Saturday, January 31, 2009

Patrick's Saturday Six #251 - Relationships

Patrick's Saturday Six this Saturday is all about relationships. If you want to play too, click HERE.

1. What is more important to you: your relationship with yourself or your relationship with those who are close to you? No question: my relationship with myself. If I can't look myself in the eye when I'm brushing my teeth each morning, then I'm in no position to have any sort of relationship with anyone else until I get that straightened out.

2. Which of the above do you tend to have the least problem cultivating? Ha! Relationships with those who are close to me. Like most people, I'm much harder on myself than my friends or family would ever be.

3. Something goes wrong in your life. Of the people you are most likely to turn to, are they the same gender as you or the opposite? It could really be either. The two people I'd be most likely to run anything by these days are my friend Sherri and my younger brother Dave, both of whom are intelligent, non-judgmental, good listeners with a sense of humor.

4. Something goes wrong in a close friend’s life and you’re the person that friend chooses to call first. Is that person likely to be the same gender as you or the opposite? Probably the same gender, as I have more female friends than male friends.

5. Take the quiz: What Makes You a Good Friend?

You Are a Good Friend Because You're Accepting

No matter what a friend says or does, you try your best to understand it.

And your friends feel like they can tell you anything. You don't judge.

You know that friendship is a journey - with a lot of ups and downs.

If you and a friend grow apart, you get over it quickly... and leave the potential for future friendship open.

You tend to have many friends from many walks of life. Anyone you meet could become a friend.

In fact, you are especially interested in people who are a little different than you. Seeing life from another perspective is something you cherish.

Your friends need you most when: They can't turn to anyone else with their secrets

You really can't be friends with: Dogmatic, stubborn people

Your friendship quote: "Love is blind, but friendship closes its eyes."

6. What single trait listed in the response to question #5 would your closest friend most agree with? You tend to have many friends from many walks of life. Anyone you meet could become a friend.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Alexandra!


33 years ago today this picture was taken. Well, actually it was 33 years ago tomorrow; you were all of one day old. You were born at 4:48 PM in the then brand new Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago. Afterward, you roomed in with me in 810 West. It was Friday. Gerald Ford was President and Richard J. Daley Sr. was mayor of Chicago. The best cars on the road were the VW Diesel Rabbit and the Honda Civic. You were the first grandchild on Dad's side and the 22nd on my side, not that that made my parents any less excited about your arrival. Shortly after I called to announce your birth they got into a truck driven by Aunt Carolyn and traveled a little over 300 miles through a blizzard to make your acquaintance. You couldn't have cared less. And now, 33 years later, you're the new mother of a 3 day old baby yourself. It doesn't seem possible.

There has never been a day that I haven't been happy that we had you, and proud to be your mother. Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!



Thursday, January 29, 2009

Things I Did Today - 29 January 2009

1. I drove through thick fog to work. The fog was beautiful, and I'd have liked to have been able to skip work and spend the morning shooting pictures.
2. I went to lunch with a group of friends and we spent a lot of time laughing, which is always good. I work with some very funny people, and although the job is often frustrating, at least I have a good group of friends with whom to process things using humor.
3. I talked with Chris.
4. I talked with Alex. She and the baby came home from the hospital today. I'm going up to see them on Monday, and I can't wait!
5. I drove home and discovered the garage door isn't working...AGAIN. I'm not sure what the problem is and I was too tired to try to figure it out.
6. I fed Ike, who's been climbing the chimney again. If he keeps this up, a new home may be in his future.
7. I paid some bills online.
8. I'm going to have some rice pudding and go to bed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ice storm






We had an ice storm last night. It started late Monday, but really hit last night. At about 2:30 in the morning, I could hear it as it fell, and I awoke this morning to see all surfaces beautifully rimed with ice. I grabbed my digital camera and got these shots, but taking them reminded me that I really do need a tripod and that this year I'm buying myself a digital SLR.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

at long last...

Monkey  IMG_0729

8 lbs, 7 oz, born at 2:03 PM January 27, 2009

Beautiful, huh? Nevermind that it took him 27 hours to get here...Alex, Chris and baby are fine, and he's here, at long last.

baby update...

I just got word that 27 hours after everything started to happen, she is pushing and all is well! Monkey will be here SOON.


EMPS #22: Rocks or Stones

Grab your cameras and show me some ROCKS. Big ROCKS, little ROCKS. LittleROCK, Arkansas, STONE soup. A Zen garden with decorative ROCKS, or how about ROCK cliffs? Sure, why not! A Pet ROCK, or ROCK candy. Take the words ROCK or STONE and use your imagination. ROCK music. ROCKING chair. ROCK ON! Stepping STONES. The Rolling STONES... it's all good!

Extra Credit:
Show an actual ROCK or STONE in an unusual or special place.

I'm up awaiting the birth of my second grandchild. It's been 15 hours since Alex's water broke, but no baby yet. I just talked with her, though, and she and Chris are hanging in there, and tell me all is going well, but s l o w. So I decided to participate in Carly's Monday Photo Shoot to distract myself. Thank you, Carly, for the terrific distraction! The assignment this week is rocks or stones. I've taken the assignment literally, but that's not a requirement. If you want to play too, click

Casa Grande Big Bend IMG_0143
Here is one big rock: Casa Grande in Big Bend. I took this shot in August 2005, on a sidetrip I made to Big Bend when I was driving Mike to UA for his freshman year. I love Big Bend.

the window, Big Bend
Here's one of the most beautiful spots in Big Bend: The Window. I took this shot at dusk one night on the same trip.

