Sunday, December 15, 2013

How Many Years to Party - An Anthropological Study via Bar Crawl

How can you tell the difference between a 50 year old and a 25 year old?  That is a question that probably has more answers than I can list. However, on a recent outing with my husband's family, a group that included people from age 25 - 60, the demographics definitely drove the outcome of the evening.

We had planned a Brooklyn/Manhattan bar crawl with 2 of my husband's older brothers, their spouses and their children and their significant others.  It was an interesting study in how age plays into the art of a party.  Here is a bar by bar breakdown of how the age groups handled the evening:

Bar 1 - Brooklyn Heights - 5:00 PM
20's - Arrive late as they were already pre-gaming elsewhere in the city
40's - Order appetizers (gotta build a base for all that alcohol), begin drinking at a steady pace that will be sustained all evening.
50/60's - Terrified by the exotic nature of the appetizers (fried pickles and nachos), order Mozzarella Sticks as they are more familiar.  Begin nursing drinks.

Hop on the Jay Street Subway to Mahnattan - 6:15 PM
20's - Followed GPS on phone to subway stop.  Came prepared with loaded Metro Cards to swipe everyone through.
40's - Swiped through without incident.  Bored everyone to tears with stories of how they worked in the city in the late 80's. Comments heard "Fulton Street.  This used to be my stop.  I used to go to the Seaport for lunch."  That was me.  Even I rolled my eyes.
50/60's - Completely confused by the concept of a Metro Card.  Questions included - "Isn't that paper? How does that work?"  and "I thought we needed subway tokens."

Bar 2 - Insanely Croweded West Village Bar: 6:30 PM
20's - Sidle their way in and up to the bar with ease.  Begin ordering drinks, shouting over the blaring football games and masses of humanity.
40's - Stand with arms pinned to side, barking drink orders to 20 somethings.  Power drink cocktail and go outside to take pictures.
50/60's - Patiently wait for a seat at the bar.  Get bartender to put a bowl of peanuts in front of them.  Munch peanuts and sip drinks slowly, while asking the bartender a barrage of personal questions like - "Do you have a girlfriend?" "This place is very busy, how much money do you make a night?" "Why are these drinks so expensive?" (Not terribly personal, but probably annoying to the bartender.).

Bar 3 - Neapolitan Style Pizzeria - Beer and Wine Only 7:00 PM
20's - Order many Sicilian beers, eat their pizza and their girlfriend's and mother's leftovers.
40's - Quietly and with great reverence and focus, order a nice glass of Italian wine and savor their amazing pizza, marveling at the char on the crust, the milky mozzarella and the tang of the San Marzano tomatoes.
50's/60's - Hem and haw about whether to drink wine or beer after cocktails.  Order pizza and eat half, taking the remaining pie in a to go box.  Carry the box through the city for the next three hours..

Walk across town to East Village 8:30
20's - Walk quickly and confidently, never looking up from GPS on Iphone.
40's -Walk quickly but cautiously as not to twist their trick ankle on uneven pavement.
50's/60's -Ask 1000 times "Are you sure you know where you're going?".

Bar 4 - East Village Pub - 8:50 
20's - Recognize the need for both alcohol and caffeine and begin pounding vodka and Red Bull.
40's - Continue drinking steadily, not veering from the original drink of choice.
50's/60's - Have one beer and say "that's my last one for the night".

Walk Around Block to Karaoke Bar

Bar 5 - East Village Karaoke -Private Room, no hard liquor.  Only beer, wine and Sake 10:30 
20's - Order three pitchers of hot sake and grab the microphone, confidently starting off the night with a Whitney Houston song. Continue to pound Sake and beer at an admirable clip.  Major microphone and song book hogging in play.
40's - Follow along, singing when 20's give up the mic.  Mostly laughing in the background at the song choices and generally having a good time. Drink mystery japanese cocktails that are as close to vodka and cranberry as can be provided with limited menu.
50's/60's - Part ways with the rest of the group at the entrance to the Karaoke bar, preferring to go home and go to bed.

Overall, it's fair to say that the bar crawl was epic.  It lasted from 5PM to 3AM, spanned two buroughs and included 14 people.  Although the older group bailed early, they mad a pretty respectable showing. As I start to think about the onset of my 50's, I wonder  how I will handle the hang as my years advance.

I think the real difference in the ages is best described by the day after.

50's/60's -Sleep until 5:30 AM.  Walk around Brooklyn in the dawn light. Get breakfast and get on the road by 10:00 AM.
40's - Sleep until 7:30 AM.  Get a vat of Starbucks.  Go home and fall asleep on couch.
20's - Sleep until 2 PM.  Go out again the next night.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Tale of the Fairy Princess and The Mountain Cootie Monster

Welcome me that is.  I am admittedly somewhat ashamed of the date of my last post and the paucity of my visits to everyone else's.  But I am battling back the guilt on this one because that pressure to post and read was what put a pin in my last blogging effort and I made a vow to go easy on myself going forward.  Let it be stated (mostly to me, again), that I will post when I can, read when I can, and that's ok.  Wow, that last sentence came out sounding way more like Stuart Smalley than I would have liked.

[Inquisitive, child-like voice in my head] So, if not here in blog land, then where Diary?  Where have you been?

[Commanding, inappropriately confident voice (also in my head)]
Oh, I am happy to share my recent whereabouts with you.

[Soft, bedtime storyteller voice in my head that I have ironically, never used with my children] 
Once upon a time, in a land called Pennsylvania, a group of girlfriends got together for a long weekend at a cabin.  They spent four wonderful days together, talking, laughing, shopping, eating and drinking.  Their cozy little cabin was exactly their idea of a weekend of "roughing it" in the woods - including: WIFI, 2 bathrooms, washer dryer, cable and other, folksy, homespun touches like a fridge full of vodka and wine.

One day, they decided to venture out to the local Walmart to stock up on essentials items like deer feed and chocolate bars.  While combing the aisles for their goods, our redheaded heroine was blasted with a huge dose of mountain cooties, deposited by stealthy, unusually dressed characters from the People of Walmart website.  Our redheaded heroine was not aware of her dosing of cooties until she returned home to work.

Later that week, she found herself consumed with pain when she attempted to swallow as it felt as if there was a grapefruit lodged in her gullet, leaching acidic juices and preventing enjoyment of food and drink.  It soon became abundantly clear that a trip to the local doctor was in order.  Her doctor, being of a somewhat sadistic bent, gagged our heroine with a Q-Tip and pronounced that she had indeed been caught in the clutches of the mighty mountain strep.  A diagnosis not seen since her own grade school days. 

ZPack to the rescue!  Which is where we find our heroine today, on day five of a five day Zpak.  Feeling much better, festering grapefruit dispatched and back in blogging shape.

