Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Season's Eatings


chocolate covered panettone
I started this holiday week by indulging in chocolate covered, custard filled panettone with my coffee the morning of Christmas Eve. I had planned on said "breakfast" for almost a week, and I was not disappointed.

That night the meatless meal my aunt prepared included baked stuffed shrimp and salmon filet.

On Christmas Day my cousin Kristina prepared beef tenderloin that melted in your mouth.

detox salad
By Monday night I was craving salad. I needed something crunchy and green and fresh that didn't sit beside a pile of creamy mashed potatoes. I took myself out for a salad for dinner and enjoyed every wholesome bite. Yesterday I went grocery shopping for fresh produce so I could stay on salads for a few days in the comfort of my own home.

Which is not to say the season of indulgence is over. It just means that I have a strategy on how to get through the rest of the season's celebrations and excess: one salad at a time.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Gratitude

Last night I came home from my family's Christmas Eve celebration with a journal that Lindsay had put away for me from Donna's things this summer after she passed away. Donna had not had a chance to write anything in it; Lindsay thought I might like it. She gave it to me one afternoon I was there at her condo helping to sort through things and move some things around, but I left it there by mistake. Though I have seen Lindsay since then, she didn't have it with her at those times. Last night it felt like a Christmas gift.

When I got home I wondered how I might use it. What kind of journal should it be?

Still undecided this morning, I saw a piece on CBS News Sunday Morning--which I happen to watch rarely, if ever--about gratitude and mood, and a study in which people who journaled about gratitude were as a result twenty-five percent happier than those who journaled their gripes. At the end of the piece, the correspondent quoted Einstein who said you can live your life as if nothing is a miracle, or as if everthing is a miracle.

Yes. Exactly. What perfect timing, I thought, as I wiped tears away again for the umpteenth time in the last twenty four hours. Someone stepped in and told me to get happy again, to start to focus on all that I have to be happy about and grateful for.

For that divine intervention, and so much more, I am grateful.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Great Depression

It's been a pretty crappy year. It hasn't been ALL crappy, of course. I've had some happiness this year, too, but I've had more sadness this year than I have had in a long, long time. And I've been really sad lately--profoundly, sit-on-the-couch-and-cry sad. I don't talk about it much with people who didn't know Donna, and I'm afraid to reach out to others who loved Donna in case I happen to catch them at a rare moment they're functioning okay and not missing her. In a nutshell: it sucks.

Feeling bereft has left me without a lot of holiday spirit this year. Despite knowing that Donna loved Christmas and a text from Lindsay early in the week that said "It was mom's fave holiday. She'd want us to do it big!," when I woke up yesterday, on December 14, I still hadn't decorated for Christmas. I couldn't put it off any longer. I forced myself to go to the basement and eventually I decorated.

I'm glad I made the effort. I'm a little more in the spirit now and my house looks pretty. I changed things up a bit: everything is not exactly as it has been for the past few years... but I suppose it never will be. And maybe that was the lesson in this. 

Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Photo Journal: Boston Offerings for the Bon Vivant

In Kenmore Square, Petit Robert Bistro:
crispy poached eggs with frisee and bacon salad
\
In the South End, Stella ("a SoWa restaurant")
(best) Bolognese (ever)

braised short ribs over pappardelle

  In the Back Bay, Legal Seafood

steamers

In the North End, Ducali Pizzeria
pizza with arugula and prosciutto


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Photo Journal: Meteorological Winter (Snow Day Season) Begins

...and my lucky snowman has taken his place on my file cabinet.
Let it Snow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Running for the Phone

The other morning, Thanksgiving actually, someone called while I was upstairs folding laundry. I looked at my phone to check caller ID, but the display was dark; my phone was not working. Oh well, I thought, as I returned to my laundry. I’ll check my message when I get downstairs.

Turns out it was Jill. Five minutes later, I called her back.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” I said, and then explained that I had been folding laundry and my upstairs phone wasn’t working.

“You don’t run for the phone?” she asked.

My honest answer to her was, “God no. I haven’t run for the phone in years.”

Immediately we both started laughing, because it’s the truth, and because it brought back memories of one of Jill’s favorite stories, when way-back-when I replied--with equal candor-- to a doctor who had inquired if I was tired, “I’ve been tired since high school.” Seriously, though. What do you mean tired? Like more than normal?