Balanced Rock IMG_0119
This is another favorite spot in Big Bend: Balanced Rock in Grapevine Hills.

And finally, as opposed to naturally occurring stone, here are two shots of stone that's been manufactured to make walls and walks. I took the pic of the wall in October 2005, and the walk in December 2008:
stone wall 3 Oct 2005  IMG_1965

sidewalk Dec 2008 IMG_1148

Monday, January 26, 2009

baby on the way!


More as I find out more...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday night supper - gastronomie sans argent

When I got married I didn't know how to cook, but I soon set about learning in earnest, by avidly reading Julia Child and Gourmet Magazine. Every month I looked forward to the new issue of Gourmet; especially the monthly feature called Gastronomie Sans Argent, which roughly translates into eating well for little money. In the couple of light years since then I've moved on to other cooking magazines, but I still have some favorites from my Gourmet days, one of which I made for dinner tonight: fusilli with collard greens, bacon, garlic, onions, freshly grated Parmesan and pine nuts. The pine nuts are my own addition. This receipe appeared in Gourmet in February 1992. The kids and I were living in Aspen at the time. Alex had just turned 16; Katharina was 13 and Mike and Chris were 6. It was cold outside, with lots of snow, but we had a fire in the fireplace and the house was cozy the first time we ate this meal. I've made it many times since, and always enjoy it. This is one of those recipes that will be better tomorrow, but that's fine, because I could happily eat this for dinner all week. If you want the recipe, click on the link.

Patrick's Sunday Seven #179 - cell phones

If you want to play too, click HERE.

Name the last seven people you talked to on your cell phone.

1. My son, Chris, who wanted to know what to do about acid leaking from a new car battery in the trunk of a friends car (BAKING SODA)

2. The ex, A, calling to say he was at the X-man's basketball game

3. My younger brother, Dave, with whom I often chat on Friday nights

4. My dentist's office, wanting to schedule my next appointment. They must be desperate; it's only been 4 months and my teeth and gums are healthy.

5. My firstborn, Alex, who's ready for that baby to be born! (as we all are)...

6. My second born, Katharina, calling to catch up on what's going on in both our lives.

7. One of my oldest friends, Regina, also calling to catch up.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Patrick's Saturday Six #249 - Metals

It's time for the Saturday Six again. If you want to play too, click HERE.

1. If you could recycle only one of the following, would you be most likely to choose paper, aluminum cans or plastic containers? Probably paper, although I recycle all three, plus glass. I don't use many aluminum cans.

2. Check out your bathroom(s). What color are the metal fixtures: silver, gold, bronze, or pewter? (If you know the actual material rather than just the color, name it too.) I've redone all 3 bathrooms in the past couple of years, and all the fixtures are brushed nickel.

3. When cooking, do you prefer non-stick surfaces or traditional surfaces? Do you have more copper-bottomed pots or stainless steel? Regarding the surfaces, it depends on what I'm cooking. I have a beautiful set of copper pots that I almost never use, because they work better on gas than on electric, which is what I have in my kitchen. Eventually I'll have gas to cook on again, either here or in another place. In the meantime, I have calphalon cookwear, one of the things I'd like start doing this year is replace my calphalon with All-Clad. Dunno if I'll do it in this economy, though.

4. Take the quiz: What Metal Are You?

You Are Copper

You are provocative and challenging. You help people realize who they really are.

You live a very balanced life. You always take time for love and art.

You are both a powerful and generous person. You always have time to give back.

People find you to be incredibly ethical and loyal.

5. Consider the jewelry you wear most often: is it gold, silver, platinum or something else? Most of the jewelry I wear is silver or has silver clasps.

6. Have you ever had a piece of jewelry turn your skin a different color? No, I've never had that happen.

Friday, January 23, 2009

remaking America...

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin
, downloaded from The Washington Independent


A little over 400 years ago, Shakespeare knew it. In The Merchant of Venice, Portia says: "I fear you speak upon the rack, Where men enforced do speak anything."

Thursday, hitting the ground running, President Obama signed an executive order putting an end to "enhanced interrogation techniques", including waterboarding.

This i
s a very, very, very, very, very good thing.

And there are more good things to come. I'm sure of it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday know it all quiz

This is a quiz for people who know everything! I got it from A, and I thought it was so much fun I told him I was going to put it on my blog. These are not trick questions. They are straight questions with straight answers

1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.

2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?

3. Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?

4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?

5. In many liquor stores you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn't been cut in any way. How did the pear get
inside the bottle?

6. Only three words in standard English begin with the letters 'dw' and they are all common words. Name two of them.

7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?

8.Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.

9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter 'S.'

Scroll down for answers

Answers To Quiz:

1. The one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends: Boxing

2. North American landmark constantly moving backwards: Niagara Falls (The rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that rush over it every minute.)

3. Only two vegetables that can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons: Asparagus and rhubarb (I know, I know - I thought it was a fruit, too, but in fact it's a vegetable)

4. The fruit with its seeds on the outside: Strawberry.

5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bottle? It grew inside the bottle. (The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small, and are wired in place on the tree. The Bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.)

6. Three English words beginning with 'dw': Dwarf, dwell and dwindle.

7. Fourteen punctuation marks in English grammar: Period, comma, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation point, quotation marks, brackets, parenthesis, braces, and ellipses.

8. The only vegetable or fruit never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form but fresh: Lettuce.

9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet beginning with 'S': Shoes, socks, sandals, sneakers, slippers, skis, skates, snowshoes, stockings, stilts.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

open letter to Monkey...

Today is your due date.

