Thursday, April 30, 2009

Five-O! Five-O!



My husband called me at work yesterday and started the conversation with the following phrase “there are four cop cars in front of our house.” In that split second my mind shot off in thousand different directions. Knowing better, I still blurted out “Please tell me it’s not for us!"’
The story goes something like this. . .

At around four PM my son yelled up to my husband “Hey dad, there are cop cars in front of the house.” Dave stops what he’s doing and comes down to peer out the window with my son. There were four cars in all, all parked in front of our house, including one blocking our driveway. To a casual observer, it would look as if they were trying to prevent US from leaving. Dave grabbed the phone and called to give me the play by play.

1 – Cops arrive. No sirens, just lights. All four cars park in front of our house.

2 – Cops enter the house next door and almost immediately come out with the first of two brothers . He is handcuffed, but seems calm and cooperative. One of the officers puts him in the car and buckles him up for safety. As he is doing this, two more officers exit the house carrying a box and some file folders. These items are put into the trunk of the patrol car.

3 - Two officers go back into the house and there is no activity for a while. After a few minutes inside, officers two cops lead the second brother out of the house in handcuffs. He is agitated and not cooperating at all. One of the cops tries to get him into the car but the second brother fights him. The cop aggressively handles him and gets him into the car, struggling to buckle him in. After he is safely buckled, the cop gets in his face, screaming at him pretty intensely. All the while, our sprinkler is running, dousing the cop trying to subdue the other brother. As this is happening, the other officers are laughing at the cop getting soaked.

4 - Now that the two of them are in the car, every neighbor on the block begins to come home from work. They drive by slowly, but all that they can see is four cars with flashing lights and a gaggle of law enforcement collected in our front yard. It is at this moment that my husband realizes that he’d better show his face outside so that all the lookie-loos don’t think it’s him behind the tinted glass of the squad car. He hung up the phone and I booked it out of the office.


As soon as Dave showed his face on the front walk, neighbors began pouring out of their hiding spots. People that haven’t spoken to us in the seven years that we lived there suddenly came up and introduced them selves and slipped in an “Oh, by the way, what happened with the police? “ Those fake-ass people can bite me. Let them think we’re criminal. Keeps them from asking to borrow our rakes and shovels.

After the swarm of nosy neighbors subsided, three of the four cop cars took off, leaving one empty squad car behind. My son was looking in the windows of the car and joyously proclaimed that one of the cops was drinking a Dr Pepper. His junk food addiction is starting to worry me. I pulled into the driveway just in time to see the last nosy neighbor walk by with her dog and to watch my cat spray the bumper of the cop car with urine. Way to go Spike!

Cut to today. After spending all of last night speculating as to what could have gone down and coming up with a list that included – Meth Lab, Malitia, Tax Evasion, Money Laundering and Terrorism, I finally got on the phone and called the police department. According to them, there was no criminal activity associated with last night’s events. Someone was simply “taken to the hospital”. Ok, someone needs to call bullshit! I very politely asked the officer “You mean to tell me that two people were taken out of their house in handcuffs, one violent and uncooperative, along with boxes and files of evidence because they needed a ride to the “hospital”? Yes m’am, that’s correct. Mmmmm hmmmmm. OK pal, whatever you say. My only guess is that maybe hospital is code for psych ward. I’m half tempted to call the hospital and ask where I should send flowers. If they say 10th floor, I'll know what we're dealing with.

I know that I am indulging in the same nosy neighborism that I accused everyone else of, but this is my next door neighbor. We share a fence. And it's not like we can go over and talk to them.. We have had very little contact over the years. They have always been a little guarded and reclusive (a kind euphamism for weirdos). Their house is lost behind a fortress of overgrown shrubbery and they look down at the ground when they get in and out of the car. If this was just their way of making sure that we never ask to borrow their rakes and shovels, mission accomplished.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Home Sweet (sticky) Home



I just got back from a Girl's Weekend deep in the woods of Pennsylvania. It was, as it always is, a restorative and empowering event for all of us. Every moment spent with this group of girlfriends is treasured as our get togethers don't happen at a frequency that any of us are satisfied with. Busy lives, demanding jobs, men, kids and dogs all take up the bulk of our time. These little escapes allow us to shut down the other demands and just "be". It's amazing really, we can all find our own socks and underwear, we don't demand money for video games or rides to the vet's office and if we want something to eat, we get up and get it. Novel concepts, no?




So after two and a half idyllic, warm, breezy days and two cool nights in the Pocono Mountains, I have returned to what feels like the depths of Long Island summer. No exaggeration here, kids in bathing suits running through the sprinkler, blazing heat, sticky humidity and sweat that never evaporates. I'm pretty sure that it's April but it feels like I've been time warped to July. As soon as I stepped out of the car in my driveway I felt summer's brutal assault. My husband informed me that the weather was unseasonably warm here at home over the past few days and my brush with crisp mountain weather has left me ill prepared for this sensory assault.




I have never been what you'd call an "outdoorsy" girl. With milk white skin, freckles and red hair, you can imagine that sun avoidance is not so much a preference as it is a necessity. This in combination with the fact that I absolutely hate the heat and the feeling of sweating, makes me a pretty unlikely candidate for the brutal Long Island summers. With heat and humidity also come bugs, like mosquitoes and bees, both of which seem unnaturally attracted to me. I don't know if it's my ghostly countenance or if my red hair looks like some kind of plant but if there are mosquitoes in the area, they are biting me, usually only me. When I walk into a garden party it's like someone rang the dinner bell. Platoons of angry midges elbow each other out of the way to get a spot at the buffet. While normal people sip their wine and make polite chit chat, I am usually engaged in spastic fits of scratching and swatting, often in the most inappropriate of places. How I haven't been stricken with West Nile is a mystery to me.






