Monday, July 31, 2006

Permanent Collection

Saturday was one of those lovely grown up evenings, when you realize that the whole world isn't focused on kid things...I mean, I am home with Maya every day, and the blogs I read are mostly mommy blogs, so my life is very much kid focused. I wouldn't change that...I love her madly and love the life that I have because of being a mother. Still. There are times when a parent, when a couple, needs to get out and remember a bit of what life was like before there were kids in the picture. And really, Maya's happier when she's not along on such ventures, because she finds them BORING.

My good friend Cherry came over, and she and Maya made pizza, Caesar salad, and ice cream (all from scratch! FUN!), while Ted and I went out for a lovely dinner, and then a play. We went back to Zax Tavern...we have been there once before, and really liked it. Well, happily, we really liked it again. I had a beet salad, which was beets, green beans, a vinaigrette, and some wonderful goat cheese, called, Bermuda Triangle goat cheese. Boy, that stuff was good. I want more. I wish they sold it at BevMo or Trader Joes, or even Andronicos, because, um...YUM. Ted had a Caesar salad, which was good, but he kind of wished he had tried one of their more signature dishes, I think. Then he had the duck, while I had a very yummy pork chop, which was served with arugula and polenta. (Not a fan of polenta, but the arugula was very good.) For dessert, I had perhaps the best raspberry sorbet I've ever was just bursting with raspberry flavor. Really good. Ted had a blueberry gallette, which he really enjoyed as well.

After dinner, we went to see a play. I'm not sure when the last time was that I went to see a play that wasn't at school, either Maya's or Ted's nieces, and I liked it. I like those school plays too, but it was great to be in the presence of professional actors, who make their living at this craft, and really know what the heck they're doing. The play was called "Permanent Collection," and it was written by Thomas Gibbons. It is based on real events at the Barnes Foundation, which is a pretty amazing small museum in the suburbs of Philadelphia. When we lived in Philly, we lived on "City Line Avenue", which bordered the town of Lower Marion, which is where the Barnes Foundation is currently located. We were fortunate enough to go and see it a few times while we lived there. It is a pretty amazing collection of art, considering it was amassed by one man, Dr. Barnes, and there is a very strict will stipulating the layout of the art, when people can visit the museum, etc. Well, in the mid-late 90s, the Barnes foundation became embroiled in a legal dispute with some of the neighbors, and the legal costs of this struggle have forced the foundation to make some difficult decisions, one of which is that it is likely that the museum will move from it's home in the suburb of Marion, to downtown Philadelphia, where more money can be made, and hopefully the foundation can stay afloat. The play was about a fictional account of this legal dispute. I've got to tell you, that didn't sound very interesting to me, except that it was the Barnes, where we had been, but Ted really wanted to see it, so that was my anniversary gift to him, that we would go. I loved it. The two hours pretty much sped by, and it was a moving, interesting, riveting play. If you live in the Bay Area, it's at the Aurora Theater in Berkeley, ending August 5th. (That's soon, so get going!). If you're from elsewhere, keep your eyes open, because playhouses around the country have been putting on this production, and it's worth seeing. And if you live near Philly, and you like impressionist art, get over to the Barnes before they move, and then again afterwards....I'm hoping a lot of the treasures that are hidden away in storage, a lot of African Art specifically, will be on display in the new location. It would be interesting to compare the effect of the old layout with the new.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sometimes I Read My Spam...

And I get gems like this, which kind of makes me wonder if this is a frustrated writer, making a living finding ways to get past spam filters so the stupid stock they are trying to get me to buy or whatever since I never actually GO to the sites, so maybe it's something else entirely...anyway, some of this stuff is so bad it's good, and here's one damn fine example of that. Taken directly from a spam to my work email account, and only edited to remove the stock info.
but I could go with you. He held onto one thought - she was going to lift him into bed, and when she did that she would have to be blind as well as numb not to notice that the back of his underwear happened to be stuffed with little boxes.

(Insert spam about new stock that will make you RICH BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAMS here...)
No exact cause of death given. He noted with deepening misgivings that there were red marks like weals on her cheeks and arms. Paul thought this was akin to proving that meteors never struck the earth by showing five days when not a single one had hit Farmer Johns north field, but he could understand the weight he argument would have carried with the jury just the same. He huddled by the occasional table, shivering all over, staring at them with rolling eyes.

He bent over, ignoring the pain in his legs, and began to work the loose section of baseboard out with his fingers. Then the crosss upright split.

Suddenly he wanted a hit of rock and roll worse than he had ever wanted a cigarette. He saw everything with perfect clarity - three groups all hellbent for Misery in the crenellated passages behind the idols forehead, two wanting to kill her, the third - consisting of Ian, Geoffrey, and Hezekiah - trying to save her.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Congratulations, Achebe!

Our 20 year old Volvo passed a major milestone on Friday....he went from 199,000 miles over to 200,000! It's kind of like his birthday or something! If he were human, I'd buy a cake. But, since he's a car, I'll just say, "Good Going, Achebe!"

(And yes, he was named for the famous Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe...I read a book of his in grad school (Things Fall Apart) and I was pretty blown away by how DIFFERENT it was from the other things I was reading, and I always liked the name. I hope the author isn't insulted that I named a car after him...I mean, Ted named his mom's dog Nietzsche (and she's a girl!), but old Friedrich is long dead, so he doesn't care...)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Friday Dog Blogging

1972 - 1988

Dear Samantha, my sweet doggy love,

Thank you,

for letting me come into your house and watch as you gave birth to your 13 puppies...

for being my ambassador when we moved - I made so many friends while taking you for walks, because they wanted to know about my dog...

for jumping over trash cans (upright, even!) when I pretended you were a horse...

for letting me dress you up in long frilly dresses...

for sleeping in my bed and keeping me company...

for defending me from the creepy cable guy that one time...

for forgiving me when I treated you badly...
when I bit your poor ear because I was so frustrated (and very young, but still)...
when I wanted you dead because you ate my poor Smokey...
when I didn't take you for walks as often as you needed...
when I wasn't as good of an owner as you deserved...

for the years of fun we had together....

for still going jogging with me when you were 15 years old...

for being the sweetest dog ever...

for being the best friend a little nomad could ever have, for loving me no matter what, for kissing my tears and hurts away...

for coming to San Francisco with me, for hanging in there long enough to know that I would be OK out in the world...

for your patience and your good doggy heart...I don't believe in heaven (or hell) but I hope I'm wrong, because I would so love to see you there...I'll shake your paw all night long if you want.

(Note, the last picture isn't torn in the middle because I was mad or's torn because it's an old poloroid that has seen way too many years of use...)

A Few Tings

(I say tings because I'm trying to affect a Guyanese accent...)

1st. My mom (aka, Maya's Granny) wrote a post yesterday that really gave me a peek into growing up in the 50s, being a girl. I would say that this is her best writing so far...good stuff, and definitely worth the time. Check it out. And now that I mention it, today's post isn't shabby either...I wrote a quick post back in March about Feminism, and she gives it a more thorough treatment today. She's on a roll. ;)

2nd. I'm guest blogging over at Birth Stories. My fellow 'J' blogger, Black Belt Mama started a new blog, and is actively seeking submissions. So, if you would like to share your birthstory with her, shoot her an email at She's taking submissions from men as well, if you want to give her the father's point of view...though I don't think her very young blog has had any dads yet. If you want to read about the day Maya finally conceded and made her appearance, go check it out. :)

3rd. I found a blog by Guyana Gyal the other day, and if anyone is interested in reading about life in Guyana, told in a Guyanese accent, this blog is great. Love the voice, but her content is great as well. If you didn't know this already, Ted's family is from Guyana (though he was born near Toronto), and every once in awhile I get a glimpse of the language. I love how people can be speaking English, and I can understand the words, but not really what they're talking about. As opposed to Scotland, where the words are beyond most Americans, or so I hear. ;)

4th. I've decided to become really annoying. If I'm not annoying enough already, I'm going to add to it by now calling San Francisco "Frisco", L.A. "la la land", and Berkeley, "Bezerkly". Anyone have any really annoying nick names for other cities I can adopt in my quest? (OK, just kidding...I'm NOT going to start using these annoying names...but it seemed like a good idea last night, and I WOULD like to hear if Chicago, New York, Paris, Tokyo, etc. have stupid nick names that make the locals' skin crawl...)

5th. You have no idea how happy I am to tell you this....last night, I was up watching a little TV, and I had to close the window, because I was a little chilly. It just makes me happy to be able to say that.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sweet Relief

Take a peek at's the view toward San Francisco, from the Lawrence Hall of Science in the Berkeley Hills. Maybe I'll pull this post later, when the view changes, but right now, it's all foggy foggy sky, which is sweet relief, and bringing cooler breezes out our way.

