Sunday, January 27, 2008

Super hungry

I volunteered for the Greater Boston Food Bank's Super Hunger Brunch today - at Eastern Standard Kitchen in Kenmore Square. For $25, individuals got to choosy from tasty brunch entrees off a prix-fixe menu. I sat with Amy and Jeff and took cash, chatted with wait staff, and generally thanked people for giving 100% of the cost of their brunch to feed hungry people in Greater Boston. I'm good.

Why did I do this? For the free food. In exchange for our volunteerism, Amy, Jeff and I got to order off the prix-fixe menu. I got the smoked trout pate with baby beet green salad with hard boiled eggs. All of its mouth watery goodness is pictured at right.

While you're drooling, pencil in January 2009 as Super Hunger Month and plan to attend this excellent charity event NEXT year. I know I will.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tuna salad

This is a picture of the seared tuna salad nicoise I made for dinner. They say the neighborhood in which I live was the "Paris of the 90's." This beautiful salad makes me feel like I'm in Paris, or maybe sunny Lyon. Oh France, is there anything you can't do?

The Numbers and Letters Game

My sister called me today, with my mom on the other line, to direct me to a website they were both reading with tears in their eyes - a humorous look back in time at the 1977 J.C. Penney catalogue. I encourage you to check it out because it is quite amusing.

And it reminded me of a weird game my siblings and I played with the J.C. Penney catalogue back in our poor and covetous days. The Numbers and Letters Game. This is how it worked.

Materials needed:
One J.C. Penney catalogue
Eager and wanting children

The rules:
1. Every eager and wanting child who played got to choose one number and one letter of the alphabet before the catalogue was cracked open. The idea was to get the number and letter closest to 1 or A. There was no tricky mechanism by which we selected our numbers and letters - no rock/paper/scissors - just whoever called "1" or "A" the fastest.
2. The eager and wanting children then assembled on the couch, with the catalogue ceremoniously in the lap of whichever child was in the middle of the bunch. If there were only two players, they shared the privilege of holding the catalogue.
3. You then went through the catalogue, page by page. The items on the page that corresponded with YOUR number or YOUR letter became "yours."

We would play this for hours - decorating our future houses, creating brand new wardrobes, stuffing our imaginary toy boxes, and outfitting our new fishing boats and basement work rooms. We would go through every single page in the catalogue - from men's casual wear to women's intimates, to housewares and appliances to toys and camping gear. We became the kids on the page who were modeling party dresses and Garanimals, the men in the suits that became ours were our future husbands, and the women in the negligees that corresponded with our number or letter embarrassed us as if we were the ones half naked on the page. If our letter or number resulted in our "getting" something we thought was ugly, we would be disappointed, as if we believed when the game was over our fantasy shopping carts would be neatly packed and ready for us to take to our rooms.

I realize now that we played this game because we were wanting. I come from a good family that struggled to make ends meet. J.C. Penney was the fanciest store we knew, and being able to have whatever you wanted from the fine purveyor of household goods was the most decadent thing we could think of.

What a weird game that was.

Latke as something to do

Due to an email error I thought I was volunteering all day today. When I realized I was in fact volunteering tomorrow, I found myself at a loss for how to spend my day. What else should a girl do when she has a slightly moldy five-pound bag of potatoes in her fridge and a boat load of free time? Make latkes of course?

I love the word latke. It is fun to say, and is in fact a delicious form for the starchy, bland potato. I used a recipe from that I modified to make it a little spicier. I added curry powder and a pinch of cayenne to the bread crumbs as I roasted them, and used one yellow onion (grated) and a bunch of scallions finely chopped. For the record, my latkes were delicious and I feel fulfilled for having made them.

However, it is still only 11:30 in the morning. BMG is sick and I have resolved to not go near him because I DO NOT want to get that cold again. I have exercised (35 minutes in "the zone"), made latkes, planned a wedding shower, wrote a thank you note, and woken up from 10 hours of blissful sleep. It may take me up to 20 minutes to eat the latkes, and then another three hours to morosely lament my piggishness. That will take me to 3:00. Then I can listen to my favorite radio program, which will take me to 4:00. What to do with the rest of the day?

