Friday, October 30, 2009

Victim of Advertising

Last week, my mother said my skin looked dry. She then mentioned that, as I wasn't as young as I used to be, I might consider doing a little more for my skin. My mom is a total bitch - I think I get my bitchiness from her. My drug store moisturizer (with SPF thank you very much) was sputtering every time I tried to use it, implying that the tube was empty. I have found myself returning time and again to the drug store moisturizer when I can't find any difference in the results given me by the fancy stuff (and I tried La Mer for 4 weeks - nada - I gave the rest of the jar to my mom cause she's REALLY old). So I went back to CVS to replenish the old moisturizer only to discover something upsetting: drug store moisturizer has gotten expensive. Oil of Olay, the pink stuff your grandmother uses, now has a luxe line where stuff costs 30 bucks. The only cheap stuff was Pond's.

So I did what any sane, rational person would do: I ordered the stuff from the infomercial.

Boys, I know you have no idea what I'm talking about; girls, I know you know exactly what I'm talking about: the magic melon shit Cindy Crawford keeps trying to sell you. Now, I know the melon is not magic. The reason I know this is that last year, while in France, I ate quite a number of those melons. They're called Cavaillon melons and they are everywhere. They are about as magical as a Red Delicious apple. But magic or no magic, I cannot deny that Cindy Crawford's skin looks redonkulous, so if she says the magic melon is magic, I'll come along for the ride.

But before you condemn me for doing something really really stupid, like give the Guthy Renker folks access to my credit card information, please remember that I might be susceptible to fake magic melon claims, but I'm not without use of my faculties. No, instead of falling into the BMG 10 CDs for a penny chasm (we all did it at one point), I went to my preferred trusted vendor: ebay.

Yes, ebay, where my handbags and shoes and evening dresses come from; where I troll for the last discontinued tubes of Bain de Soleil orange gelee in SPF 8; where I found a dizzying array of magic melon crap for sale - and these sellers weren't going to charge my credit card every month. So for less than I would have paid the TV people, I have now received all the things a girl could want made out of magic melon: cleanser, toner, day moisturizer, night moisturizer, and a mask. Devoted partner is perplexed by what he sees as redundancy. I could try to point out that Metal Gear Solid, Call of Duty, Uncharted, and Assassin's Creed are all essentially the same game, but some debates are just not worth having.

Now the challenge is actually using this crap. I'm just not a multi-step skin care kind of girl. I'm more the, "if it's not visibly dirty don't clean it" kind of girl. This works easily well for skin and toilets, by the way. But I would like to keep my skin as is - unlined and elastic - so I'm really trying to remember my regimen (ok, but last night I fell asleep on the couch and didn't do my nighttime routine, sue me).

The problem is, this kind of rampant consumerism fueled by people with better stuff than you on television is the slipperiest of slopes...

I also bought an InStyler.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Common Courtesy

There has been a dearth of entrants for the Hall of Commuter D-Bags recently, and I'm wondering if, after only two months, I have become inured to the rampant dbaggery I witness daily. The other consideration is that, while many of my fellow commuters fall into the not-well-brought-up category, I would like to reserve the Hall of Commuter D-Bags for those commuters who break the mold, who stand out. I wouldn't want to dilute their contributions.

However, let it not be thought that the only infractions worthy of mention are those which propel one from loutish to dbag. It seems that a lack of breeding is no longer the sole domain of those who cook methamphetamine in their trailers et al. And while I fear those who reside in the Hall of Commuter D-Bags might be beyond saving, the rest of you do have time to correct your behavior. Bring the class back to the upper middle class by following these simple rules:

  • The guy who takes your ticket, notice how he's generally the same guy everyday? I shouldn't be the only one in the car who greets him. If you don't recognize the guy (or gal) who punches your ticket and feel uncomfortable being so familiar as to say, "hello, how are you?" try "thank you" on for size.
  • You know those times you don't see the dog shit until you've already stepped in it (see also: gum, soda, toxic waste)? Even though you spend time rubbing it off on the curb, a fair bit of crap remains on your shoe. When you put your shoe on a seat, you know the place someone's ass will go, the crap on your shoe gets transferred to the seat. And EVEN IF IT DIDN'T, well-bred people do not put their feet on seats.
  • Literacy is a big thing with me. I wish we had more literate people, so I'm quite pleased you are one of them. Furthermore, I like the idea of paying it forward. If you finish your paper on the train, I understand the desire to leave it so that a future passenger who doesn't have a paper might get a free read. However, there is a difference between stacking your paper on the seat and leaving it spread out over multiple seats in a manner that suggests a homeless person was sleeping there - not that many homeless people ride the New Haven line.
  • Similarly, if you have so much stuff with you that you might seem homeless to the untrained eye, carrying around all your worldly possessions, please consider the overhead racks. I think they were designed for precisely the problem you are having.
  • If the gods frown upon you and you end up having to give up your multiple seats so that I may sit in a single one of them, please remember the following scenarios that are worse than having to share: genocide, tsunami, alien invasion, herpes, Garth Brooks concert; and then please tailor your response (sighs, eye rolls, etc.) accordingly.
  • If someone sneezes in your vicinity, it is customary to say something like "bless you." If you are one of those vocal atheists who can't use the word "bless" without seriously compromising your non-belief, try "gesundheit," which just means "to your health." Much like the greeting of the transit worker, I should not be the only person in the car to acknowledge sneezing people.
  • I now realize that until we re-elect Giuliani (and I become his right-hand woman) there will be no fascistic response to public cellphone use. In the meantime, if this is a necessary evil, could we all attempt to use a slightly toned-down version of our crowded bar/sports arena voices when speaking on our cellphones in the train? Ideally, I only want to be able to understand 1/10th of what you're saying.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Project, Part 1

The lovely Amy came over on Sunday and cast her expert eye over our belongings, decor, and domicile - a surprising number of things passed muster, but there were those that didn't. Singled out for a home makeover was our dining room table. Which was my parent's dining room table. Which was selected in the 1980s. And looks it.

The table top is a faux bois laminate and the table is supported by a gigantic silver apparatus that looks like a reconfiguration of department store clothing racks. Add to this that the chairs around the table are folding wood chairs from IKEA, and you get the idea. Yet, until two months ago, we had never had a dining room table and only used this one when we were having more than two people over for dinner (which was once a year). Also, we like free things. Free things, strangely enough, cost significantly less than non-free things.

But where we merely saw a temporary monstrosity, Amy saw potential. Calling forth from her mind a series of "easily" undertaken tasks, she recited the list of things we would need to do to transform the table from acid-washed to couture, and I'm going to do it.

Obviously, though, this will be humorous. I have no special talent for things like painting inside the lines, and there will doubtless be many a misstep (I'm thinking the orbital sander will be a good starting place for disaster). I have already visualized the chairs that I will create to go with the table so, there's that funniness to come.

I will post the 'before' picture of the table when I get home, but in the meantime, however dated the image in your head is, rest assured, the reality is far worse!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Doing Stupid Stuff

Originally uploaded by reallyct

Once upon a time, due to serious malaise, weekends were spent huddled in the corner, fingers stuffed in ears, pretending the world didn't exist for 48 hours until the world had to exist again. As you can well imagine, this was not the best use of time. Bearing that in mind, and bearing in mind how easily I can personally while away the weekend playing any number of empire building computer games (give me a scenario where I can be Caesar and I'm good), I resolved that with new living arrangements would come better weekend utility.

We've been making pretty good on that resolution. Sometimes to our detriment.

Two weekends ago we went to the annual Greenwich dog adopt-a-thon. In 40 degree rain. In wholly unsuitable clothing. We spent an hour permitting hypothermia to get a toehold while I played with dogs. It was great fun until I couldn't get rid of the cold feeling. Finally, a very hot shower several hours later solved the problem, but I could see where better decisions could have been made.

Which is why it seemed perfectly reasonable to go apple picking in the rain this past weekend. As it wasn't yet raining when we woke up, we decided to forge ahead. Naturally, it only started to rain once we reached the orchard. Devoted partner was the ultimate trooper, hanging out until we had enough apples, even as we both got soaked (note to self: perhaps new ex-urban living should influence rain gear purchases). Then we guarded ourselves against fresh baked pies and instead bought the supplies needed to make our own hard cider - which devoted partner is currently in charge of in the basement.

And you know what? It was fun.