A Thankful Thursday 13

It's been awhile since I posted 13 things I'm thankful for, and after the last couple of posts, which were pretty heavy, I thought it might be time to lighten up a bit. So here we go...13 things I'm thankful for right now. (I chose this picture because it looked so cool and inviting...not like the brown dead stuff that surrounds us in the CA summertime.)
1. It seems that it is finally, albeit SLOWLY, cooling off around here. Saturday: 111 Sunday: 115 Monday: 109 Tuesday: 108 Wednesday: 98 Thursday Forecast: 93. We're hoping for mid-80s by Saturday. (Look what the heat did to my poor roses...)

2. Ted and Maya gave me a gift certificate to my favorite hair salon for Mother's Day, and I finally used it. You know how sometimes you go and get a cut that you like, and others, um, not so much? Well, this is one of those "I like it" times. :) I'm blonde again, and I lost about 3 inches from the ends. Nice!

3. My mother in law doesn't like to try on clothes when she's shopping. She accidentally bought a lovely green shirt that doesn't fit her (It was on a hanger marked her size, but it's actually my size.) Instead of returning it, she gave it to me. Yay!

4. I learned how to make a new eggplant dish, baigan choka. (This isn't my MIL's recipe, but I loved the blog, called Guyana) I got the eggplant and tomatoes from the farmers' market on Sunday, and called my mother in law for the recipe. Her recipe didn't call for any cumin, and I added it anyway...and I put in too much. "As I always say, You can put it in, but you can't take it out." (Extra credit if anyone other than Ted knows what movie that little snippet comes from) ;) It was still good, and I'll try it again soon.

5. That pesky cherry tree was recently trimmed (butchered, really, but that's another sad tale) so next time it gets windy here, we'll be able to sleep without having to listen to the fence creak all night, sounding like we're on a sinking ship. AND the neighboring complex people who own the tree paid for it themselves, not our homeowners association. Bonus!

6. My evil migraine was stopped in its tracks on Tuesday. Thanks Cherry, for the advice, and Ted, for the coffee and cold/sinus advil. :)

7. My eyes. I'm thankful for them. When I have a migraine, my eyesight gets blurry, so it's best to let your eyes rest. No reading, no TV, no computer. Also, caffeine helps, so Ted brought me a big nasty cup of black coffee from Starbucks. There I was, awake from the caffeine, but no book, no blogging, no work, no TV. Made me appreciate my eyesight all of a sudden. And my iPod, loaded up with "To The Best of Our Knowledge". For some reason, lounging on the sofa with a cold compress and my iPod made me want to smoke. I don't smoke, and I didn't start. But it seemed like a good idea at the time...lazy hot day, listening to the radio, smoking a camel unfiltered...

8. Air Conditioning. I know a few people around here without, and I'm thinking that this past week has been pretty hard on them. Fatal for some folks. Believe me, I'm thankful for having it. We just got the electric bill, which covered up through Monday. It was about double our usual amount. Why am I not surprised?

9. My friend Cherry, who, along with E, is going to come cook dinner and hang out with Maya on Saturday, so Ted and I can go to Berkeley for dinner and a play.

10. My Buffy DVDs. Yes, I own them all. They come in handy when I'm all coked up on coffee trying to battle a migraine. (Once I'm past the danger of the migraine, so I can watch some TV, but still coked up on caffeine...) Ditto my S&TC DVD set.

11. The ironing has been pretty manageable since the most recent hell pile was tamed by Ted, master of the iron. Once again, we make the futile vow not to let the pile grow any higher than our knees...

12. Thursday is yoga day for me. 2 weeks ago, I had to bail in the middle of class because of serious indigestion (causing me to almost barf while doing downward dog!) Last week I didn't make it because I had to work late. So I'll be mighty glad to make it to my yoga class tonight.

13. Finding time to read. Maybe it's because there's no TV in the summer, but I've been finding more time for reading lately. Right now I'm getting close to the end of In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote. It's fascinating and creepy. Next on my list is my newest library book, which of course gets bumped to the top of the pile because it is due in a couple of weeks. It is Willful Creatures, by Aimee Bender. Last year I read another of her books, An Invisible Sign of My Own, which was pretty amazing and weird. So I'm looking forward to this book, which is a series of 15 strange short stories.

So that's my list of 13 things I'm thankful for today. I'll be even more thankful if this cooling trend continues, and we get down into the 80s. They're saying it could happen this weekend. Cross your fingers for us. ;)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Dark Side of Genealogy

Many years ago, in my mis-spent youth, I worked at the front desk at a big San Francisco hotel. One evening, a very cute black man checked in, whose last name was Ward. "Hey," I said, semi-flirtatiously, "that's my last name, too." He smiled and said, "Yeah, it's that southern thing." Ugh. Stopped me cold. Maybe he thought that somewhere back in time, some of my ancestors owned his ancestors. Which is surely not true, since,
1. My Ward surname came from my mom's step-dad, so I wasn't descended from him by blood; and,
2. Our Ward family was poor Irish in Oklahoma, and surely never had the kind of money it took to own slaves. Who knows, they may have still been in Ireland at the time of the Civil War.

I was thinking about this yesterday, because while I was walking Genevieve in the hot morning sun (108 yesterday, they keep saying it's going to cool off, but 108 doesn't feel cool to me), I was listening to "To the Best of Our Knowledge" on my beloved iPod. This episode centered on the topic of regrets. One of the interviewees was a man named Cary Sudler, and his regret was that his ancestors owned slaves, and had contributed to the racial issues and divisiveness in our country. He made an extremely good point, one that I have often considered as well. When his white friends tell him that he wasn't there, it's not his fault nor any connection of his, he replies that if we are going to associate ourselves with our ancestors, if we are to take pride in their accomplishments and their strengths, then in order to be honest, we must recognize their wrong doings as well.

Some might dismiss this as liberal "white guilt", and complain that it is somewhat condescending. And perhaps at some level it is. But I don't think it is easily dismissed. For me to have advantages in our society based solely on my skin color, while others must overcome theirs, that is a burden that rightfully carries guilt, and should also bring a desire with it to atone for these wrongs.

I grew up with stories of how our southern ancestors, the Herndons (and surely many of the families into which they married) owned slaves. These stories are always about how benevolent we were, that the slaves were brought into the house to be tended when they were sick or very old. That doesn't really make me feel any better, especially since with a glass of wine in her, my grandmother will tell me that she just feels that deep down, black people are "different", and there's nothing that I can say that will change her mind. The truth is, we owned people, bought and sold them, and took advantage of the fruits of their labor. We separated families and thought of them as inferior. There is only shame in this for me.

Cary Sudler, the man being interviewed, decided to make what restitution he could. He tracked down some descendents of his ancestors' slaves, pulled together his courage, and he apologized to them. It was amazing. You should go listen.

For now, to all of the descendents of the slaves of my Herndon ancestors, I would like to apologize. I would like to quote Mr. Sudler's apology, which was made via phone to a black man who shared his last name. I think he got it right, though he's a bit clumsy.

I just want to apologize for any difficulty that life is as far as racism and the rest of it, and I want you to know that you have somebody with the same last name who's interested in having a level playing field for everybody.

I want to let you know that it does not continue, even in silence.
He ends the interview with this:

I really don't know what you say to somebody...but I carry my family's name, and I carry what it's done, both good and bad. What do you do in life? You just try and do the next right thing, even if you don't understand it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Escaping Ennui

Ted and I went to escape the heat as well as taking advantage of Maya's going to her best friend's house on Saturday (free babysitting!), and we drove into Berkeley to see "A Scanner Darkly." It's a complicated tale, and one wonders how and why the main character (played by Keanu Reeves....whoa....) got to be where he is. In one flashback that may or may not be real, we see him in his home, with a lovely wife and two children. The wife and kids are playing a board game, and he is reading the newspaper. He gets up to make some popcorn, bonks his head on an open cupboard door, and realizes that he hates his life...hates getting up, going to work, coming home to his family, being happy. What does he hate so much about it? He hates how predictable it all is. Hates that in any given day, he knows exactly what is going to happen. His life lacks spontaneity So, the next thing you know, the family is gone, the house is a dump, and he's involved in some undercover sting operation to stop a huge drug ring, a task for which he becomes addicted to the deadly drug, "D", and proceeds to lose touch with reality.