So, what have we learned other than the fact that there are an abundance of voices in my head? I think there may be a few lessons baked in - 
1) Walmart is a festering pot of disease and filth and should be avoided at all costs.
2) Strep throat sucks monkey wang.
3) A long weekend with your best girlies is worth risking a bad dose of mountain cooties, as it is healing and soul-satisfying, long after the strep monster is wrestled into submission.

Of course, there's always these little disease spreaders to consider.  But, they are so cute, you can forgive them their pox-ishness.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Walk this Way

When we made the decision to bring home the adorable little black white and brown pup from the shelter (seen below), we knew only a few things about him:

1) He was rescued from Georgia with his 10 brothers and sisters and his mom.
2) He was born on March 28th.
3) His mom was a hound mix.
4) He came from a neighborhood known to have a high number of back yard breeders of Great Danes.

As time went on, the size of his paws, his markings and his head shape indicated that there was definitely something bigger than a hound brewing inside the DNA of our new little friend.  Day by day we would search his face, study his long, muscular legs and make a mental note of his lanky and athletic build.

Finally, after five months of daily study my husband had the a-ha moment that led us to understand the genetic lineage that produced this long legged force of nature -

Maybe he was born at Skywalker Ranch in California and not in a back yard in Georgia,

 I can't take credit for the photoshop effort here. This was all my husband's doing.  Nice work, right?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Guess Who Got a Costume?

The answer to that question can also be used to answer this one - Guess who is not amused?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?

I was going through my Blogroll this morning and I realized that it has become something of a memorial to former bloggers.  I myself was part of that list of dead soldiers, when I took a break from blogging back in the beginning of 2012.  I have since come back to a town that feels deserted.  Part of the reason for that might be the fact that about 80% of the blogs I read and that occasionally read me, are gone.  In many cases, these bloggers haven't posted in the last 2-4 years.  It's kind of sad.

There is no judgement in this commentary.  I understand as well or maybe better than most that there are times in your life when the thought of getting on and reading and writing blog posts seems like a daunting and obligatory chore, or where life has become too busy/ overwhelming/difficult to channel your thoughts into a post that wouldn't make your readers want to jump off a bridge. Believe me, I get it.

So now I am faced with a decision around how I proceed with my own blog.   For the most part, my blog community is more deserted than a first run Paulie Shore movie and as I shuffle through the ashes of a bloggy nuclear winter, I am forced to think about how I can build a new community.  I am also considering the fact that maybe I am my blogging community.  In many ways, I write for myself.  Not meaning to sound selfish, but sometimes writing feels like an itch that needs to be scratched and the process of getting it out is satisfaction enough.  Do I enjoy it when people read it and comment?  Absolutely.  There is no better feeling than the feeling that you started a dialogue about something, even if it is around the most trivial of topics.  But even when the readers are meager, I still write.

The net message to myself I suppose, is write on.  Write like no one's reading.  Write without a filter.  Write like a woman with an elderly cat that is too hip for the room and needs someone to extol his virtues while he still walks this earth.  It doesn't have to be scintillating material, it just needs to satisfy my biggest reader - me.  And maybe if I build the blog, they will come...And maybe they won't...And that's OK.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Trading Places

There were eight of us packed into two cabs, racing from our hotel in Times Square, down toward the East Village.  It was mid-November and somewhat cold out, but we didn't care. My husband and I, joined by our nephew and his girlfriend, a sister and brother in law from out of town and their daughter and son were excitedly heading toward East 8th Street and 1st Ave.

This was our first trip to NYC after a two week family trip to Italy and we were all missing it very badly.  I know I've said this before, but everything, from the meat to the milk to the cheese to the fruits and vegetables, tastes better in Italy.  Could be the rich, volcanic soil or the fact that they don't adulterate their meats and produce with growth hormones or genetically modified whatnot.  They just farm that shit. Seeds, dirt, sun, period.

Our plan was to visit an Italian restaurant that had authentic Cacio e Pepe, like they make in Rome and then to go to an Italian bar/restaurant for drinks and the possibility of hearing people speak Italian.  The Italian language feels like a fuzzy blanket to me.  It warms my soul in spite of my inability to understand it.  I have tried to learn it a half dozen times over the years, trying Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur and others.  But the bottom line is, unless you speak it, you forget it and good luck finding a native speaker that speaks it slow enough to understand.  Italians speak like they drive - very fast and all jammed together.  The only phrase that sticks with me is the one that I found myself using over and over in Italy - Piu lentamente per favore (more slowly please).

We settled down for what turned out to be a fabulous dinner.   Although the restaurant was run by a Sicilian family, they made true Roman style cacio e pepe and served good wine.  Bellies full, we made our way over to 7th street to a place called Via Della Pace.  It was a cozy little village bar with candles on the tables, floor to ceiling windows and tinned ceilings.  From the moment we stepped into the place it was ringing with Italian authenticity.  The bartenders were from Rome and spoke to each other in Italian. There were black and white Italian movies with English subtitles playing, the bartender was pulling espresso shots and passing them over the wall to the kitchen staff while simultaneously shaking drinks and schmoozing patrons.

We took our spot at the bar and waited for the bartender to take our order.  When he made his way down to our end of the bar, he was friendly and efficient and before we could say Bella Italia, eight properly mixed drinks were sitting in front of us.  By the time we got to our second round, we had struck up a conversation with him about, what else? Italy.  Having just come from what seemed like the most idyllic place on the planet, we couldn't understand what he was doing here in cold, rainy NY. Seems that the idyllic place has a less than idyllic job market and the promise of making a living makes the good old USA, something to aspire to.

It seemed like everyone we met in Italy was unusually excited when they heard we were from New York.  Pretty much all of them said that their dream was to visit the USA, but more specifically, New York City.  One cab driver in Naples, upon hearing that we were American, treated us to a serenade along with his "Breakfast in America" CD.  If you want to know the definition of surreal, I think getting a Supertramp serenade from a Neapolitan cab driver, on the way to a museum full of penises  is a pretty good example.  But his excitement for the United States was obvious and speaking to that bartender reminded me of that cab driver and the countless waiters and shopkeepers that had the same burning passion to come to NY that I have to return to Rome.

When we were settling up the tab, our bartender poured us eight complimentary Limoncello shots. I lifted my shot to the bartender in an appreciative salute and said a silent prayer that someday, we would be in a position where we traded places and I would be handing out complimentary shots of Limoncello at my Roman watering hole.  Until that time, I guess I have to belt out "Torna a Surriento" to every Italian cab driver that I meet, just to hedge my bet.

Imagine this with an Italian accent...