Well, today is your official due date. Your mother says you were due one week ago, on January 14th, and I trust her calculations over her doctor's, without question. Which means you were due on exactly the date that your mother was due, exactly 33 years earlier. However, she didn't make her appearance until she was ready, which finally happened on the 30th, a very long 16 days later. I hope you don't make her wait that long to make your acquaintance.

I was thinking that you were waiting until after the inauguration to be born. Who could blame you? But the inauguration was yesterday. Monkey, you will now be born into a world where, here in America, we've just elected Barack Obama and he's been sworn into office. Change is here, Monkey and more changes are coming. Changes for the better. It's a good time to be born.

When you're born you'll immediately have 2 loving parents, but also 4 adoring grandparents, 3 doting uncles, 1 attentive aunt, and 1 exuberant cousin (the X-man, who is 6, and eager to make your acquaintance). In addition, there's a LOT of extended family: great aunts and uncles and first cousins once removed, etc. I won't go into detail because that might become overwhelming very quickly. Suffice it to say, you're being born into a big family!

You're being born, in the words of songwriter Paul Simon, into the days of miracles and wonders. Thanks to a few of those miracles and wonders, we already know your gender, and have seen fleeting images of you, and yet there is still so much to learn. We don't know the color of your eyes or your hair, or the sound of your baby laugh, which I so look forward to eventually hearing. We don't know what will make you laugh, what you will like and not like. But all of us are ready to find out!

You have a room and a bed and a chair to be rocked in. You have clothes, and pets (4 cats!) and books chosen just for you, and toys, including a wonderful wooden rattle from Uncle Mike, and a rocking horse that your mother and aunt and two of your uncles and your cousin have ridden hard. There is warm milk, Monkey, and love and please come on out soon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

At long last...


What a happy day this is, at long last. And oh, how I'd love to be there!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Eve...

Tomorrow's the day.

The day we've been waiting for for so long; the beginning of a new era. I wish I didn't have to go to work. I wish I could stay home and watch. This is historic. I have a bottle of champagne chilling in the 'fridge. It's almost time to celebrate. Like so many other Americans, I can hardly wait.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Scents of a Woman...

I'm working on a couple of things to post, but they aren't done yet, so I went to Patrick's to see what the Sunday Seven was. It's to name up to 7 cologne or scents you've worn and liked. This is an interesting idea to me for many reasons, e.g., Coco Chanel once said, "A woman should wear fragrance wherever she expects to be kissed", so of course I've chosen to do it (write about this topic, as well as followed Coco's excellent advice). If you want to play too, click HERE.

1. Chanel 22 - This is my very favorite scent of all time. The first time I wore it was my 22nd birthday. A couple of weeks earlier I'd fallen in love at first sniff, at a perfume counter in the old Louis Sullivan Carson, Pirie, Scott store on State Street in Chicago. I immediately bought a bottle, but I held off wearing it the first time until my birthday, because I loved the serendipity of falling in love with a scent called No. 22 right when I was about to turn 22. I've worn it ever since. Not for everyday, of course, but on my birthday, and on holidays, and if I'm going to the symphony, or the opera, or to a dinner calling for a little black dress with pearls, you can bet this is what I'll be wearing. Also if I'm feeling down, putting this on always makes me feel better. Sometimes I wear it to bed at night.

The scent has an interesting history. In 1921, Coco Chanel commissioned Ernest Beaux to create some perfumes for her. Chanel wanted scents that were compositions, with floral aldehydes added to make them last. This was a new idea. Up to this time, perfumes were mostly single scents that had to be applied frequently because they didn't last. Beaux was a chemist and perfumer who was experimenting with aldehydes, so he accepted the assignment and created the scents. Chanel's first choice was the scent that became No. 5. It was called that because, according to some stories, it was the 5th scent Beaux presented to her, but also because 5 was her lucky number. Chanel introduced No. 5 to friends on May 5, 1921. She gave it, free of charge, to preferred clients, and she also scented the dressing rooms in her boutique with it.

No. 22 was also created by Beaux. The second scent from the house of Chanel, it was introduced in 1922, but Coco Chanel chose this scent for America, and accordingly, until recently, it was unavailable in Europe. Some time in the past couple of years, it became unavailable in America too, because Chanel discontinued it. To say I was upset when I discovered this is an understatement. I immediately went on eBay and began buying what I could find. The only thing affordable (and for the most part, the only thing available) was the lotion and Voile, a lighter, alcohol free formula that was reminiscent of the scent, but lacked the richness of the real thing. Then one day last summer, hurrying through Neiman's at Northpark on a Sunday afternoon, I saw a huge display of Chanel scents. Always hopeful, I stopped for a moment to see what they had. I burst into a huge smile when I saw my beloved No. 22. It turns out that in February 2007, No. 22 was reissued when Chanel launched a line of 10 scents that they began marketing as niche perfumes. They're called that both because that's how they are marketed (not advertised and not widely available) and because the scents are made with rare ingredients. The line is called Les Exclusifs. Four of the scents are from the 1920's: No. 22; Cuir de Russie; Gardénia; and Bois des Îles. The other six are new scents created by Chanel perfumer Jacques Polge. The bottles are big (200 ml) and expensive. I was dismayed when I saw the price and realized that no matter how much I wanted to, this wasn't a purchase I could casually make. So imagine my surprise (and delight) when this is what Alex, Kath, Mike and Chris bought me for my birthday last September! I always get compliments on it; I don't think I've ever worn this without someone asking what it is. Happiness!

2. Diorissimo - This is my 2nd favorite scent. It was created by Dior perfumer Edmond Roudnitska in 1956. It's light and floral, with lily of the valley and jasmine. It's hard to find, although Saks still carries it, and of course, there's always eBay. I like to wear it in the spring and summer; it's too light for fall or winter. I've read it was a favorite of Princess Diana.

