Monday, December 29, 2014

Bean Bag (and other stuff)

Iain received a gift certificate to Pottery Barn Kids from his grandparents. He wanted a bean bag. Charles stood for a long time in front of the Darth Vader embroidered pillow and matching sheet set but Iain wanted a bean bag.

He also chose the cover. Madras, y'all. Because nothing goes with superhero mask sheets and an aquamarine bookcase like madras. It's all color all the time around here.

We've spent our last few days in shopping marathons, seeking not just furniture but the many, many little things necessary for a functioning life. Today, in search of a plug for Iain's bathtub, we also acquired cookie sheets, kitchen towels (and a rack), a better potholder, a knife block (sorta - one of those boxes with cork sheets in it), and some coasters (also cork - a theme today).

Oh, and we went to the Lego store. [Iain's brain exploded] [see photo above]

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Furniture Shopping

Our casa in LB. Empty. So, so empty. Note the child eating his brekkie at the kitchen counter, sitting in our office chair. Very classy.

So we bought some stuff. Above, a credenza to lift up the television and hold some electronic stuff. It's not old. It's brand new. Because (as Elizabeth pointed out) our modern A/V needs don't really suit older media consoles.

Next, a pair of chairs. Also new, though made to look old. New upholstery, though. They're darker and more tweedy in person than this photo suggests.

We bought a sofa. I failed to snap a photo with my phone. Boo. I was distracted. Partly, I blame the pretty little side table above. Partly, I blame the rambunctious little tater tot below. Holy Toledo, Batman. That kid can wiggle. You try keeping track of the wiggle in antique and furniture stores all over LA.

He tried on a biker jacket. Under duress. Should I be pleased that he didn't like it, or sad? He wanted to pick out a sparkly dress for me, though, and a cowboy hat for himself. I'm pretty happy that the one item he really, really wanted to buy was a vintage typewriter (the kind with a carousel of letters that pop up when you hit a key).

The furniture arrives after lunch tomorrow. We'll finally have something to sit on. Still to find: a dining room table and chairs, a carpet, a coffee table, side tables for the bedrooms, and some lighting.

Not much, right? Easy peasy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


For the very first time. Ever: standing rib roast.

I had it, once, at a friend's house in California. It came off the grill and while it was "resting" we stood in the kitchen and picked bits off the edges. At least twenty people stood around upstairs, drinking, talking, and nibbling other dishes. Unlucky for them.

So I'm making one, hoping I can manage a result nearly as good.

Also: broccoli, asparagus, and latkes (made by Mother, so doubtless delicious). Christmas Eve is the last night of Hannukah so we're beef&potato-ing as an homage to both occasions.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chicken Marbella

On November 22, friends joined us for dinner. These friends have three children so our combined families require food for 8 people. I thought I'd try Sheila Lukins' famous recipe Chicken Marbella.

Essentially, it's chicken pieces braised in white wine, olive oil, herbs, garlic (as in a head of pureed garlic), prunes, capers, and olives. Very tasty but because the prunes and olives are whole people who don't like such things can just pick them out.

I went to Whole Foods for my chicken because it's nearby and I figured I could get a better product. Remember, please that this shopping excursion occurred on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. A high-traffic time for groceries, you'd think. Lots of people. Wanting food. Because that's what groceries do. (sell food).

But you'd have thought, based on the level of readiness at WF, that it was a Tuesday in February.

What was in the butcher's case? NOTHING. Photo below. Not that the case is empty. As in: empty.

There's more. When I asked for chicken pieces, I went round and round with the butcher about it. How much? He had no advice to offer. Thighs and breasts? No opinion. Finally, I just told him how many I wanted and he popped into the back area.

He emerged with two plastic-wrapped parcels (the kind that regular groceries put into the meat section) which he pulled open. They had been frozen. He then weighed out the pieces I wanted and wrapped them loosely in paper (loosely wrapping chicken is the best way because then the juices leak out onto other foods, flavoring them).

While I watched him do this, I read the orange sticker below:

So true. So, so true.

Then I went looking for the other items on my list. Each and every aisle was blocked. Every aisle.

Above, a dolley with boxes. Below,  stacked crates and a cart full of broken-down boxes.

Boxes. More Boxes. Just laying on the floor.

Was anyone unloading them? No. Was this because the staff were quite busy with customers? No. they were, mostly, standing around the checkouts and customer-service desk, chatting.

I was...not amused. But I had chicken! And prunes (more prunes than anyone would ever need but they sold only one size and at that point my mood had turned sorta sour so I didn't think I should go anywhere else).

