Tuesday, July 31, 2007

happy anniversary...

...to the Edwardses, whom I find it difficult not to adore.

Also, a certain young man is finally, finally in the process of moving his stuff out of our-now-my apartment, after six months. It's been a difficult couple of days, but will hopefully be finished by the end of this week. Somehow neither of us had realized quite how much stuff he had here still, hidden in closets, in cupboards, under the bed, or in the guise of being 'our' book and music collections. Books, clothes, bass guitar, paintings, framed posters, his entire and vast CD collection, kitchen stuff, architecture school stuff, etc. He's gone for today, on his way out to New Haven in what I can only imagine to be the beginning of rush hour hell, and I've poured myself a drink. Maker's Mark on the rocks, to keep me company until Lauren's arrival. We were planning to watch cheesy TV together, but I might put her to work first helping me dust off the bookshelves and rearranging my books and CDs so that Chris can take one of the CD racks and a couple bookshelves with him next time he comes 'round. What I had once considered our CD collection has been vastly depleted these last two days. Somehow, over the years, Chris bought most of our CDs and I bought most of our wine. The wine of course has all been drunk and, given my rather limited economic resources, not soon to be replenished. And the CDs are now boxed up and on their way to Yale. The book collection was much more easily divided, having both bought our own books over the years, though I found it hard to watch him box up the books I had given to him, loving inscriptions and all. Ahhh, perhaps finally, once this home of mine is filled with only my things and empty of his, I can really and truly begin to move on from this ridiculously drawn-out ending to a long, emotionally fraught, if often wonderful, relationship. And I've got grandiose plans of making Lauren and Arielle, and possibly Justin, Erica, and Freddy help me paint some of these big, now empty, white walls a more interesting color, now that Chris and his antipathy to non-white walls have finally left the building.

a politician of a different stripe

I know Elliot Spitzer's taking a bit of a beating these days, but I still have an enormous amount of respect for the man, not least of which was his public apology in the New York Times the other day. As one reader put it:

"Am I dreaming, or did a politician actually say, “We made mistakes” instead of “Mistakes were made?" Thank you, Gov. Spitzer, for your honesty, your willingness to apologize, and your rejection of the passive weaseled voice!"

I know Spitzer came in to office with a big head, a lot of big ideas, and a real mandate (almost 70% of the vote, I believe, as opposed to Bush's close win in 2004, also deemed a mandate by some), and I know some people have been disappointed in his lack of results. But I think he just needs to learn to play the game a little bit better. Spitzer's not a born politician, and this is undoubtedly to his credit. But he needs to overcome his self-righteousness and learn to play well with others. Or at least not beat them over the head and try to steal ALL of their toys. And he will. And then he'll start to accomplish great things up there in Albany.

movies i really, really want to see

macbeth, reimagined in Melbourne gangland

the golden compass, in anticipation of which I am currently rereading the whole trilogy

gowanus, brooklyn, the short film written by a Columbia grad that grew in to Half Nelson

wristcutters, a love story

Sunday, July 29, 2007

columbia/barnard grads in the news!

miru kim
janey lee, an old barnard buddy of mine


Chris and I used to make gazpacho together in our first apartment, or rather my first apartment --  a little tiny ground-floor studio caught between two air shafts half a block south of the George Washington Bridge. I'd of course lived in other places before, but this was the first place I had to myself, at least for those few months until Chris graduated, moved out of his dorm and in with me. It was a tight squeeze, that studio and two people and a cat, but we were happy there in "the cave," and loved cooking together. Or, in all honesty, I loved watching Chris cook, and I didn't mind chopping or slicing or dicing what ever it was he needed to throw in next. I knew next to nothing about cooking, other than my ever practical and infamous meringue cookies and gingerbread cake. We only lived there from May through November, perfect gazpacho-making season. Watching all those different colors, those different tiny diced vegetables, piling up in our big stockpot, was strangely one of my favorite things. The bright, juicy red of the tomatoes and red peppers, the green of the cucumbers and green peppers and jalapeno, the purple of the red onion, the orange of the carrots. The pungent smell of raw garlic and scallions. The slick of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar smeared across the top.