So I'm home and it's hot. But as much as I joke, I missed my kids, my husband and my crazy dog. I won't tell you that I missed the weather here, because that would be a lie. If the starting gun for summer has been fired, be prepared to hear from me a lot. I'm going to tunnel under the house and hold up there for a couple of months. What else will there be to do, but blog? Oh, and dig for earth worms and fight off ants and termites. Ack! Forget it! If you need me I'll be in my room with the A/C on. Don't even think about knocking until October.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Toot! Toot!


This is a story about four little girls that went into the woods to sip wine, do their nails, dye their hair and wear kabuki-looking face masks that tone and tighten. These were hard working girls that needed to decompress and engage in some lively adult conversations about politics, economics and women's issues. Well, not really. I guess some of that is true. At least the wine part is true, though I'd substitute the word quaff for sip. This is really a story about four girls and a fart machine.




Yesterday was day 1 of girl's weekend and we kicked it off in our usual style, a little Pinot Grigio and a lot of gossip. We usually spend our first day of any girl's weekend catching up on all the details in each other's lives over some gloriously unhealthy junk food, planning what we are going to do and where we are going to eat dinner. Our hostess Marianne usually puts out food for the deer and we sit on the deck and watch the flora and the fauna while we discuss bosses that cheat on their spouses, husbands that leave their underwear on the floor and children that text too much. But my devious friend Lil' Mare had a plan to shake things up a little.



At around 7:00 PM we were all feeling kind of peckish so we decided that we were ready to go to dinner. We chose a nice local restaurant called the Boat House which sits on this huge lake in the woods. We each went our separate ways to apply war paint and get presentable. As I walked past Lil' Mare, she tugged me by the elbow, shushed me and showed me this little black box in her hand. The way she showed it to me I felt like I was looking at stolen watches inside of some guy's trench coat. "It's a fart machine. Where should I put it?" she whispered. I told her to hide it between the cushions on the inside corner of the sectional in the living room. We always seem to sit in the same spots and that's the where Marianne usually sits. So while Marianne and our other cohort, Ellen were primping, Lil' Mare wedged the machine into the folds of the big overstuffed couch and tucked the remote control into her pocket. Then off we went to dinner.



When we came back from dinner, we put on some music and got into our comfiest pajamas. Then, as predicted, we each took our usual places on the sectional. I sat on the far corner on the swivel rocker section, Mareianne sat on the inside curve of the sectional, right under the faux bear skin throw, Lil' Mare was next to Marianne and Ellen took the other end of the couch. Once we sat down, we got right back to gossiping. Mareianne decided that she was going to look something up on the computer, so she tuned out as the rest of us talked. As she's typing away, rumblings start coming from the couch as the three of us are hold back the laughter and study Marianne's face for a reaction. Nothing. Ppppppfffffftttttt again. Nada. Now the tension and the comedy is building because Marianne is not acknowledging the noise.



Finally Ellen decided to try to draw Marianne into the conversation so that she would take her focus off the computer. Now we start working the remote button, hard. "Do you hear that noise?" Marianne said looking at Lil' Mare with more than a hint of accusation. None of us acknowledged. We allowed a little buffer of silence and went back to the conversation. As soon as the talking got into swing - toot, toot, toot. Again, we pretended to hear nothing. Now Marianne is glaring at Ellen and looking back at Lil' Mare to try to tip her off that she might be needing a gasmask soon. Then Mary Ellen got up and passed the remote to me. As soon as she went into the bathroom I honked that thing with all I had. Now that Marianne knew that Lil Mare was not responsible for the noise she started to think that there was an animal in the couch. She turned off the music and made us sit in silence asking "Did you hear that?" each time we fired it off. She eventually got on all fours on the couch and pointed her head at the corner of the couch like a hunting dog looking for prey. By this time we had ratcheted things up by telling her that sometimes raccoons get into houses in the woods and they nest inside furniture that has a lot of stuffing and have babies. After about 30 minutes of torture and our eventual, uncontrollable laughter, she caught on and got the nerve to feel between the couch cushions for the offending device. Even though she knew there was a machine, she still felt for it very tenuously, as if a her hand might be torn to ribbons by an angry mother raccoon.




Once it was all out in the open, Marianne confessed that she heard the noise all along and thought that it was Lil' Mare up until she went to the bathroom. She told us that she was not acknowledging the noise because she was trying to be polite. The whole time that we thought she was ignoring us Marianne was sitting there mentally cataloging everything that Lil' Mare ate to figure out what had her gut in such an uproar.



We all had such a good laugh thanks to that silly toy. As we plan out day 2 of girl's weekend there have been mentions of taking our gadget the local Walmart. On second thought, in Walmart, who would really notice? Once I go home there are two things that I have to do - buy a fart machine and mail Marianne a vial of Beano as a thank you gift.










Tuesday, April 21, 2009

PARTY! Party. party?


I am happy to report that l I survived another birthday! Not my birthday of course, as that will pass quietly like a thief in the night. I am referring to my daughter's birthday.


This past weekend was dedicated to the art of the party and I felt more like Picasso than Renoir on this most recent attempt as my parts were all out of order. Usually, I am an obsessively organized party giver. I shop early, plan excessively and write lists like my life depended on it. Not this time though. And it wasn't one party that needed arrangement, it was two.


