Monday, May 31, 2010

Lunch with a Flush Warning

We decided to go to lunch in Old Town today.  Our first thought was Restaurant Eve.  We tried to no avail to find out if they were open and whether their Lickity Split lunch special was in effect since this was a holiday.
We arrived only to find the place dark and very closed.  It might have been nice if they had posted the closure on their website or on their answering machine.
Next choice, Majestic Cafe.  Probably closed too since it’s owned by the same people who own Restaurant Eve.  And it was.
Hank’s Oyster Bar.  Always closed on Mondays.
By this time I was really hungry.
Bilbo Baggins.  An old favorite, although not so many stars in the reviews these days.
But just then my husband noticed Momo Sushi & Cafe on his iPhone, which had more stars and turned out to be right next to Bilbo Baggins AND was open with no wait.
We were hungrier than ever by this time, so of course we ordered too much.  We got the chicken teriyaki lunch special, which for $8 came with miso soup, salad, a plate of teriyaki with vegetables, and rice.  We also got two maki rolls:  spicy tuna with seaweed salad and a combo containing eel, salmon skin, crab, and some other things I can’t remember.  I couldn’t pass up freshly grated wasabi.  We had green tea ice cream for dessert.  It was all excellent, and not just because we were starving.
I did have to laugh at a sign in the bathroom that read:  
Please DO NOT flush toilet paper or anything else down the toilet.  Before I could process what that said, I had thrown my TP in the toilet.  I held my breath as I flushed and it looked like it did what most toilets do.  Go figure...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Moviegoing Then and Now

We actually went to a movie in a theater tonight.  We saw “City Island”, my kind of movie.  No violence and a happy ending.  As I was waiting for the movie to start, I couldn’t help thinking how movie going has changed since I was a kid.
Growing up in a small town in the Florida panhandle, there was just one movie theater, not counting the 3 drive-in theaters.  On Saturdays we went to the Martin Theater, where the ticket cost a quarter and popcorn and a Coke were each a dime.   I can vividly remember taking kids I was babysitting for on the bus to the movies.  It was a small town where nothing much bad ever happened.
Before the movie was shown, there was always a cartoon, the newsreel, and a couple of previews.  It was an all-white audience.  I remember well seeing movies like Goldfinger and Gidget Goes Hawaiian in that old theater.  
Today the Martin Theater is no more and instead the town’s theaters are mostly in shopping malls.
For tonight’s movie in the Virginia suburbs, we ordered our $10 tickets ahead of time with Fandango.  We went into one of 6 “digital screening rooms” with stadium seating.  We brought our own water.  We sat in seats that rocked and had a beverage holder in the armrest.  Even before the previews, there was First Look, basically a series of ads for TV shows, products like Coke and KIA cars, and even an invitation to give blood.  There was a fairly clever admonishment to turn off cell phones.  There were four previews.  There was no cartoon.  There was no roaring lion of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  Then the movie started and there was no difference from the Martin Theater other than than the projector never malfunctioned.
For the most part, our movie-going is supplied by Netflix in the comfort of our family room.  But occasionally we go to an actual theater.  The whole experience has changed a lot in the last 50 years.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Have Truck, Will Travel

You know your kid is a grown-up when she heads up I-95 to NYC by herself in a 14-ft U-Haul truck.  I’m convinced she could do just about anything she set her mind to.
The main reason for the truck was to transport our 10-year-old family room furniture which was scheduled to go somewhere in about a month when our new furniture moves in.  She and her boyfriend are happy for any contributions to furnishing their respective new living spaces.  As it turned out, she could have easily fit everything in a much smaller truck, but it was too late to swap out.
We managed to get along remarkably well during her recent stay.  She pitches right in to help with household chores and cooking.  I loved having someone to go shopping and go to the gym with.  She cares a lot about exercise and is in remarkably good shape.
I thought we were going down a slippery slope this morning when I questioned something she had left behind in her old room and we had a brief discussion of the fact that it’s now a multi-purpose room when she isn’t home.  Fortunately we recovered fairly quickly and didn’t allow our shared stubbornness to take over.  My son couldn’t bear to listen, let alone take sides.
I’m hoping for a call any minute now telling me she has arrived in NJ, where her boyfriend is sharing a house with 3 other med students.  It was a slightly longer trip since she couldn’t drive on any parkway with the truck, but 5 hours should be about right.
Jake has had a busy couple of weeks with children coming and going.  He brushed up on his fetching and catching skills and was always very tired by evening.  
The house will be a lot quieter as we resume our usual schedules and it’s just the 3 of us once again.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Near the end of the road