Yesterday, I was walking Genevieve, the spoiled, "I get two walks a day even when it's frikkin 115 degrees out there" dog (don't yell at me for taking her out in the heat...we wait until the sun goes down for her evening walk, and if it's still too hot, we hose her down first...I didn't want to get reported for cruelty to animals or anything), and listening to my beloved iPod. I was listening to a podcast of This American Life. The show was a repeat of a show from last year, titled "Go Ask Your Father." (I couldn't link directly to the episode for some reason, but you can go to the link for TAL, and then search for "Go Ask Your Father", if you want to hear more.) The second act of this show was a man whose father left his family and went on a quest to find extraterrestrial life. At one point, the son asked the father, Why? Why is it so important to leave your family, and find life elsewhere? Why that need? The answer struck me...the father said that if all there is to life is what we have on this earth, getting up and going to work every day (he was a successful professor) and coming home to the wife and kids, if that's IT, then life becomes meaningless for him. He's an atheist...he finds no hope in a greater meaning from God. So he is looking for meaning from outside of our realm. He admits it's pretty unlikely that he'll ever make any sort of contact, but he wants to try nonetheless.

See the common thread here? Two people who are so terribly bored by their lives that they can't continue it status quo. I think we all feel this way sometimes, we get terribly bored with the routine of cooking, cleaning, working, eating, sleeping, walking the spoiled dog, whatever. Ennui comes in and tries to take us down the slippery slope with poor Neville (click the picture, above, to read the miserable fates of all the Gashlycrumb Tinies). Of course, I do understand about dreams put aside to make room for the uncomfortable realities...the career we wanted and didn't get, the children we didn't have, the husband who passed away too soon, the wife we should have married when we had the chance, etc. But the extremes to which these two men went struck me. Especially the true life case, the man searching for extraterrestrial life. Not so much that he left his family to follow his dream...I think that sort of thing happens a lot, with both men and women. But it was strange to me that he can't find anything worthwhile, any meaning, on this earth...

If suburbia is just too boring and mundane, what about safaris in Africa? What about becoming a crab fisherman in Alaska? Playing piano on a cruise ship? Hitchhiking across America and finding out a few things? What about joining the Peace Corps? What about the many myriad miracles (how's that for alliteration, mom?) that our world has to offer, both beautiful and tragic? It seems to me that this earth in which we live, our Earth, is full of miracles great and small, and I was just amazed that he couldn't find worthwhile pursuits right here.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mom Always Said Not to Play Ball In the House

Since it was 115 yesterday (according to this morning's Chron...I never saw it get over 112...HA!), we pretty much didn't leave the house after 10am, except to take out the garbage. As I mentioned, TV Land had a Brady Bunch marathon on, and after an early dinner, we were watching the top 10 most popular episodes, and of course, the episode with the broken vase came on. I suddenly thought, hey, why was that only Peter's fault? All three of the boys were playing basketball in the was just Peter who got unlucky enough that he bounced the ball down the hall, over the ledge, and broke the vase. Excuse me, not fair. The way we were raised, all three of those boys would have been in equal amounts of trouble, because it wasn't breaking the vase that was against the was playing ball in the house.

This brought me back, to my prime example. When I was in 6th grade, and Richard was in 8th grade, I had my best friend, Neva, over for a sleepover. Neva and I were playing Monopoly, and Richard was watching. Well, more than watching, he was torturing me. Neva was doing pretty well, and every time I would land on one of her hotel-properties, he would taunt, "Heeehhhh....heeeehhhhh....heeeeehhhhh" Think of the most annoying way possible for a younger brother to say this, and my older brother was doing it to me. Over and over and over. Finally, I lost it. I couldn't take it anymore. Who knows, maybe it was 112 outside. So I kicked him, under the table. He kicked me back, and one thing led to another, and the next thing you knew, he was choking me. We were both standing up, his fingers were digging welts into my neck, and he was shaking my head back and forth as he choked me. My head went so far back, so fast, that it knocked the blender right out of the base, and it bounced off of the counter, and shattered onto the floor. Luckily, that broke up the fight. Immediately, the fight turned into who was going to pay for the blender. "YOU BROKE IT, YOU PAY!" we both screamed. Neva was crying, and the welts were rising on my neck. We cleaned up the broken blender, I cleaned up my neck, and we waited. Waited for my mom. Guess what she said. "You're not supposed to fight. You were both fighting, you both pay." We both paid. The injustice of it all....he should have paid for choking me. (Of course, being raised that way, my mind goes directly to the injustice of Peter being the one to blame, when there were 3 kids playing ball in the house that day...)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I Think the Sun Is Trying to Kill Us

According to my local paper, the high yesterday was 111 F. Ugh. It was so stinking hot. Maya went to her best friend's house to play, and Ted and I decided to go see a movie...the A/C had conked out at the theater, so it was kind of like an oven in there. We bailed. But when it's 111 degrees out, you don't want to do a lot outside, so we drove to Berkeley (where it was a frigid 92 degrees...), and found our movie there. We saw "A Scanner Darkly", which was a pretty serious cautionary tale about drug use. I liked it, but I kind of think that the mind of Phillip K. Dick is not to be entered lightly.

Then we came home, and I made Gina's balsamic chicken, which was a big hit. Thanks, Gina!

Now it's Sunday morning. I went to the Farmers' Market and the grocery store, and the bank thermometer told me it was 93 F at about 9:30. Ugh. I'm thinking this will be a day of reading books, watching TV (Brady Bunch Weekend on TV Land!), and perhaps even another movie. I sure hope the power doesn't go out and deprive us of our A/C. It flickered last night, and I almost keeled over from fright. It was still 85 degrees last night at midnight. I'm dreading our PG&E bill next month. Sigh.

It's almost 5:00PM, and the weather channel says it's 112 outside. I wouldn't know, because, thankfully, I'm inside, with the a/c. My heart goes out to those without homes at times like these...or to those with homes, but no way to cool them and who live in dangerous neighborhoods where they can't leave the windows open to catch a breeze...not that there IS a breeze right's pretty still out there...but we're hoping. Supposed to be 98 tomorrow, which is still too hot for me, but MUCH better than 112.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Guest Blogging!

Hey Everyone, Py Korry (aka, Ted) has invited me to make a mix of six songs on his site! I pick the songs, according to his rules, then he mixes them and puts them online for your enjoyment. Check it out, and let us know what you think. Weekend fun!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Brentwood Corn

There are two Brentwoods in California....the Brentwood down near Hollywood, where the rich and famous reside, and the Brentwood in the 'Far East Bay' or the 'far western San Joaquin Valley', whichever sounds better to you. ;) Our local Brentwood is known for the quality of their corn. When you go to the grocery stores or farmers' market, the signs proudly proclaim, "Brentwood Corn", and you know you're getting the good stuff. Well, we went to Brentwood the other night for dinner. Ted's mom had heard good things about Cap's Oak Street Bar & Grill, so we all piled in the car and took her there for her birthday dinner. All I have to say is, I think the people in the 'far east bay' are starving for nice restaurants, because this place was so-so in my book. The ambiance was very nice, white tablecloths, waiters making bananas foster tableside, that kind of thing. The menu had a nice variety of fish and meat and pasta. But scratch the surface, and what do you get? A waitress who took care of all of her other tables, but not so much ours. Could that be the brown people in our party? Or maybe the fact that there were 8 of us, while the other tables were mostly couples or '4 tops'? I've worked in the restaurant industry, and I know some wait staff are guilty of ignoring the bigger tables, or at least putting them off until after they take care of the smaller ones, because the big tables take longer, and the smaller tables can get impatient. Besides, with her tip already figured into the bill, she had nothing to lose, right? So, the food was OK, the service sub-par, the atmosphere nice. But the nail in the coffin, what would keep us from ever returning to Cap's? In a world of plenty, in the Corn Fest mecca of Northern California, this was actually served to me. Made it onto my plate (lazy cook) and all the way to the table (lazy waitress). And into my purse, as Ted said, "FOR THE BLOG!"

Friday Cat Blogging

This is Acidophilus, Ted's cat. But this is pretty much the only view we ever got of her, because she was a feral cat. Ted, for those of you who don't know us personally, is VERY allergic to cats. VERY. His eyes puff up like a boxer who has been hit in the face 3 too many times, his throat constricts, and asthma kicks in. And that's from being in a room where a cat has been. I've never seen him actually have to deal with a real live cat. So, back when he lived on Fell St. in San Francisco, he lived on the 2nd (or was it 3rd?) floor of an older apartment building. In the little area behind the building (I would hesitate to call it a 'yard', though it was bigger than our yard now) lived a sweet little cat, whom Ted would sometimes feed. He would do this by throwing cans of either tuna or catfood down to her. She loved Ted. She would see his head come out the window, and come running. Unfortunately, so did the other cats in the neighborhood, so after awhile he had to stop feeding her because of cat fights. Ooops. How do we know Acidopholous was a girl? Well, she had kittens, who we named Lactobacillus and Tabby. They were very cute.

