Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Love it, I Love it NOT...Fat Free, Sugar Free Desserts



Isn't that some sort of collosal oxymoron?

So, no thanks. I'm all set. I'd rather have vegetable medley.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I was in the company of someone recently (a friend of a friend at a small gathering) who, after a few drinks, said something hideous and not worth repeating. She said she was kidding, of course, but I cannot think of a situation in which it would be remotely funny or appropriate to say what she said. That is, I think she wasn’t kidding; she was caught. The look on her face told me that as soon as the words left her mouth she wished she could shove them back in—but not because she didn’t mean them I believe, rather because she knew how unpopular and unthinkable they were to the rest of us in the group, to me especially.

I confronted her, of course, as my heart sank with sadness, astonished and revolted that in 2010 people (never mind someone I know!) can still have such hatred toward others. They may deny it, knowing it’s unpopular, or they might call it “politically incorrect” with a sneer, but the feelings are there—ready to sneak out and expose them when they are relaxed, perhaps inebriated.

I have known many people, who by virtue of making the acquaintance—being forced really to make an acquaintance— of an African American neighbor, a gay co-worker, a Jewish classmate, will claim “I’m not racist/homophobic/anti-Semitic…I have a black/gay/Jewish friend/neighbor/co-worker.” But the truth is they have only made an exception, exempting that one person they know from the larger group about whom they still harbor their ignorant fear.

I wish I could take comfort in such exceptions as baby steps forward rather than anomalies in their thinking, but today I’m still shaking my head and grieving.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Love it, I Love it NOT…Vegetable Medley

I write [heart] notes to things I love. Quick expressions of my zeal for things I cannot—or would rather not—live without (bacon, watermelon, Crate & Barrel), [heart] notes arose from a desire to share my love of things that didn’t really warrant a whole lot of narrative.

But as you know, it’s not always a love fest here at Arugula. There are things I am not fond of—staycations and other variations on the word vacation; ignorant, trashy bumper stickers—and that send me on a rant. But similar to those things I love that don’t warrant a 500 word narrative, and for which a simple love note suffices, there are things I dislike that don’t deserve a lengthy diatribe.

And so I begin an occasional post of a sort: I Love it, I Love it NOT. The first to receive this dubious distinction is Vegetable Medley.

I love vegetables. I crave salads (especially arugula). I can make a meal out of some in various forms—sautéed, roasted, steamed, fresh. Haricot verts, asparagus, tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, celery, spinach, broccoli, and snow peas all please my palate.

But I agree with Deanna, who said, “I’ve never met a vegetable medley I liked.”

Sometimes vegetables are meant to be together—in ratatouille, or caponata, on skewers on a grill—but when served as a side dish, more often than not overcooked, and especially when there are peppers in the mix—making everything else in the mix taste like peppers—I’d rather do without.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fill Up

Countless times I remember pulling up to the gas station near the on-ramp to I-91 with my family in our Pontiac Catalina and my Dad--at the helm, naturally--rolling down the window and saying "Fill it up. High Test."

I remember sitting patiently in the back seat with my sisters (always in the middle since I was the youngest and never got a window seat), while the gasoline fumes mingled with the smell of the vinyl seats and the attendant washed the windows with the squeegee.

"Oil check?" he might ask as the final gallons topped off the tank and my sisters and I scrutinized his work, looking for spots he may have missed.

What I wouldn't have given for that service today. I overheated--my body, not my car--while getting ready to go out and had just gotten my body temperature under the spontaneous combustion mark, with my car's AC cranked on high and the vents all pointed on me, when my gas light came on. Ugh. The skies looked ready to open up, I was on my way to dinner and had just cooled down, and well, linen just doesn't look good wet.

I'd pay ten more cents, twenty more cents per gallon--AND I'd tip the attendant--if I could find a full service station. But I challenge you to find a full service station in these parts.

I guess right around the time we starting ordering martinis and crocktails and kids got too good to work on farms or pump gas I missed my opportunity to roll down my window and say,

"Fill it up, please."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Book List

I am almost finished reading my first book of the summer, Olive Kitteredge, by Elizabeth Strout (whom I loved before Oprah did, when I first read her first book Amy and Isabelle). It is one of those books that sat in a growing stack—put aside for the summer when I have more time to read.