The fate of the old Volvo wagon hangs in the balance.  Today we took it in for a few problems and I wasn’t sure it would survive this one.
The A/C has been pumping out air that is barely cool.  This was fine until the temperature hit 90 degrees this week.
Last night my daughter got caught in a thunderstorm only to find the wipers no longer had a fast speed and didn’t clear the rain off the windshield well even on the slower speed.
The DC potholes had loosened the muffler, which was making quite a noise.
They actually said the brakes were fine, despite our suspicions.
You get the picture.  Old car.  Lots of problems.  
Our usual independent auto repair shop wanted $1300 in parts for the A/C and wiper repairs alone.  My husband was willing to fix the wipers but was going to leave me with a very hot car.
That’s when I called Lamar Automotive, my favorite Volvo parts place located in Pittsburg, Kansas.  Sure enough, I was able to buy all the necessary parts and have them shipped for under $400.  Don, the guy who always answers the phone, is a Volvo expert who is more interested in pleasing his Volvo customers than in making a huge profit.
Next week the parts will come in the mail and I will take them over to my mechanic for installation.  I am probably the only customer who brings her own parts.  
This may be the beginning of the end for my old car, which now qualifies as an antique in the state of Virginia.  I’m hopeful these repairs will be the last for a while.  But at some point even I will question the wisdom of repairing a car that is over 25 years old.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Clothes Shopping

I hadn’t bought any new clothes in a while, so I went shopping with my daughter today at her favorite store:  Loehmann’s.  It’s changed a lot from the first time I shopped there.
Loehmann’s was the first place I ever shopped at where everyone tried on clothes in a communal room.  It was no frills and no privacy.  There was always the limit of 8 things you could try on at any one time.
Today’s Loehmann’s now has private changing rooms in addition to the open space with the mirrors on the walls.  I’m surprised they would give up the real estate to build walls and doors.
As I approached the changing area today, I knew I had well over the limit of 8 items.  I was preparing to hang the rest outside and switch at some time.  But instead the woman giving out numbers opened a room for me and let me take everything in at once.  Maybe when you exceed 60, you are no longer suspected of shoplifting.
Out of about 15 items, I found 4 that were real bargains and fit reasonably well.  In fact I was more successful than my daughter, who lamented the fact that even the expensive jeans didn’t fit to her satisfaction.
While we were shopping, they kept broadcasting a message about an offer of 3 magazines you could get free for a trial period.  Sure enough when I checked out, they offered me the free magazines, which I quickly declined, mentioning to my daughter that I doubted anyone would go for them.  I had no sooner said that than I overheard an Asian woman signing up.
So I can no longer say I never find anything at Loehmann’s.  I really didn’t need any new clothes, but it was fun to go shopping and buy some.  

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sport Shooting

I’ve become quite fond and appreciative of my dermatologist of many years -- the man who has saved me from skin cancer repeatedly.  But long ago I recognized how diametrically opposed his politics and mine are.  And I’ve come to accept his love of guns and of shooting animals.
He now lives in semi-retirement on a farm on Kent Island, near Annapolis in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.  When I was in for a routine check-up last month, he shared with me the fact that he had just bought 150 baby ducks.  I quickly realized the ducks were not for stocking a pond, but rather to give him target practice that would allow him to exceed the legal limit of 4 wild ducks a day.  He confirmed that that indeed was the case.
Yesterday I was in to get a small keratosis on my forehead frozen.  I asked how his ducks were doing.  He said his attention was now on a den of foxes that were killing his chickens.  It’s a mother fox and her young.  He figured out that he could eliminate the problem by killing the mother, but he’s not ready to do that yet because foxes are good target practice too even if along the way a few more chickens bite the dust.  He said he shot at one the other day but missed.  He was glad in a way that he had missed because that will prolong the hunt.
If he wasn’t such a good doctor, I might have left the practice long ago.  But he’s always on time and is widely recognized as one of the best in the city.  Yesterday my appointment was at 9:15.  I got there a few minutes early and walked out with my frozen keratosis at 9:12.  You can’t beat that for efficiency.
I keep hoping he will look into the eyes of those baby ducks or even the little foxes and have a change of heart, but I think that is about as likely as his voting for a Democrat in the next election.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Elastic Relationships

