Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Means Chick-a-wow-wow

I just came back from almost 2 weeks in Texas, also known as the Land of Nephews. They are all adorable and precocious and endlessly fascinating. Despite certain play-time crowd scenes and noise levels that could lead one to suspect a much higher number, I have 3 nephews.

In case you were wondering, that is the EXACT SAME NUMBER as the number of chipmunks in the Chipmunk Movie seen constantly on television commercials (and presumably movie screens) everywhere these days.

Okay, here's where we venture into the interactive form of blogging. Please, follow these instructions: Stand up. Now put both hands up on your head, with your elbows out. Bend your knees just a little. Starting with your hips, do a little crazy side-to-side shimmy, letting your ribs, knees and elbows get into the act. Add just a little up and down motion with your torso and purr, “Chick-a-wow-wow, Chick-a-wow-wow.” Grin mischievously and let your eyes sparkle.

You have just re-enacted one of my 3-year-old nephew's favorite moves, one that totally dominated this holiday season's family-time. He chick-a-wow-wowed through play time, nap time, dinner time, bath time and car time. The first time he did it he caught us all by surprise. We roared laughing and of course that first big response landed us in a cycle of never-ending chick-a-wow-wows. And it's catching – my mom, sister and I have all been known to chick-a-wow-wow. As far as I can tell, no one is immune. Eventually, you just have to try it yourself.

Go on. I know you want to.

Chick-a-wow-wow. It means, 'happy holidays!'

Friday, December 14, 2007

Shhhh, It Can Hear You

So in a big ol’ case of Don’t-Think-I’m-Not-Listening, Winter went a little haywire here yesterday. It wasn’t the biggest or worst winter storm we’ve ever had – in fact, we only got about 8 inches of snow in Boston – but it hit at just the right time to create the worst traffic jam Boston has ever seen. It was gridlock in the purest sense of the word ‘lock’. Thousands of cars just sat on main roads without moving. For hours. If I hadn’t seen it myself I’m not sure I’d have believed it.

The facts were these: (for those Pushing Daisies fans out there)

Every year our Exhibits & Collections department has its own little mini-holiday-celebration lunch. We are the only department in the museum with staff that is permanently located in another building, several miles away from the main museum. So for the holiday luncheon those of us who do work in the main museum carpool over to the Design & Production building, several miles away, in an industrial corner of Boston, nestled between Roxbury and Dorchester. According to tradition it is always a very nice lunch.

We had all heard that the storm was coming, and were beginning to feel our usual meteorological skepticism loosen just a little. “Maybe it really will snow here,” we thought. (Bostonians have learned to let the hype about winter storms fall past us like a misthrown snowball – it’s so often wrong.) But the first flakes started to fall just as we pulled into the D&P parking lot. Apparently this storm was going to happen just as predicted. How unusual. We hustled all the food upstairs and commenced stuffing our faces in a friendly collegial way. Elvis hooted through ‘Blue Christmas’ in the background and we chowed through an impressive amount of chicken parmigiana, salad, chocolate trifle and cupcakes.

By 2 pm we were all getting antsy. Although the snow had only begun to fall about an hour before, there was already an inch on the roads. We all set out for home. (For the record, we all made it home. Eventually.) I rode with my boss. She and I were heading north of the river – she would drop me off in my neighborhood as she drove on to hers. At least, that was the plan. It should have taken us 30 minutes at most.

It took us 5 hours. FIVE HOURS. That’s longer than it takes to get to New York from here. We left at 2. I got to my apartment at 7 pm. It literally took us 3 hours to travel 3 miles. Four hours just to get across the river. We began to pick up speed a little when we finally got into Cambridge and the cars around us peeled off into various side roads, finding their way home. By the time I got home, the storm was almost over, and we had received about 8-10 inches of snow.

For the record, here are some of the many things my boss and I discussed for the 5 hours we were in snowbound traffic together: Project Runway, whether that guy really thought he was going to turn left or not, American’s Next Top Model, the importance of cultural competency in museums for welcoming new immigrant visitors, books by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, backpacking, engagement rings, Christmas shopping, car accidents, pregnancy, kitchen timers, which lane appeared to be moving a few feet further ahead than the other, emergency rooms, how mothers can’t break down while comforting their children but are free to do so afterwards, how glad we were not to be the policemen conducting traffic through the intersections in the storm, how fast the snow was falling, bus rides, how eating sushi on bus rides is a bad idea, the posing and basic uselessness of modern presidential debates, which side roads we felt brave enough to try, and who was going to get out next to scrape the snow and ice off of the windshield wipers.

We get along well.

On the 11 o’clock news last night many of the stories were about the storm and about the legendary traffic jams created by it. People STILL WEREN’T HOME even then. Some public school kids didn’t get on busses until 9 pm because the busses couldn’t get to the schools any faster than that. (Can you imagine the plight of those poor bus drivers taking busses full of caged adolescents home at 11 pm last night, after the world’s longest snowbound school day? To extremely worried parents? Those people deserve mercy, medals and maybe tropical vacations.)

This morning the sun was out and most roads had been plowed clear. Except for the snowdrifts, the crazy puzzle of cars from last night’s muffled and motionless city might never have been.

One other winter beef: sidewalks. By morning most people had shoveled, sanded and/or salted, although the few who hadn’t certainly earned abundant and totally appropriate ill will from passing pedestrians (including me). Legally homeowners have 6 hours after the storm ends to clear the paths in front of their houses. Nothing makes me itch to be a snitch more than having to risk life and limb on someone else’s icy-slippery walk because while they’ve clearly used it to exit the building, they haven’t bothered to clear it for anyone else who may need to walk past. Grrr. Steam rises gently from my ears…

Anyway. I must thank Geekwif for pointing out that cute winter coats are rarely warm winter coats. Since I am far more wedded to the idea of being warm than being fashionable, I will adjust my standards for outdoor gear accordingly. Such a relief.

Hope you’re all warm and well and mobile – and appreciating those states for the joys they are.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Mysteries of Winter

I’ve lived in Boston for almost 5 years now. Originally from Texas, in the past having made myself at home in Australia and England and New York, it has still taken almost this entire time to make me feel relatively at home up here. There are many things about Boston that I love and will miss when I eventually leave. (Oh, I’ll be leaving, that’s for certain. I can’t believe I’ve stayed here this long. My traveling feet need to move on. To some place warmer and sunnier.)

What it comes down to is that I’ll always be a canker in the oyster that is Boston, and it would take many more decades to make me a local pearl than I’m willing to give to this place. My accent is different. I don’t like sugar in my cornbread. I think oysters are gross. But really, the biggest reason for my incurable foreign-ness can be summed up in one word: winter.

