Monday, November 29, 2010

Why There Are No Pictures

I really was prepared to have a photographic feast for you today. A welcome back from your holiday have a good laugh at me photographic feast. For, you see, on Tuesday last, my mother and I embarked on a ripe-for-comedy expedition to the Saks Fifth Avenue bridal salon.

And boy, did I have my arrows sharpened. First off, you need an appointment. You cannot just walk in and try on dresses as we had learned the week before (instead we tried on awesome cocktail dresses on the designer floor). You must meet with your bridal consultant to discuss your vision.


Bridal consultant: So what is your vision for your wedding?
Me: I definitely think my rear end should be fully covered by the dress.

I debated long and hard whether or not to simply lie to the woman and tell her that we were a) getting married at the Plaza and inviting 500 people; b) getting married at Neuschwanstein (I swear, if I actually just spelled that correctly without checking google - scout's honor - I deserve a Vera Wang gown); c) participating in a group wedding a la the moonies; or d) having a long and very religious ceremony for which my head, shoulders, ankles, cheekbones, etc. would need covering.

In the end, because I just don't like to waste my lying, I told the truth. When she asked me what shoes I might wear, I admitted that I didn't know if I would be wearing shoes, but pointed out that the shoes I had worn to the dress-up were the lowest heels I would be considering. When she asked me what my style was, I told the truth. I tried on exactly zero head-to-toe lace numbers. I said I liked simple, clean, and elegant. That I was unmoved by beads, lace, and tulle. That I wanted something cool.

So, now I have to interject and admit why there are no pictures, even though my camera was tucked into my handbag.

Somewhere in between the jokes and the self-consiousness, I kinda got into it. I found myself trying on dresses in styles I might actually wear. I found myself imagining myself wearing such dresses. And swilling champagne. And carrying my bouquet of wildflowers picked earlier in the day by my goddaughter. For literally the first time, I imagined myself a bride, and not just someone who was signing some papers and returning, pretty much, to the same life she'd been leading for the preceding decade.

Now you just know how I love being aloof. Sarcastic. Above the fray. It's my calling card. It allows me to be vulnerable and admit that I cry at the Folger's commercial they play around Christmas time where the armed forces son surprise returns for Christmas and wakes his parents up with a fresh pot of coffee. Now I will say that I was not nearly as emotionally moved by trying on wedding dresses as I am by that commercial, but I certainly wasn't as emotionally neutral as I had anticipated.

So I didn't want to have pictures posted here of things that might resemble what I might actually wear. The tryings-on suddenly had more importance than anticipated.

In fairness, armed with my newfound bridal enthusiasm, I made the mistake of dropping 10 bucks on a bridal magazine (trying to find the one whose cover offended me least). I won't be doing that again until Amy and Abby and I get together to page through many of them while bombed because literally nothing in the 400 page tome applied to me at all. I don't need to know what juicer to register for, nor am I concerned that my bridesmaids will suddenly turn into crazed harpies (especially since there is no wedding party to speak of), nor do I really think I need a crown. So, the majority of my distaste for the wedding industry remains intact.

But I don't have pictures. Because I realized I didn't want to spoil the surprise.

How's that for breaking news?

Monday, November 22, 2010


It should come as no shock to any who have been to our home that housekeeping is neither a talent I possess nor an avocation I pursue. Frankly, if you're coming over, there is a 100% chance that devoted partner and I have spent the previous 24-36 hours frantically sweeping up dustbunnies and hiding piles of clothing under the bed where we hope you don't look (also just shoving everything we can't be bothered to sort in the closet - in our previous apartment, you may have noticed that sometimes there was a handbag "locking" the closet doors; that was why). I simply don't enjoy cleaning and think it should only be done in dire circumstances.

Some things are different. Occasionally, after an especially failtastic jam-making session, the kitchen will see a wipe down. Actually, the kitchen is the area that gets most frequently cleaned because it gets most frequently dirty. And for a day or two after we change the sheets, we try to make the bed. But honestly, we're just getting back into it at the end of the day... I currently have about half a year's worth of magazines in both the bathroom and the kitchen that I am slowly going through to pull out the recipes and articles I want to keep thereby freeing me to discard the rest of the magazine, and I am creating a large bag of clothing for Goodwill, but I'm not going to tell you that we spend our weekends mopping things.