People have such different ways of processing anger.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this since yesterday when I discussed my approach with a therapist.
There are those who blow up, letting the 4-letter words fly, sometimes saying things they don’t really mean, but ultimately letting everything just slide away.  This is probably the healthiest approach for the angry individual, but maybe not so healthy for the recipient of the anger.
There are others, like me, who may not say a lot, but instead internalize the episode, replaying it time and again, but not letting go entirely.
I described my shutdown approach to the therapist, telling her that I eventually tend to come around although not to forget.  She asked what the secret to my coming around was and I thought for a moment before saying “Time.”
After our session, I found myself thinking about relationships in terms of elasticity.  Over the years we stretch them, sometimes almost to the breaking point, only to slowly release and allow the natural contraction before beginning to stretch again.  I marveled at just how far they can stretch sometimes and still remain viable.  
I wondered if the elastic of a relationship ever wears out the way the stretchy band at the top of your underwear sometimes does.  I wonder if there are signs that a stretch is becoming more permanent.
I shuddered and hoped not.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Yesterday I spent a good hour playing music arranged by the legendary George Shearing, a book Anadel had loaned me.  It was all music that tugs at your heartstrings.
Songs like:
April Love
Blue Moon
Ebb Tide
I’m in the Mood for Love
That Old Feeling
What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?
Does anyone even write music like this anymore?  I don’t think so.
The effect it had on me was to stir up that deep pit of emotion, reaching old feelings I had put aside.  It also made me wonder what lies ahead.  There’s something about those diminished chords and the sequences that end in mid-air going nowhere.  
I think I’ll play them again today in addition to my regular fare of Chopin and Rachmaninoff and Misek.  
Much of this music is about yearning for something that might have been or might be, but isn’t now.  When the chords have settled, I ask myself whether we are born in a state of contentment or longing.  
What do you think?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Expanding the Food Horizon

Today I realized how far my daughter has come in her appreciation of food and her ability to put it to rather gourmet uses.  
This was my child who liked very little that was green when she was growing up.  I can’t even remember what she ate, but I think it was dominated by chicken nuggets and Kraft mac & cheese.  There was no getting her to even try things like mushrooms or eggplant or so many other good foods.
But that has all changed.  About the time she went away to college her menu expanded a bit.  Living in San Francisco and shopping at farmers’ markets helped a lot.  
Now there are very few foods she really doesn’t eat.  They still include asparagus and peppers, but most everything else is fair game these days.
She made a vegetarian dinner tonight that was simply delicious.  We had homemade creamy polenta topped with mixed beans (cooked from scratch) and tomatoes, oven roasted kale, and banana bread for dessert.  It was an inexpensive meal, as many of hers are, which will fit right into her upcoming student lifestyle as she heads off to Columbia to become a nurse practitioner.  
She even cleaned up as she cooked, leaving very little for me to do besides show up to eat.  
It’s always so nice to see finicky eaters learn to love and appreciate a variety of good food!  And it really is nice to have a resident cook.  Too bad she’s leaving soon.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bone Pills

As we grow older, the trick seems to be getting enough calcium without the often accompanying constipation.  Lovely, yes?
For the past couple of years, we had been taking Perque Bone Guard, an expensive calcium supplement sold by my husband’s previous internist.  I always hated the big white pills that seemed to stick in my throat.  But there was absolutely no constipation as a side effect.
His new internist said he could get the same benefit from another form of calcium citrate that was far less expensive.  So when the Perque pills recently ran out, I went to the Giant and bought Citracal Petites, at about 1/6 the cost of the big Perques.