And, by the way, Acidophilus was only friendly from way up. If a person got close to her, her feral instincts kicked in full gear, and she would snarl and hiss at you. Probably why she was able to stay healthy enough to bear kittens.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Thirteen Grammar Pet Peeves

Here is where I make everyone think I'm a big grammar snob. I don't THINK I am, but maybe I'm wrong. I'm a horrible speller (though I promise to TRY to run spell check before publishing my posts from now on!), and I do not claim to have perfect grammar. I loves me a split infinitive from time to time, but it drives me crazy to read (or hear) certain mistakes over and over again. It's careless, and I think people should take a little bit of care when they're trying to communicate. Otherwise it distracts them from your meaning, and you're not communicating well. Here are the ones that bug me the most.

1. I've already mentioned this one, but it bears repeating. 'Loose' vs. 'Lose'. You 'lose' your keys, you 'loose'...nothing. It's not a verb. At least, not usually. Perhaps you 'loose the dogs of war'...But I digress, because when I read this, usually the person is writing that someone is a 'looser'.

2. 'Was' vs. 'Were'. "I wish I was rich." This isn't technically wrong, I don't think, but it SOUNDS wrong. I think it's more a formal/casual thing these days. The more formal, and more educated sounding version, is "I wish I were rich." If you're not sure, remember Pink Floyd's amazing, "Wish You Were Here." ;)

3. 'Me and her.' Or 'her and me.' Or 'She and I' used incorrectly. This is like fingernails on a chalkboard. I HATE IT. So, how to know which pronoun to use? Omit the other person from the sentence. Would you say "her went to the store?" Maybe you would, but you really shouldn't. You should say, "She went to the store." So you would say, "She and I went to the store". I hope that "She and me went to the store" just sounds horrid to everyone, and we don't have to go into why that's wrong. As to 'She and I' used incorrectly, the rule is the same. Just make the sentence singular, and you'll know what pronoun to use. So if you would say, "He took me to the store", then you would say, "He took Maya and me to the store", or, more easily, "He took us to the store." ;)

4. It's/Its. I'm guilty of this one, but it's just a lazy habit, and my finger doesn't know what it's doing. And if I find it, I am not too lazy to go back and fix it, because it bugs me. 'It's' is the contraction for 'It is'. 'Its' is the possessive for it, and doesn't need an apostrophe any more than 'hers' or 'his' does. I had a professor once who said if we ever used 'it's' when we meant 'its' in a paper, we would get an 'F' on that paper. Not a mark down, an 'F'. Ever since then, I've been pretty aware of it. Still, it's the mistake I see the most often on my own blog, which is horrifying. Luckily, my old professor has no power over me now.

5. There/They're/Their. Obviously, this is another one that doesn't bug you when it's spoken, because you can't HEAR the difference, but when someone writes "There going to the store," or "We went to they're house," it bugs me.

6. Along the same lines as #5 are: your/you're; to/two/too; past/passed (I see this one a lot!); and weather/whether. Spell check won't catch these. I suspect that people know the difference, but are too careless to pay attention.

7. 'Literally' when you don't mean literally. Don't say, "There were literally monkeys flying out my ass", unless some actual monkeys came flying out of your ass. And if they did, um, I think we need pictures.

8. 'Unbelievable' when I can believe it. Don't say, "The plumber knows an unbelievable amount about pipes." Believe me, I can imagine that he knows a lot. It's his job. Using this same logic, 'Awesome' should bug me, unless it is used to describe something that is truly awe inspiring, like the Grand Canyon or the stars at night. It doesn't bug me though. I'm perfectly willing to tell you it's awesome that you went to a concert last night, or got that raise you've earned.

9. Well/Good. Well is an adjective, and Good is an adverb. So if you're saying "I'm good," you mean, "I'm good at something" (Damn I'm good!), or "I'm behaving" (I'm a good girl), but if someone asks, "How are you," the correct reply is, "I'm well, thank you." Unless you're sick, of course. But they probably don't care, and were only asking to be polite anyway.

10. Here/Hear. Ugh. Can't tell you how often I see this one, and it's just wrong. 'Hear' is something you do with your ears. 'Here' is where you will find me. Unless I'm there.

11. Misplaced apostrophes. I hate to see a plural treated like a possessive. I wonder if they find it insulting? ;)

12. "I could care less." Do you really mean this? Could you care less than you already do? Because really, I couldn't care less. The sad thing is that "could care less" has become the norm, and is listed as acceptable in the dictionary. Stupid dictionary.

13. Perhaps I'm wrong on this one, because I see/hear it so darned often. "Nobody has deals like these." Shouldn't that be, "Nobody else has deals like these"? Because if it's nobody, then, um, you don't have deals like these, either.

How about you? Any grammar pet peeves, other than people who get all high and mighty about grammar? ;)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Why do IDIOTS get away with crap?

(Click the image to make it larger, so you can read it.) Remember the plum tree that keeps me awake? Well, two someone pointed out, it's the fence making the noise, not the tree...and it's actually a cherry tree. Not like the kind you go pick cherries from in an orchard, but the kind that drops cherries all over the sidewalk and they make a mess and you step on them and track the juice in on your carpet. Yeah, that kind of tree. Anyway, we're tree hugging liberals, and we certainly don't want the tree cut down...just pruned a bit, so it doesn't knock down our fence.

We live in a condo complex, and Ted is the president of the board of directors for the homeowners. So he called our property management guy to have him call the owners of the tree (another complex, with which we share a fence) and have them prune the noisy, messy thing. The other morning, I was walking Genevieve, and the property manager was here, looking at the tree...and he said for all of the pain it is to get this company to pay to have their tree pruned, it would be easier if we just pay to have it done ourselves. The last time we had to have them do something, it had to trickle up through management and so on, and it took over a month. So, because they micromanage their properties and don't give them the freedom to make little decisions like this, our homeowners get to pay for it. Nice, huh?

Well, this isn't really a BIG deal, but it reminded me of one of the owners in our complex. There was a big war a couple of years ago, because he was doing unapproved work on his yard, having fences moved, blah blah blah. He was such a pain in the ass, that it caused everyone on the board a LOT of stress. Well, guess what? He's thinking of moving, and I suspect he'll be doing some more unapproved work in the near future. And my first instinct? Let him do it, just because he's such a pain in the ass and I don't like to see Ted having to deal with that crap.

I once heard that some insurance companies will deny a claim the first two times they come through...sometimes three times...and if you persevere, they will then pay them. But how many people give up after the first or second try? Why would it even occur to them to keep fighting?

Then of course, there are people like Wally in the comic above, who just work as hard as they have to in order to make sure that they don't have to work. Exhausting.

So, where is the benefit in being a decent person? Where is the economic benefit to fulfilling your obligations in an expedient, courteous manner? I haven't seen one. Seems like the bad guys get away with crap, because we're all too tired and worn out to have to deal with them. Makes me mad.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Happy Birthday

To Vin (Ted's uncle), who thinks blogs are stupid, so he won't be reading this. I hope he has a happy birthday, anyway. :)

To Pat, my ex-CEO, a guy who defines aging well for me. He rides his bike to the farmers' market on Sundays. Twice if he needs to load up on heirloom tomatoes. He's got a gorgeous significant other, and she's not 40 years younger than he is. He defines a 'superstar husband' as one who realizes the value of wife and kids, and does his share in the care of children and home. He wanted to learn more about Civil Rights in the south, so he went down there and became great friends with some of the movers and shakers of the movement. He wanted to drive a trolly, so he got a job driving a trolly. He's got family in PA, MA, UK, and an apartment in Paris. He makes a mean pesto sauce, and will do so for you if you ask nicely. He knows the meaning of 'good champagne', and likes to share that as well. He has a kind heart, which to me is apparant in all of these other things, and is the number one reason I am glad to have his friendship.

To Ma (my mother-in-law...tomorrow, not today), a woman whom I am proud to count as a member of my family. She raised 4 wonderful children, and worked very hard to make a good life for them. After her heart attack back in '89, she turned her life around, giving up most meat (she misses lamb curry, and I don't blame her) (she still eats fish sometimes), exercising, and taking up Yoga because it is supposed to help heart patients. She liked it. Next thing you know, she was subbing when the instructor was on vacation. Now she teaches 4 or 5 classes of her own, and is very dedicated, working toward her certification. She has taught special yoga classes to help people with M.S. I'm very proud of her dedication and achievements in all aspects of her life, and especially, like Pat (and Vin, though he won't read this) of her kind heart.

