Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You Tell 'Em, Maureen

I am so tired of everything, but I like it when other people can summon the energy to get righteously irate (I feel it, but my feelings seem so useless--I guess I'm not feeling the Hope and Change at the moment).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Taking Advantage of the Misfortunes of Others

The hip shoe store in Downtown Town is going under, and I am now the proud owner of these ($40) and these ($50), while M is sporting these (also $50). I would feel more guilty if I hadn't bought my Goretex boots there, but I still feel a little guilty. Honestly, though, I don't buy shoes like that for retail (very often). And a huge number of the shoes she stocked were Naot, to which, as we all recall, I am allergic. Still, it feels kind of seedy to have nice new shoes at the price of someone's destroyed hopes.

Current Favorites

Eels, "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)"

The Magnetic Fields, "Papa Was a Rodeo"

(both from James's excellent mix CD, which M and E are getting kind of sick of, but I'm not) (though we've all fallen in love with "Hey Man") (kind of like we fell in love with "Suddenly I See" two years ago) (which makes me wonder whether the Eels are some sort of super-hit that I've never heard of, like KT Tunstall was) (except that given the oddity of the rest of the CD, I'm not so sure) (he managed to find what must be the only emo-ish Parliament song ever) (and I want Nina Simone's version of "I Shall Be Released" to be played at my funeral) (damn, YouTube removed the video, but, seriously, go find it somewhere, it's awesome)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Michelle's dress

makes more sense to me now that I understand there was a cardigan (and I say this as a true lover of cardigans) (I mean, I liked it before, especially the coat, only the brooch thing seemed odd, but now I get it, and I like it better).

In Which I Am Cutting Edge

You people who have been laughing at me for organizing the books in the new study by color? Take this! [link from Local K]

(This has been my dream since I used to sit on the living room couch in our bungalow in Berkeley, imagining what it would be like to arrange the variegated books on the surrounding bookshelves by color--orange Penguins, green Viragos, creamy World's Classics. In London, we used to sleep in a friend's study cum guestroom lined with shelves of green-spined garden books. So far I have a preponderance of black [at one end of the shelves] and white [at the other, including some fascinating juxtapositions like Charlotte Salomon, Gandhi, and Shelley Winters], with a solid middle of red, pink, purple, orange, and brown, along with quite a lot of blue shading to gray, below the black.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

All-American Girls

Speaking of jealousy, Malia and Sasha sure had an Inauguration night to be jealous of, at least according to some local second graders. OK, one local second grader. Bolt, High School Musical, pizza, popcorn (not in the news accounts, but that's what Ms. E said), scavenger hunt, AND the Jonas Brothers?!?! Be still my beating second grade heart.

A Post Which Praises a Book and Shows Me In a Bad Light

Elizabeth McCracken's An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is as good as they say.  Who's they?  First Dawn, who told me it was fabulous; then my friend L, who told me it was great and it reminded her of me, which is too flattering for words; then New York Magazine which put it on a top ten list I read at the gym last week; then I'm sure lots of other people I'm too lazy to find.

It's one of those books that people tell you to read and you think, why would I want to read that? when you learn that it's a memoir of her first child's stillbirth.  Yeah.  Ugh.  Why would you want to read that?  More about why I would want to read that in a moment, but you would read it because it is beautifully written and trenchantly insightful and you will learn some things you didn't know about grief and people.   Really.  Take my word for it.

But enough about the book, what about me?

Here is something about me that you may already know: I have a penchant for terrible-story non-fiction.  Mostly of the cancer happening to the writer or someone the writer loves variety.  Also of the terrible things happening to children variety.  Also of the generic somebody dying variety.  

What is up with that?  Do I read these books to experience the worst vicariously, in hopes that it won't happen to me?  Do I feel guilty about my generally un-terrible life?  I'm not quite sure, but I know it's not just me, because such books so often sell bestly.