I can take 4 Petites a day and get the equivalent amount of calcium.  They are smooth on the outside and go down with no trouble.  But it seems to me that constipation has set in.  Maybe it’s too soon.  Maybe it’s my imagination.  Maybe I’d rather be drinking a gallon of milk a day and not taking calcium pills.
As much as I’d like to ignore the calcium requirement, I feel I must at least take this supplement since my bone density is questionable and I have steadfastly refused to take the awful bone-building drugs.
If you are young and reading this, your day will come.  And you will pay the piper if you don’t get enough calcium.  Be assured!
Any recommendation for a calcium supplement that doesn’t require a daily stool softener?  

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bits and Pieces

I have nothing in particular to say, so you get bits and pieces.
I was rudely awakened to the sound of Jake throwing up in our bedroom at 6:30 this morning.  My husband’s ability to sleep right through it reminded me of those days when I was nursing an infant and he seldom woke up.  Unfortunately I couldn’t fall back to sleep after cleaning up the mess, so I am really tired tonight.
Speaking of Jake, he has recovered his ability to catch his kong in mid-air -- at least 50% of the time.  He seems extremely pleased and as a result carries the kong around in his mouth except when he is eating.
We learned the reality of dealing with today.  My daughter had ordered a  mattress, planning to take it up to NYC with all of her other stuff for a June 1 apartment occupancy.  Now it appears the mattress may not get here by the time she leaves.  Sadly once an order it place, it is unlikely that it can be cancelled and they refuse to change the shipping address.
My daughter’s boyfriend is back for the weekend after renting a house in NJ.  We were just finishing up a big pot of bouillabaisse when he walked in tonight.  That and our homemade strawberry rhubarb crisp made quite a delicious dinner.
I heard wonderful news from a good friend today as she attempts to do something that most of us would never dream possible.  
I wish I could take a happy pill tonight and wake up in a much better state of mind tomorrow, but happy pills don’t seem to reside among my vitamins.  Perhaps I will just have to rely on the new piece of music my piano teacher found for me today.  Music does have healing qualities, for sure.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Displaying a Boomerang

My boomerang did come back to me today, framed and ready to hang on the wall.
My daughter spent part of her junior year of college in Australia.  She brought each of us a souvenir of her trip.  Mine happened to be a colorful boomerang, which has languished on the mantle until just recently when I had to pack everything up for the painting project.  
Instead of putting the boomerang back on the mantle, where it always looked out of place, I decided to get it framed.
I love the process of selecting all the components for a framing project.  In this case it was a black velvet background and a simple black deep frame that formed a box.  I decided to use “museum” glass so as to minimize the reflection and protect the colorful boomerang.
I was delighted to pick the framed boomerang up and give it the wall space occupied by a very faded photo of a bird-of-paradise from Hawaii.  It looks ever so much better occupying its own space instead of camping out on the mantle.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Promises of a Lifetime

My friend Velvet has been seriously thinking about wedding vows as she contemplates getting married later this summer.  She wrote a post recently which made me remember my parents and how they had supported each other to the end.
My mother was 6 years younger than my father.  No one would have ever thought she would be the first to go at the young age of 70.  But she died an agonizing death of cancer with my father caring for her until her last breath.  They had been married almost 50 years when she died.
He was never the same after she died.  He went through the motions of life, but his spirit was lacking.  Nine years later he lay down in his recliner and hoped never to wake up again, only to be discovered by friends who rushed him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Not surprising at 86 for someone who had smoked most of his life.
He was finally released to a nursing home, where it was clear he would live out his remaining days.  Several weeks later on the anniversary of my mother’s death, he died.  There was always a mystery surrounding his death because his wedding ring was never to be found.  I suspected that he had swallowed it early that day in the hope that it would reunite them in whatever lies beyond death.
Maybe it did because often when I meditate, I see them walking across a field toward me hand in hand.  They seem happy and carefree and not at all emaciated by cancer.
Upon reading the story of the missing ring, Velvet recommended that I see “The Notebook,” a movie about two lovers in their old age.  The woman, who suffered from dimentia, experienced brief moments of memory as her husband read and re-read the story of their falling in love.  They were inseparable until the very end.
It’s a sad movie, which reminds us that growing old brings with it challenges.  At times one person struggles.  And then it’s the other person’s turn.  So far we’ve only had physical problems to deal with.  I’m hopeful we can keep our minds as our bodies slowly fall apart.  Hopefully we will support each other along the way.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lost in Translation