Saturday night was the family party for twenty plus relatives, which is always better to be tending to than participating in. As I float past the various conversations I realize that I like to be able to just shut up and serve cake. Sometimes I hear random comments that are too hilarious to ignore, such as my mother asking loudly whether someone was on "MyFace". As you might guess, she's more into crocheting than social networking. This is also the same woman that referred to Eddie Murphy as Eddie Washington throughout the 80's. We think some of her wiring got crossed in her idyllic, post-WW II suburban upbringing. Too much red M&M's and diet soda with saccarine.


The family party closed up around 11:00 PM Saturday night and we started to clean up and get ready for the Sunday party that was scheduled at 1:00 PM the next day. Sophia had chosen a Hippie theme for her kiddie party, so everything was to be tiedye and peace signs. We decided to get "Hello my name is . . " stickers and give everyone a hippie name when they arrived. I chose Willow for my hippie name as it is a name that no one would ever use to describe me. My daughter selected Rainbow.



My daughter had a friend sleep over, so we started the next morning with one guest in hand. Then at 11:30, one of her friends that could not make the party dropped by for an hour to see her and give her a gift. She ended up staying for the whole thing. By 1:15 the second party was in full swing. There were 17 little girls sitting around my dining room table doing crafts and eating pizza and chicken nuggets. This was a hungry group. I couldn't shovel stuff in and out of the oven fast enough. "More curly fries!", they screamed "More pizza!". By this time, the flop sweat was starting to ruin my carefully flat-ironed do. We made cootie catchers, had tie dyed cake and gave everyone peace sign tattoos. Lucky for me, all 17 parents were punctual in picking up their kids, so I had an empty house by 3:15, with the exception of my son's two friends that were huddled around the internet IM-ing with girls and giggling like them.


I made a quick sweep to clean things up and grumpily announced that I was going upstairs to take a nap. I laid down in my bed at 4:00 PM, channel surfed a little and nodded off after a few minutes. 4:20 DING DONG! My dad shows up. He wasn't able to make the Saturday night party so he popped in on Sunday. I stumbled down the stairs and into the kitchen and chatted with them while I made marinara sauce for Sophia's chosen birthday dinner. She wanted lasagne, but I negotiated her down to baked ziti. I had to run interference at 5:00 PM when the mom of one of my son's friends dropped off smoothies and wraps for the boys. Here's a topic that I would love some feedback on - Would you do that? Randomly drop off food at someone elses house at dinner time without mentioning a word to the PIC (parent in charge)? I was dumbfounded. I called my son down to the kitchen and instructed him in no uncertain terms that if he ate so much as one bite of that wrap that I'd have his orthodontist wire his mouth shut at the next visit. He was not going to miss his sister's birthday dinner.

Dinner was over and cleaned up by 7:00. I don't remember what happened after that. I might have fallen face first into a pile of laundry or curled up in a corner with the dog to tell her all about how tired I was, since everyone else had heard enough of that from me for one day. Ok, so I whined a little. All in all, everyone got what they wanted - my in-laws got copious amounts of cake and goodies, my daughter got her hippie party and baked ziti and my mother learned the difference between MySpace and Facebook. All I want is a little sleep, which I intend to do this weekend when I disappear into the Pennsylvania woods with my girlfriends for a little R&R. Until then, it's birthday time again, this time for my husband. I think I'm just gonna take him out.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sprung





Spring is finally here on the east coast! It has been a long time coming. Usually by the time Easter rolls around, hyacinths daffodils and forsythia are in abundance and the intoxicating smell of spring blossoms fills the air. However, up until three or four days ago, the blossoming cherry and pear trees and other budding beauties kept their little blossoms tightly balled up, with no hint of the explosion of color and aroma to follow.

I got my first hint that Spring was in the hood yesterday as I sat in a particularly boring meeting. I cleverly positioned myself on the side of the table that would have a view of the outdoors. Right outside the window of this second floor conference room sits an immense pear tree. This tree sits right along side the floor to ceiling windows of the conference room. Small puffs of white flowers were bursting out all over the place, seemingly at our feet. If you concentrated hard enough on the tree and not on the meeting, you could almost feel like you were sitting on top of a cotton ball. It was glorious, and way cooler than whatever blobbity-blah we were discussing.

The workplace has a particularly cruel way of harshing Spring’s gig. To view gorgeous flowering trees against a cloudless blue sky while locked in a sweltering conference room filled with nothing but stale, hot air is a tease of monumental proportions. This morning’s workplace “gift” was the overwhelming aroma of manure. I guess they had fertilized the beds in front of the building. The cow dung aura hung in the air like a poison cloud, crushing the smell of any spring buds that might be hanging in the breeze. For some reason, I always get to work just as some olfactory assault is in progress. On any given morning I can arrive to the aroma of the maintenance crew pooping the flower beds, pumping the cesspool or tarring the parking lot. They say timing is everything and I don’t have it.