It was fun to get wet and be stupid and enjoy each other and throw apples at each other and play with dogs despite not being ready to adopt one. It's been fun, ok not fun but fun-ny, to spend hours upon hours in Home Depot, buying stinky inedible lamb from the farmer's market, canoeing in the world's worst canoe for 30 minutes in the cold while being menaced by spiders, having friends and family over. It's honestly preferable to building up enough legions to overcome the Gauls. Sure, downtime is important, and I have spent more than my fair share of time on the couch, in the corner under a blanket, knitting and watching tv, but I don't need to do that all the time. As winter (yuck) approaches, I know it will be slightly more challenging to find things to do outside our house on the weekends, but I'm definitely more inclined to search those things out provided they do not involve snow balls being thrown at me or shoved down the back of my shirt.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I made it through the danger period of smoking without putting on 20 pounds. I carefully watched my habits because I knew I was going to want to put something in my mouth and that something couldn't be a cigarette. Then, about a month ago, my vigilance took a holiday. Suddenly I was ravenous and only for the very worst things. I began looking at loaves of bread as an appropriate meal and packages of sweets as a single serving size. This has not been kind to my physique. After confronting the number on the scale which, in retrospect could have been far worse, I have determined to be more considerate of my body. It does not hurt that in four weeks I will be on a beach.

I'm confronted with a problem that, if popular thought is to be believed, is unusual: I eat because I like food. A lot. I don't eat more when I'm happy or more when I'm sad. I occasionally eat more when I'm bored (see former job and Reese's peanut butter cup 'issue'). I don't eat because my parents didn't love me or because I program myself for failure or even because I have one of those thyroid disorders that once you get medication for you become thin. I simply think food is fantastic. Eating is a hobby. If you'd ask me which I'd prefer to spend money on, a dress or a great meal, I will gladly take the great meal and show up to it in yet another jersey dress from the Gap. I don't understand people who DON'T love to eat.

Sadly, what I love to eat is almost never vegetables (which I believe are merely a butter delivery service) and, as such, I have some challenges in the svelte department.

But there came a time, after the horrors of overweight adolescence when I simply could not ever bother to think I looked good that I realized something: in the world where I get to a healthier weight I will still look nothing like Michelle Pfeiffer. As such, perhaps I should look to different women for my style choices. Enter a delightful fascination with Sophia Loren, a woman who, at a healthier weight, I stand a much better chance of looking like. Armed with this knowledge, I bought my first two-piece bathing suit at 17 - I haven't bought a one-piece since. I got rid of bulky clothing and anything that didn't hug or flatter. I started playing up my legs by wearing higher and better shoes. This revelation is why my wardrobe is stylistically very similar to my wardrobe senior year in high school: I found what worked.

But before you start loathing me for being so incredibly smug and self-aware, I give you The Former Job Years. Former job and I did not get along and I suffered cosmetically for it (I also maintain that my health suffered, but I'm no scientician). I didn't care what I looked like and didn't really notice how little my clothing fit. I replaced pencil skirts with voluminous ones and form fitting dresses with those empire-waisted things we've all been wearing for several years that make us look both pregnant and comfortable. When I look in my closet now, though it's full, there's nearly nothing I want to wear (and, here's the Catch-22, don't want to buy a new wardrobe while I'm not at a permanent weight).

I have always maintained that confidence cures most things, and I think this is especially true for body image issues. Even when I'm not feeling confident, I try to project confidence. I stand up straight, I walk with a sway to my hips, and I smile from beneath half-lidded eyes - or at least that's what I think I do. It helps to camouflage an extra five pounds better than any support hose I've seen.

But I won't say it's not difficult to look around and not see any woman in the public eye that I could share clothing with. I won't be swapping sweaters with Angelina Jolie; or, on the other side of things, with Kelly Clarkson. Except one.

Dear Christina Hendricks, thank you so much for reminding me why I stocked up on pencil skirts and tight sweaters once upon a time. Thank you for encouraging me to put on the black, form-fitting mock turtleneck dress this morning with black stockings and my new red shoes for no reason other than I wanted to look beautiful. Thank you for being in a show I enjoy watching so that I get an opportunity to get some style pointers from someone who looks like I look. This enables me to be less bummed that I look ridiculous in a Polo shirt, and it motivates me to get to a weight where I want to buy clothes again.

So I'm doing my best to "work it" today, as the kids would say. I think a lot of women would be surprised how much head turning a girl can generate simply by behaving like a woman who turns heads. Forty pounds be damned!

Friday, October 23, 2009

What Makes a Pest?

Our previous domicile, due to a vast confluence of circumstances, was beset by vermin. Domestic partner, a science geek through and through, had an elaborate ecosystem theory of relationships, but all I knew was that we had mice and we had roaches; infinitely preferable to rats and waterbugs, but not nearly as nice as nothing at all. When our crazy next door neighbors moved out, there was a lull in the onslaught, but the continued presence of chicken bones in the hallway ensured a constant stream of new visitors.

I was a malicious and feared warlord. I treated the violators of our borders with a Ghengis Khan-like ferocity, and did enjoy their deaths. I am reminded of a SNL sketch for a roach motel that not only kills the roach but tortures it along the way. Chucking mice attached to glue traps out the window to, I fervently hoped, upset my super, was the only pleasure I derived on some days.

On our first day in the new house, I stumbled upon something I had, quite possibly, never seen before: a slug. I hear tell that slugs are pests that, aside from being icky, eat things homeowners would prefer were not eaten. But he was so cute, slimily meandering through our yard. I named him Harold.

Our house in general has, what I would venture to guess, is the single most sympathetic environmental conditions for the proliferation of spiders as can be found along the eastern seaboard. They are everywhere. Or the evidence of them anyway. Any unattended corner will soon find itself host to a web; see also shrubs, window frames. These are generally of the tiny spider/daddy long legs variety and I feel certain none of those we house is a threat to my health. I don't happen to like bugs (yes, I know, a spider isn't an insect), but I know that spiders are the best of the bunch. After all, they eat the other insects. So I leave them pretty much alone.

Yes, if they string up a big web somewhere I think is inappropriate: the kitchen, over our bed, in my shoes, that web will have to be destroyed, but I'm almost content to let them have the corner crevices on every one of our stairs. I hope that this forbearance is remembered during mosquito season and that my spider friends protect me from bites.

So when I see a pair of spiders presumably mating in our mailbox, or when one chooses the moment I walk through the garage door to descend, I try not to totally flip out. I mean, I flip out a little, but my composure if markedly more sincere than, say, when I see a hornet outside. Which, by the way, spider friends, I would be much obliged if you could see to.

I don't want to read too much into this, especially because I think being a nasty, sarcastic wanker is an essential part of my charm, but is it possible this suburban house thing is mellowing me? Ok, now I have to go find something to be royally over-the-top-ly pissed off about.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Like It Enough To Devote A Whole Post To It

So Many Spices
Originally uploaded by reallyct

The more cynical among you might attribute this to a lack of anything else to write about, but I see it differently: I have bought something I truly adore.

A lot of spices and herbs and things get used in the house. If you've ever had any of my chocolates, you know that curry, cardamom, and pink peppercorn are more likely to be found than cherry cordial, buttercream, and marzipan. Additionally, my savory cooking frequently features more than one herb/spice flavor, and frequently several. I have never liked my spice rack. Apologies to my mother who found a good deal and bought me a present, but the 32-cavity rotating spice rack was never a) big enough or b) utilitarian. I hated having to swivel the damn thing to see what 3/4 of my spices were. And I always had gobs of additional loose bottles for those spices that went over my allotted 32.

I don't remember how I found KnottyKnotty, I only know that when I did, I fell in love immediately with the spice solutions therein. Yes, part of it is the geekery of being able to measure out things in the kitchen from test tubes (while cackling, mad-scientist-like), but the other part of it is that it looks so beautiful. As much as I like to cook, this makes me want to cook more.

I custom ordered a 64-cavity block after making a tentative list of spices. As you can see, I didn't have trouble filling the block. And, frankly, I could find some other items to go into test tubes. I'm already thinking of having a separate one (or two) for downstairs or one dedicated to baking. I'm working out how many cavities those would need.

I'm sharing this with you because I think you should all buy one too. I'm not joking. If you have ever looked at what a boring spice rack costs, you'll realize that this is a better deal, and prettier to boot. Before seeing these, I was all set to have a very professional and austere magnetic solution, and I am so glad I didn't go that route. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and I realize that having pretty things surrounding me is important. From the orange appliances to the drawer of a thousand colored spatulae, it's nice to look around your workspace and see things that are pleasing to the eye.

But, if you don't need a spice rack, consider one of the other awesome wood things. I don't know. I liked these people and their craftsmanship and, while I doubt this is their primary source of income, maybe they'd one day like it to be. As someone who would, ultimately, like to earn her keep from her passion and not her job, throwing business the way of others with passion (who, coincidentally make a really good product) seems karmically, um, good.

