Saturday, December 31, 2011

From hermys to clownface

I've changed the address of my blog from to


  • Clownface3 is my nom de Twitter (aka to some as my "brand"). Three years (four?) into my blogging adventure I've decided to consolidate my brands.
  • Hermy, the hamster I named my blog after, died and was replaced by a hamster named "Steven." The Collected Works of Steven is just a stupid name for a blog.

I invite my two followers to change their bookmarks to the new address....NOW!

Friday, December 30, 2011


Would it be considered ironic to say, "Now that my car was wrecked by a bus I have NO WAY to get to work," if, in fact, the only way to get to work is on a bus?

I don't think it is ironic. It just sucks.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011: The year in review

Let's take a look at the milestones of 2011, at least in my personal universe:

January is neutral:
Same old, same old

February is not so great:
Travel to beautiful Sanibel Island, FL to visit my "MIL" and "FIL." "FIL" is dying, so this visit is, in many ways, about saying good-bye to him in a place he loves. Tear ducts - and heart - are preparing for the inevitable.

March is neutral:
The pallor of death casts over everything, making the same old, same old feel hard.

April sucks:
"FIL" dies - devastated beyond belief.

May is high and low:
Prearranged, week-long trip to the Happiest Place on Earth with BMG, my mother, youngest sister and her family. Contrary to all expectations, we have a great time.

The day we get back from Disney World, my favorite cat (sorry Ducky) is struck by a car and killed. Devastation again.

June is steely:
Inspired by a friend who quotes Goethe in Panera, I decide it is really time to look for a new job.

I celebrate my birthday by buying a kayak. Summer fun here I come!

July is neutral:
Same old, same old. Knowing I'll be leaving my job soon (can you say confident?) I don't take a vacation.

August is great:
Bad economy be damned! I have a new job! Quitting the old job is tough, but 100% the right thing to do. I run the Warrior Dash with my friend Sarah and my sister E.

September is great:
Start the new job - transitions are hard and I find them energizing.

October has ups & downs:
Funeral for friend Ellen's mom early in the month, grand opening of Massachusetts' firstWegman's store, and a late month trip to Baltimore to visit with my sister and her kids make this an active and emotionally neutral month.

November is a mixed bag:
Another trip to Florida (that's three this year) for Thanksgiving with BMG and his family; celebrating without the "FIL" is emotionally difficult. I'm glad I'm only there for 3 days.

On the plus side, we are approved for a mortgage to buy our house, and meet with our architect to discuss extensive renovations.

December is a mixed bag:
Happy about Christmas (participate in a sing-a-long in downtown Boston, have a great party at Brasserie JO with BMG and our friend Ellen). We close on the house.

Having my car decommissioned by an MBTA bus puts a damper on the celebratory spirit. A funeral for Lardito's dad was beautiful, and reopened some wounds.


How would I characterize 2011? A year with an enormous amount of major changes. Two deaths, new house AND new job? That is a lot of change for one year. And it will only continue as BMG and I prepare to turn our lives upside down with a major home renovation in 2012.

Looking back on 2011 a toast starts to rattle around in my brain. On new year's eve I will life my winestein high and say,

"Here's to coming out on the other side of 2011 stronger because of all the changes - stronger in attitude and spirit. May 2012 bring more quiet moments to enjoy the blessing of my life from the vantage point of my bike, my kayak or my skis."

Happy end to 2011 and happy 2012!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Electric Company

Yesterday I happened upon a Twitter chat instigated by the White House. They asked Tweeple (that's Twitter lingo for Twitter users) to post, in 140 characters or less, what $40 dollars means to them.

Assuming the White House is ostensibly collecting posts to use in their fight with Congress over the passage of economic relief bills, I post this in reply:

One of the ways Twitter works is people follow hashtags to track global conversations. So, apparently at least 30 people tracking the #40dollars conversation saw my post. And they responded in one of three ways:
  • So jealous of your low electricity bill
  • You must be lying about your low electricity bill
  • Vote Republication to keep your electricity bill low.
This morning I sent the following tweet to 29 people:

And STILL I got what my youngest sister calls "guff." The gestalt? More "You must be lying about your electric bill" or I obviously live in a developing nation.

Neither is true. Here's proof:

Our electric bill hovers around $40-$65 per month. Why?
  • We use compact fluorescent bulbs
  • We have a new fridge and dryer - both of which are energy star rated
  • We are a tiny family of two (+ a cat, who doesn't use any electricity to speak of)
  • We turn off lights we aren't using
  • We have (expensive) oil heat
  • Our town manages our electric company; we aren't dependent on National Grid, NYMo, insert evil electric company name here.
I'm sure there are other reasons why our electric bill is so low. And I'm tired of justifying it to strangers.

Here's my takeaway:
  • I'm grateful my electric bill is low. It makes high bills (like my student loan payments) more bearable.
  • Municipally-managed electricity is probably better than for-profit concerns.
  • If (or when) you can afford to upgrade, buy energy efficient appliances. It makes a difference.
I hope this is sufficient to stem the tide of cranky Tweets swimming in my stream.

Now go out there cranky people. Conserve energy, be frugal, and stop berating me (and anyone else) for lying just because you don't believe something someone said.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Sugar just isn't good for me."

I like to make and give Christmas cookies to people during the holidays. I give them to the mailman, the trash guy, the lady across the street, and my pharmacist. (I have the BEST pharmacist ever - seriously - Jodi and Ted at Stop & Shop in Hingham rock my medication world.)