Luckily for me, spring’s more delightful aromas hit me at the most unexpected place. Last night I headed over to Sears to pickup something that I had ordered (hush, hush on what it was. It was a gift.) and as I walked in the doors of the pick-up area I was bowled over by the fragrance of dogwood blossoms. It was 8:45 at night, the parking lot was poorly lit and the pickup area was dull and dingy, but that smell lifted me up to an amazing high. It’s a smell that transported me back to my childhood, to the time of the year when I’d ride my bike for hours and feel the cool breeze and warm sun simultaneously. That rush of scent, more than anything else, made me feel in my bones that spring was here. I guess I’ll have to clean the house.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BOTB


In a prior post (http://diaryofamadbathroom.blogspot.com/2009/04/tribute.html )I told you all about my friends from my old job and how they inspired me to write this blog. I even made reference to a little ditty that my friend NDH wrote regarding one giant man of legend and his legendary (ahem) "movement". Well, thanks to the generous spirit of the same individual, I have published it here.
Over the next weeks I plan to include snippets of our historic e-mail exchanges in a random quote of the day fashion. In addition, I am hoping to get some of my pals to guest post (as soon as I can figure out how to go about it). So strap in. Things are going to get a little weird. Funny, but weird.


For now, please enjoy the following entry from our dear NDH. Sing it in your head to the tune of the Doors song "Riders on the Storm". Better yet, sing it out. It's quite a good belter. If you haven't already guessed, it's a little scatological. so turn back if you can't hang with a good poop joke.

Bunyan on the booowwwwwlllll
Goulash taking toll
Into the woods he strolled
To answer natures call
Sweating from his brow
Exploding here and now
Bunyan on the bowl

Bunyan on the booowwwwwlllll
Goulash down the hole
Logs flushed down the flume
Villagers are doomed
A double flush for all
Is deep woods protocol
Bunyan on the bowl

Bunyan on the booowwwwwlllll
Resting head on grassy knoll
Awaking with a start
And now he’s dealing with a shart
Go home and change your pants
Or take it like a man
Bunyan on the bowl

Bun-ya n on the booowwwwwllll


lBun-yan on the booowwwwwlllll


Bun-yan on the booowwwwwlllll


Bun-yan on the booowwwwwlllll

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What I ate for Easter Breakfast

Cheese Strata, bacon, cornbread, peeps and rice crispie treat bird's nests filled with jelly beans. I won't even get into what we had for dinner as I don't enough strength to type out the entire Magna Carta length list. Too tired from my epic sugar crash.

Here it is, Thursday (4/16) (though this will backpost to Easter onna counta cuz that's when I uploaded the pics to the draft. Curse you foul blogger! Curse you!) and I am limping through another post-Easter glycemic meltdown. I had posted a comment on *The Letters That I Wish I had Written that I would need a Keith Richards style bloodwashing after my Easter debauchery was completed. I think I am there. Who am I kidding? I am so there.

Medic!

* I iz a mo-ron end dunt no how 2 put a link in my blog entrie. So here iz a kut end payst becuz I R 2 incompitint to do it the rite way. http://thelettersiwishidwritten.blogspot.com/2009/04/ooompa-ooompa.html







Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Secret Life of Diaryofamadbathroom


As I hover in this middle zone of life, I find myself less in control of my eccentricities. Luckily, I am far less self-conscious than I was in my younger days, but I can't say the same for my kids. Apparently, I've traipsed into that territory where you start to become an embarrassment to your children. They have not said as much, but their behavior speaks volumes. Take last night for instance, we did something highly unusual and went food shopping with the entire family. This was done for convenience sake as we finished dinner late and since we were already out, we just got it done. From the second that we got into the store, my son took off, cell phone in hand, always keeping a two aisle distance from the rest of us. He did a brief drive-by to slam dunk some of his favorite stink repellent (AXE) into my cart, but that was it. We actually had to text him when we were done to unearth him from his emo corner to rejoin the family on the ride home. I know that this is probably normal behavior for most boys rounding thirteen, but my head and my heart are duking it out.

I am sure that I am at least somewhat to blame for this as I keep getting caught talking out loud to nobody in particular but myself. I do this as I am darting all over the house, shoving laundry into baskets or mopping the floor which lends me a crazy-cat-lady air, minus the cats. I know the kids have witnessed me doing this on more than one occasion and I usually don't realize I am doing it until someone points it out to me. This is sort of a scary thing for me as I have always had a brisk inner-monologue and a boring meeting has been known to send me into a Walter Mitty-like fantasy land. In my head I am always telling off the most obnoxious person at the table in the most spectacular way or perhaps day dreaming that someone exceptionally nasty cuts a wicked fart in front of an influential speaker. Now I fear that these thoughts are going to start to leak out at work without my knowledge. The other day I was driving in the car with my daughter and I was deep in thought, arranging furniture in my head and at some point I started swirling my hands to visually represent where I was pushing couches and tables and my daughter called out from the back seat "Mom! What are you doing?". It was like I had forgotten where I was for a moment. I paused for a very long time and then sheepishly answered "Magic."

I guess it's inevitable that during the tween and teen years, that I will embarrass my children by my behavior or perhaps just by breathing. I need to toughen up and shut up, particularly when I don't know I am speaking.

Friday, April 10, 2009

All the small things - like warm fresh cookies


It's tough work keeping a group of 12 year old musicians satisfied through a long band practice. It's even tougher work keeping them focused. They will typically run through one or two covers and an original before they lose their direction and are off running around in the back yard, shooting airsoft guns, swinging on the swing set or emptying out the pantry. Today after exactly 2.5 songs they were off working on their myspace page. My lame attempt to pull them back to rehearsing for their spring break concert (a free show on a band member's lawn for their Jr HS buddies) was to entice them back to practice with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. They lit briefly to devour a dozen or two, then one song and they were gone.