Winter usually seems to me to be almost offensively overdone up here. Like a thirteen-year-old who just doesn’t know when to stop. It just goes on and on and on and on… Really? We’re going to top out at a whopping 8 degrees today? You don’t think you made that point last week when we didn’t get above 15 degrees? Really? We need another 2 feet of snow? Are you sure those last 3 blizzards didn’t really convey the basic message???? Oh, here we go. A giant coating of ice. Like we didn’t all see the news this week. You did this in Oklahoma already!! Sigh. Eye roll. Geez.

Winter and I get along like a cat in a bath. Picture me: screeching, lost to reason, claws out, ears back, shoulders up, occasionally swearing, swiping at anything within reach, hissing and wailing like a banshee. That’s my inner self every single day that is below 40 degrees. I just don’t like being cold. And although it is irrational to feel this way, I take it personally. I resent being cold. Winters in Boston seem to go on for merciless ever. They start in November or sometimes a little earlier and don’t end until May. When the rest of the world is counting how many daffodils burst into bloom each sunny spring day, we’re still bound by cold grey skies, waiting for the day when our long-johns can be retired for a whole 3 months.

Long-johns. Sigh. Even the concept can make me weary. But if I didn’t wear long-johns all winter long I’d be a freeze-dried little mackerel, believe me. And it doesn’t matter that I’ve found the super thin kind, made of 100% silk. There is simply no way to feel even one speck of glamour while wearing long-johns. You may be walking along in your fab new boots, feeling all stride-y and America’s Next Top Model fierce, but you can’t walk fast enough to get away from that mentally-flannel layer you’re wearing next to your skin. They may not be bulky in actual fact, but in my mind I’ve just wrapped myself in a red flannel Union suit like you see in certain cartoons, then pulled jeans on over it. No one else may be aware of it, but I know, I know with a clarity greater than that of the Hubble telescope: because of long-johns, I waddle all winter long. There I go. Insulated and waddly, like a lost Antarctic penguin poking around the North Pole.

Okay, without being too Pollyanna about it, I will name two things I do like about winter: 1) The gorgeous white hush of a brand new snowfall. It’s breathtaking. If only the snow fairies would come out at night and scrape all the sidewalks clear. Then it would be perfect. 2) Soups and stews. I do love a good warm bowl of winter-defying yumminess. The contrast between the warm comfort of what I’m eating, and the iciness outside adds a delicious piquancy to the meal. Mmmm.

Despite my years of winter experience, however, there are still a few mysteries I have yet to solve. If you know the answer, please let me know. These questions pop up in November every year and I can only scratch my head and wonder. I’ve never yet figured them out.

1) Coats. Where on earth do the women of Boston find their coats? They’re so cute. And fashionable and flattering. My coats are huge, ugly, unflattering, usually the color and shape of a potato, and very, very warm. Every time I go coat shopping with the intention of finally buying a chic Boston coat I am hobbled by three things. First, I never trust that the coat I’m trying on in a warm store will actually keep me safe from frostbite once I step outdoors. I am deeply distrustful of all coats until I’ve tried them in actual winter conditions. Unfortunately, most stores are not keen on my inspired notion of rent-to-own winter coats. Second, coats cost like $385. I can’t help but laugh loud and long every time I see a tag like that on a coat. As if. Psha. And third, every time I go shopping I see the same three coats. The square black or grey wool number. Very basic. No personality. The puffy coat that looks like a ski jacket and has a fake fur collar. Always in some weird color like putty or puce. And the 80s throwback, with oddly short sleeves, quilted in a pattern that for some reason reminds me vividly of the 5th grade and usually comes in some shade of lavender. Where are the gorgeous little belted orange or green coats I see on the streets? I think there must be a secret coat depot somewhere. As a canker rather than a native, I may never know…

2) Noses. Apparently my little Texas nose reacts just as hysterically to winter conditions as does the rest of me. When I step outside on a cold day my nose instantly fires up the old boiler and shoots hot water up to the surface. Ten steps from my front door and I’ve got the sniffles. Twenty steps and I’m sorely in need of a Kleenex. Every. Single. Time. And as soon as I step inside some place warm, I need to blow my nose again. I know this is some sort of defense mechanism. But I do have to wonder, why doesn’t anyone else have this problem? I swear to you, in all the years I’ve been taking the T to work, I am the ONLY PERSON I ever see using a Kleenex. People don’t sniff or snort or blow their noses. Like, ever. I am utterly mystified. And convinced I have the world’s most active human nose.

3) Personal thermostats. Speaking of mystified. When I go outside on any day that is colder than 35 degrees, I spend a certain amount of time right before my grand exit going through a series of motions I call ‘rugging up.’ I put on my big coat. I put on my hat. I put on my gloves, making sure to tuck the sleeves of what I’m wearing inside the cuffs of the gloves, and the cuffs of the gloves inside the sleeves of my coat. Then I wrap a scarf around the place where my neck can usually be found, in case I need to hunker down like a turtle to protect my face from the wind. THEN I’m ready to head out. THEN is also usually when I remember something important like an address I need to write down or something I need to put away before I go. Then I get all hot and sweaty inside my coat because what I’m wearing is definitely over-the-top for indoor temperatures. Once I get to my destination (usually the subway station) I take it all off. Hat, scarf and gloves go in my bag. Coat gets unbuttoned. When I get on the train I take my coat off and hold it. Here’s the mystery: I AM THE ONLY PERSON WHO DOES THIS. Every single other person on my crowded train car every single morning – we’re talking several hundred people – keeps it all on. Oh, they may swipe off their hats and gloves, but they leave scarves around their necks, and rarely bother to unbutton their coats. I am bewildered. Aren’t they turning into disgusting sweat pigs in there? I would be. Maybe locals have fabulously fine-tuned personal thermostats that allow them to wear 4 inches of protective outerwear while inside and not get overheated. It sounds so improbable, doesn’t it?

Anyway. We are expecting winter to arrive on the express about midday today, the same howler that bowled through the middle of the country a few days ago, only slightly less fearsome. Gotta go get out my big ugly coat and a pocketful of Kleenex. I’m already wearing my long-johns.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why Strawberry Shortcake Does Not Go with Roasted Chestnuts

A friend of mine has granted me permission to tell one of the saddest Christmas tales I have ever heard. Hilarious. But tragic.

It goes like this.

Once upon a time in western Massachusetts there lived a family consisting of Mom, Dad and two little girls. My friend was the younger of the two daughters. Let’s call her… Kate.

This little family was part of a MUCH LARGER family and this Large Family was in the habit of having Large Family Gatherings for the holidays. Very Large Family Festivities which were often very festive but occasionally somewhat tiring, if you can picture it.

