Sunday, August 29, 2010

This Is It

Alas, today is my last day of vacation. So excuse me if I spend the day in search of an orchestra of violins parked by the pool, enjoying what I can of this great stretch of weather today before going back to something resembling hell work tomorrow.

At least I will be tanner than my colleagues rested and desperate for a payceck ready for a fresh start. I will probably cry tonight am ready for routine again and know that things will be more tolerable with alcohol okay. I will avoid small talk like the plague reconnect with colleagues and find myself making plans for happy hour inspired to begin a new year with a lottery ticket in my pocket positive attitude.

Bullshit. Or something like that.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Crazy Combinations

There are certain combinations that are dangerous, even deadly. Drinking and driving, for example. And there are other combinations that are simply not smart. Take, for example, unattended children with magic markers and a big white wall. And some not-so-smaht combinations are also embarrassing. Take, for example:
  • Joanne with long, annoying bangs +scissors+ alcohol .
Yeah. There’s really nothing good that can come from that. In fact, now I look more like Little Lord Fauntleroy, after taking pinking shears to his fringe while on Benadryl, than I do myself.

I should know better. I’ve made this mistake before. I’ve been making it most of my life. But last year, I thought, no more. And I actually made some strides in avoiding such style setbacks: on more than one occasion, I actually went to my salon (the one I still have trouble identifying as anything other than My Salon because of its hair pun name) to have my bangs trimmed and that’s it. No cut, no foil. Just a bang trim. It’s free/complimentary to regular clients, so why not?

Maybe because it’s twenty five miles away and my sun and pool bleached hair actually needs a cut and probably a low-lite, and some deep conditioning, and I can’t really afford the aforementioned services? (Don’t tell Jill, but I’m actually out of salon product and currently using Suave.) So instead of picking up the phone and making a hair appointment, I strolled into the bathroom with said scissors and a little liquid courage and thought, I’ve done this before. It doesn’t always come out bad.

Needless to say, this time it did. Really bad. Short. Crooked. Zig-zaggy.

When will I learn?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sushi for Beginners

At the risk of sounding like an ass, I will say that I like to be ahead of the curve. For example, I loved arugula before it became the new romaine. I had a red handbag years before everyone started carrying purses as accessories and not pocketbooks. And if I'm not on the cutting edge (you do get that I'm making fun of myself, right?) I like at least to be au courant. I try anyway. Not always successfully.

Take sushi. I admit it took me a while--until this past year, honestly--to get on the sushi board. I know. Countless friends tried and failed in decades past to get me to eat sushi. My old friend Deb, who had lived for some time in California and came back to Boston craving sushi, took me to a place on Route 1 once so she could get her fix. I think I ate tempura. Tamara and her first husband took me to a sushi place in Portland, Oregon the weekend of their wedding and again, I probably ate tempura. I've seen five year olds eat hand rolls like they're chicken McNuggets while I sit at the bar all proud of myself that I'm going to try a raw fish roll. Because let's be honest, I'm still eating sushi for beginners; I have not graduated to real sushi or sashimi. I may never.

But I do love California rolls, Boston rolls, and spicy crunchy tuna rolls-- perfectly uniform, pretty, bite size packages of yumminess. Addictive edible art. And I can use chopsticks to eat them. Finally.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Weather Permitting

We are getting rain today. In fact, today will be a “soaker” the weather man says, good for the lawns—if you care about that sort of thing. You know I’d prefer pool weather, but I’ll take this as a sign to do other things, to figure out another way to enjoy this last Sunday of vacation on which I woke up without dread.
I can hardly believe this is the last Sunday I will go to bed without my alarm set and my coffee maker on auto brew, without a Monday to follow spent at work. Yuck. Where did the summer go?

July went nice and slow, maybe because we had two weeks of June on vacation before July even got started, but August flew. I remember the week after I got home from Newport was a blur; losing track of the days that week was not any kind of exaggeration. “Ann Marie,” I asked one day as we waded, "is today Wednesday?” Then this past week was really busy for me, and next week is all I have left of summer vacation. Week 10 is here. (And I don’t hear a single violin. Whatever.)

I suppose then today I should begin by sitting down with another cup of coffee and making a list to make this week count. Weather looks crappy (non-pool) for tomorrow and Tuesday as well, so maybe I should try to complete some of my house projects, which I’ve started but haven’t finished, and finish some of the posts that I have only half-written. I have restaurant coupons I haven’t used so maybe I’ll treat myself to lunch or dinner out on one of these dreary days.

