Friday, April 30, 2010

deconstructed-falafel soup

This past Sunday, after finally remembering to start soaking the chickpeas the night before, Evan and I made falafel sandwiches for dinner. From scratch. Including the pita. Really. Also really I should say that Evan made us falafel sandwiches for dinner. Oh sure, I chopped some garlic and onions and cilantro and parsley but the motivation, the coordination, and most of the work was all his.

Luckily for both of us there were leftovers enough for Monday night dinner, and enough remnants even after that for me to make up an odd little soup-like concoction after he headed to North Carolina for a couple weeks.

Deconstructed-Falafel Soup:
1/2 smallish onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon oil from garlic confit, plus 3-4 smashed garlic cloves
handful or two of chopped cabbage
1-2 tablespoons harissa-style chile paste a la Bittman
leftover parsley, crushed coriander seeds, cilantro as available
vegetable or chicken broth to cover, plus more to thin as desired
1-2 tomatoes, diced
3 falafel balls a la Bittman, crumbled
1-2 tablespoons hummus or leftover falafel tahini sauce a la Bittman
broken-up several-days-old pita a la Reinhart

Saute the onion in a tablespoon or so of the garlic oil, then add the garlic itself and the cabbage and let cook till the cabbage begins to soften. Stir in the chile paste to taste, and the leftover herbs, and eventually the broth. Add the tomatoes and falafel and let simmer for a little while, then add the hummus or tahini sauce to taste, and then serve over the pita.

I added a good-sized dollop of our homemade yogurt, and this made the soup particularly delicious.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

quote of the day, or, animal metaphors gone terribly, terribly wrong

“I actually support micro-chipping them. I can micro-chip my dog so I can find it. Why can’t I micro-chip an illegal?"
(Pat Bertroche, GOP candidate for the 3rd District, Iowa)

Between this creep and this other creep, the GOP is a little too preoccupied these days with animals for my taste.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

the diana center, or, i may not get architecture but maybe the light is enough

There's something going on at Barnard today, though I've no idea what. There are balloons and lawn chairs and tables skirted in hula grass.

I was wondering if it has to do with the Diana Center (at one point known as the Nexus, but apparently Barnard thought better of rhyming with Lexus and emulating a little too closely the Matrix. I think this is a good thing, though I find 'The Diana Center' equally as silly -- oh for the good old days of simple, solid, unpretentious names like Milbank and Sulzberger and Hewitt and Reid), for no other reason than that I was on the M4 passing the Diana when I saw the balloons.

I have not been overly impressed with the Diana Center as of yet, mostly because I wanted something soaring, a little more akin to what Columbia is in the process of building directly across the street* from the poor hulking Diana. But I have not been inside it yet, and I know rationally that it is a huge improvement over the old McIntosh Student Center (a waste of space if ever there was one, but a veritable playground for a little girl, with its tiled echoing spaces and purple neon twining around the circular stairway and the bowling alley and potted trees and parading college girls).

And Nick pointed out the other day, in the middle of one of my tirades about its ridiculous nomenclature and its disappointing orange hue and its relative squatness, that the afternoon light it throws on to the lawn outside the Barnard Library is kind of pretty, the sunshine spilling across the grass all angular and sharp through the Diana's oblong panes of glass.

I would like to see that sunlight, and the glowing windows of the Diana in the gloaming hour, and should probably do so before further casting judgment.

*Though Columbia's new science building, aka the Northwest Corner Building, also leaves a lot to desired (bulkiness, boxiness, ugliness, no connection to the street creating yet another dead block), it also has a certain austere and shining elegance, a certain grandiosity, at least when approaching it from the north, coming up the hill from Harlem.

Friday, April 23, 2010

the beginning

I have four weddings coming up over the next few months and of course decided that handmade wedding gifts are the only way to go. And so it begins.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Richard and I got together for dinner yesterday after work. It was a beautiful spring evening, bright and crisp and clear, and worlds apart from our last dinner way back in the darkening days of early December.

He seemed in good spirits, at least in as much as he ever seems in good spirits, and I think took pleasure in having an ear to complain to about this frustration and that disappointment. He is looking forward to his retirement next year, or at least looking forward to leaving a job he loathes.

He brought an envelope of old pictures dating back mostly to 1967 and his time at Parris Island, and in Okinawa, and in Vietnam. There were grainy images of barracks and latrines, cute Japanese girls on a beach, full military dress at an award ceremony, rice paddies and water buffalo and rifles, and Richard at twenty-two, twenty-three, dark-haired and smooth-faced and, if not entirely innocent, at least less broken than the man sitting next to me.