A national hero

I had the privilege of being in Washington, DC this week - a 24-hour business trip to accept an award on behalf of this fair city. My sister and her family live nearby, so she and I arranged to have lunch together. I knew I would still have the afternoon to myself, and was trying to decide which of the DC sights to take in. Did I want to navigate the National Holocaust Museum? Was there an exhibit I was aching to see at the Museum of National History? I had just finished reading the book about the Julie/Julia Project, so maybe I would head over the Museum of American History to see Julia Child's kitchen.

When I finally rendevoused with my sister in Alexandria (VA), the location of her office, she informed me that she had the rest of the afternoon off. She asked if I wanted to go to the National Portrait Gallery - long closed for renovations - to see a portrait of Gen X's national hero, Stephen Colbert, now hanging right outside the Hall of Presidents. So, we zipped back into the City, grabbed a quick noodle lunch in Chinatown, and then headed over to the Gallery.

Having never been in this Museum, we stopped at the information desk and asked where we could find the Hall of Presidents. The docent smiled at us, and noticing our generation slouched lazily around our shoulder, asked what we were here to see. "The Stephen Colbert portrait," I replied, slightly ashamed of my obvious fandom and lack of interest in the real art hanging in this hallowed hall. "Go through the courtyard, up the stairs to the second floor, take a right, and stop at the restrooms," she said. "Okay," I said hesitantly, thinking "How did she know I needed to use the bathroom?" And off we went, joyfully on our slacker adventure.

As we turned right towards the Hall of Presidents, we saw the sign for the bathroom. We approached and both started giggling, seeing Colbert's portrait within a portrait, once hanging on the interview side of the set of his show, hanging between the men's and women's room door, ceremoniously over the gold plated water fountains. Perfect.

Making sushi

BMG and I made sushi while on an international tour of the Boston area last weekend. Here are the photos:
1. Buying fish at the Boston Fish Pier:

2. Driving through Chinatown en route to home - trying to keep the car chilly as we now have pounds of fish and sushi acoutremont in the car:

3. Making a quick stop for a snack at the cheese store in the South End (we couldn't help ourselves):

(International interlude: After we got the fish home, but before we made sushi, we went out for Mexican at a local restaurant. I had spicy chicken livers, a salad, and too much sangria.)
4. At the Pan Asian grocery store:

5. FINALLY, starting sushi. First, sushi rice:

6. Sushi prior to being rolled:

7. Our plate of sushi, with a salmon roe hand roll in the front of the photo:

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I was eating some fat free Jell-o brand tapioca pudding today, and started to wonder "What exactly IS tapioca, and why does it make pudding taste so good?"

I love google. I typed in "Who invented tapioca pudding?" and came up with this, from The Library of Congress:

In 1894, a sailor became ill in Boston. His landlady offered to make him a pudding from the cassava roots he had brought from his journeys. The pudding proved tasty, but to create a smoother consistency, the sailor suggested first putting the roots through a coffee grinder. The creamy tapioca pudding was a hit with her boarders. That year, J. S. Whitman bought the landlady’s recipe rights and the Minute Tapioca Co. was born.

"Hmmmm," I think. "Tapioca pudding as I know it doesn't taste creamy. I mean the pudding tastes creamy, but what about the pearls inside. What's THAT all about?"

So I dig a little more, and find this, on Yahoo something or other:

Tapioca pudding is a common pudding with tapioca pearls added to a vanilla pudding. It can be discerned from other types of pudding by the small, translucent and almost caviar-like orbs of tapioca within. Tapioca is a starch derived from the root of the cassava plant, also known as manioc. The root requires processing to withdraw tapioca in the form of flakes, seeds or pearls. Cassava is native to South and Central America. It is now produced in Africa and Asia.

So we've all learned something today. Thanks for reading, and enjoy your pudding!

Seven things I WISH I could believe in

There is a sweet, sappy and sentimental movement among bloggers right now - a movement to have bloggers write about seven things they believe in.