I also like to surprise people with cookies. Last year it was my barista at Starbucks. She was so surprised when I walked in with the baked goods wrapped in cellophane she came out from behind the counter and hugged me.

This year I decided to bring cookies to the homeless guy I chat with every morning on my way to work. I never give him cash. But I always give him a smile. And this year I thought I would bring him cookies.

So, on Friday morning, with my cookies in tow, I approached the guy with a "Hello! You're not diabetic, are you?"

"Uhm, no. Why?" he replied suspiciously.

"I've.." I started.

He continued. "But I try not to eat a lot of sugar. I've never liked it, and it just isn't good for me."

Dejected pause.

"Well, I have a bag of cookies I was GOING to give to you. But, I guess I won't. Please know I was trying to spread some Christmas cheer. I feel bad that I never give money, because I look forward to seeing you in the morning."

"You always bring me cheer with your smile," he said kindly.

"Merry Christmas," I replied as I turned the corner towards my office.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Meaning of Gift Giving

"You deserve to get EXACTLY what you want. Always."
-Robbie Cutler

In one of my favorite stories about BMG's dad, who we lost to cancer earlier this year, Robbie brought his own glass of Scotch to a restaurant. When it was empty he asked our waiter to heat his glass in a microwave for 20 seconds before pouring the Scotch.

My jaw dropped. "It never would have occurred to me to ask for that," I said in amazement.

"Why not?" replied BMG's dad.

"Well, it just wouldn't occur to me to ask for a drink - for anything - in any form other than what is described on a menu or expected in a reasonable situation."

"Oh, you should always ask for exactly what you want. Because you deserve to get exactly what you want. Always."


I had a virtual discussion with a friend today about our different perceptions of gift giving at Christmas. The discussion itself is boring, but the upshot is that, in my personal universe, Christmas offers me the opportunity to give the people in my life exactly what they want. Because they deserve it. I take this very seriously.

I also hate wasting money. So, the idea of spending money - any amount - on a gift that isn't perfect almost hurts me. The higher the price point, the more perfect the gift has to be for th recipient.

As a result of these two factors, it is helpful to me to either have options to consider when choosing what to buy for the people I love. I can certainly develop a list of potential gifts for someone, but I am more satisfied if the list can be informed by a (a) very close relationship, (b) direct conversation with the recipient about what s/he wants, or (c) a list from which to choose.

In the absence of an informed list I feel uninspired. My gift giving is a chore, instead of a joyful opportunity to give someone exactly what they want.


How do you approach gift giving? What makes it joyful for you? When is it a chore?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Delicious cookies with an unfortunate name

Eggnog Logs. Weirdly alliterative name. Delicious taste.

These are the cookies I elected to bake for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. These are a dense butter cookie, swathed in rum flavored frosting, and dusted with nutmeg. Three lucky winners, Steff in Austin, Erin in Brooklyn, and Suzy in San Francisco will soon be receiving boxes in the mail with one dozen freshly baked Eggnog Logs.

I vacillated between Eggnog Logs and Norwegian Christmas Rings. Both are sturdy cookies with sugary toppings - holiday cookie staples. But, after extensive customer research, I decided that the Norwegian Christmas Rings, which use hard boiled eggs mashed through a fine sieve (instead of butter) as their creamy base, might be too weird for my new food blogging buddies to taste. So, Eggnog Logs won.

In my earlier, more adventurous cooking days I found the recipe for
Eggnog Logs. Not sure where, or when, but they've been a staple of my holiday baking for nearly 20 years. With that said, here's the recipe:

Eggnog Logs

1 c butter - softened
3/4 c
granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rum flavoring
1 egg
3 c flour
1 tsp nutmeg

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar.
  3. Add egg, vanilla and rum flavoring. Blend well.
  4. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. (After flour is added the dough might get crumbly. At this point I knead by hand to get the dough nice and creamy.)
  5. Shape dough into "logs" about 1/2" wide and 1" long. (I roll by hand into ropes and then slice into logs).
  6. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until golden brown.
While the cookies cool, prepare the rum frosting.

Rum Frosting
3 tbsp butter - softened
1/2 tsp rum flavoring
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 c confectioner's sugar
2-3 tbsp milk.

Mix butter, rum flavoring, vanilla and 1/2 c of confectioner's sugar together. Gradually add the remaining 1 & 1/2 c of sugar and up to 3 tbsp of milk. Tint the frosting if you choose. (I never choose to - who ever heard of a red log?)

When cookies are cool frost them. Draw the tines of a fork lengthwise through the frosting. Dust with nutmeg.

Merry Christmas and happy eating!

PS: Are you an adventurous baker? Want to try the Norwegian Christmas Rings? Here's the recipe.

Norwegian Christmas Rings
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 & 1/4 c confectioner's sugar
1 c. + 1 tbsp butter - softened
vanilla (few drops)
2 & 1/3 c flour
1 egg yolk - beaten
sugar crystals
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Boil (3) eggs 10-12 minutes. Peel in cold water and strain through a fine sieve.
  3. Stir in 1 egg yolk and confectioner's sugar.
  4. Gradually work in butter and vanilla
  5. Knead to make a soft dough.
  6. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. After chilling, roll dough into 4" pieces approximately 1/4" wide. Brush the ends of each piece with egg yolk and form into rings.
  8. Brush tops of rings egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar crystals.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Eat and enjoy!

Joy to the world, er, I mean to me

What joy do the holidays, er, let's face it, I mean Christmas. What joy does Christmas bring to you?

