Thursday, August 20, 2009

Discovering my Inner Julia

I saw the movie Julie & Julia tonight. My first reaction when I learned the book was being turned into a movie was shock. This was one of the few books I could not finish. I can recall tossing it to the floor on a number of exasperating occasions. Then I heard Meryl Streep would be in the movie as Julia Child and I was intrigued.

Meryl Streep was wonderful as Julia Child. Her performance reminded me of being a little girl and sitting in my grandmother's kitchen watching her cooking show on the small black and white television. I had no idea what that strange woman was talking about most of the time but she seemed to be having so much fun that I was hooked, loving her exuberance as she grabbed pots and pans tossing food around to create these masterpieces.

My mother was a good cook but she was a utilitarian cook. She cooked not from pleasure but from necessity. Meat, vegetable and a starch- each kept in their own place on the plate. My aunt, my mother's sister and nemesis was more adventurous. When she retired she decided to learn how to make Chinese food. My mother wondered why anyone would want to learn how to make Chinese food when you could just buy it (the pragmatic utilitarian). She also learned how to make pizza, lasagna and to bake her own bread. Unfortunately my Aunt's Chinese food, pizza, and bread never left you wanting more. She was amazing with desserts but outside of desserts she cooked by the book, a slave to the recipe; never veering off track.

I'm more the exuberant Julia (that is, when I'm not being rushed). Although I do prefer to create alone. It's like writing for me- playing around with the ingredients to see just what will happen if I add a little more or less. Most of the time I wind up pleasantly surprised. Lately I haven't found much joy in cooking; it's yet another in the long list of chores. But tonight Julia awoke.

The first thing I did after the movie ended was to rush out to buy my own copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (I'm embarrassed to admit I've never owned a copy). Thankfully the bookstore did not have a copy or else I'd be up for most of the night cooking. It's impossible to see that movie and not want to race to the nearest kitchen. I have no plans to recreate the Julie/Julia project and cook every recipe in Mastering the Art. I'd just like to remember to let Julia out a little more often and have fun. Bon Appetit

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is it really summer?

It looks like summer- lush vegetation and flowers blooming (and my vegetable garden being choked by weeds). It sort of feels like summer save for the deliciously cool mornings and evenings with little or no humidity. I look up at the clear blue sky and I keep thinking I've fallen into September already.

All the standard hallmarks of summer are present- no school, charcoal grills, fireworks, days at the beach and picking berries but where are my friendly neighborhood wasps?

Wasps? I know. I know. Most people have a visceral reaction to these winged creatures of agony but I have rather a soft spot for them. Instead of running for the nearest insecticide when they begin building a nest, I watch them completely transfixed. If you're careful and gain their trust, they'll let you get fairly close to observe their rhythms. I guess you can call me the Wasp Whisperer.

Unfortunately, my summer has been waspless. Is it the cool weather (this morning was a nippy 53 degrees) that has tricked them into hibernation? Or is it something more ominous? I rather miss my wasp breaks during the day.

Project 365 #90


Project 365 #89

A Dog's Life

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Project 365 #88

Reach Up

The cloud formations have been stunning this strange cool summer. This photo looked as if the clouds were just within my reach.

New Starts

Is it possible that I haven't posted since June? I've been walking around with hundreds of blog posts playing around in my head but the rush of summer has kept me from the keyboard (the exception being to obsessively load albums on my brand new IPod). Tonight, I decided to stop thinking about posting and write. So while I'm on shuffle mode listening to the crazy mix of Yo Yo Ma, Santana, Frank Sinatra, Green Day and the other 80 albums I've loaded on so far, I'll write-- and maybe dance a bit when the mood hits.

Right now I'm still feeling the buzz of my swimming high. I'm taking swimming classes at the Y every Tuesday evening. I'm not afraid of the water. I just never got around to actually learning how to swim. Well, I did start taking classes ten years ago but three classes in I felt this tremendous urge to throw up in the pool and seemed unable to handle a simple task like holding my breath. A pregnancy test put my dreams of becoming a swimmer on hold. And I always meant to go back but excuses kept popping up to silence desire.

This summer I put an end to the excuses. Not only did I sign up for a swim class but I enrolled at the Y as a member. This after swearing I'd never belong to another gym again. Who needs a gym when I can lace up my running shoes and head outside? Of course come winter blizzards, sub-zero wind chills, thunderstorms, and allergy season, I'm pretty much out of commission. I'm left staring out the window longingly with the dog. Now I can head to the gym with the whole family (free childcare-yeah!) and work out or simply to indulge my steam room and sauna addiction.