So one year when Kate was about 7 or 8 her Mom and Dad decided they wanted to have a Simple Family Christmas, just themselves and their girls, at home. Not only would they have a small and simple Christmas, but they would have an Old-Fashioned one, with all sorts of cooking experiments involving open fires and heavy iron pans. Kate gives the impression it looked like a lot of work and she didn’t really understand why it was so important. She wasn’t all that into the cooking anyway. What she wanted most in the world for Christmas that year was a Strawberry Shortcake Doll. Shiny red hair, freckles, giant head, red dress, striped green legs, pink hat, strawberry perfume – she was at the top of Kate’s wish list.

You can imagine how thrilled Kate was to receive a Strawberry Shortcake Doll on Christmas morning. All through the weird traditional meal (which I’ve always imagined was oddly scorched and raw by turns, although that’s probably just my imagination) she kept her new doll near her and after the meal, with the family all crowded around the fire roaring in the fireplace, she held her Strawberry Shortcake in her arms and was content.

Until her parents decided to add one more tradition to the day: roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Mom and Dad threw some chestnuts in a pan and stuck them in the fire, preparing to enjoy this picturesque treat in true Old-Fashioned style. No one had mentioned to them that if you don’t score the chestnuts, steam builds up inside them. Since their chestnuts were unscored, steam built up, and the next thing Kate knew, roasted chestnuts were zinging all around the living room like little comets. Zing! Pop! They flew past, knocking into hard things, and the smell of singed material began to fill the room. Her mom and dad and sister started yelling and scrambling, ducking to avoid the flying hot chestnuts and to prevent scorch marks.

Suddenly Kate smelled melted plastic and hot strawberries. She looked down and realized she was looking through the top of Strawberry Shortcake’s head, right down into the hollow plastic mystery of it. A flying chestnut had landed on the doll’s head and melted a hole right through it. Like a comet landing in a snowbank.

Here comes the saddest part – it always makes my sister very sad to hear this part.

NO ONE REPLACED HER DOLL. Kate kept that hole-in-the-head Strawberry Shortcake for some time after that day, and in fact well remembers the rattling sound of that chestnut rolling around inside.

So. Roasting chestnuts on an open fire isn’t nearly the dreamy peaceful activity it’s always made out to be.

And somebody needs to get Kate a new Strawberry Shortcake doll!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Secretly I am 8

I love this. Beyond all reason. It just makes me happy.

Here’s why:

- Three words: Doo. Wop. Christmas.

- None of them have eyes.

- When the solo reindeer hits a high note, his tail wags.

- Santa has absurdly small feet.

- Santa has a tired old swinger’s panache when it comes to tossing microphones. He probably founded the Rat Pack.

- They all – Santa, solo reindeer, back-up reindeer – maintain a level of Elvis-would-envy-it cool that I have decided (after much study) comes from their totally nonchalant approach to caroling.

- Santa permits himself a toothy grin toward the end, when they all start to bring it on home.

- The understated finale.

I’m telling you. Totally irresistible. On some level I have never progressed beyond the age of 8. My Inner 8 Year Old never tires of this.

Acting this out with a few friends in the privacy of my own office every holiday season is one of my favorite festive traditions. We take turns being Santa or the solo reindeer. Fair’s fair.

Sisters, Pantsuits and Poodles

In just over a week I’ll be heading to Texas to spend the holidays with family. Perhaps because I’ll get to see her in just a few days I’ve been thinking of my sister quite a lot. We can get pretty silly when we get together. Let me tell you a story…

One day my sister and I went shopping. Not to the Mother Ship, which is our usual favorite shopping destination (Dillard’s to those who aren’t familiar with the lingo), but to a second-hand shop in the town where my sister lives. This self-styled ‘boutique’ – sadly, it is past its heyday, but let me tell you, its heyday was GOOD – was run by a roster of very energetic elderly women and was the sort of place where you could shop for hours, try on 87 different things and walk out with 2 or 43 things. All for about $23. It just depended on the day, and how the grass was growing.

Two hilarious things happened that day. This often happens when the two of us go out together. Cosmic forces unite for comedy’s sake.

First hilarious thing: we found the most hideously fantastic, perfectly awful two-piece pantsuit in the history of pantsuits. Which I have to imagine is saying a great deal although until this moment I’ve never given much thought to the history of pantsuits. It was hot pink, shiny, marbleized fake snakeskin looking, possibly made of vinyl. It had a halter top with a flared waist, almost a peplum. And pants. Hot pink shiny pants. It was an outfit Miss Piggy would have “Hi-YAH!”-ed to get for her very own. Naturally we went into spasms of pig-snorting giggles* as soon as we saw it, with lots of frantic whispers, points, and making the big eyes. We didn’t want the old ladies to know we were making fun of their merchandise. That would be rude. So instead we popped it into the dressing room we shared, tried it on and took cell phone pictures of the hot pink vinyl glory. I’m afraid the pig-snorting giggles got a little louder because an old lady voice asked, from the other side of the dressing room curtain, “Is everything all right in there?” You’ve no idea the effort of will it took to say “Yes” as normally as possible. We had to stop looking at each other, our reflections in the mirror, the pantsuit and just about anything else in order to get the giggles back under control.

(In the interest of full disclosure, we did not buy the pantsuit. That day. After I returned to Boston and told this story to my friend MKA she was horrified to know we hadn’t bought it and insisted that we do so, pronto. Kelsey went back, bought it and sent it to me so it is now my very own perfect shiny pink vinyl pantsuit. MKA wore it for Halloween this year. I say with perfect sincerity and a little awe, she was truly the embodiment of Tacky. K, whenever you want to borrow it, it’s all yours!)

Second hilarious thing. Later that day – it may have been another visit to the same store, but I think it was the same day – I was checking out. Ahead of me in line was a little old lady who was bopping around to the music the store was playing to encourage the spending of money. You know, the lively melodies of Lionel Ritchie or Juice Newton. Something like that. She just couldn’t sit still and I couldn’t help smiling a little watching her bop around, waiting to pay for her collection of teal and purple clothing. She looked very happy. The lady behind the desk was caught up in some baffling technical detail concerning the last sale. She turned to the Bopping Lady and said, “I’m sorry, it’ll just be a minute.” The Bopping Lady smiled and bopped and said, “Oh that’s all right, hon. I’m not goin’ anywhere till my poodle’s done, so you just take your time.”

It took me a minute to figure out that there was one of those dog beauty parlors just a few doors down from the second-hand shop and that ‘till my poodle’s done’ was not a new Southern unit of time or random figure of speech. She meant it literally.