Just don't buy any of the stuff I want!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Property Values

I'm a city girl and the product of renters, so the idea of property values has always been a little strange to me. Fortunately, devoted partner is a suburban boy and the product of owners, so he helps me with the finer points. Yet, I still find some peculiarities. Home ownership is expensive. Should I buy a house and decide that I would like to paint my asset Mary Kay Cosmetics pink, I will be highly aggrieved should a neighbor take me to court to stop me. Devoted partner thinks the sentiment is sweet, but points out I will probably lose in court.

So, what I'm about to say might come as a surprise.

Yesterday I saw an article in the paper that a former classmate pointed out. For reasons I hope will become clear, I'm not going to link to it. It was not in the paper of record, but it was in a paper with a large readership, so my hopes that it went unnoticed are few. The article was about a parent suing her insurance company for not covering medicine for her son. Before you get all out of joint, health care argument people, this isn't THAT conversation. The medicine in question was for, what I think all rationale people can agree, cosmetic purposes. It served no purpose beyond the superficial.

Fine, you say, blah blah blah, viagra, boob jobs, restless leg syndrome. I hear you. I wouldn't have cared either except that the article described the child not merely by his condition, but by his affiliations. Specifically, he is a current student at my alma mater. To which I am fiercely loyal. The article painted an unflattering picture, to my eyes, not only of the mother who is pursuing a frivolous lawsuit for a ridiculous "condition" afflicting her son, but succeeded in categorizing this family as typical of families who enroll children at my alma mater.

This may well be the case.

I know that every generation is expected to belittle those that follow it and I'm cognizant of that as I write this, but I also know, as in know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that when I attended the school, people weren't like this.

I'm not saying we didn't have people who had unnecessary medical procedures, lived decadent lives, or behaved in ways that invited scorn. I'm saying it wasn't publicized. No parent in her right mind would have consented to a tabloid interview like this one.

It. Just. Wasn't. Done.

You can call it hypocrisy that I find it ok to give girls nose jobs for their bat mitzvahs as long as no one talks about it, but I'm comfortable with that level of hypocrisy.

This mother lowered my property values.

Let me explain. I still hold out hope that should I have a child, that child will attend my school. But if this is what that hypothetical child's classmates will be like, the experience has been devalued. By permitting her family to be featured in an unflattering article, this mother has lowered the prestige of the school. While the school has always enjoyed a reputation as being elite, this article casts doubt on what we mean by elite. This woman and her brood are, by their complicity in this article, officially non-elite. If it is assumed that ALL the families at the school are like this one, the school goes from being one that can be held up as an example to one that can be held up as an object of derision (see any school involved in the NY Prep show).

If the school is considered risible, the value of matriculating there is lessened (and let's be fair, the cost to attend is in no way insignificant); if the value is lessened it can be assumed, over time, that the school will not be able to attract the same caliber of teacher - after all the top teachers want to teach at top schools, not those featured on the pages of tabloids or on Bravo. More than anything, I was embarrassed that this woman, in what I assume was a bid to get publicity for her ridiculous lawsuit, made her kid, herself, and her lifestyle look ridiculous. Not because I give a shit about her, but because in making her lifestyle look ridiculous, it made mine look ridiculous too.

The hyperbole of which is that now I live next to the idiot who painted her house pepto bismal pink.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What If No One Comes?

Did I mention we used to live in an unpleasant part of town?

I was very excited for my first Halloween in my first post-college apartment. After all, I loved Halloween as a child (and teenage and adult - fine I like to eat entire bags of snack sized Halloween candy and I always have. Are you happy now?), and the fun of going around to all one's neighbors demanding fat was something I very much wanted to participate in on the other side. I bought a startling amount of only the very best candy (anyone who gave out Mounds bars should have been sent straight to Gitmo): your Milky Ways, your Snickers bars, your Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. And I waited to make the night's of my neighbor kids.

And waited.

And waited.

Then, when all normal children would have been asleep, I celebrated Halloween by eating a fair chunk of that top-shelf candy.

The following year, I bought slightly less candy. And ate it myself.

After that, I didn't bother. Apparently, and not without cause, parents don't feel comfortable letting their children out unsupervised to receive items from other homes in a neighborhood where drugs are freely exchanged for legal tender. Also the neighbors have guns. So, thus far, in my adult life, I have never had trick or treaters.

And it really makes me sad.

Things will be changing.

As my neighbors put up their frankly astonishing assortment of front lawn Halloween decorations, I asked them for the inside scoop. How do I get trick or treaters to come to me? See, our house is not visible from the street and the driveway is a little hidden. We could be overlooked. He suggested a sign. I might have mentioned that it wouldn't be unwelcome if he told his trick or treaters that there was more candy to be had down the hill.

I'm thinking we'll do the following:

Set up our tiki torches going down the long driveway so people know we're home; carve pumpkins that seem inviting, perhaps with arrows indicating the way to where we are; put out a basket with empty candy wrappers and a sign that says the real stuff can be found down the hill. Wait, have I now ventured solidly into the realm of creepy?

This is the problem with being overly enthusiastic about things that concern children. Too much enthusiasm implies a "problem." Whereas, I simply want to do my part for Halloween (ok, except for the kids with peanut allergies. Sorry, guys, there is nothing I can do to make this holiday better for the genetically non-viable. Halloween candy has nuts - life has nuts. Toughen up!).

October 31 will find its way to me. I have creepy green nailpolish which will probably represent the bulk of my dressing up, and I will have the good candy, and lots of it. So if I complain of an inability to button my pants and a tummyache on November 1, you'll know why.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Process Stories

Janelle asked me over the weekend how I come up with what I write. It was an interesting time to get that question considering that I have been mulling over tone and voice and things of that nature recently. I have never been much of a blog follower. Oh, sure, I have a whole bunch of cooking blogs, but on the whole, I didn't read for style, only for content. Finding out that so many people I know are writing has made me take more time to read.

I'm not going to go through a long, drawn-out, introspective post because, what I said to Janelle, I'll say to you: I pretty much write this on the fly. I'll be in the bathroom, or on the train, or waiting in line for something, and an idea will crop up. When I get in front of a computer, I write it down, check for spelling and grammar errors, add a link or a photo, and bam. That's it. Not to say that I don't think anyone who takes the time to read what I have to write doesn't deserve a more well-though-out process, but sadly, I'm much better with off the cuff than with premeditation.

Sometimes, though, an idea will come to me and I won't remember to use it on a certain day. Frequently, it can be a timeless idea so I can just use it on a day when inspiration doesn't hit me while I brush my teeth.

Today is one of those days.

Once upon a time, I worked for an educational non-profit. Among the things I have retained from my tenure there was a report on how, at the time, there was not a single large bookstore in the borough of the Bronx, and how that had an impact on the educational opportunities for children living in the Bronx. I just thought it was inconceivable. After all, I grew up directly across the street from a sizable bookstore - didn't everyone?

Devoted partner once lamented the loss of a bookstore on Greenwich Avenue, a mom and pop kind of place that found itself redundant in the wake of I couldn't believe there weren't other bookstores, a big Barnes & Noble on the Post Road. After all, the residents of Greenwich had to read. Even though I do the bulk of my book shopping on line, there are plenty of times I want to go into a store to buy things. And Manhattan boasts an astonishing number of bookstores, big and small.

But devoted partner was right. From White Plains to Stamford is a desert of general interest book stores. There is a Waldenbooks in White Plains, but that's going to be small, like the Border's Express, now shuttered, was on Greenwich Avenue.

Recently, we went into the Borders in Stamford, a store that has been around as long as devoted partner and I have been together, and in which we have passed many a moment. Devoted partner needed a book, I didn't, so I looked for the table up front where the "Books You Should Be Reading" display would be. Confession: half the time, I like those displays because I've read their contents; the other half, I like finding something I hadn't yet read.

But this Borders didn't have that table.

I asked devoted partner about its absence and he said, quite assuredly, that only places like New York, where reading au courant fiction was considered a virtue, kept displays like that. Everywhere else, they weren't a revenue enhancer.

This floored me. Mostly because, contrary to my stereotypes, I haven't met a whole host of vacant people since moving. Sure, in the supermarket I can cast a sideways glance at the clueless, but most of the people, dare I say it, look like me. Which means I think they read books and probably like to be recommended books. Not so, claims devoted partner. My new neighbors read mass-market paperback fiction to the exclusion of other fare.

This seems a patently unfair generalization.

So, I'm going to try something different. I'm going to try being the optimist. Fairfield Countians, tell me your recent reads; complain with me that your local bookstore either a) doesn't exist or b) doesn't have that "Books You Should Be Reading" display. I know you're out there. Be not thou shy. Reading, while fundamental, can also be cool, and there must be something you're reading that is neither Nelson DeMille nor a story about teenage vampires.

