Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Well, I threw a tantrum and my kids did perk up a bit. I felt bad about the timing of it. I suppose outbursts, by their nature, are not always perfectly timed and well-said. Anyway, they have all stepped up a bit, and I was reminded of their stress levels too. So many adults making demands on them.

Anyway, my mom called me this morning and scolded me, so the cycle continues. I'm having out-patient surgery this afternoon to remove some of the screws from my ankle and to repair a hammer toe. Mom scolded me for drinking a cup of black coffee when they said no food after midnight. But the surgery isn't til 2pm! How did she know I just poured the cup? I poured it out and took an Excedrin. I must have caffeine.

Why now? Insurance. I'm trying to maximize the benefits of my deductible, which goes back to zero in January. This was the only slot left in the schedule this calendar year. I'll be in a boot for 6 weeks.

So I'll be on narcotics on Christmas morning - possibly. Maybe it won't hurt that bad. I effectively got out of all hostess duties with this one. It will be a wonderful opportunity for my children to take care of me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

You would think with Christmas just around the corner that my children would be sucking up more. No such luck at my house. Looks like coal for Christmas.

Mom, I'm sorry for having been a teenager.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Had any good Fortune Cookies lately?

Not me. My last one said this:
"Here we go. Low fat. Green Tea. Whole Wheat."

Here we go. Like it knows I'm resisting. How pushy!
And it is not improved by adding "under the covers."

Was it referring to the oil-bathed Lo Mein I had just gobbled? Perhaps the half a Bloomin Onion I tucked in this weekend? Maybe the gumdrop bread my mother is amassing for me. The ginger rum balls I cut out a recipe for?

Are Fortune Cookies like Facebook, with fortunes crafted to fit my particular demographic? Most of my FB ads are for diets.

Anyway, I have slipped off the healthy food bandwagon. It's hard to not be seduced by the convenience, and those delicious carbohydrates and chemicals. So I'm sipping green tea. One step at a time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My next assignment for Taste of the Bay magazine is on including children in weddings - either as participants or as guests.

What have you seen?
There are the little children in a first wedding - nieces & nephews
There are children of the bride &/or groom - all ages
Then there are guests' children.

Have you ever seen a unity candle with multiple candles for each kid?
What do you think of including children in the vows?
How do you manage fidgety little ones?
How do you make the party for them too?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'm planning on making my own pie crusts this year, but I'm intimidated by rolling pins. Any advice?

Aside from pumpkin and apple, what pies should I make for Thanksgiving? What are your favorites?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When I was a little girl, I spent possibly half of my free time next door, playing with Lynne, my first friend. She's the friend who would twirl with me in our dress-ups as a storm approached. We practiced our make-up skills. We snuck her mom's cigarettes in our socks and rode our bikes to the woods and made ourselves sick. We would set up elaborate Barbie villages using the sleeves from record albums: Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, Cher, the Carpenters. We made secret forts in the closet on under the stairs. When her awe-inspiring teenage sister wasn't home, we'd sneak in her room and listen to the Beatles White Album and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. I was impressed with the photo and bracelet of a Vietnam POW that she had on her bulletin board. She had a poster that said, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you."

We played until dinner was ready. We would try to eat dinner at each others' houses. I remember peering into the square electric skillet on her turquoise formica counter to find the source of the delicious aroma. Onions browning around a dark meat that I was told was liver. My mother never cooked liver. Although it didn't sound good, the smell made me think differently. Mrs. Boyer invited me to stay and try it and I cautiously accepted. Earlier, Mr. Boyer had convinced me that their spaghetti was worms and I watched a single strand on my arm for a long time before I realized he was teasing.

The smell did not live up to the taste. I couldn't get passed the mushy quality of the meat. I really had wanted to like it, but I couldn't eat it.

It's hard to get passed those early impressions of food. I tried it once again when I was older and it was still mushy. I decided it was the onions that lured me in every time. So last night when I stopped over at my friend Peggy's, I was reluctant to accept the offer of the liver and onions her Iowan mom had cooked. But I'm a grown up now, right? Peggy likes it. I'm striving for more biodiversity in my diet and I know liver is really good for you, so I agreed to try a taste.

I was surprised. It was delicious. The texture is definitely different than steak, but it wasn't mushy. My adopted Iowan grandma told me that she pours boiling water over the raw liver to get the blood out before frying it up with the onions. Who knew?

Do you eat liver & onions? Do you cook it? What childhood food aversions have you overcome?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This past summer I accepted a wonderful invitation to relax in Pompano Florida with three amazing women. Linne, who I met when I was a 17-year old waitress at Bob's Big Boy, invited me to spend some time shopping and sunning with her two friends. We did find some great deals, drank a lot of wine, and enjoyed watching kite surfers in the late afternoon.

Mari, our hostess, has an aunt down there who recommended we go to this little Asian market in Miami to speak to the owner, an insightful herbalist. We had been discussing the adventure, referring to the man as a witch doctor. Supposedly he could ask you a few questions and recommend a course that would cure any ills.

We found the diminutive witch doctor in a turquoise plaza in a tiny store crammed to the ceiling with imported curiosities. There was a line: people holding their lab results, women seeking fertility enhancement, a few who swore to us that this guy was the best thing that ever happened to them.

We all got in line, even though I didn't have any major complaints. The first three of us all got similar detoxifying prescriptions: two weeks of orange roughy and organic green apples, $100 worth of his products, a continuing dairy and citrus free diet, and daily outdoor walking. "No Treadmills! Outside!"