We simply do not.

But yesterday was different. Yesterday we went to the Container Store for such necessities as shower caddy, knitting caddy, bra caddy, and boxes. Armed with our haul, I set about organizing my underwear drawer (I give it a B: the bras sort of fit in the caddy, and the drawer sort of closes over it, but there's definitely room for improvement; still this solution is an improvement over the old chuck everything in a pile and fish out what you want on any given day plan). Then I installed our shower caddy (installed might be too ambitious a word for slinging a hunk of plastic over the shower head and making sure the little rubber bit went click).

Then I sorted my knitting. This was a biggie. At the beginning, I just sort of threw things into a basket - this caused knots. Then I started bagging things and putting them in the basket and when the basket became full, plastic bags would overflow onto the floor. But since the overflow was in the newly appointed knitting nook, I considered it ok. Well, the Container Store begged to differ and reminded me that for $20, I could have two new baskets to put things in. Ah, Container Store, how wise you are. So now there was the task of organizing the basket: projects I'm not really working on right now, active projects, and yarn for soon to be active projects. Sounds like a good plan. And it was right until the moment I realized I was missing two skeins of soon to be active yarn. Two expensive skeins. Two skeins I really really liked and didn't think I could easily replace.

So then it happened. The Tasmanian Devil-like exorcism of the office/library/guest bedroom and living room in an effort to seek out the skeins I was very much hoping had not gone out with the trash (in truth, the non-wet trash was searched as well). In a matter of 45 minutes, the cluttered office suddenly had floor space and the bed was home only to pillows, sheets, blankets, and the box we need to save to send back my ring for resizing. Dry cleaning bags, and packing material from discarded boxes, and the boot box I didn't need, and many many receipts that had escaped from equally disorganized handbags - all was discarded in an appropriate trash receptacle. Shoes were returned to or near to closets. Dirty clothing found the hamper. Coffee cups the sink.

And nothing. My yarn was nowhere to be found. Which is confusing for the following reason: I may be a slob, but I am an organized slob. Underwear is rarely found in the dining room, nor are plates found in the bedroom. Bills are in piles only in rooms where bills get paid. Dirty clothing is, for the most part, found in the bedroom. So my mess doesn't travel. This makes it easier to find the not-too-dirty-to-be-worn-again jeans and the lipstick I really like (hint: either in a TSA-approved bag in the bathroom, or in the zip side pocket of a handbag). I was a little despondent. More than a little. I was downright pissed. Even though I held out hope that it was somewhere. It's just that I had run out of somewheres where it could be.

It is possible that devoted partner suggested I check the yarn baskets again, but he might be making that up to make me look bad. I knew that the yarn was in a plastic bag that crinkled noisily and, several hours later, remembered that I had a not-working-on-right-now project that was stored in a bag that crinkled. And come to think of it, even though I had moved that bag while organizing, the project that was in it was very similar in color to the missing yarn and-

Yes. The missing yarn was in the bottom of that bag. It has since been moved to the soon-to-be-active basket and I am no longer making the sad face. Furthermore, the house is remarkably cleaner than it was this time yesterday. I'm thinking win all around.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Darwin Comprehension Fail

Much like my complete inability to understand the great car equation, I frequently misuse, either intentionally or accidentally, Darwinian theory of natural selection. Oft times my mistakes are simply Lamarckian in nature, but other times, they're just utter fabrication yanked from the depths of a clearly troubled mind.

Take this morning, for instance. I arrived at the 125th Street subway station and was greeted by an unusual sound: good music. I seem to have particularly bad luck when it comes to subway music - the really disturbed people are always at my stations. 125th street has some regulars: crazy can't rap guy who makes up lyrics on the spot about the people who go by; mariachi-esque band that only knows two songs; sad lady with karaoke machine clearly not able to sustain Gladys Knight. I do my best to ignore these people and frankly, if it's a choice between them and the guy who shouts: "Jeee-Sus loves you. Jeee-sus is the love," I'm pretty hard pressed to pick a winner. But the guys this morning, a keyboard and a sax, were playing some pretty upbeat, not-at-all-off-key, happy music.