3. Banana Republic Classic - This is what I usually wear to work. It's a citrusy, light cologne. It sort of smells like good soap; a clean scent that's never overpowering.

4. Rosewood by Banana Republic - This is a warm, sweet (but not too sweet) scent, with bergamot and amber. The spray bottle is poorly designed, though: domed at the bottom in such a way that it's impossible to use all of it by about a fourth, so until/unless the bottle is redesigned, this is a scent I won't be wearing again.

5. Tresor by Lancome - Created by Sophia Grojsman in 1990, this is the strongest scent I own. It smells of rose, amber and musk. It's almost too strong for me; I'd love a lighter version. I only wear this in the winter.

6. 4711 -This is also a light, citrusy, unisex cologne. 4711 was created in Cologne, Germany in the early 18th century. It's called 4711 because that's the address of the house of Wilhelm Mülhens, who manufactured it. I like to wear it in the summertime, by you can wear 4711 year 'round. I keep this in the medicine cabinet for guests.

7. Jean Nate - This is a light, lemony scent. I don't wear it much anymore, but when I was in high school, I loved this scent and wore it often. It was created in 1935 by Charles of the Ritz. It's still around, but these days it's manufactured by Revlon. It's very inexpensive; a good buy.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Patrick's Saturday Six #249 - Words

Here’s another set of questions from Patrick to help you get your Saturday off to a good start! If you want to play too, click HERE.

1. What commonly-used word in speech annoys you the most? When did you hear it last used? "Proactive", as in "We need to get proactive about this" always really chaps my hide. I think I last heard it (I try to shut it out) in some smarmy video relating to goals for 2009 performance reviews at work last week.

2. Which commonly-used word annoys you the most when you hear it mispronounced? What’s the most common mispronunciation you hear for this word? Nuclear (NU-KU-LURE) which was mispronounced ad nauseum by Sarah Palin while she campaigned, and of course by our outgoing fearless leader. But since it's coming up...FEB-YOU-AIR-EEE is a close second.

3. Which word(s) do you wish people would use more often? Hmmm, it's a phrase that actually comes to mind: "You deserve a raise!" :)

4. Take the quiz: What’s Your Word?

Your Word is "Fearless"

You see life as your one chance to experience everything, and you just go for it!

You believe the biggest risk is being afraid and missing out on something amazing.

Sometimes your fearlessness means you're daring. You enjoy risky activities.

And sometimes your fearlessness means you're courageous. You're brave enough to do the right thing, even when it's scary.

5. Which internet expression or abbreviation do you use most often?

Probably, ttyl (talk to you later).

6. Which internet expression or abbreviation would you most like to see disappear forever?LOL, which is endlessly overused.

Friday, January 16, 2009

daily routines...

I'm sick with upper respiratory crud, but here's a really cool blog about "How writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their days": Daily Routines.

Check it out.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

tired of talking to machines?

If you need to call customer service and prefer to talk to a real, live human being rather than punch in an endless array of numbers on a keypad (known in industry as IVR, or Interactive Voice Response Telephony), go to The site, created by Paul English, began in 2005 as a cheat sheet with the numbers of just 10 companies. Since then, the cheat sheet has evolved into list of numbers and prompts that enable you to reach a real, live human being at hundreds of companies, from the automotive industry to utility companies. If you can't find the business you're looking for at, try Walt Tetschner's site,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

things I did today - 14 January 2009

I'm fighting off the upper respiratory crud that's making the rounds, so this will be short, but here's what I did today:

1. Went to work (of course);
2. Went out to lunch with a friend;
3. Stopped at the grocery store on my way home and picked up cat food and kitty litter (at least I have my priorities straight);
4. Filled my car with gas ($1.62 per gallon);
5. Bought two lotto tickets;
6. Stopped for take out for dinner (bad barbecue from Dickie's, but I feel crummy so nothing was going to taste very good);
7. Found a note from the City of Dallas on my front door saying a meter reader had, per my request, checked my water meter and I do, indeed, appear to have a leak, because even when there was no one home water was being used at the rate of 3/10 gallons per minute. The reader couldn't find the leak, so I'll have to hire a plumber to locate and fix it. Uh-huh. So there is a reason that my usage has jumped from under 3,000 gallons per month to 16,000 gallons per month.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One Word

Answer with only one word...this was hard for me!

1. Where is your cell phone? Table
2 Where is your significant other? None

3. Your hair? Dry

4. Your mother? Dead

5. Your father? Dead

6. Your favorite thing? Reading

7. Your dream last night? Katharina

8. Your favorite drink? Cappuccino

9. Your dream/goal? Lottery

10. The room you're in? Gameroom

11. Your fear? Useless

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Retiring

13. Where were you last night? Home
14. What you're not? Slim
15. Muffins? Blueberry

16. One of your wish list items? Nepal

17. Where you grew up? Minnesota

18. The last thing you did? Sleep

19. What are you wearing? Sweats

20. Your TV? Off

21. Your pet(s)? Cat

22. Your computer? On

23. Your life? Good

24. Your mood? Happy
25. Missing someone? Kids

26. Your car? Honda

27. Something you're not wearing? Earrings

28. Favorite Store? PB

29. Your summer? Hot
30. Favorite color? Blue

31. When is the last time you laughed? Today
32. Last time you cried? Dunno

33. Who will/would re-post this? Tammy
34. Four places I go over and over? Work, Albertson's, Starbucks, Exxon

35. Four people who e-mail me: A, Regina, Sherri, Steve

36. Four places I would rather be right now: Bed, Colorado, Chicago, seaside

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ellipsis - Monday Photo Shoot #20 - Snacks

It's time for Carly's photo shoot again, and the subject this week is SNACK TIME. An afternoon SNACK, a midnight SNACK, a mid-morning SNACK, it's all good. Chips and Salsa, a baked sweet potato, a slice of Starbuck's Reduced Fat Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake, cheese and crackers, fresh veggies and dip, tea and cakes, BBQ potato chips, fresh fruit, Bagel Bites, popcorn, PB&J. Whatever you like to SNACK on, is mighty good for this assignment!