Isabelle, however, had back problems to discuss. The Vietnamese witch doctor gave her the one prescription we all enjoyed: fill an empty bottle of wine with hot hot water and have someone roll it over your back.

Anxious to follow order, we went back to the condo and emptied a wine bottle or two.

Aaahhhh, did that feel great! I have since tried it on a few different people, including my kids. I rolled out the backs of 8 kids during our Outer Banks week. Last night when my 16 year old dancer was all stiffness and aches from her grueling practice schedule, she requested the hot wine treatment. Immediately, all three kids wanted in. When I went to tuck in my youngest, she had taken the bottle into bed with her and was cuddled around its warmth. "No sleeping with wine bottles, Honey."

So, even though I decided that I prefer my toxins to the witch doctor's herbals, he was spot on with the hot wine treatment.

I was afraid of the wine bottle shattering. So I filled it with hot tap water while I put the tea kettle on. Then I poured out about half of that and added the boiling water. I recommend using a wine bottle with a screw top for obvious reasons. Also, use one with sloping shoulders. The skinny end feels marvelous around the neck. Keep a t-shirt on as it is too hot for bare skin.

Let me know if you try it. You'll make friends fast.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I guess I knew I would ripple the surface when I hit "reply to all" on a recent e-mail that sarcastically oversimplifyied problems with "Mexican" illegal immigrants and unfairly blamed the problem on Obama. The e-mail came from an adult involved in one of my kids' organizations. Maybe I should have just deleted it like I usually do. But I could see the e-mail addresses of the people to whom it was sent and I didn't want them to think that I thought this was funny. I didn't want them to start sending me this crap too.

So I sent a brief, but clear reply-to-all, stating that I found the oversimplification offensive and that problems with immigration existed before Obama and would exist after Obama.

Man-o-man! Two fellow-recipients moderately backed me up, which I appreciated however anemic their support. I received a scathing e-mail from either the sender's wife or daughter saying, among other things, that I was wrong to have replied to all. Of course, I had to reply to that too, but just to her since she sent it just to me.

The sender apologized and removed me from his political tirade e-mail list, which I thanked him for. I also told him I was confident that the offense was unintentional. When I saw him again, he was friendly, although I can't say I felt that way from the looks his daughter and wife gave me. Let's just say I'm not expecting any dinner invitations, which is fine by me.

So do you get these kind of political or religious e-mails that are opposite your views? Do you just continue to delete? Have you ever replied to all? Do you think I was out of line? At what point do you feel you must respond?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Last weekend my daughter’s love of the theater brought me and hundreds of people a wonderful gift in the form of a Czechoslovakian Holocaust survivor, Ela Stein Weissberger.

My twelve year old was in the ensemble cast of the operetta Brundibár, our first experience with the Children’s Theater of Annapolis. Brundibár, composed by Hans Krasa in Prague for a competition in 1938, was only performed twice in a The Jewish Orphanage for Boys before the children and staff were transported by the Nazis to Terezin, a layover for most on the way to the extermination camp, Auschwitz.

Terezin, a Czech village of seven thousand citizens, inflated to at times 90,000 Jewish prisoners. If they weren't transport to the horrors of Auschwitz, they faced starvation, exposure, typhus, and fear in Terezin. Of the 15 thousand children brought through Terzin, only 100 survived. One of those surviving children was Ela.

The Nazis forbid the education of the children in Terezin, but the adults did their best to smuggle in paper and pens. After their long days in stone mines or other hard labor, the adults taught the children what they could. They encouraged them to write poetry and draw pictures on the back of scraps of paper and old forms. When Hans Krasa arrived, he managed to sneak in his children's operetta, Brundibár.

Although education was forbidden, for some reason, the Nazis granted permission for the children to learn and perform this short little opera about a brother and sister overcoming a villainous organ grinder with the help of the other children and a few talking animals. It was the story about how banding together gives victory over tyranny. Fortunately, the Nazis didn't speak Czech.

The Nazis did take advantage of the performance when they used Terezin as a cover for the international inspectors. After shipping thousands out of the prison-village, the Nazis planted flowers, provided better clothes to the prisoners, built a bandstand in the town square, and had the children perform Brundibar for the Red Cross.

In all, Brundibár was performed 55 times in Terezin. Ela played the role of the cat in all 55 shows. This effervescent septuagenarian feels it is her duty to speak about her experience. She travels the world, taking the stage with Brundibár casts for the final victory song which she still sings in Czech.

Before the operetta, the performers read from the poetry recovered from Terezin's children. One of their teachers, on hearing she was to be shipped out, filled a suitcase with the contraband poetry and art and hid it in an attic in the village. It was recovered after the war and is now performed with the opera.

Ms. Weissberger spoke to the cast before the show opened and to all of the audiences. She continued to unravel her tales in the lobby where she signed books and programs.

She told stories of the children she performed with and her teachers. She spoke of the growing numbers of "the deniers" and the need to remember. She held up the star the Nazis gave to her so many years ago and said in her Slavic accent, "Now it's my lucky star. I am Jewish and not ashamed of it." She said after the war she thought Brundibár died with her friends. She thanked the children and the audience for remembering her friends through their performance.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This morning I saw a shooting star.

Tipped off by Anne, I put on my winter coat and grabbed my coffee and went out before the sunrise and stared at the sky. Only a few stars were visible, more obscured by the lights below than the rising sun.