I made the chicken. It was good. I followed the recipe almost exactly (bought the wrong olives at WF so I had to use a slightly different olive) and the one thing I'd say is that another 20 minutes in the oven wouldn't be amiss. Otherwise, delicious.

Me, checking the dish by giving it the evil squinty eye. If it fails to flinch you know it's done.


Monday, December 15, 2014


So let's say you're working on an activity for students. You'd like to use a cartoon by an American political cartoonist. Thomas Nast, for example.

You use Google to find the cartoon you want but most scans omit the caption. It matters. So you look for a better scan.

Yay! The Library of Congress has one. Really hi-res, too. Double Yay! Except...when you click on the link, what do you get?

That's right. A massively pixelated, unreadable, ugly photocopy. Totally impossible to use.

The LOC is a beautiful place. I'm sure its collections hold impressive, rare, valuable materials. But this is just embarrassing.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Fun With The Mail

In the mail, yesterday. It's a flyer for a school. A school. They invite me to consider how important the first 5 years of a child's development can be.

I agree, of course, though if I've done that badly it's too late. Iain's heading down the home stretch toward seven.

But let's say I sought a school for another child. A friend's child, perhaps. What questions might I ask?

I don't think, actually, that I'd ask this question. And I hope, fingers crossed, that if I ever decided to mail total strangers a flier about my school I'd get someone really, really detail-oriented to proofread it. Twice. Maybe three times.

Monday, December 08, 2014


Pickles are great! Who knew, Mom?

Winter fun times continue. While I drove aimlessly around town, thinking about lunch but failing to actually decide on something, then shopping, then feeling discontented with the weather, Charles took Iain to Snowbird.

There, he joined his two friends - whom he met during his first year in Utah, at the JCC, when he was 2 years old - for a run down one of the easier areas of the mountain.

Iain failed to embrace the early-season conditions. But he loved lunch. He came home to tell me all about how he ate the ENTIRE hamburger. And this time - for the first time - he tried the pickle.

Wow, Mom. Wow.

Sunday, December 07, 2014


Our kitchen lacks storage. Not just any storage - though it's not exceptionally generous on regular cabinets. The problem lies in the available space for anything deep. Platters, appliances, anything more than 10 or 12 inches deep has only one place to go.

So we asked our friend Michel to build in some new storage. It'll hold the footstool (required in this kitchen for someone my height) (short) plus a shelf for the fryer, the KitchenAid mixer, and...maybe a fruit bowl or something. That liberates space in the one other deep cabinet.

These are photos of the build. It's painted but not yet counter-topped because we're hoping to re-use the teak leftover from the bathroom. But eventually, it should look as though it's contemporaneous with the existing cabinets.

Saturday, December 06, 2014


Coolest dude in the theater. We've been on a movie kick lately, seeing 3-D space films at the IMAX theater in the Planetarium, visiting the actual planetarium dome theater, and even submitting to the Gateway experience for Big Hero 6.

Iain loves to wear his hoodie in the movies. I'm forever tugging it down. He pulls it back over his head.

Thursday, December 04, 2014


1. We moved a lot of kitchen tools to Long Beach. I sent my old, no-handle pyrex there.
2. I bought new, handle-y pyrex!
3. I loved my new, handle-y pyrex and used it all the time.
4. Last night, for example.
5. But remember those stories about pyrex exploding sometimes? Like, when it heated or cooled too fast?
6. Yep. Those are true.

But the pork tenderloin was delicious. So...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Iain Builds a Time Machine

Last week, Iain and I saw Big Hero 6. It's fantastic. While we watched I thought, "This is as good as Wall-E," and, "Wow."

If you've seen the movie, you know that it revolves in part around an invention that allows you to transport materials through a portal. Iain apparently found that part interesting. Above, he built something similar but he wants it to transport through time, rather than space.

[Here are some pictures of the portal in case you want to see what I'm talking about. It's basically a circle.]

Note that he attached it to the electrical system originally meant for a Lego train set. So it moves. And stuff.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Iain woke before us this morning. He's been in his room, playing and watching Digimon on his iPad.

Just now, he emerged to make breakfast. I don't think he knows I'm in the living room. He's making something - "strawberries!" I heard him whisper to himself - to solve a serious problem. "I'm starving to death! It's an emergency!" he just whispered. Dramatically, of course.

An emergency! No breakfast and it's almost 9 o'clock! My god, what will one do? Stay tuned...