(And Ma, you're not last on the list because you're last in my heart, but because your birthday is tomorrow, and Vin and Pat's are today.)

Father Bob

The other day, I mentioned a poem by ee cummings, that was introduced to me by a teacher of mine, and I said I would tell you a bit about him someday. Well, today is the day. That teacher's name was Bob Hanlon, and he was my Latin teacher, as well as my Composition in Literature teacher in High School.

My first day of 9th grade, when I first saw him, all I could think was of the Beatles' line, "I am the Walrus", because he was kind of pale, kind of roudish, and had this big, walrus-like mustache. But the more I got to know him, the more I understood that this was a great man. I don't know about the rest of you, if your whole high school is/was full of idiot teachers, or mediocre teachers, or both; I certainly had my share of both of those categories. But I also had teachers who made me want to open my mind and my heart, to make the world a better place, and to be a better person, for myself, for my children, for the world. Mr. Ponder, Mr. Cornett, Mr. Cohen, Mr. McKeever and Mr. Hanlon were just such people. The first three were math teachers, and since my skills in math went from top of the class in 8th grade to barely keeping up in the advanced classes in 9th grade, but still not willing to take the easier classes, these teachers really made me feel ok about my decisions, and made me feel like even a C in their classes was pretty darned good. Mr. McKeever was amazing. I had Biology with him, and one semester, I was lazy and involved with friends and my after-school job, and I was barely pulling a B in his class. He noticed, noticed me and knew I was smart. This was not a small high school, so for a teacher to notice really meant something. He pulled me aside one day, and asked me to please get an A the next semester. Not that he would give it to me, he wanted me to earn it. And you know what? That's all it took. I worked my butt off for him, and I earned that A. Sometimes it's amazing to me how little it takes to really encourage a student, (or devastate them, sadly) and I wish that our teachers were able to do that for all of them.

Mr. Hanlon was in this same class of teacher. The kind to make you try your best, just to make him happy. I have never excelled in languages. I never did well in Latin, or in French (I got an F one semester in college French, much to my chagrin) and his Latin class really made me struggle. I don't know why I kept going back (I took 2 more years of Latin for my Master's...what was I thinking?). But part of the reason was that I never felt dumb in his class. I always felt like he respected me and honored me for who I was.

Mr. Hanlon's back story is that he was a Catholic Priest, and he fell in love. He couldn't marry in the church, so he got out and married his beloved wife. They lost an amazing, compassionate, wonderful man that day. Losing Mr. Hanlon, in my book, would be enough to make the church rethink that stupid policy.

In Comp Lit (which is what we called Composition in Literature, as opposed to Comparative Literature, which was my Master's Degree), he just helped me to become ME. In his watchful, gentle care, I felt like I was blooming. I talked to other students, and they felt the same way. We read "The Dead", by James Joyce. We read King Lear. We read so many amazing books, stories, and plays. And there he was, this gentle, amazing walrus of a man, who could encourage you, a powerless little high school student, to THINK. To rail against the dark forces in the universe. To fight for good, against evil in all of its forms. His class was a balm for the perhaps more practical English classes, where we would continuously prep for the SAT, learning antonyms and so on. His class made you think, made you feel. And Mr. Hanlon? He could make you feel good about yourself. That's no mean feat when dealing with teens. He was an amazing man, an amazing teacher. He was just what so many teenagers need.

And, I am heartbroken to say, 'was' is the correct tense. He and his wife had a farm, and on that farm they had cows. They also had irrigation, which calls for irrigation ditches. One morning, before coming to school, he found a calf down in an irrigation ditch. It was obvious that the calf was in trouble, and he climbed down to help it. Both he and the calf drowned to death that morning. Outside of family deaths, I'm not sure anyone has died and left me more grief stricken than I was when I found out about that loss. The world, the universe, lost an ally that day.

You all probably know that I'm an atheist, that God doesn't really hold any great charms for me. A few years ago, I went to the retirement party for Mr. Cohen, one of my amazing math teachers, and I was talking to another of my teachers, Mr. Cornett. (That day, I felt like my memories from HS were not crazy...that it had indeed been an amazing, safe, nurturing, wonderful place, and really, because of these few men. If Maya gets one teacher so wonderful at that age in her life, I will be thankful.) Mr. Cornett and Mr. Hanlon were good friends, great friends. I never knew this in HS, and that doesn't really surprise me, seeing how self centered most HS students are, it didn't really occur to me that they had friends and families. Anyway, Mr. Cornett was telling me how much Mr. Hanlon and his wife loved dragonflies....loved to see them fly about in the afternoon sun, felt somehow closer to each other when there were dragonflies about. Mr. Cornett (Glen, he would ask me to call him...but it's hard after all this time) told me that at Mr. Hanlon's funeral, a ring of dragonflies came and buzzed lazily about Mrs. Hanlon's head, like a crown, like a halo...and he never felt closer to God or to an afterlife as at that precise moment. It's moments like that that give me hope, that at least for a bit, maybe our souls can hang on and watch over those we love.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Our Weekend So Far

This weekend has been busy so far. Friday evening we went to a potluck hosted by some friends from Maya's school. One nice thing to come out of that was that the only other girl there for Maya to play with was E, a girl who she doesn't really get along with at school or in scouts. They had a nice time, and I'm hoping that opened her eyes a bit to the possibility that this girl might be OK. Not that they will necessarily hang out at school or scouts, but that maybe when they're the only people around, they can get along then. There are dynamics involved when they're with certain other girls that may (or may not, who knows) prevent them from really getting along. Anyway, that was Friday.

Saturday, Ted had to go to a remote at a housing development in Brentwood, where they tried to seduce him with square footage, convincing him that we need to move out to the exurbs (is that what they're called?) so we can have a great big house. I'm not so sure. Ted says if I saw the house, I might be. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, I had a lovely lunch and shopping date with Dot, which was her belated birthday gift from me. (Not the shopping, just the lunch.) It was very nice to hang out, just the two of us. That's how friends are...sometimes you enjoy getting together with everyone, sometimes it's fun to have some one on one. Dot and I haven't had that in awhile.

While Ted was being seduced, and I was lunching, Maya was at a birthday party. Her friend Dominique turned 10, and for her party, they went to the Paris Beauty College, where they did all of the girls up with fancy hair. They had a great time. Maya's hair was lovely and very long curls...she's still in bed, so I'm not sure how those curls survived the night. Here's Maya and her best friend, Jackie, showing off their coifs. :)

Then, as if all of that weren't enough, we had a birthday party at our house for Ted's mom and uncle, whose birthdays are 1 day (and 15 years, I think) apart. Ted was the chef for the evening, and he made food from Giada. Boy, it was YUMMY. My personal favorite was the Tilapia. He also made Lamb (the recipe is for beef, but there are a couple of non-beef Hindu types hanging around, so he substituted lamb), and a zucchini dish. YUM. One nice thing about the party is that we had to clean house ahead of time, so now our house is nice and clean. :) The other nice thing is that we bought too much Tilapia, and Ted didn't cook it all, so we have dinner all planned already for tonight. Yay! It was very yummy, so that will be nice. We also have some of the sauce for the lamb left, so I'm thinking we'll have that on Monday. Then I want Gina's chicken one day this week, too.

It's hot today, maybe gonna get up to 100. I think I've missed the boat for going to the farmer's market, since it will be out in the sun, and I still haven't showered or walked the dog. Maybe next week. I wonder if they have any heirloom tomatoes this early in the season, and I'm missing them?

Hope your weekend is turning out well. We're thinking breakfast at Denny's, ironing, relaxing, not sure what else. Nice.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Saturday Poetry

OK, after the last three days of serious, personal family stuff, mostly written by someone else, I've decided to lighten things up a bit, and bring you a poem today, also written by someone else. Who knows, maybe this will become a Saturday tradition, a poem that I love but did not write.
no man,if men are gods;but if gods must
be men,the sometimes only man is this
(most common,for each anguish is his grief;
and,for his joy is more than joy,most rare)

a fiend;if fiends speak truth;if angels burn

by their own generous completely light,
an angel;or(as various worlds he'll spurn
rather than fail immersurable fate)
coward,clown,traitor, idiot,dreamer,beast-

such was a poet and shall be and is

-who'll solve the depths of horror to defend
a sunbeam's architecture with his life:
and carve immortal jungles of despair
to hold a mountain's heartbeat in his hand

e e cummings

Someday I'll tell you about the amazing man who introduced me to this High School Latin/Composition teacher, Bob Hanlon.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tuesday Cooking

I'm working on a longer post, which I had intended for today, but you will all just have to wait for it until tomorrow. It's about how I came to meeet my dad at the age of 21. That's your teaser.