So I did something I never do: I gave them a dollar.

In the moment after this, I thought about why I had given them a dollar and realized, to my horror and great amusement, that I did so for reasons of natural selection. My reasoning was that if people gave the good subway musicians money, more good subway musicians would spawn and the crap musicians would be unable to respawn. Yes. I know. Utter shite. But I liked the idea.

Imagine if it worked that way. Imagine if you could control the quality of subway music, cab drivers, Starbucks baristas, simply through tip theory. Those who didn't earn enough tips would fade from view, taking their ilk with them, while those who earned many tips would prosper and thrive, bringing more of their like into the world. I think this development in not-at-all-science would be revolutionary.

And I do so like that it would have been my idea in the first place.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Even After the Explanations, I Still Think It's Wrong

Disclaimer: that blue box with the non-curving noodles and the cheese that was squeezed out of a packet? I've never had it. Add that to the list that includes Big Mac and is entitled: Yelena - Skinner Box Child. And before you go around accusing my parents of being hippies who deprived us of processed foods, let me remind you that our cereal consumption was obscene: froot loops, golden grahams, corn pops. No, we were deprived of Kraft Macaroni and "cheese" because it was a) entirely uneconomical and b) retarded. To my knowledge, you had to boil the noodles just as you would if you were making it from scratch. The only "time-saver" it afforded was that your cheese was already in goo form. WTF?!? I have no idea why people buy this crap.

This was brought into sharp relief this past weekend when I went to a truly awesome event at one of my fellow knitter's houses: a Pampered Chef party. If you are an urban gal, don't worry if you've never heard of this (though, since it's owned by Omaha's own Warren Buffet, I will guess that Amy has heard of it), it's a tupperware party of sorts. Your friend invites a person (woman) to her house to tell her friends all about the terrific things said friends can buy from the Pampered Chef catalog. And the catalog is filled with useful things like knives and pots and cutting boards and cookie cutters. While you're being pitched, you get fed recipes from pampered Chef cookbooks made with Pampered Chef mixes.

The pizza dough mix, while ridiculous to me (flour, yeast, salt...why do you need someone to pre-mix these items for you?), didn't get my panties in a bunch. After all, measuring is hard. I get it. (nb: I do not get it.) Then the dessert composition began. It was described as a chocolate tiramisu trifle. It started out well enough with the presenter whisking confectioner's sugar into mascarpone. Then things got ugly.

She added to the delicious and luxurious mascarpone Cool Whip and pudding mix. And then crumbled up brownie-like cake from, yes, a mix.

For me, this was an irony because as she was desecrating her mascarpone with cool whip, she was extolling the virtues of the Pampered Chef whisk and stainless steel bowls - 2 things that could be used to, I don't know, WHIP CREAM!!!!!

I have done it. It is annoying as all hell when you know that if only the mixer was working you could whip the cream in about 30 seconds. But there you are, in the freezing pastry kitchen whipping cream by hand - lots of cream. Way more than would be needed for a single chocolate tiramisu trifle. But you don't complain because hardcore mofos can whip their own cream.

Oh, wait, you're not a hardcore mofo? Sorry. Try this instead: pour cream into bowl of mixer; turn on mixer; wait 30 seconds; have whipped cream.

Cool Whip is made from orphan's tears. You know it, I know it, Kraft knows it (point of information: I have no idea what the cheese goo is made of - I'm guessing it's made of people). Cool whip should only ever be used ironically, preferably at the same party as cheese whiz and spaghetti-Os.