Breakfast in America by maralexdim

Saturday, September 21, 2013


It's been three months now since the alien invaded the peaceful environs of our home.  Ok, ok, you've been reading and you know that it isn't all that peaceful, but still, by comparison, our life before Buzz was practically museum-like.

Clearly, the family member most greatly impacted by the arrival of our little room trashing, counter jumping, food stealing friend is Spike the Hotness Monster.  Spike was relegated to the outdoors when The Buzzer initially came to roost, as he was lacking the immunity necessary to fight off whatever jungle rot the Hotness was carrying from his many dalliances out of doors.   Not that The Hotness cared, it was summer and he was on the prowl for babes, rodents and uncovered trash cans.  But we felt bad, in that humans projecting actual feelings on an animal kind of way.

Once the cooling off period was over and necessary immunizations administered, Spike returned to the inner spaces of our domicile with his usual lack of interest and disdain for everyone (more projection).  He sauntered into the house and met the little turd-stealer head on, without much more than a squinted eye.  Buzz was exuberant and took to some excited ass and ear sniffing, along with a cheek nuzzle and a failed attempt to mount.  Spike took it all in stride and eventually made his way to his food bowl, where he let out an exasperated mew and waited patiently for me to bestow grub and water upon him.

As Spike continues to sell the hipper-than-thou cattitude, it is clear that he is getting up there in years.  He may have taken the pup in stride, but he has also taken to more indoor naps, more frequent trips to the water bowl and pooping in the mulch by the front door.  For the first 13 years of his life, I never knew that he went to the bathroom at all, no less witnessed the process.  Now, he has taken to digging his outhouse by the mums in full view of everyone in the neighborhood.  I guess old age, like childbirth, does rob one of both dignity and giving a damn.  Even though I find it gross, I will probably not try to stop him. I mean, what's an occasional bag of mulch versus the happiness of such a cool and charming feline?  Spike is the cool kid in the class that everyone wanted to be friends with, but only a select few were successful in doing so.  And that's not projection, that's a fact (evidence below).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This is Your Brain on 70's TV

I can run but I can't hide from the fact that I am a child of the 70's.  I grew up in the golden age of Tang, Astronaut Sticks and Funny Face Drink Mix.  My wardrobe included marshmallow shoes, bell-bottoms and denim vests. I wore a Danskin body suit with a wrap skirt and platform heels to the teen disco night at our local church, only to find that my outfit was too hip for the room. All of that had an impact on who I would become in life, but nothing could equal the impact of 1970's TV.

It all started innocently enough with The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch, with their saccharine sweetness and teen heart throb actors.  But what really set the 70's apart were the made for TV movies and ABC After School Specials.  These were the 70's all served up with a side of morals and a lesson baked in for good measure.  The 70's was a time of transformation and the movies seemed to want to hammer these changes home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

Here is a list of 10 TV Movies and TV Shows that left a memorable mark on my psyche and are probably responsible (in part) for whatever I am today. They are neither favorite, nor a finite list, just what I think is a representative slice of what kept me glued to the tube for a decade.

James at 15 16 - Lance Kerwin and his bowl cut.  I thought he was so adorable as he was wrestling with losing his V card and other important stuff.  His sister was played by none other than the notorious Kim Richards (of Real Housewives fame), who I wanted to be like for most of my childhood (glad I got over that desire).

Family - As Buddy Lawrence, I admired McNichol's feathered hair and her intensity. She had what were easily the squarest parents on network TV, but she kept her winged head and her teen angst high.

The Mod Squad - Peggy Lipton was yet another female from television whose silky, straight blond hair haunted me.  Add Eve Plumb, Maureen McCormick, Kim Richards and Meredith Baxter to the mix and this little auburn haired lass had enough toxic hair shame to fill a stadium.

Mary Tyler Moore - I loved all the characters on this TV show, but the episode where Mare and Lou Grant decide to date was where my suspension of disbelief ended.  Even at 9, I knew a babe like her wasn't going to be drawn to a gruff, middle aged, alcoholic news man like him.

The Odd Couple - To this day, I have nothing but love for Felix and Oscar.  I watched the Odd Couple in first run and for years after in late night repeats. I still find myself quoting this show.  I remember when the show went off the air.  Might have been the stupidest programming decision of the decade.

That Girl - At an early age, I can remember being confused by the message of That Girl.  She was supposed to be an independent wo-man who don't need no man to get by.  This was supposed to be our example of feminism.  However, for all her girl power, she was always surrounded by her dad and boyfriend, she had a job where she traded on her looks (she was a model, and how else could a young girl support herself?  Certainly not with her brain.) and she was a whiny little bitch who wouldn't give up the cookie to her blue balled boyfriend.  I never believed that there was any example of female empowerment in that show.

ABC After School Special (Various) - There were many after school specials, but Rookie of the Year took on women's issues when a 12 year old Jodie Foster wanted to play on the boy's baseball team. Oh the intensity.  Oh the drama.

I Dream of Jeanie - More blond hair to elevate my toxic hair shame.  But Major Anthony Nelson?  What a babe. Little did I know that his handsome exterior was just a shiny box to hold a liver that looked like a prune that did battle with a wood chipper.

Trilogy of Terror - Karen Black's turned eye + angry, poorly animated troll doll = unintentional comedy gold.

Boy in the Plastic Bubble - This was the golden age of John Travolta.  A role to make you forget about Vinnie Barbarino, if only for a moment. And Glynnis O'Connor, the hair of Glynnis O'Connor just stomped all over my self esteem.

Like Normal People - Sean Cassidy playing a mentally handicapped man who wants to marry his similarly handicapped girlfriend (Linda Purl).  I don't know whose LSD charged fever dream initiated this casting, but all I can say is bravo.

I guess I should wrap this up by letting you know that in spite of my teen aged hatred for and subsequent chemical and heat based torture of my auburn hair, I learned to love it by the time I was 19.  These days, I wouldn't want Marcia Brady's limp, lifeless mop for all the gold in Switzerland.  Given my hair obsession, is there any surprise that I went on to have a brief career as a hairdresser?  I had to get out there and create some redheads.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

You Can't Fix Stupid

Sometimes I reflect back on my life and wonder how I ever made it to this age; how the universe allowed me to procreate; how I have ever held a job?  I ask this because I have been known to suffer from "The Stupid". Now, I suppose everyone does stupid things once in a while and that is part of being a human.  But the collective stupid of my teen years and the arrogant stupid of my twenties are enough combined stupid to prevent the graduation of a class of 500 high school seniors, were I unkind enough to infect them with a viral version of my stupid.

The beauty of aging is truly the gaining of wisdom.  For every laugh line you gain and grey hair you sprout, you lose a little bit of your stupid.  I like to imagine it falling out of my head, like grains of sand, but based on the number of grey hairs in my head, I would be nothing but an empty sack of skin at this point, so that's probably not how it works.  Nonetheless...