In the end Jill said I should change my outgoing message to reflect my honest answer.

Hi, this is Joanne. I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now, but I don’t run for the phone anymore. Haven’t since I turned 40. Leave me a message and I’ll call you back.

I think I’ll stick to the message I have now, but couldn't resist giving Jill’s idea an audience.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Notebook

Thanksgiving is over (and it was wonderful), but it’s not December yet, so I’m not quite ready to get rid of my fall decorations and put up my tree yet. But it is time for The Notebook.

No, this is not a post about that Notebook, the epic love story cum tearjerker motion picture that I admit, somewhat smugly, I have neither read nor seen. I’m talking about a notebook—probably the most aesthetically unpleasing, but most useful notebook I’ve ever had: my Christmas journal.

meal planning on a page
I am a note taker and record keeper and list maker and at any given time I have a dozen notebooks and journals in use. I like to keep one in my purse and one on my coffee table. I have one for recipes and menu ideas that I started when I moved here and finally got cable (and Food Network,!) and one for scribbling down first thoughts for posts. I even have a Betty Crocker notepad for meal planning and grocery lists.

my Christmas journal
aka The Notebook
Then one Christmas season, I unearthed the wrapping paper and gift tags I had bought after Christmas the previous year, when I had just gotten home from buying wrapping paper and tags because I had forgotten said purchases. That same season I forgot I had stocked up Christmas motif napkins and paper plates too, and stocked up again. Clearly, I needed to start writing this stuff down. But in my recipe journal? No. My blog journal? Not there either. Obviously, I needed another notebook. And I found one while I was shopping on line. Again, it’s not pretty, but it is functional.

The journal is set up by chapters, if you will; every year has eight pages. Within those pages two are devoted for a Christmas card list, one for gifts given and gifts received. There is a page for special foods, recipes and baked goods, and a page for notes and memorable events of the past year. Another page has a variety of prompts to write about the weather; parties of the season; decorations and trimmings; trips, travels and visitors. The last page, designated for photos, is where I make notes for the next Christmas season, like all set with paper products, wrapping paper and bows !!, and Make more cranberry vodka: excellent! The latter, it turns out, I already remembered without needing a note. Which worked out nicely on Thanksgiving.

cranberry vodka for Thanksgiving


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful for a Break

I was supposed to go out tonight with my friends Erika and Shannon, but I cancelled at the last minute.  My house is a mess disaster area, and I have a gazillion things to do, and in general felt overwhelmed by it all when I got in from school late this afternoon. I felt that, as much as I would have fun with them (always do), my time would be better spent trying to clean up a little and get a few things done, so that when I get home tomorrow I can say aaahhh, and not ugh.

I am really looking forward to Thanksgiving this year, and to four glorious days off from work. I don't remember ever feeling so desperate for Thanksgiving weekend--although I'm not sure if it's because my memory escapes me these days or because this year my stress and fatigue is actually at an all time high. Either way, I am ready for a little break from routine (that has nothing to do with a natural disaster or major weather event), some time with family, and some extra rest. I can't wait to kick it all off with a grown-up lunch tomorrow with Amy before fighting the crowds in the supermarket so I can buy what I need to make my appetizer for Thanksgiving.

But I have to get through tomorrow first. One more wake up until I'm there. And a little more housework before I can turn in tonight.

Almost there.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Photo Journal: Quintessential Comfort


grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Love them, I Love them not...My Bangs

That’s exactly it. One day I love them, the next day I hate them.
One day they behave and do what they are supposed to, which means I’m pretty likely to have a good hair day, which in turn means I at least start the day in a good mood.

The next day my chances of taming them are about the same as taming a wild animal—and I don’t even have the experience of training pets. When my bangs misbehave I get aggravated and overheat while I’m getting ready, and that usually makes me run late, and I walk out the door in a bad mood. Then I spend the day wondering if I should cut them myself later (and you know how that turns out—especially if there’s wine involved).

I wish I didn’t have bangs, but I don’t look good without them. Even if I could get past that, I don’t think I’d have the patience to grow them out—unless I was holed up in a cabin in Vermont somewhere finishing my novel, interacting with no one.

You see? It’s a vicious cycle. I want to grow them out, I know I could never do do that…I love them, I hate them...Which means, I suppose, that maybe most of all I hate that they have so much influence on my mood.