We continued to make gazpacho every summer, sometimes well in to the fall. We bought a blender, and contrary to many other mysteriously acquired kitchen appliances, quite often used it. One year we made several quarts (meaning, probably, close to three gallons, in one of our 12-quart stockpots) of gazpacho for a big summer birthday party. I was confused that, despite people's seeming enthusiasm for this dish, it didn't seem to be disappearing particularly quickly. Then I took a closer look at our guests' mode of consumption, and realized that somehow it had gone undetected that this was a soup (despite the stack of bowls and the ladle and the mug-full of spoons) and people instead were dipping their tortilla chips in the stockpot. Best salsa they'd ever had, or so I was told.

Anyway, to finally get to my point, I made a pot of gazpacho last weekend. This was my first time making it on my own, sans Chris's expertise and direction. It turned out relatively well, and both Mako and Dan seemed to enjoy it. Next time, though, more jalapeno.

6-8 largish ripe tomatoes
a red onion
a couple handfuls of baby carrots
a red pepper
a green pepper
a cucumber
a couple cloves of garlic
part of a jalapeno pepper
most of a 48-oz. bottle of V8 juice
balsamic vinegar
good olive oil
salt & pepper
Tabasco (or other hot) sauce

Chop all of the vegetables as small as you can stand without going stark raving mad. Also of course seed the peppers and cucumber. Dump 'em in a pot. Add V8 juice. Mix 'em all up. Transfer about half to a blender and blend until relatively smooth, and then transfer back to the soup pot. Add a few tablespoons worth of olive oil and vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate, preferably for a few hours. When it's good and cold, taste again and add a little more olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper if necessary. Serve, with Tabasco on the side.

Chris used to sometimes make up a mixture of diced avocado, red onion, salt, pepper, cilantro and jalapeno to serve on top of the gazpacho. This was really tasty. Also, every now and then, we would add some watermelon to the soup, some to be blended and some to be diced, which added a delicious sweet crispiness to the proceedings.

I served this last weekend with a baguette, sliced, with mozzarella, and broiled on the top rack of the oven until the bread was toasted and the mozzarella was melted and bubbling and slightly golden. You could add bits of garlic and fresh basil leaves to the toasts, if you have them on hand. I didn't, as my basil plant died last summer and I have yet to buy another one. Though my supposedly mint eggling has a striking resemblance to basil, despite the sticker on the box. Also with a bowl of Japanese wasabi rice crackers. And a New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

gone fishin'

Noodling. This apparently is a preferred method for catching catfish, at least in some parts. It's also illegal in most parts, at least in the United States. And seems kinda wacky to me. It involves going in to a river, looking for holes or hollowed out logs, and sticking your hand in, hoping to grab a catfish.

We used to fish for catfish off the end of the dock in Idaho, with old bamboo fishing poles and little red and white bobbers. It fell to Grandma Mac to clean those suckers, and catfish are not easy to clean. Unlike most fish, they've got skin instead of scales, and that skin has to be peeled off. With pliers. They also bite. And have whisker-like things that can sometimes cut or sting. They also flop around a lot, even after being skinned, decapitated, and filleted. Sometimes even after being skinned, decapitated, filleted, and soaked in milk in a bowl in the fridge over night in preparation for beer-batter catfish pancakes for breakfast the next morning.

Catfish are pretty amazing creatures. Some of them are pretty small, and popular for their vast bottom-feeding, scum-cleaning routines in aquariums. Some of them are albino. Some of them think they're zebras. Some of them prefer to be upside down. And some of them are really, really big.