I thought of my friends in hospitals and my friends who are waiting by their bedsides and in waiting rooms. I thought of loves lost and love found. I thought of each of my children and their endeavors and relationships.

My coffee cooled. The sky brightened. The early birds began their worm patrol.

Then I saw it. A meteor skidded across the sky, a dot of white trailing orange and red.

It reminded me my mom's red peignoir that, after four babies, she relegated to the dress up box. That ruffled scarlet chiffon was the favorite dress up. When a storm was approaching and the winds kicked up before the rain appeared, my sister and my neighbor would put on our flowiest dress ups and go spin in the wind. The luckiest of us got the red peignoir. We were fairies caught in a whirlwind.

How often did that happen? How long ago? How is it that I am the adult now, responsible for so much? When was the last time I ran out in the wind just to thrill at the flutter of my sheer red cape, a frivolous superman?

It all goes by as fast as a piece of stardust burning through the atmosphere, trailing a shower of sacral sparks.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The next article I'm writing for Taste of the Bay is on a cook's essential tools and essential pantry items.

What couldn't you do without in the kitchen?
What do you always keep in the pantry?
(I mean besides delivery phone numbers.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

I love this photo of Obama in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans that ran in today's Washington Post.

It's an AP photo by Gerald Herbert.

After Obama spoke to the crowd, a 4th grade boy, Tyren Scott, who said he loved the president, asked Obama why so many people hated him. Obama reminded the 9 year old that lots of people voted for him and not everyone hated him.

I'm with Tyren. I love this president.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I am delighted that an Amish Farmer's Market has moved fairly close to my home. Shopping there is an event, a delicious one too. So when I was there yesterday, I checked to see if they had organic milk. (After having done research over the last year on organic foods, I will never buy commercially produced milk for my family.) They did. It was from Trickling Springs Creamery in PA and came in adorable glass jars. I get a deposit return when I bring them back for a refill.

The difference, besides the usual differences in organic milk, was this 2% milk was not homogenized. So when I opened it, there was a thick layer of cream on top, almost like a wax seal. I couldn't even disrupt it by shaking it. I poked it with a butter knife and splashed myself. My kids were horrified to see clumps of cream in their milk. They had never experienced this before. They were not amused, thinking I had gone too far this time. I thought it tasted good.

I remember as a little girl that we still had a milk box on the front porch. I don't really remember the milk, but we used the box for a variety of dropping-off transactions, and for climbing on the check the mailbox.

Have you ever had non-homogenized milk? Do you remember a milkman?

Monday, September 28, 2009

I am glad my kids are involved, but it sure does make for a busy September. Every team, troop, and club has their parent organizational meeting in September. Every one of them has a fundraiser too. We are currently selling pizza, nuts, & candles, with coffee, wreathes, mulch, and a few car washes still to come. Sheesh! It's like a second job!

I had fun writing my last two assignments for Taste of the Bay magazine. Due out in October is an article on the Slow Food movement. Have you heard of it? It's a 20 year old organization that started in Italy as a response the the encroachment of fast food chains in Europe. It is basically a support group for people who mean to cook a meal and sit at the table with family and friends instead of eating a burrito on the interstate. They encourage the preservation of heritage plant species and culturally significant cooking styles.

The organics article was difficult in that there was so much information to sift through. I way overshot my word-count budget. Here are two tidbits I learned in the research.

The average American eats double the RDA of grains with 40% of them reporting that none of those servings are whole grains. No wonder.

Also, if you don't want to feel motivated to spend extra for organic milk, then do not google somatic cell counts in milk. I will only tell you that Americans have the most lenient standards on this, which is good if you own a big industrial dairy. I've decided that it is worth the extra $150 a year on organic milk - (we drink a LOT of milk in this house.)

I have to go. There are nine 12-year old girls waking up in the basement after my youngest one's birthday party. I think it was my last party with arts & crafts.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Did you have any problems at breakfast this morning?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Today's Washington Post had an article encouraging folks to blog about their H1N1 flu symptoms. "They" are hoping to track flu trends. This Google link was described as being 2 weeks ahead of official word about flu trends. Here's some info for Maryland too.

Anyway, here's my family flu story. I hope it's my only one.

This past July (about the time of the MD peak of H1N1 so far) my 15 year old daughter flew on American Airlines to Abilene, Texas. She left healthy. Three days after she arrived, she started with a fever that went up to 103, and eventually added congestion, aches, lethargy. My friend took her to a clinic in Texas where she got a round of antibiotics that did nothing, adding to my suspicion that it was The Flu.

When she returned, I called my doctor to see if they wanted to check to see if it was H1N1. They said, "Oh, we don't do that. You'd have to go to an emergency room." So I called the local emergency room and they said, "Oh, we don't do that. You'd have to call your county's health department." So I called the health department and they said, "Oh, we don't do that. But there is one clinic that runs the test." I called that clinic and the young voice who answered said, "H what?"

So I just treated my daughter's symptoms and decided not to pursue it further. It took her about 10 days from the onset of symptoms to feel better. No one in my family or her friend's family in Texas got sick, although we were hand-washing and tissue Nazis.

Was it H1N1? In a way, I hope so. I hope we all have a bit of immunity now. Two of my kids have Crohn's Disease, which compromises the immune system. So I am worried about the predicted pandemic. I have it in the back of my mind that I could homeschool if I must.