I am a firm believer that the recipe on the back of the Nestle's Chocolate Chips is infallible. I did however, add a chopped bar of Ghiradelli Bittersweet chocolate in place of half the chocolate chips, just to mix it up a little. When I look back at my baking history, I realize that it actually took me a long time to get these cookies the way I like them - golden, slightly crisp on the edges and soft in the center. The road to the perfect cookie was littered with burnt bottoms, mushy undercooked middles and flat, hard cookies that could be used as Ninja Stars. Here's my personal list of "always" and "never" that was culled from my litany of mistakes. They may not be the most scientific of tips, but they have lead me to a cookie that I am happy with.

ALWAYS
  • Pre-heat the oven.
  • Set the oven to 350, not 375. This has served me across multiple oven types.
  • Set the timer 2 minutes short of the recommended time and visually watch them finish.
  • Follow your nose. If they smell done, they probably are.
  • Use a non-stick pan. It's just easier.
  • Bring your eggs to room temperature before adding them to the creamed butter.
  • Cream the butter and sugar more than you think you need to.
  • Scrape down the bowl through out the process.
  • Add in anything else that you like. This is a drop cookie and can take on whatever mix ins you can imagine - walnuts, raisins, M&M's, other flavored chips, rice krispies (surprisingly good), peanuts, craisins, it's your world paint it the way you like it.
  • Scoop and sweep flour. Rounded measurements are the sure way to a cookie that doubles as a deadly weapon.
NEVER
  • Use cold butter or eggs.
  • Mix the flour into the batter any more than just enough to incorporate.
  • Forget to time the cookies.
  • Use a lowfat butter. The water in these "spreads" will throw off the texture of the cookie.

These are just my rules. Take 'em or leave 'em. But if you're having trouble with your cookies, you might want to cross check them against my list. It is borne out of a whole lot of mistakes. And by following these rules I can magically get 7 minutes of focus from five 12 year olds. If that's not magic then I dare you to pull off a better trick.

Tribute


You know how there are just some people that bring out the best in you? Tonight, I meet with a group of folks that have an almost magical effect on me. It's weird, I probably can't describe it in a way that makes sense, but they all make me better than I really am. As a matter of fact, I probably wouldn't write this blog if it weren't for them.

We all used to work together at a very large, merger-prone NY bank. The constant merging created an atmosphere of tenuousness and each merger survived left us with a mix of relief and survivor's guilt. Through all of this turmoil, I connected with a small network of people that were so special that I vowed to never let them out of my life. To be completely honest, I have never been very good at making friends at the office. I am so guarded about who I let in my life, that I just don't throw out a lot of feelers. Friendship has to be an organic thing, never forced or fake. Because of silly rules like that, I have a somewhat small, but very trusted circle of people that I call friends. And tonight we dine!

Throughout our history together, we determined that we shared a unique sense of humor and the ability to make each other laugh. We would write epic e-mail chains, with each reponse riffing on the prior and expanding the thing to absurd levels of hilarity. We talked about writing a bathroom book together (we always aimed high) and even made a couple of short movies together as material for offsite presentations, etc. Our creative vibes just clicked.

As I mentioned, I would not write this blog if it were not for these folks. They always encouraged me and raised the bar in such a way that it elevated my contributions. When I ask myself who my audience is, I realize that I am writing to them and for them and by extension, anyone that shares our sensibilities. If you have enjoyed any of my posts to date, please thank them. I fully intend to ask them to guest post, if they would indulge me.

So tonight we celebrate milestone birthdays for two of this crew and a regular (but still special) birthday for one. I would like to indulge in tribute to these fine folks by giving just a few of the many reasons why these dudes are awesome:

Vin P. (Milestone Birthday 1) - is awesome because:

He was the first Project Manager that I ever worked with that got things done by gentle and artful persuasion and not iron fisted abuse or straight up nagging. It earned him the title of the "Velvet Glove". He still uses this name on occasion to sign sign his e-mails.

He was the first Project Manager that I ever worked with that got his PMI certification, more specifically, his PMP. The pimp jokes flowed like wine that year.

He wore an electric blue suit and Mike Brady perm wig to my 70's themed birthday party and he completely owned the look. When I introduced him to my friend Paul, who was wearing a mile-high afro wig, Vinny shook his hand, looked up at his head and said "Wow. I think I have wig-envy."

He is an encyclopedia of trivia. Don't even front like you can keep up with him. He's a machine. His head is full of details, places, names, songs, movies, TV shows, etc. He is our go-to tie breaker in all factual disputes. A walking encyclopedia. Better than google. That's right, I said better than google.

He worships Martin Scorsese. He has watched all of his movies and has committed their most subtle nuances to memory. We have had so many great conversations about Goodfellas and its music, our favorite characters and favorite lines. No matter how many times I have seen a movie, he will bring to light some small detail that I never noticed and make me want to watch it all over again.


Vin's a dude that makes you want to be on your game. As up on popular culture as he is on sports, you had better stay sharp if you want to play in his league. An obscure statistic, a sarcastic comment, a "did you see it" moment. He covers it all with the ease and grace of a Velvet Glove. In my opinion, he's always too hip for the room and we always feel honored to be in his presence.

Dennis H. - (Milestone Birthday 2): Is awesome because:

He is not a slave to fashion, trends, peer pressure or changing times. He likes the Grateful Dead, jeans and tee shirts and the same parking spot EVERY DAY. No matter how much we tease him, he has the courage of his convictions. That's his band, his wardrobe and his parking spot and he's stickin to 'em.