ETA: 9:08am: he comes in, rubbing his tummy, and announces, "I think I'll just let that settle." [pause] "How long until lunch?" I laugh. "No, but really. How long?"

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

Me, during the day. This is the first year without a full costume, but I think the spider was sufficiently festive.

Iain, as Bumblebee from the Transformers.  He took off the mask pretty quickly because going up and down steps in the dark is a bad idea when your eye slits are so tiny. Note the bat-and-pumpkin necklace. He got that at school.

Us, just before trick or treating. He's feeling his beard, he says. Not sure what to think of that. Now he's embarrassed that I've told the world he was feeling his beard. This is an improvement on last year, when he didn't understand what "embarrassing" meant.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

To Whomever Stole the Pappy Van Winkle

Please get in touch. We want to talk. I mean drink. I mean talk.

We'll even help you carry those 65 cases. Must be heavy.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Fun With Mim

Miriam knows to come bearing gifts. This ensures a warm welcome, even if the under-7 crowd still whispers to Dad at the table, "She's weird!"

In this case, Miriam sent Iain a balance game in which one must stack wooden animals. As you can see, the animals include the usual suspects (sheep, monkeys) and some unexpected choices (gila monsters, hedgehogs). You roll a die, then either extend, stack, or force someone else to stack animals.

Above, a very successful stack. Below, not so much. 

It was fun. This morning, when we took Miriam to the airport, Iain cried.

Saturday, October 04, 2014


Wednesday, I received a generous gift. Pounds and pounds of jam, dried tomatoes, freshly baked bread (as in, still yeasty and warm), zucchini/chocolate brownies, pickles, and a big jar of fresh tomato sauce (chock full of veggies).

Tonight, inspired by this bounty, I made the lasagna you see above. Layers of sauteed beef and pork, caramelized onions, ricotta with fresh basil mixed in, locally-made fresh mozzarella, Caputo's lasagna noodles (whole sheets! You just thaw them and lay them in the pan.).

It was excellent. There's just nothing like homemade.

Friday, October 03, 2014

You Can't Have Her Back. Period.

Miriam's sister (in Albuquerque) texted to ask whether Miriam could come early, stay longer, and otherwise generally save the day. But Miriam is with me right now.

Am I willing to give her up? Not just early. Ever?

No! Above, me making a scary face to express my intention to kidnap Miriam and keep her here forever.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hatting on the Scots

PJ O'Rourke makes me laugh. Me, and everyone else. This morning he's busy imagining a terrible future for an independent Scotland.

Too bad he can't spell Chanel.

Read it here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dog Nails

I finally went nuclear on Boris's nails. It's just not right, y'all. Normal dogs have cute little nails. People clip them with wee, inexpensive, Petco-available clippers. 

Not Boris. His nails kill Petco clippers. His nails laugh in the face of clippers meant for "large breeds." If large means a dachsund, ok. A lab/mastiff mix? No. 

I Googled "clippers for a large breed dog," "cutting nails large breed dog," and other things but found nothing useful. Then I decided to ask people who really know what they're talking about.

Mastiff owners. And, sure enough, on a forum devoted to grooming truly, truly large dogs, someone mentioned farriers' tools.

Ah. Now there's an idea I can run with. If it cuts a horse's hooves, it might work on our house-bound pony. Sure enough, Amazon sells nippers and farriers' rasps. These are tools. Serious, not kidding around, 10-14inch long tools. And since the nippers are rated to cut "large nails [made of metal?]" they do ok on Boris.

He tolerates it with enormous grace, probably because he's used to the usual round of cursing and failure. At least this time, when he extends his paw, something actually happens. He even allows me to run his clipped nails across the rasp (filing is so important in a manicure/pedicure, don't you agree?).

Hooray for the internet! Hooray for Mastiffs! Hooray for farriers!

Friday, September 05, 2014

First Grade

Desks! Homework! Lunch in the cafeteria! Gold stickers! And, one day, college.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

No Corn on the Cob For a While

It has begun. The great tooth replacement of elementary school. Our dentist warned us. But for months and months and months...nothing.

And then! In less than a week two teeth. The first popped out at the end of the summer. Iain got $3 from the Tooth Fairy.

A day later (!!!) the second bottom front tooth joined its neighbor. The Tooth Fairy was busy, though. She skipped this one.

And now...the top right tooth is very, very loose. First graders take school pictures next week. Will it last??? Stay tuned.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Busy Weekend

Miriam's quilt, finally pieced. This is the top, obviously. The back will be white. Because something has to balance the crazy.