Friday, July 27, 2007

of the day

quote of the day:
"There's a good reason they are called 'Al Qaeda in Iraq.' They are Al Qaeda. And they are in Iraq." - our illustrious leader

song of the day:
Accio Deathly Hallows

comeback of the day:
Leonard Nimoy will be appearing in the new Star Trek movie. As some of you may or may not know, I had a thing for Spock back in the day. Way, way back in the day. It must've been those sexy Vulcan ears and that green Vulcan blood. Spock's younger self will apparently be played by one of those more modern Heroes, Zachary Quinto.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

anonymity, or, when the deli man knows your name

I've been stopping by Hamilton Deli for my morning coffee before heading in to the library at least two or three times a week for a couple years now. The guys who work the counter at the deli are all friendly, the coffee is decent, and if you arrive well before the first Columbia class session starts, you can get in and out in under a minute.

One deli guy in particular started paying a little more attention to me this past January. I think this is because I rather abruptly started to look like a stereotypical broken-hearted, thwarted in love, wreck of a woman. I was not eating well, and not sleeping. My eyes brimmed with tears as often as not, my nose was rubbed raw, my lips chapped to the point of bleeding. My voice tended to sink back into my winter layers, absorbed to the point of non-existence by my wool coat, wooly scarves, winter hats, chain smoking, and the cold.

This particular man started greeting me at the register with a kindly, almost concerned, expression on his face. He began remembering how I like my coffee, would ring up my $1.25 almost before I came through the door. He never said much more than a polite good morning, if that. Often enough it was just a smile that passed between us, thin and wavering on my part, warm and encouraging on his.

The months passed, though, and my voice has long since returned. The layers of dark, heavy wool have been relegated to the closet. I can sleep through the night now, and have regained my normal hardy appetite. And I imagine this man has watched the spring return to my steps, the color return to my cheeks, replacing the wintery, sleep-deprived pallor. He has, now and then, begun to ask if I would like anything else with my coffee, but I never do, and this is the extent to which our conversation had grown. Until Tuesday morning, that is.

I was in a particularly good mood that morning, I'm not sure why, and I practically skipped down the four steps and in the door to the deli, grinned broadly at my favorite deli counter guy, handed over my dollar bill, two dimes, and a nickel, and trilled out my good morning. He took my money, paused, and then said, "Can I ask you a question?" I paused in turn, mouth agape, and finally said, "Sure, I guess." He said, "I would like to ask your name." I told him. He said, "Emily, it's lovely to meet you." I asked him his name, which I have mortifyingly forgotten, said it was nice to meet him too. And fled out the door.

My favorite deli guy, my quiet knight in shining armor who so steadfastly helped me through those long winter months with your sweet smile of encouragement, your subtle understanding, your careful distance, what have you done? All this time I have felt buoyed by your early morning presence, have taken comfort that someone outside the confines of my narrow life might notice if I disappeared, or at least missed too many morning coffees. And yet now a wall has been breached, an understanding has been broken. My beloved New York City friendly anonymity has been lost.

Yesterday I went back to Hamilton Deli on my way to the library, and my deli guy greeted me with a, "Good morning, Emily!" And then a, "Thank you, Emily!" Very friendly, very sweet. Very, very disconcerting.

This morning I went to the coffee cart on 116th & Broadway. The guy there always puts too much sugar in my coffee, and their napkins are too small to protect my fingers from being burned on the hot cup as I cross campus to work. I have to get over my irrational fear of this loss of anonymity, and move on, and go back to my favorite morning coffee spot.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

death & marriage

Lloyd Alexander died last week. He was pretty old, but I'm feeling slightly heartbroken anyway. I adored his books as a child - not only the Prydain Chronicles, but other, lesser known ones as well. Westmark, The Kestrel, and The Beggar Queen. The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha. The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastien. The Wizard in the Tree. Even his translation of Sartre's Nausea: the Wall & Other Stories. These all brought new worlds to life for me, for legions of youngsters back in the '70s and '80s. A couple years ago, now, Maia and I began re-reading the Prydain books, trading them back and forth between her floor and mine, until she left not only our building but the entire city of New York for Anchorage, leaving, too, her copies of the books behind.