I ask because my Twitter buddy Robyn shared this status update yesterday: "Remember, people, the holidays are conquered one day at a time. Do a little every day and you'll get through."

I LOVE Christmas. I love them so much that I had my outdoor twinkle lights turned on at my house before Thanksgiving this year. The idea of slogging through, or approaching the season with the marauding energy of Attila the Hun, makes my skin crawl. This is the time of year when I want to slow down so I can savor the smell of the tree, reflect on the holiday greetings hanging from the mantle, feel the anticipation of Christmas morning, when my carefully selected presents are finally opened. I want to wring every last moment of joy from them.

But I don't do anything that I don't enjoy. (This is why I don't have kids, and am not a lawyer or investment banker.)

Apparently neither does Robyn's friend Laura, who wrote early in the virtual Facebook discussion, "When some part of the holidays starts to feel like a wretched chore, it's time to drop or change it. Seriously."

Amen* to that! So I "liked" it.

And I started to think, "What are the parts of Christmas that bring me joy? Am I doing all of them?"

Here's my list of holiday joys:
  • Having and seeing outdoor light displays, from the ridiculous to the serene
  • Browsing elaborate holiday displays; it doesn't matter what is on the display - ornaments, candy, socks - if there is a Christmas feel and an abundance of items on the display I'm all over it like a moth to a flame
  • Researching unique - but not extravagant - gifts for, and then shopping for family and friends
  • Elaborately wrapping gifts and artfully displaying them under the tree
  • Baking cookies, (but not eating them so I give them all away)
  • Listening to and singing traditional carols
  • Choosing, decorating, and then watching the tree (mine is lit as I write this)
  • Opening and displaying holiday greetings that arrive by mail (The Golden Rule or karma or whatever, dictates that I then need to send cards)
  • Spending time with my family - opening gifts, eating special foods, and playing with our new toys
What brings joy to you at the holidays? Are you getting enough of it this year? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, or head over to my Facebook page to add your $0.02.

*Does the Christian alternative to Facebook have an "Amen to that" button instead of the "Like" button? It should.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Now let us sing, sing, sing, sing!

On Saturday, December 3rd at noon at the Christian Science Plaza, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus will attempt to break the World's Record for the Most Carolers Singing (Carols) Together (for at least 15 continuous minutes). The current record is 9,100 people, set in November 2010 in Adelaide, Australia.

So I'm going. I HAVE to go. I'm not a joiner as a general rule, but this is an extraordinary event. How many opportunities does a girl have to be part of a group trying to break a World's Record? And for something as fun as singing carols? Well, not carols plural. Just one carol. As I understand it the group will be singing "Joy to the World" for 15 minutes. Regardless, it is going to be fun!

In 2010 the BSO tried (and failed) to break the record in December 2010. This year, because I'll be there, they'll break the record.

I'd LOVE for my Boston friends to join me. Here's the scoop on being part of the fun. I'll be at P.F. Changs outside the Pru at 11:15 AM. No later than 11:25 - ideally before - I'll head across the street to become part of the caroling scrum at the Christian Science Plaza.

I have NO idea what to expect. A handful of questions run through my head. How will they count us? Will we get sheet music? How many people can fit at the Christian Science Plaza?

While there are many things I don't expect to know until I show up on Saturday, I would like to know if you plan to join me. Drop me a note in the comments section or on my Facebook page so we can work out our rendezvous plans. And afterwards, we can grab cocoa or a martini somewhere?

Happy holidays!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Can this be real?

BMG and I signed our "Purchase and Sales" agreement last night. We finish our mortgage application on Saturday. We meet our architect on Monday.

Are we seriously buying and renovating a house? In the suburbs? Because we've strategically decided this is the best route to have enough money to eventually buy a condo in the city?

I'm having a Talking Heads moment as I contemplate the idea of us moving from wish talk to real life.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Great Cookie Swap

Thanks to my Twitter buddy, @cavecibum, I'm now participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

This means I have to ship one dozen cookies to three separate people by December 5th. And...I have to post the recipe here. (Oh, and I get three dozen cookies mailed to me.)

Think I'll crowd source this one.

Which Christmas cookie would YOU want to get in the mail from a stranger?

I'll be baking the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Look forward to getting your thoughts before then!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tolerating Intolerance

This middle-aged body has become lactose intolerant in the last six months. As the current partner and roommate of the provocateur at cheese and other dairy treats have been an essential part of my life for a long time.

Needless to say, lactose intolerance is taking some adjustment.

I've been moving through Kubler-Ross' stages of grief as I mourn the loss of cheese. I started with denial. "What" This can't be true. It must be a stomach bug."

So I kept eating cheese and dairy. And I kept feeling bloated, crampy and uncomfortable.

Now? I vacillate between anger, bargaining, and depression.