I am reading a fascinating account of the killer flu pandemic of 1918 called "The Great Influenza." I highly recommend it, although I also recommend that you don't read it while eating. It is a sobering reminder that influenza, although usually mild, is not to be taken lightly.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

McDonald's has a new one-third pound bacon cheeseburger. It has 790 - 820 calories, depending who you ask. That is nearly half of the daily recommended allowance. Do you want fries and a coke with that? You can double that count. Almost your full amount of daily calories, 102% of your RDA of sodium, 98% of your RDA of fat, and likely eaten in your car in less than 10 minutes.

Do we need this?
Will we eat it?
What are we thinking?
(Speaking of negative male stereotypes...)
I dedicate this to all my couple friends because, well, it's Wednesday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Have you seen "Julie & Julia" yet?
I am currently working on the feature article for the October issue of Taste of the Bay magazine on the Slow Food Movement. This movie seems to fit right in. Do you think the popcorn can count as a business expense too?

I loved this movie.
Let me advise you, if you are planning to catch it, to go to an early show. Also, before you go, make yourself a dinner reservation at a French restaurant so you will not find yourself driving around at 10pm looking for someplace that might still be open that serves good wine, crusty bread, and boeuf bourguignon.

Besides encouraging deliberate, joyful, buttery cooking in an age where our meals have become more chemicals than food, Julie & Julia was a tribute to the power of love.

Both women in this movie were able to attempt crazy projects, fail, and ultimately succeed beyond their wildest dreams because they had a supportive, adoring husband. Although men often make themselves an easy target for unflattering portrayals in today's books and movies, are you as tired as I am of the plot of a woman overcoming the harm done her by a cruel husband, careless father, or ruthless stranger? The two husbands in this movie are inspiring - not perfect, but they truly love their wives. How refreshing!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Earlier this summer I went to see the play, "Spring Awakening" at the Kennedy Center with my daughter who is almost 16. We dressed up and ate dinner there first. It was a fun night, and an valuable car ride home.

Have you seen "Spring Awakening"? Apparently it is the hot new play, having won 8 Tony's in its original Broadway run in 2007. My college-grad niece knew the soundtrack immediately.

The play was banned when it was written 100 years ago in Germany, where the play is set. It is about the price of religious fear and oppressive morality; but, it is also about the joy of life that sneaks through the cracks of that dark box. The spiritual awakening in this tale is sexual. I do think the two are linked - sexuality and spirituality; so it is a powerful metaphor. I was surprised at some of the actions on the stage, although I had fair warning after reading the website.

Some indie rock band guys turned the original German play into a musical. The score is addicting. The songs have some challenging and visceral lyrics. I'm including "All That's Known" below. I didn't really ponder the lyrics until I had listened to the soundtrack at home for a while.

For me, seeing this play was important two reasons. First, the post show conversation can go anywhere if you have been wanting to open the door to a conversation about any aspect of sexuality. I think all the subsets of sexual topics are covered, beyond biology. With a daughter who is almost 16, it was a conversation door that was easy to open because she loves musicals. I noticed lots of mother/daughter groups in the audience. So I recommend it to anyone who's been wanting to talk about any emotional aspects of sexuality. If that makes you queasy - then you probably need to go.

But also, this play was timely for me because several things have happened recently to stir up the soup of my own religious experiences.
- I accepted a teaching position at a Christian school. The curriculum was so conservative that I found it offensive and declined the position.
- I found a new blog for rebels and refugees of my Christian tribe. These voices remind me of the students in "Spring Awakening."
- I have many friends still making the Churches of Christ work for them and I hear their struggles with that particular institution. My empathy as they beat their heads on the same brick wall is vividly frustrating.
- I recently visited the Franklin Institute in Philly and saw one of Galileo's original telescopes and am reminded that none of this is new. Will we ever learn? And if we do, what will we know then?

All that's known
In History, in Science
At school, at home, by blind men

You doubt them
And soon they bark and hound you-
Till everything you say is just another bad about you

All they say
Is "Trust in What is Written"
Wars are made
And somehow that is wisdom

Thought is suspect
And money is their idol
And nothing is okay unless it's scripted in their Bible

But I know
There's so much more to find-
Just in looking through myself
And not at them

Still, I know
To trust my own true mind
And to say: there's a way through this

On I go
To wonder and to learning
Name the stars and know their dark returning

I'm calling
To know the world's true yearning-
The hunger that a child feels for everything they're shown

You watch me-
Just watch me-
I'm calling
And one day all will know

You watch me-
Just watch me-
I'm calling, I'm calling.
And one day all will know

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My eldest has her learner's permit. Overall she is doing well, but she is a beginner. She is not over-confident, which is a good thing. I realize when we stop that my right leg has tight muscles from hitting the air brake.

Any advice from those of you who've been there on the driver's education process?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

My son and his buddy enjoying crabs that Mark steamed for us at our OBX rental earlier this summer.

This sign, at the beachside bar where my brother swam 5 miles in a river race, wasn't quite right. Or did they just want the newest drinkers at the bar?

A sample of my backyard on the 4th.

My first peas! We didn't have enough for a whole bowlful for a sidedish. We just ate 'em as we picked 'em.
Have you heard this one?

Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail, and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him......

A super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Have you ever changed your dinner plan halfway through cooking?