Also, a law acknowledging same-sex partnerships took effect in the great State of Washington today.

Also, I made my first swatch yesterday. Unfortunately the swatch turned out slightly bigger than it should have, meaning that my gauge is slightly off. Even more unfortunately, I knitted it on the smallest pair of knitting needles that I own. So the finished garment, amongst all of its other mistakes, will be oddly sized. Luckily babies tend to be oddly sized, too, so maybe it'll turn out okay regardless. One can always hope.

Monday, July 23, 2007

best brunch ever

cantaloupe with prosciutto
coffee, tea, mimosas, grapefruit juice
fruit with english custard (recipe below)
patti's weird & delicious scalloped egg dish
upside down french toast (recipe below)
wonderful company

Fruit With English Custard:

Any kind of fruit, really. We had several different combinations, provided both by us and by Shunji. A bowl of green grapes and honeydew melon. A bowl of peach & berry compote. And a bowl of something else that I can't remember - cantaloupe and pitted cherries, maybe, or blueberries. The custard went really well with everything.

2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten with fork
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat milk in heavy saucepan to simmer point. Remove from heat & add sugar. Stir. Pour a little over the egg yolks, combine, then return to saucepan. Add salt and cook over low heat, stirring. When slightly thick, remove from heat, add vanilla, and serve over fruit. Ours curdled just a little bit, as hot milk is prone to do, but it was still delicious.

Upside Down French Toast:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
12 slices firm white bread
1 1/2 cups half and half
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine butter, sugar, & corn syrup in a pan. Stir over medium heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Let sauce boil for 2 minutes without stirring.

2. Pour sauce into 9x13x2-inch baking dish, tilting to coat bottom. Set aside to cool.

3. Trim crusts off bread, discard. Arrange slices in two layers in baking dish, cutting the bread to fit as necessary.

4. Place half and half, eggs and vanilla in a bowl and whisk to combine; pour this custard over the bread. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

5. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Bake the French toast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is golden brown and puffed.

6. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. To serve, cut into pieces, invert on plate so that sugar topping faces up. Serve warm with maple or fruit syrup.

We were cooking for 10, so kind of doubled the recipe, give or take a little. Also, we did not remove the crusts from the bread and it was still delicious. Also, we used fat free Half & Half (yes, there is such a thing...) and non-fat milk, about half of each. You don't really need syrup with this.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


"Three of the four elements are shared by all creatures, but fire was a gift to humans alone. Smoking cigarettes is as intimate as we can become with fire without immediate excruciation. Every smoker is an embodiment of Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods and bringing it on back home. We smoke to capture the power of the sun, to pacify Hell, to identify with the primordial spark, to feed on the marrow of the volcano. It's not the tobacco we're after but the fire. When we smoke, we are performing a version of the fire dance, a ritual as ancient as lightning."

-Tom Robbins, from Still Life With Woodpecker

The last time I smoked a cigarette was with Lauren, in her car, on our way to John F. Kennedy International Airport. That was approximately sixteen days, four hours, five minutes ago. Not that anyone's counting.

The thing about smoking is that it's easy to not do it in new situations, in places that fall out of he real of our everyday existence. I've never really smoked much, for example, while visiting my mother in Anacortes. (Which, now that I think about it, explains in part why I tend to be a complete grump when I'm visiting my mother in Anacortes. It's a wonder she keeps welcoming me back, to tell the truth.) And I've never really smoked much while traveling, whether it was to New Zealand, Nantucket, or France. The hardest part, really, has always been making that transition back to normal day to day life and continuing to not smoke. So far, it's been going alright. But then, it's only been sixteen days, four hours, and nine minutes. Give or take.