For today, you get this yummy recipe, which I made for dinner last night. It was SO Yummy. Comes from Sunset magazine, 2003.

Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes and Toasted Crumbs

2 cups cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
Salt and pepper
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 tblsp finely chopped parsley
6 oz. dried spaghetti
2 slices sourdough bread, torn into pieces
2 tblsp chopped fresh basil leaves
Grated parmesan cheese

1. Place tomato halves, cut side up, in a 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, stir together 2 tsp of the oil and the garlic and parsley; pat mixture evenly over cut sides of tomatoes, then drizzle with 2 more teaspoons of the oil. Bake in a 425 degree oven until tops of tomatoes are lightly browned (about 20 minutes).

2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.

3. In a food processor or blender, whirl bread to coarse crumbs. Spread crumbs in an 8-inch baking pan and drizzle with remaining 2 tsp oil; stir well to coat completely. Place in oven alongside tomatoes and bake until crisp and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Let cool.

4. Drain pasta well and return to pan. Add tomatoes, half the bread crumbs, and the basil. Mix gently with two forks, seasoning with salt and pepper. Divide spaghetti between two warm dinner plates and sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs. Offer cheese to add to taste.

I wish I could say the picture was mine, but it's the one from the magazine. I doubled the recipe, and it was very yummy. :) Enjoy!

Just read this and I realized I said Yummy 3 times in this post. I don't care. It was THAT yummy.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Russian Cooking Class

The main fundraiser at Maya's school is a Spring Festival, which combines with a live auction, and raises much needed funds to keep the school doors open. The big ticket items tend to be the quilts, which are made from squares made by the students and sewn by dedicated parents, trunks made by woodworking parents, and excursions put together by the teachers. One of Maya's teachers, Zhanna, is Russian. She emigrated from the Ukraine about 10 years ago. Her offering for the auction was a day of cooking, where the parents and kids would learn to make traditional Russian food, enjoy the pool at her condo's clubhouse, and all around have fun. The day was planned, and finally, Saturday, arrived. Unfortunately the Air Conditioning wasn't working, but Zhanna's handy husband went home and got a fan, which brought some relief to the 95 degrees day, which was especially needed because we were baking. We made a LOT of food, much too much for the number of people who were there. I don't remember the names for most of it. There was Struedel, made from her mother's recipe, which was filled with dried fruits, jam, nuts, and smashed up cookies. There was a cold soup, which was delicious, and quite a relief in the heat. There was beef stroganoff (served over mashed potatoes, NOT noodles), beet salad with sour cream and prunes, herring butter, pickled tomatoes, pickled mushrooms, roasted peppers, piroski, and I don't know what else. It was quite a feast, and quite a fun day. Worth every penny. ;)

Failure to Thrive

Any parents out there know what this term means...when you have a newborn, and they're not doing so well. Well, no newborns around here, but what with the weather being 103 yesterday and me getting all grumpy because I was hungry (just for dinner, it's not like I even missed a meal, for goodness sake) and then I had a hard time sleeping last night because, though the fog came in and brought much needed relief from the heat, it also brought a wind that pushes the plum tree next door against the fence, causing a creaking noise ALL FRIGGIN NIGHT LONG. I'm just saying, it was hard to sleep. Stupid thing is still creaking right outside my window, sounding like it's about to burst. I hate it. Authorities have been called, and the tree will soon lose a branch, but waiting for it is 'working my last nerve', as they used to say in Philly. ;)

I'm not thriving so much as I would like right about now. Stupid tree.

I did dream that I was going to take care of Brad and Angelina's baby for them, once she got old enough. Maybe because my sister is due to give birth at any minute? (Today is her due date, induction set for Wednesday if she doesn't have her sooner!) I don't know. :)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I Need A Chauffer

Yesterday, I walked everywhere, and boy, these dogs are barking. I started with a walk to Noah's for breakfast, which is just about a mile and a quarter each way. Not too far, but my shoe selection was based more on heat than comfort. In other words, I was wearing sandals. Next, we had to go to the old work office to move what little bit of stuff there still remains into a storage space. The office is in a business park, and the storage space is actually a small office two parking lots over in that same office park. Yesterday was also one of my coworker's last day, so after the move, we were going to go play pool and have a drink. After that, I was going to go meet up with Ted and Maya, plus Cherry, Eric, Liz, Ben, and Liz's sister, at the Alameda County Fair. Well, I wanted to look cute for all of this, right? (not the moving, but the drinks and getting together with friends) Stupidly, the answer is, yes, of course. So I changed from my comfy(ish) sandals to cuter, less comfy sandals. We must have walked across those dang parking lots with crap to move 100 times (I'm exaggerating, but it was starting to feel that way). It was about 95 degrees yesterday, which only added to the fun. By the time I got to the fair, I was seriously regretting my shoe choice. The fair, by the way, was GREAT. I don't think I've ever been to a county fair before...certainly not one as big as this one. We saw cows and pigs and goats and lambs, one pretty horse, prize winning jams and jellies and cakes and pies, amazing woodworking done by high school aged students. We saw people get hypnotized and act like idiots. We saw Ted announce Smash Mouth on stage. (YAY! That was VERY cool!) We talked to a prize winning goat raising 4-H teen, who was so enthusiastic and knowledgable, it was great. :) Maya and Jackie took Ted's cell phone, and went on rides without any parental supervision except the occasional phone call, for about 6 hours. A great day was had by all. I couldn't find any deep fried snickers bars to taste, but that was probably for the best anyway. At the end of the day, however, I couldn't find my car. I told Cherry and Eric that my car was in the red parking lot, and it wasn't, it was in the green parking lot, so we ended the day off with a LONG walk, probably over a mile, in very tired feet and uncomfortable (but cute!) sandals. Thanks Cherry and Eric, for being willing to hoof it all over the place to make sure I got back to my car safely! By the time I got home, my dogs were seriously barking....I could hardly walk from the car to the house. That is why, seriously, I think I need to pay someone to drive me around. Or at the very least, to hit me in the head when I try to make such stupid shoe decisions in the future.

Props to Safeway

I stopped at Safeway on Thursday evening, and when I got back to my car, there was a woman filling the trunk of the car next to me with fruit and veggies. Corn, watermelon, strawberries, and so on. She didn't have any bags, she was taking the items out of a big box and putting them into her trunk. I asked her if she had bought all of this at Safeway, wondering if she was against bagging her groceries for some reason, or if she were planning a huge party, since there was so much food. No, she said, Safeway donates the food to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum. Color me impressed! I have seen people from the food bank picking up bread and other items that are day old and so on, but I didn't know that they supported the animals as well. Good for them! (They also knew how to distract toddler Maya way back when, with a balloon and a cookie, which helped us get through the store quite easily. The woman who used to give her the cookie, Karen, still works at out local Safeway, and loves to see Maya and talk to her. :) )

Friday, July 07, 2006

Rue Lepic

As you all surely know by now, what with the duo Anniversary Posts and all, Monday was our 13th Wedding Anniversary. We had some different ideas as to what to do to celebrate...we thought of going to Napa, or to a play, etc. We finally settled on taking Maya with us, and going into the city to one of our favorite restaurants, Rue Lepic. We haven't been there in perhaps 12 years or so, but nothing has changed. I don't know if you would consider that a good thing or a bad thing, but we considered it a good thing.

The story as I remember it is that the chef, who is Japanese (I thought Viet Namese, but her name, Michiko Boccara, proved me wrong) learned to cook wonderful, tradional french food from her chef husband. They got a divorce, and she opened a restaurant. I don't know if this story is true, but I'll keep passing it on in a gossipy way, just for fun. The restaurant is sucessful in that it has been open for quite a few years now, and does a good business. It is a tiny restaurant, with perhaps 12 or 13 small tables, total. The same waiter and chef have been there every time we have gone, and since they're open 7 nights a week, that leads me to wonder if they ever take a day off.

We started with a very yummy cream of vegetable soup, which included asparagus, leeks, and potatoes. It was flavorful and delicious. Next, Ted and Maya had Caesar salad, and I had smoked salmon. Both were top notch, very yummy. Then we moved on to the main course...Ted had Rack of Lamb, and I had Duck A L'orange. Both were very, very tasty. If you're a fish eating vegitarian, they also had salmon and halibut on the menu, but I didn't see anything there for a serious vegi-type person. Maya just ate some of Ted's lamb, and some of my duck. She liked them both.