Last night, I baked my daughter a frozen pizza (whole wheat, organic) and set about making myself some healthy adult fare. My chile seasoned turbot fillet was baking in a glass dish when I decided to have a can of Cuban seasoned black beans as a side dish. How healthy!
I'll save myself a dish and just heat the beans with the fish, I cleverly thought. I pulled out the oven rack and began spooning the canned beans around the sizzling fish.

Now you are one step ahead of me here, I know. I've heard of this happening: I had just never seen it demonstrated so vividly. The dish exploded with a bang. Hot chards of glass, sticky fish, and bean confetti littered my kitchen. I'm lucky I didn't end up on a bizarre episode of CSI. (That's redundant: they're all bizarre.)

The first to come investigate were the kitties, smelling the fish and unaware of their peril. Once I got them locked in the garage, I could begin the clean-up. Talk about a hot mess! I saved the inside of the oven for today's entertainment. My gas oven has many nooks and crannies for glass chards to hide. I never took that thing so far apart. Had to use a little WD-40. Is that flammable?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Well, it has been two months since I blogged last. Like exercising, once you break the habit of writing, it is hard to start back up again.

Rather than catch up, I'll just jump into my daily dilemma.

I took my son to the allergist yesterday, specifically to test for a nut allergy, and he turned up allergic to cats. Cats! We have had cats for 6 years, the most recent additions coming as Christmas presents to my youngest daughter last 7 months ago.

My son has always had problems with his sinuses, beginning before we had cats. He had 4 sets of ear tubes and an adnoidectomy. Actually, by the last surgery we had cats. He has missed a lot of school with sinus infections over the years.

So the allergist says the best thing is to get rid of the cats, although he says a lot of people don't. I could by HEPA filters, vacuum more often, load my son up on anti-histamines or maybe even get him allergy shots. But what am I saying to him by keeping the cats?

My daughter is at summer camp this week and has not been part of this discussion.

I have spent thousands of dollars on these cats: vaccines, declaw, spay & neuter, emergency room visit when one got squished under the garage door. They have been a considerable investment. They have sometimes been a pain in the ass, hopping up on the counter and breaking things, barfing and pooping in the wrong places, and leaving decapitated rodents on my doorstep. But they have also been a joy and entertaining.

What to do?
Anyone want some kitties?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I canceled my lawn service this year and bought a mower. I needed to pinch back my budget and the price of a mower + paying my son was less than the service. Sometimes he has mowed for free too.

Why do people work so hard to have all their grass the same type of grass? Do you think it's worth all the chemicals and weeding? If my lawn was a church, it would be Unitarian: all species welcome. I kind of like all the variety.

I weed whacked for the first time of the season and was deaf and buzzing for an hour afterward. I'm sure I'm not very efficient at it yet. I went out and bought ear protection.

On Friday, I mowed my front and back yard for the first time in my life. It was much harder than I expected. I didn't realize how many things I have to mow around, including my new compost cage and little garden. I'm open for any advice for a novice mower.

Back by my new garden are thriving irises & peonies that the previous owner planted. Some of the irises were lying forward onto the grass. It was tricky trying to lift the irises without releasing the deadman's grip on the mower. The irises kept flopping back onto the ground. I though, "These are suicidal irises." Wouldn't that be a great name for a band? The Suicidal Irises.

So my first attempt at a garden is an ongoing experiment. The tomatoes I planted as seeds inside and then transferred all died, as did the zucchinis. The peas are doing pretty well, and I have two surviving bell peppers, but they are really small still. I replanted some tomatoes seedlings and they look promising - especially because of all the rain we've been having. I went ahead and put the cages around them so they know what high hopes I have for them. I have some cantaloupe sprouting in a pot I'll transfer into the garden where the zucchini's abandoned hope. I'm going to plant some pumpkins too.

Friday, May 08, 2009

My brother sent me this helpful link, if any of you are looking for some good recipes for Mother's Day.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Today is my son's 14th birthday. Although I recognize that I am a bit biased, I think he is absolutely adorable. Last year had a lot of difficulties for him, but I am so encouraged by his attitude lately (despite his last report card.) He has been so helpful, mowing the lawn without being nagged. He's had a recent enthusiasm for his own fitness level, which is inspiring. He's gained a lot of confidence in lacrosse this year, wearing his bruises as badges of honor (see him about to score in the picture.) He's excited about high school in the fall, especially ROTC and Japanese. His sisters and I appreciate the hormonal balance he brings to our household, leaving fragrant pieces of equipment around the house and car.

How can I have two teenagers?

What do you remember about being 14?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In case your not one of the millions who has watched this clip of the "Britain's Got Talent" sensation, Susan Boyle, check this out. I bet you'll get goosebumps. She's absolutely adorable. (They won't let me embed it, just a link.)

Friday, April 03, 2009

A mystery...

So last Monday I was driving my kids home from scouts when I suddenly pulled over. A new paperback book fluttered helplessly in the middle of the road. I love books. I made my daughter hop out of the car and get it like we did with the black box turtle, even if she was rolling her eyes as she did it. "Mom!"

So the book is Joshua Harris's latest, "boy meets girl." He previously published "I Kissed Dating Goodbye."

At a quick glance, the previous reader diligently studied the text, underling and highlighting passages. Then there are some places where the reader couldn't hold back a retort, the feminine handwriting jotting "Ha!" in the margins or "OK...."

The book, as I imagine its predecessor was, has a very traditional Christian perspective on the roles of men and women in marriage and how that affects the efforts of single Christians striving to remain pure until marriage.