An old friend of Richard's died a couple months ago, a man with whom he shared more than forty years of history: travels together, stories, and such abundant love that Richard said he pretty much fell apart for a few weeks after the death even though Doug had been battling cancer for years.

During our dinner Richard mistakenly thought that my shirt was buttoned unevenly (though entirely possible, generally speaking, this was not the case last night!), and started to reach over the table to show me. He mentioned that he has a tendency to do the same, and that Doug was forever having to re-button his shirts.

The tenderness caught there in Richard's hands as he pantomimed Doug reaching up to re-do a top button, murmuring, "I was so sure we would grow old together," was enough to break this girl's heart.

Monday, April 19, 2010

monday morning round-up

I have an enormous amount of respect for Nicholas Kristof, in no small part because of his devotion to the women of the world. This recent piece from the Times is him in a nut-shell, and brings a warmth and respect to the Catholic Church scandals that are sorely lacking in much of the media coverage. (For example, in Maureen Dowd's recent obsession with the whole sorry business.)

As a quick follow-up to an article I posted last week, a Wisconsin DA was apparently not actually threatening sex-ed teachers with jail time, he was merely informing them that he could send them to jail. A fine line, indeed.

Gorgeous, gorgeous photographs of NYC after-hours.

Eschewing all things urban and heading west to the San Juan Islands, a la Nick Fahey (“I don’t worry about whether I am clothed or not,” Mr. Fahey said. “But the weather is such that it’s a good idea to wear some clothes.”) has, at times, a certain indisputable appeal.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


A good day for a walk: under the overpass at South Street Seaport, on the Brooklyn Bridge, the Brooklyn promenade, post-walk breakfast


i feel so claustrophobic
even at the lake under a dome of stars
even in the middle of Broadway at 3am
i just can't escape from myself
or find another way to mourn those
who can't find a way to stop leaving.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

it's all relative II

This print is, I think, my new favorite thing. At least for this moment.

fragments, anniversaries, flishes

I've been writing things in random places lately: my day planner, a business reply card for Pantheon Books re-appropriated as a bookmark, a receipt from Frank's Market for two half-gallons of milk destined for reincarnation in yogurt form.

This comes out of the first fragment, written on the M4 the other morning as I listened to Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse's The Dark Night of the Soul on my way to work:

I'm reading Hurry Down Sunshine, a father's memoir about the summer his adolescent daughter was "struck mad." There is an electricity to this book that comes in part from its urban Manhattan setting and in part from the kinetic, frazzled energy attributed to the daughter, the ex-wife, the new wife (though this is of course just the father's interpretation, and these women with whom he surrounds himself may not be quite the nerve-jangled, high-wired creatures he makes them out to be). There is a strange living situation that seems not uncommon in New York (my own living situation being somewhat less than normal), and Hasidim in the psychiatric ward.

For some reason this got me to remembering Dave talking, years ago, about a friend of his who grew up in the East Village. She was under strict instruction, when going home by herself after school, to always check to see what kind of drugs the people sprawled in her building's entry way were doing. If they were shooting dope it was okay for her to step over them and go inside. But if they were smoking crack, she had to go across the street to a neighbor's apartment and stay there until one of her parents got home from work.

I guess I've been thinking about girls in the city, and what that kind of life can do to them. For the record, I'm pretty sure Dave's friend turned out just fine. I'm not sure yet about Sally of her father's memoir.

This comes out of another fragment, written yesterday morning:

Lauren said the other day, over margaritas and carnitas, that the more weight she's lost this past year the more she sees her father every time she glances in a mirror, a window, the shiny surface of her 2009 Prius. She seemed unnerved by this, though I found myself envious. Specifically, as layers of fat have melted away, it is her father's hands that have begun to emerge from underneath, long-fingered and bony and pale. I laughed, and confessed to disappointment in my own chubby, short-fingered hands, so unladylike, so pudgy and pink and unfit for rings of any sort. My father, when I was little, joked that I was given sausages in place of fingers, and he was not far off (though they did prove useful for playing the violin, the perfect width for half-notes).

I do not have my father's hands, though sometimes I wish I did: callused and ink-stained, the culmination of his odd mixture of academia and carpentry. Lauren, I think, would gladly eschew being confronted with her father's hands, and especially the image of him clutching them to his hospital gown after she'd scared him "nearly to death" during an adolescent outburst of running away from home.