What does this look like? I'm testing the boundaries of what I can and cannot eat (bargaining).
  • A little bit of blue cheese on a salad - ok
  • Caesar salad with Parmesan shavings - most assuredly not ok
  • Homemade pizza with glassy soy cheese - fine, if you go for that sort of thing
  • North End pizza with mozzarella - stomach churning
  • Hollandaise on eggs Benedict - fine
  • Croque madame at Brasserie Jo - never again
  • Saag paneer - not so bad in small amounts
  • Sour cream-based veggie dip - also do-able in small amounts
And the anger? The depression? At the grocery store, in restaurants and watching Top Chef and other food shows on tv when I realize there is one more thing to add to my list of foods I'll ever be able to eat a full (or even a half) serving of again:
  1. Ice cream (Don't give me that "But you can have sorbet!" b.s. Sorbet is NOT the same as ice cream)
  2. Grilled cheese sandwiches
  3. Macaroni and cheese
  4. New England clam chowder
  5. Yogurt
  6. Chicken cordon bleu (I didn't eat this a lot, or ever, but now I want it simply because I can't have it)
  7. Cottage cheese
  8. Nachos
The Lactaid pills (and their generic equivalent) don't seem to have much impact on the issue, and I'd rather just avoid the food that makes me feel so uncomfortable, than put my body through the turmoil of having to adjust to something I naturally shouldn't be eating.

And over time I'll pass into acceptance. I smile wryly when I hear myself saying "I love soy milk and coconut milk ice cream WAY better the original," and can see the bright side of savoring a nibble - rather than a gobble - of fine cheese when we visit places like Formaggio and Farmstead. This is my body. I can't fight it, so instead I'm trying to tolerate my intolerance.

Have you adjusted to lactose intolerance? How'd you do it? If you HAD to give up dairy, what would you miss the most?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My ♥ Belongs to Wegmans

My hometown grocery store, love of my retail life, opened it's first store in Massachusetts today. (Unless you live under a social media rock you already know Wegmans opened in Northborough on October 16, 2011.)

What you may not know is that this store is 47 miles from my house. One way. The travel time is nearly 1.5 hours. One way.

I live within three miles of three other grocery stores. Go seven miles further and you find three more grocery stores. That's six grocery stores, that I'm aware of, within ten miles of my home.

And now, today, after having made the three-hour round trip journey, where I shopped and laughed for four hours, I cannot imagine shopping anywhere else.

I forgot to buy paper towels and plastic wrap at the hometown market today. Yet I cannot bring myself to drive the 1.5 miles to the nearest grocery store, park the car, and walk through the sad, fluorescently-lit aisles. I just can't. It depresses me.

94 miles round trip is a ridiculous and wasteful distance to travel to buy groceries, particularly when I can do the same household errand in 3. That's 1/3rd of a tank of gas versus 1/100th of a tank of gas. My conscience won't let me make the hometown market my one and only.

But my belongs to Wegmans.

Guess will be living without paper towels for a little while.

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Vegetarian Experiment

October 1 is annually World Vegetarian Day (WVD) and October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. I responded to a challenge issued by the organizers of WVD. The challenge? Experiment with being a vegetarian for a day, a week or a month.

I made a pledge to try vegetarianism for a week. If I succeed I'll be entered into a drawing to win $250. (I pledged to try vegetarianism for a month the drawing prize would be $1,000.)

I'm day five into the challenge. And, what a challenge it has been. Here is a taste of my week.

Monday - Columbus Day holiday
On a "normal" holiday Monday?
  • Big breakfast with BMG at one of our favorite local diners, complete with mounds of bacon and sausage
  • Big lunch out with BMG at a spot near the water
  • Small dinner with copious amounts of wine as I geared up for the work week
During vegetarian week?
  • Toast, with butter for breakfast
  • Frozen bean and cheese burrito from Trader Joes for lunch (with an apple cider chaser)
  • Monstrous amounts of baked potato chips
  • Picked over onion rings from BMG's big lunch out with non-vegetarian friends
  • Big dinner - spinach, veggie sausage and whole wheat pasta. And copious amounts of wine as I geared up for the work week

  • Tuesday
    On a normal work day?
    • Toast with sliced turkey for breakfast
    • An apple or grapes mid-day
    • A chicken or beef burrito with guacamole from Boloco or Chipotle for lunch
    • Dinner at home or out - likely grilled chicken with pasta or rice and a veggie
    During vegetarian week?
    • Fat free pumpkin muffin with apple butter for breakfast
    • Grapes for a mid-day snack
    • Teriyaki "burrito bowl" with tofu, broccoli and onions from Boloco for lunch
    • Truffle fries and a veggie burger for lunch
    Wine tasting dinner at our favorite Boston restaurant, Brasserie JO, on Wednesday?
    On a normal day?
    • Mounds of passed appies like mini Croque Monsieurs and foie gras sammies
    • Veal and tomato bubble as an amuse bouche
    • Seared scallops in a vanilla beurre blanch
    • Frisee salad with poached quail egg
    • Braised short ribs
    • Interpreted beef Wellington with cremed potatoes
    • Cheese course with poached pears, bleu pot de creme and tomato confit
    • Pumpkin tart with burnt caramel ice cream
    • Copious amounts of wine (and martinis) beautifully paired with each course
    During vegetarian week?
    • Mini martinis during the appie course
    • Specially prepared tomato bubble as an amuse bouche (thanks Chef!)
    • Frisee salad with poached quail egg
    • Cauliflower steak with cremed potatoes
    • Gnocchi with a delicious cilantro-esque pesto
    • Cheese course with poached pears, bleu pot de creme and tomato confit
    • Pumpkin tart with burnt caramel ice cream
    • Copious amounts of wine (and martinis) beautifully paired with each course
    Thursday and Friday proceeded much like Tuesday.

    As I head into the weekend I'm confident I can live with two more days of this. I'm heading to a grocery store opening on Sunday, which is certain to be filled with tempting samples. But I'm certain'll be fine.

