Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Indoor Outdoor

When Bill and I left Connecticut in our Westy, eight years ago, we put a couple of plants in my mom's care. And recently, this winter, on one of Mom and Dad's visits here, she thrust them back upon us graciously returned them to us. This one . . .

. . . was a couple of tiny sprouts coming out of a small pot, and now has taken over our living room . . .

. . . and this one, which was about 18 feet long, to which Bill recently gave a long-overdue haircut (ironic, I know). And, oh look! Look who that is.
Chapel Hill Girl. Our first niece/nephew/munchkin. Ach. Look at those shoulders.

Anyway. We have other indoor houseplants.
We have our beloved Cacti. Cacti's a cactus we got for free in Gila Bend, Arizona. He traveled with us to San Diego, lived with our shoes in our shoe bucket / milk crate in Jacquie and Bill's garage until we remembered we had him in there, sprung him, replanted him in the bottom of a yellow plastic cup, carried him with us for years in our Westy, and who we spent inordinate amounts of time trying to get into the sunlight while driving, while we weren't spending inordinate amounts of time knocking him over and dumping his cacti dirt all over the Westy floor. So many times.
We have this guy, too. Mistahs's sister Kelly gave us this one. We have great western light streaming into our extra Mary Beth and Mark's bedroom. Clearly. The plants, they love it in there..
But it's time. It's time for these guys to make the leap to the out-of-doors, and ol' Yucca here:
. . . he's leading the pack. Jennie left this on the door of our house the day we moved in, last May, and Billy transplanted him last weekend.
Is he not, as Jennie would call him, a handsome fella?
The parsley made the leap to the out-of-doors (isn't that much more fun to say than outdoors?) too. Ol' parsley's been keeping us in, um, parsley all winter long.
But yesterday. Yesterday was especially noteworthy because yesterday was the day Billy finally transplanted ol' Bowden. (I preface our plants' names with ol'; I can't help it.)
We got ol' Bowden the day we visited ol' Charles Bowden. As reported in my very first blog post.
Ol' Bowden has been in a reusable/recyclable Glad container. For over a year. Which was red, but faded.
Only Mistah Schleckah knows how to transplant plants, in this family.
He's got a great touch. And great gloves.
If *I* turned the Bowden upside-down, like so, ol' Bowden would lose his ju-ju. Or his mo-jo. Whatever.
Clearly, ol' Bowden has still got it. His ju-ju mojo. Whatever.

Can you see? In the meantime? The world is starting to green up around here; it's starting.
VoilĂ ! A newly planted, spring-ready Bowden . . .
. . . and a gratuitous photo of Mistah . . .
. . . and the best part of all . . .
. . . ol' Bowden, now that he's got a better get-up, can finally hang with our ol' friend Cacti, who, after all, has has his own book written about him.

Monday, March 30, 2009

don't ask

I hate it when I walk out of the grocery store and catch someone’s eye, only to be asked: “do you want to help homeless children?” or “would you like to help me find a cure for AIDS?” or “do you have 2 minutes to save orphaned polar bears?” There is just no good way to answer that kind of question except to say “Why yes, yes I do! Here, take the contents of my wallet.”

What else can you say? “No, thanks” or “Not today” or “I can’t”?

These responses are all socially acceptable, but if any one of them comes out of your mouth, you will walk away feeling like an asshole. Once you’ve already made eye contact, you’ve blown your chance to pretend the solicitor is invisible, so you have to say something, or else pretend you’re deaf or Norwegian or crazy. It’s a pickle. And it pisses me off, because I do want to help homeless kids and sick people and polar bears, all of them! But on my own terms, on my own time, after doing my own research. And it irritates me that I have to walk away feeling like I should explain or apologize to this random person. Honestly, if you have a worthwhile cause, is this really the best fundraising strategy you could think of?

Now the girl scouts I can handle. They have no power over me with their evil wares. I know danger when I see it, it can’t be camouflaged by a green sash or a minty chocolate coating. And their question is so much easier to reject, because really? No. I do NOT want your $4 box of crack, but good luck earning your badge!