Although Kelsey and I (and MKA) have been known to use ‘till my poodle’s done’ as a unit of time since then. It’s vague and distracting and a great way to buy time if you need it.

* For a full description of the PSL - that's pig-snorting laughter - phenomenon, please visit Kelsey's explanation of it here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Almost a Recipe

“You’re once, twice, three times a LAY-DEE.”

I have no idea why that was in my head.


My sister has referred to my Pita Bread Pizza recipe on her blog. To be precise, I don’t exactly have a recipe. But in the interest of satisfying a curious public, I’ll describe my pita bread pizza building process and you can do with it what you will.

Pita Bread Pizzas

These pizzas are infinitely customizable. At my sister’s house we make one for each person according to their tastes. (Depending on the size of your pita bread that may be too much, too little or just right. Consult the Three Bears for possible solutions.)

I start with pita bread. Usually the whole wheat kind, but whatever works for you. Put the pita bread on a cookie sheet and start building up.

I’m a traditionalist so I start by putting something red on it. Tomatoes in some form – canned, diced, spaghetti sauce, fresh, chopped, sautéed, plain, spiced. Whatever. I start with red. If I’m feeling fancy I might add oregano, basil or garlic, but this is not usually a fancy meal. My favorite tomato base is Hunt’s chopped tomatoes with balsamic vinegar.

Next comes cheese. I like to combine cheeses and I often have a good selection in my cheese drawer. Grated cheddar and mozzarella are good for a base.

Vegetables. While I’ve been known to put chicken or salami on my pizza, my favorite combination is mushrooms, peppers and black olives. Chopped fresh and thrown on top to whatever density looks appetizing that day.

More cheese. Usually shredded parmesan but if I have any, I’ll sometimes dot chevre or bocconcini on as well.

Then I pop it in the oven at 375 until the cheese melts and begins to brown (usually 15 minutes, but it bears watching). I like it DONE.

I’m a little embarrassed. This doesn’t look like a recipe to me. Oh well. It does make a good dinner so enjoy. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Leap Frog

Three signs I’ve totally skipped the “Becoming Just Like My Mother” phase and am already deep into “Just Like My Grandmother”.

1 – There’s been a daddy-long-legs* in the bathroom corner above my bathtub for weeks. I haven’t named him. But I haven’t killed him yet either. In fact, I feel far friendlier toward it than I ever do toward spiders. My grandmother used to say goodnight to her bathtub spider. I do not do that. Yet.

2 – I now sleep on a satin pillowcase. I don’t get my hair curled and ‘set’ each week at the local beauty shop, so it’s not a hair-do-preservation step. I just like it.

3 – Yesterday I bought those Pepperidge Farm butter crackers shaped like butterflies and ate some. With cottage cheese.

And as a bonus, to show that I’m also a little like my grandmother on the other side of the family, I concocted some sort of cheese-and-grits casserole thing for Thanksgiving that was quite good.

Bring on the house-dresses and calling everyone under 40 ‘boy’ or ‘girl.’

* Have I told you my great fear about daddy-long-leg spiders? Someone once told me that they have a terribly poisonous venom but that their mouths are so tiny they can’t actually bite humans. While I'm not entirely convinced that's true, I am always a little concerned that I’m going to meet the world’s first freak-of-nature Big Mouth Daddy-Long-Leg Spider and be his first meal.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Pie Pan of Thankfulness

Thank you and welcome to all who visited this week from over Jeana’s way. Glad to entertain you.

Whiskeymarie mentioned that she is very thankful for pie and I have to say, that is a good thing to be thankful for. Especially this time of year. Being from the South, pie is one of the major food groups in my opinion, right up there with Fried Stuff, Things Held Together with Mayo or Cool Whip (known as salads to some of us), Biscuits and of course, Meat.

My grandmother was very good at making all kinds of pies and when the holidays roll around I always like to make a few pies, just to keep up the family tradition. In the interest of spreading the pie love, I’m going to share some recipes with you. Of course, you’re probably already waaaay ahead on your cooking for tomorrow, but if you’re looking for something for the December table, feel free to give these a try. I’m made them all numerous times and can attest to their yumminess.

Listed below are the following recipes:

Pecan-Pumpkin Pie

Never Fail Pie Crust

Pecan Tartlets

Birthday Pie (redux)

Pecan Pumpkin Pie (two yummy favorites in one!)

1 pie shell, baked in advance (I’ll put the Never Fail Pie Crust recipe below)

Pumpkin filling:

¾ cup canned solid-pack pumpkin

2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 Tbsp sour cream

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated – hah. The tin kind works fine.)

Pecan layer:

¾ cup light corn syrup

½ cup packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, cooled

2 tsps vanilla

¼ tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest

1 ½ tsp fresh lemon juice

¼ tsp salt

1 1/3 cups (5.5 oz) chopped pecans (to whatever size you like – you don’t have to chop ‘em if you don’t like)

Preheat oven to 375.

To make pumpkin filling, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, egg, sour cream, cinnamon, nutmeg and a pink of salt, until smooth.

Make pecan layer by stirring all the ingredients together, adding the pecans last.

Spread pumpkin mixture evenly in the pie shell, then carefully spoon the pecan mixture on top of that. Bake until crust is golden and filling is puffed (about 35 minutes at 375). Center will still be slightly wobbly – it will set as it cools.

Never Fail Pie Crust

(Makes 2 crusts - the vinegar is key.)

3 c. flour

1 ¼ c butter and/or shortening (I use both in whatever combination is handy that day – all butter makes it too stiff)

6 Tbsp ice water

1 Tbsp vinegar

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 tsp salt

Mix flour and salt. Cut the butter/shortening into the flour with a pastry cutter. Mix the water, vinegar and egg together. Pour egg mixture into flour. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Separate dough into two balls. Chill at least 20 minutes, then roll out. (I often freeze one for up to a month or so.)

To bake the shell in advance, place it in the pie pan, fold over the edge and crimp with your fingers, prick all over with a fork, line with parchment paper or foil, fill with beans/rice/pie weights, and bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. Take the foil and stuff out and bake another 8-10 minutes.

Pecan Tartlets

(Perfect mouthful-sized servings of pie. With a cream cheese crust. YUM.)


½ c butter or margarine, room temperature

3 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup flour

Cream together butter and cheese, then add flour. Stir until it forms a ball. Chill.


¾ cup brown sugar

1 cup pecans

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 Tbsp melted butter

Mix brown sugar, egg, vanilla and butter. Mix well and add pecans.

Pinch a ball of crust about the size of a walnut. Roll into a ball and then flatten into a circle with fingers. Press one into each cup in a small 12-hole mini-muffin tart tin. Fill each until almost full with pecan filling (about a Tbsp).