    I'm also certain I'd like to go back to being an omnivore. I miss bacon, and my daily turkey toast for breakfast. If I felt healthier or less physically polluted I might consider moving to a more vegetarian diet. But I don't. During the last five days I've eaten the same amount of fat and salt as I do during the week. I've also eaten WAY more dairy, in the name of "getting protein," than I should.

    It has been a good experiment. I hope I win the $250. And I'm ready for this to be done.

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    Recipe Box

    I have a tin recipe box, given to me by my mother when I was a teenager. The original gift came with a set of recipe cards that I promptly filled up with favorites from my mother's recipe books and my grandmother's memory. Over time the box became bloated with recipes torn from the newspaper, sloppily copied down on post-it notes, and printed from emails sent from friends.

    I love this recipe box. It houses my mom's recipe for baked beans, written in a shorthand only I can understand. Two copies of a scone recipe that I first learned while on a hiking trip in the White Mountains of NH. I have recipes for Copper Pennies (aka carrot disks cooked with brown sugar) written in my grandmother's spidery script, along with all of my family's Christmas cookie standards. The box continues to grow. Over the summer I added the recipe or BMG's mom's curried rice salad.

    Back when I started collecting recipes I did so with the intention of turning to the recipe box as my source for cooking inspiration. I now use the Internet as my primary source for recipes, along with the small collection of interesting recipe books I've amassed over the 25 years I've been cooking.

    When I thumb through the recipe box, crowded with little slips of paper filled with delicious (and largely unfulfilled) intention, a pragmatic part of me says, "You've never prepared that recipe for Italian chicken stew you clipped out of The Washington Post in 1990; recycle that slip of paper!"

    I don't think of myself as a particularly sentimental person. Except, apparently, when it comes to my recipe box.

    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    Waste not

    Our refrigerator crashed last night. Two attempts to reboot it were fruitless, so, at 7:30 this morning I started tossing food that was too sketchy to be recovered. In the tossed pile?
    • Three sodden TV dinners

    • One nearly full gallon and three partially eaten pints of ice cream

    • 1.5 packages of gyoza

    • A gazillion pounds of industrial grade hamburger patties

    • 1/2 pound of sliced turkey

    • 4 slices of Canadian bacon (eh?)

    • 1 pint of sour cream

    • 1 quart of fat free cottage cheese

    • 1 mostly empty bottle of fish sauce, and

    • 1 mostly full canister of fat free whipped cream.

    I'm proud to report that, with the materials we recovered, we made the following:
    • Succotash - 1/2 bag of frozen lima beans, 1/2 bag of frozen corn, and turkey bacon (with Old Bay for flavor)

    • Curry chicken salad- 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached and tossed with lo-fat mayo and Key Lime juice (+ a bunch of other stuff)

    • Mashed cauliflower - head of cauliflower, boiled and then mashed with leftover fresh parm, plain soy milk, and onions and garlic cooked in (turkey) bacon fat, and

    • Spanish rice - 1 bag of frozen peas, (rice), 1 jar of salsa, 1 jar of sliced Spanish olives, and leftover cooked hamburger and crispy pork belly

    We also cooked 4 steaks, and are hanging on to toaster strudels, all of our eggs (Europeans don't refrigerate eggs, why should we?), 5 pounds of hot dogs and one pound of hot dog minis (don't ask), three types of block cheese, veggie burgers and a host of cookies and spices in the freezer. I steamed green beans for salad, and have roasted asparagus leftover from a nice dinner out that will also be added to salad. Today BMG ate a bag of salami and 1/2 pound of cheese to help with the "eat down."

    We could have thrown everything away. A new (to us) fridge comes as early as tomorrow, and as late as Wednesday. We don't have sufficient cold storage, save for the vaguely cool fridge. And every time we open the fridge we lose a little of the cool to the warm air. So, keep food - even cooked food - is a giant pain in the neck.


    I hate wasting food more than almost anything else in the world. There are people in the world who are literally dying of hunger and malnutrition. While I know I'll never send my uneaten dinner to the starving kids in China (or Ethiopia, or Boston), I do want to feel like I'm not contributing to the problem by throwing away perfectly good food just because I am inconvenienced by not having a fridge for a short period of time.

    PS: Want to see what our fridge used to look like? Take a peek via our 2007 posting on Fridge

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Hello 42!

    You've heard the question before, "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" Or, "What are the first things you would you do if you won $700 million in the lottery?" Both are variations of the now popular "bucket list" idea. You know, where you make a list of all the things you want to do before you die?

    I welcome the start of my 42nd year on this planet tomorrow. Birthdays always put me in a reflective mood - considering how I've grown in the past year, and who I want to be in the next year. The start of my 40s was filled with excited anticipation, and the prospect of being free to really dig into my "bucket list", which includes:
    1. Live in NYC and/or Paris for at least six months
    2. Learn to speak French
    3. Successfully grow a giant pumpkin
    4. Carve a giant jack-o-lantern
    5. Hike Mt. Kilimanjaro
    6. Provide some sort of service work (e.g. Peace Corps, NPS VIP Corps, etc.)
    7. See as many of the US national parks as possible
    8. Be a more diligent biker or kayaker
    9. Do "the" road trip across the US
    10. Water ski.

    At first blush the last year has been a disappointing one because I haven't come substantively closer to achieving any of these things.

    No one WANTS to be disappointed with themselves. Well, at least I don't. So I dug a little deeper. How would I characterize my 41st year?

    One of the most significant changes is the evolving sense of peace I feel in my relationship with my mom. A light bulb was turned on and I realize that, while I am fundamentally different than she is, this doesn't preclude our having hundreds of ways we can appreciate and enjoy one another.