And then, when it gets sunny again at the end of the week, I can spend unreasonable amounts of time soaking in the healing properties of sun by my pool, where there won’t be a single back-to-school sale or ad in sight.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Who Will be the Next Food Network Star?

I'm a Food Network junkie. In addition to cooking shows, I watch the competitions--even the cake challenges. Ace of Cakes makes me laugh. And, unlike some of my friends, I believe the Neelys. I think they are lovey dovey in real life. And even though it sometimes feels like I'm watching soft porn, I like them. Even though I don't cook like them. I love Giada (speaking of food porn, a term for which I must give Jill credit)and Ina, but my favorite is Next Food Network Star. I love Next Food Network Star. Most Sunday nights I'm in a texting frenzy with Donna and sometimes Meredith, unless she isn't watching live. In that case we'll debrief after she watches on DVR. Anyway.

Tonight's the big night. The finale of Next Food Network Star airs at 9, which means at about 9:57 we'll find out who wins, who will get his or her own show. I couldn't wait to see Dzintra go (in my estimation she should have been eliminated week 1), and Serena was totally on my nerves until her elimination. I was very sad to see Brad go (he was definitely a favorite) (and I think FN made a mistake, frankly; they let go of a chef when I'm getting sick of home cooks, and he could have grown up on air) but Aria's elimination didn't make me as sad as it would have in the beginning of the season. She was originally a favorite, but over time became a little annoying, "one-dimensional" I think Susie Fogelson called her.  And now we're down to Aarti, Herb, and Tom.

Will it be Aarti? If so, I hope she loses the flower. And the name of her show? Well why not Aarti's party--the possessive is natural and necessary, no?-- and not Aarti party? That is, if we have to go with the party theme at all. In fact, I hate the name. I don't know how much of her food I would make, but I'd probably watch her. She does have a great energy.

Tom? I kinda just want to give him a makeover. I get distracted by his unkempt hair, forget that I'm watching a cooking show and not the Hair Bear Bunch. His cooking has been decent but I'm not sure I'd watch him. But honestly, I'd be quite surprised if he won.

Herb? He definitely needs some therapy, but I like him. I like his concept. And I'd watch his show--if only to see if he could make it a half hour without a manic swing. Kidding. I like that he's sensitive but he needs to get his sh*t together. I think his show could be successful. A little ethnic, a little Ellie Krieger, I think he cooks like a lot of people try to. We'll see.

And when it's over, what will I do? Well, Tyler Florence is hosting The Great Food Truck Race that premieres tonight on FN right after FN Star.. And there's still Chopped, and Iron Chef. Meanwhile MasterChef just got under way on Fox, and Top Chef  on Bravo still has several weeks to go.

No worries.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Love it, I Love it NOT...the Superintendent's Letter

It comes every year, the US mail equivalent of that annoying, recorded warning on all your favorite carnival rides: “THIS RIDE IS ABOUT TO STOP.” Only it is a letter that comes from the superintendent of schools—two full weeks before the end of vacation! Every year it’s basically the same. Every year it assaults me. Hope you’re enjoying vacation blah blah blah BUT get ready to come back!

Okay. I’m acutely aware that my vacation is dwindling as quickly as my bank balance, but my desire to go back to work is not nearly as strong as my desire for another paycheck. In fact, it never will be. Ever. And reminding me that I’ll spend my first day back at work in the auditorium at convocation, listening to motivational speeches geared for grammar school teachers, just puts me in a worse mood.

Buzz kill.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Friends for all Seasons

While I try not to give money tremendous importance in my life, or let it be my litmus test of success, I do hope one day to have more money than I do. I’d like to know what it’s like to be rich, if only for a little while. Frankly, I think I’d be pretty adept at spending lots of money well. But if I’m never rich, I’d like at least to enjoy the pleasure of not having to refer to my Excel budget sheet before making certain purchases. I want not to live paycheck to paycheck.

Between now and then, because I do plan on a more favorable financial future (putting it out in the Universe, you see, a la The Secret) I will enjoy the richness in my life not measured in dollars and cents, but in the currency of friendship. I will value my friends, which includes family, old and new. How nice in my forties to have such meaningful friendships with people from high school and college and graduate school and various jobs, and continue to make new ones—like Erika and Shannon, Juli and Courtney, and most recently Ann Marie, who I mentioned brought me some lentil soup to the pool the other day. Polite and cordial at first, then friendly, she and I have become closer each summer I have been here. This year, after soup and recipe exchanges, and worrying about each other if one of us doesn't go to the pool for a few days without forewarning of other commitments, I don’t think it will be enough simply to send Christmas cards between this summer and next.