Phrasing questions well is a conversational art form. I’ve often advised those speaking with children to never frame a yes-or-no question unless you are prepared to accept no for an answer. “Are you ready to clean up?” “Should we get ready now?” “Do you want to eat lunch?” What was that, honey? Did you say “Hell, no!” ? You’ve got to phrase your questions to kids in a way that makes it impossible for them to dissent. If you can do this, you’ve mastered the art. If you can’t, just remember that gimmicks and trickery are useful tools for improving your communication with children.

My dad used to chat up my young friends by asking questions like: “Do you walk to school, or do you bring your lunch?” And my husband often responds to a barrage of inquiries with the announcement: “25 cents a question!” But kids – my kids, anyway – can be relentless with the questions. They are also quite poor at gauging the relative importance of their questions. It’s always reallyreallyreallyreallyreally important, like so important that we should roll up the car windows and turn off the music and make sure everyone is silent and, wait, what was I going to ask? Or worse, it really is a good question, which means either 1) It’s totally abstract and impossible to answer or 2) The answer involves some secret or lie in which I am likely to become completely entwined. In these instances, my only recourse is distraction, which I find most effective when coupled with confusion and a hint of fear. For example: “but how exactly does daddy help the baby get in there?” can be deflected with: “Did you know that every seed inside of every apple has the potential to become a tree? But if you swallow that seed I’m almost positive it will come out in your poop before it sprouts.” Once you’ve got your kids thinking about poop, you’re back in safe territory.

Just watch out for signs of danger.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

weekend 3-way: headlines

I keep my finger on the pulse of the universe through my yahoo homepage. I view regularly updated headlines that feed my desire to stay in the know, but just barely. I sometimes click on those headlines to get the full story, but just as often digest the tidbit without further ado.

My top sources for this well rounded knowledge of current world news and events are: CNN, Health News from Reuters, and, of course, E!

There are other pages up front there that I regularly look at, including recipe of the day (snowpeas with toasted almonds), local weather (74), word of the day (admittance), NYT books, and tv/movie listings. But the headlines are what we will talk about for this weekend’s 3-Way.

From whatever source you look at headlines online, find one you want to click through and do so. Then come back and tell us about it.


It's ironic, really. After writing this intro yesterday, I kept checking my regular headlines for something inspiring, but eventually wound up searching elsewhere. In the process, I've added NPR headlines to my homepage, which is chock full of interesting tidbits! Like this:

Dairies Strive To Go Green

I was drawn to this story because we have seen this cycle of poo to power in action! The pumpkin patch we visit every fall is on a dairy farm here in San Diego, and your visit includes the chance to take a tractor ride around the property and see (and smell) a lot of cows, as well as their methane producing poop house. I can't help but imagine the possibilities in my own poop house.. between the 4 of us, the 2 lizards, 1 hamster and 1 dog, we produce a lot of poop that is just going to waste! We could power the nation! Who's with me?

Forget all that fluff - why did I not know about this? I'm going to see about finding a better publicist for the earth:

Earth Hour

I'm going to do this tonight. My boy will surely perish. What on earth will we do with ourselves? Will report back tomorrow. Who's with me?

Here’s the BBC news headline I couldn’t resist: “Chinese 'find' radioactive ball”

I immediately conjured up a mental image of a group of Chinese youth picking up a glowing orb, but let’s hope they did not, because this “ball” is thought to be Caesium-137 (a radioactive isotope formed via nuclear fusion), encased in lead.

Apparently even the smallest amount of Caesium-137 can cause infertility, cancer, and even death. Joy!

The article goes on to say that there are approximately 30 cases of radioactive material being lost every year in China. Makes you want to book a flight and go visit, doesn’t it?

It also makes you wonder how much longer they’ll need to enforce their strict One Child Policy. Their careless industrial safety practices just might solve the problem.


From Yahoo! Sports: Sooners cruise; UNC stomps Zags; L'ville wins big; Champs ousted.

Translation: Oklahoma beat Syracuse, North Carolina beat Gonzaga, Louisville beat Arizona, and Michigan State beat the defending champions Kansas.

Oklahoma, North Carolina, Louisville and Michigan State join Connecticut, Missouri, Pittsburgh and Villanova in the Elite Eight, which I’ve taken to calling the Great Eight, which starts today. UConn vs. Mizzou, 4:40 p.m. Eastern time.