I sat down with BMG yesterday and found myself unable to play the optimistic game. To my chagrin, I found it easier to list tings I wish I could believe in. So, in the interest of being a contrarian, here is my list of seven things I wish I could believe in:
1. The inherent goodness of people
2. The power of democracy
3. Santa Claus
4. Splenda
5. The Pledge of Allegiance
6. The Flying Spaghetti Monster Theory of Evolution
7. Following the diet and exercise habits of the stars can make me look like one of them

Okay, so maybe I just needed to get that negative phlegm off of my conscience. Here are seven things I CAN believe in:
1. Paying it forward
2. Nurture AND nature as determinants of human behavior
3. Comprehensive sexuality education
4. The European way of life
5. The beauty of food
6. Half-men, half trees
7. Being honest, gentle, loving, strong and good

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The ultimate junk mail

I haven't collected my mail from the front of the house for over a week. I know the little box is bulging and my 2008 parking permits are probably there. I think I'm avoiding the mail because there are also two fresh, brand-spanking new telephone books out there, dropped off by some poor schmuck being paid minimum wage to deliver these yellow booster seats to people's front porches.

This is the ultimate junk mail. I don't want it, I don't use it. I simply walk the yellow books from the front porch to the side porch, where I promptly dispose of them in the recycling bin.

Whose idea was it to create this book that then gets delivered to the home of every person in the world? Apparently it was the idea of the Reuben H. Donnelly Company in New Haven, CT in 1878, followed by geniuses in Britain in 1880, and then Chicago in 1886.

Okay, so maybe in the 19th Century this was useful. But we're now in the 21st Century. I use my computer or my friends for service referrals. Never a phone book. Am I an anomaly? Some statistics say that 70.2% of the U.S. population is now connected to or otherwise using the Internet. I'll concede that there are still 29.8% not using the Internet and maybe half of the 70% don't have home computers so can't use them as telephone references. I don't know how many children figure into this amount, so estimate 15%. That's 1/2 the population that maybe uses the phone book as a reference tool. And 1/2 the population that takes the stupid book off the porch and promptly deposits it into the recycling bin. And, to make matters worse, there are TWO sets of yellow pages, because apparently there is a need to compete in this declining market. OMG! What a waste!


Imagine my disappointment when, while feverishly trying to pop the final medicated throat lozenge out of its blister pack so I could suck on it before I had to host my cable access television program, the red lozenge slipped out of the foil casing, through my hands, and promptly fell into a dirty mud puddle.

I wondered, for maybe a second, if the 5-second rule would apply to sore throat lozenges in the street.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Learning beyond my limits

Flipping channels tonight I stumbled upon a program on "The Learning Channel" about a man who has a mysterious medical condition that has caused his hands and feet to grow into tree-like appendages. Seriously. He can't use his hands and feet to work, do basic household tasks (he is raising two children alone because his wife left him), or hug another human being. The video footage made me feel seriously nauseous and gave new meaning to the type of question asked at co-ed slumber parties hosted by UU parents for their hippie kids. "If you were a tree what kind of tree would you be and why?"

I love train wreck television, but this pushed me over the edge.

I did a quick web search to find out exactly what I had seen (if you follow this link be warned that it contains pictures I find to be extraordinarily disturbing), and then chose to watch and read no further.

I learned tonight that there are limits to the human horror I can bear witness to. Thank you TLC.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Snow storm in my sunconscious*

One of the responsibilities of my job is to communicate school cancellations to everyone and their brother. In anticipation of a snow storm tomorrow my boss has cancelled school. There is a 100% chance of snow, so it is probably a good call.

So this is what I have to do:
1. Set up an auto-dialing message that will be delivered to the home of every student, staff member and interested party letting them know school is cancelled tomorrow.
2. Making sure our interpreter team is sending the same message in Spanish and Portuguese.
3. Asking our web technician to post the school cancellation on our website.
4. Asking the City Communication Director to post the school cancellation on the City website and on the City's cable access television channels.
5. Informing the senior administrative team, the elected School Committee members, and the City's 311 operators that school cancellation messages are due out in (10 minutes and counting).
6. And finally, tomorrow morning, I need to get up early early early and call six different media storm centers to change the status of my school district from "open" to "closed."