Tonight we went to a book talk at Temple Micah by Joel Hoffman, author of “And God Said.”  It must be in the genes.  He is every bit as engaging as his father, Lawrence (Larry) Hoffman, contemporary Jewish scholar and educator.  He has the same New York accent and talks even faster, easily packing an hour lecture into 45 minutes.
The subtitle of Joel Hoffman’s book is “How translations conceal the Bible’s original meaning.”  He quickly points out there is no one around today who speaks Ancient Hebrew, the language in which the Bible was written.  So there is no one to set us straight if we have questions about the intention of a word or phrase.
He goes on to mention the method by which the Bible was passed down for centuries before the advent of the printing press.  It was laboriously copied onto scrolls by hand using quills and ink.  The emergence of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the last century pointed out the fact that quite a few words had been transcribed incorrectly over the years.
It is with the introduction of translation that things really get a little fuzzy.  Going from Hebrew to Greek or German or English leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation or even error, especially in cases where maybe an exact equivalent didn’t exist.  Hoffman suggests that the Ten Commandments weren’t really commandments.  That “virgin” was a term applied erroneously to the young girl named Mary.  
If I was one of those people who believed that God inspired every word of the Bible (would that be the Ancient Hebrew Bible or my English translation?), I would have been getting a little nervous by this point.  But fortunately I am not in that group, so I could just look at this as a significant intellectual exercise and not lose any sleep (or faith) over it.
I suppose there has been a lot lost in translation, even for a literary work as important as the Bible.

Monday, May 17, 2010

That Annoying Buzz

My latest pet peeve is vibrating cell phones.  Setting a mobile phone to “vibrate” is not the same as silencing it.
I position my yoga mat near the shelves where people stash their things during class.  I can easily slip out for a bathroom break if the need arises.  I can also hold onto the shelving if my balance is a little wobbly.
But inevitably my yoga practice is interrupted by the hum of a buzzing cell phone.  And it’s often more than one.  The callers can’t understand why the owner doesn’t pick up so they call again.  
I realize that it would be unacceptable to ban cell phones from the yoga studio, but I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask that they be turned off completely, not set on vibrate.
Cell phones have made it a lot easier to communicate, but I wouldn’t in the least miss seeing drivers/shoppers/pedestrians glued to their phones and oblivious to their surroundings.  And I would welcome hearing only the sound of the teacher’s voice and the students’ breathing in my yoga classes.
Is anyone else bothered by the buzz of a vibrating phone?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Awesome Tacos

Today’s class at Hill’s Kitchen was Mastering Tacos:  The Secret of Awesome.  And AWESOME they were indeed, the four tacos we made.
I love good tacos.  But in all my years of cooking, I have never made them.  They have always been one of those foods we ate out.  
I must say that today’s tacos were definitely a cut above most Tex-Mex fare.  In fact, they were nothing short of amazing with all their marinades and sauces and toppings.
Here was the menu for today:
-- Tacos al Pastor.  These are the legacy of immigrants to Mexico from Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey.  Our variety featured a slowly roasted pork roast topped with pineapple.  The assembled taco is then topped with minced red onion, cilantro, and salsa verde.

-- Tacos de Carne Asada:  For these we marinated a flank steak, which was later grilled and then thinly sliced.  They were served with ripe avocado slices, picco de gallo, and a slice of lime.
-- Southern California fish tacos:  Breaded and fried chunks of mahi-mahi were the staple of this taco.  A cumin-flavored slaw of purple cabbage, chopped red onion, cilantro leaves, and Mexican crema were the perfect accompaniments for the succulent bites of fried fish.

