Friday, July 30, 2010

Two Glorious Hours

The other day I had glorious quiet time by the pool by myself. I can't say that it was the first time this summer that I had time alone (read: sans ill-behaved children and their parents), but it was the first time I had alone time that I was really able to enjoy. (Because, believe it or not, I can find a way to be stressed even when I’m relaxed.) I wasn't clock watching because I had some place to go, or looking at the sky wondering if I would get rained on, and I wasn't concerned about overdoing it and getting burned. I had nothing on my mind other than wanting to finish the book in my bag. I wasn’t sure how long it would last, but I was determined to make the most of that time.

Alas, two hours later, with twenty pages left, a group of kids came in and my peace and quiet *poof* vanished, but I stayed to finish the book anyway.

When I was done, I packed my bag, folded my chair, and went inside satisfied. Not just because I really liked the book, or because I was happy for the quiet time I had to finish it, but also because I was reminded that sometimes good things come in small doses.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Five Days of Fantastic Food with a Fabulous Friend

While I share a love of food with most of my friends, Deanna is my original foodie friend. Back in college, when most fellow Simmons students would go to Ruby's--a little hole-in-the-wall goldmine/basement sandwich shop on Pilgrim Road--for acceptably soupy tuna subs, Deanna would order a bagel, toasted with roast beef, cream cheese, sliced red onion and capers. Seriously. It took me a while to get on board that Foodie Train, but once I joined her, I haven't looked back.

We've been friends now for 25 years, and still try to get together once a year. To that end we have shared many vacations and even more meals--in Boston and Baltimore, Hartford and West Hartford, Philadelphia and DC.  We have more hits then misses, and still make the effort to try new restaurants as well as visit old favorites when we're close to home--hers or mine.

As has become a new tradition, we went immediately to Maine Fish Market after I picked her up on Saturday so she could get her summer steamers fix. There's no shortage of crabs in Baltimore, but steamers? Not so much. Later that night, after a little time by the pool, we stayed in; I made halibut for dinner. Sunday night we went to Bricco in West Hartford, a favorite for us both. Monday we went to my mom's (also a tradition) where we feasted on homemade Polish favorites--kielbasa and kapusta (Deanna's no fool, Norma!). Then Tuesday we drove to Boston. When we arrived, we tried the trendy new Cafeteria on Newbury Street for lunch, which had been on my list to try and which we both really enjoyed. Later, when we ventured out for dinner, we went to Stephanie's on Newbury, a long time favorite of both of ours and always a sure thing. (Three words: Lobster Pot Pie.)

Eastern Standard
Our food adventures ended at Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square, where we had one of our best meals. Not just this vacation, but ever. I had been meaning to go there for a couple of years--and finally got there with a very willing Deanna yesterday afternoon before she flew back to Baltimore. We loved everything: her bleu cheese souffle with greens, my perfect mixed greens salad, her pan roasted trout and my chicken schnitzel. It really was exceptional: the perfect ending to a great vacation.

Our vacations are not entirely about food (or shopping, which we did do a fair amount of, truth be told) though, so it could have a disappointing meal (much like her experience at JPs Licks, which was out of Oreo Frozen Yogurt--again!) and still a good visit. There's just something about being the company of an old friend, as comfortable in the silence of reading by the pool or inside in the cool as in conversation in the car or at a table.

The friendship matters most. Food is the accoutrement.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ten Signs...that summer vacation is in full swing

(in no particular order)

1. I usually don't know what day of the week it is.

2. My melanocytes (those are cells that produce melanin, our main skin pigment) are exhausted.

3. I find myself playing teacher (see #2) at random times, as if I miss it. Which I don't. (See also future post on Disrespect)

4. Chlorine counts for shampoo and conditioner.

5. My living room resembles a tent city of beach towels.

6. I don't have bacon and eggs religiously on Sundays, but might make one of these on a random weekday.

7. I often begin conversations with " I saw on the Today Show..." Even worse...

8. I quote Kathie Lee Gifford.

9. I cancel social plans as quickly as I make them.

10. When someone asks when I go ba-- I SNAP BEFORE THEY CAN FINISH ASKING.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Need I tell you that my heart flutters and I get all happy-smiley when I see a Crate and Barrel ad in my Ads by Google space? :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

[Heart] Note... to Simplicity

The other day, after hemming and hawing all day about how I should prepare a beautiful piece of salmon I had bought, I ended up having kielbasa and some caprese salad. My love of pork products is well documented here, and this post is born from a kielbasa dinner, but it is about simplicity.