BMG finds this all interesting and fun as an expression of my power. I find it anxiety provoking. I'm afraid of making a mistake, of screwing it up somehow, or not getting the message to the right people. This is all rather silly because (a) my boss told me to do it, and (b) everything is done via automated systems, so if I screw up it is only because the systems screwed up.

There is a cosmic lesson in here, if I can focus enough to find it. What is making me so anxious? I've always felt this way about doing the school closure messages. So this isn't about being under a particular sort of stress that accentuates my neuroses. If I close my eyes and ask "What am I afraid of?" what I hear back is "I'm going to miss something." This is not about being afraid of my power. It is about my fear of not being perfect, and my fear of being blamed if something goes wrong. My fear of not being perfect. And what happens if I'm not perfect in the eyes of authority? I get abandoned.

This is a snow storm in my subconscious that even now, after ten years of reflection and hard work, I'm still digging out from.


*The word sunconscious in the title is a typo - it should be subconscious. But, it was a typo of Freudian proportions too good to fix.

Naked on a subway

So there were people around the United States riding subways wearing only their underwear yesterday. One of the goals of the 3-hour underpants adventure, according to the organizer who was interviewed in The Boston Globe? "To give people something to talk about."

Are our lives so vacuous that we need to be inspired by people in underwear on public transportation in order to find something to talk about with one another?

It's over

My seven month journey into the Land of Hyrule is over. I have defeated the biggest baddest bossiest monster in Nintendo 64's Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and saved all the people. I'm certain that my visit to church this morning with BMG and Coop, where the pastor talked about getting into the "flow" and acting by not acting allowed me to channel the power needed to complete the game. I'm great.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I turned the radio off in disgust today while listening to a popular liberal radio talk show while the pompous host waxed philosophical about the next wave of predictions in the 2008 presidential primaries. Republication Mitt Romney is apparently betting the store on a win in the great state of Michigan - his birthplace and the state where his father was once Governor. They played a campaign stump speech sound bite, in which the Mitt-ster can be heard saying, "I know the difference between a Ford, a Chevy and a Dodge, and this place (apparently Michigan) feels like home. I know I can count on the voters in Michigan to vault my presidential bid towards success." As Mitty-McMittsie wraps up, the crowd erupts into cheers.

This wasn't what led me to vehemently turn the radio off.

Nope, the radio pundit's next espousal of great truth is what led to the Public Radio Free Gretchen. At least for about 45 seconds until I was sure the stupidity was over.

This is what he said (and I paraphrase liberally), with a tone in inquiring surprise. "Well, it sounds like Romney is putting all his eggs in a Michigan basket. But, it looks like John McCain is also gearing up to win in the state. Let's hear from his campaign today." And they fade to a clip where McCain says HE is going to win in Michigan, and his supporters erupt into eerily familiar cheers.

Well DUH! Did the radio personality expect to hear this from the John McCain's Straight Talk Express?

"I'd really like to think I can win in Michigan, but my competitor, Mr. Romney, has bet the farm on this great state, so I'm going to back off. Thanks for your support, but I suggest you vote for Mr. Romney."

Are Americans so stupid that we need to have public radio explain to us that there is a high stakes competition between the Republican and Democratic candidates?

Maybe they are.

Consider this story reported in The Boston Globe today:

A man who filed a lawsuit contending that he failed the Massachusetts bar exam because he refused to answer a "morally repugnant" question about same-sex marriage says he has since changed his views on gay rights.

"After speaking with numerous members of the gay community, including my own friends, I began to empathize with their denial of basic human rights and how they feel discriminated against," Stephen Dunne said in a phone interview yesterday with the Associated Press.

Dunne, an Irish immigrant who first came to the United States in 1998, said the change also was prompted in part by racism the Irish once faced in the United States, his six-year stint in the US Army, and the war in Iraq.

"Members of the gay community are in combat and dying for their country, and yet they're being denied the basic human rights they are fighting for," he said.

Dunne first apologized for being an "instrument of bigotry and prejudice" in an e-mail published in the Jan. 3 edition of Bay Windows, a weekly Boston newspaper.

In the letter, he said his "misguided" lawsuit "regrettably perpetuated intolerance and animosity towards my fellow Americans."