For example, a list of questions a man should consider when trying to determine if he should marry begins with, "Am I prepared to lead my wife spiritually and serve her in every way?"

Later he encourages women to avoid leading while dating to give your boyfriend a chance to practice leading for when you are married. "How else can you practice for the time when you will follow your husband?"

But she didn't get that far. Her notations stop about a third of the way in, in the chapter that offers the sage advice of allowing room for friendship before premature intimacy, suggesting, for example, that you pray together, discuss sermons, and read the Bible.

So why do you think the book was in the middle of the road? Did she drive off with it on the roof of her car? Did she throw it out of the window? her boyfriend? a girlfriend?

Let me know if you want your book back.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I've decided to start composting. One reason is because in a year or two I want to start a kitchen garden, but my soil is so sandy. So I thought if I started composting now, maybe next year I'll have a healthy patch. Also composting is good for the environment in general.

Do any of you compost? Any advice or warnings?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

If you've never been to Memphis, you should put it on your list of places to go. Mark & I had so much fun! (Well, he had to work for some of it, but I got to play!)

First let me tell you about the food.
We ate some delicious ribs at The Rendezvous, which has a comically carnivorous menu. While listening to jazz at BB King's, I feasted on fried catfish, sweet onion hushpuppies, french fries, fried green tomatoes and some of Mark's pulled pork bbq. Mmmmm. We decided to pass on the deep fried hamburgers at Dyers, which boasts that they haven't changed their grease in the 90+ years they've been in business, although after watching the video on their website, I think I might have to try it on my return trip.

My drink for the weekend was the Presbyterian, which was mostly ginger ale and bourbon. I figured that counted as church.

On our third day, our bellies were a bit overwhelmed by the grease and the bourbon, so we ate at Circa, a fancy schmancy restaurant on the way to the Orpheum to see the hilarious Menopause, the Musical. Dinner was fantastic and the show was affirming to me, but I think a bit scary to Mark.

When I staggered out of the zoo on Saturday, a bit lost and hungry since only one snack stand was opened and the tremendous line was cluttered with fussy children, I serendipitously found the Cafe Eclectic, which had "regular and rebel side dishes", a wide variety of teas, and my favorite, lemon soup.

It was a good thing I found this little organic haven, because I had just listened to Jane Goodall speak at the award-winning Memphis Zoo and now I don't know what to eat. I'll have to tell you more about her and her various causes in another post.

Of course I went to Graceland, which was mobbed. Elvis seemed very much like a sweet, local boy who loved his momma and his hometown. I wished I had more time to read the graffiti on the gates.

The Civil Rights Museum, built onto the Lorraine Motel was sadly informative, and also mobbed with visitors from all over the world. I was overwhelmed with sadness at the balcony where hate won a battle.

I had wanted to see Mud Island and Sun Studios, but alas, I ran out of time. We did stay at the Peabody and we got to see the famous ducks coming to and from their beautiful fountain and in their ornate rooftop home. I enjoyed a morning in their spa to get my weekend off to a relaxing start.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm going to Memphis soon, taking advantage of my sweetheart's federally funded hotel room. He has to go to a conference. I'm going to Graceland. Should I sing at Elvis' grave like the guys in Spinaltap here?

I'm also planning to go the the Civil Rights Museum. The hotel where MLK,Jr. was assassinated has been converted into a museum. So in a way, I guess I'm going on a ghost tour in Memphis.

Has anyone been to Memphis? Do you have any restaurant or club recommendations?

Friday, March 13, 2009

I just drove up to Mark's, where he met me at the door with a kiss and a Cabernet. I passed a truck on the road that had written in big letters on the side TROJAN HORSE. In small letters it said U.S. Mail.

So I wondered what was inside?
Angry Greeks?
Rancid olives?
Dear John letters?
Financial Statements?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Despite the fact that I have excellent opinions, people don't always agree with me. Perhaps it is my manner of delivery. For example, I just got scolded for bad manners on Facebook for calling Rush Limbaugh an ass, which I thought was understated. I held back my whole flaming rant. I can't imagine that I hurt his feelings. I think he traded those long ago.

But at the risk of stirring more controversy...

Did you hear about the latest issue of "Quilter's Home" magazine? It was banned from JoAnn's Fabric stores for being too controversial! Of course, I dashed right out to Barnes & Nobel and picked up their last copy of the magazine for my quilting friend, Anne.

The controversy is the subject of the quilts. I read about it in the Washington Post, but was a bit disappointed by the moderately offensive article. One, for example, is a tribute to Viagra. Another depicts a gun-toting Jesus. Another, called Southern Heritage, shows lynchings.

Who are these radical quilters? Who knew quilters could be radical? I have my fingers crossed to win my friends' quilting bee's pretty beachy quilt in a raffle. Who knows, next year if they stitch something more sensational it will help their fundraising efforts. Have you ever seen a radical quilt?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Judy Chicago is a modern artist who is most famous for her painting, The Dinner Party. The painting shows a table prepared for a dinner party with famous women. Each place setting is unique to the guest.

This is Women's History Month. So stealing Judy Chicago's idea, who would you set the table for? I'd say a table with more than 8 people is not conducive to conversation. So with which 5-7 women would you want to dine? No rules about living, dead, real or imaginary.