The last fragment, written late last night, has to do with Shelley, my first and best friend at Barnard. Shelley, also known as Flish my Love (oh how I loved to invent nicknames for people; nicknames that really meant something; nicknames that stuck), was in an odd way a mother figure to me during our college years -- something I needed desperately yet would never have admitted.

I was thinking of a particular April evening during our freshman year, fifteen years ago this month. We were sitting on a bench outside the Barnard Library, which is housed in Lehman Building and not to be mistaken for my own Lehman Library, which of course is housed in the International Affairs Building. (Columbia is sometimes funny like that.) We were talking about this and that, probably boys and books and skipping class, when she turned to me suddenly and said she sometimes wondered how our college experience would be different if my father were still alive, still hanging out in the history department up on the 4th floor of Lehman.

I imagined him hunkered down in his chair, feet propped up on the desk in front of him, grinning as I knocked on his open office door with nasty McIntosh coffees in hand. I imagined meeting him after classes on Thursdays, bringing Shelley or Deepa or Maria home with us for a weekend in Mohegan Lake.

I was thinking last night of that evening with Shelley, and these intimate and carefree fantasies about another sort of college experience we might have shared, I suppose because this coming Sunday, the 18th, marks seventeen years and more than half a lifetime since my father passed away.

I have not yet met Shelley's daughter, who just turned four this past weekend, which just goes to show how easy it is to get caught up in our own particular lives. But Shelley herself, well, she still inhabits a place in my life that I treasure deeply, that I will always treasure deeply.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

of libraries & violins & other nonsense

My library in the news.

Some awesomely bookish pictures at Slate last week.

These oddly intriguing violin pictures courtesy of Tall Dave.

Tea Party Jesus. Seriously hilarious.

This adorable little report on knitting (& quilting) truckers courtesy of Emre (especially this).

Friday, April 09, 2010

of weekly dinners & zombies in the park

Dan, Nick, Evan, and I were walking south along Central Park West yesterday evening after our weekly dinner. (These weekly dinners of some iteration or other of this little foursome have become surprisingly dear to me, and those weeks during which one or the other or more of us are out of town leave me feeling ever so slightly bereft. Funny how friendships wax and wane, and blossom within specific circumstances, within certain exacting parameters, and sometimes become so much a part of our individual tapestries that we think not much of them until they are missed.)

As I was saying.

My boys & I were walking south yesterday along the western edge of Central Park, and it was such a beautiful, shimmering, perfect April evening that at every subway stop one or the other of us would say, "Let's keep walking." And so we did, all the way to Columbus Circle where we finally parted ways: Dan off to peruse the Whole Foods aisles, Nick off to the downtown A to head back to Brooklyn and his Sarah, Evan and me to the uptown A to watch yet another episode or two of Big Love (oh the ridiculous and frustrating wonderfulness of it all!) and eat the last of the strawberries and vanilla coconut ice cream.

We swear we saw a zombie heading north, just south of Tavern on the Green where 66th Street cuts west out of the Park. It was an older middle-aged man, perhaps 55, 60, lurching with a distinctive sideways gate, dragging one foot slightly behind, and harboring a grizzled look that can come only with being one of the living dead. We couldn't help but stop and stare, mouths slack and gaping with surprise, and one or two amongst us may have taken a step or two in his direction, dragging one foot almost imperceptibly behind. I felt a disconcerting bile rising in the back of my throat, and that nervous gigglyness that comes over me in times of disaster or bad news. The boys wanted to keep watching him but I dragged them away, dreading looking over my shoulder to meet baleful eyes as he looked over his.

It was an odd moment caught in this otherwise idyllic evening, and of course I don't really believe in zombies. And yet. This is a big city, this city of mine, and teeming with people and things and situations I don't understand and might not want to imagine. Who's to say that we can ever fully know all that walks amongst us?

I was glad to get home last night, to curl up on the couch with my knitting and my cat and my boy, safely tucked away from the darkness pressing up against the windows outside.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

this & that

I've had a soft spot for Edward James Olmos ever since developing a bit of a crush on him in the role of calculus teacher extraordinaire in 1988's Stand & Deliver. (Unfortunately this crush did not extend to my own aspirations in calculus several years later.) You can imagine my glee when he made several appearances in The West Wing as the irascible Judge Mendoza, and later took on the Herculean task of saving mankind in the wake of the Cylon nuclear holocaust. Sadly, Jaime Escalante, the inspiration for Stand & Deliver, recently passed away.