He is always smiling, even though he is constant fodder for the rumor mill. For some reason, he gets romantically linked with everyone that he has ever had a hallway conversation with. Man, woman, transgender, whatever. For some reason, the office gossips always have him in their cross-hairs. It would be annoying if it weren't so funny. It's funny because it's absurd and untrue. We surmise that it is because he is cordial and friendly and says hello to everyone. I guess if you have a corporate job and you don't have your nose in the air and a stick up your nether-regions you are nailing everyone.

He has had the same group of friends for as long as I know him. Loyalty always scores points with me and Dennis' loyalty is unparalleled!

He is sooooo sensitive. He is willing to pull on his manties and chat with you about subjects that most men shy away from. He has counseled every heartbroken man woman or child that came his way and did it without any macho posturing or the slightest hint of self-consciousness.

He put up with my ridiculous shenanigans for 11 years. That's how long we worked together where he was in the unenviable position of being my boss. For some reason I felt so comfortable with him that I never sugar coated anything and told him exactly how I felt about everything and everyone. The poor soul listened to me bitch about office politics, uncooperative software developers, impotent (from a management perspective) Sr. Managers, crappy cafeteria food, angry tattooed hash slinger/convicts that worked in the cafeteria and whatever else came to mind. What a burden I was. Allow me to take this opportunity to say I'm sorry. I don't know why I unloaded all my psychic detritus on you, but I suspect it was out of trust and respect. I still don't know what was in it for you. Thank you for tolerating me.

Dennis M. (Regular Birthday) - Is awesome because:

He used the doors song Riders on the Storm to parody Paul Bunyon having an attack of gastroenteritis entitled "Bunyon on the Bowl". This was written in response to a rather unfortunate encounter that DM had with a bowl of Veal Goulash.

He once told me a story about David Cassidy singing the National Anthem and trying not to lose his false teeth while he sang. His imitation is a visual that I keep in my head and pull out when I need to laugh. You can't tell, but I'm laughing now at the thought of this.

When we were sunk with the final blow, the merger that none of us survived, we were each presented with a multi-ream printout of all of our e-mails from our friend Dennis. It was so thoughtful and so amazing that he cared enough to archive them all. There had to be seven or eight hundred exchanges. It was such a touching thing to do.

He brought the act of "Sharting" into our daily conversation when he told us the story of a a guy that he worked with on a construction site that ate too much pork sandwich and lost control. Then this poor guy was berated by the crew chief for going home and changing his pants. Through Dennis we learned that real men tough it out, whether their pants are filled with puddin or not.

He clearly loves his wife and children. This is evident in the way that he talks about them, the time that he spends with them and the way he wore those crazy brown moon shoes that they bought him, just because they bought them for him. (DM - You know the ones)

He is so mellow and flexible that whatever challenges life throws at him, he meets them and pushes forward. He is gracious and kind, funny and smart as hell. We call him the professor partly because he played one in one of the movies that we made and partially because he is that whip-smart. It's always a treat to be around him.


So there you have it. Three awesome birthday salutes for three awesome guys. This does not even begin to graze the surface of how much I appreciate each one of you . All the best to each of you for a birthday year that surpasses all others that have gone before. Revel in your own awesomeness. I know I do!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Crimes of Fashion


















Sometimes I surprise myself and do something so painfully lame that I fall down a shame spiral of epic proportions. Today was just such a day. I have been on a mad laundry streak for the past six weeks, doing laundry five out of seven days of the week. Yet somehow I had noting to wear. I must say that I have done a very good job of throwing out or donating anything that I no longer wear or that is so spattered with paint that it looks like I rolled in a fresh Jackson Pollack ( I understand that this is mathematically impossible, it was said for dramatic effect). Perhaps I did better than I imagined 'cause I was standing there looking in the closet, staring really, like you do when you look into an empty fridge fully believing that your laser beam stare will cause food to materialize and nuthin happened. All I could find was this heinous coral tee shirt with a bedazzled butterfly. Oh, the toxic shame!

I can recall the exact place and time that I purchased it. I was in Pennsylvania on a girl's weekend, with my three best friends in the world, the people that are supposed to have my back and they let me buy the tee-shirt equivalent of mom jeans. We're sisters. Friends. Co-conspiritors. How could they let me do this? Moreover, how could I let my taste compass go so wiggly? Did I step into a rogue magnetic field? Did I accidentally take mescaline instead of motrin? WTF?

Luckily I wore awesome earrings today. This may be the only thing that kept me from hiking my pants up under my bra and wearing my hair in a head-banded blunt bob. I am dancing dangerously close to holiday sweater territory. I am am making a plea to my girlfriends (and you know who you are) to subject me to a Clockwork Orange style reconditioning if I ever go into this territory again or at least crack me upside the head with a copy of Vogue. Stage a style intervention. This is my cry for help!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The clouds parted and angels sang - 2a (PICS)






















Associated story follows below.

The Clouds Parted and the Angels Sang . . Part 2

What does this posting have to do with cake, you might ask? Well nothing, but I made that tasty beast yesterday and she was so sexy, I had to photograph her. OK, food-porn interlude over. Back to Yankee Stadium.

If you haven't read part 1, go back to the prior post and catch up. Go ahead. I'll wait.

When we left our dynamic duo they were approaching the hulking monolith that is the new Yankee Stadium. . .