Dessert was creme brulee for Ted and myself, and was very, very good. Maya had chocolate mousse, which she enjoyed, but what she really loved was the sauce that it came with. I believe it was a créme anglaise. The waiter noticed, and brought her more sauce. Thanks, Vincent!

I didn't have a peek at the wine list, but Ted said the prices seemed very reasonable. The waiter steered us toward a truly lovely, mid priced bottle of French red wine to accompany our lamb and duck, but sadly, I don't have any idea what vinyard it was from. Overall, a wonderful meal in a tiny neighborhood restaurant. Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Our Summer So Far...

When planning our summer, with me working from home and Maya home as well, one concern that I had was too much TV/Video games. If we lived in a neighborhood full of kids, this wouldn't be an issue, because she would be out playing with them enough of the time to counter-balance the time spent on XBox or Disney Channel. But we don't. The other kids in our neighborhood are in summer day camps and their parents are at work. If I were a stay at home mom, I could keep her occupied for much of the day - we could go on day trips to the zoo, the park, the ocean, whatever. But I work, so while my schedule is pretty flexible, I can't go on day trips without taking vacation time.

So, on your average day, Maya sleeps in while I work. We walk the dog, have brunch, and I work some more. She watches TV or plays XBox while I work. During the schoolyear, the limit is 1 hour a day, but for summer, it's 2 hours a day. So, what else does she do? Yesterday, we made popsicles out of yogurt and fruit juice, she wrote a letter to one of her favorite magazines, she drew pictures, she played music on her zither, and she read her current book, The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I know that if she were allowed unlimited TV/DVD/XBox/Nintendo/Tamaguchi time, the temptations would be too great. (I know, she has a LOT of electronic distractions...that's where the belief that her own money is hers to spend crashes up against my repulsion for SO MANY plug ins.) But really, to be sitting quietly downstairs, reading my book, and hearing her play music upstairs? That's priceless to me.

Here's the recipe for the popsicles, from the Williams Sonoma Kids Cookbook:
Frozen Fruit and Yogurt Pops
1 cup strawberry yogurt
1 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups raspberry juice

Set popsicle molds on work surface. Spoon an equal amount of yogurt into each mold, covering the bottom 1/3 of the mold. Cover the molds. Insert a popsicle stick into each mold. Freeze for 40 minutes.

Remove molds from freezer. Remove cover. Pour an equal amount of orange juice into each mold. Cover, return to freezer for 40 minutes.

Repeat this procedure with the raspberry juice. Freeze until solid, 4 hours or over night.
(We used either strawberry-mango or banana-cream yogurt, mango nectar, and strawberry banana juice. Our colors weren't as vibrant as the pictures in the cookbook, but I'm guessing the results were just as tasty!)

Oh, by the way, with all of the recipes flying around here lately, I have been remiss about introducing my sister-in-law (Ted's sister). She has started a blog, which is random ideas, but plenty about cooking...and she makes great cakes! So, if you're interested in learning about cake, or whatever else she might be thinking about, check out La Luna's World. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

This Isn't Even Alaska...or Yosemite

Here's your picture of the day. Click the picture to get the story. Moral of the story? Don't leave food in your car...a lesson I learned back in 1984, Yosemite, food in the station wagon, bear in the station wagon, food gone, windows broken, car moved a couple of feet, 4 very scared campers who had just graduated from High School (one of whom would be me...) Ack!

More Cooking Today...

One of the comments I got on my anniversary post asked about a recipe for Roti, which is an Indian flatbread...very similar to Naan, though not exactly the same. Roti is better. ;) The Guyanese commenter, Shelliza, noted that when her mother tried to give her the recipe, it came out, "a handful, a pinch and this much", which is just how Ted and his mom make it as well. So I can't give you their recipe. However, my friend Cherry tried to find a recipe online, and she gave it a try. She said it was very yummy. I asked her for the recipe, and she said she melded it out of a couple of different recipes, and then she used what Ted had told her to make it work. She is going to make it again soon, and write it down. I'll either post it, or if she wants to put it on her blog, I'll link there. :)

In the meantime, here's a recipe I found online. I like it because it's in a Carribean 'Voice', and mentions the tawah.

Sadha Roti
4 cups sifted flour
4 tbsp shortening/margarine
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

What tuh do?
1. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
2. Add enough water to form a smooth soft dough
3. Mix-in pieces of shortening/margarine in to the dough
4. Add water and mix to a stiff dough
5. Cut dough into small pieces and roll into balls about the size of a small orange
6. Flour kneading area and roll out to adequate thickness
7. Bake on a moderately hot tawah (large skillet if you don't have one), turning regularly.
My notes: Ted says it makes a difference what kind of flour you use. Unbleached flour, and the fresher the better, makes the best roti. Also, in between steps 4 and 5, he rolls out the dough into one big rectangle, like a rectangular pie crust, and he brushes it with melted butter. Then he rolls it up in a tube, and cuts it like cinnimon rolls. He makes those into the balls mentioned in step 6. After turning the roti on the tawah, you brush it with melted butter. Flip once more, quickly, then as it puffs up and gets fluffy, you take it off of the tawah, and clap it between your hands to get the air out. Careful, the steam is HOT. Also, this is somewhat messy, so clap Roti over sink, man. ;)

I don't know if I'm explaining it well. Cherry will probably do a better job than I am.

I also have a yummy recipe for Guyanese Lamb Stew, which I have made myself, and isn't nearly as tricky as the Roti is.

Guyanese Lamb Stew
3 lbs lamb stew meat. With bones means more flavor, without means easier eating.
1 lemon
Vegetable oil for browning lamb
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tblsp brown sugar
3 tblsp vinegar
1 tsp chives
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 15oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can chicken broth
hot sauce, to taste. If you want this truly authentic, try to get your hands on some West Indian Hot Pepper Sauce. Use sparingly, though, because it's HOT.

Squeeze lemon juice onto lamb. This takes away the 'gamey' flavor.
Brown the lamb in the oil over medium to medium high heat.
Add onions and garlic, cook for 5 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients, simmer for 1 - 1 1/2 hours or more.

When the meat is tender, thicken like you would a gravy, with flour or cornstarch.
Serve over rice, with some curried pumpkin as a side dish.
On a side note, Ted found this cookbook, and got it for his mom. It has recipes for things like Pepperpot and Yam Foo Foo. For his brother's birthday, everyone took one dish from the book and made it, for a true Guyanese feast. Fun!

Ted tells me that the Roti recipe up there is wrong wrong wrong, that Sadha Roti is one ting, and Paratha Roti is another ting. (Fake carribian accent mine, just having fun you know...) So, I looked for a recipe for Paratha Roti, and came up with this:
Roti background:Roti is a very popular dish in Trinidad & Tobago where there are shops selling roti with different curry fillings (meat fillings - curry beef, shrimp, chicken or goat & non-meat fillings - curry potatoes). There are also different types of roti such as Dhalpouri, Dosti, Bus-up-shut (Paratha) and Sada roti. Please be aware that these are Trinidad-East Indian dishes and are often quite different from East Indian dishes cooked in India.

Equipment: A suitable flat iron surface like a large frying pan, a griddle, or ideally, a flat iron plate called a 'tawah' or 'plateen'
A brush like a barbecue brush to apply the oil; some simply tie a few strips of cloth to the end of a wooden stick (called a 'puchara')

Paratha-Roti (Buss-Up-Shut)

1 lb. flour (4 cups)
4 teaspoons. baking powder
1 teaspoon. salt
1 ½ oz. ghee/marg. or butter
1 3/4 cups water

Method:Sift flour, baking powder and salt. (J's note...Ted does this in the Cuisenart) Add enough water to form a smooth soft dough. Knead well and leave for ½ hour covered with a damp cloth. Knead for second time and divide into four balls (loyah). Flour board and roll out dough to size 8" or 9" as desired, then spread with ghee and sprinkle with flour. Cut dough from centre to edge, roll tightly into a cone shape, press peak of cone into centre and flatten. Leave again for 30 min. Sprinkle flour on board and roll out very thin with rolling pin. Bake on a moderately hot bake stone (tawah) coating dough with oil on both sides as it cooks. Turn on both sides and cook about ½ mins. each side. Remove from baking stone and hit with wooden pallette until flaky or wrap in clean cloth and mash up. Often called "Buss-up-Shot."
So there you go. Hope that helps. ;)

Recipe Wednesday

When Maya and I were trying to plan her summer a few months ago, one of the classes she was interested in taking was a cooking class. The only problem was that the class she wanted to take was through a program that would have her going at 9:00am, 5 days a week, which didn't fit in with her plan of relaxing and sleeping in this summer. So, we decided that we would have our own cooking class, and I would teach her how to make some dishes. We bought a great looking kids cookbook, but we haven't tried any of the recipes yet. Thus far, we have had one lesson, in which she wanted to make Caesar Salad and Macaroni and Cheese (Kraft...she wants to try homemade another time, but first she wanted to learn to make it from the box.)