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Birthday Pie

(A tradition in our family for birthdays – it usually appears at the holidays too, although that may be because I have a December birthday)

1 graham cracker pie crust (or six of those little individual sized ones)

4 oz German Sweet Chocolate (or any other tasty chocolate)

1/3 cup milk

2 Tbsp sugar

3 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 container Cool Whip, defrosted (for those of you who live in non-Cool Whip countries, whip up a batch of slightly sweetened whipping cream till it’s good and fluffy – your pie will be enormously rich but along the same lines as the usual version)

Melt the chocolate in the microwave (I check every 30 seconds to see that it doesn’t over-cook). When it’s melted and smooth, stir in the milk. In a separate bowl cream the sugar and cream cheese together. Add the chocolate mixture. When smooth fold in the Cool Whip. Pour filling into pie crust and pop it in the freezer for at least 3 hours.

The nice thing about this recipe is you can ‘slim it down’ – ie, no sugar, light or fat-free cream cheese, light Cool Whip, etc – and it still tastes good. The only thing you must be sure to do is use really good chocolate. I like the Baker’s German Sweet Chocolate for tradition’s sake, but using Scharfenberger makes a tasty version.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy the pie!

Monday, November 19, 2007


I know it’s a couple of days early but I decided it was time to whip up a nice timely list of things for which I am thankful. Just to get us all warmed up for turkey and family on Thursday.

- There are many things about my life that I would like to change and I am thankful that they are things that are within my power to change.

- I am thankful that unlike my 10 year old self, I have learned to like my brown eyes and am not wasting birthday wishes every year yearning for green or blue ones.

- Interviews. I am SO thankful for the imaginative opportunities provided by job interviews – and that I have some.

- Neefs. I do love my crowd of neefs – of course the Texas boys, but also the honorary neefs in various other states.

- Last one for now: I am thankful for long underwear. I couldn’t survive another Boston winter without it. There were snowflakes in the air this morning!

And what are you thankful for this year?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


(PS - Apologies. The link in the comments didn't come through. Here's the commercial for which I am actually grateful.

Dangerous Curves

I caught about 3 minutes of last night’s American Music Awards. It was the 3 minutes that featured Beyoncé. She was wearing one of her trademark form-fitting satin gowns – very tight everywhere except below the knees (always useful for the walking part of the evening).

Here's a picture. I love that the author refers to this look as that of a 'glamorous clam.'

I wondered momentarily if the designer had left part of the top of it off – the little pleats that extended above the strapless bodice didn’t go very far and there was quite a lot of what my friend Clay calls ‘busty substance’ showing in abundance above the tightly corseted bodice.

And you know what? That’s fine. If you’re a major international recording star with a lot of image to support, I’m happy for you to do so in a very constrictive Merry Widow-esque gown if that’s what does it for you. She created a pretty spectacular silhouette.

What creeped me out big time was what happened when they called her name. She stood up to go get her award, but first she stopped to give her dad a hug. This was not creepy in and of itself, of course. It was just that she was hugging her dad while wearing a dress that was essentially a large amount of bosom on a chest-level platter, dressed with frills that were bravely trying to cover what needed covering. Frilled, exposed bosom, right up there in a big ol’ daddy hug.


Now I’m not one for a great deal of chest exposure myself. (Shocking I know.) I don’t find it all that offensive in others’ wardrobes, if it’s managed appropriately – I do think a J-Lo esque torso-baring gown is NOT appropriate at, say, family Thanksgiving dinner. But I gotta say, if my chest were that bare, there are VERY FEW people I would actually hug. I would want most people to stand back and admire from… over there. Especially my dad.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Half a Mo...

Happy Mo-vember everyone! That’s right. I said “Movember.” In Australia a mustache is called a ‘Mo’. And in Australia in November there is a fundraiser called Movember designed to raise funds for men’s health issues. People grow Moes for money. This year Movember has come to the States.

I think it’s sweet. And hilarious.

If you happen to know a guy who has always secretly hankered to grow a Magnum PI mustache because he thinks he’ll feel more manly that way – well, here’s a good excuse to give him some encouragement. And free rein to laugh every day for the rest of the month!

The following summary of information is provided by my friend Jordan, who proudly grew a great big trucker Mo last year, and is on his way to yet another fabulous furry face this year. I’m sure he and his colleagues would welcome your support.

Ladies and Gentlemen START YOUR MOs.

Yes, it is that time of the year again. MOVEMBER is well and truly upon us.

I am sure by now many of you are aware that during the month formerly known as November, men all over the world will aim to grow a Mo(ustache) in a bid to raise funds to support men's health issues, namely prostate cancer and depression . I use the term 'aim' to grow as some men (if you can call them men) experience.....difficulty in achieving a full, lush, fashionable Mo. Is it their fault? No. Should they be embarrassed? Yes! Should it prevent them from participating in such a worthy cause? No! [Jordan, as you can tell, has no mo issues.]

Movember should not simply be seen as an opportunity to tease a co-worker, friend, or family member about their lack of upper lip testosterone, rather it should be seen as a chance to raise funds, and most importantly raise awareness about serious health issues facing men today.

In all seriousness, I have spoken to and received e-mails from a number of you and fully understand your reasons for not participating, but encourage you to spread the good word to your friends and family (and maybe look at putting in a donation or something pressure of course).

This is the first year that Movember has been launched in the US and in New York we have what I would consider a very strong team participating, and while I encourage as many members as possible to join our team - Clap Your Hands and Say Mo! - I strongly encourage you to start-up your own team. Obviously if you do not want to enter a team, you are more than welcome to make a contribution to the New York team to ensure that we help the cause as much as possible and launch Movember in a big way in the USA . My teammates and I welcome any support. I also know that a lot of you will receive e-mails from other people participating, which is great, because it really doesn't matter how you contribute or who you contribute to, as long as you are get involved.

This would not be a Movember e-mail without some facts:

  • Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America.
  • In 2007, more than 218,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 27,000 American men will die from the disease.
  • Depression affects 1 in 6 men...Most don't seek help. Untreated depression is a leading risk factor for suicide.
  • Last year in Australia 18,700 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 2,900 died of prostate cancer - equivalent to the number of women who die from breast cancer annually.
  • Men are far less healthy than women. The average life expectancy of males is 5 years less than females.

To sponsor the Mo's of Clap Your Hands and Say Mo! and fight against prostate cancer please go to, enter my registration number which is 65531 and your credit card details. Or you can sponsor me by check made payable to the "Prostate Cancer Foundation" clearly marking the donation as being for my registration number: 65531. Please mail checks to: Prostate Cancer Foundation, Attn: Movember, 1250 Fourth St, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

All donations are made directly to the Prostate Cancer Foundation which will use the funds for high-impact research to find better treatments and a cure for prostate cancer. The Prostate Cancer Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the full extent permitted by law.