Extra Credit: Show your favorite dish, bowl or tray to serve it on!

If you want to post too, click HERE.

Decisions, decisions. I love food, and I regularly shoot (with a camera) what I've prepared, but what to choose? I almost always prefer salty to sweet, and my absolute favorite thing to snack on is cheese. Strangely though, I have taken almost no photos of the cheeses I love, and at the moment I have none of my favorites in my refrigerator to photograph. But I love equally well a good cappuccino, and since I bought a decent cappuccino maker about a year ago, this is a pleasure I can have whenever I want it. I photographed a nice cappuccino (the foam came out well) in a favorite Italian cappuccino cup and saucer that I bought a few years ago at the now defunct (and boy, do I miss it!) Cookworks on Alpha Road in Dallas. The store wasn't so hot, but the food they sold to eat in or take out was wonderful. And with a nice cup of cappuccino, it's always good to have some dark, bittersweet chocolate. I made individual hot chocolate fudge cakes for dessert on New Year's Day this year. They turned out pretty well, if I do say so, so I'm posting a pic of one of those too. I baked them in the all purpose china bowls in which I usually serve chili. And finally, I'm quite happy snacking on healthy things like fruit, especially tart Granny Smith or sweet Honeycrisp apples, or a nice big juicy naval orange, and so I've photographed some fresh fruit in a favorite Mexican glass bowl on my kitchen table. Mmmmmmm, now I'm hungry!

bowl of fruit  IMG_0954

Sunday, January 11, 2009

marching to a different drummer...

If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
Perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears,
However measured or far away...

Henry David Thoreau

I didn't give my Christmas party this year, but if I had, there was a guy that I see sometimes at Starbuck's whom I might have invited. He's a tall, slim (but there's a reason for that, which I'll get to), good looking guy who usually reads the NY Times. I first noticed him because of the way he dresses: in winter, he wears loafers with socks, worn, comfortable looking khakis, a polo shirt and a navy blue blazer; in summer he wears loafers with no socks, worn, comfortable looking khaki shorts, a polo shirt and a navy blue blazer. It's the summer garb that I noticed first, of course. An interesting, if rather eccentric, look, but I'm not at all put off by eccentricity; in fact, for the most part, I value it. I commented on the look to A right away (this was a couple of years ago): "Have you seen that guy who wears a blazer with shorts?"

A had, of course, as he's at that Starbucks more often than I am. He assured me this was simply a Northeastern look. Uh-huh. A spent all his formative years, from the time he was 12 until he graduated from college, attending school in the northeast (yeah, A's a preppie and a Harvard man), whereas I've only visited the northeast a few times, so although I'd never seen another guy in shorts and a blazer, I figured, what do I know?

On weekend mornings, my neighborhood Starbucks is heavily populated by various people from the neighborhood, including a number of people in their 50's and 60's. Having lived in my house since 1984, I know a lot of these people because our children went to school together. This guy is not part of that group, though. He does have two grown children, but they're older than my oldest, so I hadn't met him as a fellow parent. Still, there are plenty of people in that group who are new to me for various reasons. A knows more of these people than I do, and accordingly, when I meet A there for coffee, he's sometimes talking with some of these people whom I don't know, with the result that I've been introduced and have ended up making new friends. There are people who take the position that they have enough friends, but I'm not one of them. I'm always up for making new friends, and I've welcomed the opportunity to get to know some of these people. I've expanded my Christmas party invitation list accordingly, with excellent results. Everyone I've met and ended up inviting to my Christmas party has been interesting and a welcome addition.

Eventually, I made the acquaintance of M. It turns out that he's a retired accountant. We've talked a few times about the things that people our age talk about: politics, books, our children. In November, when Mike was in town, we went to Starbucks on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Kath met us there with Xander, who ended crawling all over Mike, whom he adores. M came over and said hello and asked how old Xander was. He mentioned that he was writing a woman who has a six-year-old, and said he wondered what that was like. I thought then that if I gave my Christmas party, I might invite him. He seemed interesting to me.

But I didn't get around to giving the party this year. It's a lot of work, and I had plenty of family activities planned without adding the work of doing that party. And I didn't give another thought to M until A came over one day between Christmas and New Year's and said, "Wanna know something interesting about M?"

"Sure!" I said, thinking maybe A would tell me he was an avid kayaker or some such thing.

"He's living in his car," A said.

"What?!?!? He is not!"

"Yes he is!"

"How do you know that?"

"Because I asked him."

Whoa. In a million years I wouldn't have been able to ask M if he were living in his car. It seems the question came about because A saw his car, and noticed that the passenger seat was reclined, with a sleeping bag in it, and there were all these clothes stuffed in the he simply asked M if he were living in his car, and M said yes. Apparently, he's been living in his car for quite a while, i.e., maybe a year or two. A immediately said that if he wanted to, M could shower or do laundry at his place, but M said no, he uses the neighborhood recreation center. I didn't know we had one, and I'm not even sure where it is, but apparently he uses it because he's always clean as well as clean shaven.