In the end, if the money never comes, but I continue to be blessed by friendship, able to while away hours on the phone with old, faraway friends, or over drinks or dinner, or at the pool in the summertime, well then, I’ll be rich enough.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Burger Me!

I am well stocked with tasty, fresh, and good-for-me food. In addition to my summer produce staples—tomatoes and cucumbers from my mother’s garden—I have romaine lettuce on hand, and celery, and carrots and red onions. Sounds like a perfect salad, right?

Aside from these ingredients ready for slicing and tossing, I have already-made, ready-to-eat foods in my fridge. I made a pot of summer squash and corn chowder last night, and Ann Marie brought me some lentil soup today to the pool. I have falafel in the fridge, and hummus, and whole wheat pitas.

But my good-for-me options don’t end there. In my freezer I have some homemade black bean, corn and chicken quesadillas that I made the other day. (Instead of making one, I made five. I ate one and froze four. Oh my god, I AM my mother.) And two ripe avocados on my counter.

Yet when I came in from the pool, none of those things appealed to me. What called to me was one of the two hamburger patties my mother sent me home with yesterday when I stopped by for cukes and tomatoes. (I know. I’ve told you before.) I wanted to sink my teeth into a burger. And sip a Blood Mary.

So out came my George Forman grill and a whole wheat roll from the freezer. Next came a shower, and then my Blood Mary. While my burger cooked I sliced a tomato, and found the perfect leaf of lettuce. I assembled my burger and felt not an iota of guilt about the finishing shmear of mayonnaise.

Maybe I’ll have a salad for dinner.


Monday, August 9, 2010


I considered bringing my laptop on vacation. I did. I figured in the early hours of the morning before my niece and nephew woke up, or maybe in those hours between lunch by the pool and dinner, or late at night I might sit down with my laptop and write a post. Or two.

But  I knew if I had my computer with me I might also check email (probably frequently) and bank balances, thereby creating opportunities to get stressed out, which is antithetical to vacation. Going on FB would not be an issue for me, but I might Google all sorts of non-imperative, unessential nonsense, which would take away time from walking around scenes like these, or sitting on the porch late at night alternately enjoying the beautiful view and reading a few more pages of my latest book--activities that contribute to vacation creating its desirable effect.

So I left it at home. I made the right decision.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My New Favorite Salad

It’s that time of year again. My mother’s garden is producing fruit and I’m well supplied with veggies—especially tomatoes and cucumbers. Fearful that my Caprese salad consumption might turn me into a giant ball of fresh mozzarella (now, that’s a visual!), I decided to change things up, starting by not necessarily keeping my tomatoes separate from my cukes. Easy enough, right?

So I threw together this Greek summer salad of tomatoes and cucumbers (both in chunks), diced red onion, a few diced Kalamata olives and feta cheese crumbles, all tossed with balsamic vinaigrette, and it’s become my new favorite salad, my go-to snack. It’s fresh and delicious and an idea worth sharing—if you haven’t already thought of it yourself.

Enjoy the season!

Monday, August 2, 2010

[Heart] Mr. Clean Magic Erasers

Every once in a while a product comes along that changes my life. Among those things whose virtues I have felt compelled to extol are C&B scrubby sponges; a oily, quick drying top coat that I used to use when I used to do my own nails that TOTALLY prevented sheet marks and smudges (I know!); and my salt cellar (covered salt dish, really).

Now, I haven’t been living under a rock or anything; I have heard of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers before, but apparently back when Jill (or was it Mary?) introduced me to them, I didn’t really have a need. But the other day I got sick of looking at the scuffs left by my pool chairs in my entry hall wall (because God forbid I put them in the closet) and I discovered a new set of marks on the front bumper of my car—that must have appeared somewhere between valet parking at the Sheraton and parallel parking on Newbury Street in Boston.

Hmmmm, I thought. I wonder if the Magic Eraser would work.

O.M.G. I wish I had taken “before” photos because the “after” ones would be remarkable. Seriously. Night and day.

I love you, Mr. Clean…(Magic Erasers)!
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