Movember culminates at the end of the month at the Gala Partés. These glamorous and groomed events will see Tom Selleck and Borat look-a-likes battle it out for their chance to take home the prestigious Man of Movember title. If you would like to be part of this great night you'll need to purchase a Gala Parté ticket .

Thanks for your support and please forward on to anyone that you think might be interested in participating or contributing. I know that it is cliché, but every dollar counts.

Clap Your Hands and Say MO!!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Do-Over Please

This morning I was confronted with the harsh reality that I am a shallow, superficial, easily distracted person, no matter how worthwhile the main attraction may be.

I have the depth of saran wrap, y'all.

I was sitting in a meeting full of intelligent passionate people, talking about socially and educationally invaluable community programs and all I could think was, "Why? Why? WHY wear olive green ribbed tights with brown work boots and a navy mini dress and a logo t-shirt?"

To be perfectly honest, as horrified as I was to face my own shallowness, it was much harder for me to face that set of wardrobe choices and concentrate successfully on the topic at hand.

I kept thinking, "If this were a television show or a cartoon I could call on some sort of metaphysical 'Pause' button and while everyone else is frozen - like Hiro's power from Heroes! - I could run up there and do-over the speaker's clothes. That would be so satisfying! She's tall and striking. What could I put on her that would make me take her seriously?" At that point I had to jerk my attention back to the socially and educationally invaluable community programs. It's one thing to be distracted by unfortunate clothes. It's another to let myself wander off into the ideal hypothetical wardrobe to re-dress a person who is a) not related to me, b) will never ever share clothes with me and c) has not (yet) had the inspiration to ask for my wardrobe help.

It would be much more worthwhile (and less like LaLa: The Comic Book) if I spent my energies devising a do-over for my own easily-distracted attention span.


Holy Makeover, Batman!

For those of you who haven't seen my sister's blog makeover, head on over here. There you will find familiar ingredients (lip gloss, little boys, various bugs and David Kahn jeans) but in a snazzy new format.

Also, feel free to check out her author site here. Kelsey's first book is moving closer and closer to publication. More celebrations on that front when the book is out.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tacos Put Out Fires!

Donate that taco!

"In a promotion Taco Bell promised a FREE taco to everyone in America if a player steals a base in the 2007 MLB World Series. The other night Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox did just that. Now America gets their free taco."

And you COULD pick one up between 2 and 5 today. But if you don't want to (which is a personal matter, strictly between you and your taco), you can "donate" your taco (or the price thereof anyway) to the Red Cross for relief for the California wildfires.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Boston! The Musical (A Revival)

The Red Sox won the World Series! Again! Yay!! Wahoo!!! Quick everyone, shimmy dance!

The last time this happened (2004 for those who might not keep detailed records), the city of Boston became Boston! The Musical for a week afterwards. Everywhere I went people met my gaze, smiled, sparkled even. It was like living in the south, but without as many r’s. People who had formerly communicated by grunting and spitting near your feet were now super friendly and said things like, “Hi there! We won!” to total strangers and passersby. Everyone wore Red Sox hats and shirts for a whole week and this was taken as the sign by which fellow chorus-members were recognized. Eyebrows and corners of the mouth up, hands extended – the city was just missing a few sets of jazz hands and high kicks to meet Broadway standards.

Of course, within a few weeks that had mostly died down and the more usual Bostonian reserve had slipped back into place.

But now the Sox have won again. The long late nights of game-watching, and the slow sluggish mornings suffered through yet another layer of baseball jetlag are over. Let the revival of Boston! The Musical begin!

I believe a chorus of Sweet Caroline is in order.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In the Still of the Night

Last Friday was a loooooong day. I was on my feet the whole time, running from one small exhibit to another, installing objects, dashing up to Chinatown to buy fabric, back for more installations. At the very end of the day, just as I was leaving the building, I realized that something we had installed the week before had fallen over. I stayed to straighten it.

Once I got home and had a little dinner, I didn’t last long. I started reading my book but fell asleep with the light on and a cat on either side of me. I awoke when the power went out in my whole neighborhood. It made that sort of winding-down sound you sometimes hear in movie theatres and then it was Very Dark. The sort of dark when you’re not sure if your eyes are open or not. The sort of dark that makes time move more slowly, and enlarges sounds both near and far. It was almost like some sort of hypnotic trance (or so I imagine.)

I bumped my way to the living room window, pulled the shades and looked across the street where the White Trash House was flashing like a disco ball and people were screaming at each other. Apparently the power failure set off the smoke alarms in every room, so strobe lights and buzzing noises made their house more visible (and audible) than anything else on the street. I could see lights in the houses a block behind us, and in houses about 4 blocks away on the other side. But our street was in total darkness.

It was nice to see the stars overhead. Usually I live in a neighborhood that’s too well-lit to permit that.

Looking back, I realize I was a lot blearier than I realized at first. It took me fully twenty minutes to remember that I actually own candles, and only another 10 to find them and get them lit. My cats were fascinated – they’d never seen or smelled candles before. I just never light them.

I called my friend Miss Krafty, who lives up the street from me. She relayed two comforting bits of information: her power was out too, and the Red Sox were ahead 10-3 in the 9th inning. (In hindsight we were too easily comforted by that. The next two games were not inspiring. I do think the city and the utility company narrowly avoided a major demonstration of civil unrest by lucking into a power outage on Friday. If it had happened during the 9th, 10th or 11th innings of the Saturday night game, rioting would have broken out.)

To pass the time I called my sister and we entertained each other for an hour. She told me about her ladybug and the evidently shocking discovery that under their shiny red carapaces, ladybugs have lacy black wings. I love that this was news to her. I can remember her as a serious little girl, collecting snails in our back yard and studying them very closely. I guess she never did the same with ladybugs.

[Aside: I happen to know about ladybugs because for about the past 7 years they appear to have been following me around. It’s as if they’ve selected me for some reason. Other people have personal totems of fierce animals like tigers or bears. I have ladybugs. When I lived in England I had 4 ladybugs who lived in my flat and watched me study. (At first I thought it was just 1 very active ladybug, but I later realized there were several of them.) When I moved back to Texas and lived in a barn, an entire swarm of ladybugs moved in with me and my cat. Dickens was interested at first but soon found them very boring. Ladybugs just don’t dart around or buzz in a satisfying way. He’d rather stalk lizards. And then when I moved to Boston, I walked into my office on my first day of work and found the filing cabinet behind my desk covered with a swarm of ladybug magnets. Ladybugs are the only bugs on the planet I will share space with voluntarily, without complaint. They are the only bugs I encounter that don’t seem to be begging to be squashed by my shoe, or flushed down the toilet.]