I'm bothered by this. I know that M cannot be rescued. I don't even know if he wants to be rescued. But it poses a million questions. How could this happen? This is someone who is educated, and was probably licensed. At one time he had a job and a family and a house. He worked for a couple of big companies, so he must have had some sort of retirement plan, as well as social security. That doesn't all just disappear, no matter what bad luck you may have, so did M make a conscious decision one day that he was going to punt it all to live in his car? I'm sufficiently practical that I could understand someone doing this for a month or so, between places, to save money. But I can't actually imagine even doing that myself, and to decide to live in your car indefinitely, in your sixties? Never a good night's sleep, never a decent meal (of course he's slim!)...I can't really comprehend that. One of his adult children lives here, but M has said he does not get along with that child, who has not taken him in, so that hardly seems a reason to stay.

How does one decide to live in a car? And why stay here, in this solidly middle class neighborhood? It's hardly the most economical place to live, even in a car, and he must have to find side streets to park on at night, to avoid the police, because I'm pretty sure they would not be sympathetic to anyone sleeping in their car. And why spend your time in Starbucks, drinking overpriced coffee with no free refills? Why not LaMadeleine, where it's air conditioned in the summer and there's a fireplace blazing in cold weather, and where, for $2.50, you can have endless free refills of coffee as well as some free bread, butter and jam, all day long if you like. Why isn't he working somewhere? He's attractive, articulate, educated...surely someone would hire him to do something. I'm pretty sure this is not just my way of reassuring myself that this could never happen to me. And why the blazer?

I don't begin to understand...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Patrick's Saturday Six #248 - Travel

1. Which of the following methods of travel do you most prefer: plane, train or automobile? There was a time I'd have said plane, because it's fastest. However, I don't appreciate being treated as if I'm an enemy of my country, so although I still usually fly to save time, it's no longer a pleasure. Given my druthers, if I have the time these days I'm all about road trips.

2. What is the furthest distance you have traveled by each method listed above? Well, I've flown to Greece...that's certainly my furthest flight. The longest drive I've made on any one trip is probably Texas to Minnesota, which is about a thousand miles.

3. When flying, do you prefer to fly during the daytime or during the night? Although I'm not a morning person, I like to leave at the crack of dawn to get the flying over and done with.

4. Take the quiz: What’s Your Travel Personality?

Your Travel Personality Is: The Adventurer

For you, travel is how you learn about the world. And you like to learn the stuff that's not in guidebooks.

You truly have wanderlust. When you're not traveling, you're dreaming about where you'll go next.

And your travels are truly legendary - they leave you with stories you'll be telling for the rest of your life!

5. If you had the chance to take a one-year vacation and spend that time traveling anywhere in the country you wanted by motor home, would you do it, and if so, where would you most likely wind up? I would do it in a New York minute! But first I'd sit down and figure out an itinerary for what I want to see, and what I'd like to see is endless. I'd probably end up in Big Bend, because I love the stark beauty of it, and it's a good way to ease back into Texas.

6. Do you have any superstitions or rituals you rely on before or during a big trip? I'm not particularly superstitious, so no, but I do believe in having fun, e.g., I once told a friend the only way I'd do a road trip through rural Louisiana with him was if he'd agree to wear wife beaters and slick back his hair and call himself Dwyane...


Friday, January 09, 2009

Things I Did Thursday

1. I telecommuted.
2. At 8:30, I dropped off Ike for his surgery.
3. At 4:30 I picked up Ike from the animal hospital. He's now been neutered, treated for worms, and micro chipped. This was pretty major surgery for a cat his age and size, and when I picked him up, at about 4:30, the vet tech pointed out he was still "drunk" from the anesthesia. I carried him in my arms to my car and sat in the front seat holding him for a bit, debating whether to put him into the carrier for the drive home
, as it was clear he was still completely loopy and not feeling well. Luckily, I decided to do so. It turns out his stomach was upset and he had no control over his bowels and bladder. Uh-huh. I now have major olfactory knowledge of what it might be like to drive a small barnyard on wheels, not an experience I ever hope to repeat. The carrier is deep, thank goodness, but as soon as we got home, I had to give Ike a sponge bath before he could even lie down.
He drank some water, but he hasn't eaten anything, which is major for him, as he does love his food, weighing in at 15 pounds this morning at the animal hospital. He's been asleep most of the evening on a clean towel that I placed on his favorite ottoman.
4. I paid bills online.
5. I removed water marks from the dining room table by placing some packing paper over the marks and ironing the spots with a warm iron. D
unno why, but this works every time. Voila, the marks disappear like magic. Very Martha Stewart, I know, but my house is my nest, and I enjoy taking care of it. It's an oiled cherry table; I wouldn't try this with wood that's polyurethaned or varnished.
6. More Martha Stewart home care stuff: I removed quite a lot of wax from a velvet table runner by scraping off the excess wax, then placing packing paper over the wax and ironing with a warm iron until the wax had melted into the paper. I finished up by washing the runner, which came out beautifully. If the melted paraffin ends up leaving a spot, that can usually be removed with cleaning fluid.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


I'm sitting up way too late by myself, in the gameroom, writing this. The door to this room is shut, but that only slightly muffles the caterwauling of Ike, thirteen pounds of orange male tabby, who is pacing back and forth outside the door, exhibiting his own, feline version of sundowner's syndrome. Ike is named for the hurricane that was making land the first week in September 2008, when, at a little after 1:00 AM, he coincidentally wandered out of a ratty boxwood hedge that bordered a grocery store parking lot and in which he'd apparently been seeking shelter from the rain: friendly, curious, and, of course, hungry. Chris took him home, but somehow I ended up with him. I have no idea how old Ike is, but I'd guess he's a year or two, and prior to my taking him for his first set of shots a couple of weeks ago, I'd bet that he's never seen a vet because he's still, uh...intact.