-- Tacos de Frijoles Negros:  These vegetarian tacos combined black beans with spicy pickled onions, crumbly Mexican hard cheese, and chopped cilantro.  The assembled tacos are then quickly sauteed on both sides before being served.

To accompany all this spicy, flavorful food, we had a drink made of hibiscus flowers, sugar, and vodka.  It’s a good think there was enough for just one glass.
This class may well have been the best ever.  But then I say that every time.  I’m saddened by the fact that our chef-teacher Brock will be taking off mid-June for a year in Thailand.   While there he will be offering cooking tours which sound like incredible fun.  I hope I can take advantage of this opportunity to learn ethnic cooking on-site.
But my immediate plan is to make AWESOME tacos for some people I like a lot, since now I know the secret! 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Replacing the Best

How many times have I said “That was the best teacher/yoga teacher/massage therapist I’ll ever have.  I’m sure I’ll never have another one as good.”  But then I have always found someone as good or better.
This started when I was in elementary school.  At the end of each school year, I would lament the fact that I couldn’t stay in that teacher’s class, that I had to matriculate to the next grade.  
Even more recently when my favorite yoga teacher moved, when I could no longer see my favorite massage therapist, I was sure they were irreplaceable.
But then through my piano teacher (who is indeed well connected), I found Dan, a man of many talents (including being the chef of an upscale DC restaurant) whom I see every 3 weeks for therapeutic massage.  I have the utmost respect for his ability to figure out exactly what I need to help my ever-tight hips, hamstrings, quads, and shoulders.  I hope he never retires.
My latest find is my new favorite yoga teacher Tara, who teaches a group class on Monday nights, as well as scattered other classes.  I also see her privately every two weeks in her beautiful home studio, where she has quickly zeroed in on my strengths and (mostly) weaknesses, coming up with some novel props and ways to address them.  Sometimes she harnesses me up with straps and gently assists me into the proper alignment of a pose.  Other times she provides the assurance that I won’t really fall over in a challenging balancing pose.  
I went to a 2-hour restorative workshop she taught today.  Even though it was a beautiful afternoon, my time was much better spent in the yoga studio as my body learned the healing poses of this discipline.  My first comment on seeing the carefully arranged room was it looked like we would each be burrowing into a little nest.  There was not even a temptation for my mind to wander as we settled into one delicious pose after another, to stay there for what seemed like a minute or two but which must have been five or ten.  Those two hours had an amazing effect on my body.  The best word I can use to describe my being at the end of the workshop is “serene.”  
The next time I start to worry about “the best” being lost forever, I hope I can remind myself of these and other experiences that have proven me wrong time and time again.  

Friday, May 14, 2010

No New Tricks for an Old Dog

My Jake’s move into old age has a silver lining.  His loss of hearing now allows him to ride through a thunderstorm without completely unraveling.  
For almost a dozen years poor Jake has suffered unbearably with every clap of thunder, every bolt of lightning.  He has peed inside at the height of his terror.  He has scratched my legs with his claws.
But in his hearing-impaired state during tonight's storm he has maintained his cool.  He cocked an ear from time to time, but nothing really set him off.  
My son just played the game of throwing his Kong to him.  It used to be that Jake caught it every time, even when it was badly thrown.  But his eyes are dim and his reflexes are slow now.  He was willing to keep playing, but he didn’t score a single catch.  There’s no silver lining here, just old age.
I’m grateful that his hips still work and his digestive system seems good.  Not everything is failing in this dog who would be over 80 in human years.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Swearing off coffee... again