"I laughed out loud. 'You masochist! Do you really get that much into pain?' Staring up at the sky I saw the beauty of the moon. My body felt heavy, and my mind unclear. The silence of the night path, a soft fragrance in the wind.

Then it struck me.

A desire for drink in the middle of the night is a wicked demon. It separates you from your spirit and independently takes control. All alcohol is the same, along with violence, drugs, and dieting.

Addictions are universal, regardless of their form.

I can't say if they're good or bad, but they survive. Eventually you can't get enough of them. In the end you're either sick or you've lost your grip. One thing or another. Even when you know you've had more than you can take, they creep back like a wave -- their shape might have changed, but they clean the shore just the same, rolling back, over and over. Silently, back in and back out. Slowly moving away.

Faraway landscapes -- beaches in our lives that bring mitigation and fear.

What do we accomplish through addictions?"

-Banana Yoshimoto, from Amrita

from the Times

Saturday, July 21, 2007

a small complaint

I like Harry Potter. I am slightly embarrassed to admit this, but I'm a pretty big fan of children & young adult literature in general, so it's not exactly out of character.

I kind of wish I'd gone to one of the big New York City bookstores last night, though not to buy a copy of the book, mind you. My mother, sweet and wonderful bookworm that she is, has made a point of buying for my brother and myself a copy of each and every Potter book, so I have to wait to read this latest and last installment until Nate brings back our shared copy from Washington at the end of August. In the meantime, I'm happily rereading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. But I wish I'd gone to witness the excitement and insanity of the biggest single publishing event probably in the history of the world.

But on to my complaint. Apparently J.K. Rowling is in a tizzy because the New York Times has already published a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As she put it, "I am staggered that American newspapers have decided to publish purported spoilers in the form of reviews in complete disregard of the wishes of literally millions of readers, particularly children, who wanted to reach Harry’s final destination by themselves, in their own time."

And in response to the review, several readers have seen fit to admonish and reprimand the newspaper in letters the Times has obligingly published. As one young woman put it, "Why would you do such a thing?! Why would you take away that one special moment a reader has when he or she finds out what really happens?" And another reader railed, "As someone who has been reading the series since 2000, I am extraordinarily annoyed that The Times would try to subvert my reading experience with this information."

People, people, get a grip. Don't whine. Don't gripe. Don't be staggered that a newspaper dared to publish a book review under the non-spoiler-filled, pretty benign headline An Epic Showdown as Harry Potter Is Initiated Into Adulthood. If the information in this headline is shocking to you, than you're an idiot. And if you go on to read the review itself, thus exposing yourself to potential spoilers, then you deserve to have the book "spoiled." Demonstrate self control. If you don't, deal with the (relatively minor, in the greater scheme of things) consequences. Simple enough.

And J.K. Rowling, how many kids do you know who read book reviews in the New York Times, anyway?

harrison, idaho

This isn't so much about Harrison, Idaho as much as it's about a particular fragment of a childhood. Harrison is a little tiny town on the shores of Lake Coeur d'Alene in the Idaho Panhandle, with a year-round population of approximately 215 people. When I was a kid, I always kept an eye out for the "Now Entering Harrison, Pop. ___" sign on our first trip into town each summer to see how many people had moved in, moved away, or died that winter. The sign seemed to change slightly every year, though always somewhere in the vicinity of 215.

Our cabin is about five miles outside of town, on the other side of the lake, but we went in to town most days. We either had to go drop off garbage at the dump, or get more hotdog buns and Shasta Root Beer or Strawberry Soda at the grocery store, or refill our 1-gallon water bottles at the faucet in the town park because our cabin tap-water was too iron-laden to drink, though okay for washing. Sometimes we'd stop by the Jewel Box Gem Shop, where we could buy little tiny ziplock bags of head-of-a-pin-sized garnets for 25 cents, or miniature turtles and frogs and horses carved from various cheap gemstones. Or maybe we'd have to do laundry at the laundromat and then go to Rose's Cafe for a butterhorn and a hot chocolate and read the Spokesman Review while we waited for the clothes to dry. But our very favorite thing of all, of course, was to stop by the Sweet Dreams Ice Cream Shop, co-owned by Connie & Janet.