Dunne, 31, was denied a license to practice law in May after scoring 268.866 on the exam, just short of the passing mark of 270. He sought $9.75 million in the federal lawsuit filed in June against the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Dunne said his score was hurt because he refused to answer an exam question addressing the rights of two married lesbians, their children, and their property during a divorce. He said the question legitimized same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting, contrary to his moral beliefs.

He called the question a "disguised mechanism to screen applicants according to their political ideology" and said it "has the discriminatory impact of persecuting and oppressing sincere religious practices and beliefs" protected by the First Amendment.

The suit also challenged the constitutionality of the Supreme Judicial Court's 2003 decision that made same-sex marriage legal in Massachusetts.

But in October, Dunne, who represented himself in the case, asked that the lawsuit be dismissed, saying in a motion that "defendants have removed the patently offensive and morally repugnant question" from the exam.

It was unclear whether the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners removed the question because of the lawsuit, and the board did not return messages left yesterday for comment.

Dunne, who is Roman Catholic, said yesterday that he no longer found the question objectionable and still considers himself deeply religious.

"Christ said: 'Love all. Serve all,' " he said. "It was a message of inclusion, rather than exclusion."

Lee Swislow, executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said she believed that Dunne's apology was honest.

"I think it is genuine, because I have seen so many other people make similar journeys," she said. "He just made his publicly."

Dunne dismissed critics who think he is just changing his view to avoid appearing bigoted when applying for jobs. He said he plans to work for himself.

Dunne, who has been studying 60 hours per week while working at a Boston law firm, said he expects to pass when he takes the bar exam again next month.

What is THIS all about? Why was this not thrown out of court? Can I sue Denny's for hiring homophobes who I may have to come in contact with when I share a Grand Slam with BMG late at night? Can I sue KFC because they use the color red in their corporate logo and I'm colorblind so I am not as able to enjoy the delightful visage of the Colonel beckoning me to enjoy their tasty chicken? How entitled is the person who chooses not to answer an exam question for moral reasons and then fails said exam and then decides to sue on grounds of discrimination? This person should be sent to good citizen boot camp.

That's a good idea, good citizen boot camp. I think I'll work on that. Or maybe I'll just pour myself a drink.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Two new parks for the "tick" list

I'm talking about my evolving list of National Parks I have visited. It has been a sad sad TWO YEARS since I've been to a National Park (I bagged three that visit - Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountain, and, on a lark, Big Bend - the picture at right is from Big Bend). While I think of national parks monthly, I am yearning for a little organized fun in a park complete with guided trails, glossy brochures, and miles and miles of unspoiled wilderness all being protected with my tax dollars.

BMG and I are starting to narrow our sights on a trip to Florida where I'll get to visit the Everglades National Park and MAYBE the Dry Tortugas off the southern coast of the muggy and buggy state that boasts the legendary Fountain of Youth among its national treasures. We may also go to Disney World, which has some hotels that are inspired by national parks, but alas, is not a national park.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

So tied

I had a nearly sleepless night last night. I'm bleary-eyed and grumpy about having to work this morning. And, this, I believe, was the crux of my slumber issues. I am convinced that my reticence to go to work today prevented me from sleeping last night.

"Huh?" you say?

This is what I think happened. I believed that if I fell asleep, the next thing that would happen would be the stupid alarm waking me up with its gentle light and me having to start the grind. So, in an effort to not have to go to work, I was unable to go to sleep. (I came up with this theory while trying to lull myself to sleep at 1:45 AM.)

And, here is the worst part, when I FINALLY fell asleep, I dreamed about work. AUGH!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Unabashed commercial plug

Today I am speaking in favor of Vera Wang-brand jammies at Kohl's. Yes, Kohl's. Not a bastion of fabulousness - more like a J.C. Penney of the 21st Century. Nevertheless, with the help of Dear Coop, with whom I was shopping on Saturday, I discovered these glorious garments. "Simply Vera" pajamas are simply the most comfortable and beautiful sleeping clothes - often two adjectives that do not go together in pajama-land - I have ever ever worn. Go to Kohl's and buy them. I implore you.