So I think I would pick
Mary Magdalene
Margaret Sanger
Sojourner Truth
Laurie Notaro
and probably Amy Ray & Emily Saliers (the Indigo Girls)

Of course I wouldn't mind having dinner with my twin, Michelle Obama. And it would just be nice to have all my girlfriends over to dinner - especially the ones who live far away.
And my grandmas would be great to see again. My son wanted to see Aphrodite, my daughter Ella Fitzgerald.

So without thinking about it too much, with which women would you care to share some fine wine, delicious food, and a few hours of conversations?

Monday, March 02, 2009

So while I haven't been posting, I've had some interesting experiences.

One is that I've had the opportunity to help with the Sudanese quintuplets that are spending their first year of life in America to get good medical care outside of a warzone. You can see a picture of these adorable babies and read a bit of their story here.

I saw a call for help in my church's bulletin. I was happy to join the Church Lady Brigade from all around the area to pitch in a weekly shift to help with the care and feeding of these tiny beauties. I'm at a stage in life between babies, so this was just the fix I needed. I go once a week to help, which also includes laundry, writing thank you notes, running local errands, and eating delicious Sudanese cuisine.

One lucky day I got to help with bath time. Not only did I get to bathe one of these new little people, I got to rub jojoba oil on their dark chocolate skin, the tiniest massage I ever gave.

Their crowded little apartment is actually quite orderly and peaceful.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On Valentine's Day, my sweetheart took me to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He has a subscription to the BSO for the "Symphony with a Twist" series. We saw them around Halloween use children's toys and paper bags as instruments. Once they performed the soundtrack for the Charlie Chaplain movie, "City Lights."

The BSO's conductor, Maestra Marin Alsop, is the first woman to conduct a major American orchestra. She's wonderful, as you'll see in the above clips. Yesterday's performance included some music that she had been tracking down for years. Alsop was intrigued by the pianist and composer James P. Johnson who wrote "The Charleston" and was renown for his "stride" piano techniques that made him one of Harlem's most famous pianists She found some of his surviving relatives and one of them had some of his music stashed in the attic. Alsop brought the music to us all last night. Can you imagine? It was a powerful piece entitled "Drums."

Yesterday's twist was Savion Glover, a world renown tap dancer, who accompanied several of the pieces. I wouldn't even say what he was doing was tap dancing so much as podiatric, paroxysmal, percussion. It was wonderful!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I love living in a time in America when everyone is saying the phrase "stimulus package." I always grin - and most often keep my comments to myself.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

So it was great to see Julie last weekend. I know I could have "shared" her with more people, but she was already subdivided with visiting her mom. So I'm a Julie hog. Sorry local friends.

To maximize our time, we took our moms out together. Julie's mom lives on the other side of DC. So we picked her up and went over to that new 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon. It is such a thoughtfully designed memorial. I had wished that there was a plaque explaining the symbolism of it all, but we did eventually figure it out. I'm sure it will be even more beautiful when the landscaping grows in.

The memorial has a bench for each person who died in the crash. Their name is engraved on the side of the bench. Underneath each bench is a stream. The names of any family members also killed in the crash are engraved on a plaque in the stream under the bench. This was more common among the passengers than the Pentagon victims. There appears to have been a family with two young children.

The benches are arranged by year of birth of the deceased. Also, if the bench is pointing toward the Pentagon, the person died there. If the bench points toward the Air Force memorial across the highway, they died on the plane.

It was very moving. I am so impressed with people who think of these details in their design.

Parking, however, is a major issue. I played the blonde card and just parked with the construction guys in an adjacent muddy field.

The next day, Julie & Mark & I went to a cool art museum in Baltimore that displays the works of artists who received no formal training. Some of the galleries were arranged by the artists' disease, like OCD art. There were autistic murals, bipolar mosaics, and schizophrenic paintings. It kind of made you think we shouldn't necessarily try to wipe out these "diseases." You couldn't take pictures inside, but here are a few from outside. It was very interesting. Mark posted about it too, so check out his pics & comments.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So I was squeezing a run through a McDonald's drive-thru between a late audition for Alice in Wonderland and a science fair project assembly (due in the morning and my printer's all smeary!) I ordered myself a grilled Chipotle BBQ snack wrap, tea for Peggy, and sundaes for our girls in the back seat.

I rounded the corner as instructed and pulled up to the first window to pay when the clerk asked, "Do you know who you look like?"

Have you ever been asked that? Who do people tell you that you look like? When I was younger, I was pleased to hear Goldie Hawn. I haven't heard that in decades though. Someone told me I looked like a character on the show Boston Public, but I've never seen that show, so I didn't know if it was a compliment or not. I was wearing my rectangular, black-framed glasses that I wear especially for night driving, so I was running through who it might be when he said...

"You look like Michelle Obama."
"No one's ever said that to me before," I replied. I sat up taller, smiled, and said thank you.

I turned to Peggy and gave her a fist bump, told Malia and Sasha to settle down in the back seat, and decided that I must really buy a purple dress. I decided he meant that I looked powerful, or smart.

I drove away and unwrapped my snack wrap. It was crispy ranch. I wasn't surprised.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

My dear friend Julie is here for a visit. To prepare for her visit, I had to clean out the arts and crafts cabinet enough to clear off the dining room table so we could put out a jigsaw puzzle. I love jigsaw puzzles. They are a great conversation enhancer.