And I want to know. Because I just finished a book on a recommendation and need another.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's Like the Hall of Tomorrowland, but Different

The Five Seater - A Rare Sighting, 10/8
Originally uploaded by reallyct

Yes, the time has come to acknowledge the wonderful people who make commuting, nay living, in the 21st century such a delight. We, the wage slaves, salute you for reminding us just how much we wish we had rich uncles so that we would never come across your like again.

Having started my journey to shaming those who do not behave as etiquette would desire in a surreptitious manner, I am pleased to report that I have blossomed into a shameless snapper of pictures, often with flash, of those who would treat a public train like a private rumpus room. I read somewhere recently that while we all think our dirty looks are withering and accomplish something, those on the receiving end are generally able to ignore our stares. The person recommended using our mouth holes to convey dissatisfaction, but I am using my pin hole.

So, my fellow commuters, you are on alert. If, as the initial members of the Hall of Commuter Dbags, you choose to ostentatiously occupy multiple seats in a crowded train or you decide that rush hour was just the time to talk to your best friend about the best places to get your lady parts waxed, I will be photographing you and adding you to this delightful flickr set.

Readers, I will attempt to remind you when it is updated, but the flickr set can now be found on the sidebar, and I urge you to do your part for civilization, even in these its waning days, by openly and loudly mocking and disseminating the shots of these Commuter Dbags.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like *&^%$*

In the end, I think we can all agree that the blame rests squarely with National Geographic. Had its October issue been lengthier, I would not be finished with it already and would not have been compelled to open the November issue of Bon Appetit which led to immediate stressing about the holidays.

Even though I know the holidays are relative eons away.

It's just that people are starting to talk about them.

I know I have it easy. At the first whisper that mother-in-law was going to California for Thanksgiving, devoted partner and I bought non-refundable plane tickets to the Dutch Antilles. Mother-in-law is the most sentimental of our parents and her absence means we can act like irresponsible kids and celebrate our turkey day underwater. I didn't even really bother to warn my parents. I bought the tickets first.

But Christmas is the Achilles heel of our relationship and partly with good reason. You see, technically speaking, my family does not celebrate Christmas (ok, more than technically. My family does not, at all, celebrate Christmas); devoted partner's family does. As devoted partner and I have no children we are, for the purposes of the holiday discussion, children ourselves, bound by tradition and the desire for a minimum of hurt feelings, to comport ourselves as children and adhere to the Christmas schedule. I, for my heathen, pagan leanings, consider Christmas to be a very very secular holiday. An awesome secular holiday, but a secular holiday nonetheless, and my desire to roast an animal and make stuffing is in no way, shape, or form, indicative of a latent desire to worship anything that isn't edible (and you transubstantiation folks out there don't count). I just like having people over for dinner. In my fantasy world, I have a big, day-long free-for-all where food is available pretty much round-the-clock for any and all who choose to stop by: my family, his family, our friends. That's my perfect Christmas.

There's just one problem: devoted partner has deemed my fantasy Christmas not-Christmasey.

So we divide our time between devoted partner's no longer married parents. Some Christmas Days will be spent all together in what I will politely say is a good-faith effort by all. Christmas Eves involve Church (though this year, by dint of living in the same town and having my own holly jolly vehicle, I will be able to come and go as I please and I fear that means I will miss out on Church - which I napped through last year) and frequently a meal at a restaurant; Christmas Days are hosted by mother-in-law. My sister-in-law is a vegetarian and does not enjoy roasted flesh and I believe, would prefer to spend Christmas on the couch in a fleece blanket watching an Extreme Makeover Home Edition marathon while eating pie. I, myself, would love to offer her that alternative chez moi, but fear the repercussions.

But damn it if I don't think I have some skin in the game. I want to host Christmas Eve dinner. At my house. With my food. And, frankly, with my family. Yes, it's true, the eight of us have never been in the same room together, but I think we're all big enough to change that. Oh, except if it's not eight because one of the following things happens: sister-in-law brings a date, father-in-law brings girlfriend, brother brings a date - then it would be clusterfarkish. The only obstacles to that happening are:

  1. Brother already has a standing invitation to a much much better Christmas Eve party. I, myself, have, on occasion, ditched devoted partner's family to go to this party. It has turducken!

  2. Father could have minor coronary vis a vis my hosting a Christmas Eve at all. There would be a little crying and some guilt-inducing talk about abandoning my long-abandoned heritage. Coronary could be exacerbated by viewing of Christmas tree, now in its third year (years one and two found father not at our apartment during the holiday season where viewing of horrid tree-object would have been inevitable).

  3. Father-in-law could feel put out that Christmas Eve, his traditional domain, had been usurped.

  4. Mother-in-law could decide, upon hearing suggestion that I would like to cook food, that my desire is a poor reflection upon her and will feel as though it is a complaint about her NOT traditionally cooking on Christmas Eve.

  5. I could stage a nutty because I will have to a) cook two separate meals to accommodate father and sister-in-law's dietary restrictions and suggest that we just order Mimi's before realizing I now live 27 miles away from Mimi's and that they are closed on Christmas Eve anyway.

So I get what everyone else has always said about how the holidays suck.

Instead of dealing with any of this, I would prefer to go away. Far, far away. Devoted partner might fear the tears of his family, but I am a selfish and cold-hearted woman who would much rather spend Christmas alone, or with families slightly less complicated than her own.

I am accepting invitations starting...


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cl!t0r!s or Why You Should Make More Dessert

IMG_2666 (1014 x 760)
Originally uploaded by reallyct

It was mentioned to me that my last post was briefly confusing - that is if you can't read. A hapless (but devastatingly handsome, talented, interesting and, above all, modest) reader was dismayed to discover that my article was not, in fact, about how making dessert would get you more happy fun time and, instead, was a "boring" recipe.

I feel your pain, brother.

I don't think the mainstream media discusses the relationship between dessert and cl!t0r!s accessibility nearly enough, and it is up to, dare I say it, maverick(TM) members of the blogosphere, like myself, to pick up the slack.

To begin with, I'm glad that the gentlemen out there are interested in more cl!t0r!s. This represents a sea change in sexual acquisitiveness that is heartening. Once there was a time when conquests were measured in the number of sex acts being performed upon you and not the number of sex acts you were able to perform on others. Rare was the man (boy) who bragged to his friends about how many women he was able to pleasure.

Similarly, as we continue to see chocolate cake lose the PR battle to organic mesclun, it is simply wonderful to discover that there are people who would be willing to return to dessert if the dessert in question offered a happy ending (please, no offense to the lovely people at Friendly's who, I believe, still have something on their menu called the Happy Ending Sundae).

So I would like to talk about the relationship between attainment of the female orgasm and the making of dessert. Let me warn you, in advance, this will not be some tired discussion of how chocolate is the same as an orgasm for women: if you believe this, you need to have better orgasms effective immediately!

When I dine out, I frequently see couples, in various stages of love for one another, ask for the check before their meals are over. These are people for whom dessert is not a mandatory part of the dining out experience. Now, it is true, there are occasions when I, myself, do not order dessert, but those times are NEVER when I am at a restaurant that serves a good dessert (sorry Chinese restaurant, but your lychee pudding does not qualify). Why would you skip out on dessert? The damage to your diet regimen has already been done, don't suddenly develop a conscience when the dessert menu is presented!

Because the sad thing is, there are still a great number of women out there who won't have the cojones to order a dessert if their dates don't - as though that would make a bad impression. Certainly this evaporates, I think, the longer a couple is together, but gentlemen, order a dessert! If she demurs, tell her it's YOUR favorite part of the meal and encourage your server to bring two forks/spoons. But choose wisely, and remember one dessert does not fit all. When in doubt, tell your dinner partner that you definitely want dessert, but don't know which one to order, and ask her what she would order if she was going to order a dessert (only the most self-controlled of humans will be able to get out of this one).

But the title of this post is why you should MAKE dessert, and the simple answer is: dexterity.

While watching a man deftly wield a squeeze bottle full of caramel sauce might not be the kind of foreplay every woman wants, I embrace the idea of men using whatever talents are at their disposal to demonstrate that they are good with their hands. If you have a flair for baking, show it off! Forget the stereotypes that would tell you it's feminizing; I have known more than a few men who are good in the kitchen, but otherwise not at all sexually interesting to me, whose stock has gone up after witnessing them do something masterful in the cookery department.

Furthermore, even if your dessert is a disaster, which it couldn't possibly be if you made yesterday's clafoutis recipe, unless the woman you seek to impress is a total bitch, you will get an A for effort.

Which you will promptly lose if you aren't dexterous in matters referenced in the first part of this post's title!