My sister and I talked a great deal about shoes, whooping cough (her dog has it – they thought he had a hairball), and my thoroughly adorable nephews. My youngest nephew (turning 2 later this week) is experimenting with inflection to convey size. When he says ‘Shoes’ in his normal voice he is referring to everyone else’s shoes. When he says “shoes" in his itty-bitty high squeaky voice he means his shoes, because his are the smallest. If it’s possible for an aunt to dissolve, simply melt into a pool of loving particles, because her neefs have charmed her so thoroughly, I would long ago have disappeared.

I told Kelsey if Seth ever sees a “Mouse” she could be alarmed, but if he ever saw a “MOUSE” she should move to a new house.

After we’d talked for more than an hour we hung up and I drifted back to my living room windows. It was fascinating in a slow sort of way. I could see people walking up and down the sidewalks with their cell phones out – either talking on them about the power failure, or using the light from their phone screens to guide their steps. I could see flashlights being carried from room to room in neighbors’ houses. And a block over I could see houses with power, inhabitants completely unaware that their neighbors had gone back in time.

I watched for a while and then went back to bed, knowing that the alarm I had intended to set was not going to ring in the morning. I climbed in bed and pulled all the blankets up over me. Dickens tucked me in and found a place to curl up, purring very loudly. I began to drift off to sleep…

Wilkie began to meow. She meowed many long syllables of questions and answers. She experimented with her own itty-bitty voice and inflection. It was almost a cat aria of conversational experimentation with the letters ‘m’, ‘r’, and ‘w.’ She was sitting on the floor right by my bed, engaging in a very earnest and almost musical monologue. Finally I lost patience and told her she needed to get in bed. Pause. She joined me and Dickens on the bed, curled up, and went to sleep.

The next morning I woke up to find one of her fetch toys placed precisely in the middle of my pair of bedroom slippers. She wanted to play Fetch in the pitch dark. Extreme sports for housecats.

Monday, October 8, 2007

How to Cook Potatoes of the Trees

As I mentioned last week, I went apple-picking and as a result found my kitchen table graced with a large bowl of very picturesque apples. Trouble is, I don't like apples, so that bowl of fruit was, for me, a lifetime supply of mediocre menu filler. That bowl was a Herculean task with my name on it: get through all these apples. Go on, I dare you. I swear, I heard it taunting me whenever I walked by it. I knew there was no way I was going to get through them all before they went bad. I gamely tried an apple a day for while – I felt very virtuous and healthy but I had to stop halfway through my third apple. I'd reached my limit. Potatoes of the trees are just not my thing, no matter how optimistically I try to change that.

That still left me with apple-overload. The solution came in two forms. First, my friend MKA assures me that freezing them is a way to save apples for pie-making purposes later. So I spent hours peeling and chopping apples so I could store them in the freezer. I suspect there will be a Domestic Goddess Apple Pie in my wintry future. Second, I tried my friend Miss Krafty's Apple-Chocolate Chip Cake recipe. I made it twice, and the second time I made it I really found the perfect combination for my apple-indifferent taste buds. I print it here for your own enjoyment, in case you too find your kitchen is barricaded behind a red abundance of apples and you don't know what to do with them all.

Apple Chocolate Chip Cake

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ c. oil
1-2 Tbsp milk
1-2 Tbsp melted butter, cooled
2 eggs
1½ cups chopped apple
1½ cups chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 325ºF. Butter and flour a tube pan. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients together in a small bowl. Add oil mixture to flour mixture and beat only until completely mixed. Stir in apple, chips and nuts. Spoon mixture (it will be pretty thick) into pan and bake for 1 hour.

I have to say, it's pretty tasty.

Miss Krafty's version didn't have milk, butter, salt or nuts, and in fact called for a whole 3 cups of apple with only ½ a cup of chocolate. Lunacy. Sheer lunacy. It tasted WAY too much of apple that way. But if you're a fan, feel free to tinker with the recipe – it can take it. Miss K also says she never bothered to make it in a tube pan, so go crazy. Use any pan you want. Just don't try to use real potatoes.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A Riddle (sort of)

Question: Can you guess where I’ve been?

I walk into this guy’s apartment. He’s clearly just left. I start looking around, trying to see if I can figure out who he is based on his living room. Let’s see, white couch. Clearly no pets or small children. Bookshelves with frosted glass doors and oddly dated etched patterns on the glass. Lit from the inside – perhaps he’s handy. How do you light a bookcase from the inside? Eh. Oooo, look! Very cool coffee table! It’s white wood with a glass top and immediately under the glass is a shallow drawer divided into wooden compartments. It’s like a coffee table for people who collect stuff!! I would totally fill that thing up in a week: all the vintage buttons I’ve been buying, my tangled mess of embroidery floss, my postcard collection, cat toys, extra AA and AAA batteries… Why is his empty? He’s clearly afraid of his inner collector. I think this guy must be some sort of occasionally hip but mostly nerdy computer guy. It’s too clean in here. Everything’s white and his rug is very plain. That’s how I peg him.

Next I walk into a woman’s bedroom. It’s clearly a woman’s bedroom because one glass-fronted closet is filled with shelves sporting a fine collection of girly high heels. In fact, they are ALL brightly colored high heeled sandals. She never wears flats, apparently, and never fears frostbite. Hm. I don’t know why but I’m pretty sure this one’s a floozy. No bookshelves. Lots of cool sweater and shoe storage solutions though. The bedding is GORGEOUS. All her clothes are grey and sequined. That’s just weird.

Oh, now I’ve found a kitchen. Obviously this is the kitchen where the Japanese family eats. No table and chairs, but instead a plush carpet with a little short round table and puffy floor cushions. Oh, and actual bamboo stapled to the walls.

Another living room, this one filled with every imaginable bookcase. I love bookcases. If I could collect them, I would. And I would have no problem filling them because I also love books. What books do we have here? None of these look familiar. None of them even look like they’re in English. All foreign books. Huh. Multiple copies of the same Swedish-looking biography of a guy who might be named Rolf. Why own 7 copies of the same cheesy looking book? Oh. Maybe this is Rolf’s place.

One last hint: Swedish meatballs, cinnamon buns, and sanctioned voyeurism dressed up as furniture shopping….

The answer: I spent 4 hours at IKEA!