Whatever the magic formula is for losing of the stupid with age, it does seem to leave a little wiggle room for the occasional and sometimes colossal bouts of The Stupid to reappear.  Such is the case of last Sunday when I was infected with a case of The Stupid so powerful, I am lucky that I did not end up in the hospital, or worse.

I had done a little food shopping that morning and I had about six bags of groceries to carry into the house. I walked around to the back of my van and popped the back door, which opens upward, over my head.  There were six bags of groceries and I figured I could load up five on my left hand and one on my right, leaving it semi-free to pull the door down and save a trip back to close it. Great.  Nope.

Because I was one handed, I felt like I had to pull down extra hard on the door to get it closed.  I closed my hand firmly around the handle and yanked downward on it with all my might, straight on to my head.  The stream of profanity that pierced the early Sunday morning air would have made a porn star blush as I reeled in the driveway.   

I stumbled into the house, still cursing and screaming and grabbed a bag of ice from the freezer.  I sat there and iced my head, while the three other people in my house slumbered quietly, never noticing a thing. By the time  I came to my senses, I realized that I was not bleeding and I wasn't dizzy but I couldn't do algebra.  I'm pretty sure I never had a lock on the algebra to begin with, so I was probably going to be ok. 

A few minutes later, my poor, unfortunate and late sleeping husband finally wandered downstairs and naturally, I took it out on him.  How could he have not heard me screaming in pain?  Where was he when I needed him?  He made himself a cup of coffee and began to quietly put the groceries away.  Good for him for not catching a case of my stupid.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Finding His Voice

When we first got Buzz the Magnificent, he was completely terrified by the sound of Brownie the Wonderdog's bark.  Brownie, being somewhat neurotic, barks at the television any time she can make out even the faintest suggesstion of a four legged creature.  It does not matter how loose that suggestion is, either.  It can be a cartoon, live action, a photo or a painting.  If she can make out four legs, ears and a tail, she goes off. And for some reason, she barks aggressively at the line drawing of the of the Ford Cmax guy and the Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil guys.  See what I mean about neurotic?  Or perhaps only she senses that both of these animations have an evil plot for world domination and she needs to save us from their nefarious doings...and then won't I have egg on my face?

See the open hand pointed skyward?  Clearly a megalomaniacal dictator with a god complex and an endless suppy of plastique.
Photo Cred -

Little silver chefs - the axis of evil.
Photo cred -

In spite of Buzz's sphincter seizing fear when Brownie barks and in spite of the fact that we have in fact seemingly rendered him a castrata, our dear boy is developing something of a deep, basso profundo bark, as evidenced below.  He can also eat without chewing.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Fast Way to Learn Italian

I would love for this to happen to me.  Do you think there are any larger models than the Fiat 500 that come with this feature because the 500 is like a roller skate.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Sauce with a Side of Salty Tears

Early this morning I started the process of making Sunday Sauce.  Our family always referred to it as Sunday Sauce, though some call it Sunday Gravy, some don't call it anything and just open a jar of Ragu.  To each his own.  For me, the ritual of making a Sunday Sauce is pleasant and relaxing and carries sense memories from childhood, when my mother or grandmother would go through a very similar set of steps to create a rich, meat filled tomato sauce that would be served as an early Sunday dinner.

The magic combination for most Sunday Sauces and certainly for mine, is time, love and meat, meat, meat.  Any combination of beef and pork will enhance the flavor of the sauce.  I like to change the combination up from week to week, using any/all of the following meat options -hot sausage, sweet sausage, meatballs, braciole, pork ribs, pork chops, beef short ribs, the options are almost limitless.  The sauce simmers over a low flame for half a day and fills house with the most amazing smells.  Just the smell of sauteing onions and garlic in olive oil can lift my spirits to incredible heights...that is, most of the time.

This morning as I was chopping garlic and onions, I started to whistle while I chopped.  I always whistle while I cook as I tend to get lost in the busy work of chopping and stirring and sauteing.  This is usually an unconscious thing and I don't realize I am doing it until I catch myself, sometimes three or four songs in.  This morning I was about half way through a song as a wave of sadness came over me.  I realized that I was whistling "Come Back to Sorrento".  I then looked up at the calendar and realized that exactly one year ago, we were in Sorrento, and it was one of the most magical experiences of my life. Once I realized that, the tears came.

Ever since my first trip to Italy in 2010, I have become nostalgic about Italy in a way that is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  The silliest things can make me cry (what I call) "Italy tears".  They come on like a freight train and over the smallest things.  For example:

  • See an Italian grandmother pulling her shopping cart up Arthur Ave in the Bronx?  Choke up. Hold back the Italy Tears.
  • Hear Italian being spoken in a bakery in Greenwich Village?  Stare like a creeper.  Try to listen. Mist up. Quietly wipe the Italy Tear that appears on my cheek.
  • Push my shopping cart through the Italian Grocery store and hear Volare? A river of Italy Tears.
  • Catch myself whistling Come Back to Sorrento? Heaving sobs and copious streams of Italy Tears.

I know some day the gravitational pull of Italy go away. Perhaps there is some magic number of trips that I will reach where I become bored of it.  How many is that?  20? 78? 350?  I'm not sure.  Sadly, trips to Italy do not grow on trees.  If they did, I would renounce my distaste for nature and do nothing but water and tend to the Trip to Italy tree. Until the next trip, I will try to keep myself from watching videos like the one below because, there just isn't enough Kleenex.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Beautiful Day

"It's going to be gorgeous out there today.  It's a perfect day to play hookey and go to the beach."  Those were the words of the nerdy weather man this morning.  He was talking about how the temperature and the humidity would both be in check today; which is something of a mythical unicorn during a Long Island summer.  You want to believe that it's real, but you can't until it flies over you and poops glitter on your head. Well today, it's raining glitter.

Days like these are the kind of day that I wish I gave a shit about communing with nature, but the bottom line is I have never been what you'd call outdoorsy.  My skin is a shade of white that makes milk look tan and it is sensitive to the elements in the extreme.  If I am not covered from stem to stern with SPF 50 a jihad between sunburn and freckles will break out on my skin and won't stop until I retreat into the nearest cave.  Maybe that's what Bin Laden was doing with all that early cave-dwelling,  he was recovering from a wicked sunburn. They might have caught him sooner if they followed the sunblock and aloe trail that he must have left. I am clearly a geopolitical/dermatological genius for figuring that one out.  Anyway...