We have a few days, so I put out 1000 piece garden puzzle. But this time I have an added challenge I hadn't counted on: kittens. They think it is for them. And they like those pieces to be free and off the table. We've taken to putting a towel over the puzzle when we take a break. I've been down on the floor with a flashlight, fishing pieces out of the air register.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I never told you about my favorite Christmas present this year. Of course, it is from my brother who is well known for his distinctive gifts. This year he gave me a couple of books and a personal keepsake that I'm surprised he could part with.

The books? The 2000 US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense's Handbook on the Medical Management of Chemical Casualties and the 2001 US Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases' Handbook on the Medical Management of Biological Casualties. Have you read them? I think I'll keep them in the box with the duct tape, sheets of plastic, and face masks.

And you can see from the picture what else came with the books: his dental molds from high school. Hopefully I won't need them for identification purposes.

So can anyone top that in gifts received recently - for any occasion?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I am sipping my glass of champagne that I toasted with my daughter to President Barack Obama, the skin on my cheeks tight from the salt of my tears.

I have always been moved to tears by the song "My Country Tis of Thee" since I saw and heard the song sung in the movie "Glory" by a chorus of black children. That context changes the meaning of "Land where our fathers died." So when Aretha Franklin sang those words, my tears began to flow. My daughter said she expected her to sing "Respect." That might have been good too.

And when the final benediction began with the last verse of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the words fresh in my mind from church two days ago, the import of the moment drew my tears again.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far on our way; Thou who hast by thy might led us into the light; keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Obama said
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
I feel sad for those who didn't celebrate this moment, who harbor fear, discord, resentment and apathy.

I am filled with hope, bordered by worry.

I thought poet laureate Elizabeth Alexander spoke my feelings with grace:

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Last week in the freezing weather I accompanied my daughter's 5th grade class to the Hard Bargain Farm on the eastern shores of the Potomac, right across the river from Mt. Vernon. This actual working farm is on property donated long ago by a couple who wanted the property to be used for education. These kids got just that.
We collected eggs from chickens, milked a cow, slopped pigs, fed calves, collected litter, practiced using binoculars, observed herons and woodpeckers and chickadees. The kids covered themselves with the cattails gone to seed on our river walk and the rest of the day we trailed little wispy seeds like magical fairies.

At the highest point of the property, where their old house is, you can see the Woodrow Wilson bridge, the Capitol, and the Washington Monument. Our guide showed us the best way off that hill was to roll down. What fun! I did it, choosing not to let fear of injury stop me from all the fun. Wow was I dizzy!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Last night my sweetheart took me to meet some friends at the Livingston Taylor concert in Annapolis. What a great entertainer! Have you had the pleasure?

Liv is in his late fifties now and looked professorial in his sweater vest and bow tie. He walked right in the front door of the Ram's Head and said hello to us while we were waiting to go to our table. When we sat down, an hour before the show, he was up on the stage, polishing the fingerprints off the black grand piano that has had so many talented hands on it.

When he started the show, he said he was in no rush. He loved this and he wanted it to last as long as possible. The blonde curls of his early career have been slowly replaced with a free-ranging forehead that bares expressive folds which exaggerate his animated face like extra parentheses. He told stories between the songs he performed that were sometimes heartbreaking, like the one about the Civil War soldier, and hilarious, like "I'm not as herbal as I ought to be."

If you get a chance to go, don't miss it.

We had so much fun that we didn't want to go home right away. We strolled a few doors down to 49 West Cafe and had some baklava and a flaming glass of Sambuca with coffee beans. You should always drink with new friends so you get introduced to different drinks. Our friend was an Italian gentleman, originally from the Bronx. He has introduced me to the drink that will be my winter drink special. Yum!

Monday, January 05, 2009

So I ended up getting two kittens "for my daughter" for a Christmas present. On the way to pick up our kitten from the litter, I announced, "Don't even think of getting two kittens!" But, when I saw we'd be leaving one little girl all by herself, I couldn't leave her behind. It seems so sad to separate them all. I know. I'm a sucker. I'm also bordering on Crazy Cat Lady now with three cats.

(Some of the laughter I'm hearing is from those of you who remember that moment of weakness when you are cleaning up the mess your pet made, or writing that check to the vet.)

The gray is Bindi, a girl with a tan dot on her forehead. The pale orange is her brother named Mittens. He has a lot to say and meows a lot. Mittens also likes to be held and the center of attention, wants to see what's on tables and counters. His favorite perch is my shoulder so he has a better view of the house. I'll be walking around, straightening up the house with a purring kitten on my shoulder like a defective pirate.

The integration with the Mike, our five year old cat, has been interesting. I think he's afraid of these little invaders, not realizing he's five times their size. He has not taken a swat at them, but just growls and, very slowly, creeps away.

These are doing pretty good with the litter training compared with our other failed feline experiences. I figure the carpet was already ruined. I may as well do it now. How often in your life can you give kittens to your daughter? Besides, we are so isolated from nature in our plastic house that it is nice to have affection for an animal.

Who am I trying to convince here?

Friday, January 02, 2009

I hope everyone has had a great holiday. We've had a houseful and it had been fun, with more fun to come. There's a mess to clean up. It took me half an hour to sort and haul my trash to the curb this morning, but well worth it.
I'll have to tell you about our adorable new kittens (I know, I know - what was I thinking?)
my annoying basement flood (water line from the refrigerator kinked and leaked)
my mini-DC getaway with Mark (Brazilian restaurant, Library of Congress, Slumdog Millionaire & Doubt)
and Christmas and New Year's

But I'll stop now with, I wish you happiness and peace in the year to come.