Dave and I approached the building slowly, pausing to inspect details in the facade and in the ornate Victorian style streetlamps that ringed the perimeter. We were going to take a lap around the building's exterior, but were lured inside by a short security line. After the requisite grope for weaponry we entered the cavernous outer ring of the stadium. It was a soaring space, lit up by a giant tv screen and a blinking advertising screen that flashed a rotation of colorful promotions like a manic Light Brite. The height of the interior space seemed to be at least three stories from floor to ceiling. Magnificent pictures of players past soared over head like giant kites. Looking down the line there were at least a dozen great players honored, in rapid succession - Reggie, Winfield, Mattingly and on and on. We could not get over the sheer volume of things to see.

Here is a partial list of the the attraction and food possibilities available in the New Yankee Stadium. The ones that we visited are marked with a star (*):

*Nathans' Hot Dogs (Staff - cranky. Hotdog - tepid. Gastrointestinal distress - priceless.
3 Locations)
Familglia Pizza (5 Locations)
*Martini Bar (Tommy Bahamas)
Beers of the World
Latin Corner
Garlic Fries (2 locations - woe is me, I wanted these badly, but they were not conveniently
located)
Philly Cheesesteak (only one of these, hence OBSCENE lines)
Premio Sausage (2 locations plus multiple mobile carts)
Jimmy's BBQ
Carvel (everywhere you looked)
Arthur Avenue Deli
Boars Head Deli
A fruit stand (wtf?)
Monument Park
*Mohegan Sun Bar
* Yankee Store (3 of them!)
* Peter Max Gallery (window shopped)
Hard Rock Cafe

After about a half an hour of exploring, we found ourselves in the Mohegan Sun Bar. The bar sits smack in the middle of center field, snuggled right between two sections of bleachers. The view from the bar is pretty impressive as you look out a wall of glass right on to the field. There are two bars, one at either end of the room, which is intended to cut the lines and make it easy to get your drink on, even if the doltish customers don't know not to pool up and chat in the way of the drink line. Hello? People wanna drink here. Go trade loser secrets someplace else. We loved the atmosphere in the bar, but there were a couple of major disappointments that I need to point out, one of which was not any fault of the Yankees:

1) We learned that after exhibition day this bar would require a membership in order to enter.
Bummer!

2) Thirteen dollar Cosmopolitans served in a plastic cup. Don't get me wrong, I fully expected
them to cost that much but I did not expect to be served in a urine collection cup. I must say,
that was a very down-market vessel for an such uptown joint. Double bummer!

3) I learned that I just missed my awesome friend Vincenzo by a few minutes at the same place. I was hoping to meet up with him at some point but it didn't work out. :( Bummiest of all.

Luckily, one really spectacular thing happened while we were in the Mohegan Sun bar. As I mentioned in the prior posting, we had been fighting the weather all day, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. It was an ugly shade of grey outside while we were in the bar and the robotic grounds crew (not real robots, but highly syncopated gardeners in matching polyester) were busy making origami folds with the tarp. Dave and I had been on a photo snapping tear, so I asked him to line up in front of the wall o'glass so that I could get his picture with all of Yankee Statium laid out behind him. Just as I was about to snap the shot, he opened up his jacket to show the tee shirt that he was wearing, which included a picture of his dad and our son at a game at the old stadium. Just as he revealed the shirt, the sun burst through a bank of dark grey clouds and shone into the bar like an orange fireball. Dave started laughing and said "thanks Dad", which started me crying. It was a sad, beautiful moment. Dave's dad would have loved to have seen the new stadium, but sadly, he died in 2008. I think we can say that he was with us "in spirit".

All in all , we loved the new stadium. It offers ample room for 50,ooo people to spread out in. It never felt claustrophobic or tight in any way. Other than my minor bitchings about the bar above, there was one other thing that bothered me about the stadium. There were huge photographs all over different locations of the stadium. Most of them were nostalgic and quaint, but a couple of them were just flat out wrong. Here is a list of my least favorites:

1) Joe Dimaggio eating spaghetti (cliche)

2) Yogi Bera eating spaghetti (Really? Again? Are these the only photos they had? We don't all eat spaghetti, you know. It just so happens that I am making, uh, oh, forget it. I forgot we're having spaghetti and meatballs tonight. Damn!)

3) Best of the worst, pictured above of Micky Mantle. This photo hangs over the deli in the food court, directly above the sliced meat and across from the Nathans hot dog concession. I won't say a word. Take a look for your self. Comment if you like. The art department clearly hates The Mick! Having a photo of Jeter pouring mike and looking on with bemusement only adds to my belief that this arrangement was a prank. OK Ashton, ha ha. We get it.

Dave and the kids are going back to the stadium on May 3rd. I am curious to see if the photo of the Mick goes (ahem) I mean comes down.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The clouds parted and the angels sang . . . Part 1






















Sometimes the most unexpected things can move you to tears. Such was the case with our first visit to the new Yankee Stadium last night. Now, I'm not a baseball fan and I have never pretended to be, and what I failed to realize when I married into Dave's family some eighteen years ago, was that these people bleed Yankee blue and lack of interest or worse, interest in a rival team, would not be tolerated. I learned the hard way when I brought a fashion magazine to a game back in the 90's. Ever since I made that unfortunate decision, I've been branded a heretic and banned from further visits to the house that Ruth built. But after an almost 17 year absence, Dave, in an act of stunning good will, granted me a pardon by giving me tickets to the first exhibition game in the new Yankee Stadium. I am sure that the entire prison population in Q was totally jels at the thought of my clemency.