Let's face it, geeks and losers are the only people that are going to risk West Nile Virus and use this gorgeous weather for something abhorrent like "going to the beach" or "gardening" or "riding a bike". Weather like this can only result in one activity - outlet shopping. This may be the only day of the summer where shopping at an outdoor outlet complex can be tolerated.  I miss many a great bargain on purses and shoes due to my rabid distaste for heat and humidity.  I think it's time to grab the sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, umbrella, hand held personal fan and comfortable shoes and get my shop on.

So, armed with a rainbow colored array of credit and debit cards, I will brave the elements today at lunch time and hit up the outlets. Lucky for me, they are right around the block from work.  It's probably safe to assume that I'll be back a little late from lunch.  However, if I am not back by dinner, check the nearest cave.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Two-fer Tuesday

This morning I sat my four month old puppy Buzz down and I looked him directly in the eye "We've loved having you here Buzz," I began, "and you know that we love you very much. Right?"  Buzz looked away, lost in his own thoughts of what this conversation might be about and the yellow chew toy in the corner. "Buzz, look at me.  Please look at me when I talk to you."  Buzz looked back at me and looked away, afraid to put his focus on my message.

"Buzz, honey, sometimes pet parents have to ... Buzz, come back here.  Put my new flip flop down!  That's not a chew toy, get your Kong.  As I was saying Buzz, sometimes pet parents have to do something that they don't want to do but have to because it's right for...Buzz, come back here.  Stop chewing on the throw rug. Please, come here."  Buzz walked back over to where I was sitting, sat in front of me and tilted his head like the RCA dog.  I continued.  "Sometimes we have to do what's right and responsible and...hey, where are you going now?  That's YOUR tail, if you catch it you end up biting yourself.  Listen, I need to tell you something important here.  Come back."

At this point,he bolted into the kitchen.  I followed, exasperated that our communication was so difficult.  I found him with his head buried in the corner by the fridge.  "Buzz...Buzz? Buzz!" His head popped up like a critter in a Whack a Mole game and he was crunching something.  "What do you have there Buzz?  Is that ice?  I guess the kids dropped a cube on the floor...listen, I need to let you know about something that is going to be happening this week.   We are going to be taking you to the doctor.  Buzz, honey, you need an operation.  Wait! Don't run away again. Where did you get that playbill?  Give that to me.  Now listen..."  And off he ran, up the stairs and under the bed.

He must already know. Most men have a psychic connection to their testicles.  Why should he be any different?  I sighed heavily and decided to let it go.  If he didn't know yet, he'd know soon enough.  It was Sunday and his appointment was this coming Tuesday.

Later in the morning, I went up to my room and there he was on the bed, licking his little man area.  I backed out of the room quietly and closed the door.  Best to give him his privacy and let him enjoy them while he has them.  Adios testicles, you were good company while you were here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Snack Time With Ronnie

I have a fabulously eccentric uncle.  I have mentioned him and his wonderfully peculiar ways in many prior posts. Uncle Ronnie can only be described as 24X7 non-stop entertainment.  Everything that he says or does is uniquely Ronnie.

One of the unique things about Uncle Ronnie is the way he eats, or more specifically, what he considers food.   If you go to a diner with him, there's a good chance that he will take out his pocket knife, open the little square packets of jelly and marmalade on the table and scoop them into his mouth.  If he orders a turkey club, he will spare the sandwich from the condiment and eat it on its own after he finishes the sandwich, scooping it out of its container with the first available utensil he sees.

Ronnie is a 89 year old bachelor, so it's fair to say that his house is unencumbered by the decorative trappings of female fussiness.  He lives in the house that he was born in, which in many ways, is exactly the same as it was on the day he was born.  As one might expect, he is not interested in new technology.  The phone is rotary (dialing old school, yo), the answering machine is full and has been that way for at least three years and his sock drawer is home to a buzzing alarm clock that he can't figure out how to turn off, so its muffled screams are constantly pulsating from the dresser.  When we offered to turn it off for him, he shooed us away, not wanting us to get involved in a problem that he believes he solved months ago.

Given his tendency toward male simplicity, it's easy to understand how this happened...

My father and his wife recently sold their house and have moved in with his wife's 94 year old mother.  They are in the process of converting her house into a mother/daughter and while the construction is going on, the three of them are living communally on the first floor of her house.

Ronnie shows up one day to go to lunch with my dad.  Knowing that the air conditioning in most restaurants is too strong for him he headed toward his bedroom to get a jacket.  As my dad turned to walk away, he heard a loud crunching, like the sound of someone eating one of those sourdough hard pretzels.  But...there are no pretzels.   My father looks back to see Ronnie holding a bowl of potpourri, shoving wood chips into his mouth like crazy. My father, speechless, continued on to get his jacket, figuring Ronnie would catch on to the fact that he wasn't eating mixed nuts or granola.  There was no mention of the incident between the two men.

Fast forward to Father's Day, Ronnie is dipping into his usual bag of conversation topics - guns, cars, army stories.  My father leaves the room and Ronnie turns to us and in a very confidential tone says "These chips are delicious.  I don't know what kind your father and his wife buy, but they are a bitter disappointment."  Classic Ronnie.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

One Month

Happy Anniversary! It has been one month with Buzz and he us turning out to be quite a character.  Here are some pics of the dear boy.  Please make sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of the pictures to get the full effect.

An early shot of him on the couch. He has not yet decided to eat it, though that could come any day.

Baby Boy.  He gets very sweet and mushy when you hold him. 

I have a lot of blurry photos because they are always in motion.  There's more wrestling going on in my house than at the WWE.

New bed. So comfy.

This is where he goes during band practice.  I get it dude, you aren't into melodic hardcore.

I like this one. One dog goes one way, the other dog goes the other way.

Legs for miles.

......and then he shits in your closet.  Twice in one day.  And you step in it, both times and end up throwing away a favorite pair of shoes...and a leather bag.  And suddenly, he's not so cute anymore.  Or, he is that cute and it's the only thing keeping him alive.  Yeah. That's pretty much it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Great Bahamian Beefcake Revolt

I was sitting on the beach with my friends in the Bahamas last week, sipping on a delightful tropical drink when one of my friends started rattling off a list of famous men that were her celebrity crushes.  Her list was long and impressive.  My other friend chimed in and offered up a couple of names.  I said nothing.  After a few seconds of silence, my big-listed friend turned to me and said, "How about you, DG? Who's your celebrity crush?".  The two of them looked over at me, waiting for my response.  I just blinked at them, mouth open like a trout, unsure of how to respond.  Truth of the matter was, I didn't have one.

I sat silently for a moment, trying to formulate a response that wouldn't make me sound too much like a complete freak, but I had nothing. "I don't really have a celebrity crush," I began "I have never understood the appeal of beefcake."  My friend with the long list looked at me with a tinge of pity and said "You need to see 'Magic Mike'.  If you watch 'Magic Mike', you'll get what I'm talking about.".  I looked down into my drink, trying to formulate an escape from the conversation.  "I'm going to hit the bar. You want a refill?"  She shielded her eyes from the sun,  looked over at me and asked "Not even Channing Tatum?"  I put my hand out for her to hand me her empty cup and shrugged. "No, not really." Then I turned on my heel and trudged through the sand toward the pool area.