I can't quite remember when exactly Connie & Janet opened the ice cream shop, or even if it was there before and they merely took over the business. They have long since left Harrison, and the ice cream shop has been run by someone else for years now, but in my mind it will always belong to those two wonderful women, and will be full of us McNeils, and various members of the extensive Snyder clan who lived down the road from us, and the wonderful artists and musicians that congregated in the tiny space of a Friday evening to play and sing and share stories. Some part of me will always be a ten-year-old girl besotted with the idea of being part of this loving, talented group of people on the edge of this beautiful lake, staking out a claim in what now sometimes seems to be a dying ghost town. I wonder if part of the reason I have not been particularly good about visiting the family cabin in Idaho is that it will never seem quite as magical as it did when I was a child. I am not a person easy with change, sometimes even good change, and it has been difficult for me to be in Idaho much, now that so many of the people I knew and loved there have gone their separate ways.

Which brings me, in my roundabout way, to David Hoffman. Of all of this wonderful group of Harrison folk, Dave Hoffman was the one who became something like family. We met Dave through the ice cream shop ladies and soon started going to the Friday night jam sessions to hear him play. And he soon started driving on over to our side of the lake to join us around the campfire, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows and singing old folk songs or making up new ditties. Dave always seemed special to me, one of the most unpretentious, kindest, sweetest people I have ever known, soft-spoken yet filled with beautiful ideas, interested in learning the places and people around him, and having a special knack for taking children seriously, making them feel full of knowledge and beauty, all of the best parts of what we imagined it meant to be all grown up. Yet somehow, over the years, what with me going off to college here in New York, and Dave leaving Harrison for Whidbey Island, and Mom getting remarried, and all of the normal and natural distances that come between people, it's been probably about ten years since the last time I'd seen Dave.

Until last Sunday, that is. Mom had invited a few friends over for brunch last Sunday morning and on a lark had sent Dave an email inviting him to join us. She hadn't heard back, and assumed that he would not be coming up from Whidbey, but then the phone rang Saturday night and lo and behold, wonder of wonders, it was Dave, calling to confirm that the brunch was still on.

And it felt a little like old times, this catching up with someone who had once been so integral to my notions of the world, of how people are, or should be, in the world. Dave has spent the last decade or so visiting elementary schools and retirement homes, playing music and bringing instruments for the children and old folks to play with. And this seems just right and real to me, what he would of course be doing. He has been recording some of his own music, and was kind enough to bring a couple CDs with him, from Jubalsun, which I listened to quite a bit my last couple of days in Washington, but which I have not quite been able to bring myself to listen to yet back here in Manhattan. I'm not quite sure why that is, though perhaps am feeling just a little bit anxious about the collision of worlds. Silly, I know, and something I'm sure I'll get over soon.

I gave Dave my violin, the one that was given to me in 1991 by Mr. Ephthimion, our high school orchestra conductor, after having been abandoned in the band room by some graduating senior years before. This would be the one that I never played because it would have cost more to have the bow rehaired than it did to just rent a school violin for four years; the one that has been collecting dust now for sixteen years, following Mom across the country and then from house to house around the town of Anacortes. I hope with all my heart that it will play sweetly for him, and that those wee school kids will get a kick out of holding a full-sized grown-up violin under their dimpled little chins, and take pleasure in sawing away at it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