Good times.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

An Anti-Explosive Idea

A friend of mine sent this link to me earlier today:

This site is well worth a visit. We all know about the pervasive dangers of forgotten land mines, but few seem to know what to do about it. A brilliant if off-beat person has determined that one of the best ways to defuse land mines is to train rats to sniff them out. The rats have a great sense of smell, and they’re light enough not to set off the explosives.

Also, for you graphic artists out there, the website is itself a little gem of brilliance.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Potatoes of the Trees

I’m just going to say this, knowing FULL WELL that I’m risking derision, disbelief and outright rioting:

I think apples are overrated.

Seriously. They just don’t do that much for me, either crisp and raw or mushy and cooked. Either way, my feeling is… eh. I’d rather have cheese.

Or potatoes.

Once upon a time I was in a community theatre production in Melbourne with my friend Clay. Clay and I were very good. The rest of the cast was… well, we hoped they would learn from our example. One evening, during a rehearsal that didn’t involve either of us much, she and I wandered outside to run lines and ended up having one of those conversations where two friends just get giddy with their own hilarity and start that pig-snorting laughing that just makes it all worse. There was no reason for us to get that giggly but we did. The subject of our conversation was apples. It went something like this.

Me: I think apples are overrated.

Clay: Oh yeah. I mean what’s the big deal. So it’s an apple. Psha.

Me: I like potatoes a lot better than apples. I’d rather have potatoes any day.

Clay: Potatoes are definitely a better food than apples. More versatile.

Me: You know how in French apples are called ‘pommes’?

Clay: Yeah. Where are you going with this?

Me: And they call potatoes ‘pommes de terre’… ‘apples of the earth’?


Me: I think it should be the other way around. Potatoes are more important…

Me and Clay simultaneously: Apples should be called the potatoes of the trees! YES! Potatoes of the trees!

Around this time our fellow cast-mates came out to find us snorty-pig laughing, barely breathing, red in the face, eyes watering – basically demonstrating very attractive, high performance thespian behaviors that they all should have tried instantly to imitate. Instead they looked puzzled and asked why we were in that state. We explained, gasping with renewed laughter, “Potatoes of the trees!!” and they continued to look puzzled.

I told you they were slow.

Anyway. Despite the inflated hilarity of the moment we invented the phrase, Clay and I still maintain to this day (a whole 10 years later, which boggles my mind) that Potatoes of the Trees are simply not as tasty or interesting as plain old potatoes.


I have, however, updated my opinion about apples somewhat. As a resident of New England I have finally been drawn into the annual autumn craze for apple picking and I have to say, it rocks.

Without having tried both, I still think it’s safe to say that apple picking is bound to be much more pleasant and satisfying than potato grubbing. In that sense, apples are definitely superior. (They are also more picturesque, and smell prettier in the uncooked state. See? Look how open-minded I'm being.)

It was a bee-yoo-tiful fall day yesterday. Sunny, crisp, cool, faintly scented with hay and apples. A group of us went to a pick-your-own orchard in central Massachusetts and, well, we picked our own. We drank cider. I picked lovely little small purply Cortlands, gigantic pink and yellow Honey Crisps, small green and red MacIntosh and red starry McKeowns. Of course, by the time I got them home I could barely tell them apart any more and last night I spent some time standing in my kitchen looking at what, for me, amounts to a LIFETIME SUPPLY OF APPLES and trying to figure out how I ended up with all those and what I will end up doing with them. I picked the smallest bag there was – a half a peck for the curious among you – and still. I am way over my apple limit.

I believe it may be time for my once-every-3-years apple pie.

And if you’re local, I may be giving away fresh-picked apples this week. Give me a call. Free potatoes of the trees if you're interested.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Arachnophobia - isn't that word just gross?

I come by my fear of spiders honestly. I grew up in Texas where there are lots of big ol’ ugly and sometimes poisonous spiders. Then I lived in Australia where the spiders seem to be competing for some sort of title in the big ol’ and ugly categories. And I inherited my fear from my father who gets as wigged out by spiders as I do. (I share that same fear with my sister. We’ve had a few spider-fighting adventures together. You’d think having a sister by your side would make you braver but, um, no. It just seemed to make us a lot shriek-y-er.)

My dad used to tell the story of how one of my sister’s first words was ‘pidey.’ She’d fix her big hazel eyes in a slightly unfocused way on the area just beside my dad’s left ear, smile dreamily and coo, ‘Pidey’ and enjoy the show as my dad blasted into a blur of swatting, swiping, and anti-spider swearing. If it weren’t for the involuntary shudder I get just thinking about a spider being anywhere near my left ear, I could enjoy this story whole-heartedly.

Yesterday I was helping a colleague write condition reports for some artifacts on display in an exhibit we just got in from Texas. In non-museum speak that translates as: we were checking to make sure that all the Texas museum’s stuff got here without breaking. As I was looking at the stuff one of our other colleagues, a guy who is very good at making stuff and displaying objects in such a way that you don’t notice the NASA strength bands of steel holding it up, came over to inspect the display. He pointed into the case and said casually, “Spiders.”

It was a dangerous moment. I was half a second away from coming unglued in a killing imitation of my dad’s reaction to the word ‘pidey’ – and that would have been professionally VERY embarrassing. I was saved when he pointed again and said, “The supports.” I felt like a hot air balloon being deflated. Oooooooooh.

Let me decode. When he pointed and said ‘Spiders’ my first reaction was that there were spiders in the case and they could be damaging the objects. Spiders in the case would be bad because that would mean opening the case and dealing with them. Ew, ew, ew. Not to mention there would be damage to the artifacts, which is always disheartening. (You have no idea how grateful I am that this was indeed my first reaction – it speaks well of my professionalism.)

About .2 seconds after that whole thought process my inner freak-out was screeching “Spiders… FROM TEXAS!!!! AAAAARGH!!!!” I was this close to continuing the rest of my side of the conversation from the ceiling.

When he followed up by saying, “The supports,” it all became clear. For reasons that really should be reconsidered, certain 3-prong brass or copper supports in the field of museum display building are called ‘spiders.’ Okay, so they have multiple legs. They don’t have 8 legs, and the name has terrible connotations for some of us. I really think they could be called something a lot less fear-inspiring, such as ‘tripods’ or ‘three leg metal supports.’ Call me creative.

Last night I found myself watching Cynthia Nixon guest star on the season premiere of Law & Order: SVU. I regretted that as soon as her spider-loving scientist character said in a way that was meant to be delighted but filled my very soul with horror, “Did you know that you’re never more than 6 feet away from a spider?” She smilled dreamily and seemed to focus somewhere near my left ear. It was so uncalled for.

I will spend a lot of energy these next few days, eyeing the six foot perimeter around my body for any encroaching spiders. And doing my level best to convince myself that L&O is a work of FICTION so I don’t have to believe them.