re-sign Schilling. I mean, you've got Beckett who's a franchise player, Wakefield who is still strong, and Dice-K who isn't going anywhere, regardless of what Phantom thinks. Then you might very well have a rehabbed Matt Clement. And then Lester and Buchholz...I'm thinking it's time for the future.

However, there's a lot of baseball left. Given the way Detroit and Seattle are playing, I'd say we've almost got a lock on post-season, and I'm speaking mathematically, not emotionally. And if Schilling is a significant player in the post-season (think bloodstained sock), then Theo is going to have some very hard decisions, come November.

(Can we not even talk about the possibility of A-Rod instead of Mike Lowell?! Not an option, Theo. Just Do. Not. Go. There.)

The High Spark of Summer Meals

If you want some real garden-based food blogging, Kelly's your woman (and just to show how cool she is in so many ways, she's the one who pointed me to this most excellent Wilco post). I must say, though, that I've been doing pretty well in the farmer's market area this summer. I also must say that I'm not missing the CSA. I'm much happier going to the market on Wednesday afternoon, planning meals for the next three nights on the spot, buying fruit, and then going with our standard sushi/beans and rice/takeout for the rest of the week.

(Have I blogged about our current homemade sushi habit? I make sushi rice and mix it up with rice vinegar. I make some omelette with soy sauce, sugar, and a little more rice vinegar, and I cut it up in thin strips. I cut vegetables in thin strips--cucumber, red pepper, carrot, avocado. I put it all out on the table, along with nori, and we roll up maki and handrolls to our hearts' (and stomachs') delight.) (No, of course E does not eat sushi. She eats plain sushi rice, pre-rice vinegar, and thin strips of vegetable. She does like to make rolls for me, though.)

So anyway, the farmer's market. Actually, now that I think of it, my farmer's market genius is heavily inspired by my friends. Libby, also a much more impressive cook than I am, is the source of our favorite fresh tomato pasta, which I make with balsamic vinegar, assorted heirloom tomatoes, and either feta or goat cheese (last week we got goat cheese with sundried tomatoes...mmm).

And this week I was inspired by the aforementioned Kelly's gorgeous ratatouille. I did not seed my tomatoes--that's just going too far--but I carefully chose paste tomatoes and roasted them in big chunks with eggplant, zucchini, onions (those were from my sister's garden), garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Served over couscous with more goat cheese (plain this time), it was one of my most triumphant meals in a long time.

That was Wednesday night. Last night I boiled up fingerling potatoes and M made an omelette with outrageous gold and purple cherry tomatoes, so sweet we were eating them like grapes, and some more of the goat cheese (E made herself scrambled eggs and chopped up a farmer's market carrot for her vegetable). The omelette was runny in the middle for a long time, so ended up a bit tough on the outside, but overall dinner was once again delicious.

Really, I am just incredibly impressed with myself.

(Tonight? Beans and rice. But I'll chop up the big green stripey tomato whose name I would know if I were Kelly. And we'll eat more Ginger Gold apples for dessert, if we don't finish them up for snack.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Update on the Update

Am now totally stressing out about whether the new computer is TOO small. Love the weight, but am angsting over screen size (about 3/4 the size of the old laptop's screen) and keyboard. If only I had no point of comparison, I'm sure I would be thrilled, but there's the rub...

Duh, or Another Wilco Post

I turned down Wilco tickets last night. Yes, I did. Not just Wilco tickets, but Wilco tickets with two of my favorite people. Unfortunately, they were also Wilco tickets that would have entailed significant travel and expense, neither of which I am up for at the moment.

But that's not what this Wilco post is about. This one is about, again, Sky Blue Sky, which I continue to listen to incessantly. And I continued to wonder about that riff that sounded so familiar, in the instrumental in "Impossible Germany." Cream? Allman Brothers? Traffic? (Not such a weird comparison as it might seem, really, though perhaps I am the only person who ever compares anything to Traffic these days, but the disappearance and return of the melody in "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" is one of the dominant musical motifs of my life, and it's there in another Wilco song too, maybe "Spiders"?) At any rate, none of this seemed right, and then today I was driving, listening to the song for the umpteenth time, trying to think of what that instrumental riff reminded me of, and it suddenly struck me (here's the duh): it's the Grateful Dead, of course.