As I walked toward the pool bar, I looked down at my feet, trying to drown out my surroundings and focus. I needed to think of someone, anyone that could represent a potential celebrity crush.  I thought back to the type of guy that I was drawn to back in my single days and it almost never had to do with the physical aspect.  For me it was about a vibe with someone, which kind if made it hard to have a crush on someone you didn't know.  In general, I liked guys that were smart, charming, boyish, funny, artistic/creative and above all, nice.  If they were cute, that was a bonus.  I'd scarcely notice their cuteness if they didn't stack up against the other criteria first.  I also thought about what I didn't like.  Any and all of the following we're deal breakers:
- Big muscled roid heads
-Any guy with a shaved chest . Unless you are a professional swimmer, waxing is a no-no.
- Douchey. The second a guy calls me sweetheart or baby or points to me with that awkward pinky/pointer devil horn thing or drapes himself in gold jewelry, I'm out.
-Alpha male bullshit.  If I want to see a chest beating ape, I'll go to the zoo.

I looked up as I  approached the bar and the answer was right in front of me like a gift from the gods. At the snack bar next to the pool bar was a giant stand up cardboard cutout of Jimmy Fallon.  Apparently, Fallon has a Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor that they were selling.  I did a quick cross-check against my old criteria:

Boyish?  Check!
Smart? Check!
Talented/creative? Check!
Funny?  Check! Check!

Was it really a crush? No, but it would serve as my offering and hopefully put the subject to rest.  I paid for the drinks and made my way back toward the beach.  About 3/4 of the way there, I stopped in my tracks.  I thought back to the kind of guys that my friends were offering up. They were talking about Russell Crowe in Gladiator and muscle-y pretty boy types.   I might have to forfeit my membership to the girl's club if I offer up a skinny late night host.  I took a breath and reassured myself that I had to stand by my choice. It was an honest choice and it was important to be true to myself, even within this completely ridiculous context.

I returned to our beach chairs and passed out the drinks.  "I've got one." I said with all the enthusiasm I could muster. They squinted and looked up at me. I blurted out "Jimmy Fallon!" .  They just looked at me silently, for what seemed like an eternity.  Then my beefcake loving pal broke the silence and says "Oh my god, me too!  He's so cute and sweet and talented."  I looked back at her, relieved that I passed the chick test and plopped down in my beach chair.  The she added "Oh and Justin Timberlake, and..." I zoned out at that point.  I had survived the battle, but I was clearly not armed for the war.

I'm sure you've seen this by now.  I have to say, although I don't dig beefcake, I do appreciate when someone can laugh at himself and his image, which is what Channing Tatum does here.  If only this had been done by Fallon instead of that other late night Jimmy, it would have been perfect.    

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hate for the Calendar

Back in February, my best girlies and me were feeling the winter blahs.  We hadn't been away on a girl's trip since October of 2011 and we were itching for some relaxation and girl time.

We decided that we would take a long weekend in the Bahamas.  The flight is relatively short, the drinks are strong and the water is an amazing shade of turquoise.  The ideal antidote for the weather and work that we were going though at the time.

We knew that picking a date was going to be tough as we all have an insane amount of family and work obligations to navigate.  We picked the weekend of 6/14.  We'd leave on a Friday and return on a Monday. A quick call to the airline and the deed was done.  We had a quick conference call to review the details and never spoke about it again until the beginning of June, at which time I had a total panic attack when I learned that Father's Day was early this year.  So early in fact, that it fell right smack dab in the middle of my trip.

I felt like a shit, but I had non-refundable tickets.  So I spent my first Father's Day in 49 years, away from my dad.  I would also be missing spending time with my husband and my brother.  Luckily, I was able to load my kids up with gifts for all and they spent the day with them and had a great time.  I guess this is a symptom of how crazy life has become.  It's also a symptom of "pickafriggindateforaholidayandstickwithit-itis".  Life is complicated enough without holidays floating all over the calendar.  

I had a very nice time while I was away, but my mistake and my hate for the calendar hung over my head the entire trip. Next time I'll scrutinize the calendar more closely before making plans.  There are obviously some assholes in charge of that thing and the one in charge of my life does not appreciate it.

It amazes me that water can look like that.  The water around my island is gray/green, murky and cold.

 They look accusatory, don't they? No? Just my guilty conscience?

Nice view for sitting and pondering your hate for the calendar. 

I left on a Friday, he was this size.

I came back on a Monday, he was this size.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to Alienate the High School Faculty

 Those of you that are parents of teenagers know that every time your kid walks out the door your breath catches in your throat and you say a little silent prayer that he or she will be safe, make good choices and stay out of trouble.

If you have a somewhat checkered past yourself, you worry that they will repeat your mistakes or worse yet, get into more serious trouble than your own twisted teen brain had ever imagined.

One of the things that you dread the most is the call from the Principal or Dean of Students.  They never call to say hello.  If you ever get a personal call from them, it's usually because something egregious has occurred.  Your mouth goes dry as they say Mrs. Soandso, I am calling about your son/daughter.

That is, unless they are calling you about the issue below, in which case you laugh hysterically, unable to catch your breath and eventually just hang up when they can't get a word in over your laughter.  I haven't been popular with a principal since my son was in Jr High and I came this close  to taking his ass out at Texas Hold 'Em at Casino Night.  I let him win. He liked me.  The High School Principal...not so much.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What Happens When Your Adorable Puppy Grows into Marmaduke?

"Boo boo goo goo doo doo tee tee boo boo" .  This is what I can hear through the wall of the office, coming from the bedroom next door. It's being said in a high pitched chirp and the best I can tell, there is some snuggle-wuggle, belly rubbing and cuddling going on.  It's none of my business, except that the high pitched chirper is my husband.  He of deep, booming basso profundo voice and abundant body hair is talking baby another male...

This guy.

Two weeks ago we came back from Vegas and before our mental faculties had returned to us, we adopted this little fella.  When we saw him on the animal rescue website, he and his 10 other siblings were listed as  "hound mixes".  They had sweet faces and even sweeter personalities and it was very hard to pick just one from the litter.  Thankfully we did not come away with the entire family.

Since bringing him home, we have determined that Buzz the Magnificent has the ability to grow, noticeably, overnight.  Every day his body gets larger, his legs get longer and his beagle-y little head stays the same.  Right now, he's at an awkward stage where the disproportion between his head and body makes it look like a grape on horseback. Hopefully his noggin will catch up with his body at some point.  More important than his ungainliness is the fact that it is becoming more and more clear every day that our little fella is a hound mixed with Great Dane.