What is, I believe, appallingly and disgustingly me, is jealousy.  See, part of the terrible-story genre is usually the fabulous-life antecedents of the terrible story.  Take Elizabeth McCracken, for instance: she is a writer!  she thought she would be single forever and then met the perfect man!  another writer!  who took wonderful care of her!  they would make money in the U.S. and then live in Europe for as long as they could!  they spent her blissful pregnancy in an old farmhouse in France!  Doesn't that sound just dreamy?  And then the terrible story happened, and it was all very awful (though after that there was another good story, which is very good).

So part of me is terrible for desiring the fabulous-life antecedents.  But--and this is even worse--part of me--and this may explain the fascination for the terrible story--desires the terrible story, simply for the high-color drama of it.  And that is wrong wrong wrong, because my generally un-terrible life is an enormous blessing which I should be--and am--grateful for.

The other thing about Elizabeth McCracken (and I hope she does not have a google alert for her name, but she doesn't seem like the kind of person who would, though maybe everyone does these days--M even has a google alert for cupcakes) is that, although I liked her book very much, I don't think I would like her.  First of all, I did not like her picture, which is so very superficial of me, but, first, there is the picture, and, then, there is the choice of picture, both of which signal...well, a kind of self-consciously artsy persona I am not so fond of.  And then, when she talks about baby names, I really cringed, because they are just the kind of self-consciously artsy names I do not like at all in theory (because of course any name once attached to a lovable baby is absolutely perfect).  But don't you think what she writes should reveal her more than her photo or theoretical baby names?  Yes, and, still, I could not overcome my sense of dislike.

So there: read the book, and maybe stop reading me.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Let's Just Take a Baseball Moment, Shall We?

How much do we love Youk?

For me, I never saw myself on another team. I've always seen putting on that Red Sox uniform every day, putting on that 'B' on the hat. This is home to me. I don't know any other place other than Boston to come to the field every day and to live. For me, it's a great feeling just to know that I can be here and stay here for a long time.

We love him.

And good for you, Tek, for going behind the Antichrist's back! As I've told Theo, here's what he needs to do: create a contract which gives the guy some respect, and, if the power doesn't come back, eases him from the field into the bullpen as a pitching coach. Nobody will regret it.

Only four weeks till pitchers and catchers report!

(And only three days till the first day of the rest of our country! I'm starting to get all chills and shivery. Whatever fails to meet people's expectations, our president's people are not into torture! And Michelle is going to be in the White House!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

1996 Obamas

Do you think Michelle regrets the leggings?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bat Mitzvah Chronicles

1. Barter

It is good to cultivate friends with skills. R, the fabulous professional photographer, has offered, completely unsought by me, to take the photos. Local K, the awesome graphic designer, has agreed, beseeched by me, to design the invitation and program.

Local K does all my graphic design and I do all her what I do, and we are happy as clams. The irony is that people will be appalled to think of how much money we must have spent on the invitations, due to their fabulousness and creativity, when in fact they will be pretty much dirt-cheap, and not only that, but Local K is handling the logistics as well as the design.

I love my friends.

Speaking of my friends...

2. Recommendations

I have learned how I work (and I know I've said this before). When someone I know and respect recommends something highly, I go with it. Like the DJ.

Oh my god, I have worried about the DJ. The DJ has been the one big hurdle yet remaining (place? check; food? check; torah portion? check). There is nothing worse than a bad cheesy DJ. DJs are expensive. How do you find a DJ?

Ah, you find a DJ when two people you adore who do not know each other from Eve both recommend the same DJ with the highest superlatives you have ever heard, and in terms which sound good to you (world's best camp counselor? babysitter extraordinaire? turned DJ? I'm there). You call him, and he is totally enthusiastic and gets exactly what you're saying about everyone dancing and keeping grandparents and kids happy, and then he says "I can always tell from the first conversation whether a bat mitzvah is going to be fun, and I can tell yours is going to be great. I can't wait!" And when you say, "Do you tell people when you can tell their bat mitzvah is going to suck?" and he laughs, you know you're good. (I know, sales, sales, sales, but, really, I'm good with the instinct, people, plus we're backed up by A's and B's's going to be fine.)