Bangs, be damned!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

[Heart] Note...to Weekends

Extra sleep and another leisurely cup of coffee--or two--without worrying about getting in the shower; time to experiment in the kitchen after flipping through magazines and cookbooks and going grocery shopping first; back-to-back episodes of Chopped; Shuffled Row on my Kindle; phone calls with Jill and Deanna, and sometimes Tamara; Friday night dinner out; a Saturday visit with my parents; Sunday bacon and eggs breakfast; maybe a stroll through Home Goods and TJMaxx, maybe a trip to Lord and Taylor; the option of not leaving the house at all: these are all things I love about the weekend.

A teacher friend of mine, Mike (whom I affectionately callBr other Love), said to me once that if all he did over a weekend was stare at the paint on the walls, it would still be a good weekend.

True, that, Brother Love. True, that.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Photo Journal: Newfound Comfort


 

new recipe: slow cooker pork burrito bowl


new dishes: C&B and Pier 1
  

new comfort


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Breakneck Speed

How is it that we went from Halloween--or The Halloween That Never Was--to Thanksgiving in a heartbeat. Really. For that matter, the whole month of October is a blur...and it's the second week of November already! Only two weeks until Thanksgiving, then one more week until December. And you know what that means. Christmas shopping and (more) snow days!

Is it me or is time flying at breakneck speed?

The snow is mostly gone, and there are still leaves on the trees that haven't fallen or broken in half and I'm feeling confused and hurried and suddenly it's as if I am a kid again at an amusement park and wish I hadn't gotten on this stupid ride. I don't know whether I'll feel better if I open or close my eyes, and I can't seem to take a deep breath, but I have a feeling that if I did, I might enjoy it more.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Because We Could

I know I have lamented here before, as Amy has in her blog, that grown-up lunches for teachers are rare. Well, with an unexpected week off (that we will make up in June or, worse, April) we decided we should treat ourselves to a grown-up lunch and shopping. I got there first and ordered Prosecco.
a split of Prosecco
Amy did the same. I started with a Caesar salad and Amy ordered crab claws. For our entrees, I ordered fried sea scallops and she ordered whole belly clams. We took our time and savored every bite.

fried sea scallops
Dessert would come later in the day, so we decided on a little digestivo before venturing off to shop... Which is to say, I suppose, we decided that when life gives you lemons, finish with some limoncello on the rocks.

limoncello on the rocks



Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stormy Weather

I was in Boston over last weekend, so I missed actually seeing the record-breaking snow fall from the sky. Boy did it fall. Twenty inches of freakish preseason snow fell with a vengeance and took down trees and limbs and power lines everywhere.

What I came home to was a cold house and an eerie darkness and no plan. Thank goodness I had prepared for Irene and still had candles and flashlights on hand.

But I lucked out anyway. My power was restored within two days, unlike my parents and some close friends in the area who are without electricity--still. My sister Mary had her power restored just yesterday, as did my friend Jim, both of whom had been without since Saturday afternoon.

To say the least, it was a interesting experience: no traffic lights, grocery stores without perishable food, gas stations with hour-long waits causing traffic jams...while around the corner there might be a fully operational restaurant. Just yesterday, since school was cancelled for the week, Amy and I met for an afternoon of lunch and shopping in a town where 67% of the people are estimated this morning to still be without power. In a word, it was weird.

Although in some cases it became tragic, and people lost their lives to carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to stay warm, mostly it was an inconvenience..and, I hope, a lesson for us all on the creature comforts that we take so for granted.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pick Me Ups

I've had a couple of bad days at work. Reeeeally bad days. Which happen to have nothing to do with my students, or my classes. And, in full disclosure, it's not been a very good month for me to begin with. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and that means every day this month, at least once a day, I have seen something pink and/or heard a news story that reminds me of Donna. More specifically I am reminded of the fact that we lost Donna despite the ribbons and walks and everything pink. Not that I don't think of her a lot anyway. I have my own set of known triggers that make me miss her terribly; I'm fine without any more.

But back to the last couple of days that left me in need of some retail therapy.

I would have gone last night, but all I could do was cry--meaning I could not stop crying and was not fit for being in public. (Even this morning I could have used a couple of extra hours with cold compresses.) But today, after making it through the day without crying, I rewarded myself with a few simple things.

dish towels that make me happy

new fuzzy socks
and cold sesame noodles that are better than any I make

 Now I'm just left to wonder what to make of this fortune that came with them...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Photo Journal: Fall Football Sunday

fuzzy socks required

vodka sauce with sausage

enjoyed while watching the Patriots...win!


Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Little Variety

When I started teaching I thought I had found a perfect situation: autonomy in my classroom and a boss who didn’t micromanage. Who couldn’t really, right? Alas, school is not much different from business after all these days: teachers are being asked to do more and more with less time, resources or rewards; leadership lacks and so, as is often the case, micromanagement abounds. It’s only October and already I’ve been frustrated enough at school to engage in blood pressure-raising conversations and vitriolic exchanges with Amy, and to wonder with her in calmer moments what other jobs we could do that would pay about the same so we can maintain our lifestyle (which is by no means lavish, but what we are comfortable with). The other day I said to her, “if I could stand other people’s bodily fluids I’d register for a nursing program right now.”

Without any other employment plans in place, and too early to pray for snow days for temporary reprieve, we do what we can to feel better about things. Recently, this meant joining a few other colleagues to support the drama program at our school and our friend Bill who runs it. We agreed to be involved in a teacher variety show. Bill and I wrote a skita hysterical classroom parody, if I may say so myselfthat other teacher-friends, including Amy, acted. Other teachers shared their musical talents—playing instruments or singing—or their good nature and were simply willing to get on stage for a laugh. Some students spoofed teachers; others ran the technical aspects of the show.

For a few afternoons I left my classroom and escaped to the auditorium where I spent a few hours laughing, observing, and being a part of something creative and positive. I experienced a camaraderie that was uplifting. I walked away with newfound or rejuvenated respect for some of my colleagues and students. I came to understand better the pull of the stage that so many of our students feel. And I was inspired—again—by Bill’s commitment to his program and to those kids who shine on stage.

So Friday night, when I joined a full house of students and parents and teachers (some retired) and spouses of teachers, who came to show their support and were entertained for an evening (were we ever!) in exchange, those hours I laughed and applauded were only a bonus.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

[Heart] Note...to Michaels

In the world of arts and crafts, I consider myself more arts than crafts, but I suppose that’s parsing words. Whether artsy or crafty, there’s no place like Michaels to wake up my creative side.

I’ve gone in for a frame and come out with the makings for a centerpiece. I’ve gone in for a candle and come out with beads for bracelet. Once I went in for a basket and came out with fuzzy socks. You get the idea: you name it, they’ve got it—from mats and frames to vases and baskets and candles and beads and silk flowers and ornaments and stocking stuffers. Sometimes they even have spa socks.

Michaels inspires me to celebrate the seasons and make my house look prettier, to be more thoughtful and generous and creative and alive.

Obviously, I’ve been secretly in love with Michaels for a while, but last time I was there I saw a big sign out front announcing a 15 % Teacher Discount. Bonus! And yesterday I found out they are partnering with The Ellen DeGeneres show to donate to Susan G. Komen for the Cure during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Well, the secret’s out now. There’s no turning back. I [heart] Michaels loud and proud.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Deli-Issues

There is a commercial on TV that begins with two inmates escaping from prison who then proceed to have a string of bad luck and poor service—getting haircuts, buying clothes, taking public transportation. The final scene shows them running back to prison. It’s an ad for Car Max and it’s as clever as it rings true. Especially at the deli.

I love a good sandwich, and lately I’ve been bringing sandwiches for lunch. They’re easy, portable, and healthy—especially when I top them with lettuce for crunch, onion for zing, tomato slices because my mom is still supplying them, and sometimes a sprinkle of sliced olives on top. But the toppings are the easy part; getting the meat is the hard part—even at my new favorite supermarket.

In full disclosure I did cop an attitude once on a young man who seemed clearly inconvenienced to have to open a new prosciutto for me and incapable of getting it tissue paper thin. Aside from that time I have been nothing but pleasant to anyone who helps me. (And subsequent to that visit, I have been nice to him.) Everyone is nice in return.

But pleasant is not really what I’m after. I’m looking for someone who understands that when I want a third of a pound, it means .33 on the scale. And when I ask for a half pound, and the scales shows .67—it’s not a little over, so no, it’s not okay. It’s closer to ¾ of a pound, and I ordered only ½ a pound. Those are decimals, people, not ounces.