This did not go unnoticed by 6-year-old Xander, who said, after watching Ike walk through my kitchen a couple of weeks ago: "Judi, I think there might be something wrong with Ike, because, have you noticed? He's a little, uh, swollen in the back."

Swollen indeed, a fact that is scheduled to be remedied bright and early tomorrow morning...and insofar as I'm concerned, not a moment too soon.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Getting Organized...

photo from Google Images

The amount of junk mail I receive each week has become ridiculous. The final straw came the second week in December, when I finally found a brochure, mailed by my company in November, that described our revised health plan benefits. It was stashed inside a bunch of bulk mailing flyers that luckily I'd set aside to sort through before tossing them out. The stashing was done by my mail carrier or a sorter at the post office, not by me. That was simply inconvenient, but in addition I was tired of having to open and shred the endless credit card offers and blank checks sent "in case you need some extra cash", and I was tired of worrying what could happen should those checks fall into the wrong hands.

Last week I decided to do something about it. I finally went to and opted out. This is a site developed by the Direct Marketing Association to help people manage their mail by opting out of receiving catalogues, credit offers, magazine offers and other mail offers. It’s free, and you have the option of starting or stopping mail from individual companies or from entire categories. It takes about 10 minutes to do this. You have to provide personal information, but the site is legitimate, and in the coming months, I hope to see the difference in my mailbox.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Very Rich Life...

Sunday night Mike and Chris were in the living room with their girlfriends, playing Scattergories and drinking a little wine in front of the fireplace. I removed the garlands from the stairs on Saturday, and Mike and A took the tree down Sunday afternoon, bagged it and put it into the garage. Now the couches are back facing each other in front of the fireplace, and with the velvet slipcovers, a red amaryllis on the front hall table and a trio of big ivory candles on the piano, the house looks like winter, but not like Christmas.

Taking down and putting away the decorations is always bittersweet for me. Putting them up, I find myself buoyed by the happy anticipation of the holiday ahead, but taking them down…there’s a bit of sadness in that, always. When I was a young mother this was no time for contemplation. There was barely time to catch my breath. There was a whirlwind of activity year round when my kids were young. Taking down and putting away Christmas decorations was simply something that had to be done because at the end of the month, Ali would have her birthday, and we’d be getting ready for that; then February brought Valentine’s Day; spring break came in March followed by Easter in late March or early April; A’s birthday in early April; the end of school in May; beginning of summer vacation in June; fireworks, picnics and perhaps a family trip to South Padre Island or Colorado in July; Mike and Chris' birthday and the start of school again in August; Labor Day and my birthday in September; Halloween in October; Kath’s birthday and Thanksgiving in November and voila…back to December and another Christmas. In addition, there were school open houses, music lessons, swimming lessons, band concerts, science fair projects, book fairs, volunteering, scouts, pets to care for, dinners with friends and family, rooms to paint, grass to cut, leaves to rake, grad school classes, papers to write…”A very rich life”, Aunt Mimi once said to me, and it turns out that she was quite right, although I barely had time to reflect on that comment when she made it.

Now I'm an empty nester, a thing that I’ve joked about, and yet in many ways it's no joke. Everyone who has children must eventually deal with having an empty nest. There's loneliness in having them gone, of course, but I think that one of the hardest things about being parents of young adults is that it forces us to redefine ourselves, yet again, just when we thought we had it figured out.

Because if I simply look at my calendar now, it’s not all that different from when I was a young mother. It’s true that it’s no longer filled with reminders of scout meetings and music lessons, but many of the events remain the same: Ali’s birthday will always be at the end of January; February 14th will continue to be Valentine’s Day, etc. It's not that the events themselves have changed, but my role in these events has changed considerably. And yet, to add to the confusion, in some ways my role is the same as ever. I'll always send Ali a gift for her birthday, because I'm her mother. But now that she's grown and not a child living under my roof, I don't spend January 29th scrambling to bake a cake for her, or making a late night run to the grocery store for flowers and croissants so she can have breakfast in bed on her birthday on the 30th.

When our children are young, our role as parents is clearly defined: we're simply counted on to take care of everything, in all situations. Hungry? Cold? Scared? Kid down the block bothering you? Want new skates? Who do you turn to? But as our children grow up that changes. We're still Mom and Dad, but we're no longer primary, and although that may be a bitter pill to swallow at times, it's absolutely essential to accept it. It's the goal of having children, after all, or should be: to raise them to the point that they are able to be successful in making their way in the world without us.

I was reminded how my role has changed on Saturday, when six of us were going to the DMA to see the Tut exhibit. I’d planned and organized that outing the same way that I’ve planned activities for my family my entire life, including going online and buying and printing out the tickets. But when it came time to drive to the exhibit, I was reminded that things have changed: it's no longer essential that I, as their mother, drive them anywhere. There were six of us going to the DMA, but my car seats just five, so we had to take two cars. Mike and Chris immediately opted to drive together with Brooke and Stephanie, leaving A and me to drive together in my car. There is some grace to be had in having a partner with whom to share this transition, and, happily for me, that applies even though we’re divorced. I looked at A and smiled in amusement: “You realize, we’re now officially The Old People,” I said, and I added, “How did that happen?” I remember, like it was yesterday, when we were The Young People, and like Mike and Chris, there was absolutely no question that we’d have preferred to drive with our friends rather than with our parents. Ah, well, the more things change, and all that.