I’ve started to see patterns in my allergies, patterns in my caffeine dependency, lots of patterns.  This week I have once again sworn off coffee as it seems I have for the past few years at about the same time.  Go figure!
I really love a good cup of coffee.  A latte is even better.  And I can easily get into a dependency loop of needing that strong shot of caffeine at just about the same time every day.
A friend theorizes there is a cumulative effect of caffeine that eventually catches up with you.  Well, mine caught up with me on Monday and by Tuesday I was a zombie with a pounding headache and no energy as I detoxed.  And I had taken on an uncharacteristic meanness, directed toward my poor husband.
I look back and wonder what put me over the top.  I’m usually fine with Starbucks coffee.  But while my daughter and her boyfriend were home I had taken to drinking a Kona blend (purchased at Marshall’s for $6.99 -- that’s probably a tip-off).  I wonder if it was roasted and processed a different way or if the different beans were the culprits.
I’m still giving myself a choice of green tea, white ginger peach tea, and ayurvedic detoxing tea.  I don’t get the same instant gratification as from a sudden burst of caffeine, but I’m off the caffeine roller coaster and it feels so good.  My energy is much more constant.  And I’m a lot nicer.
Maybe I should just let the coffee go forever.  I always seems to forget this experience as I pass a familiar Starbucks and the cycle eventually begins again.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Most of us would be quick to acknowledge that the Internet has changed our lives forever, allowing us instant access to people and information that we didn’t have 15 years ago.  But (as I was reminded earlier today) for some that access brings with it a fear of the potential exposure or damage to our identities or the identities of our family and friends.  
I first became acutely aware of this after posting 20-year-old photos of the two young children of an old friend of mine.  He saw those photos and demanded that I immediately remove them, which I did with profuse apologies.  Today those same children are undoubtedly on Facebook and even have their own web sites.  But their baby pictures posed a threat to their father.
While my daughter was home recently we had a discussion about Blogging in which she  said she could never put herself out there for the world to see and hear the way I do.  I know for a fact that she doesn’t read my Blog and probably never will.
I have numerous readers who seldom if ever leave a comment.  They must find something here because they keep coming back, but there is a real fear of losing that anonymity.
I don’t judge others for their caution.  In fact that’s one reason I allow anonymous comments.  I am probably the only person who has any chance of knowing who these people are by virtue of their location, information I can get from my Statcounter.
I have been known to be too trusting about matters of personal security and I do acknowledge there are people out there with not such great motives.  But when I first began this Blog, I realized I could never write anonymously mostly because I simply can’t keep secrets very well.  For the most part I haven’t experienced any crazy people.  The usual Viagra sales reps show up from time to time.  But no one who wants to do me any harm.
Since there are no Internet police to enforce good behavior, I simply have to trust that most people will do the right thing.  I hope I’m right.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Money Back

I can remember when I was young and single and making very little money waiting for my tax return as though it was an end-of-the-year bonus.  I suddenly felt rich when that modest little check rolled in.
But somewhere along the way we started owing money on our taxes and never getting one of those refund checks in the mail.  Today it’s more of a question of whether we can scrape together enough cash to pay off the IRS.
Well, surprise, surprise!  Yesterday we got a check in the mail from the US Treasury for a whopping $1.05.  It says “Tax Refund” right above the amount, so I guess we slightly overpaid.  
But I am somewhat incredulous that they bothered to print a check for that amount, especially since it cost almost half the amount in postage to send it.
I’m sitting here figuring out how to live it up as I spend our refund.  I can’t buy a Starbucks coffee of any size.  I can’t buy a gallon of gas.  I can’t buy much of anything.  I suppose I could buy 5 bananas at Trader Joe’s.  
I hope you are enjoying a real spendable refund!  I also hope the IRS has better things to do than bothering to send out checks for such paltry amounts.

Monday, May 10, 2010


My neighbors, who were also in the pizza class with me yesterday, brought their two bags of dough over and we combined forces to make lunch today.  It was nice to have three recollections to help recreate the process.
We opted for the grill approach since it was a nice day and there is something appealing about grill marks on food.  
We all attempted to form our dough into crusts, some more round and thin than others.  Then when we had thrown the dough around enough, we started grilling two crusts at a time.  

After a few minutes on the first side, it was time to turn the crust over and add the toppings.  You can tell that KC went to class and learned that you are not supposed to pile them on.