I was half-watching the games while in various and sundry bars, listening to various and sundry bands. Oh, and eating at Raider’s Roost with our friends Dawn and Tommy. Oh, and drinking, Large quantities. In every place I went. So while I don’t think any of the games last night were as good as the Thursday night games, except maybe the Michigan State game, well, I can’t really be sure.

Go Huskies.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Swallow this

Here’s a nugget I actually wrote down while waiting to get my hair cut, because the magazine, which I can’t remember the name of, was a new one, and I just didn’t feel right about ripping out the article when I knew many other woman would be leafing through its pages while waiting to get their hair cut, and might find it as intriguing as I did.

It turns out that taking oral contraceptives -- currently used by more than 100 million women worldwide according to Wiki -- may diminish a women’s attraction to genetically compatible mates.

Okay, so what? Well, it turns out, women who ovulate naturally prefer (subconsciously, of course) the scent of a man who has immune system genes that differ from her own, and a pairing of a such a couple is believed to promote fertility, and children with healthy immune systems.

But the pill, the glorious little pill, shifts women’s preferences toward the scent of men whose “MHC genes” are more similar to theirs.

In theory, at least, this could “lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pill, as odor perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners,” states S Craig Roberts of the Newcastle University in England, who lead the study.

So, just think about this for one little minute, using the pill may actually be one of the causes of both (a) the rise of divorce and (b) the rise of allergies (did you hear that Mr. Peanut?) and other immune system disorders in our children! Who knew?

The solution, of course, is to come up with some non-hormone altering male form of contraception.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Now it starts to get fun.

The Sweet 16 round starts tonight – 8 games in 2 days – and our own University of Connecticut Huskies play in the first game.

I really love the Madness of March. It’s a beautiful, pure, perfect tournament. There are no rounds, there are no wild cards, there are no A groups or B pools. March Madness is single-elimination. You win, you advance. You lose, you go home. One team and one team only goes 6-0.

And for me, it’s all about the hoops, and only about the hoops.

Although I’m pulling like crazy for my UConn Huskies to prevail over the Boilermakers (puh-lease) of Purdue, I never join March Madness pools, not anymore. I did join one, once, in 1999. That year, UConn made it to the Final Four, and then the final two. The game was on Monday night – coincidentally, The Dowd’s birthday – and he joined Billy and me – all 3 of us UConn grads – at our house in Fairfield, as did MB, although she and The Dowd were still years away from being the sassy, fabulous, long-time item they’ve become.

UConn vs. Duke. It was an incredible game, and UConn did what Khalid El Amin predicted they would do: they shocked the world, and they won.

We drank Champagne and sang and danced and stayed up really really late, and in the morning I dragged my sorry ass out of bed, walked to the train station, and got on a train to New York.

As I got close to the City I called my assistant to say I’d be, um, really late. She said, “Bill just called; he said the paper’s sending him to the airport to cover the team coming home.” It was like a scene from a movie: I took the phone away from my ear, everything got quiet, and I let out a long, loud, one-syllabled bellow from the depths of my being, which echoed throughout every car of the Metro-North train: Nnnnnnoooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

I should have told my boss Deborah if UConn won, I wouldn’t be in. I should have called in sick. I should have done anything I could to be in the car with Bill on the way to Hartford to greet the plane, instead of being on a godforsaken commuter train to a godforsaken corporate job in New York City.

But the worst thing? About the whole day? When I got to work, I discovered who’d won the pool: my colleague and friend Georgiana. Who I really liked. And who had chosen Duke to win. “But, but, but, but,” I articulated, “she chose Duke! She was wrong!” “Yeah, but she had enough points from the earlier rounds blah blah blah.” Blah blah my ass. I was really mad. I’m still really mad. If you can win an NCAA pool even if you choose the losing teamespecially if that losing team is Duke – and especially if the winning team is UConn – well, that’s just crap. I don’t care how many Gonzagas and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers you get right. You need to pick the winner. In my world, you do. So I swore off NCAA pools forever, then and there.