The other thing about me? OK, this one is about us. If it's something we want, we pay the price. I figure the money we're saving on photographs and invitations is going to the DJ. And I'm also keeping in mind the money we are saving by having the party at Shriner Sons of Masons Elks Hall, catered by the deli, on paper plates, rather than at the fancy restaurant down the street. And what the hell: M wants a fun DJ, and that's that.

3. Dresses

The most amazing thing is that M and I both have dresses, and dresses weren't even a shadow of a glimmer on my to-do list. Not only that, but both dresses were bought in ten minutes, completely inadvertently. Not only that, but both dresses are tres fabulous. Only now I bet it's going to take about 16 hours to find shoes and earrings...

4. Today I Am a Fountain Pen

I am actively keeping in mind that this is a spiritual event, not just a party. I have decided that yes, we will go to synagogue the night before (anyone is welcome to join us, but it's not required), and we've been thinking about the service, and who to include and how and why. M is practicing hard, and she sounds great. Whenever I get too stressed about DJs, I try to remind myself that that's only part of the point (I'm not going to say it's not the point, because celebration is important; it just needs to be kept in perspective).

5. The Next Frontier

Tablecloths. What the hell am I going to do about tablecloths? (What I had in mind was Unikko paper tablecloths, but I seem to have imagined their existence.) (Yes, J, I was thinking of the napkins at my 40th birthday party.) (If anyone finds me paper Unikko tableclothes, they will get...invited to the bat mitzvah!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

M's Future Husband

Spencer Tweedy is studying for his bar mitzvah too, and I know Jeff is just dying to be in-laws with moi! Plus he can write. Plus he'll be able to solve my computer problems! (Spencer, not Jeff, who will have to be content with supplying me with backstage passes.)

[J and Jackie, this one's for you. Mom, just ignore it.]

Edited to add: M is avidly reading. My hopes are building.

Because Fairness Is Everything: The Excellentness of E

E says, "Are you going to write a post about my excellentness?" I tell her I will when I have a good example of her excellentness. She says, "Are you saying I'm not excellent? When am I not excellent?!" I tell her she is excellent. She says that post doesn't even show M being excellent. I tell her I will write a post about her excellentness.

Here are some ways that E is excellent:

She and her best friend G play for hours and hours and have only had one fight ever. Their longest play date was 26 hours. They play Animal Rescue Center, and write reports about famous women, and make friendship bracelets, and spy, and solve mysteries. They are interested in the Red Sox and the Obamas and how the world works. They are most excellent girls with a most excellent best friendship (and G even has an awesome mom!).

While E has had best friends before (K, A, E), she used to have trouble with casual encounters. Once, when M was seven and E was three, we were in the playground at Holland Park, and M had made a new friend in about three seconds, as usual. E, after various playing with parents, turned to me and said "M always makes a friend. I want to make a friend. How do I make a friend?" It was one of the most poignantly self-aware things I've heard from a child, so we talked about how to figure out who might want to play, and how to start playing alongside them, and how to ask "Do you want to play with me?" Unfortunately, E picked some very young children to approach, and they, not being ready for playing together, ignored her, but she was very pleased to be learning how to do it.

Well, those days are over. Yesterday I took E to her first gymnastics class. She has been incredibly excited for months, with excitement mounting in the last hours. On the way, she asked, again, if the teacher would be nice and what they would do, and again I told her that I hoped so and I didn't know, and then she asked if she would make a friend. I said, "I bet you will. You always make friends these days," and, sure enough, when M and I arrived a few minutes early to watch the last bit of class, E was attached at the hip and hand-in-hand with a girl with long black braids, whom we'd never seen before. E is excellent at making friends.

In the last few months, E taught herself headstand (yes, it was my New Year's resolution, but apparently it was hers too, or so she told me, and she succeeded, so take that as you will). She wrote and published her first book which has nine chapters, a title page, a dedication (to her grandparents), and a blurb on the back, and is sewn together (all six first edition copies) with blue thread. These are some excellent things that E has done.