So as we watch and wait for the end of what could be a two year growth spurt, we are considering having him DNA tested.   I love surprises as much as the next guy, but if I brought home Marmaduke, I'd like to know before he ingests a china cabinet.  Call me crazy, but I like to be prepared.  It takes a lot of time and effort to wrap an entire house and its contents in stainless steel.  It would be really great if I could get a jump on it before I can saddle him and ride him to the grocery store.

In the mean time, he is keeping Brownie the Wonderdog on her toes.  Her exceptional patience with this rough and tumble new addition has been rewarded with extra hugs and an occasional hunk of cheese.  

We haven't introduced him to Spike the Hotness Monster as of yet as Spike is a gadabout and a champion mouser, so he could be carrying a social disease or two.  Once the Buzzer has all his shots, we will introduce  the two of them.  It will likely be a civilized meeting over cocktails and cigars.  Spike wouldn't stand for it any other way.  I'll report on that cross cultural summit at some time in July.

Until then, here are some pictures so that we can remember what Buzz was like before he got big enough to run the Preakness.

Long Legs/Tiny Head

Playing Lion Tamer with Brownie

Giving Face

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Is a Cranky Optimist Just a Raging Pessimist in Training?

Those of you that know me, and I guess that's technically none of you, since we've never met, know that if nothing else, I roll on the posi tip.  Translation: I'm an optimist.  More accurately, you might say that I am something of a cranky optimist.

DEFINITION: Cranky Optimist  - crank·y /ˈkraNGkē/ op·ti·mist  (pt-mst) -
One who keeps a positive attitude while stopping briefly to complain bitterly, some might say psychotically, then like a demon has been exorcised, carries on in the most sunny and positive fashion.

I call it cranky optimism, others call it Sybil.  Agree to disagree.

One thing that I find happening more frequently as I reach the upper limits of my 40's is that Sybil er, rather the Cranky Optimist is making more frequent appearances.  More importantly, her appearances are more intense and triggered by smaller infractions than in the past.  If it happens to be around the time of the (ahem) monthly hormonal swing, the Cranky Optimist may behave more like Godzilla on a psychotic Rumpringa through an unsuspecting city than like somebodies mom, coworker or wife. Fortunately, these episodes are short lived and leave minimal damage in theirwake.

In parallel to my Cranky Optimism, my mother has gone full-on pessimist.  Her mind has been poisoned by the 24 hour news cycle (which she won't turn off despite pleas and offers of chocolate) hence, she offers more conspiracy theories than an Oliver Stone movie.

This makes me wonder, is it a foregone conclusion that we get curmudgeonly as we age? I have seen my mother morph from the most accepting, tolerant and open minded person I ever met, into the Dad in "So I Married an Axe Murderer".   As soon as she tells me that the Colonel puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes you crave it fortnightly, I'm moving abroad.

June is my a birthday month and I think that witnessing my own aging along side my mom's has me somewhat introspective.  Maybe my awareness is enough to keep me from going the full Stuart McKenzie.  I hope so, because I hate watching the news and I like KFC.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Conversation With Myself

This is a conversation that takes place inside a middle aged woman's head.  In this conversation, she is both antagonist and protagonist as she is arguing with different aspects of herself.  

16 Year Old Self:  OMG, look at these adorable 8 week old puppies that they have at the adoption center.  They are hound mixes, rescued from a high kill shelter in Georgia.  They are so cute and they need a good home.  You know, Brownie is really slowing down, she needs a pup to play with.

Late 40's Self:  The last time we spoke about this we agreed that there is already too much chaos in the house with all the friends in and out, the kid's crazy schedules, school, work, band practice.  Besides, we already have a dog and a cat that could use more of your attention.

16 Year Old Self:  I know, but just look at their little faces and their soulful eyes.  They will be sad if they don't get adopted.

Late 40's Self: DG, there are plenty of people out there that would love to adopt those puppies. I guarantee you they will all be gone by Memorial Day.

16 Year Old Self:  Can we at least go and visit them?  The ad says that families are welcome to come down and play with them, with no obligation to adopt.  I promise, I won't harass you to get one,  I just want to hold a couple.

Late 40's Self:  Ok, I will take you. But i'm telling you, we are not getting another dog!   And I don't want any trouble or whining from you when it's time to leave.

16 Year Old Self:  Thank you!  Thank you! Thank you!  I promise, I won't try to change your mind.  I just want to hold them.

Late 40's Self:  You're damn right you're not changing my mind.  Ok, let's go.

Interior of a suburban pet adoption center.  The antagonist and protagonist are leaning over a gated corral of puppies.  There are eight of them and they are climbing over each other to get the attention of their visitors.  The women reach down into the cage and pull out an adorable floppy eared pup who promptly nestles his head on the woman's shoulder and immediately falls into a contented sleep.

Late 40's Self:  (to woman behind the counter at adoption center)   Do you take debit cards?

Meet Buzz the Magnificent:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Big Risk Big Reward

As a mother, there are certain cliches that, despite your best intentions, you know you'll end up saying..."Stop hitting your sister!"  "Don't touch that.", "Use your inside voice", etc.  However, nothing can prepare you for the day that something like this comes out of your mouth - "Who took a picture of their poop with my iPad?".  My expectation is that some will find this amusing and others will be repulsed.  If you are of the squeamish/easily repulsed variety, this story is not for you.  Check back in a few days for tamer material.  For the rest of you, particularly those that thrive on my humiliation, read on...

I am always yelling at my son for taking my iPad. He has a desktop and a laptop computer as well as an iPhone, so there really isn't a good reason for him to ever take my iPad. My expectation is that my ipad will be on the charger, where I left it, every morning when i get up.  My son, like most teenagers, feels that any items that exist within the confines of the property are fair game for his to use. Agree to disagree.

This morning I woke to find my iPad on its charger where I left it, which is where I like it. As we we were running out the door, I grabbed it and threw it in the computer case.  By 7:40 am we were in the air bound for Las Vegas and all was right with the world.

The five hour flight was as boring as a twelve pack of tube socks. The time was absolutely dragging as we watched crappy movies, ate crappy snacks and attempted to nap in that awkward, sideways head position.

Somewhere over Colorado, my husband pulled up the window shade and pointed out the Rocky Mountains.  They were covered in snow, with jagged peaks against a gorgeous blue sky.  We grabbed our iPhones and started snapping pictures. Then I spotted the iPad in the seat pocket in front of my husband and figured I would use that to take some pictures with this because with my middle aged eyes, I can see them better on the Ipad.