I augmented the stack with a recent purchase, adding the newly published Promises to Keep by Jane Green and a few bargain books to titles by a couple of my favorite authors, Anita Shreve and Chris Bohjalian, which await me in my pile.

Then, yesterday, while I was sitting by the pool, immersed in Olive Kitteridge, a package arrived via UPS from Deanna, who was nice enough to send along some of her books, among them The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which I have been anxious to read and about which I have heard great things. (She also included in the package a box of Starbucks Via Ready Brew to try! She says it’s great for iced coffee. I think I’m as excited for the coffee as I am the books!)

And so I’m ready to read—to be entertained and intrigued and moved and inspired and in the good company of books.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Splurge

At the end of every school year I buy myself something special. A few years ago bought myself some Coach sunglasses. Some Fabulous Coach sunglasses. The year I moved here it was my new furniture. My end-of-the-year gift doesn't have to be anything wildly expensive or extravagant (a Pandora charm did the trick last year). It's meant as a present to myself for a job well done, a way to mark the years. I splurge and allow myself to buy something on my wish list that I didn't feel I could justify buying another time.

This year I decided to order a duvet from Pottery Barn that I've been coveting for years. I absolutely love it. It has all my favorite, vibrant colors and matches sheets I already have (and appreciate). It's been on sale more than once since I fell in love with it, but the discount barely covered the shipping and handling and I felt like I should hold out... until they'd be discounted even more...or until I could pick something from my wish list as my end-of-the-year splurge.

It makes me happy. It was worth the wait.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Friendly Intervention

Jill called this morning on her drive (don't worry; her car is equipped so she can talk hands free) from San Diego to L.A. where she often travels for business. She was just checking in, as she often does, on me and my family and, today, my vacation in its infancy. (I do adore vacation, with the reverence one usually affords human life.)

We chatted, and laughed-- as I reminded her of an old story about a sweatshirt, bought at Urban Outfitters in Boston on one of many fun weekends Jill and Liz came to visit, which I ended up absconding from Liz twenty years ago, and for which Liz is still incensed and bitter (and incredulous that I had the nerve to wear it in front of her years later). It's a joke really.  But it's also Liz's justification for absconding with my things on occasion decades later--like a new "Eco cup" I bought the other day for iced coffees and iced teas by my pool. Good times.

I'm not exactly sure how it came up, other than Jill asked what my plans were for the day and it occurred to me, as I was getting ready to sit by the pool, that I was without my Eco-cup today--because Liz has it. So we had our laugh and exchanged news and itineraries and Jill said, without sugar coating or dancing around the issue, this: You need to get on the busy end of your blog.

Enough said.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Well Done

I left school for the summer, for 10 glorious weeks, at 2:30 on Thursday and went promptly to a local bar where I met a few friends for a celebratory cocktail (or two). But I’m not sure it felt like vacation.

On Friday morning I woke up on my first day of vacation to gorgeous weather: a Top Ten Day, as they say. I would have loved to stay by the pool all day, to have one of those days where I commit to reading an entire book, but my skin is still showing evidence of those long winter months and I know I need to ease into lounging for entire days. But it started to feel more like vacation. One of my pool friends stopped by the pool to see me after she heard from our maintenance guy that I was on vacation and by the pool, and I thought, and so it goes, we begin anew. (I really did have that thought, worded exactly like that, by the way.)

Yesterday was another Top Ten Day, and after a trip to the gym, the grocery store, and CVS for more 30 SPF—in old-school lotion form (the new fangled continuous spray stuff didn’t work out so well for me the day before), I was poolside by noon. I was planning on limiting myself to three hours again…but it was Saturday, and so nice, and I wanted it to feel more like vacation, because still, it really could have been just another weekend. In fact another pool friend asked how it feels, and I told her I didn’t think it would settle in, it wouldn’t really hit me until Sunday night, when I wouldn’t have to set my alarm or turn on my coffee maker or think about my outfit.