I want not to feel bad when I order only a quarter pound of roasted turkey. I live alone. Especially when I’m buying two types of meat, I don’t need a lot each. And as far as I’m aware, there is no deli minimum, so do your job. If all I want is three slices, you should do it without the sigh. And stop trying to get away with thick slices so you have to cut fewer of them. When I say sliced thin, and you show me something thick enough to dice on a salad, I’m going to say no, thinner, please. And now I know that I should ask to see the second slice, too--because that half pound of ham in my fridge seems more like shoe leather than deli meat.

I know there are worse things in life than a bad sandwich, but that's not really the point. These days it's hard to find good customer service --any way you slice it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Photo Journal: Back Bay Getaway



Lord & Taylor

Stephanie's on Newbury


John Hancock tower, behind Boston Public Libraray


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Falling Fast

Finally, when I walked out of school last Thursday, after a bit of a downpour that washed away a string of sticky days, there was a chill in the air that felt like fall and that led me straight to the store for a Yankee Candle pumpkin spice tart. Now I'm a New Englander, not an idiot, so I know that I am bound to feel 80 degrees again at least once between now and...say... Thanksgiving, but these past few days have been dreamy. My windows have been open, I've been lounging in long pants and long sleeve t-shirts with a throw blanket close by, and (as I mentioned yesterday) my crock pot saw the light of day. I even unearthed my fall decorations. I didn't go as far as to put pumpkin and turkey stuff out, but the few (tasteful) things I have are out of the basement and ready to go--once those 80 degree days pass and/or October 1 comes along.

As much as I love summer, I love fall, too. And when fall comes around after a few months of sunbathing and sweating and alternately hiding in air conditioning, I realize how much I love the change of seasons. I even wonder if I could ever live elsewhere. Which means I love New England, too.

Monday, September 19, 2011

[Heart] Note...to Ben & Jerry's

As if we needed any more to love about Ben & Jerry's--their mission statement, their livable wage commitment...and...um...helllo?! Chubby Hubby?--they've delivered anyway. I got my latest "Chunk Mail" today introducing their newest flavor, homage to the classic SNL skit with Alec Baldwin: Schweddy Balls. Now that is good humor...well, it's Ben & Jerry's, but you know what I mean. If you haven't seen the brilliant skit, I urge you to check it out; they provide a link to it if you click on my Schweddy Balls link above.  (Well, not my Schweddy Balls, but my link.)

And by all means, share the love! If you have a Scoop Shop nearby, go in and order a couple scoops of Schweddy balls! Seems that would be much more fun than slipping a pint in your supermarket cart, no?

Simplifying Delicious

 As you may know, I love to cook. I don't use exotic ingredients, but I love to slice and dice and season and saute and simmer and deglaze and reduce and layer flavor. By all accounts, I'm pretty good at it. But sometimes I want make delicious food that doesn't take three cutting boards and a saute pan and a stock pot, and that doesn't require a lot of active time--before and after. Sometimes the clean up is worse than the prep, and I happen not to have anyone to whom I can delegate dish duty. While I often share my culinary creations with others (food is love; I am my mother's daughter), it's only me in my tiny kitchen from start to finish, prep to clean up.

white chicken chili
So as I continue to tackle my culinary fears and brave some cooking firsts, I decided that I would simplify a little here and there. I will try to get some meals in my cooking repertoire that are as easy as they are tasty. Last Sunday I made white chicken chili using (and modifying a tiny bit) McCormick's. It rocked. And it only took twenty minutes. Easy and delicious? Check!

Could I do it again this weekend?

A decidedly fall feel in the air the last few days screamed CROCK POT and PORK (well, maybe it was my taste buds screaming pork) and a Sunday football game to watch (Go, Patriots!) said BARBECUE. Crock pot pulled pork sounded easy and delicious to me. Ten active minutes, and eight hours of tantalizing aroma later I'd find out for sure.


crock pot BBQ pulled pork slider
Wow.

Mission accomplished.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Next!

It happens every year: a day in September comes when I suddenly am over summer. Finis. Basta. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Today was that day when—standing in front of my classroom sweating, despite the fans selfishly pointed in my direction—I started to long for the crisp days of fall. There’s no AC in my school, just the body heat of teenagers making the high temps feel even worse. I’m hot. And I’m cranky when I’m hot. Nobody likes a cranky Joanne. Trust me.

So, Mother Nature, I’m ready when you are.  Bring me fall and I promise to be in a better mood.