A fairly typical summer dinner for my family when I was growing up consisted of a kielbasa, rye bread out of the bag, and a plate of sliced tomatoes with onions or garnished with scallions. Nothing fancy. But it did the trick for dinner. It fed five hungry mouths (three of them also usually sassy) and my mother didn’t need to slave over the stove—although she probably already had for hours sterilizing jars and making pickles.

And so when I couldn’t spend another minute thinking about how to cook my salmon and what I should prepare to go along with it, I remembered I had kielbasa, and a loaf of fresh bread, and tomatoes, and some mozzarella. In just a few minutes my dinner was ready.

It was simple, but no less delicious than something fancier and more complicated would have been. Sometimes the fewer the ingredients the better.

Simple is good.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Making a Splash

I totally get the need for adult-only swim times at public pools, and for separate adult and kiddy pools at private clubs. Adults generally go to a pool to relax, unplug, and cool down--and maybe get a little exercise. (Some of us also like to read.) Kids show up at a pool for a big, fat recess prepared to splash and scream and, alas, annoy the hell out of adults like me who go to the pool to relax, unplug and cool down.

Adults require an area equivalent to their circumferences. They can stand at the edge or the center of the pool and barely move and still accomplish their goals for being there. Children, on the other hand, have constantly changing area requirements. They need the space between themselves and their playmates, which is also the path of the trajectory of their pool projectiles. They are constantly moving and splashing and unaware of needing to share the pool with others.

Yet, despite these differences in space requirements, there is usually enough pool to accommodate both adults and children. And it could even be a pleasant experience for both groups of pool users if the adults in the pool were the ones with the children. Unfortunately, mostly, the adults in the pool are the ones without children, and the parents of the children who are splashing and screaming are usually outside the pool, on the deck (trying to get their quiet time by staying out of the water—go figure) shouting empty threats at their ill-behaved children.

Now it’s not the splashing and screaming that is bad behavior, per se. It is a pool after all. Rather, it’s the lack of regard for other people with whom they need to share the pool. And mostly, the parents are to blame.

“Watch it! Be careful. Don’t splash the nice lady.” [splash] “I said be careful. Don’t splash the nice lady.” [splash][…] “If you don’t stop splashing I will take you out and take you home.”[splash]”I said, stop splashing!”

“What did I say about screaming?” [screech][scream] “I told you to stop screaming. If I have to tell you one more time!” [scream][scream] [scream]. “Okay, I am serious! Stop screaming or we are going home!” [scream]”One more time and you will get a time out!” [scream]


Good luck to these parents when their kids get to high school. Moreover, good luck to my colleagues who will have these kids in high school, and who may be trying to relax by a pool after a long year of teaching them…

Friday, July 9, 2010

Stepping Out

I am firmly ensconced in my summer routine. Mornings I have my coffee and write a little and go to the gym and/or go to the supermarket and/or do some housework. By 11/12/1 I head out to the pool and stay for a 2/3/4 hours. Sometimes I take a break from the pool for a quick bite to eat for lunch, other times I wait until I come in for the day to eat. If the former is the case, I tend to go out for my evening meal somewhere close by a little later. If the latter is the case, I am famished (though clearly in no danger of starving...ever) when I come in, and nosh at 4 or 5 and call it a day. I read and watch TV and (nosh some more and) write some more and go to bed.

I am happier than a pig in shit.

My interactions with humans are fairly minimal. Of course my parents are home now so I’ve seen them and make it a point to stop by or call, and my sister Mary had a pig roast last weekend and there were 130 people there. I’ve taken Donna to chemo and she and I text during our favorite Food Network shows, and most days I see my friend Ann Marie by the pool and we chat as we wade. But on those nights I take myself out to eat? I go by myself. The nights I stay in and nibble? Just me.

Have I mentioned I am happier than a pig in shit?

Some people I imagine find it troublesome that I can be so reclusive. Others I guess would give an ovary or two to have a similar day, never mind three weeks. Although I guess that doesn’t say much: most women my age are ready to give away their ovaries for nothing in return. But you get the point.

Well today I’m changing it up. Yep. I’m going out with a friend (Amy), to Hartford, to somewhere schmancy. Crazy, right? Oh, yeah, But I’m not done. Get this: I dried my hair with a blowdryer and I’m wearing it down. There was even a curling iron involved. I haven’t done that since June 5 when I celebrated my birthday in Boston. Indeed I’m “steppin’ out.”