But I'm a working mom with 47 bratty kids and no time to do anything except sit on my couch and mow cool whip! you might say. I would then ignore you. Because I am not kidding when I say that, if you don't REALLY care about the consistency and perceived professionalism of the final product, whipping enough cream for one person/pie/trifle takes 30 seconds in a mixer. There will be no leftovers because every supermarket in America carries heavy cream in an 8oz. container. If you do not have 30 seconds to whip your own cream, you do not deserve whipped cream.

I had a fantastic time at the event. I bought stuff. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I thank our hostess.

But I cannot forgive the cool whip.

Chalk it up to my unconventional pinko upbringing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Not All About Me

Originally uploaded by reallyct
Except the part where I woke up at 6:30am to drive into Manhattan to drive to Staten Island via New Jersey to return to Manhattan and find a place for my car to take a subway to Queens, etc. etc.

But the star of the day, in my eyes, was The Boy. Of 45,000, I only had eyes for him. Which was tough because there are a lot of not-unattractive people who run this thing. In good shape. Sweating. But, really, I wasn't paying attention to that because I was scanning the crown for 30-759.

Except when I was tearing up at the beautiful, inspirational runners who made Benetton ads look like so much uniformity. I shouted at the girl with the Moroccan flag shirt twice because I didn't think all that many other people would have been able to identify it and, without a place name or a proper name, it's hard for people to cheer for you. I loved all of the Gunthers and Hiros and Esmereldas and Yvonnes. I loved the people in funny costumes and the people running for charity and the people running for family members and with family members; the people for whom this was a first marathon, the people who were just married, the people who volunteer to accompany a disabled participant all 26.2 miles. I loved unexpectedly seeing a guy from my high school and screaming at him as he ran by; I loved how happy people looked when you called out their name; how grateful they looked when you did it as they were struggling.

Look at this to get your fill of how beautifully diverse in ethnicity, age, sex, place of origin, the marathon is.

I had never paid attention to one until last year when The Boy ran his first. I'm sorry I missed it before that. It is a terrific event and the camaraderie is palpably heavy. If you've never gone out and watched for an hour or so, please do yourselves a favor and show up next November. If you don't live in New York, plan to stop by your own city's marathon. And if you want to see a sampling of the 2010 marathon through my eyes (it's very Boy-centric), you can check out the photos.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Other Places

Originally uploaded by reallyct
Food issues aside, one of my favorite things to do in new places is stop by the supermarket. The world's travel writers have a million and one ways that visitors can dig on local vibe, but I have yet to see one emphatically suggest a sampling of local supermarkets - sure, they'll all tell you to hit the farmer's markets and bazaars, but I'm talking about the super pedestrian, industrial lighting, devoid of aesthetics supermarkets. I love them! I truly cannot go to a new place without stopping by a supermarket. When my parents were recently in Paris, my shopping list for them could be 95% dealt with at the Monoprix - a supermarket. Please bring sea salt and reusable shoppers.

I think you can tell a lot about a place from its supermarkets. Even in New York, the difference between shopping uptown and shopping downtown can alert the newcomer to micro-regional tastes (witness the tamarind vs. the dairy- gluten- taste-free crackers). So when we pulled off the road Sunday to grab coffee and carrots, I was thrilled to be taking in a little bit of the Pennsylvania/Maryland border culture as witnessed through the prism of the MegaMart.

And rewarded I was. For at the Halloween candy display, which we last-minute availed ourselves of for potential trick or treaters, I was overjoyed to discover Jesus Harvest Seeds.

It is important to note that the above package was ACTUALLY in the store. I did not mail away for this from some gag company. This is a product. People can buy it. At least at the Giant Supermarket somewhere in lower Pennsylvania.

And, as promised by the packaging, each snack-sized gem does, indeed, contain some scripture. I would have honestly crapped my pants had I ever received this as a child at Halloween! But apparently, not everyone in the country is as potentially bowel-incontinent as I.

I have oft been accused of having a warped view of The Rest of the Country, and some of that may be true. I enjoyed our time in the Carolinas greatly and could well see myself living there, but it cannot be argued that some cultural mores have varied levels of acceptance. And in Places Not New York, love of el Jefe, is an acceptable thing to shout from the rafters and plaster on your bumper.