Clearly 1988 was a good year, what with Stand & Deliver and Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye. Though I kind of hated Cat's Eye, it made a big impression on me and piqued my intereste in all things Handmaid's Tale. Also, Margaret Atwood is adorable. And she tweets!

In the realm of sexual dystopias a la Atwood, a Wisconsin prosecutor has apparently sent letters to several Wisconsin school districts threatening to arrest sex ed teachers who comply with newly-passed legislation outlining guidelines for sex ed. Got that?

Here, slightly late for Easter, a world of Peeps. (Mom, this one's for you...)

Last, and probably my favorite of the bunch, cooking with Laura Ingalls Wilder. I'm not sure where my copies of the Little House books are now, though I can only hope that my mother has held on to them all these years. I can't imagine settling down somewhere eventually without that mismatched collection (no boxed set for this girl) perched on a book shelf overflowing with childhood favorites.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

mean girls

A recent editorial in the Times alleges that the media's current obsession with a so-called epidemic of bullying among American girls is unfounded because actual statistics demonstrate that girl violence has actually decreased in recent years.

This seems misguided to me on two counts. First, girls can be universally and heartbreakingly cruel to each other without resorting to violence, so wielding statistics on violence doesn't mean much in this context. Second, girls have been mean to each other for years, for decades, possibly for centuries: there is no epidemic, there is just a constant.

The story of Phoebe Prince's suicide earlier this year is particularly horrible in the way it ultimately played out, but the early stages of this story play out somewhere, in some way, every day.

When I was in third grade I had two best friends. Mandy Morabito and Bethany Lindner. I only ever played with one of them at a time, but we had the best times together after school or on weekends. During school, however, neither of them would talk to me because I wasn't popular and acknowledging my friendship would destroy their own credibility with the popular crowd. Even worse, they were actively mean to me because they specifically didn't want the other one to know she was my friend.

There was never any hair-pulling, never any stealing of the lunch money, never any smacking or thwacking or violence of any sort. And yet there were days that I worried myself sick over their shenanigans, their little girl games, to the point where I couldn't go to school.

There is a ring to the term "mean girls," and an indisputable honesty in it (otherwise how to explain the popularity of Lindsay Lohan's break-out role?).

I have never been a big fan of Margaret Atwood, but there was a line from her 1988 novel Cat's Eye that even now, decades after parting ways with my personal mean girls, gives me the feeling of nails on a blackboard:

Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life sized.

Friday, April 02, 2010

dreaming of you

I've been having dreams lately about old lovers, or almost lovers, or near misses.

There was the one where we were blowing up helium balloons with Douglas Adams, rising with them up into a bright blue sky, and through that up into space, where they turned into entire new worlds.

There was the one where her track-riddled boyfriend stood glaring out of shadows as we stood chest-deep in lake water, sun fracturing off our crazy tangle of flaxen blond and flame red hair.

I feel like there have been more, lurking perhaps beneath an unspoken anxiety about settling down with someone new, but someone who has been around so long that destroying things will actually hurt.

Funny what comes up in dreams, and funnier what we take from them.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


I have somehow ended up with a pocket full of change today: remnants of yesterday's morning coffee and evening grocery store trip, this morning's coffee and bagel. Somehow this makes me think of Larry, crazy wonderful playwright Larry, and his funny habit of throwing his change all over his apartment. Years' worth of coins washing up in silver and copper drifts under the furniture, in corners and along baseboards, cascading down from the tops of bookshelves and coats and tables. I spent a lot of time in that studio apartment (with a separate hallway and eat-in-kitchen!) perched on the 16th floor of a housing development overlooking 23rd Street & 8th Avenue, and was always blown away by this change, this money literally paving the floor, just lying there for the taking. I took a handful once, a couple dollars' worth, no more, and was so overcome by guilt that the next time I visited I scattered a month's worth of laundry money down the hallway and under the bed, discreetly letting quarters slip from my fingers to the floor as we sprawled there eating falafel take-out and drinking rum & cokes by the bottle.

Now I save my change in an old apple juice container and take it to the bank once or twice a year. This is much more contained, and feels so middle-aged, middle-brow, boring. I miss his wildness sometimes with a longing that takes me by surprise, his constant play with language and his ridiculous hair and his apartment lined with change, adrift in a certain impetuous abandon that I have never managed to match.