In five weeks I'll officially be a swimmer and the week after that I'll officially be a college student. Years ago, I used to keep a MUST DO List. The top three slots were- 1) Learn to Drive (this was fairly easy once I moved from the city to the country where everything is at least 25 minutes away) 2) Learn to swim (working on this one) and 3) Go Back to School (I'm weeks away from subjecting myself to midterms, papers, finals and MATH which I haven't done since 1985).

2009 is turning out to be an interesting year.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Project 365 #87


When Georgie was little this is what he used to call the contrails left by airplanes. How perfect a word!

Project 365 #86

Newborn Fawn

Right in a pile of grass in my neighbors yard a doe gave birth to this gorgeous creature. The baby was born sometime after 6pm and found in the morning. It was still too fragile to do more than to blink with those big eyes and sniff the air.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sometimes a Writer Has to Plant

The other day, my little guy was taking a nap on the couch when my daughter arrived home from school. He'd been asleep less than ten minutes and it would have been the perfect moment to grab my laptop and head to my office for some quality writing but the outdoors beckoned.

Like the angel sitting on my shoulder, my daughter said, "Shouldn't you be taking this time to write?" She had a point. But another angel sat on the other shoulder pointing out the perfection of the day- not too hot, not too breezy, the ground was damp and I had seeds which needed to be in the ground.

As much as I enjoy writing, I enjoy getting my hands dirty. Plus, when I'm outside digging, planting, weeding and hauling the ideas sprout. Solutions to holes in my plot become apparent while transplanting. Relationships between characters become clearer when I'm deciding what vegetables compliment each other. Unnecessary scenes are easier to toss while on hands and knees weeding.

The best part is I get alone time and room to think because my family flees at the mere mention of yard work. I can barricade myself in my office threatening extreme torture to anyone daring to interrupt and I am assured of constant interruptions. Put me out in the yard clad in overalls, bandana, insect repellant and no one dares to intrude for fear I'll enlist them in weeding, clearing rocks, turning the compost or some equally terrifying task. I've devised dastardly yard chores designed to give me my creative solitude. That's why this writer just has to plant.

Project 365 #85


Now this is my kind of traffic jam. The ladies couldn't wait to get across to their pasture.

Project 365 # 84

I'm a little behind in my posts and I know this is cheating a bit since I didn't take this photo today but I had to share. While driving to meet some friends, this balloon began its descent right in front of me. Somehow I managed to stay on the road and snap this shot.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Project 365 #83

Seedlings Emerge

I love planting radish seeds. They are instant gratification for the gardener. You pop them in the ground, wait two or three days and you have sprouts. These will be Plum Purple Radishes and some of them might actually make it into a salad or two. There is nothing more tasty than fresh radishes straight from the ground.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Project 365 #82


Every one has their official marker of the arrival of spring. For some it's the return of the robins or the cooing of the mourning doves. Maybe it's the explosion of color as the daffodils and the tulips present themselves to the sun. For me it's the profusion of dandelions in the grass.

I know for some the dandelion is the scourge in the quest for the greenest of green lawns. You can go to Home Depot and Lowes and buy bags of toxic chemicals with the helpless picture of a dandelion ready to be nuked into oblivion. This is logic turned upside down for the green lawn that resembles astro-turf is the barren wasteland and the poor misunderstood dandelion is an oasis to awakening bees in need of a quick pollen fix.

So before you turn your nose up at the dandelion here are some interesting facts which just might make you appreciate this little wonder:
  • At least 93 different insects use dandelion pollen as food
  • Their seeds are an important source of food for many small birds
  • Each year over 55 tons of coffee substitute made from roasted dandelion roots is sold throughout the world
  • Their leaves can be cooked or eaten raw in salads
  • Dandelions have been used by various cultures as a curative especially in cleansing the liver and the kidney
  • Dandelion leaves contains more than 6 units of Vitamin A than lettuce or carrots. And it's also a source of Vitamin B and C
Plus you can make a wish and blow their seeds into the air and if you're lucky your wish will land and take seed and grow. So for heavens sake enjoy those dandelions.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Project 365 #81

The Prisoner

No, not really. Some dogs have a favorite blanket or toy, Kisses has her favorite spot. When we first brought her home from the shelter her kennel was kept in the kitchen. It was the place she went to when she chewed, peed, pooped, scratched or destroyed. The kennel is gathering dust in the basement but she still returns to the spot.

Today it was a stolen slipper that sent her seeking protection from the powers that threaten to take away her ill-gotten booty. Unfortunately this picture can't pick up her growling and tail wagging but I did manage to catch her classic avoidance stare.