There are people who aren't able to make this transition, who become bitter. I don’t want to be one of them. I want to grow old gracefully, and to move on with a sense of adventure, and my sense of humor intact, into the new roles that await me as time goes by.

Longfellow described it eloquently, in one of my favorite poems (Morituri Salutamus):
Shall we sit idly down and say
The night hath come; it is no longer day?
The night hath not yet come; we are not quite
Cut off from labor by failing light;
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Monday Photo Shoot #19 - Naptime

chaise in winter

Photograph what NAP TIME means to you! Do you have a favorite place to take a quick NAP? Extra Credit: Show me a favorite blanket, comforter, afghan, throw or pillow that is essential to your NAP TIME routine! If you want to play too, click HERE.

It's time again for Carly's Monday Photo Shoot. The subject this week is what Nap Time means to each of us. My favorite place to curl up and take a quick nap is this chaise, which occupies a sunny corner in my bedroom. I'd wanted a chaise for years, but nothing ever felt quite right until this one, which is incredibly comfortable. I bought it at Crate and Barrel several years ago, but I came very close to not getting it. I loved it from the moment I first saw and sat in it, but I thought it was too expensive, and accordingly I held off buying it, thinking maybe it would eventually go on sale but one was gone. When I asked, I was told that it was no longer available because C&B had discontinued carrying it. I kicked myself for not buying it when I had the chance, and for several months I searched high and low for something similar, to no avail. However, apparently it was quite popular, and later that year, they brought it back. As soon as I discovered it was available again, I bought it. I've never regretted it. Sick kids (who shall go unnamed), recovering from having wisdom teeth removed and other events requiring a bit of TLC, half grown and feeling too old to spend the night with Mom, have nevertheless been comfortable spending a night or two on that chaise, within earshot should they need anything. For that comfort alone, it's more than paid for itself. It's one piece of furniture I can't imagine being without, no matter how small a place I eventually move into. It has a plain white slipcover, but I throw different quilts over it, depending on the season, and I usually add a comforter and pillow for good measure. For the winter, it's this red and white quilt, with a red velvet pillow and red woven throw for a little extra comfort.

Here's what it looks like in summer and fall:

chaise blue

Chaise lounge  IMG_4175

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Flying Solo

dan fogelberg - same auld lang syne II

On Christmas Day an old friend called to wish me a Merry Christmas. He left voice mails on both my cell phone and my land line, saying it's been too long and he'd like to get together soon for scotch and oysters. There was a time when a call from this guy would have caused my heart to pound almost out of my chest, and I have to admit, when I saw his name on the caller ID and heard his voice on my voicemail, I felt a catch in my chest, as if my heart had skipped a beat and I couldn’t quite catch my breath…and I knew with absolute certainty that if I allowed myself, I could still give in to that, could still feel “an old weakness comin’ on strong”, even after all this time. It took a moment to come back to myself, for the room to stop spinning, but then my hard-earned, carefully honed sense of self-preservation kicked in and the floor was again firm beneath my feet, and I smiled, poured myself a glass of wine, and busied myself with things to help me not think about returning his call, at least not immediately.

When I first got divorced I assumed I’d eventually marry again. I enjoy the pleasure of my own company, and am quite capable of entertaining myself; I have no fear of going out to dinner or to a concert or movie by myself, so this wasn’t a fear of being alone. I’m fiercely independent, and even while married, I always required a certain amount of time by myself for what Bettelheim (out of favor now, I know, but he was right about this), called “changing of the masks”. But getting divorced, more than ever I became aware that I longed for someone with whom to share a meal and a glass of wine, someone with whom to talk and yes, someone with whom to make love, and curl up and fall asleep. I love intimacy, and I longed for someone to know me so well he’d know the weight of my wrist on his heart in the night, as Ondaatje so eloquently writes in The English Patient. Getting divorced, I longed for someone to love.

In therapy at the time, I confessed all of this to my therapist. I remember, because I found it maddening at the time, that she smiled patiently as she assured me that even if this didn’t happen and I ended up alone, I’d be fine.

“But I’m not sure that I will!”
I wailed.

“Yes,” she said firmly, “You will! You absolutely will be fine!”

It took some time, and a number of bad relationships (most of which I can now laugh about, thank goodness), before I began to believe that maybe she was right after all. Now, some 10 years after the last time I sat weeping in her office, I'm finally at a point in my life where I'm comfortable not only being alone, but knowing that I may be alone ad infinitum. And yet I have to admit, for this guy to call again, after all this time, rocked my world a bit. I know him so well (or did), maybe better than he knew himself. He's funny and bright and capable of being quite tender, but introspection was not one of his strengths, at least not when we were together. At the risk of sounding cynical, after thinking about it, I think the most likely reason for his call after all this time is that something has happened for which he requires consolation. He always came to me for consolation, and I was always pretty good at providing it. But although I'm good at providing it, I'm at a point in my life where I've come to realize that I'm not willing to be his (or anyone else's) consolation prize.

Of course, I could be wrong. That may not be the reason he called at all. I called him back on New Year's Eve, midday, when I knew the chances of reaching him would be slim. I was counting on getting his voicemail, and I was successful. I left a message saying I was happy to hear from him and that scotch and oysters sounded great. If experience is any indicator, the crisis, whatever it was, has passed and he'll be too busy to follow up.

But all of this has made me think...would I still like to have some bright, funny guy to share my life with? Yes, I would, but as my friend R always says: "better an empty flat than a bad tenant"...and so until/unless I find that guy, I'll be flying solo.