Now I torment my friends with my tragic bracket tale of woe every year instead………

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In 2004, when the UConn men's and women's team were the first – and, so far, only – men's and women's teams to win the NCAA Division 1 tournament in the same year, we were in San Diego. Jacquie is not the world's most, ahem, enthusiastic college basketball fan, and we tormented her with incessant game-watching, day after day after day. And the games were on at the kids' bedtime! Every night! Yippee! Actually, we went out to a bar a couple of nights, to give poor Jacqueline and her poor kids a break from all the screaming. We were at their house when the UConn men beat Georgia Tech to win it all, though.
Emeka Okafor was a stud that night.

Hmmmm. Some things, apparently, never change.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And now it's 2009 and we're back living in Connecticut, of all things, and UConn actually has a chance – not a huge one, mind you, with the crumbs from Louisville and Pitt and North Carolina (sorry, Colleen) lurking out there – but a chance nonetheless – to go all the way and win the whole enchilada again.

It's just so exciting. And nerve-wracking. And excruciating. And exhilarating.

It's Madness.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

kitchen science

My boy fancies himself a chef. Remember this delight? Last week, he started his favorite department at school, Kitchen Science. Departments are mixed grade groups who work together throughout the year on special applied learning projects. For the next six weeks, my boy will spend about six hours each week working in a home-style kitchen to focus on the science behind food, how substances interact with each other, and the importance of water, nutrition, and digestion.

On their first cooking day, guacamole was made, and my boy was impressed. He wanted to recreate the experience for our dining pleasure, and volunteered to demonstrate the recipe for your viewing pleasure.

To make guacamole, start by halving a ripe avocado.

Just slice into it with the knife until it hits the pit,

then roll the knife around the pit, preferably without slicing any of your fingers off

Then gently twist the two halves away from each other and pull apart

There is no photo of the fun pit pop, because the photographer would not let the chef do it himself. What you do is whack a big knife right into the seed so it will stick, and then rotate to release it from the lovely green flesh. Some people save the pit to throw back in with their completed guac, it is said to help retain its fresh green color. But my Mexican friends tell me that is an old wives’ tale, and I believe them. Even though they are old wives. My aunt Uffie used to let us pierce the pit with toothpics and hover it over a glass of water to encourage sprouts. That was cool, why did we never have an avocado tree? Oh yeah, Connecticut.

Scoop out the avocado guts with a spoon… you might want to save those empty, bereft shells. Keep plugging away, even when your photographer becomes distracted by her empty glass.

Mash the avocado, preferably with a giant fork (or a potato masher if you can find yours)

There, that’s better. Now, dice a tomato

Dump the tomato into the bowl, being sure to cross your arms into a very awkward and unlikely configuration, and use a really big sharp knife to entice the tomatoes off of the board

Don’t worry about letting young children use such big knives, they are usually more capable and competent than people assume.


Next, chop some red onion. I like to imagine that he is talking in a Julia Child voice, like Mike Meyer on SNL right before he lopped off his finger

Be brave if the onion fumes irritate your eyes

Don’t forget fresh garlic! Smash a clove with the side of your knife to free it from the peel, then dice that bad boy right up

If you don’t have fresh cilantro, thank your mom and Trader Joe for always having this in the freezer

Mix wildly! Then cover and refrigerate, a few hours goes a long way toward marrying the flavors.

My boy served his guac inside the little boats he had saved from the empty avocado shells!

I really need to find the dishtowel action on photoshop so I can wipe away the mess at each end of this lovely turkey enchilada. It looks like a severed limb.

Any questions?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Road rage

Yesterday morning, a Monday morning, started out like any other. I got my kids up, got them fed, helped them get dressed and with their hair, then dropped one off at preschool and the other at the bus stop. As the bus pulled away, so did I, off to work. I drive the same drive most mornings. I don't take the highway, but instead Friars Road, which is a three lane, relatively busy street that parallels Highway 8. It's not a bad commute, except for yesterday.

I was driving along, listening to my new Smash Ups CD (thank you, Jacquie!), when I heard a loud horn to my left side. Was I swerving into that lane? Maybe, it didn't feel like it, but maybe, so I waved as the person who beeped came up level with me. It was a middle-aged man in a little red sports car, and the look on his face was pure anger, and he was bitching me out (I couldn't hear him bitching me out, but I could see it).