Feeding the Piggies

Last Friday I had a major craving for Cranberry Walnut bread and cheddar cheese so I convinced my little guy to leave the playground and head to Bobolink Farm located in Vernon, New Jersey. It was no easy task since the playground has a bazillion slides and the little guy has to slide down each one multiple times, especially the BLUE one! I lured him with the prospect of getting to pet some cows which somehow translated to "Mommy's going to let me bring a cow home," but I wasn't in the mood to quibble.

I discovered Bobolink when my big guy was going to preschool. His class did a tour of the farm and the moment I saw the wood-fired brick oven where they bake their bread, I was hooked. I'm not a big cheese eater but their grass-fed cheese made from raw milk is sublime. I'm partial to their cave-aged cheddar. Being able to visit the farm on regular basis is a wonderful experience and one of the reasons I love living out here.

We lucked out on this trip because we got to watch the pigs being fed.

This hefty bunch of gals were eager for their whey.

Not only do they get whey but day old bread. It looks like a face-off between chickens and pigs.

Don't let these downy ducks fool you. They managed to get the bread away from this pig.

And what about the piglets?

Like most toddlers, these 8 week olds wore more food than they ate.

Gratuitous cuteness shot.

We didn't get to see any cows but I got my bread and cheese and the chance to hang out on the farm. Priceless.

I'm Back!

I can't believe how easy it is for life to get in the way of things like posting on a regular basis. I'm back now and I apologize for the rather long hiatus. Now on with the fun!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Love Is Knowing When to Leave Your Kids Alone

Weekend before last I had the pleasure of attending the Accepted Student's Reception at SUNY New Paltz. I took my 13 year old with me for moral support. It was a lot a fun even though most people assumed my daughter was the soon-to-be first year student (they don't use the term freshman anymore) and I was just another overly anxious parent. These next couple of years as a college student are going to be a lot of fun.

I graduated from high school back in 1985 and headed off to college pretty much on my own. I went to early registration sometime in early July all by my lonesome. I don't even think my parents took me to the Amtrack station. This was pre-cell phone or other parental tracking devices. My parents told me to call them when I got to the campus. Did I have any idea of how far the train was from the campus? No. Did I know anyone in the town? No. Was I worried? Not in the least.

My parents were excited I was off to college but as far as they were concerned this was my thing. They weren't involved in what classes I was taking. They saw my dorm once when they dropped me off, kissed my cheek and told me to write. They didn't even stay long enough to take me to my last non-cafeteria dinner. This was pretty much the norm for most people I knew. My husband's family sent him by bus from Illionois to NYC. Another one of my friends was also sent by bus with one suitcase. It's not like that anymore.

Some where along the way, parents have absolutely lost their mind. I had one father nearly knock me off my feet as he raced to the Communications and Media table while his son shuffled along with a mixture of embarrassment and boredom. It was like this for most of the day. Parents were interrogating administrators and professors while their kids stood mute and bored.

I sat in on English class (which was great by the way and I'm definitely going to add one of this professors classes to my schedule). Naively I figured it would be students who would be sitting in, instead it was mostly parents. The professor actually had to ask the parents to let the students answer the questions.

Here are some of my favorite doosies:

"Are the classes always this warm because my son is prone to heat rashes."

"Does my daughter have to take these first year classes because she's incredibly brilliant and we don't want her intellectual ability to be stifled."

"Do teachers regularly ask so many questions in classes?"

"We're not fond of early morning classes." (I love parents who use the royal we when referring to their children.)

There were a few beacons of hope where a student would take the lead as the parent/s held back but this was not the norm. It was all about the parents on this day. Parents elbowing their way to the buffet tables, dragging their offspring before the chairman of the department as they reeled off the god-like attributes of their young geniuses, grabbing for every hand-out because it was free and it was offered.

Oh boy, I can't wait to get to school in the fall with the progeny of all this parental anxiety.

From the Sick Bed

I've had the flu since last Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm foggy on the details as it's been a blur of low grade fever, coughing and an inability to eat more than toast and Pedialyte Freezer Pops.

If getting the flu is tough then getting the flu during Spring break in a house with children is unbearable. To their credit, the kids have been good, poking me with a stick at regular intervals to make certain I'm still conscious. Even my little guy has been a trooper, telling me to go to sleep. Although I suspect it's to plot his takeover of the planet.

I actually started to worry when Kisses started cuddling up to me in the sick bed. She was the ever loyal pooch, standing guard over her sick mistress. This is not the Kisses I know. Maybe I was really sick, like death bed sick. But then this afternoon, when my 102 fever finally broke, she growled at me for looking at her and cut me a nasty glower. Whew!