    "Coming to peace with mom" isn't on my bucket list. But it probably should have been. Not only because being at peace with one's parents is a noble endeavor but also because, for me, the energy I put into my psychic wranglings with my mother (my childhood, my (mis)perceptions of my adult capacities) kept me from feeling the confidence I need to take bold steps towards achieving my goals.

    I'm one year deeper into my life, and not outwardly any closer to crossing anything off my short list of aspirations. But inwardly, I'm ready for year 42 to begin.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    When I First Believed in God

    I first believed in god after my initial glimpse of Yoesemite Valley from the road to Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park.

    I was struck by the clarity with which I could see the power of glaciers that sheared off Half Dome, carved the valley to Mirror Lake and Tuolumne Meadows, and created water ways from the Sierras to locations like Vernal and Bridal Veil Falls. I know the geological mechanisms that continue to shape the topology of this National Park. I also felt the presence of something much larger than myself as I entered the park for a six-day car camping trip in 1999.

    The last 24 hours in the Park I went backcountry camping through the the Wawona region, in the less traveled southern part of this national treasure. At the start of strenuous 8.2 mile hike, through endless switchbacks to the curvy Chilnualna Falls, I fell in love with the gorgeous ingenuity of the manzanita shrubs that covered the mountain side. At the end of the first day of hiking, tent pitched in a dry creek bed, I had the privilege of seeing the Northern lights, confused at first for white fuel-induced visions. The beauty of the earth and the sky, along with my own triumph at having accomplished the hike, only reinforced my sense of a power greater than that of any single species.


    The blog post was written in response to call for stories about the National Parks. Share your story with the National Parks Conservation Association.

    Photo credits to The Cachegetter.

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    Saving a Marriage

    "I'm kind of embarrassed to ask this, but, I think you can help me save my marriage."

    So starts my conversation with Ryan at Hingham Bathing Beach this morning. He is a tall man pulling kayaking gear and children out of a shiny SUV parked one spot away from my battered sedan and my sand-covered kayak.

    "Do you live near here?" he continues.

    I nod, cock my head and squint one eye, indicating he should continue.

    "My wife is ready to kill me because I left one of our paddles at home. We drove all the way from Newton to go to World's End, only to find out they don't let people kayak from the Reservation. We got caught in a Memorial Day parade in Weymouth. We left 2 hours ago and we still aren't in the water. She's really ready to divorce me."

    I look at the woman carrying an infant and ferrying a toddler towards two kayaks on the shore maybe 20 feet away.

    Ryan then asked tentatively, "Are you done for the day? Can we, uhm, borrow your paddle?"

    I thought for a moment about BMG, and how mad he'd be if the paddle was lost or stolen or damaged. And then I put myself in Ryan's shoes, feeling the frustration and anger and disappointment that comes from best laid plans that are about to be thwarted.

    "Sure," I replied, "You can borrow my paddle. I'm done for the day."

    We exchanged numbers, and I told Ryan to call when they got back to the Harbor. He could leave the paddle at the gazebo on the town green, just beyond the asphalt where we both had parked our cars.

    As he triumphantly ran down the beach with the paddle and I started tying up my kayak, the elderly couple in the car on the other side of mine said to me, "Nice work. You really did save their marriage. You should have heard them arguingI"

    I smiled and said in my most pious voice, "Do unto others, for you never know when you'll need a favor from a stranger someday."


    If feels good to do something nice for someone you don't know - particularly something that is immediately recognized as a an act of generosity. Why? For me I feel like I've done just a tiny bit to create joy for someone else, and through my actions, reinforced my own wish for a world filled with kindness and respect.

    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    Gifts from Brisket

    I wish my cat had the uncanny ability to bring me winning scratch tickets and Pringles.

    Instead, Brisket, the more aggressive of the #meatcats, seems to have a sixth sense for finding and scavenging small mammal graveyards. He is also an excellent, stealthy and non-stop hunter. Just this week Brisket brought home:
    1. Bunny rabbit, dead, and missing only one foot
    2. One distraught duck, who was quacking non-stop because she was missing her chicks and upset about being chased around by a tiny grey cat
    3. A live garter snake, which was ferried up the stairs and down the stairs, over and over again
    4. The most raggedy and tiniest dead mouse I've ever seen.

    This complements the 1 dead squirrel, two squirrel tails, and myriad moles and mice he has brought home over the course of his short kitty life.

    Thank you Brisket, for sharing your gifts with me and BMG.


    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    The bravest people I know

    In spite of all of its faults the subway in Boston offers a wide view of the human condition. A man, who looked Chinese, caught my eye on the 70 minute ride home tonight. He was petite, appeared to be in his late 50s, dressed practically and appropriately in brown corduroy trousers that were rolled up at the the ankle, and he had the front jaw of someone who didn't have stellar dental care over his lifetime. Most interesting was that he carried a bundle of six empty soda bottles tightly shrink wrapped in plastic.

    As we traveled to the suburbs South of Boston I wondered who he was and what reason he could possibly have for toting around a bundle of empty redeemable bottles. It isn't unusual to see men pushing shopping carts on neighborhood streets, pulling bottles and cans worth $0.05 each from recycling bins, to be redeemed for their daily income. I've seen Chinese women with wide brimmed straw hats walking up the middle of minor highways dragging shopping carts in both hands piled high with bottles in filmy garbage bags. Never have I seen someone carrying six bottles as if it were a lap dog.