While chocolate cake is wonderful and I ask for it by name on a regular basis, there's something arguably more important that I ask for by name on a regular basis. If you have been unfortunate enough to number among your partners only the type of women who would rather remain unsatisfied than bruise your fragile ego by giving you some pointers, or if you have derived the bulk of your sexual education through obsessive viewing of pornography, this will probably shock and appall you: you are doing it wrong! I do not claim a monopoly on female pleasure, but I feel confident in asserting that if your technique is made up solely of poking, prodding, and whatever that thing is where you line up three of your fingers in a flat plane and then proceed to move them laterally as quickly as possible (fake nails optional) against the sensitive bits of your partner, your technique is very very bad.

Much like chocolate cake, quantity will not make up for bad quality in this department. Lots of bad chocolate cake is merely depressing and fattening; lots of bad starts with C and ends with GUS is merely depressing and chafing. Bloated chafed girls are no fun for anyone.

Fortunately, one can learn how to do both things well. Yes, it will take some practice, but it's not like practicing either of those things sucks. Oh, no, not another chocolate cake to try. Oh, no, not more head. See how this is only a win/win situation?

Lost without inspiration? Allow me to assist. Have you considered:

  • pots de creme - like creme brulee but without the dangerous fire
  • pound cake with macerated fruit - and you may not buy your pound cake from the supermarket
  • flourless chocolate cakelets - see postscript
  • salted caramel ice cream - a man who makes his own ice cream is a sought after man indeed
  • meringue kisses dipped in chocolate - almost dietary!

Just saying these things should make you feel amorous. Dessert might be a hokey method of seduction, but that doesn't mean it won't work.

In summation, and with your continued forbearance, only the stingiest of men withhold dessert - of both varieties - and even in this time of economic uncertainty, both kinds of "dessert" are easily affordable. Now is not the time to skimp on butter or affection, and I heartily encourage my male readers to remember that when the savory part of dinner is over this evening.

P.S. For those wishing to acquire extra credit, I have a really easy flourless chocolate cake recipe I'd be willing to share...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Clafoutis or Why You Should Make More Dessert

Last of the Plums
Originally uploaded by reallyct

Before I forget, this bit is for the two readers discovered these past few days. David, Peter, make Clafoutis for your wives (and adorable citrus-fruit named child). Everyone else, make Clafoutis just because it's so damned easy. Easy like unattended children could do it. Delicious like anything involving custard can be delicious. Here's the rub, though, because a clafoutis is cooked, you don't have to worry about any of the worrying things associated with custard making (like tempering yolks which is, I admit, intermediate kitchen work). Here's the other beautiful part: you have everything you need at home right now to make this. I almost guarantee it.

Pre-step one: preheat your oven to 350.

Step one: choose your fruit. It works with anything. Really. I used plums because I already miss summer and these little Italian jobs are probably the last stone fruit I'll get until late next June. Have two pears in the house? Use them. I've never done it with apples, but there's literally no good reason why it wouldn't work. Papaya? Sure. Cut up the fruit. I don't know how much - let's say two cups. Or more if you really like fruit. Or less if you prefer a higher custard to fruit ratio.

Step two: crack three eggs into something large enough to hold three cups of stuff plus room to whisk.

Step three: dump into the bowl (or bowl-like object) 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of flour a good pinch of salt and, totally depending on what fruit you used and what spices you do or do not like or want, spices. Whisk this together until there are no lumps (give it a good whisk for, I don't know 45 seconds to a minute).

Step four: whisk in one cup of milk (whole milk please, people, it's ONE CUP of whole milk, you won't die from the fat intake) and, if you are so inclined, some liquid flavoring: vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, whatever. Whisk until this is all smooth (again, maybe 30 seconds).

Step five: pour into prepared vessel. A note on your prepared vessel. It doesn't matter what it is so long as it's safe to be cooked in. I used a silicone angel food cake pan because I was too lazy to wonder where my oven-safe ceramic stuff was. If your vessel is not made of silicone, give it some butter or cooking spray so that your clafoutis doesn't stick. Put in oven for 45 minutes or so. It might take longer. If, after 45 minutes, it looks like it could be done (not wobbly, top kind of golden and crunchy looking), jab a knife/toothpick/bbq skewer into it. If your jabbed item comes out without liquid custard dripping down it, chances are you're done. I actually let mine stay in a little overlong and I'm happy I did because now its consistency is like flan.

Now, I know I just wrote a lot there making it seem like this is complicated, or involving of lots of your time, but that's just because I tend towards the verbose. To sum up:

Preheat oven: 5 seconds
Crack eggs: 30 seconds
Measure and whisk in dry ingredients: 90 seconds
Measure and whisk in wet ingredients: 60 seconds
Grease pan and pour in mixture: 30 seconds

That's it. Your active time for this dessert is 215 seconds, or 3 1/2 minutes. Then, it cooks while you eat dinner.

Now, sadly, clafoutis does not look pretty once it's finished, ergo no finished product picture. It tastes amazing though. Even devoted partner, no especial fan of a) plums or b) fruit in his dessert, ate his serving and then helped himself to another serving the next evening without being prompted. With that ringing endorsement, how can you NOT make this tonight?

Friday, October 9, 2009

One Of Us Is Wrong

Remember a few weeks ago I said I wasn't a wine snob? I meant it. But devoted partner thinks I might be a wine snob, just not when compared with real wine snobs. I think he meant my brother. Who is way snobbier than I. And that's ok because, while I don't know what the ethical considerations are of waxing rhapsodic over a meal you got for free, please know, The Boy, that dinner Monday was stupid good - made even better by the truly amazing wines you poured. So devoted partner maintains that next to my brother I am a wine plebe, but next to the rest of the world's mouth-breathers, I am my brother. I am still deciding how I feel about this. However, it might be a necessary preamble.

Etienne takes me to a wine shop in Dijon each time I visit. The store is called Aux Vieux Millesime and I usually just ask the proprietor to make me a case of stuff he likes. Generally the bottles average 17 euros and I'll pick up one or two that are costlier - so we're not talking DRC here (fark, that makes me a snob, doesn't it? Domaine de la Romanee Conti, among the most expensive wines there are). I go home, we drink the wine, we sigh knowing that the wines I bought in a small shop in Dijon are unlikely to be available at the corner wine shop here. But I endeavor to find ones we especially like (and by endeavor, I mean I look online). We recently drank a white burgundy that was quite tasty and I looked for it online. Lo and behold, a wine store in Connecticut carried it. I bought some more.

Fast forward. This store now sends me tons of email about new wines and last night, one of their "wine consultants" called me to upsell me some stuff. Here's where it starts to smell of crazy.

He's very earnest, and sounds very young. Younger than my brother young. Young as in this might only be the first or second year he's legally able to drink wine. He starts by talking to me about a Rioja that, strange to say, I already own - my parents brought it back from a trip to Spain. Then he starts talking about a Bordeaux that Robert Parker gave many points to. At this point I stop him to mention two things: I don't favor Bordeaux, and I could give a rat's ass what Robert Parker thought of a wine. Since Robert Parker and I have never imbibed together, I don't know if we like the same things. His opinion counts very little for me when I go to buy wines. So then my "wine consultant" starts asking me what I do like. I tell him that, due to the wallet-unfriendly influence of Etienne et Pere, we drink a lot of Burgundy. He proceeds to ask me what I think of California wines. It is at this point that I channel my brother and say, "we don't do new world."

He then asks about Italian wines (leading me to believe Burgundy might not be his strong suit). I say I don't know much about them, but that we have had a lot of luck enjoying reds from the south and from Sicily (I refrain from mentioning devoted partner's favoring of Montepulciano as this will get us into a discussion my budget is not prepared for). He starts talking to me about a famous Tuscan producer who bought a Calabrian vineyard. And then it happens, he talks about malolactic fermentation. Ooooh, fancy winemaking term. Except he says malol'ay'ctic. I get trying to impress a customer by demonstrating a facility with "oenic" terms, but malolactic has the word lactic in it. As in acid, and the creepily named Lactaid for those who are intolerant. This slip up in turn makes me feel less generous towards the young man who can only seem to call to mind a southern producer who is actually a northern producer, making me wonder if he's reading from a script. He can't think of one indigenous southern producer to recommend?

We finally swing back around to Burgindy and now we're going for the ducats. He starts talking about a great deal on a Burgundy from a producer I've never heard of - which is NOT SURPRISING because I know like six wine producers total. He finishes telling me which wine publications gave it which ratings and then stops talking. He hasn't mentioned a vintage, a region, a grape; he hasn't mentioned what COLOR the wine is.

Me: Ah, and, where is it from?
Him: Burgundy.
Me (pause): Yes, but where (silence on the other end), what region? (More silence.) Ok, what color is the wine?
Him: Red
Me: Ok, and what are the OTHER WORDS ON THE BOTTLE?
Him: Oh, saynt (Saint or St.) George (Georges) vail (Vieilles).