I would venture to assert that ignoring these differences is just as dangerous as pretending they don't exist. But I will not lie: this sort of shit tickles me in all the right places!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Love and My Mother's African Violets

My cousin, Alexandra, was married this weekend in Maryland. She and her husband Jeff put together a beautiful ceremony and quite enjoyable party and I was happy to be among my family - we don't get together as often as we should. I finally met the last of my mother's first cousins (there are a number of 1st removed, 2nd, etc. cousins that are difficult to keep track of) and I danced with my father and brother. The bridesmaid's were in a beautiful shade of pewter, the groomsmen wore truly excellent turquoise ties. The officiant was a "spiritual humanist." Good times.

One of the bridesmaid's read a poem during the ceremony about the importance of having a good foundation in your love and marriage to sustain you when the passion of being in love fades away. Unlike the vast majority of poem readers at weddings, this girl articulated her words and used phrasing so that it didn't sound like a test run at a robotics convention. Unfortunately, her excellent diction and treatment of the poem as poetry allowed me to really pay attention to the words (not well enough that I could find the poem on google, but well enough for me to remember how I felt about them). And I found I didn't like what the poem was saying.

Using a tree as the metaphor, the poem talked about needing deep, strong roots because you couldn't expect to maintain the beautiful flowers for a lifetime; that you should really love one another because it was inevitable that you wouldn't be 'in love' forever; that one day you would stop being in love with one another and the best that you could hope for was to still love each other.


My mother has about six African violet plants. These little guys are notoriously difficult to care for and have a high death rate. My mother loves these African violets and maintains them vigorously. When she is away, she writes a treatise on their care for me to follow: use only the filtered water, 1/2 c. for this plant 1/3 c. for that one, don't get water on the leaves. Even with all her careful consideration, some years the plants don't flower. Or she'll get one flower that will soon die, leaving just the leaves of her plant. Other years, all of the plants will flower, and she'll call me excitedly to tell me how beautiful they are and how happy she is that she got them to flower that year. I don't know how many years this has been going on, but she's added to the collection here and there, having started with a single plant.


I find that people are frequently too eager to forecast doom. We got engaged and a number of well-meaning people made jokes about Bridezillas, starting to simply hate little things the other person does, gaining weight, lamenting our decision to spend the rest of our lives together due to toilet paper shortages and burnt roasts. I hate to harp on this point, but it does bear mention that many of these people had been married a far shorter time than devoted partner and I have kept house together. And I don't think any of them did it to be mean. I think it's part of our collective zeitgeist: the henpecked husband, the wife frustrated by her mate's laziness, the joint deathmarch to the bedroom for mandatory 7-minute coitus. Whether or not people actually experience these things to the extent popular culture would have us believe, it is trendy to pretend as if this is just the way things are.

Devoted partner and I are not exceptional in our love. I would never even presume to think our love rated higher on the quality scale than anyone else's. I don't even think it in private. Our love is our love and is unique because it's ours. We have had a while to fall out of love with one another and rest on the laurels of the love we built behind the pomp and circumstance of in love; we've had longer to do so than most couples' marriages. Strangely, though, we haven't done that. We're not eagerly looking forward to our staid, sexless, tolerant years. Our 'Everybody Loves Raymond' years. Our 'at least we made children' years. I would unabashedly assert that I am MORE 'in love' with devoted partner today than I was in March of 1997. We've gotten better. There's more to be in love with!


Marriage shouldn't be a sturdy old tree stripped of blossoms, but strong enough not to be turned into kindling. Marriage is an African violet whose blooms are unpredictable. Some years the abundance of beauty could stop your breath, other years you just have to believe that there's more left for it to give. But to think that there's only one season for flowering is a thought bereft of hope. I wish that my cousin and her new husband will experience numerous flowerings for many many years, and that in between, they don't forget about the filtered water and the soil levels, and keeping the leaves dry. That even at the greatest heights of happiness, they make sure not to neglect the regimen that allowed that happiness to erupt. It takes work - take it from your older cousin - and it's not easy and it's not always fun.

And it's always always always worth it.