Below, another quilt top I made this weekend. It's for Signal Hill. Iain went out of his way to comment on how ugly he finds two of the fabrics. I assumed (not unreasonably, I think) that he'd let us have this one and I would make something with kid fabrics for him.

Nope. He was all, "I like this one. I'll take it." Oh.

 The blue fabric with little green depictions of what appear to be Aztecs. 
Also the brown batik. Those are the fabrics Iain said he hated. And yet...

So now I'm making a third top, this time for us. All this to use up the fabric stash a little. Any quilters know what I mean: buying fabric is an unstoppable force. Eventually you realize that it's out of control. This weekend I used up a lot. Yay! I also used about 600 yards of white thread.

Now I need another holiday to get to the next step: the sandwiches. You know how much I love those. (Not at all).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


So let's say you need a bed, sofa, dining room kit, etc. for a condominium. And let's say the condo isn't where you live - it's in another state.

You might think, "Hey! That sofa I see online looks nice. I'll buy that."

No, no, no.

First, you have to place the order. You must do this as *if* you are sending the sofa to your home. Not the condo. Because whatever address you tell the ordering software, that's where they're sending the swatch.

What swatch? The one you have to approve before they will make the sofa.

So they send the swatch. You like it. Now you have to call back and change the delivery address. (No trigger for fraud protection on your credit card here, folks. Nothing to see, nothing to see. Move along.)

If all that works out - and who knows how many days it will all require - you can *then* find out when they might be willing to deliver your sofa. Something between tomorrow and eight weeks.

Yes, eight. 8. 

Remember, this is going to a place you don't live. Someone must be there to greet your new, fabric-approved sofa. But when to go? How to know? What to do?

We'll be sitting on the floor. Thanks.*

*And by "thanks," I mean: Thanks, CB2. Your Byzantine ordering methodology runs totally counter to the sleek, modernist aesthetic of your product line.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sweetness and Light

"Mom, you are so disappointing in so many ways." 

Thanks, son. You still can't avoid your haircut.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Late Summer

Iain picked a petunia for me. Also, we checked on two cucumbers growing in the garden, the lettuce/carrot bed, and the herbs. We tied back the sunflowers (drooping from so much rain) so they can continue to develop seeds for next year. Charles sprayed the stairs with bug killer.

And all this after we returned from the Yay It's Back To School party. There, Iain ate pizza, two Italian sodas (with whipped cream) and a cup of gelato. He tried for a second gelato but I took it and handed it off to his friend David.

August. I like it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Boothbay Hah-Bah

One of the fun things about traveling with another family is that the kids express their best impulses with regard to each other. That's my roundabout way of saying: Iain got a present.

It was a compass, with magnifying lenses you could adjust in several ways. Iain loved, loved, loved this toy and not just because the two boys ran around "pewing" each other with their compasses. He also looked through it, as you can see.

I think Charles and I were both surprised by how much Iain liked the water. He was really, really interested in lobsters, lobster boats, the river, the tides, kayaking, and anything else boat or water related.

So Tomoe and I took the boys down the next peninsula (look at the coast of Maine: it's just one ragged peninsula after another) to take a harbor cruise.

We had a bit of time to kill before the boat left and Iain spent it eating a lobster-shaped chocolate lollipop (after declaring fudge "not good") (WHAT? Who is he? Not related to me, I can tell you that.) and poking around a boutique trying to talk me into buying him fanciful sculptures made of old hardware.

Finally, it was time to get onto the boat with 60 senior citizens. Ahem. We were...the youngest people on that boat by about 25 years. Anyway. The boat (what kind of boat? "It has a diesel engine," the young lady said when I bought the tickets. Oh, great. Very helpful.) had a nice upper deck so we spent the 2.5 hours sitting up there, in the breeze (read: stiff wind that tried to snatch my hat three times (!)) looking out onto the harbor, bay, and ocean.

This was the part where Iain started to think, "So....anything else to this? Or do we just drive around looking at stuff?"

Towards the end, Iain and our friends started to consult the coastal map they'd brought, charting our progress returning to Boothbay Harbor. It was kind of neat to see us pass Pemaquid Point, chug up around the end of the mainland and waggle back into Boothbay.

And although the main attraction was being out on the water, smelling the salt air and trying to keep your hat on, we did see a bald eagle, some seals, and lots of ocean birds.

Afterwards, of course, it was ice cream time. Or, in Iain's case, sherbet. Because every single day he has to have his ice cream. And since Maine boasts an ice cream shop about every 50 feet on the coast...why not?