And I’m still happier than a pig in shit.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Summer of Tevas

Years ago I decided I need to prove--to whom, I'm not sure--that I could go on a vacation that did not revolve around shopping, eating, and drinking or, alternately, working on a summer tan and through a reading list, lounging by the lake at an old friend’s cottage in Maine, known affectionately as the Palace, where the most physically active I got was swimming out to the floating dock at which point turning pages of a book was the only calorie-burning activity in which I engaged. Unless mixing gin and tonics counts. I decided it was important to show myself that I could enjoy an adventurous and physically active vacation. Rather than enjoy a few days lake side or in a favorite city, I could (Velcro) strap on some Tevas and be rugged and daring and come home with great stories and pictures to prove them.

So I went on line and planned a solo leg of an extended trip to the Pacific Northwest…which means I didn’t eschew shopping and cafes completely: days in Portland and Seattle were still in the mix! But I did go hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, and hiking up (part of) Mount Hood. I went white water rafting down the Deschutes. And I didn’t fall out of the raft. All of these little adventures I did by myself.

And that was it. I don’t regret for a minute those days in the Oregon desert or the orchards irrigated by the runoff from Mt. hood and Mt. Jefferson, but I haven’t been on a similar adventure since. Rather, a few years later when another big vacation was in my budget I decided it was okay to take a metropolitan vacation again, to visit museums and outdoor cafes, boutiques and bistros. But I branched out and instead of visiting a city in the states that I know and love I explored London and Florence and Rome. I had the time of my life.

So while growing older has its drawbacks, like failing vision and sphincter strength, there is nothing quite like being yourself and being comfortable with that. I love doing the things that I love and not making excuses, and I enjoy not feeling like I have a single thing to prove to anyone including myself. Two weeks into my summer vacation I am happy to report that I have enjoyed the great weather and spending time (almost daily) by the pool and have read three books so far from my summer reading pile. I have no trips planned other than to restaurants.

That is, there will be no bungee jumping this summer. Or ever.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Three Generations

My parents returned the other day from a three week trip to Poland--the second part of their 50th wedding anniversary celebration, which began with their party in January. "Are you still married?" I asked, as Jonathan and I greeted them when they finally emerged from customs at JFK. They laughed, giving away that it was no more a honeymoon than being at home with each other and all their quirks.

The four of us talked easily all the way home, which took longer than normal because of the traffic--my parents in the back seat, Jonathan at the wheel, I riding shotgun. (Yes, I did say Jonathan at the wheel.) They told us about their visits with relatives and sightseeing excursions; Jonathan and I filled them in on the goings-on at home, with family here, and weather, and the condition of my mother's gardens.

As my dad told his tales (and my mother fought the fatigue of a long flight and an even longer day) Jonathan adjusted the AC in the car and we asked, "is the temperature OK back there?," and "are you guys comfortable?" to which my father starting giving average Celsius temperatures and the Fahrenheit equivalents during their trip. Jonathan and I started laughing (playfully of course), of course, as my sisters would have as well, and once we cleared up the confusion my father blamed us, as he could have blamed any of my sisters. That is, it was not that he misunderstood; we were at fault for being unclear.

At that moment, as our chuckles faded, I think I really understood that although three generations of us rode in that car telling stories, having fun, to my parents there were two sets of people: them, and two of their children. It occurred to me that Jonathan and I are both their children. The distinction between child and grandchild is not that marked to them; they approach their relationships with us with the same seriousness and responsibility. Fifty years later there are more of us to love and look after, but they love us all just the same.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Colors of my Weakness

I went in for the throw blanket that went on sale that morning from 49.95 to 9.95. Wait. Let me back up.

I had seen the blanket, which matches with my new duvet, in the Crate and Barrel catalogue but knew there was no way I'd pay 50 bucks for a throw. That morning I went through my mail and found a postcard from them announcing their summer sale, beginning that very day.  Hello? Divine intervention, no? Especially when I saw the throw was almost free!

There were none available on-line, but I was instructed to check stores for availability, then to call the store to check for limited availability. The store closest to me (as you may remember) at Greenback Blue Back Square was willing to hold the blanket until later that day. While on the phone with the very helpful Jen I asked if they had any of the green flower planters left. She said they had plenty of those; there was no need to hold the two I wanted. (What? They were on sale from 12.95 to 5.95! And perfect for my lemon trees!)

So later that day, my first day of vacation, in fact, after my self-allotted incremental dose of sun, I went to pick it up. As I made that emotional descent on the escalator I was again greeted by colors that make me happy.

The nesting baskets were on sale. And so was that tortilla warmer that I've been thinking about for months, ever since I bought that vase. And those chop sticks? How could I not?...

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