what i did on my summer vacation

I landed in Seattle around noon on Friday, July 6th, spent the rest of the day in Federal Way with Mom and Aunt Sharon. We had lunch, went to Trader Joe's and bought chili & lime peanuts among other goodies. Went to Rite Aid for stockings, was asked by a friendly elderly woman in the checkout line where I have my hair done. I was amused, as was she. Dined on the patio by the pond behind Aunt Sharon & Uncle Jim's house, fell asleep in their guest room relatively early. Woke up at 3am Saturday morning to pack up the car so the four of us could get to the airport for our 6 o'clock flight to California for Cousin Dirk's wedding to the ever so lovely Liz at the Stanford Faculty Club. This included cramming seven tomato plants into the trunk of the car, in the dark, at 4am, and calming Mom's fears that someone might see us and think we were leaving a car-full of marijuana in the airport parking lot. Mom's just so cute sometimes.

It was great to spend this time, how ever brief, with these various and sundry branches of the Englund side of the family whom I don't very often get to see. Even dear Uncle Bob and I only got into the most abbreviated of political arguments. No tears were shed, at least outside the confines of the wedding, which was beautiful. Best of all, though, was seeing Dirk grin from ear to ear, looking happier, I think, than I have ever seen him before.

Mom and I then flew back up to Seattle Sunday morning to spend the day and night with Grandma Mac, Cat Lola, Auntie Ellen, Uncle Earl, Aunt Sue, and Cousins Kerri and Alexis. It was indeed a plethora of relatives, and though it was just wonderful to see all these beloved folk, it was even better to finally arrive in Anacortes Monday afternoon, after suffering through an unfortunate bout of what could only be food poisoning for the better part of the day.

The rest of my west coast time was much more relaxing, and mainly involved walking downtown to the bookstore to get the New York Times every day, stopping for lattes here and there, drinking wine or delicious, if odd, fruit concoctions out in the back yard, indulging in (shock of shocks) too much food and too much yarn. I am amazed every time I visit Mom and Paul during the summer at the abundance of their gardens. It is always shocking to me, and wonderful, that I can step out their back door and come in with my arms full of flowers, bowls of raspberries, lettuce, peas, cherries, apples, figs, pears (granted, not all at the same time). I spent an inordinate amount of my time there gathering up little bouquets for the table, or for the dresser next to my bed, full of sweetpeas, wild grasses, sprays of lavender, mint, rosemary, godetias, poppies, and other flowers I can't remember the names of.

One of the nicest things, I think, was spending such a lot of time with Evan and Brent on my own, without a brother or a boyfriend around. As Evan pointed out my last night there, this was the first time he and I have really had any one-on-one friendship time, and it was lovely. So Evan, if and when you get around to reading this, thanks for being such a great friend while I was home; I really enjoyed hanging out with you, and though I won't hold my breath waiting for an email or anything as silly as that, I'm already looking forward to seeing you again in December!

I arrived at the Seattle Tacoma Airport several hours early yesterday evening, had even more time to kill when our flight was delayed by almost an hour, and then felt my heart sink in dismay when I finally got to my seat only to discover a young woman and not one but two children sitting next to me. In a row of three seats, I might add. But luckily for me the baby, Mary, was absolutely adorable and wanted nothing more than to stare at me with her beautiful doe eyes, holding my fingers until she fell asleep on her mother's lap. And the boy, Benjamin, also rather promptly fell asleep. Perhaps this mother took to heart the story of another young mother and preemptively dosed up her kids on a healthy shot of Benadryl.

And it's back to work tomorrow.

Monday, July 16, 2007

lbj & lbj

Lady Bird Johnson died last Wednesday. She and Lyndon B. have been, despite Vietnam, heroes of mine in the domestic political sphere. They brought to this country greater civil rights achievements than anyone since Lincoln, and pre-Lincoln too, for that matter. They brought us Medicare and Medicaid. They brought us Head Start and the Job Corps and the War on Poverty.

Her memoirs are being republished later this year, but the Times published a few memorable excerpts this morning.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

summer saturday, skagit valley, washington state

Today I will be going to the Bivalve Bash with Evan. We will spend the afternoon drinking beer, eating oysters, looking at starfish, and cheering at a mud race. Lord, how I love the Pacific Northwest.