    "There must be something special about these bottles," I thought to myself, "or this man is so poor the $0.30 he has in his lap is like gold."

    Still wondering what story guided this man's life as I poured out of the train station, I espied an elderly African American man selling copies of the Boston Globe to evening commuters. He had no obvious teeth, the hood of his worn and frayed winter jacket pulled up over his head. He wasn't talking, just holding a hand written sign that read "Boston Globe, $1.00." He was a different seller than the white, heavy set but gnome-like man I'd seen selling the paper in the morning.

    "I didn't know the Globe had an evening edition," I mused. The dialogue in my head continued. "I've lived in Boston for nearly 18 years, I'm not aware of an evening edition to the paper. Is he just trying to sell papers that no one bought this morning? Sheesh, are things that rough? Are people that desperate or scrappy or stupid?"

    Walking towards the next stop on my way home I realized that immigrants and poor people are among the bravest people I know. There is no way I could imagine picking up my life here - whether it was a comfortable one or not - and moving to another country where I might not have (a) documentation legitimizing my presence, (b) money or other resources, and (c) the ability to navigate my way culturally or linguistically. And, if I had the cojones to do this, I don't think I have the creativity or resilience to try everything to make it work so that I could have the better life I was seeking. I don't imagine I'd sell discarded newspapers, or spend all day looking for bottles to earn a meager $0.30. I often see the glass as half empty, and can't imagine having the vision to believe that one day I'd be selling real newspapers rather than old ones I fished out of a recycling bin, or the desperation to try to sell discarded papers because nothing else I was capable seemed to work to put food in my belly.

    I pitied the Chinese man I saw on the train and the African American paper vendor. And I also admired them. For their imagined scrappiness and hopefulness. These two men are some of the bravest people I know.

    Who are the bravest people you know? Why?

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    Park and Shop (or structure binds anxiety)

    I lay awake in bed this morning anxiously running through my list of errands:
    • Post office - mail packages, buy stamps

    • Gym - exercise

    • Transfer station - trash and carboard recycling

    • Library - return books (get more?)

    • Bank - for cash

    • "In-laws" - return book, leave newspaper.

    I also want to go shopping for a new wallet, check out the possibility of getting new gloves (on sale) and look at late season winter coats. The house needs to be cleaned, dishwahser unloaded, laundry started, cats' nails trimmed, and homemade bacon smoked.

    By now the horse is out of the gate and my mind starts to race.

    If I really wanted to go nuts I could also mention that I want to return a book I borrowed from my sister and send her that t-shirt I don't want anymore while I'm at it, stash the spare buttons from the new suit jacket, and find a place to store all of my pashminas.

    Am I going to hook up with that guy who wants to buy my mom's old beer steins?

    I probably should start getting my tax receipts in order too. And research plane tickets to Orlando for May, And return that Christmas gift, and look for an olive oil vessel for the counter.

    I could go on. But I'm getting anxious.

    So anxious that I just ate dinner for breakfast.

    And I haven't even finished one cup of coffee.

    Stop. How do I manage this?

    Structure binds anxiety. What this means to me is that the more boundaries I create to control my life - my day - my errands - the less likely it will seem out of control. You know the feeling - like you can't relax until you've cleaned the house, or you can't get started on that paper for school until your desk is straightened up.

    To manage the anxiety about "everything I have to do" I turn to Park and Shop.

    This is a board game that belonged to my mother when she was a girl. My siblings and I played it when we visited Gramma, and eventually it made its way to our home. The object of the game is to run your errands downtown more quickly than anyone else. You start in your car at your house on the game board. You drive to a parking garage and then start your errands on foot. Your errands are assigned to you by the dealing of yellow errand cards labeled "Fish Market," "Laundry," or "Haberdasher." The idea is to find the most efficient walking route, grouping your errands together and avoiding "red lights" marked on the board.

    My siblings and I use the phrase "park and shop" as a verb i nour adult lives.

    How will I park and shop my errands.

    The Post Office, gym and bank are all downtown. I could go by way of the transfer station. (Ugh, if I carry trash in my car then I need to add "car wash" to the list of errands.) I really want to get the gym over & done with. But, if I do that first I'll be sweaty and likely cold when I run my other errands. Augh! In the amount of time I've been fretting over this I could have had all of these shenanigans done.

    Deep breath. This is what I'm planning to get me through the first (functional) 2.5 hours of the day.
    0. Write a note to put into the book package for my sister.
    1. Post office
    2. Gym
    3. Library - drive through book deposit
    4. Bank - drive through
    5. Transfer station.
    When I come home I'll get the pork belly being magically transformed into bacon out of the over. Then I'll shower. Then I'll make another list to get me through the next part of the day.

    Easy does it, one step at a time, park and shop.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Would you rather....

    ...Drink apple juice, red grapefruit juice or carrot juice?

    ...Travel by train, bike or car?

    ...Vacation on a cruise, go camping or visit a new city?

    ...Own a dog, cat or bird? "Punk'd" or be punk'd?

    ...Play tennis, football or World of Warcraft?

    ...Drink beer, wine or bourbon?

    ...Have a lavish wedding, elope or live in sin?

    ...Remain age 23 or younger forever, remain between 24 and 39 forever or be over 40 forever?

    ...Go for a run, lift weights or watch "The Biggest Loser"?

    ...Shop at Target, Wal-Mart or K-Mart?

    ...Buy coffee from Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks, or a McDonald's?