Why duh? Because, uh, everyone has been comparing this record to the Grateful Dead (see link above), and, uh, I spent half my life (OK, maybe a quarter) as a Deadhead, and the Dead are the only band besides the Beatles that I can recognize within two bars. And of course, as soon as I realized that the instrumental sounded like the Grateful Dead, the song ended, and "Sky Blue Sky" began, and could that song be any more Grateful Dead? Rain and windows and little guitars? My god, it was like Jerry was hanging out in my car with Jeff, noodling away.

So how did I miss this? I think because I was so focused on the lyrics, which, for the most part, are so contemporary in a post-9/11 loss kind of way, and also because later songs are not so Grateful Dead. But it sure does make sense that I would love the Wilco CD that sounds like the Grateful Dead.

I mean, duh.


I got decisive. The hair is cut. I bought a cute new Winbook (loved my old Winbook until it started to die, and this one is only 4.3 pounds--yes, the screen is small, but even though I know I'm supposed to care about screen size, well, I don't). (If you're keeping track at home, Jenny wins.)

In phantom email news, while I was away last week, two of the non-answered emails were answered, with good result. Unfortunately, the woman who owes me money has not responded to email, snailmail, or voicemail. Because I am anxious that way, I called a mutual friend to find out if something terrible had happened to her. Nope. Indeed, the mutual friend is having coffee with her on Monday--and I'm going to just happen to bump into them at the cafe...

Finally, E decided not to wear the schoolgirl dress on the first day of school. She was worried it would look weird. Instead she wore a striped orange, red, and pink t-shirt dress of M's under a blue tank top with a silver star on it. And pink crocs. And her newly-cut-but-still-pink-at-the-ends hair in bunches that she made herself. I'm just hoping the bunches are messy enough that people will assume that she made them herself, rather than assuming that she has a hair-incompetent mother who would let a girl go to school looking like that...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

On Gossip

I could so totally have written this article. Except that I've never made it more than a week. And I'm not sure I could have managed the tongue-in-cheek self-delusional conclusion.

Today's Good News

We don't have lice.

I Need Answers

1. Should I cut my hair?

Last cut maybe in April. Now a few inches below my shoulders (in case you've never seen me, I have thick graying brown hair that is sometimes straight, sometimes curly, sometimes in between, slightly parted on the side, longish layers). Perfect length for scooping up into a bun with just a hairband, or pulling the front ends back into a barrette at the nape of the neck. Mostly looks fine down too. But last week I all of a sudden became completely sick of it. I was ready for it to skim my shoulders again. The only reason I didn't get it cut immediately is that I was out of town. Then yesterday I was looking at a magazine (In Style, if you must know: I loathe it, but M loves it, and we were on an airplane...) and everyone had hip long hair, and it seemed crazy to give mine up. What to do?

2. Should I buy a Mac?

OK, all you dedicated Mac-users, I know your answer. But what about switching? What about not being able to double-click my touchpad? My four-year-old laptop is going. Soon to be going going gone, either proactively on my part, or suddenly of its own accord when I need it most. Takes forever to boot up, hardly any battery, cord keeps falling out of its little socket, and I just realized that the reason my photos look so bad is that there is an out-of-focus stripe down the middle of the screen. The case for a new laptop is firmly made. Last week, I was hanging out with a bunch of Mac people, all with their laptops, and they were very definitive. But I haven't had a Mac since 1986. Aren't there good, cheap, light PCs? With lots of battery? That you just open up and they start? That don't have that string of incomprehensible icons along the bottom? And let me just keep doing what I've been doing?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Is This a Math Question or a Logic Question?

If the Red Sox beat every team except the Yankees,

and every team except the Red Sox beats the Yankees,

and the Yankees beat the Red Sox,

then who is the best team in baseball?