OK, I'm going to hit Publish Post, but I may be back if E wants me to record any further excellentness on her part.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How Last Night Reveals the Excellentness of M

On Friday night, the middle schoolers of Town go skating. Woe to the family who thinks Friday night open skate would be a good time to introduce their precious preschoolers to the joys of ice. They will arrive at the rink and discover hordes of unsupervised 6th and 7th graders whispering, giggling, skating hand-in-hand, slamming into walls, caroming into hockey stops, grabbing each others' hats, and more. They will never return, having fast discovered one of the basic principles of Town life: Friday night skating is for middle schoolers (Sunday morning skating--when the middle schoolers are either asleep, at Hebrew School, or at practice--is for preschoolers).

On Friday nights, I drive M and Other E to skating, and they usually get a ride home from one of the boys (I interrupt myself to give a brief paean to the joys of living in Town: how awesome is Friday night skate for middle schoolers? so awesome, and, really, so safe and wholesome; how great is it that you can send your child off into the Town night and know that another responsible Town parent will be happy to bring her home? so great).

Last night, we picked up Other E and she was very grumpy, for good reason. We discussed the grumpiness, and then I asked whether she had eaten dinner (because 1. my kids are usually grumpiest when they have not eaten, and 2. sometimes Other E ends up not eating before skating). I was not surprised to find that she hadn't, and, being a responsible Town parent, I told her I would get her something to eat. But she refused. Since she isn't my child, I couldn't insist, but I did remind her, when I dropped them off, that if she continued to feel bad, or if she got hungry, she should get something to eat.

When M got home, I asked her if Other E had eaten, and she said no, but most of her friends don't eat very much. So we discussed the eating thing, and whether it was about weight, and she told me lots of them just have chips and a candy bar for lunch, and she thought it was ridiculous, and she and her (good) friends eat.

Excellentness #1: M eats.

Excellentness #2: M has good taste in friends.

Then she told me about how everyone had been grabbing her hat.

M's signature this year is hats. She has several wool hats, including this one, which I just finished for her, in fabulous dark gray, fuschia, and turquoise, and then she has her much-treasured fitted cap. If you don't know what a fitted cap is, you're in good company, because neither did I, and I still don't really get it, though M and S roll their eyes at me. Basically, it's a kind of baseball cap that is mainly worn by boys, I believe, and never worn by middle-aged men. We gave M hers for Hanukkah, after she expressed frequent desire for it. It is purple, and has a big B on the front, and lots of small Bs on the crown (and if you don't know what those Bs are for, then you haven't been reading this blog very long).

Anyway, M wears her hat to skating, because that's what she does (M is like that). And last night her friends were grabbing her hat, and that was fine. Then the boys started grabbing her hat, and that was not so fine. Then the wild boys got into grabbing her hat, and one of them hit her in the face (not on purpose), and that was pretty bad (I should say, for the worried among you, that M knows all these boys, and I am good friends with the wild boys' mothers, so there is no true danger involved, just middle schoolness).

I asked M if she cried. Yes, she said, she cried, and her friends got really mad at the boys, and they stopped, and the wildest boy even apologized. In fact, she knew she was going to cry eventually, so she figured she might as well get it over with, so she skated over to her friend J, started to cry, and then everything got better.

I asked if she kept wearing her hat. Yes, she said, and then another boy thought she was a boy, but she didn't care.

Excellentness #3: M wears whatever she wants and does not care about the social codes or consequences.

Excellentness #4: M is able to make tears an opportunity, rather than a nadir of shame.

And thus ends this tale of M's excellentness, brought to you by Friday-night skating (which may sound like an abyss of middle school brutality, but is truly a highlight of the week, and if we don't get it, it's because we're not middle schoolers).

Friday, January 09, 2009

Gaza Post

I am trying to write a post about Gaza, and it is becoming a boring historical disquisition which I don't want to write.

What I have to say, I think, is this: I love Israel, passionately. I love my family in Israel. I love the golden stones of Jerusalem. I love Wadi Kelt and the beach in Tel Aviv, and did I mention that I love my family?