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Don't look a gift horse on the Web

    From 7:30-8:45 or so this morning I drank coffee, ate pancakes, and read the online version of The Boston Globe.

    I "liked" one story about a recent philanthropic gift made by a Boston gazillionnaire. My tweeted commentary on this story was retweeted twice. I tweeted another story from the same online version of the paper, which has led to two separate, albeit short, twitter dialogues. I emailed yet a third story to a friend.

    About 15 minutes after I wrapped up the quiet online review of the Sunday paper, I was outside brushing snow off my car so I could make a run to the gym for a quick workout. A car came around the bend of my sleepy street and slowed down in front of my house. I have a 1/2 a kayak on the lawn, waiting for trash day later in the week. I thought the driving was a garbage picker. As his window came down I thought for sure the driver would ask me some questions about the storm-battered boat.

    "Is this (insert my address here)?" the driver asked.
    "Yes," I answered slowly and suspiciously.
    "The Boston Globe would like to give you a free copy of the paper," he said, handing a waterproof package to me.
    "Is this because I've been tweeting stories all morning long?" I asked, my suspicion changing to glee.
    "Don't know," he replied, "but the free paper lasts until the 23rd. Congrats and enjoy."

    Then he drove away.


    Now I'm not sure there is any correlation between my high use of social networking tools this morning and the free paper.

    If there is it seems like a weird incentive. If I'm a high e-user of the paper, and I get a free print copy of the paper, my e-use is likely to go down, at least for the two weeks I get the hard copy delivered to my home. Maybe a better gift would be a free link to my blog or a free copy of The Boston Globe app in the Apple store.

    Nevertheless, I am delighted with my free paper. I had actually intended to buy the paper today, so I could enjoy the magazine and the puzzle. About half-way through my e-browsing I remembered this with a Homer Simpson-like "D'oh!"

    Now, home from the gym and freshly showered, I'm looking forward to brewing another cup of coffee and enjoying The Boston Globe Magazine. Thank you @bostonupdate.

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Awesomely ordinary

    I found myself close to happy tears earlier today as I wrapped up four hours of errand running.

    I took a minute to consider that I might be confusing tears of sadness with the unfamiliar welling up of a joyful expression.

    I didn't think so.

    "Why? What happened today that would make me feel so happy?" I wondered to myself. "I had a perfectly ordinary day." This is what I did:
    • Got up late (9:30 AM)

    • Drank coffee, read the online paper

    • Started laundry

    • Cleared the hardwoods of clutter and mopped them

    • I returned a gift for which I had no receipt with no hassle given

    • Picked up a special order at the bookstore for my sweetie

    • Discovered an item I wanted at Crate and Barrel, while advertised, was no longer available

    • Returned a handful of superfluous gifts I purchased for others in exchange for things I needed (bird seed, hair products, birthday cards)

    • Braved the long lines at Trader Joes in exchange for $55 worth of coffee, faux meat products and frozen foods

    • Drank 12 ounces of carrot juice

    • Went on a duck buying odyssey that came up short

    • Picked up three books at the library

    • Filled the bird feeder

    • Emptied the recycling and took out the trash.

    Boring, right?

    So why so happy?

    I think because my day felt like it was completely my own. I felt accomplished in my errands. I didn't let irritating traffic, shopping frustrations, or a lack of nourishing food get me down. And right now, at 4:11 PM on a gray Saturday night, I don't feel like there is anything else I HAVE to do tonight.

    So what am I going to do? I've lit candles around the house and am surrounded by a peaceful glow. I'm going to pour a glass of wine soon, start preparations for an early dinner, and then settle into the couch with one of my borrowed books.

    Today was perfectly, awesomely, ordinary.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Celebrity Look-Alikes

    Facebook memes often invite us to change our avatars to our celebrity look-alikes. I usually post a picture of Velma, the smarty-pants crime solver from "Scooby Doo."

    In the last three months I've been told by colleagues that I remind them of celebrity chef Rachael Ray

    and the smarty-pants crime fighter Garcia on the TV show "Criminal Minds."

    I feel glad to (a) have celebrity avatar options, and (b) remind people of sassy smart gals.

    How about you? Who is your celebrity avatar? Why?

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    10 things you might not know about me

    The blogosphere is rife with lists of resolutions, non-resolutions, 2010 "best of" and 2011 "trends to watch out for" lists. I love lists, but don't want to be derivative. is my list...of 10 things you might not know about me. I invite you to share your list in the comment section.

    1. Like Filmmaker Ken Burns I love the National Park Service and have visited eleven national parks including the remote Dry Tortugas (FL), and Guadalupe Mountain and Big Bend (TX).
    2. I was hit by a truck while riding my bike to work in October 2001 and literally saw my life flash before my eyes.
    3. I lived in a commune for two years.
    4. I will always consider myself bulimic, having lived with this disorder from 1986-1995.
    5. Since I started working at age 11, I have held more than 30 different jobs yet I have never worked in a restaurant.
    6. I published several academic articles on reform in medical education.
    7. I am trained as a liberal sexuality educator using the Our Whole Lives Program created by the Unitarian Universalist Association. If I could make a viable living teaching I would.
    8. In spite of this training and experience, I consistently find myself challenged by transgender men and women. The good news is I know it and am able to learn through these challenges.
    9. I have two regrets in my life: not accepting my placement with the Peace Corps in 1992 and not going to public college for my undergraduate degree.
    10. I am actively afraid of worms, snakes, and any creature that moves on land without benefit of legs.

    What are 10 things I might not know about you?