Contrary to my husband who determined to use every possible topping and a lot of it (see top photo).   He’s never been one for moderation.
The toppings included carmelized onions, roasted tomatoes, sauteed eggplant and peppers, sliced olives, pepperoni, mushrooms, basil, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and aleppo pepper.
It was a great day to sit outside on the deck, sorting out the various flavors on our grilled pizzas.  Some of us even had leftovers.  Jake enjoyed bits of crust.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Eating my way through Mother's Day

Today was all about food, a fitting way to celebrate Mother’s Day. We had a family brunch at Founding Farmers, a wonderful “green” restaurant where I had crab Benedict and leek fried potatoes. I applaud them for letting us in without a reservation.

This afternoon I took another cooking class at Hill’s Kitchen -- Pizza Two Ways. We learned to make real authentic pizza dough, including throwing the dough frisbees up in the air. Then we learned how to cook the dough on a grill or in the oven, topped with any number of interesting toppings added sparingly. Instead of tomato sauce we used an olive-oil-basil-parsley drizzle that was quite flavorful. We each took home a bag of dough that will make at least two personal pizzas.

From class I hurried across town to a book talk at our temple by Tina Wasserman, the author of a new Jewish cookbook. I loved the way she connected food to history, at one point tracing the migration of Jews to the introduction of eggplant in various ethnic diets. Here are a few eggplant factoids:

-- In 711 C.E. when the Moors conquered Spain, many believed that the fruit of the eggplant was an aphrodisiac, and it was called berenganas, “apple of love,” in Spain.

-- When the Jews brought the eggplant to Italy, the Italians refused to eat it for over a hundred years because they believed this Jewish food would make you go mad, referring to it as mala insana, “crazy spirit.”

-- The English first saw the small, white, egg-shaped variety and coined the name “eggplant.”

-- Thomas Jefferson introduced eggplant in the new colonies in 1806. However, it was mostly used as an ornament until the 1950’s.

-- Eggplant is a fruit, not a vegetable.

As with all occasions at Temple Micah, we shared food. I brought this Micah Cooks recipe, which just happened to feature the eggplant:

Eggplant Appetizer (Tunisian) 
1 medium onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil, or as needed 
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 lg. eggplant, peeled, cut into 1" cubes
3 T tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup small green pitted olives (with pimiento)
1 - 6 oz. jar of marinated artichokes, drained and cut into 2 - 3 smaller pieces
Pinch of tarragon, basil, or oregano (use only one kind of herb)
Pinch of red pepper flakes 

In large skillet, saute onion and garlic in some of the oil with salt until soft and translucent, about 5 - 8 minutes.

Add eggplant cubes, stir to coat well in oil in the pan, cover. Cook until the eggplant is very soft and well broken down, about 15 -18 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add small amount of olive oil as needed to keep eggplant from sticking.

Stir in the tomato paste, vinegar and heat to the boiling point. Add the olives and remove from heat.

Stir in the artichoke hearts, then cool to room temperature. If using fresh herbs, add the herbs when it is at room temperature. If using dried herbs, add along with the artichoke hearts. Once cooled to room temperature, taste to adjust seasoning as needed. Can be served cold or room temp.
Plan to serve on baguette slices or something sturdy, as it is quite thick with lots of texture. Can be made in advance and stored in refrigerator. 

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Ironing Shirts

As our daughter and her boyfriend were getting ready to go to a rather formal garden party tonight, she was overheard asking him if he wanted her to iron his shirt.  My husband quickly advised him to take her up on it.
I instantly had several reactions.  My first was to wonder who in the world had taught her how to iron men’s shirts, because I had never done it.  In fact I’m not sure I ever taught her how to iron anything.  The second was a pang of guilt that I had rarely ironed a shirt for my husband since part of our laundry arrangement from the beginning was that he took care of his clothes and I took care of mine.
I never remember him sending his shirts to the cleaners.  Instead he bought permanent press and then those shirts that need no ironing EVER.  They are good, but not quite as nice as a lightly starched and ironed shirt.
You can see from the picture that she did an admirable job with his blue shirt.  They seem to have an easy give and take about everything, from making oatmeal together to ironing shirts.  There’s a lot of respect between them.
And this is after driving across country and camping together for the 10 days before arriving here.  That seems like a pretty good sign.
I can’t say that I know anyone who irons her SO’s shirts on a regular basis.  Do you?