Ok we're going to stop now. I've made my point and sounded like a huge bitch making it. Here's where we get to the critical examination part. I dig that French is a tough language and I don't expect everyone to speak it - hell, if you ask my French friends, they'll remind you I confused the words for condom and preservatives at the dinner table while trying to sound like I could speak in complete French sentences. I also understand that just because you work in an industry that is heavily influenced by France it doesn't mean you're an expert. My guy, my wine consultant, might be able to pick out Russian River Valley Zinfandels at 20 paces, but the fact that he doesn't know how to read a bottle of wine from France ticks me off.

For several reasons.

1. Let's pretend you are an art collector and a dealer, a French-speaking dealer, is trying to get you to buy a wonderful piece by Vansloh Omay. Do you buy it? Do you even know what he's talking about? (Pretend you're a French stereotype. Winslow Homer.) Would you buy a piece of art from a guy who couldn't even be bothered to attempt the artist's name? Wouldn't you think this guy isn't the expert he's trying to be? But let's be generous and assume that the dealer knows tons about Manet and Monet and Matisse, and nothing about Vansloh Omay; wouldn't a professional, upon learning that your tastes and his expertise don't match, ask you to wait a minute while he prevailed upon a colleague, who is an expert in your states tastes, to help you? Isn't that what good salespeople do? "I'm sorry, I actually work in the shoe department, but if you wouldn't mind waiting just a moment, I will get you the buyer for the linen department who can answer your questions."

2. The only only only reason I know what malolactic fermentation is is that I've read some books about wine. Not scholarly works, mind you, silly travelogues about people with much cooler lives than mine who go off in search of good wines from beautiful places and get paid to write about them. But, you see, it is only coincidence that I know what it is. Wine is not my job. If wine is your job, take 15 minutes and learn how to pronounce the things you plan to say to customers and what they mean.

3. Because if I was a heavy, if I was some cigar chomping hedonist with a lower level completely devoted to my cave, and some scamp showed as little knowledge as this kid, I wouldn't shop at the store again! I would take my business somewhere I could feel confident. I don't trust Robert Parker to make my wine decisions for me, but I do trust wine professionals. Fully half of the wine I'm constantly searching for is as a result of being served something in a restaurant. I trust that at restaurants where I ask for a recommendation, the person of whom I am asking has TASTED the wine him or herself. So when the recommendation is offered to me it is because the wine has been enjoyed, quite possibly with something similar to what I'm eating. I didn't get the feeling this kid had tasted any of the wines he was suggesting.

Now I know I am making a mountain out of a molehill. I know this. I also know that in the two months I have lived in Connecticut, I have come across these types of lapses in knowledge and salesmanship. And this confounds me. I always assumed that Fairfield county was made up, in large numbers, of people who used to live in Manhattan. Those people were as snooty as I am and expected a certain level of competence from people. Does that expectation evaporate with greater levels of suburban air? Some of my neighbors (and I mean that in the broad sense) do have million dollar cellars, don't those consumers elevate the level of discourse? I don't like to think that I have moved to a place where people blindly follow wine reviews and the recommendations of purveyors who have never sipped what they suggest, because it implies a laxity of mind I am deeply uncomfortable with.

I have opted not to drive to the store and tell them this in person. But I am seriously considering telling my wine consultant the next time he calls. Not because I want to make him feel bad about himself, but because, as totally lame as this sounds, I want him to do better by himself. I'm not going to NOT buy wine from him because he's ill-informed, but there are going to people who will, and he should know why that is.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Doctor Patient Confidentialty and Other Things We Don't Need in the Future

Are you a patient? Do you have a doctor? Do you possibly have a serious medical condition that you think is the sort of thing kept between you and your doctor and, perhaps, anonymously used as a teaching guide for other doctors? Well, this should set your mind at ease.

Some of you have a doctor who sat next to me one afternoon this week on the train. Obviously he had needed to leave work prior to 4:00pm to go home for something really important, otherwise he would still have been at his office, but on this, I'm sure, rare occasion, he was on the train heading home to NEW ROCHELLE or its environs.

Before him, spread out like so much actionable material, were your case files. Names included. I was not wearing my vision goggles (read eyeglasses), so I couldn't make out your names, but it was a basic medical chart and the area at the top where names go was filled in with letters that I feel confident spelled out a name. If it makes you feel any better, the address, phone, and social security number slots were also filled in. To further assuage your fears, your good doctor cares so much about you that he tales audio notes on a voice recorder about your cases. ON THE TRAIN.

Patient one, you have been prescribed phenobarbital, I'm assuming because you have seizures. Patient two, you have been taking betaseron which, until I looked it up, I thought had perhaps been invented by the writers of the West Wing, but which, apparently, is a real drug used to treat relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (itself, also a real thing, and not just something given to President Bartlet - I do love when smart TV does research) which I guess you have. Given these two separate pieces of information, I'm going to guess the good doctor is a NEUROLOGIST or NEUROSURGEON, though he didn't seem the surgeon type.

Now, I understand that sometimes a turkey sandwich and porn are preferable to the office and a hardworking doctor needs to rush home for both, but here's the part I am less sympathetic to: dear doctor, YOU SAW I WAS EAVESDROPPING! You saw me, you knew I was listening to what you were saying into your recorder. Rather than stop, which wouldn't have erased the wrongs you had already committed, but might have slightly ameliorated them, you continued, not wanting your job responsibilities to cut into your sandwich and porn time, albeit slightly less audibly. You continued discussing your patients' private information in the middle of a rush hour train. While seated next to someone actively attempting to overhear you.

So now let's discuss some things about you, in case your patients ever stumble across this and want to switch doctors:
  • Works at Weill Cornell Medical College, or at least has their letterhead (I couldn't find anyone I was 100% sure was him on the website, so rather than libel or slander, I'll stick with what I do know)
  • Lives in the vicinity of New Rochelle
  • Is observantly Jewish enough to wear a yarmulke on the train
  • Has quite big feet
  • Kind of looks like Ted Danson

Much like the kids with the cellphone cameras targeted the perverts on subways, this is a wake-up call for idiots who consider public transportation a private facility. Your office is private, your home is private, hell, even the bathroom on the Metro North can be considered private. The three-across seats on the local to Stamford? NOT PRIVATE. I hope you have malpractice insurance and/or already own your home outright.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Room of One's Own

Room of One's Own
Originally uploaded by reallyct

We joke about needing our separate spaces, devoted partner and I, but truth be told, this is the first time I've had a separate space. In our previous living configurations, devoted partner has had an office and I've had a carved-out niche in our bedroom. This is just the way it's been. Even in our previous apartment when there was an additional room I could have turned into an office, I chose, instead, to make it the library cum chocolate storage room cum additional appliance room, rather than move a desk in and worry about wall coverings. So this big empty room that faced me in our new house was both exciting and daunting.

The bookshelves were the first inhabitants. They are relics from the first post-collegiate apartment, workhorses that are neither attractive nor ugly. They just are. They serve a purpose and have housed the book collection as it has grown and, more recently, shrunk. Instead of a haphazard shoving of all manner of printed material, they now house the paperback books I would actually choose to read again, or those that may serve some ancillary purpose in the future. The built-ins in our living room have shouldered the responsibility of my hardcover books (and who knew I had so many!). My mantra in this new house has been: less clutter. Since devoted partner and I each have a double doored closet in our bedroom, we each added only one dresser - the symmetry pleases me - and my other dresser went into my office. Which wasn't much of an office, it was the holding room for things that hadn't found a home yet. I set up my computer on the dresser because I didn't have a desk, and tried to ignore the unpacked bits behind me as I checked my email each morning.

And, as related here, the search for a proper desk began.

But it wasn't just a search for a desk.

In my life I have never thought about furniture as being anything more than functional. I love the fantasy of a huge kitchen someday, but if you asked me what it would look like, on the micro level, I couldn't tell you. Decor eludes me. Sure, when I see someone else's well decorated home, I notice (and Antonio and Amy, you guys are popping up in my memory - especially the striped walls and repeated blue accents, respectively), but rarely can I transpose that idea to my own surroundings. If you asked me, I'd probably tell you I like stark and modern, but I don't think that's universally true. The one piece of furniture I know I'd like to own is a chaise, 18th century style - so not really modern. What I do know is that furniture and decor are not things I am hard-wired to consider spending a lot of money on. So the first requirement of the desk was: less than $200. That left me scouring craigslist. In the meantime, I found the two chairs in the picture. I loved them. I don't know what style they are, I only know that when I saw them I thought they belonged in any room I was going to decorate for myself. When I decided to buy them last week, after agonizing over the decision to spend the money on chairs of all things, they effectively informed the desk decision. I had chairs and the desk had to match.