And yet--and this is the first time I have ever written this down, though I said it to my sister on the phone the other night, and I am terrified to write it down, because I believe that you should only write things you are fine with everyone reading, and I know that if my aunt read this it would break her heart, and if my cousin read this he would be furious, but still, it is the truth, and this is a moment in which the truth seems imperative, so here it is.

If killing Palestinian children and destroying Gaza is Israel, I am willing to give up Israel.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The White Shirt Thing

This morning I read an article about a woman who designs white shirts (I read about Gaza too, and I might write about that some time, if I can bear it, but for now I'm going with white shirts). This woman has stores all over the world, and every season she puts out a new collection of white shirts. To create the collection, she designs 500 white shirts.

I so do not get the white shirt thing. I can't tell you how many articles I've read about the five or ten things your wardrobe must have (yes, I read those articles too), and they all start with a white shirt.

It makes me wonder: is there anyone else out there who spills something as soon as she puts on a white shirt?

I believe I own one white shirt, and it's off white. It's a three-quarter-sleeved boat-neck pullover shell kind of thing that I bought to wear with suits, which I occasionally do. The suits protect it. Still, a few years into its life, it is undeniably dingy.

Which may be the reason white-shirt designers need to design so many white shirts? Because white shirts get dingy so quickly, that white-shirt owners need to buy them all the time?

I read another article, a personal essay by a woman who lost a lot of money with Bernie Madoff. It was one of those painful "poor me" essays in which she bemoaned the fact that she would probably have to sell the cottage in West Palm Beach. Loss is loss, and pain is pain, but it's one thing to lose the job that keeps your kids in oatmeal, and another to lose the money that funds your West Palm Beach cottage. A sense of proportion is helpful, even in the face of loss (ah, the Gaza subtext shows itself).

Anyway, this woman has 45 white shirts. She wears a white shirt every day. Another thing she will probably have to do since she lost all that money with Bernie Madoff is get rid of the woman who comes in three days a week and, among other things, launders and irons her white shirts. Oh, the pain of it all.

I wonder if the reason I don't have enough money to have lost it with Bernie Madoff is that I do not appreciate the value of a white shirt.

Today I'm wearing a black sweater.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Renovation Aftermath

Here are some things I love about our new(ly renovated) house:

- Choosing what to wear every day in my closet which is: 1) adjacent to my bedroom (for three years my bedroom was on the second floor and my closet was on the third floor); 2) a closet (for seven years before that, my closet was the landing to the attic stairs); and 3) big enough that I can hang, shelve, and see all my clothes, which has opened up new sartorial vistas, so to speak.

- From my bed: seeing the sun rise through the bedroom window; looking up at the blue sky and moon and snow (not all at once) through the skylights; feeling like I'm sleeping outside, as I look out the bedroom window and skylights.

- Children going into the playroom to play.

- Children going upstairs to play.

- Sitting in the living room with adults while children play elsewhere.

- Not tripping over guitars.

- Watching TV on the couch in the variously-named room (supposedly it is my study, but E has deemed it the other living room, which does not bode well).

- Moving the glossy cookbooks to a new bookshelf in the variously-named room, so that the active cookbooks on the pantry bookshelf are actually accessible.

- Putting E's clean clothes away in her closet.

- How E's old dresser painted burgundy so nicely holds the hats (top drawer), gloves (middle drawer), and scarves (bottom drawer) in the front hall.

- How neat and manageable the front hall is, without hats, gloves, and scarves falling out of a giant bin.

- Having people over for dinner and not having to either clean up my desk in the corner of the dining room or stare at my messy desk in the corner of the dining room.

- Telling the girls to clean their rooms, and not having to negotiate them fighting over who cleans what (since each is now responsible for her own room, rather than dubious components of a shared room) (plus the rooms are more easily cleaned, being bigger and unshared).

- Doorknobs!

Truly, our life has been materially transformed, and there are delightful psychological effects as well, like loving where I live, wanting to have people over, and, on the truly superficial front, feeling once again like I live in a home befitting my age and status.