Tonight I'm not drugged on NyQuil and I could kill for a slice of pizza. No more tea, no more vegetable broth, no more toast, no more Pedialyte. A nice cheese piece of pizza with garlic, green peppers and red onions. I guess I'm on the road to recovery.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

Project 365 #78

Morning Convocation

I'm still smarting over the lingering chill in the air. I was hoping spring would blow in ushering warmth and earth ready to be turned for sowing. Instead of warm weather, spring arrived with snow flurries and lots of wind.

This morning I headed out for a run with a heady breeze and temperatures below 20. The Canadian geese gather by the stream en masse when spring approaches. As soon as they see me the honking and shrieking begins as I intrude on their early morning convocation. I can go by this spot later in the day and they ignore me but first thing in the morning, I am an intruder.

It is the bewitching time when nature rules while humans still sleep beneath their warm covers. Most of the other creatures have grown used to me intruding on their time, not the geese. They never let me forget I'm just a guest.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Project 365 #76

Buried Treasure

I found this today while wandering around the back yard. The man who built our house was known to be quite fond of building big roaring fires to dispose of things he couldn't figure out what to do with. Usually I wind up finding pieces of charred metal but today this beauty was poking up through a tangle of brush.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Project 365 #73

The Appalachian Trail

This is such a wonderful suspension bridge that sways with the wind making you just little disoriented as you pass over the water.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Project 365 #72

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Monday, March 16, 2009

Project 365 #71

New Rhubarb

The Garden

This is a preemptive blog post since my husband has threatened to hi-jack my blog to discuss "the vegetable garden". This weekend I went up to the sleeping garden to catch a couple of early spring documentary photos.

Buried in the foreground are the rhubarb plants which are just beginning to peek through the earth.

Here is a wider shot of the debris resting under the snow for most of the winter: flower pots, a bag of soil, a couple of plastic sand pails in the distance, and I'm pretty certain my yard stick and a pair of garden shears from two years ago lurking up there.

Right now it's still too cold for the garden to begin its growing frenzy so I am filled with the anticipation of planting seeds. Those garden catalogs tempt with their titillating descriptions of vegetables. Just plant a couple of these seeds and you'll be able to feed your entire family for the entire year. This is the image I have in my head of just what all that growing will look like: Notice the clean lines, the straight rows, the lack of weeds? This is my fantasy but this is my reality: No clean lines here. No straight rows. And boy do I have a knack for growing those weeds. I defy any one in the county to challenge me in this department.

In this shot you can see where I've tried to continue the good fight. You can actually recognize the onions but then like a horror movie the weeds are moving in for the kill.

It's not that I don't know what the heck I'm doing out there. I've read every book out there on organic gardening, pests control, eliminating weeds, boosting the soils nutrients, composting, performing ritualistic human sacrifices to placate the weed gods. I've talked to my plants. I've sung to them. I've even been known to reason with the rabbits and the ground hogs to nibble elsewhere. All of this has been to no avail. What I need is time.

With four children you would think I'd have plenty of help but unfortunately the older ones are old enough to remember pulling weeds every summer since we've lived here (five years now). Instead of the family bonding experience I thought gardening would be it's more like bondage. So I'm pretty much out there on my own. Last year, it was me and my little guy who was fond of taking the seeds out of the ground after I planted them and blasting me with the hose.

But.... This year it will be different (this is where my husband's eyes roll upward and he gets that there-she-goes-again smirk on his face). I have a plan (well, sort of). This year, I'm tossing the books away and I'm going with my gut. After all, I come from a long line of farmers (excluding my mother who could kill plastic plants). My father grew an amazing container garden on his terrace. He even grew his own grapes for his homemade wine. This season this city girl is going back to her country roots and I plan on having a bumper crop. I'll keep everyone posted with lots of pictures.

Okay, my husband is still smirking and reminding me that I've said this just about every year since we've been living here. In response I offer a loud, resounding "HA!!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Project 365 #70

Spring Has Spoken

It might not be officially sanctioned by the calendar but I'm calling it Spring.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Project 365 #68

Be Careful Or Your Face Will Stay Like That

I tossed out that tried and true warning to the little guy only to receive a big grin and a "Yeah!" Next time I'll just tell him that Sponge Bob wouldn't like that and maybe he'll stop. Yes, I'm abdicating parental responsibility to a sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Project 365 #67

The Eternal Sunshine of Spring Fantasies

Heading Back to School

Obviously life with kids, a crazy dog and an unfinished manuscript is not challenging enough for me, I'm going back to school. I'd been talking about doing it for years but life always managed to push the desire to the background.