It rained buckets all day long leading up to the game. There were thunder boomers, lightning, the whole nine. If this game was ever going to get off the ground, the drainage system at the stadium would have to prove that it was worth its price tag. Dave and I obsessively checked the weather on NOAA.gov throughout the day to look for a possible break in the wetness. It looked like it could possibly clear for a short time, but the break would be followed by another band of rain . We knew that we would go, one way or the other. The question remained, whether we would see any baseball played while we were there.

Dave is the man when it comes to getting to the Bronx. A lifetime of Yankee games taught him the best ways in and out of the area, so even though part of our trip occurred during the evening rush hour, we got to the stadium in an hour and change. We pulled off the Deegan on to the 138th street/Grand Concourse ramp that leads to River Avenue (home of the new and old stadiums). There was a sea of blues as far as the eye could see, directing traffic, not directing traffic, trading chili recipes, whatever. Not sure if the display of Johnny Law was meant to be a deterrent or deemed to be necessary, either way it was better to have them there than not. As a result of the abundance of law enforcement, the usual army of squeegee guys that patrol this ramp were conspicuously absent.

For those old timers that remember the days when passing the Bronx House of Detention was necessary in order to get to the stadium, you'll be tickled to know that this building is now the future home of a shopping center, complete with Home Depot, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and Best Buy. The days of creating a shiv out of an old toothbrush or scraping out bricks with a soup spoon are long over. Now you can get everything you need to build a complex tunneling system and appoint it fabulously. I was hoping with all my heart that they would show love for the past and name this mega market of retail "Penitentiary Center", but no one listens to my genius marketing ideas. Fools!

As it turned out, the original parking structure next to the old stadium was still in service. This is Dave's preferred parking spot as the exit from the lot lets right out to the Major Deegan for a quick escape. There is a new ticket payment system in place with a payment kiosk that looked like it might be a disaster in the making, but it worked just fine. As we walked out of the parking garage to the front of the old Yankee stadium, there was a flash of sadness and nostalgia for the past. It sat there like the skeleton of giant dinosaur. Grey. Empty. Sad. The police used the space between the garage and old stadium to set up a communication command center. There were dual 32' Winnebagos with antennas and satellite dishes and all sorts of buzzing whirligigs on their roofs. There were enough rads bouncing around this alley to make your fillings vibrate. The rain, which had slowed to a drizzle as we drove had completely stopped by this time. As we walked down River Avenue, we were pleased to see that all of the bars and souvenir businesses that had been there for years were still humming. We passed under the elevated subway tracks and there she was in all her glory - the new Yankee Stadium. People stopped in their tracks and immediately began snapping photos, others just stood in slack-jawed amazement. It was a shiny diamond of newness. A sleek and elegant thoroughbred reminiscent of its lineage, but built for greater speed than its considerable bloodline ever promised. We stood on the corner and just looked at it for a minute and took it in. The new building had architectural nods to the original Yankee stadium, but these nostalgic elements were mixed with the vacation attraction vibe of places like the Baltimore Inner Harbor. For better or for worse, this was a comely siren dripping with retail opportunity. The first thing that you see before you even cross the threshold is the Hardrock Cafe and a towering Yankee Store (one of several). When my son meets this sexy bitch there will be hell to pay for Dave and I. I can hear the ka-ching already.

(More to come on our excellent adventure in Yankee land tomorrow. Tears, cheers and lukewarm hot dogs await you in part 2 and maybe 3. Stay tuned.)


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Outta the box



There comes a time in every busy mom's life when you gotta go to the box. I think that my friends and family think that I spend countless hours in a whirling tornado of flour churning out home-baked cakes, breads and pies at light speed. But the truth of the matter is, every now and then I go to the box. I don't feel shame about it at all until I get the "quelle horreur" face when people learn that my tasty treat came from Betty or the dough boy. I'm not gonna lie, I like the way some of these mixes taste. Granted, they don't have the dense, buttery heft of a well made pound cake or the creamy richness of a perfectly executed cheesecake, but they do have nostalgia. People of my generation were the first wave of latchkey kids. By the time I was in Jr High School, my mom had a part time job and I had the opportunity to start dinner and make simple batches of brownies and cakes from boxes. And of course, there was my first mix-intensive foray into baking at the age of nine - the Easy Bake Oven. I loved to bake my little yellow cake discs by the light of a 60 watt bulb. I still mourn the loss of that oven to a bad decision to experiment with crayon shavings and clay. My dad got one whiff of bubbling wax and cut the cord on my oven umbilical style <pause to sniff and dab at eyes with a tissue>.

So tonight I baked up a box o' brownies from a famous San Francisco chocolate manufacturer (guesses anyone?). They came with a chocolaty fudge glaze to top the bars, which was a nice touch. The young'ns ate these brownies warm from the oven with cold milk. The oooh's, aaaah's and fingerlickin' that resulted were very appreciated. For a fun and funky brownie recipe that's 100% home made and easier than falling off a log, head on over to Recipezaar for my Banana Split Brownies - http://www.recipezaar.com/Banana-Split-Brownies-355837

Sometimes I feel like my rabid interest in cooking makes folks want to project a food snob persona on me. I always say, "I don't care if you make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, if you make it with love" but I don't know if anyone has heard me. I feel like hunching my shoulders and raising my hands in dual peace sign formation when I say that "I am not the working-mom-baking-snob of the blogosphere!" Slice me a big whoppin hunk of that boxed yellow cake with canned frosting and move outta my way!