The only real negative, alas, is in the bathroom. Vanity is fine, skylight is good, fixtures are attractive, but hot water is an issue, to the point that I have not yet been able to take a bath, due to difficulty of filling enormous bathtub, and those trendy rain showerheads or whatever they're called? Not so good for the enveloping showers some of us prefer (i.e. water comes straight down, rather than spreading into a cone, which means sides of shoulders, arms, etc. are waterless, which is just not OK). These problems are, however, soluble: I plan to replace the showerhead, because suffering in the shower is unacceptable, and I am in discussions with various heat and water professionals about hot water solutions (which may involve shifting the water to gas and a new tank, whose specifications I am estimating at 10,000 gallons, or perhaps 20,000).

And in other updates, I went running for the first time today--short, slow, knee brace, no sprints--and so far so good.

Edited to add: What it all comes down to is space, which is truly one of the great luxuries.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

3/4 colonialist kiddie brutality porn + 1/4 redemptive cheese = a movie for guilty liberals to love

(sorry, folks, but at heart I'm just a theory bitch) (plus I did the India thing so long ago that I have no patience for those who are just discovering it)

(hmm, I've probably drunk too much to hit "PUBLISH POST," but, hey, I think I've gotten rid of the typos, so what the hell)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

E's Current Fave

Consumer Capitalism meets the Beauty Machine.

I tell you, I am going straight to feminist hell. In a handbasket. With my toenails painted vermilion.

Chocolate Zabaglione Trifle

(Not exactly chocolate cake, but includes chocolate cake, so it counts, no?)

M and I were discussing what to have for dinner on New Year's Eve. It needed to be special, but it also needed to be within my purview (i.e. not prime rib, because I do not eat it, and not oysters, because I cannot shuck them) (though you should not feel too sorry for us, because, as always, we are getting the leftover-from-New-Year's-Eve-at-the-restaurant New Year's Day oysters). M suggested fondue. We both thought this was an excellent idea. Then commenced discussions over whether one needs a fondue pot to have fondue, vague plans to canvass neighborhood friends to see if anyone had a fondue pot, and the like. Then M and I were walking by a large glass alas-soon-to-go-out-of-business housewares store, and in the window were fondue pots on sale for $21.95, which of course meant that we had to buy a fondue pot and have fondue (cheese fondue, of course, but you had already figured that out).

(Are you wondering what this has to do with chocolate zabaglione trifle? Don't fret, it's coming.)

Then, of course, we had to decide on dessert. I thought tiramisu, but there was general consensus (unshared by me, but felt strongly by many, though, come to think of it, none of those many were going to be eating said dessert) that cheese fondue followed by tiramisu was too much cheese. C suggested desserts along the poached pear-raspberry coulis spectrum, but that is just not me.

So I pulled out the cookbooks. I think I had Julia, Rose, and Emily, though I don't really know why I had Rose, because I actually had no desire to make a cake. I flipped through Julia, mainly looking at pictures, and realized I had no desire to make a cake. Then I pulled out Emily and the first recipe I hit was Chocolate Zabaglione Trifle, and I thought Of Course! Trifle is so close to tiramisu that I'm not really sure of the difference (I mean, I know the difference, but, you know...), but the anti-cheese faction (who would not, I repeat, be eating the dessert, cheese or no) approved, so chocolate zabaglione trifle it was.

I already had Valrhona cocoa from E's birthday Domingo Cake, and I think all I needed to buy was some bittersweet chocolate (Scharffen Berger) and heavy cream. Oh, and eggs, because we had a lot of eggs, but this recipe called for a few more, plus we always need eggs. And butter, though this recipe had no butter. So that was a good sign: not needing a lot of ingredients.

Really, this was one of the most stress-free desserts I've made in a long time, even though it involved things like whisking eggs over boiling water, followed immediately by whisking them over ice water, and slicing cake horizontally! I think it might have had something to do with the fact that I made it first thing in the morning. Or maybe it really was as easy as it felt at the time.