 

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Love it, I Love it Not…Hungry Girl

You know how I feel about fat free, sugar free desserts: I’d rather eat an apple. Or take the full fat and real sugar version when available. Yet I know there are people who take painstaking measures to substitute when possible. This isn’t about berating the people who monitor what they eat in an effort to lose or maintain their weight. It’s about Hungry Girl’s claim that “it’s not diet food; it’s decadent!”

Sugar free hot cocoa with fat free whipped topping isn’t diet? Microwaving 12-15 cinnamon red hots with chunks of apple and topping it with low fat graham crackers and fat free whipped topping isn’t diet? Fat free sour cream and fat free cheddar cheese aren’t diet? Pu-lease.

Is it horrible that she has airtime on one of my favorite networks? No. There’s something for everyone—from sandwich lovers to grillers to down home southern cooks and frugal housewives. I just take issue with Food Network airing a promo that claims it’s not diet food.

If you can’t bring back Ellie Krieger, who made healthy and natural food, just call it what it is. ‘Cause it sure ain’t decadent.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

[Heart] Note...to After School Snacks...



that double as dinner.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Vacation Apprecation Day

There's a man, in his late thirties I estimate, who may be the most obnoxious, irritating man on earth--at least on my earth. He lives in my complex and has a son who visists on weekends. That he is divorced doesn't surprise me; that he was ever married, that anyone ever liked him long enough to procreate with him shocks me. He is the reason I decided--early in the summer--not to bother to try to relax by the pool on weekends.

But Labor Day weekend is the last weekend my pool is open, and it seemed like I should go out, as I do every year, at least for a little while, one last time.

As luck would have it, the uber-d**che, whose name I don't know but whose kid's name I do because was he shouts at least once a minute in an empty threat, was there.That is to say, I didn't get to relax...at all. He gave new meaning to LABOR DAY, because it felt like work not to turn around and tell him exactly what I think of him.  As much as he's an a**wipe, I didn't feel it was fair for his son to be subjected to a rant about his father that would no doubt be replete with expletives.

So I didn't stay long, needless to say, but I did walk away with a greater appreciation of summer vacation and all those days I was out at the pool by myself, maybe for just an hour or two--alone with my Kindle, a book, my journal--surrounded only by peace and quiet....

And that's how I'd rather end summer: grateful for what was good.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On College...for Jonathan

If given the chance to go back to high school, I would pass. Not because it was not a good experience for me; for the most part, it was. (Ask Jill.) But as a high school teacher I observe daily the self-consciousness and anxiety and that particular mix of emotions characteristic of teenagers that I am happy to have outgrown and wish never to experience again.

College, on the other hand, I would go back to in an instant. (Ask Deanna.) In fact, I sometimes dream about it. Unfortunately, the dream never works out, because I am my forty-something self in the dream and have difficulty adjusting to life without a car and with a roommate of traditional college age. Still, it is difficult not to long for (every once in a while) an opportunity to go back to that magical time, when anything is possible. Once your parents pull away from your dorm, you’re on your own in the ways that matter. You can reinvent yourself if you wish, or just be a more anonymous version of yourself.

No one knows if you’re the kid from the two-family house with all the used cars in front, or the girl whose father comes to all her games half in the wrapper and argues with the ref. It doesn’t matter as much anymore that you earned three varsity letters in three different sports, or that you made high honors every quarter. It won’t matter that you didn’t get asked to the prom, or that you ran for class officer and lost.

College comes with a clean slate; it provides a safe haven and creates numerous opportunities to meet new people and try new things— without parents and classmates and neighbors watching. And that makes it infinitely easier to sometimes fail. In college you won’t carry around the stigma of losing the election or not making the team for what seems like forever. So eventually you start doing things that matter to you for exactly those reasons. There you are in college: just you and your desire to try new things, to learn about things that matter to you, and to meet new people--many of whom will be different from yourself and the kids you grew up with, all while trying to become someone of your own making.

When we sent my nephew Jonathan off to college last week after a proper Polish breakfast at my parents’, I wanted him to know these things (if he didn’t already) but was too emotional to say much. Instead, while we hugged, through my tears, I managed to say to him only this:

You will have the time of your life. Have fun. Be safe. Do well. Make us proud.

I hope that was enough.