So, here's the recipe for Caesar salad that she made. We had thought about doing the recipe with eggs and anchovies, but she wanted to try a recipe without. This recipe is from the New Basics Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. We didn't make the anchovy toast that they suggest, just the dressing. We used croutons instead. It was very yummy. :)
I'll include the whole recipe for you, in case you're interested.
Lemony Caesar Salad
1 ½ tb Olive oil
¼ c Chopped walnuts
4 Thin slices whole-grain bread
¼ c Anchovy spread (recipe follows)
½ lg Head romaine lettuce, rinsed and patted dry
1 c Caesar Dressing (recipe follows)
4 oz Parmesan cheese in one piece

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Add the walnuts and saute over medium heat until lightly toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside. Toast the bread; then spread each slice with Anchovy Spread and scatter with the toasted walnuts Tear the lettuce into pieces and toss with the dressing. Place a piece of prepared toast on each plate and top with a portion of the lettuce and dressing. Using a vegetable peeler, shave thin slices of Parmesan over each portion. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Anchovy Spread
12 anchovy fillets, drained
2 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tblsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 clove garlic, finely minced

Using a fork, mash the anchovies in a small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together. Add to the anchovies and mix until a paste has formed. Makes about 1/4 cup.

Caesar Dressing
1 tsp grated lemon zest
3 tblsp fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1
tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine the lemon zest, juice, garlic and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk well. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly until smooth. Add the pepper and salt and set aside. Makes 1 cup.
While I'm posting recipes, I'll also include, for your dining pleasure, a very tasty meal that Ted made the other night. He got the idea for both of the recipes from watching Barefoot Contessa on Food TV. We didn't have any goat cheese, so he used Parmesan instead. It was very yummy. Seems like it would work equally well with Brie.
Chicken with Goat Cheese
3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
12 ounces Montrachet goat cheese, with garlic and herbs
Fresh basil leaves
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers, leaving one side attached.. Cut 12 thick slices of the Montrachet and place 2 slices plus a large basil leaf under the skin of each chicken breast. Rub each piece with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake the breasts for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked through. Serve hot or at room temperature.
He made this yummy side dish, Zucchini with Parmesan. It was very tasty.
Zucchini with Parmesan
8 medium zucchini
Good olive oil
2 large yellow onions cut in half and sliced 1/2 inch thick
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Remove the ends of the zucchini and, if they are large, cut in half lengthwise. Slice the zucchini diagonally in 1/2-inch slices. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan and add the onions. Cook for 10 minutes on medium-low heat, until they start to brown. Add half the zucchini, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook, tossing occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until just cooked through. Sprinkle with Parmesan and cook for 30 seconds more. Remove to a serving platter and repeat with the rest of the zucchini. Serve immediately. Ina's note: If you cook too much zucchini in one pan, you end up steaming rather than sauteing it. I prefer to cook it in 2 batches. (J's note: I think we only had two zucchini, so this wasn't a problem for us.)
Hope you find these recipes as tasty as we did. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day

Go get your BBQ on, and while you're enjoying feast, family and fireworks and a long weekend, let's remember what we're celebrating, what our little experiment in democracy means, how much we have gained these last 230 years, and just how much we stand to lose. Happy Birthday, America. Let's all work together to make this the best country we can. K?

(It's been awhile since I read the whole document, which is indeed a very dangerous document - It brought about a complete change in government, after all - so if you're interested in having a read, click here.)

Monday, July 03, 2006

This Is Us*

A few nights ago, I was up watching Sex and the City DVDs, and it was the episode where Miranda and Steve get married. Miranda was saying that she didn't want the cookie cutter wedding, didn't want someone else's idea of a wedding, that what she wanted was a wedding that represented them, and who they were. I liked that. I liked it, because it resonated with me. I felt like we had that, a wedding that represented us, 13 years ago today.

When faced with the idea of a big white dress and a long walk down the aisle, I thought, "Well, that's nice for other folks, but not really what I want for us." And Ted agreed. Altough he's not a practicing Hindu, meaning he doesn't go to temple or anything like that, he wanted to have a Hindu wedding, to celebrate his Indian/Guyanese heritage. I was all for it. So, July 3rd, 1993, we got married in a beautiful ceremony in his parents' back yard. The pundit who performed our ceramony was Ted's second cousin, who flew over from England to officiate. Ted's stepdad has a license to marry people in CA, so he performed the legal duties. It was SUCH a hot day, and there we were, sitting in front of a fire, going through a ceramony that I didn't completely understand. It was great. When it was over (1 1/2 hour ceramony), my first thought was, "Can we do that again?" It was great.

Then we changed our clothes and went to our reception, which was on Treasure Island. Back then, it was a military base, so we got a pretty darned good deal on the price. I think our reception, for 125 people, was under $2,000, and that may have included wine. Amazing. And best of all, it was beautiful. Did things go wrong? Sure. The flowers were pink instead of peach. The cake was UGLY and dry. Did we care? Not really, because what are you going to do? At that point, all you can do is go with it, not let it ruin your day, and enjoy yourselves. Which we did. What a great reception...I've never been at one, before or since, where people danced so much, or had such a great time. So fun.
And the next day was the 4th, so we went to a bbq. The 5th, we flew to England on our honeymoon. Ah, such fun times, and really, really nice to look back and remember.

But even more than that, I like to think of our much it has grown and changed since that day 13 years ago. We have been through a lot, some of it wonderful, some horrible, and having Ted there with me, knowing that we are a team, and he is on my side, that has meant more to me than I can ever hope to express. I love you, Q. Happy Anniversary!
*Sorry...since I just dissed this song yesterday, but like I said, I like the ideas in the song, and they kind of fit. :)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Mark Knopfler/Emmylou Harris concert

Last summer, Ted's boss had 8 tickets to see Mark Knopfler at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, and then something came up, and he couldn't use them. He knew how much Ted loved Mark Knopfler, so he very generously gave him the tickets. No $$, just tickets. NICE! So, we rounded up the family, and we all went. It was such a great concert, with SO MUCH energy, so much fun, wonderful wonderful. We had a great time. You all know how I feel about Dire Straits, and this was a great concert, because he played a lot of the old Dire Straits material for it.

Friday was the last venue on the Mark Knopfler/Emmylou Harris tour. Ted's same kind boss had tickets, and invited us to join him and his wife and another couple for the concert. I was hesitant, because the only song I've really heard on the radio, This Is Us, doesn't really hook me. It's a sweet sentiment...I like the lyrics. I like the tune. I like Mark Knopfler's voice. I just don't think it blends very well with Harris' voice. And maybe that's part of the charm...that like a married couple, like they portray in the song, their voices don't necessarily meld and come together, they each retain their own strengths and timbres. I really try to take that charm and turn it into actually enjoying the song, but so far, I haven't been able to. Just don't like her voice, and not with his.

So I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of going to the concert, because I don't really care for the song, and I was afriad it would be too 'country' for my taste. But then I thought, "open your mind, J. You really like Mark Knopfler, you LOVE your husband, and here's a chance to go out and have a nice evening. Maybe you'll be a convert." So we went.

Have you ever gone to a concert, and come out with a great desire to find out MORE about the artists, find out their back story, buy all of their albums? I was late on the Police bandwagon, but I hopped on back in '83 after seeing their Synchronicity tour. I kind of thought, maybe something like that will happen this time. Did it? Not so much. The concert had its high points, as Ted mentioned in his review, but overall I came out of it feeling glad that we had been gifted the tickets, and that we hadn't paid $200 for ourselves to go. I won't go into an in depth review, because Ted did such a great job already, but I will say, I was mostly bored, and the highlights were definately when Knopfler performed old Dire Straits songs. We had been joking, fearfully, that they would probably make a duet out of Romeo and Juliet, and that it was going to suck. Thankfully, they didn't, he sang that song on his own, and as always, the bittersweet sadness and beauty of the song brought me to tears. As Ted says, making me cry is about as difficult as shooting fish in a barrel, but this song gets me. I just wish that there had been more moments that equaled it at the concert. My score? 4/10. Muh.