Enter desk one, acquired Saturday from a nice couple in Briarcliff Manor for the acceptable price of $150. A lovely secretary, it proved to be almost perfect when set up in the room. The one problem was monitor positioning. Meanwhile, devoted partner was angling to have us use it in the front hall (probably so he can avoid trying to make me a demilune in his garage workshop...). But I needed a desk, so it was set up in my room in the corner I had decided would be the desk corner. Then, on Sunday, we found a better desk for the space at $75 and devoted partner got his way: we're going to, I think, strip the secretary and refinish it for the hallway. I was notified yesterday that the chairs had arrived and I spent the early evening moving in the desk and setting it up.

Notice the lack of clutter.

Now, you may also notice how tightly I framed the shot - that's because the rest of the room looks like the aftermath of a tornado through a trailer park - but I can, at least, sit at my desk with the soapstone heart paperweight devoted partner made me, and the picture of me and Charlotte and...


Sure, I read the book, what over-literate teenage girl hasn't? But, I didn't think, in this day and age, its sentiment was as important. Was I so oppressed on a day to day basis that I needed my own room to refresh my very sanity? No. I don't. But what a luxury it is to have a chair you like, a desk you like, and a view you like: mine is of our front entry - not a person or car in sight. Even if I'm merely playing solitaire or reading The Onion, having this space feels good. And now that this small corner is spoken for, I'm appraising the rest of the room in a different way, wondering what should go on the walls, and what the eventual guest sleeping quarters should look like.

I like having a space. I think I understand why it was always important to devoted partner. It's not that I get to be away from him or he from me, it's that each of us can have a place of repose. Mundanely drinking my coffee in the morning can be my personal mundanity; watching the youtube video for Your Missus is a Nutter can, but doesn't have to be, a shared activity; and when there's no one in the house but me, I can unashamedly surround myself with my things and listen to George Michael loudly. So I may update this photo from time to time, as new things are added, and as the space takes shape. I just didn't think I would like it as much as I do.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The First Nick

I feel sort of violated. I'm pretty sure it happened while I was parked in the mall lot or at the station, because those are the only places I park. One of you SOBs in the greater Port Chester area hit my car. You took a nice little chunk out of my left rear. I'm not going to lie, I'm pissed and saddened. It is true, it is one inch on a car whose surface are is far grander, but it's kinda deep, and now that I know it's there, I notice it all the time.

For all devoted partner's comfortings about how there are products available on the market that can fix this problem, a big part of me wants to just bring the car to a professional, look up, with weepy eyes, and beg the proprietor to make my car new again. How much could that really cost? Ok, in all fairness, it's worth about $50 to me. My initial foray into the world of painting metal things was not an unequivocal success. I still haven't finished spray painting the lawn furniture and, well, as you might be able to guess, the days of lawn furniture may well be over for 2009. (On that note, what am I supposed to do with the lawn furniture in the winter? The garage is already full of cars and sawdust from devoted partner's woodworking.) If I take the car to the shop and he says it's an hour worth of labor no matter what they do, well, I guess it's yet another trip to Home Depot for me (oh Home Depot, when did you become a stop on the weekly to-do list?).

I may have mentioned before that I'm leasing this car (which means this dent will have to be fixed eventually if I opt not to buy the car), but I do feel as though I own it - after all I could buy the car at the end of the lease if I wanted, so I feel that the car is MINE. As such, it is the most expensive thing I've ever owned, and this little cosmetic defect so soon into ownership feels bad. Bad like the first time I badly scuff the heel of a new pair of shoes (thankfully the apple green peep toes survived their maiden voyage without incident). I know cars get banged around, hell in 2001, the old Mercedes had an ass-shaped dent on the hood from, we believe, a former neighbor's ample behind, but do they really get so little time to be pristine. I even took it to the car wash last week because it was looking dusty and now, with this dent, I feel I needn't have bothered. After all, now the car is forever marred, and a little dust wouldn't have made things worse.

When I parked the car this morning and glanced back at the space so I could note the number I would need to punch into the parking meter, my eye found the dent immediately. This suggests that the sooner I have it fixed, the sooner I can walk my town's streets without malice and violence in my heart.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Applefest 2009

Lunch on the Tracks 5
Originally uploaded by reallyct

[by the way, if you like pictures more than words, click on this one to see my whole flickr set of Applefest]

I am a sucker for a county fair. Ask devoted partner what my eyes look like when we innocently drive down a road and discover that a ferris wheel has been set up and that someone, somewhere, is frying dough. I have no Ur-fair to trace this fascination, I just know that there's something about a fair that makes me feel euphoric. Most of the time, devoted partner will be a mensch about it and pull over so we can take a turn around the fair, maybe get cotton candy or lose a dollar at a game, but every once in a while, I need more than that. Every once in a while I need something like


For 21 years the town of Warwick, NY has hosted Applefest. Let me disabuse you of some things to begin with: while there are plenty of apple-y things around, this is not one of those festivals with booths of people who have turned apples into sculpture, have made dried apple skin sweaters, etc. There are apple for sale, and cider, and pies, but this is more an autumn festival. Which, in no way, makes it rock less.

If you like live music, there was plenty. Each distinct area of the fest had a makeshift bandstand and there were people performing all day long. Some of them sounded good.

Do you like food? Everyone from the remote region was offering his wares. Local restaurants took care of lunch unless, like devoted partner, you chose to support the local firehouse by purchasing one of the cheeseburgers the firemen were grilling up. There was traditional Irish pub fare, bbq, deep fried pierogies, cheesesteaks, burgers and dogs, nachos, well nearly anything you could think of. And that's just the lunch options. Don't forget that there was a farmer's market, an abundance of bake sales, stalls selling pastries, pies, jams, syrups, hot sauce (some of which made me cry), and you would be surprised how LITTLE I ate.

There were woodcrafters, metalcrafters, candlemakers, soapmakers, weavers, not to mention the enterprising local residents along the fair route who chose yesterday to have their garage sales. If they didn't have our number...

Yeah, so Saturday I bought a desk, finally. A painted over mahogany secretary that I set up and had begun using as my desk. Yeah, there was a small problem: putting my monitor on the top shelf caused me to crane my neck; putting it on the secretary level was too low. So when we saw a desk at someone's garage sale for $75, we snapped it up. Now I have two desks reminding me of the raining/pouring thing people occasionally talk about. We also found one of those kinda neat lamps that come attached to a wooden table. Well, devoted partner wasn't sure it was worth $85 in the morning, but in the afternoon, as I intentionally maneuvered him back that way (cause I knew he really liked the thing), it was down to $60 and I told him to just give the man three twenties and be done with it.

This was terrific. We got two pieces of furniture. All we had to do now was pull the car around and pack it up. Start laughing now.

You see, we had taken the shiny red Jetta to the fair with us, not the beat up but storage-friendly Subaru. So we had just purchase a desk with chair and a table with a lamp sticking out the top of it, and we had one tiny car with which to transport it. I am truly truly apologetic that I forgot to take a picture of the final product, be cause I was really proud of us. The seats in the back came down, bunjee cord was given us by a local samaritan. A girl's white desk was wedged as far into the truck as possible, sans drawers, and the trunk bunjeed around it - half of the desk was too tall, in any configuration, to go in the trunk. Then a lamp was disassembled, a base turned on its side and stowed in the backseat, and drawers and lampshades disbursed wherever there was room.

It took less than twenty minutes. We pounded fists and decided it only made sense to now go to Woodbury Commons.

Yes, the outlet stores of evil. It MUST BE NOTED that it was devoted partner who suggested the detour. I hate outlet malls. They are evil. Devoted partner, however, has had great success in the past getting winter coats there, and it's time for a new winter coat.

From the moment we entered the compound, we knew it was a mistake. The line to get out of the mall looked to be 1.5 hours long. So now we were trapped. We had to at least walk around until the traffic abated. We did not get a winter coat. However, between us, in the space of oh 75 minutes, we bought, together, 5 pairs of shoes, 4 pairs of socks, and a pair of Ray-Bans. Fortunately all of these items could be stowed in the few empty spaces left in the back of the car. Unfortunately, we hadn't anticipated buying anything when we left Applefest.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Results Show

Yes, it is a cop-out to make today's post simply the results from Tuesday's post, but I'm in a slight funk - so much so that my inaugural Tim Horton's 'donut' was thrown out half eaten cause it just wasn't any different from a Dunkin' 'donut.' And who really throws out donuts? Maybe it's because I found a desk and the guy who is selling it hasn't responded; maybe it's because I found myself in a cigar bar sipping bourbon and salivating over the man's cigar at the next table; maybe it's because I can no longer even pretend it's still summer-ish. Whatever the reasons, I have decided to take it out on you. Especially since not one of you summoned the 2 minutes it would have taken to choose T/F on my list. For the record, devoted partner, in a valiant effort, scored an AMAZING 15/20. Well played, son, well played.