There are about 12 hours between now and then, and I’m not sure how to spend them. My father is in Poland (with my mother on a 3 week trip) so I have no family plans for Father’s Day (I miss my parents, by the way…), I’m trying not to spend money because I need to make my balloon check last another 10 weeks (and I’ve been on a bit of a spending spree), and I’m not sure how much time in the sun my skin can take today. Despite the old-school lotion, I missed some spots while applying, and I’m a little sunburned in spots after the four hours I stayed yesterday.

Well done, Joanne.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who Knew?

One more day. One more final exam to give and two more sets to correct. I can do it. And I know I can come back and do it again.

This, from a reflective essay I assigned to my Anatomy and Physiology class, helps.

“One reason why I enjoyed coming to this class every day was because you were such a fun, easygoing, upbeat teacher. You found ways to connect with us (by letting us listen to music while we worked) and were flexible with our schedule and assignments. […] I know I will use what I learned when I go on to study nursing next year. [...] Besides learning about the human body, I also learned about myself as a student. [...]Thank you.”

Now, where shall I keep this so I can read it again on August 31?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Backing In

What is it about backing in that is so appealing to men? Seriously. When you get somewhere, pull in. Back out when you're leaving. Backing out takes half the time of backing in, yet men back in all the time. My dad: guilty. The guy three units down from mine? Guilty. Honestly, though. Have you ever seen a woman backing in to a parking spot? Think about it. It's like this weird XY chest-puffing: Oohhh, look at my driving skills, see how I can maneuver this steering wheel and get my motor vehicle into the space BACKWARDS.

Or maybe it's more about easy exit. Maybe their parking says I'm going to ease into this slowly, take my time getting here, and while so doing prepare myself for a fast escape. Hmm. Is there a metaphor there?

Then again, maybe it says nothing of the like. Maybe it just confirms again that men and women are two entirely different creatures, left somehow to coexist and share parking lots.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'll Be Back!

Seven days left: three days of classes and four of finals. Seven days until vacation when I get to spend my days as I wish, when I get to focus more on writing (and maybe my tan). I have a list of things to write about here in my blog and elsewhere, and I can't wait to get to it. Really. But apparently, while I wait for vacation to write in earnest, I am taking a vacation from blogging while I get other things done and in order...

On that note, please come check back often, but I can't promise much until that magic day: June 17.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bumper Stickers

I believe in freedom of speech. I do. And if the world were a little smarter and more thoughtful, I’d be more comfortable with people exercising it. But really, what could that person have been thinking when she put “If you’re going to ride my ass, you could at least pull my hair” on the back of her SUV, leaving countless parents to answer their curious kids and first graders who are practicing their reading skills, “what does that mean?”

Although I drive a stickerless vehicle, I don’t hate all bumper stickers as a rule. The white ovals with two and three-letter codes—OBX, MV, SD –I can handle. College bumper stickers are okay, too. The families of stick figures that have been popping up on mini-vans I find a bit bourgeois, but not offensive.

Political and religious ones? Bring it. I clearly prefer the more liberal ones like the creationist fish--with feet on it and DARWIN written inside, but have at it. It gets us talking. I saw one I loved back when I was in college, “Keep Your Laws off my Body,” which has been my succinct pro-choice argument ever since. There have been others as well, on occasion, that make me nod, and think, Yeah. Exactly.

“Firefighters do it with long hoses” and countless others in similar “___________ do it with _________” format make me think dork! but at least a kid could take that at face value. “Well, honey, a firefighter fights fires with long hoses,” a parent can answer. And the kid can buy it. It’s more the bumper stickers with adult themes that bother me, the ones that cannot be interpreted any other way than the sexual way they are intended, and that violate other people’s rights to protect their children from the kind of crap others feel it appropriate to share with the world on the ass-end of their motor vehicles, interestingly enough.

The other day I saw one on one of those monster trucks, offensive in their own right, with “Low Riders R 4 those who can’t get it up.” Really? You must have a little dick, I thought, as I resisted the urge to drive by with a pitying, scrunched look on my face while holding my thumb and forefinger an inch apart.

Maybe I’ll create my own: Just say no to R-rated bumper stickers.
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