I have not been blogging or even emailing much during my time out here, but have received a few entertaining articles from friends & foes alike. Makes me think maybe I need to expand my interests just a little bit.

From John: Pimp My Bookcart Contest
From Erik: A Hipper Crowd of Shushers
From Chris: New York Wineries Face Tastings Gone Wild

Thursday, July 05, 2007

going victorian

A strange thing happened Tuesday night, and I still have no idea why. I met Dave after work for drinks, eventually joined by Nate and Dan, and then we moved on from the bar to a newish Thai restaurant a couple blocks south on Amsterdam Avenue. Dinner was delicious, the company even better. Afterward we walked back up 109th to meet Shanna, where we stood chatting on the corner for a little while before heading off in our various directions. Suddenly I started feeling dizzy and turned to Nate, told him I felt kind of funny. He went off to buy me a bottle of water and the next thing I knew I was sprawled on the sidewalk, confused and looking up at four concerned faces hovering in the air above me, wondering where the hell my glasses had gone. We sat on the ground for a bit longer, and a nice man walking by handed Nate a band aid to put on my bleeding eyebrow. I broke my glasses (not a good idea on the eve of a national holiday, as it turns out), scraped up my right hand and shoulder pretty good, and am still feeling stiff and sore even two days later. But eventually my head cleared, and Dan helped me to my feet, and Nate and Shanna took me home with them, washed all my cuts and scrapes clean, put me to bed on their couch. The glasses got fixed, eventually, at Macy's yesterday afternoon, and then we went to a fun little barbecue in a back yard in Brooklyn. In the end, I think my ego is more bruised than anything else; the twinge of fear has long receded and the wave of embarrassment, too, is beginning to fade. But if you're going to pull the whole swooning female Victorian thing, it's best to do it surrounded by good friends.

Monday, July 02, 2007

sometimes it's good...

...to have friends in high places. I. Lewis Libby, Jr., aka Scooter, will not be facing substantial jail time after all, despite being convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison. In fact, he will not be facing any jail time, because President Bush commuted his sentence today to a "hefty" fine and probation.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

black eyed peas

By which I am referring, of course, to what I have been eating lately, and not that annoying band behind the worst song ever created, a.k.a. my humps. Ugh.

I was scraping the back of the pantry closet recently, scrounging for something to eat, and came across an unopened Goya bag of black eyed peas that Nathan had bought awhile back. I've never cooked black eyed peas before, but decided to give it a go. Given its simplicity, I think I'll have to keep a bag of 'em on hand.

The following was enough for two smallish meals. I soaked the peas the first time I made this, and didn't bother soaking them the second time. They cook much faster than beans, it seems, so the soaking is less necessary.

1-quart saucepan
several cloves garlic
red pepper flakes
tablespoon olive oil
1/3 lb. dried peas, approximately
2-3 cups water, chicken, or vegetable broth
1 egg (optional)
sausage (optional)

First, chop up the garlic and saute with the red pepper flakes, to taste, in the olive oil. While that's cooking, rinse the peas and then add to the pot. Add 2-3 cups water or broth (or water and a bullion cube, if that's what you've got), enough to cover the peas, and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender and some of them are falling apart. Add more liquid, as needed.

The first time I made this, I added a bit of sopresatta sausage that I had in the refrigerator, just diced up and thrown in while the peas simmered. It actually was a bit too salty in the end, as it was very salty sausage and chicken broth. I'd either use water, or ditch the sausage. The second time I made these peas, I cracked an egg into a bowl and slid it into the saucepan, letting it cook on top of the peas for about 3 minutes or so, until set, just before eating. Both times were pretty good. I had leftovers this evening,
and though I didn't bother with the egg since I was reheating this in the microwave, I added a little bit of diced mozzarella to it, and it was still yummy.