The cake was quite basic: a't I know what kind of basic cake this is?! What kind of baker am I?! You know, the kind you make for jelly rolls, and all. No butter, cocoa instead of chocolate, and the lift comes from separated eggs, and it doesn't bake very long. What kind of cake is that?? Sponge, maybe??

So the cake was just like a stroll through a meadow (when the grass is not high, so you don't need to bat away the tall grasses, and it's, say, early autumn, so there are no bugs, but then in early autumn wouldn't the grass be tall? in our meadows it probably would, but let's say this is the meadow of a farmer with lots of cows--except then there would be poop--ok, it's the meadow of a very wealthy country-house owner with well-groomed meadows, which still feel kind of wild, so you can momentarily ignore your guilt about wealthy country-house owners despoiling the social fabric, even as they "preserve" the ecosystem for their own pleasure).

OK, cake, not ecosocial critique.

Recollecting from memory: separate eggs, beat yolks with sugar, add dry ingredients (mmm...cocoa, flour, baking powder, salt), somewhere in there is vanilla, beat whites and fold, spread in 11 x 16 pan (hence the jelly roll associations) and bake for 20 minutes, except that I am beginning to suspect our 350 is a little low, because my cakes keep taking longer, and actually it was 24 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the zabaglione. Zabaglione?!?! Sounds much scarier than it is. Really, a child could make it. OK, not. Though E did stir it over the boiling water, when I suddenly realized that the need to shift from boiling to ice was imminent, and the ice water was not prepared. Separate a lot more eggs (eight, so I suppose I have to make meringues today, to use up at least some of the whites). Whisk yolks, sugar, marsala, and maybe vanilla? over boiling water until thick. Then shift to ice water and whisk till cool. Doesn't that sound like something that would stress me out? Well, it so didn't! And it just worked: whisk, thicken, cool! I got a little skeptical after I'd whipped the cream, and when I was supposed to fold the custard into the cream, the custard just plopped in (i.e. would it fold?!), but I diligently folded away, with proper form, and it folded.

Now, the assembly could have been a moment of severe anxiety, because it seems as if there must be a neat-and-tidy way to do it, and I am not a neat-and-tidy kind of baker. You need to put some zabaglione in the bottom of your 2 1/2 quart bowl (which I had! and I was smart enough to know that trifle should be in a glass bowl, to show off its beauty, and our 2 1/2 quart bowl is glass!), and then you cut pieces of cake to fit across the bowl on top of the zabaglione, and then you brush the cake with strong coffee, and then you do it again. So I'm sure that someone who is neat and tidy would neatly-and-tidily cut and piece the cake so that it fit seamlessly atop the zabaglione, but I just kind of tore the pieces apart and roughly covered the zabaglione, because, you know, it's trifle, so nobody is going to see it anyway.

Four layers (which only used half the cake, but the zabaglione was gone and the bowl was full, so whatever); cover the top with grated chocolate (recipe said six ounces, but three ounces covered it just fine, and six seemed like it would be excessive); and chill for at least six hours, which also helped give me confidence that any internal messiness would disappear, plus the grated chocolate on top already made it look quite splendid.

Well, that was some delicious cake, custard, and chocolate! In fact, it was ideally perfect trifle: rich and silky and creamy and a little rough on the tongue with the cake, and chocolatey and sweet, but not too sweet. In fact, some children, who will not be named but do not belong to me, had thirds! The cheese fondue--which did cause me anxiety, especially when it boiled, and then when it did not thicken, though then it did--was also triumphant. And my first act of the New Year (aside from kissing girls, watching bad pop stars on TV, and putting E to bed) was to finish E's new hat, which matches the mittens I made her over the weekend, so all in all the New Year started with significant accomplishment.

I'd also like to state, for the record, that vis-a-vis 2009 I have no resolutions, plans, goals, ideas, reflections, or wisdom to offer; I am just trying to go with it (and note present tense, so as to avoid doing one of those my-resolution-is-not-to-have-resolutions doublespeak things to which I am prone).

Happy New Year!