Snow Days--no shovels required

Let me begin by saying that I did not take Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene lightly. I was prepared but unharmed. My heart goes out to anyone affected and consider myself fortunate that I was not. Let me also add that I am not one of those people whining that it was over-hyped. Really? Have you seen footage of the deluge in Vermont? The wreckage in East Haven, Connecticut? More than 40 people are dead all along the east coast; I dare say Irene was not given any undue credit.

Yet this post is more about the school cancellations than the hurricane. Sort of.

I can't help but think that back when the expectations of education were realistic and before school districts were run as corporations, when summer vacation didn't end Labor Day weekend, there would be no cancellations to begin with and, therefore, no exasperated messages from superintendents barely able to spit out the news that there would be no school.

In the aftermath of this--which could have been soooo much worse (anyone remember Katrina?)--and the grand scheme of things, we should be grateful, not put out.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fate and Tomatoes

I recently had my nieces over for a couple of nights. In preparation for their stay I bought some things at the supermarket that I normally don't keep around: namely, white bread and chocolate milk. Most of the chocolate milk is gone but we never even opened the white bread, and I forgot to send it home with Meredith for Charlie, who happens to to be on a strict, self-imposed diet, and subsists on the butter he licks off white bread and chocolate milk--save for the occasional french fry or bite of pizza.

So here I am with a loaf of "the whiter your bread, the quicker you're dead" bread. And a platter of tomatoes from my mother's garden. And, as fate would have it, my new sleek toaster that was delivered just today.

What's a girl to do?


Exactly.

There may be grilled cheese and tomato in my future.
Who knows? Maybe even peanut butter and fluff.

Photo Journal: Newport Recaptured




a family must: Brick Alley Pub






Jill's favorite meal

Meredith's favorite dish at Puerini's


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Photo Journal: What August Looks Like

summer dinner:
lemon rosemary chicken skewers and Greek salad over mixed greens

Hyndrangea from my mother's garden

after pool snack: Caprese with my mom's tomatoes and basil


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Photo Journal: What Not to Wear...or Note to a Stranger

Dear Girl in front of me in Starbucks in Newport,

Those polka dot espadrilles are adorable!The bandages on your blisters? Not so much.

You're young. Eventually you'll figure out that cute shoes needn't torture, especially if they fit right. For now, keep in mind that it's always smart to pack an extra pair of shoes, something not so dressy--and definitely more comfortable--for the morning after your date when you're getting your latte on.

Good luck to you...oh, and be careful, the left one is about to come off!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Re-Cap: Chicago

As you can imagine, Deanna and I had a great time in Chicago. How could we not? Two old friends escaping reality for a few days? Two foodies in a restaurant town like Chicago? Two shoppers stationed on the Magnificent Mile? Exactly.

I'll spare you my Marc Jacobs bag and new pendant from Bloomingdales, or the bag Deanna dreamed about for two days before going back to buy it, but I will share some of our dining adventures, which began with dinner at Cafe Spiaggia.

Gnocchi with wild boar ragu and polopetti

Also from Cafe Spiaggia:

walleye and summer vegetables

While in Chicago we had to go to Table 52, of course, and we planned to be there on one of the two nights he serves fried chicken. (It made not seeing Oprah not so heartbreaking.)

Famous Art Smith's famous Table 52

and his mouth watering fried chicken
But our favorite dinner was at The Purple Pig, where we shared several delectable small plates. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera, so my only pictures are cell phone photos...


pork liver pate

salt roasted beets with goat cheese mousse and pistachio vinaigrette
and missing from these mediocre photos is one of the milk braised pork shoulder we shared, which is the most tender and tasty pork I think I have ever had in my life.

Lunches were less eventful, but we had one remarkable one, our best, when happened upon Feast in Bucktown.
Greek lunch plate with rosemary chicken and hummus
And my daily morning coffee and cinnamon muffin top from King Cafe didn't suck.


cinnamon muffin top


It certainly was a formula for success: 4 days to shop , 3 nights away for an equal amount of exceptional dinners (that we planned and made reservations for in advance)(try getting a reservation at any of Rick Bayless's restaurants...go ahead, I dare you), for 2 old friends.

Oh, and the highlight, the 1 thing that put me over the edge? A visit to the Mother Ship, the original Crate and Barrel which, truth be told, brought tears to my eyes.

The Mother Ship

N. Michigan Ave entrance to C&B
Now, I've lived.

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