I picked up the Ipad and raised it to to window.  As I did so, my finger accidentally tapped the thumb nail in the corner and up came a picture.  It was a distressing picture and at first I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at.  I held the Ipad up in confusion as I inspected the image in front of me, all the while, displaying it to the 20 rows behind me. My husband looked over and immediately slapped the Ipad down toward the tray table, then he looked at me, looked back down at the Ipad and simply said my son's first name.   If ever there was a question about whether our son ate enough fiber, it was put to rest at that moment.

I spent the rest of the flight thinking about how to retaliate.  A conventional punishment would not suit this particular crime. This was an act of toilet terrorism and as such, needed a swift and creative counter-action.  I thought about printing out a couple of dozen copies and mailing them to him, but why incur all that postage cost?  I also considered pasting copies of it all over his room and in his bathroom, but to ruin his paint job, who suffers in the end?  Then it dawned on me, the answer was as clear as the water in Lake Mead below us...

We had visited an animal rescue center before we left for vacation.  Our middle aged dog seemed to be slowing down, so we wanted to get her a puppy to liven her up.  We found these adorable Hound mix pups and signed up to adopt one.  It would take a few days for the background check, so we could pick him up when we got back from Vegas.  When we got back and went to pick him up, the vet tech warned us that she thought the pup might be a Hound and Great Dane mix.  Guess who gets to be on poop patrol?
Game, set, match.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Part of the joy of living on Long Island is proximity.  Proximity to New York City, proximity to miles and miles of sandy ocean shoreline and proximity to 3 major airports so that you can leave it.  Now, before the hate mail starts rolling in, let me set the record straight by saying I love Long Island, I would never even consider living somewhere else (with the exception of Rome).  But sometimes I have to get away from the cartoonishness that plagues us.

I believe that Long Island has fallen into a bit of reputational bad luck. We just don't have a whole lot of highly vocal, positive representation. There are 7.5 million people on Long Island. But if you were to ask the average American who they are familiar with that comes from Long Island, who immediately comes to mind for most people? Amy Fisher?  The Long Island Medium? Lindsey Lohan (You're welcome for that one TMZ)?

I can remember back when I was first starting my career, when I learned that I would have to deal with companies outside of New York, I panicked that I would sound like some gum snapping bimbo to them.  I spent hours and hours trying to shed my accent, practicing into a tape recorder to make sure that I pronounced my Rs and struck phrases like "Oh my gawd" from my vocabulary.  What I probably ended up with was a forced sounding Larchmont-lockjaw, like the one Martha Stewart has adopted (she's from Nutley, NJ. c'mon Martha, who do we think we're kidding?), but at least I didn't sound like this:

Photo Credit -

Or this...

Last night my son and I had dinner at a cute little ice cream parlor on the North Shore of the island.  The sun was a brilliant hot pinkish-orange ball as it disappeared into the Long Island Sound, leaving a rainbow sherbet colored sky behind it.  I guess having people think I sound like a reject from the cast of the Long Island Lolita movie is a small price to pay for proximity to this.  Quick, hand me my teasing comb.

Friday, May 17, 2013

On Aging

I am sitting on the couch with a big, soft and cuddly silver tabby draped lovingly across my lap.  He is purring like the engine of a luxury car and he occasionally flares and kneads his claws in a state of contented bliss.  I take a sip of my warm, rich French Roast coffee and think "Holy shit! I better call the police! Someone has replaced my cat, body snatchers style and put in a replicant. "

To know Spike the Hotness Monster is to know the true independence of a cat.  The idiosyncratic, aloof behavior, the mousing like a madman,  the obsessive need for privacy.  Yes.  Privacy.  Do you know that in the 14 years that we have had this cat, I have seen him do his catly business exactly once. I can't say the same for my kids or my dog.

 As an aside, I can see why he would be protective of his technique.  Let me lay it out for you:

  • First he digs a hole.
  • Then he sticks his head in the hole to see if it is big enough.
  • He makes adjustments to the hole (i believe he is looking for a 2X diameter of his head here).
  • He carefully positions himself on the ledge of the hole, somewhat like Greg Louganis would set for a high dive.
  • He does his thing
  • He buries it with obsessive perfection, almost daring you to ever find the spot again. 
  • He saunters away and assumes nap position in a sunny spot.  Genius, really.
But in all the years that we have filled his bowl and let him in and out of the house, he has never been what you would call "cuddly".  When I personify him and imagine what his human form would be, I usually come up with a vision of a chain smoking European playboy in a slim fitting suit with a skinny black tie who never takes off his sunglasses and drives around in impossibly expensive sports car and never works, yet seems to always have a lot of money.  The European playboy has become my lap cat.

Over the past year we have seen a change in Spike.  The once lush and silvery grey coat now looks raggedy.    He often sits on a kitchen chair and stares at the ceiling, seemingly looking at something that isn't there until he falls asleep sitting up.  But most alarmingly of all, he seems to always want lovin'.  The only explanation that I can come to for this behavior is that he is in his twilight years.

I know that of all the domestic pets, cats are usually graced with the longest lifespan, so its not like I think we need to start singing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" any time soon.   But I do believe that the Hotness Monster has gone into retirement and in his head and he is reclining poolside in the Riviera in a speedo that only he could pull off, flirting with the waitress that brings his refreshments and never taking off his sunglasses.  And that's OK.

On the kitchen chair where he ponders the universe

Up close and personal

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Biga the Mother Sponge

I got up at the ass crack of dawn today.  Not because I wanted to, I just woke up and couldn't get back to sleep.  Maybe it was excitement over what was growing in my kitchen.  I was growing a sponge.

A sponge is a starter that is used in bread baking.  The Italians call it a biga, which, of course is much nicer than sponge because everything sounds better in Italian.   Interestingly enough, it is also called a mother sponge.  This got me thinking about how much bread baking and motherhood have in common.

Baking bread requires time and care, kneading and shaping, rising and proofing.  There are a lot of steps and it is definitely a learn as you go process.  With a little luck and a lot of tending to, you will end up with something wonderful that was worth all the labor and sweat.

I have never fancied myself a particularly skillful baker when it came to yeast doughs nor a very traditional mother when it came to child rearing.  Yet, as my loaves proof and my kids grow, I have found that I am happy with the results that I am getting.  I guess everything gets better with practice and while I might have given more thought to my failures, upon reflection, there are many successes to celebrate.

I hope all of you take the time today to appreciate what the fruits of your labor and to honor your moms.  May your little honey buns treat you well.

XO -Diary

P.S. If you are interested in a pretty easy and reliable Semolina Bread Recipe (per the pics below), go here:

The Mother Sponge

The Dough Ball (pre-rise)
 First Rise
 Shaped Loaf After the Second Rise
All things considered, a pretty respectable result