So, using a tactic I learned from a woman at one of my first jobs at Candy Kitchen in Ocean City, Maryland, I waved more. (She told me that when a customer was rude, your only recourse was the "kill them with kindness," just be as sweet as pie to them. I've found the reaction can go two ways, either it diffuses their anger, or, sometimes, it ignites it. And truth be told, I was waving a little obnoxiously.)

Ol' sports car guy did not like this, not at all. In fact he disliked it so much he cut in front of me and came to a dead stop, on the middle of this three lane (six, if you're counting the other side) street at 8:30 AM on a weekday. It was hard to break in time. At this point, I admit, the wave changed to flipping him off, with both hands. I mean, Wtf???? I also started laying on the horn, long and loud. He was turning around looking at me, obviously screaming. He finally starts driving, pointing repeatedly, with big arm motions, to the side of the road, AS IF, I'm going to pull over to talk to this big pissed off guy in his little red sports car.

I try to keep my distance from him, but then a light ahead turns red. When everyone is stopped at the light, he gets OUT of his car, with his cheesy little headphone on, in his sweat suit, and walks up to my car with is finger out waggling at me, screaming at me, right next to my car door -- in front of all sorts of other cars with people in them. I was shocked. Obviously, I locked my doors, and I also turned my music up so I had no idea of the specifics of his rant, and just looked at him. It was fucking scary. I wrote his license plate number down when he got back into his car, but I doubt I can do anything with it, plus if I could, he's probably the kind of nut that would come and burn down my house.

I emailed my husband when I arrived at work, and he told me I should have laid on the horn the whole time he was out of his car and picked up my cell phone and called 911. He's probably right, but you know, I just don't have much experience with this type of crazy.

It was frightening though, and makes me wonder what's going wrong in the world. Has modern, urban life got us so wound up that we'll snap over the slightest infraction? I saw a similar incident the day before (which I'll have you know, I was NOT involved in). Again it was a middle-aged man, this time in the parking lot of Home Depot, freaking out at a (woman) employee of the store. She called out something to him from a distance, and he started yelling and waving his hands back at her. I was in my car by this point, so don't know what was being said, but whatever it was, it had this approximately 55 year old guy running, yes, running toward her, screaming. He looked ridiculous, like an overgrown boy gone wild. How could his Sunday morning shopping experience have gone so bad?

Obviously, I don't know. But it's clear to me we need a lot more Gandhi and a lot less Mike Tyson out there in the world.

Monday, March 23, 2009


This is Ned Lamont:

And this is Mistah, on Ned Lamont:

Our man Ned came to the rescue in Connecticut's most recent U.S. Senate election, coming out of nowhere to challenge and then defeat the conservative incumbent, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, for the Democratic Party's nomination. Ned defeated Lieberman for the party nomination because he rejected Lieberman's warmongering positions and Lieberman's propensity to vote in lockstep with George W. Bush (that's no way for a Democrat to act!). Unfortunately, after the Democrats picked Ned, Lieberman decided to run as an independent and his popularity with the masses helped Lieberman win a relatively narrow victory over Ned and keep his seat in Washington. Now all we have are the memories, and the lucky hand of fate, which, this weekend, gave us . . .

. . . him her this. Ned Lamont's dog . . .

. . . who, naturally, we call Lamont.

Lamont does not know he . . . um, she? . . . is a dog.

Lamont does not know what do with a frisbee. Or, as our friends' boy William calls it, a crispee.

Lamont has never seen a crispee before. If you throw the crispee to Lamont, he she Lamont will run halfway toward it, lie down, and blink, "Who? Me??"
Now, Callie Mitchell on the other hand, Callie is a normal, self-respecting, regular, dog-like Chocolate Lab dog. You know the type: sweet, loyal, dumb-as-a-post. But Callie knows her way around a crispee.

Unfortunately, Callie has no other dog to play crispee with.

Lamont pretends he she um, Lamont does not see Callie, and, well, that makes poor ol' Callie feel tragic.
But Callie, at least, knows what to do with a crispee frisbee . . .

. . . oh, Callie is brilliant around the flying disc . . .

. . . hmmmmmm, yum . . .
Back inside, Nancy and I (see us?) get dinner all prepped up . . .

. . . and we all have ourselves a Mitchell family lovefest . . . .

. . . while back outside, the face-off steadily continues, while the sun sets on another beautiful day of inactivity. .

"What crispee?".