  1. I loved barbie and paper dolls as a child, but only for the fashions. I never constructed elaborate stories for them. My favorites were the Carmen Miranda paper dolls (which I found on ebay and repurchased as an adult) and the Oscar de la Renta collection for Barbie. - Absolutely TRUE. The Carmen Miranda paper dolls are boss! I also had Princess Diana and, no lie, Nancy Reagan by the same publisher. Neither was as cool as Carmen
  2. The reason I don't wear lots of jewelery is that I have an allergic reaction to anything that isn't a precious metal resting on my skin; ergo I wear my earrings which are gold and diamond and nothing else. - FALSE. And frankly lame. Sorry about that.
  3. I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day (with rare exceptions) from kindergarten through seventh grade. - TRUE. My parents practiced an ancient form of child abuse known as kosher. Kosher discriminates against prosciutto, scallops, and cheeseburgers and, in rare cases like my brother and me, produces evil children who cackle while they stuff pig's feet and veal thalamus gland into their heretical faces.
  4. I had a pet goldfish that I won at a fair that lived with us for five years. - Patently FALSE. Though the tiny turtles I bought off some guy in Columbus circle held on for more than 6 months.
  5. My first celebrity crush was Ricky Schroeder and I developed several unhealthy fantasies about his indoor train. - Yeah, FALSE. As befits a creepy misfit like myself, I'm pretty sure that my first celebrity crush was Sean Connery.
  6. I pretend I finished Infinite Jest, but really, thought it was so bad from the start that I gave up after five pages - I judge it harshly as if I had read the whole thing. TRUE. See also Franzen, The Corrections. This hype, I fear, is not to be believed.
  7. I have a subscription to Cosmopolitan Magazine and I hide it like pornography when it arrives at the house. -FALSE. If I don't know all the secret secrets to secretly turning my man on (hint, it involves a word that begins with fell and ends with atio) by now, there's probably no hope for me.
  8. I don't have a compelling "where were you on September 11th" story because I was watching Beverly Hills, 90210 reruns on F/X. - TRUE. I made an excellent unemployed person.
  9. I was accepted to the vocal program at Juiliard with scholarship and didn't go because I wanted to have sex with boys at college. - FALSE. Didn't apply because I was under the assumption that if one could get into a place like Amherst, one didn't apply to art school. Art school was for people who couldn't go to brain school.
  10. My brother got DNA testing that verified that we, like others of Lebanese extraction, are of direct Phoenician descent. Sadly, no Ghengis Khan link yet. - FALSE, but I so wish it was true. "I'm half Cherokee, what are you?" "Phoenician, bitches. What do you say to that?"
  11. I love Chef Olivier's Foie Gras torchon, the Steak Frites at Balthazar and the chocolate fondant recipe I ganked from Daniel, but the meal I'd eat every day for the rest of my life is two slices of Mimi's Pizza. - TRUE. So clearly true. It takes every ounce of willpower I can muster not to have a slice for breakfast on my way to work.
  12. I have never seen E.T. - FALSE, I just didn't think it was the masterpiece of our youth. I don't know what I think was the masterpiece of our youth, but this was a little too saccharine for me (even as a tot).
  13. When my parents asked me what I wanted to do for my 25th birthday, I said "Cookie Puss." - TRUE. I think I've been fairly up front about my eating disorder. Also, it's not like had I said, "Babbo," we would have done that instead.
  14. When I found out Giuliani was running for president I re-registered as a Republican so I could vote for him in the primaries; I switched back to the democrats when there was no hope he'd be our next president. - FALSE, but could have easily been true. I've said it before and I'll say it again. He might be a fascist, but he's my kind of fascist.
  15. I had a short article published in the National Review and never told anyone because I was so embarrassed. - FALSE, but also could have been true. For the record, a piece I wrote in a college magazine about needing some kind of structure vis a vis requirements for humanities majors (i.e. one shouldn't be able to graduate with a degree in history if one only took courses in the history of Holland), was referenced in a U.S. News and World Report article about standards in higher education, and then referenced by about 1001 nutjob crazy conservative rags as proof that gay poetry and the socioeconomics of Burundi were ruining our children.
  16. I own stock in exactly one company and the original certificate was a gift. - TRUE. Drink Pepsi, people!
  17. I haven't done hand laundry in about six months. There is still an unpacked box of dirty unmentionables. I don't know what you're talking about (TRUE).
  18. I don't believe in alien visits, ghosts, spirits, god, fairies (whichever way you choose to spell it), but I do believe I am distant cousins with Shakira. - TRUE. Both have Lebanese Christian ancestors. We must be related. My hips, as well, have been known not to spread falsehood.
  19. Because Jamie could do it, I spent several weeks teaching myself pi to 40 places. - FALSE. Beating Jamie for valedictory speaker in a landslide means I don't really ever have to compete with him again. He can have pi. (Also, he'll definitely have a book published before I will which I hope, will forever dull the pain of losing out to me in the speechifying department.)
  20. My dad took me shopping for my first bra. - TRUE. Have you met my mother?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Idle Hands, Idle Minds

[note: I don't have a USB cable with me so the photo(s) that accompany this will have to wait]

I should come clean and admit something: I have RBS. Restless Brain Syndrome. It is true that Pfizer has yet to address my needs with pharmaceuticals, but I fervently believe it's only a matter of time. I like doing more than one thing at a time. Jamie used to joke that I didn't watch TV, I listened to it. My fear of idleness is such that, if I have 100 pages or less to go in the book I am reading, I pack a second book. You never know when the subway you are on will go out of service between stations for an hour and you'll finish your book and have nothing else to do. I don't understand people who commute without something to occupy them.

So when I get on the train in the mornings I am wary of those people who have neither book nor newspaper nor Kindle. I myself have been knitting on the train because I'm having that experience where I'm nearing the end of a good book and I don't want it to end so I'm prolonging the experience. The people who are just staring blankly ahead, but not sleeping with their eyes open? Those people unnerve me. What could they possibly be doing or thinking? Are the thinking? Or are they just zoning out, slackening their jaw muscles, and waiting for the next stop. It should be noted that people who examine their cellphones as if the phones have changed since last they were held are truly no better than the mouth-breathers.

I was seated in the dining car again this morning, feeling jolly and retro. A man, I believe he works for the MTA, who usually gets on at Port Chester, got on today at Rye. He put his bags down and went to the bathroom. The well put together but obviously not on her way to gainful employment woman seated diagonally from me suddenly looked up and at his bags. She asked the gentlemen seated next to the bags if they were his, and receiving a negative response, became flustered. I told her they belonged to the man in the bathroom. She said that she was concerned because one of his bags looked a certain way. A certain way was that it held his walkie-talkie and the antenna was sticking out. I told her that if it made her feel any better I was pretty sure he worked for the MTA and took this train every morning. She breathed a sigh of relief. I resisted the urge to tell her that, statistically speaking, there was little for the terrorists to gain by blowing up the train that would take her to her personal shopping day at Bendel's.

But it reminded me that people really are narcissistic enough to believe they are personally being targeted. For the record, at least she wasn't a racist. Though I'm not sure she saw him before he went to the bathroom, the potential terrorist in question was a 50-year old, clinically obese, white guy who looked like he worked on the railroad all the livelong day. In her defense, he did have a beard. I listen to the same news the rest of the populace does, more or less, and callous though I may be, I just don't worry that when the news says my train might blow up that actually means there's a greater chance my train will be blown up. There was ALWAYS a good chance my train was going to be blown up, the question of who does the blowing up seems far less important in my mind than the fact I would be dead. I also don't feel like maximum collateral effect would be achieved by blowing up an off-peak New Haven line. The terrorists know it's a half-empty train of rich man's effluvia.

I resisted the urge to tell the woman this mainly because I am trying to fool the people around me into thinking I am normal, and laying into this woman for being stupid would be a clear indication of my lack of normal. But for the doubters still out there, I have a pretty strong feeling that you will not be a victim of terrorist attack on any of the following: the JetBlue flight from JFK to Burlington; the 10:30am Katonah to Grand Central; the M86 crosstown bus - also the M79, M72, and M66; the Hampton Jitney. See where I'm going with this? So everyone can exhale again and resume texting the decorator about wall treatments.

We're all going to be OK.

Nopropos: I was mean to the String store earlier this week and I wanted to taketh with one hand and giveth with another. I went into the Manhattan branch on Tuesday to ask a favor the salespeople were under no obligation to grant. The salesgirl (granted she was under 40 and didn't smell of cat) graciously helped me out. So maybe the Greenwich branch just needs a little more employee training.