Last year, I went as far as to request my past transcripts and filled out an online application but then I got cold feet. I started thinking about the insanity of driving almost an hour with a two year old (there's childcare available), dealing with classes and studying while raising a family, managing a household, and writing a book. Why would I do this to myself?

Then that nagging feeling hit me again. Maybe it's because my daughter will be starting high school next year and the idea of college is hovering in the air. Maybe it's because the kids are a year older and, despite their clever disguises, are heading closer to becoming responsible beings. Or maybe it's because now felt like the right time, I checked to see if my application was still valid and it was. I took a deep breath, hit the submit button, paid my application fee and mailed off the transcripts.

What did I have to lose? I figured my chances of getting in were pretty slim, given my long absence and the fact that record number of applications are being received at public institutions.
I didn't tell anyone what I was up to preferring not to have my humiliation made public. So I put it out of my mind until the big fat envelope arrived with the "Congratulations" letter. First, I did a happy dance, then as children swarmed around me I started to question my sanity.

Was I really going to take on a full-time course load with all that I already have on my plate? The smart thing would be to write them back explaining that I'd been suffering some type of delusional episode when I sent out that application and wouldn't be bothering them again. Then I opened my folder again and read my acceptance letter and I knew there was no turning back, I'm heading back to school.

Of course when I told my daughter she asked, "Do you think you'll be the oldest person at your school?" There might be one or two people with a year or two on me I told her. At least I'll be able to regale my fellow classmates with tales of what it was like to go to school before the internet, Google, iPods, cellphones (unless you happen to be a drug lord on Miami Vice), and laptops.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Project 365 #66

Driving on Two Quarters

I love the fact that William looks like he's looking in his side mirrors before he makes an illegal u-turn.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Project 365 #65

Back-Seat Shenanigans

More like bustin' a move to the Mama Mia soundtrack on the way home.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Project 365 #61


This lady was busy grazing when I came along with my camera and interrupted her. After I snapped the picture she turned her back on me and grumbled her dissatisfaction. Can't a cow eat without the paparazzi hovering about? Damn those "got milk" ads.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Project 365 #60


Today is Georgie's birthday. He's entered the double digits. As per his request, the celebration was low-key as befits a young man turning 10. Here his baby brother is a little too anxious to get on with the unwrapping. The gift in the foreground is a set of juggling clubs. I'm starting to think that idea is right up there with the catapult I bought him when he was 3. Hide the breakables. Next year, bow and arrows perhaps?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Project 365 #59

Deer by the Side of the Road

This deer was peacefully grazing outside Dunkin Donuts while the traffic rushed by.

Project 365 #58

The Hardest Working Dog in America

This is actually photo #56. This is what happens when you try and play catch-up.

Here, the girl is plotting out her next strike against the man. Perhaps another garbage can raid?

Project 365 # 57

Still Life

The artist is my daughter who is taking her first real art workshop.

Project 365 #56

Disembodied Spirit

Project 365 #55

B.B. Turns Three

Our little guy turned three on Saturday, February 28th and this was the cake that my husband made for him. Unfortunately he was still suffering from a nasty cold but he finally got his own remote control car.

Project 365 #54

Soccer Practice

My son's team has been practicing in an indoor space lately and I loved the competing lines containing the blur that is my son. I've become such a Soccer Mom.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Project 365 # 53

Bed Time Story

The little guy was feeling sick all day. It wasn't the cranky kind of sick but the cuddly kind. He climbed into bed with his big brother who read him to sleep.

Will I Really Feel Good?

According to a phone call from Payless Shoestore, I will feel good if I rush out and take advantage of their "bogo buy one, buy another 1/2 off promotion." Is this guaranteed? If I grab my sick toddler, ignore my inflammed sinuses and drive to Payless, buy two pairs of shoes, will they guarantee that I will feel good? No more stuffiness? No more coughing? No more fatigue?

There's probably a catch somewhere... Like a microscopic disclaimer about the relativity of the meaning of good. One man's good can be another's personal hell, after all. As tempting as the promise is, I'm deciding to pass on this promotion.

What's next, the promise of nirvana if you'll just buy something, anything? I understand retailers are desperate and shaky right now, scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get me to part with my money but tossing out the idea of shopping and happiness is so "Booming Economy". Hey if they really want my money forget the vagueness, give me real promises. If you buy a pair of shoes, we'll wash your car or pick some things from the grocery store for you. We can call it the new "Buy Something from Us and We'll do Something for You Economy."
Retailers are going to work a heck of a lot harder to get me to part with my cash then offering me vague promises of warm feelings that will dissipate before I've even left the mall.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Project 365 #52

The Other Side of the Glass